What marriage looks like 11 years on

My wedding anniversary is always slightly confusing for me because we had three different weddings. Our marriage was registered on the 18th of January (‘The Regiversary’ as the Irishman terms it), we had a small wedding for 38 people in Bali on the 26th April (The Baliversary) and a big wedding for 350 people at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore on the 30th April (The Rafflesiversary).

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When we were young and had more time and money than sense, we used to celebrate all three dates. Mark would get me earrings for the first one, a necklace for the second one and maybe a ring for the third one. Now that we’re ancient, have three kids and live in the countryside, I buy myself a new set of knickers on the Bali anniversary and call it a day. Well to be fair, for our 11th anniversary I did something incredibly romantic. I went down to Bunnings and bought a tube of Shellys Instadry Bathroom Filler and grouted up 3 small holes in our bathtub that Finn had made from playing with rocks (don’t ask) ALL BY MYSELF as a surprise for Mark. My eternally hopeful salesperson George from Bulgari who sends me a anniversary card on razor sharp cream card stock every year would be so appalled.

But this is what romance at 11 years looks like.

Exhibit A – Waking up to a lovely homemade Irish breakfast complete with heart shaped toast and tiny wee rosebud from the garden. By the way, you see the silver mirror behind Mark’s head? there’s a large strip of silver duct tape attaching the mirror plate to its frame after it jiggled loose during the 19th house move we’ve made. According to the Irishman, the duct tape was a temporary solution until he could get the mirror fixed. It’s been there for three years now. Guess what I’m doing for our 12th wedding anniversary??

Exhibit B: Look at this little Sean dancing all night at our wedding. He was 5 years old then. Younger than Dylan is now. And he’s turning 17 this year. WHAAA??

The most overused words in the English language. Time flies. But yet it does. This was our Bali wedding, and that little baby in the sailor hat is now a beautiful athletic young lady whom I see on Facebook setting swim records and going to the prom. And my other bridesmaid Adele has just become a mother to a cute little boy. Everyone there is there same same but different.

I like this photo of me and my bridesmaid Kylie, waiting for the ceremony to start. There’s that sense of innocence and a slight hesitancy about it all. The big adventure I was about to embark on. Kylie still looks EXACTLY the same after 3 kids. It’s infuriating.

Exhibit C – Rose petals. Dylan is obsessed with this photo of people throwing rose petals at us during our wedding. Last year, we celebrated our anniversary at Dylan’s best friend’s house in Singapore, and she and her friend collected frangipani flowers all day to pelt us with during the party.

Yesterday evening, Dylan came up to us and announced that she had spent all morning collecting rose petals from the garden to throw on us for our 11th anniversary. She seems to think this is an integral part of matrimonial celebrations. So we were made to sit on the sofa and treated to a shower of slightly squashed flowers while our friend Anne snapped this photo.

Exhibit D: Marriage for me has been the biggest learning experience and privilege of my life, but it can also be brutal, confronting and exhausting. Every couple has a different marriage dynamic. Mark and I aren’t conventional in the sense that while many couples have opposite personalities, we’re very similar. We are both headstrong and opinionated and where it all came together was, after many years, learning what to fight for. The most important fight is the one for your family and for your marriage.

I just love this note that Dylan wrote. Mark found it in the bathroom floor and she couldn’t remember why she wrote it but Mark tucked it into a photo frame and it makes us smile whenever we walk past the console table in the dining room and read it. It could be our family motto. We are strong! We will never give up! We will fite!

Tales of a Country Tiger

Every time it’s the school holidays I wonder if I’m manic-depressive or if this is just how having 2 young kids and a teenager is supposed to feel.

Every day I wake up and walk into the living room, and all the sensors and lights in my brain start screaming OVERLOAD! SELF-DESTRUCT!

For example, last weekend, Dylan splashed red paint all over the floor of the playroom and by the time we discovered it, there were red footprints everywhere including doggy paw prints in the cream carpet we lugged home all the way from Morocco. So the Irishman yelled at her and gave her a bucket of soapy water to mop the floor with and (crucial point) did NOT supervise the “cleanup operation”. Which meant that when I came running into the playroom to yell at someone for something, I went skidding across the floor and wrenched something in my back, which several hours and a CT scan later turned out to be a bulging L5 disc, resulting in many days of bedrest in a slovenly house.

