I am having a Sally Field moment.
Not from Brothers & Sisters – that show where they must get a family discount for Botox and facelifts. I only watch the first five minutes of the show on a Monday night, after my Desperate Housewives fix which I watch to reassure myself that I am better mother than Gabrielle; well most of the time. If I came from a family as crazy as that on Brothers & Sisters I would have sought family emancipation a long time ago. As far as I can tell, Calsita Flockheart peaked at Ally McBeal, Sally Field hit her heights as the Flying Nun and Rob Lowe was as good as he gets in that home porno movie I never worked out how to download but saw on my mum’s PC. Gross.
I did love the Flying Nun. Sally was cute as a plastic button as Gidget but she was Oscars material as Sister Bertrille. I always loved a bit of the wimpled wonder woman on a wet Wednesday afternoon; her’s was one of the two habits my six year old self couldn’t kick; the other habit was “fags” lollies, five cents of kid friendly cigarette shaped sweeties. I sat in front of the TV, play smoking and wishing for the romance to flare between the novice nun and the dashing racing car driving Latin playboy Carlos Ramirez. But her vow to Jesus always got in the way, that kill joy!
No I’ve been reliving the Sally Field “You really like me” moment that made the world barf in syncronicity at the Oscars in 1984. She got the best actress gong for Places in My Heart, though I think the Academy was making up for overlooking her close to stellar performance as the Flying Nun. Sally bawled when she realised she actually had more than a toe hold in the Chilean-style firmanent that is Hollywood. My own “you really like me” moment arrived when I got more than one comment welcoming back the Bondi Blonde. Yippee. My sabattical from making sanity of my life via my blog has gone noticed by at least three people on the planet. Wow, not an Oscar sized vote of support, but the Bondi Blonde beggar can’t be too choosy in finding her affirmations!
So thanks for that.
The Bondi Blonde is back. I’ve had six months on holidays from my blog. Soo much has happened. I got married, pregnant, found the meaning of life and a 67 calorie chocolate snack that really tastes like chocolate.
The last is true.
I put on two kilos and lived a life like everyone else! School, dentists, work and a fair bit of fun.
I have made a decision. The Bondi Blonde is staying in Bondi. I had the chance to move uphill, closer to where the rich people are in Bellevue Hill. I went to an open for inspection to a lovely renovator’s delight. The flat was fine, but it smelt. Of smug people who had arrived, via the polo. I was slapped on the back by three people I knew. My urge to slap back made my hand itch.
I scarpered back down the hill, back to Bondi’s back streets, glad to be among the backpackers and beachgoers of my neighbourhood.
My kids are getting older. Darcy, 10 is using my deodorant. Rafferty, 8 is using my mascara. Hmmmm.
I am getting wiser. Maybe.
Let my story continue….
One more sleep and I’ll be moving out of Casa Grande, my fancy home with an aspirational address.
It’s the end of my world as I know it, particularly:
- Having to buzz in my friends via an intercom.
- Watching in grainy black and white video the charity collectors, debt collectors and the ex-partner who buzz repeatedly, ineffectually for access to this Rapunzel fortress.
- Having a bigger home than most of my friends.
- Sharing the dining room every 25 December with the ghosts of Christmas’ past when I believed that it was a stable family home.
- Sleepless nights working out how soon this bricks and mortar asset could prop up my perilous financial ruin. For while the wolf may have to buzz to get to the door, he was getting uncomfortably close to jumping the fence instead.
- Waiting for the dust to settle, the coast to clear, the lawyers to feed and for the house to sell.
- Being endlessly patient while the adrenalin kept pumping, telling me to run, run, run, get the hell away.
And, for me, it’s the end of a major life chapter. The marriage chapter. It’s after the “happily ever after” fairytale, and to my surprise it’s not so Grimm after all. I am happy, though my prince did come along, turning into a frog.
It’s Spring, and I’m getting a newer, smaller, cheaper house. I’m moving down in the world, but I’m paying the bills. I’ve disposed of the too-big pieces of furniture via auction. They’ll go to clot up the arterial hallways and living rooms of some other impressive show house. The auction money will go towards a puppy for the kids and an all-inclusive holiday on a mid-market cruise ship for us all.
Now, thinking it through, the big question that I have skirted recently is…. am I happy to be divorced? Obviously, if you consider the children the answer has to be “no”. Our family life was mostly sunny with limited cloudy patches of parental conflict. And even though it was effectively a single parent family a whole heap of the time, there were moments of sunshine, completeness and unquestionable security that only a nuclear family can provide. A functional unit of mum, dad and the kids is what most of us were raised to aspire to, even before the Howard years. And while it was there, it was great. But that’s over now and though I miss my kids every second of every second weekend away, these days with daddy do allow me to guiltlessly finish work, meet friends, drink coffee, read newspapers and sleep….
Exiting the relationship was as hard as you’d expect, though the wash up of pain is way past the high tide mark now, two years on. There are still lots of jagged flotsam of conflict still floating dangerously around, but, for the most part, I’ve moved comfortably on from being a very tarnished trophy wife to becoming a working single mum. I haven’t had too many slugs of gin or Botox on the way or had bigger, firmer breasts implanted, so I have survived more or less intact.
And I do admit that moving on has had its pluses. I feel a bit like George Lucas must have when he had his “Eureka” moment and realised that there was more life in the Star Wars franchise, even after the story had ended and the key protagonists were dead. I’ve realised that you just add more chapters to the book.
