18 Oct Playing It By Ear

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 25.10.21

 

The label on one of the pills I’m taking says I’m not to operate heavy machinery but I’m not sure if my laptop qualifies as “heavy” so I am diving in regardless.

Also, full disclosure, two of the medicine labels warn drowsiness is a risk so forgive me if I wander off mid-thought. Though wait! We’re not doing this in real-time so I can go back and fix things before you read it, right? I’ll just keep in a stream-of-consciousness moment for effect. There, that one will do.

I had a spot of ear surgery a few days ago – initially delayed by Level 4 Lockdown then rescheduled at Level 3. By now I expected to be firing on all cylinders but I’ve done that thing women often do which is to underestimate the gravity of a personal health situation. You’ve probably done it yourself – waved some procedure off with a cheery, “I’ll be fine, it’s nothing!” and then found yourself stuck in your pyjamas days later with your head fairly nailed to the pillow, while people with expectations (and let’s be fair, expectations based on information you provided) tap their watches and ooze impatience.

I can report that a hospital at Level 3 is even more like itself – staff only, all masked all the time. No visitors looking lost or delighted or anxious in corridors because there are no visitors at all. My husband and I had waited in the carpark at dawn for the “Come on down!” call from reception and waved each other good bye.

So it’s all business, but they cannot be kinder, and that’s the usual thing we say about healthcare people but I’m still saying it here because we should remark on remarkable things. They let me make jokes and make some of their own, and one of the post-op carers says when she sees me stand up for the first time, “I thought you were taller – you have a tall personality” and without wanting to disrespect short people everywhere I take this as a massive compliment.

In the operating theatre, a nurse tells me her kid was at school with my daughter 20 years ago and suddenly this gathering of surgical staff feels a bit like a school fair and we get so chatty the anaesthetist says something old-school about women talking and I suggest the only way he can shut me up is to drug me, and he does, and I drift off wondering if that was a terrible thing to say and it probably was.

I don’t know why I am surprised that, after someone has been tootling about in my head with a drill for three hours, I wake up feeling a bit sore. It’s like that time I had a baby and had focused so much on the birth that I was surprised this wasn’t the end of the event, just the very beginning, and I think that’s what the Day Three Blues can be about sometimes but I’m not actually a doctor.

The people who are doctors are very pleased with my ear, and now that it is over I am reading up on the literature and I am impressed with them, too. Mostly, though, I am enchanted by my bandages which come with a bow set off to the side, giving me a flapper-vibe which goes nicely with the white compression stockings and honestly if I could stand up I’d do you a Charleston but right now it is time for nap, normal transmission will resume…

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11 Oct This Pandemic Has Turned Me Into A 1950s Housewife

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 18.10.21

 

Shortly after 6am last Saturday, you would have found me in my kitchen with the entire contents of the fridge laid out on the bench. Not because I was hungry and about to whip up an omelette at dawn. Nope, this was me pulling out all the shelves and fittings to wash them down, and checking use-by dates on forgotten jars of chutney.

I’d woken early – a thing I do now I’m not working at night – and rather than reaching for a book, I’d decided to get up and get on. I have new microfiber cloths I swear by, and I’m trying a different brand of thick liquid cleaner. I hardly know myself.

On Sunday morning, you’d have found me on my hands and knees washing the floors, scrubbing skirting boards and – if you’d timed it right – shutting myself inside the pantry so I could wipe the inside of the bi-fold door which no one can see unless they’ve shut themselves in the pantry. No one, of course, has ever shut themselves in the pantry until now. 

I am all about the cleaning and cooking, and shopping from brochures and dreaming of evenings out. Recently, I heard myself say, “I feel like an adventure so I’m going to the supermarket, bye!” This pandemic has turned me into a 1950s housewife, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I suspect my mother would have approved. As much as she enjoyed the work I did out in the world, I know she felt my housekeeping could be a little lax. She rarely mentioned it, but on the odd occasion I polished the silver water jug (wedding gift from her) turning it from tarnished orange to mirror shine, she might say a little tartly, “Is it Christmas already?” Meaning I must be doing this for other eyes, as mine clearly hadn’t noticed it for months. Still, she could see I was pleased with the sparkle of it and she would exhale a little, and smile.

