Response to a Critic

Recently I was subjected to some rather nasty comments from an anonymous detractor. Whilst this has not been an unusual occurrence over the last eighteen months, the abuse was aimed at my iDad and Pine Gap stories – not at me personally. I’ve got a pretty thick skin (head too according to some) when it comes to insults about my appearance, intelligence or behaviour. However, targeting poor defenceless iDad and the good Colonel Drax, was a little harsh.

My policy of not posting bad language on my site meant that you guys were spared this individual’s ridiculous diatribe. However, the gist of his / her comments were along the lines of my stories being ‘shite’ and that I should give up writing.

“After all,” it said. “You can’t polish a turd.”

Well my cowardly critic, have I got news for you 😉

iDad the Eighth

Move over Maradona.

By the time I had become a proud father of five I was nearing my late thirties. Unfortunately I had gained weight with each and every child that came along and my physique was no longer the bronzed Adonis of my early adolescence. My body had matured, like a fine wine or mouldy cheese and had slowed down to the speed of a turtle wading through treacle. I was in shape though. ‘Round’ is a shape after all. However, at the insistence of my partner, I returned to the sporting arena.

Standing in the Colosseum as rambunctious Romans bayed for Christian blood, shortly before the lions were let loose, was an exhilarating experience.  A crisp breeze dispersing the scent of blood before fear and defiance set in. At least that’s how I imagined it. The indoor soccer grounds at the local gym smelled more like old sweat and dirty socks, and the kids had come along to laugh at poor iDad as he waddled around breathlessly trying to compete with men not much more than half his age.

I lasted twenty minutes that first day.

As I stopped and spun anti-clockwise so as to kick the ball back into the field of play I heard a muffled gunshot. A millisecond later and my left knee could no longer bear my weight. The referee’s whistle blew and the young official approached me.

“Are you ok mate?”

I had no idea. Pain hadn’t set in yet. Nausea on the other hand…. Something was wrong.

“I don’t know. What happened?”

“Your knee popped. I heard it from over there. You need to go put ice on it.”

As I hobbled off the pitch for my ignominious exit I saw the man from the food shop walk round from behind the counter. He was carrying a bag of frozen peas, which he threw towards me.

“Get this on your knee quick smart mate or it will blow up like a balloon.”

“Did you hear it pop too?”

He grimaced at me before replying.

“Everybody heard that mate.”

He was right. The entire gymnasium had gone silent, and I was off to hospital.

Glory, Glory to South Sydney

Being an armchair athlete and the son of a Rugby League referee helped instill a passion for sports, and my favourite team is the South Sydney Rabbitohs. To date I have never seen them play in a grand final, let alone win one, but with Russell Crowe on board as the owner, iDad is quietly confident.

Rugby League is the dominant winter sport played across the eastern seaboard of Australia with the local competition boasting clubs from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand. It is played in over thirty nations throughout the globe with annual Test Matches between international sides and a Rugby League World Cup competition, with fourteen representative nations, held every four years or so.

It is a full contact, tribal game with some teams (and their fans) harboring grudges that go back over one hundred years. The annual State of Origin series pits New South Welshmen against their Queensland rivals, many of whom play in the same local sides together. Friendships are forgotten once the athletes walk out into the cauldron and the punishment these men put their bodies through needs to be seen to be believed.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are the most historically successful Rugby League team of them all. Unfortunately our glory has been few and far between in recent decades and it has become a sad reality that our supporters seem to have a mortgage on disappointment. This is reflected in our club mottos including:

The very popular, ‘oh well, there’s always next week.’

The seasonal, ‘oh well, there’s always next year.’

And the most frequently used of them all – ‘bugger’.

The love we have for our team can never be questioned though and in the year 2000, a crowd of 80,000 people marched on Sydney Town Hall to protest the way News Limited were treating the game and to demand that our club be reinstated back into the national competition. No. 1 was there with me. God Sakes and Granny had stayed at home. Fans wearing club colours from new teams, old teams and extinct teams vented their frustrations to the media; and the Rabbitohs went to court with a fire in their belly. We have not enjoyed much success since winning our case and resuming our playing status in 2002, but a true supporter never gives up.

One day, after a particularly bad beating at the hands of the New Zealand Warriors, three sad little boys came to have a chat to me. No.1 was the spokesman,

“Dad, we love you.”

I could tell right away that this was not going to go anywhere good. God Sakes and Granny looked at their shoes as No.1 continued.

