This Year COVID Won The Battle, But Not The War

Three days ago, I was putting the finishing touches to a post for you about Christmas party dresses, of all things. To my shame, I was bemoaning the limited choice for those of us middle-aged women who aren’t a size 8, don’t have legs as long as a giraffe, and who may not feel flashing their arse cheeks to their boss at the Christmas office party.

Photo by DIAO DARIUS on Unsplash

Three days ago, I was almost completely removed from the impact of COVID as I sat drinking coffee with close friends in a beach cafe. Naively, we chatted excitedly about our forthcoming festivities, our own private celebration in the middle of next week, and the end of this horrible year.

Twenty-four hours later, our provincial world was shattered when we became the latest hotspot in Australia for the virus.

Our hospitals are now on major alert, our borders have been shut down, stores and pubs are closed, and Christmas drinks cancelled. While friends of mine try frantically to get their children back from other states and countries, Kurt and I find ourselves in self-isolation.

Christmas is effectively cancelled.

Only the day before the news, I splurged on the turkey for our seven close friends who were joining us around our table this year. Now it will feed three, because not even our daughter is not allowed to enter our “dark side” of Sydney.

This new cluster in a handful of Sydney’s smaller suburbs has come as a nasty shock to a country that was never smug about its quick suppression of the virus, but was perhaps guilty of an element of complacency over the past few months.

COVID isn’t picky.

As such, it is with a much heavier heart than I expected that I wish you a Merry Christmas this year – a year that has provided us (and many others) with the usual bag of mixed blessings.

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been quieter on this site than usual this year – mainly because I decided that life had thrown more than enough shit without the addition of mine.

However, like you, I continue to fight through each day, to take each as it comes, and to control what I can. An I know that’s not always an easy task, so for anyone out there feeling a bit blue at the moment, please remember that tomorrow is a new day, and to hang in there.

The only way to fight this virus is to keep listening to our scientists, and to put our own needs aside for those more vulnerable. Christmas will be different this year, but some things won’t change – I’ve no doubt I will lose the plot sometime before lunch reaches the table, I’ll fall over at some point during the day, and the odds are also pretty high that I’ll leave one bowl of vegetables in the microwave – that we won’t discover until Boxing Day.

But imagine what Christmas will be like for those who have lost someone, those who are quarantining on their own in self-isolation, or those who are sick and live in permanent fear of catching the virus. And let’s be grateful for what we have.

It would be much easier for me to stake my claim to the big sofa for the next couple of days, crack open the box of Quality Street, and feel bloody sorry for myself. But I won’t.

I’ve decided not to let this thing beat us. COVID might have won the battle, but it ain’t gonna win the war. So let’s get our boxing gloves on and fight this virus in a common sense way. During the Second World War, Churchill promised that we would “never surrender”, and that’s my approach for next year. So wear your mask and wash your hands.

I’ve already lit the torch on Christmas at our house. I’m not suggesting that we fight the virus with mince pies, but I’ve already tested the Aldi ones and the marzipan topping was a nice touch. The Turkish Delight and chocolate-coated pretzels are next on my hit list.

The presents are wrapped and under the tree, the karaoke machine is charging, and the Baileys is cooling in the fridge for later this evening when I begin my research into the best turkey recipes.

And once everything is set, I’ll start to think seriously about how I can hold my loved ones even tighter next year.

Stay safe!


Can I Please Stop Drinking Now?

We’re drawing to the end of those tricky days between  Christmas and New Year, where no one really knows what the fuck to do with themselves apart from drink alcohol at odd times of the day and gorge on left-overs.


It has been stinky-hot here in Sydney, but at least we’ve had the coolness of the ocean to cure our hangovers and to waste the hours between breakfast and the first mid-morning drink. There are no rules during these final hours of festivity, and as each day crawls closer to the New Year and the promise of its heinous list of resolutions – typically of sobriety – my body is trying to get as much alcohol into its system as possible in preparation for the stoicism of January – that usually lasts around two days.

This is the first New Year where I’m proud to admit that I will probably be in bed before 12pm. I no longer feel that pressure to keep up with The Jones’ in most aspects of my middle-aged life. Finally, I am my own person and I do what I want to do – unless the old man disagrees – and tonight we will meet like-minded friends for dinner, drag ourselves down to the water to watch the 9pm fireworks with the mums and bubs, and then my best intentions will no doubt fly out of the window and I’ll be found, washed up on Manly beach tomorrow morning, with no memory of the night before.

