The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
A perfect day
Autumn, in general, is my favourite time of year. We're in the middle of autumn now - like a gorgeous mid October day in North Carolina. It's nippy when the wind blows, but the sun is warm. You don't quite need a coat, but you do need a heavy cardigan, or "jumper" as the Aussies call them.

Dan and I had no plans for today, so we decided to go to the local market in Bowral and have a wander around. What Americans call "flea markets," the Aussies call "markets." You can find everything from fresh produce to old furniture and tools, to hand-crafted soaps and clothing. Even if you don't purchase anything, it's just nice to get out and have a wander around.

The markets are patterned after the old English ones. The sellers, and therefore the markets, wander from town to town. The first Sunday of the month finds one locally in our town, and on other weekends, the same vendors will be found in one of the neighbouring towns. It's a lovely tradition, and Dan and I often go just to get out and stretch our legs. Sometimes we'll find a gem like something for the kitchen, or handmade lavender soap made with local lavender.

There are usually several food stalls, as well, and we'll plan lunch around the food stalls. The local Arts and Drama school was running a food stall that was selling a traditional Aussie treat - sausage and egg rolls with fried onions. One of those will fill me up for the day, and at a cost of $3, you can't complain. We sat on a low wall and enjoyed our lunches al fresco. Kids and dogs were in abundance and the sun kept us warm. A busker entertained all with melodies by Neil Young and Van Morrison.

The ride out to the markets is just as pleasant as the wander around. The Southern Highlands of New South Wales is like a garden paradise. It actually reminds me of areas of Asheville, North Carolina, which is probably why I like it here. The roads wind up and down hills. Farms and vineyards dot the countryside. A British sports car club was having a rally today and dozens of Triumphs, MGs, Jensens, and Astons passed us, going in the opposite direction. It was a scene out of The Persuaders. We just needed the top down and some sunglasses to wear.

We topped off the day by a wander around an antique store that specialises in English antiques. It really was a blissful Sunday. We just don't get those often enough. Next week, I think we'll have to stop at a couple of those cellar doors that we passed along the way, and indulge in some local wine tasting.

It's true. The best things in life, are the simple things.
posted by Melanie O. at 2:05 PM - 4 comments
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
That guilty feeling
Last night, on the train home, a couple got on and immediately proceeded to have an argument that the whole carriage became privvy to. Lots of eyeball rolling and looking in the other direction by passengers, etc. This couple was obviously "living on the dole," and if you judge people by the way they dress and talk, weren't the sharpest tools in the shed.

Just before their stop, the man went up and down the carriage asking people for money. He was politely declined by everyone within earshot, including yours truly, who is all too familiar with the "want something for nothing Houso" crowd, having lived in a town reknowned for them. Both man and woman were covered in tattoos, had the pallor and speech of alcoholics, and looked like they hadn't been to a dentist - ever.

For a moment, I felt a pang of guilt for turning down their request for cash. I have a son with problems, and although he isn't an alcoholic, other "problems" keep him from functioning in society. He doesn't get free housing in the USA, unless you consider an overcrowded dorm-like warehouse "shelter" that he has to report to every day to see if there's room, to be subsidised housing. In Australia, many welfare recipients are given townhouse apartments to live in, as well as collect Centrelink welfare payments. Thinking of my son, and those even worse off than him, I felt guilty only for an instant.

When they alighted the train, I saw that the man retrieved a surround sound stereo system setup - new in the box. I can't even afford such a thing - along with my husband, I'm too busy paying bills and helping to keep a roof over our heads.

Some people do deserve extra help - but when they have more than the average working person, there's something wrong with the system. And it makes it harder for those who truly do need extra help to get it, as sympathy amongst the public becomes frayed. So - I don't feel guilty this time around. I'd rather give to a shelter. Of course, it's possible I should cut them some slack. The dichotomy of expensive electronic equipment and hitting people up for cash was rather humourous..
posted by Melanie O. at 11:54 AM - 6 comments
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Mother's Day
Today is Mother's Day, and I've only heard from one of my sons. To be fair, it's not Mother's Day in the USA quite yet. We're a good 14 hours ahead of the east coast, where they live. I don't know why it is, but sons seem to be much worse than daughters for remembering birthdays and acknowledging events.

I have a friend with three daughters and a son. Her three daughters contact her regularly. They sent her cards for Mother's Day. She isn't holding her breath for her son. Maybe we women put too much stock into these special days, but it seems to me that sons don't start remembering their mother's birthday or Mother's Day, until they get engaged or married or become middle aged.

