C-Words like COVID-19 are never good, but most clouds have a silver lining

Historically, c-words have had a bad rap. For example, the c-word “c*nt” is described as a vulgarism for female genitalia on Wikipedia, and the euphemism for “cancer” used to be the archetypal c-word. That is until recently, when a far more sinister c-word entered our vocabulary.

I suppose it is fortunate, therefore, that the negative connotation of some words evolve over time. “C*nt” and “cancer”, for example – words deemed so terrible in the past that they had to be given euphemisms – have become increasingly popular in modern conversation.

Which I’m rather glad about. You see, I’m rather partial to the word “c*nt” – in spite of how Americans feel about it. In my opinion, there is no better word to describe someone who is, frankly, more of a “c*nt” than a “knob” or a “dick”.

And it might surprise you to know that for many modern women, “c*nt” is not seen as a derogatory word. It is actually an empowering word for some of us, because we don’t see our genitalia as threatening, ugly or something to be ashamed of. We see them as a thing of beauty, a valuable weapon for our sex, and the embodiment of womanhood. It is my pride in my sexuality that empowers the word.

Modern women don’t see women’s genitalia as threatening, ugly or something to be ashamed of

Australian comedian Judith Lucy demonstrates her liberal use of the word in her wonderful podcast “Overwhelmed and Dying”. Indeed, so comfortable is Judith with the word “c*nt” (and pretty much every other modern expletive), recently she had a portrait of her c*nt made – You can hear about it on the episode “Hanging Up My Vagina” here.

Cancer was another c-word that was only ever mentioned in hushed tones

“Cancer” was another of those words no-one talked about either. During my childhood, the disease was only ever referred to as the c-word for reasons I’m still not clear about. Ignorance, perhaps, or a symptom of the anxiety that followed two world wars in which society had been encouraged into a short term, false sense of stoicism that the disease ignored. Of course, it didn’t help its popularity that cancer was seen as guaranteed death sentence back then.

Even today, medical researchers implore doctors not to use the word cancer (unless absolutely necessary) due to its power to induce panic.

Fortunately, prognoses have improved for many cancer sufferers, as has their level of public support and our general awareness about the disease. So much so, some cancer sufferers are quite comfortable to talk about their journey, including what they LEARNED from it – whether that’s a greater appreciation for life or a timely reminder to make changes before it’s too late.

As Martha Carlsen says: “Don’t be afraid of the C word. Go ahead and fear or despise cancer itself and what the treatments may bring. But don’t be afraid of the word. Saying it out loud won’t make the disease worse or cause your treatments to fail or scare your friends away,” here

And now this new c-word has reached our shores

So is COVID-19 the new c-word? Because the living hell that it has unleashed around the globe makes it is damned near impossible not to drop its name into every conversation or to lap up every detail of it’s trajectory like a dog with a bowl of ice-cream. This virus will leave a hideous legacy. It has taken innocent lives, threatened others, and its overall impact is certain to destroy far more than public health.

Yep, it’s a bit of a c*nt!

Nevertheless, I don’t think so.

I think some good can come from this virus

It may not be blatantly obvious YET, but this virus is responsible for some seriously good shit. It has given us pause for thought. It has forced us take a break, sit back and reflect on our lives and the choices we are making. It has made some of us stop taking our relationships for granted, drawn a line under the relationships of others, and redefined life goals for many. It has helped us acknowledge the previously undervalued foundations of our society who are now out there on the frontline, battling to save lives.

Maybe some of the changes it causes will be positive?

I hope so. While the toll on our mental health will be enormous and the impact on the world economy is yet to be calculated, I’m certain that the legacy of COVID-19 won’t be all bad. Positive changes are already being seen in the workplace, for example, and as a result of social distancing rules it’s likely that when employees come out of isolation in search of jobs, their priority will be ones that offer greater work flexibility for a better work/lifestyle balance; the responsibility of childcare will be shared more evenly between couples, and there will be a greater investment by the government into healthcare.

