Follow "What Women Think" by email - subscribe securely here

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Perez Hilton has nailed it. Have a watch of this and tell me if you've ever said any of these...

........What's my password????

Enjoy!! x

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Each month a sum of cash finds its way from my bank account to my local gym’s bank account. The is an arrangement that has been going on for some years now and both of us abjectly lack any valid desire to change this set up. Even though most times, my money sees more of my gym than I do.

The reason I never change this arrangement is due to one word. Summer. Ok, make that two words. Summer and bikinis.

Which is how I found myself back in the gym around mid October. When I walk in the door for the first time, I noticed the staff had changed from last year. The last lot probably finished uni and got real jobs as public servants or stand up comedians.

They greet me with enforced joviality and care. Really they’re thinking, oh crikey here comes another one that we need to forklift onto the treadmill.

“Good morning,” they beam, all fake white teeth and spray on tans. “Is this your first visit?”

“No,” I dourly reply, “but the last time I came, you were still being breastfed.”

I am fortunate in that my gym has a pool. A decent one at that – 25 metres long and eight lanes wide. Think Olympic and halve it. Twice a week, I join the aqua aerobics class. I love this class. At 46, I’m the youngest. They think I’m their adopted grandchild. Last week they brought me bags of lollies and told me to make them last till the end of the week. The week before, one of them gave me a dollar and told me to put it towards something I was saving up for.

Get the picture?

I like aqua aerobics. You can work really really hard if that’s your mood. Or you can just splash about a bit and have a giggle with Dot and Pam, the two oldies who hang around the end of the pool pretending to work out but in reality hoping to pick up. Seriously, Dot has her eye on Alf, but Alf, as can be typical of men at times, has no idea she’s interested. Who needs Bold And The Beautiful?

After a week or two in the pool, I realised I needed to add diversity to my exercise program if I was going to make it into this year’s Bikini Olympics. Mmmm, I thought, what other group exercise can I do?

Definitely not Body Attack or Body Combat. No way. Not only is there all that unsightly jumping and running (I’ve got boobs, for goodness sake) but if you miss a step, the rest of the class trips, you feel like a bozo, and everyone immediately knows you’re both unfit and unco.

Which is how I ended up in a class called Spin. It has nothing to do with darning. Which is good. This one time I tried to sew up a hem, but ended up sewing my finger to it, so I now get qualified people to do my mending.

In a Spin class you hoist yourself onto this new age stationary bicycle and pretty much move the pedals around and around for 45 minutes. Wherein you get off, fall over, and crawl on your belly to your car.

Spin has two very endearing features. First of all, you do it in the dark. Or as close to dark as possible. You wouldn’t even have sex in this sort of light. I think they make it dark so that we keep our senses alert. Which staves off the boredom of pedalling around and around for 45 minutes.

It also means that if you slacken off a bit, no one can see. Not even the instructor.

The second endearing feature is the little knob in the centre of the bike that increases tension thereby making your workout harder.

You turn this little knob to the right and suddenly it’s like you’re riding your bike up Mount Everest after a heavy snowfall. Turn it to the left, and it’s like you’re riding your bike along Santa Monica Pier with George Clooney catching your tail wind.

And much as I try to keep that knob turned to the right, it all gets a bit much for me, and I have to knock off Everest and go back to Clooney.

And because it’s dark, nobody knows. Yesterday, while pedalling away, and trying to shift my mind away from the glaring monotony of pedal, pedal, pedal by thinking of interesting things, such as the players in the 1975 Australian cricket team, I had a thought.

What a relief that all our knobs don’t carry sensors, with massive reporting boards on the balls of the room. Imagine every time you knocked it back a few degrees, a bulb would flash or a siren would go off. The instructor would position her headset and shout, “Bron, gear it up, no slacking off” and I, of course, would immediately arrange to change my name. And my gym.

Tomorrow is Body Pump. I hear that has nothing to do with sex. Apparently it’s about weights. Heave-ho then...

Monday, 28 November 2011


People constantly ask me what I do, how do I earn my money. At heart, I'm a writer, but often that doesn't get the dollars in.

So I do marketing, communications and training for companies big and small. I help them get their message "out there" using a variety of platforms.

Which is why I loved this list below. It explains marketing in relative terms. It is both true, and quite funny. Read on...

Marketing explained:

1. You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say, "I am very rich, marry me." That’s direct marketing.

2. You go to a party, and your friend walks up to a girl while pointing at you, and tells the girl, "He is very rich, marry him." That’s advertising.

3. A girl walks up to you and says, "You are very rich, will you marry me?" That's brand recognition.

4. You say to a girl, "I am very rich, marry me," and she slaps you. That's customer feedback.

5. You say to a girl, "I am very rich, marry me," and she introduces you to her husband. That's demand and supply gap.

6. Before you get a chance to say to the girl, "I am very rich, marry me," your wife arrives. That's restriction from entering a new market.

Got it?

