The man who ate a plane

Hey Siri! Google search ‘man who ate a plane.’

The tyres crunched along the gravel as I pulled to the side of the road, tucked away in the back streets of Avonsleigh, Victoria. I had no idea why I had thought of this story, first heard years ago on some documentary or news snippet, but suddenly I found myself unable to keep going without uncovering the answer to my question.

How did he eat metal?!

Michel Lotito – known as Mr Mangetout (or “eats everything”) – made a living eating inedible objects, including metal bicycles, shopping trolleys and of course a plane. He took 2 years to devour a Cessna 150 airplane. So how did he do it?

Google tells me his stomach was twice as thick as normal; stomach acid can break down metal; he used mineral oil and plenty of water to lubricate and wash down his unconventional meals; and he had an immunity to various poisons. However, he got a stomach upset if he ate bananas or eggs.

So there we go: a years old mystery has finally been solved for me!


Put DOWN that hand sanitizer!

Dettol – which started out as a household disinfectant and antiseptic, and is now responsible for a growing range of sanitation products – has been voted Australia’s most trusted brand. In fact, the brand has now started teaming up with primary schools, to teach students about hand washing and hygiene practices, and to encourage the use of their sanitation products in schools. Dettol’s “Mission for Health” blog states:

As a parent, it’s important to make germ prevention a continued priority, in order to help your child protect him or herself during the school day.

To help in the fight against germs, Dettol markets products such as:

  • Glen 20 antibacterial surface spray
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Disinfectant floor wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial hand soap
  • Antibacterial body wash

Has the world gone mad?! Antibacterial body wash?!!

Dettol’s mission to eradicate bacteria is missing a crucial fact: not all bacteria are bad. In fact, many are good for us; some are even essential to our very living. Our immune systems need a healthy balance of good bacteria to stop bad bacteria from taking over and wreaking havoc. Don’t believe me? Read through this article and learn about some of the things that bacteria do for you. Then ask yourself: if we need good bacteria, why are we working so hard to kill all the germs?

The worst part is that our zealous determination to eliminate germs may in fact be a big contributing factor in the rise of serious allergies amongst children. According to,

The hypothesis suggests that early childhood exposure to common pathogens is essential in building healthy immune responses. Lack of such exposure, according to the theory, can lead to an overactive immune system that misfires against harmless substances such as food proteins, pollen or pet dander.

You can read more about this research HERE and HERE. That second resource states that “an added health benefit has not been demonstrated” in antibacterial products. In fact, antibacterial soaps and sanitizers have been found to be no more effective than regular soap and water. Even more disturbingly, the journal for Clinical Infectious Diseases has published a paper showing that triclosan, the antibacterial ingredient in these soaps and sanitizers, has been shown to make some species of bacteria resistant to antibiotics!!! This ingredient is used in a variety of products, including toothpaste, clothing and toys, yet there is not yet enough research to confirm whether it is even safe.

Antibacterial products won’t stop you catching a cold, but they may stop you getting better with regular antibiotics if you do get sick enough to need them. Good hygiene is as simple as using regular soap and water to wash your hands after using the toilet, before and after eating, and regularly when sick. If someone in your household is sick, try wiping down surfaces with a natural antibacterial, such as vinegar or eucalyptus oil. And for health’s sake, let your kids get good and dirty!

Of wind and shadows

Today blustered in, and the only sure thing was the wind. Was it hot or cold? Something in between. But the sun shone for a bit, and the air was warm but fresh, and my soul was caught up in that yearning that comes when the wind is free and wild, and you imagine that if you could just breeze away like that, you might find what you’ve been looking for all along in this great and mysterious world.

It was a light moment in the cloaking darkness that has grown steadily more pervasive in recent weeks. I feel heavy, tired – every little movement is an effort and the certainty that this is just a phase, sure to fade, is weakening. The architecture of my mind is showing the cracks as the pressure builds outside. Or perhaps, more aptly, within.

