February 21, 2013

Empathy Trumps Ego . . . (sometimes)

Last Tuesday morning as I was emerging from the crazy, nonsensical land of the 5am dreamscape (you know the kind of dream I mean . . . where you're the curiously ugly ten year old love child of Don & Megan Draper living in a cave in the middle of Manhattan and eating pistachios through a straw), when I heard a muffled expletive. At first I thought I had dreamed it (perhaps Don ran out of whiskey & cigarettes) but then I heard the kitchen door open and realised it must be Ryan.

Ryan is our 22 year old rower and is often up at dawn's crack to scull the waterways of Sydney's harbour, so the fact he was awake at that time wasn't unusual. But something was amiss. I entered the kitchen to find him bleeding from the knee and shoulder. He'd missed a step in the dark on his way to the car, taken a tumble and shoulder-charged the tyre of the car whilst his knee made love to the pebble-crete path.

Later in the day, Francesca became fascinated with Ryan's injuries, with the following exchange occurring at least twenty seven times before bed time:

Francesca: "Ryry?"
Ryan: "Yes Francesca?"
F: "What happened?"
R: "I fell over"
F: "Hurt your knee?"
R: "Yes I hurt my knee"
F: "On tyre?"
R: "Yes on the tyre of the car"
F: "In dark?"
R: "Yes, in the dark"
F: "Oh"
F: "Okay?" as she pats Ryan on the leg
R: "Yes, I'm okay"

Pause for ten seconds.

F: "Ryry, what happened?"
R: "I fell over"
F: "Hurt knee?"
etc., and so on and so forth.

This exchange continued on for days, in almost exactly the same order. The most fascinating part of the whole affair seemed to be the bit about it happening in the dark. Sometimes we'd turn the tables and ask Francesca "What happened to Ryan?" and she would answer "Fell over", then add melodramatically "In the dark!!"

Oh it seems so boring written down like this but honestly it provided hours of amusement for us last week. What can I say, we are thrill seekers who love to live on the edge. And none of the good TV shows have started yet. We take our entertainment where we can get it. We're also cheap. No fancy Foxtel for us. We'd rather spend our money on booze and pills and pokies.

JOKING! We only spend big on booze.

The thing I really loved about the whole Ryan-falling-in-dark episode, however, was that it showed how much our little girl is growing up. The ego in a two year old is always firmly present - the self-absorbed pop princess diva is still in residence, ordering room service, leaving lipstick stains on the pillows and yelling at housekeeping - but the empathy gene is getting a look in.

Suddenly the plastic newborn doll whose head she was previously using as a step ladder to reach inside the cutlery drawer, is her special baby. She takes Baby to bed, cuddles her, feeds her and washes her. Baby often does a poo and needs her nappy changed with the assistance of MANY wet wipes. Baby also seems to be rather grizzly and in need of cuddles with her mama cooing "It's okay, it's okay" over and over. It's such a joy to watch.

Just don't try to separate the girl from her biscuit or you will discover that the toddler version of Nicky Minaj is alive and well and dishing out death stares in Collaroy.

February 11, 2013

The Other Byron

You know how sometimes you get back from holidays and you need a holiday after the holiday? Usually because the original holiday involved small children and having sand flung in your face and in your ear and in other places that sand should never normally go (except when you're seventeen and the dunes behind the caravan park at Torquay are the only place you and your boyfriend can . . . oh wait . . . my mum reads this. Hi Mum! I drank two West Coast Coolers there too. Phew! Okay, that's THAT off my chest!)

I love those holidays, I really do (even the sand, because you can wash it off in the ocean and who doesn't love to wash sand off themselves forty seven times in a two hour beach session?!), but they can be exhausting.

And then there are the holidays that, for whatever reason, just feel easier. The days amble along slowly, full of long book reading sessions, delicious food, easy choices and simple pleasures. Even with kids. They seem to just fall into line with your holiday rhythm and put their best barefoot forward.

