My Kinky Mother’s Day Present

When I first saw the mother’s day present Fletch had chosen for the kids to give me this year, I can’t really tell you what I thought… I took off the wrapping paper to reveal a weird looking S-Shaped purple plastic device – what the hell???

Fletch holding the Backnobber

Fletch holding the Backnobber

Fletch held it out proudly, declaring he’d discovered the solution to my back pain woes. He’d bought me a BACKNOBBER. And not just any Backnobber. It was the Backnobber MARK TWO. I smiled nicely, trying to appear enthusiastic and failing. How on earth could something so simple actually help with the complex physical condition I was enduring that related to disc issues and nerve endings? What a STUPID present… It didn’t even come with batteries.

Sure, I'll give it a go…???

Sure, I’ll give it a go…???

But it was a mother’s day present. I had to try. It took a while to get the positioning right, but after several attempts, it started to make sense. If you hold one end of the S-shaped device in one hand and get it on the right spot where you feel the discomfort, then pull down on the curve in front of your body, the pressure applied actually DOES have a massaging effect.

Applying the Backnobber pressure...

Applying the Backnobber pressure…

You can also move the Backnobber around very easily to treat various spots on the back and feel the instantaneous relief. I was amazed. It actually worked! Sometimes the key to a successful gadget really does lie in its simplicity.

So THAT'S how it works...

So THAT’S how it works…

So why, might you ask, have I decided to blog about something that was a gift WAY back in May? Well, it just so happens that I’m on holiday right now with the kids and didn’t pack my Backnobber and my back is missing that simple purple device. Which must be proof that it actually does work. Given that 80% percent of the world’s population suffers from back pain at some point in their lives (according to Dr. Jeffrey Katz, M.D., M.Sc., a leading back specialist at Harvard Medical School) then I reckon there’s plenty of readers who might like to know about this. Fletch first learnt about the amazing Backnobber from his on-screen wife, Jackie Woodburne (aka Susan Kennedy), and let’s face it if TWO wives of a well-regarded doctor think something works, then we MUST be on to something.

Backknobber II

Backknobber II

If you’d like to find out more about the Backnobber, Fletch bought it from The Massage Warehouse in at 361 North Road, South Caulfield, Victoria. (PH: +61 (03) 9502 7693) Or you can visit the company website on and order a Backnobber on-line. Right now, they’re on sale – reduced from $65 to $56. And no, I don’t get a commission. I’m just sharing because I hope it helps. Good luck.

The new ladies in Doctor K’s life…

I’ve had to endure my husband having many relationships with different women over the years. Of course, he’s had his on-screen Neighbours wife, Susan, for more than 18 years and that’s been easy because Jackie Woodburne is such a wonderful human being and good friend.

Then there was Nicola Charles (Sarah) and Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Izzy) who were love interests on the show for a spell and also both gorgeous, so I can’t complain. Natalie has also become a close pal.

Jackie Woodburne, Fletch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Jackie Woodburne, Fletch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

But now, not only is Fletch surrounded by stunning women on set, he’s embarked on a musical project that means he’s going to be working closely with THREE beautiful and highly talented young women. I mean, really, if they weren’t so damn nice, I might be feeling a little bit over it all…

Alan first met The Pacific Belles when they came along to a regular gig where his band Waiting Room was playing at The Elephant and Wheelbarrow in St Kilda. From there, Alan learnt about their unique musical style and plans for a collaboration grew. You see, The Pacific Belles aren’t any old girl group. They’re a retro swing trio that emulates the harmonies of The Andrews Sisters from the 1940s.

The Pacific Belles performing at The Paris Cat in Melbourne

The Pacific Belles performing at The Paris Cat in Melbourne


We went along to The Paris Cat in the city one evening to see them perform and were blown away. Not only is their repertoire tight, pitch perfect and entertaining – they mix up the old with the new – even singing a jazz influenced version of Wonderwall. Impressive.



Laura Monaghan (pictured above centre) – better known as ‘Betty Belle’, is the lynch pin of the group and the mastermind behind the concept. She firmly believes she was born in the wrong era, which probably accounts for their authentic sound. ‘I came over to Australia from the UK and I’ve always wanted to sing in a trio,’ she said. ‘I love singing harmonies so I thought, “Let’s do a 1940s singing trio.” That’s the music I’m really passionate about. It’s a glamorous era. I love the fashion, the lipstick, the hair – everything.’

The Pacific Belles

The Pacific Belles


They’ve definitely got the look down pat. Quick frankly, listening to them sing downstairs at The Paris Cat, I really did feel like I’d been transported back to another era…




They’ve already built up quite a following in Melbourne – playing at functions, popular venues, weddings and events. Tonight they’ll be performing at the launch of Melbourne’s Fringe Festival with shows booked during the festival as well.

A vintage tea party with The Pacific Belles

A vintage tea party with The Pacific Belles

‘Our next public performance dates will be during the Melbourne fringe festival at Madame Brussels on the 22nd of September and then again on the 5th and 6th of October.  Our show is called Sing, Swing, Get in The Mood and we’d love everyone to come along for the afternoon tea and a show.’

