Author Archives: sebsharp

Sugar Sugar

I’ve decided that enough is enough and it’s time for me to really put in the hard yards and quit sugar.  WAIT. WHAT?

Thing is, I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy last year. I’ve since lost 136 pounds (62 kgs).

Being that I have an ‘interesting brain’ (official diagnosis – a bit batshit cray-cray aka OCD – not Tumblr OCD, actual clinically diagnosed OCD) I obsessively followed every guideline I was given and exercised like I was promised a box of cocaine-dusted chocolate donuts at the end of it all. (There wasn’t. Boo and hiss, say I.)

I’m lucky in that my disorder doesn’t effect everything in my life, it’s attached to very distinct rituals. No goats are sacrificed though, I promise, gentle reader.

I’m unlucky in that the disorder sometimes means I get stuck doing things that aren’t ‘do or die’ compulsive rituals yet I have an incredibly hard time breaking away from the habit.

An incredibly hard time as in I will repeat-eat the same thing every day for months, at the same time, in the same portion, bought from the same place. Now, when you’re eating well this becomes an incredibly useful tool. Hence me losing 99% of my excess weight within six months of surgery. HASHTAG MODEL PATIENT, YO.

When your routine breaks, as it did for me, due to something unavoidable like moving house and not having eaten for 18 hours then it can get reset. Mine got reset on a carton of Brownes Iced Coffee, a packet of Allens Retro Party Mix and a Cadbury Marvellous Creations Jelly Poppin’ Candy and Beanies chocolate bar from our local gas station.

I ate these three things, day in, day out from late November through to a couple of days ago. Like a kid that had been given $50 and told to go and get the week’s food from the candy aisle. In my head this was a meal, so when it was mealtime this is what I bought. Simple.

I went from months of having 13g of sugar a day to averaging 350g. Yes, a day.

Exercising has kept weight gain at bay (but it sometimes involved walking up to three hours a day) but it’s clear I’ve been in a bad way and needed to change.

I didn’t put myself through weight loss surgery and 11 months of working towards a goal weight only to become addicted to sweet, sweet, delicious thangs weeks away from reaching it.  Something something self sabotage something something…

Having done a lot of reading and after a chat with both my dietician and my psych (henceforth known as the Sebpocalypse Krush Groove Squad) I’ve decided the ‘cold turkey’ approach is best. Likely due to my being AN OBSESSIVE IDIOT OF HERCULEAN PROPORTIONS.

And I’mma blog about it. Cos maybe someone else understands. Or maybe this will help someone who doesn’t feel that anyone understands.

Unrelated: Day 1 – I think I’m dying. Can’t stay awake. Slept 12 hours, was awake for an hour and slept again for another 6. Then another 3. Head is hurty. I will cut a bitch. Send help.

What I Did On My Holigays

How I spent my holidays. Well, the first day of them, anyway.

– Slept a ridiculous amount.

– Started a one hour walk around the river, thought better of it five minutes in and went to buy a chocolate bar from the shop instead.

– Made good on a promise to myself to allot some time each day for reading. Decided that ‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ by M.E. Thomas is a boring load of wanky twaddle and abandoned it 125 pages in. That’s really saying something seeing as I’ve read the Twilight saga. Twice.

– Watched a German film called Free Fall on Netflix this morning und schpent der rescht uf mein day talkink to meinself viz a German accent.

– Dusted one of the 700 wooden blinds that this three storey retirement village for dust particles house has on its doors and windows. It took me 30 freaking minutes because it appears the previous tenants last dusted them never fucking ever years ago and somehow sprayed every window with a thoughtful spritz of cooking oil.

– Spent two hours this morning editing together a 90’s club mix. Listened back to it this afternoon, cringed so hard I burst a blood vessel in my eye and promptly deleted it.

Achieving. I’m… kinda doing it.

Can’t Eat? Repeat.

It’s 7.30 am and I’m on day one of my Optifast pre-surgery hellish demonic torture diet. I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I’ve discovered that help pass the time when you can’t eat in the manner you’ve grown accustomed to.

1. Cry.

2. Be horrifically short tempered with your co-workers. Now they’re crying too. You’re all in this together.

3. Drink gigalitres of water. Sprinting to the toilet every four minutes counts toward your cardio quota.

4. Walk past the fresh fruit bowl at work and marvel at the overwhelming urge to unhinge your jaw and eat 26 oranges, 9 bananas and a slightly suspect looking kiwi fruit in one go. Then realise that you apparently do know the names of some fruits and call your mother to tell her she was wrong.