Saturday, 19 November 2011


My lovelies, this is the recipe for the yummy prawn, mango and avocado salad I made last weekend. I pretty much made it up in my head, mixing together a few similar recipes and using  a dressing from FashionFoodFatale's Jane Walsh. Unfortunately, I don’t really have quantities for the dressing,  but you know what you like and just keep tasting it until it suits you.

The Salad:

Prawns (I used 1.5kg medium/large)
Mango x 3 cut into bite sized cubes
Avocado x 2 cut into bite sized cubes
Rocket (or green leaf salad mix) heaps
Lebanese cucumber sliced thinly
Red onion sliced thinly
Red chilli x 1 (seeds optional)
Fresh Coriander - heaps
Fresh Mint  - heaps
Rice stick noodles – half a packet

The Dressing:

Coconut milk or lite coconut milk (half a can)
Little bit of green curry paste
Kaffir lime leaves chopped really finely (6-7)
Lime juice (half a lime)
Lime zest (half a lime)
Red chilli (remove seeds if you wish)
Brown sugar (tablespoon or so) or you can use palm sugar
Fish sauce (a good shake)

The Method: 

Put the noodles in a bowl of boiling water, leave for five minutes, then rinse under cold water, set aside in colander to drain.

Dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar (remember to keep tasting), shake well, put in the fridge for a few hours, shaking it every 30 minutes. When getting ready to serve, strain it, and serve in a jug on the side.

Salad: Get a massive platter (this looks fabulous on a platter, instead of a bowl). Starting with the green leaves, add all ingredients (including the noodles and the herbs) in a layer. Do this twice. Then give it a bit of a mix up using some tongs. Serve with dressing on the side, and let guests add their own dressing.

Will keep for a day or two in the fridge, so will the dressing.

PS: the other thing I served was dates – I made a slice in a fresh date, pulled out the seed, popped in a piece of Danish feta, wrapped the date in really thinly sliced prosciutto and grilled it for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. Superb!! 

I hope you enjoy!
Love Bron xo

Sunday, 6 November 2011


The thing I like about old rockers is that their music can speak for itself. All they really need to do is switch on the microphone, make sure the speakers are positioned, nod to the lead guitarist or the drummer, and they’re away.

If you’re lucky, they may pop on a clean shirt, or perhaps brush their hair. But that’s not mandatory. Because all you want is the music. It’s all they want too.

And that’s what John Farnham is like. An old rocker, who understands what his audience wants from him, and he delivers. Consistently.

I’ve seen Pink, Kylie, and some other recent teenage sensations live on stage. These lovelies are all about the extravaganza. I guess that’s why you pay the big bucks. To be wowed by set design, costume changes, pyrotechnics and acrobatics. Granted, Pink is a great singer. But the trapeze act leaves me a little startled. Whitney Houston was a farce. Celine wanted a lot of money for very little ROI.

Yet last night, at Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre, my old mate John, brought home the goods and then some.

Most marriages don’t last as long as my one-sided love affair with John Farnham. It all started around the time he did his version of “Help” where his bluesy-funky-ballad style became his first anthem. He jived a bit with Little River Band (mind you, I always preferred Glenn Shorrock but don’t tell John that). Then, in 1986, with bagpipes blasting, he instructed us to “make a noise and make it clear” because after all, we were The Voice.

And he was The Man.

Together we took the Pressure Down, whilst giving each other Reasons, all brushed with a Touch of Paradise. Our Two Strong Hearts started a Chain Reaction and became the Talk Of The Town.

(Only serious Farnham-ites will get that last paragraph.)

My fervently patient first husband lumbered along to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with me as much as he could. When John Farnham played the lead role in the extended run of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar, he drew the line to spending every Friday night watching a mock crucifixion.

I was ok with that because it meant I didn’t have to find anyone to babysit our one-year-old daughter. And I could throw roses on the stage without fear of humiliation.

During the early days of my first relationship post-marriage, I realised quite quickly that I needed to initiate my new lover to the traditions of my long-term lover.

“Darling, I am afraid I can’t be monogamous,” is usually not an ideal fashion in which to begin a new relationship. Granted, my new boyfriend came along with me a few times to meet John, and was quite content to witness my screaming, panting carry-on that occurs every time I see him perform. So I don’t think the ménage trois  was the reason we didn’t work out.

My next boyfriend just said no, flat out. No way, no hell, no nothing was he even going to come close to the mullet, even though I had assured him the mullet had been left behind in the 90s. He was a little uncomfortable about my passion for John. One time, during a heated moment, he actually said, “Oh for goodness sake, why don’t you just go and shack up with John Farnham, you seem to think he’s the ideal man.”

Little did he know how much I would have liked that…

Now, I’ve been John perform at Expo 88. I saw him on the green at Sirromet Winery. (That was a bit of a funny night because I think John was a bit pissed before he went on stage. Wineries have that affect). I saw him do The Main Event with our girl Olivia and Anthony Warlow. I saw him at Royal Pines Golf Course on the Gold Coast. I saw him at the Sydney Olympics.

