Sunday, June 25, 2006

Barbieland: Where virgins fear to tread...

When I walked through these doors, it was love at first sight. (God knows how I will ever part from it- I am ruined for life!) Outdoors is where it all happens...breathtaking views all the way to Santiago, the sapphire sea and seductive Southern sun...but if you are planning on doing the al fresco dining thingie here, you could cook yourself medium-rare by 10am if you don't invest in shade - shade that won't fly to Uluru in the first seabreeze!

This weekend's glorious weather provided the perfect incentive to get Balmoral Castle summer ready....yes, I know its still 3-4 months away, but why was "Carpe Diem" invented if not to give obsessive-compulsives a behavioural excuse? Besides, its 30 June tax year-end sales everywhere and bbqs, patio furniture, gazebos and brollies are not exactly walking out the door in for the bargain-lover, what better time to play "flash the cash" (or AMEX in this case seeing I fly Cub1 home on Frequent Flyer points!)

At the insistance of Mr M, the inner-urban one-person-household design consultant and handyman friend, I commenced bbq shopping about a month ago, but seeing the only barbecueing he does is at The Oaks, we didnt really have any criteria for assessing these mysterious steel boxes ranging in price from $89 to $8900!!!

Years of eavesdropping on blokey conversations at braais in Africa (where real men cook with real fire) and poofter gas barbecues Downunder("toss another shrimp on the barbie luv") have taught me that this was dangerous territory second only to car talk, as an expression of penis-envy.

Seeing I have no need to compete on size or staying power, this BBQ virgin was ill-equipped to tell the difference between Jumbuk (Aussie name for a sheep)and Beafeater (sounds like Mardi Gras!), Webber and Grillmaster (BDSM?), and a zillion other specimens.

How thick is thick enough? Regular SS or marine? Powder-coated or vitreous enamel? Solid cast-iron -cured or raw? Standard fit-out or custom-sized? Hooded or without? Side-burners or rotational effects? Displayed or hidden energy source? And then I haven't even started on the toys and accessories!

My head was spinning. How to avoid having my innocence abused and my terrace deflowered by some imposter sleazebag rust-trap with iron screws, no driptray for overflow and handpumped manual ignition?

But, as in dating and love, one gets nowhere by playing wallflower, you have to dance with the lot to find your feet and meet a prince! So, with some trepidation and armed with a bit of internet facts, I set out to comb the Northern Beaches "strip" of outdoor, leisure and BBQ stores.

After two days, I reckon I had it sussed. Could tell the difference between marketing hype and "designer" features vs the fundamental stuff. Instant battery-operated fuel ignition and a smooth vitreous enamel coating would satisfy my needs best. (can't stand cleaning all that black muck - but convenience comes at a significant price premium!) I locked in my vote on a last-in-stock, marked-down, middle-of-the range Canadian called Grillmaster, from Bunnings.

Only one wee concern...the new object of my desire's wrapper had been tampered with, though the salesman assured me repeatedly "No worries luv-he's all intact"! The optimist, impatient to get to play with her new toy, chose risk over delayed satisfaction.

Obstacle 1 came in the parking lot- he simply wouldn't fit! We tried everything-the reclining front seat position, the boot, the bonnet and even topless. Finally, left with only one option, we did the strip. Piece by piece, I loaded him up, lithe limbs slung around the seats, torso in the boot and a fuel cannister prodding me through my seat and leaving me in fear that it may blow me to the moon in case of sudden impact!

Back at the Castle, Obstacle 2 meant carrying the Canadian up 62 steps in 7 trips, and laying him out on the lounge floor for mounting. I was so excited. Sms'ed all my friends to share this milestone and had several offers of help, but this pleasure was going to be all mine...another giant step for womankind and another DIY project mastered!

After all the retail courtship and decision-anguish, a glass of wine and the sensual sounds of Spanish guitar was needed to set the mood. It started promisingly with legs lining up perfectly, the male and female nuts & bolts finding one another and screwing tightly, the base clicking in effortlessly. This was too good to be true. Indeed!

Obstacle 3 surfaces. The optimist should have yielded to that little voice about the unsealed box- Part SP 26a & b which connects torso to pelvis, was nowhere to be found. Back 62 steps to the car, nope! Not one for giving up at the first hurdle, I persevered in the belief that the missing bit would miraculously appear once I had the upper body in shape.

But, alas, it was not meant to be. The Grillmaster was paralyzed from the waist down AND missing the knobs that ignite the fuel. He was not going deliver the fantasy of sizzling sausages and roasted rump that I was salivating for! So around midnight, the Canadian came to a pitiful end and spent the freezing night locked in the boot of my car. The fine-print on the Bunnings slip showed that I could vent my frustrations at 8am Sunday morning!

"And what was the problem Madam?" asked the rather dashing Outdoor and Leisure Manager.

Erectile dysfunction!

"We can't have that, Madam, at Bunnings we make a special effort to look after our lady customers. Could I interest you in another model Madam?"

"Only if it comes fully erected and delivered!"

Of course Madam. As a country-boy with long experience in these matters, I recommend you go with what most Aussie blokes pick: The Jumbuk (should have guessed!)And, seeing that you had to endure all these disappointments, I'll erect it, deliver it and help you to commission it on Tuesday night!"

Now, short of instant gratification, what more could a girl ask for? A bigger and better instrument for the same price with guaranteed results vs a DIY job -its a no-brainer!

And seeing he is already making the delivery, he's chucking my shade solution onto the ute along with that Jolly Jumbuk!

Watch this space for more adventures in Barbie-land! But to avoid your own pain in future...research here before you buy!

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