At 12.01am on January 1, 2014, as people outside cheered and turned up music and let off crackers, I was changing a very dirty nappy. One of those up-to-the-ears-all-up-the-back poops, that you cannot believe came from something so beautiful and teensy and precious. It turned out it was an apt way to start a year that was a bit of a shit, if I’m honest.
My sister Julia’s Year in Review questionnaire thingy
1.What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
I became a ‘working mother’. I also ate a cronut.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept most of them. We moved out of our horrible hot granny flat in Balmain, I got a haircut, I got out and made some new friends, I am in the process of fixing my pelvis that got f-ed up when a baby passed through it, I read more.
A few of my goals for 2015 are: re-learn how to sew, make a complicated birthday cake for someone, go to the theatre, and make sure I mark special occasions.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my sister Mary had the darling Alexandra.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. So, that was nice.
5. What countries did you visit?
Country NSW. That place is the bomb. Wide open spaces, excellent cakes, the best op-shops, old school friends, animals, brilliant melting moments and surprisingly fresh sushi.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
Patience. Sleep. Fashion.
7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April 26. We moved house that day and it was the greatest. July 21. That’s when I went back to work and the girl child went to daycare. August 26. The day we ignored our 10th anniversary. September 21, the day my baby became a toddler.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Going back to work. Making a bad-ass batch of cinnamon scrolls.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Scratching the side of my mum’s car in the Orange City Centre carpark. I will never forget that awful, heart-sinking feeling when I heard the sound of metal and concrete making contact.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I kicked post-natal depression in its teeth. I’m still trying to fix a case of pubis symphysis, which has me hobbling like a pirate. I am wearing a sort of velcroed, elastic, grey girdle belt as I write! Oh,mama!
11. What was the best thing you bought?
A car. She’s royal blue and we named her Barbara Bush.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
J-man, for being a boss legend. My sisters and mum and dad, for supporting me during the early months of motherhood. The girl child, for being ever so sweet.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled?
The woman who lost it at a checkout chick in KMart when she found out their selfie sticks were sold out two days before Christmas. And after a year like 2014, so, so many others.
14. Where did most of your money go?
To childcare. And the motor vehicle industry.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Seeing Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age. The baby was about six months old, and still not sleeping very well, and I had been feeling pretty flat. I remember coming home after the show and telling J-man that I felt alive again.
16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
Nominal, by #1 Dads.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
a) HAPPIER. SO MUCH HAPPIER.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Relaxing and being creative. I pretty much never did those things.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Fighting and looking at my phone. I waste so much time on my stupid, fucking phone. Maybe a new year’s resolution should be setting fire to my phone.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Eating. Swimming. Watching an enormous thunderstorm.
21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No. But I didn’t fall out of love.
22. What was your favourite TV program?
There were so many good ones this year. Orange is the New Black, Veep, True Detective, and Chelsea Peretti’s comedy special on Netflix, One of the Greats.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No. My hate levels remain very critical, but stable
24. What was the best book you read?
This House of Grief, by Helen Garner.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Young Fathers. Palms.
26. What did you want and get?
A baby who occasionally sleeps through the night. A box of Haigh’s truffles. A new house. A lot of time in the country. Some wonderful new friends.
27. What did you want and not get?
28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Ah, man. This is a mean question to ask the mother of a young child. I really liked Gone Girl and was particularly chuffed to have seen Ben Affleck’s man jewels.
29. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having an interesting job.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Youngish mumish, watermelon print enthusiast.
31. What kept you sane?
Afternoon walks in Rozelle, especially after discovering Bellingen Gelato and their mint-choc-chip. It is spiked with real peppermint essence and is filled with a generous amount of dark chocolate shavings. PUT IT IN MY MOUTH IMMEDIATELY.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Ira Glass. Justice Lucy McCallum. Justice Geoffrey Bellew.
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
Ah, man. This year made me mad in my bones. Gender equality. Racial equality. All of the equalities. Climate change. Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Changes to the welfare system.
34. Who did you miss?
My mum. 300 kilometres may as well be 30,000 kilometres sometimes.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
I’m still learning how to live in the moment. Not in the idiot-girl-in-your-university-dorm-inspirational-quote kind of way, but I need to just to look around every day, and be content with what I have.
