YOU’RE my friend … not your husband, not your wife, not your colleague, not your friend, not your sister, not your flatmate

10:10am, Saturday, a local café. I sit at an empty table and wait to meet my friend, Nicola.  I look up expectedly every time the door opens.  I glance at my phone to see if she’s sent me a message.  No.  Our conversation from Wednesday arranging to meet is still there …

Nicola Message

The bell above the door rings as it opens.  I see Nicola and my heart sinks.

Oh for fuck’s sake.  She’s brought her husband …

I fix a smile on my face and greet them brightly. “Hello! Hello Mark, how are you?”

We exchange kisses and pleasantries.  I want to leave, immediately.  I like Mark, but I arranged to meet Nicola.  Not Nicola’s husband.

Do I still talk about my recent medical problems?  Do I cover off the weirdly suggestive email I got from my ex last week?  Will Nicola let me know if she’s still frustrated at Mark and resenting their sex life?

No.  Now the morning is going to be stilted, superficial talk, and filling Mark in on the background of each thing I mention.  Jokes will be missed, and his (unwanted) opinion will have to be politely heard.  Total waste of time.

Nicola is my friend, and her “people” are not my friends by default.

I HATE it when this happens.  It’s not always husbands.  It’s often friends, or wives, or partners, or other family members.  It is always irritating.

There are occasions when it’s great to bring your loved ones.  And there are plenty of these occasions – your entourage get ample airplay.  But when you make arrangements with an individual friend, those arrangements are between the two of you.  A token (and rhetorical) “You don’t mind if I bring, Charlotte, do you?” doesn’t cover it.  That blasé gesture puts the pressure on the other person to refuse your request.  And they’re not the one being rude.

Don’t bring your people along. It’s presumptive, bad-mannered, and it ruins the outing for the other person who was anticipating sharing their intimate thoughts and feelings with you … the person they know, like, and trust.

If you want a group gathering, initiate it and state it upfront, “Charlotte and I are going for lunch on Saturday, would you like to join us?”  It’s that simple.

Much like a threesome, a third party alters the dynamic and never in a good way. It might seem like a fun idea in your head but in reality it’s awkward, and at least one person is frustrated, resentful and unsatisfied.

You’re my friend.  I chose you: It’s a compliment.  I like you, I want to spend time with you.  Quality one-on-on time.

Don’t bring the strays.

Afterword

And don’t get me started on people who ask that dreaded sentence “Do you have plans for the weekend?” Or “What are you up to on Saturday?”  Unless you’re completely comfortable with people saying outright that they just don’t want to go to your social event, state what you’re inviting the person to and ask if they’d like to come (e.g. “We’re having friends around for dinner on Saturday, would you like to come?”).

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Sex note

A motel room in Bendigo, Tuesday morning.  It’s a cold day and I put my on coat in readiness to check-out.  It’s time to get to my meeting.  I see a note wedged under my door.  It must have been placed there last night or before my alarm went off this morning.  I pull it out and unfold it, presumably it’s from the staff advising me of checkout times or passing on a phone call.

Unless I misread the chemistry when I checked in, that’s not from the staff.

I turn the page …

 

And they say romance is dead.

Sadly I’ll not meet the Shakespearean lyricist whose sweet words have melted my heart.  I’m leaving.  What could have been on Tuesday night will never be.  Sigh.  Yet again I’ve missed out on a man who is clearly The One.

At reception I hand in my room key and inform the woman of the note.  She’s shocked, “And he’s used that horrible notepad, he didn’t even write it on nice paper”!  I’m not sure that would have made the difference.  But I’m not fully up to speed with Australian courtship and standards here may be lower.

As I drive to work, I’m bemused at the thinking of the man who wrote the message. It’s not a short note.  It’s not a single sentence, or a few words.  When Mr Motel decided to contact me this is the approach he took.  At no point while writing did it cross his mind “Maybe this isn’t a good idea …”.  No.  He pulled out a pen and paper, he wrote the first page … then he turned it and KEPT WRITING.  Then he ripped the page out, folded it, and slipped it under the door.  Through all that, he didn’t think “This is utterly ludicrous. What am I doing?!” He had focus and ploughed on … logic and rationale firmly discarded.

