Poor Stevie

Archive of ‘j-man’ category

hump day

Last night J-man and I were doing the typical Romanian thing and having a drink in an Irish pub in downtown Brasov, Transylvania.

“Happy three month anniversary,” I said, raising my glass.

“Happy anniversary – we’ve been married for three months!” he replied, then quizically looked at the date on his watch.

Yup, it’s been three months since we got on a jetplane to Thailand.  Here in freezing, beautiful, slightly scary Romania, it seems a century ago since we were sitting poolside,  sipping cocktails and gorging on seafood banquets. With countless sleeper trains, overnight buses and bouts of explosive weebum now firmly under my (tightening) belt, I would like to share with you a list of things travel has taught me about myself.

A list of things travel has taught me about myself:

– I am not normal.

Most people do the thing where they check for their passport and tickets a couple of times and arrive at the airport/train station with a little time to spare. I feel like I have cooled out a lot since J-man scolded me for dragging him to the bus stop in Amsterdam about four hours before our overnight bus to Berlin was due to leave, but I am still a total freak when it comes to pre-travel preparation. Here’s a little checklist I go through the night before moving onto a new city:

  • Check for tickets
  • Check time on tickets
  • Ask J-man to set alarm
  • Pack bag
  • Check tickets are still in bag
  • Make sure J-man has set the alarm
  • Have clothes, shoes and handbag ready next to bed
  • Make sure J-man is asleep before I check the tickets again
  • Tiptoe over to J-man’s bed to check he has set the alarm
  • Lie awake wondering what it will be like if we miss the train and have to spend the rest of our lives in a place called Cluj
  • Freak out about whereabouts of passport and rustle around trying to find passport
  • Locate passport in the place I always keep it
  • Dream about missing train/bus
  • Wake up 15 minutes before alarm goes off in order to “clear the decks”, even if not necessasry, to avoid using train/bus toilets
  • Wake up long-suffering, easy-going husband and force feed him breakfast at dawn so we can make our 1pm train/bus.

– I can read maps.

I first realised this when J-man and I were in Amsterdam trying to hunt down the Red Light District. J-man, who at this point had christened himself “Papa Compass” thanks in part to the compass on his Jason Bourne-style watch, snatched the map from me and led the way. Into surburbia we went and, upon passing several families with small children, I told him I suspected we were going in the opposite direction. “Trust Papa Compass,” he said. So I let him go, until finally he relented and I – the ever faithful wife – took us directly to where the girls in red boxes were trying to sell sex to drunk Poms.

– I DO have a bladder of steel.

There was a time in my life where I would have to stop to wizz at least twice between Lucknow and Orange. I remember once being so scared to tell my parents I needed to wee during a trip to Tuckerbag, that I snuck off to a neighbouring vacant building, thinking its “To Let” sign said “toilet”. Things have since improved, but suddenly I am the girl who can wait until I GET TO A WHOLE NEW COUNTRY before I wee.

– I am not afraid of germs aka my immune system is awesome!

Sometimes you have to do gross stuff overseas. Sometimes there’re no soap, old-looking sheets, three days of the same socks, two days of the same underpants, sharing train compartments with sickly old people, trusting fellow-hostelers to wash their dishes properly, buying food from dirty-looking bakeries and touching money so brown cavemen probably used it to buy their fur loin cloths. All of this and I haven’t even had so much as caught a sniffle (knocking on closest wood).  I rule!

Other things:

  • I am a massive baby and miss my family
  • I am a total cheapskate and will not hand over money for anything I do not have to (case in point, both the bras I packed have lost their underwire and my jeans shrunk to kid size in the wash. I scoff at suggestions of replacements)
  • I am not yet done with Sydney
  • I have the world’s biggest appetite
  • I am brave. Sort of.

free for the moment

One of the most exciting nights  of our trip so far was catching an overnight ferry from Harwich in the UK to the Hook of Holland. When I say “ferry” I actually mean liner, complete with restaurants, a casino and an elderly Dutch bartender who cheerfully congratulated me on my pregnancy (gas).  J-man and I got all squeal-y when we went into our little cabin with its bunk bed and faux port window. It was a first-time experience and the beginning of a new adventure, so we celebrated on deck – in true Dutch style – with a Heineken. Before our ship even set sail on the mighty seas J-man decided he wanted to do something drastic – shave his head. It was something he’d been considering for a while. So while on international waters, the J-man became a cueball.