5. Browse your favourite cooking blogs. Sigh deeply. Find an appetising picture and lick the screen. This also doubles as a nice way to get all that pesky dust off your monitor. (Dust is low in carbs)

6. Stand near the exhaust vents of the KFC across the road. Inhale deeply. Cry.

7. On the way home from work stop in at your favourite Chinese takeaway. Wait at the counter. When it’s your turn, step forward and say ‘Nothing, thanks’. Run out of store crying with arms flailing.

8. Set up a slow cooker. Fill it with water and set it to slow cook over 8 hours. Tomorrow you’ll have a delicious meal of warm water to wake up to. This is your life now.

9. Spend time researching interesting topics on the internet, like ‘Why do meal replacement shakes taste like devil farts?’ for example.

10. Look into becoming a bank robber. Food banks only.

The Pre-Pre Diet

Tomorrow I start the ‘liquid’ phase of my pre-op diet. Tonight, my body is 97% Vietnamese food.

The other 3% is guilt. Delicious, tasty, about-to-go-on-liquids-for-16-days guilt.

*burps with such force that neighbour’s cat gets blown off fence*

Week Thirteen -Fear

Week Thirteen 

“fear”

What do you fear? How do you define fear? What does fear do to us? Do *you* fear the reaper…?

My favourite podcast ‘The Mental Illness Happy Hour‘ is hosted by the American comedian and satirist, Paul Gilmartin. He’s battled depression and anxiety for many years and has created a community both via the podcast and online at Mentalpod.com where people can share and communicate their experiences of living with mental illness.

He regularly interviews fellow performers about their journeys through bipolar, clinic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD and other related mental health issues and his style mixes honesty with pathos and humour, putting his guests completely at ease. I can’t recommend this podcast highly enough for anyone living with mental illness or those with an interest in the field of mental health.

One of the regular segments on the podcast is a ‘fear off’, followed by a ‘love off’ where he and his guest prepare a list of their fears and loves, then take turns reading them out to each other.

The idea behind this is to show people that fears can be lessened and even conquered by verbalising them. It also proves just how common some fears are and works to show people that no-one is ever alone in their struggle, no matter how difficult it seems.

Borrowing the idea for this week’s blog post (thanks, Paul!), I’d like to share my fear list with you, followed by my loves list.

Fear List

I’m scared of being seriously injured in a car accident. When I’m driving I picture cars around me slamming into my car from the moment I start my engine until I’m safely home again.

I’m scared that if I don’t check my food before each mouthful that there will be hair in it.

I fear that I won’t be able to find a house should we have to move next year.

I’m frightened that if I don’t wash my hands with soap three times after I’ve been to the bathroom that I’ll become ill from bacteria and have to go to hospital.

I worry about friends becoming fed up with my stupid mental health issues and dumping me.

I’m scared that if I go out by myself I’ll have a panic attack and not be able to make my way home.

I fear never overcoming my eating disorder and dying of a heart attack in the coming months.

I’m scared of making or answering phone calls.

I’m scared that when I go to bed that a spark from the power point next to my bed will set my sheets alight and I’ll burn to death in my sleep.

I fear that a crowd of people will turn into an angry mob and start hitting me and I won’t be able to defend myself or get away.

I’m scared that if I have a bath with bubbles that when I sink into it there will be a snake under the water. I also won’t go in the ocean because I’m scared of sea snakes.

I fear that I’ll never know love or intimacy ever again.

I’m frightened that my physical and mental health will continue to decline and I’ll end up unable to care for myself when I’m older.

I’m scared that security in a shop will mistake my anxiety for suspicious behaviour and confront me.

I believe that not having objects or computer files in order will cause an exponential growth confusion and disruption, making it impossible to ever return life to organised normality.

I’m scared that I’ll never achieve or be able to meet the standards I set for myself.

I’m scared of having a stroke aged 40 and having to live the rest of my life partially paralysed or worse unable to communicate freely.

I fear that my depression is permanent as I’ve now lived more years with it than without it.

I’m scared that I’ll make plans with people but they’ll change those plans when I get there, I’ll have a panic attack and be humiliated.

