Monthly Archives: January 2014

The tag on this shirt is scratchy: and other reasons why I can’t watch scary movies

I can’t stand scary movies. I hate them. And hate is not a word I use lightly.

In fact, I don’t handle ‘adult themes’ of any kind in movies or TV shows. Husband Bill used to think it a cute quirk of mine, until he realised that we would never be able to watch anything other than rom-coms or children’s movies. Never. Ever.

OK, I do try to be brave sometimes. Like the time I agreed to watch Breaking Bad. Friends had raved about it so I thought I’d give it a go. I cooked up a tasty lasagna for dinner and we sat down to watch. Episode 1, bearable. Episode 2, a man’s decomposing body falls through the ceiling. The man’s decomposing body looks a lot like lasagna. Needless to say Bill had to watch the rest of Breaking Bad on his own.

I’ve always wondered how Bill can watch scary movies without batting an eyelid, where I turn into a crying blubbering mess that can’t sleep for days because I’m worried there’s a serial killer under our bed.

I read an interesting article on PsychCentral called Why Some People Love Horror Movies While Others Hate Them that references the work of Glenn Sparks. The following explained it all so clearly:

Specifically, some individuals have a harder time screening out unwanted stimuli in their environment, Sparks said. For instance, they might be hypersensitive to the temperature in a room or the tag on their shirt. These same individuals are more likely to have intense physiological reactions to horror films.

I cut off all the tags from my shirts! And the temperature of rooms is the lead cause of arguments between Bill and me (other than what we would do with a lottery win and whether he should be listening to me instead of watching the cricket.) This PsychCentral article really struck a chord.

When I see this I get drawn into her world. Photo by Anurag Jain -

When I see this I get drawn into the girl’s world. Photo by Anurag Jain –

If Bill and I watch a movie at home, even if it’s something quite tame like Star Trek or a crappy rom-com, I need time to digest the movie afterwards. As soon as the credits begin to roll, Bill changes the channel and begins swearing at the captain of his fantasy football team. How is that possible? I’m still caught up in the moment of the movie, even if it’s the predictable, boring ending that 99% of rom-coms have. I am still feeling pain for the jilted lover, exhileration for the reunited couple, and worry for the pet dog that starred heavily in the opening scenes but seems to have been left at home for the past 3 weeks while the couple chase each other across state. I can’t just let that go and suddenly move onto a football game!

As the PsychCentral article says: I have physiological reactions to films. I get drawn in. My palms sweat, I clench my jaw, I cry, I laugh, I scream. The movie and characters become my world for 130 minutes and my usual self is left behind. But for those thick-skinned people like Bill, he watches the movie and thinks nothing more than ‘well, that was a movie!’

Scary movies simply aren’t for me. I do not want to be drawn into that world of ghosts and ghouls and serial killers.

Even the pic I’ve chosen for this blog post freaks me out. Enjoy it while it lasts; I may very soon need to change it to a picture of a kitten.


Filed under BLOG: The Duchess of Charlestown

The Herald Short Story Competition 2013 (second place winner)

Scanned version of newspaper hard-copy

Scanned version of newspaper hard-copy (click image to view)

My short story, entitled ‘The Deepest of Blues’, won second prize in the Newcastle Herald’s Summer Short Story competition (2013). It was printed in hard copy on Friday 24th January 2014. Winners were announced on 26th January 1014.

My prize was a $200 voucher from MacLean’s Booksellers and a 12-month Hunter Writers Centre membership.

Read my piece online here:


Filed under Published pieces

Walking the flowers while watering the dog: why multi-tasking doesn’t work

I used to see a lot of multi-tasking at work. It was never a good thing. But since being home looking after baby Prince G, I realise there’s even more multi-tasking going on around here at home. And I must say I am not a fan.

Husband Bill loves to multi-task.

He thinks he’s real good at it too. Checking Facebook while watching the cricket. Renewing our insurance over the phone while on the computer. Watching the cricket while eating toast. Checking Facebook, while on the phone, while watching the cricket, while eating toast AND agreeing to ‘have that talk’ with me about some parenting/relationship/our-future-in-general topic that I obviously take much more seriously than he does.

These talks don’t go well. They usually become an argument about whether he was listening and where his wife happens to fall in the order of priorities of cricket, the insurance lady Tania (pronounced Tar-ni-ya), toast and about 100 Facebook friends. By the end, I usually forget what the original ‘talk’ was about.

Not that I can say I’m any better at multi-tasking. My nan can always tell when she’s on the phone and I’m cooking dinner (‘What’s that noise? Are you opening an oven?’). Then there was the time I was so engrossed in an episode of Selling Houses Australia (it was the all important reveal!) that I didn’t realise I was re-hanging all the dry clothes back on the indoor clothes horse.

So why do we insist on multi-tasking?

What implications does this have on the output quality of what we’re doing and more importantly, our actual enjoyment of those things?

We insist on multi-tasking for the following three reasons:

1. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.

True. There are never enough hours in each day, so we do things in tandem in the hope that everything will be done quicker. The words ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ are so often used together, but in the case of multi-tasking they are worlds apart. Increased efficiency leads to decreased effectiveness. Watson almost takes a wicket: Bill spills peanut butter down his shirt. It’s hump-day on the Chive: insurance lady Tania (pronounced Tar-ni-ya) leaves Prince G off the policy. I cradle the phone between my ear and shoulder: I end up dropping my nan into the bubbling pot of potato and leek soup. A more effective way to make soup? I think not.