i don’t how i’m gonna tell you, i can’t play with you no more

Yesterday, J-man and I casually closed the door on the little yellow apartment that has been our home for the last three years. We talked about how strangely OK we felt about it. Maybe it was because we’d spent the last couple of weeks packing our things, double-checking we hadn’t kindly left behind any pubes for the new tenants and scrubbed melted cheese off unexpected surfaces. Maybe we were just ready to be done with the damn thing. Really, we’d been thinking about leaving for over a year and we knew the break-up was coming. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t love you sunny, little number eight.

Here are some things I will always remember about our first apartment together:

– On one of our first nights, I was still shell-shocked about living in the city and having a job and having a serious relationship. J-man, in his eternally positive and hopeful way, tried to cheer me up by cooking dinner. I can’t remember what the whole meal was, but it included hash browns. As J-man proudly served it up, I took one bite and declared “This tastes like oven cleaner” and burst into tears. Why he ended up proposing, I’ll never understand.

– Our unfriendly neighbours. I have a bit of a penchant for dresses about four sizes too big, which I wear with a belt around my waist. One day soon after we’d moved in, I walked up the stairs as a neighbour and his girlfriend walked down. The boyfriend and I exchanged cheery ‘hellos’ while the girlfriend ignored me. As I unlocked my door, she said loudly: “She looks pregnant in that dress”.

–  Our yellow couch. It was in a perfect, sunny position next to glass doors and was the perfect spot for reading, watching telly and making whoo- nevermind. Unfortunately we didn’t really have room for a dining table so it was also where we ate our dinner. It ended up more of a beige colour with tomato sauce and chocolate splatters as well as mysterious head patches. Gross.

– Crows Nest, Neutral Bay and Cremorne really became our stomping grounds. We’ll never have enough money to live there properly again but it really is a nice part of Sydney. Water views, awesome pubs, a historic cinema, green parks, good bookshops, cafes and heaps of purebred dog owners. Plus the weird Hare Krishna place that smelt alternately of spicy vegetarian cooking and wizz.

– Stir Crazy. My favourite place to eat in the whole world. For a little while it was our Friday hangout, until we started saving hardcore for our trip. The curry puffs are to die for and don’t even get me started on the fish cakes, baby.

– Cruddy appliances. Our first washing machine didn’t take in water, so we had to fill it with buckets and constantly re-start the bastard. One load of washing would take three hours. Our oven wasn’t fanforced so everything, no matter what, would end up slightly burnt on the bottom. I’m a good cook, I sweeeear!

– Beers in the park. Quite a few times, J-man and I would lie in a particular part of the park that’s really close to the freeway but has a view of Sydney Harbour. You could close your eyes pretend the woosh of the cars was actually the ocean. I always felt content lying there, half-tipsy, looking at all the other people in the world.

– The 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208 buses. One stand out memory is catching a bus into the city one weekend morning with J-man. As we got on, a younger looking guy asked me where Wynyard was. As I tried to explain, he asked me to sit down across from him and talk. I could immediately tell he was a Christian – something about the glint in his eyes. At first I thought he was trying to spread the good word, but it soon became obvious he was trying to hit on me, in that awkward way Christian boys have, as J-man looked on in bemusement. Conclusion? Christians are weird homewreckers.

– The time(s) J-man defrosted chicken breasts on top of the water heater. I have a life-long fear of getting Salmonella poisoning. I don’t know why really, it just sounds awful so I’m always cautious about chicken. In my opinion, J-man has always had some pretty suspect ways of cooking with chicken, but he used to work at KFC and declares himself an expert. One night, mum came to stay and my sisters came over for dinner. When I arrived home, there was a terrible smell wafting around the whole flat. I thought maybe someone farted or had just used the bathroom and, being senstive about that issue myself, decided just to ignore it and subtley open a window. As the night progressed, the smell turned from bad fart to bad poo to bad corpse-decomposing-after-violent-death-at-the-hands-of-a-deranged-serial-killer. When mum went to use the shower, I suggested she give it a few moments because obviously J-man was having some pretty serious butt issues. I don’t know what made me think of it but I looked towards the water heater and noticed a package of chicken sitting on top. We had planned to have a chicken dish the night before but had decided to go out instead. And, even though I constantly pester him to be careful with chicken, J-man obviously didn’t think that ruled out defrosting it on the heater. By the way mum looked at both of us that night, I knew we lost a couple of points. It was shameful, embarrassing and foul. And a couple of months later, J-man did it again.