And while we have yet to see the full benefit of isolation on our environment, the signs are positive in terms of pollution and its effect on climate change as well.

On a personal note, this period has reminded me of how lucky I am that I married my best friend

Even I have noticed subtle changes in my own thinking over these past few weeks. Check-ins from friends and family have moved me and served as a valuable reminder to service my relationships more often; this taste of retirement has reassured me that I will have plenty of purpose when the time comes, and I have never felt more grateful about being married to my best friend.

And so, while c-words are never good, it is handy to remember that most clouds have a silver lining

What subtle changes have you noticed in your life?

Educate your parents about COVID-19 – They may be stubborn old fools, but they’re stubborn old fools we want to keep in our lives for as long as we can

It’s been pretty appalling to hear the way some people dismiss the value of our elderly at the moment. This is what happens to equal rights in the face of a crisis. And while I understand the theory behind “survival of the fittest”, I’ll be the first to admit that it never crossed my mind that I’d experience the personal implications of it in my lifetime.

But worse is the sneaking suspicion that our parents and grandparents – many of whom survived world wars – aren’t taking this Coronavirus thing very seriously at all. Which means that while the majority of us are doing everything in our power to alleviate their risk, they’ve putting their own lives and ours in further jeopardy.

Only this morning as a threatening tribe of heaving shopping trollies (stacked to the ceiling with the sort of rations you would normally only associate with wartime) cornered me into the sweet section of the supermarket, an elderly lady tapped me on the back and pointed to my basket – containing tonic water and dog food because for this crisis I’ve got my priorities right.

‘It’s so surprising to see anyone still using a basket at the moment,’ she commented.

‘I suppose so,’ I replied vaguely, eager not to have to admit to my early morning raid of Aldi or to have an unnecessary conversation – that was definitely more than 1.5m apart – which might put her at risk from the light cold I’m still recovering from, (which is one of the downsides of working with children).

‘I’ve just come back from holiday and my children are worrying about me,’ she went on, as my brain imploded with the implications of this information. I put my hand over my mouth without thinking. ‘They told me not to leave the house. It’s quite ridiculous, isn’t it?’

‘Maybe,’ I replied, lying.

I mean, I get that there’s an admirable stoicism that comes from surviving wars, but it’s no excuse for naivety. We need to listen to what the experts are telling us. If we are to learn anything from Italy’s experience of the spread of this virus, that sort of “fight them on the beaches” bravado is not going to help lovely old ladies like this one when it takes down millions and she finds the value of her life measured against the life of someone half her age in the ER, is it?

Educate your parents. If you think you’re confused by the advice coming from the government and the media, imagine how they feel. Offer to do their shopping for them, visit them more to help alleviate the loneliness that self-isolation may cause, value their contribution to all of our lives.

We’ve reached a time in our lives where many of us are losing our parents to natural causes – and none of us have any control over that. But we can reduce their risk to the exposure of this virus. And while they may be stubborn old fools, they’re stubborn old fools we want to keep in our lives for as long as we can.

Is It Normal To Hate People Who Go On Exotic Holidays All The Time? Asking For A Friend

This is a follow on from my last post in which I discussed my chances of dragging my husband away on an exotic holiday this year. Thank you for the abundance of awesome recommendations (for anxious, middle-aged couples, with zero interests in common) that you kindly left on that post, and which have since been dissected, over-thought and (no doubt) put on the back burner until I force him to make a decision.

Image found on Pinterest from awakenmindset.com

I should point out that I have warned him that his refusal to commit is exactly the sort of thing that middle-aged couples divorce over, and in response he asked me when I am leaving.

I am not, by nature, a green-eyed monster, so I find this whole travel-envy thing to be quite peculiar. Indeed, I have always denied the impact of social media on my happiness – made easier in this case, I imagine, by our move to the other side of the world to a wonderful country that offers a wealth of different landscapes and natural beauty.