Divorce has added at least one new chapter to my life. Rather than slipping into comfortable middle-youth, busy with soccer, tuckshop, part-time, school friendly McWork, and continuing to support the primary breadwinner in all facets of the support he required, I now have simplified it all to – me and the kids first and all the rest after. If I don’t want to cook for me, I don’t. I hate ironing. I don’t do it. I have failed at being a wife, so I am quite happy to drop all the silly stuff that Homemaking 101 involved. The kids are doing well in school, sport, music, friends, and life. Me too.
I have, to my surprise, found it relatively easy to find real, clever work that uses my mind without exploiting my time. I dress nicely and talk with authority to busy, successful people who don’t seem to mind paying for my skills, as nascent as I fear they are. I haven’t really allowed myself too much self doubt, as this is a luxury I simply can’t afford. I need the money that flows to confident people way too much.
Put simply, if my life was a Mills and Boon novel, rather than being 192 pages long (which every single Mills and Boon novel is), I’d have to add at least another 50 pages. For the new work, opportunities, conflicts (surmountable) and…. romance? Another happily ever after?
Not wanting to get too far ahead of myself here, and, as moving requires all sorts of lists of installations, disconnections, floor plans and redirections, here’s a list of the things I am most looking forward to in the next few weeks:
- Making my bed with clean sheets and sleeping under the roof of my new home.
- Using the clothes line for sun-crisped clothes, as I only had a dryer in my old house.
- Finding a good local coffee shop.
- Having our first family barbecue.
- Getting the post, addressed to my maiden name at my new address.
- Planting basil, poppies, coriander and mint in a little garden bed.
- Drinking a glass of good champagne on the balcony, hopefully accompanied by the good wishes of friends and the chirping of cicadas.
- Having my children sleeping with the new puppy at the foot of their bed, while I make plans at the kitchen table for our new life chapter, cheaper, stronger, forward focussed, happy.
- Saying hello to friendly neighbours.
- Saying goodbye to this house and this too-long chapter.
I looked at lyrics and poems about moving out to include in this post. And sorry that I haven’t written in such a long time. After a big think, I’ve decided to take the Bondi Blonde with me to the next bit rather than pack her away with the St Vinnie’s box of crockery, bad prints and slightly torn children’s books. So she’ll be around for quite a bit yet, I think.
And she’ll have new tales of derring do and derring don’ts as well. I’m still Blonde, still standing, still prevaricating from packing and still writing silly stuff about my happily inconsequential life.
Bye-bye Casa Grande, I hope that your new owners have all the riches that are needed to keep you pretty Just the Way you Are with enough left over to keep them happy too! So while I am in a retro mood, let’s end on another Billy Joel moment:
“And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out!”
Unlike Australian ex-PM John Howard, I have no problem saying this five letter word. In fact, it’s usually quite a handy phrase as I often mutter it after doing something I illicitly enjoyed. Sorry for eating the last of the chocolate that I know you like. Sorry for taking that parking space, I didn’t see you waiting for it too. Sorry for parking my trolley in the queue at the supermarket, claiming my spot while continuing to shop, collecting ice cream and salt. So, sorry for not writing sooner.
My excuse is that the Bondi Blonde has been contemplating moving house. So among the packed boxes and lost hours poring over photos on me in shoulder pads, smiling out of a pre-kid corporate scene from decades past, I have not really known what to write. I am scared of the future and am tired of analysing the past, so stay paralysed in the present, waiting for a lucky roll of the dice as my house going to auction sometime soon. I am caught in a sticky web of real estate agents’ imprecise promises, and am trying to control too many unknowns while keeping my house as immaculate, impersonal and as aspirationally welcoming as a five-star hotel.
The double brick facade and mortar of this place have been the safe harbour for my children and me since they came into the world and, five days later, home.
Two years ago my ex-husband swiftly exited in a whiff of another woman’s perfume, crunched uncomfortably with his suitcases in the front of her two seated sports car while I was doing pre-school and school drop offs. I returned to an empty walk in wardrobe, coat hangers swinging in the space where suits and ties had dominated in shades of navy blue and dark grey. After a while, I filled the space with a new, feminine wardrobe of pale silks and lots of different sexy black dresses (black looks good on a Blonde, so I overinvested in that investment dressing option). My bedroom and its closets were gayer (in the old-fashioned meaning of the word) than they had been in years. The smell of cedar balls and aftershave were replaced with sprays of lavender and the perfume that I acquired, bottle by bottle, filling my shelves with glittering, happy glass and silver baubles; declarations of my sensual survival.
I have always been ambivalent about the family home. It is posher than me. It makes an impression that I don’t agree with and says something about the owner that doesn’t fit well with my self-image. It was always my husband’s home, which I dutifully filled with overstuffed reproduction furniture and relentlessly average art, well behaved oils of humourless places. Unsure of how to fill the space and bringing a Freedom sofa and a dog from our previous lives as working stiffs, we hired an expensive interior decorator that I felt deplored my natural taste and was in tacit agreement with my husband on how to fill a serious house, seriously. I was a well behaved wife who had given up my middle ranking PR job to pop and raise the brats while my husband’s banking job went into the stratosphere of prestige and payment; I felt that agreeing to live with furniture that was more adult than I had ever felt was the polite thing to do.
