Thursday, November 27, 2008


Be thankful, cautious reader, because my original (and preferred title) was Fuckity Fuck Fuckity Fucking Fuckingly FUCK fuckers but I thought that it might have come across as slightly too self-pitying and maybe - just maybe - a tad aggressive.

It's been a helluva few days since my last post. Dean's mother died at 5:40am on Friday morning and he was there with her during her final hours and last breath. She was already a tiny little bag of bones when I'd visited her two days earlier and Dean noted that after death, her body was even smaller and her face almost unrecognisable when life was gone from it.

We spent most of the day with his family planning her funeral. Hugs, sniffles and awkward attempts at jokes, unhealthy snacks and dodgy instant coffee were the mainstays of the day and I tried to keep my migraine at bay by drugging up, inhaling any caffeine headed in my direction and by being unnaturally unchatty. It had the added bonus of making me seem mature, steady, a 'rock' and I foolishly offered to read the eulogy if no-one else was up to it. Dammit, no-one was.

By 8:30pm that same evening, Love Chunks and I were winging our way to Melbourne; my folks already at our place spending the weekend looking after Sapphire (or vice versa really, seeing as they didn't know which of our three remote controls switched on the tv, how much food the chooks, rabbit and dog needed or where Sapph's tennis session was) and we were reading through my patchy, hand-scrawled notes (done in the wee hours when LC was with his Mum) on properties we thought we worth seeing.

It may seem a bit cold-hearted to be heading interstate on the day of a parent's passing, but it was planned - very reluctantly - a few days earlier, thinking that it was best to go sooner rather than a later weekend when his mother would be even less well and more at risk of 'going' when LC couldn't be there. Oh. Ah well, the funeral arrangements were sorted; my parents had the extremely rare free couple of days to babysit and we'd just accepted an offer on our house with a settlement date of 12th January. It was time to look forward - finding our new home in our new city.

Saturday morning saw us huddled and shivering under a tree in order to stop the golden retriever left on the porch of the house we wanted to inspect from barking incessantly. We also didn't want the family living there to notice us as they dashed outside and into their car. The rain poured down, and a kindly lady from across the road gestured over at me: "Come inside! You'll get wet, come in!" I explained to her that we were waiting for the land agent to show us inside the house and that while LC was moving the hire car to the now-vacated spot in front of the house, we didn't want to get the neighbours off-side by annoying the dog.
"Ah yes," she nodded vigorously, a petite little Vietnamese lady with a kindly face. "He barks alla time. So you could be my neighbour, eh? That's good, that's good."
"Hmmmm" I shook my wet head, pretending to hesitate, "The bad news is that we have a dog too."
"No worries, so do I", she said.
"What sort do you have?" I asked, looking behind her for a glimpse of a small, fluffy thing, perhaps lurking behind the lacy curtains.
"A pitbull."

Said house was a OHS nightmare lacking at least a quarter of its weatherboards, cracks surrounding the fireplaces that conveniently provided a half decent view from the living room into the main boudoir and a bathroom's 'floor' of some wood veneer-patterned contact stuck haphazardly - bubbles and all - over the rotting floorboards and bordered with silver gaffer tape.

Defeated, we sat in the Flemington Maccas, drinking coffee and pondering the other houses on my list and those in Domain. Ascot Vale had an auction at 12:30pm and was the property above all others that appealed to us the most via the many viewings we'd had on the internet. "But that's two hours away. What about this little joint in Bignell Street? It's up for auction at 11am, but why don't we check it out?"

The Welcome To Melbourne weather continued as we ran to the car, me struggling with the $5 umbrella we'd just purchased from the handyman shop that already decided to blow itself inside out and having my mouth fill up with hailstones before I could complain about getting what I paid for.

Five minutes later, and we two Locketts felt that familiar feeling. That peculiar sense that, after only two minutes since walking through the front door, this house was soon going to be our house. And so it came to pass. Bought at auction by the Locketts. No cooling down period, no drive way or car park, but slap-bang in the middle of Phlegm(ington) with Smegma(European) appliances, a great primary school literally around the corner, a good dog walking park and a clear view of the big yellow cheesestick on City Link from our front doorstep.

My brother Rob and wife Wah Chin were taken to see it. The owners had gone out, so we snuck around the back and got them to scrunch their noses up against the glass doors and gained the comment we soooo wanted to hear from people who live in, love and know Melbourne better than we do: "This is GREAT. You've done well."

Fast forward to Monday, back in Adelaide, and Love Chunks was in fever - sweating one minute, shivering the next. Some whimpering echoed in the bathroom and a limp back to bed indicated that maybe there was also a bladder infection to add to the mix and the funeral of his mother the following day.

