I travel to Melbourne a fair bit as I’m a performer and I can’t fully let go of my previous existence. The effort it takes to get there is pretty extreme because I refuse to drive (as the cool kids say, “it’s not my jam”). So I take a bus from Newstead to Castlemaine or bum a lift off Country Roots. From Castlemaine I catch the V Line to Southern Cross. The beginning of the journey is picturesque; little country towns and lambs who wave to the passing train. A little moment of solitude, some lovely scenery and the excitement and anticipation of meeting up with some of my best gal pals to shimmy about or dine in style. Paul sends photo updates of the babe doing fun things like eating mustard out of the jar or pushing herself around the lounge room on the skateboard. I appreciate these little bits because it is hard to drop motherhood and put on my show hat sometimes. More often than not I stay overnight in the big smoke, so I always have small worries in the back of my mind; will Paul wake to our child’s screams? Will he dress her in winter woolies on a 25 degree day? Will he remember to let the chooks out of their coop? Will the babe get the taste for raw meat and try to eat her own father in the middle of the night? Basic stuff like that.
As I step off the train and say hello to the city I’m hit with the instant reminder of why the hell I made the green change. People pushing past to tap off their MYKI cards only to find out that they just wanted to be first in line to order a Whopper at Hungry Jacks! The winged rat community, bopping their heads to the beat of T.BONE blaring from the back of a hired Lamborghini. On a positive spin I always know where I’m going. I know the streets of Melbourne and PT system like the back of my hand.
If I’m there for the day the pressure is on. For the sake of killing ten birds with one stone, I’ve convinced myself that penciling in a morning, noon and late arvo catch up is totally fine. Top that off with picking up that bag of coffee from beardy-man-with- fixie coffee roasters and purchasing some new knickers, by evening my meltdown will be positively sorted. It’s a shame because instead of embracing the freedom of a child-free day I feel like I’m racing against the clock.
If I’m down for a show the buzz is a little more exciting, this can come in the form of driving down with my great mate and performer pal KK or getting amongst the texts that fly back and forth from the other showgirls all eager to be in the same room once again, squeezing into costumes as we debrief about our children, tinder dates, rehearsals and our wrinkles.
If I make the trip alone it usually takes about three hours, a small price to pay to squeeze the ones you love the most. I’m full of energy, hopping on and off trams until I finally reach my destination. The bubbles flow, the energy is high and I feel at home amongst the feathers and show tunes, but if I’m going home that night it’s a race against the clock; I can’t miss the last train home. It’s a treasure trove of delights on the V Line at 12am and I am a weary thing, struggling to keep my eyes open. All I want is a shower and to be laying horizontal. Instead, I’ve acquired a new “friend” who’s no older than 18 and keeps chatting my ear off about the price of a V.B. can these days.
When the whole family packs up to catch up with pals the trip can be very stressful. We have to factor in nap times; this means that if we miss the cue for that morning nap in the car we can pretty much kiss the day goodbye. We usually need to stop at least once because the babe has decided to do the biggest poo of all time or has been screaming nonstop since we left the house. In the past we’ve forgotten to pack her security blanket, nappies, drink bottle. When we finally reach the city she is usually starving so then we are franticly on the hunt for food. How primal we’ve become.
One time we popped into our old place of work, a well-known cafe in Brunswick. We were showing off oursix month old, it was a busy day. We spent our time in the stockroom trying to calm her down as she had decided that she hated where she was and wasn’t settling for nothing. She eventually stopped crying when we left the cafe and went to the pub down the road. FUN! On other occasions we’ve dragged the day out too long trying to cram in as many catch ups as possible and we’ve usually missed the afternoon nap cue and enjoy the sounds of blue murder all the way back to the sticks. The babe usually stops her racket ten minutes before turning into our driveway.
So it begs the question, is it all worth it? Well of course it is, but like those friends you deliberately see in small doses, this also applies to country- city and back again jaunts, unless of course you’re a free and easy single human with plenty of time on your side, or the mother of one of those placid babies, commonly known as a needle in a haystack.