As for Fletch’s new musical collaboration with The Pacific Belles, that’s under wraps for the moment, but I’ll give you a hint. It might have something to do with Christmas…

Fletch and Belles

Fletch and Belles

They make a good team, right? Oh, and the Pacific Belles will be back at The Paris Cat in November. In the meantime, they’ve also got an album and video clip to finish. Ultimately, they’d like a hit song in the UK charts. I can’t wait to hear the finished product!

The Pacific Belles

                                The Pacific Belles

For Bookings and enquiries please contact Betty Belle –
Tel: 0448 698 900



Bali dreaming… time to get away.

I’ve been dreaming about this for some time… returning to one of my favourite places on earth – BALI.



And now finally, the day has arrived. I’m just about to finish some last minute packing, hop in the shower and jump on a plane tonight with the kids. Sadly, Fletch has to stay home to continue working on Neighbours, but hey, I’m lucky enough to have my sister, Jill, and several friends heading over to paradise as well, so I won’t be short of company.

But I thought I should warn you this time. Last year when I went on holidays, (to the U.S., last July) I fully intended to Blog every day about stuff, but then found it all too much. Every day I would chastise myself for being slack and every day I would vow to tap something out, but time slipped by and it never happened. Eventually I just gave up. Happily, I must add. I mean, why take a holiday, really, if you’re not going to have a rest? And I did write two summary travel Blogs once I got home.

The problem is, I really do love writing, so I may WANT to Blog. Or not. Which is why I’m saying – there may be a BIG gap between entries – but I’m just not going to commit to anything. At least this time you’ll know why.

Given the crew I’ll be hanging out with, no doubt there will be plenty of stories to tell and I always enjoy sharing travel tips, so let’s see.

Me wearing a neck brace

Me wearing a neck brace


At least one piece of travelling advice from our last trip has been taken on board by our son, Tom. He saw how much I benefitted last year from taking a neck brace on planes when travelling long haul economy. It’s the BEST way to keep the head stable and be able to nod off and have a solid nap without waking, feeling like your first stop off the plane has to be at the chiropractors. They really are SO much more effective than those useless travel pillows sold at airports. And they’re only about $10-$15 each. So now Tom and I will be sporting matching neck braces for the journey!


Don’t worry, I won’t wear it by the beach. The sand’s a good enough cushion for me when lying horizontal. And if you’re wondering about the weird colours with that pic above, it’s because I finally found a solution to publishing crap photos of myself. Edit the bejeezus out of it with colour distortion and it hides a multitude of sins. Perfect.

Now, if only I could do that to my body when I’m on the beach…

Farewell for now. Bali, here we come!

Bali sunset

Bali sunset


Social Pages – Why Crowds Flocked to the Stand In My Shoes event

An event highlight this week was most definitely the launch of the STAND IN MY SHOES project at the glamorous White House venue in St Kilda.

This is an extraordinary initiative because it isn’t asking people to necessarily donate or do anything that’s completely tangible – but rather, to tackle a problem that is more to do with a mind-set and attitude in our global community. It’s all about…                                                               

Empathy was everywhere - and in this hat, designed by milliner Danica Erard (not pictured)

Empathy was everywhere – and in this hat, designed by milliner Danica Erard (not pictured)                PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci


… or rather, the lack of it. So a large number of the social set put their best feet forward to support three filmmakers in creating awareness about the EMPATHY DEFICIT in society and how we can tackle the problem.

The three women who started the movement witnessed a young boy being hit by a car in Los Angeles and were struck by the fact that no one stopped to help. They did. This compelled them to look closely at the problems that stem from, what President Obama calls, ‘the empathy deficit.’



Vivienne Somers (Executive Producer), Anjali Rao (MC), Anna Reeves (Executive Producer) and Susan Schultz (Director of US Public Affairs)

Founder Vivienne Somers (Executive Producer) with Anjali Rao (MC),  Founder Anna Reeves (Executive Producer) and Susan Schultz (Director of US Public Affairs)                              PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

Apparently it’s an issue that’s even been studied by scientists who are concerned that we are experiencing the most rapidly declining rates of empathy in society in the past ten years.

It’s also costing us bucket loads. In the US, workplace bullying – experienced by about 49% of workers – costs a whopping $300 BILLION a year. And in Australia, the figure is about $36 billion. See, it pays to be nice!

Packed to the rafters with support

Packed to the rafters with support            PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

It’s an issue that obviously struck a chord with Melbourne’s movers and shakers, because you could barely move in the White House on the night, with so many wanting to be there and show their support. People WANT to stop the empathy decline.



By making a movie and harnessing the power of social media, STAND IN MY SHOES hopes to restore the collective ’empathy chip’.  The women say their movie is not just a film. It’s a ‘Global Empathy Moviement’ that will empower voices to advocate empathy – which they see as a transformative  tool for social change.

They’ve garnered support from some huge names globally, too. There’s the TIME’S Most Influential Baby Boomer, Marianne Williamson, David Jones, CEO Havas Worldwide, Oprah’s OWN Network, media giant Arianna Huffington, neuroscientist Professor Bill Mobley and social entrepreneur advocate Bill Drayton.

Here’s a snapshot from the Melbourne event.

