Baby Car Driving

I’ve never been a good driver, but recently my style has come into its own.

I don’t feel the need for speed. I prefer a gentle meander. Sometimes when I am passenger-ing with Natalie she’ll say “God, I wish that bloody person wasn’t driving up my arse. Can’t they just f**k off?” She drags me out of my daydream with a jolt. I was thinking about unicorns. I do my best to sound outraged: “God, yeah. Some people. Idiot.” I return to pondering what colour unicorns come in.

Spatial awareness is not my forte either. Natalie has tried to teach  me to hug the outside white line as a guide, but I can’t help gravitating towards the middle one. Despite the shimmering rattling trucks hurtling in the opposite direction, it feels safer.

And I’m really not keen on right-hand turns. Why turn into all those fast-moving vehicles when a few judiciously chosen left hand turns will achieve the same result?

But yesterday as I was slowly, carefully conquering the Ross Road roundabout at Lennox Head, I realised all my bad driving was in preparation for this moment. This moment when getting from A to B means nothing. There is no B and A can wait. Because this drive is all about BABY SLEEP DRIVING.

And when it comes to Baby Sleep Driving I’m a pro. I give all other cars a wide birth so that I am the master of my own (slow) speed. I trundle with purpose. It’s as if all those years of purposeless trundling have suddenly been vindicated. I’m driving slowly BECAUSE I HAVE A BABY IN THE CAR. I contemplate getting one of those car stickers. “Baby on Board. Bad Driver at Wheel!”

Approaching the Ross Road roundabout I challenge myself on how little I can move the steering wheel and still make it around without crashing. It’s quite a skill, actually. To make a right turn at the roundabout, from the off ramp you drive straight on until you almost hit the opposite side, then you veer gently to the right and drive in another straight line until you almost hit that side and then same again until you eventually turn left. It helps to think of it more of a square than a circle. If you like, you can do some yogic breathing at the same time. Or think about unicorns. The baby will not have moved and you are a genius. To be successful takes determination, bad driving, and a disregard for other drivers; skills I had mastered long ago.

Another key to Baby Sleep Driving is judgment. You have to have good judgement in order to know when to turn around and when to keep going. You can’t keep turning around as this is a high risk activity for waking, however you don’t want to end up an hour away from home when natural waking occurs. Good judgement relies on experience (how long the baby normally sleep drives for) and paying attention. The baby will stir. When this happens, put your foot on it (the accelerator, not the baby). Gravity will force her head back onto the car seat and sleep will resume. However, there are limited opportunities for rapid acceleration, due to other vehicles on the road. And, this will only work so many times before, you know, the child is awake and this whole drive is turning a bit Luna Park. It’s time to go home then.

Above all, Baby Sleep Driving takes patience. I am a patient person. It comes with the territory of being a daydreamer. After all these years, I think I can finally say that I am a GOOD DRIVER, a good Baby Sleep Driver.

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Happy Father’s Day Natalie

Father's Day Jelly Beans I Made Just For You

Father’s Day Jelly Beans I Made Just For You

My girlfriend and I finally tackled the delicate topic of Father’s Day last night. It’s been hovering in the background like a hapless husband.

This is our daughter’s first father’s day. She’s only seven months old. Mother’s Day was a breeze. After all, she’s got two mummies, so what’s not to celebrate. We showered each other with congratulatory cards – from each other to each other, from our baby to each other, from the cat to the baby to each other. Natalie bought me slippers and I gave her chocolates – a family tradition – and some other great stuff too, I’m sure of it.

By rights I should be Dad. I’ve got short hair and I didn’t give birth. But Natalie is far more practical than me, and I like making cupcakes, so it’s confusing.

I remember when she manifested me. She was hanging onto the dying tatters of a bad relationship at the time, trying to use her mental powers to create a better one. She listed various desirable attributes: thoughtful, kind, attractive, humorous, solvent, practical, supportive, generous. ‘Male’. She forgot to write that, so I can’t be held accountable for manifesting my female self inappropriately. However I must have been looking away when the goddess of manifestation called out for the ‘practical’ ones to move to the front of the queue.

