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How Not to Bushwalk

Being really athletic (!) and outdoorsy (!!) people, my friend Karin and I arranged an early-morning bushwalk on the weekend.

Nothing too taxing – just a quick 5km walk from Wahroonga to Bobbin Head.  I’d been told it was really easy – all downhill and you just have to stick to the fire trail, following the creek.

How hard could it be?

You know what’s coming, don’t you?  I could finish this blog right here.  But I’m committed now so I’ll keep going.

Yep.  We got lost.  Although “lost” is a very strong word.  I prefer to say, “we weren’t entirely sure of our exact whereabouts.”

It was all going so well.  The track was obvious.

Suddenly, the track disappeared.

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We scrambled over slippery rocks and inched our way along the creekbed.   We knew we’d somehow lost the track but we didn’t fancy back-tracking.  Besides, we had a bag full of chocolate (it was a huge 5km walk, after all) and for the first time in a long time, I was walking with Karin and not getting a leach somewhere on my person.  It was a great day.

Sure, we lamented not having a map and compass.  But then, neither of us can use a map or compass with any degree of confidence.  So you could argue that we were better off carrying chocolate – which we were – clever!

And what do you do when you’re lost in the bush?  You have a photo shoot.

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Here is Karin, doing a great job looking lost and frightened.

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Another shitty Winter’s day in Sydney.

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I know, totally vain sneaking in a selfie. BUT because we’re friends, let me say that I like this photo because it makes my face look perfectly oval! Like Christy Turlington! (I know that’s what you were thinking.) Not like a very large orange.

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My bump! With a star burst! Clearly this is indicative of a truly enigmatic child.

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I took this as proof that the track really did disappear. Here is Karin, looking for it.

Sliding along the creek rocks on our arses wasn’t working for us at all.  We found a track that went straight up a hill, so we decided to climb.  Did I mention Karin has the legs of a gazelle?  So while she raced up the hill with the agility of a mountain goat, I lagged behind like a rock-climbing hamster.  My legs are still sore.

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Catching my breath, while pretending I don’t need to.

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We made it!!

Karin’s sense of direction is better than mine, which isn’t saying much, and before long we found ourselves walking home.  Seriously late.  And sore.  And tired.

But laughing.  And feeling pretty lucky to have this right on our doorstep.

News! (Because The World Needs Another Baby Blog)

Regular blogging and a desk job do not mix for me – hence the sporadic and random blog posts for the past… oh… 2.5 years.  Personally when I’m not at work I really don’t fancy sitting at a computer.  This isn’t helped by the fact that my lounge room, where my computer is, is freezing.  Seriously,  I can’t feel my fingers right now.  I would get a laptop but they all look a bit evil (“Let’s remotely blow up a city!”).

Apologetic rambling aside, that does lead me to a rather nifty segue.  Next year I won’t be at my desk job.

I’ll be on maternity leave.

Yep.  Preggers.

I will absolutely look like the model on Ripe's Facebook page.

I will absolutely look like the model on Ripe’s Facebook page.

I’m 16 weeks pregnant with our third child and couldn’t be happier.  I also can’t imagine being bigger than I am now, which is pretty daft considering I’ve done this twice before.

Our kids are 8 and 6 and I always wanted another.  To do this and maintain a happy marriage, you really do need your husband’s buy-in.  For various valid reasons, I didn’t have it.  I tried – I took maternity clothes and baby bits to London and was all, “Look!  We can have an English baby!  Can I get a HURRAH?!” and he just couldn’t be convinced.  This went on for a few years, then when our daughter turned 5 I tried to let it go.  As many of you will know, that’s not easy.

I tried to move on.  I took up running.  I paid a draftsman to do our renovation plans; I told him exactly what we wanted, he ignored it and we’re still going around in circles.  I did the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation for exactly 4 weeks. I miraculously hit my goal weight and stayed that way for exactly 4 days.

Then last year my beautiful husband, after all these years, came around.  “I really think we should have another baby,” he said as though it was all his idea, “We’ll regret it if we don’t.”

