Dread Pirate

The Return Of The Bluebird Of Bitterness

The Return Of The Bluebird Of Bitterness

The Bluebird of Happiness, as I remarked to a friend, was well and truly back in Bluebird of Bitterness territory, and any attempts at landing on my shoulder and singing a happy tune would undoubtedly have ended in me giving it a lesson in just how unlucky it is for a bird to crap on someone, despite beliefs within the Jewish faith to the contrary, as there's no good luck in having your feathers used in a new and interesting headpiece for the racing season.

But as I lie here now, post Weekend of Whoah, mulling over this pile of Prussian blue plumage-related poo, and daring that bloody BOB to whistle anything other than Johnny Cash's 'When The Man Comes Around', I recognise the following self-evident truths.

Despite all the sorrow, all the anger, the truly heart-shattering words, encounters, and elements that made up the last 72 hours, I couldn't say I didn't find gratitude in them... nor grace.

Because both were present in so many small gifts I am grateful for.

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

Winter is nature’s way of saying ‘up yours’.
— Robert Byrne

I'm lying here in bed this Friday morn feeling very grumbly. Not only do I have the flu (and yes it is the flu, Mum, not just a bad cold, I'm not playing Hypochondriac Heaven) - but I've just read through the magic of Facestalk that juniper berries are being threatened with some weird disease. So not only am I sick, but there exists the possibility of NO MORE GIN.


Time for a strategic retreat under the Doona of Destiny methinks. Unfortunately without a gin in hand, but eight o'clock in the morning would be pushing it.

This has not been a good week. It may be the Winter Solstice, but there will be no naked skylarking to celebrate this fact. It's too bloody cold, even in Golden Queensland. And sniffles and nude frolics don't really go together, so again doona downtime wins out.

What else can I grumble about? My hatred of telecommunications behemoths? Hmmmmm. Possibly not. That would take up more time and space than a dozen blog posts, reduce people to tears and/or yawns and make me so cross that I might get a bit vigilante-ish and end up in the news on Facestalk myself.

So maybe I will just say this.

Yesterday was a bloody awful day for a lot of people out there it seems. This week and in fact 2013 in general seem to not be on the money for many of my loved ones; and I'm buggered if I'm going to be the one saying 'turn that frown upside down' when their crises are real and significant.

For me, I know that my grumbles are (mainly) just that; grumbles. They are the product of feeling physically heinous and frustrated with said condition. This year could be dubbed 'The Year Of The Sick As A Dog' if the Chinese horoscope felt like breaking with tradition, and yes I'm fed up with it.

But I will stand tall - or lie tall, as I can't get out of bed without fainting - and be positive. Ish. When it comes down to the crunch, I am grateful for so many things. Not least of which is the fact that I have people to care for me when I am sick (grammatical pats don't really count Dread P, but I'll take what I can get) and that I have friends and loved ones to rely on when things are tough.

That's a privilege, not a right, and my gratitude for these people is very wide and deep.

So perhaps I shall stop whinging for a little while at least, and count my blessings instead. As a wise friend said just a few moments ago on the ever present Facestalk, Mother and Father to us all:

"When life hands you over-ripe bananas, make strawberry-orange-banana smoothies."

And maybe add a dollop of gin.

While you still can.


Twisting By The Pool

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

— William Goldman, The Princess Bride

It has been, to put it mildly, a very trying week. I am not even going to pretend otherwise. There are times when it is better to lay down one's arms, stop trying to rule the known world and simply admit defeat; to say to the dragon 'come out, come out wherever you are' and let it flame you for a few moments before taking up shield and sword again.

Even princesses in shining armour need a break every so often.

I was talking last week about not sucking it up. And yet again, I may sound as though I am having a bit of a whinge. In a way I suppose I am, because I am talking about being in physical agony. But I am also talking about gratitude, and how I feel about normally having it - well, normally having it pretty damn good.

Planet Pain. It stinks. It is not a nice place to be - at all. I don't like visiting, and I cannot believe that I used to basically live here on a full time basis.

