The Survior’s Guide to (Take That) Concert Going

It’s safe to say I’ve never been a big concert-goer. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, it’s just a small matter of never being in the right city, country or continent at the exact time with enough cash to afford it and the necessary means to get there. Add to that the years spent pregnant, lactating or sleep deprived from small children and the window of opportunity shut even further.

I think the last concert I actually went to was – and here I hang my head in shame and embarrassment – Vanilla Ice at the BIC in Bournemouth about 20 years ago. What can I say? A friend was a fan, we were buoyed up on ‘end of term madness’ and, to our still developing 16-year old brains, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So anyway, roll forward 2 decades and some musical taste later and Take That announced their ‘Progress Tour’. I vowed that for once, regardless of cost or logistics, I would finally find a way to go. So on the day the tickets were released I spent 12 hours on the phone and Internet simultaneously, desperately trying to find a way to get me inside any venue south of Glasgow. Needless to say that, along with much of the country, I failed miserably and ended up with nothing more to show for my efforts than a crick in the neck and a rather sweaty handset. After 20 years of not making an effort to get any tickets it was a rather deflating moment I can tell you.

As luck would have it my husband, who having never been to a concert of any sort was equally keen to go, eventually managed to lay his hands on those prized golden tickets. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have to kill anyone, donate an organ he still requires or sell our souls to a loan shark to get them, but to be honest, I was so happy to know we were going I thought it better not to ask.

Roll forward to last week and we were finally driving off with a spring in our ‘out of the house without offspring’ step. We made it from rural Norfolk to the scary streets of London in great time; unfortunately it took us ever so slightly longer and one argument later to find a car park. It seems that even the most intelligent sat nav (and it’s user) can confuse a ‘car park’ with a brick wall at the end of a deserted street.

Forward some more and we were racing through multiple tube stations and heading for Wembley, along with, or so it seemed, the entire membership base of the ‘That Take Fan Club’. A fairly female fan club as my husband pointed out, suddenly panicking that he was going to be the only member of a 85,000 audience sporting stubble.

I don’t think the enormity of the event hit me until we emerged into the sun and saw the sheer size of the crowd making their way towards the arena. It was intimidating and exhilarating in one hit and not really the ideal venue for those who don’t do big crowds. After queuing for a life time to get into the men’s toilets (the queue for the ladies was considerably longer) and parting with far too much money for the obligatory T-shirt, we walked in to secure our spot near the stage.

Had I been more prepared and considered how long we’d be waiting, I might have brought a picnic, a rug and some comfy cushions. Other more experienced concert-goers unpacked their cheese, crackers and sandwiches around us and settled back in relative comfort. Having spent most of the spare cash on the said obligatory T-shirt, we sat on the plastic matting with the remaining 2 packets of rice cakes and a bottle of water.

As for the concert itself, well what can I say. Once we’d got the Pet Shop Boys over with (could they really not have got anyone better?) and the music started, it was an amazing 2 1/2 hours of jumping, screaming, singing and shrieking. We weren’t that far back from the stage but some inconsiderate large people decided to stand in front of me, so thank god for the large screens and my newly laser eyes. I spent much of the time on my tip toes with my arms flapping above my head. Bizarrely enough on this occasion high heels would have actually been more comfortable than Converse. Who knew.

The set was great, the theatrics were incredible and Take That themselves…well what can I say. They were everything you imagine them to be in concert and more. Robbie in particular looking wired (although I’m sure he wasn’t) and particularly manic throughout and was obviously put on this planet purely to entertain.

Determined not to get caught up in the crowds, miss the last train and get left with an enormous taxi bill we couldn’t afford (down to that obligatory T-shirt again), my husband dragged me back through the crowds the moment they stopped singing. He did let me listen to some of the encore from the top of the steps, but with the 5 of them still warbling on stage we ran, sprinted and weaved our way out of the stadium, down all the steps, along the very long street and through the countless mounted police there to control the 85, 291 buzzing concert-goers about to leave.

Witnessing the sea of people coming up behind us, all heading for the same rather narrow walkways of the tube station, I have to say I’m rather glad my sensible husband didn’t let me stay any longer than we did. For once he was absolutely right – though don’t tell I said that.

