The art of writing a food or travel review: those who can


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img_7602 Vincent’s at Barton reviewed

In a world where virtually anyone can be published online, there’s a veritable tsunami of trash being made public out there, and the wave is building. There’s also a growing number of websites and apps, including those focusing on food and travel, which make it easy for all and sundry to get their view on this that and the other out there.

Don’t get me wrong. This can indeed be a good thing. It’s very informative and often helpful when planning trips and outings. I often refer to review sites to get an idea of the restaurant or accommodation I’m considering to verify my choices or to perhaps warn me of the dire misery I might otherwise be stepping into. It keeps some establishments on their toes, knowing that if they provide really crap service or food, they might be called out on it publically. Of course, there’s an insidious side to it as well, as good people and good businesses can be targeted unfairly by nasty people with a gripe and an iphone, but that’s a whole other story.

What’s really disheartening, though, is the number of ‘reviews’ published, which are in fact pure rubbish. Copious amounts of crap. People red with rage about small, inconsequential things, those with ridiculous expectations and those with over-inflated egos, and those with no bloody manners.  I mean, hotels which only put one mint on your pillow instead of two, bananas in fruit bowls that don’t curve enough, countries where locals dare to speak in foreign languages, beaches with too much sand!! It doesn’t bear thinking about.

And way, way too many who think they know what they’re talking about when they are actually clueless. Of course, there’s always a range of opinions, but how can some rate a restaurant as excellent when others compare eating there to ingesting the soggy base layer of a street hopper bin? I must admit, as soon as I read the words ‘tasty food’ in a restaurant review, I’m out of there. What does that even mean, Mr I’m Pretending To Be a Reviewer? No, people, that is not enlightening or compelling. I expect a bit more in the reviews I read.

As the proliferation of ‘reviews’ by the uninformed, angry and illiterate rises, or otherwise the sycophantic, shallow panderings of those seeking favours and a multitude of ‘likes’, it helps to have a stalwart of trusted reviewers or review sites to turn to. Ones that provide honest, informed and discerning opinion, especially when it’s washed down with a measure of good humour and an excellent command of the English language. Surely a few Insta-brightened travel pics and a few superlatives in hashtags is not always enough?

Here are the ones on the top of my list:

  • Take Jay Rayner, @JayRayner1, who writes for The Guardian, for example. His reviews make my heart sing and my mouth laugh out loud (literally, and I am pedantic about use of that word). The descriptions pull you right into the restaurant with him, and sometimes into the quagmires of his despair. Take this one, for example, critiquing the much-lauded and Michelin-starred Parisienne Le Cinq, following what he describes as “by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job”. Oh, just read it. It’s delicious.

As he’s based in England, I usually don’t benefit directly from his opinions in relation to likely dining haunts, but at least I’m kept heartily entertained. However, he’s currently in Oz so I will be keeping an eye out for his movements.

  • Closer to home, I’m also a fan of John Lethlean @JohnLethlean. Reviews served cold with latherings of insight, pith and humour. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is, good or bad, to help us diners spend our dining dollars wisely. He can place you at the table too with just a few deft words. In a recent review of WA establishment, after a painstaking description of a salad, a small sentence followed: ‘Jesus wept.’ it read. Ahh, so little, so much.
  • Time Out’s a great publication for keeping up with what’s on point in the world of food and stuff to do, notably in Sydney where it all started, but also in other places across the world including Dubai, Singapore, Berlin and Chicago. I particularly love their well-written and edgy restaurant reviews which have put me on to a couple of pearlers of restaurants in Sydney. Great way to keep up with hip and happening.
  • Lonely Planet provides masses of up-to-date in different formats, including their traditional guidebooks and now in magazines and various formats online. Their website is a wealth of travel information, and it’s really easy to use, listing experiences, activities, food, maps and more. Wish I’d taken a look there before I took off to Tahiti recently as I might have done a couple of things a bit differently.

Naturally reviews or information sites don’t always have to have a sting to be worthwhile, but without the honesty in there where necessary, how can we have the confidence to have faith in those that sing praises?

It’s hugely regrettable that many reviewers, travellers and bloggers are fast-becoming the ubiquitous mouthpieces for anyone who’ll throw them a few crumbs (#couscousforcomment) or a bit of insta-fame. I want some depth, some insight, some truth in the reviews and articles I read, not just some insipid platitudes and a cursory oversight.

