mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: miscellaneous

Bleeding Heart Lefty

Comrades. I have been confronted and am in sore need of counsel. I guess you’d describe me as a bleeding heart lefty. What that means to me is that I think you should be nice to everyone without requiring them to produce proof of their worth, and that it’s counter productive to spend your life imagining that someone is about to take your stuff. So far, it’s an attitude that has served me well, people generally enjoy being treated nicely first crack out of the box, and no one has tried to take my stuff. Until now.

Comrades, for various complex reasons, the Housing Commission has come to our leafy suburb. The house two doors up from us is occupied by a motley collection of young people with no car and no visible adult supervision. Shortly after they moved in, the local petty crime rate went through the roof. I think it was essentially zero in July, moving to 23 break and enters in August. I have personally witnessed one of the young people attempting to climb my back fence from the vacant land behind. He was most surprised to meet my frosty eye, but had had the foresight to kick a football into my yard as an alibi. He hadn’t been playing with the ball, and there wasn’t anyone else there with him. I later heard from other aggrieved neighbours similar stories, that kid must have had no ball skills. In some cases the ball had disappeared altogether. My next door neighbour has been broken into three times and has just spent a few thousand on an alarm system which she regularly sets off most afternoons as she enters the home. I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it eventually, it takes a bit of getting used to.

Here’s the thing though. We haven’t been broken into. I’m pretty sure they’ve been through our outside bathroom, the cupboards were all left open, but apparently they had no use for a decades old hairdryer, superannuated lipsticks, two dozen rolls of toilet paper or boot polish of any colour. And the crimes they’re committing are petty, they’re pinching stuff from cars that weren’t locked, mailboxes, getting through open windows. None of it is Mission Impossible stuff. Because my husband is the opposite of me and has always had a deep suspicion of his fellow man, we have an alarm, bars on the windows, everything is always locked, so we’re really not targets.

As my husband says, speaking from experience, it’s not as if we’re living with the daily expectation of being shot at. Or, as another neighbour darkly muttered, at least we haven’t just discovered that our nanny whom we’ve trusted with our children for years is actually an ice dealer in the process of nicking our identities. They’re not graffiting the place, or having loud parties. I do wonder how they can afford to smoke quite so much though.

So I’d quite like to follow my life long policy of being nice to them. Yes, there was a police chase through my backyard a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t home so it didn’t really affect me. These people are my neighbours. I am trying to meet their eye as I walk past their house and say hello, but I’m rarely successful. For one thing, there always seems to be different people living there. For another, they’ll often melt back into the house when pedestrians approach. I can kind of understand. For their part, they are behaving as they always have done, only presumably in areas less salubrious than our suburb where that kind of thing is more of a given. So the friendly approach is probably destined to be met with suspicion. Am I gathering evidence for the narks?

My question is, comrades, how do I treat them? I feel like taking them biscuits or giving them the Horror’s cast off clothing would be seen as patronising (though my broken into neighbour always seems to be pleased to get them). I’m going to persist with the greetings. Is there anything else I can do?

It does pull on my heartstrings that a couple of the young people seem to be the same age as my beautiful, cared for, hard working Moose. He gets driven to his expensive school with home made biscuits in his lunchbox, his teachers watch him carefully, give him advice and inspiration, he’s leapt on all of the opportunities the school has given him and has met the most wonderful people through them. When his friends come over they sit around playing the Wii and cranking rock music and cracking me up with their teenage conversation. The kids two doors up don’t seem to have a parent with them, they certainly don’t go to school, when they’re not knocking off people’s mail, they sit out the front in the sun with their hoodies up, smoking and not really saying anything to each other. What has happened to them? What help are they getting? What can we, as a community, do for them that their families haven’t been able to? We just don’t know. We’re a rich suburb, surely we can afford these kids some support. Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run to have them learn some skills so they can get a job and some coping mechanisms generally, rather than periodically locking them up for the rest of their lives? But I wouldn’t even know where to start with persuading kids that lifting iPhones for money for smokes is a poor choice, and who am I to do that anyway? And how do they even sell them, Muffet forgot her passcode once and we pretty much had to supply internal X-rays of every member of the family to Apple get it unlocked again.

So, if you work for the Housing Commission, get in touch. I can tutor, I can make them food, I can teach them to knit, I can take out their bins when they forget. But if you could persuade them to stop pinching stuff, that would also be very much appreciated. I’m in a much better position to be a good neighbour than they are, but that might be where we draw the line. It’s not going to stop me trying to say hello to them though.

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Oh, I’ll Go there.

Aren’t we all very judgey. And it’s all come to a head with Pokemon Go. You’ve all got an opinion on it, because everyone has an opinion on everything these days right off the bat, don’t bother thinking about the complexities of the issue or finding out anything further – I don’t like it, I’m afraid of it, I love it and you all suck for not loving it too. What’s wrong with you?

