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7 Nov

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Playing Favourites – my daughter’s special bond with her Dad

18 Oct

Aaagh – my daughter is a real daddy’s girl, which on occasion, can be quite difficult to process. But I’ve learned to accept it. I wrote about the experience for Web Child. Read the article by clicking here

Do babies need toys? Watch this – and see

13 Oct
The gorgeous Ponijao, from Babies

Capturing the joy, delight and excitement of a baby’s first year of life is terribly difficult. Believe me. I’ve tried. It goes like this. Baby does something hilarious/exciting/new. You reach for the camera. By the time you’re rolling. Boom. It’s over. Baby is back to being a blob. The show’s over. It takes a hell of a lot of time, patience and battery power to capture something worthwhile. But that’s exactly what French film director, Thomas Balmes, managed to do. Over 400 days, he filmed the first year of life for four babies – Hattie in San Francisco, Ponijao in Namibia, Bayar in Mongolia and Mari in Tokyo. The result? A delightful, life-affirming, cinematographically gorgeous and thought-provoking documentary, called ‘Babies’. It runs for 80 minutes and there’s no dialogue. It doesn’t need it. My husband and I watched it last night and were mesmerised, in between hoots of laughter. Watch the trailer for a taste. While it’s all cute and wonderful, there are also some pretty important messages here. While the overall message is that babies are babies, wherever you live, there’s also nice contrast between how kids are raised in developing nations, versus highly developed nations. What did I take away from it? Babies don’t need toys, TV, or a clean environment – what they love is interacting with other humans (and animals- the scene of the baby licking her dog’s tongue is incredible) and exploring this wonderful, wonderful world where everything is new and exciting, to them. I’m sure it’s available on DVD – we watched it on Foxtel. For a serious cute injection, watch this video of the beautiful Namibian baby Ponijao, falling asleep while sitting up. I defy you not to smile.

Guest Post: The top five things you didn’t know about women’s tennis

14 Sep
As a husband to a wife who writes a blog I feel I have a certain sense of responsibility to sit back and enjoy the ride (often at my own expense).

Today is the first day of HOPEFULLY a few cameo appearances I can make on the “mum plus more” blog as I am clearly the “more” in the “mum plus more”.

My aim? To increase the circulation of male readers to this site….no not really. Just for kicks ultimately.
Because I don’t read books this could be a little tedious but I DO watch television and more specifically sport. So that’s what you get on debut.
Having revelled in the excitement of Sam Stosur and her thrilling win against the “oh so petulant” Serena … it was the elephant in the room (not Serena but the tennis)
I read on ESPN today that young is OUT and EXPERIENCE is IN when it comes to grand slams

In the 1990s, teenagers won 15 Grand Slams in the women’s tournaments.
In the 2000s, that number dropped to three.
In 2001, the average age of a Grand Slam finalist was just under 21
In 2010, it was up to 27. This year, through three Slams, it’s 26.5.

Which means at 27 years of age Sam Stosur was right on time!!
Armed with that information I have decided to do what all good commercial networks do when they lack for imaginative programming and that is to have a top 5 facts you probably didn’t know about my favourite female tennis players (none of this is actually based on ability) and you wont see Anna Kournikova in this list….as we are talking about tennis players.
5. Pam Shriver.
Gee she was tall – not the tallest ever – but she was big. In fact she always reminded me of Tom Hanks in Big for some reason – and not just because she was big, I think it was the hair. Maybe that’s just me thinking that.
She was born on the 4th of July (seems ironic) and she was one of the big names in Tennis when I was a kid. She is now a commentator and works for ESPN. She played against the BIGGEST names in the game and was frustratingly good and bad all at once. In saying that she won as many as she lost in grand slams. The real reason I put her in the top 5 was because she married George Lazenby. How cool is it that she married James Bond!!! (not sure if they are still together though)