We had bought the fancy house after his first big bonus cheque arrived with lots and lots of zeros. The amount, factual and cleanly typed, wasn’t a dream. But it was more lottery win than income. It was more than my dad or my husband’s dad had earned in a decade of work, including weekend overtime. The bank cheque declared that we had arrived into the good life, so we dutifully bought a house that kicked over the traces of our working class pasts.
My husband was anointed king of the garden while I managed the house’s domestic routine. We built a garden that was formal, green and free of birds due to the lack of flowering plants that were planted. It was elegant and was kept free of weeds by my husband’s diligence with the Round-Up and his hand picking of weeds on Sunday afternoons, removing clover while talking on conference calls to New York, Mumbai and London on his mobile phone.
After he left the family home, moving into his girlfriend’s courtyard flat, I ignored the garden for ages. Weeds grew. Children kicked balls that were quickly lost in the long grass. Flowers that were really flowering weeds happily took root. One afternoon, searching for a football, my son found a four leaf clover among the many that, finally, prospered. Last summer, a kookaburra visited us almost daily. My garden had become a haven for lizards, especially skinks. Spiders laced the overgrown lillipillis together with skeins of web, glistening silver with sunlight and dew every morning.
By March, dividing the spoils of war that my marriage had become had been finalised. The house had to be sold so we could move forward as two, independent family units.
I called a gardener I found on-line. He surveyed the small urban jungle that my once pristine green square had become, scratched his head, applied his sunscreen and set to work. I hurriedly cut the flowers from the camellias before they were reshaped into acceptably straight hedges. As the afternoon wore on, the smell of cut grass filled the house, wet, earthy and metallic, as the mower ploughed through the unkempt lawn.
At 3:00 p.m. I went to pick up my children from school. When we arrived home, the gardener was finishing his day. His labour had returned the lawn to a pristine square, not the ragged tangle of weeds it had relaxed into. There were many brown patches where the grasses had grown too long, but the gardener told me that the green would return as long as I continued a regular maintenance programme. He said goodbye, though he would return tomorrow to continue the hedging.
In the corner of the lawn lay a pile of balls. An old rugby ball, three soccer balls, eight tennis balls, grey rather than the lime green they had been when they were first lost in the grass, and fifteen other balls. They had been swallowed up in the past few years, absorbed by the hedges and overgrown playing field. My eldest son picked up a plastic cricket bat that lay beside the balls. We all played cricket into the late afternoon, loosing most of the balls back into the hedges, ignoring homework and enjoying our lawn again until it was time for dinner.
So, sorry again from the currently located-at-Bondi Blonde for not writing sooner. Communication has recommenced, though I am not sure where it will be from, maybe I’ll be the Bellevue Hill Blonde or the Beecroft Blonde, though I don’t think either of those addresses will suit me quite so well.
It’s just past midnight. I have turned into a pumpkin.
Round, solid cushion-shaped bottom? Check.
Yellowish flesh, veering to orange? Check (must improve my brand of fake tan).
And flesh that no one seems to find tasty tonight, preferring the delights of lighter, more svelte and exotic varieties? Hmm check.
Friday night and the Bondi blonde is tipping typing away, the brats squall against her eardrums finally relenting at 9:00 p.m. I had had a date arranged, a third with Ricky, a decent enough guy with a job, a car and everything.
I had been playing it cool. I hadn’t called him, I hadn’t been available for the first date he suggested and I hadn’t invited him to become a Facebook friend. I was playing hard to get, following The Rules of Dating assiduously. I was dressed to the nines at 6:45 p.m. for a 7:00 p.m. date when I received a text from Ricky detailing in gory detail the effects he was suffering from a dodgy prawn he’d eaten the previous night. His close encounters with the crustacean had meant that he’d not gotten far from away from the toilet for the whole day. A trip with me to see “He’s just not that into you” was not on Ricky’s agenda.
So quietly alone on this night which was being painted all manners of scarlet, maroon and rich ruby red by others, I confronted an itch I just need to scratch. Well three itches:
- Nits. Again. My head is currently covered in the latest whizz bang guaranteed to work nit killer. I smell like something a koala would find luscious (native tree oil being the latest, greatest killer of bitey varmints). I am in danger of exploding if I get too close to an open flame. I scratch like merry hell and am reminded of my childhood blonde Labrador that used to scratch like merry hell when she was infested with fleas. She was sloppily adorable, neutered and had an incontinence problem when she barked. On relentlessly hot and boring Gympie afternoons we got our kicks dressing the bitch in mum’s clothes, adding a bit of lipstick now and then.
