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Archive for December, 2009

Camping with small children is all about Togetherness.

There is no television or computers or telephones to distract you, no walls to separate you, no toilet trip to be taken unaccompanied.  You go to bed at the same time as the kids, you rise together at first birdcall, you eat together, you shower together, you laugh together, you cry inconsolably together. 

And when you camp along a major route at Christmas time, you share a lot of togetherness time with a lot of other campers as well. For the record, I take no great pleasure in parading in front of a group of 20-something revelers in my floral pyjamas at 7 o’clock at night. Nor do I enjoy brushing my teeth less than a metre from a fellow camper taking a dump. Still, it’s all part of the communal camping experience and my internal hippy embraces that. No, really. 

But in a recent camping stop at ‘Seaford’ (not it’s real name), I learnt that there was sharing and then there was sharing. 

As we pulled into Seaford, we were greeted with a sign that said “Seaford says NO to Violence.” I don’t know about you but it was a sight that didn’t exactly fill my heart with confidence. Things must be pretty bad if the council had to advertise the fact they said NO to violence. I mean, it should be assumed that most towns in Australia would say NO to Violence, in the same way as they might say NO to Drink Driving, Wanton Destruction of Property, Excessively-Wide Shoulder Pads and (in a perfect world) Bratz Dolls. But there were no signs advertising any of that

And in any case, who ever took notice of something that was written on a sign anyway? Except maybe “STOP” and “FREE BEER”. 

ANYWAY, as we pulled up to our designated camping spot at the Seaford caravan park, we were understandably a little apprehensive when we saw our two young male neighbours, Jim Beam towel hung out like a flag, drinking beer at 3 o’clock. And they no doubt looked with equal trepidation at both my husband and I shouting at our three screaming children with Dire Straits blaring from the stereo (my husband’s choice, I’ll have you know). It was hard to know who’d got the worse deal. 

In the end, it was The Pixie who swung it. Not only did she treat the entire campground to a “special show” which involved her shouting songs of her own creation from a wall outside the toilet blocks, but when I took her into the toilet, she announced in a very loud voice: “Oh, I don’t need to go to the toilet after all! I thought I did because my bottom was hurting. It must be hurting because I must have a BOTTOM BISEASE! Oh no! I can’t do my Show any more because of my BOTTOM BISEASE!” and crying loudly.

By the time we walked back to our tent past our neighbours, she had recovered enough to cheerfully ask (just as loudly): “Is Baby Jesus growing in my tummy?” and then, a few steps later, “Mummy, have you ever been stabbed? With a knife??”. 

My answer? Certainly not in Seaford, where they say NO to Violence. Apparently. Although try telling that to my children who went on to spend at least an hour jumping around the tent shouting “I’m gonna smack your bum-bum!” before finally collapsing asleep. Sheesh, no wonder the people of Seaford put that sign up. 

As for those two young men? They scurried out of camp with their slab of beer at the first opportunity to do their reveling elsewhere. We were too hardcore for them. Fact. 

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Here’s some weird-arse shit: I’m writing this post the evening before my family and I set off on a week long road-trip but it is being published on the morning of the day we’re scheduled to return.

How’s that for a Terminator-style mind-fuck?

It isn’t entirely unlike the kids having an “Early Christmas” with their Nanna the weekend before Christmas. The Pixie, in particular, was interested to know why Christmas had come so early when her Advent Calendar clearly showed there were five more sleeps.

And then Mr Justice and I started arguing about which day “Actual Christmas” (as opposed to “Early Christmas”) fell on and he went to look at the calendar on my mother’s wall.

“That’s not this year’s calendar,” I reminded him, for it was a decorative calendar and not a functional one, being a gift from my late (and much beloved) Aunty M to my mother from the year 2000.

“Oh, I just want to see which day Christmas was on in the olden days,” Mr Justice replied. “Oooh, Wednesday! Ah, so Christmas used to be on a Wednesday, huh!”

I didn’t have the heart to point out he was looking at October. But technically, he was correct: Christmas had most certainly fallen on a Wednesday in the past.

