Mad skills. I no longer has dem.

1. Horse-riding


The weekend before last I went horse-riding with a friend in the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours drive north west of Sydney. Since the last time I’d been on a horse was when I was about 12 years old, my feeling of sublime confidence about the whole deal was probably misplaced. But I just assumed I’d enjoy it and do it adequately.

My friend and several other people on the ride were nervous, however. 

“They look very big. Can I have a smaller one?”

Any smaller and your feet would be trailing in the mud on either side. Muppet.

“What if I fall off?”

It will hurt. So just don’t fall off, k?

“Do I pick it up if it poops?”

Er, no. Unless you really want to.

It turns out that riding a horse is like riding a bike. Well, except for the fact that one is inanimate and the other has a mind of its own with clear ideas about what constitutes ‘the trail’. One needs to stop to wee, the other doesn’t. One necessitates you rising out of the saddle in rhythm when it trots, the other only needs you to rise out of the saddle in order to haul your lardy arse up steep hills. But, like I say, other than that, pretty similar.

My body remembered how to do it… which is weird when you consider that every single one of the cells that make up my body have died and been replaced – in some cases many times over – since I was 12 years old. So quite how I seem to have a ‘muscle memory’ of horse riding stumps me.

2. Swedish fancy dress party

Swedish national costume fancy dress

Another skill which it seems I still have is the ability to make decent fancy dress party costumes. This one was for a friend’s Swedish theme party (she’s off on a work exchange program to Stockholm for three months) and was put together in 3 hours – including the trip to the Op Shop to get the second-hand black skirt and yellow skirt which I used for the apron – plus sewing time. Tacking on the flowers and making the cap from a pillow case was the most fun. Plaiting my own hair took the longest time; I hadn’t done that in many years either, and it took a few tries before it came back to me.

Oh, and that’s me on the right. Disconcerting when a man in drag has better legs…

3. dinner party

I could swear I used to be able to cook but that skill deserted me (or should that be desserted me?) last night when I buggered up an extremely simple meal which I have cooked many times before. My mind just would not focus – I kept drifting off and losing the thread of the conversation over dinner after managing to steam the sugar snap peas til they were grey and flaccid, as well as making the sweet potato mash more like sweet potato soup. And don’t start me on the roast asparagus, cherry tomato, black olives and pine nuts starter…

At least my dear friend French-Teacher-Lady and I were able to have a laugh over my attempts to make pancakes without a non-stick pan. My fiendishly sticky pan should be studied by scientists looking for strong glues to keep the thermal panels on the outside of the Space Shuttle while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere; seriously, it has uncanny – one might even say supernatural – adhesiveness. I think geckos must rub their feet in it before they tackle ceilings…

I miss French-Teacher-Lady. She used to work here and she was the person with whom I had most in common and whose company never fails to cheer me. Sadly, I didn’t get much chance to chat to her properly last night, or her new man.

As an aside – why do people insist on characterising me as some massively brainy swot? Okay, I know a lot about a limited number of subjects, and probably more than average about a few more subjects, but there are VAST areas of knowledge of which I am entirely ignorant (maths, physics and chemistry to name but three).  I’m not a bloody autistic savant, I’m just interested in history, philosophy, geology, archaeology, natural history and art which means I read and remember stuff on those subjects.

But back to the cooking fiasco. I dislike it intensely when I fail to accomplish something I ought to be able to do. It really upsets me.

And I know it probably didn’t matter to my guests, all of whom were gracious enough to say all the usual polite things about the food, but it mattered to me, dammit.

4. driving and parking

I don’t drink (apart from the very occasional shandy) so I usually offer to be the designated driver after parties. The drive home on Saturday night – in full Swedish national costume – was enlivened by my passenger screeching “Red light! Red light!” at every junction.

By the time I arrived back at mine, having dropped three inebriated friends at their several north shore abodes, I was feeling jolly pleased with myself. I had, after all, managed to focus on the road crossing Harbour Bridge (the lanes are extremely narrow) despite hundreds of distracting coloured lights reflecting insistently in the rain puddles, and we had not crashed and had to be pulled from the mangled wreckage by the Fire Brigade. Although that would have been jolly exciting…

However, parallel parking has never been among my skills. On Saturday night, I needed a visa to get from the car door to the curb. 

5. missing my best (male) mate

My Running-Accountant friend started dating a woman he met online at the end of last year and since then I have seen less and less of him. Which is a pity – we used to swap books and have really interesting conversations about stuff (mostly we disagreed, but that’s okay) over dinner once or twice a month, as well as going running together. He rang me yesterday to say he missed me and that we should get together and catch up. Which was lovely.

His girlfriend has stopped being mean to me now, too, and is contenting herself with merely patronising me as though I’m some hot-house freak child who can’t survive in the real world.

My ‘thinking before I speak’ skills are improving with age, though. For instance, last time I saw her I did not say:

“Back off, bitch, I have organised successful fundraising bike rides across India and treks through Nepal so I think I can manage to order my own food in a Thai restaurant, thank you.”