- A desire to be desired and to become horizontal with another. Preferably with Brad Pitt – or anyone really with an arm pit hairier than mine (most straight men). I’ve been ignoring these lustful thoughts for a while. I keep on telling myself: love not lust, meet his friends before the thrust. But this moral high ground, while having wonderfully haughty views, is truth be told, damn boring. And cold. And lonely. Since I’ve cried off internet dating after too much crying after internet dating, my chances of being naughty have been nought. I had been playing it cool with Ricky and seedy bars still abound but I don’t like the seeds that scatter there; you till and water and coax and you still end up with damn weeds. My explorations in all the right, left and centre places have earned me a wonderful selection of new girlfriends to have coffee, a drink or a wonderful chat with. Fan-fuckingless-tastic. At this rate I’ll consider lesbianism as an option as I attract women like the aforementioned Brad Pitt. But till now I’ve sublimated this second, persistent itch into itch number 3:
- A ravenous appetite for crappy food when I should be: a. Meditating b. Organising my life into a semblance of rigour by doing a budget and a life plan or something equally destined to remain un-done or c. Sleeping.No, I have an evening job. Eating all matters of thing chocolate! I made a pact soon after losing a handy five kilograms after my divorce and a bad case of food poisoning to decry all manner of tasty treats tempting me away from sexy sized 10 to comfortable size 12. I was Sampson fighting the many headed monster of Lindt chocolate varieties, usually winning. Any new Tim Tam launched in a flurry of crunchy choc pieces or exotic variety of Kit Kat (cookies and cream anyone?) never, ever passed my lips. Until that fateful night of sole on the sofa TV viewing when a skinny bint introduced the Trojan Horse of Special K with chocolate flakes – “only 150 calories a serve; a late night treat that won’t make you feel guilty.” Lying Delilah. There’s 10 serves in a box and a box lasted me two nights. 750 fucking calories. Or really, no fucking so 750 calories of substitute binge eating. After days of rigorous dieting my nighttimes consisted of choking on chocolate coated cardboard flakes.
Just between you and me and please don’t tell, but tonight I was a bad parent. At 10:20 p.m. I checked on the chilluns, regrouping their fearsome energy for tomorrow’s destruction. Their innocent faces were blank and gentle with no memory imprint of their earlier mischief, only a teddy hanging from my best belt and tied to the gently rotating ceiling fan was evidence of the earlier bedtime tribulations. Downstairs their Keith Haring inspired art work on my living room walls lay in shadows and I had rinsed and cleaned my Tupperware Hostess gift cake tin which had housed the world’s biggest collection of stink bugs in captivity (well they were all dead) for two weeks. I had found the bugs in my relentless search for chocolate after finishing the last crumbs of flakes of Special K.
There was at least two hours till bed time and my itches needed attention, particularly numbers two and three. Number two had to be ignored, so my need to feed was even more acute.
A short trip to the local 7/11 store wouldn’t be too bad now, would it? I could be there and back in 10 minutes, mission accomplished and back on the sofa pigging out on a newly unwrapped Cherry Ripe, while watching another horrendous UK TV murder most horrid T.V. show.
I examined what might happen in my absence.
House burn down? Not likely and I had changed the smoke alarms batteries sometime recently.
Kids wake up and find me gone? Not with the amount of “cough medicine” I had poured down their throat to stop their wheezing and lead them quite firmly into the land of slumber.
Miss finding out who killed the old codger in Midsomer Murders? Another old codger, I’d hazard a guess.
So on with my old grey hooded jumper hiding my nit shampooed head and partly concealing my bunny print pyjamas; I was transformed into a kind of Wonder Woman wanting Willy Wonkas. I burned rubber exiting the garage and made it to the grocery store in less than three minutes, my Volvo filling the empty local street with a fug of oil fumes.
I stood and surveyed the cornucopia of calories. So many choices…. I slipped a Twix, nabbed a nut bar, violently veered towards the Violet Crumbles. Venturing towards the chilled food section I magnanimously left the last Magnum for the drunk guy who was making his third attempt at opening the cabinet of ice creamery delights. One last grab of two litres of Diet Coke and a copy of Hello magazine completed my late night sugary rush. I made my way to the till as I heard the electronic entrance door slide open behind me and heard a giggle and a deeper laugh in response. I ignored the noise of the Friday night lovers and dumped my guilty pile on the counter, under the accusing glare of the low voltage fluorescents which bathed the store in a sickly yellow light.
The shop assistant wore a chirpy badge with the name “Madge”, pinned on an angle above her right breast. Madge proceeded to ignore me for the next 154 seconds, giving all her attention to the person at the other end of her mobile phone conversation while distractedly picking a pimple conveniently located at the end of her nose. I cleared my throat, thinking of my kids either burning in bed or drowning in vomit from perhaps a few too many millilitres of enthusiastically administered Dimetapp. I cleared again as the lovers quickly completed their selection and stood quietly together behind me. Madge still ignored me, but moved closer to my pile of saturated fat, cocoa solids, aspartame and saccharine stories and proceeded to scan each piece, dropping it into a non-recyclable plastic bag printed with “we never close”.
I handed over a sticky twenty dollar bill, grabbed my luscious loot and change and turned fast, slap bang into the couple waiting patiently behind me.
I knocked the pretty, skinny and big breasted strawberry blonde straight into the display of Nutrigrain breakfast cereal, sending pictures of Tony Grieg, Matthew Hayden and other “cereal sporting ambassadors” for a six across the black and white chequer board linoleum. Only the quick reflexes of her dedicated beau saved the maiden from a distressing arse-over onto the floor.
Her Prince Charming and I did a double take of sickly recognition.
Ricky had miraculously recovered from the attack of the killer prawn and here he was, risen from the almost dead, clutching a pack of “for her enjoyment” condoms and two litres of low fat milk.
There wasn’t anything to say. I held my eucalyptus scented head high under my hoodie, hitched up my bunny print pyjamas pants, and walked out of the shop and into the chill of the night. Stuff Cinderella, I thought, I need a new role model.
Inspiration. I thought of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
Flouncing, I made my way to the bin, chucking the chocolate hoard away, though salvaging the Hello magazine at the last minute. Scarlett was never defeated by what life threw at her. When she got lemons, she made lemonade; when she needed a dress, she pulled down the curtains and snipped away; when life or a relationship fractured, she fixed it as best she could and moved on.
