My Highs, My Lows

My Highs, My Lows was published in The Big Issue (Australia) #585 (18 April to 2 May 2019).

I blame my older brothers for teaching me.

I blame my parents for allowing me.

I blame my wife for turning a blind eye.

I blame my children for continuing the tradition.

I do not blame myself for my own weakness.

I blame the chocolate beverage company.

I blame the dairy farmers and cocoa plantations.

I blame the cows.

I blame the glass and spoon manufacturers.

I do not blame myself for my own weakness.

My only defence is I have no other vice. No alcohol, no cigarettes. No dope. No coffee. No tea. Nothing. A boring life.

But for one vice.

Its ingredients? Malt barley, milk solids, sugar, cocoa…

Its packaging? Green tins, the bigger the better.

Its name? Starts with ‘M’. Ends with ‘O’. Four letters. Two syllables.

Its texture? Slightly crunchy.

The method? Heap far too many spoons into a glass. (It has to be glass, not plastic.) Pour some milk in, but not too much. Watch the dry ingredients magically float to the top. Spoon the dry ingredients, and some of the milk, into your mouth. Do not drink the milk.

This has been a habit since I was a boy. With my brothers it was a shared habit, an after-school indulgence.  As I grew up, and moved into share houses, it became a private habit. Wait til the house was my own. Then crack open the big green tin, find a glass and spoon, and the milk and sit down at the kitchen table with the sports pages.

Illustration by Xenia Latii, courrtesy of The Big Issue, and the artist.

But I couldn’t hide my vice from my wife. Or three children. There was some odd pride in holding onto a childhood habit all these years. I had no shame in showing Hannah, Jesse and Reuben how it’s done. When they pop in these days, from their own homes and share houses, they head for the pantry and the big green tin. They don’t need the sports pages though. They’re happy to consume and chat. No shame, these youngsters.

I am now of an age where one has regular blood tests and the like. So far, so good. But I should not be surprised if one day my doctor or dentist or a specialist, looking at test results and X-rays, says, “See this? See these chocolate-coloured markings? They don’t seem to be causing any issues yet but maybe you need to think about easing up on your daily intake.”

My daily intake is usually at about eleven o’clock in the morning. At home. In the kitchen. House to myself.

The taste and texture is delicious, always has been obviously, but nowadays I have to eat fruit afterwards, or scrub my teeth. Or both. Call it guilt. Call it a cover-up. Call it denial. (I often think of Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth washing her hands over and over after the assassination.)

If I’m not at home – working in an on office – I’ll be a little more grown-up, a little less child-like, and order a hot chocolate from a café. I might even stave off the cravings till lunchtime. There have been times – years – when I’ve managed without the eleven o’clock fix. But, home from work, my wife Julie busy playing piano or accordion, I would steal a few minutes, a few spoonfuls.

Julie does most of the supermarket shopping in our household (I’m allergic to the lighting, the muzak,  the pinging of cashier bells, the beeping of scanners, the company of neighbourhood acquaintances, the disobedience of supermarket trolleys), so she usually buys the big green tins. (True love!)

Occasionally, though, the shelf in the pantry is empty and I have to do the deed myself. Face up to my failings. Once again I think of Shakespeare and Lady MacBeth: “If it were done, ‘tis better it were done quickly.”  So I’m in and out of the supermarket quickly, avoiding eye contact with anyone and then safely home. The milk. The glass. The spoon. The sports pages.

Thanks to The Big Issue and illustrator Xenia Latii.



  1. I knew it. I knew Vin that you could not be viceless. “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” (As You Like It). Surely not.

  2. I love the public confession! Was it cathartic?

    It’s good to have a so-called vice – keeps us human & humble. Our weaknesses are our commonality. Everyone has at least one, & some are more forgivable than others.



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