It’s not good news for the staff at the Australian Starbucks outlets, and I feel terrible for the people who are out of a job, but the silver lining is this: it is heartening for coffee lovers across this country to know that we have not embraced whatever it is they serve there to our bosom. No, the US chain is mounting a major retreat from our shores, and I for one won’t be sorry to see them go. I remember when the first Starbucks opened (I think it was on the corner of Park and Elizabeth St in Sydney, but I can’t be sure), and at the time I thought “Oh dear. Here they come.” It’s such an iconic US brand, but one thing the Americans largely haven’t mastered (aside from tactical withdrawal from a series of very costly made-up wars) is a decent cup of coffee.
In the States they call it a cup of Joe, and perhaps that’s the problem right there. Joe? How about Mauricio or Fernando or Marcelo? Where is their coffee coming from, anyway, a back alley in Detroit? Jersey? ‘Joe’ doesn’t capture the exoticism of the world’s coffee growing regions AT ALL. Papua New Guinea. Guatemala. Colombia. Kenya. ‘Joe’ makes it sound like something that drips out of the bowser at the petrol station, which is kind of appropriate, come to think of it, because it tastes that way, too. ‘Joe.’ I don’t know about you, but all I can see is a loaf of white bread. Which is absolutely fine, it’s just not how I take my coffee.
Sydney has bred a population of inveterate coffee snobs. I think I’ve already shared my favourite story with you: a dust-coated workman stomped through a cafe underneath the magazine offices where I was doing a freelance stint a couple of years ago. He was covered in debris, wearing a hard hat and steel-tipped boots, and as I stood waiting for my own coffee, he boomed to the girl behind the counter, “Gimme three macchiatos, thanks, love.” I love that moment more than I can possibly explain.
So the closure of what I think is about 61 Starbucks outlets nationwide tells me that there is hope for us yet. If this brand that is everywhere on the small and big screen – shameless product placement, upon product placement, upon product placement – and is as American as Maccas, can’t make it here, maybe Australians are still capable of deciding for ourselves, and maybe we don’t just want to be an American mini-me after all. And I’ll drink to that.
Recently, Llew and I have had several conversations with friends about coining a phrase. Where does it all begin? Idiom has to start somewhere, and those little funny phrases we trade from culture to culture all began somewhere and with someone. But even if we THINK we’re the first, it always seems too improbable to make a claim. There’s no way, I think we all think, that it could have originated with one of us. Surely we just absorbed it from the media in exchange for what little is left of the human brain.
Llew, for instance, is convinced that he and his mates are responsible for the expression “You snooze, you lose.” He even has a story to go along with it, and he swears he’d never heard the expression before he found himself uttering it that day sometime in the early to mid-90s, when Bucko awoke from a little mid-afternoon couch kip to find all the pot had been smoked. “You snooze, you lose” is a perfect rejoinder to his indignation, so part of me thinks, gosh, Llewie, maybe it DID all start with you… How will we ever know? Is it possible to test these things empirically? Has anyone else ever put up a hand to claim this phrase as their own?
We’ve been discussing this with a view to putting something out into the universe and seeing if it comes back to us, kind of like an echo from the zeitgeist. Evo wanted to put a piece of business speak out there, something really stupid and meaningless, because people are always dropping various idiotic guff into their corporate talk, and it would be so very sweet to catch someone using something that had only been made up to prove the very point that’s proved by someone actually using it. I so badly want him to do it. Maybe I should start brainstorming certain key performance indicators going forward.
Another friend’s admittedly rather elaborate effort involves a sort of homage to old westerns, swinging saloon doors etc. He suggests that whenever you’re in a bit of a spot because you’ve done something you really shouldn’t have done, you should pretend your hands are loaded guns, point them skyward, wave them around a little for effect, make a few ‘pet-chew, pet-chew’ noises like you’re firing a weapon, and then say in your best Texan drawl: “But the horse made me do it, Sheriff.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that could really take off.
