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The Bath In The Bedroom

It was the bath in the bedroom that sold me on the house in Sommieres. I’m a bath aficionado (you might even say a crazy-eyed obsessive freak) and the tub is my happiest of happy places, second only to my bed. To have one within three steps of the other is this lazy gal’s greatest dream. And the fact that this particular bathtub is directly across the street from the former home of Lawrence Durrell in the centre of a medieval stone village…well, that’s getting a little greedy for romance. But sir,  I’ll take it!

I had spent some fun hours searching the internet –  the north of France,  the mountains; but mainly the south, for a place to rent for a year. There were very few places that panned out, and none that captured my imagination like that bath in the bedroom. It wasn’t available.  But  then the landlady emailed us asking if we might be interested in the house next door. It had a shower in the bedroom instead of a bath ( not ideal; for a start, ones book gets terribly soggy) but retained all the stone-walled, higgledy-piggledy, history-soaked charm of the original.

Sold! To the lady reading memoirs with pruney fingers.

And now we are here. A year in the south of France is perhaps not the most original of ideas, but that’s OK with us. We’ll wash away the shame of being clichés with buttery pastries as big as our heads. Eaten in the shower.

Keith will run his small tech business from home, I will write and run the good ship Household and our children, who are ten, nine and six, will go to the village school for a year, although they don’t speak French. It’s called ‘immersion’ learning, and there is a knot in my chest at the anticipation of how tricky and painful their adjustment may be. I’ve been told that should take about four months for the babble of language surrounding them to coalesce into recognisable sentences. At that point, they should have ‘functional’ French, and from then on it will be a matter of vocabulary and nuance, and eventually, poo jokes. But at the start they will face an unfamiliar culture and language, a situation that will take all their courage and intestinal fortitude.

We joke about preparing ourselves to be the ‘dumbest family in town’ for a while. Keith and I comfort ourselves with the science that says that novel experiences spark neural pathways in the brain, and we hope that at the end of a year, the children will speak the language (at least conversationally), which will be a great gift to their adult selves.

I also hope that even the difficult and painful aspects of their adjustment will hold hidden gifts of resilience and compassion. And of course to be able to take such an adventure is an incredible privilege. Still, I feel sick at the thought that we are taking the trusting little hands of these people we love so much, dropping them into a terrifying ocean and shouting ‘Save yourselves!”

Can we withdraw routine, comfort and stability from the lives of these very small people in the hope of a future deposit of memories and skills? Is it a fair transaction? I hope so.

School will be challenging, but home life will run as always (lost hats, Captain Underpants, little arms and legs in strong, warm cuddles). I will be their soft place to fall when they have a rough day, and I will try to keep life as safe and as familiar as I can. But to be honest, our day-to-day life for the next year is hard to imagine.

Home is a beach town; down a dirt road in a house with a composting dunny and a rope swing. The frogs are noisy at night-time, fat possums jump across the roof, and wallabies visit the backyard. Down the hill is a beach called Sharkeys that booms with powerful, thundering Pacific surf, as well as the children’s familiar, beloved small school complete with whale-watching platform. In Sommiéres we live in a tall, narrow stone house built in 1973; underneath a castle, and near a Roman bridge ordered by Tiberius in 1AD. One feels a million miles from the other.

The future is bursting with possibility, which is part of the thrill, and part of the fear.  It’s all possible: stress, worry, emotional cheese-eating; but also: travel,  incredible new skills (is it really possible we could all be fluent in another language by next year?) and shared family memories.

On a good day, we will be living our dream adventure.  On a bad day, I’ll break in next door and eat pastries in their bath. Win win!

The Panic Attack Is Scheduled For Monday

                           Parisian street in 1936 by Maynard Owen Williams for National Geographic

 

Less than two weeks until we blow this joint…  and we still have no visas. Dealing with the French Embassy has been both comedic and tragic.

Monday, we panic. But until then, there is too much to do.

Over the next few days we have a Sydney farewell, a family party, in-laws sleepover, a combined farewell/birthday party for the kids and two of the kid’s birthdays. I am losing track of the to-do lists scrolling in my brain, and this morning, in one of our manic information-exchanges (the current mode of our relationship) my lists fused and I asked Keith to grab me a unicorn if he popped into Bunnings. If only!