2. The technology to multi-task is always at our fingertips.

Mobile phones have made multi-tasking way too tempting. Checking your phone has become an addiction. It used to be when you saw someone smoking, everyone around you would light up also. Now it’s all about the phones. Do this little experiment next time you’re somewhere relatively mobile free: pull out your phone and look really excited about what’s on the screen. You’ll find a dozen others whipping theirs out too in the hope that someone from high school has liked the photo they posted of their labrador in reindeer ears.

3. Doing just one thing at a time is boring.

Try looking at the flower instead of snapping it – Photo by Frank Lindecke at

What happened to the days of getting enjoyment out of just one thing? Or even enjoyment from nothing? My great grandmother used to sit on a hard chair at the kitchen table all day waiting for her son to come home from work. When he offered to put the wireless on she told him he was being ridiculous. Who needs the radio!? She had everything she needed right there, and what she needed was nothing. These days we can’t even wait at a table for 30 seconds without getting out the phone to WhatsApp our lunch date to ask where she is, Tweet something funny about how waiting numbs the brain, check-in to the restaurant via Facebook and send an Instagram photo of the flower on the table that wasn’t very pretty to start with but with an antique filter and a white border could pass as a work of art.

All this multi-tasking means we are no longer enjoying the moment.

We miss the finer things in life. We never get to relax. Our lives are made way too public to people who don’t really care but who are having a ‘talk’ with their partner and might as well multi-task by liking that photo of the flower you just posted.

Try this. Just once.

Switch off the phone. And I mean switch it off. Not just hide it in your handbag or turn it to vibrate. OFF. Watch a whole episode of Selling Houses Australia and ring your nan back when it’s over. Eat your toast at the kitchen table. Listen to your partner.

And admire the actual flower on the restaurant table for a full 30 seconds. Without the antique filter and white border, you will be surprised at just how beautiful it can be.


Filed under BLOG: The Duchess of Charlestown

More money, more problems: why I don’t want to win the lottery.

‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.’ That’s husband Bill speaking and if you’re following my writing you’ll know it’s something he says often. Especially to me.

‘It’s true,’ I say, ‘I hope we don’t win.’

We are sitting at the table and Bill is hunched over a 10-number auto pick ticket with a pen, marking off the lottery numbers that have just been drawn.

His eyes bug out of his head. ’70 million dollars! How could you honestly say you don’t want that? We can get a fancy house, a fancy car… I’d get a kick-arse boat with a crew!’

‘It’ll just cause problems. And it’s not like I’m unhappy right now.’

What would it be like to win 70 million dollars?

Bill puts down his pen for a moment, leans back in his chair and folds his hands behind his head.

‘For one, I’d buy us a massive house. Big enough for us and Baby Prince G and all the dogs you want. On the waterfront.’

I shrug. ‘Crime’s pretty high there. We’d have to start locking the front door. And a big house sounds hard to clean.’

‘We’d get a cleaner! And a security guard. Hell, we’d get 5 security guards! And a black Mercedes C63, but I’d never have to clean it either ‘cause I’d get a car man to look after it.’

I take it this Mercedes C63 has room for the Prince G’s car seat?

‘Hell no! Babies aren’t allowed in the coupe! He can come in the Lamborghini. A yellow one. He’d like that. But that would be for Sunday drives only… it’d be too nice to park in town. So we’d need a round-the-town car.’

He picks the pen up again, and goes back to marking off numbers.

‘There’s no way you’d be happy with a cleaner. They’d never do a good enough job.’

‘If they didn’t I’d sack them.’

You’d spend your days hiring and firing staff?

‘That sounds painful. It’d be a fulltime job just doing that!’

‘Think of all the awesome holidays and parties we’d have. We could tell everyone to come away with us for a week on our yacht!’

‘They’d have to find babysitters and get time off work… that wouldn’t happen.’

I feel tired just thinking of all the responsibility. I feel pretty tired to start with. I suspect Prince G might be teething. And 70 million isn’t going to stop that.

Would I have to start wearing make-up?

‘I couldn’t be a passenger in a Lamborghini dressed like this?’ I look down at my baggy pajama pants and Bill’s old t-shirt.

I shudder at the thought of having to move my personal appearance up my ladder of priorities. You could say I like my comforts.

‘You see Bill, money would not make me any happier. And that’s the goal here, right? I have everything I could possibly need, right here. A nicer house and a few more holidays would be good.’

But it’s not like they’d make me significantly happier.

I recently read on Wait But Why an article about why Gen Y are unhappy. The bit that stuck for me was that happiness occurs when your reality is better than your expectations, and sadness is when your expectations are higher than your reality. The 70 million would certainly increase expectations, but the improvement on reality couldn’t be guaranteed.

I have an idea. ‘In fact, what’d make me happier is donating 65 million to charity and helping thousands of people instead.’ The other 5 million I could handle without having to hire staff or alienate my friends.

Bill rolls his eyes.

To say we have differing thoughts on charity donations is an understatement.

I hope I don’t win! Photo by Upupa4me at

‘But Kitty,’ he says ‘the best thing of all is that we’d never have to work again!’

I put my elbows on the table and rest my chin in my hands. ‘I reckon I’d keep working. I like my job.’

I almost see the steam rise from Bill’s ears.

‘Now that,’ he says, ‘is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!’

He grunts and throws the pen down on the table with a clatter.

‘It doesn’t matter anyway. We didn’t win a thing.’

I actually feel relieved.

But I don’t tell him that. I’ve stirred him up enough for one night.

I simply stand up, kiss him goodnight on the forehead and head off to bed.


Filed under BLOG: The Duchess of Charlestown