In which I make a cake shaped like a shark, submit to inept reiki and offend some colonials


1. A colleague here in our Sydney office who is originally from Canada – and thus, far from family and friends – turned 40 on Saturday. We ‘pimped’ his desk on Friday morning, liberally strewing bunting, balloons, streamers and ridiculous birthday banners all over it – then had lunch at the local pub, followed by drinks and cake and a speech by the boss at 4pm. He was charmingly surprised and touched by each one of these things. Then, on Saturday, his wife organised a surprise party for him at home, way out in Sydney’s northern suburbs. I was the only person from the office to be invited, which was nice (being invited, I mean, not the fact that I was the only one).

We three have been diving a couple of times since he and she passed their Open Water certificate at the end of last year, and so I decided to make him a birthday cake shaped like a shark. As one does. This, despite the fact that I can’t bake and have never attempted anything similar. How hard could it be, right? Well, as it turns out – not very hard at all, actually. The icing stubbornly refused to harden in the 35 degree heat of my kitchen. So, a gooey but delicious lemon shark (with the correct number of gill slits) was driven north to the outer limits of civilization by the lovely Fugitive Pieces. Had it not been for the Google maps and navigation of the All-Knowing iPhone, we’d currently be passing Papua New Guinea…

2. My ex-flatmate has a tendency to decide she is going to change her life every couple of months. So far she’s had five different jobs (I’ve only been here 2 years, remember), the plan to buy a farm (although she was unable to differentiate a goat from a sheep), the plan to have a baby (via sperm donation), the plan to become a graphic designer (she failed to complete the course), the plan to travel to India to work as a volunteer on a teaching project (the Mumbai bombings scuppered that one) and now, the plan to become a More Spiritual Person. We discussed this at some length over brunch on Saturday and I have to confess I’m none the wiser… however, I did agree to let her practice Reiki on me yesterday afternoon…

Her: “Okay, how was that? What did you feel? Did you feel anything while I was moving over your body? Was it relaxing? Do you feel relaxed? Did you feel any warmth?”

Me: *thinks* Is it over? Thank god. Wait, you were moving over my body?? All I felt was mildly nauseated by the smell of cigarettes from your hands when they were close to my face. And slightly annoyed with myself for not having turned up the volume on my iPod before we started because the quiet parts of Mozart’s Requiem were almost inaudible.

Me: “Er, yes, I feel relaxed, I think. Yes. Relaxed. Thanks. And your hands felt warm when you pressed my shoulders, that was good, I get rather tense there from sitting at the computer or over a book all the time. And I saw waves of colour: butter yellow and deep lilac, does that help?”

Her: “Colours? You saw colours? Wow. I don’t know what that means, I’ll have to look it up. It must be to do with your chakras, they’re colours. Wow. And you’re relaxed? Really? You were smiling.”

Me: *thinks* Hmmm, it probably had more to do with the music, I have mild synaesthesia, but I can’t be bothered to explain it to you. Please leave now. I’ve had enough of interacting with you. I want to be alone. That smile was my ‘relaxed’ mask. Please go away. Now.

Me: “Yes, I was relaxed.” *smiles*

Her: “Excellent, can we do it again next week? That would be brilliant, I need to practice. But not if you don’t want to.”

Me: *internal sigh* “Yes, of course. I think its great that you’re working at changing your life, doing something you love. I may not be the best subject, though… Okay, next Sunday, fine.”

What the hell is reiki, anyway?

3. Back to the Canadian Colleague. We share an interest in history so I bought him a copy of one of the Five Best History Books Ever Written: Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson. When he unwrapped it, the Australians at our end of the table read the subtitle and asked “Is that a joke?”. Er, no. I didn’t notice anyone else starting the Industrial Revolution, not to mention fucking discovering Australia. Just because you don’t like Poms and have a chip on your shoulder about being the former penal colony of a tiny, foggy little island thousands of miles away in the north Atlantic, doesn’t make it any the less true.

