Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Dating Test at Slice Girls West

It was my first Tinder date and I obviously had no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to look like I did.

I had a plan.

We were to meet at The Reverence in Footscray at 6pm. I was going to give the Tinder Date two hours and then I was going to meet my girlfriends at Back Alley Sally’s at 8pm as a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. If we liked each other, we would plan another date. If we didn’t, I had an escape route.

It seemed flawless.

Except upon arriving at The Reverence five minutes early, I discovered it was closed. The only other bar I could think of moving the date to was Back Alley Sally’s around the corner where I was meeting my pals. It was a risk, but I was under time pressure and I had to make a decision. Fast.

After changing my seating position three times: the booth (too open), the bar (too closed), the corner table with stools (too awkward in high waisted jeans), I chose an open large table that wasn’t too noisy. The bar was super warm and friendly in comparison to the rainy Melbourne night, and the beer selection was ripe for the picking.

My date arrived from the inner Northern suburb of Carlton admitting that the change in venue and the threatening dark laneway where Back Alley Sally’s sits in Footscray was a little scary.

The bar had already made me feel at ease so we discussed the venue, the attractive staff, the beers and pizzas available from Slice Girls West below.

Then it got serious. My date stopped the conversation bluntly, staring me intently in the eye, pausing to gather his thoughts. He was scripting something.

‘Ali. I’m so sorry. I really am. I just have to tell you something and I’m not sure how this is going to go.’

I felt sick. I was a crap date.

‘Your fly is so undone. It’s so open. I’m trying so hard to look you straight in the eye and hold conversation, but I can’t go on. I’m sorry.’

I looked down and my 30cm zipper on my high waisted jeans was wide open, like a vortex, alarmingly displaying my white knickers for all to see. Sitting on a stool did not help this situation.

I zipped up and told my Tinder Date that I wanted to go home. He laughed, explained that he was ready to move on and continue our time as long as I could forget that it had happened (I obviously haven’t). So we drank more beers and smashed out a few laughs. He was a funny guy.

Ten minutes before my girlfriends were set to arrive, I gave him a warning: ‘My girfriends are on their way, they will squeal with delight at catching us on a Tinder Date, they will quiz you, they will drink and swear and ask you intimate questions. You are welcome to stay and drink with us, or you can use this time as your get out of jail free card.’

He stayed. We drank. We laughed. My girlfriends quizzed. It was now a Tinder Date of Five. He left a while later and we exchanged numbers. I ran back inside the bar and debriefed with my girlfriends over more beer and pizzas from Slice Girls West.

The pizza toppings quickly diverted our discussion: The Forever Mushroom with its truffle-scent provided distraction from the filthy but entertaining conversation coming from our booth. The crust was perfect in my opinion, not too thin, prepared well and cared for and cut in perfect sharable sizes. The Wannabe Warwick pizza with its artichokes and capers matched our gossipy squeals as our table discussed boys like we were 16 again. But it wasn’t just the pizzas, the Tinder Date banter and booze that made for an excellent night; the staff at Back Alley Sally’s were so friendly, the venue was cosy and I felt like I was surrounded by friends even though the bar was full of strangers.

It was an excellent start to a new friendship. The Tinder Date got my number and we ventured out a week later on a second date. There quite possibly might be a third. Perhaps it was because of my cool choice of venue or maybe it was my ridiculous friends, either way if you’re looking for a sweet place to meet a kind stranger, Back Alley Sally’s might just be the spot you’ve been searching for.

Back Alley Sally’s and Slice Girls West can be found at 4 Yewers Street, Footscray. Visit for more information and to view the delicious menu.

Photos courtesy Back Alley Sally's.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Putting the Super in Superannuation and other financial things I've learnt while getting my shit together

I've had to do some pretty hardcore adulting of late and I've got to say, it's been fun - challenging - but fun. I can totally do this adult thing!

One adult event that I've never been wildly great at is finances. I'm great at saving, but outside of a bank account I've always been overwhelmed by the 'financial things' you're meant to have by a certain age.

I've read a gazillion of those 'must have in your '30s articles' and have had random chats with friends about health insurance deals. To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm bored senseless by the topic or it just overwhelms me blindly, but I just can't seem to find the time to invest my brain in this information let alone my wallet.