“But do we have to keep going for Souths?”

iDad was speechless.

“They never win dad.”

God Sakes was right.

“They suck dad.”

Granny was too. I nodded sagely.

“No boys, you don’t have to keep following Souths if you don’t want to.”

It hurt for me to say it, but I felt I had no choice. Then they delivered the coup de grace.

“We’re also going to start going for Queensland in the State of Origin. New South Wales never wins that either.”

As the terrible trio toddled off to cause chaos in the rumpus room I slumped back into my armchair and watched wistfully as another Warrior was congratulated for his part in decimating our once beloved red and green footy team. My knee throbbed from the recent reconstruction and I wondered how I would tell their grandfather of the betrayal.

Then a cunning plan formed in the grey matter of my cerebellum. Time for a Chinese meal.

Power to the People.

Stuff of legend...John Sattler, suffering a broken jaw, is chaired off by Bob McCarthy after Souths beat Manly in the 1970 grand final. Source: The Daily Telegraph

The South Sydney Rugby League Club in Redfern had arguably one of the best Chinese restaurants around. Nothing flash or fancy, just plenty of prawn cutlets, gow gee and fried rice. It was inexpensive, tasty and kid-friendly, which made it the perfect ‘westwomp’ as the boys had come to call it. Generally we would go as a family unit with uncles, aunties, cousins and grand-parents. Our table was large and round, and the Lazy Susan was kept incredibly busy.

Outside the restaurant, but still within the building, was the South Sydney Football Club Hall of Fame where photos of players that had gone on to represent their state or country, were hung with pride. The most memorable of all was the picture of John Sattler, South Sydney’s captain in the late sixties and early seventies, being carried off the field after wining the 1970 Grand Final against Manly-Warringah. Blood coursed down his chin from a badly broken jaw he received in the opening minutes of the game. In spite of his horrendous injury he not only played on, but captained his side to one of the most courageous Grand Final wins of all time. As I told the story to my boys their eyes widened.

“Souffs are cooool!”

Once again Granny was right.

One Little Girl hadn’t arrived yet and Mini Me was still bottle fed, so it was just the five us at the table this night. The staff were amazing in spite of the mess Granny made with the ‘chomp-stinks’. God Sakes had given up on them ages ago. He just couldn’t stuff the food in quick enough.

By the time dinner had ended there was a fine layer of rice coating the carpet like sago snow and no more talk about supporting rival teams. To this day my boys are all still members of the football club, waiting patiently for success.

As my boisterous boys embarked on another brouhaha in the brasserie, possibly high on monosodium glutamate, I noticed that there was a minor commotion in the kitchen. Curious onlookers peered from the double doorway as the head-waiter approached me with a purpose.

“Are these all your children?”

For one horrible second I thought we may have finally outstayed our welcome.

“Yes, they’re all mine.”

He turned to the scullery and nodded prompting ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and eyes widened with awe. Then I was posed another question.

“They are all boys?”

“Yes they are.”

More vigorous head bobbing evoked a round of applause from the chef and his crew.

“You must be a very powerful man.”

With that last comment he left to process my credit card. He was right you know, but he still got a big tip.

iDad 007 – Mini Me Meets One Little Girl

Mini Me

I have mentioned previously about God Sakes love for all things miniature and his unfortunate inclination to eat said tiny toys. Well Granny also had a predilection for the pint sized. To him, every itty-bitty item was somebody’s baby and, like his brothers before him, his favourite were prehistoric monsters. Plastic dinosaurs (or dinoos as they had been so named by the terrible trio) were everywhere and even though the Brontosaurus was occasionally seen grazing on the T-Rex, and Stegosaurus could sometimes fly, Granny loved them.

It was a cute obsession from our chubby-cheeked cherub that frequently drew a chuckle from family and passersby, until the unfortunate incident at the fancy pizza parlour. Someone had ordered a Mediterranean pizza that was topped with scallops, mussels, prawns and barbeque octopus. It smelled fantastic but was destined never to be eaten, for as it was placed on the red and white checked stereotypical table cloth, Granny’s inner demon let fly with a blood-curdling,

“WHO KILLED ALL THE BABIES?”

The sight of baked hoods and charred tentacles were too much for Granny to bear and I was forced to take him for ice cream to calm him down. Apparently the pizza was really nice. I guess I’ll never know.

