New Year’s Day 2016


Swimming is rhythm and blues.

As a child I learned to swim. I spent a good deal of my childhood in the water. Endless somersaults underwater. Holding my breath for as long as I could. Hearing the rushing blood in my ears. When I was nine I had a pair of swimmers the colours of the Australian flag. I wore them until they fell apart. For a short time I swam in a swimming squad. I wasn’t very fast and remember it as endless laps. I was probably ten. I could dive and swim reasonably well. I could turn and I churned up and down. At home in our pool, I stayed under the water where the noise was less until the pressure built up in my lungs and forced me to the surface gasping.

For a while in my early thirties I swam at Victoria Park, where you can swim outside all year round. I used to go as the sun was going down and swim slow breaststroke for a kilometre. The moon would rise over the city and I could float on my back and watch the stars come out. For while I went regularly enough and swimming was rhythm and blues. Deep blue early autumn sky and bright blue water.

I swam a lot when I was pregnant as I tried to counteract the fatigue and my sedentary job. Then I didn’t swim much. Not much at all for the last five years. But every time I did, I’d feel better. Every time I went into the water, especially where I could see the sky, my heart would leap.

Now that Benedict has lessons every summer we have found ourselves pool side, watching a small be-googled sprite try to master floating and making forward progress in the water. I didn’t always go to the lessons, as we tried to fit more into our Saturday. Occasionally, I’d swim some laps.

This summer I decided to swim. On new year’s day I swam some laps. Then I enrolled in some stroke correction classes. A week’s worth. At 8am. My first swimming lesson since about 1984. I had swiftly talked myself into it. But into what exactly? What did I want to do? Swim better and more often, small aims. I was nervous. Then I met John who was in the class with me. He was significantly more nervous than me and less confident. John seemed to me to be a reformed smoker. He struggled for breath in a way that can only occur with serious impairment to your lungs. He was gentlemanly and full of self-doubt. The first class we just showed what we could already do. I fared reasonably well in the breaststroke test but my freestyle technique involves swimming frantically like you are being pursued by sharks. Lots of sharks.

Our teacher asked us what we wanted to achieve. I replied that I just wanted to swim smoothly and easily and to work on turns. John looked pale, he just wanted to make it to the other end of the pool. We agreed to work on a few strokes and turns. By day three the teacher had clearly decided that I was selling my not terrible skills short and she asked me if I wanted to dive. Lucky for John he had to leave a bit early that day. I cautiously threw myself into the pool off the side and didn’t smack into the water in that way that can happen if your hands don’t go in first. Go off the blocks, said Rose. You can do it. So I did. And survived. Then I did a few more and some tumble turns and breaststroke turns, and backstroke turns then some breaststroke starts because hey why not? We stopped short of butterfly and my freestyle started to actually look slightly less ungainly after the fourth day. Then I had to remember to glide in the breaststroke. I had to remember to resist the urge to do anything but glide underwater in a streamlined (more or less) shape. The glide is when you are moving smoothly and is when you can move faster through the water. The strokes propel you forward but the glide takes you further. You must resist moving your limbs to glide.

At the end of day three, my legs were screaming. I went to Pilates class begging for mercy. I could hardly move the next day and after the lesson came home for a six-hour lie down. For five days it felt too much and I could hardly do anything else. On Saturday, the last lesson, I just wanted to swim forever.

It reminded me of the last major physical challenge I had set myself eons ago now. Yoga intensives starting at 6am with Peter Thomson.

Early morning after early morning,’getting the numbers up’ as Peter called it. Rhythm and repeated practice. Repetition. The first is the same as the next, and the tenth, and the hundredth. Precision and consistency are important.

Over and over and over. When you cried with frustration and exhaustion Peter would know that you were then ‘ready to practice’. Before that point, you were only getting the numbers up and preparing to begin. The experience of repetition and the emphasis on consistency, the first is the same as the next and the tenth is a lesson I learned from Peter. It’s the same now. The first lap is the same as the sixth and the tenth and the twentieth. That’s when you are consistent and rhythmical.

After the week of lessons were over, I was ready to start. Now all I have to do is get the numbers up.

See you in the pool. I’ll be the one remembering to glide.

My perfect life

This past couple of weeks have been the toughest my family has endured for a long long time.

I am not going to discuss the specifics.

When everything is going to total crap I have one coping mechanism – it is perverse, because it involves a complete mind fuck.

