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The limits of love

Saoirse: Mummy, excuse me Mummy. Will you still love me when you’re DEAD?

Me: (desperately casting around for something profound and quotable at her 21st, but ideally long after that, probably attributed to Anonymous in a book of inspirational, motivational sayings)

Me: Darling child. I will love you forever and ever, until the end of the world. Even when I’m pushing up daisies: my love will be in the daisies. THE DAISIES WILL BE MY LOVE. I can’t imagine not loving you, so . . . in summary . . . what I’m trying to say is . . . yes. Absolutely.

Saoirse: But Mummy . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

(Trust me, this is worth waiting for.)

Saoirse: . . . 

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: Mummy, will you still love me when you’re a ZOMBIE?

 

Hope she still hearts me when I’m a zombie

Flesh eating fish

Two weeks ago, I was the MC for four days at the LIANZA Conference in Christchurch.

You think it’s a bit random? Sure; I’ll give you that. My credentials were assessed on the basis of a 20 minute presentation I gave at a Southland Librarian Convention over a year ago at the Oamaru Opera House. My speech was standing room only . . . well; no it wasn’t, but only because the Waitaki District Library put out a plethora of chairs . . . but I got a standing ovation. Ok ok OK, I was the last speaker and people had to get up to leave . . . ANYWAY.

After my presentation, a lovely Maori woman approached me and asked if I’d speak at the LIANZA Conference. And then a few months later, I got an email from Joanna about being MC. And Joanna and I corresponded for the better part of a year, before I finally met her at dinner on the Saturday before the conference kicked off. She said, “Do you remember me?” and I roared, “Of course I do! Great to see you again!”

Halfway through the same evening, another lovely woman came to me and said, “Hi, I just wanted to see how you’re getting on and are you comfortable?” I had no idea who she was and no recollection of ever meeting her; but I thought I was doing a pretty good job of blagging it, until she said, “Do you recognise me?”

Whenever I’ve doggedly persisted in (my preferred strategy of) complete ignorance, it tends to turn brutally swiftly into a global train-wreck, so I said: “Look, I’m so sorry; I don’t.”

She said, “I’m Joanna. Joanna Matthew.”

And I was all: “Are you SURE?”

I realised that who I’d thought was Joanna was someone else completely; in fact another person entirely called Tilapia. And happy that I’d finally sorted out who was who, I addressed her by her name – Tilapia – for the rest of the dinner.

I noticed her eying me a bit funny; but since I get that a lot I didn’t fully register it UNTIL about five o’clock the following morning when I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking: “OMG tilapia’s a fish! IT’S. A. FUCKING. FISH!”

For those of you not literate about fish, it is a freshwater, pleasant tasting fish which originated in the Middle East and in 2016, tilapia was the likely source of an American woman’s flesh-eating bacteria infection.

When I checked, I realised her name was – and probably still is – Te Paea.

Beautiful name, Te Paea.

Much better than Tilapia.

For anyone who thinks this story can’t possibly get any worse, well you obviously don’t know me AT ALL. So hi there! Thanks for reading, and let me assure you: it absolutely can.

So I tracked down Te Paea on the Sunday, and said, “I’m soooo sorry, I called you a fish.”

She said, “Oh that’s ok.” And then she said . . . “Actually, I thought you called me Labia.”

So obviously I’d prefer neither, but if I HAVE to choose between calling someone a fish or a vagina, I’m just so glad I went with fish.

Even a flesh-eating fish.

Since I once addressed someone as Nubbin, as in a small lump or residual part of bone or cartilage I could argue that I’m not culturally insensitive so much as GENERALLY insensitive . . .

. . . but it’s probably better I stop here.

  

 

Video link to Mistress of Ceremonies: Day 2 (Registration required with name and email address)

Sorted

Last week it was all about getting the kids started at school and kindy respectively.

We’d originally planned to keep both of them home for the first month or two after moving, but Finn loved his first term at Totara School so much we felt it would be less disruptive for him if he started straight into Wanaka Primary at the start of Term 2 in May.

We visited the school for the first time during the school holidays, where Finn pronounced the quality of playground satisfactory.

In the event, Finn absolutely crushed it – although his mum was pretty shit. The night before he started I decided I’d better read the enrolment pack, which was when I realised uniforms are compulsory and stationery highly recommended. I was so worried about being expelled for indifference to stationery, I couldn’t sleep.

Finn was shaky on the morning, but his teacher was lovely and the school is amazingly well equipped. As we were shown around Finn’s interest levels picked up to the point where every time his teacher addressed him he had to give a little jump of excitement.

There was a clang of potential doom when the teacher showed him the tadpole tank and Finn said, “Dey grow into FROGS!” and she responded, “Er, yes; actually they already did, but I forgot to put rocks in over the Easter holidays and they DIED. Here, you can look at the dead frogs through this magnifying glass if you like?”

Finn took it in stride, although he demurred looking at the dead frogs.

When the bell rang, he settled down on the welcome mat without a backward glance.

Later that morning I procured a stationery pack and dropped it back to school; along with his lunchbox and water bottle which I’d forgotten to stuff in his schoolbag earlier. Guess my Outstanding Mother Award is postponed another week.

Bless him; Finn is absolutely shattered and on several occasions over the last week, I’ve wondered whether he needs a good exorcising: by early evening he is demonstrably demonic. However, he is doing incredibly well now that he has a school uniform and full agglomeration of stationery.

Saoirse took longer to get sorted. About six months previously, she and Finn attended a kindy in Wanaka on a short-term basis, and something about it just didn’t click.

At another place I was so distracted by the administrator’s saggy red pleather trousers, I spent the entire time wondering whether there was any way I could appropriately pull them the fuck up on her.

Yet another kindy was promising until I clocked the 3yo with dreadlocks and it was all over, rover.

I had been keen on the Montessori school before we actually visited. Don’t get me wrong; it was lovely: all underfloor heated wooden floors and natural eco-sustainable toys – but one thing I learned at the North Otago Toy Library is that although the parents love the natural wooden toys, the kids always choose plastic. And while children shouldn’t necessarily always get what they want, if the objective is stimulating play, the best option is probably the garish plastic abomination that is the distilled antithesis of all that is pure and beautiful in this world.

We visited at snack time and I’d never seen an assembly of such perfectly mannered children – but it struck me that Saoirse would just eat them alive. And when I realised that despite my best efforts, I STILL can’t explain the Montessori ideology, I thought we’d better look into the last option available.

I’d been starting to get a bit desperate wondering how to go about weighing gut reaction, so it was a relief when The Last Option felt so right. The ECEs were gorgeous and welcoming and friendly; I loved the way they interacted with the kids; the vibe was kind and unassuming; the playground was entirely constructed of old tires and offcuts of wood that the kids can reconfigure as they please; and – most importantly – Saoirse loved it as well.

(Although admittedly she loved all the other kindies too.)

She started the following day: walked into the place as if she owned it, picked out a book and demanded of some random adult that they read it to her. Like Finn, she appears to have decided goodbyes are superfluous.

My kids have taught me a bit about holding shit together in the last week

Photobomber continues her campaign of terror

 

Dublin Bay

Titivating the shed

So as soon as we decided to move to Wanaka in late 2015, Husband and I swung instantly into action. By which I mean: we prepared for action by reflecting on how we could best achieve maximum outcome with minimal swinging as such.

 

It was a really very thorough, measured and definitive thought-process.

 

Ideally we wanted to sell our house in Oamaru in summer 2015, but Husband wasn’t ready because he hadn’t titivated the shed. Or if it wasn’t that, he wanted to weed-mat the garden; or replace some panes of glass; or repaint the deck; or finish the garden folly.

 

(By the way: oh yes it is, ‘titivate’ is TOTALLY a word.)