I saw him at “The Last Time” concert. Then I saw him at his “Last Last Time Concert” and at his “OK Folks, Sorry For Misleading You, Here’s Another Concert” concert.

That’s why it came as no surprise to hear he was doing another round of the capital cities of Australia to celebrate 25 years since the release of his comeback album Whispering Jack. It’s still the highest selling album in Australia. Of course it is, it’s brilliant.

Alan, my superb husband of eight weeks and one day, mercifully embraced the idea of coming with me to see John. Mind you, I figured a bit of marital duty might have been going on but certainly no hint of jealousy. He looked impressed when John did his usual stunt of throwing the microphone stand high into the air and catching it on its earthbound return. So 1970s, I love it!

He smiled when I left my seat beside him to stand patiently in line by the side of the stage to shake John’s hand – one of John Farnham’s gifts is his availability to his audience. You want to come for a kiss and a photo, then you are welcome. Film the whole bloody concert on your smartphone if you want! Load it up to YouTube, or share it on Facebook, he couldn’t care less.

That’s a true star in my books.

When the audience roared to its collective feet when the encore version of “You’re The Voice” began with its signature introduction complete with bagpipes, Alan was right beside me clapping away. And he was first at the merchandising stand at the end of the show, demanding to know if John had issued any items in pink.

Thanks John Farnham, I had an amazing night, I hope to see you again next year.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


So not only do we have to suffer the indignity of having a gallon of blood gush out from between our legs every month. Any woman who has suffered the horror of standing in a grocery queue or sitting in a meeting and felt that insidiously familiar feeling of a tampon overflowing will know what I mean.

Not only do we feel compelled to strip hair from places on our bodies that for centuries enjoyed relative anonymity. Any woman who has felt the hot wax ripping the hair from her groin will know what I mean.

Not only do we implode with guilt when we a) don’t spend enough time with our children b) don’t spend enough time at the gym c) don’t prepare enough home-cooked meals. Any woman who has a home-delivery company on speed dial will know what I mean.

Not only do we watch our bodies expand to indescribable proportions whilst housing a growing human being. Any woman who has wondered if her vagina will ever go back to normal after giving birth will know what I mean.

Not only are we nurses, chefs, psychologists, prostitutes, teachers, chauffers, cleaners, decorators, landscapers, ironers and project managers. Any woman who does all these tasks yet still gets called “just a mum” will know what I mean.

So – not only do we have all this on our plate, we now have to cope with being called selfish because we aren’t having our babies until our late 30s.

Or so says Dr Barry Walters, an obstetrician from Perth's King Edward Memorial Hospital.

He says that the number of older expectant mothers coming into the hospital had become an epidemic and this led to far more pregnant women and babies with medical problems.

Fair enough, it is common knowledge that the older the mum is, the higher the risk.

But interestingly it isn’t a risk to be an older dad.

As I see it, there are men out there who glide through their 20s and 30s, meeting women but avoiding commitment (and therefore fatherhood). They hit 40, and have an epiphany that they’re suddenly ready to “settle down” and either seek out a life partner or agree to have children with their long-suffering mate.

Which means, all ages being equal, women are having babies well into their 30s. Because they sat around for so long waiting for the right man to show up, or for the man right now to commit.

A close girlfriend of mine waited 12 years for her boyfriend to marry her. That means baby number one was born just after she turned 40. Baby number two arrived at 43.

Sure, I hear you all, and I heard myself say it as well. “Leave the bastard. If he won’t commit, then leave him and find yourself someone who will.”

Easier said than done, as many women reading this will know.

I was lucky. I fell in love and was married at 20, and was a mum at 25. But it was some years later that my girlfriends and peers started having their kids. Now that I’m mid-40s, I have girlfriends who are taking their little ones to prep. They’ve got years to go.

And that’s not for being choosy or picky. That’s not for being career-obsessed. That’s not for wanting material items over family bliss.

It was simply because they didn’t have a man in their life at the time that wanted to make a family with them.

So, Dr Walters, you certainly have some valid points to raise on the potential difficulties older mums face. But don’t put a blanket label of “selfish” on them. Understand the context of their situation first.

And maybe give a few lectures to commitment-phobic men.

What would the world be like if a man’s sperm ceased to be viable after the age of 40? Think about that…

Monday, 19 September 2011


So I’m in some nondescript discount warehouse chemist place, in some nondescript suburb on the north of Brisbane. It’s Thursday night about 8pm, and winter as we know it in Brisbane is nearly over.

The reason I knew winter was nearly over was because when my darling husband, who is prone to a spot of Thursday night shopping, suggested that after dinner we should “pop” out to get a “few things”, I changed out of my slippers and into some ballet flats. You see, usually the cold months would see me leave my slippers on; hang the concerned sympathies and random unsolicited offers of dementia medication.

The first place we popped to was Officeworks. I’d mentioned in passing that my wireless mouse was coming close to retirement age, and my ever vigilant husband had stored this information for future action. We selected a fabulous new wireless keyboard/mouse arrangement, and, me being a girl and all, hankered after some pink glittery notebook and matching gel pen set.