I have a theory. You’re hating things for one of two reasons. The first, you’re secretly worried you’ll like it. I realised that this was me on the Thermomix before I got one, I was trying to talk myself out of it by loudly snarking about it. I’m sure this applies to all of the Thermomix haters out there, and the joy that they’ve displayed when a few nongs have used theirs incorrectly and burnt themselves. “There!”, they say. “I was right to loudly deride people who bought them. They thought they’d be an amazingly useful thing to have in the kitchen, when it turns out that they’re really a spinning death machine. I was right all along not to really really want one. Idiots!”.  And when you think about it, this reason might also apply to some of the louder opponents of gay marriage. Just a theory. The second is that you’re afraid that this is it, this is the final thing that has signalled that the End of Days is upon us. This one applies to moral panic, and has been in evidence when Wimmin Got the Vote, TV will Ruin your Eyesight, Mobile Phones will give you Brain Cancer, Video Games will turn our Teens into Mass Murderers and Drug Addicts, and now it’s Pokemon Go. Moral panic is generally wielded by people who are vaguely uneasy about their lives and can’t be bothered sitting down and actually nutting out what is truly bothering them, so look for an external factor to blame. It’s easier if it’s new, though there’s some tried and true ones too: Young People These Days, Furriners, the Lizard People in Govmint. I can’t understand why people aren’t morally panicking about real issues like Rupert Murdoch.

Anyway, what people choose do do with their leisure time seems to attract an opinion from everyone, and I’ve noticed this because I have a lot of hobbies. And some seem to be socially smiled upon (knitting, baking, singing classical music) and some absolutely not (eating my body weight in sweets, Pokemon Go). Why is this? I’ve learned not to mention to people that I don’t watch TV, because that seems to be a really values laden thing to say. “Oh, I hardly watch it either, just the ABC, you know, and Downton Abbey, I don’t let the kids watch it”. I don’t care. I don’t watch it because I have a short attention span and I’m just generally not interested. Your kids don’t want to watch it because they have iView and YouTube. Why do you feel guilty about watching TV? Is it because when you were growing up it was the big moral panic of the day?

It’s been fascinating watching the moral panic about Pokemon Go. Paedophiles will use it to lure in children. They’ll end up having to turn away hordes of late teenagers too, and hasn’t anyone ever said this about playgrounds? Schools? People will crash into things. Yes, the occasional boofhead has, but your phone vibrates when there’s a Pokemon nearby, so you don’t have to watch it, and then you need to stop to catch it. Then you can tell everyone in the vicinity that there’s a Jigglypuff outside Old Man Jenkins’ house and watch the hordes descend. Jigglypuff is cute. You don’t compete for monsters, once you’ve found one, everyone can have a go at catching them in that spot too, which means that complete strangers are talking to each other. You can only play this game by walking around, as a result of this my kids have discovered that many of the local playgrounds have been upgraded since they were little and have had a ball trying out the new equipment.


The game will actually tell you how far you’ve walked. Thirty eight kilometres this week. How can that be a bad thing? Yes, it drains my phone battery, especially since my kids don’t have data on their phone so have to hotspot onto mine, it will last for about two hours. The data isn’t too bad, a two hour session with the three of us seems to be about 200 Meg. The Moose isn’t playing, because of his moral superiority he has a fifty dollar Nokia and is too proud to take out his iPad with us. Speaking of judgey.

So if you don’t want to play a game on your phone that makes you walk and talk to people in your community, then fine, don’t. But don’t look down your nose at people who do. And when you start looking down your nose at people for other things, food choices, parenting style, hobbies, take a good hard look at yourself. Is it really the hoof beats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse? Or are you just a tiny bit jealous?

What are you looking at?

“What happened to your nose?” asked the suspiciously slow talking chap on the Bay Run this morning. “did you bang it?”. “No, I had some extremely minor surgery on it”. “Did it hurt? What did it feel like?”. “Yes, it hurt quite a lot. And now it kind of feels like it has a staple in it”. “Well, I’d never have that done” he said, walking slowly away.

Easy for him to say. Yesterday I had my yearly skin checkup. Just mentioning that brings everyone out of the woodwork. “did you see Dr Wong? He’s the best, he looks after my dad. You should go and see him”. I can’t go and see him, because I have a special dermatologist. She works at the melanoma unit. And I see her because some years ago I had quite a nasty melanoma, and she’s been waiting for something like this to happen. “Just a matter of time”, she said.

My dermatologist is French. She looks older than me, but is utterly exquisite in that special French way. Perfect skin, cerulean eyes, slender, anything she wears looks incredibly expensive. She always wears beige. Yesterday she was wearing a light beige shift dress with what looked like a rope tied around it, topped off by a dark beige cardy and espadrilles. She looked a million dollars. When I see her I have to strip and lie on a bed while she goes over my entire skin with a bright light and a magnifying glass, squeezing various bits as she goes, always terrific for the self esteem. I drew her attention to a spot on my nose that occasionally gets a bit crusty. “Hmmm”, she said. She rubbed it firmly with an alcohol wipe (non flushable) and gave it the once over with the searchlight. “I think there is a spot there. Nothing much. Better to take it off. I have a cancellation this afternoon, I shall send you off for some lunch and then you shall come back. It will be just a small dent I will make in your nose, possibly will not even bleed”. I can’t do the accent.

