Archive for December, 2008

Two bloggers. Two different hemispheres. One vision (largely impaired by too much clutter, dirt and booze). Exposed for all the world to see as Housekeepers Of Ill-Repute, Proprietresses of Dubious Maternal Instinct and Woefully Neglectful Wives.

Here they are, flashing their dirty bits in the first of three simultaneous postings. Click here to read the sister post


A lot of people say to me “How exactly did the idea for this ‘simulpost’ with the Bearded Iris come about?”. Well, I reply, it all started with Iris writing to me about a photo she’d taken of a “booger” one of her children had thoughtfully placed upon one of her walls, out of harm’s reach or perhaps as a snack for later. I thought to myself: I like the cut of this lady’s gib. Most people would have just wiped the booger off but no, ol’ Iris had to take a photo of it. And it got me thinking about what kind of photos I could take around my own home… 

In this age of open-plan living and antimicrobial hand wipes in a convenient purse-sized pack, there’s a lot of pressure on us housewives to live the Ikea Dream. And I’m sick and tired of pretending that I’m any good at this housekeeping lark and that having kitchen surfaces that I can see my reflection in is important to me. My home may be a pigsty but it’s a place full of love and laughter where nobody is ever told to stop busting a move in the loungeroom in case they scratch the new parquetry flooring or where scrubbing the bathtub is more important than sitting down with my children to read a book and have a hug. 

So here Iris and I both are, chucking a Jamie Lee Curtis: doing the housekeeping equivalent of showing our flabby bits to the world to make  a million women sigh with relief that their house is nowhere near as filthy as ours and maybe one or two others feel like they’re not alone in letting the housework get just a little bit on top of them. The subsequent photo essays are our gifts to the world on this day, the first day of the New Year, which is all about turning over new leaves and (perhaps) finding out once and for all what really lurks beneath the oven. If you’re that way inclined, that is – I personally am happy to leave it another year.

Some might call us brave. Most will call us slovenly. But here it is: the Awful Truth – in colour!



In a recent school exercise, Mr Justice completed the sentence “The people in my family are…” with the following list:


And he then drew this little picture…


Exhibit A: Check out Mummy's club foot!

It doesn’t take a genius to deduct from Mr Justice’s family portrait that we have a small spider problem in our house, but here’s a photo just to underline the point: 


Exhibit B: Web-tastic!

And for the record, I chose this particular spiderweb to photograph not because it was the biggest or the best but because I liked the perilously-placed skewers a-top of the cupboard so that anyone trying to clear those cobwebs might find themselves in a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style trap. Take that, spider slayers!


Here’s a small example of how things get stored in our house:


Exhibit C: Ikea, eat your heart out!

I have often thought I’d be the perfect candidate for that TV show “My Life on the Lawn” except there ain’t no lawn big enough in these here parts to hold my junk. Not even the lawns of the White House could handle it. No, truly.


Right through my house there is a designated “smudge zone” at toddler height where Jam Hands have left their Dreadful Mark over the last three years. As my children have grown taller, the height of the smudge zone has increased – hell, consider it a kind of organic growth chart…  


Exhibit D: It's almost Monet-esque in its dappled beauty

And why restrict the smudge zone to just walls and doorways: check out this pane of glass on the door separating our kitchen from the front of the house…


Exhibit E: Looking at the world through smudge-covered glass

I should add that the freakiest thing about looking at this photo is that I have the added layer of smudge on my computer screen… and then the further layer of smudge on my glasses… not to mention the blear of sleeplessness over my eyes… Layer upon layer upon layer, just like a Sara Lee danish, except not nearly half as edible. 


Behold the wall next to Mr Justice’s bed!


Exhibit F: The Wall of Mysteries

It’s hard to tell from this distance, but I suspect a lot of those marks present a veritable smorgasbord of human excretia. But I wouldn’t get up too close if I were you – and I, as me, certainly haven’t. Quite clearly. 

And then there’s the burning question about what jolly japes an unattended toddler armed with a box of Crayolas might get up to. Well, my children have kindly answered that one for us:


Exhibit G: My budding Michaelangelos (as in the artist and not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle)

I love this photo because you can see the line where the book shelves used to be before I got sick to death of picking up all the books off the floor every day. Ah, good times. 


Every now and then I get the washing up and the laundry done in time to do one of the “extra” cleaning chores, such as wiping down the cupboards or dusting the mantel piece or maybe even the vacuuming. And then once in a blue moon, I do something stupid like remove the “Dust Baffle” at the bottom of the fridge…


Exhibit H: Where fridge magnets crawl off to die...

