Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas

Apparently it's Christmas Eve.  I know this because I have two kids who are besides themselves with excitement and also there is a smattering of Christmas decorations across Brisbane.  Other than that there is nothing to differentiate today from any other day.  Oh apart from some last minute shopping hysteria after which Big Daddy was forced to knock back a few beers in order to recover!  Christmas in Brisbane takes place at the height of summer and I have to admit to finding this difficult to deal with and there isn't the same buzz here as there is in Ireland.  Christmas Eve in Ireland is a time when everyone is out and about getting last minute bits and pieces.  It's a day where you happily run into old friends and usually go for a few drinks.  Brisbane on Christmas Eve is like a ghost town.

This is my third Christmas in Brisbane and I have to admit to struggling with it and along with that I have been wrestling some vicious homesickness.  It's all very well signing up for the big travel adventure but it comes with some serious pot-holes along the way and Christmas in Australia is one of them for me.

The problem is I have two kids and I'd rather pull Santa's sleigh aound the world by myself than do anything to spoil their Christmas, so going around like an old misery guts is not an option.  Still I have to admit to having being a little down and distracted and I had no idea how I was going to shake this particular funk off.  And then I received a beautiful Christmas present from my daughter.

This is the hand-made wrapping paper it came in:

Handmade christmas wrapping paper featuring a tree, holly and candy cane on a pink background
The Wrapping Paper - Made By Her Own Fair Hands
This is the card that accompanied it:

Picture of two sweet reindeer kissing
Christmas Kisses

And this is the gift:

Picture of Silver snowflake on icy blue background
My Very Own Snowflake
Which was accompanied by this:

The love and devotion with which she put it all together just blew me away and I realised that Christmas is less about location and more about the place you are within yourself.  I'd much rather be in the West of Ireland right now but I'm not, I'm in Brisbane and I intend to be fully present for the festivities - anything less would be letting my little girl and her brother down so I'm going to try and have the best Christmas I can and I hope you do too.
Happy Christmas - The Mad Mammy.

Friday, 19 December 2014


So here we are at that time of year again when Santa's little helpers (also known as mothers) scuttle around doing all the things they usually do and on top of all that try and find the time to plan, organise, shop, decorate and do a million other things to create what is generally known as Christmas. The Mad Mammy was holding her own in the global Christmas chain when a massive pre-Christmas bomb was landed in her lap.  A house move!

"You have gotta be kidding me!" I screeched as I read the notice but unfortunately they weren't and to compound things the kids got their holidays a few days later. Summer holidays take place over Christmas here in Australia so on top of looking for new accommodation I now had two kids to keep happy all day and believe me their idea of fun is NOT mammy on the computer looking for prospective properties or then waiting in 35+ degrees heat for a real estate agent to show so that we can see if said properties are suitable or not.

So to say that the Mad Mammy has been a little distracted since my last post is something  of an understatement.  In an effort to take a break and give the kids a much needed run-around we all headed out to Wynnum Kids' Water Park a few days ago.

Photo of whale in a water park with spray
Wynnum Water Park

The day was hot and La-la and The Dude had great fun cooling off in the water park and with the aid of their new water pistols.  I took a long walk along the promenade with Miss Billie and by the time we were headed home my head was feeling a little straighter.  Which is just as well.

We were half-way home when I had to stop at a traffic lights.  The road was quiet and the kids asked if they could put their windows down.  They had been having a great game of spys and secret agents so I said sure, no problem but no spraying water out of the windows with the water pistols.  The Dude proceeded to line up a few targets and pretend shoot them.  I have to admit, the closer I was getting back to base, the more my head was becoming crowded again with my endless to do lists.  I was just mentally adding another few items to list number three when I heard a strange voice snarl, "hey watch what you're doing."  I looked back and through the Dude's open window I could see an older couple sitting in a  car.  The man was at the wheel and he was scowling at the Dude and now at me.
"He just sprayed water in my face," he protested, with an aggressive jut of his head in the Dude's direction.  It was obvious he expected me to tear seven kinds of strips off the Dude.  There is a significant proportion of the Australian populace who believe that children and boys in particular are nothing better than unruly brats that need "sorting out".  It was obvious the Aussie version of Victor Meldrew currently scowling at me was a subscriber to this belief.