 

Our beautiful old 1890s character villa with 2000sqm of landscaped cottage gardens may have been glorious and rose-scented and redolent of frilly parasols and croquet and cucumber sandwiches, but it was an absolute fucking motherfucker to maintain. Although we loved it, all our spare time was diverted to gardening or renovating or gardening or trying to convince the kids that pruning was fun or train the dog to differentiate between weeds and flowers.

 

 

I’d asked my unfairly talented mate Maxine to shoot the house, because her architectural photography is ‘jaaast stanning’ as the chick herself would say (not usually about her own work, although she could without risk of false advertising).

 

Eventually she just turned up with her camera. “Look, I don’t care- I don’t have time for this shit- no, I can photoshop in the garage door- fine, I’ll photoshop in the fucking HOUSE, ok? Get out of the frame. And take that fugly sofa with you.” (Only joking; Maxine’s a professional and would never swear on the job.)

 

By this stage – practically winter – we’d pretty much run out of time to list our house, which ideally needed to be sold in late spring / high summer / before the trees completely shit themselves in the autumn. However, being now engaged in full, actionable swing (see above), I went ahead and contacted four of the five RE Agents in town for valuations.

 

My history with RE Agents is somewhat tempestuous and honestly, I haven’t missed them at all since my last torrid affair back in 2011. We were all set to go with online real estate company 200 Square, but despite tracking the local weekly property listings we had no idea what the value of our house was. There was no consistency and nothing even vaguely comparable to our home. Trademe listings with photos featuring heaps of unfolded laundry and dead animals with an unfocused bit of shack in the background stated offers over $500k; some gorgeous character homes appeared to be in the region of less than $250k.

 

We figured industry professionals would know.

 

We figured wrong.

 

They didn’t.

 

I mean, they really, REALLY didn’t.

 

The range of estimates issued by RE Agents varied $90,000 in value.

 

That’s $90,000; or ninety thousand dollars; or FUCKING NINETY THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS.

 

(To add some context: we paid $242k for it in 2011.)

 

After looking around, they’d say: “Yaaas, weeell, it’s beautifully presented, but it’s not a great location and you know what we say: ‘location, location, location’ hahaha ahaha! South side of a hill *meh* . . . no view of the sea *meh squared* . . . and *meh to the power of 10* who wants to maintain 2000 square meters of garden?”

 

Well, apart from Not Us, I’m sure um lots of people specifically gardeners and – I dunno – outdoorsy types would like to . . . but WTF DON’T COME INTO MY HOME AND TELL ME IT’S SHIT! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

Since I lived in the house for five and a half years, I figured I knew its limitations better than a RE Agent who’d spent only half an hour in the place staring mainly at their checklist. And I was fairly confident that someone would fall in love with the house: its charm, its privacy, the inspection pit in the garage.

 

(Well, that was what sold Husband.)

 

I’ve never liked the local branch of LJ Hooker’s approach to supporting the community, specifically taking out full page adverts in the Waitaki Herald congratulating themselves on donating thousands of tax-deducted dollars to local non-profits and charitable community organisations. However, we originally bought our house from the fully delicious Claudette, and she was the first agent I contacted.

 

I’d always suspected my feelings for Claudette were unrequited and was devastated as she struggled with commitment issues and grew increasingly emotionally distant.

 

An RE Agent from The Professionals suggested the house was worth only $18,000 more than we paid for it six years ago. So according to her dystopian proposal (and disregarding the thousands we spent on improvements and renovations), we would have ended up with a roaring profit of approximately $5,000 after she skimmed her commission.

 

“Well, I don’t think you exactly got a bargain when you bought this place,” she sniffed.

 

WTF don’t come into my house and tell me it’s shit AND THAT I’M STUPID! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

When challenged with a moderated version of the above, she said, “Over the last month we’ve sold all our properties within days.”

 

“Um . . . does that not . . . kind of . . . suggest you’re undervaluing them?” I asked.

 

“I’ll have you know our clients are very satisfied,” she said defensively.

 

One RE Agent even kicked the dog (although admittedly it was after Jed had spent a good five minutes checking their crotch for contraband, and then worried their pleather folder on the floor . . . he also munched their biro a bit).

 

I was reluctant to go anywhere near Ray White after our experience with the company six years ago, but my To Do list had five items and I’d only ticked off four. However, I was lucky enough to be put through to Leona Stretch. When she came to visit, she patted the dog and loved our house.

 

“But what about the view- sorry; I mean ‘aspect’?” I asked suspiciously. “And locationlocationlocation?”

 

“I suppose it might be worth more if it were on South Hill, but it’s a beautiful home,” said Leona. “Great big section, overlooks the Gardens, minutes from town. It’s fabulous.”

 

When Leona returned with the estimate, she brought presents for the kids and the dog. I’d decided to list with her even before she said she believed our house was worth $350k. I know: I’m a whore. But we were in no particular hurry and um well her valuation was greater than anticipated, so we thought what the heck? We decided to list the house for a proscribed period, sale on offers over $350k.

 

I knew we’d made the right decision when the kids and I went to her office to review the contract and Saoirse applied crayon to everything except the thoughtfully-provided paper; then flooded the place. Leona was unfazed; even Saoirse couldn’t break her.

 

We were fully prepared for Leona to recommend dropping the asking price after a couple of weeks – not that she ever gave that impression, or indeed any impression other than being responsive, professional and striving diligently on our behalf – but evidently I have trust issues.

 

Her assessment of the market (for our home: out of towners), recommendations on how to present the house, and regular reports were all bang on. It took a couple of months, but Leona sold our house for pretty much exactly what she said she would. She could have negotiated a longer settlement than three weeks – but now I’m just struggling to find something to get my bitch on.

 

What I can and GODDAMN IT I WILL get my bitch on like white on rice on a Styrofoam plate in a snowstorm, is that had we gone with any of the other industry professionals’ recommendations we would now be up to $90k out of pocket. WHY DON’T YOU JUST BREAK INTO OUR HOUSE AND STEAL ALL OUR ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT AND . . . um . . . WHATEVER ELSE WE OWN THAT’S WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ALREADY? (My combination oven? Husband’s sound system? Finn’s lego collection?)

 

And before you point out that grossly undervaluing our house doesn’t involve malicious intent: you might not have meant to kill the frog, but it’s still fucking DEAD.

 

Here’s the promo video for the house set to 70’s porn music.

 

And since you got this far: here’s a picture of Jed sitting on the swing:-

 

Not a morning person

. . . although Husband’s not much of an afternoon or evening person either; but this hit him a bit early, when he was still occupying the sub-human category.

Me> Ok, so this song. Wish You Were Here.

Husband> Grarh.

Me> Yes. It goes, ‘We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year / Running over the same old ground . . .’

Husband> Grarh?

Me> But. How can they run over the same old ground?

Husband> It’s uh, like, they’re doing the same things grarh over and over-

Me> Yeah, except they’re swimming in a fish bowl right? So, how are they RUNNING over the same old ground? Presumably they have flippers, so wouldn’t they still be swimming? Or . . . kinda . . . flopping around over the same old ground?

Husband> Graaaaarh

De most beautifullest mummy in de whooole universe

Finn> You’re de most beautifullest mummy in de whooole universe.

Me> Aw! That’s lovely! I’m the most beautiful mummy in the whole universe?

Finn> No. Your friend, Maxine. She is de most beautifullest mummy in de whooole universe. But. She is Quinn’s mummy.

Me> Well, she’s still a mummy.

Finn> Yes. Mummy, if you dressed up you could be like Maxine.

Me> (thinks) Thank you Son, that’s just fucking phenomenal.

Duckface

Duckface

(I’ve asked him several times since but he’s still getting the answer wrong.)

