Life Lessons

The Chimp Paradox

I’m reading ‘The Chimp Paradox” by Professor Steve Peters.

It explains that life feels like a complete fankle because my brain has been hijacked by my inner monkey (Neil sighs deeply).

I’ve never understood how Neil can just ‘do’ life; he goes from A to B to C in a straight line, whereas my best intentions end up derailed all the time.  My journey might be more interesting than A to B to C, but I never get to C; I end up in W. Or Z.  Or P. And P is more likely to be Portobello than Paris.


It’s all YOUR fault

The reason that this happens is because the brain is split into 3 bits:  the real me, a computer and a chimp. The computer holds data, the real me is logic and reason, and the chimp is emotional stuff and lizard brain-type responses.  If you don’t manage the chimp, it manages you.

This explains everything.

I’m only half way through it but it’s been very useful already in terms of understanding and heading off potential derailments.  So expect a smug blog post about exercise very soon.


Trifecta’s Weekend Challenge

Trifecta has a weekend challenge where you have to write something on a given topic.  This weekend it is:  write 33 words about three wishes that come at a high price to the wisher.

I haven’t done this before so this is my first entry:

Thinner, happier, healthier.

Years spent wishing, putting life on hold until ‘one day when…’

Wishing steals our allotted span, gives nothing back.

So stop wishing; take action.

Thinner, happier, healthier; make it so.


It’s a bit doom-laden but it’s what my brain came up with on a cloudy Sunday morning.  I’m not a Trekkie, but JL Picard comes in very handy sometimes.

I really liked Linda Vernon’s entry – Herman’s Plan to Get New Girls .

Maybe I just have to get the hang of this thing first.

Grace vs Universe

I fell off my bike on Wednesday.

Sometimes the universe gets a bit fed up with my current lack of effort in terms of becoming more ert – instead of cycling home, I’d been really lazy and put the bike on the ferry so I just had a 5 minute cycle to the front door.

It was one of those moments where you’re tootling along, all’s well with the world la la la, then all of a sudden life leaps up and slaps you round the face with a wet haddock.

I’m last off the ferry and clamber onto my beloved Avanti to cycle down the long jetty to the shore.  Not paying attention, life veered off into one of those bizarre Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon slo-mo action sequences:

Scene 1:  oops handlebars got a bit close to the rail there whew got away with it nearly had an accident oh crap the pedal’s hit the railing this isn’t going to end well

Scene 2:  oh no this can’t be happening I’m actually going to fall off my bike only 5 year olds fall off their bikes this is so undignified I hope I don’t break my nose again am I going to die this is so embarrassing I hope nobody sees this oh bugger

Scene 3: thud scrape bang – leading lady inelegantly hits the ground sideways in a tangled heap of bike and backpack.

I rush to stand up and see if anyone’s noticed.  Nope.  Quickly put Harry Potter magic dignity cloak back on.

The bike is fine and everything seems to be working ok except for pinkie on left hand which feels numb. OMG NERVE DAMAGE.  And it HURTS.  And there’s BLOOD (a tiny little bit). OWWWWW.

It was, like, a LOT worse on Wednesday…

Once I’ve picked myself up and got back on my bike I feel a bit shaky and teary but tell myself that I’ve had a bit of a fright but I’ve been VERY BRAVE.  I wobble off home to a glass of wine and  an exciting story to tell Neil.

Universe 1, Grace 0.

Emirates Redeemed: Sydney – Bangkok

After the hideous experience of trying to redeem Emirates frequent flyer points for a flight to Bangkok, we turn up at Sydney airport to check in.

Standing in the queue, feeling suicidal at the thought of 9 hours in economy, I’m doing my usual silent cursing of Neil for yet again consigning us to the non-pointy end of the plane.

One day I’ll take a deep breath, superglue my mitts to the credit card and book myself into Business Class while leaving him in Crap Class.  I’ll be whisked into a world of champagne, chocolates and a lie-flat bed, while he’s shunted off down the back towards the bendy plastic cutlery, the hyperactive kids trying to kick a hole in back of his seat and the screaming babies from hell.

I’m feeling very sorry for myself, and then the check-in chick says ‘You’ve been upgraded’,  hands us the tickets (‘NLA’ scrawled on them in large letters -No Lounge Access – but I wasn’t complaining) and sends us on our way.

I’m convinced that this happy event has been created solely due to my genius as an influential blogger (Neil’s sniggering).  Two of the blog post views were in Dubai – not the usual cosmopolitan spread of Dundee, Edinburgh, Sydney and Maggieknockerty.

I’d like to think that the Emirates Customer Experience Fairy read my bitter outpourings and tried to make amends.  Neil says I’m deluded; it’s purely down to luck.  Whatever.

On boarding, normally they say hello very nicely, glance at your ticket then wave you vaguely in the general direction of ‘away’ ie off to a seat down the back.

This time however, it’s ‘Oh welcome Ms McDonald’ like he’s been waiting all his life to meet me.  He takes my ticket in both hands and holds it reverentially cupped in his palms.  It’s comical but, wow, do I feel special.

We’re shown to our seats and it’s all wonderful – the ridiculous amount of space, the lack of people, the quiet.  Heaven.