Tuesday morning at 10am found the three of us at Centennial Park, Sapphire and I waiting outside as LC was the one required to view the body before the service. I somehow got through reading the eulogy and found myself more emotional than I thought I would be, yet also realising that it wasn't a workshop, or a seminar or an occasion where I had to be confident or all-knowing; I was merely the voice for LC and his sibling's words.

We got home a few hours later to find Ann, our real estate agent, on our doorstep with a bunch of flowers in her hands. "I've got some bad news. Your buyers have cooled off."

Fuckity Fuck Fuckity Fucking Fuckingly FUCK fuckers! Just as Ann was explaining that the 'buyers' (the term is now used very loosely and very optimistically) hadn't managed to arrange a building inspection before the cool off date which was midnight that night. Try and picture the scene - Love Chunks, Sapphire and myself, standing anxiously in our own home, still dressed in our sombre funeral clothes as the real estate agent sat on a bar stool and a bloke arrived to tap our skirting boards, flash his torch up the hallway's man hole and check out the drip watering system.

Several minutes later and another white minivan arrived with the Murray's Pest Control chap there to check our place for termites. He'd already been to do just that for us back in July but the 'buyers' needed more assurance. Then the SA Water bloke was encouraged, rather passionately and energetically, shall we say, by an irate Love Chunks to ring Mrs 'Buyer' in Melbourne and explain in non-Anal and non-Cardigan terms just what their encumbrance was and why it was considered utterly bureaucratic and pointless by two plumbers, the entire staff at Tank World and the watering installers at Akers Lawn and why it endangered no-one living or visiting our home or using any of our water supply.

Mrs 'Buyer' managed to inform our agent that, in between the responsibility of doing several crown installations and root canal operations on her patients, she'd be able to review the reports and make a decision on whether to heat up again by putting together another contract of sale by lunch time today. Love Chunks went to the doctor and found that yes, he had a bladder infection, along with a too-fast heartbeat and some fibroids on his lungs from the bronchitis he had in September that can't be re-x-rayed until he's over his fever and infection. To be asked, "So, have you ever worked with asbestos?" by the doctor but not being able to get another photo of your lungs for a fortnight is about as much as enduring a cooling off period on a *&^&%ing housesale multiplied by oh, I don't know, sixtyeleventyseventieth.

It's now (looks at watch) 8:27pm and no contract, no assurances, no news. Poo-Bum-Bugger-Shit-Fart.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shoosh, you'll wake up the girls!

Dean's mother is still with us.

She's on a respirator and unable to eat or drink, but can talk in a very quiet and croaky voice. This voice has been used to inform her son that she's sick of nervous relatives hovering around her hospital bed, waiting, looking and not knowing what to say. As such, she sensibly declared yesterday a 'No Visitor Day' in part-honour of having some privacy, peace and quiet and partly because she managed to survive the weekend.

Not that we knew that on Saturday night. On that day, Dean had sat with his mother, yearning to tell her all the things that he'd not been able or willing to understand about her before. Some of the traumatic events she'd suffered and struggled through and the decisions she'd made afterwards. The puzzling behaviour then that seemed to make sense now; the ache of regret and apology that grips the heart and rearranges the memories in an entirely new light when it seems like it's all too late.

Ironically, young Sapphire had her friend Sidonie over for a sleepover, yet those two excitable chatterboxes were flat out and snoring by 10:30pm when it came time to kiss and tuck them in, lock the back door and let Milly out for one last sniff and whizz before turning the lights out. Instead, it was Dean and I lying there wide awake, talking softly, tossing and turning intermittently only to sense that the other was awake and continue talking until the first rays of dawn pushed through the gaps in the blinds and the two girls woke up ready for breakfast.

We talked of so many things. The topics were wide-ranging, including our musings on the meaning of life, what constitutes living well, the senseless suffering of the terminally ill; the lingering and cruel death of my grandfather, the staggering wisdom and incandescence within our own child, random things that made us giggle too loudly ("Shoosh! The kids will wake up") and how neither of us wanted to be the one left behind in old age.

I told him that his mother was proud of him and had only really stood back because of the sheer burden she already had to deal with: she knew that her third son was going to be OK. I told him that she could see what a wonderful husband and father he was and that he'd worked hard to develop more skills and interests beyond that of a smart bloke based in the suburbs. He was kind, strong, smart, funny and genuine: any disagreements or judgments he'd made as a boy or teenager or young man would have been understood by her that day as she lay in her hospital bed listening to him soothing her by describing Sapphire's antics and interests gently stroking her hands as he did so.