But. This is adulting and the investment in the time now is an investment in the future (I sound like a guru already!)

Now that it's just me and my jolly child, I've had to pull together a bit of a list of grown up financial things that I need to get sorted in order to get my shit together, not just for me but for my son. Because I couldn't find a list of shit to do that suited me and my solo parent situation, I thought I'd put one together. Perhaps you can help me add to it?

One thing you need to know is that I'm not a money expert. I'm on a shoestring week-to-week. I work full time, I'm a single parent, I have kinder fees and I love my job in the arts because it is so bloody special and rewarding (not because it pays me the big bucks). I also have a financial advisor. A what??

Ok. Here's what I've learnt:

Financial Advisor
These people are incredible. They are really excited by numbers, by spreadsheets and they can see into your financial future. A financial advisor helps you understand what all the numbers mean.
AND you can pay their fee out of your superannuation fund so it doesn't affect your day-to-day account.

Do you know how much you have in your super account? It's good to check this out and if you can, perhaps try and add a little bit extra each week. We are lucky that we can put aside a little fund that is untouchable until the day you decide to rest and go sailing. I've just set up a self managed super fund which means I have full control of my account, my coin and I also get to be made a director of my super fund (which is another great title for adulting). This is your golden egg for the years to come. Keep an eye on it and feel secure.

If you own a house, I'm sure you have house insurance. Same goes for a car.
What happens though if you have a massive bike stack or fall off the playground and hit your head on a sharp pine cone and you can't work for months? Life, health, disability, trauma... they are all massive words and they all come with insurance. Gah... it sounds like spending money that you just don't have. But what happens if something happens? How do you keep food on the table, mortgage or rent payments up, bills paid? It's a little bit of food for thought. Not that you want to think about bad things happening, but it's good to have a plan.

If you have some assets, get a will. If you cark it it's good to know that your rad bike, transformer set, record collection, avocados or Yarraville house is going to be kept safe in the hands of the person of your choice. It costs a little bit to do, but then it's done. You can change it as required... ie if you get a divorce or you buy a new bike or you have another kid.

Whether it's a spreadsheet, back of the shopping list drawing or one of the many online tools, it's so good to have one of these. Recently I wrote down everything I spent over the course of a week. I couldn't believe how much I was spending on coffee or 'quick trips' to Coles New World. It all adds up and I have made some dramatic changes in my daily spending. It takes an hour or so and some brain space to start a budget, but once it's down it gives you a pretty sweet look into your spending habits and where you can save that extra coin.

It's all a bit grown up, but now that I've pulled this stuff together - all in my name - I feel like I'm in control of my life and I know where my money is going. I've started to take an interest in the topic, perhaps now because I'm on one wage and I want to know where every cent belongs. It gives me a great feeling of security. In my former life, I might have left a lot of the financial stuff up to my ex-husband because he was good at this stuff. However there's something to be said about if you earn it, learn it.

If you're looking for a good financial advisor, I use a local Yarraville dude, Andre Dirckze, and he is running workshops on getting your shit together. You can check them out here:

This is not a sponsored post, I just really care about this stuff now.

Best of luck and happy saving!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Excuse the over-communication, dear diary

On Sunday I celebrated, sorry... wrong word, um saluted. No. Recorded. Yes, recorded.

On Sunday I recorded six months since my husband left me. Six months since the dream of moving to the country with my family was taken away from me through one shitty gut-wrenching text message.

I remember the day six months ago, but it feels sometimes like it's been six years. I remember vomiting in my toilet and leaning on the bowl shaking, terrified about what was happening. I was so scared of being on my own. Surrounded by our house packed up in boxes ready for the 'big move', terrified that I had just resigned from my job to take on a big dream role that my husband had encouraged me to take. Almost hysterical that we had leased our Yarraville house and I didn't know where my son and I were going to live. Sick with fear that we were days away from settling on a country house in Trentham that I now no longer wanted anything to do with, let alone the two mortgages that threatened me. Don't even mention the cancellation of a daycare spot in Yarraville.

Six whole months. Holy hell. So much can  happen in six months.