Utterly useless and highly inappropriate at any form of business meeting, unless I was going for an interview to host Romper Room. Which I wasn’t.

I managed to fob off a “five seconds, that’s all” visit to Bunnings. But Alan mentioned he had a script that he wanted to fill and asked if we could just “nip” into the chemist warehouse place that was “on the way home, won’t take us out of our way darling”.

So while Alan is at the prescriptions counter, I’m doing what all women the world over do when they are in a chemist shop. They look at weight loss supplements. Then they try on lipsticks on the back of their hands. Then they spray every perfume available for testing.

Having done all these, I aimlessly started wandering the aisles. These discount chemist places are like Bunnings for sick people. Row after row of vitamins, cosmetics, potions and lotions. All claiming to heal the soul, turn back the clock and make you scoff at those funeral plan advertisements they insist on showing on Kerri-Anne every morning.

And guess what I found. Jars of Pond’s Cold Cream. I may be having a Back To The Future moment, but call me McFly by any other name. I hadn’t seen this stuff for years.

Hello old friend, I’ve missed you.

My grandmother swore by this stuff. She’d have a dressing table lined with china jars of Pond’s Cold Cream. I would watch her tie her long hair back in a scarf, rub this gunk into her face, wipe it off with a tissue, then rub more in – and leave the bloody stuff on all night.

Of course, back then I was too young to realise that the more Pond’s Cold Cream she used on her face overnight, the less likely it was that grandpa would tap her on the shoulder. But when you’re seven, you don’t think like that.

I hadn’t seen Pond’s Cold Cream on the shelves for years. Decades, really. I’d flirted with it a bit as a teenager, but far too quickly was suckered into advertising muck and genuinely began to believe that only million dollar Estee Lauder products would save my youthful complexion.

If only I’d thought at the time that stopping smoking and drinking plenty of water would have the same effect.

Oh dear...

So by the time I was saddled with a child and a mortgage, and seeking refuge in simpler (ie cheaper) beauty products, my good friend Pond’s was MIA.

And had been for at least 20 years. Apart from that claim I read that our very own pop princess Kylie swore by it, it had been missing from my life.

Until last Thursday.

I had 30 jars of it in my hands but Alan, ever the wise and prudent one of this marriage, suggested that perhaps I limit my excitement to two jars and test them out to make sure I’m still happy with the quality of the product, before we buy shares in the Pond’s Institute.  

Well, I’m pleased to report that it is still the same. Smells the same, feels the same, works the same. I rubbed it all over my face. In seconds it took off mascara that previously needed a neutron bomb to do the same job. You should see the horror residue on the tissues when I wipe it off. Shudder. And to think that stuff was ON MY FACE!

Oh Pond’s welcome home.

Alan, can we ring the stockbroker tomorrow?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Of course the obvious person to blame in all this is Kate Middleton. For no other reason than half her body seemed to be missing when she stepped out of the car on her way to marry William. Did you see that tiny waist? Of course you did. So did New Idea, Women’s Weekly, Cosmo and Vogue. Now they can’t stop talking about it.

Because Kate did what just about every bride the world over does – she lost a heap of weight for her wedding. Unlike just about every bride in the world, however, Kate seems to be keeping her weight off. I think that’s because she exists on a diet of hearty Welsh air, and when she’s totally famished, she nibbles on the rotor blades of Will’s helicopter. I hope Diana’s ring doesn’t slip off her skinny finger and fall down the sink when she’s doing the washing-up one night. You remember the Lara Bingle/Michael Clark diamond-down-the-drain fiasco? Imagine what it would be like with bona fide royalty.

A dear girlfriend is getting married later this year. She’s lost 25kg since Christmas. That’s Christmas 2010. Not 1994. That’s pretty impressive. That’s up there with The Biggest Loser. Which is good for me; I'm already two years ahead on my daily fat allowance. I'm looking for skinny people to see if I can borrow theirs.

I’m one of those people who refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There's no pleasure worth foregoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.

I’ve been to four weddings in the past five years. Every bride swanned down the aisle with a waist that could measure a totem-pole. Or so it seemed. Yet their grooms looked just like they do every day of the year. Except the look on their face is like they heard that Shaun Cassidy was the entertainment at their reception. They were probably thinking “Where the hell did my wife go?”

Because, as I see it, he fell in love with you when you had those extra 10kgs. He asked you to marry him when you had those extra 10kgs. I’m not convinced that showing up at your own wedding weighing less than Ghandi will guarantee you a long and happy marriage.

I’m totally convinced it will guarantee you some fantastic wedding photos. Photos that you’ll want to shred in two years time when all the weight is back.

At least on this subject I can speak with authority. I was a bride back in the mid-1980s, God help us. All frothy merengue and sleeves that needed a traffic controller. I was a mere 20 years old, and a mere slip of a girl. I had discovered sour cream, soft cheese and pizzas with the lot, but hadn’t had time to eat enough of them for the results of my appetite to show. So hence I got away with being a skinny bride.

