Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986


I am building a chicken hutch. With power tools. It is tremendously ensmuggening. If Rambo and Wonder Woman had a baby, that baby would grow up and be me building a chicken hutch.

The best part? It impresses Rowan greatly. When I began she was following me around saying in escalating tones of worry “Um, Mummy? Not to be rude at all, but don’t you think you should wait until Daddy gets home? Are you serious about building a chicken hutch? You’re a twenty-nine-year-old woman! This isn’t going to end well! Won’t Daddy be mad if you wreck his wood? Are you allowed to use his tools?”

For the record, the wood in question was salvaged by me from a building-site dumpster (while wearing circle skirt, no less); and while the tools (a DeWalt multitool on heavy discount) were indeed bought by Daddy, they were bought on my advice because I knew I’d want to cut drywall at some point. Not to mention that Daddy’s experience with hutch-building is as null as my own. So, y’know. There’s legitimate acknowledgment of broad gender differences, and then there’s just being a git, pig.

Three days later, she stares at me in frank admiration while I wield the screwdriver and says “Wow, I didn’t know you had such skills!”

To be clear: I’m not saying her awe is entirely justified by results. At one point she and Miles were helping carry the half-completed hutch into the carport and a vital component fell off… for instance. And the lines have a sort of casual, hand-drawn quality, due to my cutting out hardboard with a tiny hand-held oscillating drywall-cutter instead of, say, a table saw. And the mitring on the A-frame has a certain ventilated, let’s-all-give-each-other-some-personal space aesthetic which doesn’t bode well for longevity. Plus I almost gave myself a C-section in a moment of slippage because I don’t have any clamps.

But still. As far as Rowan is concerned, I am Rosie the Riveter, mallet-twirling lumberjill who don’t need no man. I am now basking in the ill-defined but gratifying expectation that she will grow up changing her own tyres, kung-fuing muggers and pursuing a profitable STEM career. All because of me.

Food blogs

My word, I’m glad I don’t have a food blog. I just tried out a recipe for one of those magic self-layering custard cakes, and she had seventeen comments. A couple were of the inane but harmless “Ooooh that looks so yummy I just gained 5 pounds!” kind, which annoy me simply because they clutter up the screen when I’m hunting for actual reviews which might tell me something useful, like ‘not enough cocoa’ or ‘despite the purple prose, this is actually a limp, pallid run-of-the-mill biscuit which looks awful without a 70s amber filter’. Incidentally, it’s amazing how few people, even on popular food blogs, actually seem to make the recipes. Look at Pioneer Woman’s comment section sometime – literally thousands of comments, and you can scroll until your finger turns blue past masses of gushing comments without finding a single person who says it tastes, rather than looks, divine. (Or ‘devine’, which is a whole ‘nother aneurysm.)

But it wasn’t those comments which bugged me today. It was the demanding ones which presumed that this poor woman, running a very minor Turkish food blog which was clearly not her day job, was a) equipped and b) willing to cover every possible eventuality and permutation of the recipe, as well as answering basic questions that could be resolved with a three-second trip to Google.

You know the kind. “Would this recipe work with GF flour?” How should she know? It’s not a gluten-free blog. She doesn’t have gluten-free recipes. Even if she did, “GF flour” is a virtually meaningless term; and even if she knew what kind the commenter meant, is it really likely that she’d say “Gosh, dunno!”, dash out and buy some, and whip up a few batches in the kitchen just to see? Come on, people.

Ditto “would this recipe work at high altitude?” Dude, if you live on the Himalayas, figuring out the vagaries of stratospheric cooking is on you. How would she know? If the principles are simple, you should be able to apply them to most recipes. If they’re tricky and recipe-dependent, she’s not gonna be able to answer the question without voyaging to a mountain peak, and expecting her to do that is just nuts.

Or “What kind of sugar do you mean by ‘sugar’?” I’ve seen this one a lot, and while it staggers me a little that people don’t know ‘sugar’ refers to plain old white granulated sugar (or ‘flour’ to plain white flour, if it comes to that), at least I guess it might be somewhat tricky to Google, phrasing-wise. Not so with ‘What’s 110 grams butter???’ which was asked by two people out of the seventeen in panicky, aggrieved tones. Good grief. How is it more efficient to wait for a long-suffering part-time blogger to respond to that, than simply googling ‘convert 110 grams butter into ounces’ (or cups, or sticks, or poods, or whatever the cool kids are using these days)? How?

