How I owned a Gumtree Swindler – a series of correspondence.

untitled gum

There are some questionable characters on Gumtree: I found this one in the process of selling my car.

This is the story of “Ben” and what can only be described as THE reverse swindle of 2014.

* In memory of Aunty Sandy’s near-swindle of 2013 and Susannah Morcombe’s very real swindle of 2006. May this give you the closure you so desperately seek.


Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2014 19:18:13 +1100
Subject: Re: Car

Hi – I was enquiring about your car – what’s the present condition and final price of your Gumtree Ad, best way to get me is via this email.


My Astra is in great condition and the final price is 11,000

Kind Regards,



Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2014 19:34:13 +1100
Subject: Re: Car

Thanks for getting back,i’m cool with the price likewise the condition as described on the advert,i work with New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) and we are presently offshore in New Zealand Taranaki Basin on kupe project.We do not have access to phone at the momement and that’s why I contacted you with internet messaging facility.Regarding the payment,i will be paying you through PayPal linked up with my ANZ bank account,please get back to me with your paypal details so i can process the payment,you can alternatively send your bsb acct name and number if you have no PayPal acct.I have also contacted my courier who will come for pick up and deliver it to my place in Darwin after the whole fund has been cleared into your acct. Await your reply



That sounds amazing – I’ll even throw in some car mats!

Kind Regards,



Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2014 21:15:00 +1100 Subject: Re: Car

Advise acct details


My price has gone up – I want $11,500 for it. Let me know if you’re still fine to go ahead.

Kind Regards,



Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2014 23:33:58 +1100

Subject: Re: Car

Ok no worries


Thanks for being flexible.

Unfortunately I’ve just had an offer from another guy who can come round and pick it up tomorrow and he said he’s happy to pay the original asking price of $12,000 :( SORRY!!!

I hate to do this, but I think I’m going to have to go with him, purely because I’m a struggling uni student. Lol!

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 10:01:51 +1100

Subject: Re: Car

Ok no worries i’ll do $12500 for quicksale


Make it $13,000 and you’ve got a deal :)

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 10:04:13 +1100

Subject: Re: Car

ok fine


I’m so sorry to do this to you, but I forgot about the mags :/ :/ :/ :/

They are apparently valued at $250 each, which would mean that I forgot to include another $1000 total to the asking price. I must, in all fairness, request $14,000 for it.

I completely understand if this is now too much, but I’m sure I can find other people who are willing to buy it at that price…

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 10:09:15 +1100

Subject: Re: Car

appy sale then


Ok, ok – you called my bluff. I’ll take the $13000 firm.

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 10:14:26 +1100
Subject: Re: Car

Advise acct details


Just to let you know – I went to New Zealand six months ago, and we just thought it was the most beautiful place ever!!!

(My lover actually proposed to me there and we’re about to be married next month which is why I’m selling the car in such a hurry. Baby on the way!!)

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 10:29:07 +1100

Subject: Re:

Wow congrats


Thanks! We’re pretty excited – one month til beautiful baby Shaniqua comes along!

Is it alright if I give you Rodriguez’s account details instead? He reckons he knows it off by heart. Let me know if you have any problems, though, and I’ll get him to properly check it when we get home from the gyny :)

Account No: 84999973
BSB: 017-431

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 11:26:43 +1100

Subject: Re:

Advise the acct name


It’s Manuel-Pedro Rodriguez

Kind Regards,



Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 11:43:15 +1100

Subject: Re: Car

Ok good,i will let you know when payment has been made and also contact my pickup agent regarding pickup arrangement but am trying to sort out with the pick up agent hope to sort it out soon.You will receive a confirmation email when done.


Awesome – let me know if Rodriguez missed any numbers out, and I’ll wait to hear from you about pickup.

Kind Regards,


Date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 11:48 +1100
Subject: Re:



Date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 12:04:14 +1100
Subject: Re:

I was just about to pay when i had this little problem with the picking up,my pick up agent says i will need to pay for the pick up before they can schedule a pick up date and time with you to deliver to Northern Territory,Australia,they charged me $950 for pick up and delivery,and payments for pick up made through them is made to their corporate international headquarters which is in China and the payments is made through western union money transfer,i will add the $950 to the money i will send through the transfer as soon as i have made the payments,i will email you and let you know and please i will need you to help me send the money to my pick up agent Headquarters in China through western union money transfer,this can be done at any western union section at the post office or online (,there is always western union money transfer section in most post offices.Thanks.

Let me know if it will not be a problem helping me,so i can initiate the transfer.


Sounds legit.

So does that mean that you need me to pay the $950 and you’ll reimburse me when you pay the cost for the car (ie. you’ll pay me the $13000 plus $950?)