I fear losing my eyesight or feet to poor diabetes management.

Loves List

I love giving someone a giant, squishy bear hug.

I love waking up on a winter morning and sticking my feet out of the bed to feel the chill, then snuggling down again in the covers.

I love the yell that Goofy does when he falls off a cliff .

I love it when people surprise themselves with a laugh – when a giant “HA!!” bursts out of them that’s so loud they cover their mouths instantly and look embarrassed. They’re the best laughs ever.

I love listening to a song that reminds me of a time in my life and being instantly transported back there for a few minutes.

I love it when cats lean in and gently bump their forehead against yours.

I love going to the movies by myself during the week when nobody else is there.

I love my regular catch ups with my friends that make me feel safe and loved. I also love that they don’t mind my weird quirk of it needing to be the same each week.

I love the sound of someone rifling though a pencil case filled with pencils.

I love eating something with just enough chilli to make you sweat but doesn’t burn your mouth.

I love stumbling upon an old black and white film you’d never consider watching on late night TV and discovering a classic.

I love finding a copy of a song you’ve spent years looking for and playing it over and over until you’ve memorised every note.

I love it when you are able to clean something old or really dirty and restore it back to its original state.

I love going clothes shopping on AFL Grand Final Day because I’m usually the only person there.

I love being in bed when it rains, especially during a thunderstorm.

I love being home alone with music playing and doing little dances while I do the dishes or clean something.

I love discovering an older TV series I haven’t watched and burning through every episode in a week. (Just one more! Okay, now one more!)

I love the amazing people in my life.

Week Fourteen – A Day In The Life

Week Fourteen

“a day in the life”

Something a little different this week: pick any day of the week and record a diary for that day. It can be as brief or as detailed as you like, but … whichever day you choose, you MUST POST YOUR DIARY ON THE SAME DAY!!

Make it easy: keep a notebook handy, or use Evernote, and jot down things as they happen. At the end of the day copy your notes to a blog post and you’re done :)

5:20 am – Alarm goes off. Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition, yawn and stretch and try to come to life. (Just kidding. Alarm goes off, open one eye, swear under my breath, hit snooze)

5:30 am – As above.

5:40 am – You guessed it. Snoozy snoozerson.

5:53 am – Bolt out of bed in a blind panic, fling self in direction of shower.

6:00 am – Toothbrush engaged! Minty freshness achieved!

6:10 am – Make bed. Hospital corners and all. Get a bit obsessive with the sheet smoothing/pillow arranging. Try to talk self out of it but I’m ignoring me today, apparently.

6:20 am – Take blood sugar levels and adjust with insulin injection. Take meds with giant glass of water. Get dressed in for work.

6:30 am – Fire up Ripley (my car). Decide that the morning’s podcast will be the new ‘Walking The Room’. Yawn so hard that eyes fill with water. Decide this is an awesome time to engage early morning Perth traffic.

6:32 am – In traffic. Begin to regret giant glass of water at 6:20 am. Hnnnnnnnnnng.

6:47 am – Park in seekrit location. Shhhhhh. It’s a few minutes walk to work and it’s free.

6:49 am – Very narrowly avoid slipping on actual banana peel that actual person dropped on actual road no doubt expecting actual comedy hijinks.

6:50 am – Nearly mowed down by angry cyclist as I wasn’t really looking where I was walking as I typed the above sentence into my phone.

6:53 am – Arrive at work. Coffeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

coffee

7:00am – Caffeine begins to work. Start feeling alive. Consider being friendly to co-worker. What the hell do they put in this shit?

7:01am – Checking my emails. Nothing too serious in the old inbox. Nice.

7:02 am – Customer calls another rep, asks for me by name, says I broke their email.

7:03 am – Am coaxed out from under desk with the promise I don’t have to speak on the phone, just look at their account. Proceed to do so and see that the customer’s tech logged in and switched off all of their mail. Relay this to rep who relays this to customer.

7:04 am – Turns out it’s not the customer on the phone, it’s the tech. He denies all knowledge and demands to speak to me.

7:05 am – I am in Mexico and have just undergone gender reassignment surgery.