What I also cannot believe is how much I take for granted now in terms of how well I am generally, and how grateful I am for the progress that I have made, and continue to make, in terms of staying healthy and fighting what my body and brain would quite like me to give in to at times.

I am also grateful that I know the reasons behind my pain this week, and that I know there is a 'most of the time I am fine' end in sight. For so many people whom I know who have Parkinson's or Dystonia - or both - they are not so lucky. They hurt all the time.

All. The. Time.

Imagine being 30 years old. Or 35. Or 40. And you wake up in the middle of the night and your back is twisted, and your feet are in cramps so severe that they form circles, and your jaw is trying to make its way through your collarbone just for the hell of it. And it just won't stop. Not just for minutes, or hours; but days. Or weeks. Or months.

Or years.

I have only faced days at a time.

My beautiful Rogers - and in fact so many people I know - face, and have faced, the latter.

Sometimes I underestimate her bravery because of her silly sense of humour and because she is so gorgeous that you forget about the lean-over. And she doesn't talk about the pain.

But then whenever I end up as a pretzel I remember.

And I think all over again about how amazing she is. How amazing all of the wonderful people that I know are.

And how grateful I am for their strength.

I will say this, and it is something it has taken me a long time to learn; if you are in physical pain, don't be afraid to admit it. I am not talking about sitting there and  constantly griping 'I'm hurting', because believe me, people will get sick of it pretty bloody quickly. But - if you don't speak out, then nobody will understand just what is going on, and when you are irritated, or sharp, or simply aren't coping, they will be puzzled, and perhaps angry, because it will be out of the blue. If you are factual and admit to what is going on with your body, then understanding from those who care about you will be there. Not from everyone - but from those who care for and love you, yes.

I am constantly and consistently grateful for those who express empathy to and for me. Not in a 'keep me in an illness box' way, or a pitying way - but in a 'let's get you better, constructive, slay that goddamn pain dragon' way. Particularly the Dread Pirate who has been very good (in a piratey fashion naturally).

It helps me put the armour back on, however heavy it may feel, and get ready to fight the good fight again.

Mistress of the Universe?

You bet your sweet... donkey.

Works for me.

Blow Out, You Bugles

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

— Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen

It's ANZAC Day. To be exact, it's three in the morning, and in about an hour and a half, I am going to get up and get ready to go to the Dawn Service. So yes, I should be asleep, but for various reasons I am not, and one of those reasons makes me very happy indeed, and is also relevant to the day.

I speak quite often on my blog about the Dread Pirate, and the fact that he is off buccaneering. Those who know me, and said DP, are aware that he has not exactly been sailing the seven seas, but has in fact been in rather more of a landlocked location - but as for rip-roaring adventures - well, those I can definitely attest to (some slightly more rip-roaring than I am personally comfortable with, may I add).

It must be said, however, on this occasion, that he is more on the side of Her Majesty's forces than fighting under the auspices of the Jolly Roger.

And thankfully today - well, even pirates get to come home to their family and friends if they are fortunate - and even more fortunate for their family and friends, they get their pirate back in one piece. That is something I will be forever grateful for.

I am obviously massively proud of someone I care very much about. He has served not only with distinction and courage, but with conviction. He was true to his personal beliefs, to his mates, and to the ethos of the Australian Defence Force. To me, this sums up the ANZAC spirit, and so it is incredibly appropriate that he gets to return home on April 25.

Sometimes, a bit like other occasions, ANZAC Day seems to become more about the trappings and the ra-ra than what it truly represents. When it comes down to it, what we are talking about is remembrance. Remembrance and literally not forgetting; not forgetting not only those who have died in past and current conflicts for the rights of those who couldn't defend themselves, but not forgetting those who are out there now. Because we are still going. And sometimes, if you watch the news - particularly the commercial channels - you'd be hard-pressed to realise this. I have, over the past six months, mentioned in passing conversation to acquaintances where the Dread has been. And to my resignation - unfortunately not my astonishment - more than once they have said 'where's that?'