4. Gabriella Sabatini
Argentina was famous for a few things back in the 80’s. Diego Maradona and his hand of god, the Falklands war and of course Gabriella Sabatini or GABSAB as I came to know her (probably sounds like an argentine brand of wine).
Of course she had more glamorous nicknames like “Divine Argentine” and “Pearl of the Pampas” but that always had the makings of a slippery puff pastry.
She had it all – but she was always just top 4 fringe in my mind. I guess she was up against some mega talents like Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport
GABSAB was famous for her SABATWEENIE shot which was a forehand blast between her legs. Roger Federer has now made it his thing but GAB SAB was one of the pioneers.
She ultimately won the US open as her best result beating Steffi Graf in the final
She is now a successful business woman who has a line of perfumes, donates money to argentine tennis development and ironically plays some exhibition tournaments for the Steffi Graf foundation.
If you cant beat them. Join them.
3. Liz Smylie (nee Sayers)
Poor old Liz. She was probably more remembered for her Extra chewing gum than for her tennis. But she was a dogged competitor and a real trier. And to salute her we have to remember that
“ecssshtra, itsshhh great tashte, really lassshhhttsss”
You do have to wonder about the creative genius behind the advertising agency that latched on to a sports person with a speech impediment to promote their product but…amazingly it worked!!
well it worked better than Lisa Curry promoting P & O cruises or Justin Langer selling Johnnie Walker scotch.
I know, I know, the best she ever did was the 4th round at Wimbledon but she was a winner at Wimbledon in the doubles. That’s pretty good for an aussie!

Me neither…I hadn’t everheardinofhereither until I saw her on the TV ONCE. The problem with actually seeing her is that it has to be in round one because that seems to be about as far as she gets. She is still playing (in fact she is the perfect age to win a grand slam at 27) but she has one draw back to her game. She is the tallest woman EVER to play tennis professionally. AT 6 ft 3 it would be impossible to lob over her head but damn easy to do a drop shot on her. See if you can pick her in this line up.

1. Anna Smashnova – she may not be number 1 in anyone else’s world but she is in mine. What a great surname. Not to mention she was one of the SHORTEST players in the game – if not THE shortest.
she retired in 2007 after reaching a career high of 15 in the world. I guess being so short she was a baseline specialist best at home on the clay surfaces but her best results were really just the 3rd round at the Australian open and at Wimbledon and a career best 4th round at the French open on the clay. BUT at 5 ft 3 it was her lack of height that puts her at number 1 on this list.  

Dads – Don’t Pull Your Punches!

8 Sep
Phew! I’m glad Father’s Day is over for another year. In our household, it caps off three months of present-giving to my husband. Birthday in July, wedding anniversary in August and Father’s Day in September. That’s a lot of gifts to come up with. Not that my husband demands them. Not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I always ask him what he would like and he always replies ‘nothing’. Now, I come from a long line of enthusiastic present-givers. It goes against my grain to not give a gift for a significant occasion. In contrast, my husband comes from a line of non-enthusiastic present receivers. He’s definitely learned how to receive gifts graciously but let’s just say gifts don’t really float his boat. His attitude is – if I want something, I’ll buy it myself. That attitude doesn’t really leave a lot of room for me to give him anything. And let’s face it, there aren’t many great options for men’s gifts. It kind of boils down to clothes, music and books. Clothes are out since my husband discovered Country Road on-line. He knows his size and knows what he likes – no pockets in shirts, no pleats in pants, no crazy prints, no outlandish colours – this makes on-line shopping an absolute doddle.

