Mother Fluker

A Migrant Mother's Musings

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Wild Toddler of Borneo

There will be a short intermission while D and I take the H to Borneo for 10 days' vacation. D and I have been to Borneo once before, about 11 years ago. This time, we will be staying in better accommodation, and inevitably we have about six times as much luggage. Packing minimally with a baby is very difficult. It's all very well for your adult self to survive indefinitely with not much more than two pairs of underwear, an iPod and a credit card, but what can you leave out with a toddler in tow? Nappies? Food? Toys? Clothes? Even a minimal allocation of these takes up lots of space. Then there's the backpack carrier and the travel stroller. I swear our boy has more baggage than Paris Hilton.

And the joys of a seven hour flight with He Who Has Recently Become Mobile await. I hope to God we can concertina him into the bassinet and persuade him into a mammoth sleep.

But these are small concerns. I'm almost on holiday! Yeah!

Monday, August 29, 2005

The H walks!

Monday, August 29th - let this day stand out in history as the day that the H finally decided to LET GO AND WALK!

He has been tearing round the house with his little wooden trolley for support for months. I had visions of him still pushing the wretched thing to school. Until yesterday, if you valued your eardrums at all, it was either trolley-pushing or carrying him to get around the house and garden. He weighs over 12 kilos. Lugging him about physically is not an easy option.

By amazing coincidence I have my last scheduled session of physiotherapy tonight. I've endured months of work on my strained shoulder and neck, a condition caused and aggravated by heaving my not insubstantial baby around on my hip for the last year or so. So it was with a huge sigh of relief that H's father and I broke out the designated celebratory bottle of wine last night - yay, drinking on a Monday. Way to go, H.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Following on...

Dare I mention the CRICKET? Oh, I think so!

The wider issue I suppose as a wannabe Australian Permanent Resident is which team(s) one ought to support. If one is truly intent on assimilating to a new country then at what point, if ever, does or must such an allegiance switch? Sport is the ultimate test, really. The ideas of changing over passports, pensions and even changing one's accent are all open to consideration in this household, but could we ever not support England at cricket? That could prove a step too far - let's hope the question doesn't come up in an immigration interview.

The compromise of course is, that as the H was born here, he has been deemed by both of us (although not by the government*) to be a fully fledged Aussie. So we've been able to feel pleased for him if Australia wins anything, and to commiserate with him if they lose. "Sorry mate, your team's not doing so well!" we say, and he chatters back in babblish, probably with some flimsy excuse about dodgy LBW decisions. Let's hope he's not in for too much more crushing disappointment with the Australia/Solomon Islands soccer game next week.

Actually D goes rigid with fury every time I say soccer instead of football. But "football" here in Perth generally means AFL (Aussie Rules). A week after I first arrived in Perth I wobbled along to my first ever "antenatal" group get-together. I had no idea what I would find, as I was culturally out of my depth both as a pregnant person and as a newcomer to the country. I vaguely expected a lot of chat about swollen ankles and chocolate cravings. Instead I sat bemused while a group of well-groomed thirty-something women held a detailed discussion about the cable tv package available in the labour suite and whether it gave you access to the Foxtel Footy channel or not. And whether you could persuade your obstetrician to schedule a caesarian section with careful forethought to the timing of the forthcoming Eagles/Dockers derby.

When I was a week away from giving birth, and was the size of an entire team in any sport, I went along to watch an Aussie Rules game, thanks to a very considerate friend who secured us entry to the VIP suite where I was able to beach myself like a whale on a bank of chairs and watch the game in comfort. It's an exciting and fast moving game to watch, and not for the faint hearted to play. The guys I was watching made Premier League soccer look like lawn bowls, and I soon realised why there are so many sports physiotherapists in Australia - the toll from that match alone included a broken collarbone, a broken foot and a dislocated hip. Mental motherly note: mustn't allow the H to play anything rougher than tiddlywinks for at least twenty years.

*Unlike the USA, a baby born in Australia has no rights at all to citizenship in the country of his/her birth. One of the first things I had to do after the H was born was to procure a British passport for him, which included the interesting challenge of persuading a three-week old baby to pose for a passport photo that met stringent requirements. Then I had to sort out a temporary resident's visa to go in the passport before we were able to travel back to the UK last Christmas, or else I would not have been allowed to bring him back into Australia on our return. In the course of all the associated paperwork, the H received letters from DIMIA warning him about the consequences of partaking in terrorist activities. I frequently have cause to remind him of these warnings when he is engaged in terrorising us.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dairy R

The H has been babbling in rubbishy nonsense for a while now, his earnest little face watching you carefully for reactions while he imparts his latest scrambled words of wisdom. I usually say "Really?", nod and raise my eyebrows in appropriate conversational places. It's amazing how easy it is to do this - probably because I have been employing the technique with various relatives for years.