7:06 am – Tech gets quite nasty with rep, who promises to look into it and get back to him. I gather proof that tech’s login made the changes and we all roll our eyes and sigh a bit. Tech gets a callback. He is then emailed screenshots as proof. That shuts tech up quick smart. Probably because we also CC’d the people he works for. Works a treat, that.

7:07 am – High fives all round. Celebratory dancing. Then all of our systems go offline.

7:08 am – Fuck. FUCK. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.

Down

7:30 am – My shift starts. Yes, all that crap before and I wasn’t even on the clock. Yay, Monday. Start loudly singing “Everything is fucked, now!” to the tune of ‘Everybody Dance Now’. To my surprise three team members join in.

7:31am – I’m ‘answer the domains and hosting team’s support emails dude’ until 12pm. 89 emails to my team since yesterday. Not too bad. And the email system is working. Hi ho, hi ho, etc.

8:01 am – Hear that Reece Witherspoon got arrested – looked up news story. She was likely drunk and interfering with the arrest of her drunk driver partner…

More like ‘Reece Withabagofgoon’ amirite?

8:12 am – The systems come back up again. Huzzah! My awesome bestie @tobiasampersandcontacts me on our internal MSN and I tell him about my exciting morning via interpretive dance by typing a few choice swear words. He seems well impressed.

9:25 am – A manager walks by, showing some new reps around our floor. He points at me and tells them I’m a lovely guy with heaps of knowledge. I quickly close the Bananarama fan page website I was looking at and try to pull a lovely/knowledgeable face. End up looking like I have gas.

10:00 am – Morning break. Fifteen minutes of freedom. Cram packet of crisps in gob. Follow it with giant glass of water so that they drown before they reach my stomach and can do no harm. Get excited because I’m so smart. Pretty sure abs will appear any day now.

10:15 am – We’re getting a lot of calls so they ask me to jump on and take a couple. Answer my first call of the day.

10:57 am – End first call of the day after finally managing to convince woman on phone that she probably had caps lock on and that’s why she can’t log in to her account.

11:30 am – Start lunch discussions via MSN with @tobiasampersand. It has been decided that I shall purchase sushi and that he will probably have the ham and cheese roll he brought in for lunch because he likes ham and cheese rolls and he went to the effort of bringing it in so may as well etc etc.

11:55 am – Check blood sugars, take insulin.

12:00 pm – LERNCH!!! Sprint to local Japanese Takeaway (Nippon Fare) and obtain delicious sushi.

12:06 pm – Sitting in lunchroom taking obligatory food photo. Get sprung by one of the engineers who ribs me mercilessly. Make mental note to try to break whatever he’s in charge of maintaining when I return to my desk.

Sorry that it isn't filtered a la Instagram

12:07 pm – 12:28pm – Lunch with @tobiasampersand. Main topic of discussion today – champagne ham is probably made from slightly tipsy socialite pigs.

12:30 pm – Back at desk. Call taking time.

01:30 pm – Finish call taking. Relatively painless. Back on the emails. Started with 89. Answered 35. There are now 76. Help.

01:45 pm – New co-worker walks past, he is heavily tattooed, with glasses and a shaved head. He smiles at me.

01:46 pm – Google ‘gay wedding planners, New Zealand’. Check price of flights. Decide on an October ceremony.

02:20 pm – Afternoon break. Go into staff room and co-worker says not to sit near the sink as something smells really bad. Sit away from sink but can still smell it. Exclaim loudly that it smells like a mixture of shit and parmesan. Turn to see co-worker looking revolted as he puts his delicious sandwich down and pushes it away.

02:52 pm – Find customer notes where a rep has written “suggested customer look at Google Analtics”. Am slightly intrigued but decide not to Google this with safe search off.  Turns out he meant Analytics but you can’t be too careful.

03:11 pm – Tattoo man hasn’t walked past again. Or called. Am devastated.

03:40 pm – Get given task of helping a customer over their email limit delete 32,000 emails.  Would be easy if not for the fact that they need to keep *some* of them, meaning it has to be done semi -manually.

03:50 pm – Deleting emails semi-manually crashes my computer three times. No way am I leaving at 4pm.

mood

04:18 pm – Give up and decide to continue tomorrow morning.

04:24 pm – In car, 80′s soundtrack loaded for the drive home. Arrive home 30 minutes later. Bring in bins for all three apartments because I’m nice like that.

