28 August 2008

Birthday Party Shenanigans

"You only have to look at the faces of most of the parents to see that they are thinking "I really want to have a go at this"...We hit him at a fair speed and he seemed to be airborne for ages before coming back to earth"

This time of year is a very busy period for the family. It's what I call 'the birthday party season'. Over the next few weeks we will be going to a number of birthday parties of the toddler and child variety. On top of this both our daughter's have their birthdays coming up in the next few weeks.

Last weekend we attended two birthdays to kick off this party season. The one on Saturday was a home affair, while the one on Sunday was held at an indoor play centre. This one was located in a Inner Sydney suburb which is really a warehouse type structure that has climbing structures, slides, obstacles, ball pits and so on.

To be totally honest, even though these places are for children it is obvious that us adults want to try out all the equipment too! You only have to look at the faces of most of the parents to see that they are thinking "I really want to have a go at this". I certainly shared this view. Oh to be a child again....

First things first, it was a birthday party so after having all the children run amok it was time for the food and birthday cake. By now all the children were hungry from their exploits and tucked feverishly into the food and cake. By the time enough cordial had been consumed it was back to the slides, jumping castles for the now hyped up children! Its amazing the effect that sugar has on the young 'uns!

By now I was itching to have a go on the slide as it looked really good. The slide itself was an undulating one rather than a straight one and was quite high at its peak to the floor. Fortunately, I found an excuse to try it out. My youngest daughter came over to me and said "Daddy, will you play with me?" Now how can anyone resist a request like that! Naturally I responded in the affirmative, and was also able to enlist a few of the other parents too (they didn't take too much persuasion either).

So for the next 20 minutes or so I was having fun on the slide along with my youngest daughter, a few parents and lots of sugar fuelled children! After about our sixth slide I asked my wife (aka No Worries) to take a photo of us. Then disaster struck.

As we were coming down, a young girl (probably 2 years old) had stopped near the bottom of the slide as she was scared. Her brother was with her. Straight away I knew a collision was inevitable. I had my youngest daughter in my lap and was frantically trying to avoid us colliding with this girl. I tried grabbing the side of the slide but just then we went over a ridge and I lost my grip. There was nothing I could do.

We collided with the girl and she started to cry. Pathetically I said "sorry, don't cry" then someone collided into us and the little girl started crying more. At the bottom of the slide stood No Worries. She was not impressed. "How could you do that to a small child?" she said. I tried to explain but to no avail.

In the meantime No Worries took the sobbing girl to her mother explaining that our daughter had collided with the girl (thankfully that sounded better than saying "my husband"). Although, I wasn't happy with what happened I also understood it to be an unwritten rule of slides. If you don't get off the slide quick enough then you run the risk of having a collision.

I then decided to try some of the other apparatus in the play centre. I nearly got wedged between two sponge blocks as it then dawned on me that this play centre is for children and not adults. After chasing my eldest daughter around all obstacles for a while it was back to the slide, courtesy again of my youngest daughter.

This time I decided to be extra vigilant and all was going swimmingly well until our last slide when at the bottom of the slide a young boy decided to walk up it. Again it was obvious that we were going to collide with him. I said a quick prayer hoping that the impact would be minor. It wasn't. We hit him at a fair speed and he seemed to be airborne for ages before coming back to earth.

Naturally, tears came flooding down his cheeks. I got up and asked him if he was okay. His father was there and said "don't worry, he's a tough cookie anyway!" He also told me that his son shouldn't have been walking up the slide.

By now I had had enough. I couldn't keep having these collisions as who knows what would happen next!

A few minutes later we bade our farewells and left the play centre. By now my body was aching due to all the bruises I had collected from the slide and chasing my daughters!

One last thought - why can't adults also have play centres like this?

19 August 2008

Going to the Chapel aka A Sydney Wedding

"I need you to buy some stockings" Now my head was spinning? why would I need stockings???...It was at that stage that some Gordon Ramsay style language spewed forth from my mouth and the GPS was turned off"

Weddings are great events. For the family and friends that attend the marriage service it truly is a moment of magic. However, for the bride, groom or bridal party it can be a very stressful time.

