Sunday 29 November 2009

The Texter Nazi

One thing that really gets me going is when people text or talk on their phones in the movie theatre.  The Young Adults always joke about mom's big brown eyes, boring into the rogue texter's head.  "Muv will be watching the movie, and next minute, her head will jerk in the direction of a mobile phone's lighted screen. It's best not to make eye contact, 'cos she'll ask you to call the usher..."

The Machinist took me to see Twighlight: New Moon. Our seats were allocated;  - row Q, - which was one row from the back, on the right hand side.  Seat numbers 19 and 20.  The Machinist took seat 19, which was right next to an Indian chap.  I was on the end of the row, which suited me nicely, thank-you-very-much, as my plan was to hustle down to the toilets, return to my seat and drop my shoes off. 


It wasn't long into the movie, when I caught the Machinist's head jerk towards the Indian chap next to him.  "Excuse me. Would you mind turning that thing off?", he asked.  The Indian chap couldn't switch his phone off fast enough and promptly assumed a rigor mortis position.  I really don't think he dared to breath.

Later, a bright light appeared in row O, two rows in front of us on the opposite side of the isle.  Without warning, the Machinist leapt out of his seat, passed me by and was about to make his way down the steps, when he stumbled and took a flying swan dive towards the texter.  "Oh, no!", I thought..."he's tripped on my shoes..."

The Machinist landed with one hand on the back of Mr Texter's seat. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but he was pointing to the exit.  When he returned to the safety of his own seat, I asked him what he had said.  "I told him to put the phone away, or leave".  (Translated, for censorship purposes).  "..And what did he reply?"

"He looked at me with pure fear written all over his face and said 'I'm so sorry' in a startled rabbit kind of way.  I was so mad at myself for tripping the way I did, that's why I swore at him..."

"Sorry you tripped on my shoes..."
"No, it wasn't your shoes, it was the umbrella we bought for Sarah. I did the Irish jig with the brolly"
"Oh..." I couldn't even look at him at this point, as I hadn't been to the toilets as I had planned.
"I probably looked like John Steed and people would be thinking 'who's this old fart that takes his umbrella with him two days in advance of rain, - just in case'"

Aaah...The Machinist: My Hero.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Derby Punks

One of my favourite authors is Roddy Doyle.  Not that I get much chance to read fiction nowadays.  Most of the books I do read are on topics like business or food or renovations or interior decorating or or or ... you know - 'how to' books. And I do it out of necessity, seeing as we are doing everything ourselves, for the first time. 


Getting back to Roddy Doyle... many of his stories make me think of my own childhood and life at home with four older brothers.  Let me show you:

From left to right: Brother Gary (3rd boy), Brother Alan (1st born), brother Brian (2nd boy).  

Brother Robin (4th boy).  And then, there's me, as you know:

Helen (1st girl, 5th and last child).

What always cracks me up about these old photos are our hair styles and the clothes we wore.  Mam knitted almost every jumper that ever graced our tiny backs.  They were usually bright colours, so that she could ' 'em in a crowd...' as she would say. They lasted for decades and were worn by all of us (and others in between).  Usually, the pants were too large, hence the belts and / or braces holding them up, way above our waists.  Gotta love the high waists!

Don't we all look like butter wouldn't melt in our mouths? Don't be fooled; - each and every angelic child you see above was once a gang leader in our Midlands neighbourhood.  The Mods, The Troggs, The Dogs, The Bovver Boys, The Skinheads, The Slapheads, The Scrappers (in no particular order).  Mostly, though, we were known (and feared) by our surname, and on any given day, in alley ways and entry ways, down streets with either terraced houses, semi or detached and even on the new estates, you could hear local kids shout out to their mams, in somewhat high-pitched, anxiety filled voices:

"Mam, mam!  It's the Hudsons!"

Food Gardening and the Machinist Cooks!

If you look carefully at the photo below,  you will notice raspberry canes growing in between apple trees.  I can just imagine both of them together in a pie....

I love permaculture and companion planting.   My brother, Gary, told me years ago that the gardeners of old would plant by the moon.  They somehow knew what to plant depending on the phase of the moon. When the Machinist's Ouma was still alive, she often attempted to share her love of plants, flowers and trees with us. Random gifts of greenery in washed out jam tins were common.  A week at our home and their demise was common too.  It didn't stop her green-generosity, though.  The Machinist reckons she'd be smiling down from Heaven if she could see us now, knowing all her efforts were worth it.

She must have sensed our potential....

