My Face, Yesterday

It hasn’t been a great week. Let’s start from the beginning.

On Wednesday, I was meant to fly up to Canberra to spend some time with Nathan. The plan was that I would put the kittens into the pet resort on Tuesday, I would leave on Wednesday morning for my flight, leaving the puppies at home where they would remain until they would be picked up when Mum finished work. I was worried sick and dragging my feet on packing because I hate flying, and I hated being away from the kittens for the first time too. I was worried that Rupert would get sick again too. But Wednesday morning came around and my anxiety levels dropped. I was finally actually looking forward to the little trip.

We had plans. Nathan was going to take a day off work so we could visit the War Memorial together and he could fangirl over all the fighter planes, and we were going to see my all time favourite painting – The Lady of Shalott – in an exhibition of pre-Raphaelite art at the National Gallery. We had dinner plans with colleagues, and I was going to meet his work team for the first time. But best of all, I was going to get some respite from our house and the constancy of P+R+C+P needing care and attention all the time. I had set aside a morning in Canberra where I had big plans to sleep in, in the gigantic bed, eat breakfast in my pajamas, put on a face mask, and read a book in complete silence without anybody barking or needing anything. SO needed.

This is what ended up happening. I finished packing my bags, made sure the dogs and all their things were prepared for pick up, ordered my Uber and secured the house. There are a million things that you do, especially as a girl, to avoid dangerous situations – I always wait inside my house until my Uber is literally around the corner, to cut down the time that anybody could see me leaving. I don’t catch regular taxis anymore because it always gave me a bad feeling that it wasn’t app based (therefore, no digital trail) and my drivers would always be talking on the phone the whole time in foreign languages, and it always worried me that they could be telling their waiting criminal friends that my address was unoccupied, for all I knew.

But my strategy this time didn’t work. I took my suitcase out to the street when the Uber was less than thirty seconds away. Out of nowhere, this random guy was loitering on my street, right in front of my house. He looked shady as hell, shifting his weight from foot to foot in a fidgety kind of way. He came up to me and said, “hey pretty lady,” then tried to offer me a business card for tree lopping. I was immediately suspicious, because this isn’t the first time we’ve had criminals prowling around here posing as tree removalists.

The last few times, they have come to the front door. They offered me cards – different cards every time – and they would be looking over my shoulder into the house, checking out my dogs. They would ask if my husband was home, or what time he would come home. They would offer free quotes and really push me to let them around the sides and back of my house so that they could give quotes for tree lopping. It was always a bunch of guys crammed into a regular car – nobody wearing a uniform, no truck with a logo or equipment on it. One time, I quizzed them. I asked what they did to the stumps after they cut the trees down. The guy was taken aback and stumbled before answering: “we would just poison it”. Wrong answer. I know from when we had actual tree loppers here that they don’t poison stumps, they ‘grub’ or grind them, or they paint a sealant over the top of them so that they can’t grow again. As soon as the guy gave that answer, I knew he was bogus and I told him to go away.

I called the police that time and they said they were well aware of groups of criminals working together in the area as fake tree loppers, and that they couldn’t do anything without CCTV footage or a car number plate, but they would make a note of it. And that I should call 000 if they came back. I read on some neighbourhood watch groups that these guys would knock on people’s doors to first ascertain whether they were home, and if they were, they would offer quotes so that they could get a feel for access points and security at the rear of properties, so they could come back and break in later. There were also suggestions that these guys were looking for unsecured dogs in backyards for stealing as well. It is an ongoing problem in my town that dogs are stolen by dog fighting rings – big dogs for fighting, little ones for bait. Just that fact alone makes me want to throw up.

Anyway, back to Wednesday. I told myself I was being ridiculous, that I couldn’t live my life always being fearful or overthinking things, so I took the Uber to the airport bus and tried to shrug it off. I worried that people would be angry at me for wasting money if I missed my flight, or that people would be disappointed in me for letting my anxiety get the better of me. I got on the bus, and then my niggling bad feeling started growing into a full-blown panic. I called my dad and my sister to see if they could go to my house and see if everything was okay. I asked my sister to pick up my dogs early and take them to my mum’s house. But she didn’t have a key, and would have to drive all the way to my mum’s work to get it. I was on the verge of tears and knew it could already be too late, so I jumped off the bus ten minutes down the road, before it even left town and caught the next Uber straight home.

