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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.

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…

Slippers

A friend collected a kitten last week to give to her daughter for her 7th birthday.  I agreed to look after the kitten this week while my friend was away.  Unfortunately the daughter turned out to be allergic.  And I have the kitten.  And I turned 38 yesterday.

Ella and Slippers

Ella and Slippers

Fate bestowed a kitten upon me during the week of my near-40 birthday.

And the cat’s name? Slippers …. Simone and Slippers.  An alliteration usually makes things better, but not in this case.  Simone … Slippers … Spinster.  I suppress an image of me in 20 years with a houseful of cats.

Slippers is named because of her white-feet.  The same reason my nana’s cat was named Socks.  Another reason to fear the symbol of the new kitten.  And the alliteration.

My friend commented “Oh it is nice to come home to something”.  No, it’s nice to not come home to something.

Whenever I’ve lived with people I’ve always walked up to my door at the end of the day with a feeling of dread.  Knowing (or worse, not knowing) that someone’s inside.  I loathe it.  I turn the key praying they won’t be there, while I simultaneously try not to get my hopes up that I’ve got the place to myself.  Fear and anticipation is too often met with plummeting disappointment and (irrational) anger when I hear the cheerful “Hello!!” from the person behind that door.   Ugh.

Of course if they’re not home, I get a rush of euphoria and elation.  “Woo hoo! No one’s here!!”  But for how long?  They’ll be back, but when?!  I can’t enjoy my solitude with the knowledge that the door will open and at any time.

I like living by myself.

Slippers’ mother was a feral cat who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident.  Slippers’ siblings were subsequently drowned.  For reasons unknown to me, Slippers and her brother were granted a reprieve from a watery execution.  And as they start out on the journey of life alone, I look out on the journey of middle-age equally alone.

Slippers doesn’t seem to have embraced solitary life as much as I have.  She follows me from room-to-room.  She sits on me when I sit down.  And she lies on my neck when I try to sleep.  In a nutshell, Slippers is very needy and has no idea of personal space.

I’m sorry Slippers that you’re the orphaned daughter of a feral cat.  I’m also sorry that I’m a solitary singleton who struggles to co-habit.  We’ll just have to give each other some space and see how we get along.

We stand a better chance if you stop trying to sleep on my face.

“Roll on up! The show is in town!!”

Showbags

The showbags

It’s a dying tradition, the travelling show.  But in rural Australia it remains an annual fixture, and this weekend it was firmly on Cohuna’s calendar.

I pay my $15 entry fee and enter the footy show ground.  Fairy floss and Dagwood dogs are the food vendor staples.  Giant sticky lollipops that’ll end up on the ground covered in dirt also feature.  Speakers blare out songs, and stall holders try to entice people to spend their money to win prizes they don’t want.  The bright colours and lights are too much for children to resist.  Sugared up, they run from temptation to temptation, barely able to keep their focus on which thing they’d like to do or have.  Parents need to be prepared to fork out, or say no, a LOT.

It’s been 25 years since I went to a town show.  With the exception of the clothing fashions and my aching knees, there’s no way of telling if this is 1985 or 2015.  And it’s nice.

Clowns

The clowns

Three sections make up the show; the “trashy” section (showbags, rides, games), the animal section (dogs, horses, cows), and the pavilion.  There’s used to be a shed full of animals (chickens, ducklings, goats, kids, lambs, piglets), but not today.  I don’t know where children will buy pink, green, blue and purple dyed chicks from now.  What has the world come to?

Ducks

The catch-a-duck game

1. The trashy section. This area belongs to the young teens and the night. If it’s anything like it was in my youth, flirting will be the core activity … performed to a background of whooshing rides, pumping music, and flashing lights.

The fairground music, shoddy toys, and gaped-mouthed clowns’ slowly oscillating heads haven’t changed in decades.  These three things prompt my nostalgia associated with the show, to be overlaid with nostalgia from the 80s movies “Big” and “The Lost Boys” (did any other movies make such an impact with their fairground scenes?).

Cows Judging

The cows

I don’t take many photos in this area because, to be honest, I’m a little frightened by carnies.  And I was so vehemently abused in New Orleans by a busker when I took a photo that I’m on guard.  Carnies and (some) buskers are cut from the same cloth and it’s no fine silk.

Horses

The horses

2. The animal section is a pleasure. Teenage girls with tightly braided hair sit astride handsome and perfectly groomed horses.   Farm children are dressed (impractically) in white and are judged both on the handling of their cow, and the cow herself. More than one cow ruins her chances by refusing to move and/or defecating.

Sponge and yo-yos

The sponges and yo-yos

But the dog section is my drug-of-choice, and it’s high-quality cocaine.  I wander the dozens of tents, smiling at the variety of breeds.  For two hours I’m fixed to the spot as I watch the judging.  Hounds, spaniels, and terriers trot about – grinning much more than their stressed owners.  Showing dogs is a serious business.

3. The pavilion is the gem of every show. A huge shed is packed with artwork, photography, craft, plants, vegetables, flowers and baked goods. I walk past two women “It’s all in the beating, apparently”. I suppress a giggle. They’re looking at the prize-winning sponge.

Will Marie’s fruitcake beat Ann’s?  Has Kevin put too much at stake by entering his silverbeet instead of his carrots?  Are Lee’s eggs the right shape and shade of brown?  How will little Ella cope when she sees her drawing came in second, when her older sister’s painting came in first?

The vegetable creations

The vegetable creations

This is where we find out.  X-Factor has nothing on the suspense, competition and drama of the pavilion.

The passion and creativity in this section is heart-warming and inspiring.  People having hobbies, and taking pride in them, is refreshing.  And that pride endures.  My mother has a photo album filled with awards my sister and I won at the Kyabram show, 30 years ago.

Portrait

The art

The show reminds me of my father.  Partly because he used to take me, but mostly because he got as excited by the entire thing as I did.  As an adult, I can appreciate the show from a different perspective.   The sense of community, the enjoyment people receive from their individual hobbies and accomplishments, and a feeling of innocent fun (provided you don’t make eye-contact with the carnies).

Veggies and eggs

The veggies and eggs

Afterword

My friend’s little sister purchased a dyed chick from the Kyabram Show about 25 years ago.  To keep it safe she used tables to create a “fenced” area for it in the living room.   She placed the fourth and final table (wall) down …. on the chick.  I didn’t witness the chick-crushing (thankfully) but I’ve never forgotten the story.