My main response to this incident?  Aside from laughter, it made me a little homesick for London.  The city where being sexually accosted is a weekly, if not daily, event for young women.  Black British men in particular are very open in approaching ladies who take their fancy.  Muslim men are equally brazen, though tend to use a different style.  White British men need a pint or 10 before their cheeky chappy (no euphemism) inevitably emerges.  Australians are a little shyer, a little less confident, and a lot more prudish.  It’s been a while since I encountered men letting their weird sexual thoughts blurt out, uncensored, and the amusement that can provide.

I doubt Mr Motel was aiming for bemusement and nostalgia, but I don’t really know if even Mr Motel knew what he was hoping to achieve.  Certainly the absence of his name or phone number indicates that he was hoping for anonymity … and his wife not finding out.

Afterword

Yesterday I voted in the Australian election (less exciting or important as the big vote of the last 10 days – Brexit). As I walked into the polling booth a man rushed up next to me “I imagine you’ll be voting for the Australian Sex Party”! 1) Ugh. 2) Yes, there is such a party.

Good grief

Sunday 16 August,2015. I’m driving home and talking to my father on the car phone. It’s a winter evening but the days are getting longer.

 

Me (in a grave tone): Notice you can hear those chirpy birds at dusk now. The really chipper ones. They’re all happy and chatty …

Him: Ugh. I know, I know. They’ve been turning my stomach cold for the past couple of weeks. They may as well be yelling “Chirp, chirp!! Summer’s coming! Summer’s coming! Chirp!”  I’d like to shoot them.

Dad looking casually suave ... and me looking like a boy with special needs.

Dad looking casually suave … and me looking like a boy with special needs.

Neither Dad nor I are fans of the Australian heat.

 

Me: And they’re not even edible birds …what other birds do we eat besides chicken? Duck. I can’t think of any others …

Him: Royals used to eat swan.

Me: True. What other birds do we eat?

Him: Oh I don’t know. Geeses …

Me (laughing): You just said ‘geeses’ instead of geese! Idiot.

Dad chuckles. The energy of our amusement is accelerating.

Me: And turkey! We eat turkey.

Mum and Dad as Crusaders

Mum and Dad as Crusaders

Him: Yes! Turkey!! Ha, you squawked that word the way you mock me about squawking words when I’m excited! … But then I squawked it straight after you!

Me (laughing): Quail, we eat quail.

Him (speaking with a grin I can hear): Well I wouldn’t eat a bloody quail.

Me (still giggling): I know you wouldn’t. And pheasant, we eat pheasant.

Him: I wouldn’t eat a bloody pheasant either.

I continue laughing. Dad tries to laugh but it triggers a coughing fit and we end the call.

He dies a few hours later.

Both of us as adults

Both of us as adults

The following Friday, a cloudy day in late August, we bury him. My brother-in-law and I speak at the funeral, my mother reads Dad’s favourite poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

At the grave, the wind blows robustly around us as his New Zealand relatives sing in Maori and perform a fierce and powerful haka.  It’s an impressive finale.

For the fortnight following his death I keep phoning him. We used to speak to each other for about an hour every day, and habits are hard to break. Our final conversation was a typical one and I miss those talks.

Dad was my father, confirmed by our unnervingly similar personality quirks and physical make-up. But mainly we were friends. We shared the same interests, held many of the same views, and had a borderline telepathic understanding of each other’s thoughts and responses.

Dad

Dad

I’ll miss our connection and I’m disappointed that I’ll have no new Dad-related anecdotes. But thankfully many of them are indelibly imprinted in my head (and I’ll soon repost two that I wrote in 2012, you can see them by clicking on these links – “Fatherly Advice” and “Balloon Friends”).

It’s a month today since Dad died.  (Though it wasn’t until Monday 17th that we knew).  It’s sad that he’s gone, but his death has ended his suffering. My grief is intense and will continue for a long time, but mostly when I think of him I smile (or chuckle out loud) at the endlessly (& often unintentionally) entertaining things he did and said. On balance, it’s a good grief.