Photo of character known as Victor Meldrew in grey cap and black coat
Victor Meldrew - The Poster Boy For Cranky Old Men

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback. The Dude is a lot of things and can send me to the edge of demented with some of his antics but once he is told he can't do something, like spray water from his water pistol out a car window, he won't do it and he most certainly wouldn't spray a random stranger in the face like this guy was trying to make out that he did!  I was at a bit of a loss but I may have mentioned the thousand and one things running around my head, so without thinking I immediately apologised to Mr. Angry Pants. I was about to launch into a mega telling-off of the Dude when something caused me to pause.  A teeny weeny voice of reason managed to squeeze through all the crap in my head and tell me that something was off.  And then I looked at my little boy's face and I saw all I needed to see - shock, fear and most terribly of all shame.  I had already started with the telling-off but I stopped.  I could see him retreating into himself.  Tears shone at the sides of his eyes and I suddenly realised what had happened.  The Dude had been happily pretend shooting the imaginary bad guys when, in his excitement, he had accidentally pressed the water pistol's trigger, resulting in a small spray of water that Mr. Angry Pants had then driven into.
"A accident," was all he could choke out in his defence.  I halted the telling off and told him I understood what had happened but that he needed to put the window up now.  The traffic lights changed and Mr. Angry Pants scowled past us, which is just as well because at this stage Bid Daddy had lowered his window and was brandishing the water pistol.

photo of blue, orange and green water pistol
The Offending Water Pistol

I drove on, grateful for the tiny voice of reason that had managed to push it's way through all the other noise in my head.  I've been thinking about this incident a lot and I've come to realise it's when we are totally spinning out of control that we most need to press pause, take some time out and re-calibrate.  So this is my advice to all of Santa's little helpers out there - in amongst all the planning, organising, shopping, list-making, decorating, cooking, cleaning etc take some time out, calm down and re-set the internal emotional landscape.  I'm willing to bet it will make for a much happier Christmas for everybody and most importantly Santa's exhausted helpers.

Friday, 28 November 2014

What Happens When God And Mother Nature Mix It Up

One of the main worries I had when I finally got around to setting up this blog was if I would ever find the time to write it!  You may not have realised it but I'm aiming to publish a post every Friday and this realisation may have escaped you because I think, so far, I have only managed two Friday posts.  Many, many, many things get in the way of my writing a post and I won't bore you with the details suffice to say that it is mostly "mammy stuff".

Now one of the things I hadn't featured in hampering my plans for world blog domination was God.  I have often wondered as to his actual existence or at the very least if he has a hearing problem but in general I'm happy to accept he's out there somewhere and, wisely, staying out of my way.  So, this week I managed to jump all the "mammy stuff" hurdles - including my mobile phone dying and  a spat with our real estate agent and it was looking good for a much anticipated Friday post.  And then God got involved and sent this doozy.

Gigantic storm cloud in shape of a jellyfish
The Beast!

It would seem, however, that God didn't cook this baby up all by himself but also had the help of mother nature.  At least that's my explanation for the fact that two storm cells came together and formed The Beast - A Supercell Thunderstorm.  It hit Brisbane late Thursday afternoon just as I was about to sit down and write a post.  One minute I was out the back of the house in blazing sunshine and sweating my tooshie off and the next I was looking out my front door, with my jaw on the floor.  "Oh dear," I whispered as I stared at the sky with cold blasts of air rushing over me, "what's this?"
Within seconds, a strange cracking sound started, then a blast of thunder exploded over the house. The sky was totally dark by now and it was as if night had descended but not for long as streaks of lightning lit up the sky.  And then they came - golf ball sized hail stones fell out of the sky and pummelled everything around them.  The noise was deafening.

Now, it should be said I'm from an island on the west coast of Ireland and am no stranger to the fury of mother nature.  Storms on Achill are brutal and fierce and I've experienced some of the worst. However, in all my days, I have never seen hail stones the size of golf balls!  And we were lucky, as the storm intensified, hail the size of tennis balls fell in other parts of the city and how it fell!

supersized hail in palm of hand
Golf  Ball Sized Hail

It rained down mercilessly, like God was emptying his Eski (local slang for cooler box.)

