Monday, April 27, 2009

Quiet times

Tuesday 28th April
True to form the weather has picked up now the school holidays are almost over, our UK visitors have gone and life under canvas has faded to a memory. I went for a run yesterday morning just as it was getting light and Balmoral Beach looked picture perfect, sand clean and smooth with gentle waves frothing away. There was a pelican floating along the shore line which was the picturesque last touch. When I got home and raved on about the beauties of nature etc. the drama queens suggested somewhat cynically that the pelican was a prop placed there by our local council.

We had the most blissfully indulgent weekend of doing very little which is very good for the soul and sanity on an occasional basis. Having been full on for the last month or so we decided to axe all household chores or indeed any kind of chore that felt like a duty. Simon cut the grass and I raked up some leaves but aside from that we all lay around, the drama queens immersed themselves in electronic stupors and Simon and I read the papers.

We had an impromptu dinner with great friends on Friday night where they cooked a fantastic barramundi dish. My contribution was a baked pear dessert. It wasn’t quite a flop; that would be far too mushy a word for the bullet like consistency that the pears retained even after nearly an hour in the oven. Gamely, we all tried to stick our forks and teeth into the now renamed 'pear surprise', but had to admit defeat.

One of our camping buddies had a birthday party on Saturday night to which we gaily trotted and even more gaily trotted home, or rather more accurately wandered home through the empty streets at 1.30am feeling very out there and proud of ourselves as the last of the over 40’s swingers. It is a sad fact of life that midnight isn’t just a curfew for Cinderella these days.

Drama Queen no.1 has taken to haunting charity shops in search of ‘vintage’ clothing, and returned home at the weekend with a dog agility set that she had found and bargained the store down on. Hours were spent initially trying to teach Pluto how to run through tunnels, perform high jumps and wend his way in and out of stakes. Being an intelligent dog he put up with it for a bit and then retired to his bed to watch the drama queens and all their mates perform human agility races which kept them all happily occupied for an afternoon. The downside of the dog agility training regime is that Pluto was fed an entire box of liver treats to encourage him round the course and as a result has developed an eye watering, room clearing, flatulence problem.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out of the tent and straight into retail mode

Wednesday 22nd April

Have just got home from a spot of retail therapy. Having received my $900 tax rebate bonus from the Australian government I promptly invested in a haircut as after a week’s camping the overall image was less Vidal Sassoon and more Spot the Loon. Revived and restored by the snip of Roger’s scissors, I then skipped past an accessories shop, always fatal with money burning a hole in your bank account, and popped in on the off chance that they might have a bracelet to replace the one currently missing in action. Part of the rationale for the purchase, is that past experience has taught me that no sooner do I buy a replacement, then lo and behold the lost object is found. The usual places in which lost objects resurface in our household are a) in the dressing up basket b) under Drama Queen No. 3s bed, an archaeological dig site rivalling King Tutankhamun’s chambers or c) at the bottom of the ironing basket (in which case it won’t see the light of day for a number of years).

Bad hair week aside, our week’s holiday was filled with drama, including a last minute change of campsite owing to a flooded river. Needless to say the change of destination, decided upon in a gloomy round table conference in McDonalds, Armidale didn’t involve just popping down the road to an alternative site. With commendable and indeed frankly astonishing good humour, we set off in our three car convoy for a five hour drive inland and the technically and temper challenging feat of setting up three tents in the dark, on an unfamiliar campsite. I have to say we all sank down in our camp chairs with relief when the whole thing was done. As a footnote, I’ve come to the conclusion there are very few camping crises that can’t be helped by lots of sparkling shiraz, can’t recommend this bubbly red, a peculiarly Australian speciality highly enough.

The Warrumbungle National Park where we ended up is a fabulous place to visit. The scenery is absolutely spectacular with jutting rock formations that are the remnants of past volcanic activities. The walking was fantastic with lots of challenge for the gung ho group and other tracks with high interest value for the group who took seven children off on a 3 hour trek, euphemistically termed ‘not a walk really, darling, more of a wander’.

The Australian wildlife cooperated magnificently to the extent that our UK visitors, who had been initially concerned that they might not see a kangaroo during their Aussie trip, became complete blasé and indeed Rob was heard to complain about the kangaroo lying at the foot of his camp chair whilst he was trying to read. We also notched up echidna and koala sightings as well as a couple of large red-bellied black snakes, the latter sighting had us all combing the highly venomous snakes section of the guidebook with great interest.