Obviously I didn’t want to forget the night, so I spent much of the time waving my camera above the crowd and alternating between taking photos (below) and video clips. These are for me to look back at in years to come so I can remember that night I dragged myself off the sofa and up to Wembley – and for anyone out there who wanted to go, tried to get tickets and didn’t.

And finally, here are the lessons learned from my experience:

1. Make sure your husband knows just how much you want those tickets.
2. Wear shoes suitable for walking, running, sprinting, jumping & excessive standing.
3. Take as many supplies as you can fit into a back pack – and a husband to hold it.
4. Buy a souvenir T-shirt beforehand. Preferably somewhere cheaper. Like Tescos.
5. Hide your water before going in, being searched and losing it.
6. Be prepared to wait – for quite a long time.
7. Be prepared to queue for a loo – or sip fluids sparingly and cross your legs.
8. Don’t stand next to shrieking, tone-deaf girls who sing louder than the main act do.
9. Edge to the back of the stadium and start running before the music stops.
10. Don’t waste money on pricey seats; pay less & stand, there’s far more atmosphere.




Diary of a Pom in Western Australia

I got forwarded this a while back and thought it was too funny (and close to the truth) not to post.

August 31

Just got transferred with work from Leeds UK to our new home in Karratha, Western Australia. Now this is a town that knows how to live! Beautiful, sunny days and warm, balmy evenings. I watched the sunset from a deckchair by our pool yesterday. It was beautiful. I’ve finally found my new home. I love it here.

September 13

Really heating up now. It got to 31 today. No problem though. Living in air-conditioned home, driving air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to see the sun every day like this. I’m turning into a sun-worshipper – no blasted rain like back in Leeds!!

September 30

Had the back yard landscaped with tropical plants today. Lots of palms and rocks. No more mowing lawns for me! Another scorcher today, but I love it here. It’s Paradise!

October 10

The temperature hasn’t been below 35 all week. How do people get used to this kind of heat? At least today it’s windy though. Keeps the flies off a bit. Acclimatizing is taking longer than we expected.


October 15
Fell asleep by the pool yesterday. Got third degree burns over 60% of my body. Missed three days off work. What a dumb thing to do. Got to respect the old sun in a climate like this!


October 20
Didn’t notice Kitty (our cat) sneaking into the car before I left for work this morning. By the time I got back to the car after work, Kitty had died and swollen up to the size of a shopping bag and stuck to the upholstery. The car now smells like Whiskettes and cat shit. I’ve learned my lesson though: no more pets in this heat.

October 25

This wind is a bastard. It feels like a giant fucking blow dryer. And it’s hot as hell! The home air conditioner is on the blink and the repair man charged $200 just to drive over and tell me he needs to order parts from fucking Perth ….The wife & the kids are complaining.

October 30

The temperature’s up around 40 and the parts still haven’t arrived for the fucking air conditioner. House is an oven so we’ve all been sleeping outside by the pool for 3 nights now. Bloody $600,000 house and we can’t even go inside. Why the hell did I ever come here?

November 4

Finally got the fucking air-conditioner fixed. It cost $1,500 and gets the temperature down to around 25 degrees, but the humidity makes it feel about 35. Stupid repairman. Fucking thief.

November 8

If one more smart bastard says ‘Hot enough for you today?’ I’m going to fucking throttle him. Fucking heat! By the time I get to work, the car radiator is boiling over, my fucking clothes are soaking fucking wet and I smell like baked cat. Fucking place is the end of the Earth.

November 9

Tried to run some errands after work, wore shorts, and sat on the black leather upholstery in my car. I thought my fucking arse was on fire. I lost 2 layers of flesh, all the hair on the backs of my legs and off my fucking arse. Now the car smells like burnt hair, fried arse and baked cat. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

November 10

The Weather report might as well be a fucking recording. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny, Hot and fucking sunny. It never fucking changes! It’s been too hot to do anything for 2 fucking months and the weatherman says it might really warm up next week. Fuck!