Instead I went home, what makes her think you can park for more than hour in Newtown? I supervised several relays of children making the most of the pool, first some milk white nerds pew pewing each other with water pistols. Then a pack of twelve year olds on whom the length of the pool is wasted, they only clamber out and find an infinite number of ways to jump back in again, off the slide, the jumping platform, through the plastic donut, classic catches in the air. The rabble of girls had to wait until I came back.

It’s always a bonus to have your doctor run on time, you just sign the paperwork, nod as she rapidly outlines what she’s going to do in her incredibly melodious and somewhat incomprehensible French accent (fortunately everything gets written down). Take your shoes off, lie down under this giant light, you’ll have a cloth over your eyes so you won’t have to see the giant anaesthetic needle dig around in your nose. Yes it is very unpleasant. I do wonder if just taking the biopsy without anaesthetic would hurt less? Maybe not in my case, because after a bit of pushing and tugging on the old schnoz she said “Ah. Now I can’t see what I’m doing”. I could feel some kind of liquid running across my face and down my neck and devoutly hoped it was antiseptic fluid. There was a bit of repartee between the doctor and the nurse, ending with “it’s not stopping, we’ll need a pressure dressing”. “Is bleeding a bad sign?” I asked in my most light hearted voice. “Oh, yes. That was almost definitely a BCC, and it may even have roots which will mean more surgery, but we won’t know until the biopsy comes back. Call us in two weeks. But if it comes back and it is sinister, I shall call you earlier. You may sit up now.” “Gosh”, said the nurse. “You could go out to Halloween like this”, she said as she mopped blood off my face, neck, back and out of my hair. Tops.

I’m an old hand at this waiting for medical results, if it is really a BCC, that’s actually great news compared to what I’ve had in the past, especially if she got it all. But if any student complains to me this fortnight about not getting assignment marks back quickly, they’d better stand well back.

And now for one of the more interesting aspects of this kind of thing. How do people react to you with something really obvious wrong with you? When I had a massive slice out of my neck almost everyone’s eyes would slide to it, they’d do a double take, then suavely pretend not to notice anything. Interesting. And that’s exactly what happened with one of the parents coming to pick up a twelve year old, the slight pause and then polite ignorance of the dressing on my nose. I’ve taken the dressing off now, so there’s just a large black stitch sticking out of the tip of my nose, along with some bruising and swelling. I have fifty students tomorrow. Shall I do the social experiment? I rather think I shall.

PS. There has been a lot of “what does one say” floating about the social media lately. For the record, I’m always happy to give a gruesomely detailed description of what’s going on with me. But having read this post, now you won’t have to ask.

  

Six shades of Grey

I did think I’d have a lot more to tell you about renovating.  I’ve put off renovating our house for years for a number of reasons – should we just go zen and chuck everything out and make the kids all sleep in the same bedroom? Would we ever get anything past the local council who likes to think of our suburb as a museum which shouldn’t have garages because when the houses were built there were no cars?  But the main reason was the experiences of my friends who have been through a renovation themselves.  One had to fire a builder half way through and have much of the work redone.  One almost made it through to the end before having a minor nervous breakdown.  One said it was worse than having cancer, and she’s had cancer.  Twice.

But the kids are starting to take up a lot of space, and I’m studying and working and trying to do both without actually having a desk or a spot to put one and it was time.  And apart from the council being predictably ridiculous and taking six months to approve something perfectly straightforward, it has been smooth as. I am going to write the project managers a glowing recommendation to put on their website. We’re nearly finished, my hallway no longer looks like this:

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Well, actually, it does a bit, only with stairs and the odd plasterer.  There is still quite a bit of tidying up to do.  Which I’m sure will take eternal weeks before we can move up there and never come down. But I’m at the point where I have to choose stuff. Toilet, taps, tiles, paint colours, carpet. Ugh. How can anyone have a strong opinion about a toilet? Here’s the one I chose.

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I did rather enjoy watching a selection of tradesmen deciding exactly where in the bathroom it should be located by drawing a circle on the ground, then squatting over it. They were a bit concerned about knee room, it is a tiny bathroom. Talk about attention to detail. Also, quad strength.

Anyway, I shall tell you about tiles. You go to a tile shop. They have a dizzying array of tiles. But you must always choose something whitish for the walls and something brown on the ground. I’m not sure why they bother having the rest of them, fills up the space, I guess. The first time I went in the sales assistant spent a long time agonising over the comparison between a large white wall tile and another large white wall tile that looked identical to me. Then showed me what must surely be the most boring brown tile on the face of the earth. I almost couldn’t look at it. I asked to look at something else and she again showed me what appeared to be the identical tile, only a bit more matte. I muttered some excuse about having to go and stab myself in the eye and fled.

