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Australia Archives

Aftermath

So, the dust has settled on my latest incident of outright stupidity.
Am I wiser?
Stronger?
Permanently cocooned in bubble-wrap?

No – not yet, at least! I certainly feel like a bit of a plonker, though 😉 Here’s what they did to me:

Jaw Xray

Note the metal plates, which fixed the split down the middle of my jaw. This has caused some loss of sensation in that area, presumably due to nerves they had to cut, so a few of my more exaggerated facial expressions are now off the cards.

Read the rest of this entry

Now That’s a Jaw Breaker

Hi folks!

So what’s going on with you? I’m sorry, that was rhetorical, what with this being a blog post and all. Feel free to answer it in the Comments though!

What I meant to say is, here’s what’s going on with me.

Yup, you guessed it! This is a progress update on Life, the Universe and Everything – specifically as it pertains to one particular idiot living in Perth, Australia.

First: the news! (Hang onto your lunch.)

I considered doing this as a video blog, but chose not to because a) Roo is away metal detecting with her Dad, so I haven’t washed in a week, and b) I’ve broken my jaw in three places, and am currently eating all my meals through a straw.

Wait a minute – how???

Well, because I’m an idiot, I managed to fall over at a party. “But people do that all the time!” I hear you cry. Alas, never one to settle for convention, I did it around 8pm, after just one drink. Amazingly, Roo had been away for less than 12 hours at this point! I also fell over in the garden – which is what makes the damage so impressive…

I told you to hang on to your lunch:

Split in Chin

How hard was that grass?

Yes, that IS bone you can see in there! Nine stitches (my first) and two metal plates (ditto) later, I have braces on what’s left of my teeth, and a load of elastic bands holding my jaw shut. If you’re wondering what the mucus-like substance in the picture above is… well, it’s mucus. The hole went all the way through you see, and whilst the bleeding stopped after a couple of hours, saliva from inside my mouth kept dripping out through the hole in my chin. Which is delightful, I’m sure you’ll agree! DAMN that grass…

Silver lining: I can’t talk (Roo will be overjoyed when she gets back!) – and I’ve already lost more than 4kg in my first week of an all-liquid diet… Read the rest of this entry

The Naked Truth – Skinny Dipping in Perth

In my eternal quest to find exciting things to do things that make me look stupid, I stumbled across a whopper – no, not a Burger King meal, but an event taking place in my home town of Perth that I couldn’t possibly resist:

Get Naked BannerThe World’s Biggest Skinny Dip!

Well, an attempt at least; there would be Guinness World Record people in attendance, official sarongs as prizes and the chance to contribute to a worthy cause about positive body image… blah blah blah.

Hell, it was a chance to get NAKED IN PUBLIC! Without BEING ARRESTED!

Naked SwimmersAs some of you may know, I like being naked. I’m naked right now if fact, which is why I’m using a lap-desk so my Macbook doesn’t burn my willy. Besides, I quite fancy the idea of setting a World Record. I’m never going to achieve one on my own (unless they count Star Wars Trivial Pursuit), so joining in with a group effort was the only way forward.

A few years back I joined in an attempt to set the world record for ‘Most People Twisting On The Beach’. It was an effort doomed to failure, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was held in my parent’s home town of Burnham-on-Sea; a retirement hotspot, where the population has an average age of 70. Burnham was actually featured in the book ’50 Worst Places To Live In The UK’ – but not until no.47. Possibly the biggest mistake though, was holding the event in the middle of winter.

The existing record holder was a tourist town in southern Spain, famed for its golden sand and party atmosphere. Whereas Burham-on-Sea is famed for its extensive mud flats and having the shortest pier in the UK. I’ve been on it; it’s crap.

Burnham Beach

Burnham-on-Sea Beach. Complete with pier. Told you it was crap!

The local radio station parked a bus on the beach, and my parents and I showed up ready to twist.

It rained. Unsurprisingly.

We twisted anyway, but with less than fifty people on the beach, most of them well over retirement age, there was real danger that if we kept it up much longer someone was going to break a hip. Or die of hypothermia. So the attempt was officially abandoned, and we slunk away in shame.

But this would be different – if for no other reason than it was being held in Perth, city of infinite sunshine and home to over one-and-a-half-million fun-loving souls.

The day dawned cold and grey, which was a bit of a shock. I stood in my back garden and held my hand out – it was raining! Absolute BASTARDS! It hasn’t rained in Perth since November – five completely dry months – and then this.

Dark SkyAs Roo dropped me off at the station, the sky looked dark and threatening.

“Won’t you be cold?” she asked.

“Nah. I’m from England! This is midsummer as far as I’m concerned.”

(In Northern England a man is not allowed to admit to being cold unless his testicles have actually frozen solid to something. This happens more often that you’d think.)

“Okay…” Roo didn’t sound convinced. “Would you like to borrow my jumper?”

I looked at her. She was wearing this:

Roos Jumper“No thanks,” I said, “because your jumper is bright yellow and made of string. I’d be better insulated if I stapled a paper napkin to my chest.”

“Fair enough.”

So she left me to it. Alone on the platform.

Travelling through Perth at 7am on a Sunday was a relaxing affair; I think I saw about fifteen people in almost two hours of train and bus travel.

Empty EscalatorsEmpty Train TunnelI found my way to the event and queued up to check in. Three cute chicks joined the line immediately behind me, one of them wondering aloud if we’d be going in all at once, or in groups.