Actors Nathan Phillips and John Jarratt   PICTURE: Anthony Licuria

Actors Nathan Phillips and John Jarratt PICTURE: Anthony Licuria

Lou Mitchell and Pia Miller   PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

Lou Mitchell and Pia Miller        PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci










Bree Laughlin and actor Nathan Phillips     PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

Bree Laughlin and actor Nathan Phillips                         PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

Fletch and me   PICTURE: Anthony Licuira

Fletch and me                          PICTURE: Anthony Licuira










Sisko chocolate hand-crafted treats for the event PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

Sisko chocolate hand-crafted treats for the event
PICTURE: Rosanna Faraci

Photographer Rosanna Faraci among the crowd   PICTURE: Jim Lee

Photographer Rosanna Faraci among the crowd                                    PICTURE: Jim Lee

My 'TOMS' shoes

My ‘TOMS’ shoes

Oh, and each guest was given a goodie bag at the end of the night with a special gift – AND IN THE RIGHT SIZE – a pair of TOMS shoes. I LOVE my striped pair – SO comfy. Plus, every time you buy a pair of TOMS shoes, they donate a pair to a child in need. Bloody fabulous. You should get some. Find out how at


If you’d like to know more about the STAND IN MY SHOES movie project and how you can help, check out their website at




Doesn’t anybody use the phone any more? Plus my latest Blog Plan…


Conversations beat text messaging

Conversations beat text messaging

I was thrilled to see a girlfriend’s name pop up on the mobile this morning and very much enjoyed our half hour chat. Especially as it’s been a bit of a bugbear for me lately that people just AREN’T making the effort when it comes to communication.



We lead such busy lives, that often it’s easier to just send a text or an email. But nothing beats a REAL conversation. Dry words on an electric device just don’t carry the same depth and meaning and can often lead to mis-communication.

Take this example last week when I received a text message from a girlfriend in the UK after she spied Fletch making an appearance on a TV show over there.

‘No email, no text. He just turns up on Loose Women. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be Okay.’

Wow – my eyebrows to nearly hit the ceiling. My first reaction was – ‘Of course, she’s joking.’ But what if she wasn’t? What if she was genuinely offended we hadn’t let her know Fletch was heading over there?

Texting can lead to miscommunication

Texting can lead to miscommunication

And that’s the problem with text messages – there’s no TONE in them. We can’t hear the sarcasm, the dry irony, the jesting voice – and that’s where the miscommunication comes in. Luckily in this instance our lovely friend was OF COURSE joking, but it did give me cause for a few unsettled moments until we  clarified the issue.



Likewise, I’ve been told by a few friends lately that I need to be a better blogging communicator – that I need to have a BLOG PLAN so that readers know what to expect from this website. They want a clearer picture of what’s coming up on which day.

Point taken. I get that. And especially as you may have noticed some new advertising at the top and bottom of these posts, I’m aiming to put in more effort to make this magazine-style Blog a more professional venture.

A promise to my readers to kick off with – I vow NEVER to allow POP-UP advertising on this website. I abhor those.

I can’t promise to post a Blog every day – (even Fletch thinks that’s overkill) – but I’ll try to stick to a certain theme or topic for each day of the week. So the Blog Plan I propose is this:

MONDAY – A feature interview or opinion piece on a topical issue

TUESDAY – A light-hearted look at life or a family story

WEDNESDAY – Beauty tips or a review of the latest products

THURSDAY – Health forum, dietary advice and recipes

FRIDAY – Fashion review and Internet shopping tips

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY – Most likely rest days, but if I’ve been to a fun social event, I’ll post pics here and call it The Social Pages.

SO that’s the plan. Stay tuned to see how it pans out. But right now, isn’t there someone you need to phone?

My next scientific self-improvement experiment – post muffin-top

You all loved the blogs about my muffin-top experiment so much that I’ve decided I really should get off my butt and try another beauty treatment – just to keep you entertained. I mean, heck, it’s not like I CARE what I look like, or anything??? All in the name of duty, right?

It just seems that’s there’s so MUCH stuff out there about how to improve our faces and bodies – how do we actually sift the good from the shonky and know what actually works?

Jocelyn Wildenstein

Jocelyn Wildenstein


Don’t go thinking I’m going to turn into some kind of Jocelyn Wildenstein, though. I do understand the meaning of restraint. And just in case I went all silly, I KNOW Fletch would pull me into line. He even hates lipstick. To the point that he WIPED HIS MOUTH after kissing me at the alter during our wedding. The shame…

Luckily the kind folk at the Liberty Belle Clinic in Toorak, where I underwent the Cool Sculpting process, are happy to help out, so I went along to check out the different procedures available.


Pelleve brochure

Pelleve brochure

Looking through all their brochures, I learned there’s a helluva lot of different and NEW treatments available to improve ourselves that I’ve never heard of. I could easily hang around this clinic for years. After focusing so much on my tummy last year, I thought it was time my face got a bit of attention. When I saw this brochure with the line ‘A Fresher Face WiTHOUT Surgery’ – I snatched it up faster than you could say ‘Botox’. Because, yes, I have had Botox and I love it, but something new and different is always appealing. This treatment is called Pelleve.



I’m at that age where anything promoting WRINKLE REDUCTION warrants immediate attention, especially now those nasty lines around the neck region are becoming more prominent. Unfortunately, if I’m to blog about this, it means more humiliating photos of myself to show you what really happens….

Side profile - NO MAKE-UP!!!

Side profile – NO MAKE-UP!!!


