Sanctuary; it conjures up so many visuals; a sun room full of lush green ferns, some green tea and a green chair, maybe a green cushion. Healesville SANCTUARY; wombats, kangaroos and feral kids in the gift shop. Or my house; wine, food, a shoulder to cry on and a feral child.
When you move to the country, everyone from the big smoke wants to pay you a visit. Having a freshly born baby helps to facilitate this. They come up, bring a quiche (no joke, it must be in a manual coz we had three visits over three weeks and quiche Lorraine was on the menu every time), some wine, give you sympathetic looks as you try to breast feed and then they piss off. That was in the beginning…
Now we get those calls, you know the kind; “Hey, how are you guys? I was thinking I might come stay for the weekend, my girlfriend hates my guts right now,” or, “Hey, how are you guys? My kids are driving me bat shit crazy and I need to drink copious amounts of alcohol, pronto!”
We are so desperate for the company of Melbourne folk, needing/wanting to suck in as much of their cynical, black hooded, brooding Melbourness that we eagerly welcome them with open arms.
We have a fire, we have comfort, cosy rooms, lovely sunsets, laundry facilities and really large trucks that drive past at 5am. Come one, come all!
I spend a lot of time sprucing the place; fresh country-vibed linen, a wattle bouquet on the bedside table and a guest towel, folded just like a fancy motel without the tiny soaps. Paul always does something special with meat, we stock the plonk and beg our child to sleep through the night so we can let loose.
More often than not, when our friends arrive they’re usually sporting a really fabulous hangover, dishevelled, they come on in, drop their bags in the guest wing not taking a second to acknowledge the domestic goddess that I’ve become. They crack open a beer and start to indulge us in the previous night’s antics. We sit back, scoffing, “Huh, don’t miss those days,” though deep down we secretly wish we were back at the Tote drinking disgusting beer and crying in the gutter with a cold souvlaki.
They ask us how parenthood is treating us.
“Couldn’t be better, the babe is an excellent sleeper, she’s so advanced, we are perfect parents.” (Imagine, to our surprise, three hours later our child decides to scream the house down, ALL.NIGHT.LONG). As the evening wears on more wine/beer appears and the woes of love land unravel in front of us. It all gets a little tragic, and I’m always quick to say get rid of the hideous girl, because I’ve never met her and she’s all the way back in Collingwood.
“Get rid of her, move to the country, open up another cafe and all your dreams will come true.” The embers fade and the friend is passed out on the couch.
In the morning, we pat our little friends on the head, feed and water them, take them on a little driving tour of Newstead. We’ve become quite the tour guides - “Here’s the pool, here’s the fish ‘n’ chip shop, here’s the pub, here’s the other pub and here’s the supermarket.” Then we send them back from whence they came via the V/Line, making promises that we will do it all again really, really soon. In the back of my mind all I can think about is how annoyed I am that they didn’t sleep in the guest room and appreciate my towel handiwork!
In the instance that friends with kids rock up, we are always grateful. Yay, finally other children to occupy/exhaust our child and there is no place else to go! These are nice times because more often than not, at least one of the parents is missing out on something amazing back in the big smoke so we don’t feel so excluded. We show the kids the baby goat down the road and they beg their parents for one when they get home (the trap’s been set). It’s amusing too because the conversation always ends with the city folk talking of how they could TOTALLY move to the country, they start looking at houses on their smartphone, and we eagerly encourage them, opening up your laptop showing them even more properties that could be their dream home, “Please hand me the calculator I’ll do the number crunching for you and have you a mortgage by Monday.”
But it does get chaotic, five kids running round the house, everyone trying to have a really lovely country weekend, the children refusing to sleep because they’ve spotted the huntsman in the spare room. The worst scenario; a dear friend is coming up and I’m so excited at the prospect of drinking too much wine together because it’s been that long and they surprise me with another pregnancy. STOP CONCEIVING, IT’S BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH AND MY NEW FOUND DRINKING HABITS!
The night ends, the sun rises. We’re exhausted and the house has been turned upside down and I’m praying that it will be evacuated by mid morning. Children will ruin anyone’s spirit, so often the feelings are reciprocated and the guests are ready to leave by 9am. Once again, we make those silly promises to see each other oh so soon.
Closing that door, I fall in a little heap and take a big breath then look at the calendar to see who’s coming up next Saturday.
* I’d like to quickly add those friends who insist on going for a day trip to Daylesford. They walk into every single shop and drag you into them too, because you haven’t seen that god awful rainbow- coloured fibre glass horse a million times already. There is a reason it hasn’t sold yet!