Now we were a Smug Fertile Couple whose two children came easily.  Not this time.   Despite the heading at the top of this page, I’m no longer in my mid thirties.   It took us 9 months to fall pregnant, which I know for many people isn’t long at all.  I really do take my hat off to those who have faced, or are currently experiencing, fertility issues.  That is one tough gig I’ve thankfully only had the teeniest, tiniest taste of.

Anyway here we are, with a baby due in November and three kids’ birthdays in one fortnight.  Yeah!!  We can’t quite believe it. We’ll be parents of three!  I’ll get to roll my eyes and crap on about how much harder the third child has made everything!

So that’s our news.   Please join me in sending this baby “please eat like your brother and sleep like your sister NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND” vibes.  A new baby and a renovation at the same time. How hard can it be?

How to Run From Scratch

Although it might sound like it, this isn’t a sponsored post.  But should I suddenly appear in a sports bra commercial (!), which would be an excellent commercial decision (!!), we have this post to thank.

Back in January 2012 I was talking to another mother, Lisa, at the school gate. Lisa was looking very sporty in head-to-toe running gear.  After dropping off the kids, she was heading to Wimbledon Common for a run.

I was impressed.  Not just with her easy wearing of full lycra; I was impressed she was going for a run at all.  I can walk for my country and I am a talented sitter – ideally while eating Twisties (cheese not chicken).  But I couldn’t run and I told her so. Running just wasn’t on my radar, it was in the same category of things like tinkering with engines, drinking green juice or anything to do with tapestry.  Just not something I would do.

She asked if I had an injury. I didn’t.  She made a great point: with two working legs and no injuries, I was physically capable of running.  Why not give it a go?  She never used to run either.  She told me to start small and to keep doing it.  It worked for her.

So I did.

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“We’re all having so much fun!”

My first run was for 16 minutes and I thought I was going to collapse. It wasn’t much, but far better than zero minutes which I had previously mastered.

Since then, while I’m not winning medals any time soon, I actually do go for regular runs.  And this is what I would say to anyone who thinks they can’t, as I did.  I’ll preface it by saying that I’m far from an expert. I’m not super fit and I don’t run as often as I should.

But I am a good example of someone who had never, ever been for a jog before who now makes running a (small) part of her life.  I now enjoy running – I don’t love it, but I feel fantastic afterwards.  Although I really need to go for a run without blabbing it to everyone afterwards.   It must be so annoying.

JUST DO IT

Don’t wait until you feel motivated.  Motivation is not your friend.  It’s when you really, really don’t feel like exercising that you really, really need to (note to self: take own advice).

Start small.  Start with anything – a 5 minute run is a start!  The idea is to make your next run last for 6 minutes, and keep building it up.  Getting started is the hardest part, so once you’ve got a couple of runs under your belt, you’re over the worst.

Personally, the first kilometre of a run is a kind of torture.  Keep your feet light, try to find a rhythm and don’t overthink it.  Just keep going, run through it and you’ll hit a spot when you suddenly think “Wow I’m actually enjoying this!  WTF??”

About to keel over?  Walk.  Imminent heart attack?  Stop. There are times when I can’t get into the run at all, so I’ll find myself a nice hill and walk quickly up that.  Or I’ll look at the hill, turn around and go home.

Goals are good.  If I decide to run a certain distance, but I’m still feeling fresh(ish) and have time at the end, I’ll keep going.  If there’s more fuel in the tank, try to use it!  If I can’t manage any runs during the week I’ll aim for a big one on the weekend.

Don’t have time?  I get that.  Spare time is precious and there are so many great ways you can spend it.  Personally, there are people way busier than me who make the time, so I think I should too.

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Crossing the bridge at Blackmores. Super flattering!

USE APPS

I use Runkeeper.  It tracks how far I go, gives me an exact map, I can enter goals and it tracks all my runs.  It’s great.  I recommend going into Settings and switching off the audio cues.  Otherwise you’ll hear a constant stream of information, and I much prefer listening to music than “Time: 20 minutes, average pace: seriously slow…” (I should add they don’t actually critique your running).