And then there’s the one I think I’ve made up all on my very own. It’s in my manuscript, so I’m giving you a sneak preview of just the kind of lofty ideas that visit me whilst I’m sitting here typing away in a frenzy. Oh yes, it’s all reminiscent of Socrates and Plato around here… as you’ll see. It came to me the draft before this last one, so right now I’m the only person aside from my Lynk manuscript assessor who’s read it, although I did share it with three people including Llew last Friday night, hence my decision to write about it here because I don’t trust those filthy mongrels to keep it to themselves. I’m jealous of my expression. It’s not every day I feel like I’ve got any imagination left whatsoever, so I’m holding on like grim death to my belief that this is mine, all mine (insert demonic cackle). So… towards the end of the story, my protagonist is seeing a guy. It’s pretty casual at first, drunken rolls in the hay, and as I was writing about her turning up pissed outside his window, it occurred to me that the now-ubiquitous “bootie call” was not quite right. When I think of a bootie call, I think it’s a girl who is the object of it. In this case, my heroine is a woman who is taking matters into her own hands. She’s going after the object, she’s not the object herself, and yes it does make a nice change from all those rap videos where girls are objectified to within an inch of their butt cheeks. So “bootie call” would not do. And in that weird way that happens sometimes, I found the words appearing on the screen as my fingers typed on the keyboard even as I was barely aware of having any control at all: ‘it was not a bootie call so much as a cock knock.’
Cock knock: when a girl taps a guy for sex. Knock on the window, knock on the door, knock on his nob for all I care, but girls do do this at a certain point in their lives, usually after too many champagnes, and now we have a name for it. Cock knock. You heard it here first.
Lies, all lies! I promise to write you a ripping blog and then what do you get for your trouble? NOTHING! It’s an outrage! You are well within your rights to feel completely gipped. I can only say I had an unexpected deadline to attend to that required my urgent attention, and I’ve only just finished it off. So, where were we?
Qantas. Let’s talk about Qantas, Australia’s largest air carrier and an airline with a hitherto pretty unblemished safety record. At least, they’ve never crashed, and that’s about as safe as anyone can expect to be when they’re flying from one side of the world to the other. Let’s face it, it’s just not natural, so it’s always an untold relief to make it to the other end intact. Given that landing has got to be Selling Point No. 1 for any prospective passenger, Qantas must have done pretty well out of that record. I know I chant something along the lines of ‘Qantas has never crashed, Qantas has never crashed’ every time I’m on one of their planes prior to take-off. I daresay the people on either side of me find this slightly less reassuring than I do, but perhaps that’s because I’ve assumed the brace position by then and am already sweating through my clothes.
So what’s going on at Qantas HQ? Have they grown complacent? Has their safety record made them all go a bit soft? Because you’re only as good as your last safe touchdown, fellas, and if these recent near-misses are anything to make a bet on, your spanking ‘no crash’ record feels like it’s about to get soiled. Did everyone get a load of that MASSIVE HOLE torn through the underbelly on Qantas Flight Get Me the Fuck Back Down to Earth last week? Wow. As every interviewed passenger said afterwards, when the plane improbably landed safely in what I think was Manila, “Good thing [they] couldn’t see the hole when the oxygen masks dropped down, because it’s unlikely everyone would have been quite so calm.” Gee, do you think?!
Okay, I realise the plane did, in fact, land safely, and h-u-u-u-g-e props to the pilot and every other crew member for successfully bringing that big blown-out bastard down. Apparently all they had to contend with was some nausea, and I’d happily trade a clean shirt for oh, I don’t know, a chance to live the rest of my life on the ground, where I belong. Seriously: come puke on me if it’ll help. All up an amazing effort, and we should all take comfort from the fact that it is possible for these things to end well. It doesn’t have to be an inferno. And Leslie Nielsen doesn’t have to be the guy flying your plane. Big relief.
But now there’s another ‘incident,’ some door that wouldn’t close (PROBLEMATIC, people, very, very problematic to have doors flying open at altitude), forcing another Qantas emergency landing, this time in Melbourne (I think… the details are sketchy because my vision blurs every time I see the words ‘Emergency Landing’). What’s happening? Is the media going after Qantas because the company is quietly trying to drop safety procedures down to the world minimum – rather than trying to ace it with the inevitably costlier global maximum – or is Qantas actually experiencing greater than normal safety turbulence? What is the answer? I don’t know. What I do know is that if this is the new standard they’re adopting, I’m feeling uneasy already.
