And In Other Sports News…

The YouTube clip below has popped up on my newsfeeds a few times over the last week and refuses to be ignored. Trust me, you need to watch it with the sound on and then I want everyone to practice their tongue trills in front of the mirror – (see video at the bottom of the page for assistance). 

I sent the video over to ‘the girls’ as a suggestion of a retro experience together, but the leotard part of it didn’t go down too well. But watching these women strut their stuff reminded me of year 11 and 12 at school – a new school that I’d moved to for my HSC and originally a single-sex boys school that had recently decided to take in girls to demonstrate to the boys that another sex existed in those year groups. Looking back, the school was definitely still in the teething stage of their new venture.

Being a public school (paying, in the UK), there was inevitably a strong focus on sport. The boys played traditional sports – cricket in summer, rugby and hockey in winter – and the girls played netball and hockey.

Or rather, that was the girls that could catch or whack a ball accurately at their opponent’s calves with a stick. For those girls that weren’t quite as handy with their ball skills – although, there are balls, and then there are balls – there was the option of badminton or Jane Fonda Workout.

It’s strange to look back on those times now – more than thirty years ago – when I used to laugh off my total ineptitude at sport with humor, even though it hurt like hell never to be good enough. Sport is, unfortunately, one of those areas in which you don’t necessarily improve with practice – because God knows, I tried to make a team, ANY TEAM!

81829c25f818f7fb6ed986519133cb9eI have a long list of proud sporting non-achievements I could share with you – such as getting caught on the bus at the end of the annual cross-country run (for charity, no-less), home-goals, running in the wrong direction in Netball – but only one really proud sporting achievement. It was a brief period in my sporting career when I was selected to play for my house rounders team because the girl I was substituting had broken BOTH her legs. I have chosen not to dwell on my secret suspicion that she would still have been selected to play had only one leg been in plaster.

Anyway, in spite of the loser connotations of being assigned to the “Jane Fonda” group with twenty similarly uncoordinated girls, my memories of those afternoons are fond. I can’t remember breaking out in too big a sweat, but I do remember lolling around the school hall, grateful to be out of the cold, waiting for the boys to finish rolling around like pigs in mud so that we could oggle them in their rugby shorts and inhale their Deep Heat. However, we must have learned something, because when my aqua-aerobics instructor shouted out to us to grapevine the other dayit was almost instinctive – I knew exactly what to do.

Any sporting non-achievements you’re particularly proud of?

Memories, Friendship and On The Move Again

downloadI might have mentioned that we’re about to embark upon our fourteenth house move. Reactions to the move have varied:  the Princess has begun twitching so I will need to up her anxiety medication, and she and Kurt rock on her bed together whenever I pack a box. The old man has locked himself inside his office until our move date.

 

We’re heading back to where we started our journey in Australia, back to a community, a slower pace of life and (hopefully) a slightly slower rent, which means we have more options to do as little as possible. It’s not quite the downsize I imagined a few months ago when we first made the plan and foolishly assumed that if we moved an hour out of the city, the kids wouldn’t be able to leave home fast enough – no, we’ll be moving to a smaller house with two more adults than we thought we’d have – in other words, a typically, logical Simmonds plan.

 

So, not a sea change or a downsize exactly, more a move away from the Big Smoke back to old habits, in the arms of old friends as we grow old together. The area is one of many parts of Australia nicknamed God’s Country – all equally justified – a small piece of paradise on the tip of a peninsula, with the sort of stunning coastal beauty of the landscape in Big Little Lies, if you saw the series. With beautiful beaches that have golden sands evolved from the sandstone rock that the water washes up upon, its quaint little towns are packed to the brim with home décor shops, cafes and wonderful restaurants, and the only sound on a quiet day is the clanging of the yacht masts in the breeze. 

 

Our oldest friends have stayed put, so it’s where our heart beats the strongest in this country we have adopted as home. In the seven years we lived in the area, I carved more meaningful memories than at any other time of my life. The beach does that for me.

