Category Archives: April 2013 Posts


A warm April evening, Albury.   I lie in bed, my stomach churning.  I need to throw up, but I’m next to Mum and David’s room and I’ll wake them if I rise.  For half an hour I fight the nausea but it’s a futile battle.  I head to the toilet.  I’ve never used this bathroom, and I can’t find the light switch.  In the dark, I kneel over the bowl and vomit, sweating and shaking.   Mum quietly emerges, switching on the light “Can I do anything for you?” I look up from the floor “Could you please just bring a bucket to my room?”

My mother has visitors so that afternoon I’d moved my belongings from the guest room to the room her grandchildren (my nieces) sleep in when they stay.   The last time I was this sick was when I was visiting last year.  For three days I hibernated in the guest room – where I thankfully had a large bed and an ensuite.  Tonight I crawl under Dora the Explorer sheets on a single trundle bed on the floor.  I reach for my iPhone to check the time, and my hand hits a large plastic fairy castle.  The street light shines through the Tinker Bell curtains.  In stark contrast to my sickness, cheerful toys fill the room.

The virus children with their germ-infested hands all over me ...

The virus children with their germ-infested hands all over me …

An hour passes.  I heave into the rectangular yellow bucket.  I should get up and empty it, but I don’t.  I can’t.  Another hour passes and I fill the bucket further.  My hair hangs down, covered in vomit.  Two hours later I wake; this time I need the toilet.  Diarrhoea is joining the party.

If I was in my usual room, the guest room, I could stumble to the ensuite.  Groan and heave privately in all my naked glory.  But tonight I have to cross the hallway and use the main bathroom.  Clothes are needed.  My mother will be spared the visual battering of me giving up on dignity, and giving in to the power of a viral assault.  Her guests will certainly be spared.

I put some clothes on my sticky body.  The items are possibly on backwards and probably inside out.  With bra-less glamour I greet the toilet.  Eventually I return to my room …

The stench I’d left the toilet in is rivalled by the smell that hits me when I open the bedroom door; the bucket of vomit has its own life-force.  Unbeknown to me, my ninja-quiet mother is in the doorway right behind me.  I have no doubt she heard the recent toilet activity.  She wants to help “Can I get you anything?” “No, but could you please empty my bucket?” (Somehow throwing up in it so often has suddenly made it “my” bucket).

Without saying anything she takes the offensive bucket, and I hear her rinsing and washing it repeatedly.  She places it next to me and leaves, closing the door.  She knows I need to fight this battle alone.

My drug-pushing father, demanding my company

My drug-pushing father, demanding my company

Morning comes and I hear sounds from the kitchen.  I call to my mother.

Me:  Have Audrey and Phil gone? (I’m not emerging unless they have).

Mum:  Yes, they left an hour ago.  How are you feeling?

Me:  I’ve been better.  Can you please ring Penny and let her know that I won’t be able to make it to Emily’s school assembly today?  Tell her I’m really sorry, but I just can’t.

Emily gave me this virus, Eliza gave me the one last year.   Ordinarily I could eat a rotten ferret without getting sick, but my nieces have the ability to infect me with unearthly illness.  I’ve recently realised why sweet little girls are always so creepy in horror movies: they carry invisible plagues.


That same day, my father was driving to see me for the first time since my arrival.  He was first turned away, as I was sleeping, so he visited my sister for a few hours until he was informed I was awake.

When he arrived, he entered my room, laughed and threw a plastic bag at me “I don’t care if you’re dying! It’s bloody typical of you to ruin my trip! Anyway, I’ve been to the chemist and got you stuff.  Take them all so we can go out for lunch tomorrow.  I don’t want you being sick and boring the whole time I’m here”.

It’s fair to say my mother and father have very different nursing styles.

Bunnies, barbeques, banter and birthdays

“Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday dear Simo-ooone!  Happy birthday to you!!  Hip, hip hooray!!”

My niece, Emily, in her bunny mask

My niece, Emily, in her bunny mask

I lean forward and blow out the candles on my cake to cheers from my family.

My sister smiles at me with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and says to her three young daughters “Okay girls, let’s clap out Auntie Simone’s age.  It’s a lot of claps … are you ready?”

I give Penny a look of sarcastic but good-natured thanks as her girls nod enthusiastically.  We clap and count.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two (by this point we gasp for an intake of breath), twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five, THIRTY-SIX!!!”  Believe me, clapping thirty-six times takes quite a while.  My nieces are bored by about twenty.

Emily in her Easter mask

Emily in her Easter mask

My brother-in-law claps once more and announces dramatically “And one to make her grow!”  My seven-stone sister grins impishly and looks at me “Or should that be; and one to make her shrink?!”

Hmm, was that really necessary?   

It’s Easter Saturday and we’re gathered round the table on the back verandah to celebrate my recent birthday, and my current visit.  Mum was up early to prepare the salads and meats for the BBQ, while her husband David cleared the spiders and cobwebs from the outdoor setting.

Birthdays have always been closely linked to Easter for our tribe.  If it’s not near mine at the end of March, then it’s near my sister’s in early April.  Birthday cakes, the Easter bunny, and early Autumn BBQs all interplay.

Me in an Easter costume ... many years ago (I think I'm some sort of chicken)

Me in an Easter costume … many years ago (I think I’m some sort of chicken)

After the cutting of the cake, my nieces leave the table to play in the backyard.  The men assume their positions overseeing the grilling meat, and the women set the table and bring out the salads and drinks.

I squat down to pull out a bottle of wine from the fridge and spot something that brings a glint to my eye: a chocolate bunny soldier.  I love these bunnies.  Love them.  The great tragedy is that they’re only released over Easter and having lived in London for fourteen years, I’ve missed them for over a decade.  God, I so hope that bunny’s a surprise for me tomorrow …

When I return to the BBQ area, my seven-year-old niece is wearing a mask that she made at school.  I laugh at her, and she’s pleased.  She doesn’t know that my merriment is partly at her, and partly at the memory of the masks Penny and I used to wear at Easter (or any event for that matter … costumes seemed to be donned for the smallest of reasons in my household).

It makes me happy that the celebratory traditions are continuing through the generations and that I’m here to witness them; including the irreverent quips!

Easter many years ago (I'm the chick on the left with brown hair)

Easter many years ago (I’m the chick on the left with brown hair)


The bunny was for me.  Mum presented it with a word of warning “Penny will make a bit of a scene about this as I’ve told her I’m not getting her bunny soldiers anymore and she’s miffed.  But for god’s sake, she’s a forty-year-old mother with three children.  Plus she’s still got the ones I gave her from the last three years in her pantry.  I know you’ll enjoy yours and not hold on to it”. (That would be part of the reason I’m not seven-stone ….).

Sure enough, as soon as my sister arrived she theatrically announced “Enjoy your bunny soldier because apparently you don’t get them after you turn forty (at this point, she looked directly at our mother).  Savour it because you‘ve only got another four coming your way”.  Mum just smiled in resigned exasperation.  I smiled knowing that Mum will continue to bestow me with a bunny soldier for as long as I continue to clap with the genuine delight of a three-year-old each time I’m given one (which I’ll then consume within 48 hours …).

After the afterword

Since posting this I’ve been informed that I’m not a chicken in the first photograph (in the black top), but am, in fact, a daisy flower.  Allegedly the green tights should have made that obvious.  “What’s wrong with you?  You’re a daisy, not a bloody chicken!  Why do you think you’re wearing green tights?  A chicken doesn’t have green legs.  Simpleton!”