So I have to show you a really ICKY close-up photo of my face without makeup, so you can get the gist. Ewww. These pics are taken by the lovely staff at Liberty Belle in the same photo room each time so the lighting is consistent too – very legit!! This snap was taken before my first treatment.



Before and after photos

Before and after photos


But getting back to how Pelleve works… In the brochure, it explains how a metal probe is used over the skin – using gradual radio frequency that becomes quite hot at times – to stimulate the re-growth of collagen. The effect is not immediate and you really need about three treatments over a course of several months. But I’m assured it WILL work.




To give you a much better understanding of the science behind all this, I’m going to interview Dr Chris Moss (you met him last time, chatting about the Cool Sculpting fat freezing treatment) who will explain it properly. He’s a very busy man, but I’m going to nail him down in the next few weeks for the nitty gritty and get back to you. Then I’ll have some Pelleve sessions and, over time, we’ll see how my wrinkles go. (Away, I hope.)

(For further enquiries, contact the Liberty Belle Skin Centre on 9826 9988 Address: 504 – 506 Toorak Road, Toorak)





I didn’t realise my husband was SO competitive – until today…


Generally speaking, I reckon men are more competitive than women. And sometimes, you even find that within relationships, couples can be competitive with each other. I’d never thought that about Fletch and myself – UNTIL TODAY.

There we were, happily enjoying some ‘time out’ – kiddie free – down along Victoria’s surf coast with my brother and sister-in-law. Early this morning, Fletch rose at dawn to take some photographs along the beach. Sunrise shots are his specialty. You may remember a few of his picturesque snaps from a blog I posted at Lorne last week. I stayed in bed and was probably snoring when he twisted his ankle among the rock pools.

We waited for him to return so we could ‘go out’ for breakfast. By the time he got back, I was starving. We decided to take a stroll through the scrubby bush lining the cliffs, down to the Anglesea Life Saving Club, where they’re renowned for dishing up a killer brekky. Fletch said his ankle would be fine, that it wasn’t ‘too bad’. Watching him power ahead of Penny and myself, I believed him. He likes to be the fastest and lead the pack. I’m used to that and didn’t think much of it.

After we arrived at the Life Saving Club, we sat on the decking, over-looking a sweeping view of the Anglesea beach. The tide was out, leaving a glassy expanse across the foreshore. While sipping on a latte and waiting for my eggs and bacon, I took a photo of my own and posted it on Instagram. It looked like this:

Jen beach

My photo of the Anglesea beach

Now, it’s a little over-cooked. I know, I know… My excuse is that we were sitting in the sun, and as you’re all probably aware, trying to peer into the dark glass of an I-phone to see ANYTHING on a sunny day is practically impossible. Fletch looked at it and nodded silently. Knowingly.

Next thing I know, he’s grinning as he also takes a shot and posts it on Instagram. His photo is,  OF COURSE, infinitely better and looked like this:

Fletch's photo of Anglesea beach

Fletch’s photo of Anglesea beach

Remember too, that he IS photographer and has dozens of special ‘Apps’ on his I-phone that I am blithely unaware of, so his creative powers are naturally, going to be far superior to mine. My eggs arrived. I felt I may as well wear them on my face after he’d shown me up on Instagram to be a failure. But it didn’t quell my appetite. I stuffed myself and the eggs were delicious. As were the mushrooms.

After finishing up, we walked back home along the beach and I spotted a row of fence posts that screamed artistic potential. ‘Great,’ I thought. ‘Now I can show the world what a brilliant photographer I am!’ And I took this:

My photo of beach fence posts

My photo of beach fence posts

I took more time with the effects and was quite chuffed with the results. That is, until Fletch saw my photo and then ran back to the fence posts. I watched in disbelief as he snapped away, knowing what he was doing. For the second time he wanted to prove to the world that he is a better photographer than me by shooting the SAME subject matter. Here’s his picture:

Fletch's beach fence posts

Fletch’s beach fence posts

Humph! Quite frankly, I think it’s a bit over-the-top. A bit melodramatic – don’t you think? But damn him, yes, it’s STILL stacks better than mine. Then I remembered him striding along the bush track to breakfast, trying to keep ahead of the girls, despite his twisted ankle. It suddenly dawned on me that he is one helluva competitive bloke.

I called him on it.
Jen: ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you so competitive?’
Fletch: ‘I’m not competitive.’
Jen: ‘Well, why do you take the same shot as me?’
Fletch: ‘If I see something and you see something at the same time, we both take the shot, that’s all.’
Jen: ‘But you see me take the shot, then copy me and do a better shot and it makes me look bad.’
Fletch: ‘No I don’t. Don’t be silly. You’re over-playing it.’

I’ll say it again. HUMPH! You’ve seen the photos. You be the judge.

But come on – we all KNOW he’s a better photographer than me. I mean, just take a look at these shots he took at sunrise:

Sunrise at Anglesea - by Alan Fletcher

Dawn breaking at Anglesea – by Alan Fletcher

Sunrise at Anglesea by Alan Fletcher

Sunrise at Anglesea – by Alan Fletcher

That last shot is my favourite. It’s pretty impressive.

So there you go, Fletch – you win. As you lie on the couch with ice on your swollen ankle, moaning, I tell you – you ARE a better photographer than me. Can you just stop copying my Instagram shots to show me up??? Thanks.