I heard once that the best time to travel on an airline was immediately following one of their planes crashing. You want to see immediate vigilance? Look at the guys whose PR campaign just exploded right across some minor Balkan state. It’s not good for business to crash. And I do see the logic, I do, nothing tarnishes an airline’s image more than dead people. But I’ve always thought of Qantas as a special case, despite the ‘but it’s only a matter of time’ counter argument I can hear you waging out there. No, I always thought being able to say ‘we’ve never crashed’ was a critical part of the Qantas brand. You lose that statistic against your name and IT AIN’T EVER COMIN’ BACK. ‘We’ve only crashed once’: see, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
I’m sitting here next to a printed out copy of the latest version of my synopsis, and my manuscript draft is in a box waiting to be sent to Varuna. I’ve called the synopsis document ‘synopsis V,’ but in reality it’s much closer to synopsis XV. I don’t actually know how many of them I’ve written, and I doubt this version will be the last. They’re buggers to write, actually, really very tricky. My thesis abstract must have been rewritten about thirty or forty times. No kidding. Try that on for size and see how you like it. So I’m perfectly clear that as far as this latest synopsis goes, I may well have only reached the halfway mark. It may not be terribly interesting to you (in which case I apologise for going on and on about this whole process), but I find looking at version number one and this latest one absolutely fascinating. I’m fascinated by the differences in language, structure, and voice. One of the only things keeping me motivated in all these endless rewrites – and the MS is hovering at about 93,000 words now, so an endless store of motivation is most certainly required – is comparison, because I can see myself that it is slowly getting better. There’s no question that this one page synopsis is better than the first, and no question that this version of the MS is stronger than all the others preceding it. And that’s enough to keep me going. Only just, mind you, but still. Onwards.
So that’s where I’ve been for the past week – utterly preoccupied and not at all capable of thinking about anything else. A few late nights, and many very long days. And once I email myself this blog post, I’m going to walk down to the post office and send the MS and the synopsis to Varuna. Shrug it off. And then I’ll have a month away from it to work on other things. Ah, bliss. So tomorrow I’ll return with something fun… I have to reacquaint myself with the world first, I’ve sort of forgotten what it’s like out there…
POSTSCRIPT: I’m now sitting at the internet cafe closest to the post office. I’ve retrieved the blog post from my Yahoo account, and I’m just pasting it in now for your viewing pleasure. It’s not a momentous occasion in the big scheme of things, it’s just another draft, but in this peculiar life I have chosen, such small things as finishing the latest version and sending it off to someone who is actually GOING TO READ IT do start to feel more significant than they otherwise might. So I am just taking a moment to enjoy this small milestone, and then I’ll walk home looking at the cranking surf and allow myself to start thinking about other things… like how to fix that damn short story… and how to write a fabulous blog for you tomorrow to make up for recent neglect… thanks for bearing with me.
I was feeling slightly less sanguine about the pilgrims yesterday because they descended en masse on my previously peaceful beachside suburb and proceeded to really make their presence felt. Sorry to all you true believers out there, but I think it’s obnoxious forcing everyone else to listen to you. I don’t care what you believe, but taking over a public place and deafening passersby with your song, whether they want to hear it or not, is a little bit arrogant if you ask me. World Youth Day celebrations were the place for that; now you’re just taking the piss. I was accosted again, too, and this time the girl wanted to ‘talk’ to me for a few minutes. I couldn’t. I had somewhere to be (Tanalee, new to Sydney and a good friend of a good friend of mine, had made the trek to Man Town and was awaiting collection from the wharf). My way was blocked by a swarm of official WYD backpacks all worn by chanting, singing, wide circle making pilgrims. Um, public footpath, people. Excuse me, but this is not a corn field.
Anyway, the weather’s come over all overcast today so hopefully they’ll shuffle off back from whence they came. Not that any of them came prepared for cold weather: our friend Liv told us on Sunday that nowhere on the entire WYD website does it mention that this is deepest winter for us. Given the number of pilgrims from the Northern Hemisphere and especially research-light (or is it lite) Americans, that’s a pretty big, pretty amusing omission. Apparently the camping goods stores have done a very brisk trade in fleece and wool. I don’t know if it’s good for their god, but it’s very good for our economy.