04:40 pm – Sit in front of computer, just for something different. Tweet, download stuff, get new Dr Who from iTunes (1080p, bitches!). Listen to some music. Song reminds me of an ex. Haven’t seen him since messy breakup in ’96. Decide to Google ex. Find a video of ex giving a lecture at Sydney University. Watch video against better judgement.

04:45 pm – Finish spray painting “GOOGLE = SATAN” on the walls. Admire handiwork.

05:48 pm – Waiting for Coles home delivery. Am starving. Vow not to eat anything until I have groceries and I can make something healthy. Three seconds later am eating peanut butter out of a jar with a tablespoon.

06:10 pm – Coles delivery! Much happiness! Freak out delivery guy by saying ‘thank you’ too many times in a row. After he leaves I find a half tablespoon of peanut butter on my chin. Classy.

06:31 pm – Cooking salmon for the first time. Am rather good at it for someone who once accidentally made a ham and asparagus spongecake. Trying to eat better food to help with depression and overall life-livingness so also blanch bunch of asparagus and drizzle with balsamic.

Victory is mine! Muahahahah!

06:35 pm – Check blood sugars, inject insulin.

06:42 pm – Deliciousness abounds. I’m like that chef bloke off the telly that swears at people. Without the chef or telly part though.

Dinner is served!

06:48 pm – Find self thinking that Cameron Daddo looks well rough in this ad until I discover it’s not actually him.

notcamerondaddo

07:00 pm – Tempt fate by cooking chicken breast for lunch tomorrow. Begin to wonder if I’ve stumbled in to alternate universe when nothing burns, bursts into flames or turns into a spongecake.

07:20 pm – Cleaning the kitchen. Washing the dishes. Will this devil-may-care existence ever end?

07:38 pm – Pyjamas on, collapsed on couch. Doctor Who time – ‘Cold War’

07:55 pm – SQUEEEEEEEEEE!

08:09 pm – OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

08:17 pm – Meh.

08:20 pm – Ooookay then.

08:26 pm – Not bad in the end. See preview for next episode. It looks scary and awesome. Bounce up and down on couch excitedly until it makes odd “SPUNNNGGGG” noise.

08:40 pm – Time to write out this blog!

10:00 pm – Done!

10:30 pm – Check blood sugars, inject insulin (basal dose for overnight maintenance), take night meds.

*thud*

*snore*

 

Week 12 – City

Week Twelve

“city”

This week’s topic is provided by Clayton Bolger. What are your thoughts about ‘city’? Are you a city boy or a country gal? Have you lived in more than one city. What is a city: a lot of large buildings? Somewhere that lots of people live? A social label or construct? Did any of you see ‘Sex & The City 2’? What a load of old bollocks that was supposed to be ….

I grew up a country lad. Nothing was more exciting than school holiday time when I was put on a train and sent to stay with my Nanna in the city (now there’s a gritty reboot for Sarah Jessica and co.) for a couple of weeks. I’d have my View Master, a new ‘Secret 7′ book and a box of Ripe Raspberries to keep me occupied during the three hour journey and the train hosties would have been given $20 by my Mum to keep an eye on me.

Once a rib crushing hug had been received as Nanna collected me from East Perth train station, we’d catch a taxi back to her house for a big glass of dry ginger ale and without fail there was always a new meticulously wrapped Star Wars figure on the coffee table.

My Grandmother had the magical ability that is only bestowed on someone once they become a grandparent that allows them the knowledge of which toys I already owned so there were never any double ups, just the pure excitement of unwrapping a Stormtrooper or Greedo or Lando Calrissian and the joy of having a whole week in the city ahead of me.

Nanna’s house was on a property close to the city centre and was directly behind  Catholic priest’s living quarters, where she worked full time managing the housekeeping and kitchen. When I got to visit there all the staff, most of them grandparents themselves, were excited to see me and would spoil me rotten.

I only met a few of the priests. One – Father Brennan – was a huge man and a horrible grump who I imagined was a close relative of the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. I feared that at any given time he was only seconds away from killing me and grinding my bones to make his bread.

My favourite priest was Father O’Donnell, an Irishman as his name would suggest. He’d pop in to say hello whenever he heard I was about. He would walk in and pretend to go to shake my hand, then stop dead in his tracks and exclaim he could see so much dirt behind my ears I was about to sprout potatoes.