Fast-forward 25 years, and I have my second walk down the aisle impending. Except it won’t be an aisle this time, moreso a stroll across the sand on Noosa Beach, but you get what I’m saying.

From the instant that my gorgeous Lover Bloke Alan slid this massive diamond solitaire engagement ring on my finger, I began bleating about my urgent need to lose weight. Get my top-end size 14 arse back to a more sedate size 12.

I’m one of those people who prefers to eat whatever I like and let the food fight it out inside.

As the months counted down, I’d kid myself that I could lose 10kg in three months, in two months, in one month. Dieting’s no piece of cake you know. With my nuptials literally just around the corner, I’ve come to the realisation that I will look nothing like Kate Middleton. And that’s not because I’m blonde and she’s dark. Or because she lives in a palace and I don’t own a crown.

I’ve found myself a perfectly ok dress. I won’t be a bride (be there done that) but I think my ankle-length strapless number will suffice. There’s enough print on the fabric to disguise my offending arse. And of course there’s shapewear.

Or maybe, at 45, I’ve come to realise that it’s the stuff on the inside that counts. Which is good because at the time of writing, the stuff on my insides were lasagne, red wine and garlic bread with extra butter.

What size is that dress of mine again?

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Last night, I was at a function to launch the next edition of a business magazine. It was a mixed crowd, borderline eclectic (possibly because one punter was determined to stay hunched over in his black overcoat and another punter wore red tartan trousers with matching scarf and driving gloves).

The industry types were just as eclectic, from funeral planners and home-based marketing businesses to travel agents, pilates instructors and business advisors. We collectively clutched our copy of the mag, a handful of business cards and the requisite glass of bubbles.

Now, I have a headstart on the majority of the other punters because I write a regular column for this particular tome. So, in networking terms, this is like going directly to GO and claiming $200. I could confidently walk up to groups and say, “Hi, I’m Bron, I write the customer service column,” and straight away we had an opening for a conversation.

I mean, there’s always the risk they’ll turn to me and say, “So you’re the one who writes that crap?” but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Like wearing heels to a garden wedding, opening a third bottle of wine or voting for Abbott.

Being in business for myself and working from home means networking functions are a necessity. Sometimes they are the sole reason I change out of my pajamas that day.

But the more I go to, the more I see such a stark difference in the way people – men and women alike – go about networking.

Without creating a spoiler alert, you need to know that this blog is not about male-bashing or the like. Quite the contrary. I think men are adorable. Especially when they take out the rubbish and put air in my tyres (thank you Alan). I even thought one of them was so spectacular that I married him for a long while. And I’ve now got another one who is even more spectacular so I reckon I’ll marry him too.

OK, now that’s cleared up, I’ll tell you what happened at this function. And I have to tell you, none of this is made up. Like some of my other blogs are prone to be…

I’m standing in a group of women, I think there were four including me. We were chatting, and it doesn’t matter whether we were chatting about the school pick up run or the fallout from the federal budget, we were chatting.

Then in bursts a male, business card brandished, with the stellar opening line, “G’day there girls, I think it’s about time I got around to telling you lot about my business.”

What a charmer. I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it. We may have two ears and one mouth but this fellow definitely doesn’t use them in that order. He was in the baby boomer category, is that relevant?

I couldn’t stomach such arrogance, so politely nodded my farewell and went in search of a champagne refill and a new group.

I’d been selected to give a short welcome address to the group at the start of the function, so en route to the bar, I was waylaid by another business card brandishing fellow who complimented me on my speech (which was lovely). In the next breath he asked if he could share my client data base because he was convinced that his wealth creation strategy would be needed by them all (which was not lovely).

Parched, I lurched stiletto first into the next group I spied. This was quaintly mixed – two boys and with the advent of me, two girls. The boys were trying to outdo each other in terms of football knowledge, Amex card colours and, I am sure, penis girth.

I’d clearly picked the wrong group to join. I don't have a penis.

I quickly assessed my combatants and subtlely winked at my co-conspirator. We drifted off to the bar, claimed a refill, complimented each others shoes/earrings/eyeshadow application technique, and gave a précis of our business in 25 words or less. We chatted about working while raising kids and propping up husbands. We spoke about corporate raiders, live beef exports, the commonalities in our work and Lady Gaga. Swapped business cards and agreed to keep in touch. A brief air kiss and we diverged.

Shouldering my bag with a view to making a speedy exit, I heard the words, “Bron, can I have a word with you before you go?” A charming man, in a pastel shirt and rimless glasses, offered me his business card and a coffee meeting to put forward his idea to leverage our separate business skills with joint clients. Brilliant idea, brilliant concept and brilliantly conveyed. The only thing that was different from the lady I just previously met is that we shook hands instead of sharing an air kiss. Oh, and we didn’t talk about eyeshadow. I would have been mildly worried if we did.

I was nearly out the door, when one last woman waved a cheery hand and thrust me her business card. I quickly scanned it and learnt she was a personal stylist. It made me think she had a target market with this down-trodden crowd who mostly looked like they had dressed in the dark without the benefit of a mirror. Or deodorant.