I’m busily readying the fifth draft of my MS for its despatch to Varuna, the Writers’ House, in preparation for my week-long non-selective residency later in the year. I have to send it to the director, Peter Bishop, far enough in advance that he can read it before I arrive. There will be five writers in total in residence for a week, undertaking Varuna’s Professional Development program. I’m looking forward to all aspects of it, not least meeting Peter Bishop and four other writers. Naturally I want the MS to be as advanced as possible, so it’s been very intensive, actually, and of course I already know it’s still not perfect. No doubt Peter will point out entirely different problems to those my Lynk manuscript assessor identified. All part of the process, and I find I’m hungry for the new criticisms.
I’m also trying to get one of my short stories to a place where Llew doesn’t give me that deer-in-the-headlights look after I read it out to him. “It’s really nice,” he told me last night. That’s not good, is it?! I see what he means, though. It is probably the “nicest” story I’ve done, it’s almost like a children’s story, and he keeps looking for my usually guaranteed acerbic edge. Currently, it’s not there, and so the story feels wanting, somehow. It’s just a simple tale of a child’s inflated sense of self-importance, and how much identity at a young age can be tied up in rituals like birthdays. There’s nothing else to it. Nothing dark or sinister or cynical, and perhaps it leaves the story two-dimensional. It’s very frustrating because I have written several versions of this story, and it keeps coming out without a sting in its tail. I’ve written in first person and then third person. I’ve changed tense. I’ve fiddled with the language. But a plot beyond its wholly simple premise continues to elude me. I’d like to submit it for consideration in another of these annual anthologies, but whilst Llew still gets that look on his face, I don’t think I can, I don’t think there’s any point. Llew of course hastens to assure me he doesn’t read fiction and therefore has no clue and is the absolute worst person to ask, but I disagree. I think these qualities make him an excellent sounding board, and regardless, I respect his opinion. So I’m looking, looking, lying awake, in fact, still looking for the wolf…
Things in Sydney are going to start getting back to normal now that the Pope and his pilgrims have packed up shop. World Youth Day (come on – that was definitely a week!) is officially over as of yesterday. I wasn’t unduly affected by any of the action, although all that tambourine shaking puts me on edge. I’m just not a jamboree girl. There’s something so… so… cultish about everyone linking hands and skipping and singing in a circle. I’m glad they’re all so pleased with themselves and their god, it makes for a nice atmosphere all round, much better than when George W. Bush arrived, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me want to cross the road.
I was accosted several times by well-meaning pilgrims. It’s a funny thing in a society where generally speaking, people don’t simply start talking to you unless they’re taking your order or your cash or your measurements. And I guess these super friendly approaches, too, were about more than saying hello to a stranger in the street (and on the ferry and in a hotel bathroom). They’re in the soul trade, and perhaps they were trying to help save mine. (Too late, she cried!) Still, to be fair no attempts at conversion were made – they just wanted to say “Have a wonderful day.” Oh, and “You have a beautiful city,” and I’m always open to flattery where my beloved hometown is concerned. So if they were of a mind to spread the love, they kept it to themselves, and for a week Sydney was one of the most eerily cheerful places on earth. Is that such a bad thing? No. But let’s be honest – wave all the flags you like, sing as many songs, dance as many jigs and exhort as many prayers – that Pope is still one scary looking dude.
In a more general sense, I think one of the things I have difficulty swallowing is the element of presumption some people so fervently bring to their religiosity. I’d never presume to tell someone how to live their spiritual life, and yet at a media dinner I attended a few weeks ago, one of my dinner companions insisted to me that I should be exploring religious faith. For my own good, of course. I was fascinated by her own search for answers and betterment, and how it led her down the road of various spiritual inquiries; she was critical of what she perceived to be my lack of faith and my lack of effort in pursuing it. I disagreed. I said that I have great faith in existence, in the knowable world, and in the life I lead. I believe in humanity, and I believe I have an individual responsibility to lead an ethical life. My soul, damned by some measures, is just fine, thanks very much. I am not a bad person, I know that in my heart and mind, and I do not believe for a second that any god or being or universal force would ever think otherwise and punish me with eternal damnation for my various shortcomings as an eternally flawed human being. The very idea is absurd to me. I don’t believe I have anything to fear from whatever awaits beyond this life, including the entirely plausible idea that it’s absolutely nothing at all.