If it’s been a while and I need help getting back into it, I’ll use 5k Runner.  This prompts you to walk and run at intervals.  Another great one is Couch to 5.

MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC

I don’t know how anyone runs without music, I really don’t.  I admire those that do.

At any one time I’ll have a few running playlists to choose from, as I find that running to the same songs again and again gets boring.  Just today, I added a fast Powderfinger song to one of the lists, one that I hadn’t run to before.  The song came on just as I was finishing a run, so I didn’t stop.  I actually ran some more.  The old me would have thought that was a seriously weird thing to do.

So run with your smart phone, with your running app and music going at the same time.  You can buy handy holders that strap around your arm, but these give me a festy rash.  So pretty!  I just hold my phone, it doesn’t bother me.

THE GEAR

Running is free and that’s one of its benefits.  You can spend a fortune on running gear if you wanted to.  For me, I have good shoes and an industrial strength bra, the rest is a bonus.

About the bra…

I can honestly say that one of the reasons why I never ran was because of my boobs.  That and because I’m naturally quite lazy.  But get the right sports bra, put those puppies into traction, and you can really move.  It’s a miracle!   I think the best sports bra ever invented is the running bra by Shock Absorber, and I totally look like the models on their website.  I order them online from Wiggle as I can’t find them in the shops here in Australia, nor can I find anything in local shops that look half as strong.

I had never heard of energy gels until last year.  Basically, you can buy edible gels that give you more energy.  My husband takes them sometimes, but we are in different leagues of athleticism.  This morning he ran the equivalent of a half marathon before work, which is something Batman might do.

But it’s worth reading up on them.  I’ve taken them twice, and both times I ran 10km and didn’t collapse afterwards.  I’d never hit 10km before, so they clearly have their benefits but they’re not really for me.

IMG_2433SIGN UP, SIGN UP

I honestly would never have thought it, but there is a really special atmosphere at fun runs.  They’re great because they give you something to aim for, rather than running aimlessly through an empty chasm of quiet despair.

There are loads of websites that list runs near you.  Check out your local ones, like this one in Lindfield if you live in this part of the world.  I’m signed up for the Mother’s Day Classic which is a really fun event.  And this year I’m actually going to go, rather than hit snooze on my alarm and sleep through it, which is what I did last year.

So there you have it.  If you have any other tips, please add them below and I’d LOVE to hear of someone who gives it a go!

Our Summer

I left the blog on the saddest note in early December.

This was closely followed by one of the most beautiful summer holidays I’ve ever had.  Every effort was made to enjoy it – to marvel at the blue sky, to feel the sand under my feet, to hug and kiss the children to within an inch of their lives.  To step on Lego and not painfully scream about throwing the lot away, but to calmly say “Oh dash!” and praise my son’s building talents.

My brother and his husband visited from the US and it was a special time.  We held a celebratory wedding dinner for them – how could we not celebrate something so special?!  Life is too short not to.   It was a fabulous evening with family and I’m still buzzing from it.

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Dad and James getting merry.

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Christmas was lovely, although I did end it slumped on the couch, dribbling slightly.  But it’s not often we have the family together and we did this year.   Everyone there was someone you truly know and love.  So you could make as many terrible jokes as you like.  (On a side note, I promised my friend Karin a reprisal of my old Christmas tree post.  Excuse the formatting!)

In January, we went to the south coast and stayed at a friend’s holiday house.  It was just for a few nights but I can honestly say, we had the best time I’d had in ages.  We spent the first night with our friends and had a ball together.  They then came back to Sydney, leaving the four of us to ourselves.  It was magical spending this time together.  Just us.  The beach couldn’t have been more perfect, the kids were in heaven and my husband was a champion as always.  I absolutely appreciated every second, and I could feel Tom doing the same.

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No makeup selfie. Apparently these are really, really BRAVE.

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I now get why people love the south coast.  Except I’m still not over the whole “Hi, I’m a stingray, give me food” thing.  The stingray photos are on my husband’s phone, I’ll have to get them to show you one day.