No reprieve no remorse

Saoirse> <roaring>

Me (picking her up)> What happened to Saoirse, Finn?

Finn> I biffed her wit da door of my tunnel.

Me> Aw, poor little girl! Finn, that’s not very nice.

Finn> The next time wasn’t so bad.

Me> You- did you hit her TWICE?

Finn> No.

Finn> I biffid her one time.

Finn> Den I biffid her two times-

Me> FINN! Say sorry!

Finn> Sorry, Saoirse.

Hand of divinity

So I was hoovering this morning and the vacuum cleaner wouldn’t suck and it turned out there was a sock in the hose. Since I have no idea how it got there, it is quite obviously a SIGN FROM GOD. (That I never have to vacuum again, I hope.)

Anyone who’s interested is welcome to come and view the Sock. What do you mean, what does it look like? Doesn’t matter; it’s a fucking Divine Sock!

If you like, you can touch It for $5.

That’s an administration fee to cover processing, laundry and carpet-cleaning

Easy target

Me> Anything interesting in the post?

Husband> No. Oh except, you got a speeding ticket.

Me> WHAT?!

Husband> Yeah, must’ve been your last trip to Dunedin.

Me> Flaming Mary, Mother of Jesus H Christ Almighty!

Husband> You were doing a hundred and seven in a 100k zone.

Me> Aw, no WAY! What class of doughnut-popping oinker does you for seven kilometers over the open limit? I mean, I could understand it in a 50k zone, but . . . oh, this SO FULLY BLOWS-

Husband> Well, Niamhie, I’m always telling you to slow down-

Me> What the- what are you- I’M always telling YOU to slow down! Aw, this is just so unjust. I always thought it would be you. How much?

Husband> What?

Me> The fine.

Husband> Ah. $300-

Me> THREE HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I COULD BUY A PAIR OF REALLY NICE SHOES FOR THAT! Or, you know. Two weeks of groceries.

Husband> Yeah.

Me> We’re all going to starve.

Husband> I hope not.

Me> When was I ticketed?

Husband> 2 December.

Me> 2 December.

Me> Wait. Saoirse was born on 21 November and I didn’t drive for three weeks after-

Husband> Maybe it was November, I’m not sure.

Me> But we- I didn’t go to Dunedin – or anywhere – before Saoirse was born due to being explosively pregnant-

Husband> Look, I can’t remember the exact date.

Me> Show me that letter. Wait- it WAS December- what happened on- HEY! My parents flew into Dunedin on 2 December- you drove down to collect them- IT WAS YOU!

Me> I can’t believe you tried to blame your reckless driving on the mother of your children! Have you no shame and/or basic sense of decency?

Husband (totally SHAMELESSLY)> The letter’s addressed to you.

Me> Because the car’s in my name-

Husband> Look on the bright side: it’s not $300.

Husband> It’s only $30 

Please return to your seats

We’re back!

Oh, you didn’t know we were gone? Right. Yes. That was because we didn’t want to announce our six-week vacated status to the World Wide Web in case some rogue geek decided to rob the house.

In retrospect, it’s more likely the joint would have been cleaned out by the mailman and his mate, Bones, after they noticed the knee-high layer of dead leaves in the entranceway. We might as well have erected a neon sign on the roof saying: ‘Vacant house, robbers welcome’.

Anyway. After a 47,000km round-trip that took in Auckland, Dubai and Ireland, it’s wonderful to be back in our unburgled home. The Outlaws picked us up in DunedinAirport and drove us back to the farm where we were reunited with our dog.

Apparently Jed made Tex his bitch and they went around running a protection racket on the other dogs. He was absolutely filthy and covered in dreadlocks and would have looked like some sort of derelict, neglected mutt but that he was about twice as fat as when we last saw him. The Outlaws reported that he turned into quite the gourmand during his stay at the farm, developing a taste for chicken feed.

He’d evidently had a blast, but was touchingly ecstatic to see us. In fact, he settled back into the house as if we’d never gone.

Driving home, we pulled over to let a car pass on a one-lane road. Husband gave a neighbourly wave and in response, the driver extended a rigid middle digit.

Ah, it’s good to be home.

King kong crap

My parents were devastated to say goodbye to their grandson.

I made every effort to give them as much quality time with him as possible and ensured they never had intimate knowledge of what went on in his nappy. Dad bravely volunteered to change him one night – I think he was showing off to his sister who was visiting – I’m not sure why he didn’t just juggle five live chainsaws – ten minutes later he quavered, “Niamh! We need a change of clothes here!”

Perceiving the rising note of terror, I took over, which was just as well because not only had Finn executed a king kong crap, he waited until he was completely al-fresco before weeing all over the show. (His Penile PSI appears to increase on an exponential basis.)

Dad was so traumatized he required another glass of wine; he didn’t offer changing services again.

It was wonderful watching my parents get to know their grandson and Finn formed an attachment too – especially to his granddad. Every morning they went for a stroll to get Dad’s paper and Finn would get all excited when I brought him to the parents’ bedroom.

Paracetamol junkie

In retrospect, I think perhaps we underestimated the effect such a huge trip would have on such a small man. I was all, “Eh, let’s pop over to the other side of the world,” but Finn was quite unsettled for the first week. Even now, although his sleep patterns have adjusted to the time-difference, his digestive system hasn’t.

It’s been difficult to tell what is jet-lag, social fatigue, or teething. When we were in Auckland everyone seemed to think his teeth were coming in. I always said, “Well, if you say so,” because, after all, what would I know? I mean, I haven’t a clue. I feel relatively confident I’d be able to tell if one of my child’s limbs fell off, but anything else? Not so much.

Then again, teething seems to serve as the generic explanation any time the child squawks. ‘Oh look, he’s chewing his fist.’ But he’s done that since he was born; in fact, we have an ultrasound image of Finn gnawing his arm in utero. ‘See how much he’s dribbling.’ Well, it looks like low standard deviation from normal distribution of drool to me.

I’m pretty sure I could turn up with at Casualty with a penknife stuck in Finn’s head and a nurse will say, “Aw, poor little fella’s teething”.

Shortly after we arrived, Finn cried for two days. Nothing appeased him except gnashing on my finger for short periods of time. He had livid red cheeks, the consistency of his back end production changed and he developed extensive nappy rash.

Altogether I felt confident about asserting: now THAT was teething.

Teething strikes

On the first day of this, I’d driven across to Daire and Alex’s place in Cork, and Finn became so distraught we had to return early. A friend of the parents’ had invited herself to stay and was home alone when we arrived back. I was exhausted; Finn woke up crying as soon as I wrestled his capsule in the door; I changed him and went to wash my hands. Finn was screaming by the time I returned and Delia hovered over him, wringing her hands.

“How do you know he’s not in EXCRUCIATING PAIN?” she shrieked.

“Well, now. Because he’s not bleeding out the eyes,” I said through gritted teeth.

“I don’t know much about small people,” she confided.

“Nor big people,” I thought grimly.

I mean, SERIOUSLY.

The following day, I loaded my poor cranky, manky mini man into a stroller (on loan) and took him down town to source some teething toys. I returned with three, along with a tube of Bonjela and some wanky homeopathic teething remedy.

I tend to rank homeopathy in the same general category as eye of newt, but ‘Teetha’ came highly recommended by Friends Who Know Better.

I thought it easiest to pour the sachet of powder into Finn’s gob when he opened it to take a roar; unfortunately, as Finn drew breath for maximum volume, he inhaled the powder into his windpipe and frothed at the mouth. So perhaps it’s not surprising he’s entirely suspicious of Teetha. He rather likes the taste of Bonjela, but it’s only effective for the few minutes he’s distracted licking it off my finger.

Thankfully my mother finally took charge of the situation and bought Finn a family-size bottle of Calpol.