Today, our garden is brimming with life.  When we are in the pool, we are surrounded  by trees - most of them fruit bearing. It's gotten to the stage that I have to transplant and / or give plants away. 

Said raspberry canes were recently tranplanted to a damper spot, right up against the back orchard fence (corrugated zinc-allum, dug into the soil and cemented, for snake-prevention because of my Ophidiophobia). The Machinist surrounded the canes with thick lucerne mulch, and covered them with square mesh frames. Rusted. (Not the tin roof the B52's sing about).

With bum in air and head to the soil, I scoured the rest of the orchard for weeds, tugging madly at dominating thistles, while protected with leather welding gloves. It's a good job I'm hidden in the garden. How the Machinist must love me....

And talking of the Machinist, he made a delicious meal tonight.  Ground beef with sauteed celery, fennel, herbs, red onions and carrots over rice noodles. 

"Would you like some more, Babe, or do you want to leave room for a surprise I have for you?  Or, would you like both?"
"Both, please". 

Come on, I had to. It's polite.

Later, the Machinist disappeared into the kitchen, and came back carrying two dishes of The Surprise.  Cherries in Syrup with whipped cream.

Can  you feel it?

Saturday 21 November 2009

A Legacy of Analysing

Reading through my peeps earlier this morning and particularly the post by Grandma Nina, made me think of helping the Machinist the other day. 

Together, we were working on the stainless steel walls for the Pie Shop's kitchen. Local council's don't mind stainless steel walls or tiled walls.  Financially, it is cheaper for us to line them with stainless steel (a no brainer). Anyway, what the Machinist does is cut the length of stainless to size, fold the edges, 'rough' up the rear side of the steel sheet with an angle grinder, add glue along the roughed up lines, then add wood board to the steel sheet.  The reason he does this is so that the steel sheets remain taught, as the wood gives them extra strength.  It is a long, tedious and labour intensive process as each wall sheet weighs A LOT and we struggle to get them into place to match up with the steel framework and brackets the Machinist has already welded on the wall.

(That was a mouthful. Hope you can follow...)

To get back to Grandma Nina's thoughts on being particular about the work she does, (and in particular - parylisation by analysation), it struck me how alike she and I are in this particular 'field'.

Case in hand:

We had cut the stainless steel sheet to size on this machine:

Then we had to fold the edges on this machine:

We shuffle the stainless steel sheet into position, so that the marks on the steel line up with the folder guides.  The Machinist looks to me and I give him the 'nod' (or not) and he then presses a button and the machine folds the steel.  I was having trouble analysing whether the marked sheet lined up EXACTLY with the guides.

Me to self:

"Is it 1mm out?"
"What will happen when the guides come down - will they push the sheet a little?"
"Should I allow another one milimetre just in case?"

Then the Machinist to me:

"Are you ready?"
"Are you sure?"
"I'm waiting for a response from you.  Don't give me the thumbs up.  Give me the nod, then I'll know".

After all the heat in the workshop, it was unbelievingly, refreshingly good to take a dip in the pool, where all thoughts of accuracy, analysation and hot, heavy work faded into the depths of chlorine-shocked water.

Friday 20 November 2009

A (Very Young) Machinist's Wife

This is me, sporting one of mam's spaz-cuts, wearing a woolly ex-jumble sale frock (mam also made a lot of cotton frocks for me, 'cos I would change each lunch time.  Don't ask. Just one of those things...).  The school photo was probably taken after I'd had my morning bottle of milk, (hence the ample tummy) - gratis and courtesy of Southgate Infants School, Alvaston, Derby England.  Circa 1965.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Fun Pics from Days Long Gone...

The Machinist and I, and our first-born, Emma-Lee.  She won the Crawling Race and Best Dressed Baby of the Day

Helen and Emma-Lee - posing for the local newspaper, with runner-up baby. 

Monday 16 November 2009

Pie Love

"I was just wondering if you had an estimated opening date?

Myself and several mates regularly ride our motorbikes to Goulburn on weekends and would love to use your pie shop as our mid morning / lunch stop for food and drinks. Often we use the Bush Ranger hotel, but prefer to use this as our return stop on the way back to Canberra.

Looking forward to seeing you guys in business!!