It is true that, back when I spent a lot of nights in hotels – like, you know, in July – I tended to treat my home like a hotel, too. Sleep, eat, do some work, pack a suitcase and go. But I’m here now, noticing tops of doors and finger marks on light switches and suddenly curious about what is stuffed under the spare bed.

I am also – I’ll be honest – going slightly mad. Thank goodness I was born in the sixties because I couldn’t have done the 1950s for more than a few weeks. Much more of this and I will either be burning my bra or getting an online prescription for Mother’s Little Helper, or both.

And yet I will also confess there is pleasure to be found in the sparkling insides of a clean fridge and a well organised drawer. Also piles of clean laundry. I am a feminist, yes, but I prefer my bras washed, not burnt. I mean, have you seen the price of them? And smell the fabric softener on this one.

I have taken to stewing fruit. Sometimes I don’t even plan it, I’ll just be walking past the fruit bowl and suddenly find myself at the stove with its contents. I notice that, as I slice quartered apples into the saucepan, my hands look like my mother’s hands, and they move the same way. You might notice me exhale a little in moments like this, and smile.

 

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04 Oct Learning to Live with Covid

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 11.10.21

 

It has taken a while but I am learning to live with Covid-19. By which I don’t mean I have decided to give up on lockdowns and staying home and saving lives. “Learning to live with it” for me means I have accepted that, for the foreseeable future, my life will be very different from the way I would like it to be.

What I’d like to do is go back to work, do some shows, earn some money, see my daughter and grandchildren, and have enough certainty to plan things to look forward to. Instead, here I am in my trackpants, consciously seeking out reasons to be cheerful, applying for government support and very much learning that there are things I cannot control.

This is a whole different “learning to live with Covid” from the version you might hear touted on talkback radio or in newspapers. That’s the one where we let the virus into the community the way they have in other parts of the world where, if you don’t talk to overwhelmed nurses or traumatised survivors, you can pretend for a minute there isn’t a pandemic raging and “they’re getting on with it”.

I hear the argument – made with varying degrees of subtlety – that we should allow the virus in now, and let it take the old and the weak. “The ones who were going to die anyway,” I believe is the phrase. A woman in a bar (back when we did that sort of thing) tried that line out on me a few months ago. She wasn’t sure Covid was much of a thing, she’d never met anyone who’d had it. I told her my husband’s grandmother had just died of it in Canada. But, she argued, his grandmother would have been old, so she was going to die anyway. When I miss the conviviality of being in bars, I think of this stranger and get over that quite quickly.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that the virus is a killer (it is) but picture an actual person with a gun. Imagine this gunman runs rampant in a retirement village and shoots everyone over 90. Some people say this is a tragedy and the killer must be stopped but others say, nah, it’s not that tragic, they were all going to die anyway.

Honestly, that’s the kind of thing you only say when you’re a long way from 90 and don’t have much time for anyone who is.

Part of the problem is that when someone says “the old and the weak” – or, less emotively, “people with underlying health conditions” – it is easy to picture the generic nana of someone you’ve never met. But really, what we are describing is New Zealand’s vaccination Group 3 – people at risk because of diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, pregnancy, or auto-immune and other diseases. There are 1.7 million of them and you won’t be able to see them all with the naked eye. They’re staffing our hospitals and supermarkets as well as every other sector, and I’d generally want to wish us luck keeping businesses going if we’re going to wilfully put what amounts to one-third of the population at high risk.

Soon – once we’re all double-jabbed – by all means, open the borders and try moments of what looks like the life we’d like to have. But also be ready to lock it down again if we have to. Learning to live with it in a way that lets all of us continue to live.

 

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29 Sep Lockdown Lemons

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 4.10.21

 

Some people make staying home look good. I have friends who are highly skilled at nesting indoors or who potter round the garden happily for weeks. A few have always been like this, and others just gave it a red-hot go at the beginning of the pandemic and totally nailed it. Now they make staying put look like the most natural thing in the world.

I am not one of these people. Sure, I like my own company and I can hunker down, clean out a cupboard or read a book, but I am a traveller at heart and home is the place where you rest between adventures.

My husband – even keener on getting on a plane and having his passport stamped – has managed with more grace than me, I think, to embrace staying home and saving lives. Give him lockdown lemons and he will make you a lemon tart. Also banana bread. Sometimes – don’t tell him – I buy bananas on the turn just to nudge him in the bread-making direction.

