Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Possum Magic?

One of my tasks for today is to ring a possum expert to see if he can persuade the possums in our roof to shift their party venue. I couldn’t sleep on Monday night and as I sat on the sofa reading back copies of Yachting Monthly in an attempt to induce a coma like state, I heard noises in the roof space above the kitchen. It was less the patter of tiny feet and more of a thundering herd. I googled ‘possums in the roof’ and discovered that possums are a protected species in NSW and the advice proffered is to build them an alternative home and then to gently encourage them out of the roof space with a combination of carrot and stick. The carrot, (or actually banana or apple in the case of possums) forming a trail of food towards their new handmade palatial possum house, and the stick being mothballs spread around the roof space. The other slightly unnerving bit of advice is make sure it is possums not rats. I have just stuck my head into the roof space and glanced nervously around and there are definitely rodent droppings. However given my limited rodent knowledge, I am unable to differentiate between possum and rat poo, nor I hasten to add, do I have any desire actually to develop the ability to spot rodent type by dropping, so the sooner the possum man gets here the better. Being rather hard hearted I also think if it is possums they can jolly well move back into the trees – the chances of Simon building a possum palace are remote.

The only bit of wildlife/pet around the place I am feeling vaguely friendly about are the worms in the worm farm. Historically we have chucked all our vegetable peelings and egg shells into the worm farm. However Simon has now banned all kinds of eggs being chucked in the worm bin. This is following an eye wateringly, unpleasant experience where Simon spread the worm soil over the front garden and splatted a whole egg that had been maturing in the worm compost for a good three months. I have some sympathy with his viewpoint as he was still making cat sick noises four hours later and complete strangers were crossing the road rather than walk past the front garden.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sick dog, battered car - does life get any more glamorous?

I realise it has been some time since my last blog post. Combination of all three children plus dog taking it in turns to be ill has proved once and for all that Florence Nightingale is a role to which I am completely unsuited. The dog has had a sore paw at which he proceeded to gnaw and lick, until we were forced to incarcerate his head in a plastic ‘Elizbethan collar’ as they are known in veterinary circles. Being a sensitive dog he found the whole experience of wandering around with his head stuck in a see through bucket, humiliating and deeply embarrassing. Likewise the girls and Simon who flatly refuse to be seen in public with ‘cone head’.

It’s been wet and grey in Sydney all week, though not nearly as wet as areas of Queensland where they have had ALL their normal annual quota of rain in the last three days. As a result of the intermittent, very heavy showers in Sydney, my washing has been hanging morosely on the line for days. Yesterday the resulting clothing crisis was such that I was reduced to putting on a pair of Drama Queen No. 1’s pants as all of mine were hanging sopping on the line. Apart from being a bit of a medical miracle that I managed to get into them, DQ no.1 being built like a racing snake, I was then overcome with horror at the thought of being run over and taken unconscious to hospital clad in a pair of red pants with ‘cupcake princess’ emblazoned on the front.

The car has been in the smash repair outfit all week. It is a sad reflection of life, or perhaps my driving skills, though I have to say this time I was completely the innocent party, that I am on first name terms with the smash repair man. He waves me a cheery goodbye after each visit whilst presumably making a mental note to reorder more of the sickly green, metallic paint necessary to restore the car to gleaming good order. The only upside of the whole thing was that courtesy of the other party’s insurance I got a very flash Audi to drive round for the week whilst the dents were being bashed out and lashings of paint applied. As usual with any car I drive, the indicator and windscreen wipers were swapped around with the result I have spent the whole week waggling my windscreen wipers suggestively at motorists rather than indicating.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Autumn leaves and sick children

Beautiful autumn day with a blue sky of startling clarity behind trees in the last ebb of autumn leaves. The mornings are getting colder which is bad news given our heating system is looking decidedly dodgy and in the interests of safety we decided we should probably have it serviced before we turn it on. However despite what I hoped was a winning tone rather than a downright pleading whine, the earliest date for a service was June 13th. Keep your fingers crossed for a warm spell, otherwise we may be forced to turn it on regardless, in which case Pluto the dog could have a new canary like role in testing for carbon monoxide.

State primary schools in our area take their school band and orchestra programmes very seriously. DQ No. 3 plays saxophone in the school band and has to attend two forty-five minute practices a week with a professional band master. At this time of year things start getting a bit serious, as all the school bands compete in the Yamaha Festival in June. As part of the build up, the two school bands and the orchestra go off for a weekend to get in some serious and concentrated practise. Band camp is a major undertaking, involving over eighty children, seventy parent volunteers, lots of music tuition and practise interspersed with child amusement activities. The highlight as a volunteer parent is sleeping in a children’s cabin – basically my annual bunk bed outing.

True to form when I picked DQ3 up from school on Friday ready to ferry her up to the camp, she was clutching her head and stomach simultaneously whilst moaning piteously. In order to put things into context, DQ3 could be renamed Lupine Girl as she cries wolf so often and is the past master of the sore tummy/headache technique, so my sympathy was limited; wrongly as it transpired.

