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Date Night Club – Date 3 Moonlight Kayak Tour

29 May

In a bid to keep the flames of passion burning brightly I have propositioned Mrs Under with a fortnightly date night. Every two weeks I will book a baby sitter, take her out and show her a good time. The first rule of Date Night Club – you DO talk about Date Night Club! The second rule of Date Night Club is that restaurants, cinemas and bars are all banned, this is to be an unconventional Date Night. So there you have it, I will be giving you a full disclosure of what we get up to, where we got up to it and whether Mrs Under’s switch was flicked (that sounded like innuendo, it wasn’t).

Date Night – Saturday 25th May

Venue – The Yarra River, Melbourne

Cost – $99 for 2.5 hour including the best fish n chip dinner I can remember and I‘ve had a lot of them (the cool cats at Kayak Melbourne let us come along as guests)

Dress Code – We dressed for a night on a river in Melbourne in Autumn – don’t be shy get your thermals out!

So far for Date Night Club I have danced awkwardly with a roomful of women I have never met and I’ve watch on awkwardly as a man dressed in silver hotpants danced for me. It’s fair to say that Anna has been well catered to so far, but tonight was all about me us. Tonight we saw Melbourne in a whole new beautiful light and I fell in love with the city all over again.
After establishing that neither of us are capable of reading a simple map we arrived at the venue 30 minutes late and wheezing after setting an Australian record for the 4km Couples Sprint. Our friendly guides Matt and Kent displayed amazing patience to laugh the situation off, I’m pretty sure I would have been quietly seething. By the way why is it that when I take Anna on these dates the guides/instructors always look like male models?

After some instruction on how to paddle, steer and generally not ruin the date by drowning we got into our kayaks, me at the front thrashing and splashing and making a lot of noise, with Mrs Under at the back gently steering us both to where we want to go – it’s as if it’s a metaphor for our relationship? Matt tells us the double kayaks are also known as “divorce boats” because of the rapid descent into argument once couples start paddling, sounds ominous.

We started paddling around the Docklands area, the sky lit up in reds, oranges and purples as the sun began to set. I couldn’t see her but I suspect Mrs Under was trying to catch glimpses inside the lavish homes that line the Yarra to see how the other half live or even better see someone emerge from the shower. Sure enough Mrs Under soon revealed herself to be a kayaking expert and saw a few flaws in my technique that she couldn’t help but point out.
The kayaks are pretty easy to paddle leaving you free to soak up the views and dare I say the romance. When I asked readers about their favourite date nights the overwhelming winner was fish n chips straight from the wrapper and before we knew it we were tucking into the best fish n chips straight from the wrapper just the way you like it…….only in a kayak. The best bit is you don’t even have to feel guilty about it because you have an hour and a half of paddling in front of you.

We shimmied up to and under the Bolte Bridge, little old us in our kayak dwarfed by this colossal structure that you normally drive right over. We headed back towards the city centre for the ‘wow moment’ as the Crown Casino puts on a little show involving great balls of fire, if my neck was longer I would have leant over and given Mrs Under a little kiss but as it was I touched her paddle tenderly with mine.

I can’t emphasise how different the view of Melbourne is that you are privileged from a kayak. The sights, the lights, the colours, the noises are all slightly different from the water. You feel special as you gently bob along without anyone truly realising you are there. As you can probably tell this was my kind of date and judging by Mrs Under’s smile when we got off the kayak she enjoyed herself too. We had a little hug although the life jackets it felt like we were wearing fat suits.
Inspired by our new lives on the river we stopped for a drink in a cool little bar that hugs the bottom of a bridge and is nestled nicely on top of the water, we drank mulled wine in a bid to warm up and excitedly swapped best bits and paddling tips. This was a goodie, a real goodie, and I recommend anyone who finds themselves at a loose end in Melbourne to make it happen.

The Importance of Being Me

1 Apr

Being a stay at home parent and blogging about it can feel a little limiting. To define myself as ‘just’ a parent is not accurate. There was a whole other me before parenthood and there is a whole other me now just waiting to get out. Whilst I want to do my very best for my son I also want and need to maintain some form of whom and what I am. It feels a little indulgent to discuss “me” but I don’t do it often so please humour me.

Just before Max came along me and Mrs Under granted ourselves a final spin of the dice, a last hurrah, an opportunity to indulge in whatever it might be that is dear to us. A little like a last meal on death row only far less bleak. Mrs Under decided to finally take up photography, a large intimidating camera with lots of knobs and buttons was purchased and she enrolled on a course. This was something she had spoke about since we first met and I suspect the opportunity to capture Max growing up in focus may have prompted her decision.