I did, dear reader, venture back to that tile shop, because whores must have their trinkets and time was a ticking. I drew a far more vibrant shop assistant this time. Possibly too vibrant. She kept dragging me by the arm to look at more large white wall tiles, and you know how I feel about that kind of thing. Then when I managed to say “uh..” she’d shriek “you’re right! Come over here, you must look at this, you’ll love it!”. You know, don’t you, that I ended up with a large white wall tile and a brown floor tile, after quite a lot more dragging and shrieking. But they weren’t quite as boring as they could have been.

I should add, as a coda to that story, that tiles for quite a tiny bathroom will only just fit into the back of a Subaru station wagon.

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At a rough calculation, they weighed four hundred kilos. “You dribe carepul, you too low” was the helpful advice the storeman at the tile shop gave me. He was quite right, I’m fortunate to still have an exhaust pipe. Lucky I had the Muffet to help me lug them into the house, grrl power.

And similarly with carpets. I actually wanted a green carpet, but was politely informed by the carpet lady that that was toasted insanity. Or words to that effect. To give her credit, she was right. The lighter green ones, when flung onto the daylit floor all looked the colour of something that may have come out of your nose. The mid greens looked disturbingly like astroturf. She only had plush in dark green, and while I loved the colour, it looked as though every bit of fluff and dandruff that had ever floated in the door had chosen to settle on that beautiful green square. Again, do they only keep them in stock to service the mentally disturbed of the Inner West? Or as some kind of solemn object lesson? But you’ll be pleased to know that there were choices other than brown. There was also grey.

I took home six different squares of grey carpet, having culled the selection down from well over ten. I’d gone into the shop imagining I’d get a wool carpet, because you know, natural good, plastic evil. I was quickly talked out of that. Our new bedroom has three skylights in it and apparently the new nylon carpets never ever ever fade, but wool will. And you go and try it, even the trés expensive wool feels scratchy and produces volumes of fluff, but the nylon is very cuddly indeed. I did say to the lady that I obviously wouldn’t be sitting on it, but that was a lie. The family overwhelmingly voted for the darkest grey, so the next stage was to pet test it.

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No visible pet hair and any drool wiped right off. So that’s that done. Hang on, my phone’s ringing.

“Hello, this is Giselle from Carpets R Us. We’re out of stock of your carpet and it will be four months before new stock comes in from the outer asteroid belt. Would you like to come in and make another choice?”

A Moment’s Peace

I may have mentioned my youngest son, I like to think of him as the Horror from Outer Space.  My mother-in-law describes him as a dear little fellow, but he is the kind of child who is best in small doses.  And I’ve just had two months of him. And today he went back to school.

Going back to school raised mixed emotions in him.  On the one hand, he adores his school.  On the other hand, a whole lot of new stuff.  His school is all organised and had an introduction to your class morning last December, so he’s met his teacher and knows who is in his class (she’s new to the school and they seem to have given her all of the problem children).  But will she like him? Will she make him sit next to someone he doesn’t like?  Will she listen to his strenuous objections if this is the case?  What kind of punishment will be handed out for strenuously objecting and will it make strenuously objecting worth it or not?  Will these punishments be cumulative or will each objection start from a clean slate?

These concerns cause him to wake up before six which gave him plenty of time to start airing them.  I get up early anyway, from natural inclination and also because builders start meandering through the hall a touch before seven and I like to be washed and clad before that happens.  I thought a bath might be a soothing way to start the day, but the Horror never has any qualms about following me in there. “I wonder if she’ll start off with a timetable?  Mr Pollard didn’t last year, but he did after four or five days because everyone wanted him to.” “I’m sure there’ll be some timetable,” I reassure him.  They have language lessons, art lessons, music lessons, sports lessons with other teachers, that’s not going to be spontaneous. “Yes, but is she going to tell us? How far in advance? Will it be on the website or will she write it on the board?” “You know what?  You’ll find out soon.  Do you think you could go and polish your shoes and leave me in peace to have my bath?”.

Well, that worked for about thirty seconds.  “Look, are these polished enough?  I think they’re a bit tight.  But I don’t mind wearing them for a few more weeks.” I avoid shoe shopping with the Horror, he has some kind of condition that invariably causes him to be thrown out of shoe shops.  “Why are you spraying me with water?” I ask in my mildest tone. “Oh, sorry, I’m just making sure my hair looks very neat, I want to make the best impression.  I’ve packed my lunch, I’ve got a carrot, an apple and a bread roll.  I’ve also got my pencil case and an exercise book and my iPad, I think most people will forget to bring their iPads, but I’ve remembered.  Do you think there’s anything else?” “No, that sounds fine,” I say.  “Well, I’ve got my lunch, my pencil case and my iPad.  I think there should be something else, don’t you think there should be something else?” “How about your sunhat?”  “I KNEW IT!!!”.  Well, that got rid of him for another thirty seconds.  “Hey, do you think we could go to school now?  We could wait in the coffee shop for school to open”.  The gates weren’t due to open for over an hour and it takes us ten minutes to get there.  I remain calm.  “Get out,” I say calmly.  “Get out now”.