Biggest lass is sick with the nasty  virus that has sweeping the land. So amongst the sorting and cleaning and admin of the week, I’ve been administering cuddle therapy on the lounge and watching Chefs Table and Yonderland with my hot and sweaty little friend. This morning T-Bone (who keeps trying to kiss his sister in the hope of catching the get-out-of-school-sickness) was wildly scratching his head. ‘Stop that!’ I said. I have been ignoring the scratching for a couple of days. Cannot face the implications. Then T-Bone told me that the headmistress had said yesterday: ‘Every time I look at you, T-Bone, you are scratching!’

How I laughed! Then I violently hounded him out of my bed to cover his head with chemicals. There were five humans in the bed-built-for-two this morning,  and at least three of us spent a very restless night with the biggest having fever-nightmares. At 5am, we finally slept,  listening to the BBC Women’s Hour podcast.

Still, the to-do list is covered with satisfying scribblings-out, and all is on track so far. Appliances repaired, furniture mended, endless emails sent.  (Don’t mention the visas.) I even went to the GP this morning to fill some pre-emptive scripts (I’m reliably informed that French doctors are all about the suppositories, and I’d rather not put anything up the Bulli Pass if it’s not strictly necessary.)

The amount of stuff sent to the op shop is epic. I have cleaned and sorted every cupboard in the house, packing only what we can carry and saving for storage only what we might need in a year. It’s been extremely satisfying. Yesterday I sorted all the bathroom cupboards and found, amongst the assorted crap, an old and exceedingly strange cellophane-wrapped cake of ‘Peni-Wash’ bought at some ancient Asian market and that sometimes I enjoy placing on a the pillow of a visiting guest.  Peni-Wash didn’t survive the extreme cull, so I am clearly, finally Reaching Adulthood. I was happy, however, to happen upon the eponymous ‘peppermint foot spray’ and ‘foot cooling lotion’ that lurks in the cupboard of every home, relic of some long-ago regifted Body Shop basket. Probably there is only one of them, cycling through the land in an endless journey of disappointment.

However, my little Pudding has had a sore foot for a few days, and I haven’t paid much attention to it, distracted as I am. So I saved it for her, and after school I presented her with ‘foot medicine’. It was the best day of this budding doctors life. First we sprayed, then we lotioned, then I carefully bandaged the appendage. ‘Now, you’ll need to repeat this treatment quite a lot, Pudding,’ I told her. ‘Can you handle it?” ‘OF COURSE!’ she shouted. I would wager the opinion that it is the very first time that the Body Shop Peppermint Foot Spray has met with such enthusiasm.

I am writing this from the hairdresser where Danielle is trying to rescue my wild mane.  ‘Take the witch out of the bitch, Danielle,’ I said. ‘I am not up to Wollongong standards; and this may take some sorcery but you need to bring me up to Paris level.’

She nodded silently. She is a magician. Moore St Hair, local friends. Tell Danielle I sent you.

Wish me luck with le Consulate, comrades. I will keep you posted.

 

Whispering Is So Hot Right Now

(I wrote a version of this post recently for news.com). 

Whispering is so hot right now. Even Freelee the Banana Girl, notorious Australian rage-vegan YouTuber, has replaced her ‘meat is murder’ videos with ones where she talks softly about perms while brushing her hair.

It’s called ASMR, or Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response, and it’s one of the fastest growing trends on the internet.  Sometimes called ‘brain massage’, ASMR is the term coined in 2010 for the tingling, pleasurable sensation that ASMR practitioners or ‘ASMRtists’ can induce in a listeners body through such ‘sound triggers’ as whispering, tapping, and brushing.  ASMR is also induced with scenarios of nurturing, non-sexual ‘personal care’, so the ASMRTist may talk directly to camera in role-plays of haircuts and doctor visits. Narration is whispered, paper is scrunched, water is poured and microphones are brushed and tapped with different objects. Meanwhile, devotees (sometimes called ‘tingleheads’) slump smiling in their headphones, bones turned to jelly, and ASMRtists rake in the big bucks.

Truly, it sounds nuttier than a box of Magnums. But there is an undeniable physiological response being induced.  While not all people respond to ASMR, those that do describe sensations of tingling that originate in the back of the scalp and radiate down the spine, sometimes into the shoulders, arms and legs. People turn to ASMR for help with insomnia and anxiety and to induce a state of relaxation. ‘It feels like starbursts in my head’ says Andrea. ‘My body loosens immensely, like after drinking wine,’ says Nyx.’ The physical sensation ends almost immediately with the stimulus, says Jean, ‘but the euphoria and peaceful calm can last for several minutes afterwards. ASMR can really relax me for hours.’