Rodriguez told me to watch out for internet scams, but I believe in the innate goodness of humanity. I’m happy to do it, but you’ll have to give me a few days to get the money together. We’re in the middle of decorating the nursery and that little scamp is bleeding us dry before she’s even been born!

Kind Regards, Megan.


Hi Ben, ready to send $ through – just wanted to confirm that you will be paying me the $950 on top of the $13000. Please let me know asap.
Also, when will the car be getting picked up by your guy?

Kind Regards,


Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2014 06:22:17 +1100
Subject: Re:

Yes. Will reimburse. It will be picked asap


Hi Ben,

Manuel Pedro-Rodriguez has just noticed that he has a rather large goiter on the side of his neck.

The only doctor that operates on this particular type of goiter is located in Paris, so we have to find a way to get some extra cash quickly.

I will now have to charge you $15000 for the car. Is this ok?

Kind Regards, Megan.


Hi Ben – I haven’t heard back from you. I’m assuming it’s because you think that paying for someone else’s goiter removal is unfair???

Guess what? So is stealing.

Moooohahahaha - playa got plaaaaaaaaaaaaayed.

I wrote a special ditty for you. It’s called “Ben and the case of the backfired Gumtree swindle.” Enjoy:

I once met a guy called “Ben,” who was a dirty, stinking schemer.

All his friends routinely mocked him cos he had a teeny wiener.

What led to his life of online crime? We may never understand.

A bit like wondering how Nickelback ever made it as a band.

I hope he gets a real job and stops telling naughty lies

I hear The Colonel’s hiring – I can see him shovelling fries.

If Benji hears this message then I recommend he listens

I’d hate for him to serve hard time in a grotty all-male prison.

P.S. Happy has an ‘h’ in it. ‘Appy’ is not a word.

P.P.S Your grammar is also a crime.

P.P.P.S Let’s keep in touch.

Mills and Boon have a lot to answer for.


I don’t know who Sandra Hill is and whether she’s laughing and making a packet, or whether she truly believes that love comes in the form of a (blessedly) thin book about randy she whales – yes, this features in the blurb. One thing is certain, though, her statement “Get ready for the time of your life” is presumptuous, to say the least.

If you’re having the time of your life reading a book, there’s something wrong with you. If you’re having the time of your life reading Truly Madly Viking, there’s something seriously wrong with you. If you’re having the time of your life writing a blog about these books, you’re human.

Anyhow, Sandra’s not the only nutter – I’ve searched the net and here are a collection of some of my favourite M&B offerings:



Most people don’t like getting jilted, and when they do, they don’t put on their gumboots and sit on a hay bale thinking that was awesome, and grinning like a buffoon. This book was followed up by ‘Battered to Death,’ the cover of which had the same girl laughing uncontrollably and holding a poster that said ‘let’s do this again some time.


Say that ten times.



Being blind is bad enough – but to be blind and buttonless…

The tragedy is that no one seems to want to buy this stud a new shirt, not even one that says “I’m blind and all they got me was this lousy blouse.” And really, Carol Finch might as well have just called it The Blind Horseman, because being shirtless in a Mills and Boon is par for the course. I have yet to see one of these books set in the Antarctic, although I’m sure they’d still find a way to strip the lead back. It’d go something like this:

Antonio scaled the cliff face, his rippling muscles aiding him in his perilous quest.  Caught on a craggy rock, his shirt tore, revealing the bronzed body of a Norse god. “You’ll freeze to death,” said Juanita, tears threatening to cloud her large, impossibly blue eyes. “Ha ha, you beguiling she-vixen,” said Antonio, “not with my invisible shirt I won’t.”

Man I should give up my day job. Oh, that’s right, I don’t have one.



The devil wouldn’t be caught dead in velvet – it’s highly flammable.


grace before meat

Give me the ham and no one gets hurt.

If there’s one thing I know about grace, it’s that it originates somewhere in your heart, not your digestive tract. I doubt anyone has ever said, “I’d love to let you off, but I’ve just had lunch.” If anything, it should be called Grace after Meat, because someone who’s just eaten is far more likely to overlook an offence. Hence the catchphrase, “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” For all we know Hitler was just a guy in need of a Mars Bar.



What’s that in kilos?



Hand me the Marlboros. Quickly.

When Fabio gets oiled up, and stares into your soul with all the intelligence of a half-eaten pizza, you pay attention; mostly because he looks like the love-child of Billy Ray Cyrus and a cross-eyed tangerine. The opportunities for memes here are endless, but I’m trying to wean myself off them, and sometimes that means not superimposing Mills & Goon across his forehead.

There we have it, and I haven’t even begun to explore Harlequin romance novels. Sorry for anyone that actually does read these books – I’m sure you’re normal, and that you’re just in need of  your own craggy Antonio. Don’t worry, I had a quick scout and I’ve found just the guy.



You’re welcome.