*Steps down off soap box*

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20 Responses to In which I make a cake shaped like a shark, submit to inept reiki and offend some colonials

  1. I love the shark cake — it’s very cute. I shuddered pretty much continually at the idea of Reiki from such an unsuitable person as your friend seems to be … I’m sure she’s a fine individual, but the cigarette-smelling hands would send me over the edge in ten seconds or fewer. But given the cigarette habit, it’s probably just as well that she gave up on the baby-having plan.

  2. truce says:

    thank you. I had fun making it, I think. Although, by the end I had eaten so much icing that I was on such a sugar high that I was tweaked out of my tiny mind…

    And yes, the smell of cigarettes is one of my least favourite aromas.

  3. piereth says:

    I love you for multifarious reasons, but making anatomically correct shark cakes with pleasant smiles, being nice to people who are halfway up their own arse from a sense of politeness and honour and sticking up for the Empire in the face of boundless opposition are just three reasons that I could mention here. You rock.

  4. modestypress says:

    Considering forming an organization of people who go around being rude to twits. Designated Twit Offenders or some such. For a small fee they would go and say things one wants to say but can never bring oneself to say.

    I there are people who have the nerve and talent to do this. They have practiced on me.

  5. azahar says:

    “and navigation of the All-Knowing iPhone”

    Great, innit? Apparently I was the talk of the surgery dept when I had my last revision a couple of weeks ago and took out my iPhone to check my notes.

    Lemon shark cake sounds lovely!

  6. trucie says:

    piereth – my dear, let me count the ways in which you, also, rock πŸ™‚ Nope, run out of fingers and toes, they are too multitudinous…

    Mr Random – Such people certainly exist. Once breaking point is reached I, too, swiftly join their throng, believe me.

    Azahar – iPhone is All-Knowing and All-Seeing and All-Doing… except it doesn’t make dinner or put the rubbish out (yet). πŸ˜‰

  7. Bluidy Sassenachs! D’ye ken it was the Scots wha put the Great in Great Britain – – –

  8. truce says:

    too right Archie! I have a Scottish surname and although my father is Irish, he always tells people how the family came over from Scotland in 1693… πŸ™‚

  9. Fugitive Pieces says:

    Ahem. I had a paper-based street directory. We’d have found the house eventually without the All-Knowing iPhone. Besides, we must have been at the screeching limits of 3G coverage – at which point Truce’s new iUtopia dissipates abruptly. Jealous, moi?!
    Also, we had cake. Damn fine cake. Although one more pothole/sharp corner/ 3-point turn, and it would have been decorating the ceiling of my car. We’d have been forced to stop and eat the rest, thus avoiding the Empire “joke” (after that we both became so high-falutin’ and pukka that we might as well have been wearing pith helmets and poking the colonials with our swordsticks).
    PS If you have reiki-power, why would you still need to smoke?

  10. truce says:

    swordsticks notwithstanding, we would have been dead in a ditch sans iPhone.

  11. truce says:

    not that I wish to cast any aspersions on your driving or your navigating with a normal map – tis my own inability to function without iPhone I am berating πŸ˜‰

  12. Fugitive Pieces says:

    No, absolutely no aspersions perceived (though they would be richly deserved – I generally can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag). I thought you meant we’d have been dead in a ditch from sugar poisoning. Shark attack! But what a way to go.
    Another close friend has just got an iPhone. She spent last night’s jazz gig updating her status on Facebook. In the nicest possible way, you people are completely insane.

  13. I love the anatomically correct shark cake. I’m sure it was delicious.

    I refuse to comment on iPhones since I don’t have one. I have no clue as to how useful they are. My niece has a blackberry and she was all positive about how we would always know where we were when we were out scouting rocks because she has GPS. Only. . .in the back woods and hollows where we were driving she had no telephone service. So we used witch navigation instead, which worked quite well, actually.

    Your poor well meaning friend trying to change her life! What can I say? She is searching, searching, searching; looking outside herself for what she can only find within. I happen to have received Reiki attunements in the course of my massage training and am a Third Degree Reiki Master. Reiki (prounouced ray-key) is a japanese word that roughly translated means Universal Life Energy. Rei represents the source of the energy and ki represents the energy movement within and around us. Reiki is an ancient hands-on healing art the intentionally channels chi energy to promote balance and well-being.

