42 and laughing!

I’m 42! Forty two! XLII! Twee en veertig! Quarante et deux!

Thank you, thank you, thank you all you lovelies, for the cards, presents, texts, calls and posts for my birthday. One tiny confession: some of the texts got deleted before I could read them. If you didn’t get a response, that’s why. Sorry. The reason is because the wonderful Mr Jim bought me a new phone for my birthday, and some stuff got lost in transition.

Here’s another confession, not necessarily as tiny: whatever Facebook may tell you, I’m not 27. I only put my birth date on there as 1985 to prove to the world that what you read on the Internet is not always true. This is a lesson I’m struggling to get through to my children. You can say anything on the Internet, and people accept it without verification or even question. But that’s a story I’m not going into today. I only mention it because I think lots of you may have been under the misapprehension that I feel badly about being 42 and not 27. And therein lies the story I am going into today.

I love being 42. I love where I am, my life and everything in it. I am one lucky lady and I wouldn’t change anything for the world – mainly because I find so much so funny now that I’m mature enough not to take stuff as seriously as I did in my super-neurotic 20s and exhausted-and delivering/mothering-small-children-fulltime 30s.

I am even able to smile wryly at some of the lesser attractive features of middle age (I fully expect to reach 84 and beyond, thank you very much) and ‘peri-menopause’ as my dermatologist so brutally terms it.  (The fact that I arrived in his office for treatment for the teenage acne that pursued me doggedly into middle age is just too, too cruel.) Actually my still smiling is miraculous as I’ve recently undergone some gynae panel-beating surgery that lots of women my ripe age have to endure, and I tell you what: it hurts. A week later I still feel about 200 years more than my respectable 42. But I’m still laughing, no matter how much my poor severed stomach muscles protest. What had my stitches in stitches this weekend was a link a friend posted to the customer feedback for Amazon.co.uk’s Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel. Here’s a taster for you:

3.0 out of 5 stars


By The Cantankerous Tiger

This review is from: Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Creme 200 ml (Personal Care)

I like the clean shaven look down in my gentleman’s log cabin, so for the past few years I’ve used a shaver. However the hair keeps growing back which means every 6 months I have to spend 20 minutes trimming again. As I’m sure you’ve realise this is valuable time I cannot waste. So I decided to get to the root of the problem and purchased this product.

Probably the first thing you will notice after using this product is the pain. Although as a man I lack the required experience, I’m going to estimate that using this product is at least eleven times more painful than childbirth.

Imagine sticking a rusty razor blade into your favourite eye, before tying your hands behind your back. Then imagine that you use the entrenched razor blade to slice open a raw onion. All the while being butt naked. This product is slightly more painful than that.

However if we ignore the blinding, crippling and debilitating pain I should point out that this product is remarkably effective. Before, all manner of organisms great and small lived down there, now nothing can grow; not even on a cellular level. Sadly this includes my genitalia; I’ve spent the last four hours staring fixedly at Carol Vorderman’s arse, all to no avail. My tinkywinkleton hasn’t even so much as perked up, so if my review seems a bit harsh, it’s only because I wanted children.

All in all an effective and reasonably priced product – 3 Stars.

‘At least eleven time more painful than childbirth’! Omf. Seriously? You stupid, stupid, bald-crotched man. Like I said: in my 30s, having recently endured three bouts of childbirth, I would have gone berserk at so cretinous a comment. Today I snigger. How happy I am that the opposite sex has joined us in having our nether regions subjected to agony. How glad I am that we women are not alone in the indignity of having our hair and skin violated to the root. How relieved I am not to suffer without empathy the indignities of waxing and pap smears. Welcome aboard to HMS Middle Age, boys! Bring your prostates and hair-free backs, cracks and sacks with you!

Want to read more? Laugh with me when you go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B000KKNQBK/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

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Sorry, Stephanie

I’m back!

Himalayan washing, blinkingly early mornings and the treadmill of resumed after-school activities mean the Easter break is a fond, distant memory after only three days.

I love being reunited with my words (I never write when the children are home. Interruptions instantly morph Mummy into a Rottweiler, and nothing’s worth that.) However I miss the holidays. Don’t get me wrong; not for one second do I hanker after the constant bickering or the infinite taxiing, but school hols are when I read, really read. Now, I read year round – given a desert island choice between alcohol, chocolate and books I’d be torn … I think books’d win – outside of term time, though, my Kindle fires through fiction like a Lady Gaga dance routine burns through calories.