“If we do it by group by group, I’d pity the bugger that went in first,” I said.

They laughed. With the ice broken I thought about asking if I could hang out (no pun intended) with them; being on my own was going to be the toughest part of this gig. But then my brain went into paranoia overdrive: “Are they too pretty? Will they think I’m trying to hit on them? Will they look at me with disgust? Will it destroy my confidence, so I’ll spent the rest of the day alone, lurking on the fringes, naked and friendless…”

No. Much easier to find someone ugly, and try to make friends with them.

Skinny Dip Crowds

Plenty to choose from!

It didn’t happen that way, of course. The girls ended up getting changed next to me, as none of us could be bothered waiting for the tiny cubicle-tents to become available. And then another bloke joined them, and suddenly it all seemed very above-board again. I wandered over.

“Do you mind me hanging out with you guys? My wife didn’t want to come with me, and I don’t have any friends here.” I probably could have phrased that better, but I was desperately trying not to sound desperate. And I was still failing.

Luckily, Aussie women are a strong, yet friendly breed. They gave me the typical Aussie answer to everything, from borrowing a sausage to (apparently) getting naked together: “Yeah, no worries!”

“So, you’re new to Perth?” one of the girls asked. “How long have you been here?”

“Ah… on and off… about six years…”

Skinny Dip Swanbourne PerthWe were called to the beach in our pre-assigned groups – I was a ‘Sweet Strawberry’, and my new friends were ‘Precious Plums’.

We milled around on the beach a bit, trying to keep warm, and eyed up the gigantic waves crashing against the shore.

“Looks really rough,” someone commented, and they were right; the iron-grey sea was foaming in anger. A call went out for the more confident swimmers to move to the front. That was me!

And then the sarongs came off, and everyone was sprinting into the surf.

Sea Full of Nudies

Possibly it looked something like this! (Taken on an earlier attempt in New Zealand.)

Bare ass and boobies bounced before me as I raced headlong into the water. I dived, came up swimming strongly, and made my way out to the furthest edge of the area, where lifeguards were patrolling in canoes. The ball-shrivelling cold faded quickly, as my body adjusted to the temperature. Then my legs went numb.

The waves were gigantic, battering the participants and slamming us into each other. I was loving it – the sea reared up, throwing me around like a rollercoaster, and each new wave was greeted with shrieks of awe and fear from the surrounding swimmers. It was extreme-nude-swimming, a sport which, if it doesn’t already exist, certainly should. Hell, I might go and found it right now!

I was enjoying myself immensely. But then I noticed two of the girls I’d met being brought in on the lifeguard’s surfboard. A glance at shore showed that a good hundred or so naked people were still on the beach, too intimidated by the waves to risk entering the water.

Then a horn went off, and the event marshals began beckoning us back to shore. The attempt was over.

As I reached the shallows and put my feet down, a cry went out from the beach. I turned just as the mother of all waves crashed down on me, tumbling me head over heels and depositing me on the sand a good way up the beach.

I opened my eyes to see a crowd of people looking down at me with concern in their eyes. Naked people.

Was this heaven?

Probably not, I thought, as I vomited up a lung full of sea water.

Later, fully clothed once more, I called Roo to give her the news. On the upside, I’d had an amazing time, met some really cool people, and got to run around with my cock out like… well, like me at every party I’ve ever attended.

On the downside, no records had been broken; 671 people had shown up and stripped off, just 73 short of the previous record. Damn it!

They’d called off the attempt halfway through due to the dangerous conditions, and at least one bloke had been brought in by the lifeguards, strapped to a board with a suspected spinal injury. So, it hadn’t all been fun and games.

Spinal Injury

It could always be worse… for this bloke, it was.

Roo answered the phone. She’d taken advantage of my absence to go shopping with her sister.

“I won’t be able to pick you up from the train station for a while, I’m afraid,” she explained.

“No worries! I’ll go into the city and celebrate with a pint.”

“Oh, that’s good then. Only…”

“Only what?”

“Well, will you be okay? You won’t be embarrassed, you know, going for a drink on your own?”

I had to smile at that.

“Honestly, after what I’ve just done… I think I’ll manage.”

So, the word flying around on the internet is that we were SO close – and that the weather is to blame. Who’d have thought it? Especially seeing as the sun came out mere minutes after we left the beach, and I got so sunburnt walking through town to get my pint that I now have a permanent t-shirt tan.

Beach Afterwards

Ten minutes later, it cleared right up!

Maybe God really does hate naked people?

Ah well. The naked citizens of Perth are unbowed. Hell, they’re trying again next year…

I’m going. How about you?

VIDEO BLOG!!!

Yes folks, here it is – my first ever video blog! Please don’t judge it too harshly – I feel like a proper plonker as it is, just from talking to the camera. You know when I said I was crap at acting? Well, I wasn’t lying… I hate seeing myself on film. Partially because my nose is bigger than most peoples… um, noses… and… well, other things. But before I put you off with too much whining, go ahead – check it out!

Please do let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

All the best,

Tony

My-Grain Headache

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I did the unthinkable; I turned traitor. Yes, folks, I broke my solemn vow, taken at the end of 2009, to never again work for anyone else – and I got a real job.

Well, kind of.

In my defence I’d like to say that, firstly, I thought it was a voluntary position when I applied for it, and secondly – they’re paying me a shitload of cash for the privilege!

Now, you could be forgiven for wondering, just what it is that I do at this job.

As it happens, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself.