The Shining? Grade Seven? Really?

I’ve discovered scary movies late in life: I still don’t love the ones where people’s heads are being used as punch bowls, but I don’t mind the occasional (tasteful) blood bath. This doesn’t sound that earth-shattering unless you appreciate that my childhood aversion to horror movies was less a dislike than a full-blown mental disorder.

All my neuroses, I like to think, are a result of early exposure to the genre, although apparently I was already messed up in utero: Legend has it I came out wearing a cravat saying, “I’d kill for a stiff drink – the interior decoration in that joint was apalling.” That never happened, but there have been several other signs of mental fragility, and since my parents are both fairly normal, most people assume the apple kind of projectiled off the tree and rolled down a hill into a ditch somewhere far, far away.

Abnormalities aside, I don’t think I’m the only kid that’s been traumatised by watching these films at a young age. I’m not sure what the go is now at primary school parties, but in my day it almost always involved watching a horror movie at the end of the night, which meant that I had to sit in the toilet for the last few hours singing the theme tune to “Pirates of Penzance” until someone picked me up.

In the interest of upcoming generations, I’ve devised some not-so-scary alternatives to the classics. Basically, I’ve left the chilli in and removed the seeds. (It’s a rubbish analogy but I’ve lost my creative mojo after reading about things like Wittgenstein’s notion of the essentially philosphical nature of humour): let’s just say that the guy wouldn’t survive on the comedy circuit.


A Nightmare on Oak Street.











Running parallel to Elm Street, Oak street is the birthplace of acne-riddled Frederico Kruger, a lonely Hispanic boy with scissors for hands. His dreams of becoming a proctologist in tatters, he now uses his digits for other pursuits, such as decoupage and paper tole.


The Sixth Pence







What happened to my career?

Impoverished Jewish girl in Dickensian London spends five pence on a box of matches before blowing the remaining one on a pack of Twisties. Fagan takes her into his pack of car thieves, and not long after, she and Oliver Twist run off to Vegas to get hitched. Six months later, he swaps her for a bowl of porridge. “Moving”, “genre-defying” and “courageous”, this anachronistic masterpiece will leave moviegoers worldwide saying “please sir may I have some more.”


Snakes on a Train (in Maine)








Continuing his obsession with abstract titles, the director of “Snakes on a Plane” brings us “Snakes on a Train in Maine.” The plot is as follows: a guy from New England finds two snakes on a train, throws them out of the carriage and the movie ends just after the opening credits. A lesson David Ellis could have profited from the first time round.













Do not be fooled by Elizabethtown’s location in the “rom-com” section. Noone who has laboured through the original will deny its capacity for inflicting trauma on the least discerning of movie critics. My re-imagined offering, “Dullsville”, centres around a group of townsfolk forced to sit in a darkened room watching Elizabethtown on repeat while being forcefed biltong. (While the premise may be equally chilling as the original, no clips from the 2003 film are featured.)


Friday 31st: Hockey just got real mixed up.









Dyslexic Jason Vorhees misreads his hockey grand final date (Friday 13th), turning up weeks later on the 31st. Still reeling from the truancy of their star player, his embittered team mates beat him with pucks, one of which hits his temple, claiming his life. Frederico Kreuger makes paper chains for his funeral.


The Chair Switch Project











Somebody picks up one chair and switches it with another. Nothing happens in this minimalist masterpiece, much like the original.


The Philatelist









Linda Blair is just a normal girl, or is she? She isn’t, and her mother is worried. With only a collection of stamps and an elderly mailman for friends, Blair starts to exhibit increasingly bizarre behaviour, one of which is watching season 1 through 8 of Gilmore Girls. A priest is called and burns every copy at the house as well as those in all DVD stores within an 8 mile radius. Slowly recovering, her fetish for philately reawakened, she falls in love with the mailman but dies shortly thereafter from spinal injuries originating in her neck. She donates her collection to the Gilmore Girl recovery centre in Nevada.

See now… isn’t that nice? Now I’ve just to figure out a plot for “When Carrie met Sally.” *

*All contributions considered.

Bub Crawl.










My heart sinks whenever I get one of these invitations in the mail. Sinks. I don’t know what that says about me, but I think I’d rather get stoned to death with tictacs than have to go to one more. The worst thing about admitting that you’re not into baby showers, though, is that it looks like you’re unmoved by the miracle of birth and people start to suspect that you do this kind of thing in your spare time:








He loved it.

I don’t have any beef with babies, and I’m always up for celebrating with friends, but something disturbing and potentially lethal happens when the two are combined; a bit like trying to mix Hydrogen peroxide and Sulfuric acid.