For me the decision was simple. Despite always being a city dweller I am very much more at peace in the great outdoors, a passion fuelled by what seems like a lifetime of long weekend yomps through stunning scenery that always concluded with my feet steaming away by a roaring pub fire. Few places does the outdoors like Tasmania and few hikes are preceded by such a reputation as the Overland Track.
The track is 65km in its shortest form but once you throw in the extra sidetracks would be in excess of 110km and is recommended to be tackled over 6 days. This was to be a solo mission, the ultimate in time and space to think about what was about to happen to me. With Anna 6 months pregnant and convinced that if the snakes didn’t get me then my general incompetence probably would, I said my goodbyes and weighed down with a back breaking 30kg pack (the kitchen sink alone weighed in at 8kg) and an adventurous spirit I set off for some me time.
Sucking up lungful’s of clean mountain air and taking in my surroundings after being unceremoniously dumped at Cradle Mountain I felt instantly vindicated, with a healthy dash of intimidated thrown in for good measure. My pack felt prohibitive so I dumped some of the luxury items that Mrs Under had snuck in, bye bye wonderful dark chocolate and sumptuous Pinot may your new owners love consuming you every bit as much as I would have.
After an hour of hiking in my own company I realised just how isolating the next 6 days were to be, nothing but me, myself and I. I disappeared completely into my inner most thoughts, asking myself what challenges lay ahead, questioning whether I was up to the job and deliberating on what being a Dad meant for me.

Breakfast was always porridge and always welcome, setting me up for an eight hour wander from an awe inspiring A – B. Lunch was always cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit, wholly unsatisfying and inadequate but forgiven for being light and small. The evening meals were a real treat, once the trudging had finished for the day, my feet had enjoyed the revitalising qualities of an icy spring, blisters had been attended to, my pack had been duly dumped and my roving shelter was erected. Packet noodles, curries and rices were all combined to create a sub species of food known as camping fusion, my brain doing a wonderful job at tricking my mouth into thinking it was haute cuisine.
The closer I was to completing the hike the more I allowed myself to fantasise about getting back to Mrs Under and the bump that was soon to redefine me. On the last day a great sense of achievement washed over me, I had done it, I had overcome the elements, the snakes, the aches and pains and the isolation; distracted by the beauty each and every step of the way. I like challenges, I like succeeding against the odds and I like delving into myself, traits that have served me well so far as a father.
Upon completion I decided to put the famous Tasmanian hospitality to the test and hitchhiked the 179km from Lake St Clair to Hobart. I should never have doubted it, the first vehicle to pass was a bus packed full of three generations of smiling faces. Not only did they pick me up but they drove 50km out of their way to get me to my destination. Having not spoken at length to anyone for over 6 days this was a fantastic reintroduction to mankind. Stories were exchanged, songs were sung and hugs were administered upon “goodbye”.
Hobart felt like an intense metropolis. Following my nose I meandered along the harbour and into one of the fish and chip restaurants, washed down with an ice cold beer I think that was one of the best meals I have ever had. This was my first time to Tasmania and it had cast a spell on me, I want to experience more and get to know her nooks and crannies more intimately.

I returned home having achieved something real, knowing myself a little better and feeling a bit more prepared for what fatherhood could throw at me. I will continue to indulge in the occasional act of me time, just to remember who I am and what makes me tick outside of being a parent, which at times can feel all consuming. Max if you do read this consider it an open invitation for us to go and walk that famous track together one day, although you may have to carry my pack.
Are you a “me time” believer? What do you do that’s all about you?

As always linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess

The Problem With Gyms

18 Feb

I got sold a gym membership a couple of weeks back by a particularly persistent sales team that could have sold ice to Eskimos, although sadly given the melting of the ice cap that might not be such a hard sell these days, anyway I digress. I got an exercise programme from a man who looked like he had been painstakingly chiselled from granite, his name might have been Adonis; I told him lies about 5 times a week and 90 mins, I nodded my head and pretended that I was listening when he talked me through the intricacies of a Renegade Row super set with Reverse Lunges.

I like going to the gym, actually I prefer just saying it, “just off to the gym darling” makes you sound really fit. Gyms though do seem to bring out the worst in men, not all men, but lots of them. There are behaviours and etiquettes that I find a bit cringe. This evening it took me quite a long time and a lot of squinting to realise that the man engaged in some impressively deep squats in front of me, was in fact wearing skin coloured leggings as opposed to indecently exposing himself in public as I had initially thought.

You have the ones that spend more time pouting in the mirror than actually training. Mirrors should be banned from gyms, yes they help with your ‘squat form’, but most men use them to gauge whether those 10 bench presses have them looking like Ryan Gosling’s long lost twin brother.

Men who would usually avoid getting too close to other men for fear of ‘catching gay’, will gladly dangle their testicles over another man’s head while he lifts the equivalent of a family saloon, I think it’s called ‘spotting’, testicle spotting presumably.

The ones that ogle every passing girl because in their mind hot and sweaty is ‘hot’ and they are at their sweatiest. I will admit to being caught at a recent yoga class looking in the general direction of a girl’s backside but I was genuinely checking out what were quite an impressive pair of asymmetric leggings, that’s all.

Then there are the ones that continuously stroke their ‘guns’ (and their egos) as if concerned that they might fly away if left unattended. Stop touching yourself! Also if you call your arms ‘guns’, your body a ‘rig’ and your penis a ‘weapon’ and you are doing so with a straight face then you are literally talking shite.