The downside of camping is of course the return home and the pile of filthy washing covered in dust and stinking of smoke. The weather is being incredibly uncooperative and every time I peg out yet another mammoth load of washing, now all dyed a uniform grey as a result of my impatient reluctance to sort the giant pile into whites and coloureds, it absolutely pours. The dog however is in seventh heaven with masses of dirty or damp underwear to forage through.
Whilst on the underwear theme I’ve just read courtesy of a Good Housekeeping blog that sales by Jockey of pink Y fronts have gone through the roof. Apparently men are attempting to lighten their mood by investing in cheerful underwear. I am currently trying to deicide whether to order the baby pink or the pistachio for Simon. I am sure he could cause a sensation in Aussie male circles as the Pom in the Pink Pants!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Heigh ho, a camping life for me

Thursday 9th April

I am writing this in that state of exhaustion where you know you should go to bed but somehow even doing that requires too much energy. Simon has already slithered off to bed but he is excused given he has spent all evening loading up the car, trailer and pod on top of the car with all the camping paraphernalia required for 8 people to set off for the wilds. It's at this stage of the holiday that we always look at each other and swear that we are never, ever doing this again. At this point sensing the parental disillusion with recreating a "Five go camping' adventure, the children generally settle into a steady bleat of 'Can't we go to Fiji like normal families?"

We have a family of three from the Uk staying at present who have nobly agreed to join us on this particular jaunt and we are also joining another family of five who are great friends from Sydney. Just to give you an idea of what we have assembled so far it includes, 2 campbeds, 6 inflatable sleeping mats, 8 sleeping bags and 3 tents ranging from a six man Taj Mahal effort to a two man tent where if you weren't on intimate terms with your sleeping partner when you crawled in, you certainly will be when you crawl out. Add in lamps, cooking equipment, cutlery, crockery, a canoe, boogie boards to float down the river on, wetsuits to fit all shapes and sizes, fishing kit, rain coats, fleeces and I haven't even started on the food side of it. The car is bulging already and the hallway is filled with lumpy bags. Past experience has also taught me that the Drama Queens will emerge from their rooms at the last moment holding large supplemental bags containing all the essentials to survive a week with the family and these supplemental bags will necessitate the complete repacking of the car and be the direct cause of Simon and I not speaking for the first three hours of the holiday. Drama Queen No.1 has already packed six books in gloomy anticipation of there being nothing else to do, eg no other teenagers within a six mile radius. Such is her desperation she even contemplated taking her German textbook.

My stress levels were not helped when I staggered in from school this afternoon to find Drama Queen no. 1 had spent the first day of her holidays dying random portions of her hair, a violent magenta colour. My first reaction was hysteria and the desire to reach for shampoo and start on the 17 washes that she promises are all it requires for her hair to return to its original blonde. I have now calmed down and reflected on the fact that I have always said I don't mind what she does with her hair so long as it is back to normal for school, however I have threatened a radical hair cut if we still have pink tinges in three weeks and I don't dare venture up to the girls' bathroom to see what has happened to the white towels.

Happy Easter and think of us in our tents, hopefully we will all come back speaking, I have high hopes that the vast amount of alcohol packed will help in this goal.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Peach or Rhubarb?

Monday 6th April

I have just eaten a peach and am now running my tongue round my mouth in a panicked kind of way as I have realised a) the peach tasted slightly odd and b) the knife I used to cut it up was the knife I used to mash the dog’s pills. I am due back at the vet this afternoon so must ask about the impact of canine anti inflammatories and antibiotics on humans. Maybe Mad Dog disease will get me before Mad Cow, I do find it slightly concerning that neither the US nor the Australian authorities will allow me to give blood for fear of contamination from Mad Cow Disease.

However I am not sure I am the first person in the family to be showing symptoms of Mad Cow disease. Drama queen no. 3 had a Band workshop this weekend culminating in a concert. Simon and I sat in the audience gamely trying to clap in time to the music. Given my sense of rhythm this is something I find challenging and I am constantly on the edge of my seat wondering when the conductor is going to turn and glare at me. Simon, in between looking at me in disbelief during a particular salvo of random claps, absentmindedly wondered why Drama Queen no.2 wasn’t playing in this particular band. I had to remind him that she no longer attends the school, having sadly moved onwards and upwards into a fee paying bracket.

We have just had a lovely weekend with friends from England. Their three children and ours, were friends as toddlers and since we have been overseas they have seen each other every couple of years for an afternoon or so. The six of them circled each other somewhat warily initially and then happily bonded. I have come to the conclusion compulsory physical activity is the great mixer, if nothing else it unites children against the parents. We spent most of yesterday morning playing around at our local beach with a canoe and hobie cat that we had hired. As the five older children sailed off into the distance, and more worryingly, out of sight on the hobie cat it did make me realise we have moved into new territory in terms of child independence.

I have to laugh, I recently gave a five year old boy a book as a present. He is a darling child, but he looked at the proffered text and then asked me in conspiratorial tones whether there was a more exciting present. This reaction chimes in with the three Drama Queens’ concentrated chorus of “don’t, please don’t’ when I suggest buying a book token as a present for one of the numerous parties they attend. Apparently nothing sinks your street cred more than having a mother who thinks books are an acceptable present. I find this quite strange as the Drama Queens actually love buying books for themselves and reading in general, perhaps it is just not cool to admit this in public in front of your friends.

I am in the middle of making rhubarb crumble – I am at the interesting ‘stew it to a sludge’ stage and really I don’t know why I am bothering as I am confident that Simon and the drama queen team will reject it on “nutritious, but nasty” grounds and I will be left alone at the dinner table morosely spooning in third helpings of the wretched stuff.