The following is an account of what happened to me as I attended the wedding of my wife's best friend in Sydney. My wife was the Matron of Honour and my daughters were Flower Girls.

The day before the wedding my wife informed me that we would need to get up early on Saturday morning so that my daughters and herself could have their hair and makeup done in preparation for the big event (and I don't mean the local footy match either). I considered this and said "no problems" thinking that we could leave home at 8 o'clock and arrive at the bride's house an hour later.

However, I was shocked when she muttered the words "four thirty in the morning" I choked on my tea. "What time???" Again, my wife re-iterated the time. Now, I am not an early morning person and having recovered from the shock of having to get up early I realised that it would be possible to drop off my wife and gals and then drive home for an additional sleep.

Before I knew it Saturday had arrived. The alarm went off and the clock showed the time 4:30 in a fluorescent red colour. My wife staggered out of bed and then started getting ready for the big day. We woke our girls up and put them in the car in their pyjamas. They too, like me, were very sleepy.

The drive to the bride's house was smooth as there was hardly any traffic on the road. I dropped the family off and drove back home. By the time I arrived back I was too awake to sleep and had breakfast and decided to chill before I had to get ready. I put on the television to watch the Olympics only to find that Aussie Rules Football was on!

Later on, I started to get dressed for the wedding when I noticed a stain on my shirt. I couldn't believe it! When I checked the shirt a few days earlier it was totally clean! Some invisible stain monster must have struck during the night. I hoped that no one at the wedding would notice and continued to get ready.

Then my wife rang me. She was exasperated. "I need you to get some shoe inlays, please" "erm, okay" I replied and then asked her why. Apparently the shoes for my youngest daughter were too big and inlays would help. I then realised that time would be of the essence. Now I would need to drive to the local shopping centre, find a parking spot (very hard on a Saturday morning), and get the inlays. Then drive to the City check into our hotel, take some baggage to the bride's hotel and get to the church on time!

By some miracle, I found a parking spot straight away. I headed to the first shoe shop and asked for the inlays. The assistant wanted to know what size shoe would they be required for. Rather than guess I rang my wife and got her to explain. This was all going swimmingly well until the assistant gave the phone back to me.

"I have another request" said the wife. Immediately I was worried. I need you to buy some stockings" Now my head was spinning. Why would I need stockings??? My wife then advised that the bride no longer had a spare pair as my dearest was now wearing them! I started writing down the details. I kept thinking "where am I going to get these stockings?" At last sanity prevailed as the bride overheard and informed that not to bother as they were only available in the US!

I paid for the inlays ran to the car and headed for the City. Now I didn't need to put on the GPS (Sat Nav) but did so for fun. I also put the radio on only to find out that Michael Phelps had won yet another gold at the Olympics! As I approached the City my GPS kept telling me to go in a different direction to the way I knew I had to go. I ignored it and kept heading the way I knew. When I was one road away from my hotel the GPS wanted me to turn back the way I had come. It was at this stage that some Gordon Ramsay style language spewed forth from my mouth and the GPS was rapidly turned off.

I decided to park at a car park close to the hotel. It had 24 hour secure parking so I thought that would be a good place to leave the car. I drove down into the car park only to find that it was actually part of the old tram lines that were once used. To get to the correct parking spot I had to drive along this narrow dark tunnel, then reverse park into a very tight parking spot. Normally my reverse parking skills are extremely average. For some reason I parked the car like I was Lewis Hamilton!

I checked in to the hotel only to find that we had been given a smoking room. "No I don't want a smoking room" said I. Eventually I agreed to drop my bags off in this room and when we arrived after the wedding at midnight we would move to a non-smoking room.

I checked my watch it was half an hour from the start of the wedding. I still had to drop off the bride's baggage. I made my way back to the car down the long and winding tram tunnel. As I got closer to my car I kept seeing this man stand up and then crouch down behind a car. I stopped walking and considered that he might be trying to break into a car. I made a decision to confront this man head on.