November 15

Doesn’t it ever rain in this damn fucking place? Water restrictions will be next, so my $5,000 worth of palms might just dry up and blow into the fucking pool. The only things that thrive in this fucking hell-hole are the fucking flies. You don’t dare open your mouth for fear of swallowing half a dozen of the little bastards!

November 20

Welcome to HELL! It got to 45 fuckin’ degrees today. Now the air conditioner’s gone in my car. The repair man came to fix it and said, ‘Hot enough for you today?’ I wanted to shove the fucking car up his fucking arse. Anyway, had to spend the $2,500 mortgage payment to bail me out of jail for assaulting the stupid prick. Fucking Karratha! What kind of sick, demented fucking idiot would want to live here!

December 1

WHAT!!!! The FIRST day of Summer!!!! You are fucking kidding me!


Peace, quiet and fishy friends

Of all the places that I’ve sat to write a post, I have to admit that this one sure beats my sofa. Not in levels of comfort perhaps, but definitely when it comes to the view.

Today I’m stretched out on the boardwalk at Manley wharf as I watch the ferries arrive and the sea gulls bobbing around on the water as they wait for someone to drop their chips. My new MacBook Air is being given its first official outing and I’m completely alone – give or take the several 100 other people milling around me having a drink. So granted I’m not strictly alone alone, but on my own, if that makes sense.

I know to many this wouldn’t be a particularly special event, but for me it’s a very rare occasion indeed to be out on my own during daylight hours – let alone out with my laptop and two free hands no less.

Weekend trips out are normally far more child-orientated affairs for us, involving a playground, somewhere dispensing food, hot drinks and tranquilizers and the necessary toilet no more than a quick sprint away.

There’s usually ice cream to be administered and squabbles to be broken up.  There’s always a pram loaded up besides me with at least 10 bags containing sandwiches (that never get eaten), spare clothes (that never get worn) and 5 litres of water (which never get drunk). It’s the basics of Parenting 101 – always be prepared.

On this trip however – or for this precious hour and a half at least – my beloved offspring are being entertained by Daddy, a clown fish and a couple of sharks. No, they aren’t on the set of ‘Nemo the Seaquel’, just gazing at all things with fins across the water from where I’m sitting in Oceanworld.

Now I don’t normally like to be absent on such outings with them, after all, one of the perks of being a parent is watching your child see new things and have fun. But over the course of the last few weeks we’ve already covered most of Sydney’s attractions – including all the fishes, turtles, sharks and stingrays that the average adult can handle.

So no offense to Oceanworld, but I think I’ve had all the aquatic action I need to keep me going for a year or two. Besides, I’m safe in the knowledge that two cameras have gone forth and at least 100 photos will return.

My daughter has an air of Japanese tourist about her when it comes to picture-taking. If something happens to be in front of her, whether it’s standing, sitting, sleeping or even stuffed, then it’s snapped – several times over. If it’s a particularly large object she’ll take a series of pictures, presumably so they can be joined up at a later date.

I do keep pointing out to her that taking a photo of a very small fish in a very large glass tank won’t really result in anything except her reflection and a rather grainy looking blob, but she is determined to prove me wrong. And indeed she has on a number of occasion. Most recently with her in-depth study of a sleeping turtle in Sydney Aquarium.

Bless her, if I printed out everything she photographed there would be a gaping great hole the size of England in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest, or wherever it is that Kodak harvest their photo paper from.

I can’t complain of course. Her shutterbug nature was passed down through the umbilical cord and all of her compulsive tendencies to document are learned direct from the master herself – me.

Right, my time is now up so I must go reclaim my family and make a hasty beeline for the car park. We’ve got 5 minutes till our 2 free hours are up and then we’ll be charged a small fortune for every extra minute that we take.

I may not have had long to sit and relax on this occasion, but it was just enough to remind me how much fun it can be to trail behind my children as they dash from bored-looking fish to bored-looking fish – camera at the ready.

Ready. Steady. Pack

Moving house is considered one of the most stressful things you can do in life, along with illness (tick), death (tick), divorce (tick), marriage (tick), pregnancy (tick), changing jobs (tick) and debt (tick).

