Friday, 19 April 2013


Up in my Hobart 'hood, on a still day you can smell the cloyingly heavy yeasty pong of barley and hops being turned into beer at nearby the Cascade Brewery:

Which is funny really, as the Governor, after whom my street was named, has gone down in the annals of Tasmanian history as nothing more than a drunken profligate. He may have been the son of of a woman called Temperance, yet he exhibited anything but, and is famous to this day for having invented a celebrated punch concoction called the 'Blow My Skull'.....a potent combination of rum, brandy, citrus, sugar, water and BEER. Luckily, 'The governor having an impenetrable cranium, and an iron frame could take several goblets of the alcoholic fluid, and walk away as lithe and happy as possible'. In a colony awash with booze, he spent a lot of his time drunk.

Some fifty years later, Henry Jones did not. He was a very strict teetotaller. He was also a local boy made good. Famous for starting work at age 12 in the Jam Factory down on the Hobart waterfront pasting labels on tins, he went on to own the company and became the first Tasmanian knighted.

Sir Henry Jones was a local entrepreneur with international interests - he had a finger in what seemed like every pie and created his enormous success through not only jam but also tin mining, fruit growing and shipping.  His personal motto was 'I excel in everything I do'. And he did. Our house was built for one of his nine daughters (he also had three sons) on the occasion of her marriage. He then built the two houses next door for other of which later became the childhood home of the errant, notorious, womanising cad, Errol Flynn.

These days the local Hobart boy made good that everybody is talking about is David Walsh. He with the deep, deep pockets....deep enough to have created MONA.....a personal museum, a monument to himself. All financed by his intricate gambling systems. It's been described as 'a subversive Disneyland for adults' and it really is extraordinary. It has changed the whole dynamic of Hobart tourism, suddenly punters aren't so interested in wading through the grim convict ruins of the past but rather are coming down by the plane load to marvel, star struck, at the heavily sex and death oriented exhibits in David's museum.

But destination MONA is not just about the art, they also grow and make Morilla wine and Moo Brew beer.....if you find yourself entering the parallel universe of a MONA event (Dark MOFO is next on the calendar in June, quick get your tickets) and drinking David's grog you will no doubt giggle that the plastic glasses in which they serve the beer are emblazoned with the logo 'Not suitable for Bogans'. Yes, really.

And then of course there's the local girl made good. Mary Donaldson, who met her future husband in a Sydney pub and went on to become a.....Crown Princess. I must admit to feeling somewhat ripped off as I too met the bloke I would ultimately marry in a pub....which resulted in my move from the big smoke of Hobart. Last time Crown Princess Mary came back for a visit to her childhood home of Hobart, she embraced being renting a home in the Hobart 'burbs and driving her family around in a family wagon. I suppose that Marie Antoinette, Queen of France used to play at being a milkmaid.

Anyway, why wouldn't you want to be a Hobart housewife? Although I'm afraid that I'm taking a mini break and moving my particular brand of domesticity off shore for the next three and a half months. See you when we get to France!


Thursday, 11 April 2013


Hello from the house of vomit......where three of my children, so far, have been riding the porcelain bus with a particularly messy bout of gastro.  Having spent a lot of time in the decidedly unpleasant clean up, I've been pondering why, when I've endured such high levels of exposure,  I've never managed to become immune to vomit or poo. So, as you do, I've been deliberating which is worse....with the jury  still out.

As if a sudden dose of gastro hasn't made life hectic enough, the clock is relentlessly ticking and we are now down to NINE days before we board that plane and bid 'au revoir' to Hobart and 'bonjour' to the South of France. I've also taken another trip to the dentist's chair and had my other two wisdom teeth unceremoniously pulled out.....knowing what to expect I tried every delaying tactic in the book and shamelessly used exhibition openings, children's birthdays and a trip to Brisbane to try and avoid having to go through it all......again. I was scared as had been pre warned that these teeth had curly roots. Oh, the agony. Afterwards, I sought comfort in flicking through a book about Prince Charles' garden and one of my boys dedicated his afternoon to sitting on my bed and patting my worked and I managed to hold off on the painkillers.

Anyway, yesterday was our 14th wedding anniversary. My husband came through with flowers just when I was despairing, as only an afternoon of cleaning up poo will do, that maybe I'd made a big mistake setting myself up for domesticity on such a grand scale:

I love Irish Bells.....there's something so unexpected about a lime green flower, don't you think? This is what the five year old dressed me in to wear out to dinner down the road at our favourite haunt, Le Provencal:

The J Brand sparkly coated metallic jeans were on sale at Revolve and I've had the By Malene Birger sequinned top hanging in the cupboard for years. He initially wanted me to wear the jeans and the top without a jacket, however seeing it was 10 degrees outside and the top's a bit big, I managed to talk him into letting me workshop the look with the jacket.....yet only on the promise that I took it off once inside the restaurant where it would be warm.

It may have been warm and looked like the South Of France:

yet I flagrantly disregarded his instructions and kept the jacket on. While compiling the insurmountable list of things still to do over dinner, the thought crossed my mind that it's much easier to pretend to be in France in a French restaurant that we can see from our house......than it is to actually go to France. Too late now.

