lunedì, ottobre 27, 2014


That is a POP! of relief. A POP! of all my fretting muscles suddenly relaxing, as though flooded by a wave of healing grappa.

A different forest kindergarten has said yes to Godzilla next year, starting from August, providing that we send him to their playgroup starting when we get there February, which we'd been planning on anyways. We didn't have a trial day there - the pricey neighbourhood forest kindergarten was the only one in the city proper we did a trial day in - but I did go visit it. Funnily enough, on a visit I was near to blowing off, since it was scheduled for the day after the kinder in the pricey neighbourhood built up our hopes and dreams only to dash them a week or two later. My taxi didn't show up so I was one bad decision away from just cancelling at the last minute.

I'm pretty damn pleased - the neighbourhood it's in, which is close to where we stayed on our visit, is a good one in the sense of safety, schools, parks and forests, hospitals and transport (S-bahn AND U-bahn). Better, in fact, than the pricey neighborhood, certainly in terms of public transport, which will be important to the F-word, who will be working in companies all over the region. But it's on the uncool side of the Rhine, so it's cheap enough for us to live in a pretty decent flat or house. And when your grand total (as mine) of Exciting Cultural Events for the last year has been one opera and one ballet, and you're planning a second child before very long, cool neighborhoods aren't too important.

Indeed, I rather fucking hate cool or fashionable neighborhoods. I just don't like the class of people who pay a premium to hang out with other people who pay a premium to hang out with a certain class of people, be that in the sense of gentrifying neighborhoods or just straight-out chichi neighborhoods. The pricey neighborhood with the cocktease forest kinder floods all the time, for god's sake, but is still twice the price of where we're going. I guess it's prettier, to be fair, but pretty isn't the point of Cologne. It's an ugly city. One of those Rotterdam-type places that got all knocked down and built up again more for utility than beauty. The point of Cologne is the green space and the attitude.

But mostly I'm pleased that there is one less thing to fret about, and as I've mentioned before, I was breaking all previous fretting records over this forest kinder thing. I mean, sleepless nights, the whole deal. No negative emotion has ever got in between me and my sleep before. Not heartbreak, not grief, not job stress, not school, fucking nothing. But this . . . well. POP!

lunedì, ottobre 20, 2014

I am just a humble tenant of the Kafkaesque state

Yesterday had this trifecta of good stuff - a fucking HUGE tax refund, Godzilla getting his Italian passport super-fast, and my Yankee bosses officially approving giving me a German contract - that I can't help but be pulled out of my funk to a high degree. The passport, somehow, was the most gratifying one, though also in a sense the most meaningless, since Godzilla's Italian citizenship was already processed and in any case he has the right to come to Europe, live with us there, and go to school on the basis of both my nationality and his father's. But when we finally got it, something tight and nervous in me just dissolved into ahhhhhhh.

I'm pretty intimate with what the right passports are able to do for you, and have enough South Asian and non-EU Mediterranean friends to get a broad picture of what happens with the wrong passports. But us -  we have our papers. We can fly out of Casablanca now. Didn't even need to fuck the chief of police. (Casablanca is a really fucking good movie, by the way; we watched it for the second time the other night. Just throwing that out there again. One of those underrated obscure gems.)

The other thing with the Italian passport is that all of our interactions with the consulate have been really smooth, while the other people there at the same time as us got into shouting matches and tears with the officials. Well, the applicants were shouting and in tears. The consular officials were calm to the point of zen.

During the last round of paperwork for Godzilla's passport, at the next desk over an official dealing with a furious woman who was trying to get her daughter's citizenship sorted out and came up against the brick wall of the slightly different spelling of her own first name on her and her daughter's birth certificate - she was just laying into him, insisting there had to be a form he could give her that would sort the whole thing out.

And the fury was bouncing senselessly off him, as though he was Andre the Giant getting wrassled by a kitten. At the point where he said to her soothingly (in English), "Madame, this is nothing personal between you and me. I am just a humble servant of the Italian state . . ." I strived not to make eye contact with the F-word because I knew I would break down in laughter if I did. On the tram away from there he told me the same thing.

I guess you can't help but thanking your lucky stars to the point of schadenfreude when that sort of thing happens. Not least because when I say that when our dealings with the consulate have been smooth, I don't mean well-oiled machine smooth; I mean not-making-me-cry-or-yell-at-anyone smooth.

At one point, the consulate actually stripped the F-word of his citizenship until he handed in further documentation (years ago, when we were living in Europe no less, and he needed it quite badly). Last year I got a huge freak-out from the information on the website that suggested it would have taken until Godzilla was more than three years old to process his citizenship (well after we planned to leave). The lag between when Godzilla's citizenship was certified early this year and the February 2015 appointment then made for the one-hour process of his passport being printed was also remarkable, and needed to be addressed once we picked a February departure date.