After my bath I put him to work finding the Muffet’s school badges that she removed from her uniform approximately nine weeks ago and hasn’t seen since.  I’m not sure how throwing boxes and hitting his sister with an exact replica of Voldemort’s wand was helping, but it kept him out of my hair for a bit (we didn’t find the badges). We did end up leaving early because he actually started ricocheting off the walls.  I managed to talk them into a first day of school photo

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Note the merry band of builders in the background, warming up for a jolly day of tossing old roof tiles from a great height into their truck.  Their accuracy is impressive.  If they were any other ethnicity than Aussie they’d be singing some rhythmic tile tossing song, but instead they’re not listening to an easy listening radio station.

Anyway, the car trip consisted of the Horror’s speech getting faster and faster and shriller and shriller, punctuated by his sister throwing drink bottles at him and the Moose trying to stop him from talking by reaching around from behind and pulling his cheeks back towards his ears.  It’s a miracle we ever get anywhere alive.  I eject him at school in the middle of a high pitched musing on the best spots to sit in the playground and which ones would now be vacated by last year’s departing sixth grade, interspersed with a discourse on whether you could really call an open box a locker if it didn’t even have a door, yet general usage referred to it as such.  I could still see his mouth moving as he walked through the gate.  I’m completely sure he will be fine and will have an awesome day.  I’d better make sure there is substantial afternoon tea.

So after I get rid of the other two I am child free.  I also don’t start work for another month and have only a few footling committee bits and pieces that need my attention.  What I would normally do now is get a giant takeaway coffee, take it home, then lie on the loungeroom floor for a bit.  But this is what my loungeroom floor currently looks like.

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Actually quite a bit more like a bomb site than usual.  So I treated myself to breakfast at my current favourite local, Single Rosetta.

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The butter could have been less stony cold and there could have been more of a sourdough tang in the fruit toast, but I am fussy about my fruit toast.  And the coffee was excellent.  There was a terribly pretentious magazine for me to read, printed on matte paper with lots of tiny interviews with bands that I’m not sure actually exist, and little musings on how nice it is to have breakfast, and isn’t it rotten when all of your friends want to go to a noisy pub that only serves free range chips and beer made in their sink and you just want to lie on your vintage couch that you found in the Mosman cleanup in your hemp pyjamas and hate watch American Idol.  It was very serene.

But now I’m back to reality, and I think my ears have stopped ringing.  I shall attend to my housewifely duties, dust the plaster off the kitten and go and choose some bathroom tiles.  And then I shall be ready to hear all about the first day of school.

The Most Comfortable Chair in the World

Floriade wasn't quite what I expected it to be. Yes, there were tulips. Also pansies and decorative herbs and that's where I run out of floral vocabulary, so various other flowers, possibly including lilies.

There was a smidgeon of art, like the abandoned car complete with creepy scarecrow passengers covered in foliage. Garden gnomes which the public could paint for a moderate fee. Some of the flower beds were arranged to make amusing shapes and pictures. But you had to take the word of the signage, you could only see this artistry from above. And the only way to get above was to get on the Ferris Wheel, for which there was a hefty line and those things freak me out anyway, just doesn't seem natural. So what did I expect? I dunno, perhaps a little less in the way of bare paddock. Maybe some signage telling us what the flowers actually were so I could make my blog post more informative.

But there were also little sprinklings of market stalls and we happened upon the stall for the World's Most Comfortable Chair right at about the time when we all felt that a nice sit was just what we could do with. Of course I didn't sit in them, I perched on an iron bench far enough away from the rest of my loved ones that I could pretend I had nothing to do with them. But they sat there long enough that they got sucked in by the spiel of mesmeric James, and the comfort of the chair, and we ended up buying one.

Days turned into nights, the weeks and months passed, the renovation FINALLY got underway, we got a kitten, and still no Most Comfortable Chair. Had we been had? I was finally persuaded by my most persistent child, the Horror from Outer Space, to hunt for the receipt AND I found it. I gave them a call. “Floriade?” they said. “Was it James?” they said. “Huh. I'll call you back” they said. The long and the short of it was the James had forgotten us. It arrived two days later. Flat packed.

Look, I'm usually pretty good with a flat pack, I know now to allow extra time for assembling things inside out and not to curse too much while disassembling it, at least the first time. But this thing was all ropes and the worst set of instructions I've seen that wasn't obviously a bot translation from the Chinese. “Attach with included hardware”, I mean really. You might as well just say “you're on your own, sucker”. Even the photo of the assembled Comfortable Chair was slightly out of focus, and about five centimetres square.

