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.

Hot Tips from a Bored Housewife

These are all the things I’m evangelical about that reveal how pedestrian I am these days*.

  • Our new washing machine. It’s already a revelation. It has a big capacity front loading drum, big enough for sizeable loads of clothes but also things like king sized blankets and duvets. But it also has this tiny but nifty top loader drawer at the bottom that has a cold water hand wash feature for delicates and activewear. Things that you might accumulate every day but wouldn’t be enough for a big load – very handy so far.
  • Pinch of Yum should probably put me on the payroll at this point, because I push their recipes on everybody at all times. Latest triumphs include these salmon burgers with slaw and these sesame chicken noodle bowls. Both were totally delicious (I used soba noodles for the second recipe).
  • Laying in bed, pinned down on both sides by sleeping kittens. If you plan on adopting a kitten, I really recommend a sibling pair. They only get up to 1.5x the mischief, but they keep each other company for about 90% of the day, which takes pressure off me.
  • It always becomes apparent at this time of year, how superior line drying is to using the tumble dryer. I can’t believe it’s considered quaint, twee and affected to use a clothesline in America. There is nothing better than crisp cotton still warm from the sun, or the magical stain removing properties of sunshine. Seriously. If you ever have a tomato sauce stain that didn’t come out in the wash, the sun will fix it up.
  • I’ve been using a retinoid from The Ordinary at night, and it helps a lot. I was fretting about some fine lines and general sallowness earlier in the year, and that is a thing of the past now. They have a bunch of different formulations and strengths, so of course, do some research on what would work best for you.
  • Not watching Married at First Sight.
  • A bubble tea shop finally opened up in my town, and I’m smitten. Bubble tea is one of my favourite things in the world, and it is taking all my willpower to not go there every single day. Instead, I’m dangling it in front of myself as a weekly reward if I can stick to eating relatively cleanly the rest of the time.
  • My sister told me about the Monty Hall problem. I guessed wrong. And honestly, I still don’t get it from a mathematical standpoint. Like, I logically understand that what I’m being told is correct, but it contradicts a bunch of other definitely true assertions about what is going on. I have been given a number of explanations and diagrams, but I still don’t get it.
  • Nathan and I started playing a cooperative game tonight called Pacify (it’s on Steam) and we had to stop because I was getting way too scared – Nathan would sneak his character right behind mine and say “oh no, whatever you do, don’t turn around!” and of course I would and I ended up screaming. It is very scary. I only lasted about ten minutes. Perhaps something I will try again in daylight hours.
  • Ages ago, I found this video of my old school campus being torn down, and I wish I could beam all of my memories of that place onto the video so everybody else could see how rich just this little clip is for me. Secretly feeding our lunch scraps to the stray dogs that lived behind the gate. Making tortillas after studying the Aztecs. Climbing to the top of the pagoda in the playground. Dressing up as a sparkly lurex fox for the Christmas concert. The flooding during the plum rains that would fill the grassed area up to the pavement and send leeches climbing up every wall.
  • This – a feature length adaptation of the greatest fanfiction ever written – is a work of genius. Completely worth watching the whole three part thing.

*There’s nothing wrong with being basic. Signed somebody who spent the majority of her life being extra. In all things, balance is important.

Equinox

Did you know that at 8:58am this morning (GMT+11) it was the equinox? Which means that for that if the earth continued at that exact tilt, day and night would be of equal length. It means that until winter solstice, days will just get shorter and shorter. It’s also a supermoon tonight. This one is called the Worm Moon for a reason that doesn’t mean a lot for Australia – apparently it’s around the time in the northern hemisphere when the ground would start thawing and earthworms would begin coming to the surface. These two things coinciding feels a bit… prophetic. I wonder if Nostradamus had anything to say about this. Apparently it won’t happen again until 2144. It’s always an odd kind of feeling, experiencing something and realizing that you will never – can never – possibly experience it again in your lifetime.

Apparently the word equinox actually has nothing to do with horses, as I initially suspected, but is derived from the Latin aequus and nox, which mean equal and night, respectively. Now you know. And I have yet another bit of impractical trivia to add to the collection.

A few things are happening:

Posie is being adorable (see evidence). Actually, all the animals are. Clover has taken to sleeping cuddled up to me every night, and Plato is shockingly confident about his place in the household, based on how often he will just sleep in the middle of thoroughfares like he owns the place, knowing that nobody is going to step on him. We are having some challenging times though with Rupert, on a few fronts – dementia, pneumonia and some new continence problems. We are hoping that it’s just a result of him coughing too hard, but researching belly bands all the same. All part of loving an old dog, I guess (it’s still so worth it).

Our washing machine broke weeks ago, and the particular spaceship-of-a-unit that we chose can’t get delivered until next week. Not having a working machine and having to take everything to the laundromat has been kind of shocking, in that I now realize what a huge amount of laundry our household generates. Delivery and install day can’t come fast enough. If only for getting to test it out for the first time – apparently it sings a little song when it’s done (how sad that that is so exciting?).