‘I will never understand this Baby Bjorn’ I declared the other day. ‘It does not matter how many times you unravel it with a flourish and clip me into it. It’s a total and utter mystery to me. It’s a complex web of straps and clips and flappy bits,’ I declare, exasperated. Our poor daughter looks on, baffled. ‘Just get me the hell out of here, Mummy’, her eyes implore. My single contribution to the Baby Bjorn situation is to have christened it Bjorn Borg, which is funny, at least.

Also, there’s maps. I like maps. They purdy. But as a navigational tool, not so much. All those funny criss-crossy lines. Natalie, on the other hand, looks at a map before a trip and then REMEMBERS how all these criss-crossy lines looked and follows them in her head to arrive at the destination. I find that outstanding. I prefer to try and double-cross myself. You think it’s right. It must be left. Go left. Looks right. Must be wrong. Do a u turn. Stop the car. Phone Natalie.

She might have long hair, but Natalie marches around in a masculine manner. She says that I dawdle, but I’m just, you know, thinking. She’s always up to something. Laundry is approached military-style. Vacuuming is done in a frenzy. I swear the Dyson trembles when she approaches. The other day she was seen putting water coolant in the car. I mean, what even is that?

And if that’s not proof enough, our daughter said her first word yesterday. Dada. ‘See, she loves you most! Happy Father’s Day, Natalie. Fancy a cupcake?’


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Cookie’s Animal Guardian and My True Self

Cookie has been behaving very oddly recently. More oddly than normal, that is. Which is why it was so good to have the interventions of an Animal Guardian. I spotted the sign advertising this service immediately that we arrived at the Starlight Wellness Expo here in Bangalow over Easter. And without further ado I embarked upon a long spiel to the kind-faced lady about how Cookie didn’t seem to love me anymore, she seems to prefer HGG (who she hardly even knows), is emotionally and physically distant, and spends her whole life crouched in the back corner of the corner cupboard in the corner room of our new house.

Help was at hand. The Animal Guardian said a short prayer over a bottle of liquid crystals (three drops a day in her food) and told me to have a think about my own qualities of self-righteousness and my need for self-preservation. Ever happy to address my shortcomings, I looked directly at my naval for the next few hours and subjected HGG to a rigorous analysis of these qualities in myself.

And Lo! Behold Cookie that very night coming to sit with me, lying on my head in bed, purring like a generator into my ear, meowing in my face at 3 am. Ah, sweetheart, how I have missed you. I must follow up with the Animal Guardian about you urinating on HGG’s rug though. That so not cool.

Yes, the Starlight Wellness Expo. An interesting concoction of healers and dealers. We attended a session about ‘how to find your true self’. It was dark and funny. Not because my true self is a world-class comedian, sadly. But because our host was about as enlightened as Cookie’s favourite hiding spot.

I was sitting next to him. Before too long, he looked at me, put his hand on my leg, and said “I can see you are a very deep person, yeah?” – cue slightly-too-long moment of staring into my eyes  – “that’s why I am looking at you”. Good to know. I thought you were just being creepy.

But I am weak and a hypocrite. I smiled encouragingly at him because I wanted him to think he was doing well.  I even laughed at his jokes and nodded appropriately. HGG stared at him in utter bewilderment for an hour. He ignored her completely. Her honesty clearly causing him discomfort, it was much easier to align himself with a fraud like me.

During the session, there was some scribbling of light and shade on a bit of paper, a lot of eye contact (and that funny thing people do with two fingers pointing at their own eyes and then someone else’s eyes, yeah?) some strange discussion about Indian men having feminine bodies and Ghandi beating his wife, and love. There was a lot of talk about love. Our host had a connection with the (Indian) man sitting opposite. He stared into his eyes a lot and told him that they loved each other. The older woman beside him, unfortunately, was more complex. She had blockages, which meant she was not able to fully access him, yeah? I thought she seemed quite nice and I hoped she didn’t go home and try to do anything dangerous to unblock herself.

Apparently the session can take quite a toll emotionally and so we were advised at the end of it to drink lots of water that evening and eat healthy food. He also advised HGG and me to make love. Which I took to mean I should stare into her eyes for a long time and say “yeah” a lot. I think she enjoyed that.