I’ve been working on the show for three weeks so far, and I still haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. But it does seem to involve a lot of rice.

The Rice Show

Basically, I’ve been hired to be part of the art installation ‘Of All The People In All The World’, created by British theatre company Stan’s Café. Quite how I landed a job as an artist is a matter of debate. I’d just like to point out that at no point was I required to sleep with anyone. For any reason. Unfortunately.

So this is what happens: we use one grain of rice to represent one person (whether it be you, the Prime Minister, or Michael Jackson). Then we build up piles of rice to show off different numbers – the population of Australia, for example, is represented by a large mound containing twenty-two million grains of rice!

It’s very nearly as big as the pile representing all the registered gamers of World of Warcraft

Big Pile Of RiceIt’s this kind of juxtaposition of different statistics which makes the show what it is. Once you can see a hundred million of something in one place – and with a grain of rice in your hand as ‘you’ for comparison purposes – you can actually understand something about the scale of these numbers. Otherwise, I find any number containing a big string of zeroes to be a sort of abstract concept. I hear it, on the news for example: ten million people… blah blah blah… and I think to myself, “Wow, that sounds like a lot.” But without the ability to visualise it, a number that big doesn’t really have much meaning to me. Now, after not only seeing ten million grains of rice in one place, but actually counting the damn stuff out – I can fully appreciate how big these numbers are.

I can honestly say – they’re really, really big.

Maybe even bigger.

So, I pour rice. I started off by carrying and stacking sacks of it (which weighed 25kg each) – in assorted pyramid shapes to form the largest piles of the exhibition. It was bloody hard work, and I sweated so much I decided to wear underpants the following day. So it didn’t look quite so much like I’d pissed my pants, y’see.

Pyramid of rice sacksEight hundred and six million grains of rice.

And no, I didn’t count them one at a time…

I counted the bags though. 348 of the buggers! And one trip to the chiropractor, to get my spine to bend the right way again afterwards. It’s been through so much, it’s got more kinks than my Dad’s CD collection.

Anyway. With the stacking and the pouring mostly taken care of, my job has devolved to that of a sweeper. I constantly roam the piles, seeking out dust and dirt to remove (as no-one wants to get a face full of fluff when they crouch down to appreciate the number of people who had plastic surgery last year).

I hunt spiders; I talk to the public, explaining why they would benefit from spending half the day staring at huge piles of rice. I occasionally caution a bad-mannered child, or tackle a drunk who is convinced that underneath our rice is the only place he can hide from the government helicopters…

But most of all, I walk around and around the hall, approaching pile after glistening pile of rice – and sweeping away all the pubic hairs.

Pubic Hair On Rice

Pubic Hair On Rice: Not even popular in Asia…

Yes! Where the hell do they come from? Well, to be honest I’d rather not know. But someone is distributing them, fairly evenly, around the entire exhibition – day after day after day! They’re short, black and curly (the hairs, I mean) – and any more than that, I shall not say.

Other than to wonder – to marvel, really – at how this can possibly happen, in the middle of a wide-open public space, without anyone noticing.

But if you’re reading this, and it’s you that’s doing it – please, please bugger off! Or at least, go trim yourself in the privacy of your own home. And dispose of the evidence in a similar fashion.

Because I don’t care what anyone says – it’s just not art.

I also remove footprints from the otherwise pristine white paper on which the rice piles are placed. No-one ever walks on it while I’m looking, but every bugger in the place must be tap-dancing on the stuff as soon as my back is turned, given how many footprints I get rid of every day. For this task I use my trusty eraser – and I can honestly say I haven’t done so much rubbing out since I worked as an assassin for the British government.

What? No, I mean… um, let’s just forget I said that.

[PICTURE ‘Tony-mid-assassination/uploads/facebook.jpg’ HAS BEEN BLOCKED BY THE OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR GENERAL]

We (by this I mean, my fellow pube-sweepers and I) get asked a variety of questions each day, but there are some that crop up fairly regularly. Like: “What do you do with the rice afterwards?”

The answer, of course, is that giant betentacled robots descend from the heavens and annihilate it with bolts of pure anti-rice from their navel-lasers. Oh, but we get to eat any bits that they miss.

We also get asked, “Has anyone ever taken a running jump into the rice?”

The answer, of course, is “No, of course no-ooOOOOOOOOO!”

*CRUNCH*

Because a four-year-old child had chosen that precise moment to do just that.

And so, out came the brushes.

Luckily enough he didn’t dive head-first – because, as I have a habit of pointing out to people considering it, rice is actually quite dense. Not to mention, most of the piles are cunningly constructed from those fully-packed 25kg sacks, with just enough loose rice drizzled over the top to maintain the illusion. So, diving into one of our piles is rather similar to diving into a large pile of bricks.

But no damage this time. Other than to the OAP population of Europe, which took a beating… I’ve never seen pensioners move so fast. The culprit survived with a vicious tongue-lashing from his mother. His friend, nearby, was distinctly unimpressed.

Disinterested Boy

Working on the show has also given me chance to ponder many of the more sobering statistics we showcase. Like how each day, nearly twice as many people are born in the world as die in it – making it disturbingly obvious just where the our population is headed.

And then there’s the positives; like when weighing out 3,327 grams of rice to represent the planet’s 200,000-person population increase since yesterday (scary, eh?!) – I had a ‘YES!’ moment.

I opened a sack and tipped a load onto the scales – only to get it exactly right, to the grain! In one go!