I’ve been in talks with a media friend about firming up a dinner date at her place with some of the wild bunch who attended a famil at Treble Cone ski resort this time last year… Frankly it’s a dangerous group of people to put in the same room, but a little mini-reunion might be okay… maybe. Probably not. But when Jac, my hostess-to-be, asked if Llew and I had any dietary requirements, the question did give me pause.
I was going to say no. I’ve said no many, many times. ‘No,’ I’ve confidently exclaimed, ‘we eat everything!’
But it’s not exactly true, is it? I mean, to the best of my knowledge, neither of us have any allergies (and what’s with all the children being allergic to all the things these days? I don’t understand it. More time spent eating sand and dried dog biscuits at a young age ought to just about eradicate this plague of childhood allergies quick sticks, I’m sure of it), but that doesn’t actually equate to eating everything. There’s a few things I don’t like.
This very topic was discussed over the now notorious ‘breakfast friends’ breakfast, with interestingly consistent results. When it boils (and it boils until that grey scum forms on top) right down to it, I’m just not a fan of eating lips, balls, organs and arseholes. And I’m not the only one. But some people love the offal, love the brain, love the revolting, slimy, probably toxic innards. Gross. And I just can’t risk being served a big plate of liver at someone’s house, because I wouldn’t be able to eat it.
It’s not an allergy as such, it’s an aversion. Tamsin is allergic to seafood, which I find desperately disappointing but she couldn’t give two hoots or even one beep beep about, but I can’t pretend I’m allergic to tripe in white sauce. I just think it’s a filthy thing to put in your mouth. I’m still traumatised by memories of having to eat this dish as a child. Jesus Christ, exactly just how poor were we, anyway?! Yes, thanks, Mr Butcher, just give me all the intestines you’ve got. Thanks. And if you’re going to throw out that poisonous looking kidney, then wrap that up for me too. Mmmmm… yummy.
And can I just tell you that I also had to eat a lot of choko? Lather that watery flavour-evacuated bland slippery slice of nothingness in all the butter you like, but the sad fact remains that choko is a weed. A weed. It’s not a vegetable, it’s not a fruit, it does not belong in a single food group. All it does is ruin the roses.
I’ve talked on this blog many times about my love of food, and I’m wondering now if my genuine excitement for all – scratch that; most – things gastronomic has its root in the house of horrors that was my early dining experiences. It wasn’t all bad, of course, I was exposed very early to some of what’s become Sydney’s famous multicultural cuisine, but what sticks in my mind most are ghastly memories of those wobbly bits of inedibles, quivering in a sauce that still couldn’t disguise the fact that what was underneath was an animal organ of some description. No wonder I went through a vegetarian phase.
I get it now: I love food so, so much today because everything, absolutely everything I choose to eat now simply tastes sooooo much better than that. Speaking of which, it’s time for lunch…
I was actually intending to blog about something else today, but my attention was arrested by the disturbing spectacle of beach fashion that awaits just beyond my door. Good grief – what were they thinking?! It’s true that many sartorial laws are suspended in beachside suburbs, but please, people, some decorum! I think I’ve spoken before about the benefits of surf culture: in summer, I basically live in swimmers, sarong, and thong (not of the hungry bum, rather of the flip-flop variety). It’s fantastic, especially knowing the CBD is awash with people sweating in suits. La la la, I can’t hear you, I’m deafened by the noise of all those crashing waves… No, I’m not above feeling terribly smug about my tropical togs.
But let me disabuse you of the notion that there are NO rules by the beach. There is still a certain standard to maintain.
First, underwear is an unacceptable replacement for swimwear. Everyone can see your pubic hair through your saturated cottontails. And that lacy bra? It’s never going to recover from its time between the flags. I’m sorry that you didn’t bring your swimmers, but I’m afraid that’s just too bad. No disrobing for you. Unless you’re wearing swimmers underneath your clothes, you are just stripping in public. Free.