I imagine my perfect life. Not the life I am living, but the life I want to have. This is perverse because it brings into sharp relief how my actual life is going and its manifest physical defects. Read More

One is exactly enough

9 January 2010

I am wearing a sign. It floats above my head. Like a speech bubble. It reads:

I have only one child, please ask me when I am having another one.

Read More

I find that I am now 39

It was my birthday, last week, and I decided it was about time I had a birthday party. Haven’t had one (well a proper one) since about 1995, so waste not a moment more I thought. A practice go for next year.

It has been the wettest summer in Canberra for years and years. Naturally I planned an outside garden cocktail party. And naturally it started raining at 2-30pm and by 7pm we’d had another 30mm of rain. My minions slaved away with tarps and portable heaters, 4 million helium balloons and candles, while I tried in vain to get the toddler to keep out of the water, eat his dinner, and stop setting fire to things!

Read More

I’m his mother … I need to let go

Today, being Thursday, I stayed home with my child. That’s how it goes. Thursday rolls around. We wake up, have breakfast, wave goodbye to Robert. Then we fang around a bit and maybe go for a pram walk, to the shops, just do stuff.

In a hectic week, sometime we don’t even get out of our pyjamas. Read More

The wood AND the trees

I have been in a persistent funk lately. Since Easter really. It’s a bloody long time. Read More

My heart is heavy

Tomorrow I return to work.

I haven’t been to work since Friday 13 November 2009. Boy was I ready to not go to work anymore that week. I was quite pregnant. I’d had last minute projects heaped on me. My staff were mournfully staring at me and occasionally breaking into not helpful little speeches about how they would miss me. Colleagues came and wrote suggestions on my whiteboard for my weeks post work, but before baby – massages, haircuts, eyebrow waxes, movies. People came past making jokes about seeing my toes – like I couldn’t! Well, I could, if I sat down.  Read More

Friday – this week I am grateful for … getting the hang of it

This week I couldn’t work out what was the matter with me. This week was supposed to be great. I was supposed to be enjoying myself on my two days off, doing interesting things, being alone! Instead I walked past every single person with a child in tow thinking, oh what a lovely kid, or oh look at that poor mother trying to drink her coffee, or look at that dad with three (!) kids hanging off him. All the while all these people who I passed, and was rudely staring at, were thinking, my god, I hope that deranged woman doesn’t come and steal my children. Because, of course, none of them would know I had a child who I had just left at childcare. None of them know that I usually drag my toddler around just as they were doing. I wasn’t wearing a sign saying – yes I am a mother too. I was just me. With regular clothes on and a regular handbag – no nappy bag, no chuck down my back, no snot on my sleeve. Just me. Read More

Friday – this week I am grateful for a plan that comes together

Those who know me well, really really well, will know I love a good plan. Better yet, I love it when a plan comes together; just like Mr T. It has been difficult, during my first year of motherhood, to adjust to the reality that my plans are no longer entirely in my control. Read More

Friday – this week I am grateful it is almost the end of the year

2010 has been one of the longest and most difficult years of my life. It is, without doubt, the year I have had the least sleep. I am tired to the bone. Tired in a way that a week of solid nights’ of sleep will only partly remedy. I read the lovely Kerri Sackville’s blog post The Never Ending Weary. I was nodding furiously and wishing I could be in bed while reading it. Kerri has carefully categorised her tiredness. My tiredness is just the kind you have in the first year of your child’s life, with the added extra of one or two other complications life throws at you, simultaneously. Read More

The New Yorkers are piling up

I’ve had a subscription to the New Yorker since 2006. I love them. Often there have been periods where, due to their frequency of publication, I have had a couple of weeks pile up. OK so sometimes when I was really busy it may have been 6 or 8 weeks. Now below is a photo of the pile of unopened New Yorkers resting on the cross-bar of the bedside table. There are probably 15 magazines in the pile. There are a few that are optimistically opened but most of them are in their plastic. Even with the housework ban, it is hard to keep up!

The New Yorkers

This is the sort of thing that people mean when they say things are different after they have children. I can still do the SMH quiz every Saturday, I still get the ‘Get It?’ every week, (that’s my litmus test to see if I’m losing my mind) but if I make it through the first couple of pages of Spectrum or the mag, I’m doing really really well. I started reading March of Patriots in February. I’ve read only 100 or so pages. The concentration required fails me. The interest is there; but fatigue beats me every time. I have finished a couple of books, at the expense of the New Yorkers. Things are different now.