And by the way – here’s one shot I snuck in at the Life Saving Club that you DIDN’T get to copy:

My photo of classic teaspoons

My photo of classic teaspoons

Yep, all the teaspoons at the cafe are vintage classics – all different and probably sourced from Op Shops all over. I love them – their detail and craftsmanship – that each one has it’s own story and a past life.

So there, Fletch – bettcha jealous now.


Who IS that stranger hiding from the camera?

I broke my blogging rule regarding family matters last month. Originally, the intention was to forewarn Fletch and the kids if I was intending to write about them, but that went out the window when I posted a story about Fletch’s addiction to the Catch of the Day website – without his prior knowledge. Thankfully he didn’t mind.

Tom's desk and school books

Tom’s desk and school books


So I figured, once a personal rule is broken, it no longer exists – right? Which meant I started writing a story about my 15-year-old son without him knowing, only to find he is SO much more sensitive about that concept than his father.



Mid-year exam results

Mid-year exam results

I WAS going to write about how well he’d done at school this year and how hard he’d studied for his exams, which are now over. In particular, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that he is developing beautifully as a writer and I am often filled with wonder and delight when I read his work. The way he’s going, I wouldn’t be surprised if he publishes a book before me.


With that in mind, here’s the conversation that ensued when I approached Tom to take a photograph. I always like to keep Blog photos as recent as possible – as any journo knows, it kills a story if the pictures are dated.

‘No, you can’t take my photo, Mum,’ he said, running for his bed and diving into it face down, pulling the sheet off the mattress.
‘Oh, come on….’ I pleaded. ‘I need a recent one for a Blog.’
‘What’s it about?’
‘It’s about what a brilliant writer you are.’
‘I’m not a brilliant writer. That’s not even interesting. You can’t do a Blog on me. Especially photos. What about privacy?’

My attempt at a 'selfie' with Tom

My attempt at a ‘selfie’

‘You put your own photos on Facebook all the time, plus you have already let me use photos of you from a family holiday earlier and now you’re more than six foot tall and fifteen years old, I think you’ll be safe.’ I said, well aware he was looking for excuses. ‘Let’s do a selfie!’ I squealed, snapping away, my inner-paparazzi relishing the challenge.


Moments before the pillow fight

Moments before the pillow fight


Hmm, that’s obviously a completely embarrassing idea. He jumped off the bed, grabbing his pillow as camouflage. Before whacking me with it. And starting a pillow fight. Which isn’t fair because he’s now taller and stronger than me.

I think the photo sequence that follows speaks for itself…



A flurry of activity follows as he tries to escape his evil mother...

A flurry of activity follows as he tries to escape his evil mother…

There's no unlocking those arms...

There’s no unlocking those arms…

A rolling manoeuvre as he attempted escape….

A rolling manoeuvre as he attempts escape….

…only led to a crash-landing.

…only leads to a crash-landing. For a split second, I worry about his back…




…but he rebounds, defiant.

…but he rebounds, defiant.

…even daring a glimpse from undercover, but I'm not quick enough.

…even daring a glimpse from undercover, but I’m not quick enough.









I grab for the doona, and he dives back to the bed...

I grab for the doona, but he dives back to the bed…

Again, he covers himself and at last, lies still and silent.

Again, he covers himself and at last, lies still and silent.

And then…

He has the final word.

Tom's final word

Tom’s final message

I gave up. Sometimes I really feel for the paparazzi.

But I lie. There’s no way I’m giving him the final word. As if. One last story before I sign off to explain why I know Tom will be a writer. Or a journalist.

Off all his essays, in particular, I loved the biography he wrote after interviewing his Grandma. He described how his Great-Gran left England, ‘inhaling deeply as she boarded the gang-plank to the ship, as if taking a last breath from her homeland to her new country.’

‘Beautiful’ I murmured, as I read that line, sighing with the poetic impression of it all. ‘Except Tom,’ I said, ‘that you know your Great-Gran was born in Australia. She never set foot on a ship leaving from England.’

‘ Yeah, ‘ ‘I know’ he said, shrugging nonchalantly. ‘It just made for a better story.’

See??? Of course he’s going to be a writer!
(FYI – he did actually approve this in the end – even though he thinks it’s completely stupid.)

A Steamy Situation – Domestic Battles on the Homefront

I am about to commit a Blogging sin. I promised – in my Welcome message – that if I wrote anything about my husband or kids, I’d run it by them first. Ahhhh geez…. that was months ago and the rules have changed. Well, they change when I want them to. But if this post disappears very quickly, you’ll know the reason.

Exhibit A - Husband

Exhibit A – Husband

I have a very good husband. A very, VERY good husband who most of you know as Dr Karl Kennedy from Neighbours. You all know the TV show The Good Wife? Well, if they made one called The Good Husband, Fletch would be perfect for the role. Yes, he’s also an extremely talented actor and a lot of you adore him, but if you were married to him, (as in any marriage) – you WOULD find foibles.

Again, I have to say, I am lucky. I know this. He’s not a drug addict, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s not even a gambler, nor has he ever laid a finger upon me except in the nicest possible way. He works hard, contributes domestically, we have fun together and most of the time, we love each other. Yep, a pretty normal relationship, right?

