Mar 23, 2011

Operation Fumigation

The Diary of The Brave (Some May Say Daft) Mother Who Cleaned Her Teenage Daughter's Bedroom.

Friday, Day 1: Daughter, 16, has left for school and will be going directly from school to German Language Camp. She will not pass her room, will not collect $200, and will not have a clue about what I am doing until she returns on Sunday afternoon.

Achtung.


Assemble all items that may or may not be needed. Dust cloths, Mr Sheen (not the Charlie variety; he gets dirty, not clean), disinfectant, wipes, broom, dustpan, vacuum cleaner, garbage bags, flea bomb, mousetrap, Febreze, scented candles, long-handled bbq tongs, paint scraper, gloves, face mask, goggles, phone numbers for State Emergency Services, Rentokil Pest Control, Drug & Poisons Unit, and Centre for Communicable Diseases.

Alert somebody that I am venturing into wild, uncharted territory alone. Wish I had a compass or a GPS. A trail of breadcrumbs maybe. A canary would have been good too. Momentarily ponder the thought of bringing in one of my Princess Parrots, but if they ever start breeding they will make me more money than my daughter ever will (I can sell their children, apparently I will go to jail if try to sell my daughter's). Say my goodbyes to Twitter and sort out posthumous distribution of my teapot collection.

Don safety gear and approach the door with caution. Not sure why, the door looks perfectly fine. Push door open and try not to cry. Survey damage. Clothes, shoes, books, folders, papers, cushions, stuffed toys, bags, socks, posters, hats, scarves, dvds, cds, and reindeer ears. And that's just the top layer. Which may or may not be moving; not sure if it's just my eyes watering or there is a sub-surface life form yet to be discovered.

Realise the odd feeling of movement is actually my own head spinning due to combination of odours; the smelly sock-type ones as well as the overpowering ones of her morning preparation. Deodorant, body spray, perfume, and quite possibly bubblegum. Oh…. no, I just trod on the gum.

Step out of room to remove the gum, steel my resolve and gulp some fresh air. Take a moment to wonder why it is that Aunties give teenage nieces cheap, putrid perfume instead of decent stuff. Do they think teenagers don't need to smell better than generic brand toilet freshener? Or is it some sort of long-awaited revenge on me for giving their kids tambourines, bongo drums and an electronic keyboard that got stuck on an "It's A Small World" loop when they were young?

Schnell.

Charge back into the room with bravado, gusto and a swig of Amaretto. Head down, bum up, attack the obvious first. Shoes. Check. Clothes. Check. Socks. This is where the bbq tongs come in very useful. Straight to washing machine. No wonder she's been borrowing my socks lately, she hasn't picked up any of hers for approximately eleven dog years.

Get the strange feeling I'm being watched. Come to the conclusion that all of the vampire, witch, wizard, werewolf, gangster and rockstar eyes in posters on the wall are following me around the room, mocking me. Collectively, they are a Threatening of Teen Icons. Thankfully no Efron or Bieber in sight.

A second layer of clutter begins to emerge. One of empty chocolate and lolly wrappers, Lipton Iced Tea bottles and milk drink cartons. Eeeew. Shit. Except for that one, that's not quite empty and it's no longer milk. Make mental note to pass that on to my friend who works in the Immunology Department of IMVS, it may be required for a lab experiment.

Books put away and random surplus posters which had been lying on the floor since the dawn of Girlfriend Magazine are tightly rolled up and tucked neatly in the corner. A discovery. Fairy wings. Yikes. I gave them to her when she was 4. She has worn them only ONCE when I made her. I thought they were beautiful. Now they just look like cheap pink stockings stretched over wing-shaped wire coathangers, which have been finger-painted with gold glitter by hyperactive toddlers. Bin.

A couple of hours in (I had a brief Twitter break after an hour to let people know I still had a pulse) and most major items have been returned to their rightful place, or forwarded to Waste Management Services. Surfaces cleared, during which an actual, functional desk was revealed hibernating in the corner; dusting, polishing, disinfecting and armour-coating commences.

Phone rings, washing needs to be brought in…. one thing leads to another glass of wine and day one of Operation Fumigation draws to a close.