I looked around in excitement for someone to share my triumph with – only to discover that no-one was watching.

And even if they had been, they still wouldn’t give a shit.

But it made me very happy nonetheless.

And on that note, I shall leave you with a couple more pictures of Megan Fox naked. No? Really? Sorry, my mistake. That’ll be more pictures of piles of rice then… you lucky, lucky people!

And please, use the comments box to exercise your very best rice-based puns, because I hear so few of them. Go on – I dare you!

:0)

 

Rice Show Religious ControversyDunno if you can make this one out, but it’s a fascinating insight into the nature of religion in Australia. In that, the sixth largest religion (according to the Census) – is Jedi. Both Roo and I are in that pile…

Rice Show China

Yet More Big Piles Of Rice at The Rice Show

The Next Big Thing

My good friend Joe Cawley, author of the brilliant (and mega-successful) book ‘More Ketchup Than Salsa’, has nominated me to answer a few questions about my current Work In Progress, as part of ‘The Next Big Thing’ blog hop.

So, if you’re looking for something to read, please do check out Joe’s book – it’s the story of how he gave up everything in England to go and open a bar in Tenerife. With no language skills, no experience – no clue, really! It’s awesomely funny and completely true. I loved it.

And now without further ado, here are the questions, and my answers…

What is the working title of your book?


Currently it’s called ‘The Kangaroo Suicides!’ – though I’m hoping to pull a wittier remark from the book’s dialogue once I get to writing it. Something that makes you go “WTF? What the hell is this book about?” It’s a strategy that seems to have worked so far. By which I mean, no-one knows what the hell my books are about.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came from ‘The Adventures of Rusty’ – a book my sister always wanted to write about her adventures around Oz, in a van, with her best friend and me. I have now stolen it.

What genre does your book fall under?

Crazy travel comedy! It’s a genre I coined to fit my books. In this one I’ll visit about 7 countries, take up several hobbies very unsuitable to my skill-set (including climbing without ropes, parkour and snowboarding) – and injure myself fairly consistently in the process. That’s the crazy – the comedy derives from the fact that I was never quite clever enough to see it coming…

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie
rendition?

I think I would have to be Michael Cera – he seems stuck in the same perpetually-awkward adolescent phase as me. I can just see him struggling to lift my big hammer… I think Gill (my sister) would benefit from the sarcastic poise (and stature) of a young Janeane Garofalo. As for the lovely Roo… well, I think Scarlet Johansen would do a fine job! Especially if I got to play myself… No, not with myself!

Ahem.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Three fools in search of Adventure – one sister, one sister’s best friend, and me – all wrapped up in a knackered old van, and bound for the remotest parts of Australia… what could possibly go wrong? Ha! See how I used punctuation to make all that into one sentence! I’m learning. But better take a big breath before reading it

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self published – unless anyone rom Amazon is reading this…? I’m ready to deal, honest! How’s about this: everything stays the same, but you put my picture up on the Amazon.com homepage. Possibly with my bum out…

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It doesn’t exist yet! But the last one took me 10 months. I reckon I should have this one surrounded in six… but then, I AM planning on spending most of those six months pony trekking across Mongolia, so it’s hard to say for sure :0)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?


‘Round Ireland With A Fridge’ is what opened my eyes to the possibility of writing my stories down. I figured my adventures were at least that amusing… An Idiot Abroad (the TV show) is the closest in terms of style – but everyone in my game loves to be compared to Bryson, so why not? Though I think he’s a little more… erudite than me. At any rate, he makes less poo jokes. So, my book is like all of Bill Bryson’s books – but with the cleverness removed and replaced by an endless procession of toilet humour. Wow, can I over-sell something, or what?!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, I lived (just about) through the adventures! So it seemed crazy not to write about them. It was, after all, one of the most significant – and peculiar – times of my life. Plus, I tell these stories all the time. Everyone I know is heartily sick of them. So, it seemed like a natural progression – to go from waffling at a few close friends, to waffling at the whole world. At least most of them can’t hit me for it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Um… tough one. Because it’s set in Australia, and no-one is really interested in Australia, are they? And it’s full of mundane, everyday occurrences, like getting lost in the desert, and being hosed off the side of gigantic national monuments. Suicidal kangaroos aside, I’m not really sure what this book has going for it. So, for now I’ll just say ‘the sex’. Because there’s quite a lot of it in this one…

:0)

A Day In The Life Of A Writer

People keep asking me why I haven’t written a blog post recently. I’m well prepared for this question, with a whole raft of defensive answers citing how busy I am finishing off my second book whilst trying to keep the first one afloat. I rarely mention that my intense laziness plays a part in all of this…

But it inspired me to write about my typical day, and publish it on The Displaced Nation, an expat blog I regularly write for (see? Busy, I told you so!).

So for those who can face the inanity of a look into my life – well I guess that’s most of you, as that’s what this blog is generally about :0) – here it is!

As you can well imagine, it’s an extremely glamorous life, full of high-octane car chases, explosions and pithy one-liners… in my head, anyway.

My Writing Desk

The reality:

I wake up at 6:40am. I’ve no choice, because that’s what time my wife wakes up. Much as I would love to moan at her about it, she’s doing it for me – in fact she gets up, gets breakfast and goes out to work, all in the name of supporting me while I lounge around at home, pretending to be a writer.

So, yeah, I figure it’s best not to grumble.

Even though it’s bloody freezing at 7am!

It continues to surprise me that it can be this cold in Australia. Who knew?