I felt my resilience kick in and I jumped into my Volvo and sped back to Casa Crappy, racing upstairs to kiss my children, safe and thankfully still breathing unassisted; they are my harbours of joy and calm in my sometimes stormy life.
But now I have to go to bed. I have to get up early. For tomorrow is another day. And it’s going to be a cracker.
“A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones.”
Roald Dahl wrote this at the beginning of his autobiography, Going Solo, a book of remembrance from his time as a fighter pilot and as a member of the Glorious British Commonwealth. At 21 he was living like a king in Dar es Salaam in oil rich Tanzania, employed as an inexperienced, chinless wandering fool for BP. It was 1938 when the letters B.P. still proudly stood for British Petroleum. The company directed the flow of gushing oil from Africa into its European coffers while Dahl travelled freely as their white representative, drinking pink gin and escaping death by snake bite on more than one occasion.
My life to date has been relatively mundane. I’ve been to Africa. When I decided to see the world on my own solo journey, being blonde, 23 and Australian was a passport to places not necessarily listed in Lonely Planet. I saw Africa for the first time from the wheelhouse of a ferry out of Gibraltar. Tangier rose at dawn over the horizon, much more beautiful from a distance than its ugly, people-smuggling reality. I’ve been stoned in Morocco. But not on the hash which is more common than the toothless cobras in Marrakesh’s marketplace; no I travelled with a mate on a 150 pound all inclusive holiday to the sun, escaping a relentlessly grey London. We landed in Agadir. My girlfriend and I wore long shorts to the beach and the local youth didn’t like it, so they decided to throw sticks and stones, though we would have preferred names that wouldn’t have hurt us quite as much. Our ignorance wasn’t bliss, it was painful.
I’ve wandered the world for work as well, flying to New York at the pointy end of the plane to meet similarly suited people. I celebrated my late afternoon arrival in Wall Street with a pre-dinner martini at Windows on the World bar in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. While waiting for my colleagues I looked through my reflection in the long windows over the southern tip of Manhattan, into the waters where the Hudson and East Rivers met.
After nine years as a parent, this kind of life now seems as exotic to meet as flying a fighter jet.
I have a little life of loving kids and finding fun where I can. Nothing truly great has brushed against it recently. I’ve seen a few celebrities living in shiny Sydney and Russell Crowe sends his kid to the kindergarten next to my house; I’ve almost run over him three times exiting my garage, but I missed him, so that’s one of the small incidents.
But no matter, Dahl’s surmise has relevance for us all and, as a novice writer, it’s wonderful to stand on the shoulders of Big Friendly Giants like him when trying to crystallise my thoughts, lifting me out of the everyday to give me a greater view.
When you examine your life are you able distil the small number of great events that have set it on a new direction? Marriage, children, divorce and the death of close relatives are the obvious biggies, but what else is important in marking a life as distinctly yours?
On the weekend, my children and I escaped to a friend’s beach house. We played Junior Monopoly while leaving the washing up in the sink. On Sunday after lunch, we walked along a harbour beach with inconsequential waves and met a fisherman. He had four plastic containers set apart at an equal distance in the sand; each holding a lightweight fishing rod, aligned like skinny soliders on the beach. We said “hello” and I left my oldest son to engage in men’s talk – fish and sport and the ones that got away. I collected shells with my younger sons, admiring the hermit crabs before throwing them back into the water.
After a time my boys sought greater adventures and took possession of the man’s dinghy, going into the gentle waves with aplomb. They splashed and screamed and kicked the water a little and each other a lot. I thought of sharks and manta rays and yelled for them to be safe, take care. But they ignored me, arrogantly immortal.
The fisherman and I sat on the sand beside his rods and settled in an easy conversation. He smelt of salt and kept on taking small pieces of bread from somewhere inside his T-Shirt to rebait his hooks. He was fishing for bream, which usually swim in shoals close to the shoreline in this beautiful Eden, so each line carried three sharp hooks for the fish to swallow. He told me that while reading the weekend papers the day before, he had caught five juicy fish. He had enough for dinner by the time he had finished the business section.
Our conversation drifted easily from fishing to family and I soon learned that, like me, he was a single parent. His children were older than me and he had lost his wife a decade before, through death, not carelessness. He had successfully re-partnered with another, younger woman who sat further along the beach, keeping watch over my children as she sat in the shade of a palm tree.
My fisher-friend sketched me a brief tale of his other life as a business maverick, where deals were big and the stakes were high. After losing his wife, he had handed over the reins of the successful business he had built to his sons. Now he offered unwanted, invaluable advice to them, ensuring that the family fortune was kept, more or less, intact. As the years had passed, he said he found solace in his new girlfriend and in beach fishing.
We shared our fishing tales, mine a single story of a beach fishing expedition on my island honeymoon where my new husband and I dug the bait from the sand and caught a fish for dinner within 10 minutes of the first cast. His stories had more details and layers. His memory, honed by years of winning in the battlegrounds of boardrooms, was as sharp as steel.
As my boys played in the water the fisherman’s female companion laughed at their exuberance and silliness. The fisherman told me that his girlfriend made him very, very happy but he would never marry her. I think it was because he was content with his life as it was and though the ache of missing his wife had diminished through time, he still held the memory of the mother of his children as separate, inviolate.
The early autumn day still carried the heat of summer and the skies were innocent of clouds, but a cold wind raced across the open water. It was time for my children to come to shore and for us to go home.