And I’ve seen worse. People complaining that the recipe didn’t work out and in the next breath proudly admitting that they cut the sugar down to a teaspoon, replaced the butter with applesauce, swapped the chocolate chips for craisins and used egg-replacer. (Actually, it’s almost more aggrieving when they do that and claim it did work. It didn’t. They’ve just acclimatised themselves to believing compost is a dessert.) People piously demanding to change the teaspoon of whiskey in a recipe to orange juice for the sake of their immortal souls, while splashing vanilla essence about without a hint of irony. People demanding that recipes be converted into Imperial, metric, GF, DF, GAPS, sugar-free, nut-free, soy-free and vegan versions as a matter of course. People freaking out because the recipe says to use a 30 cm by 20 cm tin and theirs is 18 cm by 23 cm. People complaining… on baking blogs… about the shocking fact that recipes contain fat and sugar.

I mean, get a grip, people. Putting up a recipe online is a kindness. A free kindness. It does not obligate the author to spend the rest of her natural life hand-holding morons who want to know if using the wrong brand of butter will make their cake explode. Nor to coach them on the basics of metric-to-Imperial, Celsius-to-Fahrenheit or weight-to-volume conversions. Nor to acquire a vast set of arcane culinary knowledge in order to accommodate those who wish to bake in space, on a wood fire, or in a transdimensional rift where the Maillard reaction causes fatal temporal hernias. Still less does it require her to endlessly re-test and tweak the recipe according to her readers’ infinite dietary, religious, ethical and ingredient-availability preferences.

I certainly agree that it’s nice, if you have a food blog, to have a few helpful features – an ingredient conversion feature (or one format bracketed in the ingredients list itself) and a ‘print this recipe’ feature which eliminates the photos and preamble, say. And there are a few excellent bloggers who turn random questions into thoughtful and illuminating posts about food science – Joe Pastry, for instance. And for those looking to made a buck on their blog and become the next Smitten Kitchen, I suppose they can’t afford to wound their precious clientele by telling them to figure it out for themselves. But still. It must annoy them. I know it annoys David Lebovitz – he’s talked about getting frustrated after working very hard to develop a recipe just-so, only to be inundated with “But what if I used X instead of Y?” requests. (And there was that woman who rang him up late at night to tell him that his cookies took a minute longer to cook than his recipe book suggested. Fun.)

I got a taste of it once when I wrote an article for a blog about drafting a dirndl skirt. Everything from people wanting to give me basic sewing lessons to people wanting me to draft a personalised pattern for them. And of course I lost the will to care ten minutes after posting it, and could only stare slack-jawed at the screen wondering why people thought I was their personal unpaid seamstress/designer/tutor.

On the other hand I once had three hundred comments on an article I did about henna, and thoroughly enjoyed answering innumerable questions. But that was some years ago, before I was soured on humanity. Virtual humanity, at any rate; I was soured on actual humanity long before that, thanks to years of making milkshakes for high school girls. (“Can I have a large mega-choc shake, but can you make it with skim milk? Because I’m getting SO fat. You guys, I so am! I’m getting so fat!”) So perhaps it is just curmudgeonliness talking.

On a brighter note, then: Rowan has invented a poem, or chant. It goes like this: “Knock knock! Who’s there? Unofficial Little Bear!” I don’t get it, but I like it.

A Preview

I am going to make our fortunes.

Remember how back in the day, shady figures acquired their billions by selling pet rocks, Tamagotchis and sea-monkeys? Well, I have the new big thing.


They’re little shrink-wrapped toes, see, and you buy them individually and rehydrate them to see which toe they are. The aim, of course, is to collect all ten, preferably in the same skin-tone, though who am I to judge? Kids will swap them with their friends. The appeal will be in the mix of chance, skill and choice necessary to completing a set – the Amputoes will be engineered so that longer soaking will produce a pruny effect, for them that wish it. Similarly, children will be able to decide whether they want curly little toes, second toes longer than the first, hairy toes, smooth toes… the possibilities are as varied as beautiful humanity.

