Move Over Bridget Jones: The Wardrobe Girl Is Coming Soon

Spilling Ink

The Wardrobe Girl

TheWardrobe Girl, byJennifer Smart

(Random House Australia, 2014) ISBN:9780857982513

Publication Date: 3 March 2014

**4 Stars**

Bye-bye Bridget Jones. The long-standing queen of the unlucky-in-love set is about to be bumbled out of limelight. Enter Tess Appleby, a loveable, relatable, thirty-something darling, whose track record in the romance department would make even Bridget blanch.

What does Tess have that Bridget didn’t? How about a seat at the A-List’s table, a behind-the-scenes job in television, a dad who can write nice fat cheques, and views of the Sydney Harbour no matter where she’s bedding down?

Dumped by a big-shot English boyfriend, hunted down by paparazzi, and humiliated in the headlines of the UK’s sleaziest tabloids, Tess retreats to her home in Bronte, hoping for a fresh start a world away from the train wreck of her past. A low-key wardrobe job on the set of…

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Celebrating Birth Days

Just after the Birth Day

 

Last Friday was my youngest daughter’s 5th Birthday, which was celebrated with all the excitement and enthusiasm of a newly turned 5 year old. There was a trail of shredded wrapping paper, Barbie shoes, Octonaut stuff and various other brightly coloured, small plastic things designed to be trodden on by unsuspecting parents.

I’ve always loved my my children’s birthdays; sharing in the anticipation and joy of the day, organising the parties – and I’ve done plenty of those.

My daughter’s 5th birthday represents the 51st birth day I have celebrated – the combined ages of my 3 daughters. Every birthday, I always think back to their original birth day. My labour and the first precious moments of my child’s life. And they remain incredibly vivid. I’m very lucky that each of my birthing experiences were straight forward, although as different and individual as my daughters. I acknowledge there was pain and discomfort, but mostly, I remember and celebrate three intensely powerful and joy-filled births.

I imagine there will always be a moment on my children’s birthdays when I reflect about their birth and their earlier years. Moments of pride at how I have, and am, guiding them through life. But also moments of regret as I consider what I could have done differently.

And as the birth days roll by, I realise how much of the early years of parenting are just preparation for when your children get older. Sure, the early years are physically demanding and pass by in a fog of sleep deprivation, endless preschool energy and infectious enthusiasm for quirky displays  such as ballet scootering, or playing out complicated  games  that are peppered with ‘Now just pretend…’. Not to mention the fussy food habits, tantrums, nappies etc, etc. But all this fades into a mist coloured a soft shade of rose as one looks at the grunting, surly teenager imprisoned by hormonal urges they can’t control, let alone begin to understand.

As the birth days shift into double figures, the emotional and psychological demands are far more taxing, far more exhausting than anything your little one could possibly hope to throw at you. You are no longer the love of their life, but the bitch who ruined their life. For Ever More. And don’t even attempt to wander through the school gate with them, or deliver them to the front doors of parties, which don’t have friendly afternoon starting and finishing times. These parties start when you’re about to sit down with a glass of wine and then you remember you to have leave your cosy couch at 1am to pick them up. Remind yourself, as I did, that you too were once a teenager and survived to become a relatively normal adult, so there’s every chance your teenager will too.

As they move into young adulthood, you’ll discover the paradox of parenting. That the children you coaxed from their birth day on to become independent and self sufficient individuals, become just that and are off living their own lives, away from the nest.

Birthdays are  happy and celebratory, and for parents they bring the extra perspective of reflecting on the life that began on a birth day.

Versatile Blogger Award

Lene at Musings of Another Mother has been handing out gongs for Versatile Bloggers and she very kindly sent one my way. So thank-you very much, I graciously accept. , But of course in accepting comes the responsibility of the acceptance speech, which takes the form of  7 Interesting Facts about myself and 15 newly discovered blogs that I enjoy.

I hope you find these at least vaguely interesting –

  1. I worked on the TV series Home and Away for 5½ years, before that I worked in film including Mission Impossible 2 (yes, Tom Cruise really is that short!)
  2. I waited 17 years between having my second and third children. I needed a long rest.
  3. I lived in North London for 11 years before returning home to Sydney and finally setting up home in Balmain.
  4. I have finished a first draft of a novel, have one half-finished and initial thoughts about another.
  5. I have another blog, The Princess Letters Project, that was featured in The India Times
  6. I started ballet lessons a year ago, the day before my 48th birthday, fulfilling a childhood dream.
  7. I hate peas, they are little green balls of misery.