ASMR is thought to be related to synaesthesia (which can cause people to experience otherwise unrelated secondary sensations to sensory stimuli) and to ’chills’, or ‘frisson’, the name given to the physical sensation sometimes experienced when listening to music. A great example: Lady Gaga’s rendition of the Us National Anthem at the 2016 Superbowl.

The popularity of ASMR is undeniable. There are 127, 000 subscribers to the ASMR sub-Reddit, 19 million results on a Google search and more than 7 million results on YouTube. Many people use the videos to sleep, with most searches occurring at about 10.30pm, across different time zones, according to Google Trends, and ASMRtists like Heather Feather and ASMR Darling (who called herself an ‘internet brain masseuse’ have huge follower numbers. 28 year old ‘Maria’, who runs ‘Gentle Whispering’ – the biggest ASMR channel on YouTube – has nearly 1 million subscribers.

So why does the ASMR response occur? Is it related to dopamine? To serotonin? To oxytocin? Is it some lizard-brain response to nurturing and calming sounds and behaviours that replicate infancy? Are ASNR triggers activating some biological bonding mechanism? All these theories are in play, but the science is not yet in. Dartmouth research examining the neurobiology of the reward system by using fMRI analysis is pending, and there have been, to date, six peer-reviewed papers including one that examined the personality types of those who experience ASMR.

It is charmingly strange, this is certain. ASMR video titles include ‘Little Bat Yawning and Flapping It’s Wings’ to ‘Ear Massage with Reading Classic Slovak Short Story’ to ‘Eating a Whole Rotisserie Chicken’. One of the most beloved tropes of the ASMR scene is the painter Bob Ross, whose 80’s cult-classic TV show, which featured his distinctive gentle voice and the notably loud scraping of his paintbrush on canvas, has an undeniably soporific quality.

Freelee the Banana Girl for ten years styled herself as a YouTube provocateur, exhorting her many subscribers to ‘Carb the F$%k Up’ and landing herself in the Supreme Court over defamation at one stage (the case was settled out of court). She has long known how to gain pageviews (and paydays) on the platform, and her move to ASMRtist indicates that there is money to be made.  W Magazine recently posted a celebrity ASMR series, in which Cara Delevigne swore, sotte voce, and Kate Hudson fondled sequins and snipped fabrics with a giant pair of scissors.

Brands too, are taking note of the commercial potential of ASMR. It’s been used to sell beer and chocolate, and recently KFC recently hired actor George Hamilton to whisper about pocket squares and crunch on fried chicken, conflating in listeners minds the ‘comfort’ of fried food and relaxation. At least, this was the aim of the marketing wonks at KFC. Whether it sold more chicken, it’s hard to know.

ASMR is definitely bizarre. But also, perhaps, brilliant: a comingling of technology and neuroscience, where the freedom of YouTube – to be a citizen filmmaker, to build communities, to do nutty, experimental things – has ended up creating a product way too odd to have gained traction in the traditional business world.  ASMR may truly help people suffering insomnia and anxiety, and it may have other implications too, yet to evolve. It’s a quintessentially youTube phenomenon, like Freelee the Banana Girl. *whispers* Watch this space.

Emotional Casserole

As I write, I am sitting in an empty house. Apart from the cicadas and the occasional drip of sweat down the back of my neck (this Australian summer is a fiery one), there is not a peep to be heard.

It is quiet.

SO quiet.

In this quiet house, I’m reflecting on the wildness of the week behind us. My biggest girl started a new school for Year 5, my boy started year 3 and the baby, my Poo Poo, my  little constant companion, began kindy. And I  started this next phase of my life which, for the first time in a decade, doesn’t involve the very specific and particular joys and stresses of tiny children at my feet all day.

We’ve been preparing for this big shift all summer. I’ve been re-arranging bedrooms, sorting stuff and de-cluttering like a crazy lady.  I’ve been labeling, organising and list-making so that all of us can enter the new routine with order and positivity. I think I’ve been trying to simplify and refine our lifestyle  because I’ve felt, so strongly, the change in the air and the coming of a new era.