A pile of giant-sized hail in post storm Brisbane
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Nothing was safe and the damage has been extensive.

black post-storm damaged car
Post-storm Car

Cars, in particular were badly damaged.

photo of back window all smashed in beige coloured saloon car and dents from hail damage to the body of the car
Smashed and Dented

Many houses had their windows smashed and the office blocks of the CBD (Central Business District) also suffered.

damaged office block building in brisbane CBD after storm
Beat Up Office Building

Many people took shelter in the CBD only to find themselves being showered by hailstones and glass!

At about 5pm this is how Brisbane CBD looked.
Apocalyptic looking storm over Brisbane CBD
The Beast Comes To Town!

Now if that's not apocalyptic looking, then I don't know what is!

As the hail abated the wind intensified and ripped through the city tearing up trees and taking roofs with it as it went.

Photo of apartment with its roof ripped off by the storm
Bye Bye Roof

Photo of  Ute crushed by Tree
Bye Bye Ute

Back in our part of town the hail had thankfully turned to rain and it was sheeting down.  Things were starting to look a little more like a "normal" storm.  Of course, power outtages and internet blackouts followed and so yours truly had to abandon all plans for posting on a Friday - again!
However, having seen all the post-storm damage I'm incredibly grateful that we came out of it totally unscathed and that nobody was killed.  And of course it provided me with  material for a great post! Ah the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Eye-like storm cloud in background, houses in the forefront
I've Got You In My Sights - Brisbane In The Eye Of The Storm

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Life - It's a Funny Old Game

Over the years my Dad has regaled us all with stories of when he was a young boy growing up in Ireland.  He was born and reared on Achill Island in Mayo, one of the most beautiful places on this planet but a harsh place to grow up in the Ireland of the 1950s.  His stories vary from fishing expeditions, shooting rabbits and chasing sheep to days and nights spent out on the mountains caring for cattle.  There is, however, one common feature to all of his stories - they all have the same ending that goes like this: "and we did all that and no shoes on our feet."  It's become quite a catchphrase in our family.  Of course, we can have a laugh and a giggle about it safe in the life that my parents provided for us where we didn't have  to contemplate a life without shoes.  However, as much as I might smile to myself when I recall some of my Dad's stories, I'm still very grateful and happy that I never had to go barefoot.  It's with some irony then that I watch my children happily wandering the local streets and parks in Brisbane with no shoes on their feet!  By choice!

photo of bogs in the foreground and slievemore mountain in the background
Slievemore on Achill Island

Now, Australia is home to the flip-flop or thong as it is known over here.  So it's not as if my children have to contort themselves into boots or spend precious minutes lacing up shoes.  Oh no, all they have to do is slide their toes between a piece of rubber or plastic and they're off.

australian flag flip-flops or things
Aussie Thongs

But why bother doing that when you can just go barefoot eh?  And it's not just my kids, it's all of them!  I don't mind my kids running around barefoot at the park but I usually put my foot (with some form of footwear on it!) down when it comes to walking along the streets with no shoes on. However, on Friday La-la insisted her feet were cooking inside her sandals and begged to be allowed to walk home from school barefoot.  It had been a long week and admittedly it was boiling so, figuring this wasn't a battle I needed to have as I dreamed of reaching the shelter of the air-con,  I acquiesced. And so it came to pass that the daughter of the man who wandered through his childhood with no shoes on his feet, came to watch her daughter walk along the road home with no shoes on hers.  Life - it's a funny old game.

black and white photo of child walking barefoot
La-la - Barefoot & Blissful

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Brisbane G20 - Welcome To The "Hippest City" In Australia

So it's all eyes on Brisbane this weekend as the leaders of the world's twenty most powerful nations descend on the city for their annual pow-wow.  Coming along with them are all the admin, support and security staff and of course no international backscratching event would be complete without the accompanying posse of media.