As I made my way to where he stood it all became clear. He was a Muslim and had a prayer mat and was praying. I started to think I was in the Twilight Zone. Why would anyone want to pray in a car park that is underground? Also, how does he know in which direction Mecca lay? I shrugged my shoulders and picked up the baggage and headed towards daylight and the bride's hotel.

On the way there my phone rang. It was the wife again. "Hi, we are on our way to the church now and I need another favour". Straight away I thought "what now. Am I expected to play the church organ!!" My wife informed me that she had left our daughter's water bottles at the bride's house and could I buy a bottle of water for them.

Now I had to find a convenience store to get the water. Fortunately, I knew one was close to the church and made my way there. I bought the water and finally got to the church five minutes before the bride arrived. I decided then that it was a good idea to turn my mobile phone off in case I had to do something else like perform the wedding ceremony!

15 August 2008

A Sunday Stroll to Bondi Beach

"Nowadays I am in the yellow (or Back of the Pack group) along with Superman, Tellytubbies, Smurfs but alas no Borat!...the guy next to me had strapped his mobile phone to his running shoe!"

Every August an event takes place in Sydney. It's certainly not a small event either, and it's certainly not a gathering of Star Wars fans. What it is is the annual City to Surf race. For those of you that do not know, the City to Surf is a 14 kms (8 miles) fun run from the Sydney CBD to the world famous Bondi Beach. It is generally an easy paced route except for the aptly named 'Heartbreak Hill' that is situated at the 6 kms mark and rises gradually for the next 2 kms.

Having run the City to Surf on a number of occasions I knew what to expect. I had only started training 10 days prior to the run. Better late than never is what I say! Anyway, my wife (aka the infamous 'No Worries') and I had other matters to attend to. Somehow, I had to finish the race fairly earlyish so that we could leave Bondi Beach and be at the airport at about 12.30 to pick up one of No Worries relatives. On top of that we had to get our daughters up early and get them ready for an early trip to the city for a pre-race breakfast at the NSW Art Gallery.

So as with our recent Pope visit we got out our whiteboard, thought about synchronising our watches and started working out a plan to ensure we could achieve everything. After an hour or so, and some apple pie and custard, we had a strategy in place.

Naturally, it didn't go according to plan! Whether it was over optimism on my part, or the incorrect alignment of the planets we ended up getting to the Art Gallery one hour later than anticipated. I just had time for some muesli and yoghurt and some fruit. Meanwhile my two daughters were eating everything they could lay their hands on! Anyway, I had to make my way to the starting position as the race started at 9am.

Many moons ago I was in the elite red group which meant I was considered quite a quick runner. Nowadays I am in the yellow (or Back of the Pack group) along with Superman, Tellytubbies, Smurfs but alas no Borat! The yellow group is really for the true fun runners (or should it be walkers).
At 9 o'clock the race started and the elite red group set off on their journey to Bondi. This group also has the international and professional runners that inevitably will win the race. Meanwhile us 'Back of the Pack' crew could only watch and wait and wait and wait.

I looked around at my fellow yellow runners and, aside from a plethora of princesses and nurses, noticed that the guy next to me had strapped his mobile phone to his running shoe! Now, I couldn't think of a worse place to put one. If it started ringing you would literally have to take your whole shoe off to answer the call. Maybe he was hoping to set a trend!

It was now 9.20am and the blue group headed off on their quest. These are the in-between runners - not as fast as the reds and more serious than the Back of the Packers. There seemed to be hundreds of thousands of them as it took a long time for them all to set off. It was now 9.40am and the announcer merrily informed us that the race had already been won! It was quite amusing as we still hadn't started!

At last the gun went off and an air of expectation descended upon us. We were free to go. Now that is what you would expect to happen but after 5 minutes I was still standing still! Was I dreaming? or was I living in a parallel universe? why wasn't anyone moving? Alas, it was none of these but just the sheer number of runners in the yellow group. After 10 minutes I passed the starting point and was off.....and walking.