Later that year Granny got his own baby to care for when the stork dropped our fourth son down the chimney. With dark curly hair, large brown eyes and a big beautiful smile, number four quickly became known as Mini Me and has lived up to the title ever since.

The Lego Revelation.

The arrival of Mini Me had necessitated a move to a larger house, the purchase of a bigger car and a mortgage akin to the national debt. Six people just do not fit in a Camry no matter how hard you try and although iDad had considered using the boot space (especially for those long holiday miles) the need to keep my license always outweighed the temptation.

Our children were very happy though, in spite of my threats to shove them into the luggage pod on the roof if they didn’t keep their hands to themselves. In the morning they would race me to the front door as I left for work. Breakfast covered fingers smeared my suit with love and Weetbix as I staggered up the hallway and extricated myself from the apartment. Their enthusiasm was no less exuberant when I returned home, only this time it was tomato sauce and fish fingers that coated my clothing. The local dry-cleaners still send me Christmas cards as a thank-you for helping to put their kids through University.

A house full of cubs tends to lead to a floor covering of pre-school detritus and the most prevalent mess at our place was Lego. Colourful bricks, wheels, critters and people littered our lounge room, bedroom, hallway and every other place there should have been carpet or ceramic tiles. It clogged the vacuum cleaner, disappeared under the refrigerator, went through the washing machine and often found itself within the blades of my lawn mower. The kids loved getting it all out, iDad hated putting it all away.

Unfortunately Mini Me had developed a medical problem that caused him pain whenever he went wee-wees so, after a few months of almost zero sleep, his parents were not much better than zombies. Oh sure we avoided nibbling on our neighbours brains, and our hygiene was more than acceptable, but the shuffling shadows of human beings we had become left us frequently drooling on the couch and falling asleep at the dinner table.

The doctors couldn’t seem to work out what was wrong with Mini Me, yet the bills kept coming in. The economy was still holding its breath after September 11 and we had another little miracle on the way. The mess, the lawn, the bills, the asthma, the lack of sleep… It was a hard time for the parents of four little boys and the pressure was beginning to take its toll. Then, when life seemed at its lowest point, something wonderful and just a little bit painful happened.

It was either late in the night or early in the morning, my eyes would not focus on the alarm clock and all I knew was that it was still dark outside, I staggered toward back to the bedroom after comforting No. 1 through another Night Bear. In the dim I did not see the booby trap laid out for me and suddenly found my left foot had decided to introduce itself to the smallest, sharpest piece of Lego in the pack. Now I was awake! Crimson spots dribbled from the gash on my sole as I began scooping up the playthings, but I stopped almost immediately when I noticed the intricate pattern in which they had been laid out. The boys had created an entire Neanderthal village complete with cavemen, palm trees, dinosaurs and farm animals. The Stone Age family had a mother, a father and four children living happily in their little plastic cave. A McDonalds French Fry was the centrepiece of the display. I guess they had hunted and gathered it from the locale fast food franchise, Flintstones style.

Next to the Lambeosaurus was a bunch of drawings by Granny where he had practiced writing his name and spelling the words ‘I love mummy and daddy’. Underneath the drawings was a booklet written and illustrated by God Sakes called ‘These Elephants.’ It was a story about a daddy elephant and his son, and all the adventures they did together. Life no longer seemed so challenging.

The Tooth Fairy.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable holding a piece of someone’s head in my hand but losing a tooth is a natural occurrence and with five kids, well the tooth fairy was going to need an assistant. The American tradition is to hide the fang under the child’s pillow and some pillow cases even have a little pocket to place the chomper within. In light of the thrashing antics of No.1’s night terrors we thought it would be wiser to place the tiny tusk in a glass of water and leave it on the sink for the fairy to find. This was a great idea which served us well for many a discarded denture until the one fateful night that iDad arrived home late from the office Christmas party, a little worse for wear. Staggering into the darkened kitchen, trying desperately not to wake the family, iDad topped up the glass of water he found and drank it.

Have you ever heard the saying when something comes back ‘to bite you in the bum’? Well I know what that actually feels like. Thankfully it was only one of God Sakes front teeth and not a molar or, Heaven forbid, a fifty-cent piece.

One Little Girl.

A couple of months later we brought our fifth and final baby home. One little girl was here, and she was perfect. She was also a little girl, something we were not entirely used to in our household. Hand-me-downs were no longer acceptable. Ponies replaced the Pachycephalosaurus. Pink and purple became the primary colours instead of red and green. The boys didn’t know what had hit them and neither did iDad.

