When does being polite mean we can’t ask for what we need?

‘You should get glasses,’ says my husband.  Without turning I know he is looking at the very attractive brunette sitting two tables from us reading her kindle.  

‘I’ve always wanted glasses,’ I say, knowing that our reasons for me wearing glasses will not be the same.

‘Then you could pretend you were a librarian,’ he said, his eyes widening slightly, mischief and desire mingling in the creases of his eyes.  The same eyes he’d like to have nipped and tucked so that when he is 45 he’ll look 35.  

‘A straight-laced librarian with a naughty side,’ I say drolly.  I’m sure this is the plot of at least a hundred porno’s.  ‘Are you going to bend me over the card catalogue?’ 

‘No, you’ll be wearing a short skirt and leaning over to put away a book.’  He laughs, delighted with himself.  I look around at the darkly lit, nearly empty restaurant, the brunette has been pulled away from her book by a tall, silver haired, dapper man.  

‘Swedish?’ I ask my husband.

‘Maybe.’

‘Norwegian.’  I conclude as I hear him mention a city in Norway I’ve never heard of.  I’m intrigued by Norway.  I’ve never been, but I want to go.  My husband tells me it is cold and expensive but I still want to go.  Images of forests, lakes, mountain cabins and wilderness, there’s a wildness there that excites me.  We watched a clip about the seed storage facility they built miles under a mountain.  It houses copies of all of the worlds seeds, ‘there’s something comforting says the man on the video, knowing that if something should happen, the worlds crops will not be wiped out.’

My husband and I talked about buying a property in Tasmania, somewhere we could go off grid. I fantasise about living off the land.  Growing our own food, setting up polytunnels, and orchards, keeping animals, working hard, but being self sufficient.  And the idea that somewhere in Norway the worlds seeds are being stored makes me happy.  

‘See,’ I say to my husband, as he searches for hotels in the Canary Islands, ‘even if you are sitting alone, people will still talk to you.’  My husband loves to be alone.  Thrives on solitude.  In his ideal world, the only people he would have to deal with are those he does business with and his family.  I mean this is a man who fell in love with a t-shirt on line that read: ‘Not shy, I just don’t like you.’  If they’d shipped it to the Netherlands, he’d have ordered it in an instant.

‘What would you do, just not answer?’ I ask, curious how he handled unwanted social interactions.  

‘No, that would be rude,’ he says.  I smile.  I can’t help it, I’ve seem him yell at airport staff because they weren’t “following protocol”.   ‘I’d just finish up and leave,’ he says without looking up.   

‘It’s funny how we can’t just say, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I was hoping to enjoy my meal on my own.  I really don’t feel like talking.  I hope that’s okay.”  I mean heaven forbid we offend someone.’  I wonder at all the things people do because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, all the things I have done.   ‘I’d probably end up in a conversation I didn’t want to be in, that would last an hour and a half.’  My husband laughed, he’s seen it happen.    

The brunette keeps chatting with the silver fox. 

‘He’s trying to pick her up,’ says my husband. 

I watch as the man, casually pushes his jacket sleeves up, and leans back a little too comfortably in his seat.  A move I’ve seen many men make.  He is dressed smartly.  He looks good and he knows it.  

‘Maybe he’s just lonely.’ 

‘You’re so naive, I know men.’

I laugh, ‘you know you,’  

My husband lets out a loud guffaw, stopping just shy of slapping the table.  ‘You don’t like people,’ I continue, ‘how can you possibly know people?’

He puts his arm around me and hugs me, ‘You’re funny,’ he says.

‘I have my moments,’ I say, as I always do, kissing his cheek.

We push back our chairs and as my husband signs the check, the brunette knocks back what is left of her coffee and then high tails it out of the restaurant.  

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Watching mothering in action

‘Lie still,’ says my youngest to her doll, ‘I’m putting coconut oil on Lemonbalm,’ she says by way of explanation (her doll’s name is Clementine, but over time it’s become Lemonbalm). She up ends the green drink bottle into her hand, the water coating her hands, then she rubs her hands together, and smears it all over her dolls arms and legs, and belly and face.

‘See, I’m pretending this water is coconut oil,’ she says. ‘Now turn over Lemonthyme, I need to do your back.’

‘You’ve already done her back,’ says her sister. It’s true, this is the second time Lemonthyme is being coated from head to toe in my youngest water for the night. But my youngest doesn’t care for details like that. She is being the Mama, and its her favourite game.

‘Now I’ll do your bottom,’ she says, rubbing thoroughly. I wonder what her teachers must think of me at her school if she does this there. Do they think I spend this much time on her bottom? I swear I don’t.

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Oh, the fighting…

I remember when I was a kid, my Mum was always talking about how much my brothers and I would fight. She used to tell us that our Uncle, who happened to be staying with us at the time, would hide in the garage until we had left for school just to avoid the noise. My brothers and I would laugh. Now, I find myself saying something similar to my girls it makes me wince. My girls have discovered the art of fighting. Yelling, crying, whinging, hitting, pinching, taunting, you name it, it’s in their armoury.

Now, I say similar things to my girls, trying to find the ‘thing’ that will make the yelling and crying, the whinging and the hitting, the pinching and the taunting stop. You name it, it’s in their armoury.

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There were seven in the bed and the little one said…

‘Where are we staying?’ I ask my husband as the plane begins its descent into Hong Kong. Through the window, there is a dome of smog covering the city. I’m not sure I’m going to like it here despite everything I’ve read and heard.

‘We’re staying in an AirBnB,’ says my husband, still responding to emails.

‘Why aren’t we staying in a hotel?’

‘Because you wanted a kitchen to cook in.’

I don’t remember that conversation but it sounds like something I’d say. I must have figured it would be hard to get food that I could eat in Hong Kong, given that I still couldn’t eat rice, or spices, or sauces, or herbs for that matter. Oh, to be able to eat.

One of the specialists I’d seen had told me it ‘probably’ wouldn’t do me any damage if I kept eating these foods, I really appreciated his conviction, and that I might just have to suffer for a bit until my body became used to these things again. But my stomach felt like it was on fire whenever I ate anything that wasn’t ridiculously plain and slow cooked. It was as if my body had completely forgotten the art of digestion, so that food just wandered around like lumps of lead while my body panicked, trying to figure out what it was supposed to be doing.

Inside the apartment, my husband tried very hard not to let his head explode, and I tried very hard not to laugh hysterically.

‘We can’t stay here,’ he insisted, ranting at the tiny matchbox that would sleep all seven of us.

‘It’ll be fine,’ said my Mum, ‘an adventure.’

Our nanny and her fiancé, chose the double mattress wedged into the cupboard to the right. Their very own little burrow.

Traversing the kitchen/loungeroom/diningroom in three steps, that was tiled so that it could be hosed down, we ignored the shower/toilet combo which we would learn should only ever be used in one order, into what was ambitiously calling itself the second bedroom. Really, it was the end of the loungeroom cordoned off behind glass sliding doors that were just waiting for one of my children to run face first into.

The girls picked their bunks, and my husband and I drew straws for who we would sleep with. I drew the short straw, and ended up with my youngest’s feet in my face for two long nights.

Mum slept in the only room that looked as though it was originally designed as a bedroom. And if you stood on your right foot, with your head tilted wildly, and your eyes squinting you could just make out a rainbow of neon.

Yes, this will do nicely to pass the time until our flight to Amsterdam.

On the plus side, the house my husband picked for us to live in, in Amsterdam, was bound to be better than this… wasn’t it?

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