What I didn't tell him was that there was no other place on this earth that I would rather have been than lying there beside him, witnessing his pain and confusion and wiping his tears whilst only being able to listen and to hold. To be able to do even just that for the man who has seen me through a brain tumour, a twenty nine hour birth, a complete physical and mental breakdown and hundreds of agonising migraines (voluntarily emptying out my sick buckets!) was a privilege. And an honour.
I love you Dean.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Love Chunks (or Dean, for the correct tone of this post) is currently at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, sitting at his mother's bedside in what could be the last few minutes or hours remaining of her life. She has been gravely ill for several weeks now, too sick even to physically withstand chemotherapy and he's phoned and visited her as often as she'd allow visitors.

As one of five children and the survivor of a divorce immediately following the 'no fault' legislation introduced in Australia in 1976, Dean's been an involuntary passenger on a rollercoaster ride in terms of his childhood, upheavals and in angst-ridden and sometimes bitterly enduring family relationships. Throughout it all though, he has remained strong, kind, clever and respectful and has coped with stresses and anguish far beyond my comprehension with a strength and dignity I've never seen in anyone else. However, I'm aware that such tales are his to tell and not mine. As much as I'd like to....

He called me during Sapphire's tennis lesson to say that "Mum is in real strife. The doctors are talking about 'making her comfortable' and don't think she'll last out the weekend. I've got to go and see her."

Several minutes later, Sapph's lesson was over and we climbed into the car and I told her the news. She looked down at her lap for a few moments and then said, "I wish I'd got to know her better." Sometimes being a sunglasses-slave is a good thing because she couldn't see the tears glinting or my pupils widen in amazement at her mature observation. "Yes," I eventually answered, "It just didn't turn out that way. She had been sad about her life for a very long time and your Dad didn't seem to be the person that she wanted to help her."

Dean and I swapped keys - car and home - as soon as we pulled up, and we waited for Sidonie to arrive. Sid is one of Sapphire's best friends and as I type this, they're both at home with me, happily listening and watching my ABBA Video Collection on DVD and chatting about how some of their 1970s outfits are "So silly - Bjorn dresses like a girl but Agnetha is beautiful, isn't she?" We didn't have the heart to cancel their much-anticipated sleepover or to take Sapphire to the hospital to see a dying and distressed old woman whom she can only recall meeting a handful of times.

Instead, I walked with the two nine year olds and Milly the dog to the Trinity Gardens bakery for some vegetarian pasties, shortbread men and juice and we all ate them in the park, the sun shining and a cool breeze ruffling the newly-opened daisies and bottlebrushes. Milly snuffled enough stray pastry crumbs to make loitering under our feet worthwhile.

As her friend was visiting the toilet, Sapphire squeezed up next to me on the park bench.
"Mum, it's what Grandpa - your Dad I mean - said to me about our moving to Melbourne, isn't it?"
"Sorry love what do you mean?"
She gave me a knowing, how-quickly-you-forget stare. "You know, how it's better to see things in life as a glass half full instead of half empty."

"Yes," I nodded, eyes still looking out over the lawns and at Milly rolling in the rubbish bin's overflow nearby. "He's right. And you're right too. It's so much better to remember the fun and good things and to not just assume that everything that's unknown and not yet happened is always going to be bad."

She waved Sid over. "Dad told me that Grandma got too sad to see anything but half empty."
I nodded again. "It's easy to do love. I've done it a few times myself and know how hard it is to see good things when you're afraid, or alone or worried."
"You're not worried now though are you Mum?" Sapphire patted my arm.
"No, I'm not and neither should you be. Our move and new life in Melbourne will be fine and your Dad will be fine being with Grandma now when she really needs him."

Thus satisfied, she skipped over to the brick kilm to resume the cubby house they were building for their toy rabbits out of bark and sticks, high voices carrying over the wind.

I allowed myself a glass half empty thought - it was a shame that her grandmother hadn't really got to know this wonderfully complex and genuinely lovely little kid. However my glass was indeed half full because the next thought was an automatic and heartfelt one - but boy, am I glad I did. And for Dean too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Franzy, Noooooo!

One of my favourite bloggers-with-brawn-and-brains, the inimitable Franzy, said the words that no ex-banker ever wants to hear from anyone they admire. ~Shudder~ Franzy said.... he said....he..... OK. I can do this! I'll be brave and just do a copy and paste. He said: I wish I had bank job.

Sure, we've all been discussing the profanity of an article describing how some South Yarra wankers only getting a million for their five bedroom houses are doing it tough in this current economic downturn and maybe even have to sell their Mornington Peninsula hobby farms or the iconic post-modern beach house at Portsea, and how insultingly offensive it is to a Gen Y professional student who has both a HECS debt and rent that's too high to save for a deposit, let alone a reasonably-manageable mortgage.