Except that he has one SERIOUS problem. I’ve let it slide without much comment for about a year, but it’s now at the point where this has to be addressed. I want to know if anyone else out there is facing a similar battle. I can sum it up in four words:

                                                 CATCH OF THE DAY

The website, that is. Every day, this website advertises a new bargain. Now, maybe it’s born from an actor’s uncertainty about where his next meal ticket is coming from, and even though I try to remind him he’s been on Neighbours for 18 YEARS, it does nothing to deter Fletch from being a Catch Of The Day addict.

What is it about bargain hunting that’s so appealing? It’s not like nailing a wild beast on a a safari – surely? Besides which, Fletch is an animal lover. Is it that the thought of a bargain and saving money excites to the point where one doesn’t consider the value of the item being purchased? I have put up with our house being filled with superfluous objects for too long. For example, we didn’t need any more plastic containers in the kitchen, but Fletch found a bargain on Catch Of The Day that sold a variety of the buggers in a multitude of sizes, promising to keep food fresh till the next century. Now I can’t open a cupboard without being rained on with plastic…

Then there was the mobile phone charger set he bought me – even though I already have a mobile phone charger. Go figure…

I am also getting tired of being interrupted mid-work on the computer at home, to answer the doorbell to Australia Post.

Beldray steam mop

Beldray steam mop

But the piece de resistance came with the grand arrival of the Beldray Steam Mop. Oh. My. God. For some reason, I was expected to be excited upon its arrival. Fletch certainly was. Apparently it was going to save us a bucket load of money, mopping floors and steaming the carpets.

We gave it a test run. The floors got wet – yes. But were they clean?? As far as I could see, there were only residual murky water marks covering the floorboards that hadn’t been there before… I pointed this out. ‘Honey, this actually doesn’t work. The floor looks like crap. Can we return it?’ ‘Hmm, you’re right, he said. ‘Yep, Catch of the Day make it easy. I’ll send it back.’



Wow. I had scored a major victory. For a while, accessories and plastic wrapping accompanying our new steam mop lay on the dining table. After some time, I shifted them into Fletch’s office, knowing he was busy but would surely return the said useless mop as soon as possible. After all, I wasn’t the Catch of the Day addict – it was he who should go to the bother of re-wrapping it and returning it – right?

Several weeks later I went to fetch a broom out of the laundry cupboard. I opened the door and CRASH – everything spilled out over my feet. Brooms, dusters, pans – clattering and falling in slow motion. But standing amid the mess, red, shiny and gloating, was the useless, space-consuming STEAM MOP.

‘ARGHhhhh!!!!’ I screamed. ‘FLETCH!!! What the hell is the steam mop doing in the laundry cupboard?’ Why didn’t you return it???’

Turns out he’d experimented with the mop again and found it quite successful. Skeptical, I proposed he couldn’t be bothered returning it. ‘Oh no,’ he reassured me. ‘It’s fantastic at removing stains from the carpet. I tried it when you were out.’

Steam cleaning Fletch

Steam cleaning Fletch



I scornfully denounced such a thing to be possible so he pointed to several carpet stains he’d worked on, marvelling at the improvement.  Quite frankly, I couldn’t see the difference. Determined to prove a point, he set to work on a new set of stains. It’s a bit annoying how he makes housework look like fun. With remote headphones and a cup of fresh coffee, he glided into action. He wasn’t even bothered by me taking photos. Over and over, he ran that mop over a light stain on the carpet. I took a before photo. And an after photo. What do you think?




Stain Before

Stain Before

Stain after

Stain after






Hmmm… now I bet you’re all thinking – WHY DIDN”T I GET ONE??

I probably shouldn’t complain. After all, there’s not many men who’d put up with me for starters. But quite frankly, what annoys me most, is that every time I want to use the old basic broom, I spend half an hour trying to extract it from the chaos created in the laundry cupboard. My plan is to make the red beast a garden feature by Christmas. And I bet Fletch won’t even miss the bugger. He’ll be too busy checking out what’s new on Catch of the Day.





Here’s the second interview in a series of stories I’ve prepared called ‘Inspirational Life Changes’. Given we’re all living longer, it’s highly likely we’ll all take on more than one career in our lifetime.  Sometimes this can be a dramatic jump  – sometimes a dainty side step. Whatever the change, it’s a leap of faith into the future. I’m curious as to why and how people make this happen.

Now on the verge of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, I thought something racy would be topical, so I caught up with a man who made a huge impact in the Birdcage last year.

INTERVIEW (2) : Mitch Catlin – Journalist turned Marketing Machine
(Head of Partnerships, Community and Media: Swisse)

I was able to pick Mitch Catlin’s voice even before I met him in person. I was listening to the news on 3AW when I first heard it – that striking, baritone vocal – and made sure I remembered his name because I was convinced, with a voice like that, he was certain to become a famous radio or TV presenter.

Several years later, after Catlin finished a stint as LA correspondent for Seven News, we ended up working together at Network Ten. But surprisingly Catlin moved behind the scenes, away from the microphone, to fill the position of Chief-of-Staff. Which he did extremely well. (Apart from occasionally forgetting to put a newspaper on my desk, which we often joked about.)

Then in October 2005, he announced he was leaving. And not just leaving Ten. He was leaving the media. Hanging up his boots as a journalist for good.