It's estimated that Brisbane can expect an influx of approximately 10,000 visitors over the next few days.  So, what will they find when they get here?  Lonely Planet recently named Brisbane "the hippest city" in Australia - no mean accolade.  Having lived here for the past two and a half years, I have to say I agree with them.  Brisbane is one cool town.  G20 attendees will find streets with jacaranda and bougainvillea in full bloom.  Having a sub-tropical climate the city is known for its al-fresco dining and it's pretty unbeatable when this takes place along the river such as at the Eagle Street precinct.  When it comes to after-hours entertainment much of the action is to be found in The Valley - home to some pretty cool bars and music venues.

mural on building housing 4ZZZ radio the valley brisbane
Mural In The Valley

The Brisbane river is the life-blood of the city and affords the visitor one of the most effective and fabulous ways to see Brisbane and to connect up with its many diverse neighbourhoods.  One of my favourite things to do is hop on the Citycat (the highspeed catamarans that go up and down the river day and night) and let the wind tug at my face as we zip from stop to stop, looking at all the amazing riverside properties. 

picture of blue yellow and white citycat ferry on brisbane river
                                     The Citycat - Brisbane's Premier Mode of Transport
One of my favourite places to head to on the Citycat is the Southbank area with its city beaches.  Yes you read that correctly - beaches in the middle of the city.  Originally developed as part of  Expo '88 the area has since been re-developed and improved and provides an amazing place to meet, chill and relax in the heart of the city.

shot of beach at southbank brisbane
Southbank and Its Beaches

With Temperatures set to soar to 40+ degrees over the weekend - that's 105 Fahrenheit! - I'd be willing to bet you might find a few delegates cooling off at Street's Beach.  This is one of the things I'm not crazy about Brisbane - the extreme temperatures in summer.  Last summer saw some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in Australia and it looks like this year isn't going to be any different. 

If there is one things the G20 delegates won't find in Brisbane this weekend however, it's a Brisbanite.  The past few months have seen a heavy emphasis on security and traffic restrictions with road closures.  The city centre is on lock-down and the locals have been given the distinct impression to stay outta town! 

Picture of police on streets in Brisbane
6000 Police on Brisbane Streets This Weekend

We even have the day off!  Which means only one thing to a Brisbanite - the chance to get to their beloved beaches on either the Sunshine or the Gold Coasts - which offer an embarrassment of riches when it comes to golden sands.  All roads led out of Brisbane last night and this morning.

The Bruce Highway - Chocca!

And they were chocca - as my Aussie friends would say.  Brisbane city centre is effectively a ghost town.  Realising they may have gone overboard and empty streets aren't exactly the image they want to portray, city officials have recently announced the availability of 1000 free car parking spaces over the weekend.  In a city where it costs $30 per hour for parking - this is rather generous of them. 

That's one thing all the delegates will find in Brisbane - shocking prices for food, drink and taxis.  Then again hip and cool was never cheap.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Deja Vu

Okay, I know I'm Irish and in Ireland we tend not to call on each other before ten o'clock in the morning.  We like to give ourselves the chance to have breakfast, a cup of coffee or two and shake the cobwebs off before attempting any sort of meaningful interaction with each other.  So instead of looking like this

Young female executive asleep on laptop with coffee in hand
She Should Have Drank The Coffee

We look like this.

Healthy woman jumping ion the air for joy full of energy
Now, She Had Her Coffee!

I've been in Queensland for two and a half years now and  I know things operate a little differently here.  The birds start singing - you get up.  People make arrangements for lunch at 11am!  Which of course in the rest of the world is morning coffee time!  It's okay, I get it, the sun is blistering through the curtains anyway and who can sleep through that.  I've even embraced this local approach and am often sitting at my computer at 6:00 am - by the latest. 

Magpie in flight
One Of The Local Alarm Clocks

As avid readers of this blog will be aware I'm prone to flitting around the house at the weekends in my nightie and got caught rotten last week when I had to answer the door in my rinky-dinky slinky number.  Looking something like this.

Rihanna happily walking down the street in her nightgown
If It's Ok For Rihanna....

To be fair, it was well past lunchtime - in any part of the world - when I had to answer the door to my unexpected caller, so it served me right.  Taking in to account the early rising nature of the Queensland populace, my new policy is to aim to be dressed (fully!) on weekends by about 9:30am.  So I'm still keeping it a little on the Irish side but you know, I'm prepared to make concessions.  And so it came to pass, this morning, that I heard the birdies singing, got up, threw on a dressing gown, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the computer.  An hour and a half passed and I was joined by the kiddies.  They became one with the T.V. and I decided to grab another precious hour to work.  It's still only 7:30am, so I figure I'm safe enough staying in the dressing gown.  I'd just settled back into my chair, when I heard it - that ominous sound - the knock on the door!
This is pretty much how I looked at this stage.