36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year
I got a man to stick it out And make a home from a rented house And we’ll collect the moments one by one I guess that’s how the future’s done
How many acres how much light Tucked in the woods and out of sight Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap On a little road barely on the map
Somewhere in rural Victoria, there is a young man who thinks I’m dead and/or unattractive. About an hour after landing in Melbourne, J-man, our friend Meg and I accidentally found ourselves on a steep bush track in a hire car made for driving to church. A 20-ish-year-old dude drove past us in a big ute and gave us an appropriate bewildered look. I looked at him, opened my eyes wide, raised my eyebrows and hoped he understand I meant “Help me. We’re about to die”, not “come hither”. He kept driving.
Happily, our road to certain death looked like this:
After losing traction several times, near-bogging, and a near self-bogging, we made it to our sweet BnB. It had ponies!
Then we went to Hanging Rock to watch The Rubens, one of the bands J-man co-manages, support The Boss. I get so excited seeing J-man’s bands succeed. Look! (Not seen: guitarist Zaac shredding it on stage left).
As we were waiting for The Boss to start, this is what Hanging Rock looked like. I told a funny joke heaps of times: “You know a bunch of schoolgirls went missing here, right?” It really was amazing how polite people were about it.
We saw most of his show the next night too, but the baby appeared to dislike all the vibrations. Get used to rock ‘n’ roll little one because your dad lives it and your mum sometimes comes along for the ride until 10pm.
We spent Monday and Tuesday in Melbourne. It was my first time. I liked it, but I didn’t go bat shit insane like I thought I would. I liked the laneways, the Yarra, the little shops for ladies, the fried green tomato burgers, the homemade crumpets, the duck fat potatoes, the art gallery and the trams.
Also, the breads.
I was just a touch disappointed with my inability to find anything to buy, so I spent today making up for it at op-shops and the outlet centre near my house.
a) A kaftan shirt from Vinnies because pregnant women seem to be relegated to polar fleece and Indian-themed garments.
b) A mug from Salvos to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Liz, you legend!
c) Some tassel earrings to distract from my suddenly outie belly button.
d) A stripey shirt. Ahoyness! I know my mum would tell me that horizontal stripes make you look wider, but I feel like pregnancy and peanut butter pretzels are the real culprits here.
e) A dress with embroidery on the front from Salvos. It was sold as “manchester”, but doonas don’t have shoulder pads, sillies! Also need to nappy san a mystery stain.
When you are preparing to celebrate being in a relationship for eight years, you want to find the perfect outfit – something pretty, glamorous and saucy.
So you can imagine my delight when, in the weeks leading up to our octo-versary on the weekend, I found a handmade bright pink, neck-to-ankle 1970s bridesmaid’s dress/Rapunzel costume with a ruffle across the chest.
Ticks all the aforementioned boxes, I reckon:
I did consider leaving it long to cover my shame, but I thought I looked a bit too much like Princess Peach. So I got out my measuring tape and scissors and lopped about 30cm off the bottom.
Hello from Brooklyn! The land of rescue dogs, coffee, donuts, snow (!) and a little jet lag.
Bow sandals If you looked at my internet search history you would find “sandals with bows” “bow sandals” and “bows with sandals attached” among my most searched terms. I just really love bows. And sandals. I bought these from a shop called Dalaga. Tangent: See how my right foot is bruised? That’s cos an amp (an amp!) fell on my foot two days before we flew to New York.
Cat eye sunglasses The last pair of black cat eyes I bought from a newsagent in Erina Fair broke after I put them in a bag and then threw said bag in a car boot. Also bought from Dalaga. I would have modelled these, but I look like I’ve just walked in from a blizzard filled with garbage after a 48 hour catfishing trip.
T(om)hanks You know how you always hear old people saying ‘no one ever writes letters anymore’? Well I always write letters, so shut your mouth Mavis. I think funny or classy cards are the best little gift you can give. And who didn’t love Tom Hanks in Turner and Hooch? I bought these from a bookstore in Greenpoint called ‘Word’. Word!
J-man in heaven I think the only reason J-man was so enthusiastic about NYC was its people to craft beer bar ratio. This is him carefully choosing beers at a place called Brouwerji Lane. It was like watching a kid in a beer flavoured candy store.
