Thursday, October 18, 2007

Best Laid Plans

What I didn’t know was that Bali was not to be mine, either. I understand the need to be heard. I seriously do. I understand that the less we are heard, the louder the noise we need to make. If you’ve ever lived in my neighbourhood and been forced to overhear a fight between my mother and myself, you will know this to be true. Shouting Loud and Gesticulating Wildly is my name translated into English. But I draw the line at blowing up people in order to have your voice heard. I know people who do this must be completely powerless and desperate. I know they are hopped up on the belief that a bomb blast will set them free. And weirdly, through my horribly middle-class every-point-of-view-is-valid eyes, I can empathise with the bombers. But not nearly as much as I empathise with the victims of these blasts. The Balinese waiters whose families no longer have parents. The football dudes having a drink who left the Sari club without their legs or their best mates. The mother whose toddler came home in a body bag. No voice needs to be heard that badly.

So my dad calls and tells me Bali has just been placed on the “high danger risk, do not visit” list by the Australian government. I laugh this off. “I’m sure most countries are on that list, dad. Israel and South Africa must definitely be and you travel there all the time”. I check the list online. No, just Bali and Zimbabwe. I add the two million and first tick in my Book of Times My Dad is Right and I Am Wrong. And just as I’m closing the book, another call from Dad. “Just thought you should know there’s a bird flu epidemic on Bali. Not that I’m telling you not to go, but basically everything you might eat if you were to go would stand a good chance of being fatally poisonous. How are the kids?”

And so I do something decidedly dull. I cancel our trip to Bali. If R and I didn’t have kids, we would take the chance. But we’re Responsible Parents now. The thought of my kids having to see one of those cloying pictures they use of smiling dead people in the newspaper is enough to put me off going. No Bali for us. No tropical sunsets, warm breezes and mild irritable bowel syndrome from eating street food. And no refund on the hotel deposit either.

But Cathy, lovely, wonderful Cathy, is at our service, so where else can we go that is inexpensive, warm, exotic with idolatrous locals? Three minutes on E-Bay tells us. Glorious Phuket! For only $150 total, we get a week in a four star hotel. Amazing! Take this offer up quickly or your kids will grow up and kick you out of the house before you ever get to wear a swimming costume again.

And we do. And all is not lost. And yes, a friend warns me there are old European men holding hands with fifteen-year-old Thai girls in Phuket but the optimist in me assumes those girls are really 25 and just have the beautiful Thai skin which makes them look younger. So we pack the bags. No baby bottles. No nappies. No organic snacks or wet-wipes or a change of clothes in case of ‘accidents’. We are adults. We will be travelling like normal people do. We will suppress our desire to lie on the floor kicking our legs in the air and screaming if the hostess tells us the chicken is finished and we’ll have to have fish. We are entering a tantrum free zone and it feels erotic.

But just as I'm about to pack the Kama Sutra, a call from Cathy. Darling Nanny-Bot made from all good Nanny parts Cathy. “I’m really sorry. My dad is unwell. I’m not going to be able to look after your kids”.

She is totally reasonable and within her rights. She has a sick father. I reassure her that we will be fine. If we don’t get to go away, there will always be another holiday. In another three years time. And I bid farewell to lovely Cathy.

And before I can help it, I am joining my kids on the floor and my feet are in the air kicking and I am shouting at R “WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY CATHY-DOLL? I WANT MY CATHY DOLL!”

And my husband sends me to my room.


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