So I’ve been rather grumpy of late. The kids, sensing that I’ve been out of action, have been even more rambunctious than normal. And god help me if I receive one more piece of “advice” on social media from a person who doesn’t have kids, I may add human flesh to the dinner menu. After all, I am an expert on livestock dispatch and butchery.

My personal favourite is “Oh Finn and Dylan fight so much! Why don’t you tell them not to fight?!”. OMG. My toes curl up like slugs and my ovaries could combust. Seriously. That’s like “Wow, Israelis and Palestinians are so quarrelsome! Why doesn’t someone tell them to stop it?”. Finn and Dylan fight because they’re contesting holy territory of personal space and parental attention. It’s annoying but perfectly normal and in 15 years time they may even grow to like each other, much like myself and my 2 younger brothers.

Or there’s also the “Why did Dylan eat that medicine / sweets / dead fly? Didn’t you TELL her that those things are bad for her?”. OK. Yes I told her. Just about three hundred thousand times, and yes she “knows”. But 2 things:

Firstly, Explicit knowledge is different from Tacit knowledge. You can tell a child that fire will burn them. That is explicit knowledge. But a child does not know what “burn” really means until the child plays with matches and gets burnt. Now that’s tacit knowledge which can’t be taught.

Secondly, even if children know that something is bad for them, it doesn’t mean they won’t do it anyway. People don’t smoke because they think that cigarettes are good for them. People smoke because they know that smoking is bad but they’ve made a decision to choose the pleasure that they get from the smoking over the potential hazards. Kids make bad decisions all the time. That’s why my household is not a democracy. If my kids were allowed to choose they’d be having McDonalds for breakfast lunch and dinner every day. Just. No.

Anyway, yesterday when I walked into the living room, I saw the usual scene of destruction and I could have exploded but I did something different. I called the children into the room and got them to sit down. And then I asked them a question.

Me: “How smart do you think you are?”

Finn: “Quite smart. No. Very smart.”

Dylan: “A bit smart?”

Me: “There are three types of people in the world. Smart, Normal and Stupid people.
A Stupid person is the type of person, when you tell them there’s a problem, they’ll ask you what to do about it, and when you give them the solution, they may even tell you that they can’t do it.
A Normal person is the type of person, when you tell them there’s a problem, they’ll think of a solution and try to fix it.
A Smart person is the type of person who you don’t even have the chance to tell about the problem because they’ll walk into the room and use their brain to see all the problems there are or could be and will go to work fixing those problems before needing to be told.”

Finn: “So a smart person is like a mind reader?”

Me: “Exactly.”

Dylan: “Is that why you got mad at Sean the other day when he said he couldn’t clear the table?”

Me: “Yes. Because he was being Stupid. I was cooking dinner, and I needed the table cleared but when I asked Sean to do it, he said he couldn’t. When I asked him why, he said it’s because Dad organised all the medicine cabinet supplies on it and they couldn’t be moved. That was stupid because the problem was that we needed somewhere to eat dinner. If he was being Normal, he would have thought Oh, maybe I could move all the bottles and boxes closer together and make some space. Or maybe we can set the kitchen island for us to eat dinner at. Or maybe I could move the boxes in the order that they are in, onto the floor. But he just told me no. I can’t do it. Now a really really smart person would know that I’m about to finish cooking dinner and clear the table already without needing to be told.

Now this doesn’t mean Sean is stupid, any one can be Stupid, Normal or Smart in a situation. You have the power to choose.”

(Short pause while Dylan and Finn absorb this information.)

Dylan: “I’m smart because I can see 4 problems in this room that I need to solve!” (Darts off and starts packing her toys away and cleaning up.)

Finn: “I’m smarter because I can see 6 problems in this room that i’m going to solve also!” (Runs over to the playroom and starts packing up Pokemon cards)

The Irishman, who has been eavesdropping in the corner, looks up from his laptop and says “Well I think we all know who the smart one is around here.”

