The Concept Of ‘Home’, And Moving On Versus Staying Put

I popped back to the suburb we used to live in up until a couple of years ago, last Monday, to catch up with a friend. Whenever I go back there, (and it’s often, as most of our close friends still live there), I experience those same feelings of self-doubt that I feel when I return to the UK. Those soul-destroying questions of ‘did I make the right decision to move?’ or ‘would things be different if I’d stayed?’ continue to haunt me.

 

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Anxiety at its finest.

 

There’s no doubt that the older you get, and the older your parents get, the more you question your decision to move away from your history and the family hearth.

 

People always ask us if we believe we’ve made the right decision each time we’ve moved. I think they put us on the spot because they need their own justification for staying put; to make sure they’re not missing out. We all try to paint the best picture of our lives, and I don’t think that habit has anything to do with Facebook one-upmanship, but rather the need to reassure ourselves by constant re-evaluation. The ex-pat’s worst nightmare is that question of ‘and where is home for you now?’, because it hits a raw nerve that is difficult to explain, but one that you can guarantee will cruelly transport you back to the best memories of the places you’ve left behind.

 

But the reality – and one which people with defiantly long roots will never admit to – is that ‘home’ has nothing really to do with where you grew up. You create your ‘home’, whether that’s with family or close friends. It’s a cliché, but it really is ‘where the heart is’, and nothing to do with which was the nicest suburb or the best bunch of friends – because I can assure you, there are great people everywhere.

 

‘Home’ to me is about where my immediate family is, but in terms of location, that place could be anywhere on the map that provides me with the energy I need at a particular time of my life. Not that I’ve ever been, or ever will be one of those nomadic traveller types that can fill my back pack and leave on a whim – not when I have anxiety, children, a dog, a husband that accepts being the object of my online ridicule and my unadulterated passion for Marmite.

 

I meet lots of ex-pats in my day job, who worry about the effect moving constantly around the world will have on their kids in the future, and it’s something I’ve often worried about in relation to my own offspring. Some of my friends were once kids of ex-pats and while many of them have inherited their parents’ itchy feet, others will never move and do everything in their power to  instil a sense of security they never felt as a child. I like to kid myself that our itchy feet have made our two more confident and independent adults, having forced them to constantly re-adapt, but with two naturally introverted kids (according to Myer Briggs), I might be kidding myself.

 

What for one person can seem like an exciting challenge, for the next is a trial.

 

They are old enough now to make their own decisions about where they decide to live, but if ever they had said to me, ‘we don’t want to move again’, I like to believe that I would have put my own aspirations aside; because without them, there is no ‘home’.

 

What do you think? Is it a good idea to constantly stretch and challenge yourself by setting new goals, experiencing new things, travelling beyond your comfort zone, or does it give you a greater sense of belonging and security to stay put, create more solid foundations and grow deeper roots?

 

Happiness Is… A Handful Of Good Friends And Feeling Loved

Volkswagen Golf I red r
Volkswagen Golf I red r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A British friend of mine, here in Sydney, was telling me the other day about how worried she is because she only has a handful of good friends in Australia.

So I asked her why that was such a problem exactly, because the older I become, the more I realise that to have a handful of good friends is a far superior position to be in than to have lots of friends.

That feeling was cemented on my recent trip back ‘home’; because when you migrate to the other side of the world, you work out very quickly who your ‘life’ friends are.

I didn’t waste any time during my two weeks in the UK and Paris. Every day was organized with a precision previously unknown to me in order to maximize that precious two weeks by myself, but I did have two main missions: to devote some much-needed time to myself, and to spend time with (most of) the people I really care about.

Luckily, the conditions for my trip were optimum. In contrast to the weather we’ve experienced in Sydney over the past few days, the weather in Europe was kind to this acclimatized POM who now considers a temperature of sixteen degrees the equivalent of the depth of winter – although admittedly, that was before I spotted a well-heeled man in Chelsea stroll comfortably down the Kings Road sporting pink cotton shorts and slippers in what must have been all of nine degrees.