I feel Franzy's pain. And fear. And envy. I've felt all of them too. Still do in fact. But now, I want to address the most horrific sentence I've had the misfortune to see him write: I wish I had bank job and share my own experience of having such arse-puckeringly awful employment with you all. It is a tale of heartache, terror, rubber bands, endless signatures and hopefully one of caution for you all.

Way, waaaay back into the deep mists of time at the end of 1988 when 1927 were going to dominate the airwaves forever, spiral perms ruled and raging was a social past-time and not a personality affliction I was in my third and final year of uni, fully aware that I belonged to a group of students who were the last to receive a HECS-free tertiary education.*** From term two onwards I dutifully borrowed my Mum's sensible black power suit and scrunched my perm into a sleek French braid and sat through lots of group interviews held on campus, to be informed just before Christmas that the ANZ Bank wanted to employ me in 1989 as a Graduate Trainee.

I was thrilled - as a lowly Arts Graduate who endured seeing 'Arts Degrees - please take one' scrawled oh-so-wittily underneath the loo sheet dispenser in the Uni Bar loos, the thought of either doing honours or teaching were not happy ones and thus to land a real job outside of those areas was a big feat. Twenty two thousand dollars per year seemed like a fortune to someone who received $9 Austudy a fortnight, $20 per week from Mum and Dad and worked all holidays doing truly craptastic stuff like apricot cutting, garlic picking, waitressing, babysitting, cucumber polishing, capsicum weeding and leaflet folding to pay my rent, food and cider bills.

Despite being told by the recruiting bloke that they wanted to place me in Human Resources, when the January starting day arrived, I was lumped with a dozen other newbies - aloofish maths graduates and nervous school leavers, all ready to do a week's induction training and, in my case, become a Lending Officer, not an HR henchwoman. Oh, was my first little twinge; so somehow my Roman Art & Archaelogy and Major English Texts studies were deemed to be more suited to mortgages than staff issues.

Sadly, my twinge became a fully-fledged thorn in my side about a month later when I was stationed to their North Adelaide branch, helping out their Commercial Lending side hand out money to the already wealthy and already snobby customers. My day entailed smiling at the sleazy male lending managers pretending I was interested in what they had to say instead of loathing them and finding little else to occupy me amongst the reams of paper work, numbered dockets and certificates of title that were still typed via a manual typewriter. Freezing cold air conditioning, paper cuts and viewing too many yellow sweat stains under the Gordon Gecko-style striped shirt worn by the young yuppie jerk alongside of me. Yep, five o'clock couldn't come soon enough.

Later that year, I was posted to my permanent position as Assistant Bank Manager, Gawler Place (corner North Terrace, when Henry Buck's now is). Most of my day was spent running credit checks, processing card applications, approving mortgages, personal loans and high yielding term deposits. I was very firmly 'encouraged' to sign up to study Accounting in the evenings but lasted only three lectures: I had barely scraped through year eleven maths, so surely they could have seen that I would have studied economics and spreadsheets at uni if I was remotely inclined? My boss shook his head in disappointment and told me he'd ordered the Financial Review for us every day, and it was my job to read, note anything relevant and report it to him. My first thoughts were, 'Oh bugger, there aren't any pictures in here.'

This first foray into real paid professional work was boring, dispiriting and energy sapping. My Manager disliked me because I was a jumped-up young lady who went to uni and didn't join the bank at fifteen years of age in 1950 and move up, step by step whenever somebody older than him died or was found slumped over some carbon paper. Plus, I towered over him by seven inches (he was five feet tall with conspicious lifts inserted in the back heels of his brogues) and he insisted I call him "Mr" every time we spoke.

The general staff - the tellers - also resented me because I didn't have to serve customers all day every day except at lunchtimes and was on at least eight grand a year more than they were. This was in spite of the fact that I had to arrive before they did to unlock the strong room and office, go to evening classes (paid only by the bank if I passed them), take my four weeks' annual leave all in one go ('What do you mean you don't know anyone else who has the entire month of June off?') and not be permitted to have a cup of tea on my desk 'because the customers can see over the counter and your desk is visible.'

However it was the two hour lunch rush I dreaded even more than the boring old 'War with Westpac' stories from Mr C or the 'she-thinks-her-shit-doesn't-stink-just-because-she-went-to-uni-but-look-at-her-she-still-has-to-wear-navy-blue-and-grey-uniforms-like-we-do' glares of the tellers because I had to open up a booth, get the cash out and serve customers for two hours so that the tellers could take their lunch breaks.

I had to take my 45 minute break at either 11:15am or 2pm - no less and no more. The other tellers used to make sure they'd take their time serving someone, drop their pens or have a phone call to answer every single bloody time a drunken, piss-soaked wino would stagger in with his coffee jar full of coins, the doddery pensioners would rush in on every second Thursday with their outdated bank books and endless questions or the insane, 1000 year-old biddy who had several millions dollars with us but thought she could fling off her fox fur and flick spittle in my eyes for half an hour during her passionate rant about how much she hated us each time she came in to collect her statements.