As a sense of deja vu crept over me, I couldn't believe that only a week later the same thing was happening AGAIN!  At least this time I wasn't in my sexy seductress garb.  However, I have to tell you - the dressing gown isn't one of those, button down, neck to  floor numbers you might find your granny swanning around in.  Oh no.  It's a kimono style affair, in a waffle-type material.  The type of dressing gown you wear in a high-end spa, the edges of which are barely held together by a belt.  And with my curves...... well you get the picture.

I sat there hoping I'd mis-heard.  The neighbor was up, doing some gardening, maybe he was banging on something, I told myself.   And then it came again, that unmistakable sound (and one I'm starting to have an adverse reaction to) of a human being's fist connecting with a door.  I tugged at the edges of the dressing gown, put my, "it's no big deal" face on and opened the door.  Yet again - and I know some of you will think I'm making this up - a workman stood in front of me, telling me he was here about trimming the bushes!   Seriously people - I couldn't make this stuff up! 

As is customary now, I invited him in so that he could go out on the back deck and eye up the bushes.  I swear, I'll hack them down myself at this rate.  I moved in such a way as to apply minimal disturbance to the edges of the dressing-gown.  That is to say, I tried to walk without moving!  Not easy but I believe I pulled it off as much as any human being is ever going to pull that particular feat off.  Shane eyed me up - but I'm not sure if this was due to flashes of flesh or my strange motion or the fact that he just realized I was in my dressing-gown at 7:30 in the morning - a true shocker for a baked-in-the-early-morning-sun Queenslander.

I'm sure the word must be getting out now amongst the working men of Brisbane, so I'm afraid I've had to review my policy.  I'm taking no chances and so if you come calling by, don't be surprised if you find me looking like this.

A nun with hands clasped in prayer

:-) The Mad Mammy

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Trick or Treat - That's Me.

One of the great things about being home in Ireland was a chance to visit the lingerie and nightwear department of Marks & Spencer's.  The Mad Mammy is now fully stocked up on bras and bloomers for another while.  Whilst I was there, I also availed of some new nighties and even treated myself to a pretty, slinky, satin number.  It basically looks something like this:

Nightdress black satin

However, my nightdress has a pattern on it.  Please note the use of the word "nightdress". 

Now since I returned to Australia the weather has warmed up and I enjoy nothing more on a Saturday morning than flitting around the house in my nightdress, which helps me to achieve two things:

1.  It's so light, it keeps me cool.
2.  It's so gorgeous and slinky, it makes me feel like a glammy mammy.

To be honest, I like feeling cool and glammy so much that I have to confess to sometimes wearing the much loved nightdress well beyond breakfast time.  And it just so happened yesterday was one of those days......

So I'm sitting at my desk, happily checking something on my computer when I catch a flash of something outside the window.  It looks like someone is coming to the front door.  Now the kids are in front of the T.V. and Big Daddy is out on the back deck.  None of them hear the knock on the door.  But I do.....  However, I'm in my nightdress.  My slinky, satin nightdress that looks perfect for a dirty weekend away - not answering the door to strangers, possibly even the neighbours!

Another knock comes on the door, louder this time.  "Crap," I think to myself, "this person really wants something" and the crazy thought goes through my head that maybe it's a court summons for something and do I really want to receive a summons dressed like a post-Christian Grey, Ana Steele?


The answer is no!  So I dash into the downstairs bathroom and hope the mysterious caller will go away.  Then he knocks again - much louder this time.  Now for those of you who don't live in sub-tropical Queensland, one of the ways we deal with the heat here is to have as many windows and doors open as possible.  Of course this poses a security risk, so the doors in particular have what is like a second door - it's basically a screen with a metal frame incorporated into it that looks like this:

You may notice that you can see right through it!  So, there I was in the bathroom,  with the option of going back into my office where my unwanted caller could look through the window and see me and wonder why the hell I wasn't answering the door or I could make a dash for the back deck also giving the unwanted caller the chance to see me and wonder what sort of weirdo was living here.   I stayed put, hoping he would either get fed up and go away or one of my audibly challenged family members would finally hear his knocks.