I was, (and still am), committed to the financial choices the old man we have made to semi-retire.

However, it does leave us with a very limited budget for holidays and lately I’ve started to get itchy feet, thanks to all of those inspirational memes about travel, adventures and growth that fill my FB home page, as well as the bunch of our friends that are starting to take advantage of their new empty-nester status and are therefore ALWAYS on fucking holiday.

So what’s changed? I suppose that when I entered this stage of my life I still had the arrogance of the European who feels like they’ve seen the world – when the reality is, I’ve visited a couple of European countries a lot of times. I may have lived in Europe for forty years, but I didn’t have the wisdom back then to make the most of what it had to offer.

Added to which, I came back from our last exotic trip to Bali in two minds about foreign holidays. I was pretty shaken up by the level of poverty – in what I had been led to believe was a paradise – hence, I spent much of our time there stressing about the families on scooters, food poisoning and feral dogswhich always made a beeline for me.

Unsurprisingly, our next holiday was to Forster.

I’m not certain what is behind this current attack of itchy feet. Is it an innate fear of time running out? Am I missing a diversity of culture that simply doesn’t exist on the Northern Beaches of Sydney? Or is it simply that I’m scared that I am cruising through life and getting boring?

While there are many benefits to working from home – the main one being that my desk is close to the fridge – one of the few downsides is that life can become very insular. And when you struggle from anxiety, the fact that you rarely have to leave the house can cultivate the problem.

Interestingly, when I think about my dream holiday, it isn’t about swanky hotels, exotic beaches or even two-for-one cocktails like it used to be – we have some pretty nice beaches here. No, the appeal is more linked to new experiences, new cultures, the challenge of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and growth. It is about sharing those experiences with my soulmate – rather than the typical mundanities we share each week, like when the dog last went out for a poo.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very content to get comfortable in certain areas of middleage-dom. I wouldn’t trade flat shoes, nightly Netflix and separate bedrooms for anything! But I can’t ignore that little voice that keeps nagging me to keep on exploring.

The Secret To Growth Is Curiosity

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I heard the word “curiosity” mentioned in two different contexts last week. The first time was at Clementine Ford’s book launch in Sydney, for her new book “Boys Will Be Boys;” and the second was in an article in The Guardian by Celia Dodd here, about retirement.

Inevitably, “retirement” is somewhat of a buzzword in my community at the moment, and I know that I must be secretly starting to get anxious about it from the way I furtively check out the fitness of old people on the bus.

Most of our friends are on the cusp of the transition, and they share similar concerns to us – which are mainly finance-related. Will we have enough money, or will we need to downsize to escape the rising cost of living in Sydney, seems to be the biggest question on most people’s lips. And then there’s that other fear – shared by some of the men – about how they will survive this next stage of change, with no fixed routine.

Research has shown us that there is a genuine danger that some men will sink into depression in retirement unless they find new purpose in their lives. It was something I worried about the old man when he began his semi-retirement, (as I mentioned in this post), until I realized that hitting a ball each day and the daily update of his guide to how to stack the dishwasher, would keep him busy.

In Celia’s article, she argues that to thrive in retirement, we don’t need to be a lawn bowls champion, but we do need the curiosity to try new activities or listen to new ideas – rather than “filling time on life’s scrap heap until you die.” We need to keep on growing as people. Interestingly, however, she does refute “the assumption that you have to be constantly busy to achieve anything.”

I, too, see a direct correlation between curiosity, growth and the continued enjoyment of a fulfilling life, no matter what our age.

Clementine’s use of the word “curiosity” was in relation to Trump’s blinkered vision when it comes to abused women, and the appalling lack of empathy, compassion, and (above all) curiosity, he showed last week for a man in his position of power. Several times, the US president has shown a disinterest in listening to public opinion or in the evolution of new ideas or change – in much the same way, (Celia says), that we latch so easily onto one of the biggest myths about retirement – which is that it is “a static phase during which nothing much changes.” 