We cleaned and returned the dingy and were saying our goodbyes when suddenly one of the fishing lines which had been gently eddying in the tide, snapped tight and ran out. My sons ran around excitedly at the idea of catching a fish and the fisherman directed all three boys on the art of winding in a catch. As a group, they talked and wound the fish in, a small bream, barely over the legal limit size. Quiet for once, they watched in fascination as the fisherman removed the three hooks from the bream’s gasping mouth. He killed it efficiently and then gutted and scaled it, dirtying the sand with blood and grey scales.
Much to my boys delight he presented the fish to them as a gift, telling them that I would cook it for their dinner. I fried it in butter and salt and it was delicious, though only a small, sweet mouthful each.
This small incident defined the delight of my whole weekend. And for now I am happy that defining big incidents are leaving me alone as I get my life back on track in small calibrations.
I haven’t been a fighter pilot, a revered author or lived in Tanzania. I haven’t been attacked by green or black mambo snakes, nasty hissy things with a rap singer attitudes; the Snake-I-Am’s of the non-urban jungle. But there have been many magical small incidents like meeting my fisherman friend that give me hope and substance and joy and are retained as vivid memories against the pastels of my life, washing my days in rainbow hues.
Today when I awoke at dawn, my youngest child lay unfurled, sleeping closely beside me. The midnight hour had contained a scary dream from which he escaped, with blanket, to the safety of my arms and my king sized bed. As the sky lightened we chatted about our day ahead; for him adventures in the playground with the last in a long line of lovely babysitters – offering cuddles if not a mother’s love. For me, City meetings where I gave primped and polished presentations; my painful shoes and shiny hair offering a carapace of capability that I hoped to deliver, whatever I over-promised.
I would be one of the commuters using the usually efficient train service from Edgecliff station for the return journey.
Another journey from Edgecliff was being planned by someone else who, like me probably had a sleepless night, but unlike me, was heavily burdened with a sad goal.
I went into the City, talked my talk and then skipped back to Town Hall station. My youngest was waiting for me at home. Our morning talk had included a planned cookie stop at our favourite cafe – just him and I – before picking up his louder, pushier siblings from school.
But I was late. And so was the train.
Seventeen indicative minutes later, the train hadn’t come. The crowd, wasting their beautiful lives in the subterranean tunnel, rolled with mutterings and stuck sweat-licked together on the dangerously full platform, uniformly sallow in the yellow glare of fluorescent strip lighting. I saw my shadowy reflection in the Victorian mirror, filthy from many years of neglect, on the wall at the end of the platform. I looked older than my age and tired; my precious time, and a diamond moment with my child, ticked away second by second.
We waited. After a time, a crackling P.A. announcement gave us a reason why the trains had stopped running. An “incident” had occurred at Edgecliff train station. The throng of commuters had to find an alternative, inconvenient route home. I heard no one complain or mutter under their breath and no one pushed as we walked slowly as a mass to the escalator, riding up, back to the street’s glare.
We all knew what “incident” meant. Someone had decided that they just couldn’t stand being here anymore; in glittering, hard-souled Sydney. So they bought their ticket to somewhere, rode the escalator down, out of the bright sunlight to a platform festooned with posters offering holidays to Queensland’s Barrier Reef and courses in self-development via a 1-800 number. The blue back lit announcement board would have innocently counted down the seconds and minutes to the next train, a different count-down for the poor soon-to-be-lost soul standing too close to the platform edge.
As the train approached, they must have stepped forward and fallen the two metres onto the shiny steel tracks. I can’t visualise what happened. I can’t approach the thought of what the poor train driver must have experienced. I don’t want to. But for reasons that only they knew, an unknown soldier of city life extinguished themself and ripped the lives of their loved ones into small, messy pieces that can never be put back together.
I opened my book to read on the bus journey back to Edgecliff. I didn’t cry for the stranger, it was too distant. But my eyes often slid from the page and into the middle distance. I hoped to goodness my life journey never took me to such a terrible place and I touched wood – the paper of my book – and counted my many blessings. Like us all, I have faced major life challenges, but I have never contemplated not opening my eyes at the end of another relentless night to discover some happiness reliably waiting for me. For me there’s always been moments of joy to relieve any sadness and there are more and more as I travel onwards, slivers of silver of new experience and hope. The greatest gift I have ever received was my stupid, dreamer optimism. I received it at birth and carry it with me, almost always. Today’s poor soul hadn’t received such a priceless gift and the wounds of life must have been just too painful for them to contemplate another dawn.
I arrived home one hour late and my son ran to meet me, tearing himself away from “The Simpson’s Movie” to launch his stocky built-for-rugby body at me. I scooped him up and kissed his soft cheek, his hair, his childishly fat fingers.
We still had time for a mummy break, if I stayed in my city clothes. So with my sticky hand gently holding the sticky hand of my son we went to the local cafe and ordered a chocolate feast, including a shared slice of mud cake a-la-mode, with two spoons. After all, I could always diet tomorrow.
Now where was I?
I had come to the conclusion that the Bondi Blonde should be retired via a Cinderella ending. My view was that she had gotten lucky on the Lottery, and was spending the $10 million of unearned funds on world peace, sashimi, Nintendo DS’s and holidays featuring St Tropez (the place, not the brand of fake tanning cream).
I figured she’d had her moment in the sun, and was in danger of deep tissue burn. A new year meant, I thought, that it was time to cover her – and my – heart, skin and bones with a little protection.