So today, if you are going to a service, or watching a parade on TV, or even eating ANZAC biccies, don't just think of the past - even though that is important.

The ANZAC spirit is alive and well, and out there fighting hard, and doing it bloody tough in most cases, in our amazing men and women of the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. And doing it despite most people not thinking much of - or thinking much about - what they do.

364 days out of 365.

Lest We Forget.

And welcome home DP. With immense gratitude. And equally immense pride.

All That Is True

All That Is True

But for me his work has never been about the Eldorado cabaret posters of Bruant, or the cynical twisted grin of Mlle Weber as she enters a restaurant on the arm of her sister. It has always been about his fascination with the demi-monde and his - and I mean this - respect for the girls who made their living sleeping with men for money.

Forty-One Is The New... Oh Forget It

“Women like a man with a past, but they prefer a man with a present”

— Mae West

So life is tough here in the tropics. Between eating, sleeping, swimming, drinking cocktails and - well, repeating the above - it's a hard knock life. I do have the small aggravation of the Dread Pirate's ability to tan in the space of a millisecond whilst I turn into the world's largest freckle to put up with, but these things are sent to try us. And I am enormously grateful for the amazing time I am having traversing South East Asia, with the opportunity to catch up with very old friends and really relax for the first time in a long time.

But the whole trip - there has been a certain something lurking. A shadowy spectre of doom. That phantom finger of uneasiness which caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up at odd moments, to feel as if the proverbial grave was being tangoed upon.

The clock has been a-ticking on the calendar of life. Specifically, on the days until February 6th. Which of course, came along yesterday...

And I officially got OLDER.

I know that there shouldn't be an emphasis on age, and I was pretty happy with the way I was doing for fuh-fuh-fuh...


But then it had to click over to forty-one. Why? Can't I just stay perennially forty? Because it sounds so much cooler saying 'yep, I'm 40' than 'yep, I'm 41'. I don't know why. There is probably a thesis in there somewhere for some enterprising non-forty-one year old (read: young person) who has an inclination to explore this issue, and can manage it without the subjects of said thesis snarling at them like tigers; but something about the whole year '41' makes me feel all T.S. Eliot's 'J. Alfred Prufrock' and as though I am going to start wearing my trousers rolled and start going around groaning that I grow old, I grow old.

However. There is a solution. And it's a very simple and cost-effective one. In the words of the timeless and magnificent Mae West, you're only as old as the man that you feel.

I never, ever thought I would be grateful for a six month age difference.

As it turns out however, gratitude does come in mildly annoying but ever so slightly more youthful buccaneering packages.

With a light case of sunburn.

And a fair bit of cutlass wielding idiocy to take my mind off the approach of the Angel of Death.

Except of course when he is reminding me how much older I am than him.

Remind me why I am grateful again?

Planes, Trains And Automobiles

Sitting here at Sydney International Airport, where the big jet engines roar (you probably have to be of a certain age bracket and geek level to get the reference to this song), I was of course tempted to title this entry 'Leaving On A Jet Plane'. But then of course I thought about the way Mr J Denver, singer/songwriter, met his end, and had a bit of a re-think.

Besides which, by the end of the day, I will have covered at least two of the above categories of transportation, so all's hopefully well that ends well.

I must admit I have impressed myself. I have managed to restrict my packing to one - count it - one - medium sized bag (not counting carry-on, which doesn't count in the count of counting bags anyway). I actually culled and put the kitchen sink back where it belonged - in the kitchen - and only brought ten tops that look the same instead of twenty.

I may quite possibly have an aneurysm.

Either that, or for once in my life I thought about what I will really wear, versus what I would wear were it 1932 and I had a lady's maid and the Dread and I were going cruising with the Duke of Westminster in the South of France - and changing for every possible social occasion known to man in the course of a 24 hour cycle. 

Quite like that idea. Binky and Bertie and Whoopsie throwing the pink gins back with abandon while I wear Chanel and swan around sneering at Wallis Simpson.

As it is, the pool awaits, the Dread is en route with a bit of luck and a following breeze, and I am massively grateful for both of those things.