There is much more to reviewing than the putting down of opinions or even facts. It must be done with honesty and fairness, and without aggression or personal attack. But reviewing also comes with a responsibility, to those who may be adversely affected, so consideration of consequences is essential.

One of the reasons I like Jay Rayner is that he takes this responsibility seriously, given his coverage. Perhaps all professional reviewers do. Taken from a recent interview he said: ‘I am never casual about what I do. I think very carefully about it. Regularly, if it’s a small, independent restaurant which is failing, I don’t write about it and pay the bill myself.’ This level of responsibility is often lacking in public review sites where the reviewer can hide anonymously.

To those out there who know their stuff, do the research, and are actual telling it like it is – in an intelligent and amusing fashion – kudos to you! May you continue to write and be read.

Disclaimer: There is none! I just like the above reviewers and sites.

Who’s your favourite reviewer? And where do you go for your travel lowdown? What do I need to add to my list?

Heart, hope and helping hands: Connie & Sam’s Big Heart Project


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Something quite extraordinary happened in Canberra this week, and across the country. You may have noticed it – a mammoth pouring out of love and support and millions (yes, millions!) of five cent pieces into one huge glistening heart of hope. It was all for Connie, who has recently stopped cancer treatment after 11 years, and the Love Your Sister charity she heads up with brother Sam, aiming to raise enough funds to kick cancer in the face-hole. I think that just might be a euphemism.

This was a day that has been long in the making. It started with a pledge by a brother hell-bent on helping out and a year-long ride around Australia on a unicycle to raise awareness and funds, with a lofty aim of raising $10 million for cancer research. It continued for years, amassing solid support and dollars but struggled for attention in a crowded space, while Connie continued her own struggle.

Then Connie had an idea – to make the longest chain of five cent pieces in the world – and planning for the Big Heart Project began.

And what a project it became. On Wednesday, it all came to a head in an explosion of heart-felt emotion and support. Not just in Canberra, where the whole bloody town went off, but much of the country joined in too. Having collected coins for weeks or months at work or home, thousands dropped in all day to say hello and lined up to toss in their silver. (Yes, people lined up and waited to give away money – how often does that happen?) People madly deposited collections at Bendigo Banks around Australia or bought ‘metres’ to help break a record or bought other stuff online. Many travelled ridiculous distances and hours from Queensland and Victoria to be part of the day, and others connected online during the day. One woman wrote she took the day off work so she could the day unfold on social media.

The city erupted in a fuzz of warmth and giving and hope. And the donations rolled in – $300,000 plus in silver coins and another $2.2 million in bank donations, more than double the amount that had been dreamt about. Way more than was possible to line up in a row, so we tossed them into a huge heart instead. All those little pesky coins. Suddenly they were almost worth their weight in gold. Okay, not quite.

It was as if it was some sort of huge party, with balloons and face painting and a jumping castle and just about everything else, and sometimes it was hard to remember there was something very sad and sinister lurking underneath it all. There were tears too among the smiles and sparkles, because everyone was acutely aware that for at least one person, and maybe many more there, time was limited and that’s why we were there after all.

So what was it about this project, this couple and this cause, that somehow brought us all together in a way that rarely happens? Cancer is not uncommon. People and families are devastated by it every day around the world, so Connie’s story, horribly sad though it is, is of course not unique. It’s a tough gig trying to break through when the world is hurting in so many ways and there’s a myriad of worthy causes vying for attention, so this was indeed a remarkable feat.

Connie’s a strong, determined, thoughtful and articulate woman with big ideas, and she has an endearing, enthusiastic, eloquent and adoring brother of some celebrity who’s been willing to dedicate years of his life to this cause. That’s a good combination. Maybe it was the simplicity of the idea of contributing those little coins that everyone has lurking about, the lure of helping break a world record, or perhaps that it was because the cause was something everyone could understand, because everyone’s been touched by cancer. Maybe it was Connie and Sam’s ability to connect and inspire, garner support through their friends and networks, or sheer hard work?

It was probably everything, and it definitely worked. There was something very special about this project. It gained momentum, enlisted a veritable army of volunteers, gathered a village, and inspired and united people across the country. It somehow captured the heart of the nation and ignited it, and became a phenomenon. And in the process over $2.2 million dollars was put into the coffers for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research for cancer research (all types of cancer). And counting.