A draft post titled ‘thoughts of a mother during the last week of the school holidays’ never made it online. It was the usual ranting and I never had the time or headspace to write it but my scrawled notes remind me of how I felt – the heat oppressive , the children always hungry, the housework overwhelming.  Even though we had a beautiful summer – lots of visits with friends, lots of time together – the ‘mum-work’ was never-ending, and the day that all three children would be off to school, leaving me in the glorious quiet, was like a shining vision of utopia. I thought I would be absolutely partying with my bad self. I dreamed of quiet space to think, freedom to temper boring mundane housework jobs with interesting radio, time to write, a schedule of my own. Bliss!

But last week the shining day finally came, and instead of partying like a crazy fool, I fell to pieces. It was a bit of a shock.

My big girl is off to start a new school for year 5. It’s a city school, much bigger than her tiny, nurturing primary that we love so much, and she is catching the public bus. She starts her day an hour earlier and ends it an hour later, and in the middle she navigates her way though a sea of new rules and requirements. She is so brave, so small, and so tired.

It is, I am sure, going to be a wonderful year, full of incredible opportunities, new friends and experiences, and she has a great friend at her side, which has made the transition so much smoother. She is stepping into her own future and I am so proud. But, my god, what a week it was.

My beautiful boy, going into year 3, has his own set of worries and challenges, and if he could stay at home with me all day, he would. School is not his favourite place, and helping him manage takes particular thought and attention.

Finally, my little one, my darling last-born buddy is off into kindy. She was so ready to start school and has taken to it with gusto, as I knew she would, but friends, the heart-punch of losing that little companion came like a blindside. Because I  am always, always craving solitude and time with my own thoughts, it just never occurred to me that being without my little sidekick would feel so sad. The first day that we dropped her at school, I was like a leaky sieve all day long. The tears just flowed and flowed. I felt so fragile, unmoored and weird, and I felt like that all week long.

It’s the end of the beginning. My mistakes, my regrets, my worries, the past, the future, they all weighed heavy on me.  There was car crying and then the floppy exhaustion that follows a big emotional release. Throughout it all, there was the mum-work of shepherding the kids into their new routine. Baking and washing uniforms and packing bags. Lots of hugs and long chats.

Rather than feeling like I’m released from some part of my mum-contract as they all go off to school, it’s felt the opposite. My big girl needs me so much at the moment, in ways she hasn’t for a long time. This is fleeting, I know – she’ll get the hang of her new school, the bus, city life, and I can step back again. But for now, looking after her in all the intimate little mum-ways feels really important. I’m trying to do my best at it, to cherish it, as I am with my darling last little chick leaving the nest. It’s bittersweet, and it’s harder than I thought it would be.

But today is Monday, where all the possibilities of the week lie, and I  feel good. I hope that the emotional casserole of last week has been turned down to just a gentle simmer. This next era of family life will start to take shape as the dust settles.

I will have that longed-for quiet time to myself. I will be able to stop worrying about the girls as they settle into their new lives, and hopefully my sweet little boy will have a good school year too. And I will have a little space to turn to my own plans and dreams, and I am really, really damn excited about that.

One more time:

If you sent kids off to little or big school this week, I hope you weren’t hit with the same unexpected emotional tsunami as I was. And if you were, I hope you are OK. x

The End of The Adventure.

Home from our travels, where the T-Bone, like a cat, immediately re-accqainted himself with his favourite spot: in a patch of sunshine in Mum and Dads bed. I didn’t have to put butter on his paws or anything.

As for me, I immediately re-acquainted myself with the normal run of Sunday: 4 loads of washing, purchasing half the supermarket, producing meals every ten minutes, washing the school clothes and searching for the hats (unsuccessfully.)

That right, I remembered. In real life I am Cinderella.

For the last 2 weeks we’ve been on the move; riding on the back of trucks, sleeping in tree-houses with rats, eating whatever is placed in front of us, and wearing the same two filthy outfits. Amazing how much time in the day there is when two parents are there to negotiate the battle that has erupted during the children’s game of Farting Rainbows, when you have no laundry to do (rather, no way to do the laundry you have), and when you have no food to cook, and must just wait for ‘dinner’ and whatever appears then, good or bad.

With all that time, we played endless games of cards and Bananagrams, read books and slept. It was a marvellous, epic adventure, one that has opened our eyes to many possibilities, and now that we are back, I feel a little smothered by all the stuff in my house. Be warned, Salvation Army. Mama has the crazy eyes.

Pics and details to follow – for now, I have a lengthy to-do list to tackle. First item on the agenda: start dreaming of the next adventure.