But the people who really nailed “staying home” were our 2020 lockdown neighbours, gone now but remembered fondly. They were in the new house over our back fence, built where the orchard used to be before a previous owner subdivided.

It’s a 5-bedroom rental property with a rotating cast of characters.  Sometimes we barely get to know them, other times we have long chats over the fence about the weather or our pets or who might be planning on playing loud music a bit later and would that be a bother to anyone if it was all done by midnight.

When Level 4 arrived in 2020, the house belonged to the most vibrant bunch yet. The languages wafting over the fence included Portuguese definitely, possibly Spanish, plus a lot of something Eastern European. They barbecued, and played long games of cards at the kitchen table, and had their very own karaoke machine, and danced to Polish techno.

I found it remarkable at first that, each week, they had a birthday to celebrate. Ten flatmates suggested a birthday a month-ish, but every weekend the gold balloons spelling out “Happy Birthday!” would appear in the living room window and a party would ensue.

Over here in my bubble of two, I had questions. First, where’d they get the balloons? (And how tremendous to have them on hand when lockdown hit!) Also, where did they store them Monday to Friday? (They were very big and appeared quite floaty.) And this rash of birthdays – had they got together as flatmates because the thing they had in common was their star sign? And supplementary question: who knew people born under Aries and Taurus would get on so well?

By the time we’d got to Level 2 I suspected those big gold balloons were a ruse – that maybe (odds are) there were some actual birthdays involved but they’d just decided to throw a party each week and the balloons helped set the mood.

I found it all very uplifting – all that conviviality and human interaction when the rest of the world was about social distancing and isolation. It reminded me of what we all had to look forward to on the other side if we keep doing this right.

Meanwhile, there’s a superb lemon tart in our fridge and some of my cupboards are very tidy. And if staying home is the hardest thing I have to do this week, I’m pretty darn lucky.

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24 Sep Shopping In Lockdown

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 27.9.21

 

I was window shopping online in Lockdown when a realisation hit me just before I clicked “add to cart”. It wasn’t the pretty dress that I wanted to buy. (Though yes, that too – roses, 1950s style, what’s not to love?) The thing I really wanted delivered to my door was (ta da!) the opportunity to go out somewhere wonderful and be in a room where that dress belonged.

Frocking up is one of my very favourite things. Just thinking about what I might wear is calming – if I can’t sleep at night because I have a job the next day that scares me, one of the best ways to settle me down is to plan what I might wear for it.

Indeed, any time a doctor has told me I need to be admitted to hospital for a procedure, my first response is to go out and buy fancy new pyjamas. And yes, this is a diversionary tactic not a million miles from denial, but also it works a treat. I can be relatively sangfroid right up until the anaesthetist asks me to count backwards from a hundred simply because I’m looking forward to a few days in fetching sleepwear on the other side.

Part of my “I want to buy the party, not the party frock” epiphany was the shock of remembering that in Level 4 there were no parties to go to. Sure, I could I pop it on and do something with my hair other than spray more dry shampoo in it and then take a selfie and post it on social media, but there’s a special kind of “sad” about then spending the rest of day frocked up and alone. The Germans probably have a word for it. They certainly have a word for what probably happens next –“kummerspeck” which literally means “grief bacon” and refers to the weight you put on after a bout of emotional eating. I’m not saying sitting alone in your best dress eating a whole carton of feijoa ice cream is wrong, I’m just saying the Germans have a word for it.

If not a dress then, I thought, what about ordering something for a cheer-up that would be more appropriate for these times? All right, yes, track pants because that’s all I wear now and I only have two pairs and if you’re going to wear track pants when you’re not actually “at the track” they should at least be clean unless you’ve completely stopped caring.

And maybe, yes, how about ordering something for your face because despite all evidence to the contrary, you do care about how you look so maybe a serum that will bring back a youthful bloom so by the time you leave the house again people will say, “Gosh, you’re looking well” and not mean that as code for, “We see you’ve been at the grief bacon”.

So I “added to cart” a couple of pairs of trackies from one place, and a bottle of face oil from another and spent the next few days following the delivery progress via email and text, excited as a kid waiting for birthday treats. I can report the pants fit and the serum makes me feel optimistic – so much so I’ve now ordered the vintage style skater dress with roses because there will be a party one day and I want to be ready.

