Monday, August 31, 2009


"You see my problem."

I was talking to my pal Annie about the forthcoming BOOK WEEK demands. Pick a character, any character, and then dress your child up like them. Or suffer the consequences. Preschools are notable for being cold and hard like that.

"It's not fair," I whined. "The girls can come as princesses. They'll in be pink. They'll wear frocks and maybe a plastic tiara. It's easy for those parents." I was generalising but I didn't care. I had a scant few days to whip up Tricky's cozzie and the pressure was wearing heavily on me and my feminist ideals.

Despite his love of Charlie & Lola, Tricky had decided to be neither Charlie nor Lola, plumping instead for that cuddly feline denizen of the Hairy McClary books: SCARFACE CLAW aka TOUGHEST TOM IN TOWN. It was an unusual choice because Tricky was actually scared of Scarface Claw, insisting we not read the relevant pages when he cropped up in the 'Hairy' books. It made it hard to maintain the tension when Hairy McC and his doggy mates encounter a strange pair of eyes in the undergrowth and then...with a clatter of claws and a scatter of paws... suddenly and inexplicably decide to bugger off home.

I had already scoured the Big House dress-up box which contained the evidence of many a fine Halloween for the Naughty Nephews, not to mention the ghosts of Book Week past, but there was nothing to conjure up a mangy tomcat with a Very Bad Attitude. Nothing except the remains of Naughty Nephew 1's hairy black and white teddy bear suit. A rather rustic looking jacket and trousers as whipped up by my designer friend MarkyQ, one balmy summer evening, many Book Weeks ago.

Now, I found myself (as I so often did) in my hometown Newcastle wandering the aisles of a rather depleted Spotlight with my old theatre pal Annie. And whining. Lots of whining.

I had hoped that I'd find a fully formed tomcat costume, Pret A Porter, with minimal fuss (and obviously maximum cost but I was prepared to give up sustenance for a few days in return for peace of mind). I was wrong.
There was nothing left on the shelves except  a handful of 'Bubblebee' and 'Fifties Boy' outfits.

"This is like the Chernobyl Spotlight," I snarled. "I expect better from the city that gave us The Castanets and Yahoo Serious. All I want is a fecking cat. Where are all the decent costumes?"
As I spoke a harried looking woman marched past with three darling little girls in tow. 
"It doesn't matter, I can make them," she was feebly insisting,"three princess dresses. In Pink. Easy." 
"I have to be Belle," one of the darlings snapped.  
"They must have full skirts and fitted bodice," trilled another.
"And a twain," lisped the third who didn't look as if she was old enough to be out of nappies let alone into the traditional salmon tinted garb of the female minor royale.
"What about the tiaras?" the eldest darling called mercilessly as her mother rushed weeping towards the home welding section.

Book Week, it seemed, was not limited to one solitary Sydney preschool. At every fabric display, at each shelf of water soluble paint I could hear the same two words hissed between gritted teeth.

Annie clicked her clickable glasses together and regarded me with the wisdom born of both long term friendship and being producer/director/writer/actor/stage manager and, crucially, wardrobe department of her own theatre company.

"I have three words to say to you," she said firmly. "Hot. Glue. Gun."

Several hours later, back at my parents' house, it was done. 

Before us lay a cut-to-size hairy black and white coat, a long and satifyingly tomcatty tail and a pair of twitchily realistic Scarface Claw ears. These last were my own particular invention, cobbled up from triangles of the same faux fur fabric used to construct the tail and a "Sexy Red Devil" headband, snatched up from a Spotlight bargain bin, which featured demonic horns emerging, oddly enough, from a base of soft fuzzy black feathers. 

Costume construction had taken less than half an hour, most of the intervening time between Chernobyl Spotlight and Scarface Claw Central pleasantly spent sipping coffee and eating macaroons amidst the gourmands of Darby Street.

Once we set to it, Annie wielded the Hot Glue Gun (low temp) like a woman possessed.

Clicking her reading glasses together over her nose, she upended the Spotlight bag and rolled the faux fur like a pro. She sealed and glued and spot stuck the tail, she was a chick with a gun and she wasn't afraid to shoot. "I have put together whole productions with a Hot Glue Gun," she shouted happily, "Feathers, fur, braiding, leather...I've hot glued them all! I use it at home too! Soft furnishings! Decorative blinds! Whole sets of sequinned cushions!  All made up without a single stitch! lord knows I can never wash the things!"

At this point she had spotted the disaster that was Mach#1 of the Scarface Ears. "You've cut that fur exactly the way the shopgirl told you not to," she tutted. 
It was true and so they looked like a couple of neatly trimmed if slightly greying lady hedges, rather than a pair of scruffy feral cat ears. 

"Start again," Annie demanded and ruthlessly ripped the hairy triangles free. Luckily I could no longer be trusted with fur cutting and so Annie did them herself. They looked magnificent.

Book Week came twice for Tricky this year, the Preschool had scheduled parades on Monday and Friday-both days he attends. Scarface Claw had two performances. 

Each day he was shy and nervous, each day I had to hold his hand and walk alongside thirty knee high pirates and pink clad princesses with one little Miss Giggles, one Snow White and one Angelina Ballerina and two mermaids ("Because Ariel wears different clothes on different days".)