The main problem was that the holes in the frame for the ropes to go through were slightly too snug for the ropes to go through. Muffet was at her most helpful. “Burn the ends of the rope to melt them”. Which is not bad advice really, except that the ropes are about two centimetres thick and I'm a bit short of flamethrowers. As a side note, safety matches have got far too safe. I want the option of matches that light up with such a flare that you drop the first one in fright and set fire to your socks. Non-safety matches, if you will. I ended up using some duct tape that I found in the bushes, dropped by the roof vacuuming man who had lost the will to go on after encountering a century's worth of rat carcasses in the chimney.

See what a lot of help I get?

I did get it up in the end. It's suspended from a chain I threw over the roof beam, which seemed like a fairly secure way to hang it. But then I've watched the Horror sit in it, and he's a young man who can't just sit. He swings it and wriggles and rocks it backwards and forwards and I'm a bit concerned that the chain is going to chainsaw its way through the beam.

 

But I have to admit. It is very comfortable.

 

Clearing the Decks

Yes, hasn’t it been a while. And I want to get on and tell you all about why half of our roof is in a skip bin in the driveway and there’s a man up there under the tarpaulin who looks like he should be pulling soy chai lattes in Surry Hills rather than up in my roof with a team of unexpectedly well groomed henchmen. But before I do that, I feel that I should mention a few of the circumstances that have prevented me from blathering at you in my accustomed manner.

1. Work. Yes, that’s right. I’ve been kind of pretending to work for quite a while now, popping in to sprinkle some scientific knowledge on a bunch of fledgling primary teachers once or twice a week. But I got a bit over excited and was teaching two six week courses plus a thirteen weeker which saw me teaching four days a week and my dears, I don’t know how you non housewives do anything other than work, pop into the supermarket on your way home and do a load of washing at 10 at night. On top of that was a rather frantic week and a half in which I marked sixty reading logs, sixty ePortfolios, eight twenty page units of work, sixty Sociology exams and eighty Science 1 exams. And look at what I had to put up with.

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I mean, really. By the end of it I had petrified into a lumpy C shape, it took me days to be able to stand up straight again.

2. Study. My boss suggested that as I had a job of sorts teaching university students, it might be rather topping if I actually had some education qualifications. Accordingly I enrolled myself into a Graduate Certificate of University Teaching. This semester’s work has included quite a lot of crapping on about stuff that has happened at work. Or, as they put it, “reflecting on your teaching practice”. It’s kind of exactly the same as blogging only with an actual point and without most of the whimsy. Some may have sneaked in, I don’t know. I could have plonked it up here, but how many of you really want to know about the value of unintended learning outcomes and how to assess them? Yes, I thought so.

3. Kitten. I did think that once I got a kitten I’d start blogging about that, but when it actually happened it turned out to be vastly entertaining to watch and really very dull to write about, so I spared you. “oh, look, he tried to jump on the lounge and missed!”, “see, the dog is running away from him!”, “oh, sweet, he has a dead spider stuck to his chin!”. You get the idea. I couldn’t do it to you. Yes, you can have a picture.

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4. Baking frenzy. Once I actually finished work I had to catch up with my baking. The poor children were reduced to eating fruit! So in this last week I’ve made chocolate chip biscuits, peanut brittle, chocolate brownies, caramel icecream, ginger biscuits, a batch of yoghurt, bread rolls, orange and poppyseed friands and my first fruitcake, which is almost gone. I am again ready to fill lunchboxes and entertain guests. The housewife is back.

Watching the Soccer

A rare childfree weekend, rather unfortunately timed in the middle of the exciting bit of the World Cup. And an opportunity to go and watch my dear husband play soccer his very self. No really, having spent decades doing this, here's what you do.

You need a folding chair. You need an extra jacket because you'll never be as cold as you'll be watching soccer, even if the sun is out. You'll need a hat with a visor, that winter sun will give you even more eye wrinkles. And you'll need a fair bit of entertainment, you'll be there for a good two hours and some of it, if you'll credit it, isn't terribly enthralling.

I've brought my constant companion, my iPad mini. My plan is to revise the marks and comments I've given to student presentations through the week, start marking the written unit plans that have started to come in, look over a module or two of the course I'm supposed to be studying. I've already had a chat with the Moose in Greece, but as soon as I offered to turn on the camera so he could watch his father play soccer he had to go and have breakfast. In reality I'll probably play a bit of Farmville and hang out on Twitter.

I've also brought my knitting bag with a selection of wool. I have forgotten the circular needles I bought against the advice of the lady in the knitting shop who said it was perfectly simple to knit a beanie on a set of six double ended needles. Or eight, I forget. Either way, I won't be teaching myself to use them this afternoon, but I do have a crochet hook, I could start another beret.

Yes, I suppose I should be watching the soccer. But here's what I can see right now.

I've been here for more than half an hour and all I've seen is a lot of stretching and about a kilometre of strapping tape applied. Also heard quite a bit a sage advice given, kick the ball to the feet, pass it around, remember to have a shot. Most of these guys have been playing for about forty years, you think they would have got the hang of that kind of thing by now.