Or think to finally hang up the sodden bathmat and find this on its underbelly:


Exhibit I: Leave all bathmats unturned...

Yes, that really is what was underneath my bathmat. Obviously my hope here is that eventually the bathmat will grow its own legs and turn itself in at the nearest washing machine.  You see, there’s method in my slovenliness. 

And on that lovely note, here ends the photo essay. 

Of course, I’ve done this whole “flashing of our dirty bits” post with The Bearded Iris entirely on trust. I’m hoping that she’s not going to show me up by posting photos of neatly folded, freshly-laundered colour-coded towels in her linen cupboard claiming it’s a total mess because someone’s accidentally put one of the bath towels in with the beach towels. Or, worse still, this whole simultaneous post thing was part of some Department of Community Services international sting operation to get me to provide photographic evidence for their files. I wouldn’t put it past those tricksy DoCS officers. 

So, just in case I’m going it alone here, I’m inviting everyone to send in photos of their secret housekeeping shames to notdrowningmother@gmail.com – all photographic material received will be treated with the strictest confidence and the anonymity of the sender preserved. Unless of course you cross me  – in which case I’m going to expose your slipshod arse for All the World to see (if, that is, you consider “all the world” to be my readership-of-three, which I personally do). I’ll be waiting by my inbox, people… 

In the meantime, I’d like to wish all three of you a Happy New Year – may 2009 be a good one for one and all.

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When my neighbour rang me yesterday to ask me if we were still coming around for drinks that afternoon, I wasn’t lying to her when I replied “Yes… Yes, we are.”  Had she asked me “Have you remembered that we’re having drinks this afternoon?”, however, my answer would have had to have been “No.”  The truth was that I had completely and utterly forgotten about our engagement.  

Well, actually that in itself is a lie. There was one (very small) part of my brain that knew we were having drinks with our neighbours on the 30th. Another part of my brain knew that the 30th was a Tuesday. And then yet another part of my brain maintained the illusion that  we had absolutely nothing planned on Tuesday. But was there any communication at all between those parts of the brain? No, sir, there was not. I expect that my brain must be modeling itself on the Australian Public Service these days.

Of course it wasn’t always this bad. I used to have a mind that was so sharp it could cut through diamond – or at least through butternut pumpkin. But those days have long gone, aided by lack of sleep, lack of mental stimulation and that rumoured 25% of brain capacity you lose with each successive pregnancy (which must leave me running at 25% capacity). These-a-days I can successfully maintain two separate sets of plans for the same time on the same date for days, working steadily towards both until pow! my two worlds finally collide and I realise that “Oh! This Saturday is also this Saturday…” But that moments where the neurons finally start firing is like I’ve been woken from a dream by having a bucket of cold water thrown over my head or worked out who Keyser Söze really was at the end of “The Usual Suspects” or at the very least discovered what that awful smell at the back of the fridge actually is. And then I’m left having to sort out some problem like being expected to be in two different places at the same time or – in yesterday’s case – having to pull a platter of hors d’oeuvres out of my arse (probably not the best metaphor there, NDM) using nothing but the scraps in my vegie crisper.

In the middle of it all, Mzzzz E rang for a chat. “Why can’t I just say ‘I forgot!’ and absolve myself of all responsibility for bringing shmancy snacks?” I moaned to her. And then: “If I can tie a carrot in a knot does that mean it’s past its use-by-date?”

Mzzzz E no doubt could hear the mounting hysteria in my voice, especially once I started trying to zest a lemon while still talking to her on the phone. She promptly said her goodbyes before I did something stupid again, like try to slice a knife with my hand (and no, I didn’t get that the wrong way around: I really am that stupid in the kitchen – see “Up in Arms” for proof) and I got on with my Extreme-Creativity-Under-Duress thing, but with two hands and my full(ish) attention (the kids were spending more quality time with the TV and only occasionally calling for drinks and elaborate snack plates).

So when I casually sauntered over to my neighbours’ house with the children, jug of premixed Flirtini and platter of delights at the appointed time, no-one would have guessed what the previous hour had held. However, had they seen the state I’d left my kitchen in, they might have had more of a clue. But of course, when I arrived at my neighbours’ house, I blurted out the truth – not so much in the interests of full disclosure, but so that they could admire my platter of Thai Salad Cucumber Cups for the Miracle that they truly were. And whatsmore, I didn’t even have to resort to using that Smelly Thing at the Back of the Fridge to make them which meant they were edible to boot. Which was nice.