This Organised House Brings Calm To Every Frazzled Cell In My Body

Times might be stressful, but the work goes on.

Lunches must be packed, pantries filled, clean clothes available in the drawers (or at least in a pile on the lounge). The car still must be filled with petrol, admin forms signed, work deadlines met. Family life is steady and relentless, and there’s always washing-up to be done. Sometimes this is comforting and satisfying, and sometimes it takes all of my available brain-and-heart space; and then life asks a little more.

An unhappy child. A sick relative. Flu. Travel. A list of worries that weigh heavy.

In short, a tough winter.

I think I am tracking along fine, one foot in front of the other, and then my body starts doing something to let me know it’s not OK.

‘Shush,’ I tell my  body.  ’It’s fine, we’re on top of it all, body. Shush…’

‘Stop and listen to me, you crazy witch,’ says my body, via the interesting method of making me short of breath for hours every day.

After a battery of tests to rule out anything sinister, the diagnosis I’m left with is stress and anxiety.

My solution: keep the home fires burning, dole out love and lasagne and priorities those healthy things like walking outside, yoga, making myself leave the hermit-cave and  see my friends. I’m trying not to worry www.honeytraveler.com/buy-cymbalta/ about the things that are out of my control, and trying to be a support for the loved ones around me who are hurting, without  internalising the pain that they are feeling.

Also, I have a minor obsession with this lady.

Alejanda, so uber-American, with ever-so-slightly-crazy eyes, and a serial-killer-level of organisation, is bringing me life.

Chill out, my body is telling me. Spend a little time on the lounge watching YouTube clips of Alejandra bringing lunatic order to her shiny, shiny world. I don’t want to – could not – live like this, but watching Alejandra do it is  inexplicably appealing and calming. Also: My Dad Wrote A Porno is the other shining glory of my existence right now. Listen immediately and then write and talk to me about it. It is the funniest possible present you can give your ears.  And you will never, ever think of the Titanic again without picturing ‘nipples, as hard and large as the rivets on that fateful ship’.

I hope you are travelling well out there, comrades. May life be treating you well and if not, I advise applying 20 minutes of organisation-porn and 20 minutes of Belinda Blinked, painful, fumbling and hilarious erotica written by Jamie’s Dad. Works for me.

 

Sibling Rivalry

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2016 (but the children were playing Forceful Club only yesterday. The battle over kissing the dead-bee continues.They are SUCH WEIRDOS.  I blame their father)

My four year old daughter walked into preschool recently singing a charming song her big brother and sister had made up. It was called ‘Killer Vaginas from Outer Space’, and although I got out of there very fast, I  expected a stern email all day, because I knew Pudding would perform all the verses.  There’s a bit about Venus, something terrible happens to a penis, and basically, the whole thing is a job for Dr Freud.

Thing is, Pudding’s big brother and sister have as much influence on her as I do.  They, at four, were pure as snow, raised on nothing but Play School, Angelina Ballerina and a little old-school Narnia for balance. Pudding, on the other hand will recite (unrequested) ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a poo. Perhaps she’ll spew.’ Her literary references range from Zombie Bums from Uranus through to Captain Underpants and the Talking Toilet, and when cornered, she’ll shout ‘My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!’

Pudding has watched her two older siblings hone the art of war, you see. With three kids under ten, the fights in our house can be epic. Hunger Games, Real Housewives, crisis-in-the-Middle East epic. A lot of my parenting time is spent in negotiating squabbles that are both ridiculous and deadly serious.

Take the Forceful Club, for instance, a trampoline game created by the two eldest. The rules are hazy, but two things are clear: it involves violence, and to join the club, all members have to kiss a dead bee. The four year old cried bitter tears about the bee rule, the big two were adamant and I was shoe-horned into one of my more hopeless conversations. ‘Pudding does not have to kiss the bee! Can’t you bend that rule? Well, can’t she just get her face close to the bee? She can blow on the bee! Be reasonable!’

Basically Forceful Club is like Fight Club except the first rule is that you have to talk about it. Endlessly. Other things my children have fought about lately: who was which number on the digital clock, who would get sucked into a black hole first, who owned the dead caterpillar in a container, whose turn it was to wear the comedy teeth, and (this last involved furious shouting)  how to pronounce ‘Nuttelex’.

