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The Gay League, Nude Cleaning and Other Discoveries of the Festive Season

20th December 2018

Comrades! The school term has ended, and not a moment too soon. I was staggering over the finish line like a marathon runner in lactic overload. It’s been a killer queen of a silly season around here. Non. Stop. Commitments. If the calendar could talk it would have begged for mercy. Even for a hermit like me that says no to everything I possibly can.

After a year in France where our social, family and community commitments were so much smaller, the reality of running this whole charade has been quite full on. My texting fingers hurt and my to-do list never seems to get any smaller. The mental load, this Christmas, is heavy. What now? What next? Is my brain, like the rest of me, just getting too old to hold all this information? Am I just neurotic? Or, having taken a break from the madness, am I seeing it with new eyes, like the frog in the slowly heating water who doesn’t realise it is reaching boiling point?

This time last year, we were in a little cottage up a snowy mountain with no wifi, no phone, no devices and – as things transpired halfway through cooking Christmas lunch – no gas. Our planned roast chicken turned into long-simmered chicken soup on the woodstove, which we ate in batches – seconds, thirds, and more – as we lay around reading books. It was so quiet. Such a rest for the mind. It took a huge amount of work and planning to get to that little house in the Auvergne, of course, but that was fine. It’s the non-stop social interactions of the last weeks that have felt just overwhelming to me.

These ties that bind – family, friends – they are so important and beautiful. But jeez it was relaxing last Christmas when nobody gave two real shits about us…

This year, because I have a child finishing primary school, the end-of-term madness has been more full on than usual. There have been parties, ceremonies, gifts, cards; all of which required cooking and planning and shopping and wrapping and thinking.

I am quite sure that in France if we requested the teachers engage in the intense farewelling we do here, they would flick a cigarette in our faces.

We adore being part of a small school community. Only 17 kids graduated from my daughters Year 6 class. This is so lovely – the level of connection the parents, teachers and children have is intense. It really is a family. But like a family, there’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s usually the mums doing it. For the big Year 6 farewell dinner, we mums planned the party, designed invites, decorated the hall, cooked the dinner and sorted out all the kids outfits and associated bullshit. At the end of the night, the lights went on in the surf club and all the parents and teachers cleaned up. On the last day of school there was the traditional game of parents-student Gaelic football (I thought it was called Gay League at first, awkward moment there; also, missed opportunity frankly.)

All this milestone-celebrating is bonding and gorgeous, and meaningful, but shit the bed, is it a lot of work. (I had a European teenager in my house for a week during this madness too. Mothers of four: you have my undying respect.)

Of course, when the Mum-work rises up at a time like this, everything else gets sidelined. My writing sits gathering dust, despite my desire to maintain my momentum. There has just been no space for it. So how much more full on, I wonder, is this end-of-term, Xmas prep, final-parties-for-every-fucking-activity-ever season for parents who are working full time or have even more children than me? How do you keep up? Tell us! Tell us all the secrets, oh wise ones!

When life is intense and busy, it’s emotionally frazzling for me. Some people are motivated by lots of action. I am motivated by lots of pockets of time reading with my legs up a wall, and my kids are the same; so in a go-go-go season, I tend to be navigating a lot of tumultuous emotional weather from the kids, too. This is tiring and sad-making.

Of course, it’s in seasons like this that we all start getting sick, so every morning it’s been like dragging the Zombies of Mordor from full to semi-disarray (Ted’s shoes are held together with gaffer tape) and my throat has been sore for a fortnight.

Still. I push on, comrades. Because that’s who I am. A martyr of the highest order.

However! The term is over, and today was the first day of our summer holiday. We had a swim in the ocean. We played cards. We read on the deck. We rescued the miniature donkeys who escaped their paddock. I performed the traditional I Am Not Your Servant for the Next Six Weeks and Will Now Outline How We Are Going to Share the Housework speech. (So optimistic! Adorable!)

I am taking some time tonight to decant my brain onto the page here, because my crazy intense period, that lasted about four weeks, is over, pretty much, and I am really looking forward to getting back to my manuscript. We’ve already done and dusted one family Xmas last weekend, and we’re off to my in-laws for next week. Other than that, I anticipate lots of late mornings in our immediate future. One child stayed naked for the first 24 hours of the holidays in celebration, and we have many plans for Making Summer Great Again. Mainly, I am aiming to practice the art of Not Complaining. I’ve been living a bit like this…

For 2019, I plan to approach life with a little more gratitude.

Also, I am so very excited to do some hard core spring cleaning and fart-arsing about with a little interiors DIY. May even do it nude – a friend told me she cleans the bathroom in the nuddy and since then, it’s been coming at me from all angles (as the actress said to the bishop). Apparently, naked cleaning is a thing! Who knew? I usually just get Keith to wear his ivory bodysuit, but I guess I could just…ask…?

Anyhoo, comrades, that’s it from me. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

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