Janet Leigh in shower from Psycho
Things Were Starting To Look Like This
No such luck.  He knocked again and this time there was a certain insistence to it.  Fiddlesticks.  What to do?  I looked down at my nightdress and this is where I decided that it didn't look all that different from an actual dress. I reasoned with myself that the pattern gave it a "dressy" kinda look, as in daydressy.  And the fact that my frilly black bra was visible from underneath the "dress" wasn't an issue at all.  Spaghetti straps and sundresses mean you see bras all the time in Queensland. "So," I chided myself, "stop acting like a ninny and just answer the bloody door."

To be fair to the man, he didn't bat an eyelid at first but I think that's because it may have taken him a few seconds to fully appreciate the sight before him.  I should probably mention at this stage that I'm somewhat on the curvy side, you could even go so far as to say extra-voluptuous. He explained he was here about trimming the bushes (don't even go there!) in the back garden.  So, I invited him in and it was at this point he hesitated......  His eyes shot to the floor and it occurred to me he might be wondering if he had a sex maniac on his hands who loved nothing more than when unsuspecting workmen turn up at the door. 
"Er, you can talk to my husband about it," I stuttered.

He let out a sigh of relief and came in.  It was only after he left I realized he had studiously avoided eye contact with me the whole time he was here.  After his departure, Big Daddy suggested I might want to slip into something a little less comfortable.  I looked at him.  "This does look like a dress right?" I hopefully enquired.  The snort was all the answer I needed.

Sorry Mr. Bushman - I'm not sure if the sight of me in my "dress" was your idea of a nasty trick or a bit of a treat.  I hope I'm not running around in my bikini when you call again. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Homecoming - Part Three

The sun shone and the country wore her finest colours for the duration of our stay in Ireland.  We feasted on Taytos, black pudding, freshly laid eggs, soda bread, smoked salmon, chowder, boxty, fresh from the earth potatoes, unbeatable Irish sausages, homegrown beef, organic pork, just out of the oven scones and Grandma's apple pies. 

Picture of Tayto crisps from Ireland
The Best Crisps In The World!
Sausages beans black pudding mushrooms fried potatoes bacon and fried potato on plate
Breakfast Is Served - Irish Style
Freshly dug new potatoes on red and white check tablecloth
New Potatoes - Fresh From Mother Nature

Photo of perfectly baked golden brown fruit scones
Baking Perfection - Grandma's Scones

We stayed with old friends and even made new ones.....

Picture of kune-kune pig
My New BFF - The One & Only Blossom!

photo of lamb being given a bottle by young girl
Charley The Lamb & Lala

Picture of wary looking black cat

We felt the warm sand between our toes and the icy Atlantic chill in our bones.  We had impromptu barbeques and toasted marshmallows.  We built sandcastles and created stone sculptures.  We rock-hopped and paddled.  We planted flowers with Grandad.  We flew kites and kicked balls.  We stuck our heads out the car windows feeling the wild caress of the warm summer air across our faces.

a young girl and young boy walking on keel beach with th minaun cliffs in the backgound
Toes In The Sand On Keel Beach

young girl running throguh the water on a beautiful summer's day at Keel Beach, Achill Island
Water Between The Toes - Keel Beach

young girl toasting marshmallows over log fire
Toasting Marshmallows

young girl making stone sculptures on Keel Beach
The Three Amigos Stone Sculptures

A young girl and boy jumping from rock to rock on beautiful beach

Young boy planting yellow flowers in soil
Grandad's Little Helper

young boy in Ireland kit kicking Ireland ball on beautiful green lawn, blue sky in the background with candyfloss clouds

young boy in car feeling the rush of the wind across his face as he sticks his head out the window

We came across some pretty heavy traffic.....

sheep on road, sunny day, blue sky, wispy clouds
Traffic - Island Style

We warmed our bones in the evenings in front of turf fires, as the sun set the sky ablaze with magnificent sunsets.  We woke to gentle birdsong in the morning and the freshness of the morning dew.  We spent our days in the easy company of old friends and family.  Some days it was easy to imagine I was back for good but all too soon the sun went down on our last day, my father stood before me unable to hold back his tears and it was time to leave.  The word "goodbye" isn't allowed in my parents' house.  They come from a generation where goodbyes were very often final and my father in particular watched as his brothers and sisters settled in far-flung places, seeing them only fleetingly for the rest of his life-time.  I hugged him and sent up a silent prayer that he and my mother would be okay until I managed to scramble the cash together to come home again.  And this is the big bogey about living in Australia - it's one damned expensive country to get out of!  I'm going to need about twelve thousand dollars just for the airfares alone for me and the kids.  Throw in the hire-car and living costs and you are looking at fifteen thousand dollars and then some.  I don't know about you but it's not exactly what I'd call spare change. 