Yes, over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to experience them all. Some several times over in fact. Actually, when I come to think of it, most of them several times. How depressing. There are however a few situations I’ve managed to avoid thus far (including retirement and jail time) but there’s still 6 months left of this year, so best I not count my chickens before they’re blessed.

Strangely enough ‘moving country’ has never featured in any Top 10 stress list that I’ve seen. A major oversight on someone’s part surely. Anyone who’s ever tried it knows that there’s nothing quite like packing up your family, baggage (emotional and household) and pets, and then relocating them all around the world. It really does get those grey hairs a growin’.

So why, when I’m fully aware that the combination of packing boxes, shipping companies and small children make for newly formed wrinkles, do I keep on getting itchy feet and moving?

I blame my parents. Naturally. Most things in life come back to our parent’s decisions, choices and wrongdoings. It’s not the fault of the parent necessarily, just the way it is. As a parent myself now, I fully expect to screw up my own two children along the way and be held to account at a later date.

So why do I blame my parents? By the way, if either of them happen to read this, which is unlikely I know, I use the word ‘blame’ lightly. Because when I grew up I never called anywhere home for more than a few years at a time.

When I was born, a good 35 years ago, I emerged from the womb with a suitcase clutched in one newborn paw and a boarding card in the other. I had a monogrammed luggage label securely tied around my neck. Well actually I had an umbilical cord around my neck, but you get the gist.

Having been plopped straight onto the luggage conveyor belt at Heathrow I’ve  spent the majority of my life since bouncing from one country and continent to the next. I’ve lost count of the homes I’ve had and even the number of countries I’ve visited over the years.

We started off in Africa, as all self-respecting, jet-setting babies do. First were those early years in Nigeria, with its crowded marketplaces and beautiful beaches  – except for the one where they executed criminals every week. Not that the beach wasn’t lovely mind you, it’s just that there’s nothing like the sound of gunfire to really ruin the atmosphere when you’re having a picnic on the sand.

This was later followed by time amongst the animals and spectacular waterfalls of Zimbabwe – in the years before Mugabe decided to exorcise his ‘rights’ to be an arrogant, murdering dictator.

Those years, combined with the many visits to neighbouring countries installed in me a great love of the sounds and smells of this continent from a very young age.

Next on the list came the Middle East, with 3 fun-packed years in Bahrain and a short stint in Oman. Then came Asia and the hot, humid shopping mecca of the Far East – Singapore. Twice I moved there to be precise. The second time with a husband, child and two cats in tow.

3 years after that I returned home (minus the husband and the feline friends). Turn the clock forward another 3 years – having added a long-lost love/second husband and extra child to the brood – and I set off for Australia. Perth to be precise.

And that’s where I’ve been until now. Or should I say up until 2 weeks ago.

Not wanting to buck a trend, 3 years after touching down on Perth’s dry and incredibly sandy soil, my boredom threshold was crossed with military precision. So the movers were called in, boxes were packed and I left –  one husband, two kids and a dog in tow. Yes, we’ve now gone canine.

That probably all makes moving sound like a breeze I know, but it really it isn’t. This last upheaval has involved sifting and sorting our belongings with great brutality, huge garage sales and months of living in, on and around packing boxes. It has also involved a flying dog and coming up with a great pile of money to pay for it all.

The process came to an end three weeks ago, when an empty container turned up early in the morning with 3 packers – who, no word of a lie, closely resembled Beavis, Butthead and that gangly, useless looking one from Scooby Doo. They drifted around the house, wrapping furniture like they were stoned (strong possibility). They then told me, with at least 30 items in the garage still to go,  it wasn’t all going to fit in the container.

Now if I hadn’t heard this from packers 1000 times before I might have been more concerned than I already was. Though I have to admit that ‘concerned’ at this point meant pacing up and down the road, flapping my hands as I watched them roughly shove in our precious cargo and calling my husband at work every 4 minutes to shriek “It’s not going to fit, what the hell are we going to do?”.

Of course his response went along the lines of “I’m not there I can’t really tell you what to do – tell them they’ll have to re-pack it”. My response to that was… well it was a response of a sorts.