    A Reiki practitioner gets attuned by a Reiki Master, and the attunement process plus the symbols that are taught at the time of attunement makes it possible for them to allow energy to flow through them to other people. I went through the process and training because I was curious to see how, if at all, Reiki was different from or correlated to the energy work I had already trained in. In my humble opinion, Reiki attunement and performing the work after your first class is sort of like going to a weekend class in high performance driving. You know the gist of it, but you won’t be any good at it until you have spent some time dedicated to practicing it. After a while, if you are very studious and have some talent, you might become a Lemans Circuit driver and win a race. At least when a novice Reiki practitioner attempts to do a session on you, they are not likely to cause any harm, They may not do any good, and you may be bored to tears during the session, but it won’t actively cause you harm. Bear in mind that in order for the energy to flow effectively, the channel should be clear. Attunement opens the channel somewhat, but regular practice clears it out. A metaphor would be the channel in a dry wash that allows water flow, but after a storm clears the drifted sand and dried mud out of the channel the water will flow swift and clear.

    There is no rule that says that people who have been attuned and are starting to practice Reiki have to be perfect souls, I find it very unkind to read a comment that indicates that the person writing it thinks that just because this baby Reiki practitioner has started down this path she should now be cured of her smoking. That is like saying a person who aspires to be able to run a marathon and started working out last week should be able to run 26 miles today just because she has hired a coach and had a couple of workout sessions.

    The cigarette smelling hands are VERY bad, however, she should have washed them thoroughly enough to get that smell off them. You are not doing her any favors by pretending that the session she delivered accomplished anything. Without being nasty or mean, you can calmly tell her that the hands of cigarette are not helpful to you, and that you did not perceive anything in particular happening. This should not discourage your friend if she understands that some people do not feel anything at all during a treatment. This does not necessarily mean that nothing has happened.

    Well, I could go on and on about this, but I’ll shut up now.

  14. pandemonic says:

    Can you make me a cake next year? I want the shark one. πŸ™‚

  15. OmbudsBen says:

    Years ago I was moving, interviewing prospective flatmates. One had 10 “rules for being human” magneted to the fridge. oh, this is going to be corny, I thought.

    The sixth read: “There” is no better than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here” you will simply obtain another “there” that will again become better than “here.”

    The whole list cured my attitude — I still have a copy of it. It sounds like your old roommate is also dependent on her theres which seem so much better than her heres.

    And as for Britain? Oh, please. You Europeans are to the modern world what the Greeks and Phoenicians were to the ancients. They sent out a few colonies (to the western meditteranean), too, but it took Rome to come along and re-make the world.

    Yeah, you Brits messed up a lot of lives with the industrial revolution. But it took America coming along to make a complete and total mess of the planet. I hope this sets the record straight.

  16. woo says:

    I like the ‘here’ and ‘there’ rule πŸ™‚

    And I think Britain can probably take the blame for English-speaking Capitalist Representative Parliamentary Democracy America, too, so we’re ultimately responsible for pretty much every mess in the world…

  17. azahar says:

    “woo”? πŸ˜•

    • woo says:

      ah yes, I decided one too many ex-boyfriends had Googled me and ended up here, so I’m now using my family nickname for my online presence instead. πŸ™‚

  18. woo says:

    Thanks for the explanation Healingmagichands – we did have another session on Monday night which was much better for both of us. We had both relaxed and knew a bit more about what to expect.

    But there is no way that this friend could be told the reality of what I was experiencing during the first session. Even politely and kindly. I have tried before and her response is immediate and overwhelmingly aggressive defence, which is unfortunate but is rooted in her background experiences which I understand and accommodate.

    If she sticks with it, I’m sure she’ll improve. The real question is whether she will stick with it, given her previous history. I’ll be doing my best to support her with it for as long as she carries on.

  19. piereth says:

    Woo! Tis you, excellent!!!

    I think Woo is your superhero name. Well, it is now, hahah!!

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