I have relaxed these past few days, with long walks and long dinners, in the company of gorgeous friends and family – a good time to reflect on exactly how much my liver can withstand. Indeed, when walking back from the beach the other day, I experienced one of those rare moments of total happiness, and if no one had been around and I could actually lift my legs off the ground without pulling a muscle, I might have jumped for joy –  a serenity that I hope had less to do with the alcohol in my veins and rather more to do with where I find myself in my life right now. Then a hornet flew out of no-where and bit me on the leg – a reminder to embrace those moments fully and seize the day. I am still in pain.

Thank you to my loyal followers who have shared their own thoughts on the absurdity of life with me, or made kind comments about my writing that incentivize me to keep churning out this drivel ad nauseam.

Thank you to my family for keeping my feet on the ground and reminding me that life is about living in the here and now and about taking risks, and that the rough molds us as much as the smooth.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2018 bring you love, happiness, good health and an abundance of belly laughter.

Please, can I stop drinking now?





2013: The Year Of Living Dangerously

A poorly designed homemade bong for inhalation...
A poorly designed homemade bong for inhalation of cannabis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, I was not alone in being psychotically anxious to see the back of 2013 on NYE. The old man and I have always been highly suspicious of ‘odd’ years and this year did nothing to disprove our fear of impending doom.

As many of you will know, 2013 was dominated by a kind of ‘coming of age’ of our son Kurt, and at times the year felt distinctly bleak.

Sixteen year old boys can be a challenge. Sixteen year old boys with ADHD can send you to the funny farm.

Thank God for medication – MINE, not his.

But when asked to put the year into perspective, (several times during the distillation of my New Year’s hangover and before the real fireworks began), I realised that it hasn’t all been bad.

The move to Gotham has been positive overall. Imagine how fucking HUGE it was moving down from the safe provinciality of the Beaches to the Lower North Shore (darling).

Admittedly, some of the changes have taken some adjusting to. But after completing a year of living closer to the edgier side of life, I am now able to sleep through the perpetual rumble of trains on the bridge, the inane chit chat of drunks on a Friday and Saturday night (who seem to all agree that having a piss and a chit chat in front of our house is great), and the tempting and lingering odour from the local Thai restaurants and fish and chip shop.

I like having the excitement of the city on our doorstep, being a five-minute train ride away from the best retail therapy ever and the buzz of the multi-cultural mix of people in our new neighbourhood. I feel more inclusive, more cosmopolitan, dare I say ‘alive’ again, as though my eyes have been opened and my horizons have been broadened – (rather than narrowed by the limitations of ageing, like my arteries).

Unfortunately, our foray into pastures new has moved Kurt closer to the source of illicit teenage experimentation and a more liberal and freethinking crowd who sometimes forget that he does not possess the same Dopamine levels as them – levels that enable him to think about the consequences of his actions.

But the move has also given him a taste of independence too, a better sense of belonging and the education to create a bong out of any type of bottle with a piece of garden hose – (apparently Iced Tea bottles are the best).

Kurt has been a fantastic enabler for me this year, socially, too. He has helped me meet and form alliances with an abundance of diverse people, from therapists, to psychiatrists, several school principals, teachers and many over-critical parents. All have formed opinions of my son – some good, some bad. All have been happy to confirm mine and the old man’s secret belief that Kurt will either end up a huge success in life… or in prison. He is a person of excess, and normality and isolation terrify him.

His drumming has tested my hearing, his impulsivity has tested my nerves and his emotions have tested my heart.

The old man’s brush with the courtyard paving mid-year put his personal goals into perspective too. It was a bloody reminder that ‘shit can happen’ and to live every day as if it is your last, rather than worrying and saving for those rainy days that we may never see. It meant that we both got our first ride in an ambulance and could make our first claim on our private health insurance which secretly gave him a thrill, but his change of heart has not impacted me in the way I had hoped – as of yet, no funds have been released in an uncharacteristically rash demonstration of philanthropy or love, although he has stopped calling me every time a new transaction goes through our online banking system if it has not had prior approval.

In times of crisis, links can be broken and bonds can be weakened. Luckily, ours seem to get stronger with adversity.

NC has blossomed this year. Leaving the often bitchy and judgemental microcosm of high school and having the time to discover who she really is, she has continued to excel in many areas of her life. Her life’s work continues with the cataloguing of her private rock collection, her manipulation of her father (particularly in the area of family finances), the re-styling of her bedroom from a pit into what now resembles a South American waste pile, and her attempt to control ‘relationships’ to avoid hurt – relationships are a very foreign concept to someone with Spock’s perception of the world.