Recounting all of this makes me realise two things. Firstly that I must have spent an exorbitant amount of money shipping ‘stuff’ around the world. The sort of rubbish that usually goes into the kitchen bits drawer and never comes out. Only on a much larger scale, like a kitchen drawer the size of a 20 foot container.

Secondly, this latest moving experience has made me realise that I only seem to last anywhere for 3 years at a time. And 3 years, let me tell you, is barely long enough to get in, unpack, decorate and start living. And that brings us nicely back to why I blame my parents.

They brought forth a child with wanderlust in it’s veins and the complete inability to put down anything resembling a root. It may not sound like a bad thing, but life as a serial expat can be tiring, and rather unsettling to boot. It can also prove a very hard life to give up. I know, I’ve tried. A good many times.

Not that I’d ever want to change the life that I’ve had I hasten to add. It’s been amazing so far and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen, done, experienced and enjoyed all the things that I have. But really, enough is enough.

So, in two weeks time I’ll be re-packing (for the 8th time in 6 weeks) and waving this particular continent goodbye. Then, after a brief pit stop in KL to recharge in the sun, it’s back home we all go.

This time when I say I fully indeed to stay put, I really mean it. So if you’re driving through Norfolk in 3-years time and see a strange-looking woman shackled to a fence and eating something that looks suspiciously like a passport, then that will be me.

Please don’t stop to help.

How to fly round the world and survive


Normally the worst thing about a holiday (apart from flying with small children) is when it comes to an end. But when you have to fly all the way back around the world just to arrive at your own front door, it’s even worse. A healthy dose of jet lag is enough to make you look and feel like you’ve never even been away.

Our epic trip began last Sunday – starting with the pleasure of a two and a half hour trip on a jam-packed National Express coach, where I passed the time pinning a hyper 3 year-old to his seat and listening to the woeful bleating of a driver who felt his job description shouldn’t actually involve any driving. Especially on a Sunday.

Next came the lipstick coated power freak at check-in, who demanded we extract 2kgs worth of stuff from one ‘too heavy for the conveyor belt’ suitcase. Have conveyor belts suddenly grown weaker over the years or are they now simply exercising their civil rights? The 2 kg was of course simply added to the already overloaded hand luggage. Right there on the floor. In front of the power freak. The logic of this blatant redistributing is lost on me.

Having already completed the lengthy flight at the start of the holiday, what now lay ahead of us was hardly much of a surprise. But, just like child-birth, the mind has a habit of erasing the true extent of the ordeal involved, just to make sure that you will ever contemplate doing it again. Quite a handy thing, when you have a return ticket to use up.

For the first 11 hours I sat wedged between 2 children – covered in the crumbs of a rock-hard bread roll and wrapped from head-to-toe in the wires of 6 headsets. Why we even had 6 I’m not sure, there were, after all, only 4 of us.

As a flying parent you are faced with 2 possible scenarios, neither of which it has to be said are particularly pleasant.

The first option is to make the most of each and every inch of your seat, and to achieve the maximum level of comfort – granted, this isn’t much, given the blood clot inducing foetal position you are now in, with your knees wedged into your rib cage and your feet tucked into the magazine holder in front. This does however allow for the possibility of a few hours sleep for yourself, if the restless and wriggling children on either side of you would allow it. Which, as a general rule, they don’t.

The second option – the more selfless and painful one – is relinquish both arm rests and allow your uncomfortable children to stretch themselves out across both your seat and your lap. So resigning yourself to the knowledge that you will get no rest at all. Like I said, neither option is designed to really appeal.

I went with the second, though more out of necessity than choice I admit. When faced with a choice between crying, whingeing children, and a mind-numbing night of pain, I opted for the lesser of 2 evils.

By the time we had located our lost stroller at Hong Kong airport, walked several kms through duty free (without even getting within sniffing distance of any shopping), gotten lost and caught the necessary train to find our connecting flight, I was quite happy to snap the head off the unhelpful ground staff who told us off for being late. If I’d had the energy or a free hand I’d have smacked him round the face. Like I said, I was tired.

