This morning I realised that it has been 12-months since my family and I arrived back in Australia so I ducked out with the laptop to grab a coffee at our local and reflect. The new Barista is Laotian, from Vientiane. I don’t know why but I think that is FABULOUS!
I am not one to be filled with the spirit of Christmas (unless it comes in a bottle). If I hear a song using the lyric ‘Merry’ and punctuated with bells in November I will become physically violent…
The Season to be Jolly has always been bittersweet for me. I am profoundly sympathetic to those who struggle at this time of year and have struggled myself. It can be overwhelming, lonely and honestly, sometimes it all feels very false. Not to mention the drive to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!
Living in South East Asia for the last few years, I have been lucky enough to avoid the worst excesses of Christmas and, as a general rule, our Christmases were low key with minimal disruption to our lives, celebrating friendship and kinship. However, this year we returned to Australia. For the children it is their first Yuletide in the West. Christmas on Steroids, tinsel and lights and, seemingly, months and months of build up to the big day!
The first indication that things were going to be different this year came a couple of months ago. As I was tucking our 6 year old into bed she took my hand, squeezed it tightly, gazed deeply into my eyes with her enormous baby blues and asked earnestly, “Mummy, do you think this year we could possibly have a slightly larger Christmas tree?
I couldn’t see what was wrong with the forty-centimeter tall, 300-baht job I reluctantly purchased eight years ago, my wink and a nod to Christmas. But she was so very, very sweet and so very, very sincere.
“I will look into it, sweety!” I replied.
I was fucked and she knew it.
I locked my shiny humbug in a cage under the bed and told her to keep it down this year (though she is still being nurtured after hours with wine and cheese) bought a 6-foot-tree and decided, for the children, to have a Merry Fucking Christmas.
I fought through the cobwebs under the house and ripped open the box labeled ‘Xmas Shit’ (I better do something about that now that my children can read). As I unpacked that dusty old box something fabulous happened. I remembered what Christmas was like for me when I was a kid. I remembered the excitement, the anticipation, the rare and treasured time together as a family. Leaving a carrot for Rudolph and glass of rum out for Santa (the old pisspot), watching my Grandma as she bustled about in the kitchen, making presents for Mum and Dad, the table on Christmas Day… bright, festive fun!
I decided it was time to make some happy Christmas memories for my girls… and for me.
So we have begun. Just in case I forget later, these are a few of my favourite things from Christmas this year.
THE CHRISTMAS STAR
As mentioned, we acquired a new tree this year. It was actually really fun adorning it with the surprising number of special decorations we seem to have acquired over the years, many made by the girls. However, when it was finished, the children agreed that the daggy old plastic star was neither big enough or beautiful enough to crown such a lovely tree. So we got crafty! A cardboard box, a toilet roll, every piece of gold or silver frippery we could find in the busy box, a little imagination, a lot of glitter, a lot of glue and VIOLA….
So many memories were carefully unpacked from the Christmas Box this year. I am incredibly lucky to have travelled so widely and to have met so many fabulous people from all over the world. As Christmas orphans our families shared some fun times together and some special traditions from other countries. These adorable christmas ‘Pontipines’… as Chilli calls them… were a gift from one of my dear girlfriends from Lao. Miss ya face fabulous lady!
For the last couple of months our house has felt like The Gaza Strip and I have felt like a UN Peacekeeper trying to minimise the carnage as my two eldest have fought and scrapped and hated and hit. It has been heartbreaking to watch and G and I have struggled to find a way to improve things. On Monday, suddenly, a ceasefire!
It was the first day of the school holidays and the girls decided that Christmas wasn’t Christmas without snow. They spent the day singing and sharing and laughing and making.
Mummy, come look what we made… together…
They say families make their own traditions and despite not being particularly Christmassy G and I do have ours.
Every year, on Christmas Eve, after the children are in bed and while we wait for Santa to come, a single malt, some chocolate and this fabulous movie. One Christmas tradition I look forward to introducing my daughters to when they are much, much, much older!
Thanks for reading. I hope your Holidays are filled with Peace, Love and Fabulous.