A couple of clicks and he’s done. No need to ever grace a shop with his presence ever again. Music is also a bit out of the gift giving-picture. We’ve thrown away our CD player and replaced it with an I-Pod dock. Unfortunately, our PC doesn’t like Apple software, so I can’t even give him a lousy I-Tunes voucher – unless I was aiming to give him the most useless gift in the world. That brings us to books. My husband is a great reader. But not of books. Internet – yes. Form Guide – yes. Books – no. This is a great shame. For me. Books are such an easy gift to give. I have no doubt that many dads this Father’s Day would have ripped open a beautifully wrapped present to find a book inside. And I suspect many would have received an autobiography. This is a massive generalisation but I feel like autobiographies are an appropriate ‘dad’ gift. Fiction and fathers are not always a good match. But dads and memoirs? Yes. I think book marketers know this, and always seem to promote the hell out of them around Father’s Day. So, I had a quick scan of what was out there this year. I always thought an autobiography was something you wrote towards the end of your life – and something that should only be written by someone with a really strong story to tell, either because they are a) super-important or b) did something super-impressive. Seems that’s no longer the case. Every b-grade celebrity has a book to flog – from the yellow wiggle, Greg Page, to AFL’s bad boy, Barry Hall, and country songstress Kasey Chambers. Are these works of great literature? I’m sorry to say – not so much. Check out this extract from Barry’s book ‘Pulling No Punches’. He (or more factually, his ghost-writer) writes about his drinking habits, and tendancy to get into trouble.  Sometimes dickheads just wanted to have a crack at me. …. I’d go out for a night with my mates, and would be copping shit from imbeciles in the car park before we’d even gone inside. Let’s just say that when Barry hangs up the boots, I don’t think he’ll be having a second career as a writer. This isn’t a Barry Hall-bashing exercise (lord knows, you’d be a brave soul to bash Barry – he would probably bash you back). I know there are fans out there who will probably devour this book. All 256 pages of it. That’s right – 256 pages. And he’s only 35. I’m also tipping that a fair few Dads probably opened up their Father’s Day presents this year to find Barry’s big mug staring back at him. It’s exactly the kind of book that a child or wife would buy when they have no idea what to buy – and their husband/father has been no help at all. So here’s a tip for those fathers – next year, ask for something specific –  be like Barry’s book title – don’t pull your punches. Speak up. Say what you want to receive. Or you might just open up to find the yellow wiggle staring right back at you.

A lesson in sexy from ‘The Bangles’

23 Aug
Stuck for something (decent) to watch on TV last week, I flicked onto a music video channel playing top 100 party hits of the ’80s. The video was mega hit ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ by all-girl group ‘The Bangles’. I stopped for a minute to watch. You can watch the video by clicking here. A few things struck me..

1) The women are fully clothed
2) They can sing AND they play all the instruments
3) There’s no simulation of, or reference to, sex either in the song or the clip

Despite being around 20 years old, it was a complete breath of fresh air. Even though the song is basically a load of light-hearted nonsense, the girls absolutely rock it out. They’re so confident – and to my mind – sexy, without trying to be.

Now, let’s compare them to the current crop of female talent topping the charts – Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna, Christina Aguilera. Now, let’s look at the similarities between the current crowd.
1) They are rarely fully clothed
2) They can sing but don’t play instruments. (with the exception of Gaga – she plays a mean piano)
3) They constantly refer to, or simulate, sex in their songs and their videos

Where did it all go so wrong? These days, the content on music video channels verges on soft porn. What happened to the strong, confident, talented women like the girls from ‘The Bangles’ who didn’t have to rely on overt sexuality for success?

Of course, there’s one big exception to the current ‘sex-sells’ rule – and that’s Adele. Her hit ‘Somone Like You’ has spent weeks and weeks at number one. She’s comfortable with her curves and doesn’t resort to revealing clothes to sell her songs. She just relies on her awesome voice, lyrics and melody. And isn’t that what music should be about?

The City To Surf – What you don’t see on the TV

16 Aug
Have you ever been beaten in a foot race by a shark? Well, I am quite happy to say that I have. OK, well, it wasn’t a real life man-eater, it was a bloke dressed (on his bottom half) in a shark costume made of wetsuit material. On the top half he was wearing a business shirt, tie, horn-rimmed glasses and bryl-creamed hair. The overall effect was of a shark eating a business-man. I had a good chance to study that costume because I followed him most of the way along the City to Surf run. He must have been cooking in that outfit. Still, he beat me to the finish line.