The question I am most frequently asked – after “Cheque, savings or credit?” “Where’s the photocopier?” “Have we met?” and “Gross. Was that you?” – is “Great dress. Where did you get it?”
Usually I just say: “Thanks Mum, it’s from an op shop”. But because I just can’t walk into my parents’ house every six to nine months without being bombarded with compliments about my clothes, I thought I really should address that question here. Address! Ha! My quick wit goes so well with my finery.
The long answer is: mostly eBay, sometimes markets, occasionally op-shops and, if I’m feeling vulnerable, vintage clothing stores. It’s quite boring compared to the “It’s from a little Parisian pop up shop my personal sherpa found while collecting my fresh Evian water on Mount Everest Base Camp III” answer you so often read in the Sunday magazines.
Here are some of my most recent finds*.
The red dress
When I see a dress I really like I have little daydreams about what I could achieve while wearing it. When I saw this little baby on eBay in all its crimson, fringed, body-hugging glory I immediately imagined walking into a party where everyone knows my name (for once). Out of a haze of cigarette smoke, lust and glace cherries, a talent scout approaches me and asks me to do a walk-on part in a community television role about a line dancing stripper with a heart of gold.
The lacy dress
J-man and I are going to a wedding in a few weeks and I’ve been saving this dress for the occasion. When I saw it hanging on a rack at Surry Hills markets, I imagined walking into the church late, my hair flowing in the breeze. The spotlight abruptly shifts from the beaming bride to me; mysterious, alone and pouting in the back row. Out of a haze of cigarette smoke, confetti and cuckolded brides, a talent scout approaches me, inspects my armpits and asks me to be the new face of Impulse body spray.
I love onesies. You have excellent sun protection, can roll around on the ground and sit like a dude. When I saw this in a vintage clothing store on King Street in Newtown I imagined skipping through a meadow, free and without fear of revealing my shame. Out of a haze of cigarette smoke, daises and fertiliser, a talent scout approaches me and asks me wear the hell I keep my keys in that thing.
* Apologies for the lack of human in the photos, but I have developed a horrible, reoccurring whole body rash. It appeared on Sunday and I was totally convinced it was caused by the transfer of some kind of perverted body lotion J-man had acquired in a last ditch attempt to seduce me. I think it’s actually weird reaction to new sun cream.
Two days ago, I took a deep breath and threw out all my Vogues. The great throw-out of 2010 was in preparation for the great overseas trip of 2010, which is likely to be preceded by the great panic attack of 2010, which itself will be followed by the great beer guzzle of 2010.
I expected the sight of all those glossy pages filled with Marc Jacobs, Dior, expensive lipstick and stories about princesses on Greek Islands to break my heart as they landed in the recycling bin. Way back when, Vogue magazines helped me choose my Year 10 formal dress (based on Gwen Stefani’s red prom dress by John Galliano), get inspiration for my graduation dress (based on Givenchy’s little black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Sabrina) and helped me choose the colour of my wedding dress. But, as I looked down into the bin I realised as much as I’ve always been interested in clothes and fashion, I’ve never really got it right. I let my black clothes turn grey, I wear out my shoes, I buy cheap rip-offs, I never get the right size, I only get my hair cut once every six months and my red lipstick always ends up on my chin.
Here are some examples of my fashion failings through time:
I wrote about this outfit before. I don’t think I need to tell what’s wrong with it. The layering? The colour? The mank hair? The constipated expression?
Oh great Steve, buy a thick-strapped white bra. Wash said bra with dark coloured items. Wear newly corpse-grey bra under white singlet. Then go to a gay bar and wonder why no one wants to hang out with you except the dude you’ve trapped with your unwanted pregnancy. Which I’m assuming is the case here, what with that MATERNITY bra and all.
This was taken at Taronga Zoo. Clearly, I caught some of the poop one of the chimps threw at me and rubbed it into my fringe. Either that or I got a fringe cut, never had it trimmed, let it get greasy and took it out on a date with me.