NC has been my rock at times when the going with her brother has been particularly fucking tough – her reassurance that the cocaine I found under Kurt’s bed was in fact crushed ADHD meds springs to mind – and in spite of her fraternal distrust of brother, she is often a mature and fair sounding-board for her over-anxious parents.

And my personal year has been a year of further education and learning. I have learned more about writing and have achieved some consolidation of this passion of mine. At times the power of writing has served as my saviour. I have learned how to make a bong out of a plastic bottle, I have found new friends on-line who have calmed me and made me laugh out loud at low points, opened my eyes to greater knowledge and increased my thirst to learn more. I have discovered that my husband can still make me laugh even when the proverbial shit hits the fan, does listen to me occasionally and eventually acts upon my words of accusation. So that I continue to trust him.

Many of our family and social circle have experienced real crises this year such as illness and loss. They appear to the outside world to be healing, but we all know that we store pain in our hearts and it only dulls with time. They appear strong to the outside world because life has to go on and it is too mentally invasive and emotionally taxing to demonstrate a broken heart publicly. I hope for them that 2014 is a year of recovery and new hope as they strive towards some inner peace. If they don’t realise it now, the pain has made them better, stronger people that we all secretly admire from afar.

I hope that by this time next year we are all still healthy, that I have finished my fucking book, that Kurt is still in the school he starts in January and has begun to respect some of society’s ridiculous rules, and that NC continues to radiate the inner happiness that gives me and the old man the hope that we did something right. I also hope that our friends will have tolerated us for another year even though we are shockingly unresponsive friends.Happy New Year

What I Learnt in 2013:

The medication works.

Never to go clothes shopping after the weekend.

To abandon all parenting manuals because every child is different.

Swimming costumes are not designed for middle-aged women.

That women’s vulvas are all very different.

That the weight battle continues to be a real bitch in middle age, and I mustn’t allow it to consume me. I am cutting my losses this year and going for the more realistic approach of ‘maintaining my weight’ rather than trying to lose it. Buying clothes a few sizes larger so they feel loose remains a good mental coping strategy.

That you can scaffold your teenagers but at some point they have to take responsibility for their own actions. Removing all sources of funding, vanquishment and consumption of their illegal stocks of alcohol can help alleviate the pain, as does ‘time out’ (by locking them away in the attic) and corporal punishment

Wine continues to be a delusional yet highly successful source of self-medication.


New Year, New Body

A swimmer swimming
A swimmer swimming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that the boxes have been unpacked, the mail has been redirected and we’ve discovered our new favourite local eateries, I’m running out of excuses for not doing any exercise. January is traditionally the month where I make another feeble attempt to retrieve my wedding day body. New year, new body.

So what’s this year’s abortive plan for ‘the body’, I hear you ask?

Well, last year you may remember, I dipped my toe into the yoga arena (Can Yoga Help Me Find My Core?) in the hope of finally locating my ‘core’, because that is apparently the precursor to true fitness (eternal life, lifestyle and happiness) and prevents us falling prey to the dreaded ‘embarassing leakage’ problem which haunts every middle-aged woman. All my friends had been yabbering on about the benefits of yoga for absolute donkeys years, like it’s as important as Chardonnay or something, so I obviously HAD to give it a try. The high point was the confirmation that my body is physiologically completely ill-suited to extreme sports; the low point being when I fanny-farted in the middle of my Cowface pose.

So this year I decided to go back to the basics, to a sport I trained in for a long time (until I began to take sport really seriously with the Jane Fonda Workout), and even enjoyed on occasion. (Hmmm, ‘enjoyed’ is probably a slight over-exaggeration, but then exercise has never been something I’d really make a choice to do if, say, I wasn’t a) unfit and b) overweight). So the sport I’ve decided put my faith into this year, to truly give me the best chance of becoming Louisa ‘The Body’ Simmonds, is swimming.

As luck would have it, we find ourselves in the vicinity of an enticing 50m pool, a little too close for comfort, to the new abode and as I need to shed at least 5kg and at the same time expose the ADHDer to some direct sunlight, due to tangible concern over his vitamin D levels, (as rather like RPatz in Twilight, his skin appears to cristalize when exposed to UV rays), swimming seems like a good idea.

But there are obvious concerns. Although I have matured beyond the sharks- entering-the-pool-via-the-plug-phobia, (being a sucker for any ‘rogue shark movie’), exposure of the middle-aged spread is obviously my biggest fear.

