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Camp Kids and Five Year Dreams

6 May

We took Max camping for the first time last week. I’d been wanting to do it all summer but kept making excuses not to, I love camping but the prospect of going with a toddler didn’t inspire great confidence in me. Rest is a precious commodity for all parents, would I return feeling rested? Another precious commodity is fresh air and excitement, so we packed our car and set off for Wilsons Promontory. More and more parenting for me is about embracing challenges and not allowing it to dictate the terms and conditions of day to day life.

I have no idea who Wilson is but my gosh he has a spectacular Promontory! I have been before when the weather was a bit average and I could see it’s a place of epic beauty but this particular weekend we were treated to sunshine and blue skies and WP certainly responded well. The Prom juts out the most Southern tip of mainland Australia as if to say “look at me aren’t I pretty”. It’s predominantly bush that is punctuated with white powdery beaches, sweeping granite rock formations and crystal clear water. When we arrived in Melbourne 5 years ago we were practically driven there by every proud Victorian we met.
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On entry we searched for a suitable spot to pitch our tent; we bypassed stoner’s corner, the local footy team tour, the family with 53 children and settled for a suitably peaceful alcove. Mrs Under subscribes to the theory ‘if you want something doing properly do it yourself’ and I’m too lazy to even subscribe to a theory so I took Max down to the beach whilst she tried to make things homely. There are beaches and there are beaches and Max has been to beaches but this was his first beach. What I’m trying to say is that when you compare Melbourne’s busy beaches complete with sunburnt tourists and dubious smelling sea with the pure serenity of the The Prom there really is no comparison they are two different things.

The tide was out and the beach which went on and on was deserted but for father and son. Max froze, I thought he must have hurt his foot but when I went to check his face was lit up with joy, he was just taking a moment to soak it all up. He dropped his bucket and spade and charged down the beach, as much as a toddler can charge. He didn’t really seem to know where he was charging he just liked that he could charge without bumping into someone or something.
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The sight of this confirmed what I want from my life and for Max’s life. When I go to my happy places, my favourite memories, they all take place in the great outdoors and involve adventure and excitement. You don’t get adventure and excitement in the city, well you do, but most of its illegal. I don’t want Max to have an ordinary upbringing I want it to be extraordinary. Above all else it’s important for me to expose Max to what I would call a ‘real childhood’. That means climbing trees, building dens, making bows and arrows and generally being a boy. I hate the idea of wrapping him in cotton wool removing all potential for adventure and yes a little bit of danger.

It seems that everyone has five year plans these days and aspirations for themselves and their families. What I want is to be surrounded by nature in Tasmania. I want Max to wake up each morning excitedly wondering whether any of the chickens have laid. I want to have a large veggie patch and fruit trees that provide for us. I want a tepee at the bottom of a paddock that can house and nurture Max’s burgeoning imagination and Mum and Dad’s occasional soirees. I want a claw foot bath that we can wallow in and gaze up at the stars. I want a comfy chair on a veranda to sit in and quietly observe Max playing with his little brothers and sisters.
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I know that’s a lot of wants and it might sound greedy but that’s my 5 year dream. Do you still dream? What’s yours?

As always linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess

An Insiders Guide to Naturism

11 Apr

It was a stunning beach, the sand was fine and the sun was shining. I did a quick scan and it was completely deserted but for me. I was feeling high on life after an invigorating swim in the transparent ocean. “Go on, do it Rossy! Are you a man or a mouse” The voice, the one that occasionally makes me do naughty things. Normally I reply “mouse” but this time I didn’t. I dropped my shorts and stood there in all my ‘glory’. I reassured myself that the ocean was particularly bracing and that it was normal for it to look like that.