– Other random flashbacks: dust bunnies, carpet stains, brown hot water, succulent pot plants, uncomfortable bed, dead other plants, our cactus Admiral Fitzwallace, bad internet, Doritos, Crust pizza, spooning, weevil disaster, love.

watching the clock

Lately I’ve been waiting for life to begin – again.

Way back in 2006 I had just finished uni, moved out of my flat with the J-man and into a house with friends for a couple of months. I had a trip to Vietnam with my cousin Sophie planned for January 2007 and, determined to pay for the whole thing myself, I had to save up a bunch of cash. My housemates were often out of town so I saved money by buying a loaf of bread and a jar of vegemite, which would last me for a weeks’ worth of lunches and dinners. Needless to say I got thin, unhappy and a fairly stabby. I felt like every day I spent behind a checkout in that small country town was a waste and I was just waiting for life to begin.

And then I went and had an adventure, which included many sexy sleeper trains:


The thing that was extra hard about that time was what J-man refers to as “the dark times”. Just about every summer we spent apart at uni, things between us would get weird. It was, I think I realise now, me freaking the bejesus out about the fact I’d found my one true love at the tender age of 17.

So the extra sweet thing about finding myself in the same spot now – saving for a trip by depriving myself of a social life, food and clothes – is that this time I get to wait for our lives to begin. I think this adventure is going to be so amazing. And I can’t wait for it to look like this:

vietnamshop copy

the wedding album

It’s such a girly thing to say, but I think my wedding day was the best day of my life. It was better than the day I finished high school, the day I got my first real job and the time I won a bunch of cinnamon donuts in a reading competition at my local library as a kid.

There’s no way I will ever be able to write about it in the sunny, perfect way it plays out in my head, or how it was captured in photos, so I’m just gonna give it to you blow-by-blow, peeps.

I woke up on March 13, 2010, after a night on an uncomfortable bunk bed sleeping above my sporadic snoring sister, Julia, in a beach house at Copacabana. I was very tired after only a few hours sleep and had a gut full of tingly nerves. To try and get to sleep the night before I had tried to meditate by pretending I was on a gently rocking boat, so I felt a little disorientated in the morning and kept expecting to pull seahorses and pirate’s gold out of my hair. I had a little cuddle with Vincent, painted my nails while watching Video Hits, blowdried my hair while my family had brunch at a hotel, sat around jiggling my legs and generally feeling like I was going to barf chunks.

In the afternoon, I decided to start getting ready. I did my own make-up and hair and later, got into my dreamy Alannah Hill dress. Ever since Joel gave me an extravagant Alannah Hill (yes, there’s a theme, I <3 AH!) hair clip in our early-ish days of dating, I knew I would wear it to our wedding. He gave it to me over cheeky afternoon beers in a park in Bathurst and looked mildly alarmed when I read out the description on the price tag “‘Marry Me, Stupid’ hair clip”. Well, OK.

Photo by Mary Gardiner

Guests arrived at our wedding at 3.30pm, allowing half an hour for a mariachi band to play while they drank champagne and chin wagged.

Photo by Chris Gardiner

J-man and I had decided we wanted to walk ‘up the aisle’ together and he and his sister would pick me up, school formal style, before the wedding. At 3.33, Joel hadn’t arrived and I had my first and only bridezilla moment. “Of all days to be late!” I kept yelling at Julia, who was all: “Dude … shut your idiot cake hole”. When he did show up four minutes late, relaxed and wearing blue faux Wayfarers, we sat together in the lounge room of the beach house and just kind of looked at each other, chuckling like a couple of loonies. At about 3.45, we got in the back seat of Joel’s mum’s white Camry and Nat drove us to the surf club, where we waited outside in a bus shelter.

Photo by Natalie Connolly

I was desperate to get in there and tie the hell out of this knot. Joel had to hold me back several times while we stood on the stairs ready to make our entrance, listening as our chosen song (Wedding Bell by Beach House) began to play. We took each other’s hands and walked in to a room covered in paper hearts, flowers and filled with everyone we love. I know it sounds cheesy as hell, but walking through that door was like flying. It was a whole new world and I could not wipe the smile off my face.

