Partying with the Petanqueans
After nine very long days of being cared for by her ‘single mother’ whilst Love Chunks is chilling in Chile, young Sapphire went to her best friend Holly’s place for a sleepover last night.
I’m not sure who was the most excited – Sapphire, who’d been counting down the days; or me, who’d also been looking forward to waking up on at least one morning at a time later than 6am and without having some little frog fingers tapping me on the forehead, asking “Mum is it time to get up yet? Can we make some more ballerinas out of potatoes?”
Normally when Sapphire sees Holly she rushes over to lift her off the ground in a bear hug and together they then head off into Holly’s bedroom, all a-chatter and ready to get down to the serious and time-consuming activity of playing. It’s rare for me to get a farewell much more sentimental than a half-muffled, half-yelled, “Oh yeah, seeya Mum,” as I leave a few minutes later.
Yesterday afternoon, however, Sapphire ‘Cracked the Sads’ as my older brother Rob likes to put it. Why, I don’t know: surely she would have been sick of being with me for nine days straight? Been sick of being told irritably every morning: “What numbers are there on your clock radio?”
(After skipping back from her room): “A six, then two dots, then a zero and a three.”
(Me, sighing with sleep deprivation): “Well, I want you go back to bed and stay there until your clock starts with a SEVEN. When it does, you can get up and put ABC kids on, OK?”
“But Mum, you said we were going to go to Norwood to get me a basketball and then see ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and------
(Me, now wide awake and very terse): “Yes, I KNOW. But that’s about FIVE HOURS from now. GO TO BED before you make me REALLY ANGRY!”
These early morning conversations briefly flitted across my exhausted brain as Sapphire burst into tears and hung on to my leg as though it was the floating noodle she used to rely on in her first swimming class. In a way it was extremely touching and flattering but in a much larger way it was alarming if it was going to impact on my planned night out on my own. There was no way this sobbing child was going to force me to cancel my plans and take her back home with me, heartbreak or not. Bec, Holly’s goddess-like mother, came up trumps when she whispered to Sapphire: “We’re making pizza for dinner tonight; we’ve got ice-cream and chocolates for dessert and Holly’s got Robots on DVD….”
She rebounded off my leg as though I’d been a vinyl car seat in a heat wave and rushed to join Holly inside. “Thanks Bec”, I croaked.
“Geez, love are you sure you’re up for a night out – you’ve got blinkin’ bags under your eyes big enough to stow luggage in….”
“I know, I know, but I need adult conversation and I’ve already bought the tickets and Kate’s picking me up, so I don’t want to let the team down.”
“Okaaay then, have fun.”
I planned to. Friday night – husbandless, childless, a ride to and from the venue, a licensed bar with cheap drinks and a sleep-in the following morning – a parent’s idea of heaven.
Kate and her husband, Neil, were on the same wavelength. We three had been the organisers of our school’s Quiz Night fundraiser a few weeks ago, and thought it would be fun to go out to Kate’s Auntie’s show as passive participants who only had to contribute some answers, eat the nibbles provided to share and not worry about the lighting, prizes, time, bar staff or whether we had enough gold coins to give out as change.
Accordingly, they too had dropped their children off for sleepovers and were up for a night out. Time was of the essence though – it was a 7pm start on a Friday night, so we decided that three overloaded, dripping yiros’ oozing gobs of garlic sauce would be a convenient dinner. A few minutes later, we pulled up into the car park of the Prospect Petanque Club, nervously chomping on gum in order to make our breath socially acceptable. The Petanque club looked deserted: had we come to the right place? “Well, how many other Prospect Petanque Clubs are there in Adelaide?” questioned Neil, our resident bright spark.
We were in luck, or so we thought, when a female version of Hagrid butted out her fag and approached us “Thank Christ someone’s turned up. Come in,” she welcomed, in a voice only achieved through chain smoking since the 1960s or gargling gravel. “Lord help us, we’ve found Donatella Versace’s Aussie half-sister”, I muttered as we surveyed the room. Neil decided that she was some form of ‘Man Beast’ after he’d suffered through a conversation that involved her leaning suggestively over him to display her wizened cleavage to it’s full effect. He was most disappointed to discover that his garlic breath had no discernibly negative affect on her attentions.
The club was so poorly set up for the quiz night it was immediately comical. Nine white plastic outdoor tables and chairs in a room comparable in size to my own living room, and a hand-written scrap of paper with an arrow pointing to the ‘prizes’ arrayed on a card table. Whilst a grey army Petanque Club is unlikely to get the volume of prizes donated by local businesses as a school, it was quite obvious that the Petanqueans had either ventured to Cheap as Chips with an $8 budget or looked in their own linen cupboards for any unopened wedding gifts. The set of six ceramic egg cups was the only prize that caught my eye, so I decided then and there that staying sober for the evening wasn’t going to affect my chances at winning – or missing out – on any quality prizes..
The club’s bar was wedged into one corner, with the 100 year old barmaid ready to take orders. We three were keen to oblige and found that either Eunice was being uncommonly generous, or had decided to charge prices that would have been cheap in the 1970’s. Beer $1.50, wine a $1 per glass, vodka cruisers $2. Our table comprised of school principals, office administrators, retired teachers-now full time Petanque players and we three parents. We seven were the Livewire table and, as the night progressed and each round of questions was asked by Bob, who had about as much personality as a bathroom tile, Grandma Moses at the Bar was repeatedly put to work by us in our quest for a cheap and lubricated night out.
As such, we were regularly shooshed by The Serious Table number three who were intent on winning those damned egg cups, antimacassars and unidentified beauty products. Most of Table Number One - Twilight Years were old gals in wheelchairs with crocheted knee rugs who were asleep before the final round, their chin whiskers gently rustling as they snored. Table four were the enemy – those Broadview Petanqueans – but smart. Table Two were The Clueless, confusing the Wizard of Oz quote “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” to the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto.
All our answers were casually flung down in between mouthfuls of dip, cheese, M&Ms, Tim Tams and crackers. Somehow we came third. Out of a total of five tables. To add further insult, I was groped by a drunken Jabba the Hutt on Table Four as I inadvertently got my leg caught up in his chair on my way back from the loos (which, incidentally, were larger than the club’s function room). “Ooooh errr, it’s my lucky night”, he drooled, looking around for someone to catch his eye and marvel at his quick wit. Wow, that just completed my evening – being stuck in some 1970s time warp and then being ogled by a man pushing seventy. A drunk man pushing seventy. Time for home, bed and a sleep in!