Then, aside from the basic set, there will be expansion packs – the Athlete’s Foot Edition, for instance, tapping into today’s zombie-crazed youth market – and collector’s editions modelled after the toes of famous fictional and historical figures – Frodo, Lincoln, Kevin Spacey and the like. Pedicure sets will be available in everything from classic French manicure to Spiderman. A foot base with little spikes will hold the toes; alternatively, they could be strung on necklaces or placed on a whimsical little couch. All these products will be advertised by anthropomorphised Amputoes – spokestoes, if you will – from the happy-go-lucky hero Bunion to the evil, mustachioed Hangnail. And kids will keep buying, foot after foot, in the hopes of getting the one-in-ten-thousand Amputhumb, the presentation of which will garner them prizes in the form of expansion packs, accessories, Amputoe comic books and so forth.

Amputoes. You heard it here first.


Does your flock scatter in the breeze?


Are your smaller, edge-dwelling penguins prone to being carried off by ice weasels?


Does your Arctic art installation keep wandering off?



“Since PENGUIN VELCRO™ allowed me to trial vertical penguin-farming, my profits have increased by 300% per quarter. It’s also really freed up space in my chest freezer.”

-Rob, 34

“When Lady Gaga asked me to design her a dress for the Grammys the same week there was a strike at the tripe factory, I was about ready to end it all. PENGUIN VELCRO™ came to my rescue, and now I plan to live long enough to see my ex-husband go to trial for the plagiarism of an anime botanical guide.”

-Tiffanee, 41, Pisces

“I know it voids the warranty, but when I adapted PENGUIN VELCRO™ for my preemies, I found it so much easier to keep track of them. By moving each quadruplet to the left of the queue once I’d fed her, I always knew who was due for her Nesquik. I think my wife would have been proud.”

-Dan, 33, featured listing on

“I was marooned on Stewart Island once. PENGUIN VELCRO™ allowed me to stop seeing the local yellow-eyed penguins as a temporary food source, and start seeing them as a life raft. I can honestly say PENGUIN VELCRO™ saved my life.”

-Fern, 28, Marfan Syndrome

PENGUIN VELCRO™ comes in the traditional black and white and a more racially sensitive ombre. Seal-repellent; gluten-free; manufactured according to a diplomatic balance between dolphin-friendliness and economic considerations benefiting YOU, the consumer.

You, the consumer.

Don’t be a wibbling nancy – order PENGUIN VELCRO™ today!

A Business Thought

If I were to sell chloroform-impregnated hankies and cayenne smelling salts in a combo pack, I would not only become rich but provide an endless diversion for the bored.


1. Tuesday was hatching day.

It was uneventful.

Then again, Tiny Miles was eight days late, and look at him.

So we wait. Well, I wait. Helpdesk Man snickers. And in fact, because in my heart of hearts a seed of doubt is growing, I haven’t been checking on the eggs that often; so it’s probably just as well if they don’t hatch, or we could have a horrible riff on the Humane Mouse Trap Incident.

In other news, how would one hypothetically inter a non-viable egg with respect, decorum and minimal stench? Boiling them would presumably nullify the risk of explosion, but it seems cavalier.

2. Today Helpdesk Man sent an email out to his list in which he used me as a metaphor for when a business relationship goes sour and you have to fire a client. And all because I gave him a richly-deserved knee to the groin under the pretense of giving him a hug. One time. They don’t make men like they used to [photo of Cary Grant, or possibly Indiana Jones – they certainly don’t make Indiana Jones like they used to, innit].

3. Rowan has developed a recent obsession with the Holocaust. Specifically, she listens to Track 1 of the Schindler’s List theme song five times a day, sighing at the end of each rendition and saying “Poor Jews”. Tiny Miles was singing it in the car the other day. I’m not sure how this happened.

4. This evening I was slightly sad for no particular reason. (“Did you have your drugs?” Yes, Mother, I did.) Did I Facebook, I should have posted a vague and angsty status update, trolling for Likes. I drew a ‘stache on my face, but it didn’t help. I considered carbs, but there were none. I listened to the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl”, which helped a bit, but only temporarily. I sent Helpdesk Man out to get me some Bundaberg creaming soda, but there was none to be had.

