The Touring Toddler, Part I

April 23, 2012 at 5:25 am (Uncategorized)

(A note re. collapsed technology: there is zero signal out at the farm, so while I am writing the posts into a Word doc there, I am uploading them during sporadic trips to the Coolah township… so if I am an unreliable presence here and on my friends’ blogs for the time being, you know why!)

In commencing this, what I mean to continue throughout as the Touring Toddler series, I’ll begin by qualifying something I wrote yesterday: that I feared there was nothing to do out here. I wasn’t referring to any lack on my own part – a week of reading and writing in the country frankly sounds like fucking bliss – but on Master J’s. You see, our Touring Toddler is a very busy little body, and he’s a sociable little man too, so as I stood on the front step of what was once the modest home of Llew’s dearly departed grandparents, looking out at the electric and barbed fences separating the farm’s paddocks, I feared he (and therefore we) would struggle out here.

I needn’t have worried; he absolutely loves it. Be that as it may, the potential hazards for our Touring Toddler are real. On the way into town yesterday for supplies (a lazy half hour drive at 100 kms all the way), we passed three red-bellied black snakes, two of them very much alive and slithering. They were sunning themselves on the warm bitumen road, displaying adequate street smarts to negotiate the rare passing car with just enough movement to keep themselves out of tummy-flattening trouble. Add to that the fact that B, Llew’s uncle, had a brown snake in his house (just across the back garden from this one) late last year and you’ve given this soft-touch a bit of a jump-start. What would I do if the Touring Toddler and I were home alone and a brown snake came a-calling…? All comic histrionics aside, they are seriously dangerous reptiles, and it was not reassuring when B told me he called the appropriate authorities to come help him and absolutely nobody responded. Brilliant. I’d be such a fantastic snake-wrangler in those circumstances I’m sure I’d have absolutely no need of emergency assistance whatsoever. No, I’d just calmly secure Master J and talk the snake into a sack and everything would be apples. Sure thing.

The Touring Toddler’s hazard #2: there are spiders everywhere. That long-ago lesson of beating your shoes upside-down before putting them on (something I think every Australian child has drilled into them at some point) has real practical application here. In fact, Llew just this second came up to my chair and said, “Shoes. [the Touring Toddler’s] shoes, your shoes – always check them first.”

Needless to say, I already do. Loads of people love spiders and snakes – no, really, they do – but personally I prefer to maintain a respectful, petrified distance at all times. In this, I’d like my son to follow my lead at least until he is old enough to make up his own mind, but ideally until I’m no longer around to worry about him.

The Touring Toddler’s hazard #3: in a compositional pause just now, I glanced outside just in time to see a large hornet cruising past, looking like it was loaded up and on its way back to one of the many nests currently built up under the eaves of the house. Perfect. Good to know they’re active nests, then.

The Touring Toddler’s hazard #4: whatever it is that’s currently feasting on his sweet plump flesh. The juicy mosquito bite by his left ear was one thing, but now there are angry red welts all over his legs: large, swollen, and hard to the touch. When we asked B and his wife P about them at breakfast this morning, their guess was something in the grass. I think the word “midges” was used. What the hell is a midge, anyway, and how do we protect him against them?

The Touring Toddler’s hazard #5: rusty, sharp-edged, broken farming and domestic equipment. A treasure trove, to be sure, but a tetanus trap too. Abandoned fridges, old outhouses and cold fire pits: the list goes on. And have I mentioned the fences? You can turn off an electric fence, sure, but last time I checked barbed wire is still permanently live in its potential to do harm. Naturally the Touring Toddler routinely races toward different sections of fence – we are clearly born with an innate understanding of this game – and catching him has been a bloody close call a couple of times already.

The Touring Toddler’s hazard #6: holes in the ground. Random, unexpected, occasionally weirdly deep holes in the ground: they abound. And in the other direction, anthills. Bull ants are angry buggers.

And finally, hazard #7: water. Water pools in unpredictable places out here, it may conceal something dangerous underneath, and it is an irresistible lure to the Touring Toddler. P told me at breakfast this morning that a child nearly drowned in a couple of inches of water at her son C’s first birthday over 30 years ago. Eight parents were standing around the kiddy pool that day, and as P assured me that she, B and Llew were all watching him (he was directly behind me), the Touring Toddler was at that very moment determinedly circumnavigating the selfsame pool, now fallen into disrepair. Now they use an aboveground pool by the side of the house; the Touring Toddler made that particular discovery this morning, and both Llew and I have already had to drag him away from all that it promises. Ordinarily I’d be only too happy to take him in for a swim, and I feel cruel denying him, but if you could see the snot we’re each still producing… well, let’s just say slugs and snails have nothing on these trails.

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3 Comments

  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    Oh my–he’ll have a wonderful adventure and your hair may turn grey.

  2. litlove said,

    Oh my goodness! Absolute nightmare! And you are braver than me – I like snakes and huge spiders to keep about a mile distance from me and would freak out like a big girl’s blouse if I actually had to be nearer than that. Toddlers are hard enough to keep out of trouble under normal conditions….But so glad to know he is having fun, which means you can have some too. Catching up here – and delighted to know the holiday is under way!

  3. Pete said,

    Pretty scary reading! I have to add that little miss F loves beetles (the fictional kind) but I hate to think of what will happen when she sees a real spider (or worse). L and I both have shredded nerves from all the times she has fallen. But, hazards aside, sounds like a great holiday. And sounds like Master J is running already. I’m glad that you are a runner too so can keep up with him!

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