Mainly the latter.

Not that I'd tell him that.

Dye Another Day

“There is grey in your hair/Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath/When you are passing”

— W.B. Yeats, Broken Dreams

There is a terrible condition that many women my age seem to suffer from. It isn't strictly speaking medical, but there is definitely a psychological component attached to it. It can rule our lives on a daily basis - at least if we look in the mirror, and I am yet to know a woman who can get ready for the day without doing that.

I call it OCIHSMGH Syndrome.

What is this dreadful disease, I hear you cry? Is it terminal? Is there any relief to be had? Should I simply give up now and stay under the doona for the rest of my natural life?

The answers are respectively it isn't a disease, although it makes one want to take muscle relaxants (read: drink wine) on a regular basis; it's not terminal, although there is no comeback from it; there is definitely relief, although it's temporary... and as for the doona call?

It's tempting at times, but probably not. You would be missed.

So what exactly am I talking about?

Grey hairs.


I have been going grey since my early 20s. If it was a nice, even, all over effort, I may even be tempted to just let it happen. But no - it's more like a piebald pony. Or a very strangely patched rabbit. So that means hair dye. Which means hairdressers. Because every time I do a home job, I stuff it up so comprehensively that I have to go to my lovely hairdresser to have her roll her eyes and fix up my mess.

What is particularly unfair is that guys the same age look great with the whole salt and pepper sprinkle going on. They don't spend zillions hiding the roots of all evil out of a need to look and feel like a normal human being rather than a 1,000 year old bog monster.

Silver fox indeed. Nobody ever says silver vixen.

And the worst part? I am weak. I like my hair looking nice. I willingly hide the damn grey, instead of embracing it. Much as I would love to say that I am prepared to totally give up and say 'sisters, rebel - we have nothing to lose but our peroxide', I know, for my sins, that tomorrow I will trot off to said hairdresser in anticipation of the rendezvous with the Dread Pirate and lustre up the locks.

I am so weak.

But in this instance, I will embrace my weakness.

And just be grateful that it's 2013 - and that foils, colour shampoo and my darling hairdresser Rachael exist.

Otherwise it would be head under the doona time until I popped my clogs.

Or lots and lots of hats.

*OCIHSMGH stands for, not surprisingly, Oh Crap I Have So Much Grey Hair. But you probably worked that out for yourselves.

Listing Slightly To The Right

“He had a wonderful talent for packing thought close, and rendering it portable.”

— Thomas B Macaulay

So - next week I am off with the Dread Pirate on a swashbuckling adventure - well, as swashbuckling as one gets lolling around a pool slurping cocktails if one can be bothered picking up one's glass. I am so grateful that this IS only a week away that I think this post could possibly count as a month's worth of gratitude in one big hit.

Aside from my near hysteria at the fact that whilst I am away I will be turning a year older than my now perpetual 21 (that's certainly my mental age and even that is generous), and thus have a need to shovel into my hand luggage large amounts of Valium, I am currently faced with my usual conundrum;

What on earth will I pack?

I am an inveterate list maker. I love lists. They are ace. And what better time to whip out the pad and pen (or as it is now, the packing app) and get ready to rumble on the suitcase of style?

The trouble is though...

I quite often end up with enough stuff for fifteen said suitcases.

And two or three Lusitania standard First-Class steamer trunks.


It's just so hard! Boys have it easy - throw in some shorts, a few shirts, a pair of shoes and some yum aftershave to hide the boy smells and they're set. Because they know that anything else they need you will bring because you bring everything.

Hmmmm. They're not as stupid as they look.

And the trouble is, one never knows what may be needed! Yes, I could be headed for the tropics... but that doesn't mean there couldn't be a sudden sub-arctic spell. Who can tell these days? And I may definitely need that fifteenth top that looks exactly the same as the other fourteen, because look at the hem - it's totally different. It's got two rows of stitching, not one! And as for the shoes...

Even pirates know when not to argue. Ever wonder who came up with the first Jolly Roger? A very annoyed Mrs Dread P who had to leave her favourite shoes behind in a hurry and took it out on the nearest crew member, that's who.