At random intervals throughout the day I receive instructions from the wife via text message.

‘It’s sunny out! Go for a walk.’

‘It’s raining – bring the washing in!’

‘Don’t forget to clean the bathroom today’

‘Eat something!’

It’s because she loves me, but also because she’s lived with me long enough to know that I’m an idiot. Without these helpful prompts she’d get home to find I’d Tweeted my heart out, emailed everyone I know in this hemisphere and written thousands of words of my new manuscript – but that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.

Then, when she takes me to the gym I end up fainting halfway through the class.

Australia is an amazing place, for such a wide variety of reasons that I could fill this blog post waffling about them; but there’s one stand-out fact that makes a real difference at this point.

The wages here are good. Very good. So good in fact, that my wife, working part time as a cleaner, can comfortably support both of us! Now, we’ve been backpackers long enough to know how to live frugally. We rent a room in a share-house for example, rather than splashing out on our own flat. But other than that, I’d say we do okay. We eat out plenty, go to parties and the cinema, and have a gym membership so ridiculously expensive I sweat more thinking about it than I do using it – but we manage it all quite comfortably, on one part-time wage.

I’ve never found another country where this is possible.

 

A Good Morning!

After wading through a mountain of emails, Tweets and Facebook messages – some of which aren’t even spam – I finally get to start on the real work. And then…

  • 10am – check my sales.
  • 10:02am – shout “WOOHOO!” unnecessarily loudly, pissing off my student friend in the next room, who doesn’t have to be up ‘till 12.
  • 10:05am – celebrate with a coffee.
  • 10:10am – back to work, until…
  • 10:30 – check sales again – just to be sure I wasn’t imagining things.
  • 10:32am – Wake up students again with another cry of ‘Woohoo!’
  • 10:35am – celebrate with another coffee…

I like my coffee like I like my women… industrial size! And witty…

As you can imagine, I also spend a lot of time on the loo.

There is a compulsion amongst self-published authors to constantly check our sales and our Amazon rankings. This is because, unlike ‘properly’ published authors, we have access to this information in real time. Watching sales tick up one by one – or watching them stubbornly refuse to do so – is a highly addictive (and utterly pointless) pass-time.

I DO NOT suffer from this.

I check less than five times a day – except on the days when I check more often. Which is quite often.

But I don’t suffer from the compulsion. At all.

I also don’t do denial.

 

Message Received

So, we’ve reached lunch. Or rather, we should have. By this time I’m usually quite deep into the world I’m writing in – which for me is my own torrid past. Having to nail it down so completely, with colours and gestures and remembering what people said, sends me into such a vivid re-living of the event I’m describing that I lose all track of time. If I don’t get that text telling me to eat, I don’t eat.

Which is one reason why I’m so skinny, despite sitting in front of my desk all day.

When I do get the text, it scares the hell out of me.

I’m usually sitting in silence. I can’t work with music on, or else I end up listening to the lyrics and, inevitably, singing along with gusto. As the student in the next room can attest, I’m one of the worst singers in the entire country. Maybe even the world.

So all is calm, and quiet, and focus – only the rhythmic clacking of keys disturbs the air. Then my phone screeches at me and I jump three feet off my chair, in a move that amazes anyone lucky enough to see it happen.

“How the hell do you jump that high while you’re sitting down?” they ask.

“You must have some potent muscles in your arse!”

“Why thank-you,” I tell them. “It’s all the practice I get, talking out of it.”

My wife gets home and takes me out to the gym. I rely on her because I can’t drive – at least, I can now. I took a test in December (my first, at age 33), and passed with flying colours. But I haven’t driven since, so I tend to rely on her – not just for money, but as a taxi service too.

Poor woman.

But anyway, we only have one car. Or more accurately, about 2/3rds of a car; it’s gotten considerably shorter since she crashed it into the back of the taxi a few months ago. But it still works, so what’s the problem?

Although I do have to put my hand under the bonnet to start it.

Damage to our carAfter the gym – assuming we’re not going straight out for dinner with friends, to pile all the calories we’ve just burnt back on at Nandos, we wend our weary way home.

 

Chores

She cooks, and I clean up afterwards – because a) she’s been cleaning all day, and b) I can’t cook for toffee. Seriously – beans on toast is the pinnacle of my culinary ability. And I usually burn at least one component of it.

While she cooks, I finish off whatever piece of writing was rudely interrupted by the end of her working day.

I only cook on special occasions…

After dinner I Tweet, and Facebook, and email – but from the comfort of our bed, where we sit with our legs up watching a movie.

And eating ice-cream, because if you’re going to go to the gym four times a week, you might as well make it worthwhile  :0)

And then it’s 10pm: well-earned sleep time for the wife. After all, she’s got to be up at 6:40 the next morning.

So I tuck her in and sneak downstairs, where I carry on Twittering, writing the odd guest post, sending out review copies of my book to bloggers, replying to emails from readers, making posts on forums and indulging in my two main vices: a glass of wine, and allowing myself to write a bit of a sci-fi novel I one day hope to publish. Ah, good times!

At around 2am I generally remember that I’ll be getting up at six as well, as it’s impossible to get back to sleep after seeing the wife off to work; it’s also usually around this time that someone living in a far more sensible time-zone strikes up an interesting conversation on Twitter…

But I try to be in bed by 4.

I don’t always make it.

Y’see? I told you! Pure, unadulterated glamour…

The Great Perth Storm of 2012…

We heard it first on the news.