Not to worry. I plan to retire early and read a scintillating biography of Anne Boleyn, which takes the rash but compelling view that she was no better than she should be. Henry wrote rubbish love letters, incidentally. He drew hearts with initials in them at the bottom, and they were wonky. Goes to show.

5. The most exciting thing that happened to me recently was a saleslady being particularly rude to me during a mystery shop. Come to think of it, a lot of strangers have been rude to me lately. What does it mean? I was alone that time, so it wasn’t like the pig was insulting the colour of her baby or anything; and I was perfectly pleasant. Curious. Then again, I found a piece of cheese in my hair this afternoon – I hadn’t been eating it – so it’s possible she was just aggrieved at me for lowering the tone.

Produced Meticulous

1. I am ill. At first I thought it was going to be kind of nice – a chance to slob around in pyjamas for a few days, watching girly movies and eating comfort food. Then I spent a sleepless night leaking from the face and aching in the teeth, plaintively asking Helpdesk Man for the wheatie bag, only to have him say “Mm” and go back to sleep; while Miles, sleepily aware that I might not be around for long, decided to top up on milks every ten minutes, just in case.

Then Helpdesk Man, instead of saying “Oh, wife of my manly bosom, allow me to make you soup and spirit away your children to the nearest park so that you may sleep amid rose petals and dream of unicorns”, decided to get one of his tension headaches; so we spent the day limply passing the baby back and forth, saying “You have to take him, I think I’m going to fall down” and “Hold this, I have to excise a polyp”, etc.

We are currently still conscious, but I make no guarantees. If I die, use my ashes to make a fine roux.

2.Regarding vegetarianism, I have only this to say: you don’t see food companies struggling to make their meat taste more like tofu. “Natural Tofu Flavour”, they don’t say. “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Nuttolene” is conspicuously absent from the butchery aisle. “Artificial TVP” isn’t even a thing. That should tell you something.

It reminds me of the time an acquaintance flirted with vegetarianism for no good reason. No, really. It wasn’t anything to do with ethics or carbon footprints or health concerns, or even a dislike of meat. He’d moved to London, and in his own words, “it’s so easy there’s no reason not to be” – a frankly staggering claim. I mean,London has a population of ninety billion; it’s probably easy enough to be a gluten-free, tree-nut-free one-legged author of if-Harry-Potter-were-set-in-Haiti fanfiction, if you want to. There’d be funding and everything. That doesn’t mean you should hunt out the chainsaw and start looking up the Haitian word for “Quidditch”.

So anyway, we all considered this a harmless quirk until we had a dinner at our place, and the perpetrator – I’ll call him Waggles the Sheep-Dog – having heard me rant about the evils of tofu, was all “No, if it’s done right tofu is really nice. Tell you what, I’ll bring along a tofu cheesecake.”

Now, cheesecake is the worst possible thing in the world to tofufy. The entire point of a cheesecake is that it is made with cream cheese: rich, creamy, fatty and delicious. Tofu is none of those things. I don’t know who thought it would make an acceptable substitute. It is, I suppose, a vaguely similar colour. That’s not much to go on. You could make a similar case for putty, toothpaste, mayonnaise, etc, and all of those would taste about as good.

But being well-brought-up and meek in the face, I said “K”, sadly sadly.

If he had merely brought along the offending dish, it would have been OK – I could have tactfully avoided it. But what did Waggles the Sheep-Dog do but turn up with two – a lemon  one and a chocolate one. And with a big, beaming just-you-wait-and-see grin, he said “One of these has got tofu in it, and I bet you can’t guess which.”

Intriguing, I thought; a bold claim; and turned back to my chocolate mousse. And then he put a slice of each in my bowl and watched triumphantly while I tasted them.

The first one tasted, as tofu is wont to do, like dank cardboard. The second one tasted like slightly cocoaier dank cardboard. He was right; I couldn’t tell which one was worse. But I am, as previously mentioned, well-brought-up; so “Dude, what misbegotten old hag gave you the yak milk to make Cheesecake Number Two?” didn’t seem like the appropriate response. Reluctantly, I admitted that I could not tell the difference.