My first gripe is with the opening ceremony, which is something you endure, much like you endure canker sores or tinea. Everybody sits in a circle while soon-to-be mum unwraps her stash, leaving a pause in between EVERY single gift so that EVERYBODY can comment on EVERYTHING: from pyjamas to rattles to bum rash cream – you name it and someone’s going to find it adorable because it’s vaguely baby-related. The whole thing drags on for so long you wonder who’ll be driving her to the hospital when her water breaks. And there’s the person – there’s always one – that goes overboard and makes your present look crap. I usually buy something normal, like an outfit of some kind, but I always seem to be sitting next to the person that’s bought a cot, or a diamond in the shape of a dummy, and you know that the pink onesie you bought is just going to be used to shine it.

The second issue is more of an OHS concern, involving potential RSI to the muscles around your mouth responsible for smiling. For some reason, other people genuinely seem to love going to these things, which means that  you’re forced  to walk around all day looking like a demented circus clown just to keep up. If you’ve ever been in a bridal party, you’ll know the adverse effects of a day of forced smiling. It’s all fun and games at first, but by the  reception you feel like giving the bird to the next person that asks you to say cheese. Never have photos taken at baby showers: you might be able to get away with that expression in real life, but the camera, which never lies, will capture your boredom for posterity.

The worst part of a baby shower, though, even worse than the present opening – no mean feat – is the games. Here are two corkers:

I’m always on edge when the first of these games comes up because it is fraught with danger. “Guess the width” involves people guessing the measurement of the pregnant woman’s belly and, as you can imagine, things have the potential to get very weird, very quickly. My personal theory, backed up by decades of hard research, is that pregnant or not, no woman wants someone to guess that their belly is double its actual size. I imagine that many a godmothership has been revoked as a result of this game. That’s why I always go way under: my standard is 30cm. “What? Not 30? Get out of town –show me that tape.” I go too far the other way, though, and they smell a rat, which is why I am currently godmother to zero children.

The other killer is the nappy game. I don’t know whether this is a staple or I’ve just been incredibly unfortunate, but for those lucky uninitiated souls, it involves identifying poo-hued sauces off a nappy. This happens. The problem here, as with games of any kind, is that you look like a spoil sport if you don’t join in, so I like to say that I feel a stomach ache coming on or pretend that with my uncanny sixth sense I have realised that I will be allergic to all of the foods on offer. If someone challenges me on this, I just pat them on the back and say ‘oh you,’ then walk away to eat food off something that wasn’t purpose-built to absorb a kilo of crap.

*If you are having a baby shower soon, this blog doesn’t apply to you. Your baby shower will be awesome.

4 things that shouldn’t exist that do.

Directory Assistance

This “service” is a bit like the kid that sticks his fingers in his ear and starts singing the theme tune to Thomas the Tank Engine as soon as you try to talk. The other day I asked for the number for “Dominos,” and it said “Sorry did you say Auto One?” and I said “No, if I wanted Auto One, I would have said bloody Auto One,” to which it replied, “sorry I didn’t catch that” and we started all over again.

I’m pretty sure these companies just hire guys that can do good R2D2 impersonations and give them the brief “whatever you do, do not give them the right number.” I say this because no machine could come up with some of the truly inspired alternatives they provide.








Liquorland, not Disneyland!!

If you ask for the number for Pizza Hut, for example, they will say, “did you ask for the clinic for childhood obesity?” Similarly, the guy that wants to find the location of their local Langtrees will be given the number of a psychologist that specialises in sex addiction. It’s funny, except for when I’m trying to find my nearest Langtrees.

Medical Receptionists

It’s a bit harsh to say that medical receptionists should be vaporised, but I don’t mean all of them, I just mean the EVIL ones, who, I’m pretty sure, start the day sitting in a circle and reciting some kind of anti-Hippocratic oath which goes along the lines of: “we’ll strive to veto bulk bill fees, no matter how poor our patients be, we must eschew all sympathy, and in their sickness take much glee.”










Sorry, we just can’t squeeze you in.

The irony is, (are you paying attention, Alanis,) that if anywhere needed people that had a scrap of compassion it would be at a place like a doctor’s surgery. Unfortunately it continues to attract Bundyesque types, which makes me think that some part of the screening process involves making sure these woman tick yes to statements like “I hate humans” or “If I could, I would eradicate world peace”  before they get the job. I don’t like to make sweeping statements, but this particular profession is chock full of rotten apples.


If you’ve ever been on school camp, you will know the familiar thud of carbs smacking your steel tray and a woman who has never washed her hands yelling “NEXT!” while you scurry off wondering how you’re going to feed it to the dog without getting caught.

Sizzlers is a kind of sophisticated take on this scenario. Clearly the health department has not visited in decades, has forgotten they exist, or have some kind of agreement with the owners whereby they turn a blind eye in exchange for getting, not only a free meal, but one where they can eat all they want!!! (They still haven’t quite got the concept of Sizzlers.)