The commitment and efforts of Connie and Sam have been remarkable, and has no doubt the support of their family. But what has been extraordinary too has been the dedication of the army of volunteers (the ‘vollies’) that have been supporting this project and Connie, for weeks, months and even years. And it’s a bloody big army. Friends, acquaintances and even a bevy of absolute strangers towards the end swelling the numbers, as well as corporate sponsors and supporters left right and centre. In particular there was a core committee of long term and committed workers who’ve been on board for a year.

Other tales of support have also been amazing, with individuals with their own campaigns joining in, kids as well as adults, some giving up work, busking or making toys to raise funds and join in. I’m blown away by how immense and dedicated this support has been, and how huge the task has been. The widespread smattering of hot pink t-shirts and caps on the day of volunteer workers represented just a snippet of those involved. Kudos to you all. With so many vollies involved, it seems particularly appropriate that the event took place bang-smack in the middle of National Volunteers week. Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible. As they said, it took a village.

It was a big day, when we were joined together in something quite special. It’s just heartbreaking that despite the achievement and celebration of the day, not too long from now we will inevitably lose the woman at the heart of it, a mother, wife, friend, sister, woman, champion.

Here’s a pictorial of the day from some of our photos, including a snippet of the lead up. I was pleased to be a small part of this heart-warming page in community history, behind the scenes in cyberland, alongside my very talented insta-queen daughter @georgeandgouma and a few other clever girls with quick fingers behind phones and computer screens, a couple whom I’ve only met virtually. Somehow serendipitously and at the last minute we came together so we could share the story of the day with the rest of the country on Instagram and Twitter where thousands more people joined in. Colour and coins, cheers and tears, hope and heart.

Wishing Connie and every other person in the world with cancer, present and future, the very best. May this effort bring hope for those that follow.

You can see more here:


How to win friends, and score a few freebies


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We’re quite popular in our neighbourhood. There could be many reasons for that, but I suspect the main one is that we have a trailer. (To be honest, it could be the only one.)

They’re very useful things, trailers. Ours gets used every week, sometimes several times a week, and has done so for 20 plus years. It’s transported tonnes of second-hand bricks for paving, carried soil, gravel, grass, sand and pebbles, transported timber, picked up and delivered furniture, and moved various people and all their earthly possessions.

Ta da – one of the many paving tasks, and I get to sneak in a photo of Mooks as a bubbie.

A solid work horse over the years, that trailer has saved us an absolute fortune and assisted in many DIY obsessions, and also allowed us to avoid paying dozens of delivery fees – because we’re too mean to pay those, even if it means hoisting huge beasts of things way beyond our capabilities and risking life and limb to do so. But most regularly, it’s used to transport green waste to our local (and most marvellous) tip. When you have a big garden, that’s a constant happening.

So we love this blue, slightly rusty beast a lot. But while we couldn’t live without ours, it seems just about everyone else can, certainly among our neighbours and friends.

This trailer is now in fairly constant demand, exacerbated by the nature of hubbie, Mr T, a busy and kind sort of chap who keeps offering to transport the green waste of others to the tip for them. Need to get rid of that huge pile of prunings out the front? Huge storm that wreaks havoc across the city and brings down trees and limbs? No worries, just leave it in a pile out the front and I’ll pick it up. It’s a nice neighbourly thing to do, even if it is a bit time consuming.

Just recently, though, it’s beginning to pay dividends, some quite delicious. One neighbour repays the favour with delightful home-baked goodies – a chocolate cake or cinnamon tea cake, delivered still warm and freshly dusted. A butternut pumpkin was left in the letterbox the other day as recompense, the home-grown sort that springs up unexpectedly from the mysteries of a backyard compost bin, the best sort. Delicious and most welcome offerings. And now there is the promise of an unwanted camera lens that happens to fit my camera body. Boom really!

It’s a marvellous thing, almost like a bartering thing from days of old, except that it wasn’t intended that way and it’s just unexpected but lovely little paybacks that make you smile, and sometimes make your tummy happy. What a nice way to work. It’s especially good for me, of course, as I don’t do the work but get the kickbacks. Extra boom.