“Give me a call,” she cooed in some faux French accent, whilst noticeably eyeing my outfit. “I can have your wardrobe sorted in a day so you never have to go out looking like this again.”

I had to look down at my clothes to assure myself I hadn’t accidently left my pajamas on. Oh blimey, I thought, do I look that bad? Either way, insults are not a great way to drum up business lady!

And had she seen Ms Red Tartan Trousers yet?

I like to do business with people, not companies. If I need a particular service – be it a document printed, a legal opinion, or my nails painted – I like to deal with a person I like. A person I can relate to, feel comfy with and even enjoy a laugh. Nudge nudge wink wink etc.

It doesn’t matter a jot to me if your printing firm won a major national award, or your legal company is currently putting the defence strategy together for Ricky Nixon, or even if your beauty salon does Miranda Kerr's nails. If you don’t warm to me, I freeze you out.

Even if I’m wearing pajamas!

Monday, 30 May 2011


There’s a house in Rocklea, in Brisbane’s south-west, about 12km from the city centre. It’s home to a very dear friend. It’s a post-war home, reminiscent of many in the area when Salisbury was the epicentre of the 1950s industrial boom.

It has three bedrooms, one of which has been converted for use as a beauty spa. The renovated kitchen boasts an open plan dining area. The quaint bathroom gleams with sparkling tiles and a new loo. There’s a covered patio for long Sunday barbeques, a garden full of fruit trees and a fledgling olive plant. There’s two water tanks, two dogs, and a whole bunch of happiness.

Well, there used to be.

On Thursday, 13 January, flood waters went through the roof of this home. Literally. The beautifully renovated kitchen was invaded by the insidious water that held Brisbane hostage. The disgusting muck surged down the toilet, in between the walls and through the cracks in the polished wood floors. It carted the water tanks away, ripped up the fruit trees and disintegrated the doors and walls.

What was left was a heaving, rancid mess – utterly uninhabitable, unthinkably ruined, devastatingly lost. It wasn’t a home anymore, it was a dump. A wasteland of memories, happiness and sunshine days.

But it was still her home. And that’s the hardest part of all the horror that was the Brisbane floods. It’s still her home even though it is not fit for a wild animal to prowl through during the night.

My dear friend learnt the hard way, as did many many Brisbane home-owners, that insurance cover doesn’t always mean insurance cover . The scoundrels who run these agencies nit-picked fine print to death and managed to invent several meanings for flooding.

Silly me, I always thought flooding was a result of too much water coming down and the rivers and dams not being able to process it quickly enough, so therefore our homes, parks and streets were filled with water.

Apparently not. Whatever caused the flood, they said they’d only cover for the other reasons. Oh, and then said premiums would need to rise to cover their costs. Huh? Isn’t that what insurance is all about. What would I know, I’m just a writer and a home-owner. Mmmm.

So my dear friend lives day by day, battling tears, despair and adversity in an attempt to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that her gorgeous home has become. Little by little she saves up to get some new doors, or to fix the plumbing or to get a new stove. But it’s not fast enough.

It’s now over four months since those dark January days that stopped our city. And for all the lauding on the media that Brisbane is “back in business”, let’s not for a second forget that many people are not anywhere near opening their doors for business, let alone even having a proper door that you can open in the first place.

Just today, I took a drive around the streets of Rocklea, in that little residential pocket off Marshall Road near the McDonald’s. It was an old stomping ground of mine some years ago and holds some very fond memories.

Homes now lay vacant, their doors and windows wide open in surrender. The flood waters won the battle, and they also won the war. Dirty exterior markings brag how high the water rose. The air is putrid with resignation and anguish. A few brave souls soldier on, gamely employing construction crews to right the wrongs. Or simply to jack their home as high as council will allow.

But for many it is just too much. They’ve walked away. Tenants and owners alike. The “for sale” signs are plentiful, as are “for lease” signs. The warm camaraderie that I always knew to exist is still present, just in a very decreased number.

The place I called home all those years ago has been gutted. No longer is there the kitchen where I lovingly prepared my daughter’s meals. Nor the street-facing room where I concocted blogs and columns, and proudly started a small business. I didn’t need a doorway to pass between rooms anymore.

All I could see was the claw foot bath. Not even the nastiest of flood waters was going to move that sucker!

So people, all I ask, is that you spare a thought, and maybe a prayer, for some of our folk who actually aren’t back in business or on the road to recovery. Our folk who still live in rented accommodation because they can’t face the muck that awaits them back home. Or haven’t left the security of mum and dad’s to sort out the mess that once was their home.

Or the brave ones, like my friend, who have no other option than to live in the remnants of their own castle and who each day, try to make a little bit of a difference.

They’re not back in business at all.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


When I first started working, it was a part time job at Big W Carindale, way back before Carindale Shopping Centre was the unsightly gangly monolith it is today. It was 1980, I was 15, and Thursday night trading had just commenced in Brisbane and shopping after dark was considered very avant garde. Oooh la la.