Such personal exposure transcends all sorts of mental body image issues. Exfoliation is the first major problem and the need to constrain wobbly ‘bits’ (hairy or otherwise) is the second, because the underwater swimmer can see EVERYTHING.

I’m certainly not averse to borrowing the old man’s razor at Christmas or on his birthday but waxing is something I only do to avoid looking like Magnum or my son, who currently believes that cultivating the bum-fluff upper lip look is cool. Having said that, I did notice a particularly long, rogue hair sprouting halfway down my inner left thigh the other day, (which provoked a horrified ‘eeeeewwwww’ from Nerd Queen, who I always enjoy shocking), so some work may need to be done in that area; purely for the sake of aqua-dynamics.

A friend of mine swims free-style for an hour, four times a week; (yes, you heard right). Our lengthy swimming strategy talks have informed me that, apparently, ‘free-style’ doesn’t mean any style’; it is what we Brits term ‘front crawl’. Not that that is really going to be an issue for me as I have never progressed beyond a hybrid doggy/breast stroke style. But unfortunately, our local pool doesn’t cater for doggy paddlers so I may be forced to begin my training in the recreation lane.

To demonstrate my commitment, I thought I might invest in one of these colourful Speedo cozzies that Olympic ‘swimmers’ wear, although it has come to my attention that they offer very little by way of support to the breast area and I am concerned that having the teabags swing freely around my waistband may constrict my aqua-dynamics too.

The other issue with swimming in a serious pool that I have always struggled to come to terms with, is swimming in a straight line. The last time I tried I ended up lacerating my ankles quite seriously in several places on the lane ropes, leading to several head-on collisions whilst being overtaken as I fumbled around trying to un-mesh my tethered feet – anyone who has done this will understand immediately how much it hurts. So I’m wondering if the ADHDer could somehow tow me along, rather like a car, by letting me hold onto his feet.

After further consideration, I’m beginning to think that I may need January to make my preparations fully and will commit physically to the ‘new body’ in February. In the meantime, I may take a few really long showers to acclimatise.

New Year To Do List

I’ve been in a bit of a rather unattractive and sweaty, sick fug for the past few days.

Unfortunately I packed ‘la gripe’ (flu) in my suitcase when we left France and it has ravaged my pathetic defenceless body with hot sweats, aching limbs, headaches and a chesty cough for the past few days. Uncharacteristically, one of my symptoms is an inappropriately insatiable desire for food, (and alcohol has proven once again to be the best form of medication), meaning that sympathy from the old man and his family has not been unconditional.

So caught up have I been in my hypochondria near death experience, that I almost forgot one of my main duties as a blogger, that of commenting on important annual events such as the advent of the new year.

English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours.
English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So dire has been my self-imposed exile to the bedroom and away from the hubbub and general awkwardness of being with the old man’s family for longer than 12 hours, I almost completely skipped the familial Hogmanay festivities and implications, (apart from an multipally orgasmic Chinese meal that included five Peking Duck pancaskes that I carefully packed myself with all the most succulent and un-fatty pieces of duck, and which I somehow managed to summon my last reserves of energy to inhale from their plastic containers just prior to collapsing back into bed with the Panadeine Extra and a G and T in the disguise of a bottle of water).

So I haven’t really had time to consider the full contents of my regret box of 2012, and what will no doubt end up being the dashed hopes of 2013; or even how I WILL this year change the old man’s ways no matter what the old wives might say about leapards and spots.

The old man and I do generally compile a list of sorts on New Year‘s Eve, albeit less of a resolution list and more of a To Do/How To Improve/Stay Married list.

Exercise always features prominently because we find that thinking about it does go part of the way to making us feel better about not actually doing it. Being better parents is another annual aim, but as my therapist has told me categorically NOT to focus my anxiety on mother-guilt for the time-being, I have decided to pass that particular mantle  on to the old man this year. We both had ‘new hobbies’ on last year’s and this is one I can confidently tick off with my writing, although I am not sure that either the old man’s singular bike ride to the local shop in August counts as ‘sport’ or the barbequing of sausages last Australia Day (and they were pink inside) really count as ‘cooking’ for his.

However, we may have ‘improved our lifestyle’ with our impending evacuation to the city. The old man will be cutting down on his commute and will have time to utter more than his current few words (‘to the Valley of Death’) to me before leaving for work and will not have any excuse for flashing the torturous en suite lights directly into my eyes at some ridiculously anti-social time of the night which is when he currently leaves, so that he can get in early enough to read the paper and use the office toilet before pretending to work.