Photo by Chris Gardiner

The ceremony itself is a bit of a blur. I know I stumbled on some words, put Joel’s ring on the wrong finger and spilt sand everywhere during the sand ceremony. But I tried as hard as I could to take it all in, to breathe in Joel’s smile and his love and to focus on the fact that today was the beginning of forever. I know, right, there is corn in my vomit too.

Photo by Chris Gardiner

Afterwards, we sat down to sign the marriage certificate and my wonderful aunt Jo showered us in red rose petals.

Photo by Chris Gardiner

And then we were married. I made my way around the room in a complete daze, talking to some family and friends, before going to have photos taken on the beach. Now, I was particularly afraid of having photographs taken because I always look like a complete doofus. I can’t smile with my teeth on cue and usually end up looking like I’ve just seen a mass puppy grave. But, getting married to your one true love really does something to your emotions – weird, I know. I felt elated, a little bit high, even, and showed the whole world how wonderful my orthodontic work is.

Photo by Emotiva

Photo by Emotiva

Photo by Julia Gardiner

And then we spent the rest of the night dancing, laughing and catching up with old friends and family. And we ate our Krispy Kreme tower.

Photo by Bronwyn Loudon

We made a deal to take a little time out together every now and again just to take it all in. It was the best day ever.

Both photos by Julia Gardiner

slide show

As I walked to work a few days ago I passed a shop that was being painted. The strong smell of fresh paint transported me immediately to my Catholic high school classroom in winter. There was no particular memory but suddenly I wasn’t walking to work frowning; instead I was sitting on the crappy green carpet in my thick maroon kilt/dress, which Catholic schools enjoy because it guarantees you look so much like a sack of potatoes noone will ever love you or touch your ungodly bits.

But I just love that feeling when something – a smell, a song, a taste or a sound – makes you instantly relive a part of your life in real time. So I decided to take a little more notice of it to see where else I could time travel.

PEANUT BUTTER: I love peanut butter. Love it on toast, straight from the jar, mixed with chocolate, blended in milkshakes or licked off strangers’ faces. I probably eat it everyday – it goes so well with coffee. During uni I discovered another great way to eat it was smeared on those corn thin crackers. Around about this time I did work experience at a place I shall call The Lame-o Crud Face Company For Jerks (TLCFCFJ). Unlike a lot of other places I did work experience, the powers that be at TLCFCFJ gave me sweet fuck all to do. Even when I kindly asked, said I was free or introduced myself to new people – you know, all the soul destroying things people recommend you do as a work experience dweeb – I was abruptly rejected. I was staying in a town hundreds of kilometres away from my home and feeling very vulnerable, so I took it all a bit personally.

TLCFCFJ also had their internet heavily filtered so I could only really look at their intranet and ponder the mysteries of their HR protocols. Every day I would watch the clock, holding off having lunch until about 2, so that when I finished I only had 2 hours until I could leave. So I would sit in their sunny lunch room eating peanut butter on corn thins. As I discovered, swallowing peanut butter and choking back tears simultaneously is hard work. I ended up feeling okay about the experience in the end when, at the end of the two weeks, just as the boss was giving me a fairly average assessment, his mobile phone signalled he had a text message with a farting sound. Dude, I don’t need your approval. Anyhoot, I can’t eat peanut butter on corn thins now without being immediately transported to the most crushing two weeks of my life. Up yours, TLCFCFJ.

WATTLE:  The smell of wattle actually brings back a lot of memories. But the strongest memory by far is the time I pooped my pants during sport in primary school. Actually, pooped my netball skirt would be more accurate.  I was a little dramatic in Year 2 – a totally unreserved show-off, bordering on bully. But that all changed one fateful, hot Friday. I guess maybe I’d told my teacher I was nearing death one too many times because when I told her I had an enormous pain in my guts, so sharp it took my breath away, she ignored me and told me to come with the rest of my grade to a sports oval near the school for cross-country practice. She let me sit under a wattle tree with my best friend and another disturbed girl who was known for coming to school sans underpants and using … that … as her news item.

