I’m writing this post by virtue of Llew’s coming home sick earlier this afternoon. He and Master J have both just roused, and now we’re all in the sunroom (though there’s been no sun today), where they’re lying on the floor, apparently exhausted by the effort of regaining consciousness. Llew is really quite unwell – even maintaining this prone position is clearly taxing – so let’s hope he keeps the lurgy to himself.
I’m not remotely surprised he’s come down with the Man Flu strain of whatever infection has been going round and round and round Sydney these long months – he’s dealing with quite a lot of stress at the moment. You see, his role has just been made redundant, so the immediate future professionally and financially is suddenly completely uncertain. This change in our circumstances could herald the start of exciting changes – we both believe a redundancy can represent a terrific opportunity – but there’s no denying there’s quite a lot of anxiety around it too. Economies around the world are tanking faster than potted plants left in my care, and the finance industry in Australia seems likely to follow suit, so there’s not a lot happening in the job market here or anywhere else. Gulp.
We’re also limited in terms of passport privileges… fantasies of decamping to the Italian countryside to convert a barn and learn the language come quickly unstuck the moment we begin exploring tiresome visa restrictions for Australians abroad. It’s times like these when you realise EU passports are worth their weight in gold. Llew and I often bemoan each other as two lousy investments; we’re both Aussie, Aussie as can be. My ‘Percy’ maiden name stands for precisely nought… perhaps I should get some DNA testing done and write to the current Earl of Northumberland demanding to know where else my nose might have come from… One wouldn’t be so gauche as to presume a stake in the ancestral home, but a British passport would be downright jazzy right about now.
I’ve offered to hit the job search myself, of course, but I don’t think Llew much fancies the idea of full-time parenting – he prefers the rock star, sell-out performances of a limited season – so for the time being, I’ll continue freelancing and Llew shall start pounding the pavement. The redundancy does buy us some time; if he gets a job in good time, we’ll actually be better off, and if the search takes a while, we’ve got a few months before we’ll be any worse off at all. It’s really just the economic climate more generally that’s a worry; Llew’s an eminently employable sort of bloke.
So interesting times ahead here at Spew HQ. And on the reflux, I must say Master J has improved quite a lot the past fortnight or so. Hopefully that pesky oesophagal sphincter is finally strengthening. Boy, I won’t miss the puddles of puke. I’m looking forward to my clothes not reeking of vomit, too. It’ll also be nice to retire that constant low-level anxiety about what sort of harm it’s doing his tiny little system, hurling his guts up all day every day (though he’s been doing much, much better than that for a while now) – it can’t be good for him, although the medication is designed to neutralise the acids. We’ve tried to get him off the meds a couple of times now, but the effect so far has been an immediate deterioration and a return to the bad old days in very short order indeed. So add that to the list of things I am very much looking forward to (clearly these are not listed in order of priority): getting my not-quite-eight-months-old little man off daily medication.
Aaanyway, everything is on the table at the moment, all bets are off. Perhaps we’ll farm pearls in WA. Perhaps we’ll move to PNG. Perhaps Llew will find a sponsored job in Asia. Or Europe. Or South America. Perhaps I’ll end up looking for a full-time writing or editing gig. Perhaps we’ll go off grid altogether. Perhaps Llew will find another job within the same organisation during the ‘seek redeployment’ phase. Perhaps he’ll find a better job elsewhere. Perhaps – and this is my preference – he’ll take some time out and give himself the opportunity to reflect on where he’s currently headed as against where he’d actually like to go. Life is already well and truly upon us, so these questions are pressing. He’s given this company nine years of service – it’s a very long time, especially when he’s still wondering how the hell this became his career. So. We’ll see. But perhaps it’s time we both learned to juggle, just in case.
I know I’ve already mentioned the degree to which my temporal world has altered since becoming a mother, but the other day I was forced to confront in a most unsavoury manner the degree to which my spatial world has transformed too. I had just struggled with the pram to open the heavy door of a public disabled toilet, and keep it ajar long enough to wheel the pram through without injuring my shoulder, when I was overcome by the knock-down stench that awaited inside. I was retching even as I began reversing, until it occurred to me that someone might be waiting outside, and that someone would think I was responsible for the toxic stink that seemed to attach itself to my every pore. It was an awful thought, so I sprinted over to the toilet, nose pinched between thumb and forefinger, and with my free hand pressed down hard on the flush. But not, I’m afraid, without first involuntarily glancing down. All it took was that one split second. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what monstrous thing filled the bowl, but I’m going to anyway, because I need to unburden myself almost as much as the person who left the diabolical dump there for someone else to find.