 

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16 Sep On Storming Out of a Zoom Meeting

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly for 20.9.21

 

A friend of mine stormed out of a Zoom meeting the other day. I am so entranced by this idea, I’ve been visualising it in my mind’s eye ever since.

In my version of her story – and I’m bringing some personal experiences to it – I picture a gallery view of attendees, a sort of B-grade “Celebrity Squares”. You already know you don’t like them. Partly that’s because you adore your friend and you know how this ends, but it is also because this is a serious board meeting yet (again, this is my version) someone is eating something from a bowl which is probably soup but makes you think “porridge”, and others have their camera pointing under their chins or straight up a nose. Also, the person who is supposed to be talking has their microphone on mute, and several people who aren’t supposed to be talking are unmuted so you can hear their email notifications go ping and something that could be either chewing or scratching.

Meanwhile, the host is aggressively refusing to acknowledge my friend’s request to speak. This has been going on for some time. Each time she unmutes herself to make her point, he uses his “Host” powers to mute her, like a boardroom game of whac-a-mole. Finally, gesticulating dramatically and posting a furious note in the Chat, my friend hits “Leave Meeting”, exiting Zoom and abandoning the checkerboard of ingrates to stew in their own virtual juice.

She said it was extremely satisfying. Right up until it was over. Deciding to go, reaching for the mouse, hovering over the button, the decisive “click”, and the emptying of her screen? Yes! But then there she was, alone, in her living room. Makes you realise how much the dramatic exit owes to the angry walkout, the door slam, and the furious drive home. It’s enough to make you reconsider your fantasy of being able to teleport.

It is remarkable how much the video/telephone combo has become part of our lives. Last Saturday night I spent four hours at an AGM for the comedy industry. True story. Also true is that it was on Basic Zoom so the meeting ended every forty minutes which for other people might have been a deterrent but for comedians on a Saturday night in lockdown? All 50-odd attendees logged back on each time with a fresh supply of snacks.

Back when I had the option of being in a room with other humans, I avoided Facetime and Skype, and I’d never heard of “Zoom” until I learnt other words like “social distancing” and “bubble”. Fair to say it has caught on – on one day in March 2020, the Zoom app was downloaded 2.13 million times.

Last October I hosted a national conference for 700 women from my home office, joking that I may or may not have been wearing pyjama pants, they would never know. But here’s another thing I’ve learnt – even in the virtual world, I dress up for it. I can’t access a formal attitude if I’m not in some level of formal wear.

I suddenly understand and appreciate the old-school dress code for radio – men in bowties, women in evening gowns. Maybe I don’t go that far, but I put on shoes and clean my teeth.

Besides, you need your proper pants on if you’re going to leave your camera going so they can watch you as you storm out.

 

 

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06 Sep Lockdown, you say – can I get a vodka with that?

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.9.21

 

Those snapshots the internet gives us of our collective curiosity are illuminating. As the nation was plunged into lockdown last month the thing we most googled was whether liquor stores would be open in Level 4. If I’m staying at home, we wanted to know, can I have a vodka?

In our next searches, we asked about supermarkets and laundromats, then the Level 4 rules in general, followed by the likelihood of wage subsidies and locations of Covid-19 testing stations.

That is a fine encapsulation of our fundamental human desires: booze, food, cleanliness, behavioural requirements, money and health. One might quibble over the order of our priorities, for sure, but we’ve got it all covered.

While everyone else was searching liquor store rules, I was looking for my track pants. This doesn’t make me a better person – I simply had clearer memories than others of how difficult it was to get vodka last time so already knew the answer.

But also I had firm intentions about behaving better this lockdown. Less of the wine and snacks, more of the daily exercise and creative output.

I found the track pants – my old favourites, plus one pair nabbed in a sale during Level 2 and barely worn, so they feel novel – and rifled through my “bought this on holiday as a souvenir” t-shirts, picking out the ones featuring Minnie Mouse to wear initially which kept the first week cheerful.

Also uplifting was reading a lot of very nice emails hoping I was well and keeping safe, sent by retailers whose stores I’d once spent money in and who thought of me as a loyal customer. Oh, and by the way, I could spend more money with them now online, no trouble at all. It was tremendously thoughtful of them.

Sage advice in these strange times is to stick to usual routines like making the bed each morning. Turns out I do these things – the bed making and also the ironing of sheets and tea towels – entirely for my own satisfaction and not for show. I don’t care if you’re coming over or not, the pillow cases will be smooth.