But H is now beginning to copy the odd word and phrase that he hears me or his father saying. Recently we caught him saying in a resolutely cheerful tone "Dairy R!" at regular intervals while playing. It was only when I heard D say to him "There we are!" as he passed him a toy that I realised its provenance. Must really make an effort to stop swearing in H's presence. Am definitely on borrowed time in this regard.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Reasons to be Cheerful in the Southern Hemisphere

Well, not the entire Southern Hemisphere, perhaps... but this little corner of it. This is where the "fluke" bit comes in. If I'd arrived in Perth twenty years ago I might have felt differently, but given the stage things are at now it could hardly be more perfect. It's a smallish city with an enviable mediterranean climate, a fabulous river, plenty of beaches, parks and nearby wine areas. True, it is a minimum 2 hour flight away from the next major place on the map, but you get used to that. I like flying anyway, and fortunately so does the H. And to be able to do stuff like mooch down to the beach on a winter's Sunday morning to meet friends and enjoy a cooked breakfast in the sunshine before a leisurely paddle in the Indian Ocean is pretty blissful. But my absolute favourite is the river - a ten minute walk or a 2 minute cycle away. The H and I often meander down there to do the loop trail that takes you right past the bottom of the CBD. We watch the pelicans, the parrots and the dolphins, check out the ducks and the black swans, rest up and have ice cream or cappuccino at the boathouse or stop at the playgrounds for beginners' slide lessons. Then we stagger home full of fresh air and feeling sanctimonious about the exercise we have taken. What other city in the world is a nicer place to hang out with a baby? I really can't think of anywhere I would rather be. Thank you, ye gods of fate, for bringing me to Australia.


We had a colleague of D's around for dinner last night. He's been out here for about a month or so, and was chatting about the kind of things that have struck him as different or weird. It was funny to hear the sorts of things that about eighteen months ago I was also discovering. Although let's be honest - if you are from the UK then Perth has to be just about the easiest place on the planet to move to. Lots of things are very familiar. The city is already full of Brits (about 100,000 of them). No language to learn, no different side of the road to drive on. Many recognisable brands in shops, recycled old UK tv programmes and a population who all seem to have misspent their youth during OEs in London and who still view the UK as a second home. Many things are like the UK used to be, and with much better weather, so it's not exactly a hardship posting requiring major cultural adjustment. Instead it tends to be the little tweaky things that surprise you. Here's a handful off the top of my head:

Manchester. To the uninitiated, a city in the northwest of England. In Australia, it means bedlinen. I kept seeing signs to Manchester in David Jones and thinking no, Manchester really can't be on the second floor. Last time I went, I'm sure I took the M6.

Government advertising authorisations. At the end of various public-information-type adverts on TV and in the cinema, a hastily narrated sign showing the Australian crest flickers up saying "Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra. Spoken by J Brown". Like we need to know, or care.

Initiatives which make their UK equivalents seem positively redolent with taste and sophistication. E.g. "Dob In A Burglar Week". Need I say more?

Banks. More to come on this. Australian Banks are an absolute disgrace. FirstDirect, PLEEASE come to Australia. I miss you more than I miss my family.

There's much more in a similar vein, but I couldn't possibly risk being called a Whingeing Pom just yet. So next up, some of the really good stuff about being down under.

Beginning anywhere

Okay, so this thing works. I'm dusting down my few remaining brain cells and committing myself to start posting stuff on some kind of regular basis. This is what I planned to do a good while ago as an exercise to document the unexpected experiences of entering late motherhood and simultaneous emigration. Better late than never.

Three years ago I returned from a year-long around-the-world trip, and it took me over a year to write that one up. And be warned - the abbreviated version had over 165,000 words. But I'm not planning a conscious retrospective of pregnancy, childbirth and the tumult of becoming a parent, just the odd hallucinatory flashback. And for the sake of those of you yet to breed, or who have chosen to remain child-free, I will try to avoid references to caesarian sections, nappies or the general fiesta of bodily fluids that is unfortunately involved. Unless I really can't resist. You don't have to read any of this, you know.