Archive for July, 2011
This will be an extremely short post, because you can’t whinge about being in Paris. When you’re at home, it’s okay to whinge about the price of food these days and the fact that you’ve eaten only bread, ham and cheese for a week, but when you’re in Paris and it’s baguette, jambon and fromage, forget about it. Facebook that one and see what happens. Let’s just say there were several highlights during our week in Paris, but there was mostly a hell of a lot of running around trying to locate toilets. It’s not easy to take a lactose intolerant child to the land of chocolate, cheese and butter.
See? That it just sounds wrong, doesn’t it? I told you. You can’t whinge about being in Paris. People will entertain your whinge about Bulgarian toilet hunting, but not Paris. Anyway, even as the whingey thoughts form in your head they feel wrong when you attach the word ‘Paris’.
I wonder if it was the same when my grandmother broke her hip inside Notre Dame, when I was young? If she got home to Australia and everyone felt sorry for her until they found out she broke her hip in Paris. And was flown back first class (her hip wouldn’t fit in any other sort of seat).
Not that that’s even close to the same. We simply had one of those holidays where barely anything goes right, someone has smoked 40 a day for the last 12 years in your non-smoking hotel room, you have to constantly fight with the bank to spend your own money and other trivial matters. But, no, I’m not going there. It’s ugly, whingeing about Paris. So, let’s look at a photo instead…
I have a new best friend. She’s a single mother with eight kids under the age of one (yes, octuplets!). With octuplets to deal with, you’d think she wouldn’t have much time for me. But she has all the time in the world. In fact, all she does the whole day long is paddle up and downstream, the kids trailing behind her, whingeing, as kids tend to do.
Okay, so you might have guessed by now. My friend? She isn’t quite human.
We met on my first day in the village, so have known each other for four weeks now. Over those four weeks, we’ve come to an understanding. She doesn’t hiss at me and I feed her kids twice a day (it’s a lot easier than getting them all to McDonald’s).
Hildy (isn’t it obvious she’s a Hildy? Isn’t it obvious I need to get out more and make some real friends?) is the hardest working mum I know. She’s up before I get up at 6am and she’s still up at 10pm, when the last bit of light is around to view her out of our apartment window.
As well as meeting up with her on the walk to and from school, I sometimes watch her out the window during the day, making her way upstream and downstream, occasionally being fed by a passing longboat, occasionally hissing at passersby, but most of the time simply looking plain fed up (and can you blame her with eight kids?).
Interestingly, someone told me this morning that this year every single one of her babies has survived. Last year she started with ten, but numbers slowly dwindled until she was left with two.
Her babies are glorious – teenagers now – all gangly, legs poking out everywhere, so very unaware of their bodily boundaries. They sit on top of one another, pinch each others’ food and squabble all day long, one big indistinguishable mess of grey flyaway feathers.
I do love my daily meet-ups with Hildy, despite her hissing (I can hardly judge – I do plenty of hissing myself). We understand each other. We’re not so different. I might not have eight kids (thank god), but under the water, both sets of our legs are paddling away fast…
My first trip to the supermarket by myself. Downstairs, address in the GPS and I’m off. Driving through one village, two villages, three villages. Hang on, I’m in the wrong lane on the ring road…
I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I’m stuck. No, stupid GPS, I can’t turn around. I can’t turn back. Not even if you call me ‘mate’ in your Aussie-programmed accent. Wait, I’ll duck down this road and turn around. Uh oh, it’s a military site that I’m not meant to be in. Whoops. Turning around on the grass now. I hope I didn’t hit that squirrel. Another left, another left and I’m back on the right road. But here’s a huge roundabout and they have weird roundabout rules here — everyone just seems to slide on off from whichever lane they feel like. Eek… hope I live to see the other side of this thing.
(Peeking through one eye) phew. I think I’ve made it.