A storm was coming for Perth. One of epic proportions.

WA StormAfter a week of wild weather, winds bringing down trees and power lines alike, this was set to be IT. The Big One.

Batten down the hatches – we were in for a rough ride.

Word spread from TV and radio, from person to person – it was a storm – no, it was a tornado! Category 2, whatever that means, or worse – is there worse than a Category 2? I don’t know!

People panicked.

Facebook lit up with concerns about power outages and house damage.

“I have to park my car underneath a huge tree,” one friend explained. “I can’t do anything to stop it getting crushed!”

There was talk of flooding.

There was talk of snow.

Surely we weren’t in for a blizzard? I mean, I know it’s winter, but this is Perth! Right?

People hurried home from work.

We could hardly believe it – the traffic at 4pm was like rush hour. Businesses and shops closed early, sending staff home as soon as they could to avoid them being caught on the road when The Storm hit.

By nightfall the roads were empty. It was eerie, as we drove home from the gym, speeding unopposed down streets we normally had to queue down.

Empty StreetsThe cafes and restaurants of the popular Vic Park district were all empty; occasionally a terrified pedestrian darted across the street, desperately seeking shelter, cursing the cruel fate that had left them stranded outside in the face of the advancing storm.

At just after 8pm, Western Standard Time, it hit.

The noise of the wind was intense – well, probably. We didn’t hear it as we were inside eating schnitzels.

The storm surged around the house, making us occasionally remember it was there. Plans were abandoned: “We’ll have to put the bins out tomorrow,” I said gravely.

“We’ll have to close the bedroom window!” my wife informed me.

But we didn’t. We’re just that fearless.

Outside, the storm raged unabated.

Perth resisted with all it’s strength – but how could it possibly survive the night?

For minutes at a time we were battered by the rain, sheeting from the sky with enough force to make you really, really wet.

Then there would be a brief lull – then rain would pour down once again, flooding into our drains like… well, like it’s supposed to do.

The aftermath was one of subtle devastation.

Branches were down.

Leaves were down.

Hell, leaves were everywhere. It looked like Perth had been caught in the grip of a… big storm. Well, big-ish.

Across the region, fences were slightly damaged.

A garden gnome was seen to be unmoved in the hilltop vicinity of Roleystone, having narrowly survived the same terrifying ordeal that his friends had also narrowly survived.

Slowly, life returned to normal. People came out of hiding, glancing fearfully at the sky and counting the signs of destruction all around them.

Some of them needed more than one finger.

But long after the boards had been removed from our windows, long after the children had been rescued from beneath tables and under beds, long after 10am, when the sun had dried all remaining traces of the deadly rainstorm – Perth was still there.

Thankfully no-one lost their lives to the deadly downpour, though it is believed that a few weather forecasters lost their jobs.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and with the idiots themselves.

United in their defiance of the storm, Perth residents have vowed: ‘We shall rebuild!’

Picture by The Brow Horn Orchestra

Unfortunately, nothing was destroyed, but the sentiment remains important. Never again will this brave city feel as threatened by Mother Nature.

Never before, in the field of human-weather activity, has so little been done to so many by such a vast load of bullshit.

So now, wear this badge with pride:

I survived banner

 

This one’s for YOU!

In preparation for conquering the world – at least as far as book sales go –  I’ve been reading a fantastic book by John Locke called ‘How I Sold A Million Ebooks’. In it he advises authors to get to know their audience, and to write what their audience wants to read. Good advice. So I started to think about that.

Who exactly are my readers?

Well, based on the feedback I’ve been getting they’re of all ages (eight to a hundred and eighty eight) and genders (male, female, other), from a wide variety of countries (even Ireland! Who knew?). But they all have this in common: they are intelligent, sophisticated, highly attractive people – who love to laugh at me making an idiot out of myself.

So with this in mind, I trawled my archives (What? I can’t have archives now?) and looked for examples of me doing stupid things. I found plenty.

The result is this: here for your enjoyment is a short piece I wrote for a competition which I didn’t win, probably because I wrote the piece after the deadline had already passed. I know, I know. Always read the small print! Or, you know, any of the print…

Anyway. This happened while I was in Australia for the first time. Enjoy!

Field Day

    “Tony, wake up! Gotta get ready for work!” My girlfriend Roo was prodding me insistently – with the butt-end of a torch. Outside of our tiny tent darkness reigned and the civilised world still slept; but we had a new job to go to, on a sandalwood plantation, and one thing all agricultural work had in common was an early start. Damn it.

In fairness, this was the height of the Australian summer and our camping ground was in the far north. Intellectually I knew that by 6am the inside of the tent would be like a blast furnace. But I still loathed and detested 5am.

Infinite Field    Dawn found us sitting in a rapidly disintegrating minibus, bouncing along a knackered dirt track towards the plantation. The vehicle was in roughly the same state of repair as the road; there were holes in the roof; there were holes in the floor. It needed to be push-started every time, and was stopped by ‘natural breaking’ – ie, coasting until it either ran out of speed, or hit something. Or both.

Eight other workers were crammed into the torn vinyl-covered seats alongside Roo and myself, and every one of us was braced in position with arms legs and in a few cases, heads pressed against what was left of the dented metal roof.

“She’ll be right!” The boss had said, in true Aussie fashion, when I’d commented to him that only the paint was holding his van together.

After which he’d introduced himself as ‘Johno’.