I’ve got brothers and sisters of my own. I remember the intensity of sibling rivalry in childhood and these days I love how we facilitate the magic of cousin-gangs. The parental bond may be our lodestar, the central fact of our lives, but siblings are the first scratching posts on which we figure out how to deal with the weird landscape that is other people.  The relationships we have with our brothers and sisters are often the longest and most profound of our whole lifespan – for good, or for bad.

‘Be kind!’ I urge my kids, too fiercely.  ‘Speak nicely to each other! We are never, ever rude and mean to each other in this family!’ This is, of course, clearly untrue, probably impossible, and, like so many other aspects of parenting, driven by the ghosts from my own childhood. It’s hugely important to me, this job I have of nurturing that sibling bond. After all, I hope these three people, who I adore so much, will be looking out for each other long after I have gone.  Today, the comedy teeth; tomorrow, the inheritance.  Good luck, my little loves, enjoy raising each other, and may the Forceful Club be with you.

On Running Low, Saying No and Letting Go

I haven’t been here for a while – my tank is low on juice.

It’s been a fairly depleting few months with Keith travelling a lot and the children having one of those loops of winter sickness.

Running as a constant low sad note through our lives right now is the illness of my father-in-law. He’s a wonderful friend, an important person in my life, a brilliant and kind mathematician with a capricious twinkle in his eye. The  more I understand Alan, the more I understand many parts of my beloved partner Keith, and watching Alan cope with lung cancer has taught me many lessons about dignity and stoicism. I wish I was not learning these lessons, but there we have it.

Being social feels too exhausting right now. I am at peak capacity with these children, this house, this husband, these feelings. It feels good to be honest about saying ‘no’. It feels important to be home, playing chess,sorting the endless washing pile, cooking spicy beans and drawing the blinds down on the outside world. I am trying to find moments to write and trying to conserve my energy.

Sometimes it’s impossible to manage more.

In the meantime, Raised by Wolves, written by my spirit animal Caitlin Moran and her sister,  is bringing me many,  many laughs. (Free on SBS right now – is anybody watching it? It is hilarious), and it was my birthday this week (forty-five!)  Keith and I  went for a lovely quiet date last night. We saw Tarzan – my advice is to suspend the critical eye and enjoy the scenery – i.e Alexander Skarsgard (happy phwooarsdday night!)

Afterwards we ate bresaola, drank Prosecco and talked travel. Home by ten. It was lovely. Quiet. Perfect.

All the best out there, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Girlfriends: The Icing On The Cake Of Life

I had a story in last weekend’s Sunday Life magazine about the joy of girlfriends. It contains that gold-star anecdote about the time I accidentally showed a topless selfie to the deputy principal, and also this tale:

Home from holidays recently, I faced a towering pile of laundry. My friend S came over to help me fold and bring me up to speed on the local goings-on, but she lost her train of thought each time she encountered a pair of my knickers.

She was horrified on a number of levels – age, bagginess, general nanna vibe.

“I’m staging an underpants intervention,” she said.

Yesterday I found a paper bag in my letterbox containing two pairs of new knickers and a letter from The Ministry of Unacceptable Underpants, beginning: “It has come to our attention that you have not renewed your underpants at the recommended intervals. By following our quick checklist you can ensure the reliability and safety of your underpants.”

The list was exhaustive. It included the following questions: can you see through any part of your underpants that were once opaque? Does the elastic around your underpants hold the garment securely in place? Is the integrity of the gusset still acceptable? Can a breeze enter through any part of your underwear?

The Ministry gave me four weeks to update my collection, after which they warned of direct community action.

While underwear-shaming and accidental sexting scandals are key components to my female friendships, this community has another function. We are a safety net for life and all its unpredictable slings and arrows. Here, deep in the trenches with small children, we lean on each other for help. Any time one of us drops, the machine rolls into action. Lasagnes land on doorsteps and schedules to manage the kids start circulating. There is a direct and practical aspect to my female friendships: when we have to be responsible, we are. And when we bundy off the responsibility clock, we are absolutely ridiculous, making each other laugh until our weak pelvic floors give way.

These moments, cackling in the coven of my witches, bring me such joy. They are the icing on the cake of life.

Read the rest at Daily Life online. 

It’s a love letter to all the ladies in my life – word counts made me restrict this piece to only my beloved school mum gang, but I’m lucky enough to also have a school-friend gang, an online lady-squad and a coven of Pink Ladies, all of whom hold sacred spaces in my heart.

Thank you, friends out there. I love youse all!