Who. The. Fuck. Does that? Who takes a truly gigantic shit in a public toilet and a) doesn’t wipe their arse and b) doesn’t do everything in their power to get rid of it? This unholy beast could only have been left by someone so perverse they took a peculiar pride in leaving it behind, to inevitably foul the day of whichever poor unfortunate happened upon it. And of course I was that luckless wretch, though judging from the level of established air pollution, it had been there quite some time, so I was probably not the first to have my senses assaulted. I was just the first to flush it away.
Shuddering and gagging, I hurried away, feeling furtive and unclean. I don’t know why flushing the toilet made me feel obscurely implicated, but it did. And it made me feel dirty – putrid – even though whoever did the shit most assuredly hadn’t troubled themselves with the button I pressed. I couldn’t have lingered long enough to wash my hands at the basin, that would have been enough to force a puke in the sink, but I came to an abrupt halt back out in the square, gulped my fill of fresh air, then poured water from my bottle all over my shaking hands.
Afterwards, I couldn’t help but reflect on certain changes to my spatial existence, and this is one: a man did that shit, of that I am quite sure, and probably an able-bodied man at that. So okay, this jerk wanted to shit in private, and he’s not the first, but it’s women with prams who mostly use disabled toilets – either for themselves or because change tables are mostly located in these same facilities. Certainly in this neck of the woods, there are far more women with prams than there are disabled people, so chances are it’s mostly able-bodied men who don’t deign to use communal stalls, and women with prams who use this particular public dunny. So thanks, arsehole, for not flushing – I already clean up enough shit these days.
But disabled toilets – never used ‘em before. Now I know exactly where they are and which ones have change tables. Lifts – never used ‘em before. I’m a stairs and escalator kind of gal, and if I had to use the latter, I always walked up them rather than assuming the automaton position to the left. But now I have to find the lift – usually a mission of untold complication and time wasting. On the basis of this new experience, I’m now in possession of a curious item of empirical data: mature women of Asian origin prefer taking the lift, even if it’s just to go one floor, and they’ll stand there waiting for as long as it takes said lift to arrive, even though – unlike me – they might easily just use the frigging escalator or take the stairs. What is so special about the lift? It makes me wonder if there’s some sort of class-based cultural thing involved, like the well-heeled use the lift and the working classes take the stairs… but whatever it is, that’s who’s using the lifts of this city. Who knew?
Park benches? Oh, how right you were, ye of the hit predictions of my eventual motherhood-related park bench awakening. Indeed, that day has come to pass. Park benches are now of the utmost importance to me – all praise the park bench.
Grass. Master J’s idea of a daily constitutional currently involves rolling off the picnic rug onto the grass at the first available opportunity, whereupon he immediately grabs two fistfuls of the good stuff and rams them straight into his mouth. This effort brings him overwhelming happiness – grass is evidently one of the more pleasing discoveries of his short life. He loves it. I now constantly keep my eyes peeled for a nice patch of green that isn’t littered with pellets of rabbit turd and/or used syringes and/or used condoms and/or cigarette butts and/or sleeping vagabonds – all of which criteria severely limits my options.
Parents’ rooms… need I say more? Nearly in tears, I first discovered the one at the David Jones department store after an aborted attempt to find the elusive baby change room in the adjacent Westfields shopping centre. This mission involved multiple lifts – up and down – and increasingly crazed racing around each floor as Master J’s nappy spectacular started slowly seeping through his clothes. There was a confounding and unsuccessful attempt to navigate the map of the centre, followed by a total bum steer from centre concierge (a man who also couldn’t read the map), until I finally admitted defeat and RAN to David Jones, whereupon I waited for another lift, which I took to the very top floor. There, like an oasis of clean, well-stocked calm, lay the store’s parents’ room. Now I know it’s the gold standard, and these days I just head straight there.
I am receiving an entirely new education in navigating Sydney, one that involves seeking access ramps and wide aisles and finding parking spaces that are actually big enough to allow you to free a child from the back seat without clipping the neighbouring vehicle with your open car door… And now I look for cafes that have room enough for prams, and that own a couple of high chairs, and that have adult chairs with backs instead of funky reclaimed produce boxes. Just give me something with some back support, would you? Something remedial. And I need my coffee cup with a handle, thanks.
