Farm Days

Technically it’s two minutes into the second day of the year. But I’ve been thinking about this note for a couple of hours so I’m going to fiddle with the clock and date stamp it 1st January 2018. It’s important that I start the year well (by cheating? No! Writing).

Waste Not Want Not

The Ballerina and I packed away all the Christmas decorations today. It didn’t take much time and I feel a deep satisfaction in having achieved this milestone before the calendar clicks over into February. We even managed to reduce the number of boxes holding our seasonal baubles, partly through packing more efficiently and partly thanks to a ruthless culling of all bruised and tacky gimcrack.
My yearning to own less, to declutter and simplify, leaves on room for sentimentality. And I don’t feel bound by material notions of waste. (As in “That’s a perfectly good papier mache reindeer. Why are you throwing it out?”) No, the waste occurred when I bought it, sucked in by the relentless marketing and constant retail carolling, the promises of happiness and joy and goodwill to all men (sic) if only I filled every crevice of my home with tinsel and Santas and post-modern Christmas trees.
The string of sparkling stars and red candle stamped in gold with ‘Merry Christmas’ were always going to end up in landfill. All I’ve done is hasten the journey.

The Farm

While I spent the morning in the city pad, The Husband, the Ballerina and I are actually holed up at The Farm for a few days. We’ve been reading and dozing and watching the cricket. Two days ago we sold the ute. The Husband has slashed and snipped the house block and top paddocks into submission. He took to a dead tree with a chainsaw. I pruned the Lilly Pillies with vicious determination and hacked out three old, weed-infested shrubs with a mattock. The rest of the garden is lying lowing and keeping shtum, hoping to escape the frenzy. The place looks good.

Death in the family

Uncle Noel died two days ago. Cancer killed him, clogging his liver and lungs. Chemotherapy bought him some time, but the treatment came at a cost, robbing him of energy and appetite. In the end his death was a release from pain, a relief. Still. I’m sad. He was a gentle man who smiled all the time and laughed like mum. I learnt to foxtrot and cha cha cha at his Saturday morning classes in the Kilmore Memorial Hall. I hope he’s dancing in heaven now.

An arm that won’t mend

Life continues to throw challenges at The Athlete. The pain in her forearm has finally eased. She fenced well at the National Championships in early December and won the silver medal. She calls second place “salty silver”, but for someone who entered the tournament reluctantly after faltering preparations she competed with great guts. I’m proud of her.
Now it’s her wrist giving her grief. It’s exquisitely tender and she can’t fence or do any training at the gym. She’d hoped to travel to Barcelona for a World Cup but we’ve put those plans on hold pending a review. Of course, this is the worst possible time of year to need medical attention. It’s one more frustrating hurdle in a long line of obstacles between her and sporting domination.

A not-so-quiet life

News of The Champion is also mixed. She’s in Europe, hopping between airbnb’s and friends’ dorm rooms, ice skating and drinking mulled wine and taking 13-hour bus trips between capitals. There have been lots of photos featuring snow and her tousled blonde hair and dazzling smile, but this morning she called, sobbing and incoherent, babbling about being overwhelmed and not having a good time.
My patience for her hysteria was thin. Mostly I was angry at her for leaving her friends. It was midnight in Berlin and she had no key to their apartment. She called me from an icy footpath, surrounded by children waving sparklers, sniffling existential nonsense into her phone. I almost hanker for the days of postcards.

Running commentary

Speaking of the good old days, I’ve decided to run again. I’m fat and unhappy and hope endorphins will fix both. I’m ignoring the persistent bursitis in my hip and shredded cartilage in my knees and have started shuffling along the Mount Alford bitumen in the early evenings. The wildlife is perplexed.
Yesterday I drove back to the city so The Ballerina could attend a New Year’s Eve shindig. While she dressed, I hauled my saggy butt around my favourite walking track at what I thought was a respectable pace. Shortly into my seven-minute marathon, chest heaving and thighs chafing, I was overtaken by a woman wearing Lorna Jane and no back fat, whose relaxed jog put my middle-aged efforts into stark, laughable perspective.
Today my knees grumble and my hip moans. I feel like an idiot. But I have enjoyed being red in the face and peeling sweat-soaked clothes from my body. I hope my joints will cooperate for a little bit longer and indulge this running foolishness. My aim is to be able to jog my standard walking route and to fit into my favourite pants again. And one day, if the stars align, I’ll get back to my beloved yoga classes.
Wish me luck.

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Angela Bensted is Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines, sometimes successfully, and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.

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