I’d been resistant to Calpol because I’m a recovering junkie. When Daire was a baby, I used to steal to the medicine cabinet and swig it straight from the bottle (Mum never seemed to notice he was going through gallons of the stuff – or think about locking the medicine cabinet). It’s just as well I thought flyspray was stored in the parents’ drinks cabinet or I might never have achieved the success I enjoy today.

‘Has a pleasant strawberry flavour’ states the bottle, although I always thought it simply tasted of sweet, sweet synthetic pharmaceutical. Finn slurps it pensively from the plastic spoon, while I quiver with the effort of not ripping it out of his mouth and snorting the spoon and contents.

It has the most amazing effect, transforming Finn from a tetchy crankfest to his usual gurning contented self (albeit slightly lopsided) within five minutes. I try not to rely on it, but if the alternative is having the little guy in pain I will hook him up to a Calpol drip.

Like a jaguar exploring the Serengeti

After nearly missing our flight from Dunedin, Andrew decided we should be better prepared for our respective flights to Dubai/Dublin.

“Right, Niamhie,” he said. “Since the grandparents aren’t coming for lunch on Sunday morning, we can go to the airport early. Let’s see . . . flight is at– when was it again? Six o’clock, right. So let’s leave the house at . . . four thirty. Five latest.”

Lovingly I replied, “Well, I don’t fucking know about you, but your child and I are leaving at two.” And flicked my hair in a manner that swept aside further discussion.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, were purely coincidentally in possession of all travel documents, managed to check onto the correct flight, and didn’t get lost on the way to the boarding gate. It would have counted as one of our more successful experiences if Finn hadn’t yarfed down Andrew’s top and shorts and himself in the airport cafe. His projectile range included my groin, making it look as if I was either mildly incontinent or had been laughing indecently.

I’d brought one change of clothes for Finn, which I applied before we’d even left Auckland Airport. I ended up washing both sets three times during the full 28 hour journey, draping his all-in-ones over the video monitors to dry them.

Everyone said babies sleep well on flights, something about the noise of the engines, very soothing they reported; Finn would spend the entire flight asleep.

Well, did he bugger bum shit bollox. (Ah, that would be: no.) It didn’t help that the bassinet had to be stowed for takeoff, landing and turbulence. I would say Finn slept a total of 8 hours and spent the remainder climbing up my face or roaming wild and free around my lap like a fucking jaguar exploring the Serengeti.

Although it was great having Andrew’s company to Dubai, there was a limit to how much he could assist. The change facilities on board were so cramped I had to unclip the change table from the passage outside the toilet, then pass in the nappy bag, then the baby, then wedge myself in before closing and locking the door.

On the leg from Sydney we sat beside a woman travelling alone with her two and four year old daughters. She didn’t look like she was enjoying motherhood much, possibly because her progeny were devil spawn. If Finn ever behaves like that, I’m going to give him away. (Andrew: “We’ll see.”) However, she did advise me to grab as much sleep as I could, and I was glad I took her advice even though she was plainly barking (she crawled under Finn’s bassinet to finger Andrew’s iPad).

I had an altercation with one of the baggage checkers in Dubai, who attempted to communicate with me via a series of grunts and hand-signals. Gosh, how I miss Dubai’s level of service, except you know, the exact opposite.

Another baggage checker asked me to remove my laptop from the case but backed down when I tried to hand him the baby who was drooling all over the floor. Instead, he directed us towards the body-check booth where a group of Arab women waited. They descended on Finn like a bunch of extremely well-groomed crows: “What’s his name? Feen! Feen! Feen!” When I came out, he was sitting on one’s knee eating her chador and beaming away at the rest of them who were patting his head, pinching his cheeks, pulling his feet. In 10 seconds he did more for cross-continental relations than I achieved in 10 years in the UAE.

A flight attendant told me off for not securing Finn in the bassinet with the velcro tabs. I didn’t say, “Honey, I don’t care if the little fucker my precious child bounces out of the bassinet, crowd-surfs to the back of the airplane and falls out a window carelessly left open by one of the crew, probably the flight attendant who can never find her ‘presentation tray’ when she starts handing out the drinks and always forgets to come back and offer me coffee THE BITCH”, but I think she saw it in my eyes because she didn’t press the point.

A woman behind me who must have REALLY missed her grandchildren in Melbourne took him for half an hour just before we landed in Dublin – bliss.

The parents were obviously overjoyed to see Finn again – I don’t think they actually greeted me 😀

Monkey attack!

You shrunk my baby

Since I got pregnant, I’ve slept like a baby. (That would be the Proverbial Baby rather than my own, who spends at least half of any twenty four hour period wide awake pointing at stuff.)

Even during the first couple of months after Finn was born I could cast off consciousness in a matter of seconds, whether in the shower, weeding the garden, with my head in a bowl of muesli or waiting for the traffic lights to turn green.

In the last couple of weeks, Finn has started sleeping through the night. Conversely, my own sleep pattern has gone all to cock.

The other night – I’m not sure what time it was, but it felt like 03:23 hrs or thereabouts – I can’t recall what I’d been doing, but I was getting back in bed when Andrew’s eyes clicked open demonically.

“You smell,” he said, then rolled over.

I’m not sure whether or what I responded, but I woke up the following morning aggrieved and fully outraged. I mean: I just spent nine months carrying his child – of course I’m not going to smell the freshest. In any case, it’s been a long time since Andrew smelled like an advert featuring an ocean wave breaking over a rock – in fact, the last time was when we met and I was never entirely sure whether the seductive scent was Andrew Musk or bacardi.

“What’s up with you?” asked Andrew, catching a glower.

“You told me I smell!” I snapped, waving the baby at him threateningly (it was the only thing to hand, but in fact it’s difficult applying a baby for menacing effect, a bit like trying to terrorize someone while wearing leg-warmers).

“I- what? When? I didn’t- I’d never say something like that.”

I’m not sure how he can claim that, since has no problem telling me I should do some crunchies (he alleges his motive is preempting back-ache, although it would be a bonus if I reverted to my pre-pregnancy body. I’m drawing up Andrew’s daily workout schedule involving multiple sets of 100 lunges, star-jumps, squat-thrusts, bench dips, back extensions, inclined pressups, pushups, situps, pull-ups, shuttle runs, hip raises, rotational chops, lat extensions and splits.)

However, although I can never tell when Andrew’s lying, I usually know when he’s not. After further discussion wherein I refused to make him coffee, it turned out I dreamed the whole thing.

I should have known. I still half-wake around the time Finn used to call for his night feed and spend the remaining interim until morning fending off horribly vivid nightmares. Most of these involve Finn e.g. forgetting to take him out of the frying pan or accidentally washing his head clean off.

The stuff dreams are made of

One night – and I have to warn you: this is WRONG on so many levels in so many dimensions – I dreamed Finn and I were at a roller-skating theme park.

(HEY. You were warned.)

I wanted to go on the flying fox. Obviously I couldn’t take Finn because that would have been irresponsible, so I asked some random group of children to look after him. When I returned he was gone.

I scoured the theme park until I finally located the Lost & Found Office where there were loads of cardboard boxes full of extremely ugly babies. I got more and more agitated – I kept forgetting which boxes I’d looked in – the staff were more interested in telling me how negligent I was rather than being helpful – but none of the babies was mine.

I finally found him in a wet cardboard box – and they’d SHRUNK HIM.

And I was all, “You call ME negligent when YOU SHRUNK MY BABY?!”

Violent salvo of squelch

I brought a banana chocolate fudge cake OH HOLY MOLAR SO SCRUMPTIOUS! along to the Tupperware party last Thursday.

I’d never been to a Tupperware party before. Apparently there are two types: one version where everyone sits around fingering snap-lid tubs, and the other featuring sex toys and lingerie that promotes rather than reduces chafing. I presume it was the former type of Tupperware party since, although there were some strange-looking pieces of plastic, none of them looked as if they’d fit up the fanny.