I give it about 3 days…

Art and Wine

Did you know that I’m married to a sculptor? Well neither did I!

This week I honour two of the Irishman’s recent achievements. The first being this wonderful rustic sculpture that he made out of old recycled wooden posts, named “Renewal”. It was originally supposed to be a Christmas gift for me, but as Sean was injured just before Christmas, things got delayed and the sculpture was finally finished a few weeks ago.

I love its radiating sinuous lines and how it changes form depending on where you stand. When you walk up from the courtyard garden and first see the sculpture, Mark aligned it to the axis of the courtyard steps so that it looks (to me) like a peacock spreading its tail, as in the photo below.

But from the side, it looks like waves or a helix.

Echoing the way the branches of the trees bend in the breeze.

Remind me to buy longer shirts for Mark. Somehow everything gets shrunken in the wash in this household and our shirts start creeping up until we all resemble a 90s Britney Spears tribute band.

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Another view of the sculpture. Isn’t it a beauty! I’m so impressed by Mark’s first effort. Even my mum thinks that it’s like one of her favourite sculptures, the metal fan one at the fountain outside The Regent Hotel in Singapore.

And Mark’s second achievement this month – our bumper crop 2015 Pinot Noir harvest! We have 520 kg of grapes, which will translate to about a barrel and a half or 45 cases. The readings are good with the sugar levels at 22.7% and Ph 3.20. This is our sixth harvest, and it feels surreal that we’ve been doing this for that long.

This year we had very very minimal bird damage and the bunches were so luscious and pretty. As soon as you walk into a vineyard, it transports you to a simpler time. You can feel your blood pressure dropping right down as you walk along the rows, snipping with your secateurs and dropping the fat little bunches into the buckets. They make such a satisfying sound. There’s no form of gardening more civilised and pleasant than pruning grape vines or harvesting grapes. It also makes for a great amiable conversation as you amble along, talking to whoever is on the other side of your row.

Our picking crew this year was Tony and Kate Sutherland-Paul, Jenny Jones, the two of us and of course Paul Wallace our brilliant vineyard caretaker.

That’s Kate telling me to bugger off and stop taking photos of her.

Happy Mark, surveying the grapes.

We had nearly 50 buckets with about 12 kilos of grapes each. What a haul for our tiny little vineyard.

Thank you everyone who came to help! It’s been a bountiful harvest and we are blessed.

x,
C

The aftermath of a supernova – Goodbye Lee Kuan Yew

This week I wanted to write about our vineyard’s bumper crop of grapes which we harvested on Tuesday, the novel that I’ve finally completed and the massive wooden sculpture that Mark built in the garden. I tried to write but nothing came. Instead, I sat at my kitchen table this week with a bowl of fat figs, tearing at their soft flesh in a dull fog of tangled grief.

On Monday this week, Lee Kuan Yew died. In other words, for all of us Singaporeans, there was a death in the family.

Lee Kuan Yew, LKY, or The Old Man as many Singaporeans called him, was the founding father of modern day Singapore and reigned for 31 years, won 7 elections and continued to influence our politics until this Monday, when he died at 91 years of age.

He was our cranky, brilliant, ruthless and charismatic Asian father who hectored, chided and guided us our whole lives, pushing Singapore relentlessly over the course of my childhood from Third World to First.

By the time he stepped down in 1990, our tiny city state had become one of the most prosperous, orderly countries in the world, lauded the world over as an economic miracle.

Over the past week, tributes have poured in from around the world. These past few days we’ve seen US President Barack Obama hailing LKY as a “true giant of history”, British PM David Cameron recalling Margaret Thatcher always said that Lee Kuan Yew was the leader she admired the most in the world. Henry Kissinger said that it was one of the great blessings of his life to have had a friendship with the great man, and this weekend Kissinger will be flying into Singapore for the funeral together with Bill Clinton.

India has declared a national day of mourning for Lee Kuan Yew on Sunday with their flag flown at half mast and all entertainment withheld. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/asiapacific/india-declares-day-of/1747620.html

It’s all everyone in Singapore can talk about and my entire facebook feed is covered in eulogies from Singaporeans of all races and religions.