New expanded menu

I don’t think I’ve ever been there and not seen flies loitering around what looks like a partially cooked chicken on a bed of very distressed potatoe or Maggi noodles and Chum posing as spaghetti bolognaise. But because no boundaries have been set, (and this is why Sizzler’s needs to be eliminated – because it plays Jedi mind tricks on you,) you want, nay, must have, your money’s worth.

It’s a sad fact of life that at the heart of every person that doesn’t want to get food poisoning is another part of them whispering “but it’s freeeeee,” and, sadly, that one usually wins out; which is exactly why they should never make aspestosis or tinea free.

Nancy Gantz Pantz

For years, larger ladies have found comfort in the fact that while Weight Watchers may not work, they can always fall back on an elasticated 10kg drop, courtesy of Nancy Gantz. What they don’t know, (at least until they own a pair of her products,) is that Nancy grew up torturing  kittens before deciding to move on to humans.









Also great for double chins.

I hope these products never fall into the hands of our enemies, because waterboarding would be a walk in the park compared to a day out in one of these bad boys. “Pliers or Gantz Pantz” they’ll say, laughing maniacally, and before you have a chance to answer they’ve pulled out her patent tummy tuckers, snapped the elastic, and, much like Pavlov’s dogs, the sound alone will make you crap your pants.

There’s so many more, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Without going into details, here are several other blights on humanity’s landscape:

How I Met Your Mother

Lady? Gaga

Bollywood films

Garden gnomes

Any movie J-Lo has ever made


Red Bull ads

It’s not extensive, but I’m a very important person, and I’ve got very important other things to attend to, so that’ll have to do for now.


* Oh, and that kid in Year 4 that stole my pack of chips

It’s not me, it’s you.


Getting out of a bad conversation is a bit like breaking up with someone with whom you’ve had a very brief, very dysfunctional, relationship. “The magic’s gone,” you want to say, “I just don’t think I can do this anymore.” Unfortunately it’s not that simple, because the person you dumped sees you with someone else literally minutes later, which is an offensively short turnaround period, even for a known lothario.

I’ve never bailed on someone just because they’re boring. Enduring killer yawn-fests is a specialty of mine, and I can do some of the most convincing “interested” faces you’ll see this side of Broadway. The reason these conversations are bearable, though, is that the other party is at least throwing the ball back; and I pay that, regardless of how I feel about your new twelve-sided Rubix cube.

Then there’s the other breed – the ones you can’t squeeze anything out of, regardless of how much bait you dangle. These people have the potential to take a beautiful little number like, “I heard you’re running for parliament, that’s great – what kind of changes are you thinking of making when you come into power?” and answer it in under ten seconds. It’s a skill to convey your message with this degree of brevity, but the downside is that you’re only a few words away from sounding like “me Tarzan, you Jane.”

This situation is still not bail-warranting. I enjoy the challenge these people present, and their social graces are such that I doubt they notice the proverbial elephant that is our pathetic attempt at conversation. In fact, even if there was literally an elephant in the room, you probably wouldn’t get much more out of them than “Look – there elephant. Me confused.”

There are really only two situations where I feel like an exit is justified. The first is when there is nothing left for either party to talk about. And I do mean nothing. We both know it, and we’re both frantically shuffling through all known files on the other person trying to find something, anything, to talk about. My desperation was once so great, that I was overjoyed to remember that a member of their family was seriously ill: (enquiries of this nature will buy you at least another five minutes.)

My trademark excuses in this situation are “I’ve gotta go to the loo,” “can I get you a drink?” and, if I’m really stuck, “Is that the time.” None of these are particularly convincing, but I find that the other person is so relieved they’ve found an out, they’d buy it even if you said that your nan had just called from onboard the HMS Cutlass where she was being held for ransom by pirates.

The second pike-worthy situation involves a group of people I refer to as “drifters,” because their nomadic lifestyle means that they camp in a place for only so long as they continue to find the living conditions suitable, and because their eyes kind of roam around the room while you’re talking, landing on anything that’s more interesting.

I think I would rather the drifter just said to me, “I’ve got to go – this is killing me,” because at least they wouldn’t be making a mockery out of both of us: the person who hangs around, on the other hand, has essentially left only a shell behind while the rest of him is teleported somewhere else, somewhere better.

The way to identify a genuine drifter from someone with a lazy eye is to say something like “It’s hard being a nun in the 21st century,” or “I can’t believe I got scoliosis and rabies at the same time.” If they say “uh huh,” or “me too,” you can either stick around and have a bit more fun with them or quietly bail while their attention is elsewhere, so at least when they turn around they’re standing by themselves, dumped, in the middle of the dancefloor.

I’d like to think that I fall into none of the above categories, but, then again, most of the population probably feels the same. The only one I’m positive I’m innocent of is being a drifter: that kind of imagined superiority requires a degree of arrogance I’m incapable of.