I brought the Tiny Monster along, but he got so distressed we had to leave early. He must REALLY dislike Tupperware – or perhaps he was protesting the price.

I had my last remaining wisdom tooth extracted at the dentists’ last Tuesday. I was almost as nervous about the procedure as I was about my caesarian. When I had my three wisdom teeth extracted in Dubai I actually fainted. (Er. It was during the preliminary examination where I nearly garroted myself on the x-ray machine; I think it was due to a critical build-up of anticipation.)

“Probably because you’re attached to your teeth,” offered the dentist by way of explaining the phenomenon (he must have had a few puffs of nitrous oxide between me and his previous patient).

“Um, I’m pretty attached to my uterus as well,” I said.

Then he insisted on fully disclosing how painful the three injections would be. Look, of course it’s going to HURT; I’m about to be stabbed with a needle by a medically qualified sadist; just quit the small talk/foreplay and get on with it already.

As it turned out, the extraction lasted only about six minutes from start to finish. In contrast, the filling he did afterwards took nearly three quarters of an hour.

I wasn’t looking forward to caring for my little man the rest of the day, but in fact he was wonderful apart from occasionally head-butting me in the jaw with deadly precision.

When I related one of these incidents, “Did he cry?” asked Andrew.

“No, but I nearly did.”

Hilariously, after Finn hurls his head into your soft bits, he gets all outraged about his sore cranium. Same when he does it to the floor – especially when we sit around chanting: “Face plant! Face plant!”

I’m trying to teach Finn head-butting is only an appropriate form of expression for the Scots. Since he’s half-Irish he should be practicing knee-capping or perfecting the subtle art of poking peoples’ eyes out with a pointy stick.

Our Tiny Monster is growing so fast. The Plunket Nurse Harpy visited yesterday morning and remarked how sociable he is: all wide smiles, chatting away, solid eye-contact, turning to look at whoever is talking. However, he showed hints of passive-aggressive behaviour when he yarfed down her denim jacket. I’m going to train him to do that on command.

Speaking of bodily fluids – also boogers and poop on the occasions they don’t fall under the ‘fluid’ category – I suppose I could have just gone with ‘bodily fluids and/or solids’ – I remain mesmerized by the size of the bogeys Finn produces from his tiny nostrils. The only possible explanation is they expand when exposed to oxygen.

I always resolved never to be the type of mother who subjected others to her child’s poop, in either descriptive or demonstrative form. I’m about to break that rule, but I’ll make it as euphemistic as possible. Finn has recently taken to detonating what I can only describe as ‘atomic shits’. He usually saves it for when he’s sitting on someone’s knee; I always wince when he emits that delicate little grunt which precedes a violent salvo of squelch. Sometimes I worry he might blow someone’s leg off.

Rather than wiping him down, it’s often easier to fling him in the shower. He loves showering with mum or dad, to the extent that he hasn’t had a bath for weeks. Andrew’s nervous about Finn being so slippery he drops him, but I figure it adds an element of spontaneity. I hold Finn against my shoulder with one hand while I wash him with the other, and he thrusts his head back into the stream until water sluices down his face.

Finn doesn’t cry much any more. I hope this is due to maturity rather than extreme neglect like babies in Romanian orphanages. On the positive side it’s much more peaceful. He still complains, but it’s more along the lines of: “Oh I say, chaps, don’t mean to be a nuisance, but I’m not entirely content – I don’t mean to imply I’m unhappy, as such – frightfully sorry – I’ll just mutter to myself here another while – carry on.”

No I will NOT say 'cheese'

It’s actually pretty easy to dissuade him from grouchiness by giggling at him, or tickling his face with my hair, or simply kissing him vigorously until he gives up. Sometimes I worry he’ll grow up thinking an acceptable way of resolving a dispute with someone is pressing their nose and shouting ‘BEEP!’.

Although I do think world leaders should consider adopting this as a technique for conflict resolution.

Something scary

Finn spooks himself out

Poison berry pie

I wasn’t sure what the berries were, but they were located beside the blueberry bush in the garden, so I figured they probably weren’t closely related to the deadly nightshade of the family Solanaceae. In any case, they were very tasty.

After looking up redcurrant recipes on the Internet – which didn’t take long because there were only two and one of them was for redcurrant jelly – I made a German cake with a lemon-cheesecake style crust and a meringue filling containing the berries.

Andrew pronounced the dessert ‘strange’, but only thought to ask what it was after he’d finished a slice. Unfortunately, instead of confidently asserting: ‘Redcurrant pie. Would you like another helping?’, I made the mistake of saying, ‘Er. Redcurrant pie, I think. I’m not sure. I always thought redcurrants grew in clusters, like vines, but these . . . don’t. Anyway. You finished with that plate?’

Andrew immediately fired up the iPad to confirm the berries were redcurrants. Unfortunately, the pictures on Google Images showed they were clearly not redcurrants; for a while Andrew desperately searched for sufficient evidence to prove they were rowan berries, before he announced they were obviously holly berries and he ‘felt sick’.

Well we were both still alive the following morning – so that was a relief – although Andrew still felt queasy so I advised him to take a Panadol and perhaps not speak for a while.

Now Andrew has the dog pre-taste anything I serve him, believing I’m engaged in a conspiracy to off him, my motivation for which is still unclear. He still refers to it as poison pie, but I subsequently discovered they were cranberries.

In any case, it seems unlikely I’ll make it again.

Special Forces Sleep

We’ve had fabulous weather over the last couple of weeks: gorgeous sunny days with a crispy winter edge. We’ve explored more of the tracks in Herbert Forest, and Husband’s been out fishing with Agent of Death twice. I want to take Finn out in the boat to get him used to sailing, since it would be awful if he ended up with Andrew’s stomach (forcibly ejects contents when a duck paddles past). Her Goatiness is horrified by the prospect, being of the opinion you can’t train a baby to grow a pair of sea-legs.

The Boo turned 12 weeks last Thursday and appears to have grown again overnight – it might have been Monday or Tuesday.

He spends much more time awake now and is generally a happy go lucky little fella, quite content to squirm around his mat, kicking his legs, gnawing his fists, gurgling, chatting away or working out complex algorithms in his head. His pure, gummy grin would make me weep for joy if I didn’t get a grip. When he’s like this, I love his company; there’s nobody else in the world I’d prefer to spend time with.

BUT THEN, in the early evening he turns into Tiny Monster; kind of a miniature version of The Incredible Hulk – only in red. Over the last few days his scream has evolved/mutated into a screech that wilts the plants at the top of the drive. He can occasionally be pacified with dancing, but I just don’t have the energy or, for that matter, the moves or hand-eye coordination.

Furthermore, he had grown accustomed to falling asleep on top of me. When he was younger, I was fairly confident Finn was down if he didn’t wake up within 15 minutes. However, it got to the point where I’d carefully peel him off my shoulder, lower him slooowly into his carry-cot; and even if I managed to avoid whacking him on the hood, his eyes would snap open the moment his head hit the mattress. Then he’d declaim my bitter betrayal at length.

A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to put some shape on Finn’s routine. That sort of carry-on was simply not to be tolerated. What our household needed was discipline, regulations, boundaries, possibly smacking. I’m sure I read somewhere that spanking babies to sleep can be most effective.

I approached the project with confidence: put Finn down when he was still awake, and clearly communicated my expectation that he would fall asleep. Which he did – after crying for an hour and a half.

I know those of the old school of child-rearing basically stored their babies in a box in the fridge, firm in the conviction they were hardening us up – and I admire that. Truly, I will do whatever it takes if I think it is the right thing.