However in the corner of the Australia I live in, I grieve alone. Most people here have only the foggiest notion of who he was. “Nope,” my physiotherapist said, bending me into a pretzel. “Don’t know much about that guy.” Neither did my neighbours, the school mums I bumped into, or my friends in Melbourne.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Australians regularly goggle in disbelief when I tell them that we speak English as our first language in Singapore (their 5th largest trading partner). The Australian newspaper, even went so far to write a column criticising ABC for being so dumbed down that it had failed to cover such a monumental story. “Our ABC asks Lee Kuan Who?” the article headline goes. Which prompted an indignant retort from ABC today, saying in essence, oh yes we did, or at least we did more than any other Aussie media outlet.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my views on Australia. How beautiful I think it is. How privileged we are to live there. How much I admire Australian values of love for community, environment, sport and work-life balance.

But of course it’s not an utopia. Take Australian insularity for instance, the schools my children go to do not offer Chinese as a second language option. Instead, they offer Bahasa Indonesia. This is sheer myopia. China is Australia’s number one trading partner. Indonesia is not even in the top 10. “Oh but we’re close to Indonesia.” some say. “It’s useful when we go on holiday.” Unfortunately, too many Australians only think about the existence of the world when its time for them to go on vacation. And don’t get me started on the sad state of opinion poll politics here. If I were to agree with Lee Kuan Yew whole-heartedly on anything he said, it would be these words “I ignore polling as a method of government. I think that shows a certain weakness of mind – an inability to chart a course whichever way the wind blows, whichever way the media encourages the people to go, you follow.”

What most fascinates me about LKY are the paradoxes.

1.) Insignificance breeding significance.
All our lives Lee Kuan Yew told us how insignificant we were. Singapore was but a speck of dust on the windshield of the world. We had no natural resources, no common history, no common racial ties to bind us together. Because we knew we were insignificant, we had to work harder, faster, smarter and constantly look outwards at what other countries were doing to emulate their successes. In 1960, Singapore’s GDP per capita was US$428. Today it is US$56,284, higher than America’s and one of the highest in the world.

2.) Lack of freedom on one level and freedom on another.
The West has always been horrified by what they view as the loss of inalienable freedoms in Singapore. But yet most Singaporeans feel like they have much more basic freedoms than the West. As a young female, I was free to run down the streets of Singapore by myself to meet friends at whatever hour wearing whatever dress I liked without fearing for my safety. I could withdraw money from street ATMs at midnight without even looking over my shoulder. My parents never worried about me getting killed by a gun, taking drugs or being raped. As Lee famously said. “You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools.”.

3.) Hyperarticulation leading to Inarticulation.
Lee Kuan Yew was a champion debater, known for his articulation and wit. Watch him take on the American press when they ask him about Vietnam and marvel at how he dances, dodges and lands his killer blows. My favourite part, 7.45mins in, when an interviewer attempts to put words in his mouth and Lee Kuan Yew says “May I say what I mean myself in my own form of words? I think Americans have — I think it is a friendly habit of trying to help a person think for himself but I would rather do my own composition if I may.” He was our Original Gangster, even rejecting a US$3.3m bribe from the CIA with style, asking them to give Singapore US$33m in aid instead. However his style of leadership discouraged debate and critical thinking. Singaporeans have few chances to exercise their muscles of critical thinking without fear of recrimination or stern rebuke. Today Singaporeans lack soft skills in the workplace and struggle with expressing independent ideas and criticism.

In 2014, Singapore topped 131 cities globally to become the world’s most expensive city to live in, a pulsating city studded with Michelin-starred restaurants, monumental shopping malls, sky trains and futuristic parks.

Success however, comes with a price. In our case the trade off was a growing soullessness, sterility and obsession with material success. In a vacuum of ideology and ideals, most of us are motivated by the blunt instruments of greed and fear.

A Gallup poll in 2012 reported that Singapore ranked as the Least Emotional Country in the World with only 36% feeling either positive or negative emotions on a daily basis. The countries closest to us are Georgia, Lithuania and Russia. Emotions are just not an accepted feature of Singapore life. And don’t tell me that it’s an Asian thing because Hong Kong and China rank far, far higher than Singapore, in fact they are right smack in the middle of the list of 150 countries.