If we win this game and every other game, we're guaranteed to be top of the table. Our fate is entirely in our own hands says the husband, ignoring a lifetime of experience of how soccer works.

The husband is playing injured. He was contemplating not playing at all, that's how injured he is. He said his hamstring should be Ok so long as he doesn't sprint. Have a guess what he's been doing. Go on, you never will. I keep expecting his leg to split open and spill its contents on the ground. Then it will match the front of his other leg where he's actually torn one of the quadricep muscles off the bone, causing it bunch up and look like a tumour. Play a team sport, it's good for your health.

Actually, it's very pleasant, sitting comfortably by the Cooks River as the shadows lengthen on a perfect winter afternoon.

Opposition keeper just jiggled slowly past me to gather in the ball. I suppose you don't get much exercise being keeper, and if you carry a bit of extra weight, you're just blocking that bit more of the goal. It makes sense.

Opposition score. Probably because husband has very sensibly taken himself off, they just can't cope without him. Having seen so much World Cup I kind of feel like I need to see the replay.

A bit of aggressive play up front by a petite man in a ponytail who makes a living, I'm reliably informed, repairing woodwind instruments. Tensions are running high in the top end of our team. Some language unsuitable for the kiddies. It does sometimes bring out the caveman in the most mild mannered. But they did almost get a goal several times, it was quite exciting.

Put your name on the ball. Another classic from the lexicon. Drop! Drop! Boys, lets start enjoying it, lets get hungry. Space! Man on, one of the first ones I learnt. Up the line. Pressure. Who's got the far post?

Half time and its one nil, but not our way. As always, a scrum of little boys appears from nowhere to play penalties in the now vacant goal. The shadows have lengthened past me, causing me to zip up my polar fleece. I may be compelled to go for a brisk walk. Around the field of course, wouldn't want to miss anything.

A few free kicks being awarded, not malicious I don't think, but the brains underneath those grey heads are moving considerably faster than the camphorated legs. One of our players advises everyone to refrain from Doing a Suarez, causing general merriment. Especially as it really hasn't been that kind of game, I've at no point felt that this one will end up with the police being called. Some cross words, certainly.

There's a body on the field. I wonder if they have stretchers? He's close enough to the side to be dragged off by the ankles. Ah no, an application of the magic water and he's back in action.

Uh oh, husband's putting himself back on, but they need a bit of speed up front. Oh noes, another goal has been scored, and also not by us. Our backs have slowed considerably. Annnnnnd it's the final whistle. “Ah, f… you”, says one of our team, warmly embracing an opposition scorer. Well, that's nice, all friends at the end. I didn't get any knitting done after all, but a deeply pleasant afternoon nonetheless. Do I see beer being handed around? Excuse me for a moment.

 

Schrödinger’s Ankle

“Well, we won't know until we've got in there and had a dig around whether you just need a bit of scraping out or if we'll have to put a bolt in it”. Not my car, dear reader. My ankle.

I may have mentioned my skiing injury once or twice in these pages, the splint, the boot, the cast. Two years later it was still randomly swelling up and causing me to not run around The Bay. So I went to an ankle man who spent about thirty seconds poking at my ankle and tut tutting at my scans, and the above was what he came up with. And yesterday was the day.

The big problem was that if he did put a bolt in it I would be back in a cast for eight weeks and Not Driving. The Moose had suggested leaving the procedure until he was old enough to drive, a mere two years away now, so help me. I like to get these things over and done with, so I booked in and crossed my fingers. I also washed everything in the house that wasn't nailed down, bought a bushel of apples and many litres of milk, some kilos of meat, practised hopping and did some tricep exercises, just in case.

Before the day dawned I got everyone out of bed and had my allotted piece of dry toast and black coffee before the cutoff time of 7am. Dear husband took the day off work, so he drove the boys to school and I took the Muffet. When I drive her in her reward for getting ready early is for me to take her to breakfast at a coffee shop close to her school. “But I won't be able to eat!” I protested. “So?” was the daughterly reply. It seemed to increase her enjoyment of the meal.

Such a delightful child.

I spent the morning taking my mind off things by going up to the shops to get a birthday present for the Moose's friend, supplies for the Horror's DaVinci Decathlon, another gross of black hair elastics for the Muffet who likes to feed them to the dogs and even more bread and milk. Who knew when I would be able to come here again?

At the hospital they slung me into a bed fairly quickly and kicked the husband out so that he could go home and pretend to be simultaneously working and caring for his wife. When in fact, he was just working. The wait began.

The man in the bed next to me yawns. I feel a little sleepy. I could actually have a little nap. I'm already in bed. Hopefully they would realise that doesn't mean I've been anaesthetised.

Got a bit of crocheting done. Caught up with The Slatest. Took a before shot of Schrödinger's ankle.

Took a very wrinkly selfie. At least they're smile lines. Played around with some filters before deleting it and taking a less wrinkled one (ie less smiling). Started reading the Hitchhiker's Guide for the googleplexth time.