For the later part of this year, fabulous has been in short supply, for me anyway. For that reason I have let this littIe corner of the interweb lie dormant. A few times I even thought perhaps it should be decommissioned, shut down and forgotten. It seemed there was nothing fabulous to report. I tried, many times, to write something that was worthy of a page dedicated to fab but I felt like a fraud.
“If you can’t say anything fabulous then don’t say anything at all”
The fact is, I need to find fabulous more than ever cos, like plenty of people, I am drowning in the bilge water of life right now. If organising my thoughts into some meaningful structure and sending them out into the World is how I locate the sequins in the sewer then that is what I am going to do.
I feel more fabulous already. Thanks for reading.
Faith No More
If those names mean nothing to you then you can be forgiven, after reading this, for thinking I am certifiable.
If you do know (and appreciate) who those bands are then you will understand why, on discovering that they were playing on the same bill, for ONE gig, in early July 2014 were compelled to purchase tickets to attend that historical gathering of Rock and Metal fabulousness!
Yes, it is true that the evening we bought the tickets we had had a couple of glasses of wine with G’s great friend and fellow music enthusiast (known to the girls as Uncle Toy). It is possible, that we were a little rash in making the decision but… ‘fuck it’… as my wise father would say… you only live once!
The morning after, with what could be described as a slight headache, I checked my emails and found the confirmation. We had indeed bought four tickets to see Ozzie, Mike and Chris play at British Summer Time in Hyde Park, London on July 4th. This was really happening people!
There were a few minor logistical issues that I needed to sort out:
G had no leave… no problem! His boss thought the idea was just crazy, batshit, mad enough that he let him take a week off (BEST BOSS EVER)
We have three children (and the concert was during the school holidays)… sorted! My mother thought the idea was just crazy batshit mad enough, and loves her grand babies and us so much, that she agreed to take them for a week (BEST MOTHER EVER)
Oh and then there is the fact that London is rather a long way from Brisbane, Australia. Actually, a really long way away. Thank goodness for frequent flyer miles!
So… to tell a long story in a few hastily snapped pictures (courtesy of G)…
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. Every jet-lagged, fucking moment! It helped that our tickets gave us front row access!
Mike Patton and Faith No More were… Epic! They played mid- afternoon. It was hot and the crowd of 50,000 were half-cut and dehydrated but from the moment the ‘Vicars’ stepped out onto the stage (or should I say onto the alter) we worshipped before them. Patton was deliciously wicked, shouting obscenities from “the exorcist” at the exalted crowd. For me, turning to see G and Uncle Toy, eyes glazed with devotion, singing every word of every song, they seemed transformed, was almost as great as seeing Patton do his thing. Faith No More also played two new songs at the end of the set. We witnessed a real miracle. Praise Jesus, you motherfuckers!
The irony of their Anthem Midlife Crisis was not lost on me as I surveyed the crowd. There were plenty of hot young forty-somethings (myself included) reliving a misspent youth. There were also an impressive number of black clad grandpas (and grandmas) rocking out to Mike while they waited for Ozzie to take them back to the time of their life. Some of the band shirts sported by the crowd seemed to have shrunk a little since their original purchase as they stretched across they middle-aged bellies of the fans!
Impressively though, I estimate that more than half of the audience I saw were young music lovers. Many of those I spoke to were musicians themselves, aspiring, gigging or enthusiasts, there to pay homage to the some of the most influential Rock and Metal Gods of all time.
Soundgarden? Sublime. G saw them touring on the back of ‘Superunknown‘ in Brisbane in 1994. 20 years since the album was released. At Hyde Park they played it Start to Finish. Musically and technically incomparable. Chris Cornell IS Rock! Be still my beating heart.
The sun was setting as Sabbath took to the stage. I was nervous, ready for anything, even a vaguely comic swan song, from the Fathers of Metal. To be fair, Ozzie did ‘amble’ rather than ‘stride’ onto the stage and for the first 5 minutes I was worried he might not remember the words (not that he needed to, the audience sang every word of the opening number, War Pigs).
I don’t know how I could ever have doubted.
WHAT A SHOW!
To quote Uncle Toy, ‘You are witnessing the birth of Metal, people’.