In fact, it could be precisely because we are so emotionally repressed and have so few avenues to express healthy emotion, that the death of Lee Kuan Yew has galvanised the entire country into a 24-7 spectacle of outward grief.

Right now as I write this, there are people who have been queuing for 8 hours to pay their last respects to the man. Most of my friends have been in that queue at some point this week. I’ve seen their photographs on Facebook, looking happy even though they are in the sweltering tropical heat. The line snakes for kilometres, extending all the way into Chinatown.

Was he perfect? No. Was he feared? Yes. Was he loved by Singaporeans? Indisputably. That includes me.

I belong to a generation brought up by absentee fathers and he was a substitute father to all of us. After having run therapy retreats for a few years, I observe that most people are more damaged by fathers that didn’t care than fathers that cared but were too harsh.

Yesterday at family dinner, we cracked open a bottle of our own wine to celebrate our harvest. Swirling the wine about in its glass, Mark asked our six-year old to sniff it and identify the notes. “It smells like strawberries and… maybe Lee-Kuan-Yew.”, she pronounced emphatically, uttering a sentence never heard before in human history. She must have overheard myself and Mark discussing his death and legacy this whole week.

I hope that Singapore finds its feet again. Even more so, I hope it finds its soul. Our great leader has passed and this week I mourn for our nation’s loss but in a balanced way, I hope. While I admire the man, I also see how things could be different. I do not want my wine to smell like 91-year-old authoritarian, but today I raise a glass to you Lee Kuan Yew, our supernova, our goliath-fighting David. Respect, love and gratitude.

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All pictures from The Straits Times

One. Happy. Family.

When we were kids, my dad’s favourite saying, which was always dispensed at the most inappropriate and ironic times, was the exclamation “One Happy Family!”. It drove us absolute bonkers.

I could be launching myself off the railings of our split level dining room to perform a WWF piledriver on my howling brother, yelling “CALL ME UNCLE OR ELSE!” and my dad would saunter into the living room, glance over and pronounce “One Happy Family!” and shuffle out of the door with his doctors bag. Or all three of us kids could be scrapping in the back of the car like an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, pulling hair, kicking and screeching at the top of our lungs and in the front seat my dad would reach over and pat my mother’s hand and say “One Happy Family!”, a irritatingly beatific smile on his face.

Now that I’m a mother of 3 Itchy & Scratchies, I often roll my eyes to the heavens and think “One Happy Family!”, and this week has been a never-ending parade of One Happy Family moments!

For instance, our Cost Centre #1 Sean Leahy, whose daily chores include retrieving duck eggs from the coop every morning, seems to have overlooked his duties for no less than 5 weeks, and we have now got 17 new ducks in residence after we’ve spent the last 6 months trying to get rid of our existing ducks… Sean was informed that his new task was to get rid of the entire brood of ducks and hence has become very proficient in Gumtree advertising skills and screening calls from random weirdos.

And then there is Cost Centre #, Dylan Emerald Leahy, who despite being told numerous times about the dangers of medicine, was caught snacking on grape flavoured kids antihistamine tablets in the middle of the night and washing them down with a little chaser of a bottle of Sambucol syrup. Dylan is now on a complete Screens & Sugar ban and is now doing manual labour in the apple orchard as penance.

And of course not to be ignored, is Cost Centre #2 Finn Leahy, who is also on the Screens & Sugar ban after a large variety of misdemeanours involving tree branches, poking, water guns and not listening. So far he has adjusted marvellously to his new life and has discovered new ways to annoy his sister. Such as discovering a box of hair extensions which he realised was key to his transformation as Smugolas, the Self-Satisfied Elf Princess, cue prancing around tossing his extensions in his little sister’s face, declaring “I’m the prettiest princess in this house!” and tons of waterworks from his dejected and very threatened-feeling sister who spent the morning yelling “No you’re NOT A PRINCESS!” and bedecking herself with more tiaras and princess accessories than a Barbie convention.