Mind you, I just saw an ad on a local community network advertising to take away trailer loads of green waste as a business, and lots of people were taking it up. Nice neighbours notwithstanding, there might be a little business opp in there as well. Food for thought.

#neighbours #greenwaste #payback #how to win friends

Astonishing lottery luck


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Last week I received two separate and very special deliveries in the mail, posted from Malaysia, envelopes containing glossy tourist brochures and two complimentary lottery tickets in each. Apparently, I won second prize in both of them, a total of US$380,000. What astounding luck! Second prize in both! And they were completely complimentary. Can you believe it?

Presumably all I would have had to do to claim this (my!) unexpected fortune was to respond directly, give them all my personal identification, bank account details, my PINS, remote access to my home computer, and possibly the life of my first born.

FFS, who the hell gets sucked into these scams? Somebody must, or why else would they spend time, effort and resources in printing and posting the brochures across the globe?

I must admit, I read the A5 quad-folded glossy coloured brochure in its entirety, mainly because I was intrigued at how dreadfully it was written, and how so many paragraphs could be filled with so much pompous and poorly constructed language that actually said nothing.

No, I have not heard of the renowned Taipei 101 (is that an innovative Chinese university course?), nor am I familiar with Taiwan home grown celebrities that have left a huge global impression. I don’t think anyone is actually.

But I am keen to experience their promised best possible ‘essence of quality’ and ‘distinguished level of entertainment’. I so wanted to believe that their ‘objective [is] to pave the way into the new era of the tourism industry for all our distinguished clients and guests’ (whatever the hell that means) and was almost convinced when I read the pithy ‘speech’ by the board of directors. I mean, who doesn’t include one of those in their glossy little holiday brochures to add a bit of extra authenticity?

So, spoiler alert – if you get something in the mail from White Winter Vacations informing you of miraculous, fabulous wealth through an unexpected lottery, it may, just may, possibly be wealth you will never see.

Really, just the front cover featuring the confusing juxtaposition of a tropical island image with a White Winter icicle logo should have been enough to give it away.

Get a real job, scumbags.


The time has come: Mookie’s last post


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So the time has come, and gone, when we had to put our doggy friend’s comfort before our own heartbreak, as all we dog lovers have to do at one time or another, and we had to say goodbye. The time when you know you have to let them go. When it stops being fun for them.

And it is the worst of times.


Mookie was a good dog. The best dog. I can’t even think of a time when she was even bad. No shoes eaten or  furniture chewed or gardens dug up. We tried collectively to think of naughty things she did but the pickings were slim. When she was a baby, she crept along the neck of a concrete garden duck like a preying cat until it toppled forward and cracked, and at one stage she liked to chew on a conifer and constantly had sticky resin all over her head. As I said – slim pickings.

The closest thing perhaps was an episode at puppy school. This was the highlight of her week. So much fun. So much excitement. Pumped with glee and with me attached to her lead, she leapt forward through an open gate and pulled me over. I lurched forward landing flat out on the ground, elbow grazed and my pocket caught on a fence wire, ripping a huge three quarter hole in the back of my pants. She didn’t care but I had to slink out of the dog club in shame, backwards, with my arse hanging out of my pants, trying to be inconspicuous while still attached to a manic, rollicking puppy hell-bent on having fun and greeting every living being in her path. The only lucky thing was that I wasn’t then, nor am I now, in the habit of wearing G-strings, which could have made the episode way more revealing.

She was a dog dedicated to human interaction, a mark of her breed. She loved trips to the dog park but spent more time cuddling up to people than playing with dogs. She greeted visitors audibly with extended whines of excitement, and when Moo came home to visit, she would sit with her for ages on the floor whimpering with joy, so happy to see her and be held. She really engaged with the nursing home residents and nudged them for pats (and also really liked picking up their cake crumbs at morning tea). I’m not sure she relished visits by the babies but she put up with their ministrations and dressings with great patience and impeccable manners.

Mookie was nice to dogs too. She was amazingly submissive in doggy pecking orders and always gave way. She welcomed poor old Misty, our GRR rescue, with open paws and taught her how to be a real dog in a family and to be calm, and willingly gave over her toys and even the coveted best corner spot to lie in.

After some initial misgivings, she accepted little baby Mango, another goldie, into the family, and marked the occasion with a ceremonial swipe of her paw. Although she never did appreciate Mango doing those wild running leaps onto her when she rolled on her back on the grass, or the perpetual humping in times of excitement.