Back in Sydney and to top the summer off, one of my great friends held the world’s most fun engagement party EVER – and got married at it.  Their wedding vows were punctuated by over 200 people cheering.  Sure it was partly the alcohol, but mostly out of sheer happiness for two great people in lurve.

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Yes, we’re wearing nametags. But each one was a personalised conversation starter, for example, “Edwina – friend of Amanda’s – Ask me about when I set off the fire alarm!” I’d love to tell you that story one day, but I’ll have to check with Dwe first.

We’re just so lucky.  Lucky to live in Australia.  Lucky to have each other.  Lucky Ricky Martin is famous, otherwise we’d never have seen him.  Lucky to have such wonderful family and friends.  Lucky that my husband works near Haig’s chocolates in the CBD and he brings me loads of treats on his way home (HINT: I’d like more treats please).

And our new, replacement guinea pigs are still alive.  Result!

Anyway, this post is all a bit unexpected.  I actually sat down to write about jogging and how the right sports bra can actually make a non-runner like me into someone who actually goes for runs.  Or more accurately, really fast walks.

As February 2015 draws to a close, what are you grateful for?

One Sad Day

For a light-hearted blog, I’m about to get a bit serious.  Bear with me, I’m just trying to make some sense out of all this.

I recently wrote about our fantastic school reunion and how we had such a great year.  We really did. I now think back to that night of smiling faces, I think of the beautiful friendships, the laughter and camaraderie in the room.  Just weeks later, the unimaginable has happened.

I can’t believe I’m writing about a terrorist attack in Sydney.

And I can’t believe Katrina Dawson, by nothing more than pure and ugly chance, was killed.

You might have read or heard about Katrina.   If you did, you will have heard she was a superstar lawyer with a supreme intellect, a mother of three and a lovely person to boot.

I’m lucky enough to know Katrina from school and I can tell you, she really was remarkable.  A friend described her as “formidable” on the news last night, and I think Helen nailed it when she did.  Honestly, she was always smiling and genuinely happy to see you.  She’s the girl who never said anything bad about anyone.  You won’t hear a single negative thing about her because she really was that nice.

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I read somewhere yesterday that she was a “high flying barrister” and I’m not sure about that.  She had a stellar career, yes, but for me, the words “Katrina Dawson” and “high flying” don’t go together.  She was too humble, too nice, too normal.  Her great friend Molly wrote this today and it’s just spot on.

I’m devastated for her family who are in a world of pain beyond anything I can imagine.   She had a tight-knit group of school friends who are just lovely, wonderful people. I’ve been in contact with a few and I’m thinking of them all.  I’m finding this incredibly difficult and intensely sad, so  I can only imagine what they are going through and my heart goes out to them.

For someone so warm, doing so much good and with three young children, to be killed the way she was is beyond comprehension.  I now know what it’s like to see a friend’s face on the evening news, something I never wanted to experience, and it’s absolutely gut-wrenching.

It’s been a long couple of days.  These feelings are totally new to me and hard to describe.  At varying times I feel breathless, sick in the stomach, sad, panicky… sometimes all at once.  Just now, I took the kids out for pizza as a treat.  The people on the neighbouring table started talking loudly,  in graphic detail, about the siege and hearing it so suddenly meant I lost it right in front of the children.  So if that’s me, how on earth are those closest to her coping?

But as I’ve said, we had a great school year and the messages, words of love, comfort and support bouncing around have been really something.  I’m looking forward to seeing them all for a big group hug.

Finally, as I tucked my kids into bed last night, I thought of three gorgeous little children whose loving mother never wanted to leave them.

And my heart broke.

Katrina’s family has set up a foundation to honour her memory.  It will focus on the education of women.  Please go to http://www.thekatrinadawsonfoundation.org for more information and to make a donation.

Much love to you all, wherever you are.

The Biggest Mistake I’ve Ever Made

I can’t stop thinking about Friday.  I feel sick about it.  I made a ridiculously big mistake and now our pets are all dead.

IMG_2873I’ve written about our guinea pigs before.  We bought two guinea pigs for the kids and despite them both being female, one of them had a baby. Let’s just say there was a party in the pet shop.