On Good Friday, I finished Stephanie Meyers’s The Host. To date, I’ve been pretty scathing about Steph. That’s because I loathe, hate and abhor the wishy-washy heroine of her Twilight trilogy, who sits back and lets life happen to her, moved primarily by the saccharine passion she shares with an undead guy who’s so good he makes me want to vomit. Honestly, Stephanie, have you ever encountered a real-life man or a real-life relationship? Wtf are you trying to teach our daughters? That all they have to be is mystifyingly pretty, enticing odorous to vampire-types, and the world, unreachable romance and immortality will fall effortlessly into their laps? That you don’t have to work hard, you don’t need a personality, and wealth and immortal love are the be-all of existence? Seriously? Yukkity yuk yuk!

Gothic Pre read The Host; I read The Host (so that I know what her adolescent brain’s absorbing in terms of emotional development and life expectations). I was surprised, delighted and enraptured by the sheer brilliance of it. I will even condone Stephanie’s rather slushy romance, because we all love romance and if you don’t secretly desire to be treasured and desired above the world, you’re not breathing. Her characters were real. And flawed. And vulnerable. Sci-fi’s not my favourite, however Stephanie’s concept of alien parasites, ‘souls’, that are inserted into human brains to adopt our lives and culture along with our bodies is intriguing. She creates a fascinating history for the ‘souls’ and explores their compelling philosophies. She tugged cleverly at my responses of admiration for and revulsion to them. It was a fabulous read. What I loved most of all was her resolution. There was no Independence Day victory of fireballs and heroism, but a mature compromise between what is and what has to be, Darwinian in its intelligence.

Well done, Stephanie. I’m sorry I was so rude about you. In future I will only be rude about Bella and Edward. Friends?

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Keeping things in proportion at the Salvos

QueenBee’s favourite place is the Salvos – Australia-speak for the Salvation Army charity shop. I love it too, for many reasons. One is that it willingly receives the majority of my soul-purging chuck-out sessions and many dispossessed profit from that. (Anyone who’s lived in Africa will share my horror of discarding perfectly okay stuff. It almost feels like an insult to scorn everyday things when so many have nothing.)

Another is that it is heaving with clothes chosen by other people. Not a clothes horse, with zero interest in fashion, I find shopping overwhelming. I am good at choosing words, not so much at choosing a usually overpriced something in an emporium of infinite choice and unkind mirrors. I figure if something fits and someone else has liked it, it’ll do for me. (And no, I am not a man.)

Possibly the most compelling is that it is a few shops up from a soul-mortgagingly expensive toyshop that gleams and glistens, luring children from the pavement with balloons and a rocking horse at the front door. I am able to hustle QueenBee past with an assurance that the Salvos are waiting. When she lingers at the threshold, feeling the magnetic pull from within, I say, ‘Quicksticks, I think the Salvos had a delivery this morning,’ and her ‘tired’ legs that ‘don’t want to work’ scramble up the road in double quick time.

Inside, Bee is enraptured by any and everything. She spent a happy half hour yesterday riffling through a bin of seriously manky toys – like detritus from the set of Child’s Play – trying to find some feet for a Bratz doll. She has wanted one of those vile plastic monsters forever and I have balked. Aside from the name (since when are brats attractive?) I find their over made-up features and disproportionate anatomies utterly repellent and was unwilling to fork out $15 ($20 at the toyshop down the road) for one. However the Salvos castoff had a pathos that elicited sympathy. The unfortunate creature was crippled and footloose, and all the feet at the bottom of the toy bin were mismatched by the varying heights of their different platform heels. The deal was that if she could find a couple of attachable feet that let Cloe/Jade/Sasha/Yasmin stand level, I’d shell out $1.50 for the doll. A half hour later, I had a few bum-hiding hole-free shirts; Cloe/Jade/Sasha/Yasmin had matching feet; and Bee had a smile, a spring in her step and all was well with the world for the rest of the day.

In a couple of months, Cloe/Jade/Sasha/Yasmin and her matching feet will find their way back to the Salvos Chuckie bin, a few more dollars will go to a good cause and Bee will be back at her personal fashion capital, delightedly browsing again.