Mind you, I was pretty into myself when that guy told me his life wouldn’t be worth living if it weren’t for this blog.*

*This never happened.

10% relevance, 90% Colin Firth. Enjoy.

Yes. Kind of. No. Who?










If auto predict is anything to go by, 95% of the population is gay and the remaining 5% is in denial. Write “is” and then a letter from the alphabet (see above) and bar pretty much the letter X – weird, because Xena, Warrior Princess has always rung bells for me – everyone from A to Z seems to be one margarita away from coming out.

You could be entertained for days sitting in front of the computer typing the beginnings of sentences and waiting to see what Google throws back at you. It’s like pulling back the curtain on society. And then wanting to close that same curtain because you were expecting ocean views and all you got was an empty parking lot with several abandoned trollies.

As amusing as “can I drink my own urine if I get lost in the desert” is – (before or after the water runs out?) the real funny money is on questions that transcend the yes/no confines. Questions like: “will I go to hell for getting a tattoo?” (Yes, says Yahoo’s resident deity, “The Despoiler.”)

This was news to me, and I was eager to see what else The Despoiler knew about the after-life, so I thought I’d send him the following query:

Dear Despoiler,

When I was a young boy, a band of thugs kidnapped me and inked me up against my will. What’s more, they did that early 90s barbed wire around my upper arm which has made me the target of hate crimes. Am I going to hell too? Haven’t I suffered enough? (Also, I killed some people. I’m not sure if this will have any bearing on your decision.)

Unfortunately The Despoiler’s account has been suspended – (thanks for nothing, Yahoo) - so I didn’t get to find out my eternal fate: what I did get, was closure on several more niggling existential questions from retired philosophers “natureluvva99″ and “soul2soul_21.” I was feeling enlightened and ready to go deeper.

So was autopredict. The next search yielded “am I a psycho?” which got me really excited because I’ve always wanted to know whether blaming Haydn Dempsey for wetting his pants in year two when it was actually me was just typical schoolyard behaviour or indication of something more sinister.

I got no definitive answer, and neither would have any budding Bundys, because this link led to the band Tech N9ne’s song of the same name, where some guys tie two victims up in an abandoned house and torture them, it would seem, simply by making them listen to their song.

The problem with the internet, though, is that genuinely great artists can be exposed to senseless personal attacks. Imagine, if you will, Thomas Edison in the age of cyberbullying, getting snarky little messages like “Good one thom-ass” or “Give it up bulb man#epic fail.” We’d all be sitting here in the dark rubbing sticks together and telling “how many men does it take to light a candle” jokes.

Which is why I don’t take the denigration of musical visionaries, such as Des’ree, lightly. I was baffled when I noticed that a large body of people have failed to appreciate her raw genius. Even more so when I saw that her song, “Life,” (arguably, one of the greatest songs of the 90s), consistently dominates internet polls as containing “the worst lyrics of all time.” Yeah, good luck making that stick:

Just in case you didn’t catch the first few verses, it reads:

I’m afraid of the dark

Especially when I’m in a park

And there’s no one else around, ooh, I get the shivers

I don’t want to see a ghost

It’s the sight that I fear most

Rather have a piece of toast, watch the evening news.

Apart from the fact that farmers don’t generally spray butterflies from vintage cropdusters while someone they don’t know hoons around their property annoying the workers, this song is nigh on perfect. What I like is that everyone can relate to this song, because who doesn’t like a bit of toast rather than seeing a ghost, and how many times have people wanted to go the park, if it weren’t so dark. It’s fifteen years on, but I think it’s time for a sequel, maybe with the title “Death,” which can act as a metaphor for finally putting to bed some of those cruel slurs. Enjoy.

I could write another song

Wouldn’t go for very long

Then some bells would go ding dong

And I’d eat polony.

If you’ve just bought my cd

Why don’t you go climb a tree

with a boy whose name is Lee

I’ll go make a spaceship.

It’s catchy, it’s chic, its topical and the thing is that, like Des’ree, the lyrical integrity has not been compromised by my commitment to rhyme. I call her the prophet of our times, someone else thinks quite the opposite. “Des’ree should die” says one guy in the comment section underneath her Youtube video. I bet you anything it’s The Despoiler: No doubt, he thinks you go to hell for writing dodgy lyrics.\

Or don’t.








Second only to my fear of country music is the thought that I may one day feature in a bus stop ad, my belly a timely warning against the dangers of self-indulgence, and so I try, or at least try to try to go to the gym. Sometimes this means that I make it there, but generally I just remind myself that teenagers rely on people like me to feel good about their own body and go back to bed.