Behold, Smugolas in all his glory…

So we had lunch today, cooked by CC#1 Sean, whose new chore is to make family lunch on Sunday. The lunch comprised of extremely spicy red Thai chicken curry, some slightly soggy rice, and a liberal dose of screaming.

Finn: “Oh I’m so pretty! Why did you make me so beautiful Mama? I’m the loveliest princess in the house!”

Dylan: “NO YOU’RE NOT!!! I AM!!! YOU’RE NOT EVEN A GIRL!!!!”

Finn: “I’ve decided I’m going to be a PRINCESS now! Because I”m the prettiest child in the family!”

Dylan: “NO YOU’RE NOT!!! LET’S HAVE A VOTE”

Sean & Mark: “We vote for Mum, that’s a majority Now shut up and eat your lunch.”

Finn: “So that means you tie with me Dylan! And I’m still the prettiest and you know it….”

Dylan: “WAaaaaaaAAAAAaaaaAAAA!!!!!!” (massive waterworks)

ALL: “SHUT UP DYLAN!!!! STOP IT FINN!”

Me: “One. Happy. Family.”

The End.

Why? Because.

When I was a kid, my little brother used to follow me around the house asking me questions. “Why?!” he would say. “Just because.” I would reply, my nose buried in some how-to manual or Gerald Durrell novel. “Why?” “Because!” “But why?!!!” “I said BECAUSE!!!!”. It would go on and on, driving my mother absolutely demented.

Well this Christmas was a pretty existentialist one. Why? Because.

The day before Christmas Eve, Mark and I had taken the kids to a circus in Melbourne and we were driving home when I received a call from Sean. “Mooom.” he said. He sounded really groggy and strange. “Mom I’m really hurt. I had an accident on my bicycle.” “Are you going to be ok Sean?” “I don’t know Mom.” And then this lady came on the phone and said “Hi, your son is covered in blood on the side of the road, no cars were involved but I need to take him to hospital now.” We didn’t have time to think and just sprang into motion, calling our neighbour Tony who was down the road to pick Sean up and turning the car around and heading for Frankston Hospital.

Sean ended up needing 3 operations and 2 nights in hospital between then and Christmas Day but thankfully nothing major was damaged, except for his face which needed plastic surgery having 3 deep gashes and 4 smashed front teeth which require root canals over the next few weeks. He looked like a huge wet mess though.

Once word got out about Sean’s accident, everyone kept on texting me, why? How? Sean doesn’t remember skidding or hitting anything. What we do know is that the two metal front spokes that attach the wheel of the bike to the frame appear to have had a manufacturing defect that made it snap. He went over the handle bars and hit the road on his face, making impact with his helmet, cheek and chin. Thank goodness for that helmet.

Sean’s biological mother and her family flew down from Hong Kong on Christmas Eve to see him arriving at 2 a.m. in the morning on Christmas Day and we checked Sean out of ER at 9 a.m. sharp. after the kids had opened their presents. Dylan rushed in and gave him a very solemn hug. All the damage is on the other side of Sean’s face so you can’t really see it in the photo below, other than his swollen lips.

It wasn’t a perfect, Kumbaya, Martha Stewart Christmas by any means. Christmas was a maelstrom of driving to the hospital, buying last minute presents, wrapping things, carrying on with our Christmas eve party for 17, frantically making guest beds and moving furniture around and runs to the pharmacy, cooking for two families, cleaning more crap than you can believe, dogs getting into the rubbish and kids going batshit crazy everywhere. Every two hours Sean’s wounds needed to be swabbed and sluiced, every four hours he needed to take a cocktail of meds.

Dylan watched three episodes of Eloise when things were crazy busy and I was feeling sort-of-but-not-really-guilty about using the TV babysitter but then again she tottered out of the TV room and pronounced “Christmas is about sharing and caring for your friends and family.” and went off to check on Sean. Which it really is when you think about it.

So shit happens and you ask the universe Why? But the answers are as changeable and subtle as the wind.

Because on one level this was a horrible, terrible, no-good Christmas but yet within it Sean had one of his biggest wishes come true – that he could spend family with both of his families instead of having to choose.