I can hear the man next bed getting his leg shaved.

Hungry. My stomach is starting to rumble. What I'd really like is a glass of champagne and a bowl of salted almonds.

The older woman in the bed on the other side is alternating moaning with coughing up a lung. The nurses ask if she's alright, could they get her anything, she says she's fine. I hope they anaesthetise her soon.

My feet are cold.

The ward closes, so they wheel me into the post-op ward. Those beds don't have a great turning circle, and I feel bad about sitting in the bed crocheting instead of getting out and helping push, there's not actually anything wrong with me yet.

Even after I've met the doctors, had my ankle drawn on and been cannulaed I'm left in the waiting room for exactly twenty seven minutes. I pass the time by seeing if it's true that you can lower your heartrate with biometric feedback. I think it is, I was able to get it from 70 down to 60 most times. The anaesthetist had told me that he usually gives patients a little something when they're in the waiting room to calm them down, but I seemed too chilled for that, and did I like the music they were playing? Debbie Harry was fine by me, and also, wasn't I going to be unconcious?

Eventually I was, and then suddenly I wasn't. I was shuddering though, my usual response to whatever they give you when you're being operated on. I think what woke me was a nurse piling heated blankets on me and asking if I still needed the sick bag? My ankle! I dived under the blankets and there was no cast! No cast! Whoopee!

The nurse said I'd woken up nauseous and the doctor had come to see me to tell me they didn't put a bolt in. What was the point of talking to someone who clearly wouldn't remember anything of it? He'd written it down, though, five days on crutches, don't get the bandages wet and come into his rooms next Friday to get the stitches out and take these drugs. No cast! Man, that would have sucked. I can do five days on crutches easy.

So this morning I've managed to attach a plastic bag to my foot so I could shower, showered on one leg (the old skills remained from last time), and had breakfast. The anaesthetist has given me Panadeine Forte and said I can take Nurofen as well, but I'll get very constipated. I'm already on industrial strength Metamucil, so I may have to swallow a plunger. Now that I'm back in bed, I'm getting a message from the good old non-plastered ankle.

What's that you say? Take the drugs! Oh yes, the drugs. Don't mind if I do. Then I might get to work on that hat I'm crocheting. And have a little nap. It's turning out to be a pretty good day.

 

The School Trivia Night

The main components of the school trivia night were all there. Old friends. New neighbours. Alcohol. A couple of teachers. Artwork by each class to extort money out of parents. Some trivia questions.

I’m not a parent at the school any more, so it was interesting to note what a representative crowd of them now look like. There were too many leather pants, ie more than zero. A man with a half arm sleeve of tattoos which you never would have seen in MY day. And the crowd was still distressingly Anglo European, so actually not a lot of change.

My new next door neighbour was there, she booked my children in to come in a couple of times a week to help her out with Arsenic Hour. You know, that time of the day when you have three children under five and your entire focus is on getting them alive to dinner time without drinking a whole bottle of wine. The previous owner of my house was also there. She asked a few desultory questions about the neighbourhood. Then, fixing me with a gaze that was a disconcerting mix of steely and wistful she said “So, you’re not planning to sell the house? Ever?” It’s time for her to let it go. Thirteen years it’s been. We didn’t make her sell Her House.

The headmaster bravely came up to say hello. The one who was directly responsible for us jumping ship to the private system two years before we’d planned, costing us tens of thousands of dollars. The one who “couldn’t do anything” about the glaring underperformance about more than one of his teachers. The one who didn’t want to “make more work” for the teachers by even asking them to run a a chess club, say, or maybe mark homework. He was lucky to get away with a cold smile from me, rather than a searing character analysis.

There was the art auction, always a guaranteed money spinner, but more than slightly dull for those of us whose offspring had no hand in it. Ably run by an ex P&C president whose kids aren’t at the school any more, it was an example of how a strong school community can operate even in the absence of any interest from the actual school.

My date for the night, let’s call her Daniela, actually used to run this gig. When Daniela ran it she had a minute by minute running sheet, we were out of there before 10.30 after four rounds of questions, numerous games, a whole lot of exciting shopping from the stuff we’d spent months blackmailing out of the local retailers, and over fifteen thousand dollars raised. She and her husband after five years had to decide whether to continue running the trivia night or stay married. They selfishly decided on the latter. So now it’s contracted out to a nice enough man, who frankly lacks oomph. Only three rounds of fairly good questions (“who is older, Kirsten Dunst or Scarlett Johansson?” “who cares?” “Vaughan, it’s a trivia night”), but we were falling asleep at our tables by 11.30. So we sneaked out before the results were announced, leaving Jane behind to pick up our runners up prize of an out of date box of Lindt, piling most of our team and one of the art pieces in a rather illegal manner into Christina’s car.

 

OK, Kara is allowed to wear leather pants, but no one else. And if there’s ever a next time, I’m going to memorise the entire periodic table first. But someone else can look after the Davis Cup tennis players. Because, really, who cares?