Silly checkout girls like me reported to an austere humourless lady called Mrs Hickey. Nothing could humour that lady. She was about as funny as a fire in a children’s home. We thought we were hilarious by referring to her as “The Hickey” but the passage of time has made me see how lame that was. She recurrently used the royal “we”, perched her spectacles on the tip of a pointed nose and sniffed in disdain a great deal.

She clearly didn’t have her spectacles on when she typed my name badge on the Dymo wheel, and for a year I was known to the Carindale public as “Brown Vowles”. Mmmmmm.

One time, she called us all to work 15 minutes early to do the 1980s version of team building. We had to answer the question, “Why do I come to work?” and she said that if anyone answered with “for the money” she would fire us on the spot.

What a stupid question. And what stupid repercussions. That was back in the days when you could fire someone on the spot. This is pre-industrial relations and no one sued their boss.

When I was at university, I left the shackles of Big W and Mrs Hickey to sell flowers out of a basket at Brisbane night spots to support my studies. Eliza’s Flower Service would load up cars with buckets of flowers and send pretty young girls out into the night to tote their wares.

First it was to the public bars, where late husbands would scrounge up $5 for a cheap bunch to take home as a peace-offering. Restaurants with cooing couples were ripe for sales, especially with my opening line, “Sir, that’s a beautiful woman you are dining with tonight and I am sure she’d really appreciate a flower.” What a crock.

At the nightclubs – hands up my generation who remember Sibyl’s in Adelaide Street, General Jackson’s under the Crest and the Underground up where that posh get-up The Barracks now is? It was at these spots that I’d be accosted in a gentlemanly way by the single boys who’d failed to score. They’d buy me the flowers, which is sweet. And even sweeter because I’d pocket the money and re-sell the flower the second his back was turned. Wouldn’t you?

When it was time to get a proper grown-up job, I found myself in the badlands of Acacia Ridge working with transport giant Linfox. Everyone smoked at their desk, everyone swore both passively and aggressively, and girls regularly got whacked on the butt.

“This pretty young thing is Bron,” was how my boss would introduce me. Where was Pru Goward when I needed her?

Kevin Bloody Wilson and Rodney Rude were making a fortune screeching profanities out of cassette tapes, and the warehouse crews blasted their obscenities as blithely as they hung the People magazine centrefolds above their desks.

We had no mobiles, faxes, modems, internet or smartphones. If we wanted to tell someone something, we picked up the phone and told them. After we’d asked them how their football game went, and how their daughter’s birthday party was. And laughed about something funny on television the night before.

If we had something a bit more formal to tell someone, we typed a letter. On a typewriter. In duplicate. For people like me, I always made a typo on the second last word, and my attempt to fix it would render a hole in the paper so I’d rip the thing out, swear out loud, and start again. Back then, swearing at a typewriter was an everyday occurrence.

Later I ended up working for one of Kerry Packer’s companies, and although by then the butt smacking and the office smoking had ceased, maternity leave entitlements hadn’t even started. After enduring a job interview that included the question, “Do you have any immediate plans to fall pregnant?” I worked for two years until I did, by chance, fall pregnant.

It was 1991, and I worked until I was 39 weeks then took as much holiday and sick leave as I could. There was no obligation by the employer to keep my job open, nor for them to pay me any form of allowance. You just hoped and prayed and did a very tight budget.

Was it better back then? Maybe not the butt-smacking and the cigarette smoking, and we may have had more challenges, but there was fewer imagined problems.

Some things haven’t changed though. At one place I worked, the service manager was getting it on with the lady who ran accounts payable (things like that still happen today), a long Friday lunch was great fun (that still happens today) and there was too much fortnight in each pay period to make the money last (yep, that sometimes happens now too!)

And I still smile everytime I walk into Big W Carindale.

Friday, 8 April 2011


I’ve learnt to go to the toilet before leaving to go anywhere because I’ll either have a long walk to my car or get stuck in a traffic jam.

I’ve learnt to proceed with caution through an intersection littered with broken glass.

I’ve learnt that I don’t know a single person who has won a substantial amount of money on a scratch-it – and I know a lot of people.

I’ve learnt that if I preface any request with “Please remember” instead of “Don’t forget”, they usually remember.

I’ve learnt that crying doesn’t always mean I’ll get my own way.

I’ve learnt to take the first vacant carpark I see instead of driving around for another 10 minutes in search of one closer to the door. (Invariably, when I give up that palaver and return to the original vacant spot, it has been taken.)

I’ve learnt that if I say “I think I’ll have one more drink” I don’t need to have one more drink.

I’ve learnt that bad hair days strike without warning yet no one but me seems to realise I’m having one.

I’ve learnt that it is difficult to use a heavy period as a reason to take a sick day when I have a female boss.

I’ve learnt that I will always forget to take my lunch to work on a day when I don’t have the time to go and buy it.

I’ve learnt to take my own supply of tea bags with me when I travel so that I’m guaranteed a decent cuppa.