Not true. The curiosity that has come with aging has made me the woman I am today: a woman that strives to hear the voices of others in order to educate and improve myself; a woman who is aware of the gaps in her knowledge and experience, but keeps going, in the hope that someday she can use it to improve the lives of others with less privilege – whether that’s through writing or in the donation of her time.

Which is not to say that I always get it right. We are not a perfect race, and never will be – and we are certainly nothing like the narrow-minded white vision of fascism – thank God!  And yet, I hope that I listen, absorb and am respectful of the opinions of others. I continue to be curious about this crazy world and its colorful range of inhabitants, and I am more aware now than ever about my responsibility as a small cog in the very large wheel of society.

Curiosity is the key to positive change, understanding others and finding purpose at every stage of our lives. Those that choose to switch it off, remain stagnant, as the world rotates around them, and we have seen over the past week how very dangerous that can be.

Menopausal Mood Swings And Not Turning Into “That” Couple

Elderly couple sitting on bench in front of a view of the water.

There are weeks when we reach for the bikini briefs from our underwear drawer each morning, and others when we choose the big girl panties. There are weeks when we stop at the second cookie, and others when we devour the packet.

Life can be like that; a rollercoaster of emotions and ups and downs, with no real warning of how the next day will turn out. We are led to believe that the downs are a necessary part of growth and make us stronger, and yet it can be hard sometimes to embrace life lessons when we find ourselves permanently in the dips.

Menopause may contribute to those dips. Hormonal changes within our bodies make us vulnerable; they exacerbate our mood swings, diminishing our confidence. Some days it can be hard enough to get out of bed, let alone think clearly enough to make life-changing decisions that affect our future. 

Menopausal mood swings make PMT look like a walk in the park and the worst part is that they don’t stop after five to seven days. We never know quite how we’re going to feel each morning, and those disconcerting changes to our mental make-up – such as increased forgetfulness – can force us to second-guess ourselves. This is a period of our lives when we are coping with the passing and care of elderly parents, children leaving, downsizing – perhaps a terrifying sea change to another area – and changes to our work patterns and stability, and it can be easy to feel insecure and unsupported.

The topic of retirement or semi-retirement, (and more poignantly, WHEN we will be able to retire), is a subject that dominates conversation among my female friends. Most of us, independent of how successful our careers have been up to this point in our lives, have been ready to reduce our hours or work for ourselves (in an ideal world) for some time now. Sadly, few of us have the financial means. A reality that increases the anxiety of some women to such a level that they can find themselves reliant on anti-depressants to cope – or in the hands of dubious personal trainers. This, at a time when they should be reaping the rewards of empty-nesting.

There is a growing sense of frustration and restlessness about still being on the hamster wheel as the tiredness of age seeps into our bones, tempers and tolerance to dickheads. We feel compromised about still having to work for other people – often with no acknowledgment of the good job we are doing and that permanent, underlying fear of the consequences of ageism in the workplace.

A different headspace comes with the territory of middle age where our focus changes to freedom. No longer dazzled by the riches promised by work, (because we have a newfound sense of what is important), the dangling carrot is now the greater freedom to do what we want with whatever time we have left. How many times do we hear the story of the couple that worked hard all their lives for their retirement, for one of them to fall sick at the start of it?

Don’t be that couple.

Gardening in Australia, AKA Dancing With Death

With forty-eight hours and thirty minutes to go, no, I’m not the teeniest bit nervous about the arrival of the rellies for Christmas. While one half of me can’t wait to wrap myself up in dad’s arms again and beg him to take me home to let me be a child again, the other half keeps reminding me about all the stuff he’s going to notice; the stuff he didn’t do that way, in his day.

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Because, as parents, that daily calling to judge and criticize our adult kids for not doing things the way we did, is hard to ignore. I found myself guilty of it when NC proffered any suggestions about the interior decoration of her new studio, the other day.