6. Yawn

I didn’t sleep well last night (which is unusual; even when I have nightmares I usually still get a full 8 hours sleep around them. Sleeping is one of my top skills.) and it is making me grumpy.

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11 Responses to Mad skills. I no longer has dem.

  1. David says:

    There are a lot of things I hate about life, but losing single friends when they start dating is way up there on the list. I *never* do that to people, though oddly, they expect me to.

    I love the Swedish costume. The little kerchief-cap is most fetching.

  2. piereth says:

    You look adorable, darling!!

    I always find that my ability to cook successfully fails me utterly in the week before my period. I lose the means to time multiple dishes simultaneously, and the failure is so catastrophic that I’ve learned better and now attempt nothing more complex than pasta at this time.

    … and as for the patronising bint, well; she’s clearly sure you’re about to nick her man. He must talk about you very admiringly when they’re alone together – she’s a shallow stereotype and beneath your notice!!


  3. azahar says:

    We sound very similar with the horse riding thing. I have been riding exactly twice in my life. Once when I was about 14, then again when I was 34. And both times I just got up and rode away like I’d been doing it all my life. For some reason, being on horseback just feels totally natural to me.

    “I dislike it intensely when I fail to accomplish something I ought to be able to do. It really upsets me.”

    Yep, join the club.

    Love the costume! (though I did get a preview on twitter). You’re a much quicker seamstress than I am, which is why I hate sewing so much, even though I’m actually quite good at it.

    Re: friends and people in general. I’m starting to believe that we only ever think we know someone and that we should never expect friendships to last, just enjoy them while we can. That goes for Relationships too, possibly more so.

  4. woo says:

    David – I would certainly not expect you to drop your friends just because of the delights (and horrors) of a new relationship. Largely because that is precisely when we need our friends most, to provide a little balance and rationality at an otherwise emotionally fraught time. And thanks, I liked the little cap best, too.

    piereth – hmmm, there may be something to that theory. Probably also explains why I was rather tired and grumpy, too. 🙂

    azahar – ah well, I’m only a speedy seamstress because the sewing was more like tacking bits together. I certainly didn’t bother hemming anything or trying to make it to last.

    I think some friendships can last a lifetime – they just take work on both sides. And sometimes, due to people’s different circumstances, most of the work gets done on one side or the other for a while.

  5. OmbudsBen says:


    which is weird when you consider that every single one of the cells that make up my body have died and been replaced … So quite how I seem to have a ‘muscle memory’ of horse riding stumps me.

    It’s like how fossils are made. All the original organic material fritters away leaving a mold behind of its shape, and the new stuff fills in.

    Except that the new stuff for you i human cell tissue, of course, and for the fossil it’s rock, and of course the fossil is millions of year old … err, I seem to be comapring apples and oranges, here. Nemmind.

    2. Now I long to return to Stockholm, one of my favorite cities.

    4. Here in the SF area, a decade or two back, a few women I knew were much amused by compiling lists of the things men were “good for” (to use their terminology). Parallel parking was usually one of them, as was taking out the garbage, etc. To my mind, the list was more notable for what it left off.

  6. woo says:

    1. I rather like the idea of being a human fossil 🙂

    2. Yes, me, too. I was only there for 4 days last year but I found it a lovely city and I’d happily go back and spend more time there.

    4. Agreed. I can think of several better ways for the man in my life to practice his skills than parallel parking and taking out the rubbish. However, every skill has a time and place 😉

  7. modestypress says:

    How wonderful about the horseback riding.

    When I was young, I rollerskated a lot. I was not particularly adept, but I could roll along reasonably well.

    Years later, as an adult (high school teacher), I was asked to chaperone a school rollerskating party. To be a good sport, I put on some skates and joined the crowd rushing around. I discovered I had lost all of my rollerskating skills. I felt like a naked person on roller skates. This is an image you do not want to imagine or contemplate.

  8. woo says:

    too late! That picture will haunt me now…


  9. 1. Your cells may be different, but your brain can still access the information and download it to your muscles. At least, that is how I picture it working. I like to make wild guesses that sound plausible.

    2. He does the drag bit very well. You look lovely, your costume is perfect!

    5. I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of platonic friends when embarking on a romantic enterprise. Love and hormones can make people do stupid things, ignoring friends at a time like that is dangerous.

  10. woo says:

    1. I like to do that, too. And I find that if you state your guess with enough conviction, it convinces even oneself 😉

    2. Yes, doesn’t he? He gets a lot of practice – has been cross-dressing since he was a child. But he isn’t gay, which surprised me… I don’t know why. Thank you for the compliment on my costume, I was pleased with it!

    5. Although the difficulty is that friends rarely feel able to say “Seriously chum, he/she’s no good for you in the long term” even when they think it.

  11. Well, if you ever see me blogging about someone and I am showing signs of lunacy, feel free to shoot me down! Please!

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