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I gotta feeling…

… today’s gonna be a good, good day.

Sometimes Melbourne just hands you a perfect autumn day. Crisp sunlight slowly melts the garden’s overnight dew drench. Magpies and corellas serenade the duck-egg sky.

On a day like today the hamster wheel turns itself. Everything gets done without effort and nothing trivial matters.

I know:

  • Today, Gothic Pre’s parent-teacher-pupil meetings will fly effortlessly by. I will smile at the congratulatory admiration of her Maths and Science teacher. I will parry the sour-mouthed criticism of her PE and Health teacher. I have taken on PE teachers in the past, and this one will think twice about giving Gothic another crappy report comment when I’m finished with her. She’ll think three times about how she manages my child in future.
  • Today, a dear friend’s court ordeal will go in her favour, and she can look forward to a life free from her ex’s gratuitous nastiness. He will be ordered to reach into his overloaded pockets and contribute to his child’s medical and educational needs – even if it doesn’t suit him to spend money on his child when his holiday home needs redecorating/his investment properties require maintenance.
  • Today, another dear friend’s baby will grow just a little bit more. Her doctor’s back from his vacation, rested and ready for surgical brilliance. Any time soon he will deliver her long-awaited and hard-fought-for child, achieving perfection so that she recovers fully and quickly, ready to enjoy parenthood.
  • Today, a faraway dear friend will be glorious. Her black dog will sit quietly in the dim recesses of its kennel, not even showing its nose. She will keep her many balls in the air and sit back with a glass of wine at the end of it, with a feeling of satisfied accomplishment and invincibility, before sleeping long, dreamlessly and deeply.
  • Today, hundreds of people in North America will decide it’s time to take control of their health. They will buy another dear friend’s product by the tens of thousands.

Today, we can take on the world and win.

Today’s the day, let’s live it up.

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Tinky didn’t come

Tinky the House Elf may not have come, but someone else is coming.

My mother.


(♩♪♫♬ dun dun DAH! ♩♪♫♬)

Her advent, even more so than that of the cleaners on Tuesday, has spurred a massive tidying spree, especially since in our shoebox of a house Mum is going to have to bunk in with Gothic Pre.

Now usually I dispatch Gothic Pre to her bedroom to go mucking it out alone, along with severe warnings of:

1)   the sky-high fee I’ll charge for the job, should she fail in her mission; and

2)   a complete screen ban if it isn’t done to my neurotic satisfaction.

On this occasion, however, it was glaringly apparent that we would have to address her two floor-to-ceiling cupboards. Mum needs somewhere to unpack, and for the past few years Gothic’s been stuffing those cupboards willy nilly to the gills so that they, like the vomiting laundry basket, have reached Monsieur Creosote proportions.

So daunting and horrific was the prospect that for the greater part of the afternoon I avoided it, taking to my bed to nurse a monster hangover from the night before. (Another story entirely, but I assure you I was feeling more than a tad ordinary and, two days later, am still not recovered. Every muscle in my body has sullenly stiffened in protest at the rock-your-ass-off dancing I indulged in while lavishly fuelled by several vats of wine.)

Digression aside, I was pleasantly lulled into complacency by a surprisingly quick run through of the clothes cupboard, during which Gothic even set some items aside for the Salvos (delighted disbelief accompanied by angel song!) I left it until after supper to look into the other cupboard, fondly deceiving myself: she’s outgrown most of her toys in favour of the bassoon, Facebook and the romantic dashing hero of the hour: Heathcliff. So how long could it take? Twenty minutes at the most.


I sat Gothic on the floor with instructions to Sort, Chuck and Order and then opened the cupboard. It emitted a long belly laugh of ominous foreboding. My hangover started throbbing again. I discovered Gothic has not thrown out anything in more than three years: not one item of schoolwork, not one piece of rubbish, nothing. She’s a throwback to her father’s side of the family of collectors and hoarders. As a chronic mover – twice trans-continentally – I’m the type to resolutely and hard-heartedly jettison any and everything in the knowledge that very soon I will be assembling moving boxes yet again. Clutter brings me out in hives.