 

‘Don’t be silly,’ I heard myself say. In other words, Mum will always know best. For her sake, let’s hope she sticks to her word and decides against grandkids.

 

My conscience, in terms of the cleanliness of my house, has been eased somewhat by the knowledge that Dad has a cleaner – in both houses – so I’m not sure why I’ve spent the past few weeks zapping the moths from the pantry, checking every food storage jar for weevils and catching every speck of dust in the air before it lands on the furniture. But admittedly, when I bragged about the fucks I don’t give this year in my last post, I think I must have blanked out my father’s visit.

 

I’ve even weeded the garden, a massive job, because the house we recently rented seems to cultivate weeds rather than plants, and weeding is not a job for the faint-hearted in Australia. My dad doesn’t have a garden in Chelsea, and when I look back now to those years of pretty English gardens with their delicate flowers, chirping birds and stinging nettles,  the main predator, it is with a fondness. I laugh now when I remember how I used to do the spider dance each time an earthworm poked its head out of the soil, and the time we discovered a slow worm under the swing set and called the RSPCA.

 

Beetles, daddy-long-legs and even maggots are childsplay once you’ve danced with death in your Australian garden. There was a warning in the media recently about how there are more snakes around this year than normal – as in deadly snakes, the type that kill you, and feel zero compassion for the fact that you’re really British.

 

You mean IN THE ZOOS? I was tempted to ask, before I remembered that I didn’t really need or want to know the answer.

 

Gardening, is apparently one of those strange activities, like lawn bowls and scowling at young people, that some older people develop a passion for. Not me. With a dodgy lower back, an irrational fear of skin melanomas and the more minor problem, that I don’t actually know one end of a plant from another – and certainly not one end of a native Australian plant from the other – it is something I strenuously avoid, and was one of the best bits about living in the city with its tiny balconies and pokey courtyards. Unfortunately, however, when we rented this house, the only way to negotiate the rent to a sum that correlated vaguely with the old man’s spreadsheet, (created circa 1950), was to take ownership of the garden.

 

Secretly, I suppose, I had hoped that the old man would punch his chest in an ape-like gesture of dominance and add weeding to his short list of man-jobs – but unfortunately, he’s as terrified of creatures that can kill you as I am. Here, snakes lurk in the flower beds, hide under your deck and have even been known to take a shower with you. In one video I saw, one of the sneaky buggers crawled out of a light fitting and the family continued to live in the house.

 

I haven’t decided if the Princess is just happy to share her territory with me when I’m in the garden, or secretly delights in scaring the bejeebers out of me by clambering stealthily through the bushes and rattling leaves each time I’m on my hands and knees in what is clearly a position of submission.

 

Put it this way, there’s rarely the temptation to dig too deeply here with the Funnel Web – a common garden spider. Although, in fairness to one of the world’s deadliest spiders, it is generous by poisonous spider standards because it gives you a good thirty minutes or so to die your heinous death.

 

Dad might be wise not to mention the thick layer of dust on the skirting.

 

 

 

Why Glastonbury Is Not On My Bucket List

One thing that won’t make my bucket list – and I can say this with a certainty – is going to an outdoor music festival again. While I have the utmost respect for those fifty-somethings that decide that outdoor music festivals such as Glastonbury will make them feel young again, the idea that trawling through mud and the great unwashed (for even a couple of days) is fun, is completely unfathomable to me. audience-868074_1920

 

Looking through the photos of the fashionistas at Glastonbury and Coachella and the Australian equivalent, Splendor, I rather see myself as Sienna Miller, colored gum boots, cut-off shorts and cowboy hat, swilling my beer from a bottle as I watch bands that I have only a vague chance of recognizing – and I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted.

 

And then I remember the toilet situation.