But she got older and turned grey. Then out of the blue things happened that  weren’t good (seizures and more), so we knew what was coming and we’ve been prepared. It’s been lovely these last few weeks making a fuss of her and doing her favourite things as we worked to tick things off her (our? my?) bucket list (read it here), even though we didn’t get as much time as we’d hoped.

We did well with the list, as the pictures attest: a dozen walks, a multitude of sniffs, lake visits, and enormous amounts of pats and love. She didn’t catch the bloody cat, though I’m glad she gave it a good shot one day. Didn’t make a sunset with Black Mountain tower rising in the distance but instead she saw the sunrise over Lake Burley Griffin in her last few hours, that big beautiful lake she could once walk and trot the whole way around. She even saw the globe at the edge of the lake so she could go out saying she’d seen the whole world.


We also received support and many suggestions from caring doggy lovers all over with their own furry friends, who understand. We added those suggestions where we could – like roast chicken and extra ice cream – though a couple we couldn’t get to. The beach was too far, the snow too late and the end too soon. At the suggestion of cyber-doggy friend, Indy, we even invested in some peanut butter (ordinarily absent in our home, vile stuff that it is) so she could give that a go. But she wasn’t much interested. I like to think she shared my good taste and also reviled such a filthy food product, but in reality I think it was just too late and her poor tummy just couldn’t take anything.

She also didn’t get the number of hits on her blog post that predecessor Misty got on her parting post, although Mookie had a few posts so maybe we could add them together. Or maybe a few Facebook shares will make them even? They shared everything.

In the end, Mookie’s bucket list wasn’t full of extraordinary things. It was just full of everyday things – like walks and visits and keeping company, and being with those she loved, and who loved her back.

I love wish lists – all the things I want to do in life, and places I want to visit – but when push comes to shove, if I only had a few weeks left up my sleeve like Mookie did, I’d be doing exactly the same sorts of things. Spending time with my family and loved ones, and taking in my favourite things. (Not the bone, though, or the peanut butter.) That’s all you need. Being loved and made to feel special.

It makes you realise that it’s all that any dog, or any person, could want. If only everyone could have such a blessed life and end to their life, this world would be a far happier place. And don’t we need that?

So now you are gone, my baby girl, and our house is eerily quiet. And all those things I predicted weeks ago have come to fruition. Our eyes are sore, our hearts are heavy, and the house is somehow empty.

I’ve never been in this house without you. I drink my coffee on the steps in the sun and you aren’t sitting next to me. My walk is faster though lonely. We keep going to toss you a scrap or open the door to let you in. A hundred times a day we catch ourselves with habits that will be hard to break. Imagine having to put mushroom stalks in the compost bin now? In the weeks and probably months to come, I will continue to sweep and vacuum up dog hair from places I have swept and vacuumed a dozen times before, and I will find long, blond hairs on clothes in my cupboard to remind me you were here.

As if we could forget.

Thank you for your company, Mookie-Moo. You were a joy.

PS Right at the end when I was pondering what the hell I was going to do with all these hundreds of photos we’re been madly taking, Mookie quietly whispered an idea to me. ‘Make a photo book for me, Mum. That way I can lie on your coffee table forever rather than next to it.’ She’s always been surprisingly smart, that dog – and articulate.

So, I guess that was on her list too, and we’ll have to do it. Just for Mookie, of course.

The bucket list

And here is the ticking off of the list.

Go for walks (there were many)

Swim at the lake – with friends Bowie and Papi as well

Garden (we got the perfect sunny autumn weather)

Catch the cat (it was inevitable that wasn’t going to happen, but that last flurry was fun)

Visit Betty (so much love)

Do a photo shoot (successful)

  • Catch a sunset (got caught at the end so made the sunrise instead)



  • Be brushed (oh yes, but not the tail)


  • Avoid baths (definitely achieved – no photo available)
  • Eat a maccas sundae (went for the cone)


  • Give up dog food (yep, and roast chicken was added)
  • Coffee date (yep)
  • play with Mango (yep)


  • be with family (always)


  • Get as many blog hits as Misty (not quite, but you never know…)
  • Eat a dirty big bone (Mum decided the poor old tummy couldn’t cope but we added a couple of dentabones instead)

But she got to break some rules instead she normally wouldn’t break.


via Daily Prompt: Heal

Kicking goals, one ice cream at a time


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Mookie is making great inroads into her bucket list, kicking goals left, right and centre. Not bad for a hairy quadraped.