And the little red diesel Golf that I hired did me proud as we burned our way from the south of England to the Midlands together, and I experienced moments of real pride in myself as I bombed down those motorways with not a care in the world and a sense of liberation that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I was quite sad to part with that foolhardy car at the end of the trip, although less sad to farewell London traffic, which is governed by unforgiving black cabs and fancy penis extensions.
Embed from Getty Images

But inevitably, the toughest part of any trip back to the homeland is seeing family and old friends, with the added responsibility of needing to appear fresh, entertaining and happy for each visit; to recount the same stories with the same fervour as the first time, and to pretend to enjoy every bottle of wine proffered.

Okay, so that wasn’t THAT hard!.

But it was also the best bit. We all need reminders sometimes that we are loved, whether it’s the unconditional kind from family, or the enduring connection with old friends. I hadn’t realized just how raw I had been feeling emotionally after the last two annus horribilis and the love and support of extended family and good friends, (the people I could talk to unashamedly, because they know me), was the perfect tonic.

Even better, I didn’t have to share that love like I usually have to with my kids, and could lap it up selfishly and keep it all to myself.

It reminded me of those weekends after we first had NC and were still reeling from the shock of parenting a new baby and took every opportunity to head back to the old man’s parents for reassurance, TLC and a much-needed break. While they worshipped our little bundle of joy, we were able to catch up on some precious shut-eye, good food and our own relationship.

You don’t need much in life to make you happy. All you need is some family and a handful of good friends. You need people who will love you unconditionally, no matter what your faults, who can make you laugh or listen when you need to cry.

But most importantly, you need people who value your relationship or friendship as much as you value theirs.

No matter how small that special handful of friends and family, they will be part of your life forever, even if you end up on the other side of the world.

European Food Porn

IMG_6877Of course, the really sexy hero of my recent trip to Europe was the food.

If you’re a pig foodie like me, you wouldn’t automatically think of the UK as a foodie haven, but France would certainly be up there, pretty close to the top of your list.

Let me tell you, though, the Brits are catching on. Gone are the days when a steak and kidney pie is considered gourmet dining; I discovered a new wealth of fresh and healthy food on offer, even though the weakness of the Australian dollar made eating out seem much more expensive than my previous trip.

But even better news, (because although j’adore French food, my middle-aged stomach has developed an annoying intolerance to rich sauces these days), French food has finally evolved. Not one creamy sauce passed my lips on a mission to further constrict my arteries. The French still love their gross food, though, although it felt almost sentimental to see snails, intestines and brains on the menu.

European Food Porn
Fresh, plump oysters, dripping with lemon juice.

But the most orgasmic foreplay of the trip had to be the plump, fresh oysters dripping in lemon juice that slid so easily down my throat at the Brasserie Gare Du Nord in Paris, alongside several memorable chicken liver parfaits and my all-time favourite, Foie Gras. Yes, I know Foie Gras gets a well-deserved bad press due to the way it’s produced, but it still remains a personal delicacy.

I snacked on the best pork scratchings in London and prayed that my statins would over-ride the extra cholesterol or that perhaps the wonderful selection of exotic salads I found would serve as penance. It’s not so easy to find good, creative salads in a chilly climate but the Market Superfood Salad I had during my first visit to one of Jamie Oliver‘s Italian’s, which I topped with the freshest, creamiest Buffalo mozzarella (instead of the Cottage Cheese) was healthy comfort food at its finest.

Onto mains, and although I try to steer clear of red meat these days, two lamb dishes were the equivalent of the missionary, which, although not the wildest of positions, at times can be strangely comforting – the first, a crisp, green salad with hummus and goats cheese, and the second, traditional cutlets in a rich, red wine gravy. In both plates, the meat was served perfectly rare and oozing flavour. As for fish, I experienced my first pave de saumon in Paris served on a simple bed of petits pois, several unfancy but flavoursome grilled sea bream and a hearty seared tuna.