Ploughing through the Himalayas of junk, I realised that every time I had delivered a room-cleaning edict, all Gothic did was scoop up everything that inhabited her floor space and dump it into the cupboard. In addition to this she had amassed a collection of environmental friendly shopping bags, each of which contained the ‘essential’ items she’d packed for about ten trips away, a couple of Guide camps, and several school functions. None of these had she unpacked, she’d simply slung each bag into the bottomless cupboard, dusted her hands and issued me with a beatific smile of accomplishment. Also my rummaging unearthed countless items of mine she’d sworn innocence of: my tweezers for example, which had me out and about with a shaggy monobrow for weeks until I replaced them. With anorexic self control I closed my lips tightly and said nothing.

Gothic and I are a mismatch.  Her supersensitive gentleness quails in the face of my explode and shoot-from-the-hip personality. If I lose it to start stamping and yelling, she goes to pieces and becomes tearfully and completely unable to function. (Her siblings are the opposite. My son just lets a diatribe slide off his waterproof duck back and advises me to calm down, and QueenBee doesn’t give a stuff.) However, Gothic is good for me. From her I’ve learned the art of quiet diplomacy and sometimes manage to curb my fiery temper and STFU.

This was one of those occasions. It was late and we needed the job done, so I shut up and shoveled, and Gothic sorted through the snowballing detritus. At one point, I had to relieve her groaning waste paper basket and wheel in the 240l recycling bin. We filled it. Two and a half hours later the floor was clear.

Ever gracious, Gothic said, ‘You are amazing, Mum. I’m not proud of that cupboard. Thanks for helping me.’

There again she humbles me. I wish I were a lot more like her and a lot less like me.

However, my neurosis is smoothed, the tidying is done and I can’t wait to see Mum. And as for you, Tinky, you’ve left it too late. I don’t need your tardy self any more. I’m handing your cupboard over to one of the cats.

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I want a Tinky

Dear JK Rowling

I whole-heartedly adore your work. Every word of it.

At the end of a full and full-on first term, I’m dragging myself along – on my lips, cos my limbs are too tired – towards the holidays, sustaining myself with every sanity-maintaining strategy I can muster. One of these is copious lashings of chocolate, another is an infinite supply of nicotine gum, and the last and most nourishing is listening to Stephen Fry mellifluously read the whole Harry Potter series through for the zillionth time. Each time I hear it, I marvel at your sheer creative genius for crafting a world we can fall head-over-heels for.

And I want some of it here, specifically in the form of Tinky the House Elf.

If I can’t have her, any one will do, but I’d like a young one that’s strong and will last a long time. Nothing with attitude, please, no Kreachers. This elf must have a particular passion for laundry and cooking, cos those are what I hate most. They in turn hate me. My wash basket looks like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote just before he ate the wafer-thin mint. It gets to vomiting point frequently, no matter how many late night loads I hang and fold. And as for food, I am so utterly fed up of shopping, planning and cooking my usual unimaginative meals I can’t view it as more than body petrol. Apart from chocolate, there’s no longer any pleasure in anything that requires chewing and swallowing. If Tinky (or whichever elf you send) has trained at Hogwarts, I’m in. The meals there sound pretty spectacular. And from what I understand, the dishes do themselves. Awesome!

JK, your wordsmithing is so magical, I can’t believe there isn’t magic inside you. Please conjure me an elf and sent it Down Under quicksticks. I will treat it well – as well as I do the infinitely-treasured cats – and I have a cosy linen cupboard that it can bed down in.

Love, your fan


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We’re all trying to make a living here

This is going to come as a shock to some, but I actually do work. The fact that my earnings are pitiful (for now!) is immaterial.