I come with baggage. Don’t we all? But it’s big, it’s bad, it’s shared with my family and it’s too much for most people to even know about, let alone unpack and examine. Things weren’t OK when I was a kid and there wasn’t anyone to turn to back then. The people who should have spoken up, who should have named the elephant in the room – teachers, mainly, who saw that I was struggling, that I wasn’t “normal,” that I had fear and anger and tears – chose not to. I was alone. And as I’ve grown and started to work through some of those things in the great proverbial suitcase I lug around, I’ve started to feel like maybe I’m OK now.

Then something has to come along and expose all of what I’ve yet to deal with. A violent incident in a Sanctuary – our quiet community church – which took me right back to that place of being small and afraid, which left me paralyzed and shaking, which seemed to clear quickly only to reappear a few days later in the form of this great shroud of darkness.

And the one who is meant to be my helper is instead hurting me: little wounds, made in carelessness each day. Remarks that cut deep – “what have you done today?” “Oh, dinner isn’t ready?” “It looks like nothing has moved since I left.” “I’ve still got to do the dishes before bed.” – all pointing out my failures, all highlighting that I am losing this battle to do well. I tell him what it feels like, to hear these words, but it doesn’t sink in and it isn’t long before another cut is made and I wonder how long I can keep going. The love feeling is a mere glowing ember, all but snuffed; all that remains is the love doing, left to battle against the growing sense of despair, the stirrings of some sinister emotion that says I’d rather he just left.

But the Bible says that “God works all things for good for those who love him” (Rom 8:28) and the church has responded to the incident that rocked the community and has offered help. I spoke last night to a psychologist who listened, and was the first person, mental health professional or otherwise, who seemed to understand what I was saying and the messed up place I’m coming from. The pastors are organizing for me to see someone and so I might finally be able to deal with the Big Issues in my life. Though I feel like I’m falling apart, God will stitch me back up, and who knows what I will be able to do when I’m whole again.

Somewhere deep inside, Hope warms its hands against my heart and I keep on keeping on.

Open letter to the woman I told to “go die”

To the retirement-aged, wheelchair-bound woman in the Westfield shopping centre carpark whom I today told to go die:

I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that, and I feel terrible. No doubt I left you feeling angry, unsettled, generally unpleasant – something I’m sure you didn’t need for your afternoon out with your daughter and grandchildren.

I’ve been thinking back over it all day. No matter which way I look at it, I was in the wrong. I approached you because I was feeling highly indignant: you were smoking in a clearly signed “no smoking” zone in the undercover car park, and I am sensitive to airborne chemicals. I debated it for a couple of minutes as I pulled out the pram, the nappy bag, and finally, my baby. I knew there was no way to tell you without it causing a bad reaction, yet it rattled me to my core; why should you be able to impinge on others’ rights to breathe (relatively) clean air, in direct defiance of the law? Then I saw your daughter take out a cigarette – her own kids safely in the car – and as I passed with my bub and her delicate little lungs, I bolstered the confidence to speak up.

You misheard me at first, so I repeated, “There’s no smoking in the undercover area.” Your daughter joined you in a sputtering of retorts. You were saying “you just go do your thing” and your daughter asked me where I expected you both to go. Why couldn’t you just wait five minutes until you were outside, I asked? Your daughter gestured to the car, incredulous: “I can’t smoke in the car, I’ve got young children in there.” “I’ve got a young child in the car park,” I retorted, appalled that what she deemed inappropriate for her own children was somehow fine for my own baby. I’d made my point, though, so I began to move away.

That’s when you called out, “bloody young people these days!” And I’m ashamed to say that I took the bait. I felt offended: how dare you turn this back on me? You were doing something illegal, and highly inconsiderate. What youth problem did you suppose you were identifying? And here was you, supposedly older and wiser, acting like a rebellious teenager. “Bloody old folk!” I don’t even say ‘folk’ but there it was. And I thought (naively, perhaps) that that was the end of it.

That’s when you yelled your final bit (or at least the last of what I heard). “Why don’t you grow up?” And without thinking I spun around and yelled back, “why don’t you go die?”