Mud pies, tree climbing and footy became bubbles, ballet and Barbie. Fairies invaded the living room and Princesses were everywhere. One by one the Matchbox cars were replaced with all manner of dolls. Some burped, others cried and a few even soiled their nappies. Only the ubiquitous Lego, with its asexual appeal, remained acceptable. Life as we knew it was inexorably altered forever, but we didn’t care.

From the moment she arrived One Little Girl was the master of her domain. No.1, God Sakes and Granny would rush to pick her up at the slightest squeak, lugging her around the house and playing with pink ‘things’ to keep her amused. Even Mini Me was besotted.

Our last first birthday was a magnificent experience. More time went into the creation of the culinary masterpiece that was the cake, than the rest of the fare we prepared. With marshmallow mushrooms, magenta butterflies, silver cachous and mauve coloured icing that still does not appear in any paint chart on the planet, a bemused One Little Girl finally got to blow out her candle. It was a day I will never forget.

Mini Me and One Little Girl are in primary school together. Granny and God Sakes are almost finished high school. No.1 is studying at college.

Where did the time go?

iDad’s Guide to Fitness

Are We Jogging?

Or so said the eccentric mystic from the movie ‘Jewel of the Nile’ as he, Joan Wilder and Jack T Colton fled across the desert, pursued by Omar the charming, yet ruthless dictator. I often wonder the same thing in the twilighty minutes before sunrise as I dodge past garbage trucks, lonely taxis and yapping dogs.

For several weeks now I have pounded the pavements and parklands of Botany in an effort to get fit and lose some of my well-earned middle age spread. It was a conscious decision I made late December when my talking scales told me I was the perfect weight, for a bull walrus. As I frisbeed my digital tormentor out of the bathroom window I turned to look into the mirror and realised that the computerised jester may have been right.  With Reeboks on my feet and an iPod strapped to my arm, I took to the street to rid myself of the unwanted kilograms.

Ground Zero!

Initially the going was tough and waking up at six am was the first obstacle to overcome. My friend the ‘snooze’ button got more of a workout than I did in the early stages. Eventually though I managed to convince myself to move the alarm clock across the room, thus forcing me out of bed to make the beeping menace stop.

Being a man who doesn’t need directions and has never read an instruction manual, meant that there would be no ‘taking it easy’. So what should have begun with a brisk walk was more like a heaving plod as my forty something body tried to convince itself it was still only eighteen. Then I arrived at the park, six hundred meters up the road, and promptly coughed up my left kidney.

Lap 1

The first lap hurt. My shins ached, my knees creaked and my lungs were on fire. Luckily though there were other people in the paddock so I had to keep pushing myself to save face – foolish manly pride. A brunette with a short bob-style haircut ambled towards me. We smiled, waved and said ‘hi’ as we passed. Running in opposite directions meant that we would see each other five more times during the course of the three laps I intended to do. I wondered who would bail out first.

A bald blur shot past me at a great rate of knots. This guy was short, stocky and incredibly fit. I briefly entertained the idea of using him as my pace car but when I realised that he has run almost one hundred metres in just over ten seconds, I reconsidered. Minutes later he was gone from view and my new brunette friend was jogging up to me for the second time. Once again we managed a couple of words of encouragement in passing.

Rounding the third corner of the park I ran into an unexpected obstacle. Between two Norfolk pines a spider had decided to set up base camp. It’s sticky web, encrusted with half-sucked bodies of captured cabbage moths encased my head, shoulders and torso. Arachnid excreta and mummified moth has a uniquely pungent flavour that inspires a strong gag reflex, but it was the frenzied removal of the gluey fibres and not the retching that brought about my undoing. A large tree root leapt out of the soil, grasping my ankle as if it were one of Tolkien’s Ents, and threw me down onto my face.

I struggled back to my feet, spitting sod as I stood and began the second round.

Lap 2

Thankfully no one had seen my face-plant, or my erratic behaviour with the spider web, so I was able to resume my regimen with little embarrassment. The bobbed brunette toddled toward me and as we went to exchange pleasantries her eyes shot open in horror. Bewildered by her response I began to check my body for signs of damage. Sure my shirt was dirty, but that wasn’t enough to elicit such a response. I wasn’t bleeding from my fall and all the web had been removed, or had it. I ran my hands through my hair and felt what I though was a squash ball attached to my head. With a dawning comprehension of what was happening to me, eight hairy legs proceeded to run down over my ear and onto my neck. It was a humongous, grey orb weaver’s nest I had violated and now he was extracting his revenge. The spider crawled under my shirt and started down my back where I could not reach him. Thankfully they are harmless but that doesn’t stop the fear. Once again I was on the ground, this time rolling left and right frantically trying to squish the fuzzy molester. I felt his insides smear themselves across my lower back and was relieved – shirts can be washed.