The ADHDer will be donning his new ballet tights and leotard, plastering his Glee white-toothed grin across his face and all that jazz en route to becoming the next Hugh Jackman Billy-Joe Armstrong, while Nerd Queen should be happily ensconced in a laboratory somewhere in Physics Road with a bevy of equally socially-challenged nerdy Asians and a bunsen burner.

And meanwhile I will be lighting the home fires at our new terrace close to the city, anxiously waiting for a new and fulfilling career to choose me, like I have done many times before when the grass appeared greener and the family uprooted for pastures new. ‘Writing the book’ is on the list again and there is every chance that this year will be the year that I will fulfil my writing dream and think of a plot that is fluid and characters with some character.

Or maybe I’ll be really radical and just be ‘grateful for what I have’….

Unlikely though.

The Final Frontier…..Maybe

Marmite small v106
Marmite small v106 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As 2012 draws to a close, the New Year brings the prospect of auspicious change and new adventure to our dysfunctional unit of four.

The adventure kicks off with a trip back to the Motherland; the land that we try to forget, (at least until we catch a whiff of Marmite or watch an episode of Downton Abbey ….and fall to pieces in a nostalgic heap).

This trip is long overdue, mainly due to the tightness of the old man’s pockets, now that the cost has to cover four ‘adult’ seats in economy. As migrants, we have learned to conceal the innate homesickness that thinking about family on the other side of the world exacerbates, while we are in Sydney, but raw emotions will be brought uncompromisingly to the surface during our three week stay. Which is why these trips back create mixed feelings.

And so, after a 24 hour journey from hell, sandwiched between the ADHDer (who struggles to sit still for 5 minutes without drumming or kicking his feet into the back seat of the poor unfortunate in front of us), and the old man, (who finds that intoxication from alcohol miniatures is the best remedy for flying insomnia), I will no doubt alight from the aircraft, refreshed and looking as polished as Posh Spice, ready to embrace long lost relatives and old friends, (who mentally moved on from us a long time ago).

Our itinerary would test the organiser of a Royal tour. We will enjoy a brief respite at the old man’s family before being catapulted into another major voyage to the end of the earth in Brittany, France, made more anxious by the fact that the car we have rented (the cheapest in the ‘Budget’ car range) is not snow-worthy and a white Christmas is predicted. I am already anticipating a Christmas Day, buried in a drift somewhere on the autoroute between Calais and Caen, with only the perennial questions of the ADHDer to prevent us from falling into a hypothermic stupor.

Christmas week will be spent with my family, for the first time EVER. Dad has renovated the whole house to embrace his nomadic tribe who are flocking en masse from all corners of the globe to take full advantage of free grub and booze which makes up for the minor irritations of his prissy rules of having to remove our shoes each time we dare to walk on his off-white chenille rugs, being forced to consume alcohol 24/7 without respite, and play charades). The teens have been trained all year in how not to shovel food in their gobs, how to use a knife and fork properly, how not to sneak ‘like’ five times into every sentence, and they have been reminded to employ the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ appropriately, and on NO ACCOUNT use the F word, no matter how excited or anxious they become. Above all, they must pretend to share some form of sibling bond, nurtured (obviously), by our perfect parenting skills.

I have specifically requested that the ADHDer not express the first thing that comes into his head, but to think first, (especially if it pertains to something Grandad does not need to know about our home life or his appearance); and that he bore the pants off  instruct all my relatives in the finer mechanics of the modern guitar, rather than us, for a change.

My whole family will be there…….judging our parenting. Hence the old man will no doubt be on the defensive so I will have to make sure that he is adequately plyed with enough whisky to gag him. I give it 48 hours before we have re-booked Le Shuttle and are traversing the French countryside, hotfooting it back to the UK and the safety comfort zone of his sane family.

And then we head onwards to Surrey, where we used to live, to old friends who would have forgotten about us if not for my poignant reminders on Facebook. To friends who have rightfully moved on socially since we left, but who haven’t had the heart to de-friend me and have a vague interest, no doubt, in seeing if the madness of our migration during mid-life crisis worked out for us.

And we will both amaze and horrify them with the tale of our next new venture, of being on the move again,(the consummate explorers that we are), and they will nod excitedly while secretly thinking that we are barking mad.

Which maybe we are.

For some find comfort and reassurance through a sense of belonging while others are energised by change.

January brings that move, those changes, another fork in the road of life.  The excitement is in the not knowing whether it will work out, but not being afraid to try it nevertheless.

There’s no right way to live your life; you simply have to live it. ’To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before’.

The final frontier….maybe.