At one point I remember the pain moved further down in my guts until, I can’t put this delicately, I parped and then pooped. And let’s just say I must have had bad vindaloo the night before. Other than the telling pain, there had been no sign it was going to get to this point. I remember just looking at my friend as she looked back at me in stunned silence, we were both thinking ‘this is it, this is the end’. Worst of all really, I was wearing a netball skirt so there was no hiding my shame. My teacher made me walk at the back of the group on the way back to school and I remember looking down at my newly , umm … tanned, legs, burning with utter shame. Weirdly though, no one made fun of me. I probably pooped myself at exactly the right time in life when kids looked at me and felt sympathy, knowing it hadn’t been so long since they were in nappies. The school called my dad to come and pick me up. The poor fella took me home, put me in the shower and once I was clean, took me to his office. I remember one of the receptionists saying “you do look flushed you poor thing”, and when I looked at my dad he just had this unforgettable expression on his face, which told me I should never, ever talk about this day again.

RADIOHEAD, KID A: I love this album. But it was the soundtrack to a very painful few months of my life. At least at the time it was very painful. Now it’s just a great story to tell over and over again to my friends in group therapy. I had met the J-man at uni, fell for him hard, kissed him a few times, shared my bed with him once and pretty much did everything I could to tell him I loved the hell out of him. I more or less walked around wearing a sandwich board saying, “You will be mine”. The beginning of uni alone was a very confusing time for me. I had begun living in a dorm with about 20 others and, since that day under the wattle tree, I can be very reserved around new people. Aside from one girl, the people I lived with did not react well to this. I wasn’t freaky peer-at-you-through-the-key-hole kind of quiet, but just didn’t participate in conversations about the weirdest colour my puke had ever been (ask me about my poop and there’s an epic greater than Homer’s Illiad) and I couldn’t join them at the uni bar for a long time because I was underage. So I just did my own thing, which I think they found difficult to understand. I mean if you can play drinking games every night with your dormies, why wouldn’t you? Right? Right? Holler!

I was also really, really  reserved around Joel at first as well. While I understand it was difficult for him, I still stand by my behaviour in those first few months of sporadic makeouts. He was a theatre student.  A loud, confident, popular theatre student. I was always nervous that whatever I had to say would not compare to whatever one of his theatre mates had just said about Bertolt Brecht. And you know, I wasn’t sure if I should be talking to him in character, singing or using symbolism to communicate. One night we sat together in dining hall with a lot of my dormies looking at me and giggling. So of course, I had nothing to say except *blush* *giggle*. And that was the beginning of the end (well, until he proposed three months ago, sucker!), he didn’t see much point continuing to hang out if I wasn’t going to talk to him. Fair enough, really. But it made me hate myself. I thought I had been so desperate and pathetic. I wished I could talk to him, show him how cool I was, listen to music with him and just be together. So every night for what felt like months, I would put on Radiohead’s Kid A and listen, discovering new things about it on each listen. I would cry, think things through, resist temptation to call him, and fall asleep to its spacey sounds.

It sounds like I’m a rock and roll preacher but with enough listens I got the strength to move on, delete his number and attempt to forget about him. Until one night, he sent me a text message about Bjork and the rest is history. I can’t listen to this album now without thinking about those nights I spent under dull light, not knowing how things would end up.

MY TAXI DRIVER’S B.O: This story might make you gag. I was certainly surprised, confused and disturbed when I got in a taxi after work a couple of nights ago, took a deep breath and rode the wave of my taxi driver’s B.O right back to a high school disco. The old cabbie’s pitts were emitting a strong scent, barely masked with what must have been the Lynx deodorant so popular among boys at my high school. Suddenly I wasn’t in a taxi anymore, there I was nervously quivering in the arms of someone I shall refer to as Barry Otter Young. I had the biggest, longest-running crush on BOY in high school. He was my first kiss, he played guitar and he was older. As appears to be a theme in my love life, I was convinced we had to be together but he was very resistant to my persistent charms. The only time BOY would ever come near me was at school discos, where he would hold me in his arms and attempt to bump and grind. I’m actually pretty sure, looking back, he liked to do it to torture me. “Here’s another taste, little lady,” I imagine him saying. Once you graduate from teenage-ship I don’t think you ever feel that same adrenaline-rushing-heart-pumping-mouth-drying-hyperventilating-headache-loin-tingle thing every single time you think about or see your crush. You get a version of it when you’re older but it’s not quite the same. But breathing in that scent the other night, I got a small replay of that feeling. I’m pretty sure if the taxi driver knew what was going on, he would buy that deodorant in bulk and set up a whole different kind of business.

married in the sun

Turns out there’s a whole lot of stuff you have to think about when planning a wedding. Where will old people sit? Do we invite people we don’t like? Who am I marrying? Should we get a Mariachi band?