Each day his costume was stroked lovingly by Angelina, Belle, Snow or Ariel. 
Each day his face crumpled as we started to leave and he had to be hastily handed over to a Teacher for cuddles and reassuring words as we skulked out the gate.

And each day he had a completely fantastic time


Monday, August 17, 2009

Where The Wild Things Buy Their Book Week Costumes

Today, these words caused my heart to leap into my throat:


I am quoting above from Tricky's preschool newsletter which I will of course use in scrapbookish fashion or at very least keep shoved in memorial shoebox because it is our VERY FIRST PRESCHOOL NEWSLETTER EVER. 
In years to come we will look back with warm hearts and moistened eyes to see that one of the teachers is having a holiday! Lucky her! And, soon it will be Father and Grandfather's morning! Welcome all old blokes related to students! And, A Very Special Thankyou to the Mother who donated two CDs! No one likes a smug miss.

But, it is the can come dressed as fave book character that has me tapping my fingers in an anxious fashion. This of course is merely the latest in a whole series of Preschool related anxiety-tapping moments. He has attended less than ten times and already I have worried about him 'having no friends', 'playing all alone', 'wearing distinctively weird trousers' and 'Suzie ate my cheese.' This last came directly from Young Master when I asked if he enjoyed his snack box. Despite the fact that there appears to be no Suzie in his class I still feel slightly anxious because what if he's being bullied by an imaginary friend? 

We all know what happens to kids that are different, I told my husband. 
They grow up to be leaders and artists and imaginative thinkers, he responded. 
Perhaps, I  nodded, and perhaps the other kids peck their eyes out.

Re Book Week and dressing as fave character, it seems obvious to me that firstly there is no "can" there is only "will".  Tricky must go dressed as something bookish because otherwise he will be different and, as we know, different is dangerous.

Problem is, Tricky's fave books just now are The Gruffalo (orange eyes, black tongue, poisonous wart on end of his nose), The Waterhole (various non-extinct and extinct animals), The Very Hungry Caterpillar(two choices, caterpillar or butterfly) and various Charlie and Lola adventures.
I have a scant couple of weeks to solve this and while I am confident in the papier mache sphere I do not have stitching abilities. Butterfly wings for instance are probably right out.

If worst comes to worst, I told C, I could just write Charlie on a tee-shirt and he could go as "Charlie". 

C was unimpressed. "He likes Where The Wild Things Are," he said "why doesn't he go as Max? All he needs to do is wear that hoodie."

I stared at him. 

"Max wears a full body suit with hood and ears", I said. "We don't have anything that looks even vaguely like that."

"Yes we do", C insisted. "It's grey and sleeveless. There's a picture of a bear on the front."

"And...that looks nothing like Max in Where The Wild Things Are." 

"He could have gone really wild," C insisted, "and cut off his sleeves."

I gave him the patented Mother Knows Best frown. "And screenprinted a design on the front?"

C turned back to his computer, slightly offended. "Well," he said, "that's who I always think of when he wears that shirt."

Father proving himself no help at all, I am left pondering butterfly wings and Charlie tee-shirts. Oh and poisonous warts. I'm pretty sure I could papier mache one of those up, no trouble.

Monday, August 03, 2009

An Australian Girl In Paris

I need to write about Paris. I know that sort of comes from left field but it's always been in the back of my mind.
And I have a certain distance from it now.
I remembered this morning that I started a blog about it, years ago and it's still wheeling round the blogosphere. And sadly, I've forgotten the password so I can't change it or add to it or even delete it and start again. It's just...out there.
I need to write about Paris.

The Sticking Point

Tricky's third day of preschool today. C is taking him in and also doing the schoolrun with the Nephews and I've stayed behind to do exciting stuff like write and de-ant the sultanas.

I went along on the second day and basically had to be dragged away by C who is now able to ascertain when the right moment to exit has occurred. Boy, isn't that a skill and wouldn't you think after a year at daycare, I'd have acquired it too? No, because in preschools, everything is bigger and there are a billion more kids and there are so many more shiny, glittery, moving, colourful things to look at. It's distracting! And also alluring! 

Me, I could have spent hours looking at the dinosaurs and the pirate ship and the plastic turtles and look there was a big couch with comfy cushions and some teeny tiny Ally McBeal toilets for everyone! Anytime! Gather round! Let's wee together! If they just put in an espresso machine I could be there all day.

Of course my biggest fear is that Tricky will be a lonely, grim faced child with no friends except for the plastic turtles and we will have ruined his life forever, because I'm neurotic like that.

Last night we put photos from his birthday party into a scrapbook and I realised he had gone quiet. It was not because he was overcome with delightful memories, nor was he stunned into silence by his mother's artful placement of pictures.
He was eating the glue stick.
Ahhhh! I shrieked at him and wrenched it out of his hand. Stop that! YOU WILL NOT BE THE TYPE OF CHILD WHO EATS PASTE.
 Tricky sucked on his fingers. I like it, he said thoughtfully.

At preschool, Day 2, Tricky already knew to put his bag into the locker marked with a koala and put his drinkbottle on the tray with all the other trays. His dad showed me where the fruit goes and where the lunchboxes go and where the Extra Snacks go. Tricky held my hand tightly until he saw his teacher and then he went and held hands with her. C gave me a nudge. There was a place for everything and everything has its place.

And now, for a few hours, my place wasn't with my baby boy anymore.