~ Cranston ~

Monday 9 November 2009

Life Work

I've been thinking how life is full of chores.  We are born and we work for survival. Some of us get paid for the work we do, others don't. If you think of each aspect of your life, and the work, time and effort involved in these aspects, it would tire you out before you even began. My mam always says that if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well. I like to do jobs well. The Machinist says that sometimes, I go far too deep into things. Like when he helps me clean the kitchen.  Now the Machinist never used to help me clean the kitchen, but now that all our family's work overlaps, everybody does everything. We've taught our children to be multi-skilled, too.  As young whipper-snappers, they would never say "mam, I'm bored", because they would get a job to do.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes - the Machinist and the kitchen. When he helps me, I take the opportunity to wipe down cupboards, as I'm cleaning the counters.  I take the opportunity to wipe sauce bottles and display jars as I'm cleaning the shelves.  He tells me "Helen," - that's the name he uses when he wants to be firm with me.  Or when he's cross with me "we're not doing the bi-annual spring / autumn clean.  Just the necessities for now.  I've still got to change the oil on Sarah's car and fix spot lights on our car..."

I think that looking after a family is a full time job.  Not just the physical needs like clothes washing, feeding, teaching, health care etc but rather - their emotional and mental needs.  Raising young adults is a full time job.  Encouraging a husband is a full time job.  Caring for aged parents is a full time job and helping to inspire them all is a vocation.

Saturday 7 November 2009


Over thirteen years ago, we (the children and I) sighted a UFO.  The craft was rectangular in shape with lights on all four corners and it was moving in a way I can only describe as 'bobbing', as a boat would bob on the ocean. It bobbed for a few minutes then suddenly, took a 90 degree turn and sped into the dark of night.  A few weeks later, I did a search for UFO sightings in our area and found this story, telling of others who sighted a UFO in our area around the same time.

On Thursday, 5th of November this week, the Machinist and son were driving into town at 4.15am.  As they were leaving our tiny village, and had stopped at the 'T' junction, - preparing to turn right onto the Highway, they sighted a UFO above the gum trees straight ahead -  which is less than 150 metres away. The craft was bobbing; moving in the same way as the one our son had witnessed years ago.  Then suddenly, it disappeared.  It didn't speed into the darkness; it just disappeared.

On their journey into town, they saw a lot of kangaroo carcasses on the side of the Highway, which is unusual, as the high traffic movement and noise usually deters the kangaroos from the roadside.

As they turned off the Highway, into a country road which links the New South Wales border with the Australian Capital Territory border, they were plagued with more-than-usual kangaroo activity on the roadside, between the trees

Could their earlier sighting have something to do with this indigenous marsupial's unrest?

Friday 6 November 2009


There's  nothing like the natural beauty of the Aussie countryside

The sun-kissed earth...

The flora and the fauna...

Relics of times long past...

And young hooligans to bring us back to reality.  Fords: TIMELESS

Thursday 5 November 2009

Will You Sponsor Me?

In the year 2000, my brother and his family arrived in Australia from South Africa. They were jobless and (almost) homeless - mainly due to the criminal activity prevailent in the current South African government. Their right of passage to the land of milk and honey was a 457 Business visa, as the Machinist and I had sponsored them.  Unfortunately, my brother could not meet the requirements (which change almost every six months) of the 457 visa and sadly (devastatingly so), they had to return to South Africa at about this time in 2004, which was the visa's expiration date.
You will understand, then, the whirlwind of emotions when I received this request through our business email:

To whom it may concern

I am a qualified Electrician with 20 odd years experience. I also have my Wireman's Lic. If I am lacking some experience I am a keen, quick learner.

We are currently living in South Africa. I run my own Contracting business for the last 16 years doing new house installations, upgrades to 3 phase, highbay industrial lighting, rennovations, lighting and general maintenance for homes, restaurants, gated complexes, etc. I am a perfectionist in my field and have excellent client liason skills.

We had a Sponsor and were meant to leave in January for Perth but the contract was cancelled due to the economic crisis. Are you in a position to Sponsor me? We would love to relocate to Australia. If you can offer any help or advice it would be greatly appreciated. If given the opportunity I would be loyal, hard working and give of my best at all times. I would like to give my family the safety, security and all the opportunities that Australia offers. I would need to do my Trade Assesment once in Australia because you have to apply for that particular state and not knowing where I shall get a job makes it difficult to do beforehand.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards, X

What Gives With This Generation?

It's a hard thing - working for others when you've worked in your own business for most of your life. You tend to compare.  You tend to compare a lot. You have to tell yourself  "...self, don't worry about what others are doing.  Focus on what you will be doing...what you want to achieve."