Within minutes of the next plane taking off I went into self-preservation mode, pulled on the blindfold and went to sleep – until I felt the eyes of my tired husband boring into me, so resigned myself to waking up and giving him a chance to pass out.

Arriving back in Perth would have been a welcome relief, if we’d actually come back to the comfort of our own home. But we couldn’t and we didn’t.  Instead we had to stay in a hot and basic rental for a week, battling jet lag and fighting flies. With mornings starting around 2.30am, 2 over-tired kids to entertain and no car to even escape the cabin fever, I think it’s safe to say the end of the holiday was far from perfect.

Post holiday blues wouldn’t even begin to cover how I felt. I was in a completely different colour spectrum all together.



Demon children and saintly spoodles


Taking your child away on holiday can sometimes be a very dangerous thing to do. In only a few short weeks they can morph into a human being barely recognisable from the one you once knew. As routine, balanced diet and consistency goes out the window, everything you ever taught them seems to follow, including good manners, eating habits and general all round intelligence.

In the case of my 3 year-old, this certainly seemed to be the case. He left Perth a mild-mannered, book loving, happy eater, and arrived in England a screeching, uncontrollable terror. Who wouldn’t eat a single vegetable. Including beans. Coated in tomato sauce. Made by Heinz. Heavens above, what child refuses those?

What the hell happened up there at 33,000 feet you might ask? I’m still pondering the very same question myself – but looking back it’s easy to see where it all went so wrong.

A stranger to sugar and capable of sleeping for up to 4 hours in his afternoon nap, my son found his world being tipped upside down as he was dragged from his bed and shoe horned into the car on the way to the airport. There we were, in the middle of the night, singing to try to keep him awake. Dragging him behind us at speed, force feeding him cookies (albeit low-fat ones) to coax him on a plane he didn’t want to go on, and then telling him he must then lie down and go back to sleep, with bright lights and dinner trays clattering all around him.

It was a recipe for disaster from the start, and the rest of the holiday carried on in much the same vein. Erratic bed times, long stretches in the car, sporadic mealtimes containing all the wrong foods and a difference set of people every time he woke up. To say he was a fish out of water was an understatement. More like a little boy in a parallel universe.

As a direct result of this holiday madness, and so not really his fault at all, his behaviour often veered on the side of manic. Energy levels went through the roof, ears sealed off to reasoning and his mouth went into screeching overdrive. And all in a country where you are no longer allowed to ‘discipline’ your child in public … tricky.

He now saw eating – unless the food in question came under the food group ‘treat’ – as an unncessary inconvenience, and as mentioned before, anything that had once grown up from, across or dropped to the ground was now met with a pursed mouth and muffled cries of “Don’t like it”. A tad frustrating, especially as the week before he’d happily opened up for aubergine and olives.

The ‘highlight’ of this out-of-control behaviour came however, at perhaps the very worst time possible of our entire holiday. I’d go as far as to say, that in the collective 12 years my offspring have been alive, never have I wanted to hang my head so low in shame.

While visiting a potential school for my daughter, my son reached deep into his inner demon and pulled out quite possibly the worst behaviour that the inside of the headmasters office has ever seen. He spread crumbs far and wide (from a biscuit off the tea-tray he’d launched himself at), squeezed his juice box across the polished table and pulled himself back and forwards across the floor like the member of a crack commando team. He climbed on the window seats, threw cushions on the floor and very nearly pulled down the curtains – 4 times. He struggled when I picked him up, pulled at me when I put him down and slithered to the ground when I put him back in his seat. The entire time he screeched and shrieked and laughed like a nutter possessed.

It was pretty toe-curling stuff, as any parent could well imagine.

There we were, talking about school reports and untapped potential and trying to give a good impression. And there was  my little monster – who would also be eligible to go there in a years time – bouncing off the walls like Tiger on a mixture of crack cocaine and speed.

The only saving grace in this whole embarrassing ordeal was that the headmaster knew better than to judge the entire family based off of the actions of its smallest member. As well as being a parent,  he was also my old English teacher – the teacher who had in fact inspired me to start writing in the first place, many light years ago.