I want erased permanently those mental pictures of me:

  • Laughing over cappuccinos in smart coffee shops for hours with my girlfriends
  • Languishing on a sofa with a stack of novels and a rapidly-emptying box of Quality Street
  • Having long lunches accompanied by bucketfuls of champagne at a beachside bistro with George (Clooney)
  • Bopping along to a step class at a designer gym
  • Trailing idly through Witchery and Country Road before emerging, staggering under the weight of my purchases
  • Sighing under the skillful hands of a massage therapist, or having my hair/nails/face/eyelashes/eyebrows/bikini line masterfully sculpted at the salon
  • Entertaining a boyish lover/George in my boudoir while hubby and kids are at work/school/kinder
  • Soothing my soul while I garden with the cats frolicking about me in the sunlight
  • Spending hours on the phone/Facebook, catching up with my mates
  • Sitting around with my finger up by bum, wondering what to do next

For the record:

  • I adore cappuccinos and coffee shops, but make do with instant in a chipped mug
  • I only read before bed
  • My hips and thighs don’t tolerate Quality Street
  • I can’t drink champagne during the day – it sends me straight to sleep and I have a life to lead
  • I have neither the time nor the money for step classes in designer gyms, shopping, or massages/beauty therapy. My hair is grey and gets cut once a term. My nails/face/eyelashes/eyebrows/bikini line seldom receive any attention whatsoever. When they do, it is self-administered.
  • Gardening and catching up with mates is done outside of work time (but mine is a solitary profession, so every hour or so I might take two seconds to say hidi hi on Facebook)
  • As much as I’d find it difficult to say no to George or a wannabe boyish lover, I’m happily married and want to stay that way
  • I have never stuck my finger up my bum

When QueenBee is at kinder, I walk away from cooking, laundry, cleaning and the exciting pursuits listed above and work.

I do not take calls that are not related to writing.

I don’t answer emails that are not related to writing.

And I particularly do not answer unsolicited emails from would-be anonymous first-time writers who want me to edit their work free of charge. Call me callous, but I don’t. (I know, I know. Everybody has a book in them. Everybody would write if they only had the time. But you know what? It’s actually not as easy as it looks.)

Here is something I sometimes want to tell people, but don’t because I don’t want to be rude or unkind. However after this morning’s anonymous request, I’m pissed off enough to shout it out loud:

Constructing grammatically correct, entertaining sentences, articles or books is a long, sometimes tedious, often difficult process. It is not a bodily function, like breathing. And when you’ve created something, you can spend hours, days and years honing it to get it right. It takes even longer to hone someone else’s creation. And I don’t do it for free, or for fun. Sorry.

I will write or edit for you with the greatest of pleasure if:

  1. I love you and I offer
  • or
  1. You ask nicely and you pay me
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Fairy-Tale Romance – with Mum watching

Last year, Gothic Pre-teen fell in love. It was very Danielle Steele. We were camping (yeah, I know – ‘nother story) on a golden beach, the Antipodean sun was setting, the atmosphere of bonhomie was almost tangible … and then Jim and I turned to see our child draped over the sand in the arms of a prince whose hands, thanks to her skimpy bathers, had ample access to my beautiful daughter’s innocent, previously untouched flesh.

The needle screeched over the record, the music died. (Remember records? I don’t think there’s a 21stC equivalent.) I dragged Jim down the shoreline in the opposite direction, frantically shushing, and kept him away until they’d disentangled.

Later, on the bony ground under stinky canvas, I mused on the sorry state of my daughter’s chosen prince:

Like all twelve/thirteen-year-olds, he is very beautiful. However, his beauty holds a firm promise of future plumpness – if he’s not careful, obesity. His curly locks, so lush now, threaten to fall out entirely and the shape of his head will not enhance the billiard-ball look his father sports. The magnificent greeny-blue eyes, already tiny, will fade and further recede, leaving only an impression of too-close-togetherness. It is too, too cruel that his family owns a bulldog. Because we all know what people say about people and their pets…

This shallow description serves only to present what Gothic Pre saw: a pretty boy whose most attractive feature was the fact that he liked her.

In Ms Marple mode I quickly discovered that he is the offspring of perfectly nice parents whose wealth has allowed them to hand him the world on a silver platter. My carefully stand-offish interactions with him left me with the belief that he has accepted the platter with both hands, at the same time dropping motivation, character and any chutzpah they might once have held.

Mouth shut, counsel held, I watched and waited.

Yesterday Gothic Pre announced that she has been asked out by someone else.

‘What’s his name?’ I asked.

The metre swung from Steele to Bronte when she replied, ‘Heathcliff.’

Apparently Heathcliff told his friends, who told Gothic Pre’s friends, who told Gothic Pre, that he liked her. Communication back down the line informed Heathcliff that Gothic Pre had a boyfriend. Gothic Pre quickly re-messaged to say she has forsaken her previous prince. At last, after much rehearsal, the two met face-to-face in the library.