European Food Porn
Perfectly rare lamb with goats cheese and hummus.

As for fromages et desserts, there were far too many to count or own up to; as my new-and-improved waistline will testify. I always pick cheese over dessert, particularly in France, where the creamy Bries, bitter goats and mature Stiltons all fight for my affection, so the only two desserts to compete seriously with them were a Café Gourmand in Paris, which was delectable in its simplicity and included a rich chocolate brownie, salted caramel ice-cream and the most heavenly tapioca-type-thing I’ve ever tasted, and a rich vanilla Panna cotta, with a gentle velvet texture that was balanced perfectly by tart red berries on the top.

European Food Porn
Cafe Gourmand!

And if that seriously wasn’t enough to get your juices in a twist, did I mention my beautiful sister-in-law’s Easter roast?

 

European Food Porn
The perfect roast!

Feeling hot and sticky yet?

Dear Liver…

Liver superior
Liver superior (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Liver,

 

I’ve been an irresponsible friend to you over the past two weeks. Even I never anticipated the sheer brutality of the journey we would share together back in the homeland.

 

I assumed that my old friends would have matured in middle age – that we would mutually frown on the old excesses and the artificial influence to be had from alcohol that we used to depend upon, with the newfound wisdom to come from the ageing process.

 

But alas, it appears we still see ourselves as immortal when it comes to the choice between being sensible or getting shitfaced.

 

And there was so much to celebrate – the birth of a nephew, the engagement of a parent and the glorious liberation to be had from travelling alone for the first time in twenty years.

 

On the bright side, I have provided you with several wonderful new life-experiences to take home, too. There was that special bottle of Petrus to celebrate Dad’s birthday, those crisp French whites that complimented fresh oysters so well and the reassuring warmth of those several bottles of Australian Chardy that were shared with family who know us so well.

 

 

You might not believe me now, as you lie ravaged and spent after fourteen days of abuse, but I did try to look out for you when I could. I secreted mammoth glasses of water to my room at night, even though I was aware such an act was a punishable offence in most of the houses we stayed in as well as embracing arduous long walks in the British countryside in an attempt to combat the damaging effect of those evil toxins building up inside of you.

 

And I know you tried to warn me when you weren’t coping. Although, we’ve both fully succumbed to the pressure now, on this final leg of our journey, and been brainwashed into acceptance that three glasses of wine at lunchtime is a necessity to warm us up for the main event of dinner later in the day.

 

The problem has been that everyone remembers what fun we were in partnership during our youth – before life’s responsibilities, health concerns and middle-age set in, forcing us to become boring sensible. No-one knows that back then we needed wine to look confident and cool – that we didn’t possess an innate self-assurance like everyone else. So we had a reputation to uphold when we came back to the homeland, and even when you creaked and complained and flashed your warning lights at me, I had to ignore the obvious signs of abuse.

 

But we’ve had loads of fun too, but more importantly, we’ve survived it. And we can be good when we get home, protected as we will be by the fake wholesomeness of the old man and what he describes as his temple of a body.

 

And we need to be good role models back in Sydney, anyway, so that Kurt can learn that you don’t need artificial substances to have a good time – even though I still struggle to grasp that concept sometimes myself and fall embarrassingly along the wayside while trying to recapture my youth.

 

Thank you for being there when I needed you most, and for not letting me down. I promise to be a better friend once we get back home.

 

L x

 

 

Long Haul, Long Hell

English: Tambo Long Haul Arrivals
English: Tambo Long Haul Arrivals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like childbirth, it is fortunate that some inherent, natural bodily mechanism allows us to forget the torture of the long-haul flight once we land on terra firma.

Until a few days before the next flight, that is.

Controversial I know, but in my middle-aged, humble, thankfully-beyond-small children opinion, there should be a law against little buggers under the age of five being allowed onto long haul flights.