When we arrived in the street, the guy was still there. In a car sitting in front of my house, with another guy. I made eye contact with him and they immediately drove off in a hurry. And then I knew that I wasn’t being ridiculous. I was so full of adrenaline that I didn’t even see what the car looked like, and I didn’t have my glasses on to read the number plate.

As I came up the driveway, P+R were hysterical just from the sound of my footsteps. I deal with a lot of barking on a daily basis, so I have a pretty good handle on when barking means hungry and bratty, or when it means seriously threatened. This barking was genuinely scared. I have no doubt that those guys had walked around the outside of my house, looked in windows, maybe tried the doors. Both dogs were so frantic when I came inside, so much more than their usual ‘we missed you!’ routine.

So, I missed my flight. I considered buying another flight up later in the day once I’d gotten the dogs safely to Mum’s house, but in the end, I was too rattled. Once I was inside and the dogs were safe and I’d told Nathan what had happened, I just cried. For the huge tsunami of cortisol and adrenaline, for the idea that I could have lost P+R if I’d been ten minutes later, for how close I was to not getting off the bus and what could have happened, for the fact that safety was not something I could count on, not even in my own home. And the longer I left it, the less time we would have had together in Canberra, and the less it was worth it to actually go. Nathan assured me that it would have spooked those guys that I was onto them enough to come back, despite obviously leaving with luggage. He said they wouldn’t be coming back in a hurry… I really hope so.

I just feel like this latest incident has just been the final straw of living in this suburb. It has changed so much in the decade we have been here, and we are accumulating quite a list of near misses, suspicious stuff, or uncomfortable encounters. The tree lopping guys have now tried our house four times, coming to the front door even despite signs up saying ‘no canvassing’. We returned home one night and found a random man in our backyard who ran away when spotted. There is a lovely domestic violence situation unfolding in one of our nearby neighbour’s houses, and it’s not pleasant at all having to call the police a few times a year and tell them that it sounds like somebody is being murdered. And then there was the time when two big men broke into our kitchen when they thought the house was empty but I was actually asleep in bed, and I had to chase them down the street in my underwear. I just don’t feel safe here anymore.

So, a few things are happening, long and short term. Short term, we are seriously upping security measures on the house as soon as we can. This weekend, next week kind of soon. We are also rethinking our Easter plans, or any plans, that involve both of us being out of the house for long periods. I’m not going to feel comfortable leaving the house for appointments unless I know Nathan is working from home on those days, which is going to require a bit of scheduling. Longer term, we are looking at our options for somewhere else to live. I’m not sure how long this will take, but I just hope I will be able to sleep at night or go away for the weekend or even just out for a date with Nathan without fearing about what’s happening at home and whether our most treasured little family members are safe.

More About the House

It’s a pretty horrific week – if you haven’t been reading the news, you probably should. Or if you’re feeling fragile already, protect yourself and avoid it. It’s unbearably awful and sometimes it feels like the world just gets worse and worse. I know it will all be over at some point in the future, but it just constantly shocks me how so many people can get through life being rewarded at every turn for being the most disgusting, nasty sociopaths imaginable. You would think that being that kind of person would result in being ostracized, denied promotion, shut out of polite society… but no, they are on television, they are making a lot of money, they can even be president.

Anyway. Self-preservation time. Let’s talk about my new house.

It will be really nice when it finally happens.

The things I’m looking forward to the most are little things, but they would make me so happy. Things like having a dining table big enough to have all my family over for dinner, which is something that I’ve never done before. Having enough kitchen space and a working oven so I can make my own pizza dough and sauce from tomatoes that I’ve grown myself. Having an actual linen closet and a bathtub. A garage so that we can store our own Christmas tree. A door coming off the main living area that I can open so the puppies can romp around the backyard while I can keep an eye on them as I cook. A little cupboard under the stairs where our future child can live until they get their Hogwarts letter… šŸ™‚

The house plan that we love has at least double the space of our current house, but because it’s on two levels, we won’t lose any back or front yard which is important to me. There are four bedrooms, but there is also a study that could be converted if necessary. There are three main living areas, which I am really looking forward to. I love the idea of having a nice family room on the ground floor which I will keep presentable and neat all the time, but also an upstairs rumpus-sort of room where we can have our messy or non-aesthetic things, like a puzzle in progress on the coffee table or a treadmill. I love the idea of having different zones for different levels of formality.