The J-man and I have set a date. We’re committing ourselves to a foreverness of fighting over whether to watch Entourage or The Wire on March 13, 2010. I quite like that we have chosen the 13th, because it’s a big ol’ feck you to spooky-wooky wedding tradition. Up yours superstition. I wonder if I’ll be saying the same thing when the venue slides into the ocean mid-vows.

Anyway, we’re starting to think about how we want to do this thing. We don’t have too many disagreements. So far the most unsettling thing is listening to other people’s advice. I got a copy of a book called Tying the Knot Without Doing Your Block by the comedian Terri Psiakis and decided, what the heck, I’ll give it a go. There were a lot of bum jokes and some fun and awesome tips. There was also a part about what to do when you get the wee bum on your wedding day, which was clearly written with me in mind.

But a lot of it made me feel a little unsettled. I don’t want a traditional wedding dress; I don’t care about hair and make-up tests; I was thinking I’d just wear flat shoes ‘cos J-man is a short-arse; I don’t want to have to ask people to say nice things about us; I don’t have/want bridesmaids and, oh my god, I have never even heard of a ‘bridal lounge’. Even when I scoff at these things to cynical friends, “Ha! Hair and make-up tests, who are these crazy women!” they kind of look at me suspiciously out of the corner of their eyes as if they’re imagining me walking up the aisle with blue eyeshadow up to my drawn-on eyebrows.

So I started kind of freaking out and just repeating to Sir J “SIMPLE, CLASSY”. “Good night Poor Stevie,” he’d say. “SIMPLE, CLASSY” “How was your day Poor Stevie?” “SIMPLE, CLASSY”, “What should we call our first baby?” “SIMPLE, CLASSY”. After a while he said I was becoming a bridezilla in my attempts not to be a bridezilla.

But this is all I want: An awesome day that reflects who we are, surrounded by the people we love, with a whole lot of good food, music and booze. Plus a big stripper pole in the middle of the dancefloor so I can show my grandma what life has taught me. Seriously, is that so hard?

the funny things he says

J-man and I had a lazy Sunday lunch in the sunshine with a group of his high school friends. These are boys who playfully tease him about his tight jeans, his tartan scarf and his colourful collection of American Apparel shirts.

During the conversation, which covered topics including music downloads, hangovers, cars and babes, J-man busts out two crackers which will forever remain filed in the “favourite all-time quotes” section of my brain.

First: (Mostly unrelated to the conversation) “I did a delicates wash the other day. Thirty minutes!” This was met by whole round of manly snorts and chortles.

Second: (Wrapping said tartan scarf around his shoulders) “Oh, I feel like Helen Garner!” Mostly I laughed about that. If only the dudes knew who Helen Garner was.

I’m sure when J-man reads this post he’ll get defensive and say there’s nothing more I can do to destroy his manliness. But it’s his boyish enthusiasm for just about everything – from washing cycles and baking to music and technology – that makes me love him hardcore.

running up that hill

The attraction of physical exercise has always been a bit of mystery to me. Why run when you can leisurely stroll? Why do sit ups when you can just sit? Why use a giant pole to fling yourself over another giant pole when you can hang out?

But recently I have rediscovered the joy of basketball. Joy, you ask? Yes, joy. For when I was in high school I played two seasons of basketball with some friends who were equally as uncoordinated as me and we had a frickin’ blast. Mostly I guess it was the things other than basketball that made those times awesome. The retro mixed candy sold at the canteen, the semi see-through shirts, the older male dreamy referees and the wooden seats outside where we would talk about said boys.

The J-man and I have been shooting hoops at a park across the road from our block of flats. That’s all we really do, just shoot hoops, run a little and commentate like it’s the NBA. After only a couple of sessions it’s also provided some fun interaction with the human race, which I’m not totally used to as most of my time is spent at home watching Masterchef and admiring Matt Preston’s cravats. My favourite is Pauline.