He and Nanna would then grab my arms and legs and pretend to to be about to throw me in the huge stainless steel sink with the dishes, yelling to one of the kitchen staff to grab the special ‘grubby kid’ detergent. They did this every visit until I was too big for them to pick me up. Or perhaps I just got better at behind-the-ear-hygiene. I doubt this was the case though.

Father O’Donnell also measured my height every year by making a mark against the door frame between the kitchen and the main dining room. This was one of my favourite things, having my name and height written in such an important building in the city made me feel very proud.

While Nanna worked I spent most of the day glued to the TV.  Being that we only had one channel in the country town I lived in, the sudden chance to watch Wacky Races, Captain Caveman and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters was so exciting. I’m pretty sure I came close to developing an actual case of the often-threatened ‘square eyes’, an affliction made up by parents to deter their offspring from spending too much time in front of the idiot box.

There would be Cartoons on every morning from 6am and I remember sneaking out of bed to sit in front of the TV in my pyjamas at 5.30 am, eyes glued to the test pattern, willing time to hurry up and present me with some Scooby-Doo or Pink Panther.

After a couple of hours I’d have a bowl of cornflakes that I was allowed to eat in the lounge room. Then the TV would be switched off and I’d have a break to play with my Star Wars toys, or even better dress up and create my own adventures as Han Solo or with some surprising support from my Grandmother, Princess Leia.

One day Nanna watched me change out of the gumboots, pants and white turtleneck with black waistcoat that formed the Han Solo outfit that Mum had made at home.

Being a creative young man I then proceeded to pull one of the white linen sheets off my bed and fashioned it into a somewhat clumsy replica of Princess Leia’s white dress from the original Star Wars and ran outside to tell a rubbish bin to take my message to Obi-Wan then refuse to tell a large potted ficus tree where the rebel base was.

A couple of days later she presented me with a home-sewn Leia costume complete with a black fabric belt with a little holder for my gun (a wooden spoon that we coloured black with a marker).

Nanna for the win.

Frequently during my stays there would be an official lunch at the priest’s quarters in the elegant formal dining room when the Perth Archbishop or an overseas guest would visit.

It still makes me laugh to think with all those officials sitting there that during the soup course a seven year old boy in a white dress with a pair of pantyhose on his head (the perfect way to fashion Leia’s famous ‘Star Puffs’ hairdo was by twisting up the legs and holding them in place with tape) would run past the windows holding a wooden spoon, screaming “Run, Chewie!!”.

Then Father O’Donnell would say “Oh that’s just Kath’s grandson. Lovely lad. More butter, your Grace?”.

Week Ten – Forever

Week Ten

“forever”

As soon as I read the topic for this week’s post, the tiny squirrel that mans (squirrels?) the jukebox in my brain went skittering off into the archives and triumphantly emerged with a copy of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ by Prince. Too late, Prince. Been crazy for years. Could teach you a thing or two about it too.

But I digress.

The reason this track from the Artist now known again as Prince – who was once described by Boy George as looking like ‘…a dwarf that was dipped in a bucket of pubic hair…” has been playing on a loop in my head is because of this lyric:

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time

Yes, Your Purpleness, this is indeed the definition of forever.

Shamefully, I must admit defeat when it comes to this topic. I can’t really think of anything else, other than to tell you that I was once beaten up by Prince and Bob Marley at a ‘Pop Stars’ fancy dress school disco and was later rescued by Madonna and 2/3 of Bananarama when they went and got Bruce Springsteen, who was moonlighting as a teacher.

Years later I repeated this fact when doing a phone interview with Sarah from Bananarama. Her reply…

“Did they look much like us?”

“Sort of. One of them was really overweight and had one leg two inches shorter than the other.”

“Ah, so she was Siobhan..” (Siobhan had famously left the group in 1988 after rumours of fights with Sarah and Keren, the other two members)

I’ll be laughing at that forever…

 

Week 9 – Coffee

Week Nine

“coffee”

I worked in one of the first coffee houses in Mount Lawley in the early to mid 90′s. It was one of those dark wood, marble and brass styled cafes with counter service only that would soon be popping up everywhere toward the end of the decade.

The shifts were impossibly long and everything I owned reeked of coffee grinds including my house and car. I was also expected to work a 65 hour week for a $330 salary after tax.  Despite this I pretty much loved every second of it because of the fast pace and the brilliant people who worked there.

