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Continental Breakfast

by Vicky Chapman, NSW, Australia


Some people are very good at packing things in a sensible order. They wrap things in paper, place them with care into well labelled boxes and use all the available space in the boxes very efficiently. These rare sorts of people, I've decided, are the professional ones which are employed as qualified removalists. The rest of us who don't have a fortune to spend, soldier on ourselves, doing the best we can.

Why is it that every time I move there seems to be a critical shortage of suitable boxes in my area? Usually the local supermarkets are more than happy to part with their cardboard, the ones that breakfast cereal boxes come in seem to be the best size and dimension for moving. This time, the only two sorts they had available were laundry powder cartons, and banana boxes. Laundry powder cartons tend to be long and thin, and are not good for packing much, except more laundry powder packets. At first glance, banana boxes look exceptionally suitable for the job, but I know from sad experience that not only do they tend to collapse when at the critical moments (usually when carrying the most beloved books over the muddy patch), they also tend to harbour those eight-legged terror inducers otherwise known by the somewhat innocuous appellation of "spiders".

When suitable boxes are not available, one turns to the only other thing available: garbage bags. These have the advantage of being rain resistant (why does it always rain when I'm moving as well?) and that their shape is somewhat flexible, which means that you can generally ram more in your car if you are lucky and not too concerned with the fate of the contents. The disadvantage, of course, is that it is almost impossible to write on garbage bags, and that they all look the same.

I agree it would make more sense to put alike things into the same garbage bag, but time was running out. We had to return the keys to the flat by 9am Monday and it was well into the later hours of Sunday afternoon, and the packing still wasn't finished. I think that the amount of garbage bags with real garbage in them almost equalled the number of garbage bags that had real stuff in them. Where did it all come from? I think there must be a wormhole somewhere that takes the pens, socks, earrings and keys that go missing and exchanges them for bits of paper, empty fast-food containers and other miscellaneous trash. After the packing was finished, there was still the cleaning to go. We were getting somewhat desperate, and began stuffing whatever into any old bag with the rather absurd notion that we would just sort it all out later. Said bags are now residing in the garage, waiting until my patience grows thin with having just one teaspoon in the whole house (and we all know that teaspoons go the same way as socks, pens etc -- I'm keeping a very close eye on it).

Somewhere in that higgildy piggildy collection of garbage bags are at least 10 cans of cat food. I know, I packed them. Everything else is there too, including the toilet paper. We haven't run out of toilet paper yet, but this morning I woke up to find that the "emergency" cat food supply was no longer in the fridge, and that an empty cat food can had been "thoughtfully" left on the counter for me to put in the recycle bin. Joel had obviously had enough of Shmoggleberry's wretched meows for food, and tried to placate the beast with another food offering some time during the night.

Which brings me to another joy of moving. Because your whole life is crammed into boxes and garbage bags, it is way too much hassle locate, unpack, and clean the kitchenware, take time out from the freighting schedule to go shopping as the fridge was in transit, and then cook the stuff after spending all your energy carting stuff to and fro for the whole day. Feeling exhausted, frustrated, and in my case, badly allergenic, it was much easier to just grab some take away than to cook anything. I am sooo sick of McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut, but at least pizza is delivered, saving me from yet another drive to pick up something.

So, after 4 days of moving stuff, the only thing in the fridge was some milk (for the essential caffeine hits), a few bottles of cola (caffeine and sugar hits), a few slices of a rather sad super-supreme pizza, two boxes of congealed Chicken McNuggets, and no sign of the can of cat food.

Shmoggleberry continued to meow insistently as I peered hopefully towards the back of the fridge. He meowed more determinedly as I searched the cupboards in vain. He followed me to the garage, and meowed even more intently as I looked forlornly at the pile of garbage bags, knowing that somewhere buried deep in the pile, there was a plethora of cat food cans at my disposal.

Now being the dedicated cat-lover that I am, I would sooner starve than run out of cat food. At least it would be quiet when I went. Even if I only live on rice and two minute noodles for that week, I will ensure that Shmoggleberry is well fed, and I occasionally try to justify my purchasing habits to the hapless check-out operator when he or she is forced to scan 12 cans of cat food, two boxes of cat kibble, three cat toys, and a diet coke. The wan smile at the people behind me with a whole trolley full of balanced, wholesome food, doesn't usually communicate much, except for the obviousness of my complete insanity, but I have never, ever run out of cat food. Technically, I didn't this morning either, but damn it was close.

Shmoggleberry is fussy when it comes to his chicken nuggets. He likes them peeled. I don't know why he likes them peeled, perhaps it is a demonstration of his power over me, like when the Monarch of the time demands "peel me a grape". Nevertheless, he won't eat them unless they have had their crunchy coating removed. Believe me, I've tried. Now, cold chicken McNuggets are not the most pleasant thing one can encounter in the morning, particularly when they are thoroughly congealed nuggets. But they are easier to face than a hungry cat demanding breakfast. "Me -- f'ing -- ow".

Not too many people know this, and they should be grateful to live in ignorance. The crunchy coating of nuggets is virtually impossible to remove when the nuggets are stone cold. So I had to nuke them. Again, I find myself noticing my neighbours staring through my curtainless kitchen window with the baffled expression on their face while they watch me sticking old Chicken McNuggets into microwave. I am merely grateful that this time I remembered my bathrobe. All the time, Shmoggleberry's meows are getting louder, and I can here the threat of a slow and nasty death creeping into his tone.

Once they are out of the microwave (20sec on high for 7 nuggets), they have to be peeled before they cool. They are hot, and somewhat painful to the touch, but not as painful as the sounds coming from Shmoggleberry. The nip on the ankle was probably supposed to encourage me to hurry up, much as a whip "inspires" a slave to work harder. Eventually they are all peeled, and I break them up so he can eat them, and place them into his bowl with a huge sigh of relief.

Shmoggleberry grabs a piece with teeth, and then promptly drops it again. He turns to me with the Death Stare, and says "Meow!" one last time. I know, I know, they're too hot for his majesty to eat. Out of character for my patient and cat-dedicated self, I yell "Oh, to hell with you" and slam the laundry door on him, "Eat it or starve you ungrateful little bugger"

Strangely, I have discovered that even petrol stations stock cans of cat-food. Sure, they are about twice the price of the supermarket, but at least they have them. The attendant was quite understanding -- he didn't say anything when someone dressed only in a bathrobe bought the last 4 cans of cat food, and even smiled vaguely when said customer tried to explain that the chicken nuggets were too hot for her cat to eat. Naturally, the nuggets were missing by the time I got back, but I fed him the real stuff anyway. Better to be safe than sorry. Wouldn't want the cat to starve, now would I?


Editor's note:

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