Ah, it is unfair of me to mock. I know that. But I can’t help it. There is humour in it, and I am irresistibly drawn to the funny things in life. But there’s quality to it that disturbed me too. There was an edge to the man that I don’t think he was adequately in control of. Call me self-righteous, but I think he is only just approaching the fork in the road to enlightenment. There was a rampaging nature to his quest to discover the true self, which I thought had the potential to harm. The stillness and tranquillity of enlightenment is over the hills and far away.

That’s the thing up here in this new home of ours. The whole region is built on a block of black onyx*, you know. Makes it deep and mystical and magical. And already I have met so many people, like Cookie’s Animal Guardian, who embody it and extend it in so many inspirational ways. And there are others who unsettle me. But, you know, it could just be me. It is easy to criticise others whilst doing nothing yourself. But, fear not, I picked up a flyer at the coffee shop this morning about a “Becoming a Psychic” – in just four hours I will have acquired the skills to begin psychic readings immediately. Watch this space. 


*I only found this out the other day and haven’t checked it out. No prizes for guessing where. So don’t quote me.



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Netball and Gay Flooring

“Hey Byron Baby, where have you been?” Far and wide came the cry. Actually just one person asked, but you know, a little encouragement goes a long way.

It has been a long time, I know. I have been waiting until I have exciting news to share with you. And today is the day. I have Very Exciting News.  Drumroll please. I can proudly announce HGG is now officially a Byron Bay Blaze ladies netball player. This afternoon, we went to pick out her uniform. It’s kinda roller derby meets Torvill and Dean. Check it out.

HGG's new strip.

HGG’s new strip.

I can hardly wait for the big game on Saturday. I’ll be there, chopping up oranges at half time and shaking my fist menacingly at the opposition. I’ve warned HGG to wipe that vague ‘artist-looking-at-clouds’ look off her face and concentrate on the ball. Otherwise she might find her contact lens poked right out of her eye by an over-zealous Goal Attack, as happened to me when I was 13. I have never played netball, or any competitive sport since. But, I shouldn’t worry. HGG is made of sterner stuff than me.

Life is not just a game of netball over here. There have been other things happening too. Like, we bought a house in Bangalow, which got a mention in the Herald on Sunday.



If you can be bothered, it’s the final paragraph of this article. If you can’t be bothered, well basically it says what a bargain we got. And I do love a bargain, especially one with a swimming pool. But I mustn’t gloat because we do still have to pay a mortgage, which, without a job, might be a challenge. If you know of any viable work  – writing, editing, chopping oranges, ironing netball uniforms – do keep me in mind.

Over the past two weeks there has been a slow migration of our stuff from various parts of Australia – furniture from Melbourne, unspecified boxes of things from Sydney (HGG’s as yet unpacked. I think she’s not totally sure if she’s staying), and my beloved Cookie from Melbourne. I am pleased to report that Cookie is alive and well and just as grumpy as ever. Ah, bless her sweet little white paws.

In other news, I am reliably informed that sisal (you know, the floor covering) is only any good for gay people, not for families. I know this because the lady at the floor shop told me. At the time I was making enquiries as to its suitability and cost as a potential floor for our studio. I was so taken aback that I immediately pretended to be single, switching deftly from “we like sisal” to “I prefer bamboo”. If HGG had been there I would have thrice denied her. I know that’s bad, but what kind of madness is this about gay people and sisal floors. I blame gay marriage for this. In days gone by, surely she would not have even considered the “gay market”. She would just have assumed all gay people have rubber or leather floors, or no floors at all – so much easier from which to wipe away the stains of depravation.

From left to right: sisal, bamboo, a rug, that lady's foot.

From left to right: sisal, bamboo, a rug, that lady’s foot.

Ah well. We’ll decide about those floors later. Gotta go and chop some oranges.


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Butterflies and Evangelists

“So, what brings you to Guatemala?”, I return the question disinterestedly to the petite silver-haired American woman sitting next to me at Christmas dinner. “We live here”, she exclaims. We is the four of them sitting next to and alongside from HGG and me. On our other side are Francois and Cory, a French-American couple living in New York City. There are a lot of middle-aged middle-class Americans here enjoying a cheap and beautiful holiday destination not too far from home, so I was curious to hear a different story.