She’s been on many a stroll/sniff; had a play with Mango; swum at the lake; and eaten an ice cream. She has decided that should be on the list every day.

She’s even had time to jot down a few words.

Well, I don’t know what’s gotten into Mum and Dad, but they’ve turned into complete pushovers and going just a little bit crazy with attention and activities, specially Mum. They don’t even mind getting up in the middle of the night if I tell them I want to do a wee. And there are heaps of little treats being tossed my way, way more than usual.

Yesterday for example, I got to eat an ENTIRE ice cream completely by myself. One of those ones from the Maccas restaurant. Not just licking the end of a stick after I’ve carefully watched them eat 99.99% of the ice cream themselves. Yep, I’m onto them, but I take it anyway because licking ice cream sticks is still a bit of sport, no matter how meagre the offerings. Any ice cream is good, as long as you take it slowly. Remember – freeze head? We’ve all been there. And not only that, I’ve even convinced Mum that she should probably get me an ice cream every day. What a sucker she is. Woo hoo. Win.

There’s been lots of gardening, and we’re also going for an inordinate number of walks (who’d have thought a simple goldie would know a word like inordinate?) around the block, which is always good. And yesterday’s highlight of the walk was that I nearly got that bloody cat. Well, not nearly, but I gave it a red hot shot. When I spotted it, I ran after it faster than I’d run in years, for the whole length of my block, before it escaped over the fence. I might have had just a little limp for a minute or two after and had to have a little lie down and rest 50 metres down the road after that, half way around the block – not sure if it was related, but even if it was, it was worth it. Bastard of a cat.

We also went to the lake. OMG – I love the lake! I was so excited when I saw the water and raced in for a swim. Actually, three swims. Mango came too, which was nice, although she is annoying when she steals my sticks I like to carry around in the water. At least she didn’t try to hump me, because she does that a lot when she gets excited, and it’s pretty bloody annoying. We’re both girls, ffs. It’s not like its’ going to get her anywhere!

Mum tells me this afternoon we’re going on our photoshoot. I’m just looking forward to being out in the sun in the park. The weather’s just amazing – perfect for snoozes in the sun. Life’s good.

Love Mookie

In fact, Mookie’s enjoying the whole thing so much, she’s added a couple more items to the list and says thank you to those who put through suggestions. Yes, I’m now going to have to buy peanut butter, against my better judgement.

Off the computer now, and out into the sun!






Pearls of wisdom – rules to live by


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My daughter M1 recently reminded me recently of the influence I’ve had on her life. This is a strong, accomplished and caring individual who makes the world a better place (both daughters are actually), which makes me feel as if I have indeed achieved something in my own life. But the advice she heeds most is sometimes a little unexpected.

I am pleased to note that she is now adopting one of my important life philosophies, this one pertaining to jewellery. That is, when you buy a necklace, always buy the matching earrings as well (unless you have something that will work already), or it will come back to rue you. Of course you will never find anything in the same colour/texture/pattern that works quite as well. Ahhh, buyer’s regret! I get that a lot. Mr T tries to counter my belated regretful moaning by encouraging me to buy everything when I’m in any sort of doubt at the point of purchase. I think the technical term for him is ‘feeder’.

Actually, I have a couple more philosophies about jewellery: you can never have too many pearls; one should aim to wear a necklace each day; never throw any of it out, even the stuff from school days; check vintage stores for surprise bargains; buying jewellery when you travel is just a way of helping local economies, etc. You get the picture.

I have also developed another means of acquiring jewellery, much to Mr T’s horror. I wrote about it previously. He’s still feeling awkward about it all.

But not all of my life advice pertains to jewellery. Here’s a couple of my favourites. Ignore at your peril.