Ozzie was Ozzie. Relentless and Magnetic.
Tony Iommi? To quote Uncle Toy again, ‘A fountain of riffs’.
Into the Void, Iron Man, God is Dead…
It was loud. It was hard. It was spectacular. It was exhausting.
It was fabulous.
Thanks for reading. Now go listen to some music!
Yeah, fairies wear boots and you gotta believe me
Yeah I saw it, I saw it, I tell you no lies
Yeah Fairies wear boots and you gotta believe me
I saw it, I saw it with my own two eyes,
Oh all right now!
Fairies wear Boots – Black Sabbath
There is a milestone moment in the life of a parent when your child realises that the act of giving a gift can be (almost) as rewarding as receiving one. For my eldest daughter, Monkey, that happened last month and I was the lucky recipient. The gift she thoughtfully chose, sourced, bought, wrapped and tentatively gave me on the birthday morning brought tears to my eyes.
In fact, every time the bloody thing goes off in our lounge room, it still does!!
It was this….
and to fill it, this…
Apparently, the idea came to her during our stay in the serviced apartment in Brisbane. You see, growing up in Asia, our kids have never really been exposed to commercial TV. At the temporary accommodation we had cable, in English. Yay and funness! I freely admit that I used the television as somewhat of a ‘babysitter’ in those first few hectic weeks here in Australia. I also admit that I was not entirely immune to the charms of the 40-odd-channels, indulging in quite a lot of food and lifestyle porn!
It was probably during one of mummies ‘house’ shows that Monkey saw an advertisement for the above objet d’art.
According to the website – Air Wick Freshmatic Automatic Spray has been carefully created to ensure continuous fragrancing that will keep the air fresh and lovely for you and your family and ensure a brighter, happier home.’
Not only that, it comes in several unique fragrances, including ‘Frangapani’, a scent that would surely remind mummy of out home in Lao (The Frangapani is the National flower of Lao)
What’s more, it is available at your local supermarket!
Monkey, accompanied me grocery shopping, secretly located the aisle and item and later dragged Daddy on a special mission to buy mummy a present that would make our new home smell like Lao.
Honestly, it was most beautiful, thoughtful gesture and, despite that fact the our home has started to smell like a cheap brothel, every time I hear the psst of the fragrance dispenser my heart swells!
Monkey quietly approached me a week or so after my birthday, ‘Mumma’, she said, ‘It is OK if you turn the machine off sometimes.’
‘Why would I want to do that?’
She leaned in close, looking me straight in the eyes. ‘Because we both know it doesn’t smell very nice, does it? I don’t think the TV was right!’
I love you my beautiful, smart, baby girl. You are FABULOUS!
A couple of weekends ago, whilst driving to Bunnings (an Australian hardware superstore) on an emergency plumbing mission, my iPod randomly started playing, Mad World* and I found myself on the side of the road gulping through heaving tears of overwhelmed exhaustion.
The outburst, obviously necessary, lasted a short while and I soon pulled myself together enough to finish my journey and mission. We now have a working washing machine, not to mention transformers for all our ‘asian plugs’, a high pressure hose, paint, glue and a compost bin for the back yard…my personal version of retail therapy!
Yes, finally, we have moved from our temporary accommodation into a place to call our own, at least for a little while. Despite our best efforts and a close call, we didn’t find a home to buy. Then our ‘stuff’ arrived from Lao prompting the need for a quick decision so, for now, we are shacking up in a cheap and cheerful rental house with lots of bedrooms, creaky pipes and sloping floors and a possum living in the ceiling (though some nights I think perhaps it is an elephant or family of hippos hosting an all night rave up there).
As it happens the place has a lovely energy about it, despite being old and full of ‘personality’. We are on a quiet street with lots of lovely neighbours. The kids now have scooters (even little Chilli) and spend hours cruising up and down the footpaths, to the park, shops, school… with me traipsing along behind carrying all the bags/ hats/ groceries… I am calling it ‘exercise’ rather than slavery!