Damn, you know what, it was a kind of celebration. A celebration of sorts that has seen me reflect upon the last half of the year. A celebration that for the first time in so freakin' long that I've kind of hit the jackpot and said to myself 'How good is being me?'

Lately,  it's been super good.

My son and I smashed out a good old roadtrip up to Newcastle. I drove from Melbourne to Newy with a four year old and A Tribe Called Quest greatest hits album. No ipad. I winged it every day, not really knowing where we would end up that night, but knowing I had mates and family along the way who would let us crash on their couch and pack us a picnic for the next day. And it wasn't that bad. Alfie and I became best buddies, covering topics such as careers (he wants to be a windmill fixer), to questions about why Leroy Brown is the baddest man in the whole damn town, and why 'ships' eat bananas b-a-n-a-n-a-s. And of course we talked about poo and wee and doodles and pop-offs.

We rediscovered the Giant Ram at Goulburn, the Submarine at Holbrook, the Giant Rolling pin in Wodonga, Nobby's Lighthouse, the Dinosaur Museum in Canberra and my favourite, the Australian Reptile Park in Gosford.

I hope he remembers this trip forever. I know I will.

The tricky thing about a super long road trip is how much time you have for thinking. During the 10+ hours of driving to Newcastle I went over my separation, spat out some hate, had some whopping big cries,  and had a few solo laughs.

I thought about a handsome man I was recently seeing, who I ran away from because relationships now terrify me. I thought about Alfie and what sort of guy I was going to bring him up to be. I thought about me and who I now was and who I was going to become.

I came back from this road trip so much stronger then the person I left.

On the 10+ hours back to Melbourne, I thought about adventures and cooking and friends and dating and music and my home and how I'm going to be more focused at work and funny shit that my mates get up to.

When I walked back into my house, I smiled. I painted the interior the next day and went on a date that night. My best girlfriend came over the next day to help me finish the painting and we giggled over beers about this exciting new chapter.

I'm so fucking free and it feels so fucking wonderful. Seriously, how good is it to be yourself.

So good.

Happy six months. I did it. I can't wait to see what the next six months will bring.

As a side note, I'm also bloody proud that I can talk to my ex-husband. What happened, happened. It's done, it can't be reversed. It's so important to me that Alfie knows that while his parents don't live together we both love him oh-so-very much. My ex and I see each other every week and each week it gets easier. I never saw this happening to me and me being in this situation, but I am and this is my life. This is also the life my ex husband chose and it's up to us to be the best folks we can for that gorgeous son of ours. See, this is adulting at its toughest, but also best.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Make a Night (Heron) of it

If there was a year to do it, it was this one.

I was turning 35 and I had to have a birthday party. Not ‘birthday drinks’, but a Birthday Party.

I discovered the quaint little bar, The Night Heron, with a mate a few months ago. A local had told me that it was brand new and he had stumbled upon it by accident and had been sipping amber liquid there a few nights a week since. It had a beer garden. My buddy and I had to try it. We did and they played Holst’s The Planets for me on request.

I loved this bar instantly.
The inner west seems to have had a spike in tiny bars of late. I’m a sucker for the classics: The Yarra Lounge, The Reverence, Seddon Wine Store; but I’m always up for trying somewhere new. Especially if it has the pre-requisites that I so love: beer garden, tinnies and a most excellent playlist that includes everything from Toto to Technotronic to Sinatra and a bit of Wilson Phillips for those special moments.

I returned to The Night Heron only a few weeks ago. I had it in my sparkly mind that this was the place to hold such an eventful birthday party. Upon returning I discovered a former work colleague of mine behind the bar. An artist by day and bar owner by night, I knew my party was going to be in good hands with Ross Taylor at the helm.

Before I even approached him with all my party-esque questions, Ross explained that there were some radical food options nearby that could deliver tucker to my hungry little guests as they guzzled frothies in the beer garden.

Burger Business sits right next door and offers a quality beef-n-bun option with sensational chippage in old school packaging. A sure stomach liner if you are planning a big night.

A couple of doors down is Addis Abeba, a very well recommended Ethiopian eatery who will also deliver to the bar, making these last of the summer nights an absolute pleasure.

When the Birthday Party arrived, I was equipped with knowledge. I had booked the beer garden and had made a dress fit for the occasion out of a Ken Done curtain. I was ready and so was this fine little bar.

