Do I have anything to say now that I am “home”?
Part of me — actually a lot of me, like everything but my right ankle, which is too busy being swollen from slighly twisting it thanks to an attempt to wear high heels while running for the bus — has been a little, (a lot), worried that now I am back “home” I will have nothing to write about.
If all I wanted to write about was IKEA then, maybe, I would be ok. I could tell you proudly about discovering all of the shortcuts in the store so that you too can make it through there in under three minutes. I will point out all the places where it is possible to engage in semi-private warfare against your spouse, (hot tip: do not lose it in the lounge section. It is not as secluded as you might think. Also, the couches are at the beginning of the store so, if you don’t know the shortcuts, you have a long way to walk if you chose to maintain the rage). And I could introduce you to my new best friend, 22 year old Shereen from Goulburn, who has assured me, multiple times, (over multiple visits), that the “Find a Child” policy in IKEA is “like totes amazing” — to which I said great and contininued planning the wardrobe on the computers and decided I would find my three at the end, enticing them to come to Mamma by holding out five packets of meatballs, (don’t judge until you too have taken your kids to IKEA three times in one day). But, as much as I love eilderflower cordial, ginger biscuits and Billy bookcases, (in that order), and Sweden in general, I don’t think it is sane (or safe for my marriage or the welfare of my children) to rely on IKEA for writing inspiration.
Therein lies the quandary: if not IKEA, what? Will I find anything to write about if life has gone back to being my normal? Will anything still happen to me, or around me, or near me, (or to someone I know that I could then steal and claim as my own — not that I would ever do that), now that I am home?
I was a little pre-occupied by this worry last week. So much so that I may have decided to make believe that I was someone who was not from here, like, let’s just say, a South Korean who usually lives in Seoul and is, therefore, used to: life in mega city; an internet that works; a functioning public transport system; cheap and nutritious lunchtime food; malls with no car park spaces, (which doesn’t matter because you would have used public transport to get there!); and people everywhere, all the time, especially and including Sunday afternoons. My theory for this fantasy was simple: if I saw my new/old normal life through the eyes of someone for whom this was not their normal then things to write about would, hopefully, just pop on out at me.
As it turned out, however, my experiment with transcending into a South Korean tourist backpacking in Canberra didn’t need to last long at all. It began with a face peel. It was followed up with the eating of some kim chi. And it ended with the donning of my red Noreabang (karaoke) staff jacket. Because, at that point, I left the house, passed a mob of kangaroos, ran for the bus, (twisting my ankle in the process), and waited 25 minutes for a bus in amongst the gum trees. Then I met a man.
After we had both succesfully navigated the copious amounts of kangaroo poo adjacent to the bus stop, (which looks like a bomb shelter and desperately needs some street art adorning it), we found ourselves alone, together, at the bus stop, waiting twenty-five minutes for Bus № 2. He asked me for directions. Usually, I don’t chat to random strangers, (it seems to bring with it a rather uncomfortable level of sweatiness and, to be fair to me, I am unpracticed at the art of conversation with anyone above the age of ten and with anything more complicated than “Hello. I don’t speak Korean.”). But, excited that someone was talking to me, I responded with far too much confidence for someone who had not been in the country for four years or caught a bus for maybe double that time.
Halfway through our bus ride, which had been joined by 13 other riders, most of whom were wearing floral, (I don’t know why), and one bus driver, (who, not surprisingly, was not in floral)), I realised that I had given him the wrong directions. Very wrong. Like sending him to the other side of the world wrong. Which meant I had to get sweaty. I removed my Noreabang jacket, changed seats on the bus so as to sit next to him and embarked on a chat, (with floral wearing bus population listening in). Because of this, I now know that: Rob finds night shift on the new light rail to be physically demanding work but it pays quite well in the capital — which is a good thing considering his wages have remained stagnant for some time now); Rob was on his way to drink the beer of his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend at ex-girlfriends house, (he had his ideas about where this could lead), and Rob just remembered that he didn’t need to be on the bus at all because he had recently purchased a car that he thinks might still be at home, (his, not mine).
After this interaction, (and another one just like it but with a body builder masquerading as a juice blender specialist at the local department store), I was not surprised to find myself incredibly sweaty and so, of course, I bought myself some active wear. Then I found three things to use it for (and this is the story).
First, I decided to ride my bike to work. Seemed safer than the bus. Until, that is, you fall off your bike, remembering at the exact moment your head bounces off the dirt path that you were never actually any good at bike riding. Then you forget again, and while pretending, in the middle of the city time time, with actual people around, not just kangaroos, that you, 41 year old, slightly unfit, tired legs, lycra wearing mamma, that you are a ninja crossed with a BMX bandit and are participating in a secret parkour competition that is being filmed for a YouTube clip which is sure to go viral, you fall off again. And rip new active wear pants.
Second, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle an obstacle course on a cold and wet weekend morning. The obstacle course involved lots of other ladies in lycra and the odd man screaming at you to run like you have never run before. I sank into mud pits . I dragged myself up and down rope ladders. I flung myself onto beach balls and into the walls of inflatable castles. I temporarily stopped breathing as I fought my way through bubbles of dishwashing liquid. I unglamorously slid down two slippery slides. I stumbled around a bush track. I tripped over balance beams. And I threw myself against hurdles. Active wear, with bike riding holes, returned home stained with combination of mud, pink food dye and the frightened tears of a woman questioning her sanity.
Finally, I danced in the dark. In my active wear. With other people. Not by myself while vacuuming or chaperoning at a child’s disco. Boss at work was concerned for my safety. He probably should have been concerned for those around me. I have not gone dancing — like proper nightclub dancing — for a long time now so I was a little out of practice, (more like way, way, way out of practice). There may have been a few accidental elbows that I shoved into other people and the occasional high kick that did not go as well as it could have, (I fell on the floor as did one or two around me). Fairly early on I thought it might be best for everyone if I left but, not one to be easily defeated, I decided that given it was dark and no-one was watching why not try out a few experimental dance moves.
I started with dancing the way I remember dancing when I won third place at the underage blue light disco in the local town hall, (life was good back when I was fourteen). I moved onto my Grade 8 jazz competition routine that, somewhat unbelievably, is still strong inside of me. And I may have spent an entire song practicing all the 80’s moves I could think of in a artfully choreographed sequence. Finally, I channelled my inner Beyonce, discovering that a good chest thrust and hip wiggle can be quite painful when done incorrectly.
By the end of the night, (which was actually only one hour, thankfully, as I couldn’t have lasted any longer), I’m pretty sure that I could have possibly been confused with a gorilla, limping every so slightly, trying to hip hop who had just watched a Jane Fonda aerobics video. But I was happy. Oh, so very happy. Because for one blissful hour, I was exactly where I needed to be!
Stressed about nothing to write about now that I am back home? Crazy talk.