As some of you would know, when you have thousands of runners it takes a while to start running effectively. After a couple of kilometres it got easier to run as the runners started to thin out. I did manage to see the Tellytubbies but couldn't remember which one was Tinky Winky and which one was Po!

From my perspective, the race went much better than expected. I shaved 4 minutes off my time from last year, and despite only having done 6 practice runs I felt really good. I got to the finish line and picked up my 'winners' medal admittedly not a gold one but still a medal.

I made my was to the marquee where I had some water and a healthy lunch with No Worries and my daughters. We sat on the beach and talked to some of the other runners. Finally, we left and made our way to catch a bus to the city and then make tracks to the airport. Despite starting my run 50 minutes after the official start we got to the airport only 30 minutes later than we should have.

So another race completed by myself. Roll on next year, I say!

05 August 2008

The Great Phone Call Mystery

"My first thought was "where did all the missed calls go to?". My second thought was "who is eating all the biscuits?"...did our mystery person forget their partner's birthday? In some cases that could be the incident to spark an international crisis!"

Over the past few weeks there has been an an unusual occurrence happening at the Mothership. No, it's not the fact that there has been a lack of biscuits which is very unusual. Before I go on I should explain that the Mothership is the nickname of the the financial organisation where I work, and it is located in one of Sydney's tallest buildings.

Anyway, on the floor that I am located I have noticed that there is an empty desk that just has a phone on it. Now that is not unusual in itself, you might say, and normally I would agree. However, since working on this floor I have never seen anyone sit at this desk. This is strange in itself as desks are at a premium in the Mothership (as are biscuits, or so it seems). Also, the desk phone has a visual display that records how many missed calls have occurred.

Over the past few weeks I have noticed that the number of missed calls has been increasing. A month ago it was registering just over 300 missed calls and last week it was up to 580! Naturally, this got me to thinking as to why this phone would have so many missed calls. You would have thought that the caller (or callers) would have worked out that after 500 plus calls that, maybe, they would not be getting a return call. I know I would.

This week there was a twist to this mystery as the missed call display was registering only 15 missed calls. My first thought was "where did all the missed calls go to?". My second thought was "who is eating all the biscuits?". I then decided to let my imagination run riot and work out possible scenarios as to what had happened. While I was pondering this I took a few bites out of one of the last remaining biscuits.

After a few minutes I had come up with a plausible scenario. It was obvious to me that the mystery person had entered the Mothership over the weekend and had gone through most of the missed calls. By my calculations this would have taken a number of hours. Hence our mystery person would have got the hunger pangs and therefore started chomping away on our supply of biscuits! (the scoundrel).

Having worked this out with Sherlock Holmes precision (not), the second question to come up was "what is the mystery persons favourite biscuit?" closely followed by "who could have made the calls?" So I contemplated this last question further while finishing off my last biscuit.

Could the caller have been a spurned lover? Did our mystery person break the caller's heart by having an out of relationship fling? or did our mystery person forget their partner's birthday? In some cases that could be the incident to spark an international crisis!

The callers could have been from the Tax Office. Maybe our mystery person has been fiddling their tax returns and after 10 years the Tax Office have just realised this. In true Government department form it would not surprise me if they have been ringing 580 times to speak to this person. Now, here's a tip to the Taxman. If you have rung that many times don't you think a visit to the office might be a better option!!

Finally, as the last biscuit crumb was eaten it dawned on me as to who the identities of the caller and mystery person are. So, dear reader, here is my well thought out conclusion.

Throughout my analysis of this mystery there has been one common denominator and that is the office supply of biscuits, or lack of them. Obviously the calls are from a supply company arranging for further deliveries of biscuits. This could only mean that the mystery person is in fact the Cookie Monster!! My quest now is to obtain visual evidence of Cookie Monster breaking into the Mothership and eating all our biscuits while at the same time ordering more. Hopefully, we'll catch the big blue Monster red handed (or should I say biscuit handed).

Wish me luck....