So the list goes on. And on. And - well you get the picture.

Usually that is.

However, this time I am turning over a new leaf - or a new list, as the case may be. I am determined to be sleek, and streamlined, and encapsulated. I am going to embody the essence of holiday wardrobe wear and take only what I know I need, not what I think I want.

And I will be grateful for two things as a result.

One, that I do not have to bring ten cartloads of washing home with me afterwards; and two...

That for once, my bags won't weigh more than I do.



I'll try...

Stand In The Place Where You Live; Now Face...

Your feet are going to be on the ground/
Your head is there to move you around/
If wishes were trees, the trees would be falling/
Listen to reason/Season is calling

— Stand, R.E.M.

Apart from the fact that I am in serious, SERIOUS countdown mode for a swashbuckling adventure - bikini buying traumas notwithstanding - I am actually doing some genuine contemplation on the whole 'next life scenario' schiznitz.

Well, attempting to anyway.

Visions of swimming pools and cocktails, and the two combined, keep running through my head and interrupting our regularly scheduled program.

For some reason a pirate swings in every so often too.

Where was I again?

Oh. Decisions.


I have been very guilty in the past - oh let's face it, I am guilty in the present - of putting off making decisions. I farnarkle about, I find other things to do, I help other people make brilliant life choices - while I procrastinate wildly and rearrange my shoes by colour and brand.

Which admittedly is important - they are shoes, people!! - but really doesn't get me anywhere near where I need to be in terms of the serious stuff.

This is changing.

I am making up my mind as to where I want to be, both physically and mentally. It has - and is - taking a lot of soul-searching, and quite a few pros and cons lists, but there is clarity coming from said note scrawling and a feeling of hopefulness and strength.

And that's where my gratitude stems from. Finally getting a bit of focus into my future.

Sometimes we need a push to make us stand on the rose of the compass and see which way the prevailing wind is blowing. Sometimes the wind is in a direction we may not have expected; sometimes the breeze may be fickle and we may need auxiliary power to supplement our sails.

But that's OK.

I always keep a set of oars about the place.

You never now when you might be becalmed.

Or conversely, need to hit marauding pirates for being naughty.

And I am back poolside.

A Spark Of Hellish Fire

Yesterday was such a strange contrast. I happily sat at the SCG, watching people dig deep for breast cancer research - seeing big, boofy blokes wear their very pink bandannas, without hesitation, was nothing short of a refreshing bath in human kindness. The 'Pink Test' is a wonderful thing for sport because it makes everyday blokes focus on a disease which has often been seen as women-only and which is sadly not the case.

Yet at the same time, to know that a place where only the day before I had also been happy was in a state of bewildering and sudden destruction - it was hard to make sense of it all.

Hobart was on fire. My brother, my beloved Panda - both were out trying to save their homes. The photos that the Panda sent through, and which I am, totally without telling him, putting on this post, were horrifying. My parents were on their way last night to help my brother and his family try to either save their house or get to safety. The Panda rang me late last night to say that the police had told him to evacuate and that is the last I have heard.

A strange contrast in hope for a cause - and a cure - and inexplicable hopeless destruction.

This is particularly painful when it is highly possible that at least some of the bushfires in Tasmania are the result of arson. Deliberate, sheer, wanton malice.

So despite heartbreak at the insanity of possible loss of life, and definite loss of property and in some cases livelihoods, I have to somehow reach down deep and find some gratitude for what has gone before in the last 24 hours.

I am grateful for the generosity shown by the Australian cricket community to a cause in which I have a very personal stake. I am grateful you are willing to give.

I am, more than ever, grateful for buccaneers who despite working like scurvy dogs on their swashbuckling adventures, make the time to ensure that I am OK and are concerned about not only my health and happiness, but that of those whom I love.

And of course I am enduringly grateful that both my brother and his wife and the Hughbot, and my Panda and his cubs are safe.

Walls can easily be rebuilt.

People, however, cannot easily be replaced.

Remember that today.