Then nothing happens.   For ages.

Row 10 is getting a lot of attention from one of the flight crew.  I hear him ask them ‘can I get you the wine list?’   I’m thinking ‘Here we go, the wine list is coming, the champagne won’t be far behind’.  Five champagne corks go off in the galley.

Row 10 get their drinks;  the giggling with the flight crew continues and….. nothing happens.  It’s so noticeable that it feels embarrassing.  I think ‘oh well, this is how you’re treated as an upgraded passenger’  but people behind us had paid full fare through to London and start to complain quite loudly about not feeling the love.

Not loudly enough to make any difference though, because it’s that sotto voce semi-whine, beloved of the English, that never achieves anything.  I’m  half English so I practice whining at Neil and he ignores me.

That glowy, I’m special feeling dissipates and I’m starting to loathe Row 10 who are now in full party mode, very probably drinking champagne meant for me.

So we sit and sit. There’s no-one in First and only about 10 of us in Business so who’s drinking all the fizz?

I feel a little bit depressed.  We’d got to the airport really early and hadn’t done our usual thing of getting trolleyed in the bar to dull the pain of Economy.  Instead, we’d kept ourselves pure for the Emirates Business Class Extravaganza, so there’d been 2.5 hours of anticipatory build up before getting anywhere near a plane.

The lower lip is beginning to tremble with disappointment and I start to fret about the 5 bottles of champagne going flat in the galley. Then a flight attendant arrives with a tray of Moet and suddenly it’s all forgotten.  The order for dinner is taken, the wine list is waved around and then it’s time to take off.

After a decent meal, Neil goes out like a light but I get carried away with the entertainment options, watching stuff until I’ve gone past being able to sleep.  This is when I realise I’ve left the vintage valium (c 1999 – only 5 tablets left) in the hold luggage.

But we arrive in Bangkok quite chirpy and head off to attend Linda and Yoon’s wedding in Krabi.  Excellent.

No upgrade on the way home so the first 20 minutes the trip was a bit grim until I decided to cheer up.  We’d had a relaxing break, attended a really wonderful wedding and had a great time in Bangkok.

Now plotting how to get Neil to agree to an upgrade for our trip to the UK at Xmas.

I’ve dug out the credit card; now where did I put the superglue?

Life Lesson No 2: Redeeming Points with Emirates: Nearly Enough to Make Me Fly Qantas

I work in an environment with a mania for customer service, so it’s a bit of a rude shock to bump up against a business model which just doesn’t give a stuff.

From Emirates point of view, their points redemption process looks something like this:

  • customer selects flights
  • customer clicks ‘redeem points’ button
  • customer receives e-tickets
  • customer offers youngest born for sacrifice as token of gratitude

But as is so often the case, what the customer experiences bears no relation to what the provider thinks they’re providing.  This is what happened.

SCENARIO:  Long-time Emirates customers want to redeem points for fab trip to Thailand in July for a wedding.


  • check Emirates site for points required to get to Bangkok and back – all ok, plenty of points, so Thunderbirds Are Go….
  • log in to Skywards (Emirates points manager)
  • select flight
  • faithfully enter all data (including no of boyfriends, dates of measles vaccinations, name of family cat (deceased), favourite colour etc) CORRECTLY
  • click on ‘purchase tickets’ in state of high excitement and anticipation
  • Skywards counters with ‘YOU NEED MORE POINTS’ even though Emirates says we have enough
  • Buy extra points for $500
  • Enter all data AGAIN (including dead cat) although spirit is failing
  • Receive faintly snotty message saying that there is a ‘difficulty processing the payment’ which manages to make it sound like it’s our fault
  • Repeat data entry x 4 to no avail
  • All of Neil’s rewards points disappear from the system
  • Apply a large G&T in vain attempt to head off  impending nervous breakdown
  • Give up and go to bed

Customer’s Emotional State = Really Quite Annoyed with Emirates (in a Very Understated British Sort of Way).   Emirates Customer Service might like to note the soupcon of customer ambivalence there.


  • Call bank to confirm there’s not a problem with card/bank
  • Call Emirates who pass the buck to Skywards and leave me on hold for 1 hour
  • 20 minute shouting convo (due to very poor phone connection – not me going berserk) with Skywards lady in far off lands
  • Skywards lady refuses to access husband’s points due to privacy issues ie ‘get lost’
  • Refuse to get lost.  Point out that husband is at work and does not have 1 hour to hang around on the phone listening to Barry-Manilow-on-valium lift musak.
  • Skywards lady tells me how to access husband’s account which she could have done originally instead of telling me to get lost.  Not that I’m bitter.
  • Neil’s points are found and returned  (allow self small premature victory smirk)
  • Skywards lady kindly offers to book flights
  • Provide all details AGAIN
  • System fails.  Skywards lady then:
    • makes rude inference that we don’t have enough credit to pay for the balance
    • suggests I go into the Emirates office in Sydney to sort this out because she can’t.

Customer’s Emotional State:   Loathe Emirates with a Vengeance  (note, not Skywards, Emirates).