I often wonder what my sons would do if I conveniently forgot to acknowledge their birthdays, or Christmas for that matter? Would they contact me and ask what's going on? Or would they do what they usually do when they don't get the expected - shrug it off. No matter what, I can't win. I didn't have daughters. I had sons. Most of the time, I wouldn't trade them for the world, but sometimes, I wish that they had been born with the Hallmark gene. The Hallmark gene has a time code that goes off on specified days of the year. The Hallmark gene draws them inextricably to card shops and compels them to pick up a pen and write a little note and buy a stamp and mail it.

I think that Dan has some of the Hallmark gene. He doesn't do cards, but he did serve me breakfast in bed this morning. I haven't had breakfast in bed for years and years. Maybe never! He even brought me a little rose from our garden.

I have to face facts. My sons do not have the Hallmark gene. But what they lack in the Hallmark gene, they make up for in intelligence, good looks and a sense of humour. I guess that will have to do.

Addendum: I heard from three of my sons - via email. What would we do without email since we're separated by distance? I suspect they don't plan far enough ahead to get a card out in time, but email is nice. Maybe they have the gene that governs digital Hallmark signals.

I called my mother and we spoke for an hour on the phone. I don't think she realised how much I appreciate her influence in my life. It was great to chat just about...stuff.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mums out there!
posted by Melanie O. at 6:44 PM - 8 comments
Friday, May 11, 2007
Handbags and stockings
I think I can truly say that my handbag and lingerie obsession has gone to unhealthy new heights. A friend has sent me links to her favourite eBay vintage stocking sellers, and I eagerly check back on a regular basis, looking for Cuban heel stockings in a size 8 1/2 (translation - 'short'). She and I chat back and forth on email and share a lingerie obsession. She sends me photos of her all dressed up (or is it all undressed?) and I send her photos of me. We're two perfectly "straight" women in love with lingerie and the way it makes us look and feel.

Every day, I scan eBay looking for stockings and handbags. I'm currently in a phase where I want Chanel style quilted leather bags with chain straps. Why I've got this sudden urge to buy them, I have no idea. Of course, I'm not going to buy Chanel every week. Even second-hand, I just can't bring myself to spend that kind of money on a fetish object.

Did I just say fetish and Chanel in the same sentence? I suppose I do get a bit of a thrill from rubbing my hands over that quilted leather, and there's something to be said about the sensual delight of the contrast of the soft leather and hard chains. Oh my.

What is most telling, though, is my PayPal account, which says I have spent $500 in the last month on lingerie and vintage handbags. For that amount of money, I could have fed my husband and myself for a month.

But it wouldn't have been nearly as fun and sexy.
posted by Melanie O. at 9:57 PM - 0 comments
Saturday, May 05, 2007
My father smoked a pipe. Somehow, the smell of pipe tobacco doesn't bother me nearly as much as cigarette smoke does. I am not sure why this is - it might be the sweet additives like brandy and vanilla that pipe tobacco has in it, versus the menthol and less than savoury additives that cigarette tobacco has. It might be just because pipe tobacco reminds me of my father. Whatever the reason, I can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke, but I love the smell of pipe tobacco smoke.

Which makes me wonder: why don't men smoke pipes any more? I'm not talking about bongs or pipes used for illegal drugs, but gorgeous burled wooden pipes that my dad used to smoke and from which he blew smoke rings that I'd try to poke my fingers through before they broke up.

In the '90's, pipe smoking gave way to cigar smoking. I can't think of anything fouler. I had to leave a gig early one night (I was singing with my band,) because I got an asthma attack in a cigar bar - the bar where we were playing. It was a Blues band, and the Blues goes well with cigar bars, apparently. Too bad cigars don't go well with me.

I miss seeing men with pipes. I suppose there's nowhere they can smoke them any more, except in the privacy of their own homes. I think that cigarettes should be banned in public, and pipes take the place that cigarettes now have.

Dan used to smoke cigarettes. He gave them up the year before we got together. Funny about that. I wouldn't want to convince him to take up a pipe. Dan spent 20 years of his life addicted to cigarettes and now stays as far away from tobacco as he can get. I'll be content with reminiscing and sticking my head inside a tobacco shop once in a while. And enjoy the absence of cigarette smoke.
posted by Melanie O. at 4:07 PM - 10 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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