Johno loved to drive that wreck of a van. He loved to drive it at speed. He prided himself on knowing exactly how to coax what he wanted from the ancient engine. He deftly slotted it between openings in the fence and shot across makeshift bridges over a network of irrigation ditches. He was grinning at me in the rear-view mirror, as if to say ‘See?’

When suddenly the world turned upside down and the seat in front of me took a swipe at my ribs. I twisted as I fell, and ended up lying on my face across the mud-encrusted windows.

Roo was lying on top of me. And at least three people were lying on top of her. The van was on it’s side, nose down in a ditch, and I was slowly being suffocated. This must be what it’s like to play the Aussies at rugby, I thought.

“I can get out the window!” someone called from the front.

“Yeah, me too!”

And one by one we squeezed out of whatever opening presented itself. After all, there were plenty of them.

Johno stood on the bank, counting heads as we crawled up to him.

“Sorry lads!” he said cheerily, ignoring the presence of several women. “It gets a bit narrow there.”

Apparently this satisfied him that the situation was back under control. He pulled out his cell phone and took a deep breath before punching a number in.

“Hey there Big Man! Yeah, we’ve, um, had a bit of a crash…”

He held the phone away from his ear for a few seconds while the swearing on the other end subsided. His mood deteriorated as the noise continued.

“Yeah… that narrow part, by the ditch… yeah, in the ditch. Upside down.”

There was a final blast of abuse from the speaker.

“Yes,” he agreed glumly. “Again.”

The voice did not sound impressed.

Luckily for us, the crash-site wasn’t far from the job-site.

Johno, eager to get back in the good books, led us straight into the field and got us started. ‘Weeding’ would be an accurate description of the job that ensued. Not that I was sure exactly what we were weeding and why, but the contrast with our last job picking pumpkins was unbelievable. It was just so… easy! After two weeks of straining, back-breaking toil hefting gigantic pumpkins into the back of a tractor moving at jogging pace, this wasn’t even work at all.

I strolled over to Roo, who was busily pulling a small leafy plant from the soil.

“This is incredible,” I commented.

“I know! Shh!” She was obviously thinking the same thing – we had to keep this job at all costs.

Another lazy hour drifted by. I wandered up another furrow, pulling up whatever came closest to hand. There was a certain dark green, very persistent weed that seemed to be everywhere. “Check this out!” I dropped a handful of the plants in front of Roo. These things are in every row!”

“That’s because they’re the support plants,” she hissed. “Don’t pull them out. okay? We’ll get in trouble.”

“Oh, really? Shit. Sorry!”

She herself was leaving a trail of remarkably similar looking plants uprooted.

“What’s the difference?”

She sighed. She always had to help me with stuff like this. I was never a particularly observant person. “These are weeds.”

I took the proffered plant and studied it.

“This is the support tree.” The fingers of her free hand gently lifted the leaves atop the stalk nearest to her.

To me, they looked identical.

“See?”

“Of course,” I lied.

“Good.”

“And what about this one?” I held up another of my recent victims. “We pull these out too, right?”

“That’s the sandalwood tree!”

“Oh! Now I get it!”

In spite of herself, Roo was starting to giggle. “How many… how many of those have you… ripped up?”

“Um, well… all of them. I think.”

She burst out laughing, but caught herself – with effort – after one guffaw. “Shit!” she coughed out between suppressed giggles. “Don’t… pick… any more!”

It was all I could do not to crack up myself. We were halfway through the day and I must have divested about a quarter of the field of it’s primary raison d’etre.

Weed pulling

About to commit another crime...

We picked on in silence for the next half-hour.

“Woah!  Careful there!” It was Johno, stomping up the furrow behind me. “Don’t be pulling that one out, mate!”

I froze mid-motion.

“That there’s a sandalwood – just looks a bit different ‘cause it ain’t grown as much,” he explained.

I released my grip on the immature specimen.

“Phew! Glad I stopped you there!” And he strode past me towards the next keen plucker.

I stopped for a few seconds and mopped sweat from my forehead with a bandanna. “So those ones too eh? This job is harder than I thought!”

As Johno drove us home I couldn’t resist asking; “Is this job real? There has to be a catch? Like, deep underground you’ve got some super-secret weapons lab, and we’re just here to make it look innocent on the satellite photos? And you pay us eighteen bucks an hour to pick weeds so no-one rocks the boat, right?”

“Not quite that exciting!” He replied. “See, these sandalwood trees will be producing oil in a couple of years and that oil is expensive stuff. Some trees will make loads, some not as much, but when they’re mature they’ll be worth between three and fifteen thousand dollars each.”

There was a stunned silence. I couldn’t have spoken even if I’d wanted to. My throat had suddenly gone dry.

“F-fifteen? Thousand?” I finally croaked.

“Jeez,” one of the other workers exclaimed, “that’s crazy man! What if someone steals one!”

“Security. Whole place is fenced all around. Got cctv cameras on the fence posts. And our own fire station on site, in case a bush fire gets too close! Yeah, this field is worth something like eighty-five million dollars. They go all out to protect these babies.”

I felt vaguely sick. Whilst at the same time I had the hideous feeling that deep inside me was welling up a great big belly laugh. I’d worked here for one day. By rough estimate I’d done at least a million dollars’ worth of damage…

Roo was nudging me with her foot. I glanced over at her. Her expression was unmistakable ‘Say Nothing!’ it read. I was inclined to agree.

Sandalwoods

That's one pricey plant!