    • Don’t put a plastic bag on your head. I think my girls were around 8 and 10 when they finally twigged that this action, while entirely stupid and unnecessary, would NOT instantly result in their untimely death, unlike other foolhardy actions which would, like putting a knife in a heated toaster, and therefore are even more unwise. However, the warning and subsequent fear mongering was sufficient to prevent them from doing it in their early years, and they survived those, so mission accomplished.
    • Never run with scissors. Nothing more to say.
  • Always match your earrings to your necklace (see above). It used to be the fashion advice of the day (my day) that your handbag should match your shoes. Though not always possible, I try to do that mostly too. Clearly I am someone who’s big on rules and just a little bit matchy-matchy.
  • Life’s too short for bad food, or bad wine. I believe in this firmly. It’s a pity I’m such a lazy cook but very lucky Mr T is a dedicated one. Win.
  • Never ask your dog to mind your ice cream.
  • Never take a laxative and a sleeping tablet at the same time.
  • Be kind to everyone, always. (Actually, that one negates the need for 1000 different religions, or any at all – that’s all we need to do.)
  • Use your knife and fork properly. Just grrrrrrr. Personal bug bear.
  • Learn to use words like ‘literally’, ‘obviously’ and ‘alternate’ correctly. Even more grrrrrrrrrrrr. I feel an entirely separate blog post coming about that.
  • And (my personal fave) If Mum’s not happy, nobody’s happy.

Life would be better all round, I’m sure, if we all did these, and certainly less dangerous. Maybe not necessarily the one about necklaces.

This has got me thinking about what my parents passed on to me. First and foremost, it would be family is everything. My mum taught us we could do whatever we chose to, and my Dad encouraged us to work hard and be fair and kind. I’m also pretty sure I got my scisssors and plastic bag paranoia from my own Mum.

Now that I have a couple of little grand-munchkins in my life, I have many important things to pass on to them as well. Like how to do cloud gazing, for example, and about cappuccinos, even if they are takeaway.

Anyone got any other pearls of wisdom?

A bucket list for Mookie: suggestions needed


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It’s been just two months since we bade farewell to our ‘poor old Misty’, and now it seems her constant canine companion, Mookie, the darker-coloured one, will soon be joining her on the other side of rainbow bridge.

Misty’s passing caught us by surprise, old and arthritic though she was, and was definitive. But Mookie’s demise has been foreshadowed by ominous signs, like seizures, that all is not well. Perhaps more telling is that she’s off her food and actually leaves food in her bowl. She’s a golden retriever for God’s sake – they don’t do that. Something is awry, and the vet thinks it’s a brain tumour. Although we expect it may overtake her quite quickly, it will be a longer process than for her mate before her.

That leaves me in the position of some responsibility, and into the future, much agony.

Responsibility because, knowing she’s on a limited timeframe, it’s my duty as her mum to bring as much joy and pleasure into her remaining time as I can.

And agony, because at some point I’ll have to make the decision as to when the joy has been overridden by the bad stuff and it’s time to pull the plug. Just writing that makes tears well in my eyes, so let’s go back to the joy bit.

Mookie needs a bucket list, even though she doesn’t know it.

There are limitations to what we can do. She can’t travel overseas to see amazing places, because even if she did care about Paris or the Taj Mahal, the quarantine period to get her back into the country is too long. She doesn’t want to fly in a hot air balloon, and definitely would not enjoy jumping out of a plane. She wouldn’t be much chop at snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef, nor can I see her riding a camel in the Sahara.

So, what goes on a doggy bucket list? I asked Mookie what would make her life complete (because she doesn’t understand the concept of a bucket list) and this is what she came up with.