It felt good, it felt amazing, this is it, the new me, the naturist me………………and then I convinced myself that someone in the bushes was watching me and quickly yanked my shorts back on. In my panic I put both feet through the same hole and toppled over. I now had sand in my mouth and an arse that protruded from the sand in a fashion that must have been pretty inviting for the local seagull population to perch on. I vowed to ignore the voice forever.
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This wasn’t my first brush with naturism. Before Mrs Under there was another, never a Mrs but a Miss. Miss invited me to meet her parents, I was always quite good at meeting girlfriends parents, firm handshake and some inappropriate gags for Dad, flowers and my ‘listening face’ for Mum. The evening was going to plan and they were both lapping up the Down Under charm, I excused myself when nature called. I picked up a magazine and flicked through without any great focus. Strange magazine this, as far as I can make out it seems to be photographs of elderly people partaking in volleyball and badminton and if I’m not mistaken that mans shuttle cock is on display. I turned the magazine over and noticed I was reading the Spring Issue of Naturist UK. I was in the home of a naturist couple. Miss’s Mum and Dad like to play volleyball in the buff!

The rest of the evening was spent trying desperately to maintain eye contact with the adventurous couple and trying desperately not to make any unintentional double entendres, did you dress the salad and such like. I explained my nervous disposition to Miss, she was a little embarrassed but fessed up and my naked suspicions were confirmed. Things got serious with Miss. “Would you like to come and stay at our villa in the South of France?” This is a question that usually answers itself but I stalled before stuttering “Will your parents be attending?”

A few weeks later I was sunning myself in a beautiful villa, but as her Dad struts past wearing a flimsy cotton sarong I had the unfamiliar feeling of being on holiday but secretly praying for rain, or thunder, or snow, or preferably all three. Fortunately Mr and Mrs Nude respected my prudish ways and kept their bits and pieces under wraps. The volleyball and shuttle cock remained undisturbed.
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One evening we were invited for dinner with their friends. I had rediscovered my mojo and thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get those last few brownie points I was looking to score. Judging by the scale of the entrance gates and the walled perimeter this was going to be quite some place. And then I saw a placard, two words popped right out and slapped me in the face like a pair of testicles – Nudist Resort. This was no villa this was a nudist resort, A NUDIST RESORT!

I felt faint, my breathing became rapid and shallow, there was a tightness in my chest; basically I was displaying the classics symptoms of an impending heart attack. I made a partial recovery when I was introduced to our fully clothed hosts. “You look a bit on edge young man, would you like a glass of wine”. I knocked it back and went in for a refill and then another. Dinner was served on the balcony overlooking a beautiful garden, you’ve got to hand it to the nudists their lawns and bushes are impeccably landscaped.
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The wine and the ambience, but mostly the wine, had an effect on me and I began to relax. Dinner was a beautiful fish soup and the hosts turned out to be remarkably good company. I was just about to bite into a juicy prawn that I had tipsily de-shelled when I looked up and came face to face with a ripe old couple taking the bins out dressed only in sandals. A conversation about the weather ensued between host and bin pushers, I put the prawn back in the bowl as it didn’t really look very appetising anymore.

Me and Miss didn’t stand the test of time, I want to go on holiday without having nightmares about being attacked by giant prawns or experiencing mild heart attacks. I like my in-laws just the way they are, covered up.

Flogging my blog with one time perm queen Grace at With Some Grace

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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”.
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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.
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Are you a “me time” believer? What do you do that’s all about you?

As always linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess

A Lovely Little Family Break(down)

6 Jan

I love a good holiday, I would go as far as to say that I’m a bastard for a good holiday, if I could turn life into one big holiday, and I am working on it, then I would. The chance to step out of the 9-5 trudge and remember what it’s like to spend an evening in a state of deep relaxation rather than deep panic is pure unadulterated bliss. I am a terrible person to be around in the run up to a holiday, and I have a run up that would put the majority of Australian fast bowlers to shame, I will busily tell anyone and everyone, no matter how disinterested, all of the luxuries and indulgences that I am about to embark upon; “Did I mention there is a roll top bath on the balcony overlooking the bay? No? Well there is – rumour has it the local dolphin pod put on quite a show for your viewing pleasure although I will probably be too far into a state of deep relaxation from the massage that’s duly being administered to even notice the needy little attention seekers”.