Long haul flights are not a humane mode of transport for even the most patient and tolerant among us, (of which I am definitely not one). It defies the realms of normal physical endurance to remain in an upright position for 24 hours, sleep-deprived and forced to consume food every two hours, and still remain sane.

But add a screaming child into the equation, and you create your own personal purgatory. Frankly, I would prefer to stick needles in my eyeballs than take a small child on a long-haul flight – actually, that’s exactly how my eyeballs felt after the twentieth hour of my flight to London, anyway.

Any parent will understand just how debilitating lack of sleep is, so it’s hardly surprising that having been awake for over sixteen hours, I might have entertained the idea (in my most private of thoughts) of what would be the most violent death for those children in row 36 who prevented me from nodding off.

Up until that family of four, which included one grizzly toddler and a very hungry newborn, boarded, I had strategically planned my journey and decided I would catch up on my sleep on the last leg to set myself up for mint physical condition for my new time zone.

The best-laid plans and all that…

But I have to give it to those siblings, for they harmonized beautifully together for that whole eight-hour flight, and although I did feel some distant pity for the parents for about one minute of the journey, most of my pity was self-focused.

Which is why I have already begun to contemplate the journey home. There have been some noticeably worrying, different palpitations in my chest area.

When Do You Stop Your Parents From Parenting You?

When do you stop your parents from parenting you and when do you stop behaving like a child?

 

A refrigerated mini-bar in a hotel
A refrigerated mini-bar in a hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Never, is the right answer, as I’ve found out this holiday. For no matter how old you get, or how old your children become, you will always see them as children.

 

During our mini-break to Paris my father has insisted that we stop for food every five minutes, because ‘as a growing girl’ he insists I have three square meals a day – the implication being that I will get tearful, irrational or lethargic if I don’t.

 

It’s amazing how well he still knows me.

 

Each time we leave the hotel, he checks that I have everything I need to survive on the streets in case I get lost. He appropriated my passport through customs.

 

He asks me if I’m cold or tired at least ten times a day and cannot conceal his pride when I achieve a new feat by myself and showers me with over-the-top positive reinforcement – which privately I revel in. That pride shone like a beacon when I travelled from one side of the city to the other on the Metro without getting ‘taken’, lost or mugged.

 

It’s comforting to be cared for after being the carer for such a long time.

 

I treat my own children in the same way, of course, because you always see your progeny as children, no matter how old they are. But where mine are still at that point of teenage resilience, eager for independence, I’m feeling tired and vulnerable and very receptive to a brief pastoral moment of being welcomed back into the nest.

 

Dad buys me dessert while they sip coffee and watches proudly as I consume each bowl and grow bigger horizontally.

 

He asks me if I have enough money when I dare to leave the protective fold for any short period of time.

 

It would be quite easy to get used to this treatment, although there are some areas of being a kid again that still seem ridiculously unjust. The sacred rule in our family (that the old man has borrowed from my father) of NEVER being allowed to touch the contents of the mini bar in hotels is one. Dad reminded me of this rule when we checked in.

 

And I found myself staring longingly at the mini bar for three whole days. It was like a final test that taunted me up until the last day when something inside of me snapped and I decided upon one final act of teenage rebellion.

 

That Diet Coke contained the sweet taste of mutiny as it slid down my throat. Fifty years of denial made it the amber nectar of my trip.

 

 

My father has every reason to treat me as a child.

Family Dysfunctionality London-Style

It’s difficult to know where to begin on the subject of the dysfunctional extravaganza that was my father’s 70th birthday.

 

 

Do I start with my brother’s baby, who chose that particular moment to begin his long and arduous entrance into the world? Or the grumpy hernia that threatened to erupt and thwart the enjoyment of the birthday boy? Or the paramedics, who finally turned up during the soprano’s aria to whisk Granny off to the Chelsea and Westminster hospital?

 

Finding content for this blog under the category of ‘dysfunctionality’, is never difficult with my family.