Over the last week, between loads of vomity washing, I've been hanging out in the hot room like a woman possessed, because the sad fact is that I'm going to have to let my Bikram Yoga addiction slide once I get to France. There's just no way that I'm going to be able to keep up five classes a week. Geography is not on my side.  Like the total tragic that I am, I've been using Google Maps to work out exactly how far it is from where we will be living in Uzes to the Bikram Yoga studio's in Montpellier (1.5 hours)  and Marseilles (2 hours). Here in Hobart, I drive literally from one side of town to the other to feed my addiction and it takes me.....all of 12 minutes. Rationally, I'm thinking that 1.5 - 2 hours in the car on a regular basis might not be feasible, although it makes me upset to admit it out loud. Hopefully, I'll be able to make the commute on a couple of occasions and if I can find a window of opportunity to do a class or two in Paris, then I won't have to go cold turkey.....which is some consolation.

Apart from putting Bikram Yoga classes in the bank, it has also been a great way to tame my monkey mind (for an hour and a half at least) and help with my overwhelming worries about the immediate future.....will our geriatric beagles survive the separation.....when are we going to find a my father in law's health going to rally.....will our property development be finished before we go.....etc etc etc ad infinitum. Most nights I wake up at about 3am and start to think and worry....and think....and then I try to engage my husband in conversation about these particular thoughts....much to his horror as he is holding out until 5.30am when he can get on his bike and go for a ride. You wouldn't want to be getting on a plane next Sunday. I might need to try and schedule two Bikram Yoga classes tomorrow.......


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Three Weeks.

The clock is unremittingly ticking and the days are vanishing at great speed. The deadline of having the house and our family all packed up and organised before we board the plane is looming. It's scarily close now.....we have just passed the three week mark. I have been waking in the early hours of the morning and tossing and turning and panicking......about everything. In theory, it all seems like such a wonderful thing to do, to relocate your family from Hobart to the South of France for a term, yet trust me, in practice it's daunting. I would usually be the first to deny this now blatantly apparent fact and I'm ashamed to admit that I really am a creature of habit and staring down the barrel of change and challenge is difficult.

I remember all of these emotions from 2010 when we went to France for 8 months.  At three weeks out, I had an incredibly graphic dream one night, about giving birth. It was technicolour in it's clarity.....I was on the operating table and they were actually performing the caesarian. It was so real. The next day was Anzac day and while we were walking into town for the march a text message from a friend came through announcing the  birth of her baby daughter. A wave of memory engulfed me about my dream and prompted me to tell my husband all about how I'd given birth to our fourth a dream. We laughed our heads off. I think we were almost crying with hysteria about the ludicrousness of it.  Nevertheless, there remained an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty that I just couldn't shake had been that kind of a dream. We, of course, decided that there was absolutely no way that it could be an omen....yet, just to make sure we stopped off at the chemist on the walk up the hill on the way home.

So, I peed on the stick....all the while berating myself for doing if. Lo and behold it was positive. I was 38 and accidentally pregnant. I was having a baby and it would be born while we were in France. Dreams of wine and blue cheese* were dashed. Every minute detail of this impending trip had been worked over and over......for three long years. I can't describe the feelings of terror, confusion ad uncertainty that engulfed me. There was lots of crying. I felt sick....yet maybe that was just morning sickness. There was no way that my basic school girl French was up to it. We had already rented our house, so we couldn't stay at home even if we'd wanted to. Emails were sent to the American Hospital of Paris and replies received.....a caesarian and five day hospital stay....would amount to approximately AUD$20,000. Eek. What were we going to do?

We got on the plane. We thought that we'd suck it and see. Mercifully, once we arrived in Espondeilhan, one of the families who lived around our courtyard had a six week old baby which was how we got the recommendation of an obstetrician. Our landlady, who had spent days instructing us in the idiosyncrasies of the local areas shop opening and more importantly, closing times, rang the obstetricians rooms, explained our situation and convincingly haggled to get me an appointment. She wouldn't take no for an answer and they acquiesced. So, then I had a doctor and a quote for a caesarian and stay at the local private clinic....for AUD$5,000. Phew. The relief. The experience was similar enough to going and seeing my Hobart obstetrician, except that he had no long, detailed, repetitive boat conversations with my he just didn't understand enough French. My own French was stretched to the limits as my doctor spoke no English. No English. This, as you can imagine, was just a tad tricky, especially as at our first appointment he jabbered something in my direction and left the room. 'I think he just asked me to take my pants off' I told my husband in confusion. 'You want to be sure that's what he said!' he replied. He had. Now though, I have a fully operational vocabulary of French gynaecological and breast feeding terms....words they just don't teach you in French classes at school or at Adult Ed. I also have a a beautiful two year old daughter who was born in France and was such a special, special souvenir:

So, once again, three weeks out from our departure, we are wrestling with a cacophony of emotions. My 91 year old father in law was rushed to hospital last week. He is still there. Yet again, we have been questioning whether or not we'll actually get on the plane.


*The French, surprisingly enough have a very draconian policy of zero tolerance to alcohol consumption during pregnancy yet their attitudes towards eating cheese are much more enlightened. Having endured three pregnancies in Australia where the fear of eating blue cheese or any soft cheese is promoted, in France eating blue cheese is OK....I checked with the pathologist not once, but three times to be sure......just so long as it doesn't contribute towards you putting on any more than the prescribed 12 kgs weight gain. My French doctor weighed me at every single appointment......I had never been near the scales when seeing my doctor in Hobart.....and commented, at one stage, to my husband's utter delight, he told me that I had to reduce! Truly.