Our spontaneous January jaunt to the Byron region was just such a holiday. Notice how I said 'region'? That's because we did something we've never done in fourteen years of visiting Byron and booked three days at a cottage in the Byron hinterland.

The lush green chequerboard of verdant farm lands, avenues of macadamia crops and pockets of rainforest that stretches west of Byron Bay has always appealed to me since we attended a wedding there several years ago. So I convinced my surfer husband to spend a few days soaking up some mountain air before heading back down to the briny blue and hairy armpits of Byron Bay.

We're so glad we did. We all fell in love with it. From the adorable cottage we rented, to the roadside stalls where we picked up a tub of macadamia honey for $2 and bunches of flowers for $1, to the sneaky secret local's swimming hole where we whiled away hot hinterland afternoons under shady gums, we felt like we could stay forever.

Don't you just want to eat a scone piled with cream under this tree?

On our first afternoon, the clouds rolled in and it was magnificent!

One of the many avenues winding through the hinterland. I was hooked on the tree canopies overhead and the dappled sunlight . . .

Another avenue. More dappling . . .

Ah . . . a dappled avenue. Dappled, dappled, dappled!

Whoever invented the squatter's chair deserves a scone and a cuppa!

Daddy adoration

Because rustic French doors need fat patchwork chickens hanging from them . . .

Our swimming hole. I could tell you where it is, but the locals would kill me and throw me in it. Which wouldn't be pleasant for anyone.

A little apprehensive about the whole 'swimming in a river' thing . . .

. . . but soon got the hang of it!
Lunch at Harvest in Newrybar with our good mates, the divine Susie & Taffy. They were the ones whose wedding inspired me to explore the Byron hinterland. Did I say wedding? It was more like a fabulous three day love-fest and eating frenzy.
'Ladies who lunch' - there were adorable, irresistible photographic tableaux all over the cottage
My 95 year old grandma Elaine still uses one of these pretty weighted covers over her water glass. An underrated & sorely missed domestic apparatus!
There are roadside stalls like this dotted all over the lanes and byways of the hinterland and they are nigh on impossible to resist! They operate on an honesty system. I'm thinking of putting one out the front of our house selling single socks and textas without lids but I'm not sure it'll take off . . .

After leading a dappled mountain lifestyle for three days, we headed 25 minutes down the highway to Byron Bay for our beach fix, leaving behind the shady glades (dappled as they were) and quaint shopfronts of Bangalow. 

We stayed at one of those good ol' fashioned resorts where the married couple owner/operators can be seen doing everything from greeting guests at reception to skimming leaves from the pool. It had two tennis courts, a few barbeques and even a games room with a table tennis table which took me right back to family holidays at the army barracks in freezing winter-time Queenscliff when I was a kid, my cousins and I inventing ever more complicated rules for long drawn out battles over the table tennis table.

We drank coffee and ate giant bacon and egg rolls at Top Shop, brought the tone down at fancy-schmancy Wategos with our anatomically correct sand men sculptures, sat in the long rippling shallows at The Pass, and dobbed on The Rudest Waitress In The World who refused to ask the barman to make me a Cosmopolitan, even though it said on the menu "Ask our barman to whip up your favourite cocktail"!

When Byron insisted on getting all tropical on us and raining one morning, we dropped into the local bead shop for some serious hippy time, making groovy bracelets man, and giving our skin a breather from all that zinc cream!

Flying baby - her favourite game, when the muscly fellas in the family are up to it

So many beads, so little arm space!

Jack spent nearly 2 hours making the most elaborate bracelet. Which broke. Luckily we were still in the shop and the friendly staff at Bongo Beads helped us put it all back together again in no time.

Wategos - the classy Byron beach

Our anatomically correct sand man - and so the Barras bring a little less class to Wategos!

What did you get up to over the holidays? Catch some rays? Delve into a good novel or two? Dob in a rude waiter? Do share!

Holiday hugs xo

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