At which point, Waggles the Sheep-Dog grinned smugly and said “They were BOTH tofu!” And that was the moment I fully embraced the doctrine of total depravity.

3. Today I went to a training session for a part-time, menial, oh-well-it’s-money-although-not-a-lot-of-it job at the Academic Dress Hire place. Due to my brain oozing out my sinuses I accidentally turned up forty-five minutes early, so I went for a drive to the Chinese fruit and veggie/grocer and spent a pleasant half-hour perusing its comestibles.

Asian packaged food intrigues me. It seems to revel in its fakeness. Not that Western junk food exactly conjures up earthworms and mulch*, but Asian junk food gives the impression of having been constructed entirely in a factory – one lot of plastic goop becoming the containers, another the contents. And where a Kiwi company would call the resulting product Mrs Betty’s Grainy Goodness-Bites. Asian companies tell it like it is: Vegetable-Flavoured Wheat Snack, or Fried Gluten Ball. I like it; it’s respectful. It’s as if they say “Consumer, we may be charging you a 400% markup on a morsel of puffed, genetically modified grain smothered in MSG, but at least we have the conscience to make you face the issue. This is a rubbish source of dietary fibre, no picturesque barnyards were involved in the making of it, and you’re going to die an early death by frustrated colon. Here’s a prepubescent girl grinning at a cartoon kitten.”

At any rate, wandering up and down the aisles gave me great joy. I found chrysanthemum-flavoured soft drinks, Candied Wild Jujube, nude pretzel sticks and Yolk Flavoured Pudding Powder. One bag of herby-smelling stuff had minimal English labelling – nothing so gauche as the contents, but a brand – “Old Herbalist Doctor” – and the assurance that it was “Produced Meticulous”. I hesitated over the Pork Floss, refrained from buying a tray of dumplings when I learned they contained Chicken Essence, and considered buying the Maple Syrup Pies, which promised me “boundless merriment” as well as a percentage of real maple syrup; but then, they also claimed to be pies, when the picture on the box clearly showed biscuits, so I didn’t feel they could be trusted. I ended up wimping out and merely buying an apple soda (“No Chemical Ingredients”). It tasted vile, but interestingly so, at least.

Then I went back to the Dress Hire place and learned that the long point of a trencher goes at the back, and international students cannot be trusted. So it was kind of a mixed day, cultural-awareness-wise.

*Speaking of that, today at lunch the snortlepig looked at her chip and asked me “Mummy, what are chips of?” I didn’t quite get what she meant, until she said impatiently “You know, like ducks or rhinos – what are they from?” I said “Oh… potatoes”, and explained the process; but I mean, whaaa? “Ducks or rhinos”? Why not “chickens or cows”? Our diet isn’t that eclectic.


Today I spent a merry four and a half hours scrutineering NZQA exams for a boys’ high school, in return for a chunk of money that sounded generous until I was doing it. I think I strode about ten miles. I handed out innumerable tissues, prevented who knows how many acts of Dishonesty and Abetting, and earned the respect of one callow youth when I forgot my place as I was making him fill out the Toilet Roll and muttered “Sorry, I know it’s a bit fascist”.

Matters arising:

1. I’d forgotten that I quite like teenage boys; so many of them mean well. I’d been expecting a bunch of reeking, flatulent yokels – and, granted, after the first thirty minutes you could have cut the fug with a knife – but many of them looked up at me with earnest “I can’t think of the name of that author” faces, intent and free of malice, and it was sort of touching. Also, despite their no doubt numerous flaws, they were undisputably not teenage girls, and that is a virtue indeed. Which brings me to point 2:

2. I am old. Some of those young varmints were, like, ten years younger than me. A decade younger. Yet still the size of a tank. I was still a good fifteen years younger than most of the other scrutineers, some of whom had children in high school themselves; but that still left me in the oldest ten per cent of the room. I wasn’t sure if I should wear a Batman T-shirt next time to appear accessible and with-it, or just skewer a tight bun to my head with hairsticks and go with it. I do have hairsticks and don’t have a Batman T-shirt, so I might as well embrace my decreptitude. Still, though. Depressing.