One of the best features of our plan is that the master bedroom has two walk in robes. I can’t even begin to describe how much of a fairy tale that will be. I have a lot of clothes… and a possibly unreasonable amount of puffy dresses. Currently, I take up half the wardrobe in our room, and an entire wardrobe in the spare room with all my dresses. I’m imagining myself becoming really judicious and exclusive about which clothes I buy in the new house, because it won’t just be a cupboard where I shove all my clothes anymore… it will be a collection, with its own little room. Maybe I am overthinking this! Or maybe it’s one of the rare times that my inner princess gets to come out.

I am also excited about the chance to finally decorateĀ properly. I want it to be modern, colourful and functional; not too cluttered but with plenty of detail; eclectic and playful, airy but not minimalist. I’m going to overhaul all my pinterest boards in the next year. A lot of the display houses that I’ve looked at online are just so… taupe. I don’t know how to describe it – like, overly adult, or too “I’m so serious”, or something. Lots of greige and taupe and ashy browns and woodgrain. It feels kind of overly masculine and oppressive to me, even though I know I’m in the minority here – everybody seems to be doing it. None of that for us. I want light, bright, cute and cheerful. A house where it feels like it’s sunny every day.

So, twelve months. Why twelve months? We could pull the trigger tomorrow, if we really wanted. But twelve months gives us breathing room and time to plan things properly. We can save more money, firstly, but it also gives us time to research, figure out exactly what things to include in the build, finally find out exactly what infills are and why everybody on forums are paying extra for them. It is likely that we will have to buy a new car in this time period too, so it would be nice to be doing that before our mortgage doubles. We also have a hell of a lot of decluttering and general reducing of our stuff to do – I just know that if we hit ‘go’ right now, we’d just end up shoving all of this junk into boxes for it to be a problem in the new house too.

The other thing is… I have a lot of plants in the garden that were gifts from my dad, from Nathan, from my grandma. I can take cuttings from them at certain times of the year as ‘insurance policies’, in case transplanting them into pots doesn’t work so well. The daphne, for example, needs to be propagated at Christmas time. By taking a year, it means I will have the best chance of making sure that everything in my garden can be saved.

So, lots to do, lots to think about. It’s going to be a hard twelve months. This house really is crumbling around us – the ceiling in the living room is caving in and sprinkles dust on us when the wind blows, the shower is currently a big hole in the floor, the bedroom windows leak, and the dogs can’t even have their beds on the floor because it’s so drafty. It’s not ideal, and it’s going to be extremely hard trying to write a novel here. But we’ll survive, and eventually, thrive. Eyes on the prize, waiting for the second marshmallow, all of that.

Change of Plans

Big news! So you know how The Calamity happened in February and we were wringing our hands about how to solve the house problem? The more we thought about it, the more we realized that it wasn’t so straightforward. We realized that to make this house nice, we would have to spend months and months, and far too much money. And when all was said and done, it wouldn’t fix this house’s fundamental flaws – a bad floor plan and not enough space. The idea of potentially having children (!) in this house made me feel so claustrophobic, and I knew deep down that it wouldn’t be a harmonious home if everybody was so crowded.

So, we’ve changed our minds. Twelve months from now, we will be knocking down this house to build a big, new, shiny one on the same land. I’m unreasonably excited at the fact that I will get my own walk-in-robe (I’m going to put a mini chandelier and a pink velvet pouf in there, of course). It’s double storey and there are four bedrooms with space to convert a fifth, if needed. Three living areas. The kitchen is so lovely and spacious, and there is a butler’s pantry which will be a dream come true for all the entertaining I’m planning on (gotta make up for lost time). It has a garage so we won’t have to store all our tools and paint cans and stuff in the laundry, and unlike this house, it will be warm in winter and easy to keep clean. It has a Hampton-esque faƧade, which will suit our neighbourhood much better than the really modern new builds. Best of all, it has a bath, which I foresee spending a lot of time in!