Second, pyjamas are for children, and for children’s bedtime at that. Adults have no place wearing onesies, not now, not ever, and certainly not during a stroll down at the beach. Pyjamas are not clothes. You know how I know? Because they have things like clouds, sheep, and stars with smiley faces on them, and because they’re made of flannel. Teeming pyjamas with a pair of Converse does not make you cool, it makes you homeless.
Third, leggings are not pants. You might think that no one’s noticing that you’re wearing toeless stockings for trousers, but you’re wrong, we’re all noticing. We’re all noticing because we can’t get the sight of your tights sculpting themselves around your arse cheeks out of our minds. In fact, you’re like the Pied Piper. If you wear leggings instead of pants, you can expect to attract a crowd of loyal followers. We have no choice in the matter: leggings on their own are kind of hypnotic, in the sense that you just HAVE to inch closer to make sure you’re not mistaken, and that the woman in those high-heeled boots really isn’t wearing anything below the waist that could reasonably be considered clothing.
Finally, twins do not need to be dressed identically at any age. Indeed, during an outing to the beach, it is in the best interests of safety that you and the lifeguards are able to differentiate one child from the next. How do you keep an eye on them once they’re in the surf if they look exactly the same? You could easily mistake one child for two in those conditions; children have a tendency to keep on the move. What looks like Lola and Lily could easily just be Lily catching enough waves for two. Where’s Lola? Who knows. Imagine you need to put out an announcement to find Lola. You hold Lily in front of the lifeguard whilst he or she describes in detail over the louspeaker what missing Lola is wearing. You might think that this is where identical dressing comes into its own, but you’d be wrong, because although there’s no confusion about what Lola was last seen wearing, the second you leave the lifesaving tent after the announcement, every single person on the beach is going to rush you and Lily. And you may even be required to prove that Lily is in fact your daughter and you’re not a child killer. In fact, you’re the parent of a still-missing child. Lola. But Lily here, dressed and looking exactly like Lola, has a “boy who cried wolf” affect on the assembled crowd. People are lazy, so because everyone’s seen Lily, no one’s going to recognise Lola. “She’s that other kid,” they’ll say as she’s being bundled into the boot of a stranger’s car. “You know, the twin.” So no. No, no, no. Enough with the identically dressed children. Aside from all the safety features of independent dress, it’s also far creepier than it is cute to kit them out in the same clothes. I’ve seen identical twins dressed identically at I’m guessing sixty, and it is not good. It’s not good at all.
Last Friday night, en route to Tim’s ‘I’m-in-Sydney’ drinks at old stalwart the Cricketer’s Arms, Llew and I needed some chow. So we wandered along Crown St in Surry Hills (affectionately known as Slurry), and stumbled across a fabulous place that wasn’t there the last time we looked. It’s called Mille Vini, and it opened five weeks ago. Of course, five weeks is an eternity in a fad-obsessed town like Sydney. Everyone’s a hip whore here. It gets sooo tedious. Really, really tiresome. It’s been open 35 days and just TRY telling someone about it. Boy. And I thought I copped it last week when I admitted I’d only just been to the Old Fitz… that was nothing! Mille Vini, now there’s an old story! Yesterday’s news!
You can’t be the first to do anything or go anywhere in Sydney, not even if it’s Christmas. Actually, you can’t MOVE if it is Christmas, and you certainly can’t get a cab even if you’re giving out free blowjobs, so that’s probably not the best example. But stale and dated though 35 day old Mille Vini must surely be by now, I still loved it. Glorious exposed sandstone and brickwork, a great Mezzanine level, a solid list of wines by the glass, and a tempting menu of what can only be described (at least by me) as Italian tapas. Scrumptious experience from start to finish. But it does remind me of two other examples of the same achingly n-o-w nanosecond phenomenon: Table for 20 and the absurdly named bar Shh.
