Moments

I had a bit of a ‘moment’ on Friday morning, as I was driving Matty to the station. I’d woken up feeling irritated, sort of grumpy, a bit dissatisfied like when you’re really, really hungry and the only thing that will suffice is a burger and chips, so you go to a restaurant, and when your order comes, it turns out it’s nouvelle cuisine and your burger is  ‘deconstructed’: a few crumbs of dehydrated bread, a sliver of wagyu, a microscopic cube of pickle, and a light sprinkle of microherbs atop an artful smudge of sauce.


“I feel like I haven’t achieved anything,” I said to Matty.

Matty reminded me that indeed I had achieved things – not least in the last seven months: birthed a baby and written and edited not one but two magazines.

I wrote and edited this. The Edition, issue 1.

But that wasn’t quite what I meant. I’m not discounting the fact that I’ve managed to create a gorgeous, flame-haired, mini-human whom I love ferociously, or, that frequently, after putting mini-human to bed at 7pm I work happily on aforementioned magazine until midnight or 1am.

I gave birth to this. Marnie.

It’s more a feeling that I don’t have enough space, at the moment. Space to do the things I’d do if I had more time for myself: regularly updating my blog, for example, or painting again once in a while, or practising the piano so I don’t lose my very limited repertoire completely. I have so many ideas for the children’s books I want to write and illustrate and the jewellery I want to make and the sculptures I want to create – but there’s just no space. Not an inch.

I drew this. ‘Horse on Motorbike’, charcoal on paper

I feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to do: I have so many phone calls to make, to friends I’ve neglected as weeks have turned into months; there are a million clothes to fold and put away, but no matter how much I do, the mountain of mess gets bigger, not smaller. I’m feeling deafened by so much social media screaming for attention: the Instagram narcissists vying for likes, the Facebook braggers and the oh-my-god-you-have-to-click-on-this-or-life-won’t-be-worth-living clickbaits. (I try not to click! But I do, and then I fall headfirst into a meaningless internet vortex).

I painted this. ‘Tutti after chemo’, acrylic on canvas.

I’m exhausted. So exhausted. The baby never sleeps, and when she does, it’s in fits and starts. An hour here. Forty minutes there. She wants to be attached to me all the time. I’ve become a half-adult half-baby hybrid. Exhausted. Exhausted.

Even so, a very wise and dear friend recently reminded me that although life with a small baby can be tough, these are the years I’ll look back on as some of the most beautiful of my life. Just like the pain of childbirth, I’ll forget the crosseyed-with-tiredness delirium and the feeling of being suffocated by unfulfilled ambition.

Instead, I’ll remember how precious it was to have a baby yet unable to speak but so hilariously expressive. Who squeals with arm-flapping excitement when I walk into the room. Who has the juiciest, most kissable cheeks and hands you can’t help but squeeze; so small and pudgy, with dimples where her knuckles should be. I’ll wish I could hold her – as I do now – as her eyes flutter shut and she nuzzles into me like the sweetest, warmest, milk-drunk koala. Even for a moment. You see, the thing about moments is that they’re fleeting. They slip from our grasp and tick-tock away no matter how hard we try to hold onto them. So I know what I have to do. I have to lower my expectations of myself. I have to put down my mobile phone.  I have to be in the moment with my sweet little baby and remember that one day I’ll look back and wish I could be exactly where I am now. Right here.

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A Celebration of Love (and colour)

Tutti, the Guru, Matty, Marnie and I went to a wedding yesterday. It was truly lovely – a celebration of life and love and a brilliant excuse to get dressed up. (Not that one ever truly needs an excuse for that. Wear your best frock to the shops to buy milk, I say. Not that I do. I went out with Marnie the other day looking horrible. “At least put some lipstick on,” said Tutti, kindly ignoring the brooch of baby vomit on my T-shirt and my hair which looked at best like a curly, fluffy hair-nest, just waiting for a sparrow to take up residence.)

Anyway. We did what anyone does at a wedding. We danced and laughed and ate things and cooed over the bride who was wearing a sparkly, almost-60s-style shift dress and looked absolutely divine. In short? We had fun. But then, we almost always do.

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Here I am with my beloved Matty, wearing my Francis Klein glasses, outfit by Et Al Melbourne and flower corsage that I found in Tutti’s wardrobe (score!) Matty’s wearing his beautiful Clifford Gordon jacket that he last wore five years ago when we got married and skinny pants by ML Denim.

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What can I say about Tutti except that she is always a colourful feast for the eyes. I recently bought her that jacket from an op shop in Melbourne for the princely sum of $12 and yet it looks a million bucks.. Love her Miu Miu glasses, Alistair Trung skirt and bright sandals by Django & Juliet.

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Tutti the beauty.

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Giving good shoulder.