Number One son (third year apprentice fabricator) is working for a large, 24-hour-production engineering company in town. This company's finished components are rated (by themselves for quality control purposes) from one to five; - number one being of the highest quality.  Number One son began producing a grade two component, and within a week and a half of his new employment, advanced to grade one components.  His supervisor has informed him that should his performance continue, the company will consider promoting him to a 'team leader', with an offer of higher wages.

Please bare with me, as I tell you this not to brag on my son (although it is better to blow somebody else's trumpet, rather than them blowing their own) but to put a point across.

After spending the morning of one of his days off up the ladder, applying ESP to oil-based paint on the ceiling beams at the Pie Shop, my son and I sat on the front step and he was telling me of his trials at work.

"You know, ma, I always wondered what it would be like to work for somebody else and now I do, and it is no big deal.  I thought it would be hard, but the truth is, nobody does more than what they have to".

"At about two minutes to three, everybody packs up, and waits to clock out, no matter what they are working on.  There is no inclination to go further, to better themselves.  They just seem to be happy to float along, just as they are."

"It's at the point that a few of them are getting mad at me, and fights are brewing, because now that the boss can see what can be done, he is expecting the same from them, and has, in the meantime - demoted them.  They think I'm a smart-ass, when all I want to do is just go to work and do my job...."

"I don't want to talk to Dad about this, because I don't want him to think I'm bragging or doing more for my new boss than I would for him..."

Now I know that most of you who are reading this are older and wiser and will probably understand me when I say that I could have offered my son EXTENSIVE counsel as a response, but I often think that less is more and the most I could mutter was

"Speak to your Dad.  He loves you and is very proud of you.."

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Fed Up...

I've just returned home from the first shift of the day in a torrid commercial kitchen.  Bubbling pots, steamy dishwasher, radiant warming lights, hot cooking oil, scalding grill. It's 32 degrees outside.  Hotter inside.

The Machinist has been working on a feacal-and-urine-infested horsefloat, and is aghast at what some fabricators can get away with as 'safe' and 'sturdy'. 

Roll on the opportunity to create wonderful metal art, as well as artistic pies! Delays suck...

Monday 2 November 2009

The Best (and Worst) of Two Worlds

Mam always said that as you get older, you revert back to your childhood.

I always thought that getting older meant when you reach your late seventies or early eighties. It seems that getting older is where I am now (even though I'm thirty odd years short of old age, as it's known). I often think of my childhood in Britain. I often imagine how life would be now, if I were living in Britain,  especially with my own family...

It seems that each time I see the green, undulating hills, the patchwork countryside, the old stone walls and buildings made from local rock- hundreds of years ago, I get the feeling that the land of my birth is calling me back, and I choke up.

The Machinist would never live in Britain. It's far too cold and wet for him, even though he adores the culture ( often declaring how he loves my 'Pommy Ways'). Our Young Adults would love to live in good old Blighty, so they say, but we all know how easy it is to speculate what life would be like in another land and how completely different it would be in real life.

I'm still content with my Land of Milk and Honey - even through the daydreams - and I find it quite a source of wonderment when I compare the two countries. Take today for instance; - on my way home from a shift at the Winery, I turned off the highway into our tiny village, and who should be heading into the undergrowth at quite a speed for his reputation? 

Mr Echidna.  (The Australian version of my beloved Mr Hedgehog).  Mr Echidna always makes me smile.  Granny tells me that Mr Echidna lives on the hill at the back of the Shop, along with Mr Fox ..."It must be a sign, Helen.  These native animals must feel quite safe and peaceful to be hanging around on our hill ..."

Later, Sarah arrived home and she had 'that' voice on - "Dad, Dad, there's a snake on the road, just near the light pole. I've left the keys in my car.  Do you want to come and sort him out?"

We all recognised 'the voice', and corridor doors, leading to Young Adult bedrooms were pulled open with gusto and in an instant, our whole family was assembled at the front of the house, squinting at the brightness, attempting to focus on the rippled tarmac, searching for The Ripple that would move and reveal itself as The Enemy.  Frustratingly, The Enemy slithered into the embankment and was immediately camouflagued, as patrons at the Hotel watched quizzically.  (Yesterday, a hotel patron had run over a baby snake and had excitingly headed towards the Hotel Kitchen to ask for a jar to preserve it so that the Hotel owners could add it to their snake-in-a-bottle collection).  We have the tourists trained, too...

If only, in a perfect world you could pick and choose aspects of what you like and what you don't like about the world you live in....


 Table talk amongst our children is and always has been, -  a rabbit warren . We start off in one hole and end up in another -  quick smart....