The beats were pumping and my pals came rolling in – some of them even crossed town to the ‘westside’ to experience this little place I’d been raving about. They ate burgers, they drank Footscray lager, they stayed all the way to the 1am curfew and best of all, they cheered when a superb choc-mint 90s themed birthday cake came out topped with sparklers and candles and my favourite mixed cassette tape, just for me.

It was an excellent Birthday Party. One that I won’t forget. What made it sublime was the gorgeous Night Heron and it’s oh-so-Footscray appeal that provided me and my bestest of mates with the bestest of times.

My highlights? The Night Heron lager is rad as is the Castlemaine Celtic Red Ale on tap. The staff are fun and friendly, there’s a different dj mixing vinyl most weekends, the beer garden is easy and oh so very appealing on a warm night and it feels like you’re in your hood. Which you are. This should become your new local (if it isn’t already).

I’m going to go back. You should join me!

The Night Heron is located at 228 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Discover its cool activities at

Pics courtesy of The Night Heron. This article first appeared in the April issue of The Westsider.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Bum Bag Fanny Pack

I’ve been searching for a classic double zipped, adjustable strap, patchwork leather number for a while.

I mean, if you’re going to wear a bum bag, it’s gotta look authentic. Forget those little nylon excuses for a practical waist pack and why use a backpack when everything you need is sitting right above your groin?

It’s been almost 10 months, my name is listed next to every op shop till within a 5km radius of my home: Ali – call ASAP at the first sighting of a patchwork leather bum bag or any Ken Done.

Every week I would step into my local Salvos and be greeted with a sad head shake from the volunteer at the counter, “maybe next week Ali, next week”.

I put a call out on Inner West Buy Swap sell and still nothing. It was uncanny. For something so mass produced in the 1980s and 1990s, I couldn’t find one anywhere except on bloody eBay where someone was asking $50 for a fanny pack listed as ‘vintage 1990s dork bag’. 

I’m no dork. I’m just a super practical parent who wants a suitably ace looking bag near my fanny which contains all the right things: phone, purse, wipes, pineapple lollies, keys, superball, stickers and a box of sultanas. Let’s just call it a Mum Bag.

The thing is, I totally found one last weekend in an op shop in Beechworth. The brown leather patchwork bag was hanging amongst a crowded hat rack jam packed with bags from all decades. I grabbed it with both my hands and held it close to my chest. I could smell the leather tan as I crumpled it between my palms. The zips were worked in, it had been loved and now it was mine, all for $1.99.

I pulled the bright yellow and red price tag off as soon as I purchased it, adjusted the waist band and clipped it around my tummy. I took my purse and phone out of my tote bag and popped them into the main zipped compartment and walked out of the store with pride.

My next stop was the greengrocers. I chose some fruit and easily reached into my bum bag, found my purse instantly and paid the grocer without the nervous fear of fumbling around for wallet and money.

It was too easy. Way too easy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It wasn’t even five minutes into my first leather bum bag outing that a stranger walked past and said ‘BUM BAG’ out loud, eyebrows raised.

I was in Beechworth, so I didn’t think anything of it.

A day later I returned to Yarraville and while out with my pooch – carrying poo bags and dog treats in my handy new zippered front bum pack – not one, but two people commented on my bum  bag within a minute of turning off my street:

“My grandma has one of those. She also wears parachute.”
“Are you going to a costume party?”

It was hurtful. I’m sure these strangers were trying too hard to be nice and were just using the bum bag as an excuse to talk to me. But I started to feel self-conscious. Perhaps the Mum Bag craze wasn’t going to take off. Perhaps my practical solution for carrying heaps of shit in front of me just wasn’t going to work.

Or perhaps I’m just way ahead of the times, using a radical invention of the past to fulfil my needs of the future (you can even wee while wearing these things).

So I’m gonna keep bumming on and wearing my fanny pack in the hood. I’d like to see you wear one too. Trust me, they’re excellent. They’re practical. And they’re downright sensible, so-much-so that my bum bag is probably the most grown up thing I own (apart from a kid and a house and an original koala velcro wrist purse).

Long live the bum bag fanny pack!