  • Take 1 hour bus journey to Emirates office on my day off
  • Wait for 20 mins
  • Speak to nice but clueless young man
  • Nice young man fails to understand the situation
  • Pecks at keyboard with one finger (a dead giveaway) but clearly has no clue what he’s doing even when challenged about lack of mouse clicking for 10 minutes. What’s he doing then?? Reading War and Peace??
  • NYM disappears and comes back with older woman who is a bit more clued up
  • She asks him what the problem is but he can’t tell her
  • I explain
  • Older female inputs all the data, smirks triumphantly and says ‘you don’t have enough points’.
  • Explain that ‘yes I do have enough sodding points actually’ (I didn’t actually say that because I like to keep a very firm grip on the moral high ground  and anyway, she was bigger than me.  I didn’t want to inflame the situation either but ooooh, was I tempted….)
  • Older female realises that Skywards and Emirates have 2 different redemption rates (what???)   Falls back on ‘it’s probably your card being declined.’  Pardon?  Call me oversensitive but to be told that effectively means ‘you’ve got no credit you cheapskate, and here you are trying to get flights for free’.
  • Retaliate with ‘I-work-for-the-bank and I’ve had this conversation twice before so don’t tell me there’s a problem with the bank’
  • 5 minutes of arse-covering by older woman
  • Told ‘we can’t do anything. Try again in 24 hours’.
  • I did; it still didn’t work but eventually it did.

This is the simplified version of what actually happened.  A very unpleasant experience – at no point did anyone apologise for what was happening – especially when I went to the Emirates office – it was more ‘why did you bring this problem here and lay it at MY feet?’

And although we were redeeming with Skywards, it is Emirates who own us as customers and to whom I now have no allegiance whatsoever.

Here endeth Life Lesson No 2:  if redeeming points with Emirates, keep the gin within arm’s reach at all times (for medicinal purposes only of course).

Life Lesson No.1 (of a very long list)

Bitter  experience has taught me one thing:  Don’t Cook Anything for Work Events.  Ever.  Getting home late after a full day at work does not make for a happy and relaxed evening.

Being pathetically susceptible to flattery though, I was talked into making chocolate mousse (plus raspberry coulis) for 20 people for a work thing.

7pm:   get ingredients on the way home.  The bus is full, I’m knackered and weighed down with plastic bags that are starting to shred.  First twinges of resentment appear.

8pm:  start making quintuple quantities of the mousse.  The kilo of chocolate won’t melt. Because it’s really good chocolate, it doesn’t have anything in it to melt; it’s solid. I stare at it hopefully for 30 minutes (a well known cooking technique) but it clearly isn’t getting any better; it’s still a near-solid mass.   Panicking slightly, a handmixer seems just the thing to sort it all out but only succeeds in getting blobs of chocolate in my hair and all over the kitchen.

I call Neil in and demonstrate how the handmixer’s not helping and he gets a bit cross at the mess.

I separate the eggs but two are off (this NEVER happens to me) and there are none left.

Neil recognises the signs of imminent nervous breakdown due to culinary overload.   In his calm and thoughtful way, he suggests putting some milk in the chocolate to help break it down.  This works.  He heads out into the night to find more eggs.

The chocolate melts, new eggs arrive and finally, it’s full steam ahead.

9.30pm:   All done. It dawns on me that I can’t carry this huge bucket of chocolate mousse in to work on the bus in the morning.

10pm:  Neil drives me into the city and I abandon the wretched thing in the office fridge.  I’m exhausted.  Neil’s not too chuffed either.

Next day I’m in early to check on the mousse (am obsessed by this point). I use a tin of that aerosol plastic cream muck and decorate the top. After 5 minutes it loses its shape and turns the top of my precious mousse into white soup.

But ultimately, despite not looking crash hot, everyone loves it and the bowl is licked clean.  The raspberry coulis was a less than sparkling success though – a colleague asking “what’s that red stuff – tomato sauce?”


Thank you Neil for your (so far) limitless patience.  I won’t do it again.

Fashion Faux Pas

The NSW Fashion Police responded to an emergency call out in Sydney’s CBD today after receiving reports of a woman seen degrading a pair of iconic Christian Louboutin heels in broad daylight.

Police confirmed “earlier today, an attempt was made to carry off the ‘Urban Trollop’ look but that the accused was in fact modelling ‘East German Olympic Shot-Putter in Drag’.A shocked witness said “It was horrible”. 

A Fashion Police spokesperson commented “this look is wrong on so many levels.  The accused is in flagrant breach of the crucial arse to ankle ratio, plus, we have sufficient evidence to prove that she is wearing shoes bigger than her head”.

Fashion industry sources confirmed that ‘Urban Trollop’ can be a particularly tricky look to pull off as it sits midway between ‘Inner City Skank’ and ‘Suburban Pole Dancer’.

The look relies heavily on irony, as in ‘I may seem cheap but I’m actually really classy’.

Police noted that “unfortunately, the required level of classiness was clearly absent in this case”.

The accused’s mother publicly disowned her daughter, stating ”she does the same thing with Jimmy Choos. I’m so ashamed”.

Monsieur Louboutin could not be reached for comment.