Saturday, Day 2: A beautiful day. Bed stripped, linen washed, mattress and quilt aired. Replace photos, ornaments and knick-knacks onto now sparkling surfaces. Decide what to do with 'interesting' pottery creations she has brought home over the years. Internal debate rages over Aesthetics versus Sentiment. There is a clear winner. Shove them in a drawer.

Tidy up school books, bags, folders, papers and assignments into neat piles. The sun streams in and I catch a glimpse of something shiny out the corner of my eye. Bloody hell, a startling revelation. There really IS a polished floor in this room. It's been so long since I laid eyes on it. Try not to cry, again.

Sweep, vacuum, wash, remake bed, tidy up drawers, sort perfume (throw out the cheap shit), sort jewellery (see if she's pinched any of mine), sort nail polishes (see if I can pinch any of hers), and avoid eye contact with anything that looks remotely like a personal diary, a personal hygiene product, or a personal battery-operated device.

Slowly back out of the room, pulling door shut. Celebrate with vodka and pineapple. Over and over again.

Sunday, Day 3: Last minute check of the room, a bit of tweaking and a flourish of (my) expensive perfume. Done.

Fertig.

Daughter comes home, goes into room, dumps all her camp gear on the floor and comes out again. Not a word. Starts telling us about the weekend. Eventually Husband asks if she noticed anything.

With a roll of the eyes, "Yeah, I noticed Mum cleaned my room WITHOUT my permission. Where's all my stuff? And where the hell are my posters that were on the floor? You better not have rolled them up, I've spent months trying to flatten them out so I could put them up…."

Schei├če.

Looking up 'ungrateful cow' in German...



 

Mar 21, 2011

Red Dust and Blue Skies


Fleur McDonald is a country girl, born and bred in Orroroo, South Australia.

I am a city slicker, born and bred in Adelaide, South Australia.

Fleur boarded at an all girl's college 3 hours drive from home.

I attended my local co-ed high school 3 minutes walk from home.

Fleur was a jillaroo and studied Agribusiness.

I was a disco diva and studied aggro girls in nightclubs.

Fleur lives on 8,000 acres of land about 110kms from Esperance.

I live on an 830 sq metre block about 5kms from Adelaide city centre.

Fleur is more than 1500kms from her childhood home, as the crow flies.

I am 1.5km from my childhood home, the crow could walk.

Fleur sleeps under a million stars.

I won't sleep in anything that has less than a 5 star rating.

The day Fleur went to a sheep sale, I went to a Perfume and After Shave sale. She may have got more value for money, but I bet my day smelled better.

How on earth did we meet? Well, we haven't yet. Not physically. But some of our words and thoughts have met, online. And I now think I have glimpsed Fleur's heart and soul.

You see, Fleur writes novels, and she writes about what she knows. What she has seen, heard, felt and breathed in over many years on the land. And she does it very well. I can taste the red dust, hear the galahs squawking and the lambs bleating, smell the rain coming, and see the weathered, muddy-booted stockmen she describes so vividly. (Of course in my mind the stockmen are really good looking and are all wearing the After Shave I bought for them in the sale to cover the smell of sheep dung. But anyway…)


Fleur's first novel, Red Dust, was short listed in 2010 for the Australian Book Industry Awards as Newcomer (Debut) Author of the Year and the R*BY awards. It was also the highest selling novel for a debut author in 2009. And deservedly so.

It is the inspirational story of Gemma, a 29 year old woman, who (and I'm not giving anything away here) after witnessing her husband die in a plane crash, tries to maintain both the farm and the life she and her husband had built for themselves. She deals with grief, adversity, family dramas, allegations, rumours and community opinions, and the possibility that her husband's death was no accident, all with a stoic resolve to find the truth and emerge triumphant. And hopefully at peace.

Fleur sent me a copy of the book (which she forgot to pay the postage for, so bloody funny) and I loved it. It's an honest country yarn. I learned so much about what goes on in my own 'backyard', beyond the reach of fast-food outlets, shiny department stores and suburban humdrum. I even found myself venturing into the great outdoors as much as possible to read it, wanting to see blue skies, feel fresh air, hear birds chirping and create some sort of connection between myself and the story's rural setting. I stopped short of donning moleskins and RM Williams boots though, was strictly shorts and thongs weather. (The fact that, as a city-limits girl, I don't own any moleskins or RMs, is beside the point.)