The word Ireland on back of soccer jersey
Ireland - Time To Leave

The morning of our flights, deep dark clouds gathered over Dublin and I had to smile as La-la and the Dude mused as to whether or not it would rain.  Big fat drops started to fall as we taxied down the runway, matching my mood perfectly.  Sixteen and a half hours later, after a brief stopover in Dubai, we landed in Singapore and were greeted by medical personnel and police.  An announcement had been made on the plane that it was just a precaution regarding some sort of flu outbreak but the looks on the faces of the police said otherwise.  There was no doubt if you so much as presented with a sniffle, you were going to find yourself in an isolation ward pretty sharpish.  No sooner were we deemed healthy enough to pass when the Dude announced he needed the toilet.  Now this is the moment when the logistics of a parent travelling with two children on her / his own and the multitude of hand luggage becomes a logistical nightmare.  Having located the toilets and having dealt with the Dude's objections about not wanting to go into the "giiiiiirrrrllls" toilet, we finally entered the multi-cubicle room only to discover there was no family cubicle.  It quickly became clear that I was going to have to leave La-la standing on her own with ALL the hand luggage whilst I helped the Dude.  In this day and age I don't think it's such a smart idea to leave an eight year old in charge of all the luggage.  We'd already had an incident in Dublin over a toy gun the Dude had smuggled into his bag!  I didn't fancy someone "dropping" something into our luggage when I wasn't looking (I'm ALWAYS looking!)  Now you can call me paranoid all you like but I'd rather be paranoid and free than rotting in a hell-hole somewhere, protesting my innocence.  So I about-turned and headed for the disabled toilet I'd seen on our way in.  And that's when things got interesting.....

At this point the Dude was doing his, "I'm about to burst" shuffle.  So before the door was even closed I told him to "just pee!"  The door, which seemed to be moving in slow motion, finally slid shut - after a helping shove from yours truly.  Believing my privacy was assured, I decided to avail of the facilities myself.  So, I took up residence on the throne.  Someone on the other side tried the door and I spotted a "push to lock door" button beside me, so, wishing to pee in peace, I pressed it.  And as soon as I did, the door started to slowly but surely OPEN!  I now know that it obviously meant "push to operate door" but that wasn't much good to me as I watched my own personal window to the world gradually opening and revealing my compromised position.  La-la was the first to spot what was happening and made a panicked dash for the door, frantically trying to push it in the opposite direction.  The Dude just stood there - horrified.  And I sat there as second by inexorable second another face was revealed.  It was obviously "toilet rush-hour" in Singapore because I have never seen so many people waiting to use a toilet.  I think I counted ten in all - mostly Asian.  Now for those of you who haven't lived in an Asian country, let me tell you that "loss of face" is a major concern.  And this term is applicable in many situations but mostly applies when you compromise yourself - as in losing your temper in public or offend another, for example refusing food that has been specially prepared in your honour.  Revealing yourself, whilst sitting on the toilet, with your trousers around your ankles and your Nora Batty's (support tights) around your knees - well that goes way, way beyond losing face.  I had nothing left.  My audience were in such shock they didn't even have the presence of mind to look away.  Mercifully, I had realized at this point that the blasted button obviously operated the door and punched it as hard as I could.  Slowly - oh ever so slowly - the door started to close.  Ten horrified faces later I breathed a sigh of relief.  La-la sank to the floor and the Dude announced, "I'm not going out there!"  I have to admit, I was in no rush either.  Funnily enough when we eventually emerged, only an annoyed cleaning lady stood there.

Nora Batty in curlers and support stockings
Nora And Her Lovely Leg-wear

Thankfully the rest of our journey was uneventful and eight hours later we landed in Brisbane.  Our perfect holiday was over.  Hell-week - that's jet-lag by three for me - was ahead of me and I still don't know when I'll be home again. 

Sunset behind mountain
The Last Sunset