- Bills. I feel like we are currently drowning in bills. An A/C rotary and side mirror for the Welsh Dragon? $600. Strata fees? $600. Llew’s new prescription glasses? You don’t even want to know. I also had no idea the pregnancy itself would prove so costly – those blood tests I had at the start of week 12? $350. Our next upfront medical fee? $1,000-1,500, depending on the lab work. And there’s another six grand due upfront in five weeks. Perhaps Medicare will rebate some small portion of these expenses, but we’ll still be out of pocket thousands of dollars. Added to the two rounds of IVF (and some people endure many more than two), this is one expensive undertaking. I kind of thought kids got costly once they were actually born; I hadn’t reckoned on this in utero fleecing. So what the hell is our private health insurance for? Well, I’m really not sure. It seems to be a grand scale rort of the highest order. Apparently it kicks in only once we hit the hospital, which seems incredible to me as I watch money gushing out the door in a vast wave somewhat reminiscent of fleeing tourists at the Running of the Bulls. Running of the Bills, more like.
- Bush. That same day I had the Braille revelation, last Friday, I ventured into the bushland of the National Park alone. There are established paths and well-trodden walking tracks right through the Blue Mountains, but it’s so gigantic it’s not at all unusual to find oneself entirely alone. It was a weekday, too, which just amplified the silence and sense of isolation. For me this aloneness began generating a vague unease; it occurred to me that I was extremely vulnerable out there, and in the unlikely event that there was a psycho lurking up the path, well, I’d be in a whole world of trouble. I managed to do quite a comprehensive job of scaring myself out of there – in order to catch me, said psycho would have needed to sprint up hundreds of steep stone and steel steps two at a time – and only really calmed down once I harnessed this paranoia into a potential short storyline. I don’t know if I’ll write it, but thinking about it helped alleviate my anxiety until I was verily giggling to myself about being such a scaredy cat. Turns out – an ugly coincidence if ever there was one – that the very next day, Saturday, a woman walking alone on one of the tracks was approached by a man and stabbed. The suspect (who was yet to be apprehended last time I checked*) is apparently already wanted on sex offences, but this woman valiantly fought him off before running back the way she came to find her family. Thank goodness. Thank goodness, but he still stabbed her in the face and neck, I think, before she got away, and she’s now recovering in hospital. It’s a very ghoulish, nightmare-come-to-life thing, and it makes me nervous about putting myself in a similar situation again. I really resent feeling fearful, it’s not fair that it’s mainly women who are vulnerable to this sort of attack, it thoroughly stinks, but I did also feel a very strong sense of responsibility to our little friend, just 15 weeks old and counting, a tiny being who’s utterly dependent on my not getting stabbed in the guts by the maniac in the woods. So I think I’ll be sticking to well-populated, well-lit areas for the foreseeable future, and meanwhile I wish this woman a very speedy and full recovery. I hope they catch that cowardly bastard very, very soon.
- Butts. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of my giving up smoking. Nine years. I still haven’t passed that golden milestone of having been an ex-smoker longer than I was a smoker, that’s a few years off yet, but I’ll get there. There’s a question: do I count back to those very first furtive menthols with friends in the park, or perhaps to the drunken parties that soon followed, or to college at 16, when I first started smoking all the time? I think I smoked my first cigarette at 13 or 14, and my last at 28, so perhaps I’ll start there, at 13, which gives me another six years to go. Wow. It’s taking a whole lot longer to clear the debt than it did to incur it. Accruing these ex-smoker years is the sole aspect of getting older that moves at a snail’s pace – time otherwise whizzes by in a most obnoxious manner.
- Books. I’m afraid I’ve had to take a break from Brian Castro’s The Bath Fugues; it reminds me of reading Joyce, which I find tiring. One must apply oneself to the task with an extra energy I don’t always feel, and so the reading has lagged, and I’ve started committing that ultimate sneaky sin of avoiding it. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it – as with Joyce there’s much to admire – it’s just quite demanding, and sometimes that’s not what I’m looking for a novel to be. I’ve decided to dilute the experience with an interval, during which I’m reading The Legacy, by Kirsten Tranter (whose literary pedigree can’t have hurt her publication chances: her mum runs one of the best known literary agencies in Sydney, and her father is a respected poet), whom you may recall appeared with Castro at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which is how I came to purchase both books. It seemed fitting to interrupt Castro with the debut author’s effort, and I’m enjoying it. More on The Legacy once I’ve finished.
* Postscript: I heard on the radio yesterday (5 July) that they got him. Apparently a civilian spotted him browsing hair dyes in a supermarket in Sydney’s west – good work, shopper!!