3. It is a very tragic thing to watch a boy hand in his papers as soon as the first 45 minutes are up and he can legally go. A fair few of them did, either with quiet despair, or a jaded air of “I’ve put in my time, the world can ask no more of me”. I wanted to exhort them to think of the wife and chillun, and one of the scrutineers said that she always asks “Are you sure?” in meaningful tones, but I doubt it helps.

4. While stalking down the rows, I read snippets over their shoulders. It was fun. “The author creates tension by…”; “The movie “Inception” is about…”; “the key relationship in the novel”; “Finnegan’s Wake is a metaphor for…”. I wanted to stop and read on, and I suppose I could have – what could they have done? – but I refrained. Scrutineering the maths exam won’t be nearly so much fun.

5. That evening, I went to do a mystery shop at a supermarket and ran into one of the boys, who was stocking shelves and recognised me. We had a pleasant chat – he seemed sanguine about his prospects, despite only having filled in two of the four English booklets. It seemed a bit late to point out that unless he wants to stock shelves forever, he should probably attempt all four booklets. Still, he was nice.

6. Miles really ought to have a medal. He is the Best Baby Ever. I left at one and he slept until four; drank milks from a bottle like a pro, and was happily chillin’ with Helpdesk Man when I returned home at traffic-past-five, despite having suffered a slight plummet during my absence. (Helpdesk Man put him on the narrow window seat, turned to get a chair to wedge up against it, and told the snortlepig “Stay there and don’t let him fall off”. Which might have been due diligence, but the snortlepig wasn’t paying attention and drifted away, and Helpdesk Man turned back just in time to watch Miles roll over joyfully and plop to the floor. Luckily he did not land on his head but his tum, which has fewer brains.)


Helpdesk Man and I have been experiencing a bout of penury. Ever the helpful spouse, I got out Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in New Zealand from the library and read a bunch of thrift blogs. The results have been largely unhelpful.

I don’t know what I expected, really. There are only so many variations on the save-more spend-less theme, and I’ve been baking my own bread and using cloth nappies (not personally, you understand; for the pigs) since the dawn of time anyway. I think I was secretly hoping to find a website that suggested “Look in the linen cupboard; I popped a tenner in it last time I was around”; but nope.

Tips, I have found, can be categorised thusly:

The Privileged: “Go out for lunch instead of dinner. Share an entree. If you’re really worried about paying your beach house decorator, order water”. Any helpful suggestions to sell one’s boat or to eliminate 200 or so television channels also come under this category.

The Naive: “Maybe your mother could watch the children while you take on a part-time job”. “Try asking your landlord for a reduction in the rent”. (I’ve considered ringing mine and saying “Will you charge us half-rent if we actually keep the place clean?”; the pig sometimes bargains this way and, while it shouldn’t work, sometimes it does.) “Knit potholders to sell at craft fairs”. “Perhaps a friend will let you house-sit for a few months”. “Why not dust off that novel you’ve been working on?” “Start a blog. You can make a lot of money, like Pioneer Woman!” Etc.

The Bleedin’ Obvious: “Buy cheaper cuts of meat”. Well, by gum. You mean to say they cost less than the expensive cuts?

The Frankly Sad: “To save on water, stand in the shower and turn it on for 10 seconds to wet yourself; better yet, dampen up by using the dregs of water from glasses people have left lying around the lounge. Turn shower off. Tip a packet of Borax over your head and rub in vigorously; this way if you lie around the kitchen at night you can also deter roaches. Borax doesn’t clean body odour very effectively, so you’ll need to use a little elbow grease, but that’s okay; it will save that costly gym membership! Turn the shower on again for 20 seconds to wash off the blood and Borax. If you keep a bucket over the plughole, you can use the runoff as a nutritious soup. Turn the shower off again. Using this method, my husband was able to save 60 gallons of water a day, before he shot himself.”

I also found a tip by a woman who swore you could make stew by putting boiling water, chopped veggies and bits of meat into a thermos. I doubt it.

The Vaguely Illegal: These tips involve saving pennies at the expense of by-laws or one’s fellow-man: in other words, cheating. One should, apparently, check the stamps on all one’s mail, so that if the cancellation stamp missed its mark, one can cackle with glee and go write a letter to one’s aunt, on The Man. Similar tips include dumpster diving (which I would totally do, incidentally); selling home-baked goods in defiance of food health and safety laws; pretending to one’s electricity provider that a rival electricity provider offered one a better deal, and if the first electricity provider does not top that deal one will pack one’s toaster and be gone; and contesting perfectly valid speeding tickets.