A fortnight since my last post… call an ambulance, DoctorDi is flat-lining!!! I have to do something about returning to regular posting or else I fear this blog shall quietly die of neglect – a very sad prospect indeed. This post is being written at the tail end of the day – I’ve started dinner, hung the washing, folded other washing, picked up the dry-cleaning, given Master J half a feed, and now Llewie is giving him a bath during the interval…
Today was the last ‘Gymbaroo’ session of term – he loves it, and I love the way it gives us something structured to do every Monday. They break over the school holidays, and I am always eager for us to start again. Now I know some women locally with babies the same age, and now Master J is more active and interactive, I don’t feel the actual need of it so much anymore, but I recognise his enjoyment as a sound reason to continue. He really adores it – he beams from the opening bar of the daggy welcome song to the closing bars of the farewell one. And that means I love it too.
But the thing I really love – really, truly, madly, deeply, absolutely love – is story time.
Story time began almost immediately Master J was born. I can’t exactly remember when, but it was very early in his life – within the first few weeks. Llew and I each have a chair in Master J’s room, and every night, once Master J is clean, warm and well fed, we take our seats for story time. Mostly Llew holds him and I read – only because Llew misses all the cuddles throughout the day – but sometimes we swap, especially if Master J is unsettled. It usually doesn’t last for very long, because story time is shortly followed by sleepy time, but it’s the highlight of the day, every day.
Master J’s library is already quite robust, thanks mainly to Uncle S and Auntie M, who virtually backed up a truck loaded with children’s classics the day he was born. Llew and I haven’t been able to resist adding to it – naturally – and other friends have had a hand in his flourishing collection too. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is standing back, regarding his options, and carefully selecting the next title for story time…
We read far and away beyond his age during story time – we read proper books with fully realised storylines. Along with Dr Seuss, which he flat out adores, during the day I include age appropriate, single noun style picture books – but night time is the right time, I think, for fully-fleshed narrative. So he gets Greek myths; A Very Naughty Rabbit: Tales of Mayhem and Mischief; Where the Wild Things Are (though that we usually complete in one sitting); The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (and the wicked Banksia Men are still as terrifying as I’ve always remembered their being); Pinocchio and Winnie the Pooh: Best-Loved Stories (which are unexpectedly amusing – I really don’t recall Winnie being the accidental comedian he most assuredly is).
It’s the next day now… Darkling Deb has come over to play with Master J so I can do some writing, but unfortunately he is currently screaming the place down at the other end of the apartment… poor Deb! No wonder I am short on volunteers!!! Is that silence…? Perhaps.
Or perhaps not. Oh dear.
It’s really impossible concentrating while that’s going on… I don’t know what to do! Just a sec. I’ll be back.
Okay, it’s about an hour later, and they have gone for a walk, so fingers crossed… he’s very funny around unfamiliar people at the moment – and I don’t mean funny ha ha. Exhausting! Is it always this exhausting?! I wonder if younger mothers have more energy or if it’ll totally stuff you at any age…
Anyway, back to story time. The thing is, Master J loves it. He snuggles in, he watches, he listens, he looks at the pictures when I hold the book in close, and you can see him relaxing, you can see story time working its special magic of preparing him for sleep. His lids grow heavy, his eyes roll back, his breathing changes, his hands (always so busy) slacken across the rhythmic sigh of his chest… it’s lovely. He’s usually only a little bit asleep when we put him down, but not for very long. When it’s story time, sleepy time is never far away.
From our point of view, the rediscovery of all these long ago beloved books is nothing short of revelatory. I can’t believe how many characters end up ‘deadibones’ in The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – it’s really quite violent, as well as very gripping and clever. And Where the Wild Things Are? Astonishingly brief! I’d always remembered Max’s adventure so vividly, and loved it so well, that it was a shock to find the book so short and sweet. I must have mentally expanded the scale of the book to fit the scale of his escapade… Oh, it’s really something seeing all these old friends again.
Aside from another freelance job, I’ve not been entirely idle on the writing front – the latest feature for the Varuna Alumni News is up; it’s on plagiarism and attribution for anyone who’s interested.