But I can’t reconcile my baby spending that long crying himself to sleep.

I could argue that he was never in any serious distress: the wail never reached a grade above outrage. But then, he was hardly crying from an abundance of glee. And it just . . . doesn’t seem like a nice way to spend an hour and a half. As I can verify, since I spent most of that time in tears myself.

So then I tried the same thing, only I set the oven timer every five minutes and basically sat there nibbling my knuckles and twitching, watching the seconds count down until I’d rush to soothe him: rock his carry-cot, sing to him, pick him up if necessary.

The process took another hour and a half. My son really has remarkable stamina.

Finn having blasted my logic (i.e. tired = sleep), I did some research and decided to try the pick up/put down method championed by The Baby Whisperer Who’s Dead. Although it borders the vicinity of healing-crystals up the yoni, I evidently didn’t have the chops for Special Forces Sleep. Motherhood is teaching me a lot about myself, including that contrary to my own self-image (determined, bitchy, kind of chilling on occasion) I might actually be something of a wuss.

The pick up/put down method involves picking your child up as soon as he cries then, when he stops, lovingly yet firmly returning him to his cot until he falls asleep – the idea being that eventually any horizontal configuration of child results in instant sleep. ‘The first time it might take 30 pick up/put downs’, stated a website.

Well, over the course of an hour I lost count how many times I plucked The Boo out of his cot. It got to the stage where he’d resume crying as soon as I laid him back down; then upon reclining him as much as half a degree; until he was basically roaring all the time.

So that blowed.

We finally reached a compromise, whereby I relaxed and stopped forcing my poor son to sleep, and Finn often does. I’ve learned to read Finn’s cues that he’s tiring. When he starts bitchin’ I flip him onto his stomach; when he head-butts the floor I feed him, check his nappy, then put him down. If he’s still awake after five minutes, I pick him up and cuddle him or, depending what noise he’s making, rock the cot and/or sing him some Neil Diamond. If he’s still grizzling after another five minutes, I recheck his nappy, then return him to his cot. If a final stint fails, Finn wins and I try to be a gracious loser. No, really. I just train harder for the next battle.

It’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’ve felt as if I’m getting a grip on my child and his rhythms.

Apologies for the angle on this video; I took it myself while Finn was on his change table first thing in the morning. However, he frowns at the camera, so I had to hold it off to one side while I distracted him.

Your fly’s down

Finn’s 8-10 week Plunket appointment was this morning.

The Plunket Nurse immediately established a tactical advantage by enquiring whether I needed a breast pad – which I assume is the Plunket equivalent of saying your fly’s down when it’s not. Because I wasn’t leaking.

At least, not much.

When I demurred, she swiftly pressed home the advantage by asking whether I was clinically depressed.

“Who- you mean- ME?”

I actually looked around to see if some lank-haired dead-eyed twitcher had crashed the appointment. I mean: my jeans fit; it was a beautiful day; Finn and I had just strolled through the Oamaru Gardens; I had only a suggestion of dribble in my hair, which was perfectly straight; and just for a change I had remembered to apply mascara to both eyes. Quite frankly, I was positively brimming with bounteous motherhood, the fucking epitome of relaxed, ruddy-faced mental health.

In the face of such a vicious onslaught, perhaps it’s no wonder I let slip that during mealtimes we sometimes placed Finn in his bouncy chair on the dining table.

“I would question the safety aspect of that arrangement,” said Nurse Plunket, menacingly swiveling her steel eye.

Now, being Finn’s mother has opened up whole new avenues of anxiety for me. Sorry; did I say avenues? Make that motorways. I worry about him falling down a well, or becoming allergic to polyester, or being unpopular in school, or doing drugs, or his ears growing disproportionately large. Recently I had a nightmare that he went blind. In summary: I have anxiety covered without the Plunket Nurse’s assistance.

But the LAST THING I worry about is a baby who’s not even aware he has ARMS undoing both clasps on a bouncy chair’s safety harness, then propelling himself up and out and over the side. Or bouncing so energetically that the chair springs past his parents and onto the floor. (That’s the second-last thing.)

And even my imagination does not extend to our solid wood dining table developing a sudden and alarming tilt that defies the bouncy chair’s non-slip grips.

She’ll have to do A LOT better than that to alarm me.

Amateur.

Finn wakes up

Heeey!

 

How YOU doin?

Sharkattack!

This post is about norks.

Specifically mine.

WHAT?

Ok, I grant you this may be unexpected. This is possibly the first post brought to you by the jubblier parts of my anatomy. I’ve always prided myself on being a closet prude (as documented here).

However, IVF strips away much of your modesty, and breastfeeding pretty much sucks away any that remains. You know your personal boundaries have undergone a subtle shift to the region of Albania when you greet the Fastway courier with a funbag flopped out.

In fact, recently I’ve wondered what I’ve been so precious about all these years. There’s nothing special about my norks. They’re round, squishy, kind of furry in the colder months. See? Same as everyone else’s.

So. When I was pregnant, Andrew and I discussed how we would feed our child. Formula? Breast? Throw a few bones into the garden and let him fight it out with the dog?

In the end, the decision was clear: buy a big box of chicken necks and . . . HAHA ONLY JOKING, PLUNKET NURSE! You know: joke? Something said or done to provoke laughter or cause amusement, often culminating in a punchline which is why mine might have confused you? Ok. Sorry. Please don’t alert Child Welfare Services.

No but SERIOUSLY, it seemed willfully irresponsible not to breastfeed Finn. It’s the most nutritious source of food; boosts the immune system; allows the baby to regulate his own supply; and is fully supported by the Ministry of Health and its associated minions.

In fact, the MoH’s informational material was positively inspirational. The promotional DVDs featured joyful women leaping through waves with their infant swinging from a nipple. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, they aggressively stressed. And totally painless if you do it correctly.

Well, you can call this a public service blog post. I’m here to shatter the conspiracy of misinformation.

IT HURTS LIKE A RAW BASTARD.

My first pet name for Finn was ‘Sharkattack!’. He may have had no teeth but could have gnawed through my upper torso with his razor-sharp gums if I didn’t hold him back. I’m not sure why we bother with a bassinet when we could simply affix a silicone tit to the wall and sucker him onto it.

One week old

Also, it didn’t help that within 24 hours of Finn’s birth, I’d had at least five people man-handling my chest (not including baby-handling). These included the anaesthesiologist in the operating theatre – which I can only compare with a tax consultant reaching across his desk to grip you by the boob and give it a rare squeeze while discussing personal wealth and asset planning.

Although there was no doubting the passion, dedication and absolute conviction of the midwives and lactation consultants at Dunedin’s Queen Mary, they all offered conflicting counsel. I was variously advised to latch the baby by gripping him by the shoulders, neck and head (although not all at once). One suggested letting Finn latch himself – “Guiding him to the breast is a mechanical act. After all, you don’t see lambs being attached to a teat with a great big hand.”

She seemed unmoved when I pointed out that sheep weren’t equipped with hands.

One lactation consultant had transformed vagueness into an art form and stood by my bedside twitching and wincing as I practiced putting whichever hand it was somewhere and waiting until ooh- aah- the baby sort of oohaah- yes- no- that’s not right- um.

Here’s the low-down: unless you routinely engage in sex play relying heavily on nipple-clamps, chances are breastfeeding will hurt for the first few weeks. Frankly, I think it’s immensely disrespectful to women to pretend otherwise.

Instead of the relentlessly positive propaganda, I would like to have been trusted to make the right choice for Finn and me in the face of the horrifying truth. Despite the blood and shreds of tissue, I’ve always been aware how incredibly special it is to be able to nourish my baby.

Painfully aware, even.

And I’d rather have been prepared for it, rather than wondering whether there was something wrong with Finn and me.