After ten minutes at home and much jolly parental encouragement she decided that actually she was fine and able to attend the camp and I gaily deposited her there. I should have know better, she immediately called my bluff and I got a phone call at 7am on Saturday morning to say she had thrown up during the night.

She has been looking interestingly pale and gently loitering on the sofa ever since. I’ve spent a couple of nights cuddled up with her in the spare room but it is like sleeping with a bush pig. She grunts and snuffles and grinds her teeth with an unnerving vigour.

Drama Queen no.1, ever sympathetic to sibling illness, is now driving me insane by asking me if I think it is hygienic to have sick people in same room as a food. One of my many mistakes this year was allowing DQ1 to select psychology as an elective subject at school. This has given her a whole new perspective on her family and enables her to diagnose all of us as suffering from numerous mental problems.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Trash or Treasure?

One of the biggest joys on the Ling household rubbish front is the six monthly clean up day. This fabulous Australian innovation is a nominated day for each area when the local council accepts all kinds of household goods/rubbish placed outside your house for collection. In fact the whole process could be accurately be renamed the great scavenger hunt. In a providential move the first collection of the year is generally in early February allowing all those bizarre objects that congregate over Christmas to find their way to a new home. The day before the allocated day, odd groupings of objects start to appear on the grassy verge outside houses. Families wander round the street, eyeing up the neighbours’ rejects. There is a sense of contentment when one’s own offerings disappear within minutes – my collection of outdated cookbooks vanished within 5 minutes whereas the lampshade, chic in 1990, sad in 2009, maintained a lonely vigil overnight. One friend’s husband rang her from the bus instructing her to get over to a certain street and pick up something that looked appealing. Another friend scored two bar stools that just fit under the island in her new house, but as she lifted them from outside an acquaintance’s house she felt she then had to ring and admit to the acquisition before the original owner arrived in her kitchen and did a double take at the reappearance of her trash.

The drama queens regard the whole process as a gigantic treasure hunt and to my fury we quite often end up gaining possessions rather than loosing them – mangy giant teddies are a particular favourite and I didn’t act quickly enough on a truly hideous, electric blue, child sized, stuffed, Mr Man that was ‘rescued’ last clean up and which now resides in my youngest daughter’s bedroom – perhaps this next clean up I’ll take him at least three streets away and drop him off and pray he doesn’t stage a Hansel and Gretel type reappearance.

As well as the impromptu neighbourhood scavenging there is a more organised element ranging from locals wandering around with pull along trolleys into which to pile their gleanings, to chaps with trucks who cruise the streets selecting scrap metals and desirable objects. There is a sense of purposeful organization about these men in their trucks, they obviously scour desirable suburbs having obtained a list of the clean up dates and I am sure that their pickings convert into a useful pile of cash. They must do well in our predominantly middle class suburb and there is a pleasing sense that this is recycling of household trash and treasure at its resourceful best.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vermin and teeth

I opened the dishwasher this morning to empty it and found myself face to face with a very large cockroach, I think the correct expression here is that it gave me a nasty turn. I resisted the temptation to slam the door shut and pretend I hadn’t seen it and took some comfort from the perceived wisdom that it’s not the big ones you have to worry about. Sydney is famous for its cockroaches, which are a breed apart in terms of size and vigour. When we first lived here in 1991 we had friends who rented a terraced house in Paddington that suffered from a cockroach plague. The evening entertainment round at their place, consisted of sitting in the front hall with a rolled up newspaper, ready to whack each cockroach as it marched under the front door and across the threshold. Should this first line of defence fail they then had a number of cockroach baits scattered around the place, emblazoned with the cheery slogan “Cockroach Hotel. They check in but they never check out.”

I always felt vaguely superior as we’ve never had a real cockroach problem, though that is more by the grace of God rather than as a result of any high levels of cleanliness and hygiene. In fact in one rented flat we discovered, or rather my brother in law discovered by dint of finding a rodent behind sticking out of the cereal packet, that we had a fairly major rat problem. Simon, always up for a bit of a challenge, dealt with this by baiting interesting concoctions of food and leaving them around the kitchen. The rat thrived on its new diet whilst I refused to consume any food within the house for fear of getting a dose of rat poison. After an interesting period where I lost weight and the rat presumably gained, the situation was resolved eventually by the ‘remove a rodent’ man.

My new best friend at the moment is the orthodontist. I seem to spend more time at his surgery than anywhere else, generally clutching my chest as yet another exorbitantly expensive piece of dental work is proposed. Drama Queen No 1 in fact has just gone to bed, dosed up to the eyeballs on Panadol to counter the pain from having spacers put in to force her teeth apart so that her braces can go on next week. Meanwhile when I took Drama Queen no. 2 in for her check up last week, the orthodontist rather unwisely and certainly unfeelingly, casually mentioned that in addition to having to have braces, DQ2 would probably have to have four baby teeth taken out. It was just as well he had instruments in her mouth otherwise he and I might have been treated to some decidedly inappropriate language. As it was her eyes bulged alarmingly, and it was a toss up whether hysteria would break out in the lift or be postponed until we reached the car.