Having never gone through the official training to become a certified barista I don’t feel qualified to wax lyrical about the beauty of the Kenyan versus the Guatemalan roasted bean or write a four thousand word essay extolling the virtues of letting the first dark stream of coffee turn golden before placing the cup under the filter basket. Instead, let me tell you about the best damn cup of coffee I ever made.

Not Hot Enough

There were 20 staff in our coffee house and there wasn’t one of us who didn’t sigh when we saw this woman walk in.

The correct temperature to heat milk to for the coffee has been the source of furious debate in Western Australia for decades. In the nineties we didn’t use the temperature gauge you sometimes see your barista placing in the milk (we also wore onions on our belts) instead we went on sound, touch and feel of the metal jug.

It was important to pay attention or you risked one of the two deadly coffee sins – giving the customer lukewarm or burnt milk. Having been trained by a qualified barista who had just returned from a summer making coffee in Europe, our staff were known to make some of the best coffee in the area and we constantly received praise from our clientele.

With the notable exception of one person who, astonishingly, visited daily.

Not Hot Enough was American, loud, rude and had no concept of queuing. She would walk to the front of the line and interrupt any transaction that was in progress. If you asked her to wait she’d phone the owner that afternoon to complain about your rudeness.

“Flat white, HOT – if you could possibly manage it this time.”

Then she’d throw – never hand it to you or place – the exact change on the counter and proceed to stare at the person making the coffee with her arms folded. You’d start the coffee pour and then lift the jug of fresh milk to the steam wand.

“Hurry up. The coffee will be cold before you heat the milk.”

We’d heat the milk to boiling, past the point any other customer would deem acceptable (this action would make our trainer’s head explode) while simultaneously risking the skin on our hand as the milk began to bubble up and over the rim of the metal jug.

We’d pour the milk and place the cup on a saucer.

Not Hot Enough wouldn’t touch it or even look at it. She’d smirk and stare you right in the eye.

“Make it again. You do know how to make coffee, I assume? It’s supposed to be hot.”

Because the owner of the had trained us to never refute anything a customer said about their coffee we’d start again, making it in exactly the same manner.

Only then would she deem it acceptable. She didn’t care about the temperature, she just loved the power trip.

She developed a pathological hatred of one of the staff and forced the poor guy to remake the same coffee five times before he quit on the spot, storming off and leaving us one person down for the rest of the shift.

When she deemed your offering acceptable she’d take the cup and sit at a small table directly opposite the coffee machine, drinking it while staring at you, tutting and shaking her head while she pointed at the cup if you looked at her.

One day I’d had enough and made plans for the next morning.

Knowing that she would be in just after ten, I placed a cup in the oven at half past nine with a teaspoon in it and set it to 200 degrees. Then we removed all napkins from the counter and placed them on a shelf underneath.

She came in and threw the change at the counter. Someone brought the now almost molten cup and spoon up to me as I was re-making the coffee after she had refused my first attempt. I boiled the hell out of the milk, used a napkin to place the cup and spoon on the cold saucer behind the machine and handed it to her.

She sat down and my coworker and I continued taking orders from the other customers in the line.

“Fuck!”

The sound of a teaspoon being dropped on the floor.

Not Hot Enough suddenly appeared in front of the coffee machine.

“Get me a napkin!”

“I’m so terribly sorry, Madam.” 

My coworker Jane, the university lecturer’s daughter with the world’s most stunningly condescending nasal tone worked her magic. “This lovely client needs our last napkin for her delicious cake. We don’t have any more.” Jane cocked her head and smiled “Have you made a mess?”

Not Hot Enough looked like she was going to implode.

“The cup is too hot to pick up”

“Would that not be as Madam requested it? Heating the milk to make the hottest possible coffee will cause a process known as conduction to occur, when the hot liquid heats it’s receptacle. My supervisor will be more than happy to make a coffee at a cooler temperature though, unless this kind lady would like to give you her napkin?”

Not Hot Enough had, minutes before, pushed in front of This Kind Lady. This Kind Lady picked up her piece of choc-cardamom cheesecake and walked off without saying a word. I could have kissed her.