 

To be honest, the only time I’ve come close to venturing anywhere close to an outdoor music event in the past ten years was at Opera in the Domain last year – the only reasons being the toilets at the local pub and its duration of only two hours. No sinking in mud, so crowd-surfing, no old man on my shoulders so that he could see, while I sniffed the armpits of the tall guy in front of me, and as we sat in the semi-comfort of our beach chairs, gourmet picnic spread in front of us, not an aging hippie in sight, I could relax in the knowledge that we were going home to our own beds that night.

 

The mosh pit idea is an interesting concept, whereby you pay the same money to stand amongst the crazies forced into the public by government cuts, and unless you give up your pre-drinks, there is no guarantee that you will be any closer to the band. I run a risk assessment before I buy tickets to any gig these days and my strict rules include a capacity no larger than two thousand and ample seating with clear exits to bathrooms. After a horrendous experience in the Coldplay mosh pit a few years ago, where the tallest man in Australia, (who happened to be visiting Sydney at the time), stood in front of me for the duration of Chris’ singing, thereby blocking my exit to the bathroom and the bar and pushing me in front of the path of a giant out-of-control balloon, there’s no going back.

 

We are not a family that roughs it or camps. You might think that from a financial perspective, the idea would be the old man’s idea of heaven, but even before children, the concept of communal bathrooms, roaming wildlife, having to cook for ourselves on holiday and eating off plastic crockery seemed very unappealing.

 

I am still scarred from Brownie camps with latrines and my therapist continues to work with me on long-term issues relating to a school biology field trip to the Lake District, that my brain has completely blocked out.

 

The one and only time we did go camping, I was awoken by the old man on the first morning, the tent and children already packed away in the car, as he released the valve on my airbed.

 

‘We can tick off camping,’ he said through gritted teeth. The tent and hundreds of dollars of equipment were on Gumtree that same week.

 

You can “glamp” at Glastonbury now, and there is even a pop-up hotel…OR… you can watch the festival on television from the comfort of your sofa. If anyone has seen the movie, “Bridget Jones Baby”, don’t  think that her stay in a safari tent had anything to do with fun or recapturing her youth: what it had, was everything to do with McDreamy in the vicinity, and even I might camp for a piece of that. Kind of reminds me of how much golf I used to play when the old man and I were courting…  Starting at around $1400, the tents are hardly competitively priced when you consider the four solid walls to be found in hotels to segregate you from the hippie riff raff, the offer of WIFI and the kettle and tea bags in your room.

 

No, Glastonbury will not be on my bucket list. It will be added to my ‘I’d rather fucking die right now’ list, along with skydiving, ice bars and swimming with sharks.

And The Race Is On For That Medical Marijuana Script

headache-1540220_1920Health concerns continue to dominate the conversation with friends, now evolving at a faster pace than our hatred for world leaders and terrorists. Where ten years ago all we had to grumble about were minor twinges, joint soreness and forgetting the odd name, nowadays we talk about cancer, blood pressure and how often we forget our own children’s names. We have heated debates about the health system, out of pocket expenses, the cost of anesthesia and the benefits of this hospital over that one.

 

Such is our enthusiasm for the topic of our decaying health, competitions have been set up for who takes the most medication or has the highest Statin dosage, and there is a prize of a holiday to Disneyland for the family that reaches the Medicare threshold first.

 

I was bemoaning my most recent terminal symptoms to a girlfriend the other day and she told me that if you make it to fifty, there’s a good chance you’re here for the long haul.

 

I think she was being optimistic, but in the spirit of positivity, I switched the topic of conversation at lunch a few weeks ago to Marijuana, even if this subject has been somewhat exhausted over the past few years in relation to our offspring.

 

This time, it was the medical kind that was up for debate, and by dessert, we had drawn up a legal pact that whoever among us is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attain that first medical marijuana script, has to share. I should point out this agreement was made with a similar logic and scale of planning that saw our parents set up timeshare properties with their friends back in the eighties, and like then, payment will be red wine. But the old man and I were thrilled as the decision took us one step further in the goals of our own personal retirement plan, one of which is to be the next Bernie and Rozalin Focker.