Sometimes you forget no one is coming over. The day we’d planned a couple of family Zooms, I found myself elbow deep in the toilet giving it a good scrub halfway round the S-bend before realising our visitors would be in the living room virtually, and not actually using the facilities.

These chats with family and friends in other countries are helpful for hot tips from lockdown veterans, and a sobering reminder that here we’re not dealing with overwhelmed hospitals and daily death tallies.

I always have a list of chores, but I am learning not to obsessively tick them off one at a time. Instead, I am taking what I think of as the “peck” approach. A little bit of each kind of thing that makes me feel like I’ve achieved something or that brings me joy. So daily there is a light dusting of housework, some business admin, a dive into creative work, a chat with someone in the world outside my bubble, and a fair amount of staring at the cat.

In the quietest of times, I am embroidering a cushion with: “Never do today what might usefully amuse you tomorrow.” Very much enjoying the process so obviously I can’t ever finish it.

 

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30 Aug On “Pushing On Through”

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 6.9.21

 

I had a baby 28 years ago, and I think that’s why I am still a bit tired now. I mean, I’ve had a couple of decent sleeps since then, but I suspect as a new mother you learn an approach to life that possibly isn’t serving you so well if you keep it up in middle-age.  

I remember that fog of exhaustion – woolly headed, dizzy, a tinge of nausea – so clearly. My baby was born six weeks early and had to be woken to feed every two hours, but I know full term babies are no guarantee of longer stretches of sleep either. So you push on through, ignoring your body’s and your mind’s need for rest, because this is the Thing You Must Do. There is a new human to keep alive!  

But at some point, all that disregarding of the signs you should go to bed and stay there is not going to be good for you. Tricky though – once you’ve mastered the art of Soldiering On it can be hard to make yourself halt this relentless march and leave the parade for a bit of a quiet sit.  

I seem to recall there was a time when people who were ill went to bed and didn’t get up till they were cured. Now there’s a pill for that which can take away all the symptoms so you can pretend you’re quite well thank you, and maybe go share whatever it is with your workmates, and then they can take a pill, too.  

Possibly this global pandemic has made us better – I hope so – about keeping to ourselves when we’ve got anything that looks even vaguely Covidy. I’ve noticed people with tickly throats or hay fever pointedly identify the cause of their coughs and sneezes as non-pandemic related, as in: “Washoo! Crikey, the pollen is bad this season, isn’t it, Cheryl?”  

I also remember a simpler time when, if we were tired, we’d go to bed and fall asleep with a book. Now when we’re exhausted we sit on the couch and watch just one episode to wind down, and then just one more because at this point we’re too tired to get up and go to bed, so we might as well finish the series.  

One of the reasons I can remember the fog of exhaustion – woolly brain, queasy tummy – is that I am feeling it now. I checked my temperature and it’s not that, so I checked my diary and that would explain it – too many days on, not enough time off due to a tendency to say “yes” to everything except an early night with a book.  

So that’s what I am doing now – consciously paying attention to the signs that I need sleep, or space and calm, and unlearning those new-mother skills (which might have become habits) of “pushing on through”. Habits compounded, no doubt, in those of us who are self-employed or freelancers or instilled with a protestant work ethic that suggests we are defined by our devotion to what we do.  

My late-mother would remind me at regular intervals, when she saw the midnight oil burning at mine, that her yoga teacher would say, “Remember, Donna, we are human beings, not human doings”.  

The baby is all grown up now. I might put myself down for a nap.

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23 Aug Reception Trouble

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 30.8.21

 

It is useful, I think, to know when you are most likely to be the worst version of yourself.

Some people are a bit touchy first thing in the morning – slow to wake, in need of a shot of caffeine before they’re ready to engage. For others there’s a mid-afternoon hangry slump that shortens their fuse. Parents struggle to maintain their usual charm and poise around dinner/bath hour, and people who leap out of bed at dawn to go for a run can get a bit snappy if they’re kept up beyond their bedtime.

I try to be a pleasant person to be around – it seems the least we can do for each other since we’re sharing a planet – and it’s easy to pull this off because I genuinely like a lot of the people I meet. But recently I’ve worked out there is a particular place that I am most likely to be a horrific grump – at a hotel or motel check-in.