It is five months since we found out our family was moving back to Australia. Since then I have spent every waking moment, ‘in transition’, managing the practicalities as well as trying my best to guide my daughters through the emotional upheaval. It has been tough and often very lonely. I have wondered more than once if this was the right thing to do (not that we really had a choice in the matter).
Well, I am done with all that now. This is our new life. It is a very different life to the one we knew in Lao (Footpaths for goodness sake) but it is still interesting and privileged and full of opportunities for adventure.
It is time for me to get back to living… dreaming, growing and finding my fabulous!
I am going to start today with something completely frivolous and self indulgent… a long overdue visit to the hairdresser!
Thanks for reading. Happy Fabulous.
* Mad World by Tears for Fears
It is done. Our life as we knew it is over. Two weeks ago we flew out of Wattay International Airport for what may be the last time.
The sound of packing tape retching across cardboard punctuated at least a week of my last month in Laos. Despite my best efforts to cull, our ridiculous amount of belongings have been wrapped and sealed into a 40 foot container that, at this moment, is floating somewhere out there in the Ocean.
While our ‘stuff’ makes its way towards us, we scramble to find a domicile to house it, and our family of five. Rent or buy, it is distinctly unlikely that we will actually be able to fit most of our belongings into our new abode, I foresee another cull on the horizon!
Leaving Vientiane was actually a lot more traumatic than I expected. The town itself had long since lost my affections. I was ready for the next adventure, but leaving the people who had we had come to know and love was awful.
We left in style – a big boozy party, several small boozy dinner’s, a few special boozy lunches…are you detecting a theme! There were laughs and tears and expressions of love and friendship. Nonetheless, these were goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. It was miserable.
I have moved, uplifted, changed and started fresh more times than I can remember. Moving and change seem to have always been a part of my life, particularly since I hooked up with G seventeen years ago. Yet this transition has been, and continues to be, the hardest I have ever faced.
Much of it has to do with the girls. They are in mourning for the only life they have ever known. They are desperately missing the only friends they have ever known. As young women, relationships and social networks are EVERYTHING to them. Taking that away has made me feel very guilty.
Watching our magnificent, brave girls farewell their school friends on the the last day was horrid. I made a complete tit of myself at each of the three farewell parties and spent much of the day unable to speak for fear of wailing. They had, still have, such beautiful friends, many of whom are the children of our own dear friends. The outpouring of love was overwhelming and humbling. I am so proud of daughters.
Leaving Bau, our nanny, almost tipped me over the edge. We love her. Chilli LOVES her. Bau LOVES Chilli. When I paid her and bid her a safe ride home for the last time we both wept openly. She was my friend and my sanity. She was Chilli’s other mother. Every single day since we left, Chilli asks about Bau at least 10 times. Yesterday she climbed onto my lap, took my head in her tiny hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “I have missed Bau for really long time. We go home now, OK?”. I wish I could, sweet Chilli. For your sake, I wish I could!
She, and I, also miss Nam and Lung and Kek and Uoi, all of whom worked for us and all of whom hold a place in our collective hearts.
I can hear you all scoffing, “Whatever Lady, I bet you miss them. I would find it hard to say goodbye to my nanny and housekeeper and ironing lady and gardener, that must really suck… Bitch!”
Yes, YES, YES, yes, doing my own laundry is not pleasant but that isn’t really the problem. I miss them because they were good people and all our families were, for a time, a big part of each other lives.
G and I had friends too. People who enriched our lives. People who we will miss terribly. But it is easier with those other adult expatriates. We all understand. We all have Facebook and email and Skype and the chance to maintain our friendships over distance. Those friendships, forged in Vientiane will continue to grow no matter where we all end up in this world.
Yet tears are still shed and I miss having those wonderful supportive people in my daily life!
At the moment it is hard. I have the kids in tow constantly, G is coming to terms with the demands of a new job, there is lots of paperwork, lots of major decisions to make at once (schools, car, house etc) and we are all suffering from a touch of reverse culture shock (shoes in the house, I don’t think so!)
But after all is said and done, we are here in Brisvegas with a chance to start a new chapter. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. I am not sure how, but my gut tells me this is all part of my journey to FABULOUS!
Thanks for reading.
If you want to like my Facebook Page that would just be fabulous.