Because Dylan saw Sean’s mangled bike but she still said that she wanted to learn how to ride anyway.

Because Finn made a new best friend in Sean’s little half-brother from Hong Kong and more importantly, learned to forgive when he deleted Finn’s Terraria world on his iPad that he had spent a year building.

Because the amount of help, support and friendship that poured out from our friends and community around the world has been frankly quite staggering. I guess Facebook can be a good thing too. Thank you thank you and thank you everyone for everything.

Because we did our gratitude ritual around the table and everyone had something to be sincerely grateful about.

Because it was actually really cool to have Sean’s mother’s family with us and show the two little Hong Kong city boys life on the farm.

Because life goes by too crazy fast with kids sometimes and this Christmas every day felt like an eternity.

Because life is so precious and so bloody delicate.

Because Sean knows that he is so loved.

Mark wrote me a note when we were dating many many many years ago. I still keep it tucked into the frame of my mirror. It says “Beautiful things do not come into being easily, but are formed by intense heat and lots of pressure.”

This Christmas I asked Why and and the answer was because there was beauty, despite everything. Happy Christmas everyone.

Farm Dramas

A farm is like a jealous lover. I’ve been travelling for the better part of the past two months to Singapore and Indonesia, and when I finally returned to Cable Car Estate, oh what fun lay in store! We were busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking competition.

First the alpacas needed to be sheared. If you have any doubts about the transformative powers of a haircut, just look at our alpacas! This is them before, all plump and happy in the orchard.

And this is the very traumatic shearing process, where they have to be hung and drawn like a scene from Game of Thrones while the shearer gets to work. I was told many times that this is the safest and most humane way to do it because if they aren’t bound up, they can seriously injure themselves. Did you know that alpacas can kick in ALL directions unlike horses? Well Mark found out when Mandate gave him a nice shiner on his left leg.

And these are our boys after the shearing, two scrawny little embarrassed deer like things! They didn’t recognise each other at first and spent a long time spitting in each others faces, which was quite funny. There must have been so relieved to get all that furry wool off themselves though. There’s now 4 big bags of alpaca fleece in our shed, ready to be spun into something. I’m think a lovely big throw for our library room couch to snuggle under while watching a movie.

Leave us alone, the alpacas convey wordlessly.

And then the next drama was the arrival of baby lamb Sparkle (Dylan’s idea of a name). We found poor baby Sparkle all neglected lying by himself next to a rock in the field and our alpacas standing over him nudging him gently and trying to get him to stand up. Not knowing which one of the sheep was his mother as both of them seemed equally clueless, we bundled the little guy in a towel and brought him into the house to feed.

The little guy loved being hugged and stroked, and followed the kids around wherever they went, until we thought we’d have to change Dylan’s name to Mary.

It was really cute but stepping in steaming warm puddles of lamb pee in my kitchen tempered my enthusiasm a bit. Thankfully over the next few days we managed to reintroduce Sparkle to her lackadaisical mother in a catch pen and she’s working hard on being a better mother. We’ve renamed the mother Britney Spears as she still spends most of her time smoking behind the shed, dragging Sparkle around from place to place randomly while he’s trying to take a nap and being a general Loo-La.

Poor Sparkle! He (or she) needs a bit of therapy I think. Speaking of therapy, Pooky our peacock then decided that everyone else on the farm was acting up so he decided to run away the day after Sparkle arrived! We got a call from a friend who was having coffee down the road who had spotted him causing a commotion across the main road and it took 5 grown people, the Irishman and two vineyard nets to catch him.

We put the silly bugger back into the covered orchard and the first thing that happened was that one of the Muscovy drakes came over, jumped on his back and attempted to give him a good shag. Who needs to watch Prison Break when you have Farm TV here??

So I apologise for the long break between blog posts recently but sometimes, life just gets in the way. In the meantime, here are some photos of the beautiful weather we’ve been having. Just last week we had a technicolour sunset so extraordinary that my entire instagram feed was full of the Mornington Peninsula sky. Sometimes when the farm is kicking your ass, it’s good to be able to look up and just breathe!

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