The Stanky: I probably shouldn’t get too precious about these ones, because let’s face it, I do use homemade deodorant and haven’t looked shampoo in the face in years. But I did come across one tip in which a lady told us how she collects roadkill, places it on a rack in her yard with a tray underneath, and as the maggots drop off, feeds them to her chickens. And well, for the record, I don’t do that.

The Brag: These are not in fact tips. These are unreproducible, jealousy-inducing anecdotes about someone’s sweet haul from the thrift store/dump/wealthy neighbor. “I enter competitions, and the other day I won $500 worth of free skincare products just by writing a sonnet to the T-zone”. “I found a $50 bill in the carpark”. “Today in the Salvation Army I found a set of limited-edition Disneyland teaspoons, a Moby wrap that was only slightly puked on, and a ten-dollar bill in the pocket of an old fur coat”. “I attended a taxidermy closing-down auction and got all my Christmas presents for a steal”.

The Ideological: Sometimes the tips themselves aren’t bad, but one is left with the distinct impression that the tipster isn’t so much wanting to save you money as make you a better person. “I became a vegetarian for financial reasons and my colon has never been lither. Best of all, I’m not participating in the brutal slaughter of our cloven-footed friends; their blood does not spurt in my dreams. You too can be murder-free for the price of a cube of tofurkey”. “Cloth diapering isn’t just better for my wallet; every child in disposables creates a pile of dirty nappies as tall as the Empire State Building, which will stand tall long after his meagre achievements have been forgotten and his phthlate-ridden corpse has festered under a parking lot”. “I started eating only rice on Mondays to empathise with the plight of the Haitians. Not only do I save a ton, but it gives me a spiritual connection to these people who I bet you don’t care about, because you don’t eat rice on Mondays. Do you? Do you care about the Haitians? Say it with RICE!”

There are doubtless other categories. After perusing these for a few days, we were still not rich. I decided to write my own list of frugality tips. Of course, just like building your own home (which the Oily Rag book blithely suggests you do if you are, and I quote, “handy with a hammer”), it turns out it’s not as easy as it looks. After much thought, I have come up with only one tip, and I give it to you now.


That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Donations gratefully accepted.

A Happy Thought Indeed

For many months now it has been my intention to donate my still-tepid corpse, when the time is right, to Medical Science. I assume Medical Science wants it; if not, into the bayou I go, wrapped in a Persian rug. Anyway, the thought of being probed by callous first-year medical students doesn’t really make my week, but until now I have borne up under the consoling reflection that when the time comes, I shall be serene about the matter.

But this morning, lying in bed with the snortlepig jumping repeatedly on my spleen*, I came up with a happy thought that makes me positively itch for death. I will be the BEST CADAVER EVER. Med students, twenty years down the line, will chuckle over me – they’ll probably nickname me something, like Grace Kelly or Miss World, doubtless – and recount ‘twixt a smile and a tear how I single-cold-handedly got them through a punishing internship and out into the world of chiropractic psychobotany.

How? Before Helpdesk Man drops me off in the in-tray, I have asked him to fill me up with charms. (If I sense impending death I’ll do it myself, swallowing a miniature silver poodle or ballerina every hour or so so they are evenly spaced throughout my digestive tract, and stuffing a few in my ears and so on for good measure.) I’ll be like a Christmas cake! Dissecting me will be not a duty, but a pleasure – and a spirit of friendly rivalry between my gurneymates will prevail as to who can collect the most charms. They’ll probably wear them pinned to their lab coats.

Or, I could do it with pennies. You know how when you hire a housecleaner, you hide pennies around the house and if she finds the whole dollar and returns it like a biddable wee thing, you hire her?** Same principle. Only, being a bit of a smegger, I might hide only 98 cents, so that the week before finals residents are sneaking in, frantically pawing through my brainial matter in Aspergic desperation to find the final tuppence.

So there you go. Even in death, I will be making the world a better place, one incision at a time. I look forward to it with great anticipation.

*No biggie. I have an auxiliary spleen.

**I have never done this thing.

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