Somewhere along the way, I was surprised to fall quite in love with them.  I know they’re not for everyone (“Really?  They’re rodents?  I had no idea!”).  I’m normally a dog person, but something about these little critters just got me.  They had real personality.  Watching them tootle about their business was surprisingly relaxing and Josephina, well, she just looked ridiculous and made me laugh.

Josephina the Shredder from Mid30slife on Vimeo.

The baby, Sam, who my son named after himself, ended up shagging his mother and friend.  Stay classy rodents!  So Rosie and Josephina were heavily pregnant, one of them with her son’s baby – apparently incest is socially acceptable in cavy circles. We were expecting babies any day.  Checking for new, tiny guinea pigs became part of our routine and we were all really excited.

The kids loved playing with them and when they had friends over, they’d all spend time in the pen.  Their care was left largely to me, and yes, I’m the only parent on earth to say that.  They slept in a hutch, and I made a large wire pen so they could run around during the day.  I’d move the pen around the lawn so they always had fresh grass, and they had little boxes and tunnels to hide in.  When it was cold, they snuggled up in lots of straw, and when it was hot, they kept cool in the shade and I’d water down their boxes and put a wet shirt over their hutch.

They got lots of attention and they had a great life.

Then on Friday, because I fucked up, they’re all dead.

It was a seriously hot day.  First thing in the morning, as I did every day, I moved their pen to a new part of the lawn.  I took the hutch out of their pen, probably because I wanted them to have more space but now I wish I didn’t do that.  I put their boxes in the pen, changed their water and food, they squeaked at me and all was well.

They were in the shade.  I had to go out and I remember checking them, thinking they had enough shade for the morning.  I remember thinking I wouldn’t be out for too long.

I went to Macquarie Centre, a shopping centre I’ve long avoided but it’s been redone so I had to check it out.   I started my Christmas shopping.  I met my sister for an early lunch.  She thought I was nuts showing her photos of the guinea pigs’ huge pregnant bellies, but we had babies on the way people!  Tiny, fluffy babies!

And then… well I don’t know what I was thinking.  I should have come straight home to move them; it was a stinking hot day, nearly 40 degrees.  Instead I popped into my local shops to pick up dry cleaning and get some groceries.  I don’t remember feeling like I was in a hurry. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.  Did I forget about them?  Did I think they had shade and would be fine?  Did I misjudge how hot it was outside?  I’ve tried to remember but I can’t.

As an aside, if I am ever a police witness, then everyone involved in that case is screwed.  Ask me what I did last Sunday and chances are I’ll have no idea.

Anyway I got home at about 1:30pm and knew something was very wrong. Normally they’d race over to see me, squeaking.  I could see black and white fur in the blazing sun, and it was completely still.

I ran over and found Rosie and Josephina were lying together, dead.   I looked for Sam and found him lying dead on his side, in a shelter.  They had moved their little shelters around,  so the openings were facing the sun, offering no shade at all.

I picked up Josephina and rushed to get her under a tap; I thought I could revive her.  The water from the tap was hot so I ended up scolding an already dead guinea pig.  Instead of properly checking on the others, or actually trying to revive Josephina with something other than hot water, I ran in circles around the garden with her in my arms.  Yep, calm.

I buried them together in a corner of the garden.  Well, I’d put Josephina in the little grave, saw the size of the grave was hopelessly inadequate, got her out again, dug some more, buried her again…. etc.  I must have said goodbye to her about about five times.  It was a bit silly really.

Telling the kids was horrible but they were OK.  Abbie and I had a little graveside ceremony, where she said, “You were all so nice to me, and always so friendship.”

That night in bed, I cried into my husband’s armpit – a place I normally avoid.  He has made me promise I’ll be this upset if and when he dies.

On Saturday, the backyard was too quiet.  When I step outside, I’m used to having three furry faces racing around their pen to see me, whistling.

So I went and bought two female guinea pigs which my daughter has named Fluffy and Abbie.  My kids really do have a penchant for naming animals after themselves, and no, my daughter’s name isn’t Fluffy.