Should this worrying tale of holiday woe begin to put off any parent thinking of taking a break, then fear not, it does have a happy ending.

After the episode at the school, sugar was abruptly cut out of his diet (which was unfortunate for him as this happened before Christmas). Within days he started to ease off his high and calm down again – apparently it takes at least 2 weeks for somebody to go cold turkey where the sweet stuff is involved. Now back in Perth, my son is already back to his old self, and get this, better than before. His manners are perfect, he’s calm and controllable and best of all, he’s eating vegetables faster than I can get them on his plate.

Not that I’d ever recommend killing your child’s routine and dragging them round the world to help knock them into shape, but on this occasion, it seems to have done the job.

Incidentally, the same also seems to be true of Charlie. He went into the kennels as a naughty, barking, escape artist, and come out a changed dog. He is now well-behaved, quiet and far more obedient than the 2 year-old Spoodle that went in. He didn’t even make a run for it the other day, when I accidently opened the garage door without shutting him inside first.

Now, if my daughter had gone in the same direction as my son and the dog, I could have said I had a hat trick on my hands. Unfortunately the excellent behaviour she showed when away (which was enough to get her offered a place at the school) has worn off some, and been replaced with the somewhat emotional and pouting little girl of before.

Still, can’t win them all, and 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.


Planes, trains and watery accidents

My 2 1/2 year old son has been undergoing toilet training for about 6 weeks now, and I have to say he’s doing a lot better than I ever expected him to. Boys are, after all, meant to be a lot slower on the uptake when it comes to the learning about when to poop and pee, and when to clench and hold.

Of course there have been accidents. One next to the sofa, one in the bedroom where he shut the door on himself and couldn’t get out, and a handful around the bathroom – normally as a result of him misjudging the volume of wee in his bladder and shooting off the potty before he’s completed the job.

Trying to shoo the dog away as I re-dress, empty, bleach and wipe is the hardest part of all.

Unfortunately my sons days at nursery do set him back sometimes. Whether it’s the excitement of finger painting or the 15 or so other kids queuing up for the potty, some days I go to collect him and am met with a bag of wet clothes and a rather nasty smelling teddy. The washing machine never had such a good work out for so few clothes. One day, when he had gotten through all 3 sets of spare clothes in his Bob the Builder backpack, I arrived to find him wafting around the room wearing nothing more than a kimono from the dressing up box. That was one of those occasions when you wish you had a camera to hand.

As with many things in life, thinking about doing something is often worse than actually doing the deed. The very idea of replacing nappies with pants on a leaking child is one such time. I found the only way to really stay one step of the game in the beginning was to spend every 4th minute asking him if he needed to go, and then ferrying him backwards and forwards to the potty, armed with 16 books and a thermos of tea (for me). It was monotonous and repetitive, but it did the trick. After a while, and probably because he got so damn sick of being asked, he started to tell  me when he needed to go. Or rather he’d screech “Poo Mummy” as he scurried towards me, with one hand behind his back clutching his bottom.

Seeing that I would drop everything and leap to attention when he needed to go, he quickly realised that the whole process could be manipulated into something of a game. I’d run to get him to the bathroom, peel off the layers, sit him down and then he’d laugh. “No Poo Mummy”. Hmmmmm. That one soon wears very thin, particularly when you’re in the shower, eating your breakfast or halfway up a mountain..

A Blue Mountain to be exact. Let me explain.

We’ve just got back from spending a week in Sydney. A week in Sydney in the rain. Who knew it would be so cold, or so wet at this time of year. Everyone but us apparently. Typically, the weather forecast for the week changed upon our arrival. It went from sun and a spot of cloud every day, to rain with a touch of rain every day.

Damp weather aside, holidaying with children is always a test – a test of a parent’s patience, stamina and will to live. Air travel in particular can be stressful at the best of times (something I wrote about before),  but throw in a couple of kids and several tonnes of ‘can’t get by without you’ luggage and you can find yourself half way to a nervous breakdown at 30,000 feet.