Inside the supermarket now. Ugh, I can’t find anything. What’s the difference between garden peas and petit pois? Should I ask someone? They all look like peas. How many kinds of peas do you need? What’s a Cumberland pie? What’s elderflower? What do you mean I have to pack my own groceries? I can’t do it that fast! Fingers crossed my credit card works, because my ‘international’ bank doesn’t seem to like me travelling much and keeps blocking me from using my own money everywhere I go.
Have discount voucher for supermarket petrol station across the way — 5p off. Too good to resist, even though it’s busy. I even remember what side of the car the petrol tank is on. Wow, have even managed to unlock the petrol cap. Amazing stuff. Except the pump won’t work. Ugh, it really won’t work. What’s wrong with it? I didn’t go to one of the credit card only ones, it should be working fine. Okay, people lining up behind me now. Run inside, tell them the pump isn’t working. What? I need to press the ‘pay inside kiosk’ button? There’s no obvious button! Go back out. Find tiny button. Press it. Huge queue behind me now. If someone beeps at me, I just might cry.
Forget to start GPS in hurry to leave petrol station. Think I need to take the second left. Wrong. Was the third left and now I’m lost again. Need to pull over, but there is NOWHERE TO PULL OVER IN THIS ENTIRE FUCKING COUNTRY. All the lanes are so tiny and everyone drives so fast and parks anyplace they feel like, even in the wrong direction. Manage to find an even tinier lane to cut through on in the hope that I can turn back at some point (any point before I hit the beach). Could this day get any worse? Will there ever be a time when I don’t get lost at least once wherever I’m coming and going from? Will this lane ever end? Will…
Oh, look. A pheasant. I haven’t seen one yet.
Kind of makes it all worthwhile, really…
Well, I’m back and it’s straight into the routine. Which mainly consists of the walk to and from school five days a week. This is a novelty for us – we have never walked to school before and the few times we walked my son to kindy in Australia, it was to a long series of whimpers and moans that went something like, ‘Picked up! Piiiiicked up! PICKED UP!’. But this is a good walk. It’s less than ten minutes. And, on the way, we generally see boats going through a lock, a swan and her cygnets, a duck and her ducklings, poppies, horses, trains*, a church, more horses, bunnies and two playgrounds. Not bad, hey?! This afternoon was so lovely that we finished our walk home from school with rocket ice lollies (eight for a pound at Waitrose!) in our private flower meadow. Am guessing we may have to skip the rocket ice lollies when winter rolls around…
* Okay, so the trains I don’t like. The train crossing is super scary. There’s a green/red light that tells you when it’s safe/unsafe to cross. But sometimes the light will turn red while you’re halfway across the four sets of tracks. And then the train will come really quite quickly after this. You can hear it coming, but geez… the fast train to London simply flies past. It’s the stuff of mothers’ nightmares.
Everyone is settling into village life. The kids are at school, my husband has been to all the different grocery stores. All the nearby pubs have been road tested. Normal, everyday life has commenced.
Just not for me.
Instead, I am in NYC. Less than five days after arriving in Cambridge, I made my way back to the ugliest airport in the entire universe (aka Heathrow), missed what will probably be the only real day of summer in the UK and made my way to the Romance Writers’ of America conference in Times Square (see pic. from my hotel window — on the other side is the Scientology building with its huge billboard, enticing visitors in, so if I come back converted, you’ll know why).
I’m having an amazing time here, meeting my agent, marketing consultant and editor for the first time, drinking too much sangria and crashing other publisher’s parties (thanks for the food, St Martin’s). But I’m missing a lot at home. Like my son’s first day of school. And his first trip to the principal’s office (he swore a ‘big girl’ stole his lunch and was very upset about it). I’m missing out on finding all the best parks and learning the horse’s names who reside in the paddock we’ll cross each day on the way to school. Basically, I’m missing out on getting to know my way around and the ins and outs of our new daily lives.
All up, I’m dying to get back and not wanting to miss out on everything that’s going on at the conference. Torn. Still, that’s motherhood a lot of the time, I guess…