I didn’t mean it like that. As the words came out of my mouth, I meant them in kind – an ageist comment served in return for another. I don’t have any desire that you should die, and it was a truly awful thing to say. No matter how angry I was, I shouldn’t have said that.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realised I really shouldn’t have said anything at all. I knew it wouldn’t go down well, or achieve anything positive. I wanted to relieve my irritation by making it known. I wanted you to know that you were doing the wrong thing, and it was affecting someone else. A better action may have been to walk on the other side of the road, and write a letter to the centre management regarding my concerns over people ignoring the no-smoking signs. I didn’t need to confront you personally. Although I didn’t yell or swear, I was terse, expecting a bad reaction, and thus I guaranteed it.

I hope I didn’t ruffle your feathers too much, and you were able to enjoy the rest of your day. But more than that. I took some time to pray for you, and whatever problems or hardships you might be facing in life. I don’t just want to undo the damage I caused; I want to turn this ugly incident into a catalyst for heartfelt prayer for someone I don’t know and otherwise would never have thought to pray for.

With my humble apologies, I offer you a blessing: may your days be filled with laughter and joy, and the best that life and love have to offer. May God turn his face to shine upon you, and may you know Him as I do: Friend, Saviour, Healer and Comforter.

From the heart,


I’m a mum too, you know!

I went to the Melbourne “Special Edition” Pregnancy, Babies and Children’s Expo on the weekend, down at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Having scoured the preview list of stall-holders, I knew exactly what I was looking for: teething jewelery!

I’d seen my friend at church sporting a funky string of these colourful, over-sized silicone beads and decided I simply *must* have one. After all, Amelia is that stage in life where anything within reach is fair game for her little grabbing, pulling mitts, and this of course includes any necklaces I might dare to wear. What better solution than something she can grab and chew on (providing her plenty of entertainment) without worrying about her breaking it? The groovy colours are just a bonus!

Another thought popped into my head when I was sealing the deal (did you know vendors can now use a phone app to “swipe” your credit card?) – it would be great for when I’m out and about without Amelia. This probably sounds crazy, but I want other mums – you know, those random ones you see down the shops – to know, I’m one of you! OK, I think I am crazy. But I can’t shake it! And I like to think that wearing my bub-friendly bling acts as some unspoken code, alerting the parenting world to my mum-status.

Perhaps it’s because parenting is such a monumentally self-consuming journey that even the most basic bond, initiated by mere visual recognition, between parents – even those who are complete strangers – is enough to generate a little encouragement. It’s like being part of a prestigious club, filled with secrets to life that only members can know, whose emblem is a vomit stain on one’s shirt, whose mascot is the child-wrangling, house-keeping, job-working, sleep-deprived, under-appreciated though much-loved mum or dad.

Or something like that. All I know is, I need more of these necklaces. Have you seen how many groovy colours and designs are out there?!

I crave chips on Mondays

The fish and chip shop isn’t open on Mondays. Not the good one, anyhow; we swore off the one down the far end of town after the last overcooked batch. Notwithstanding, every Monday I think how nice it would be to get some hot chips to go with dinner, maybe a potato cake salty and sauced up on the side. Or forgo boring plans for casserole or chow mein and order dim sims, crab sticks, a souvlaki for Sean…

It’s always on Mondays. Weekends I’m on my own – the sad life of a chef’s wife, restlessly pulling open the cupboard and fridge with a depressing lack of inspiration (or ingredients, as is often the case). But Monday is when our good friend, and godfather to Amelia, comes over and Sean doesn’t have work and the sun shines and and it’s our weekend. Somehow the crispy salty goodness just seems right.

Growing up, when it was just the four of us – Mum, me, sister, brother – we’d have chips by the beach or sitting in a park; other times, just at home after walking, skipping up, us kids to collect that package of butchers paper to be opened steaming and delicious. Other times we’d share them over the centre console in the car, hands dipping into the hole ripped into one end, fingers burning, blowing and savouring the hot belly feeling on a chilly day.

Maybe one day I’ll open my own Fish and Chip shop, and it’ll close on Tuesdays.