Returning to my run was a little more difficult than my previous interruption. The iPod had suffered its last indignity and was refusing to play anything at all and to make matters worse I failed to notice the huge, steaming pile of dog poo in the grass ahead of me until my right foot was planted ankle deep inside it. The alleged culprit was a large white poodle being walked by its elderly owner – who just so happened to have the same permed hairstyle (its amazing how some people grow to look like their pets). Luckily for them they were over on the other side of the park and out of reach of my verbal abuse.

The brunette shuffled past once more. No words were exchanged this time but I could see her face desperately scanning me for any trace of the spider.

Lap 3

The pain was excruciating. Muscles I didn’t even know I had were burning with lactic acid and my eyes stung with sweat. I could no longer hold up my arms and my jaw hung open, allowing the little swarm of gnats I had just stumbled through to fly down my throat. They tasted rather tangy and slightly more piquant than the spider web.

The brunette and I passed each other once more. There was no wave, no hello, no acknowledgement of any kind. Just two exhausted souls trying to convince their bodies that no pain really did mean no gain.

Just as I considered quitting the run and talking the long walk of shame back home, a young blond caught up to me from behind and ran by. She had short blue bike pants, a white midriff top, and boy could she move. Instinctively I kicked my pace up a notch. Stupid, stupid man. Three strides later I was barking like the marine mammal my bathroom scales thought I was and I’m sure the council workers painting the lines on the football field heard my lungs burst.

That was it. Two and a half times round the park was the best I could do. My knees felt like jelly and my stomach wanted to barf, but I had begun the journey to fitness and weight loss.

Four months later and I’m running at least three times a week. I have given up fried, fast and junk food and lost over eleven kilograms. I feel fitter, happier and more alert (most of the time) and there have been no more spider, dog poo or Lord of the Rings incidents. I never did catch up to the blond hottie or the bald dynamo, and none of my clothes fit me anymore, but these are minor inconveniences for the improved quality of life I am enjoying.

You should try it 🙂

iDad and the Great Migration

This article was published in COSMOS Magazine as part of a writing competition on animal migration. I won 😀

Late last year the National Geographic Channel ran a series of fantastic shows on the Great Migrations of the animal world. Monarch butterflies, nomadic elephants and herds of bleating zebras graced our screen and entertained the children. One of my personal favourites was the red crab from Christmas Island. Each mating season millions of these land animals make the move from the rainforest to the beach to lay eggs and propagate the species. On the way they have to contend with car tyres, commuter trains and the yellow crazy ant, which has decimated the crustacean population. I think the reason I am so fond of these single-minded creatures is their dogged determination to get to and from the beach in spite of the adversity that awaits them, much like the coastal migration we humans undertake every Christmas holidays affectionately known as – The Sydney Summer Evacuation.

Every year, as if spurned on by the arrival of the summer solstice, families of bipedal gnus work themselves into a frenzy in preparation for the long and perilous northern road trip. In what can only be described as a miracle of nature, large metallic beasts, engorged with human detritus roll along the tar in a honking, hooting symphony of sound and colour. This is not a trip for the faint hearted though. As the mechanised mammoths plod along in the intense heat and humidity the symbiotic relationship between the four-wheeled host and its two-legged parasites gets severely tested. In an effort to make ‘good time’ the poor, ever-obedient animal often gets pushed beyond its boundaries and many end up being herded away by one of its blue-flashing cousins.

In one of the more gruesome spectacles, the many McCrocodiles that lurk beside the busy stretch of bitumen between Hornsby and the Gold Coast often pick off weary travelers. These ambush predators decorate themselves in brightly coloured plumage to attract the adolescent humans and entice them to stop with promises of fried fat coated in sodium chloride. Even the lure of eleven secret herbs and spices can prove too hard to resist for the tense iDad teetering on the edge of insanity. Sadly, many of the older and weaker creatures are frequently found by the side of the road hissing and steaming in the last throws of life as their perplexed passengers look on aghast.