Finn at five weeks. ONLY KIDDING ABOUT THE DOG TOWEL, PLUNKET NURSE!

Bonding stratagems

I’m still amazed by what people feel inclined to – let’s call it ‘share’ – when they discover I’m pregnant.

I’ve had the stranger who, after asking how far gone I was, told me she had a miscarriage at that stage. The efficacy of this bonding strategem is limited by one of the parties battling the near-uncontrollable urge to reach into the adjacent deep-freeze, seize a family-size pack of frozen cauliflower and apply it forcefully to her face.

Then there are those who elevate the horror to a whole new level upon finding out you also have a dog, when they remember their sister’s neighbour’s plumber who read an article in an old Woman’s Weekly about a family corgi who gnawed a baby’s face off. The denoument of this variation of story – because I’ve heard at least two versions of it – is dramatic, along the lines of: “No warning- this dog was just the gentlest, most placid- used to bath the kid- but now the baby, IT HAS NO FACE!” 

I’m not sure what appals me more: the poor, faceless baby; the faithful family pet being euthanised; or the gross irresponsibility of parents who a) leave their dog unsupervised with their child and b) haven’t trained their baby not to eat out of the dog’s bowl.

Last week there was the real estate agent who, upon showing us an old-fashioned water burner, felt compelled to inform us how many babies used to fall into them and DIE. Tiny, unformed lives snuffed out in the blink of an eye. Happened all the time, apparently. She knew of at least one soft-boiled baby.

I’m not sure what the appropriate response to these social gambits are. How about, “Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I go into my bathroom and lock the door and cut myself with a sawn-off shampoo bottle. Then I curl up on the floor and cry uncontrollably. Anyway, nice meeting you”? Or, “Oh my, you’re right: that IS an impressive cluster of hemorrhoids. Indeed no, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. GOODBYE”?

In a devastating and frankly brilliant parting shot, she advised me to look up ‘perineal massage’ on Google. I resisted as long as I could but in the end I was macabrely compelled, like being unable to look away from a car crash or videos of tsunamis on YouTube. Here, for the stout of heart and stomach, is a description of perineal massage; there’s a picture; oh my sweet baby cheeses there’s even a video (thankfully featuring no free radical fanny flaps).

Some sites recommend you get your partner to massage your perineum, suggesting it reinforces love and closeness. Well, I don’t need Husband THAT close to feel The Love. In fact, in our relationship the intensity of love is directly proportional to physical distance within an optimal limit (in the region of 100m). Although it might be worth asking Andrew for a perineal massage just for the look on his face – or, more likely, the confusion that would ensue. I might get a nice head rub.

My favourite one came from the man who told me, shortly after my pregnancy was confirmed, about someone he knew whose wife delivered a still-born baby, strangled by the umbilical cord. It’s difficult to imagine anything more personally heartrending; I just about wept when I heard it.

After WTF, you might ask who – I mean to say – WHO – or even WHAT TYPE OF PERSON would tell such a story to a pregnant woman?

Yes, well, that would be MY HUSBAND.

Making pregnant women cry since 2011

Husband: What’s wrong?”

Me: You made your pregnant wife cry.

Husband: What? I- but- I didn’t even notice!

Me: Thirteen years together and you STILL can’t tell when I’m crying? It’s not that hard, you know. It’s quite distinctive: tears, snot, sniffles, bit of wailing.

Husband: But- when?

Me: Five minutes ago! I was on the sofa, you were- saying stuff.

Husband: What did I say?

Me: It doesn’t matter! I’m PREGNANT! I have HORMONES! I cry at the tremble of a leaf! What you said- that’s not the point! The POINT is that I was CRYING-

Husband: Aw, sweetie!

Me: And you didn’t come over and give me a cuddle. Personally, I think that’s pretty shabby behaviour-

Husband: Well, I suppose-

Me: And I really think you need to smarten up your act.

Husband: Fair enough. I’ll start on it right away.

Dose of trigger finger

It is wonderful being home again, despite the lavishly wet display the weather has put on since we arrived. It’s also terrific having Husband back after over a month. Eh, suppose I must like him.

Of course, after a weeks’ intense, touching reunion, we’re about due to have an absolute crockery-endangering rip-snorter of an argument. It’s a pattern; usually prompted by Andrew’s asking whether I have fed the dog, and my responding, “Well who the <expletive deleted> do you think fed the <expletive deleted> dog all last month? HMM?”

(In this particular instance the answer would in fact be Agent of Death, who fed Jed with the other farm dogs, but no matter. I’m feeling twitchy. Especially after a week of Andrew’s nocturnal duvet-rustling raids.)

The weather forecast for the weekend was uninspiring, but when Friday dawned beautiful and sunny we decided to go fishing. Ken Ring’s fishing calendar predicted ‘very good’ fishing for 1pm.

I’m somewhat ashamed of our reliance on Ken’s Ring, since it rather undermines my opinion that he’s a dodgy chancer. However, it is comforting to know that Andrew and I will always bond over a primary, borderline chartered-accountant level sense of humour – and, well, Ken’s Ring Hurhurhur hasn’t been wrong yet. The alternative is that we’re gifted anglers with a feeling for fish – and actually I have more faith in Ken.

We made our way to the Point, stuffed the dog in the prow of the boat, and while Andrew fiddled with his rod, I baited my hook and unspooled the hand-line. The weight had barely hit the bottom, when the line tugged.

At first I thought it was an aggressive piece of seaweed; but then it yanked violently.

“Bite!” I roared, trying to wind the line onto the hand-caster. “Ooh, it’s a big one. Oh no- has it got off? Yeow! No! Woah!”

My prey seemed to alternate between fighting like a kraken possessed, and swimming towards the light. My arms had the pulling power of spaghetti by the time the fish broke the surface – and he was HUGE.

“What the fuck IS it?” I gasped.

“Get it in the boat!”

“I CAN’T!”

So Andrew hauled it in. “I think it’s a groper,” he said. “But that’s not . . . they don’t . . . it’s impossible.”

Port Underwood is not renowned for its swarming shoals of groper.

“Why don’t you just call The Sheriff?” I said, as Andrew looked up pictures of groper on the phone, along with the Ministry of Fisheries website to determine the legal size for groper in this area. “I mean, as long as it’s not a kingfish, it’s well above the legal limit for anything else. Isn’t it?” It was 65cm.

Eventually, while Andrew was distracted admiring pictures of moki, I hijacked his phone and called The Sheriff myself. He issued a staccato burst of technical questions – ‘Does it have whiskers out its chin? / Does it have a big mouth? / What size are its gills?’ – it had a huge gob, protruding eyes and was kinda scaly. The Sheriff was of the opinion that, however unlikely, it sounded like a groper pup.

Ok so it looks smaller in the photo.

Andrew cut it into steaks; I rubbed one with Cajun seasoning, dribbled over some oil and lime juice, and baked it for 20 minutes the other night – I would highly recommend it.

The following day, flocks of seagulls wheeled just above the surface of the sea, so we went trolling for kahawai. We had to whack them away with a stick; Andrew resorted to casting off from the stationary boat. At one point, there were three kahawai after the lure as he reeled it in.

We donated three to The Hostess with the Mostest and The Mustachioed Muchacho, and two to The Sheriff and Bunqueen. In return, The Mustachioed Muchacho gave us his top-secret recipe for smoking kahawai, and we now have a stack of it in the fridge.

Dinner this evening was fish pie with smoked kahawai, groper, blue cod and mussels – mmm.

Decorate with dead pigeons

Official duck shooting season commenced yesterday.

The big party to celebrate the opening of duck shooting season was planned for weeks.

The Swine House was decorated with wooden decoys, bales of hay, three dead pigeons (tastefully arranged), a life-size portrait of Daffy Duck and a bushy mai-mai in the corner. There were to be games: Duck Idol, a duck and spoon race, pin the tail on the duck, musical ducks and a duck chucking contest.