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My friend KT recently had the Wardrobe Dilemma of a Life Time – one that I, myself, had been through just the previous year. It all came down to the selection of one outfit – a process that was vastly more important than choosing what we wore to the Year 12 Ball, to our university graduations, or even to our own weddings. You see, I’m talking about the task of choosing what to wear to a 20-year school reunion. You want to look attractive but not desperate. Youthful but not like someone who is clinging to their youth. Affluent but not flashy. Fashionable but not tragic. It’s a fine line to tread, especially when you’re lugging about all that emotional baggage left over from your high school years…

But listen, once you’ve chosen your outfit, the rest is relatively easy. No, really it is. Of course there’s still some residue fear – even after 20 years – that someone might call you a Pizza Face and give you a chinese burn but at least you feel like you’ll defend yourself better than just hiding behind your ridiculously long fringe and wanting to die. At least you hope you will.  

My reunion ended up being a low-key affair: perhaps 30 people (of a class of 200?) trekked along to the same pub where we all were underage drinkers another life time ago. (An aside: don’t you just love those signs in bottle shops that warn “If you look less than 30 years of age, we reserve the right to ask for ID”. I always say to the guy behind the counter “Go on, make my day. Ask me. ASK ME!” and he gets slightly fearful and pushes the panic button for security to clear me away. Such larks!)

It’s interesting how a school reunion can end up being as much about who doesn’t turn up as who did. On the list of notable absentees: the guy who bullied me for a whole year in Maths and Science basically because I dared to do better than him and be a girl;  the girl who went on to become an Actress of Some Note on Australian TV, who dissed me six years ago in the lobby of a hotel (KT – who was at the same school but one year below me – was kind enough to remind me that this same girl wore a dog collar to the Year 11 Ball – KT, I will always love you for that); and the guy who repeatedly broke my heart in a push-pull relationship because he was too embarrassed to let his friends know he liked an acne-ridden psycho-bitch. Ah, highschool. The best years of our lives? I think not. At least I hope the hell not. 

The people who did turn up represented a broad selection of the various “groups” that made up our year – and I was pretty much pleased to see every single one of them. Luckily, the reunion format is a bit like speed-dating – you only really get two minutes with each person and never have to get into the nitty gritty questions like “Why have you become so fat?” or “What happened to your hair?” or “You were going to make something of yourself – what the hell happened?”. I had the rather dubious honour of being the only person who had flown interstate to attend – something my good friend AK made a point of telling everyone we spoke to. But listen, there were “other reasons” for my trip, actually… and hell, so what if I flew for four hours just because I’m curious! It’s the novelist in me, okay? And no, I haven’t actually ever published anything or even written anything for 6 years… Phew, our two minutes is up… Next!

In any case, the room was pretty much united by the appearance of a good old-fashioned Mystery Guest – every reunion needs one! In our case, it was a guy with dreadlocks looking cool in that “I’m dating a 20-year-old and my mother still does my laundry” kind of way and the night’s burning question became not “What ever happened to…” but  “Who the fuck is that?”. It turns out not a single one of us in the room could remember him and when questioned closely, he was a bit evasive about who his friends were. I started to think he was some kind of serial school reunion attender researching his next novel called “My Year of Reunions”and was seriously considering if I should go up to him and pretend we’d gone out for two years and say stuff like “How could you forget that you took my virginity at the Year 10 River Rock, you bastard” just so I could get my own chapter in the book. However, it’s fortunate that I decided against this course of action in the end, because it turned out he wasn’t an undercover novelist at all, he was just confused. Whether it was due to an excess of drugs or all that bongo playing had addled his perception of time, he was in the year below ours and had just come to his reunion one year too early. And in which case, I really couldn’t be sure that I hadn’t had sex with him at the Year 10 River Rock (she says as if anyone had actually wanted to have sex with her at highschool).

Anyway, I was glad I went to my school reunion – though many people (my husband included) said they would rather eat their own hands than attend theirs. Nobody called me names. Nobody stood in a corner giggling and pointing at me (at least not obviously). And even if they did, I wouldn’t have cared (much). Because the real gift my reunion gave me was the realisation that I was actually in a pretty happy place with myself, even if that place was about a million trillion (zillion!) miles from where the 17 year old me thought she’d be by now. And that’s something worth traveling interstate for, now isn’t it.

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