Mitch Catlin: Head of Marketing and Developement, Swisse

Mitch Catlin: Head of Partnerships, Community and Media – Swisse


And he hasn’t looked back. From Ten, Catlin worked for PR company Haystac, then quickly shot up the radar by shifting to Myer where his efforts made people sit up and start to take notice. Now he’s ruffling feathers among the marquee set at Flemington with his ability to grab headlines after a sensational debut in the Birdcage last year with the new company he now represents – Swisse Vitamins.

But what happened to make him want to leave the media? Was I too hard on him about failing to deliver my newspaper? I took him out for coffee to find out. Catlin laughs, remembering our verbal jousting, but says, no, that he probably started questioning his future a few years before he left Ten.


‘It was about the time I turned thirty. Like for many people, it’s a milestone year in your life, which gives you reason to think about where you’re heading. I decided I should try something else, because if you leave it too late and then try to jump in another direction, you become a bit pigeon-holed. I thought now is the time to have a crack.’ he says.

So why marketing? Catlin says originally he was planning to work in PR. Generally speaking, most journalists don’t want to work in PR. Public relations people are the ones trying to sell us the stories. We want to write the stories and are often skeptical about those doing the selling. So in a way, Catlin has gone to the ‘other side.’ But when he explains, it makes sense – his theory being that he was capitalizing on his knowledge base.

‘Because I had the knowledge of dealing with the media and for many companies, that’s gold. Because many people don’t actually understand how it works. I’m not for one second suggesting I’m an expert but the knowledge is there – regardless or not as to whether you are deemed to be an expert – you have a knowledge base, which a lot of people simply don’t have. If someone said to me, we’re putting you in I.T. tomorrow, I’d freak out because I don’t know anything about I.T. but I do know a bit about the media. And for many people, that’s a great benefit in this day and age.’

The turning point came when one of the companies Catlin dealt with as Chief-of-Staff – Haystac – offered him a job. ‘At that point in time, they were certainly the most ‘it’ brand as far as PR was concerned,’ he says. ‘They said we don’t necessarily need someone with PR skills but we do need somebody with media skills. So they created a role which was about getting media and PR for their clients which were the likes of Toyota, ANZ, Myer and David Jones.’

But surely it couldn’t have been easy, leaving a long career in the media? Wasn’t the switchover difficult? ‘Oh, at first I didn’t like it at all!’ Catlin says adamantly, shaking his head. ‘I thought, “Oh my God, What have I done? This is not for me!” And I think it’s because I really struggled with the concept of journalists not necessarily liking PR people and me making that transition. It was a challenge. But then I found that the journalists liked that I was able to provide what they needed for a story. I ‘got it’. So there was a connection I developed with them. And that’s because of the knowledge base I had from the media. Anybody who has been a journalist has a skill set that other people simply don’t have.’

It wasn’t until six months later that Catlin really found his feet. Once he started getting coverage in the newspapers, something clicked. ‘For example, I’d open up page five of The Australian and there was a story that I’d worked on. So it was like, “Wow, I’ve done this.” It took me a few months to feel like I could do it, but it’s the same with anyone starting a new job. Initially you have a sense of vulnerability and insecurity. For me, this was a COMPLETE change. So when I got a couple of runs on the board, your insecurity goes down a bit and things start to happen for you. You probably don’t judge yourself as harshly as you had.’

I’m guessing other corporate bigwigs were reading the papers too, because in a blink, Catlin was suddenly flying the PR flag for Myer, taking on board a high-profile PR role. Again, another transition, but he’d have to agree, a step up – yes? Catlin looks thoughtful and pauses. ‘Well, I guess so, I mean in Melbourne there are only a handful of brands that stand out and as they say, Myer is Melbourne. So as far as Melbourne goes, Myer is up there as one of the most famous of the city’s brands. So it was a great opportunity. It gave me a great belief in myself that I could really do this job.’

‘I have a great deal of respect for Bernie Brookes, the CEO of Myer, who took me under his wing and taught me a lot about business,’ says Catlin. ‘I might have had a fair bit of media knowledge but not necessarily a whole lot of business knowledge, so he did teach me a lot.’


Mitch Catlin with the 'other' Jen: Oaks Day, 2010

Mitch Catlin with the ‘other’ Jen: Myer marquee, Oaks Day, 2009


Catlin was obviously a good student. You only have to Google his name to gauge an idea of his success. Articles about his publicity coups and prowess are everywhere, littered with words like ‘publicity guru’. His flair for PR came to the fore during his time at Myer when Jen Hawkins seemed to feature on the front page of the Herald Sun every week.
So does he regard himself as successful? ‘People have a perception that if you’re publicly visible, you are a success and I don’t think that is necessarily what success is.’



For a man who deals so much with celebrity, his answer is surprising. ‘I think success is about being good at what you do. I look back at people who inspired me when I was young, like school teachers, who to me were so successful at what they did because they shaped the things that I believe in. My Mum was a full-time Mum her entire life and has been a wonderfully successful mother – raising myself and my brother – we were very much cared for at home. So the word success for me is difficult – it’s very subjective. I like to think I have achieved well in what I have done, but how you talk about that in terms of success  – that’s for others to decide, not me.’

Catlin is way too modest to blow his own trumpet. In fact, it took a lot of arm-twisting for him to agree to this interview. His preference is for the focus to be on the product, not himself – that his job is about delivering results for the brand. ‘I am more focused on promoting the product or brand – it is not about me,’ he says.