The problem is that, in my head, arriving at my accommodation is the end of something – the end of the early start, the bag packing, the trip to the airport infused with general anxiety about missing flights, the waiting, the boarding, the flight itself, then navigating a ride with a stranger from airport to accommodation.

Good cab rides are either peaceful or a conversational delight – I met a woman who does fly-fishing recently and I still miss her – but there are also bad cab rides that do terrible things to your blood pressure and your faith in humanity.

Arriving at reception looks like the end of all this – you are tired and also grubby for no reason you can pinpoint, and in need of a wee, and you would like to be alone now. But for the person on the other side of the desk, it is the beginning of their bit, which is Being Welcoming plus Admin. Forms, credit cards, questions about newspapers and breakfasts that seem so far off into the future you can’t imagine ever needing them in your life, and that ubiquitous question, “How’s your day been?” which feels hard to answer prettily given your day has so far consisted only of those dull things listed above – though you have high hopes for the remainder of the day once you’ve made it to your room, soon please.

Day Three of a four-day multi-stop trip, I turned into a proper Karen. (Apologies to all my friends call Karen who are, one and all, adorable, but you know what I mean.) Faced with a three hour wait until check in, stranded in a carpark outside a locked office and with nowhere else to be, I badly wanted to ask to speak to the manager but realised I already had her on the phone and she couldn’t help me no matter how much I suggested she might.

But one of the cleaners let me leave my suitcase behind and wander off (see also: get me out of their hair) and a couple of hours later I came back and there was a room waiting and I apologised to the staff for being terse earlier. Not at my best, I said, at check-in, especially when I can’t.

They say that if you feel uncomfortable about a pattern of behaviour, then on some level you are already moving towards changing it. Expect warmth, charm and cheerful descriptions of how my day has been next time you see me at reception.

 

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23 Aug Adults Only

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 23.8.21

 

“Is this… um… Is this a no-kids resort?” We’re on holiday in Rarotonga and a family with two young boys have dropped by to have a look around. I’m wandering past with a book when the mother stops me to ask the question in a tone that is tinged with wonder, and also hope.

Yes, I tell her, you have to be over 16 to stay here or to use the pool which is deep enough for dive lessons, though anyone is welcome to eat at the restaurant. She says it would feel mean to give the kids lunch by the pool but not let them swim in it afterwards, and I see her point. I ask how long they’re in Rarotonga for – ten days, she says, which is longer than us and I’m envious. “But you can do a lot more in a week without two kids in tow!” she says, and we grin at each other because I used to be her, and one day she might be me.

I remember my first holiday as a mother, about eight months into the parenting lark. It was a weekend away and somehow I’d imagined it would be like pre-baby weekends away – a dinner out, a nap, no housework or cooking, much peace and freedom and maybe a book. Then the shocking realisation that a weekend away with a baby was exactly like a weekend at home with a baby, except without the stuff you needed on hand.

This is my first experience of an “adults only” resort. Though “adults only” sounds like the back room of a video store with rude movies… “Child free” maybe? Just “quiet” mostly, with a distinct lack of shrieking in the pool or whining at the restaurant or sulking on the sun loungers. That special kind of quiet your house has once you’ve got the last kid off to school.

We are people temporarily escaping kids, or yet to have kids, or enjoying being able to afford the luxury of a place without kids now our kids have left home. Even our conversations seem quieter, our voices less urgent, lacking the edge of hysteria you detect in someone’s first adult conversation of the day. No one needs to be told off, given warnings, or have boundaries explained. You are not vigilant. You are allowed to swim at night in the pool so long as you don’t annoy anyone. Aside from the no-kids rule, there are almost no others. 

I like how adults are with each other when it’s just us. We dip in and out of conversations, and occasionally gather in groups for sunset cocktails but also sometimes don’t. I get the feeling we’d all cheerfully lend our neighbours a cup of sugar but probably wouldn’t ask for one ourselves. We are delighted to be self-contained.

There is a wedding on our beach, and an engagement, and other stories are shared about big life events. We give each other hot tips on places to eat and occasionally all end up at the same restaurant where we smile and wave but stay at our own tables, comparing notes the next day about the cheesecake and fish.

After eight days, I’m at the airport where clusters of hot, fraught families are making their way home and I am so overwhelmed by the sounds they make, I put in my earbuds and listen to an ocean scape. I will re-acclimate, but I’m not ready yet.

 

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