Friday, January 28, 2011

I don't like Mondays

Wednesday was Australia Day, the Australian national holiday celebrated every 26th of January. It commemorates the day that the first governor of New South Wales, Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney Cove, but also importantly signifies the end of the long Australian summer holiday. As with Labour Day in the US and the August Bank holiday in the UK, Australia Day heralds the end of the season of frivolous leisure and the start of serious employment and new school year.

I am concerned about how I am going to lift myself out of the holiday lethargy and laissez faire attitude generated by a blissfully indulgent Sydney summer. The general torpor has been exacerbated by the fact both Husband and I have had in effect six weeks holiday and the entire household has tossed routine out the window and slowed to the pace of a gentle crawl.

As I contemplate Monday when we all go back to work or school there are a number of questions that are preoccupying me.

1. Will I ever be able to positively identify the contents of the mysterious zip lock bags in the freezer containing a transparent liquid? The two obvious choices that come to mind, are white wine or egg whites that presumably I’ve stored during a rare, frugal housekeeping period. However they could equally be the result of one of the Drama Queens’ failed chemistry experiments or the remnants of a crystal growing kit. I’ve tried sniffing them, which didn’t help much, so in a rash moment I took a punt on white wine and added the contents to cous cous yesterday. None of my dinner guests spat it out or rang to complain of food poisoning, which I suppose I could take as a good sign.

2. I have now washed the Christmas ham bag, but come December 24th what are the chances of my being able to remember the cunning hiding place? (Note to self, look by cake tins.)

3. Will Drama Queen No. 1 ever find the school books that DQ no. 2 needs for this year? Or for the third year in a row will I find myself doing the mercy dash to the bookseller to pick up extortionately expensive texts such as ‘Psychology in Action’, a dangerously, subversive text that enabled DQ No.1 to point out the mental health issues displayed by her parents.

4. Are the seven single black school shoes in various states of disrepair that have littered the hall way for the last two months capable of being sorted into three pairs that will pass muster for Day 1 of the new school year? Or am I going to be required to do a loaves and fishes type miracle, requiring a child to either hop or wear two left shoes?

5. Will I ever regain even a level of partial fitness, or are the habits of holiday celebration and idleness too deeply ingrained?

6. And in an issue not unrelated to the proceeding one, what are the chances of my fitting into black dress tomorrow night for the party that is the final blast of the holiday season?

Time to gird the loins – hand me the spanx, and roll on Monday – it’s time to get serious again.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dog days and drama

I do sometimes ask myself why we as a family, appear to lead a life spiked with drama, albeit often on a mundane household level, take for example Drama Queen No.2 who didn’t just loose her highly expensive school hat, but had it eaten by a seal, ( for full account).

I can attribute some of the constant drama to maternal slackness and absent mindedness- on which topic where did I put those birch twigs so handy for whipping oneself with? If you are generally late and unprepared for events it does tend to lead to a life veering towards the dramatic and exciting. However there are some events that even in my desire to hog the guilt light, I have to hold up my hand and disclaim responsibility. The fact that 2 out of the 3 Drama Queens have had appendixes that have burst in somewhat spectacular style is probably down to a combination of bad luck and explosive genes on both sides of the family, though occasionally I do wonder if a steady diet of burnt offerings was a contributing factor.

Yesterday, in a classic example of the domestic drama that stalks us, Husband and I set off for early morning walk with the dog along the Spit, a local harbourside walk. It was a fabulous morning, we were clasping take out coffees from the yacht club and all felt very right with the world, which should have been an indication in itself that it was all about to go pear shaped – and it did. The dog gave an almighty start and jumped in the air before licking a front paw in a frenzy. Pluto is not a calm dog (surprise, surprise) so this didn’t worry us unduly. He then recovered himself and bolted off in his usual insane, canine fashion. However a minute later he was vomiting copiously and staggering round in circles and it was obvious we were into new territory on the pet emergency front. I carried him back to the car and we did an ambulance style dash to our vet who had fortuitously arrived half an hour early for the Saturday shift. Pluto had difficulty breathing during the ten-minute drive to the vet and I did consider how on earth to do CPR on a dog, mouth-to-mouth takes on a new dimension when black fur and dog saliva is involved. Both Husband and I also later admitted that we had been cravenly thinking of how on earth we were going to tell the Drama Queens that we had taken the dog on a walk and killed it.

Based on a country friend’s experience with her dog, I was dramatically gasping “Snakebite” as I staggered into the vet’s clutching my limp and incontinent bundle. In actual fact it turned out to be the much smaller, but almost as deadly in Pluto’s case, bee sting.

Running true to form, we’ve got that rare beast, the dog that goes into severe anaphylactic shock with a bee sting. The vet was fantastic and had him on a drip in seconds and peppered with injections. Thank God though for pet insurance as resurrecting a dog from near death extremis doesn’t come cheap.

The dog came home at the end of the day, a very sad and subdued creature. The vet had suggested tempting his appetite with barbequed chicken (I kid you not), and after toying with slivers of lightly grilled chook fed to him by his devoted handmaidens, he collapsed in a heap for the night. I found myself back in the new baby syndrome where you spend your whole time waking them up to check they are still breathing.