Yesterday as we walked to the park with our freshly pumped up ball, J-man started doing a bunch of tricks like bouncing it between his legs and pretending to shoot, all the while completely unaware a group of roughed-up council workers were watching him. As they walked past us they all chuckled and tried to take the ball, making the ol’ J blush like a lady.

Today I hooped it solo (do you think that’s how they would say it on the street?) At one point, as I’ve grown used to, I totally missed the shot. Like way off. Even over the sound of Tegan and Sara – my equivalent of Eye of the Tiger – blasting on my iPod, I heard an old man who had seen everything yell out to me.

He came over and said: “Have you ever watched the champions play?” Stupidly thinking he was referring to a team, I said: “No.” So this old fella took the ball from me, put his wrinkly fingers on its surface and demonstrated how to give it a little spin. “Have a go,” he said. So I did and in the ball went with a satisfying swish.

And without saying a word, he walked away.

On Monday I was unhappily eating Vegemite toast when I heard Joel’s key in the door. I say unhappily eating Vegemite because if I’m going to eat it I’ll only put it on one slice and have something else on the other. It’s too tangy for 8am. But since Joel left for overseas I barely had the will to bathe, let alone go grocery shopping to buy more breakfast stuff. That’s right, I’m pathetic and can’t live without him. Either that or I’m really lazy and unhygienic.

Anyway I got up and gave him such a big hug I was surprised he didn’t need surgery to get his intestines re-inserted. As I left for work he told me to tell him when I’d be home because he had something planned. I figured it would be a chicken stir-fry or the unveiling of a hideous Batman tattoo. But when I got home, later than usual, he’d packed my bag, told me he’d hired a car and we were going somewhere for the night.

By this point, I’d kind of caught on to what was happening. But I wasn’t sure. Joel and I had talked about getting engaged before but had kind of come to the agreement we’d travel first. And when I say we’d “talked” about it, I mean he’d spent years laughing awkwardly whenever I mentioned it and I’d secretly been looking at fun vintage dresses I could get married in.

We arrived in Leura at about 8.30 and it was a cold ghost town. A waitress at a restaurant we tried to get into pointed us towards a Thai place across the road. It was beautiful – empty, with red walls, crisp linen tablecloths and inappropriately loud 80s music, including that “I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never been to me” heartbreaker. I ordered a chicken jungle curry and as soon as it was served, the familiar smell of cat wee went right up my nostrils and punched me in the bile bag. It looked, smelt and tasted exactly like fresh wiz. The J-man was visibly disappointed and apologetic. Almost like he was the culprit.

He had booked us into a beautiful bed and breakfast we had stayed in years ago for an anniversary during uni. After dinner we went back to our cosy room and Joel pulled out a bottle of Chandon. I gasped. But never fear, he said – “It’s duty-free bebe!” So we had a glass and chatted for a while and then decided to have a spa.

I guess I’d prefer my parents not to know I’ve ever been naked, but it’s an essential part of the story. As I eagerly took off my clothes ready to streak through the quadrangle before jumping in the lovely big tub, Joel said “I have something to ask you”. He said I should probably cover up and he gave me some clothes. Then he pulled a giant plastic ring shaped like a tortoise out of his pocket. He popped the question. After first checking he was for real, I immediately said yes. I’d never seen that look on Joel’s face before. He was obviously really nervous and scared and maybe a little overwhelmed. The tortoise was because he’d been so slow to ask me. Moments after, I told him I really didn’t feel any different.

But the next morning I woke up, looked at the back of his little head for the first time as an engaged couple and it really did feel different. Amazing, really.

We got up and slowly wandered the main street of Leura and had breakfast at a cute cafe called The Red Door run by a cheery French woman. I had a bacon and egg baguette with tomato relish and he had French toast and bacon drowned in maple syrup. Then we looked at all his London photos together in the sun. It was a lovely clear morning and felt as if everyone in Leura – except for the junkie who was abusing an old couple – knew we were engaged.

We kept our eye out for a real ring (the plastic one is more of a ‘reserved’ sign), I bought a hair clip made from vintage ribbon and some cute pink floral stationery so I could write to everyone to let them know.

Then we came back to Sydney and did the groceries. I bought some honey.

Here’s the evidence (of the engagement, not the honey. Thems are a whoooole different set of photos).