But if he won’t acknowledge his own success, can he explain how it has happened? ‘I always try to put myself in the shoes of someone else and think, what is it these people will want? And then manage to think that through and come up with concepts. It’s about having a strategy and a plan, then you deliver. It’s not about responding or reacting to events. It’s about having a clear long-term strategy and plan,’ he says.


Mitch Catlin, Kate Arnott and a photo-bombing Jess McNamee

Mitch Catlin, Kate Arnott and a photo-bombing Jess McNamee


So with everything going so swimmingly at Myer, why then did he jump ship and take up the PR reins at vitamin giant Swisse? ‘Oh, I think it was time for a change,’ says Catlin, after pausing for consideration. ‘I was looking for something in my life that was worthwhile and what Swisse represents, in terms of health and happiness, well-being and looking after friends, family and yourself – is all true. To be able to work in an industry that really does strive to make people happier and healthier is an important thing to do.’ He sits back in his chair and seriously, he really does look happy.



But there’s always critics. What about the vitamin-skeptics who say vitamins are rubbish – merely a product that makes for expensive urine?

‘Well everyone has an opinion on every single industry,’ says Catlin, sighing. He’s obviously dealt with this one many times before. ‘Look at the health industry in general. There’s always speculation about pills and potions – do they work – all of that. The biggest thing about Swisse is how much money they invest in research and supporting their products. You only have to ask anyone who takes them if they support them and of course they do, otherwise they wouldn’t buy them.’


Alan Fletcher chats with "Kim Kardashian" at the Swisse Stakes Day After Party

Alan Fletcher chats with “Kim Kardashian” at the Swisse Stakes Day After Party, 2011

I’m sure Swisse must be mighty pleased with Catlin’s efforts. His work has raised the profile of the vitamin brand to dizzying heights. Celebrity ambassadors include the cream of the crop from high-profile industries – sport, television and music. Catlin was also behind a move to push Swisse into the spotlight at the Spring Racing Carnival last year. And even when a star appearance on Stakes Day went down the toilet, with the non-appearance of Kim Kardashian, Catlin turned that into a coup, gaining almost more publicity for the reality star’s NO-SHOW by using a cardboard cut-out in the marquee and after-party. Almost every guest wanted their photo taken with Kim and then dutifully posted it on Twitter or Facebook.


Again Catlin is modest, saying Swisse’s marketing strategy was already in place when he joined the brand. ‘What our CEO and the board have set up is a massively successful marketing campaign of integrating ambassadors into existing programs.’

Mitch Catlin and Sonia Kruger

Mitch Catlin and Sonia Kruger


Of Swisse’s ambassador family, the celebrity line-up seems heavily skewed towards sport. Is Swisse neglecting the arts, I ask? Catlin shakes his head, smiling. ‘No, it’s more about looking at people who are the best in their field. And that could be anyone from an actor like Nicole Kidman through to a TV presenter like Sonia Kruger or a cricketer like Ricky Ponting. And the way our marketing strategy has been successful is that we integrate with our retailers, so the likes of Coles, Woolworths, Priceline and Chemist Warehouse are the ones who really dictate to us what they want to achieve.’


And we’ll see more celebrities during the races. Nicole Kidman is making an appearance on Derby Day, Kim Cattrall on Oaks Day and singer Rick Astley on Stakes Day. How does he manage to attract such a star-studded line-up?  Catlin credits his team. ‘With Swisse, what’s going to happen in the lead-up to the races, during the races and post the races, is a team effort. It’s not about me, Mitch Catlin, it’s about the Swisse team who have built this plan together. That’s why we’re confident about our outcomes as a business. I might do a few media interviews here and there but it’s very much about the team strategy.’

When you hear about how Swisse treats its staff, it’s easy to understand why Catlin appears so content. ‘We get 3-day weekends. We get breakfast and lunch provided every day. We get massages every Wednesday. There’s no doubt I wake up every day and feel blessed I’ve found a company like that who actually make a difference to people’s lives,’ he says. (I’m applying for a job tomorrow!!)

Aside from the professional work, Catlin says his time at Swisse has changed the person he is. ‘I’m a much more contented, happy person. More interested in helping others and what’s going on in the community. There’s a real focus on what’s happening around you which is a wonderful change.’

As for future plans, Catlin says he has a few ‘secret squirrel’ projects under his belt that he can’t discuss. But his focus next year will be a major push by Swisse into the global market, the face of Nicole Kidman leading the way. ‘My mission is to share the health and happiness story of Swisse around the world,’ he says.
Watch out world!

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman

Looking back, Catlin credits three men for helping him get to where he is today. ‘They’d be 3AW broadcaster Neil Mitchell, when I started as a journo, ‘ says Catlin, ‘And Anton Staindl, the MD of Haystac who taught me when I first started in PR. And of course, Swisse CEO Radek Sali who constantly inspires me.’

It’s now seven years since Catlin left Ten. Would he say his decision to leave the media and head in a new direction was the right one? His smile says it all. ‘When you look at how life has panned out, it’s very different to what I imagined it would be, but I feel that I’ve achieved a lot and am really happy with where I am right now.’

Mitch Catlin: Head of Partnerships, Community and Media, Swisse

Mitch Catlin: Head of Partnerships, Community and Media – Swisse