He was quiet for a while, no doubt imagining the former glory of past Wednesdays that had been Christmas “in the olden days”. And then he piped up again:

“Remember the launch of Ben Ten Alien Swarm that was on Cartoon Network on Saturday the 16th?” he asked.

“The 16th of what?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter!” Mr Justice replied somewhat impatiently. “The point is that in the olden days it would have been on a Monday. That’s a school night!”

He seemed almost outraged at such poor planning on the part of the creators of Alien Swarm.

“Except it wouldn’t have been made yet because this year was the first year it was shown,” I pointed out. “Thus the ‘launch’ aspect…”

“Yeah, yeah,” was his dismissive reply. “But it *would have been* on a Monday. You know, in those old days.”

Okay, sure.

Anyway, the point of all this is that now I’m writing this future post in a present that is already the past. It’s enough to turn a Not Drowning Mother to drink. Except that I suspect the road-trip might already have done that. Just a guess. Or rather, just a past prediction about a future which is now the present. Sheesh!

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I.

Even though it’s generally over 30 degrees Celsius outside and I’m almost 40, there’s something about Christmas that makes me want to walk around in an oversized overcoat, clicking my heels and saying “Gawd bless yer heart, guvna!”

I put it down to too much exposure to cheap made-for-TV versions of A Christmas Carol as a child.

My husband, however, holds little affection for me talking like a cheeky cockney chappie. Just the other day, he even had a little rant about “cockney rhyming slang” that can be summarised thus: “What. Is. The. Fucking. Point?”

“It can be funny,” I said. “For example: ‘pony’ is a goodie. I always liked that when we lived in London.”

“Yes, but how funny is it really?” my husband snarled. “Let’s look at it for a moment: ‘pony and trap’ rhymes with ‘crap’. Where exactly is the humour in that?”

Which just makes me wish I knew the rhyming slang word for “bahumbug”.

Anyone?

II.

Christmas is for the children. We all know that. So what do my children have to say about Christmas?

When I recently posted Mr Justice’s latest “Christmas Story” on twitter, people must have thought I was making it up. But here is the proof:

A Christmas Card. Once a boy was making a mess on the Christmas tree. He was shooting sauce at it. Then 100000000000000000000000000 ninjas burst through the window. Then one of the ninjas said “May the force be with your poos.”

And here is a picture The Pixie painted of Santa, projectile vomiting:

As for Tiddles McGee? Well, Tiddles McGee, aged all of three, just jumps up and down and shouts “WHERE’S MY PRESENT?”.

Yes, Christmas is for the children, all right. 

III.

On the day that my grandfather died, I began to bake. Up until then, my interest in the art of home-baking had been sporadic and (largely) disastrous. 

For example:

Ever seen what happens to your beaters when you fail to soften your butter before creaming it?

Ever seen the look on a small child’s face when biting into a banana cake containing large lumps of bicarbonate of soda?

Ever made a cake that is pure charcoal on the outside and completely uncooked batter on the inside?

Well, I have done all of this and more – and might have continued to do so on those few occasions I was legally permitted to enter a kitchen. But there was something about my grandfather’s passing made me feel it was time to step up to the mark at the ripe old age of 34. And, although it was February, I decided to bake my grandmother’s Christmas cookies for my family who were gathering together for the funeral.

I mixed and rolled and pressed and baked and, as I did so, with every single cookie I made, I felt like I was honouring my grandparents’ memory and the risks and sacrifices they’d made so that I might be here today. 

Of course, when my cookies came out of the oven, they didn’t taste at all like my grandmother’s. 

I’ve made them many times since – every Christmas since 2004, in fact – and they still don’t taste anything like hers. But the problem is, I can’t remember what hers taste like any more. 

But the recipe that I’ve made has become my own and one that my children now know and will grow up with. 

My husband said the same applies to “whistling solos” in folksongs as they are passed down from generation to generation. I said “Whatever” and then added a cheeky “guvna” just to piss him off.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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