I got my ears pierced. It’s all pain and bruising and leaking now, but I will feel like such a grown up when I can finally change out these starter studs and actually accessorize earrings with my outfit. I spent years psyching myself up for it, and it ultimately wasn’t that bad – they say it just feels like a pinch, and it was true. I went to a proper piercer who used a needle rather than a gun (I read that guns basically force a blunt object through your ear, and thus create more trauma than a sharp cannula needle), so maybe that helped.

The summer kitchen garden has well and truly run its race. The chilies are still going strong, my eggplants still have a bunch of flowers on them, but the cucumbers and tomatoes are totally done. I didn’t have the best growing season overall, and I’m not sure why… but I’m leaning towards needing to enrich the soil a bit more next time, perhaps. I am still very much a beginner gardener. For this next while, I’m going to try to diversify so I don’t end up with a glut of something I will easily get sick of. I want to grow spring onions, garlic, kale, fennel, broccoli, broad beans, parsley, radishes and cabbage for sauerkraut.

Last of all, I am absolutely convinced that Duchess Kate is going to have another baby soon. I mean, look at this:

Finally, a Beach Day

On the weekend, I went to a quilting workshop with Mum, run by Anni Downs. The style was completely unlike anything I’d done before – it’s muted and a little bit country, but not in that fussy, dark, 90s American way – more of a naive, whimsical sort of style. It seemed like everybody else in the class had a good handle on the techniques we used, but I had no idea. I had never done applique before, not even once, so I felt very out of my depth. Everybody else just somehow knew how to trace in reverse or use Easy Fix, so I was so grateful for a little one-on-one attention to explain these basic things. I eventually figured things out and discovered that I might even have a bit of a knack for this sort of thing. My block (so far) looked lovely and everything was neat and tidy. I got a lot of compliments on my work, even if I was falling back to my usual habits of criticizing everything I’d done for not being supernaturally perfect. I was surprised at how much I achieved in the class, and the best part of all is that I feel equipped now to take on the entire quilt, even though it will take me forever with how exacting I get about my stitches. I’ll post some photos when I’ve got something to share.

But it was a fun day. And somebody who worked at Amitie thought I was seventeen, so that’s always nice too! Although it could have been the fact that it was forty degrees outside and all my makeup melted off, so maybe the impression was less “young fresh newborn baby supermodel gazelle” and more “sweaty bedraggled unkempt scrappy teenager”.

After the class, Nathan met me in Torquay and we went to the beach, meeting Dad and Patrick there. It didn’t start out very well – Nathan was in a terrible mood and was a total storm cloud, because he thought it was too hot to go and was already on edge and drained because of a stressful day. It was extremely hot, but what could be better than to dive into some bitingly cold water on a blisteringly hot day? He begrudgingly marched from the car to the shore, barely talking to me, but it all melted away once we got in the water. It was my first time at a surf beach this year, and it was everything. The conditions were perfect – icy water, absolutely clear like a tropical postcard, long periods of flat calm that was perfect for floating around, punctuated by some big waves, perfect for diving under.

Nathan has a bit of a habit of being grouchy and not wanting to do things, only to change his mind and decide “this isn’t so bad after all” once I’ve dragged him into action. Then he’ll act like he was never a stick in the mud, that he was enthusiastic about it all along. It’s frustrating, and it would be nice to just enjoy things without a little drama beforehand, but that’s how it goes. On the way home, I just felt so satisfied to have finally had a really, really good beach day. As we were drawing closer to the end of hot weather, I kept feeling this frantic edginess, like I couldn’t bear for summer to be over when I’d barely had a taste of it. After those two hours in the waves, there was a little more closure – I’m more ready for autumn now.

And now it’s Monday, time to start all over again.

One last thing – I have a favour to ask of you. Yes – you, reader, if you’ve even made it this far, if you even exist. If you are reading this, please leave a comment below. It can be anonymous if you like, but it would be nice to know if anybody at all reads this thing. Tell me a joke, or tell me something you love or hate about this blog, or tell me what you would like to see more of. Just let me know if you exist, so I can know whether or not I’m just typing into the void. Thank you!

Year of the Pig

Last night, we had a big family dinner. Dad made two types of broth – spicy and not so spicy – and we cooked all sorts of things on the tabletop, like tofu puffs, pork, beef, prawns, scallops, fish and mushrooms. In Chinese, it’s called 火锅 (pronounced huŏguō) – also known as steamboat, hot pot, or shabu shabu in Japan. It was fun, but sweaty! Sometimes it’s such a drag living in the southern hemisphere and having all sorts of cozy wintery holidays fall in the middle of our hot summers. But c’est la vie, still fun.

I’ve started thinking more seriously about a Taiwan trip. One thing I have to do is really work on my Chinese – when I returned in 2016, I was speaking (very slowly and extremely simply) to most people within a few days, but I’m kind of concerned that I’ll have stage fright if Nathan’s with me. It’s so hard to stay on top of a language that you have no daily opportunity to practice. Sometimes – rarely – I will have dreams in Chinese, but it has been more than a decade now since I actually studied it. I will confess that some of it is an ego thing, because it’s pretty nice to be able to say “I speak two languages”, but it’s also a practicality thing – Chinese is the second most spoken language in Australia, but aside from that, Taiwan will always be my second home.