“So, what do you do in Guatemala?, I ask, actually interested this time. “Oh, we’re missionaries”, replies Carol. “Ah”, I reply, somewhat lost for words. What do you say to a missionary anyway – “How is God going these days, anyway? Big day for him today.” My hand is hovering over my soup spoon, when I realise that no one else has started yet. Thank you God for this realisation, as just a few seconds later Forrest asks if he can bless the meal. “Sure, sure”, we cry enthusiastically. I later discover that in Francois, Cory and me there are three lapsed Catholics-now-agnostics of French, Italian and Irish heritage. So, naturally, we feel immediately guilty and start bowing our heads and muttering “amens” into our sweetcorn soups. HGG looks on bemusedly. She is from New Zealand, after all. I don’t think they have religion there. But don’t tell Forrest or Carole or they will be over there quicker than you can say “happy clappy madcap cult”.

But these four people are decent, good and interesting people. I’m talking about the evangelists, not the inhabitants of New Zealand. And their company makes for an interesting Christmas dinner. Naturally we quiz them on their work. They travel to remote villages to help the local communities, investing money there in healthcare and education. “What do you teach?”, I ask. “Oh, we teach Bible mostly, with some health and hygiene too.” Afterwards, with our newfound Franco-American friends, we agree that it is a shame the ratio is not inverted. More health and hygiene, less Bible would undoubtedly be a great thing to teach to the inhabitants of remote Guatemalan villages. But something is better than nothing, for sure.

It’s hard to openly criticise evangelists. They are usually demonstrably doing a lot more than I am to help people in need. I don’t want to get into it, anyway. This is Christmas dinner, after all. Speaking of Christmas dinner, it’s a slightly odd affair. Seems our lovely hosts at La Casa del Mundo, have confused Christmas with Thanksgiving, so our meal consists of turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potato and mashed sweet potato, rounded off with a big ole slice of Pumpkin Pie. Doesn’t bother me though as I am recovering from my first bout of food poisoning for the trip (am onto the second now, although my fault really… I don’t know what I thought I was doing eating Duck Proscuttio in Antigua).

HGG and me had a spiritual kind of moment on Christmas Day ourselves actually, without the help of organised religion. It wasn’t the bit where I gave her a multi-coloured Guatemalan textile shoulder bag for her present, although that did seem to make her quite happy, especially when she said “it’s not exactly what I had in mind”, or something along those lines. Anyway, no matter, she is using it all the time now. After the textile bag incident, we went swimming in the lake. And after that we went kayaking. And this is where the spiritual bit happened.

It’s hard not to feel a little bit in awe on a bright blue morning like this one, paddling in the clear flat waters of Lake Atitlan, framed by the grand peaks of three volcanoes, with little villages tumbling down the steep cliffs surrounding it. Yeah, this is a pretty good Christmas so far and not a dubious white beard in sight. Our paddles dip silently into the flat water propelling our kayaks along. I look at HGG thinking how happy and grateful (thanks God, big up) I am to be here with her now. I’m having a little moment, you know, where I can feel the grace of nature and humanity fill the air.

I look over at HGG who is fiddling with something on top of her kayak. It’s a butterfly that she’s rescued from the water, where it was quietly drowning. I paddle over to inspect. The butterfly has one drowned-looking wing, which is kind of folded over on itself. HGG tries to unfold it. The butterfly clambers gingerly around her hand, lifting up it’s little legs as if to make its bid for freedom. We try to discourage it by rational talk about the surrounding hazards and not making the same mistake twice etc, but it doesn’t listen. It launches it’s frail body into the air where it flies for about half a second before plopping straight back into the lake. HGG paddles over and picks it up again. She places it on top of the kayak to dry out in the sun, and we decide to head for land in order to put the butterfly back on terra firma. But as we make our way across the lake to shore, the butterfly makes another attempt to fly. And this time, she succeeds. We look up and watch her whirling like a demented dervish up there, trying to find her balance and her strength. And then she does it and she’s off. We follow her progress onto land and watch her take refuge in the branches of a nearby tree.

It was nice to save a butterfly’s life on Christmas Day.


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