 

Family Dysfunctionality London-Style

 

Entertaining is something that the London contingent of my family do incredibly well, and thanks to my father’s long-suffering term partner, the preparations for this huge family event to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday were exceptional in every way. An interior designer by profession, every last detail of the impending celebration was perfection, from the choice of room at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, to the four-course gourmet menu and trio of opera singers chosen to mesmerise us with their talent towards the latter part of the evening.

 

As the champagne flowed, the guests wined and dined in true London style, oblivious to the drama that was carefully being concealed behind the scenes.

 

That is, up until that point in the evening where it finally became unfeasible to conceal Granny’s obvious pain; for the matriarch of the family was in trouble, and no amount of British stoicism could prevent a 999 call.

 

Released from the local hospital only a few days before, following a hip replacement at the grand age of 93, and in spite of possessing the fortitude of the war veteran that she is, (and one who had insisted on attending through her pain), Granny began to writhe in agony in her chair as the opera singers launched into Carmen.

 

And as the wonderful soprano reached the climax of the first piece, unfortunately it was to be the paramedics who stole the show as they finally arrived in their neon green finery, entered the room with the stealth of ninjas, and relieved Granny from her immediate pain with gas and air.

 

But in Great Britain, the show must always go on.

 

And during the following breathtaking, vocal triumphs from the trio of talented musicians, close family huddled together in mutual support and knuckled back down to the serious business of celebration and drinking. Although still numbed by the shock of Granny’s early exit, we consoled ourselves with the best brandy on offer and awaited news of the impending arrival of the newest member of our ‘dysfunctional’ clan, who, unbeknownst to us was now jammed in the birth canal, and didn’t want to arrive.

 

But that wasn’t enough drama for my father.

 

An actor in a previous lifetime and revitalised by alcohol the knowledge that Granny was in safe hands (as well as several more glasses of Champagne), he appeared surprisingly calm as he stood up to make his speech.

 

And his audience relaxed with him.

 

And he decided to seize the day.

 

His timing was genius, when with no warning he grabbed what he saw as the perfect opportunity to take the wind completely out of his partner’s already ebbing sails and propose to her after twenty years. And poor step-mom, still in recovery from the earlier demise of her mother, nearly fell off her seat in shock.

 

 

Guests applauded, more champagne was consumed, heavy back-slapping was the order of the night, and somewhere across the city a new ‘dysfunctional’ called ‘River’, finally entered the world, and our history of family dysfunctionality at all times, and no matter what the occasion, was once again upheld.

 

And The Prize For The Most Incompetent Tourist Goes To…

It shouldn’t be hard, to go away for two weeks by yourself, with no-one to be feel responsible for other than yourself.

 

Bread on sale in Borough Market, London.
Bread on sale in Borough Market, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But it seems that these days, I am an incompetent extraordinaire of the highest order.

 

And what’s even more freaking bizarre about this whole trip back to the motherland is feeling like a complete stranger in your own back yard.

 

I made it back, in spite of my many anxieties about flying, getting lost in Dubai airport, kidnapped and forced to become the eighth wife of some very rich Sheikh. And with time at a premium (due to the family duty of having to see them), I commenced my sightseeing agenda VERY early on the first morning (being still on Australian time) with an uncharacteristic zeal for life.

 

 

I thought I had planned well – I was a badged Brownie after all. The aim was to visit Borough Market, take a lengthy stroll and window shop along the Kings Road, (all the while feigning to be part of the Chelsea Elite), pop into Oxford St and pick up my hire car on the way back.

 

Being the professional blogger/photographer that I am, I was going to take lots of stunning photos to use on the blog, and then show off to my FB friends to prove just how fucking fabulous my life really is.

 

Sounded simple, dinnit?

 

Unless you are foiled by three of the biggest banes that seem to follow you through your life:

 

Technology…

Map Reading…

And walking in heels

 

So when your phone runs out of battery five minutes into your best-laid touristing plans, in future I will know not to waste time, but head straight back home. Everyone knows that it’s impossible to function without a phone these days and my first day in London drove that point home.