Abbie & Abbie

Abbie & Abbie

Anyway, this is what I wish I knew:

– I knew guinea pigs don’t like extreme temperatures.  I didn’t know that they can die from heat stroke within half an hour of exposure to extreme heat.  Our pets were in the sun for 1.5 hours.

– Those plastic pet igloos trap heat and humidity.  They’re great when it’s not hot, or to keep pellets dry, but don’t rely on them to keep pets cool in the warmer months.

– Know your garden.  Where I put their pen that morning was exactly where the afternoon shade cuts off, so had I had the pen just another 30cm towards the fence, they’d have been better off.

– Guinea pigs don’t drink warm water, which is frankly annoying and I question the evolutionary benefits of shunning water because of its temperature.  The last couple of days I couldn’t work out why they weren’t drinking, and that’s why.  Put ice cubes in the water on a hot day.

– Freeze containers or bottles of water and put them in the hutch or pen.  They’ll snuggle up to them and stay cool.  I really, really wish I had thought to do this on Friday.

– Don’t be a douche and forget your pets, or think they’ll be fine.  Always be cautious.  I was the crazy guinea pig lady, which is slightly better then a cat lady but not much.  I honestly took great care of them.  But I fucked up just one time and now all of them, including lots of babies, are dead.  So I’m thinking if someone like me, who is normally so careful, can make such a huge stuff-up, then anyone can.

I know there are worse things happening in the world.  I know there are sick kids, families in refugee camps, endangered species and the like.  And I know that none of this compares to that.

But this feels pretty shitty.

“Nobody’s Jugs Are Bigger Than Annette’s”

So here’s a fun fact: nobody’s jugs were bigger than Annette’s.

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I had no idea.  I’ve spent the last 30 years thinking it was, “Nobody’s jugs are bigger than HER NETS.”  I can’t find a clip so you can hear the similarity for yourself.  I did, however, find the original trailor and I include it here as my gift to you.

I’ve spent years (YEARS!) lying awake at night, wondering, as a woman (for that is what I am), what are my nets?  Are they my nets?  Is that my net?  What’s a net?

I’m pretty sure my subconscious mind thought “nets” was referring to bras – the word implies a degree of anti-gravitational support.  But I couldn’t understand why the t-birds would be so excited about the possibility of bras being bigger than boobs?  Wasn’t Kenickie a man about town?  Surely the outer casing, if you will, is always going to be bigger than what it’s holding?  It’s just not that exciting.

But it’s all a moot (what a great word) point, because this whole time it was “Annette” not “her nets.”  I wonder if such complications are an everyday thing for women called Annette.

On a sidenote, when Rizzo sang Sandra Dee, one of the lines was, “Would you pull that crap with Annette?”  Jeez, Grease people, we get it – Annette was the word (did you see what I did there?).

OK I know this is sad but it’s also educational:  I googled Annette because I really am that tragic.  They are referring to a real person, her name was Annette Joanne Funicello.   The scriptwriters used references to this1950s celeb to dupe audiences into thinking the film was NOT made in 1978.  She looked like this:

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Yep. Nobody’s jugs were bigger than Annette’s.

I just wish I’d figured this all out sooner.  I realised Kenny and Dolly weren’t singing “I live in this street” when I was about ten.  That was handy as I was living on a farm and the two types of music were country and western.  To misquote Kenny and Dolly was social death.

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“I live in this street, that is what we are…”

For a short while, I thought Sade’s Smooth Operator was a telephone operator.  I had certainly worked this little chestnut out by my late teens, so that’s OK.

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He’s very, very smooth.

Of course it’s not just me.  I have a great friend, Nic – she’s the one who paid a fortune for her pet mouse to have an anaesthetic so the vet could fix his permanent erection.  When Huey Lewis sang about the power of love, she didn’t get it.  She thought he was singing about his beloved car, his Powerola.  She just thought he really, really loved his car.

OK so it’s not just Nic and I, everyone reading this has stuffed the words up at some point. What did you get wrong?