You may think that giant green sparkly hat is the issue here. But no. I remember feeling so happy while posing for this photo. I’d just been to a music festival, completed a scary task I never thought I’d be capable of (no, it did not involve knee pads) and it was nearly Christmas. If only I realised I was wearing a hideous dress-shirt one size too small. Nice tuckshop lady boobs, Steve.
The most recent example. No, I didn’t stop at double denim. I obviously ate several pies, slipped into a tight white singlet and completely massacred a wonderful cropped jacket by Built By Wendy right on the doorstep of Government House. My arms were lost in the historic battle.
Yep, I’m getting myself a lifetime subscription to Caravaning Australia and Guns, Beer and Hummers instead. Obviously, that’s where I really belong.
If I’m left to my own devices for too long, I end up making bum jokes and losing friends.
This week I was chatting to a very glamorous girl – there she was in her stilettos, her red, flattering Carla Zampatti skirt, teamed with a sweet striped top and vintage gold beads. I stood next to her in my beat-up shoes with my clubbed toes hanging out the end, a pair of ill-fitting black pants that have faded to Dire Straits stonewash grey and a stripy cropped jacket that makes me look like I’m a volunteer at an old folks’ home. To top it off, I had the worst hayfever I’ve had this season – eyes watering, nose pouring, loud scream-inducing sneezes at every turn.
It was probably the salt water and mucus combination pouring from my nostrils that took our conversation from awesome eBay finds (her skirt) to illnesses (my allergies/social retardation). She asked me something about getting shots.
Me: Yeah, I don’t get them because I’d probably have to have them in my butt cheeks.
Me: ….. Ah ha ha? I don’t get them because I’d probably have to have them in my butt chee-.
Her: -So what’s up this weekend?
I’m sure my face turned the same colour as my candy striper jacket, but I battled on anyway and managed to tell her about my awesome plans for the weekend – making a fort, growing a beard, wearing a rope belt, catching insects for food and staying there for the rest of my life so I never, ever have to socially interact again.
I’m actually pretty used to this kind of thing happening. I’m no good at small talk and it takes a really, really long time for me to feel comfortable enough to show you I have a sense of humour. So I think 80 per cent of people who meet me think I’m a dirty mute, in the style of Steve Buscemi as The Marietta Mangler.
It’s seriously the small talk thing that gets me the most – I’m fascinated by how it works.
SMALL TALK WITH REGULAR, SELF-ASSURED PEOPLE:
1: Oh god, I hate soft apples.
2: Me too. I once got such a soft apple that I swear it could have taken out the softest apple of all soft apples in the soft apples competition at the 1997 Granny Smith fair.
1: Oh my god, is that girl wearing track pants to work?
2: Woah. She so is. I like to wear trackpants only on the weekends.
1: Me too. Or when I’m hungover and going to Maccas for some food.
2: How good is Maccas for a hangover?
1: Oh, so good.
2: Actually, let’s go eat now.
See what happened there? From their mutual dislike for soft apples and trackpants at work, 1 and 2 made an everlasting connection and have gone to lunch, where they will probably meet cute guys, who will buy them matching pug puppies.
SMALL TALK BETWEEN A NORMAL, SELF-ASSURED PERSON AND A CLUBBED TOED, DIRTY MUTED ME.
1: Oh god, I hate soft apples.
1: Oh my god, is that girl wearing track pants to work?
Me: Umm, yeah it looks like it?
1: Holy shit, is that mucus AND salt water coming out of your nose at the same time.
Me: Ah, yeah.
1: You should really get some shots or something.
Me: Yeah, I don’t get them because I’d probably have to have them in my butt cheeks.
Me: … Ah ha ha? I don’t get them because I’d probably have to have them in my butt cheeks.
I love searching for ‘vintage dress’ on eBay. About 17,348 items come up and only about one-tenth of those are truly vintage and about one-tenth of those one-tenths are actually cool. But it’s the trawling that’s just so satisfying, just like in a real life op-shop in the real life world.
I would love to wear this little baby to my engagement party, which is in exactly a week. I could be cutting it seriously fine, but I want to look good. And this strikes me as one of those dresses that could be awesomed up even more with a dash of red lipstick, some heels and some mildly teased hair. At this point it kind of looks like I’ll be wearing jeans that need constant pulling up in order to prevent peep shows and a shirt that says ‘walkman’. Gah!