But let’s rewind about an hour and a half. It’s five minutes till the start of my first City to Surf fun-run. I’ve watched it on TV plenty of times but this year I’m shoulder to shoulder with about 80 thousand other fun-runners in the middle of Sydney’s CBD. It’s a soggy Sunday morning – the first ‘wet’ City to Surf in about, oh, 20 years. Just my luck. The crowd starts murmuring, and stripping off. It’s three minutes to start time. Jumpers and tracksuit pants are removed and flung to the pavement. The Girl Guides will be along later to collect them for charity. Someone has bad aim and their jumper ends up on another runner’s head. We giggle. Everyone’s in a good mood. It’s like Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. Strangers chat. Public transport has got us to the start line in plenty of time. We’re about to run to one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Life is good.

The start-gun fires. Not that I can hear it. We’re too far back. The guy who wins the race is downing a celebratory drink in Bondi before we even cross the start line. However, soon enough we are bolting down William Street. There is a sea of heads bobbing in front of me. I think at some point the crowd will thin. I’m overtaking enough people – surely I’ll get some space at some point? It never happens. I start with 80 thousand people round me. And that’s exactly how I finish. It’s 14 kilometres of ducking and weaving, avoiding heels and elbows. A rear-view mirror would be handy. Strangely, it’s one of the quietest crowds I’ve ever been in. Tens of thousands of people – yet all you can hear is the thud-thud of feet on wet pavement. Running is a great silencer. It’s like that for most of the way, except for the occasional burst of music from the side of the road. There are three drag Queens in Rose Bay, dressed in hot pink mini-dresses and miming to the booming strains of ‘Nut Bush City Limits’, a happy (drunk) band of smurfs (20-something year olds covered in blue body paint) are having an impromptu dance party in Potts Point, there’s a Beatles tribute band in Double Bay, a young boy is playing the bagpipes in Vaucluse, and a mini brass band made up of older folk tootles away in North Bondi. The other sound that stays with me is the crunching of plastic cups on the road as we pass the official drinks breaks. My 2 year old later asks me why we threw the cups on the ground. I don’t have a good answer. Apart from the ‘official’ refreshments, there are also ‘unofficial’ refreshment breaks along the way – little kids mainly – offering a range of treats from sliced oranges, to home-baked cookies and lollies. I can honeslty say I’ve never felt less like eating a bickie – a near constant stomach stitch makes the though of food quite nauseating. A little more appealing are the locals standing armed with their hoses for runners in need of a cool down. That’s why I need.

While running, I also get a good chance to read – other runners backs mainly. Some t-shirts are emblazoned with funny slogans like ‘slap my bum if I’m running too slow’ and others sport the names of the charities for whom they are running. Nearly $4 million will be raised from this event. I also read the signs along the road. The most welcome ones are the progress signs, marking the 6, 7, 8 kilometre mark. Parts of the route are ‘sponsored’ eg the dating website RSVP is the official ‘sponsor’ of Heartbreak Hill which means that as we slog it out up the toughest one kilometre of the route, we are confronted with signs like ‘You’re SO HOT right now. Find a date on-line’, and ‘To avoid real hearbreak, go to’. If I had a single breath left in my body, I would laugh. As it is, I feel like I’m about to have my first asthma attack – even though I don’t suffer from asthma. I just can’t get enough breath into my lungs – I need an oxygen IV STAT! Just as I think I’m not going to make it up the hill, it starts to level out. My confidence inches upwards. I think I’m going to make it. Of course, I’m only half-way there, and in the remaining 7 kilometres I see enough people collapsed on the side of the road undergoing treatment from paramedics to realise that you haven’t really made it till you get that medal round your neck on the finish line.

Six kilometres out, I see the shark. I find it funny at first, until I realise that this guy is a serious runner. He may be dressed as a half-eaten business man, but the guy can run and I’m struggling to keep up. He’s now my competition. I figure that if I can stay in touch with the shark, I’ll be doing OK. So, I do. I follow his grey flapping wetsuit all the way through Dover Heights, North Bondi and onto the finish line. The shark and I finish the run in about 87 minutes. I’d been aiming to finish under 100, so I’m happy. The City To Surf has been on my bucket list for years. And it now has a big fat line through it. Done. Next year when I watch it on TV, I’ll think back to this day, and think fondly of all the weird and wonderful things I saw and heard – all the stuff you don’t see when you’re watching it from the comfort of your lounge room.