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The Guru and Tutti. I had probably just said something HILARIOUS.

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I art directed this shot. “Look romantic,” I said.

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Power pose.

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Even Marnie got in on the action, partying the night away. Well, until 10pm. Which is pretty rock’n’roll for a baby.

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Here are Tutti and Matty standing in front of a chalkboard of random words. #catatonic!

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Looking alert and economic. Apparently.

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The couple of the moment. Nathan and Elly. Wishing them a lifetime of health, happiness, laughter and all good things. It’s a bit of a photographic fail from an iPhone point of view, but you get the gist. They looked gorgeous.

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Marnie

My daughter Marnie entered the world with barely a squeak. Barely a whimper.

One minute everything was going marvelously. I was lying in bed feeling utterly relaxed, delighting in the little green light that flashed every 15 minutes indicating I could top up my epidural.

The next, there were suddenly too many people in the room. Too many furrowed brows. Hardly a sound but for the slowing beep of the baby heart monitor. I held my breath. I may have prayed.

Marnie was not having a particularly good time of it, thanks to an entangled umbilical that had strapped her in like a seatbelt. And for all my red-cheeked, vein-popping, labour-intense pushing, she was not going anywhere fast.

The kind-faced obstetrician wielded the forceps. Don’t worry, just the small forceps, he told me. He could have been using giant salad servers for all I cared – I was blissfully oblivious to whatever contortions my nether regions were performing, thanks to the spectacular spell of anaesthesia. All I wanted was to expel my little baby from her womb with(out) a view and for her to be okay.

And then, finally, she arrived; sweet and squashed, foaming at the mouth. Silent.

She was placed on my chest for all of two seconds, then whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to have life rubbed briskly into her pale pink body; to be oxygenated and aspirated and hooked up to monitors and tube fed.

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Matty was no longer in the room since he’d followed Marnie to the NICU (quietly plutzing over his dramatic start to fatherhood). I lay in bed feeling shell-shocked and amazed that a human being had just been squeezed out of me.

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I didn’t get to hold my baby properly for a couple of days. The first time I met her, a good few hours after her delivery, I peered down at her in her plastic crib and stood awkwardly, unsure of what to do with someone so small and vulnerable – with her toothpick limbs and bobble head. I almost felt I should extend my hand with a formal ‘pleased to meet you.’ After all, we had only just met, even if she had lived inside me for the most part of a year.

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The WTF-has-just-happened? face. Seriously. WTF.

There were no sudden explosions of overwhelming love, or fireworks or thunderbolts. Rather, my adoration grew slowly, over days, over weeks; stretching, unfurling like a lazy dog in the sun.

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The many faces of Marnie

And now, six weeks on, I’m amazed at how I’ve adapted. At how I’m able to leap out of bed at 3am and 6am – with a smile on my face because my baby needs me and she’s incredibly cute. I’ve become a morning person and a night owl and everything in between. I’m exhausted and jet-lagged and I don’t mind at all.

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Being a baby = exhausting.

To see Matty with his daughter is incredibly special. He’s a wonderful father, as I knew he would be. And there’s no more devoted a big sister than Tiggy the dog, who looks concerned when Marnie cries, lies by her cot, gently nuzzles her ear and watches on adoringly with big, brown eyes. We’re a family now, and it’s inexplicably lovely.

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Daddy and baby. Carbon copies.

I’m mesmerised by Marnie’s every sound (perhaps not the pterodactyl screech that breaks through the sound barrier of acceptable decibels and could probably shatter glass – but still.) I could stare at her face all day. Her expressions are hilarious. I guess no kid of mine had a choice but to be at least a little bit funny looking.

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Funny faces. It’s in the genes.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself – to think that I’m a mother, with a blue-eyed, red-haired daughter. An impossibly sweet one, who fits perfectly inside a fine-china teacup.

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Stalking, talking and too much coffee: How I met my husband.

The day I met the man who would be my husband, I was sitting in Marcello’s café in Chatswood (long gone) sipping a hot chocolate, smoking a cigarette (back when I didn’t think it was a disgusting habit) and writing in my notepad.

I can’t remember what I was writing – probably the beginning of yet another novel which I’d already imagined would be a bestseller and which, 800 words in, would be discarded and forgotten in some dusty drawer – but I do remember that Marcello’s hot chocolates were a tall glass of the thickest, most decadent, Belgian choc, slowly melted and stirred into steaming milk – about 15 billion calories of sweet, liquid indulgence.

I can also remember (how could I forget?) the man who delivered my drink order: all sparkly blue-green eyes and mischievous dimples, set in the most perfectly round, smooth head (read: bald as a badger. Which is a stupid cliché, because anyone who has ever seen a badger knows that they’re not bald, but furry. And vicious, I’ve heard. They’d eat a small child – or a large one – given the chance.)