I also thought that I had written all there was to write about single mum-dom by the beach – my vodka and tonic version of Home and Away. Who really wanted to read more about me getting off on the throb of the 380 bus as it ground its way up Bondi Road; who cared if my kids nits transferred themselves effortlessly via me to my latest three-date boyfriend, killing the romance stone dead in a whiff of killer chemicals; who wanted to read about my plastic surgery – same nose, new girlie bits, compliments of three “natural” deliveries and a uterus in my handbag.Errrgh. (I promise I will never, ever mention this again!)
Well, apparently an ex-boyfriend wanted to read about it. Note to him: turn off the auto out of office reply when you go on holidays if you want to maintain the cover of Darth Vader darkness. And a few friends. And all of those lovely financial types who read my mates hugely successful, really serious blog brontecapital.blogspot.com and who has me on his blogroll.
So let’s take stock shall we?
Bondi Blonde: 39, cute, two kids, savvy, sexy, switched on, hotter than the Melbourne Open.
Me: 43. ARRRRRRRGH. Single mum. Scratchy income. Desire for handbags. Great kids. Good friends. Happiness with self slightly greater than desire to nominate myself for next series of Extreme Makeover.
Bondi Blonde’s life: $10 million dollar Powerball win. New nose, butt, eye colour, teeth, hair length (longer hair extensions), accent. Unfortunately her kids don’t recognise her in the playground and she lisps because her new teeth are a little too big.
My life: Alas, did not win the Powerball $40 million, the Lottery $15 million or the Valentine’s Day $14 million, or part thereof. New strategy for wealth creation includes hmmm…..working?
Her strategy going forward: Get teeth filed, get lifestyle coach, turn the blog into book, then a sit-com, and then get her own television show. Grow a herb garden.
My strategy going forward: More lottery tickets, less heart pain, cleverer choices, wising up. As Wendy Whiteley, widow of artist Brett Whiteley said, “Age has taught me to learn from my mistakes.” Halleluiah sister. No more blue eye shadow for me!
So shall I stop living in the shadows of the Bondi Blonde and just be me? Or should I continue to write crap for the amusement of people I will never meet and who ma y be vaugely amused about the life I don’t lead? The sad thing is that the make-believe me is having more fun and loads more sex than me, so here goes….the New Adventures of The Bondi Blonde:
To my married friends out there.
1. I do not want to sleep with your husband.
2. If you die, I will not want to a. Sleep with your husband or b. Raise your children. I will mourn you and buy your old handbags, if worthy (but never your shoes).
3. If you invite me to your place for dinner, please don’t talk about my divorce ALL the time. I can also whistle, write, bake and am great on SingStar. Let’s talk about something more fun, like your hemorrhoids.
4. Do invite me to your house for dinner. I like seeing big people after 7:00 p.m. at night in a home environment; and see Point 1 above.
5. And if you think you’ve got it tough having to sell raffle tickets at the school fundraising night, consider my position, via the wise words of Bridget Jones, the world’s most second famous diarist (after Anne Frank – and she wasn’t nearly as funny): “The only thing worse than smug married couple; lots of smug married couples.”
Get this. A few months ago I was having a coffee and cookies with a woman friend. She’s nice but we are not close enough to really be called girlfriends, we just share similar lifestyles and taste in books. So anyways, blah, blah, blah and she comes out with:
“If I die, I don’t want you dating my husband.”
Me: “Oh my god…. I am so sorry. What is it Cancer? Anorexia? (She’s major league skinny). How long have you got and what can I do to help?”
Her: “Oh, I’m not sick.”
Me: “What the?”
Her: “No, I just wanted to let you know that if I did die it would not be OK by me if you dated my husband.”
Me: “OK then.” (to her). “You are nuts as well as skinny. I’m eating that biscuit.” (to myself).
Now consider this. Her husband loves her. She is healthy. She is 42. She doesn’t do extreme sports. And most importantly, maybe, is that her husband looks like the Crazy Frog, with the same unfortunate habit of saying “What’s going on” repeatedly. And I’m not allowed to date him if she dies? I reckon bury him with her for everyone’s sake.
Since my husband toddled off, I have been told by friends not to date or to date only toy boys, and they try to set me up on blind dates with men in grey pleather slip on shoes who live with their mother. My well-meaning friends give their oh-so-not-asked-for advice, pat me on the shoulder, tell me that they are a “little envious of my exciting single girl life” and pitter patter off home to hubby, dog and children. Condescension radiates off these smug marrieds as I, like Bridget, check for the scales which hideously cover my body, signifying my singledom.
Last Monday night, after consuming Desperate Housewives and all of the chocolate in the house (including a weirdly grey-brown Easter bunny from last year), I revisited my hero Bridget. Like love, it was lovelier the second time around.
The first time I read Bridget Jones’ Diary I was a smug married; wearing big undies and clean, non sexy mummy clothes. I was 14 pounds heavier and my loving husband hadn’t yet decided to share the love around. When the movie came out we guffawed together at the multi-plex, sharing fat Coke and popcorn. I had married at 30 and had experienced the Siberian chill of singledom for many years before snagging my Mr Right for Now. Snuggling into my Mr Darcy-lite I was protected, I thought, forever from the slings and arrows of perilous dating sites. Oop-sy.