Some of the staff I worked with were great, but some were questionable and borderline retarded, not to be too delicate about things. One woman - let's just call her Deb for reasons of me not wanting to be sued - could barely put the letters A, N and Z together in the same order, but had a relative higher up in personnel who ensured that she was a 'relief' staff (the irony of that word doesn't escape me) member who could stuff up and leave before any ramifications were felt. Anyhoo, she was one of many such blocks of dead wood who were hanging around because they had mortgages at a reduced rate that would automatically increase to 17.5% if they left. Not me, unfortunately. The days of cheap staff rates ended about a month before I got there, as did the Christmas cash bonus - I got a mini-Christmas pudding and a cinema ticket instead.

At the end of the day, we'd all have to balance our cash and it was very rare that I ever did on the first try. I ain't a fine details gal; never was, never will be. Counting and recounting fives, tens, twenties, fifties and wrapping them in groups of ten in rubber bands, bagging the gold, silver and bronze coins and entering and re-entering the figures was humiliating and mindless. I'd eventually manage it and have to hang around for Mr C to climb back into his stacked heels, find his key and lock up with him - he and I had the only sets that would lock up the pitiful little branch 100% securely every night. I'd walk dejectedly home through the beautiful old grounds of Adelaide uni, through the Botanic gardens to my Hackney sharehouse, feeling like a right twit in my daggy bank uniform when Jo was having a wonderful time searching for rocks and jocks via her geology PhD, and Charlotte was still studying piano at the Elder conservatorium and moonlighting in a techno jazz band.

Worse still was the recession that Paul Keating said "we had to have." Interest rates for mortgages climbed to 17.5% and in my second year at the bank ('Don't leave before two years or it will look really bad on your CV, I was told over and over again by my concerned parents, my friends and myself), I was doing more collecting work than loan approvals. It is hard to describe just how horrible it was to be given an armful of files and be told, at the ripe old age of 22 with a personal credit card with a $500 limit and a 1971 Renault bought for $1600, that I had to ring up working couples and parents and hassle them about missed payments, bounced cheques or negative bank balances. I did it coolly, professionally and efficiently and got results. Mr C and head office loved me for it, but I'd go home and wonder just why I felt like hiding and crying. Meeting anyone at a party at that time wasn't fun either - I'd invariably end up in a corner, cowering, listening to someone rant about the Bastard Banks and pointing angrily at me. "Nice talking with you, er, Dennis, isn't it, but I'd like to go and get drunk now....."

On the other hand, those who had already paid off their mortgages (Baby Boomers, I'm looking at you), could invest their considerable savings in term deposits with interest rates that hit 15.5%. "Yeehah" one particularly obnoxious customer yelled when I opened up such an account for him. "This'll pay for our Europe trip and hopefully allow me to lease a newer Beamer at the end of the year." How nice for you, I remember thinking, and noticed that the person behind him in the queue was coming in every week - with cash earned from a second labouring job - to pay off some arrears that had accrued when he'd got sick and had his overtime cut.

You'll be relieved to read, if you're still here, that I did a nannying course in the evenings and on the 730th day, handed in my notice, bought a plane ticket to London and left the country the week after. I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and still, to this day, haven't been able to wear anything navy or grey ever again.

So Franzy? Dear, sweet Franzy. Make coffee, make books, make blogs, make wild monkey love to M, but don't DON'T ever make a bank job your wish. I beg you!

*** I paid HECS later when I returned to Adelaide Uni to do my Grad Dip Ed. I lasted a year, but the repayments took me four!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It won't heppen overnight but it wull heppen.

Multi-tasking whilst starkers can be a bit of a challenge and a rather thrilling (yet private) way to 'live life on the edge' when such a thing is needed. And thrills of any kind are definitely needed when trying to sell a house that you still live in.

Take this morning for instance. Waiting for the conditioner to work its magic, I grabbed the scourer and bent down to have a good clean of the shower's floor tiles, hoping that no stray Jif was going to find its way up my party pooper or towards the still-oozing injury under my left boob.

As Seinfeld once noted, no-one looks good crouching in the nude and judging from the reflection in our now always-clear glass shower screen, no-one looks good bent over vigorously scrubbing either. I saw moore jiggling and swaying than all the navy sailors' hammocks on the good ship Trafalgar.

Even clothed, the multi-tasking continues to an almost obsessive compulsive level. Holding the electric toothbrush firmly in my cakehole with my left hand the right is carefully wiping down the stray gobs of paste and spit that dot the mirrors and re-aligning the towels on the chrome rack to make sure they're all at right angles.