Not Hot Enough was far too arrogant to admit defeat so she sat back down at her table and waited the ten minutes it took for her cup to cool before drinking the coffee and walking out. There followed a tense 48 hours as we waited for a call from the owner saying she had complained about us but there was nothing.

I didn’t see Not Hot Enough until years later in a gourmet deli where she was loudly berating a counter hand over the amount of olives in a small tub that had been handed to her. Some people never change.

I wonder if she still likes her coffee hot?

special

Week Five

“special”

This week’s topic was suggested by @the_helen. What does ‘special’ mean to you? What do you find special about the people and things around you? What makes you special? Whatever happened to politically motivated ska revival band The Specials?

“So…have you met a special friend yet?” asks my Mum innocently, toward the end of our phone call. As always she’s unable to hide of the amount of hopefulness in her voice.

“No Mum”.

“Oh…. Never mind darling…” Her tone has now changed to the one she reserves for having heard devastating news. A news headline screaming “PUPPY ACCIDENTALLY DRIVES CAR FILLED WITH ORPHANED KITTENS OVER CLIFF” would elicit a similar response.

Mum isn’t, of course, meaning ‘special friend’ as a way of enquiring if any of my pals have the ability to shoot laser beams from their armpits or can shape-shift into Debbie Gibson and perform the entire dance routine from ‘Electric Youth’ while hovering two meters above the ground. As a gay man I do encounter more than the usual amount of people wearing lycra and spandex but none have any super powers.

She means: have I met a man I’m interested in? Or more plainly: do I have a boyfriend yet? She just feels awkward saying it. Not that this bothers me.  She’s not aware that when you break it down, ‘special’ friend implies a friend that you share things with that you don’t with your ‘regular’ friends. And of course by ‘share things’ I mean ‘bang the hell out of each other forty ways from Sunday’.

A friendship is an integral part of but isn’t the equivalent of a romantic relationship so by not saying ‘partner’ or ‘boyfriend’ Mum is therefore asking me once a week if I’ve found a fuck buddy yet. Bless her. 64 years old and progressive as all get out, albeit with no awareness of it.

The truth is that I haven’t met anyone or been on a date for well over ten years. No movies, dinners, hugs, hand holding or even a peck on the cheek.

I said PECK, you filthy minded individuals.

My mental health issues are a part of this but back in the early 2000’s when I did go on dates I didn’t exactly have a great track record. I wasn’t so good at filtering out the duds. Let me share with you some choice quotes – all from different men, all uttered on a first date.

“I have to confess – I was due to move interstate the day after I was introduced to you, but I cancelled all of my plans just in case this works out..”

“Um…do you want to go to the movies after dinner? My boyfriend locked me out of the house when I told him I was seeing you.”

(Leans in and whispers)”The waiter knows my wife. Tell him you’re my cousin”

“So, do you have a credit card? What’s your limit on it? Do you always carry it?” – He then drugged me and stole it.  

(sighs) “I would have to be the world’s unluckiest man. I just can’t believe that all this shit keeps happening to me and..” (chokes on food, turns blue)

“I just think that dating will help me get over him. To be honest you’re not my type but I need to try… and… I don’t know. Look, you need to know that I’d do anything to get back with him”

“I only own three cd’s actually. I don’t like music much. I’m into tabletop gaming.”

“I’ve had my eye on you for a while. So you saw (name of an ex) for two years, and then you got snapped up by (another ex), but that didn’t last long. And then you had a one night stand with (one night stand’s name)…. Do you still live on (street name)??”

So can nightclub DJs get peoples names put on the door list permanently?”

(In a Thai restaurant) “The only good thing about (racist slur) is their food.”

“Your cousin is a very good looking guy. I’ve always had a crush on him. Is HE single?”

And of course the chart topper on the bad date hit parade – this guy asked me out for dinner on a Saturday night, which just happened to be the night before my birthday. When I told him this, he turned up in a limousine and took me to C Restaurant. When the bill arrived at the end of the meal he called the driver to come and pick us up, then said:

“Oh… would you mind paying for the limo and dinner? I forgot my wallet. Make sure you give a tip.” And no, he didn’t offer to reimburse me.  He did, however, disappear.

To my credit despite hearing all of the above, I never once choked on my dinner. No matter how hard I tried.

I might start dating again, who knows what the future may bring. I just need some subtle guidance and to have my choices vetted by someone.

Someone like the Police. Or INTERPOL.