It’s always hard to know how your children will react to leaving the ground in a vacuum packed can. My son wasn’t amused. At all. Watching the aeroplanes through the terminal window – great fun. Walking down the air-slip onto the plane – not so fun. Sitting in his seat for take off – simply not going to happen.

So what does he call out in a desperate bid for freedom? “Poo Mummy”.

Yes, just what all the passengers around us wanted to hear. I’m sure some actually recoiled and held their nose in fear. So, with the fasten seat belt sign lit up and the plane doors already closed, he was whisked up the aisle to the toilet with potty in hand. Did he need to go? Of course he didn’t, but it would have been a pretty brave parent to take the risk.

And so followed a week of untimely potty stops. In the bushes in front of the Opera House. In the undergrowth next to the museum. Sat inside the land train going around Darling Harbour. Behind the seal enclosure at Taronga zoo. On a grassy knoll overlooking Botany Bay. On the train into the shops, and around the back of the Police Station in the CBD. There was no where he didn’t go. And there was no where we could go without a potty, wet wipes and spare clothes at the ready. It really is amazing how the bowels of a small child can shape and dictate your day.

The mountains, as previously discussed, were probably the worst. When he decided he needed to go, the rain was coming in at us diagonally from both sides – with the force of Niagara Falls. We happened to be out on a nature trail at that moment, trying to take at least one photo of the view to prove we had enjoyed the grey and misty scenery. We ended up in the car pack, huddled over him with umbrellas, as he sat on the ground to give it a go. Did anything materialise?  Nope, not even with the encouraging sound of gushing water hitting his parent’s heads.

Same story in the Jenolan caves, and then twice on the way back up the mountain at night, in thick and surprisingly spooky fog. At times like this it is definitely tempting to ignore the little voice from the back seat, but the car seat was hired and the excess for damage to the car was $3000. No pee is worth that much. This time he sat perched on his potty in the boot of the car, smiling up at us, as if it were all perfectly normal.

All pit stops aside, the biggest and most costly accident that occurred during the week, was not by my toddler, but by my husband instead. We were on the ferry traveling from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, and had decided to sit outside in the spitting rain, to take some pictures of the Opera House as we went past.

Somehow, and don’t ask me how, the camera leaped out of his pocket, dropped onto the ferry floor and slid 2 foot across to the edge of the boat. As it happened (does it ever happen any other way?), there was a gap in the side of the boat. About, oh lets say, camera sized in width. The only bloody hole, I might add, that there was down our side of the boat.

The camera then proceeded to slide through the hole and sit on the outside rim. I’m sure the camera lenses winked at me. We both looked at it in disbelief – I know I was certainly wondering what the hell is it doing down there. Having a child on my lap I couldn’t move. My husband, who swears it all happened in seconds, apparently has the reaction times of a snail on speed.

PLOP, over it went. All of our photos sank right to the bottom of the harbour. I’m not embarrassed to say I burst into tears. My husband did what any intelligent man in the same situation should do. He kept very quiet and looked at the floor. After several minutes of watching my tears mixing with the rain, my daughter helpfully piped up.

“Now you’ve lost all of my photos.” Followed by. “This wouldn’t have happened if we’d sat inside you know.” I believe she received quite a glare.

We all left the ferry in silence. Even my son knew better than to say he needed a poo. Half an hour later, when we were standing underneath the sharks inside the aquarium, my husband ventured to speak to me. “Well obviously we’ll buy a new camera tomorrow.”

And so we did.

He did feel marginally better when told in the camera shop that he was the 3rd person that week to drop their camera into the water. Had our home contents insurance actually covered us for the camera outside of the house, then he might have redeemed himself a little more. But of course, despite trotting along to the Police Station to report it’s loss (hence the potty stop), it didn’t. Now had he dropped it into a mug of tea at home, we’d be quids in – go figure.

The new camera is shatterproof, waterproof, snow-proof and husband-proof. That of course means it comes with a manual thick enough to sit on at the breakfast bar. By the next holiday I might just have worked out which setting goes with which, and how to use the ‘Beauty Mode’. Till then, it’s safe to say my dearest husband will be remaining on the other side of the lens, and paying for his act of clumsiness through the public humiliation on this blog.


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