Agent of Death had a lamb, a salmon and leg of ham for the barbeque. There were three coolboxes full of wine, spirits and mixers to facilitate interest in the games.

So it was a real shame nobody turned up apart from The Warrior who wasn’t even invited.

In fairness, it had been raining rhinos and witches all afternoon. The Swine House paddock was a quagmire. In fact, ‘quagmire’ doesn’t fully describe the shifting, crawling mess of mud, which – if you stared at it after a couple of vodkas – appeared to advance menacingly in waves.

Being Irish, I wasn’t going to be put off by a touch of inclemency – which in any case was more than compensated for by lashings of alcohol. In case you’re ever invited to the Swine House, appropriate party wear is woolly socks, reliable jackets and extreme beanies rather than stilettos and body glitter.

I attempted to kick off the evening with a vodka & orange, but got off to a shaky start when I mistook Agent of Death’s ham glaze for orange juice. My stepfather in law was so preoccupied laughing – or choking on a lamb shank, it wasn’t certain which – I nearly succeeded in throwing out his glaze in disgust. Agent of Death saved it at the line with a last-dash tackle.

At 8pm, the gathering consisted of the family, Paul, the Kardashian Twins, Barry and his ADHD sons, The Warrior and a couple of his infested friends – enough to stage Duck Idol. Her Goatiness, Florrie and I judged the duck-calling. I don’t know about anyone else, but we had a blast:

“In all my years on the duck scene, I’ve never heard anything so shit. It sounded like the wicked duck of the west. I’m afraid it’s a ‘no’ from me.”

“There’s no doubting your enthusiasm, but you need to project from the diaphragm, not the sphincter. No.”

“You think you can come on here with your skimpy outfit and wiggle your tits around, but here at Duck Idol we’re looking for more. I’m going to vote ‘no’.”

“There’s no doubting your technique, but I just didn’t feel the emotion. To be honest, I just don’t think you’re hungry enough to win this competition.”

As it turns out, Husband demonstrated an extraordinary, previously unsuspected talent for duck calling. His performance was a startlingly original portrayal of a duck-hunter on the edge, a man driven to desperate measures. In a dramatic twist at the end, he mimed fending off a savage duck attack. It was a poignant and heartfelt blend of yearning, urgency and drunkenness.

There was no nepotism involved in my granting him my only ‘yes’ of the competition, and it was no surprise (to me) when he swept aside his competition to win Duck Idol 2011. He was so caught up in his victory that he sprayed his cheering fans with beer, thankfully direct from the bottle.

Agent of Death sulked because he only won a consolation prize.

The duck chucking competition was carnage: feathers, blood and lice everywhere. The kids came in handy for retrieving the ducks in the rain. Husband duct-taped his duck, but in the event it didn’t provide any superior aerodynamic advantage. Paul somehow flung a duck onto the Swine House roof. Gary pulled the head off his.

I left around about the time the dead pigeons looked like they were about to come to life and terrifyingly peck at my eyeballs.

Official fish inspection

Up until recently, I was convinced the waters of Port Underwood were the aquatic equivalent of an arid wasteland. Absolutely swimming with kelpie – but technically they’re more vegetable than fish.

Last weekend, Husband deemed conditions ‘ideal’ for fishing. Well, he says that every time, but the signs were good: it was on the turn of low tide, there was a gentle swell and visibility was good.

Still, I brought my book.

Which is probably why WE CAUGHT FISH! You know, in the same way as ensuring fine weather by packing an umbrella, or minty fresh breath by sucking on a haddock.

See, I don’t understand where that analogy went so wrong.

We caught a terakihi and four blue cod, returning seven that were only 1-2 cm shorter than the legal limit of 33cm.

When I say ‘we’, I do of course mean me. I catch more fish than Andrew because I bait the hook with chunks of finger, which appears more tempting than squid. Also, I practice a form of psychic fishing which involves visualizing the fish trundling around the sea bed and willing them to impale themselves on the hook. It is frankly uncanny the number of fish I hook through an eyeball or gill or the tail. 

Four blue cod and one terakihi

 

Jed inspects the catch

 

When we got home, I called my stepfather-in-law in a high state of excitement to grill him on how to grill a terakihi.

“How big’s it?” he growled.

“Around 29.2cm.”

“Fish that small, bake it whole with salt and pepper and some bloody ginger,” he said and hung up before I could retort, “SMALL? I’m sure it wouldn’t feel that small if you shoved it up your arse, Fishboy.”

I’m so totally lying. I’d never say that to Agent of Death, not even on the phone.

Four days later, Agent of Death went fishing off Oamaru and, in the space of two hours, caught 40 blue cod and 20 sturgeon or something.

Yeah well ah, you know, I’m more interested in quality not quantity.

HIS HAIR IS A BISCUIT!!

Inspiration

This has pretty much directed the course of my day:

(I invite you to note the tear-off strips.)

Armadillo knees

Solartap:  How are you?

Me:  Great! I’m wearing a wetsuit with armadillo knees.

Solartap:  Armadillo . . . knees? Is that a . . . what is that?

Me:  You might call it the cutting edge of seventies neoprene technology.

Solartap: Huh?

Me:  Yeah, the knees are, like, they have WINGS. You probably need to see it to get the full effect.

Solartap:  For ease of movement?

Me:  Not that you’d notice. I think maybe it’s some kind of retro fashion statement. It’s about thirty years old.

Solartap: Why are you wearing a wetsuit that’s thirty years old?

Me:  It has no arms. I’m going to try it out for swimming. Used to belong to Andrew-

Solartap: When he was EIGHT?

Me: More like fifteen.

Solartap: Thirty years ago he would’ve-

Me:  I was rounding up. Jeez.

Solartap: So you can fit into a wetsuit that fit a teenage boy. What does that say about you?

Me:  Nothing. I think it says more about the sagging nature of neoprene over time.

Public Service Announcement

For some time I’ve been struggling with existential questions. What is Deadlyjelly? Why? Is it really deadly? I mean, has anyone ACTUALLY died from reading my blog? – because if so, I’ve certainly never heard of it. And whither jelly? Why doesn’t it come in black and white? Should the definition be expanded to include other substances?

As you can see: so many unanswered questions.

Before I set up Deadlyjelly, I regularly – or at least frequently occasionally – personalised and mass-mailed up to 40 emails to friends and family. The administrative overhead was considerable. The coffee consumption was excessive. The arse spread was cheekily encroaching.

Consequently I conceived Deadlyjelly as a means of streamlining my correspondence.

To that purpose, it has failed. Of the relationships that previously existed when I set up Deadlyjelly, the only one that’s improved has been with my computer. As a communication tool, blogging is passive and largely one-way. People are more inclined to respond to an email that’s clogging up their Inbox like a gently steaming turd. I don’t have the bandwidth – either figuratively or literally – to blog and email (which kind of defeats the purpose anyway); and I’ve never embraced the concept of announcing a new blog post, which feels like advertising.

The result is that I’ve lost touch with many of my old friends – and I miss them*.

But that’s not all. Due to its public nature, I don’t blog about what’s really going on in our lives: the family feuds, the scandals, the disease and accidental murders. My blog sucks up a lot of creative energy that should be directed elsewhere. And Deadlyjelly has had little to no impact on arse spread**.

And so Deadlyjelly is going to change. Only in the regularity of posting, although I suppose that’s fairly fundamental. From now on, I will limit my posts to every Sunday, unless our week has been particularly action-packed, or Jed’s feeling photogenic.
* While being amazed and grateful for the new friends Deadlyjelly has introduced over the years.

** Still haven’t resigned myself to the inevitability of arse spread.

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