‘Would you like to go out?’ our new hero asked.

‘Okay,’ Gothic Pre sighed.

Done deal. Frog prince is out, romantic hero – bearing somewhat dubious name – is in.

Gothic Pre is amazed and delighted to learn that I will not only countenance a date, but that I will drive her to and from it, and walk her in and out of the venue.

What she doesn’t know is that I will be taking my frog detection monitor with me.

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Blinded by Dollar Signs

A page of my son’s handwriting looks as though a Wookie exploded on a snowfield. Despite brilliance in many areas, Rory’s weak point has always been when he has a pencil in one hand.

Now, I was a teacher once. I remember the sinking feeling of being presented a mangled piece of work that required minute deciphering without the aid of an Enigma cipher machine. I discovered that it is sometimes the least decipherable that contains the most talent.

Not so the Victorian NAPLAN assessors. [National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)]

Whichever cretinous hobbledehoy read my genius son’s Year 5 creative writing assignment didn’t bother to mine for the diamonds in the mud, and simply marked him ‘below average’.

Below average?


Bollocks to that.

Maternal prejudices aside, I know my son can write. I am happy to concede he may lack the edge in other areas – his relegation to the 8th Division in basketball is not unwarranted; unless I threaten to do a sniff check, his personal hygiene falls below acceptable standards; he is somewhat uncoordinated and has questionable spatial perception, to which the fact that in his ten years he has had three greenstick fractures is testimony.

However, when it comes to literacy, he’s way up there. He took to words like a duck to water, like a bear to the woods, like a pig to sh*t. At the age of four, he picked up his first reader and sailed off into the glorious sunset of the written word with ne’er a backward glance. He is eloquent, logical and expressive. And he can write! (Yeah, I know I’ve said that already, but just in case you missed the point…)

His handwriting has always been an Achilles feature. We have been doing daily handwriting-at-home exercises since his first week at school, despite what the odd sniffy teacher might think. I have spent enough on fine-motorskills-enhancing Lego to feed a Third World nation for a month.

In desperation, a couple of years ago, I took him to a highly-recommended local Occupational Therapist.

Ignoring my first impression (a tad over-the-hill), I watched in silent and disbelieving wonder as she had my nine-year-old do wall push-ups, play Kerplunk! and draw squiggly stick figures for an hour. Always one to give somebody a second chance, I returned for another hour. This time we repeated the previous saccharin session and I noticed a desperate gleam enter poor Rory’s patient eyes. I could just hear his silent plea: Seriously?

Then she presented me with her bill: $240 for two sessions.

That’s right: $2 a minute.


I presented the bill to our private medical firm. They laughed and said the same thing, ‘Seriously?’ (And then they said, ‘No way.’ Quel surpris!)

I wrestled with a good-mannered dilemma over how to extricate Rory and myself without hurting the OT’s feelings. (I am not so much of a blunt axe in real life: people-skills and all that.) Then I hit a lucky break. This turned out to be an unlucky break for Rory, involving a steep driveway, a scooter and another greenstick in one of his forearms.

‘So sorry,’ I said to the OT. ‘He can’t use his arm for twelve weeks.’

‘Do be sure to make an appointment as soon as he’s recovered,’ she begged.

‘Of course.’ (Yeah, right.)

To assist Rory with his recovery, I took him to a physiotherapist. In two sessions, which cost half the price of the OT, and to which the private medical lot were happy to contribute, she’d not only assisted with the rehabilitation of the fractured bone, she’d also diagnosed the core of his handwriting difficulties.

‘It’s not a fine-motor issue at all,’ she said, in direct contradiction to the OT. ‘He needs to work on developing his shoulder strength.’

She handed over some exercises that were macho and fun enough to appeal to any hot-blooded young male, and within two weeks Rory’s teacher reported a significant improvement in his handwriting.

There is so much lost ground to recover, however, that in mother bear mode I have approached the school to see if he can type his Year 12 finals (in 2018), so as not to have any further diamond-in-the-mud loss. His lovely teacher embraced the idea and immediately investigated how to proceed.

‘We need to start compiling documentary evidence now,’ she told me.