Happily morning dawned with a dog nearly restored to full bounce, and given the all clear by vet with warnings to avoid bees in the future. In the meantime I am left a shattered wreck of a pet owner pondering a future of canine epi pens in my handbag.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Love, Loss and does the fashion victim change her spots?

One of this week’s highlight’s was going to see the production of ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’ at the Sydney Opera House. The basic premise is of women telling their life stories through the clothes they wore. Magda Szubanski, an Australian comedian was the standout on this. The whole thing resonated with the predominantly female audience as tales of much loved outfits, things mothers said, and long forgotten fashion trends resurrected were recounted. The handbag section chimed with particular force for me, as I travel with the equivalent of the municipal rubbish tip in mine.

The play made me think about my own particular teenage, and indeed student outfits – the fashion parade of little horrors. Items worthy of an honorable mention include:

A cord leopard skin dress that I bought from a second hand shop as a student. I think I must have rose coloured spectacles about how small the dress or indeed I was at that juncture of my life as I do have a vivid memory of one of the college rugby team asking if he could borrow it for a dance. He wasn’t one of your midget whippet types and he could still get into it with a bit of judicious zip heaving – somehow I never felt the same about it afterwards.

Plastic rainbow coloured wellies with see through heels and soles – a real whizz when worn with the combat pants that characterized my first year of university.

Pink crepe harem pants that were slightly too tight to the extent it wasn’t just the fabric billowing around the waistband.

My father’s Ist XI cricket blazer, that was creamy white, and thus ideally suited to being worn to teenage parties filled with red wine and cigarette ash.

A Princess Diana inspired ball dress in rose chintz that even with the confidence of youth I fear made me look as if I had entered into a fight to the death with Barbara Cartland’s sofa.

I realize I must be getting boring with age – my current favourite clothes include the classic white shirts that my mother gives me, and my two black dresses plus a pair of fabulous black shoes. I was just about to grieve for my lost exuberance and mourn my middle aged monochrome existence when I remembered my latest love, the leopard skin print shoes with shocking pink trim – proof positive you can take the leopard skin cord off the girl, but you can’t keep her out of leopard skin.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

High Jinks and Hiking

Happy New Year!

2011 exploded into Sydney for us in a whirl of sparkling shiraz, dinner for 19 in the garden with children in the pool between courses, party games and even a bit of Scottish Country dancing which left our predominantly Antipodean guests shaken if not stirred. The Sydney fireworks transformed the skyline with an exuberance of light and colours with the Sydney Harbour Bridge glittering and flashing as a gigantic centerpiece.

The reason for the radio silence since New Year is that in what might be seen as a radical type of post celebration family detox event, we set off immediately for a five day walk in New Zealand. Given the Drama Queens regard any event involving use of their feet for longer that five minutes as a ‘trek’, you can imagine the enthusiasm with which they greeted the news that this Christmas family holiday was going to involve a real live TREK of previously unimagined walking distance – 71 km, to be precise.

In an effort to keep their spirits up I had perhaps overemphasized the flatness of this particular walk, the Queen Charlotte Track at the top of the South Island. If I said there was a disbelieving chorus at the sight of what looked like an almost vertical track leading straight up the nearest large hill, I would be lying. They were in fact too stunned to utter a word as they silently turned and watched the retreating ferry that had dropped us so cheerily off at the start of the walk.

We did in fact have a fabulous time, the weather cooperated, the scenery is absolutely stunning and the Queen Charlotte Track, whilst definitely not flat, is a very civilized walk with a number of options on the accommodation front every night. Best of all you can send your luggage on ahead each day by ferry so that you are only walking with a day pack. My ultimate secret weapon was I had persuaded the brother imported from the UK that his Australian trip should include some bonding time with his nieces and where better to do it than marching across the glorious New Zealand countryside for hours at a time? The biggest day was 24 km, true to form all the teenagers skipped through it, whilst I plodded up hill and down dale in their wake, pondering how long it would take before I developed the bulging calf muscles of a Hobbit.

Am dreading tomorrow as I have to take my parents to Sydney Airport as they depart back to the UK after a month with us. Sydney Airport is the most emotional place I know – I’m amazed Kleenex haven’t set up booths at the International Departures and Arrivals gates. By definition if you are flying in or out of Sydney internationally, you are generally going a fair distance, and goodbyes and greetings are so emotionally charged that I find my eyes moistening at the dramas of complete strangers – the Drama Queens find this particular manifestation of maternal madness particularly humiliating. Even with the speed of modern life, I still know that with the best will in the world until teleporting is invented, my parents will continue to be 24 hours worth of travel away and at the moment of parting that seems an almost unbearable distance. I do however write mental notes to myself at this point and think of the early settlers who were talking a sea voyage of months to even receive a letter. The upside of the distance is that when they do come, they come for a month or more. We’ve had such a happy time this Christmas that in fact I should be counting my blessings rather than blubbing my way through departures – but I still think an industrial sized box of tissues and some dark glasses might be a sensible precaution.