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Here he is. My husband: the man who makes me laugh the most, who makes a mean dark chocolate creme brûlée without having to follow a recipe and who knows how to work a vacuum cleaner (not a euphemism).

I don’t know what it was. Ordering a hot chocolate is nothing out of the ordinary. But as it landed on my table, I was suddenly struck by the most overwhelming waiter-crush and a small voice in my head that really, truly said, “Yep, you’re going to marry that one!” It seems ridiculous looking back, even now. After all, I didn’t know him from a bar of soap (another stupid cliché. I mean who ever really gets to know a bar of soap? They’re not exactly good conversationalists).

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A rare sunny day in London.

And so began a couple of months of harmless, infatuated stalking. By which I mean that I started frequenting the café… by which I mean I’d have up to five cappuccinos a day, on my most desperate, stalkerish days, while I sussed out the situation and watched my completely oblivious husband-to-be with mist in my eyes.

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At Kenwood House, Hampstead, London

It’s probably a good time to mention that back then I wasn’t a coffee drinker. I didn’t even really like the taste – but to my 20-year-old mind, drinking hot chocolates all day just didn’t seem, well, sophisticated enough. The chocolate was out – the coffee was in. The anxiety disorder didn’t really appreciate it, to be honest (jitters, much?), but who was I to care? I had a man to impress (and apparently, coming across as a crazed, café-obsessed caffeine-fiend was the way to do it).

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Prague, 2007. We missed our flight because we drank too much the night before, and directed our taxi to the wrong airport. When we finally arrived, we realised in our inebriated state, we’d packed our suitcase so stupidly, Matty only had one pair of pointy dress shoes to wear, and pointy shoes + endless exploring + cobbled streets = ruptured achilles tendon.

It’s impossible not to build a rapport with someone when every day you drink insane amounts of hot beverages at their place of employment. So my waiter (who I discovered was a 23-year-old backpacker from London) and I started chatting. Just a bit of small talk here, a little bit of banter there.

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Three years ago, the day I turned 30.

I’m going to cut this very long story short now and tell you that I eventually asked him out on a date. Not a real one, mind you. Just a casual ‘I’m-going-to-Home-nightclub-with-my-friends-on-Saturday do-ya-wanna-come?’ It wasn’t very romantic. He even left with his friends, without saying goodbye. But the following week, he asked me out and we went for dinner and danced and chatted all night and discovered that beyond his ability to make coffee – and mine to drink it – we had a lot in common. And the night after that, I came home to a gigantic bunch of flowers (a completely quirky, spiky mix of native Australian blooms) and I remember standing at the front door and holding my flowers in my arms and having a little weep because no man had ever sent me flowers before and it was so lovely.

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So young, so fresh-faced. Standing in our flat in Golders Green, London where you can’t see the threadbare green carpet, the paint peeling off the walls from the damp, nor hear the mouse scurrying through the kitchen cupboard.

We were inseparable from then on. Well, for the next three months, because then his working holiday visa expired, which meant he had to go back to London… which meant he tried to make his life easier by repeatedly trying to dump me. Trying being the operative word. Every time he suggested parting ways I brought out my very best histrionics and pitiful tears and desperately sad eyes and most wonderful, romance-novel-worthy heartstring-tugging lines until he relented.

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Just got engaged, April 2008. I’m not sure I look happy enough.

And when he did have to leave, which was one of the saddest days of my life, I cried all day. Until he arrived in London, and we spoke on the phone – and we resolved to speak every day after that. And somehow, we managed to keep it together and have a Sydney-to-London long distance romance for almost 18 months, with only short visits (and expensive phone calls, and packages in the mail) in between.

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It’s worth noting that THIS is my engagement ring. Yep, I definitely married the man of my dreams. And my reality. (Apologies if you require a vom bucket about now).

A month after finishing my Creative Arts degree at Uni, I moved to London. We were there for almost six years together before he proposed and we decided to get married and settle back in Australia. It’s now 13 years since I drank that first hot chocolate. I still prefer chocolate to coffee.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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The art of the perfect guilt-trip

By the time I was about 15, I was well-practiced in the art of getting out of trouble (and I was in trouble a LOT. My attitude by then was at an all time high). The secret? Making Tutti laugh. In most cases, laughing made her even more enraged, but it’s very hard to maintain rage when you’re gasping for breath, your upturned mouth betraying your fury.

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How to tie a headscarf, Tutti-style

There’s no denying Tutti has amazing hair. It’s as pure in colour as a unicorn’s mane, defies gravity and grows vertically, like the spikes of a snow-white pineapple. But it’s her headwear that has people turning heads. For as long as she can remember she’s been tying all manner of scarves, donning hats and even in the ’80s used to thread scarves around these weird, padded headbands (see pic below, top left) which she still managed to make look fabulous.

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