All dirty clothes are immediately placed into the washing machine or hidden, neatly folded, at the bottom of the wardrobe and the every day flotsam and jetsam of bills, car keys, partially-useful junk mail, rubber bands and two dollar coins are placed inside one of three small cane baskets shaped like ducks.
The bed is made with hospital corners and the quilt cover is more tightly pulled than Madonna - all ready and waiting for that much-dreamed of impromptu inspection by a buyer with long arms, short pockets and an ability to fall in love with a home whose toilet directly looks out towards the front door.

Even my beloved laptop is now closed down instead of merely on 'hibernate' and folded up underneath the desktop; out of sight and with no suggestion of needless clutter. Milly's bed is carelessly flung into the shed despite her puzzled, limpid-eyed appeals and the rabbit's hutch is taken from under the pergola (too many stray 'bunny beans' to sweep up) and artfully placed under the bottle brush tree with additional shade provided by an old golf umbrella.

Doing any form of 'real' writing has been impossible when, out of the corner of my twitching eye, I can see fluff bunnies lurking by the skirting boards (but I only vacuumed yesterday), finger prints on the coffee table and a film of dust on the telly screen.
"But Kath, buyers aren't noticing that sort of thing, they're looking at the room sizes and hoping that 1976 mission brown and burnt orange isn't your internal colour scheme," is what I've heard too many times. Maybe yes and maybe no - it's also important to keep everything clean because it is the grime that they do notice that reminds them, "Oh, there's leaves everywhere: clearly this garden is hard work," or, "Hmmm, by taking out the carpets and polishing the floorboards, they now have a three inch gap under their doors that cats can limbo dance under and the wind can blow McDonald's thickshake containers through," or, perhaps even more worryingly, "Is it just their shoes under the bed or does this house smell like wet flatulent dog?"

And I'm not alone in this kind of fanatical fetish - a friend in Melbourne tells me that she hid the dry cat food bowl in the dishwasher before every Open House and another mate admitted to spraying rose toilet spray on her flowers in order to make them more authentic and cottage gardeny. We (blush blush) are using our clothes dryer because the trampoline is wedged up under our outside clothesline to hide it and not interrupt the space and lines of our lawn. As such, what isn't allowed in the dryer is pegged onto two tiny clotheshorses ferreted down the side of the house by the taps and fuse box.

Most of us know that there's no point shoving all the unattractive clutter into cupboards because the bloody buyers open them up as they walk through each room: "Oh, so that's where they've hidden the second couch and the breeding parrot aviary." Our plumber told me that he turns on every tap to see how they work and another veteran investor literally shifts stuff like shelves, bed heads and dodgy art works to check for hidden cracks.

Crikey. At least most of those are on my face and not on our walls.

Monday, November 10, 2008

He answered the door naked from the waist down.

Granted, Angus is only two and very proud of his new-found ability to go the toilet under his own steam and considers jocks or shorts an unnecessary hindrance. Especially on warm sunny days. Plus being naked gives him unlimited access to his own personal plaything, which can be slightly off-putting when trying to meet him at eye level to discuss what drawing you're doing for him in crayon.

Four year old Brianna wasn't far behind him as the door opened but was fully-clothed in a stripey green dress. I complimented her on it, remembering that I also have a t-shirt made from the same material but it didn't come with a fancy sequinned pocket on the front.
"Mine does," she replied proudly, "And I can put things in it too." She reached in and thrust something at me. "Here are some flowers for you." As she had literally picked just the flowers and not bothered with the stems, I had a handful of geranium heads, already wilting from their violent removal. They looked beautiful.

Their mother rushed up, skinny, tired, busy. But beaming and genuinely happy. "Come in, come in! Callum's at school but he insisted on making you this letter:

Not bad for a five year old in reception, is it?
"He wanted to see you, he really did," Sam said, "But he also knew that we were making some carrot cake after we dropped him off, and he's afraid he'll miss out on a slice."

And thus commenced the morning tea I had with my oldest friend, Samantha, a girl I'd met in Reception class at Murray Bridge South Primary School at the start of 1974 when we'd both just turned five. She had white-blonde bobbed hair, tiny glitter framed glasses and a giggle that I'd do anything to hear as often as possible. We ended up holding hands by lunchtime that day and continued to do so until at least year six before kiss chasey with boys and self-consciousness set in. We danced to Abba on her Dad's stereo, watched couples smooching in cars at the lookout next to her house, petted her 60 breeding beagles and drank our first cappuccinos at her parent's takeaway shop 'The Hungry Bunyip.'