  1. Go for a short walk every day, preferably two. Sniff a lot, roll around on the grass half way round the block, and lay a big turd every time. Mum’ll get that.
  2. Swim at the lake. Pretend I am a young dog and dog paddle. (I don’t want to go to the beach with weird moving mounds of water, because last time I did that I tried to bite them and drank a quarter of the ocean which then exploded out of me for hours afterwards from every orifice, including my eyes, as I staggered along the beach and when I was carried and even in the car as Moo and Eeyore had to abandon their plan for a short holiday and take me back home instead to mum and Eeyyore had to rehearse on the way home different ways he could break the news to mum that the beach idea had gone very badly and had killed me. I don’t like the beach anymore even though I don’t know what being killed is.)
  3. Spend many days gardening, and by that I mean lie on the front lawn snoozing and move from one spot to another, watch the world go by and greet anyone who walks past. Score a pat from as many as possible.
  4. Catch the friggin’ cat from next door who scares the bejesus out of me in my own back yard when it jumps out from nowhere and hisses at me, and give it a good shake around (I know that’s really not achievable cos I’m way too slow and gentle, but this is about dreams).
  5. Spend a day with my old friend Betty, who is 92 (a bit older than me) and who has me for play dates at her house and who loves me as much as I love her, and follow her around like a shadow and maybe go for a walk with her or go to the dog park.
  6. Do a photo shoot with my mum at the park, because she’s besotted with me and loves photos, so that would make her happy.
  7. Maybe catch a sunset by the lake.
  8. Have a long, soft brush – along my back, but not my tail. Do not touch my tail. That can stay straggly and matted even though mum thinks it looks resplendent when it’s knot-free and all feathery.
  9. Avoid any. more. baths. They make me anxious and make my mouth froth, even if they make me smell nice. I’m okay with smelly. And dear God, when they bring out that massive hair dryer out that sounds like a rocket launcher and could dry out Lake Burley Griffin in 20 minutes, I’m outta there.
  10. Eat a macca’s caramel sundae. Small size only as large ones might give me freeze head, and it’s mostly about licking the cup anyway and getting all that sauce off.
  11. Give up dog food, even including those two huge bags of outrageously expensive special old dog and kidney health diet that my humans invested in just last week and which I now don’t like to eat. Eat human food only, like roast chicken, and prosciutto, and cheese, and leftovers, and maybe hot cross buns if Mum takes out the sultanas. Don’t want to overload my already struggling kidneys.
  12. Have a coffee date at Manuka, at somewhere trendy to be seen, and eat things people drop.
  13. Have a play date with Mango, fellow Goldie, who’s like my little sister and who I love a lot, even if I mostly ignore her while she’s around.
  14. Be with my humans all day long, and sleep under their feet while they watch TV in the evening, and sleep outside their room at night, just so they know I’m there.
  15. Get as many hits on my blog post as Misty got on hers, which was a lot. Not that I’m competitive.
  16. Maybe eat a dirty great big bone and get that bone smell all over my face.

I can’t think of anything else. I’m pretty bloody happy just as I am, really.

Oh, yes I’m being quite flippant about it all now, but before long my face will be a blotched and ruddy mess, my eyes will look like two piss-holes in the snow, my head will throb, and I will be a melted pool of misery on the floor. I will return to my house and it will be empty and there will be no wagging tail to greet me, no presence sleeping calmly in the corner, quietly, inconspicuously, but just there. And I will bemoan the loss of this gorgeous creature who I have adored and sat with and walked with and played with and gardened with and trained with and visited nursing homes with and even occasionally run with and loved for 12 and a half years.

But until then, away with the sadness, and on with the list. There are things to do.

If anyone has any other ideas, let me know.

Mookie would really appreciate it. She appreciates everything.

And she will keep you posted on how she’s going with the list.

‘Water, water, everywhere…’


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… nor any drop to drink.’

for so many people.

Just because it’s World Water Day, and we have access to so much beautiful clean water, and so many don’t.

What is World Water Day?

World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.


Tahiti looks nice …


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‘Tahiti looks nice.’

‘Simon, Tahiti!’

Admittedly, you have to be of a certain age and from Australia to recognise that little ditty from the world of advertising of days long gone, but if you do you’ll recall that ridiculously wealthy pair who could luxuriate in bubbles flying high on their private jet (bar of Cussons Imperial Leather beautifully placed and framed in more bubbles), and wing their way on a whim to whatever glorious spot in the world they so desired, Pilot Simon at their beckoning.

Who’d have thought all those years ago when we watched those pretentious wankers that one day I’d too jet off to this fabulously beautiful place of blue lagoons and volcanic islands. Only I was on a plane with a couple of hundreds of others, way up the back, with an entertainment system that was having a rest, and rather than relaxing in a full length porcelain bath I was actually a bit panicky and clutching at Mr T’s hand viciously at the end there as we battled a bit of turbulence. And I might have done just a small amount of subdued whimpering.

Still, the destination was the same.

And it was rather lovely.

Here’s just a snippet in pics while I get some more words on paper screen.

There were beaches, of course, with white sand


and black sand

and boats


and islands


and colourful flowers


and Polynesian dancing girls with leis and wild hips


and I think I might have had just a little bit of this.


Spoiler alert: I feel there may be a degree of French Polynesian blogging spam approaching, with more words.