Two weeks later, as if drawn by some invisible magnetic force, these pitiful critters will endure hardship all over again – in the opposite direction. It is an anthropomorphic adventure the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

Yours truly has undertaken this odyssey on many occasions and has lived to tell the tale. I hope that my advice below will help you to plan your next great migration.

Tip 1. Don’t forget the batteries.

A portable DVD player will distract even the crankiest child. However, as most cars only have one or two accessory charging points, which are usually filled with teenager’s iPods, make sure you bring plenty of spare batteries. Sure you can pick extras up at the service station, for three times the price, but if money was no object then why aren’t you flying? Also ensure that you have comfortable earphones for the little movie goer. After listening to Finding Nemo for hours on end I was really wishing that Bruce the shark would recant on his slogan, “Fish are friends, not food.”

Tip 2. Resist the temptation to allow your teenage son to play his iPod through the car stereo.

I like to think that I have a rather eclectic taste in music, but screaming death metal at any volume is too loud. It is especially offensive after your five-year-old daughter has finally gone to sleep. This is your time for peace and quiet. Nemo has been found, the Little Mermaid got her man, Barbie is still a fairy princess and everything is right with the world. Why spoil it with a toneless howl bellowed from the diaphragm of a psychotic wannabe rock star?

“But dad, it’s a love song. Listen to the lyrics.”

“You mean there are actually words to this banshee’s wail.”

“Yeah. See! He misses his girlfriend who got run over by a freight train.”

“Lets listen to Cold Chisel.”

“Old stuff is rubbish.”

The sulking teenager goes back to his earphones and begins to actively destroy his aural capacity with a sound that is best described as someone trying to scream over the top of a whining jet engine.

Tip 3. Not all sunscreen is created equally.

Everyone knows that under the harsh Australian sun an SPF factor of 30 or higher is essential if you want to go out and play. What a lot of you probably don’t know is that the wrong type of sunscreen can really put a dent in your day. Holiday dollars never seem to go as far as you had planned so this year iDad tried out some budget branded lotion in order to save a few cents. Big mistake.

The first problem I noticed was that the cream itself had the consistency of molten tar and a smell that reminded me of industrial paint. Rubbing it on my children was an excruciating experience. Ensuring that your five-year-old is sitting still is a hard enough job at the best of times. When there is a beach to get to this task becomes practically impossible.

I spent hours coating the kids in white treacle only to find that it washed right off within thirty minutes of hitting the surf. This became my second problem. Luckily my children have great outdoor skin inherited from their Lebanese ancestry. iDad on the other hand does not and by the end of the first day even the lobsters were laughing at me.

Tip 4. Sweet treats are great to keep the kids quiet on those long drives, but not so good to clean out of the upholstery.

Regardless of the week-long scorching third degree burn that eventually managed to exfoliate ninety percent of my six-foot frame, our holiday was a great success. With the car packed and extra batteries in the centre console we began the long journey home. I had purchased some lollies to distract the kids from the various fast food restaurants we would pass along the way and before we were one third home the complaints started.

“I don’t feel good daddy.”

“What’s wrong little man?”

“My tummy hurts.”

Being somewhat of an expert with motion sickness I know exactly what to do.

“Adjust the air conditioner so that the cool air is blowing on your face. That’ll make you feel better.”

As my eight-year-old leaned forward to do as he was told his breakfast, lunch and a dozen or so jellybeans exited his oesophagus, poured into the aircon outlet and all over the carpet. His brother, who had been feeling ill himself but had suffered in silence, followed suit and proceeded to coat his siblings in the same masticated and partly digested mush.

I don’t remember the name of the backwater burg we stopped in but I will never forget the barely stifled guffaws from the locals as five kids and their father stood staring blankly at the barf bag my Landcruiser had become.

My final tip for surviving the holidays is to make sure you have a change of clean clothes inside the car. Climbing onto the roof in forty-two degree heat to rummage through the luggage when you are already sunburned is no fun. Accidentally giving your teenage son dirty socks to wear is a stench worthy of its own postcode. Combining that aroma with congealing bile that you cannot get out of the air conditioner is… well I’m going to leave that to your imagination.

At long last our arduous journey is at an end. As the family wagon pulls up inside the garage children leap from open doors like baboons escaping a lion, leaving iDad with half a dozen suitcases to unpack and a mountain of washing to get through. Thirty minutes later the banshee is shrieking abuse from the stereo upstairs, the youngsters are watching Nemo yet again and the teenagers are demanding to know,

‘What’s for dinner?’