Thirty four years later and here she is, in her element with a flour-smudge on her face, three children under the age of six, married to a smart and funny accountant and trying to get her two youngest kids to sit still long enough to put hats and 30+ on. "Shall we go outside too?"

Sam never ever gets to drink a hot cup of coffee from start to finish. There's far too many:

"Mum, I've just done a wee in the garden but my pants are wet."

"Mum can we wash the dollies and the dog?"

"Mum Angus has my green ball and I've got the yellow one but it's his and he won't swap with me."

"Mum how come Kath brought chocolate biscuits in but you're not sharing them?"

"Come and see my dog Snuffles, Kath. But you have to find him first because he fell under my bed."

"Mum Angus has bounced his ball over the fence."

Sam kindly and patiently answers their questions, complaints and observations -
"Wow Angus, this is an incredible poo you've just done in there, well done!", "No Brianna, don't stick your finger - or that dinosaur - up your nose again please," and "Yes, you can set up the water cans outside but I'd like you to put the crayons in the box first."

In between that, we have a conversation over still-warm carrot cake whose lemon butter icing has slid off the top and is pooling around the edges of the plates. In the middle of some no-doubt fascinating anecdote about selling up and moving to Melbourne, turning forty and wondering just why Ryan Shelton has a paid TV gig, I look down and notice Brianna's snot-encrusted pointer finger slyly dipping itself into my icing.
"Er help yourself, sweetie."

I see my friend proudly singing PlaySchool songs to her two children, not caring about doing it in front of me, her kindergarten teacher background coming to the fore. She looks tired but giggles unaffectedly at Angus trying to hitch his chubby white leg over the fit-ball, immediately bouncing backwards and deciding that a taste of backyard dirt was more to his liking.

I hang up their t-shirts, now wet from water play, and Sam goes inside to find them clean and dry outfits. Brianna decides to mimic her brother and go bottomless for the rest of the day.

A couple of hours later, I kissed Sam, Brianna and Angus goodbye and noted that a pair of knickers on the ground after a social event these days is for far different reasons than the parties we suffered through a life time ago. And thank god for that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I kissed a dog and I liked it

....she tastes like cherry chapstick. Actually, she doesn't; more a mixture of fish oil (for her arthritis), chook poo (scavenged from the outskirts of their coop) and purina, but I can't help but wonder what kind of interesting google visitors I'm going to get from this title. However you can rest easy, dear reader, I haven't kissed a dog in that way. No, not even I, deranged dog loving woman who rushes up to complete strangers to befriend their beasties and make canine chit chat, would ever consider kissing my own adorable Milly on the lips, bleucch!

I do kiss her on the head though. A lot. More than Love Chunks approves of. Even his true-but-pompous refrain of, "Kath, she rolled in a dead pigeon on the school oval today you know and even if you let her kiss you instead, it's the same tongue that gave her clacker a good once-over on the back doormat about half an hour ago."

You'd think that would be enough to put me off, but it doesn't. The bronzed orange top of her head - that velvety segment between her soft ears - smells a bit like warm corn chips and is strangely addictive.

Milly sometimes gets brief respite in the form of Skipper. After nearly six months of becoming a Lockett household member he's yet to utter a sound - and therefore is considered to be automatically pliable and easygoing - and seems resigned to being picked up and moved from hutch to garden to playpen to human arms whenever the fancy takes us.

Unfortunately for him, he possesses a rather cute little face with slightly pudgy cheek things made even more adorable by his high-up moustache and constantly twitching nose. He prefers to be held up with his head on my shoulder like a baby and sometimes even licks my ears and neck.

His kitten-like fur is even softer than Milly's and smells like warm, clean cotton straight from the dryer. Again, very addictive, as is the rhythmic stroking of his coat or Milly's - nothing like the genuine touch of a living, loving animal under your hands.

Still, as any backdoor psychologist will tell you, this crazy lady affection (and singing*) is largely to give my nine year old child a break.

In the mornings as she's tipping the bowl of cocoa pop milk into her mouth, I'll sit on the stool alongside her, picking at the blonde hairs, dog fur and rabbit fluff that has velcroed its way onto her dark navy school jacket. Then, grooming tasks done, I'll start smoothing down the back of her oh-so-fine gold hair before being unable to resist stroking her cheek.
"Mu-u-u-um stop it, I'm going to spill my milk."

And now she doesn't want Milly and I to walk to school with her in the mornings. "I want to do it by myself. I'm old enough now and really don't need you to come."

But I so want to. I still want the privilege of holding her warm little hand and hearing her chatter as we walk along, Milly's lead jingling and our lengthy shadows cast on the footpath ahead of us like a stretched-out cartoon version. I still want to join her as we sniff Glenys's roses and sing our silly private songs before we get to the crossing and risk anybody hearing us. I want to kiss the crown of her head again, whispering, "See you after school, Sapphire. I love you."