Back at the camp site that evening we discussed our options. Well more accurately, Roo discussed them while I fell around the place laughing. “It’ll take them a long time to get it out of my salary!”

“Come on, seriously!” Roo chastised me. “What are we going to do?”

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and sat on the scrubby grass next to her.

“If we don’t go back it’ll look really suspicious,” I pointed out. “On the other hand, if we do go back and they spot my little mistake, it’s quite possible they’ll drown us in a ditch.”

“Or they could just put us in a car with Johno driving…” Roo added.

“So what do you reckon? Shall we look for new jobs?”

With a theatrical sigh, Roo reached for our cell phone. “I put Johno’s number in here, I’ll send him a text.”

I watched over her shoulder as she typed.

‘From Tony and Roo. Thanks for an amazing experience.’

Which I thought was quite generous. She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Not much else to say,” she said. And added ‘We Quit.’

Revenge

Roo's Revenge!

 

So, did you enjoy that one? I hope so! Let me know what you think in the Comments. And if anyone wants to be told when my next blog post comes out, please feel free to stick your email address in the box on the sidebar. It only sends you an email when I publish a new blog post, and I don’t do that too often – I promise you won’t be deleting stacks of emails from me! I usually manage to post about once every ten days or so. And I try to keep it amusing! Well, thanks for reading! You can also find me on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TonyJamesSlater

And Twitter: @TonyJamesSlater

The Dangers of Daytime TV

This is the tragedy of being a writer.

I’m sitting here in my lounge, waiting for my good friend Peter Allison to appear on Channel Ten’s ‘The Circle’. Yes, I’m name dropping here! So sue me. Peter is the best-selling author of three books, including ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ and his brand new book set in South America called  ‘How To Walk A Puma’.

Peter Allison

Peter Allison

I’ve been on TV now and then, for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here (because who cares, right?!). One thing I know is that whenever you’re waiting for your ‘bit’ to come up – it takes forever. It’s ALWAYS the very last part of the last section, one advert break past the point where you were sure there couldn’t be any more advert breaks. The show is long enough that even your most stalwart mates, who’ve been sitting on your sofa with a bribe of beer, will start to make excuses to leave. It begins with a sigh, followed by “Oh, I just realised I’ve gotta make a phone call…” and ends with them distracting your attention by setting fire to your rug and then diving out the window while you throw yourself bodily onto the flames.

Me on Doctor Who

Yes, that's me about to be electrocuted by a Darlek on Doctor Who

Although to the casual outsider it may look like I lead the life of a loafer (I haven’t had a ‘proper’ job since December 2009!) – it’s not true. Honest! I tend to be quite busy  and I frequently work up to 18 hours a day between writing my new book and promoting my first one.

So I had no idea daytime TV was laced with so many infomercials!

Now, I am a very suggestible person.

It’s funny, because only last night I was writing a chapter in my new book about it; how I can’t help doing whatever people tell me, up to and including licking a prickly cactus. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t be allowed to watch infomercials on my own. At least, not if there’s an active phone line in the house.

So… I’ve bought two packets of Bug Mesh and a Miracle Wonder Bra.

I only narrowly avoided buying a triple-box of ‘EKO Crystals for only $78.75’ because I was busting for a shit. Seriously, if that advert hadn’t happened to coincide with my morning bowel movement my credit card would have taken another pounding.

How I will live with my body’s rampant acidity levels in the absence of these miraculous crystals I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure Roo will be happier, knowing that I spent that time on the toilet.

I also got to sit through a delightful segment on shoes, promoted by a woman in a blouse so hideous even my Mum wouldn’t wear it. Well okay, my Mum probably would wear it. With her nylon trousers and crocs.

My mum

Mum's fashion sense is legendary

This woman was the in-house fashion expert for the show, and was on there showing a selection of shoes which the presenters hated. “But I own these shoes,” she protested, when told they looked like a Grandma would wear them.

Hardly surprising – the woman reminded me of one of my old high-school teachers. I think I would have come across better as a fashion expert in my stained board shorts.

Anyway, Peter’s slot, when it arrived, was delicious – and short. About half the length of time devoted to the shortest infomercial (about a miracle fat-busting powder that I’ll almost never use). The presenters themselves seemed horrified, and asked Peter if he’d come back to carry on their discussion when they had more time! Like, say, at the start of the show, before whatever viewers it attracts have already given up their will to live for the day.

Just goes to show that, write a great book – which Peter has – and people still don’t give a shit. Show up in person and fascinate them, and they’ll finally give you the time of day, become interested, read your book and love it – but until then? I can almost see the show’s guest booker in conversation with the producer.

Booker: “So, we’ve got Peter Allison, this best-selling author type guy…”

Producer: “Really? *Yawns* Okay, stick him in somewhere.”

Booker: “But not before the bras?”

Producer: “Hell no! He’s just an author. You know, books n’ shit.”

Booker: “So after the acne powder?”

Producer: “Acne powder eh? Interesting..! Double its slot. And yeah, stick whatshisname on after that. Oh, but put an ad break I first. Let’s try and make some cash for a change…”

Sucks to be an author. It’s not a bad way to make a living (if you are making a living doing it!). But where’s the respect, eh? Where’s the love? Peter’s new book took him two years to write. I’ve read it and I love it. But those 15 minutes of fame… well, if it is 15 minutes – are pretty fickle.

Yet another reason why authors need a tough skin!

And that’s reason enough for me to need that Acne cream.

(Look, it was THREE tubes for the price of ONE, okay?)