This was to be our first holiday of any length with our plus one. After toying with Thailand and musing over Malaysia we decided that packing up our car full of Max’s creature comforts might be the better bet – I fully subscribe to the happy toddler = happy parent school of thought. Saving a bit on flights made it all the easier to justify splurging a little on a stunning property in Wye River on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. I could picture me and The Boy constructing elaborate multi-tiered sand castles, perhaps indulging in a little father/son beach cricket, who knows perhaps he has inherited his Dad’s legendary surfing genes? Of course he would be going to bed for his usual 3 hour Siesta, did someone say G&T’o’clock? And night times would be sure to serve up no little romance between husband and wife. In short this was to be like any other holiday with the addition of sand castles.
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We returned home yesterday after two long weeks, wondering what had just happened to us. I think on Day 4 I was quoted asking “will holidays ever be holidays again?” The problem was, not wanting to put too finer point on it, Max. Try as I may to explain he just couldn’t quite grasp the whole concept of a holiday. He had meticulously planned the onset of his terrible two’s, not such a myth after all, to coincide with my terrific two’s. Of course I can’t lay all the blame squarely at Max’s feet, don’t get me wrong I will try to, but there were some fairly fundamental parenting errors of judgement on our part that led to our lovely little family break, turning into a lovely little family breakdown.
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What sort of buffoons would choose their annual holiday, their one chance of the year to switch off and unwind, to introduce their recently turned 2-year-old toddler to the joys of a “big boys bed” – and that would be us. The big boys bed that lacked the comforting prison cell-like confinement of a cot and became the bain of our fortnight. No sooner had wine been poured and Barry White started to work his magic than we heard the pitter patter of tiny feet, “it’s probably just a koala bear with a thirst for adventure. Hang on a minute that koala bear seems to be staring at us through the crack in the door, the dirty little perv”. Fancy that in a matter of moments Max has put two and two together and worked out that no bars = no boundaries. And so for two weeks the little oasis in our day that was meant to have us gently sighing “aaaaahhh” in fact had us screaming “aaaaahhhh” – the spelling is the same but the feeling is quite far removed. One word, or is it two? PORTACOT!
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I have a soft spot for the Great Ocean Road, I love it in winter when it’s at its powerful most majestic best, I love it in summer when it all but says come and frolic in my soothing waters and get yourself an ice cream for afters you deserve it. I love every little twist in the road and look forward to seeing what subtle nuances the next turn might throw up. The only thing throwing up was my son. Day trips had been meticulously planned with military precision, a waterfall one day, a berry farm the next and lots of excursions to neighbouring bays – gone, literally minutes of planning down the drain. Wye River is a lovely little place but it’s also 30 stomach churning minutes to the next lovely little place. And so for two weeks we rotated between beach and park, not so bad I thought to myself, we can make this work.
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It turns out Max does not care much for the beach, worryingly hysterical near the sea and deeply frustrated by the sand, it did not look too promising. I tried to lure him into life with a multi-tiered sand castle complete with moat, feather flag, stone windows and some abstract seaweed art for the walls but he stroppily trampled on it. I tried the fatherly approach of forcing him against his will into the sea but his force was greater than mine. I encouraged him to throw sand at me in the hope it might flick his seaside switch, but nothing, only a look of shame, pity and embarrassment, with a sprinkling of contempt. So park it was, two weeks, two long weeks at a sub standard park, why would you even bother to build a park with only 2 swings?
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To make matters worse, far, far worse, like really worse, the usually well oiled parenting machine that is Mr and Mrs Under was beginning to feel the strain. I tentatively pointed out he doesn’t usually behave this way when it’s just me, she responded by flashing me a death stare, the kind that ensures that the nest thing to leave your mouth comes in the form of a grovelling apology. She suggested I had been undermining her authority, I suggested she had no authority in the first place, I got a well deserved second serve of the death stare. I can’t be certain but I think I saw Max in the background muttering something about “love it when a plan comes together”. The lion suit did give us a good roar though, sorry, again.
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The little bit of me time that I managed to scavenge was spent thrashing around in the sea looking every inch the blubbery injured seal and convincing myself over and over that the shadow of my board was in fact a 3 metre shark with big, sharp teeth, all the while the infamous Jaws tune providing a chilling backdrop in my own head. All these factors combined with a total lack of actual surfing ability were not conducive to good surfing. I did however get to use words like gnarly and stoked, which is always a pleasure.

I believed I was signing up to the 3 S’s, Sun, Sea and Sand; instead I was dealt Screaming, Stress and Sickness.

Great to be back and sharing as always with essentiallyjess. Happy 2013 everyone.

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