She rarely answers me back, because to do so would risk public embarrassment, so she tends to throw me an awkward wave in return and moves purposely towards the gate, a picture of grown up independence. Well, 'independence' if there's a taller kid or another adult entering the gate at the same time.

Otherwise she turns back to me and says, "Mum can you open the top of the gate for me? I still can't reach yet."

Our southern neighbours, Jude and Bob, recently sold up to move to a retirement village.
"We'll miss hearing your interesting singing," Bob told me.
"Er, no, that's Sapphire. She's loves to sing along to her CDs or at the dog when she's home from school."
Bob laughed. "No Kath. We hear you, during the day, singing songs to Milly. You have quite the flair for adding her into all kinds of tunes, don't you? It's given Jude and I quite a bit of entertainment when we have our coffee in the courtyard, let me tell you."
I still blush just thinking about it.
Running Hurts

I think it might be time to splash out on some new sports bras.

Taking my usual wobbly place on the treadmill this morning, with the mini iPod blaring and drops of sweat spattering the black rubber floor I was in The Zone baby and unaware of anything other than a bit of minor chafing.

That is, until I finished the 8 kms, swept the leaves out of the shed (damn that whirly birdy thingy in the roof), locked up, cooled down, collected Milly's dog nuggets off the lawn (being a bit anal due to keeping the house all nice and attractive), stripped off and saw that this bloody Berlei had carved me a new rib cage.

I'm told from Jack next door that at the time when the shower water splashed on my injury for the first few seconds my screams of agony were both audible and eerie. Possibly not the most inviting aura to send out to any potential house buyers walking past.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Facing up to Forty

I woke up this morning with a whitehead zit on my lip (yes, my lip) and a tiny black (yes, black and I'm blonde) chin hair - both were immediately squeezed and plucked.

Forty. The commencement of the fifth decade and the entry into the era of infertility, increased risk of fragility, no more upward mobility yet greater irritability and I hadn't even climbed out of bed yet.

Sapphire bounded in, all cosy and cuddly in her purple towelling dressing gown and eager to hand over her home-made card and gifts. "Chocolates just for you Mum, you don't have to share and a card that I bought - sorry about that - but I put my own drawing of our family inside. Sorry again that you look a bit fat in the drawing it's not true but was a mistake because you're not fat but that's how you came out and I couldn't rub it out because it was done in texta and look I've done Skipper the rabbit with his little disapproving mouth looking up but that's not because he doesn't like you or this card, it's because it's always shaped like that. Oh and here's the mobile phone holder that I crocheted at school last week...."

I look at her, as I do every morning when I clap my eyes on her for the first time that day with absolute wonderment at her beauty, kindness and eagerness to share her love with me. Being forty now, surely it will be time for me to lose my petty concerns about weight gain, spider veins and discovering that the real reason why my largeish bum isn't as sticky-out anymore isn't because I'm a really fast and frequent runner but because the lure of gravity has pulled it downwards where both cheeks are now resting quite happily behind the backs of my knees......

I still consider myself a girl inside, not a mature woman or someone now finished her youthful ascent up the mountain and being forcefully prepared to descend down the other side.

Yes, there are wrinkles when I smile, the tendency to automatically go "Ooff" when I get up off the lounge and those foo-doo-ba-dahs under my arms when I wave people goodbye but I can also still sing Hector the Cat's road safety song (word for word) from 1974 to an appreciative Sapphire in 2008, make an impressive batch of home made donuts with only ten minutes' notice
whilst hosting a playdate

.......and still, at two hundred and eight dog years of age, feel a bit excited when I wake up because it's my birthday and I feel a little bit special. And still want to hold Love Chunk's hand as we walk along the street together, off for a good coffee and some lunch. And look at his twinkling blue eyes as he laughs at my still-childlike joy in people watching, goofing off and making rude remarks about the two lurid German sausages he ordered.

And, as I keep telling myself, what's so bad about getting old? I'll be able to join Milly in taking frequent rests when the mood or arthritis compels her:

.... and maybe, one day, I'll get myself a three-wheeler bike and do my chores like this bloke:

There's plenty of room in the back of this kind of bike for the stash of chocolates I'll still be consuming in my pre-menopausal, post-menopausal, senior and twilight years. And today was merely the start of a chocojourney that'll keep continuing - a gift tin of Haigh's, a box of Guylian, a visit and selection of no less than thirty hand made chocolates from No5 in Hahndorf, several bags of factory-directs from Melba's and, after picking up Sapphire from school, a faceful of Cibo's chocolate gelato in Norwood.

And, if my luck continues to hold out, I'll share them all with Love Chunks and Sapphire.