Now I’m back as a singleton, wearing bum floss G-strings, but apart from that, I reckon I am so much luckier now. I have children. Which says it all really. But I declare today that I will embrace my inner Bridget. I will follow her single girl resolutions to the letter, including:
1: will obviously lose 20 lbs.
2: always put last night’s panties in the laundry basket.
3: find nice sensible boyfriend and stop forming romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, sexaholics, commitment-phobes, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits, or perverts.
And if I lose weight, stop living like a teenager (and dressing like one) and work out how to fall in love and maybe get my heart broken rather than going straight for the heartbreak, I’ll be able to finally, pat myself a little on the back for a job well done. Then I’ll definitely fuck up again on some level, for as Bridget says:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”
Bang, bang, bang. Pop. Pop. Pop.
Happy New Year!
I survived the festive season without too many fireworks; and am emotionally intact, mostly in love with life and enthusiastic about the future. And though my optimism may be partly the fizzy after effects of cheap New Year’s Eve champagne and early morning Berrocca, I am pretty happy with what could have been a car crash of a Christmas season, 2008.
I was braced like a Victorian virgin on her wedding night for Christmas, seeing I had to split the kids with the ex and face a lot of Christmas Day on my lonesome. But the reality was much better than the anticipation, thank Christ (yep, the bloke who made us all eat too much and spend days with ugly relatives simply by being born around 2009 years ago). We celebrated Christmas a-la-middle-Europe, feasting with St Nick on Christmas Eve. And as a sole parent I have started family Christmas traditions that I like; I have no need to compromise. Out went the heavy baked ham and glutinous suet puddings of Christmases past, instead we feasted on Thai beef salad, shoals of seafood and crispy summer vegetables tumbled in French butter. The lucky sixpence I had purloined from my mother for Christmas dessert – its finder granted one wish – was buried deep in the sherry trifle I had made, heavy on the sherry, light on tradition.
For the third year running, my little family’s Christmas Eve meal had the happy addition of “orphans”, young friends from overseas who were spending Christmas in Australia, far away from their loved ones; temporary friends who sang “Jingle Bells” with my children and who, between courses, chased them through the streets of Bondi and played beach cricket as I rested, mum-like, in the shade.
Santa came quietly, later that night. He gave each of my boys an orange shoved in the bottom of the stockings at the end of their bed. He then filled the stockings with sweets, a special gift and a card from the North Pole. He’d figured out, somehow, that my boys had been nice for most of the year, and so deserved their gifts, which I got to see at 5:00 a.m. when my youngest bounced his beach ball off my head.
By 8:00 a.m. on Christmas Day we were submerged beneath the froth and foam of the waves off Bondi Beach. Mummy’s present had been a boogie board for each of the boys and we had to try them out straight away. The beach was filled with children excitedly destroying their new toys and parents watching their kids’ bliss with tidings of comfort and joy. I joined in, feeling so blessed with the happy, open faces and strong, healthy bodies of my beloved offspring, a special gift for me for 365 days a year.
The rest of Christmas day after the handover of my children was fine enough and another family adopted me as their Christmas orphan later that day. But as I walked home Christmas night I passed three other solitary people who seemed to be purposefully on their way to somewhere else. I knew by the way we avoided meeting each other’s eyes that, like me, they were more likely than not going to an empty home, eerily lit by a still-twinkling Christmas tree.
Getting my children back was pure bliss and we spent mornings at the beach and afternoons playing cricket and meeting friends with kids. My eldest son is playing cricket better than the Australian team at the moment, which isn’t that hard, unfortunately.
My children’s summer holidays are glossier blueprints of my own, when I used to spend a month with my sisters and my mother camping in Queensland, a hop, skip and a jump across molten hot midday sand to the cresting waves of Gold Coast beaches. My father spent most of the summer working, joining us at the weekends and soon filling the small caravan with the smell of the fish he used to catch after going surf fishing soon after shedding his workday clothes.
My children have more expensive holidays than my parents could ever afford, luxuriously crammed with outings and treats and hopefully more than enough love. My favourite line so far of the holiday has to be when my six year old, trying to catch a wave on his new boogie board asked me if I had seen the Boxing Day salami. Perplexed, I asked what he meant, he said “you know, did you go swimming and did you see the salami? Click, I got it then. “No, my darling, I missed the tsunami,” I answered as I pushed him onto a wave that carried him all the way to the beach. It was a great wave, smaller than a salami, but a great wave nonetheless.
Today is the 01/01/09. My birthday as well as the first day of the year. We said a big hello to 2009 last night with friends watching the fireworks explode over Coogee Beach. Schools of children ran around the grassy reserve beneath the shimmering lights, pausing to oooh and ahhh before, sugar rush assisted, continuing to run in excited circles.
As the crackle and pop of the light show rained overhead, I made a few, small resolutions which are my secret. I was glad to see the back of 2008, a year of transition for me, away from the sadness and madness of 2007 into calmer waters. I learnt a lot in 2008, but a lot of the learning cost me more than it needed to. I will ensure that 2009 will have more sugar to help whatever medicine I need to take, go down a little sweeter.
As I say to my kids, we are the luckiest people in the world. We live in a stable, safe country and have all the money we need, all the love we want and futures as bright and shiny as any firework display.
I found the lucky sixpence buried in the sherry trifle this year. My wish? That would be telling, but I am quietly confident of a year that will deliver many joys, many blessings and much love. To me and mine. And to you and yours too.
So, a peaceful, joyous and a Happy New Year to you from the Bondi Blonde.