Daily Life

Articles from my column on Fairfax’s Daily Life website, which has appeared since the website began in 2012.

Why I’ll never be a backpacker

I visited Australia’s most famous beach the other day, and felt like I was overseas, albeit in an odd country where diamond-shaped kangaroo warning signs and keyrings of little thongs with “Bondi” painted on them seemed to be the major currency.

While maps show it as part of Sydney, the reality is that Bondi belongs to the international community. Like Khao San Rd in Bangkok and Arambol in Goa, it’s been utterly colonised by backpackers and the businesses that sell them cheap phonecards and crappy souvenirs.

Read More »Why I’ll never be a backpacker

Hopelessly intimidated by Bunnings

If we all have our own personal hell, uniquely and fiendishly customised to our own preferences, mine will be a Bunnings. An endless Bunnings, with aisle after perplexing aisle, stretching out beyond the horizon on either side with cute little handwritten signs that try and pretend that the company isn’t an enormous corporate monolith, and yet no handy sign pointing me to the one thing I’m looking for, or anybody to help me find it.

In other words, it’ll be exactly like an ordinary Bunnings. Except instead of a few snags on the barbie for a community fundraiser, the demons will be holding a sizzle of sinners’ souls.
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How to decorate so people think you’re amazing

A recent survey of the sort that retailers conduct to make us think about the products they sell found that 48% of Australian men have placed items in their bedroom with the explicit intention to impress prospective sexual partners.

This number almost surprised me, because it would suggest that as few as 52% of Australian men are thoughtless boors. Except that this figure is challenged by the additional information that the items left out to try and impress prospective partners included surfboards and medals, both of which are entirely wrong unless your surfboard has been sprayed by Banksy or your medal is displayed for reasons of irony, because you won the medal for Being A Li’l Aussie Trier (Despite No Conspicuous Merit At Anything) in Year Two. It’s probably also okay if you’re a war hero or Olympian.Read More »How to decorate so people think you’re amazing

Why on earth do people take camping holidays?

There are some people whose idea of a holiday is having to do everything for yourself. These people find it relaxing to go to a place where you have to perform an even more time-consuming version of your everyday domestic chores, with vastly inferior equipment and no dishwasher. And these same people, rather than sinking their tired bodies into a comfy bed or sofa at the end of an arduous bit of travelling, would rather build an annoyingly elaborate shelter for themselves before they can so much as close their eyes for a few moments.

These people are called campers, and they are wrong.Read More »Why on earth do people take camping holidays?

In defence of the Daggy Friend

Keira+Knightley+Stars+Film+Can+Song+Save+Life+5Q0zf_Oswo7lKeira Knightley sings in her new movie, and is really quite good. No, honestly. And even if they did AutoTune her vocals to bits, I’d have to say that they did a great job. She sounds a lot better than Scarlett Johannsson covering Tom Waits, at least.

The film’s called Begin Again, and it’s deliberately adorable. Keira plays Greta, a shy singer-songwriter who, at the start of the film, is dating her college sweetheart and fellow singer Adam Levine, who’s headed to New York to make it big.

Well, he’s called Dave in the movie, but he’s a twit with an implausibly high voice, so it’s just Adam Levine beneath the tiniest of cinematic fig leafs, really.

Read More »In defence of the Daggy Friend

Did I waste my youth by not being wasted?

640px-Sensation_White_08.03.2008_015In my early twenties, there was a brief, glorious period when I went to dance parties. Raves, they used to be called, if my fading memory serves. They were so cool, I thought; and so, briefly, I was so cool – even though, in hindsight, tickets were on sale to the general public.

My approach was to have a drink or two along with copious, overpriced bottles of water, and dance until dawn while hoping the lighting was dim enough to hide the mediocrity of your dancing. In fact, I think that’s why the strobe light was invented, to make it impossible to see dancers in motion. I’ve always been very grateful.Read More »Did I waste my youth by not being wasted?

Ten things I learned travelling with kids

jarjarOver the Easter break, I went travelling with my four-year-old nephew and one-year-old niece. (And their parents, obviously.) I thought it’d be a wonderful chance for some family time, and it was, but in many respects it was a handy reminder that there’s plenty of upside in the fact that I can still travel solo. Because parenting is always harder than I realise, and parenting while travelling is harder still.

And yes, I know that I’ve written before about how much I’d like to be a father. Yeah, um, about that. Let’s just say that while I’m sure that dandling my own child on my knee would be brilliant in lots of ways, I now realise that having young children would make one of my favourite activities a far trickier proposition.
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Of men and… makeup

DCF 1.0If you ask a management consultant how to grow a business, they’ll have two broad strategies for you. (I know this because I was one once, albeit for only long enough to learn how to make PowerPoint slides and drink too many ‘bonding’ tequila shots.) You can convince your existing customers to spend more, either by increasing their consumption or up-selling them to more expensive products, or you can grow your customer base.

And now that you’ve read that, I’ll be invoicing you for $10,000.

More specifically, if you asked a management consultant how to make the beauty industry more profitable, they’d probably tell you that lots of people already spend a huge amount of money on a great many expensive products, so the best bet for expansion would be to target people who don’t currently buy cosmetics – the great unwashed, so to speak – or at least uncleansed, unmoisturised and untoned.

Read More »Of men and… makeup

What ho, Jeeves, monocles are back!

Neville ChamberlainApparently monocles are back in. Yes, really. Men, I’m assured, are deliberately leaving the house with a tiny circle of glass chained around their neck so they can squint through it, wilfully ignoring the decades of heady success that the optometry industry has had with stereoscopic glasses.

It’s highly likely that waistcoats and pince-nez are back too, and probably even spats and plus fours, as privileged young men the world over have begun to blow their (parents’) hard-earned income on fashion items that were once found in the voluminous wardrobe of Bertie Wooster, or perhaps even Little Lord Fauntleroy.

This part of the ‘young urban male’ or ‘yummy’ phenomenon, something that definitely exists and is not just one of those awkward media labels written by lifestyle writers desperate to identify a new trend, although it definitely is that as well.Read More »What ho, Jeeves, monocles are back!

How to be a knight (or dame) by someone who already is

This week, the Prime Minister announced that he has restored the imperial system of honours – something he was apparently able to do unilaterally, subject to the Queen’s approval, a curious reminder for anybody who might have forgotten that we do indeed live in a monarchy. But it’s been several decades since we last had any newly-minted knights and dames, and those who do still live among us are advancing in years.

Consequently, there are not many people in our community with the suitable heraldic knowledge to induct our new honorees into the chivalrous ways and rich traditions of the knighthood.

Hence, as a proud member of a family who have been Knights for many generations, I proudly offer my expertise to all knights, dames, and would-be knights and dames who might be looking to pull up their imperial socks ahead of the receipt of such a pre-eminent honour.Read More »How to be a knight (or dame) by someone who already is