And here are my 15 newly discovered blogs for some weekend reading :-

Now, to accept one of these awards there are certain rules you have to follow;

1) thank the blogger who awarded you and link back to them (see above!)
2) share 7 interesting facts about yourself
3) pass the award on to 15 newly discovered blogs

Write on Wednesday

This week’s prompt for the inkpaperpen writing group is – Sit under a tree and write. As always it’s a five minute exercise.

My Writing Tree

Carol dropped the rake and leant against the Moreton Bay Fig, breathing in the moist earthiness. Grounded. She pushed a loose strand of hair away from her eyes and caught the bead of sweat trickling down her throat. The humidity seeped in under the shade of the low spreading branches, there was nowhere to hide. So still. Not even the stirring of a breeze ruffled the leaves. The rough bark itched through  the soft fabric of her T-shirt, persistent. Like Trevor, she thought. Irritating. But at least in this corner of the garden she was away from him. Third day of the bloody cricket test. Every year. Every Boxing day. TV, beer and cricket. Straight after the Sydney to Hobart start. Priorities, of course. Sport, then a bit more sport. Carol sighed, she’d be a grandmother in a few months. Trevor can put up a new rope swing.

The Adventures of Carol and Trevor started last week here.

Writing on Wednesday

Today’s prompt for the five minute writing exercise is the first line of your favourite song. I don’t really have a favourite song, it depends entirely on my mood and the circumstances I’m listening in, but I have long loved the music of Nick Cave so I chose the first line from the The Weeping Song.

Go son, go down to the water…

…and see what lies there. Perhaps you can bring me back some tadpoles. Here, take the jar. No, you can do it yourself, take the jar. I’ll watch. And I did. I watched him pick his way over the layers of gum leaves, crunching under his bare feet. Carefully lifting his small feet over the gnarled branches and putting his hand out to steady himself as he slipped on the steep bank of the creek. He looked back for reassurance and I smiled briefly as I pulled out my book to read. But I kept watching as the sun caught the dirty blonde of his hair through the dappled shade. The way he slowly unscrewed the lid and bent down by the brown water. His feet oozing in the mud. His head cocked to one side, just like his dad’s. The tears spilt, his dad.

 

You can read more about me and Nick Cave here.

Not now, I’m writing.

I’m no stranger to maternal guilt, we go way back. In fact, my first attack was 23½ years ago, as the stunned new mother of a tiny girl, I was asked by a midwife if I’d changed my baby’s nappy yet. ‘Ah, no,’ I’d thought. I’d just been staring at her for the past few hours, and I realized  in a moment of ego-crushing guilt, that I’d failed my first test of motherhood.

Guilt has been a regular companion since then. I have had guilt about divorce, long work hours as a single mum, being a single mum. Serving spaghetti Bolognese three nights in a row. Missing speech nights and teenage truancy, step parenting, being too strict, not strict enough. Putting on a DVD for my 4 year old so I can write a post on guilt. The list goes on. And on.

The Role of Ursula the Sea Witch will be played by me - again.

Usually I can rationalize my feelings around guilt, acknowledge that I have been, and am, a good mother, if not always perfect. I know I have always wanted and tried to do the best for each of my three daughters.  But sometimes the guilt is irrational and all-consuming and often centred on my need to write. And not just write, but clawing back time to think, creating space to get an idea down on paper, now. Right now. Not after I’ve played Barbies or been Ursula the Sea Witch for the fifth time that day (it’s not fair, I’m never Ariel).

Sometimes the guilt hits when I’m tired, grumpy and impatient because I’ve been up late working or feeling resentful that I haven’t been able to make the room for my writing that I’d hoped to. Other times it’s when I acknowledge that writing is essentially an occupation that requires a selfishness that contradicts the selflessness often needed in mothering.

In the end I’ve come to realise that beating myself up is a futile exercise. I write, that’s what I do. I don’t turn off at 5:01pm. In fact, the writer never really turns off. The writer is an observer, eavesdropper and thinker on constant patrol, a thief looking to steal time, even a few moments to pick up the pen or tap on the keyboard.

Perhaps we’ve given guilt a bad wrap. Perhaps it’s just another tool to allow us to reflect on our decisions, attitudes and behaviour. After all, dealing with negative emotions can be very draining, but the process of placing them in context and acknowledging the role they play in your life, can be liberating. And that can free you to write. Or, be Ursula the Sea Witch for the sixth time.