Even making it to the gym, though, doesn’t necessarily mean that any exercise will take place. How many times have I grossly underestimated my capacity for sloth and walked in only to catch a whiff of hard work – I’m like a bloodhound in that department – and been forced to utilise what I like to refer to as the “lazyboy pike.”

The lazyboy pike is reserved for those times when a person realises, immediately after being swiped through, that they would rather be swimming through human excrement, (a la Andy Defresne,) than spend another second in the gym. The lazyboy provides a long-awaited alternative to the simple about-turn and exit, which is just too tacky, even for someone that used to have a mullet.

Good times.

Do not be fooled by people going into the changerooms to get changed, have showers, or nick undies from other people’s lockers; the changeroom has been built for the sole purpose of providing its lazier members a means of leaving the gym with their dignity partially intact.

Naturally, you’ve got a bit of time to kill, so it’s important to have a few time-wasters up your sleeve. I like to remove one extraneous piece of clothing immediately, (socks, scarf, jacket etc,) rifle through my bag every now and then looking for my BPA free water bottle, or play some kind of game on my phone. One time I even had a shower: (our last water bill was horrendous, and I like to know that my membership fees are going somewhere.)

For obvious reasons, the changeroom option can only be utilised so many times. It’s all fun and games until you’re pegged as the pervert who comes to the gym just to partially undress and play ultimate tetris.

The second tactic within the lazyboy arsenal is to move immediately to the gym café. Why not this first? The downside of the café option is that it’s usually located close to the front desk, which poses its own unique set of challenges. I like to either wait for the person that swiped me through to go on break, (this may take some time,) or pretend that a friend/boyfriend/colleague is running late and walk out half an hour later mumbling stuff like ‘unreliable’ or ‘last straw.’ In the meantime, order a fruit juice, or something equally virtuous and let the sweet sound of other people working wash over you: by the process of osmosis you should burn some kj’s.

The next technique is called the  “mid-class pike,” which, as the name suggests, is when you feel like leaving halfway through a class. I’ve never actually pulled it off, so it doesn’t really deserve a title but I like to think that when I nail it there’ll be one at the ready.

Considering you actually made the effort to come to class, you’d expect a little more respect from the person leading, or at the very least a measure of discretion. But assumptions are the mother of all fudgeups as the great Steven Seagal once said (in the way that only Steven Seagal can – with a mixture of quiet dignity, a flash of ponytail and a roundhousekick to the side of the face.)

Only public humiliation awaits you at the hands of a jilted instructor, who has clearly taken your mid-class pike personally, as this next example will illustrate. Halfway through a “body jam” class last year, I decided I wanted out, (mostly because I’d just noticed that half the class was wearing those homi-ped-ish black dancing shoes with the spongy heels that scream ‘watch me – I’m a serious dancer’) and realised that I wanted to go back to being a youth ambassador, freeing kids from low self-esteem one doughnut at a time.

I tried to sneak out, but got trapped just as I’d made it to the door. The instructor said, (breathily, because she’d been exercising:) “No, come back sweetie, you’re doing well.” Twenty coordinated faces looked at me with condescension, and I put my keys back down and rejoined the group at the very back, where no one could see me botch the “grapevine,” which is only slightly more difficult than walking.

You’d think that this would be the extent of my humiliation, but at the end I was called up to the front and given a backpack and water bottle for sticking around, and “trying.” It was like getting a merit certificate at school assembly, which everyone knows is for people that aren’t good enough to get an actual reward. The class clapped and one person patted me on the back and said “good on you” while I was packing up.

Prevention is better than cure, so I’ll tell you how to try and avoid either of the pikes. By all means, drive to the gym and see how you feel, but know this: the proximity of your car to the front door is an excellent indicator of your chance for success. Nothing says this isn’t happening like you circling the parking lot for twenty minutes so you don’t have to walk too far to get to the treadmill.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that people with too many Facebook friends are in need of a life.







There are exceptions. Obama, for instance, or Henry Winkler from Happy Days. Other than that, though, I just assume that people with 3000 friends and upwards do nothing else but sit at home all day trying to find friends of friends of people they sat next to on the bus once.

Then again, they may just have a very lax screening process. See, I was once a free spirit, accepting people willy nilly, loving life and laughter. No one was less judicious than me, no one more charitable. And then a dark cloud appeared, hovering over my usually sunny countenance, eventually blocking out all light. That dark cloud’s name was *Barry.

The moment I laid eyes on Barry I knew he was trouble. He had no information other than several questionable ‘interests,’ and an expression similar to those stuffed toys that have fallen in the far corner of the skill-tester machine. The ones that are like, ‘for the love of all that is good and holy, pick me – I’ve been here since the seventies.’ Still, he seemed like a fairly nice guy.

This is exactly what neighbours say to police when they find out that the guy living next door has ten bodies in his basement. Barry did not end up killing me, small mercies, but he gave it his best shot. He was. mental. Right now, in an institution somewhere, this conversation is happening:

Doctor: Have you seen Barry?