A compiler at heart, I leapt to the challenge, writing to his Prep teacher in the UK, the physio, and – feeling only a little guilty – the OT. His Prep teacher and the physio sent through comprehensive and helpful reports within a couple of weeks. I had to chase the OT for four months before she finally emailed me, saying she would compile a report (based on the futile wall push-ups, banal squiggling and infantile Kerplunk!) for $150.


Dumb-founded, I didn’t respond, not trusting myself to be my usual immaculately polite self.

Then yesterday, I got an email to say she’s posted the report, along with her invoice.

All I can say is, it’d better be good. Good enough to have my son firmly ensconced in front of a laptop in 2018.

Because the OT and I have both been blinded: she by the dollar signs in her eyes, and me by robbery.

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The Horror! The Horror!

There is no escaping it: Fat Molly is obese. It’s a fact as certain as the moon draws water and as tomorrow always dawns. (See photographic evidence on public FaceBook page: Vicky Gemmell – wordwringers.)

Before you point accusatory fingers at me, and cite diabetes and early heart attacks, let me assure you her obesity is not my fault. That cat ekes calories out of thin air, turning them immediately into fat globules that slide onto her neck, back and stomach. Despite a strict diet: a tablespoonful of lean minced steak/kangaroo each morning, a bowl of extortionately expensive Science Diet weight loss food to sustain her through the long night (the other cats snack on it, diminishing her own modest portion considerably – much to her fury), she continues to swell.

She is also a cat hated by karma. Life’s not easy when you’re a scaredy cat, especially when Fate seems always to turn her most ironic smirk in your direction.

Last night the family gathered in the garden to watch a moonlit owl waiting on the children’s play equipment for the possums (I hope), maybe rats (probably), that come for the leftover bird food I put out each day. The cats came too. When we’d had enough David Attenboroughing, I carefully ushered Platinum Cat, Lord Claude, indoors, mindful of his uncanny similarity to a morsel of delicious rodent. I assumed Fat Molly followed, as HuckFinn – the garden stray who loathes her, never failing to give her a Big Smack whenever the opportunity arises – was lurking. I gave him a feed and then made sure to slam the outside laundry door firmly so that he couldn’t sneak in and decimate the bag of extortionately expensive Science Diet that lives on the washing machine, which is too high for Fat Molly to jump up onto.

At 7.15 am I was doing the dreary school lunch-making, half asleep, grumpy, cursing myself, as usual, for going to bed after 11.30 instead of at 10.00 when I heard a hoarse yow! I located its source at the laundry door, which I opened and was nearly bowled over by Fat Molly who barrelled straight to an empty food bowl (the other cats had had a night feast). She put the P into plaintive with one look. Forking steak mince into her bowl, I observed she’d brought inside with her the most unholy cat stink and I at once resolved to spend the morning giving her a bath. Insult to injury, I know, but a smelly cat is an offence against humanity.

I will gloss over the bath – you can see the photos – only saying that it was accompanied by much hissing and growling: fruity feline language I was almost loathe to allow QueenBee, who was assisting, to overhear. It’s lucky that Fat Molly has no lips and so can’t form a F sound.

The (extortionately expensive – these animals are a costly business) Deluxe Tea-tree Cat Shampoo wasn’t up to addressing Fat Molly’s stench, even though I used most of the bottle. (Hubby Jim will be disappointed; he likes to use it too.)

It was scissors time.

The fruity feline language worsened and I felt like a lion tamer with a new recruit who might, at any second, turn on him with slavering jaws and razoring claws , but I snipped away boldly.

Guilt pangs were keen as I realised I was doing to her what my mother used to do to me as a young child. Convinced she had an inner hairdresser, she would hack away blithely and then send me to school looking like a ragpicker’s laughing stock. After a few days, she’d concede defeat and we’d go to a tutting genuine hairdresser who’d have to resort to a razor to even out the chunks.

Returning to the laundry to collect a dustpan and brush when Fat Molly could take no more, I discovered the crux of her outrage. Caught short in the night, she’d resorted to depositing a neat pee puddle in the dustpan. Then she got caught shorter and, wanting to avoid the splash back effect, dropped a humiliating coil nearby. The humiliation! The indignity! The horror! The horror! No wonder she is so embarrassed and upset today.

But at least she doesn’t have to go to school with that haircut.

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