I’ve learnt that if you hang school uniforms up the minute the dryer finishes, you don’t need to iron them.

I’ve learnt that if I keep my hair long and straight, it only needs cutting twice a year.

I’ve learnt that even though my daughter is an adult, she still needs her mum.

I’ve learnt that I can set my clocks up to 15 minutes fast and I’ll still be late.

I’ve learnt that a slick of lip gloss can make all the difference.

I’ve learnt that when I’m making last minute excuses to get out of diabolically dull function, the same obscure relative cannot die more than twice in the same year.

I’ve learnt that every man I know, from my grandfather down, hides personal items in his underwear drawer.

I’ve learnt that while today’s music may hold my attention for a short while, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Dire Straits and Barbra Streisand are everlasting.

I’ve learnt that I will never regret the extra 10 minutes I spent sitting on my daughter’s bed rubbing her back while she went to sleep.

I’ve learnt that an electric blanket keeps small children in their bed more and my bed less.

I’ve learnt that I really couldn’t care less about the pregnancy stretch marks that adorn my body.

I’ve learnt that no matter how hard I try and convince myself, the McDonald’s breakfast sausage looks more like a rissole than a sausage.

I’ve learnt that I sometimes don’t need more sleep, I just need more time out.

I’ve learnt that people will regularly forget what I said to them, but they will never forget how I made them feel.

Saturday, 2 April 2011


It is entirely possible that I’ve lived alone for too long, indulging my whims, dancing to the beat of my own drum, setting my own agenda, etc etc.

Of course my mother disagrees. She thinks you can never live alone for long enough. But that might be because when I rang to tell her the theme of my blog, she answered the phone saying, “you’ll never believe what your bloody father has done this time.”


Living alone isn’t the sad sorry scenario is can sometimes be painted by Smug Marrieds (thanks Bridget ) or worried grandparents. Mine have long given up saying, “can’t you find yourself a nice chappie?”

And while it is delightful to snuggle up in bed at night with Lover Bloke, giggling and carrying on like you’re the only two people on the planet, there are certain unalienable benefits to snuggling up alone.
The remote would be one of them.

You can watch what you want, when you want, how you want. I can replay that corny scene from Notting Hill where Hugh Grant busts in on Julia’s press conference as many times as I want. I can even fall asleep when it’s on, if I want.

Football, cricket and horse racing never sour my screen. The toilet bowl is skiddy-free, the milk is fat-free and my fridge is beer-free.

But even better, I can do those things that you can only when you’re totally and gloriously alone.

I can finish work, lay on the floor in the middle of my lounge room and stare at the ceiling while Frank Sinatra tells me “That’s Life”. I can go all day without a bra, without showering, without eating a single vegetable.

I can eat random, unrelated food off the same plate, like brie with crackers, anchovy stuffed olives, Oreos, smoked trout, cold pizza and cupcakes. And finish the whole bottle of wine. Whilst wearing heels.

Sometimes I just sit and jiggle the fat parts of my body and try and poke them to see if they’ll deflate, or better, disappear. That never happens.

None of these things sound super weird when I write them down, and really, they’re not. Secret single behaviors aren’t necessarily freakish – that’s not the reason they’re secret. Adding another person into the mix changes what it is you inherently love about these solo-delights.

They’re not only things you do by yourself, you do them FOR yourself; comforting little rituals or indulgences, just idiosyncratic enough to raise an eyebrow, but innocuous enough that they can’t really be explained.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, we all need our alone time. Having the freedom to watch whatever you want on TV or clean your house in the nude can be totally liberating.

I've been known to take my dinner, my crossword, my book, my cuppa and my laptop to bed. If you thought having a Lover Bloke in your bed was fun, try my combination. There were six in the bed and the little one said…

SSB lets me talk on the phone till the wee hours of the morning. Depending on how many alcoholic beverages I have enjoyed over this chatting period, I can view myself as a nuclear physicist dispensing political funding opinion or a brain-dead blonde pondering the merit of Paris Hilton winning a spell-a-thon.

It also lets me put on my Greatest Hits of the 80s CD, push my lounge against the wall and dance barefoot with only a hairbrush-come-microphone for company. I can order a Margarita pizza at midnight, I can eat baked beans at 6pm, or I can write until dawn.

I can pumice my heels with the bathroom door open. I can walk around for half an hour with a face mask. I read the weekend papers until Monday. I can have thrush, a hangover, weeds in the garden or an unpaid rates bill and it affects no one but me.

I have risen at 4am to join the treadmill for an hour. I have worked until 11pm without need to apologise. I have smoked a sneaky cigarette in the kitchen while waiting for a white sauce to thicken. I have stayed in my pajamas until 5pm. I have rearranged the living room furniture in the middle of the night.

Now and then I do an audit of my life. Probably a little more now than then. When I look at it in black and white I become somewhat thoughtful. Sure it's an indulgent way to live, but I question the morality, ethics or political correctness that ensues. Are idle hands the devil's tools? And are those hands currently holding a wine glass and a hairbrush?