 

Taking Stock

Like Pip, I’m taking a minute to stop, smell the roses and capture a little of this moment in time.

Reading: White Eskimo, the story of polar explorer and super-hottie Knud Rasmussen, who mapped and explored Greenland in the early 20th century. I love a good explorer tale – ( here I’ve written a list of some good Man Vs Wild books, and here a list of some women adventurers). Rasmussen is very cool, and also, SO PRETTY.

Come on! Imagine that face, speaking Greenlandic through a mouthful of whale blubber, and you have my dreams.

I’m also loving Edmund White’s ‘Inside a Pearl: My Years In Paris’ ; ‘Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants’ and re-reading the Amanda Foreman biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of my all-time favourite women of history.  The kids and I are reading Dahl’s Danny, The Champion Of The World.  (So lovely. One of his best.)

Eating: A lot of what we call ‘horses dinners’ – a sort of random snacking plate.  I don’t like to advertise on the social medias when Keith is away, but he’s been in China. I’m in the single mother zone and there are  and Wagon Wheels and Coke in the fridge. Nuff sed. He’s back now. Roast lamb appeared in celebration.

Watching: Things have been quite fraught around here, to be honest. My father-in-law is very sick, Keith is stressed and sad and busy. I was so buggered after he left last week  that I watched Sex and The City 2, just to see if the movie was as bad as I remembered, and it was, of course, WORSE, even, unbelievably, comically bad. Then, later, I found myself watching Sex and The City 1, just to see the progression of shame. So weirdly reminiscent of some pre financial-crisis, gone-forever time, I told my Wagon Wheel.

Also, I went down a delightful rabbit hole of Tate Studio vids on Youtube, and some Vogue 73 Questions (Sarah Jessica’s house is gorgeous, Iggy Azalea is a weird fembot). The kids and I have been enjoying watching Catalyst archives while we eat our horses dinners.

I watched Marley and Me with the girls – beware! Don’t try this before bedtime! The last twenty minutes are tragic. I didn’t see it coming (I’m sharp like that) and it took me forever to calm them down enough to go to bed.  FYI – when you have two daughters sobbing on either side of you, don’t say  ’It’s really OK! All dogs die! Everything dies!’ It does not help the situation.

Resting: my head on the electrical tape the holding my bath together while I dream about interior design projects of the future. (All in good time, grasshopper.)

Sharing: my bed with the children, who take it in turns to ‘be Daddy’ when Keith is away. This means they get to tuck up in the big bed, so important and special, at bedtime, and then I tell them ‘now, prepare to get cuddled in your sleep.’ Frankly, it’s a moot point, whose turn it is to be Daddy, because by the early hours, all three of them are in the bed. They press up so tight against me that I feel as though I am in some sort of old-timey prison cell where there is not quite enough room for us all to lie down together and at some signal we all must turn over at the same time. It’s terrible and lovely – they are so cuddly and warm, their strong little arms and legs so gorgeous – but it is also painful and hideous.

Also, wee.

Pondering: Whether the hat I bought is wrong. In the shop it read ‘boho’ and now it is reading ‘Amish’. Hats! You kill me, Hats.

Listening: Two Dope Queens. Yaaaaas! Also, the Carol soundtrack.

Trying: Not to touch anything on the backseat floor of my car. It has moved beyond disgusting to scientifically interesting.

Laughing: at the children. ‘What you thinking about T-Bone?’ ‘I was imagining what disgusting sandwiches I could feed the dog if we ever get one.’

Scrambling: Under last minute instructions: I need this note signed today. I need a superhero costume for the morning. I need to finish my speech before bed. I need my old soccer socks for tomorrow.

Honestly, this guy captures the tone so perfectly! God this made me laugh.

Writing: Not much. The Mumming has been intensive.

Planning: to get started on my embroidery project. I just need a hoop for the K Dog and I have everything else ready to go. I’m looking forward to some winter fun listening to podcasts about Donald Trump and doing embroidery with my boyfriend.  Once he gets home from his Talking From My Balls mens group on Thursdays, that is. Of course.

Making: A long-overdue photo book of our Tasmanian adventures (and thinking I should really include that story about the topless gardener, which still cracks me up.)
Appreciating- Keith getting home safely. All’s well with my world again. Although, even less room in the bed.

Respecting: As always, when Keith is away, single mothers. You are amazing!

 

 

How are you? What are you watching, reading, avoiding, marinating? I hope you and your beloveds are well and happy out there. x