Nurse: Barry who?

Doctor: You know. Barry. Looks like one of those stuffed animals in the far corner of a skill tester machine.

Nurse/Barry: A bit like this? Pulls off mask, shoots doctor in leg and runs off, laughing.

His first mistake was writing five vaguely menacing “hey yous” in a row, followed by a string of wingdings and then, hours later, some odd emoticons. I truly believe that in the near future fourth year psych students will be required to take a class called ‘emoticology’ or something to that effect, which will examine the correlation between emoticon use and mental disorder.

It’ll be a kind of 21st century Rorschach test. As part of a patient’s treatment, the therapist will work through a book of emoticons ranging from the most innocuous – the classic smiley, for example - right up to that one where the smiley face is intoxicated, wearing a crown, smoking weed and still managing to wink, from behind his sunglasses. If a person reacts positively towards any on the further end of the spectrum they will be immediately taken away for further examination.

In the end, after receiving constant “wot u up 2 now’s” at 3am (always the same, Barry) and a few “you look nicey’s?” which were less offensive for the grammar than his indecision, I knew it was time to issue him a final warning.

I’d like to think that my message spoke both of my benevolence and my no-nonsense stance. It went something along the lines of “Barry, your behaviour is erratic and disturbing and you are this close (insert google image of man dangling perilously on the edge of a cliff) to being deported,” and then poked him a few times to drive it home.

Barry – alas – fell off the cliff, and the brief pleasure was all his, but his reign of terror did have some impact: every prospective ‘friend’ now undergoes a temporary probation period wherein I assess frequency of posts, turnover of profile pics and quality of status updates in general. I’ve done some shockers in my time, but if someone says “just bought a zucchini – roflmao,” I don’t like their chances.

Rain on your wedding day is just bad luck, Alanis.











I’m crosstitching again.

After a hiatus of 14 years, I’ve flung the craft closet doors wide open and said “come one, come all, and watch me stitch like nobody’s business.” The vehicle that makes this emancipation possible? Irony: that clear unequivocal message that says how cool is it that I’m this pathetic!!!

Finally, no more sewing in the dark like a dirty secret or covert Spotlight ops where I shuffle in, ask for DMC threads in the most opaque bag they’ve got and then sprint out with the same bag over my head. Quite the opposite. Now I saunter in, commandeer one of the loudspeakers at the checkout and say “yo homies, what you got in the way of threads – I’m about to get my stitch on” and then cross my arms like a gang-sta.

A small caveat: one must be doing ironic crosstitch, and in order to do ironic crosstitch, one requires a suitably ironic crosstitch pattern. You start crosstitching rainbows and you’re out; unless it’s a clearly ironic rainbow with a pot of, say, mini rainbows at the end, or it’s got ‘crosstitch for marriage equality’ up top.

In order to safeguard the inherent irony of my work I have been stitching things like tetris ghosts and neon pink dinosaurs, which is super-edgy, because palaeontologists claim that those ones were the first to go. Apparently they punched like girls.

Just as rampant as irony is the ubiquitous woodland creature; so much so that I suspect the next generation will refer to this era as the ‘post-ironic-woodland’ age. From deer to sparrows to foxes – you name it, and it’s been whittled into a badge, hammered into a necklace or printed on a fluoro leotard for extra cool points. The situation is so dire that a trip to Northern America in the near future might be prudent: I have a feeling they’ll soon go the way of the dodo.

In fact, all you’ll be able to do, in twenty years time, when your kids ask you what an owl actually looked like is point to your badge/figurine/necklace/earrings/placard/diary/tattoo and say, “alas, little Johnny, he was all but polished off in 2014, made a resurgence in 2015, came back into fashion in 2016 and died shortly thereafter.”

You know who got the short end of the stick in all this, though, and that is the Southern Red-Backed Vole –a native American woodland mouse which has failed to retain any lasting popularity. Not surprisingly, he is on PETA’s little known “way too unendangered” list. You can’t even get a bookmark of him, and no one is more disappointed than me. He could have been very kitsch and very ironic and you could donate all profits from his sales to saving the rest of his friends.

I’m such a hypocrite, though – if anyone has contributed to the dearth of these animals, it’s me. I just did a mental check in my head, and I have – at the very least – a ceramic owl, a deer crosstitch made by yours truly (see above), a cut-out of a deer lacquered on wood, a swiss clock surrounded by forrest creatures, a sparrow necklace, a vague moosey looking animal on a tshirt,  and a small patch of mould near the ceiling which is very woodlandish.

Still I like to think that the sheer enormity of my collection is an ironic undermining of the phenomenon and a subtle critique of the vices of global capitalism. That, Alanis, is irony.