I also haven't had the sudden urge to rush out and start crotching sheep or use lice spray on my kids (though I would've loved that during the Nit Plague of 2001), but I did get motivated to buy Fleur's second novel, Blue Skies.


It is sitting next to my bed, waiting to be devoured and I'm impatient to get started. A new heroine, a new setting, a new farm to discover, but all surrounded by the same red dust and blue skies that are so obviously in Fleur's blood. And how lucky are we that she has shared this love of hers with us?

Hopefully I'll get to meet Fleur one day (maybe soon). "But what on earth will you two have in common?" I hear you ask, "You're probably so different…"

Well… we're South Australian women, we have husbands, children, homes, families, an interest in books…. and then there is wine. But really I think anyone who uses a phrase such as,"zipped up his strides" in their book will get along fabulously with me.

And if she smells bad I'll just spray her with my perfume.




Check out Fleur's site: fleurmcdonald.com


And Allen & Unwin for more info on Red Dust and Blue Skies


Mar 15, 2011

The Garden of Weedin’

"There is peace in the garden. Peace and results." ~ Ruth Stout.




Ruth was an American author best known for her "No-Work" gardening books and techniques.

She lied.

Oh I guess eventually when the swearing dies down, the sunburn fades, the back unbends itself, and the cuts, scratches, broken nails, bruises and wounds all heal, there will be peace and results. But where does the "No-Work" bit come into it? And will we live to see it?

Monday was a public holiday in Adelaide, a day we had set aside all week as 'garden time'. While others around the city were enjoying the Adelaide Cup, Future Music Festival and Womadelaide in the glorious weather, we had earmarked that day to apparently torture our bodies, (not to mention several snails, grasshoppers and crickets), in a less drugs- alcohol-music-gambling -related manner, looking for said peace and results. (Though I'll bet there were as many disgusting, shiver-up-spine inducing creatures at those events as I found in my garden.)

Due to a combination of my excessive planting in years gone by, our brilliant warm sunshine, and the wettest summer for decades, the garden had got a little overgrown. I have been heard to mutter 'Triffids' quite a lot recently, and have been terrified to stand still for too long whilst outside lest one of my well tended plants grows quickly enough to strangle me and feed on my rotting carcass. "It's only a book" you say? I'd like to see you come and stand under my Wisteria for 20 minutes and tell me it's not alive.

So chore number one on the list was weeding and pruning. As was numbers two, three and four. Next was straightening and re-staking all our standard roses. Then rescuing a couple of shrubs that had been swamped by other larger, bossier specimens and moving them to their own open space, where they too can now grow into feral, life-threatening aggressors. Equality for all.



Weeding and pruning was okay, though it is where all my bloody wounds came from. Did I mention I was wearing an itty-bitty tank top, shorts and thongs? I know, I'm a bloody idiot, literally. I think I may still be sporting a couple of rose thorns in sensitive places, and my arms and legs feel like they have been whipped. And not in a good way. The tank top proved to be a distraction too, as the Husband kept stopping and saying things like "Have your boobs grown?", "Bloody hell, you're spilling out everywhere", and "Are you sure your boobs haven't grown?"

Onto the roses. A simple task. You'd think. Remove all the piddly little bamboo stakes that came with the roses from the nursery all those years ago and no longer hold them up in strong southerly winds; replace with solid, hardwood stakes. Except the roses are quite big, bushy and heavy now; they didn't want to straighten so easily. And it's amazing how they continually snag their thorns on your clothes, gloves, earrings and armpits. Ouch. And the ground was a bit firm. And some of the stakes didn't really have sharp enough points. And the husband's thumb got in the way of the big, heavy mallet. Ouch again.