 

To access paradise, you have to drive along a stunning, winding road around the side of rock, known locally at The Bends, and it is a local custom to celebrate events and good news such as weddings and birthdays, on personalized banners along the route. What you have to imagine, though, is how dangerous the stretch of road is by foot. Often busy with local and holiday traffic, with sharp drops down cliffs to the beach on one side, it’s not the sort of place you stop to take in the view or have a pee.

 

Several years ago, as we approached NC’s eighteenth-birthday, I tried almost everything in my power to cajole the old man to hang out some banners along the “road of death” to celebrate the occasion. Understandably, he wasn’t keen.  Neither of us is that impulsive type of parent prepared to flout the law for our daughter’s happiness, and we worried about being caught by the police, falling off the ladder, (necessary to climb the telegraph pole), and even writing the wrong words, hence scarring our child for life. In other words, we overthought it, (like most things), and eventually talked ourselves out of it like we do most decisions, apart from minor ones such as moving to the other side of the world with two kids in tow and no jobs.

 

It didn’t matter: we had other festivities organized and I knew that the last thing NC expected, (or perhaps wanted), was some awkward public declaration of her parents’ affection splattered for the world to see. Which was why it was such a shock, riding on the school bus on the morning of her birthday, for her to see first one banner, then another, then another, each engraved with her name, a big red heart and the number eighteen.

 

 

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Jaz and NC, still friends, and yes, Jaz is still crazy.

Now, I am certain that at no point did NC consider that we were responsible – which we weren’t, for reasons that are obvious.  And at no time either, did I think that the old man had manned the fuck up and climbed a ladder under the cover of darkness. In fact, it was NC’s best friend who donned crampons under cover of darkness and climbed those telegraph poles like a Ninja, risking life over limb, in a gesture of friendship that has become part of Simmonds folklore and symbolizes everything we have missed since our sabbatical down south.

 

 

‘Remember when Jaz put those signs up on the Bends?’ we still say, as incredulous as we were that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Picture Tells A Story

I did a job I do about once a decade the other day; I changed the photos in my photo frames. It’s an onerous task that has about as much appeal as cleaning the barbecue or filling in school forms because you have to be a maths genius to work out how to print the photos to the exact size of the frames – just me?  img_3920

 

In the old days, before digital photography, the process happened much more regularly because once the photos were developed, you had a hard copy in your hands that you had to file somewhere and it was much easier to shove them in a frame than carefully place them in an album.

 

Which is why it’s so sad now, in these modern times, when every one of us is an aspiring amateur photographer, that we so rarely take the time to look through our photographs.

 

The new house really needed an injection of colour and and soul into its rooms due to their high ceilings and metres of stark white wall space, and I’ve been unable to hang most of our artwork because it is framed and too heavy, so photos have been my saviour. We’ve learned from previous rental properties that those new-fangled sticky hooks can be about as fickle as me and can cause thousands of dollars in damage if they fail their mission above a timber floor.

 

I love photographs as a visual recorder of our lives and I, too, am an avid amateur photographer – in part because I enjoy the creative process and partly because when I lost my mum there were so few photos to tell her story beyond those of her wedding day. I decided that I would never let that happen to my kids.

 

I’ve carefully recorded each of their milestones, from Kurt’s passion for wearing NC’s school dresses to NC’s formals and rock discoveries and the Princess’s first puppy vomit – because it was just so sweet.

 

But the idea of going back through our digital albums always makes me feel strangely melancholic and unsettled, which may have something to do with the distance and accessibility to the close family and friends that so many of our photos transport me back to, or it may simply be because I don’t really like looking back.

 

Although I am moving forward in certain ways. This time, instead of searching for the best photos of the kids to put out on display in the house – something that is nigh on impossible when they demand final approval and since Kurt has chosen to shave his head for the past two years and looks like an escaped convict – this time I found myself searching out photos of close friends and extended family, and those special occasions we’ve shared over the years on recent trips back to the UK.

 

Family is wonderful and their love is unconditional (hopefully), but your friends can choose to be in or out of our lives and if they’ve hung in there through all the ups and downs, surely they’ve earned their spot on the mantelpiece?