 

If we can’t get the script, Plan b is to see if our kids have any contacts, at which point the old man and I went suspiciously quiet.

 

Another friend of ours was quite surprised to find that I carry Aspirin around in my handbag at all times – unless I switch handbags, in which case I have accepted I will die  – which is something I have done for a good ten years now. ‘Positive thinking?’ he quipped.

 

‘It’s hard to be positive when your mother dropped dead at thirty-four of a heart attack,’ I responded bitchily because it was that time of the month.

 

Did you know that Aspirin is a highly efficient anti-clotting agent that can save you in the early stages of a heart attack or stroke and it is widely used in a preventative capacity after such events? I know this because another friend ours prioritized going to a 7-Eleven for a packet of the stuff on his way to the ER – just prior to his second minor heart attack – and he lived to tell the tale.

 

Even if they only act as a placebo, those little tablets of willow bark extraction in my handbag give me some level of comfort each day and I try to ignore anxiety’s questions of how I would get it down my neck in abject pain and possibly on my own. I would also need water because although Aspirin is the largest selling pain reliever in the world, it still tastes fucking foul.

 

Ignoring my mean response, my friend – who I swear is related to Don Tilman from the The Rosie Project – who is one of those people that stores useless information to bring out at random moments, like when you’re trying to say your good byes in a busy car park, went on to give me the history of Aspirin and to recount its other superpowers.

 

Did you know?

 

Aspirin can slow down cancer growth.

 

Aspirin is good for the brain and reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

Aspirin can revive a car battery long enough to get you to a garage.

 

It prolongs the life of flowers.

 

It restores hair color from chlorine.

 

It relieves bug bites and acne.

 

You do need to real the small print, however. Like Viagra and other wonder drugs, too much can be dangerous, and although your willy won’t explode and shatter into a million pieces, deafness can be linked to over-use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conquering Fears and Discovering Bush In Australia

IMG_5133I conquered a few long-held fears during my holiday last week with the old man – the fear of whether we can actually spend time alone together without me wanting to kill him, because I’m aware that I won’t be able to use the PMT card as a defence in our retirement, as well as some rational, innate fears about the Australian wildlife.

Statistically, our adoptive country is proud to record that it has ten of the deadliest creatures in the world, and that’s only touching the surface because those figures don’t account for the deadly plants, animals, and insects lurking in every corner of its landscape that can make you seriously sick.

Basically, everything is out to get you.

It is my belief that the average native Australian is brainwashed as a child with the adage that ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’, so when they see dinner-plate-sized hairy spiders such as the Huntsman spider, they are able to look at them in a different light to the rest of us and appreciate them as the spiders that eat mosquitoes, unlike other arachnids such as the Redback, (and even ants), that can put them in hospital.

The less said about the Funnel Web, the better.

What I’m getting to, is that bush walking – note my ability to say the word “bush” in this context without laughing to myself like a five-year-old the first time she hears the word “penis” – is not for the faint-hearted, and completely at odds to the relaxing walks of my past in the pretty forests of the UK where my biggest worries were being stampeded by Bambi and the distance to the next pub.

We did a lot of walking this holiday, in part to witness the truly wonderful landscape that the south coast of Sydney has to offer – having reached that sad stage in our lives where we share lengthy discussions about trees and birds without boring the tits off each other or feeling like pretentious old fools – but mainly to combat the weight gain caused by a liberalness in wine consumption necessary to keep aforementioned inane conversations going, and the horrific calorie count of all the gastronomic delights we partook of (because we were on holiday).  That transitory film of dementia that descends upon the brain on holiday in regard to how easy it is to gain weight at our age really is quite wonderful.