 

Without your device, not only can’t you record the experience to brag to your friends, but you don’t have the aid of maps or any location indicator to tell you where the fuck you are in the middle of nowhere – which is tricky, even in a place that was previously your home town.

 

Without a phone, you can’t text anyone to look up where the fuck you are or to find out where or why they’ve moved Borough Market since you googled the address two hours previously.

 

Without a phone you can’t call your parents when you finally get back and realize you don’t have a key either, don’t know their apartment number (because it’s in your phone), and don’t have the ability to call the porter for assistance, who has apparently taken a sabbatical down the pub, anyway.

 

Without a phone you can’t take wonderfully ambient shots of quaint East End market stalls so that for once in your life, you look like you have a life.

 

And you can get seriously lost. A lot.

 

And did I mention that heels, when you walk many more miles than you calculated for (because you chose your footwear on the basis that they went with your scarf rather than for any practical reasoning), can become super-uncomfortable. Walking the full length of the Kings Road seemed like such a good idea before you found yourself walking those five extra miles around the Tower of London – even thought it looked so close to Borough Market on the map.

 

So, every step becomes a wince and you’ve forgotten why you’re still going to the market anyway because you can’t take any photos to demonstrate the carb and paleo celebration of amazing breads and meats on offer. And you could have sworn that you switched on the power point of your phone charger in your drunken stupor the night before, but the ‘making your life as difficult as possible gremlin’ must have taken the same flight.

 

Read how I reversed into a black cab within five minutes of picking up my hire car in my next instalment.

 

 

Happiness, Self-Care And Grabbing Life By The Balls Again

I’ve been mentally packing my suitcase for a few weeks now; worrying how I’m ever going to fit all the pairs of shoes I might need over two weeks into my 30kgs of luggage.

Happiness, Self-Care and Grabbing Life By The Balls Again

 

I’m going back to the homeland this week, all on my lonesome, for a well-needed holiday to catch up with family and friends.

 

I turn fifty this year, and this is my treat to me.

 

Although I consider myself an independent, confident woman, it has been a long time since I travelled this far by myself so I’m understandably a little nervous. I made the trip to Australia when I was a student at twenty-one… and there was that time when I decided on impulse to drive from England to Germany without stopping…but since then I’ve never been long-haul on my own.

 

Where does the confidence of your twenties go?

 

Marriage doesn’t help. In spite of the best intentions, it’s easy to slip into the dangerous territory of becoming reliant on each other. Although the old man and I have an equal partnership, we have always had a traditional arrangement when it comes to travel – he takes responsibility for connections, passports and luggage, while I manage children and vomit.

 

But in spite of small peaks of anxiety, I am experiencing a childish excitement at the thought of watching movies without interruption, sleeping without Kurt’s gawky frame on top of me, eating all my plane meals without judgment and letting go of worries and concerns I can doing nothing about once I’m up in the sky.

 

That’s not to say I haven’t fretted like a toddler for the past few weeks about whether this is the right time to go, but it will never be the right time so I’m ignoring my old friend ‘doubt’ and taking the bold choice of self-care. After the last couple of years of exhaustively splitting myself into many different facets of care – to meet different family needs – I need to recharge my batteries and heal.

 

I’ll miss the family, though. Our migration has made us a tight-knit unit and we have rarely been separated. I’ll think of the old man when I test our UK credit card in the Champs Elysees, (without fear of immediate recrimination), I’ll miss my girl chats with NC about life, love, friendship, make up and men and I’ll hanker after one of Kurt’s big, goofy smiles or sudden bear hugs.

 

But I will be fifty this year and it’s time to start thinking about me again. As Kurt reminded me the other day – it can be a real mindfuck knowing that you might only have twenty-something years left – so I need to make the most of each day.