About 48 bandaids and velcro rose ties later (and trust me, you don't want to get them mixed up), we moved onto the Shrub Search and Rescue. Two lost souls could just be seen desperately poking their heads out from between a Conifer and a Fuckingium Feralica Ficus (that is its scientific name, believe me). Husband commenced digging a hole where the rescued and hopefully rejuvenated plant number one would be relocated, and promptly struck a root. (No, he didn't get lucky, this is not the Garden of Eden as well as Weedin', it was an old tree root) He dug, he chopped, he hacked. Finally he dug up enough of it to get a firm grip and start pulling. (Gardening is full of innuendo, innit?) It was strong and stubborn, and gave up a good fight. He pulled and pulled….. until *snap*…. Husband went flying backwards …. As I could see what was about to happen I yelled out "Shit, you do some stupid things"…

….he tripped over this….









….and landed on a small tree, leaving it now looking like this….










 

As he was writhing on the ground clutching his shoulder, I rushed towards him, stood over him, put my head in my hands, and moaned "My tree…. My…. beautiful …..ornamental ….plum ….tree. IT'S RUINED. LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE." Yes, I'm very sympathetic. Sigh.

The rest of the chores were carried out in a sort of subdued manner; partly because by this time we were both knucking fackered; I realised my itty-bitty tank top had provided me no protection from not only the garden or the Husband's eyes, but from the sun either (mucho moisturiser required today, ouchie); and also because I was trying to stay mad at him for a bit longer, but the giggles were threatening to take over every time I pictured him flying, tripping and crashing. Hilarious.

So, Ruth Stout, I'm not totally convinced. The garden is not "No-Work" but "Shitloads-of-Really-Painful-Work".

However, there is peace to be found out there today while the Husband is at work, the Son is at Uni, and the Daughter is at school.

And that, my dear lady, is what I call a result.





 

Mar 2, 2011

This Old House


We have a love for old homes. I mean LURRRVE. Adore them. Can't get enough of stonework, fireplaces, leadlight, high ceilings, timber floorboards and a sense of history. Hence in 2003 we lost our minds and bought a piece of such history. A sandstone fronted villa that had been in the same family, relatively untouched, since it was built in about 1906. (some report it may have been as late as 1910, but either way, she's a century old now)

There had been very little improvement made to the house over the years, apart from the totally mod con of hot and cold running water, some war-era kitchen cupboards, an indoor bathroom, and the circa 1950s addition of a toilet into the lean-to laundry, making midnight trips to the outside brick dunny a thing of the past.

A 7 year labour of love, the old girl has driven us to blood, sweat, tears, bruises, splinters, aches, pains, destitution and near-electrocution, but fuck, she's worth it. Probably our proudest moment was when a local real estate agent asked us if she could use a photo of our house on the front of a brochure she was compiling on beautiful character homes in the area. Oh, yes.

This Saturday night we will be hosting a group of my husband's old workmates who have not set foot in her since our housewarming 7 years ago, and it has prompted me to take a look back at what we've done.

Whilst I appreciate everyone's taste is different, and I do admire modern homes and love looking at what people choose to live amongst, you will not see any white on white on white here. I'm traditional; some may say old-fashioned. I thrive on colour. I must have timber, in every shade and every condition. Recycled and distressed is best. I must have warmth. I surround myself with clutter. Old, worn, rustic things will always find a place in my home. Chipped, crackled, missing a piece, no longer works; none of it matters.

Must-haves were polished floorboards, a timber kitchen, an original claw foot bathtub and a fireplace in as many rooms as possible. Check. We have achieved all that.

Oh, and airconditioning. Hey, a girl has to keep her cool while she's designing her life.

Anyway, since I've been poring over the old photos this week, I thought I'd share some with you. Hope you enjoy.

July 2003


More recently



A view looking down our backyard in 2003; Harsh. All concrete paths, weeds, big trees and dunny on the left


Now; lush.





Living room fireplace; painted timber and a non-functioning oil heater

Now

The old galley kitchen (too small to house a fridge) and teensy art deco bathroom leading off it....


....was gutted....

...to become a nifty little study area and a bigger, brighter bathroom.






All of that meant of course the kitchen had to go somewhere else.... so we carried our sledgehammer into the dining room (the fireplace was a particular joy)...



....and voila.... my dream kitchen (still evolving actually)









The foundations of something new....




...and the finished result





I could bore you to tears for hours with a bazillion more pics like these....





....or these....






....but I won't. *wink*
Instead, I'll just grab a drink and go and enjoy some of the fruits of 7 years hard labour......>


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