In the meantime, we are going to spend a little to put the cheapest possible shower/bath situation in our current bathroom, just so we don’t lose our minds in the next year. It won’t be the most fun sticking around here, and it means that a lot of our other plans will have to wait, but the amount of money we can save if we wait just a little bit longer will be worth it (technically, we could go for it tomorrow, but I guess Nathan and I are naturally cautious people about big decisions). It also means that I have a year to take cuttings from and transplant all my roses and the other plants I’ve been given as gifts over the years.

Anyway, it’ll be great. The next twelve months won’t be the brightest or shiniest of my life, but they will be worth it in the end.


We have a big old papasan chair near the front windows in my house, a relic from Taiwan. It is falling to pieces and creaks every time anybody sits on it. It has to sit on a piece of thick foam because there are some rusty nails that stick out of the base and threaten to gouge the floorboards if they aren’t cushioned by something. The original cover – white with ivy – is so hopelessly stained and awful that Mum made a new brown cover for it, that the dogs have subsequently wrecked. There is very little furniture in this house that we actively chose, we seem to have just inherited a bunch of stuff. I’m not one of those people that can just buy something brand new when the old one still works perfectly fine, so it will be a long while until all the furniture gets churned through to stuff that we actually get to choose. Even the drinking glasses are something that Nathan’s mother chose for us. Apart from this sofa, we have never gone to a furniture store and seen something that makes our hearts sing, pointed at it and said, “I’ll take that one”. It would be nice though.

Anyway, this chair. We used to have a glass front door that Posie would sit by all day long, pressing her nose against the glass and being a total busybody about what was happening in the garden and street. In winter, I’d set her up with a little bed in front of the door and a pile of blankets to stop the draughts, and she would just do her job, all day. She can’t do that anymore since we got a solid front door, so the papasan chair is her consolation prize. It’s near the front windows, so she perches on the absolute top of it and bark her little brains out at cats, the mailman, dog walkers, kids on bikes, or any beep or squeak or rustle. But the chair is also round, cushy and lumpy (from the aforementioned wrecking), so it’s the perfect bed when she needs a break from her guard dog duties. The chair is only in its current position because I moved it to make way for the Christmas tree one year and never moved it back. It seems cruel to deprive her of her occupation now, so I guess that’s where the chair stays.

The neighbours aren’t too fussed about her barking, luckily. They are ‘blessed’ with two little yappy dogs that like to make themselves heard, too. Sometimes Posie and Rupert will go outside and hear a distant dog bark, which they will repeat, which will be echoed by the dogs next door, then their next door neighbours, and so on. You can hear the barks carry through the neighbourhood like a chain, getting more and more distant. I’m sure there is some old biddy somewhere who is horrified by all of this and is busy writing letters to the council about the horrendous noise. But we rarely let our dogs bark outside. Maybe I’m immune because of Posie, but a neighbourhood that wasn’t filled with distant dog sounds wouldn’t seem very homely to me.

Neither would a home filled entirely with furniture I had just picked out, all new, all perfectly coordinated. It would beĀ very nice to waltz into a store and pick out a whole house, all new, all perfectly coordinated. But as I look around, there is some sort of weird affection for some of this stuff. The hand-me-down coffee table with gnawed corners, victims of Posie’s puppy teething stage. The grand lacquered dining table from Taiwan, that is striking in the total oddness of its octagonal shape, even if most of the chairs are long gone. The falling down 90s IKEA bookcase in my room that I’ve had since I was a preteen and tried to decorate the wood with nail polish. The most impractically shaped bookcase ever in the spare room, that takes up so much space, but Nathan’s dad built it for him from scratch.

Posie’s asleep in the papasan chair right now. I can see where the cane frame is cracking and the cover seam has come undone. But she loves it, and until we absolutely have to get rid of it, I might as well let her enjoy it.