 

I will grab this trip by the balls, embrace every new experience and moment of happiness, push myself beyond my stupid, self-imposed boundaries and have some fun.

Come Fly With Me

I haven’t changed my opinion about flying.

English: Taken on Singapore Airlines Flight 86...
English: Taken on Singapore Airlines Flight 866 bound for Hong Kong. Pictured is the now old Raffles Class on the upper deck of a Boeing 747-412. Excellent service provided by the friendly crew of Singapore Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being treated like cattle and herded into a confined space for twenty-four hours with family, small children, reproducing germs and food that is really not fit for human consumption, whilst the rest of the world continues to revolve slowly and painlessly beneath, could be considered a form of torture.

This flight to the Uk was no different in terms of flying experience. I’m a great advocate of getting what you pay for in life and if you pay economy and choose to fly halfway around the globe at one of the busiest times of the year, expectations need to be low.

The tension began to mount at check-in when it took three of us to lift my suitcase onto the scales while the check-in Gestapo asked if the old man’s overnight bag was hand luggage. I furtively tried to conceal the rest of my shoes and fourth coat nonchalantly in my handbag and ignored the look of disgust that the old man threw in my direction.

On the bright side, we were saved from puking, disgruntled and highly irritating toddlers standing up in the seats in front of us and prodding the buttons on our in-flight entertainment whenever their frazzled parents heads were turned, this time. Why anyone would choose to fly with any human for twenty-four hours under the age of ‘normal’ is quite beyond me. And we did all manage to catch a few catnaps at various points of the journey, although unfortunately not in tandem which can make flying an isolating experience when you suddenly jolt awake in the dark in coffee-splashing turbulence whilst the rest of your ship in the sky is sleeping. When the captain puts the seatbelt sign back on, I lose control of my bowels. The imagination goes into overdrive.

Whilst weighing up the meagre offering of films, the ADHDer did at least keep my own in-flight entertainment going by the relocation of his piece of greasy pepperoni pizza, (hastily grabbed on the hop at Hong Kong airport, which due to recent renovations and a new layout seems to have made locating Macdonalds as difficult as finding Wally; although if you want to spend thousands of dollars on a handbag, you are spoilt for choice), in liquidised form promptly into a sick bag somewhere over Asia, during a bout of particularly life-questioning turbulence. Our little friend ‘anxiety’ came along for the ride as we expected he would, and no matter how many times we googled ‘does turbulence cause air crashes’, we never truly got an answer we liked. The very expensive, rapper-style anti-nausea wrist bands, are obviously a con and our hostess could not disguise her disgust as I handed her the bulging sick bag in-between one of her many paid sleeping sessions in the luxury quarters at the back of the plane, in spite of her bright red dress and hooker-style make-up.

In-flight food provided some relief from the boredom and as always I was truly amazed by my capacity to eat during a flight, no matter how unrecognisable the contents of my tray. I even managed to squirrel away a stash of Brioche rolls (stolen from the kids trays, who refuse to eat anything), which I secreted away as emergency rations by the side of my seat and dipped into privately in moments of supreme boredom and anguish, making it necessary for me to loosen my seat belt several times before we reached our destination. The first of the extra Christmas kilos began to gather momentum.

Just prior to the old man strangling the ADHDer with his own headphones, Nerd Queen beginning her tenth book on the quantum physics associated with a Boeing 747, and my eighth Brioche roll, our chirpy British pilot mentioned something about beginning our descent and the ADHDer and I breathed unaided again for the first time since we shakily left Sydney twenty-three hours and twenty-five grey hairs earlier.

It seems that the ADHDer’s preparations the night before our departure, of sitting upright all night in his desk chair to get used to the aeroplane, had been ill-conceived.

Why I Hate The Beach

The time has come to talk about sand.