A wet forecast

Monday, July 2015.  A cold winter night in a local Italian restaurant.  My wine glass is empty and I’m bursting to go to the loo.  I leave my friends and rush to the toilet … ahhh, thank god.  There are few things better than emptying an alarmingly full bladder.  I return to the dining table, instantly need to again relieve myself, and race back to the ladies.  This is odd.  Why the double rush?  And why the lack of notice from my body?  Is this the start of my inevitable march towards diabetes?

I wake up.

Jumping out of bed I rush to the toilet.  As I frantically run, I put my hands between my thighs to check …

Yes.  I’ve wet myself.  Jesus Christ.

I thrust open the bathroom door and catapult myself onto the loo, almost sliding off in my urgency.  I continue what started while I was sleeping.  Shocked.  Baffled.  How?!!  How has this happened?!!

I hose myself off in the shower and return to the bedroom.  I check the bed … my accident didn’t make it to the linen.  Well, that’s something.  Every cloud has a silver lining (even if the cloud just released a shower of yellow rain).

A long-forgotten conversation with a good friend pounces on me.

Him:When was the last time you wet the bed?”

Me (honest and adamant): “Never.  I’ve never wet the bed.  Like all other normal adults!”

He thought nothing of an adult occasionally losing bladder control, particularly after a night of boozing.  I thought differently.

But for the first time in my life I’ve wet the bed.  And I’m sober.

Sigh.

This may be the tip of an ugly iceberg.  Last week I threw up in my bed (again, for the first time, and again entirely sober).  So this is life now, is it?  A single, 38 year old woman, who sporadically vomits on her sheets and wets the bed.

Tired, I peel back the cool (dry) linen and slide into bed.  Slippers lifts his head – annoyed at all the commotion.

Oh yes, and I’m a cat owner.

The future looks damp…

Feast in the Field

Friday night, a dark and cold winter evening.  Six rustic wood tables sit in a bush clearing in the middle of the Australian countryside.  Candles are on each table. A few strings of fairy lights are stretched above the tables, loosely attached to gum trees.  The smell of eucalyptus gives the air a fresh clean smell.

Small bonfires surround the outskirts of the tables, creating an atmospheric enclosure and providing warmth.  The flickering light is dim and only enables us to see the table next to us but no further. The pagan tone is seductive.  Our bonfire circle, the twinkling stars, and table arrangement in the middle of nowhere is our Stonehenge.  Tonight food is our god and we shall worship it justly.

This is “Feast in the Field” at Tree Tops, Victoria – an outdoor dining experience that takes place in the local bush area every six months.  Australia does food very well.  Rural Australia does it superbly.Feast in the Field

The feast begins and the banquet is brought to us:

  • Pork bone broth, kale crisps
  • Dorper lamb, verjus and parsnip
  • Hereford beef brisket, heirloom beets and carrots
  • Berkshire pork loin, celeriac and kohl rabi remoulade, crispy pork skin
  • Koshi rice pudding, quince and vanilla

I’m on a table of 10.  Seated directly around me are:

  • Kesenya, my colleague and friend
  • Chloe, a talkative, entertaining, and accomplished woman
  • Don and Jo, local “Restdown” vineyard and winery owners who lived in London for a decade (so it’s a pleasure and relief to talk to them).

Both Chloe and Don are guitarists so much of the conversation is about music.  It’s a fitting topic as the sound of crackling bonfires and clinking glasses is overlaid by the singing of Tyler Hudson (local musician and contestant on X Factor, Australia).  His performance enriches the event.

We eat, we drink, we talk.  It’s both a calm and stimulating evening.

Feast in the Field 3Despite the pagan setting and atmosphere, there’s no burning of the Wicker Man (that I witnessed), no naked dancing (that I took part in), no druids (or anyone wearing a hoodie), and no animal sacrifices (well, none that weren’t eaten with appreciation and gratitude).  But it’s a magical night.

Afterword 

Feast in the Field” was catered by Lauren Mathers from “Bundarra Berkshires” (who provided the pork for the event).

Local producers and Red Gum Food Group farmers grew all the food for the evening.

Don and Jo Hearn from “Restdown Wines” provided the organic beef (good wine and good beef go well together).

Other suppliers include: Peninsular Fresh Organics, Jonesys Milk, Plains Paddock Lamb, Belmont Biodynamic Produce, and Delicious Vanilla.