Table for 20: my friend Sheena told me about it, and I have actually been inside the joint with her, a while ago now, which I must consider an accomplishment in itself. We went upstairs for a drink, with Sarah, pre-SATC. Perfect. On the way upstairs to the bar, I looked at the two long tables set for dinner and thought ‘That looks so inviting and lovely, I would really, really love to come back here for dinner.’ Filed that thought, following a brief discussion with the others; we were in agreement. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Tamsin sent me a text: were we free for dinner at Table for 20 on X date? Shit yes, I said. But of course we’re not going. No one’s going. Nobody is ever going ever again because now Michael Fantuz’s mobile message bank is permanently full and his phone seems to be permanently switched off. His gorgeous little neighbourhood restaurant has been attacked by the Killer Cools. Never to be seen again, at least by me. I simply don’t have the energy to fight that hard for my street cred. You can have it. Seriously, it’s yours. Just take it and get it out of my sight, I beg of you.
Which brings me to Shh. Oh, you tools. If ever there was a great, fat advertisement for bringing back capital punishment specifically to do away with the rapidly expanding population of total nobs just because you want to see them suffer, this has to be it. Shh was the bar reviewed in last Sunday’s Sun Herald’s S section. It made me cringe. Totally leaving aside the fact that it’s called ‘Shh,’ of course it’s in the Cross, the epicentre of all worthy events according to most of what’s reported in the society pages (the rest of Sydney simply does not exist – didn’t you know? You’re in Social Siberia, have been for years), you need a daily-changing access code to get in, and the absolute twank who owns it is quoted in the review as saying something like “Everyone wants to come here, but they’re not part of our exclusive world, so they’ll never be able to get in.”
Uh huh… See, I don’t want to get in, you limp dick. I just want to burn your bar down.
If you’ve never done it, I can confirm sitting back and surveying your friendships is a very interesting process. It involves thinking about when and where you catch up, and realising that there’s an unspoken yet nonetheless highly sophisticated natural order at work. This order is subtly revealed by how you and everyone you know actually divide that precious free time.
Breakfast friends are a case in point. We have friends we really only ever see for breakfast. It’s understood that we’re old family friends, we’re quite peripheral in the overall scheme of their life and vice versa, but they matter to us and it’s important that we do make time for them. As far as I know, they feel much the same way about us. No one is confused about this arrangement, which functions really smoothly because we never challenge our place in their natural order. We don’t darken their door on a Friday night, and they never ask us if we’re free for dinner on Saturday. Basically, all parties are in agreement: we’re breakfast friends.
But being breakfast friends feels like a demotion if you’ve ever been dinner friends. This is what happened to us recently, and we’ve been giving our friends shit about it ever since. This post is evidence of such ribbing continuing in earnest until the natural order is restored (FYI, the natural order radically implodes with the arrival of children, but these friends don’t have any and, as is well-documented, neither do we).
The situation went something like this: we were supposed to go over to their house for dinner on Saturday night a couple of weeks ago. That afternoon, they called and cancelled. When next arrangements were discussed, they suggested breakfast.
“So what, we’re breakfast friends now?” Llew asked.
Then Llew got home and relayed the invitation to me.
“Oh my god, we’re breakfast friends now?” I said.
If nothing else, this exchange demonstrates that Llew and I spend too much time sharing a brain. It also demonstrates that we are in agreement about the existence of such (usually unspoken) categories.
We inched closer to the breakfast date in something like denial.
“But it’s his 35th,” I moaned to Llew, over and over and over, like it was MY birthday that had just been cancelled. “I just don’t understand. How can he be having breakfast for his 35th? Who does that?”
“Some people like breakfast,” said Llew. “Or maybe they are doing something else that simply doesn’t involve us.”
“Maybe they’re doing something really romantic on the night,” I agreed. “I can understand that. Dinner for two. Dinner for two’s nice.”
“Or maybe we’re just breakfast friends,” Llew said.
So before grudgingly heading to the birthday breakfast yesterday morning, I finally struck upon the perfect gift: a really nice bottle of red wine. Llew laughed, but that’s probably because we are both entirely too perverse, and can’t take this demotion lying down like breakfast-loving good sports. Just in case there was any lingering confusion, we wrote on the card ‘Please feel free to crack this one night, over dinner with better friends.’