English: Post in the sand, Brancaster This sin...
English: Post in the sand, Brancaster This single post is stuck at an odd angle in the sand, which is scurrying across the beach in a strong westerly breeze. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that sand is fully responsible for sabotaging my beach experience and I am seeking some sort of intervention. I’ve had a gutful of sand sandwiches, sandy water and retrieving sand particles from orifices I shouldn’t be exploring.

Call it yet another symptom of my middle-age intolerance but when an adverse facet of your life begins to haunt your joie-de-vivre, my therapist says that something has to give. So I’m giving up the beach.

And yes, we did move to Australia to be close to the beach.

I’ve realised that sand does not in fact maketh the beach. That a beach without sand could potentially still be a great beach. That if we turfed the sandy areas of the beach and called in climate change to stop reneging on its promises and really crank up the ocean temperature just that few precious degrees, the pool industry would be out of business.

I DO get the draw of the beach, don’t get me wrong. I’m as attracted to the soporific sound of gentle waves crashing on the shore as the next person. I’m quite receptive to the feel-good factor of hot sun on my skin and and the resulting vitamin D infusion through my body (well, before it TITFs into a melanoma of course). I’m even quite partial to the revitalising powers of a refreshing dip in the ocean.

But then there’s the sand issue. Ever wondered why you never see your friends with pools on the beach?

It’s the sand. They know.

Sand is fundamentally an irritant, in what should be a relaxing environment. Sand is highly invasive. It is the faux-ami of everything beach culture stands for and is certainly not conducive to being chilled out. Frankly, I’d prefer to be air-lifted into a toddlers indoor play centre covered in lollies than lie on a sandy beach covered in sticky sun lotion.

Most of my reasons for avoiding the beach are connected to sand. I say ‘most’. Before I move onto the most serious of the ‘sand issues’, let me digress slightly and let us not forget the plethora of other minor nuisances associated with beaching, that make pools the more obvious choice, such as:

  • betrayal of the muffin top in the hands of a cheap tankini in the face of a wave;
  • remodelling of the bikini-top by rogue surf forcing uncensored exposure of mortifyingly sagging breasts;
  • the strain of finding the right angle to read (a position where the sun isn’t burning through your eye sockets like a laser and your arm still has some circulation);
  • the strain of achieving the right angle to perv or even sunbathe;
  • the shearing of delicate muscle tissue during over-liberal application of suntan lotion to difficult-to-locate body parts.
  • Not forgetting the sharks, of course, or all those other evil critters that lurk in the ocean. Waiting.

But the true culprit of beach hell is sand, as innocuous and appealing as it might look.

Here’s a small sample of the ways in which sand can impact the beach experience of the average innocent holiday-maker. For after years of extensive personal research, I have identified the following adverse bodily symptoms to demonstrate fully the human body’s natural intolerance to sand, and the evidence for why our beaches should be turfed:

  • Blistering of the feet soles thought to be linked to walking on hot sand between the boardwalk and the ocean. This has commonly been described as the ‘ouch, ouch…..ouch’ dance.
  • Extensive muscle fatigue leading to distortion of the human physique as a result of lengthy periods of time simply trying to get into a comfortable position on sand.
  • Skin abrasions caused by inadvertently mixing sun lotion with sand, leading to a concoction with powers akin to exfoliating cream leading to ‘sanding’ of the derma during intense application.
  • Blisters and bites caused by evil ants, lava, spiders and small crab critters that camouflage themselves heinously well in the sand, until they spot a food source.
  • Eye irritations caused by sand spray. The causes of ‘Sand Spray’ have been linked to annoying, mobile toddlers, thongs in motion, teenagers who think that the beach is the ideal spot to play a game of soccer and stray beach balls.
  • Inflammation of the many human orifices caused by the advanced burrowing capabilities of the common sand grain which seems peculiarly attracted to warm, moist areas that they can adhere to easily.

There are reasons the Sandman, ‘Sandy’, quicksand and the man who builds his house on sand have received such bad press.

Be aware. Turf the beaches.

Beach-Babe or Pool-Princess? Which are you?