IMG_5134In Australia, even an innocent walk to some of the whitest sand outside of Whitehaven Beach in Queensland (one of the world’s top ten beaches) has its mindfuck challenges. Where else in the world do you find “How to resuscitate” boards at each entry point to the beach? Because if the rips and sharks don’t get you, there are killer octopi, snakes and poisonous plant life, all waiting. Apparently, Jervis Bay, the last stop on our journey, is renowned for the Diamond Python, a wildlife fact the old man chose to keep to himself while I used the council “bush” toilets. Option two, of peeing behind a bush, wasn’t much better. 

IMG_5131The photo to the left represents your typical Australian bush mushroom –  hardly the type you rustle up a veg Risotto with  – and the one below is the type of daunting shape that stops you in your tracks for a second look, provoking the relaxation of your Sphincter muscle and your heart rate to increase to a dangerous level. Generally, you only remember that you’re in the middle of fucking nowhere around the same time that you discover that you only have one bar left on your phone. IMG_5132

In the bush it can feel like there are eyes on you from every direction, which is why I let the old man lead on our jaunts, indeed, the only time I allow him to assume full patriarchal, cave-man superiority before we get home and I am forced to remind him that men are to be seen but never heard.

Retirement: Sea Change Or No Change

It feels like we’ve been planning our retirement our whole lives, yet now as we inch closer to our target, the old man and I have realised that the dreams we shared in our early years together may have changed. ball-2517_1280

I thought that my aspirations would centre around little more than long lunches at the golf club, beach walks, getting my hair tinted and dabbling in oil painting in my artist’s studio. However, this week’s beach holiday, whilst supremely relaxing, has highlighted how aimless I can become without routine and with limited Internet.

 

I’ve discovered the middle-aged body’s propensity for sleep when you have nothing tangible with which to fill your day and I can see myself slipping quite naturally into the cozy vacuum of retirement where a game of lawn bowls becomes the week’s entertainment. Just like dogs that are left at home while their owners work, I can already sleep on command and it’s becoming an effort to lower my tired body into my beach chair, hoist up the umbrella and slip, slop, slap more cream into my leathery skin each day.

 

In fact I’m so busy sleeping that the charge on my creative battery seems to have died and the only conversation I’m capable of is to quip back at Kurt’s barbed comments about why we dragged the poor kid away to this isolated detention centre where he can only get two bars on his phone.

 

I’m also fairly certain that my walks along the shoreline don’t fully compensate for the generous lunches that are somehow okay on holiday, or that they will they keep the extra kilos of contentment at bay.

 

Needless to say, the old man and I have been inspired to waste hours discussing and planning a sea change. The rediscovery of this gorgeous, un-spoilt little haven on the North Cost of New South Wales with its cluster of beautiful beaches edging the coastline has re-ignited our enthusiasm for an adventure or lifestyle change, perhaps a year out to commence Act 3 of our lives (more about that in another post) – for me to concentrate on my writing and for him to continue to pretend to work, like he does in Sydney.

 

And as I listen to the waves lap outside our window at night and pad through metres of hot sand by day, the tingle of salt on my skin and the wind in my hair makes the thought of escape tempting, to become anonymous and closer to nature.

 

Or perhaps not. Because what those discussions have made us realise is that our plans for Act 3 have unknowingly evolved over the intervening years and revolve less around relaxation and mocktails now and more around grabbing whatever time we have left by the balls.

 

And a sea change would involve more than a three-hour drive from everything we know and hold dear to us, like the pub that serves my favourite wine and the old man’s kebab shop. It would mean pushing the chicks out of the nest before I suspect they are ready to fly.

 

And although there are times – last night being one of them – when I would dearly love the kids to fuck off…or should I say transition to the role of “welcome visitors” rather than the freeloaders that they are, and that it’s almost time to force the them to stand on their own two feet and embrace the independence we’ve prepared them for (if we’ve done our job right), Kurt is nowhere near ready, and in all honesty, neither am I.

 

Anyway, I’ve read far too many articles about what is really important to people on their death beds and it’s never the “two-for-one Chicken Parmigiana with free glass of wine” at the local golf club on a Monday night.