Those Scabby Perfect Parents Next Door

In principal I consider myself to be a decent person. Very occasionally my control slips and the filter crashes and those inner badass thoughts work their way out, but in my defense I do have a sponsored African child, so I must be fundamentally good, right?

Camping in the Seventies by Scuola di Atene

I admit that parenting is not my greatest achievement, and the way I deal with those people that rub my nose in my failing, is to ignore them. I can appreciate goodness in other people, (even if secretly I do consider them to be sanctimoniously nauseating and obviously dull), but aspiring to be AS good as them is probably that bridge too far for me personally.

Today’s piece could either be categorised as a ‘mother guilt’ post (words my counsellor says no mother should never utter) or simply a rant at perfect parents.

You decide.

Our new neighbours decided to humiliate all the other parents in the street at the weekend; by camping OVERNIGHT with their children in the garden.

Last weekend WASN’T A BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS OR A REPLACEMENT HOLIDAY, and I can’t yet decide if they were just trying to show off, or if there was a more sinister message at large. Marking territory is one thing; subverting the laws of parenting is another.

I mean, who does that? It’s one of those parental uber NOs that at some stage during birthing classes we all silently agreed upon, right? Thou shalt neither mock nor show up the lack of parental skills in others.

The ADHDer gave me the news. He bounded excitedly to greet me from work, (a behaviour that instantly alerted me to something being amiss), having spent the afternoon spying through our spy hole the fence, tongue no doubt hanging on the lawn in envy. Knackered and in urgent need of a soothing bottle, my street antennae had already picked up on the irritating sound of Perfect Father next door, hammering in the final pegs of his parenting win.

‘What the f*ck is that banging noise?’ I might have asked the kids.

(You see, the old man and I, (on the other hand), were having an ‘alternative parenting’ weekend, letting the Xbox and Pizza Hut parent the teens whilst I worked my ass off and he walked the Great Wall of China. We like to reserve rash parent/child bonding experiences that involve fresh air, healthy eating and patience for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas).

‘The Jones are camping in the garden!’ he panted like a puppy, obviously praying that I might suddenly come over all momsy-ish and radically suggest doing the same.

‘Well, we hate camping,’ I began to argue, watching the excitement ebb from his face; too slowly for even my cold bitch comfort levels, ‘and anyway, we’re going to have an even funner night ahead of us, swimming in OUR POOL (said in loud, shrill voice so that the neighbours can definitely hear), watching some really violent movies and stuffing our faces with crap.’ I countered.

‘Why don’t we ever do anything fun?’ he whined dejectedly in response, pushing the knife just that little bit further into my heart.

Why do kids only remember the sh*t stuff?

Mia Freedman wrote about the exact same issue last weekend on Mamamia, (Somone Will Cry and If It’s Not Me It’s A Win). Why do we consciously try to create ‘moments’ with our kids, ‘manufactured’ memories that we hope they will remember when someone haphazardly happens to ask them in their future, ‘so, how was your childhood? Screwed up by your parents?’

Like Mia’s admission, our ‘moments’ of family togetherness haven’t always gone to plan either.

There was the Bali Belly-induced projectile vomiting at Sydney airport which was fun; the 16th family birthday lunch, where the birthday girl was so hung-over that she sat slumped in her lasagne for all three courses while the grandparents dissected our parenting abilities; and the infamous camping trip where the old man dismantled the tent around us before dawn, because he simply couldn’t take any more.

The best memories are rarely manufactured; they just happen. Kerri Sackville (In Hot Pursuit Of Joy) discovered that last week, when she ended up chasing an ice cream van down the street. They often happen when you least expect them to, but you do recognise them for what they are, anyway. My unco fall off that bike in the paddy fields of Bali, the old man doing his Gangnam thing in the kitchen and my daughter’s boob tube slipping down at her first public dance performance, are all lasting family memories.

So why do I constantly feel the need to keep up with the Jones when it comes to parenting?

As we listened to our neighbours frolick around their tent late last night, the guilt was finally assuaged by the wine and I realised that we all love our kids, we just have different ways of showing them it.

Camping in the Seventies courtesy of Scuola di Athene at www.flickr.com