Holidays and Honey-Dos

I learnt a marvellous new word courtesy of my American guests over the Festive Season, namely honey-do, a chore or task performed by one’s partner, husband or significant other around the house or garden as in “Honey, could you do x, y and z?’

My Christmas holidays were much busier than I planned. In addition to the emotional tripwires that creep up on me every Yuletide (missing family and traditions in the Northern Hemisphere, end of year fatigue, a bit of the Bridget Jones Blues, and this year, midlife angst about my career and earning potential or lack thereof), I seemed to be very much on the go, which, of course, is one way of avoiding the difficult stuff swirling around in my head.

What with Airbnb guests (yes, we’ve had lift off and I’m on my third booking), parties and social gatherings, gardening, cooking (including special home-made dog biscuits for Bertie), cleaning, buying new fans, returning faulty fans and choosing new models that actually work, household honey-dos, dog walking, grooming and shampooing and a LOT of chatting, I got into a rather over-stimulated spin. Then this week, the week I had set aside to mellow out and finally relax, I started to look for jobs (a job in itself), and then yesterday got locked out of my house.

Giulia, one of my first Airbnb guests and now a temporary flat-mate, locked the screen door as she was unable to close the front door. I had left it on the latch so she was doing the right thing by securing the property. What she didn’t realise is that my screen key came off my key ring a few weeks ago and has remained on the kitchen bench ever since. All a learning curve: Note to self – be clear about screen door with guests and make sure everyone including me has a full set of keys!

It’s been a new thing for me having not just one but two people in my house (the spare room is twin-bedded). Most of the time it’s fun having congenial company and ready-made dinner, movie and dog-walking companions, but there are times when I need to slink off to a quiet corner and read or simply NOT talk.

Dan and Vickie hail from Colorado and are cycling across Australia on their beautiful custom-made tandem. Amazingly, the whole bike (see picture) can be disassembled and fitted into a couple of cases. They started their Australian journey in Sydney before riding down to Melbourne and around Tassie. They came to me in preparation for the next leg of their journey to Adelaide via the Mornington Peninsula and Great Ocean Road. From Adelaide they are following the coast and crossing the Nullarbor to Perth. Not a trip for the faint-hearted!

They were with me for a couple of weeks and we started out by having dinner together at an excellent Turkish restaurant on Christmas Eve and finished up with an evening spent building self-assembly fans. As you do. Dan is a star honey-doer and helped me prune tall shrubs, take the bins out, hammer down rough nails on a couple of carpet dividers, rig up a way of keeping the laundry (Bertie’s bedroom) ventilated on hot nights, search under the washing machine for a missing pearl earring and much more. He even helped me word a difficult text. How nice it was to have a house husband!

Breakfast at the Sandy Beach Kiosk with Dan and Vickie

Breakfast at the Sandy Beach Kiosk with Dan and Vickie

Had Dan been here yesterday I wonder if he’d have found of way of opening the screen door without the key! As it was I had to drive to the Monash Campus (not my favourite place owing to a job from hell last year) where Giulia is studying. I do have a local honey-doer though – my brother. Like Dan, he’s practical, solutions-driven and likes a challenge. On Wednesday just as the mercury hit 35, my air-conditioner failed to work. As luck would have it my brother was passing by and came in to investigate. I was ready for the worst – last time it went wrong and I called out a service guy, it cost in the region of $800. Just what I don’t need on top of the midlife career crisis! After tinkering with the inside controls, Tim went outside and turned the unit on and off in an effort to ‘re-boot’ it. And it worked and is still working. What a star!

Then, last night, I decided to have one last look for the missing pearl earring. I lost it about a week ago when I had come in from walking Bertie. I heard it drop – a soft drop – while I was in the laundry but there was no sign of it anywhere despite Dan’s inventive use of a coat-hanger to sweep under the washing machine. I bought the earrings back in 2009 when I was on Thursday Island. They are high quality pearls and I love them. So you can imagine my delight when I re-checked the pocket of the jacket I had been wearing. There was the missing pearl in the inside pocket. I didn’t even know there was an inside pocket.

It’s been a funny few weeks and I’ve been rather topsy-turvy but I’m now Girl with Two Pearl Earrings and a Functioning Air-Conditioner and am counting my blessings! What’s more, last night I chanced upon one of the most stunning sunsets ever. Enough to lift anyone’s spirits!

Sunset on St Kilda Beach - 8th January

Sunset on St Kilda Beach – 8th January

Mad About the Boy

Many of us – men and women alike – enjoyed the humour and frivolity of Bridget Jones Diary when it came out in 1996. So I was disappointed to read a thumbs-down review of Fielding’s follow-up title, Mad About the Boy. Especially as we’ve waited 14 years for it! UK Telegraph reviewer Sarah Crompton reports that she didn’t laugh until she reached page 34 and had this to say about the book: “Reading the first two thirds of Mad About the Boy is like listening to someone who once had perfect pitch, but now can’t sing a note. It lies as flat on the page as its heroine’s overcooked spaghetti. Every line feels full of effort.”

Like Sarah Crompton, I regarded the love-seeking BJ as a soul sister and adopted – more by osmosis than by design – some of her vocabulary. In fact, I had forgotten that we have Fielding to thank for ‘smug marrieds’ and ‘singletons’. She did all of us single women such a favour by finding a replacement word for spinster with its dreaded on-the-shelf connotations.

But my relationship with Bridget goes even deeper. Two of my friends actually call me Bridget. That’s because there’s something about me that reminds them of BJ. Although I consider myself far more savvy and self-aware than BJ and don’t have to worry about counting calories, I’m British-born, middle class, know men who wear jumpers with cringeworthy motifs and did once use a pair of old tights instead of a muslin bag to infuse herbs in a stew. Who could forget Bridget’s blue string soup? And then, the big knickers; well yes, I do have some in my possession, but I don’t actually wear them. Well, not anymore…

So what a shame that Fielding appears to have lost the essence and voice of the original Bridget. According to Crompton some passages in the book waiver between sub-Mills and Boon style and a frolicsome Fifty Shades of Grey sort of voice. That’s enough to tell me that the now 51-year-old Bridget and I have gone our separate ways. Mark Darcy, her dream husband, has died five years before the book starts and Bridget is now a Born Again Virgin obsessing about her weight, appearance and new toy boy Roxster – all this in between managing nits and the school run (she’s also the mother of two small children).

I may share a similar vintage to Bridget but that’s where the comparison ends. I’m a smug singleton (we can be smug too) and mother of one very adorable canine child, Bertie. What’s more I’m absolutely mad about the boy. And I’ve already got him into reading. He loves a good page-turner.

Puppy dog reading My First Puppy

Puppy dog reading My First Puppy