The ones that make loud grunting noises and usually catch my eye mid grunt with a facial expression that suggests they could do with some more fibre in their diet. Use those mirrors you so love and if you are pulling a face that in anyway suggests you need to visit a lavatory, stop what you’re doing, pick up some smaller weights and try again.

Finally you have my very least favourite gym men. There is always one man whose favourite way to dry himself is to put one foot up on the bench, place the towel between his legs and then drag the towel back and forwards vigorously as if trying to light a fire with his buttocks and a towel. They often decide that this is also the best time to strike up a conversation about their sales figures – it’s not, clothed is always best for me.

The moment I catch myself indulging in any of these behaviours I will have a good look in the mirror, not the pouty, stroke-y kind and go back to lifting toddlers. Are you a gym lover or do they send a cold shiver down your spine?The PRoblem With Gyms

Jog On – Guest Post

17 Jan

Last week I guest posted for the fantastic Kate over at Kate Says Stuff. We share a love for running and to compliment her #operationMOVE project she asked me to write a post about what it means to me.

Keep going, run through it, don’t stop, you’re almost there”. This may sound like a drill sergeant putting his latest recruits through the ringer but it was in fact my earliest memories of running with my Dad. Like most 10 year old boys I wanted to make my Dad proud and if I could achieve that by accompanying him each week for a 10km run then that is what I would do. Stitches became a familiar companion, ignored and dismissed because the prize was so great. “Well done son that was fantastic”. Come rain or shine, and there was more rain than shine in Northern England, we would be out there pounding the pavements together as father and son.

This was the beginning of a love affair that I still have today. I love the simplicity of running, you put on your runners and go, conditions are irrelevant, equipment is minimal and you don’t need to book a court. I was the original Forrest Gump, if I was going to see friends I would run, I ran to school and I ran home again. I’ve always been a bit of a loner and I suspect the head space you get through running appealed to me. Pain was something that I felt I could beat, I certainly wouldn’t let it stop me. I never ran in my comfort zone, I always wanted to push myself harder and further.
Today I run for many reasons. If I’ve had a shit day I run and my head soon clears. If I feel lethargic I will force myself to run and my day is transformed. I run for a sense of achievement, no matter how big or small the run, it always feels like you’ve achieved something. And then of course there is the shallow truth, I run because I look better stood naked in front of a mirror than if I don’t and you will have to take my word on that.

About 6 years ago I set my sights on a marathon, the Holy Grail for lots of runners. I wanted to run one marathon in my life and I wanted it to be something to remember. I plumped for the Paris marathon because if you are going to go through all that pain you may as well have something nice to look at along the way and afterwards I could gorge on French Pastries. I had a training program and stuck to it religiously, giving up all manner of fun in favour of hours and hours of dedication. I began to feel so fit and strong I felt invincible, I loved that feeling and didn’t want to let go.

A month before the marathon I was out training and began to feel a dull ache on the outside of my left knee, I brushed it off as just another niggle that could be ignored and overcome. But the ache did not go away, it stayed with me and got worse. Nobody could agree on the diagnosis of the injury but all of them agreed that I shouldn’t run in Paris. I was heartbroken, I had given myself over to achieving this goal and it was unceremoniously ripped from me.
I didn’t run for a few months and then tentatively started again, hoping and praying that my knee would have somehow cured itself but the familiar ache returned. I grew frustrated and reluctantly gave up on running. I dabbled with cycling, swimming and boxing but nothing made me feel like running did. Even writing this it’s self evident that I was an addict and like any addict I went through tremendous withdrawal pains.

Today I’ve learnt to work with my injury, whatever it might be. I run for as long as my knee allows me. This is usually about 20 mins and I stick to grass which is less punishing for my knee. I’ve found ways to make those 20 mins more challenging, I add sprints, I use benches along the way as hurdles, I search out hills and I carry weights in a back pack. At some point I will begin to feel the pain and that is my cue to stop and walk home. I could be causing further damage to my knee but it’s a sacrifice I am prepared to take in order to keep doing something I love and perhaps pass on that love to my son.
My advice for anyone out there who wants to experience running is to start small. Tackle distances that you can complete. Allow yourself to experience success. Stick to your targets, it’s so easy for your head to trick you into giving up, say no and keep on running. Go out there with a positive mindset looking forward to the run and that post exercise endorphin rush. Run at a pace that allows you to converse with relative comfort. In those early days just run by yourself, don’t allow your pace and distance to be dictated by others. I used to load my iPod up with lots of podcasts or interviews that interested me, this served as a wonderful distraction from the voice that says “stop you idiot, go home immediately”.

I see other runners out and about and I feel jealous. Every time my wife complains about lacking motivation to run I tell her how lucky she is to have the choice and all but push her out of the door. I would encourage would be runners to change their mindset, don’t see it as a form of punishment you go through in order to achieve something, recognise it as a reward in itself. Your body is capable of incredible things but if your mind won’t allow you to tackle them you will never know how much pleasure they can bring.


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the illiterate infant

An Aussie Daddy blogger that's figured out the kids haven't read the books either

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