All those things were resolved quickly, though, after some personal inquiries, and I think it really helped that those inquiries were made in Italian, when most of the people the consulate deal with here are monolingual "Italian" Australians trying to do all their business in English.

There's more, though; when I think back on the comically Kafkaesque problems driving the other people at the consulate to distraction, and the resolution of our own problems, I realize that those years in Belgium really broke us into this kind of thing. All the other people there asking for things were Australian, and besides the problem of monolinguality, their brains just popped like cumin seeds in a hot pan when faced with the slow pace and seeming intractability of European bureaucracy.

But we - well, we spent years dealing with a bureacracy that makes Italy look simple. Unlike full-time Australians, who are served by a madly efficient federal government that falls all over itself with apologies at the smallest hiccup, we don't expect things to go well. We expect that every visit to a bureau is only one step in a process, that the delays and issues that crop up are down to the game and not the players, and that when a resolution to a problem comes, it will be all at once and unexpected, so anything that needs to be done by a certain time needs to be addressed well before that time draws anything like nigh. We know what we are doing when it comes to this sort of thing. We have the technology . . . and the patience.

Realizing that has made me a little more - not relaxed - but less fretful about Godzilla's school next year. We will find a solution. We are on six or seven waiting lists, and we will simply keep working to make that work and to make alternative solutions work if that one doesn't work. And anyways, because of my job, he only needs to be in care for half-days; if things are bad, only three hours at a pop. He'll be okay. We'll be okay. We'll just keep being the gentle drip of a European citizen against the limestone of European bureaucracy until our family makes its own happy little European stalagmite.

sabato, ottobre 18, 2014

My fly-y Valentine

Got myself a pretty sweet present for Valentine's Day next February - a one-way ticket outta this fucking popsicle stand, all the way to Krautville. Actually I got one for the F-word and one for Godzilla too. I used points. Happy Valentine's all around, family; your present is two days without sleep and a permanent move back to the real world.

As soon as the tickets were purchased my brain started processing the departure. Not the wealth of tasks that lie ahead - those won't be processed so much as done and it's better if I don't think beyond each week's to-do list - but the meaning of the last four years.

To dismiss Australia as a humpback's nursery is not fair (barren but safe, where the mother and calf live off her reserves and avoid predators) - that may have been mostly what it was for us, but that's still something pretty important. Immediately last night, falling asleep after I bought the tickets, I started dreaming of L____, of streets I have no desire to go back to and only will if some shit or other with our rental property there demands it, but whose beauty I did enjoy and will, I understand now that the ticket is bought, stay with me. Just like all those other places I've or we've lived have stayed with me. Paris, among other things, it ain't, but it's just as much a part of me.

We want to have another kid, and I'm ready to have another kid back in the hustle and bustle of an actual city in Europe - but I'm glad I got broken into motherhood somewhere so eventless.

Anyhoo. Got myself another sweet present yesterday too - a ticket to Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, which started 20 years ago and I expect has come to Australia to die, so this was the last chance. A swan song. Ah ha ha. Ha ha ha. I remembered aloud the other day while the F-word, Godzilla and I were out and about that I wanted to see it to cash in on that one evening the F-word fucked off to see the latest Hobbit movie, and that I would see it if I could get a ticket under $75. Okay, I backtracked, under $100. Okay, I backtracked a third time, let's be realistic - this is Australia - under $120.

It was $119. Siiiigh. I like my artsical fartsical things. But I'm really looking forward to going back to a place where artsical fartsical things only cost about $20 a pop. I may not be as tidy as the proverbial Swabian housewife, but I'm sure my penny-pinching at least will blend right in. 

giovedì, ottobre 16, 2014

Fuck this shit.

Since getting back from Cologne, I haven't been able to move myself out of an emotional shithouse for any substantial amount of time. Even getting a little high for the first time in four. Fucking. Years. didn't give me more than a few hours, though that won't stop me trying again now that Godzilla is getting less breast-dependent.

Part of it is kindergarten fretting, though I'm slowly getting over that by deciding to control that which can be controlled, and getting used to not being able to control that which can't. Part of it is hangover from spending too much time with family. Part of it is jet lag. Part of it was not wanting to come back here from Cologne, at all. When the plane caught fire in Frankfurt, purgatorial as the whole experience was I couldn't help but wonder if I'd done it with the power of my mind. But back here we are, and we're here for a few reasons, mostly though not only the F-word's, and very valid reasons - and you know, I don't give a shit about all those valid reasons. I'm done. I'm fucking done here. My brain hasn't come back. It doesn't want to. Fuck this place.

Cologne will be fraught with problems in getting our shit set up - I understand that - I'm not wearing rose-tinted glasses about this move, even though I fell for the place like a tonne of bricks. I just want to GET SHIT DONE. Find the kid a school. Find ourselves an apartment, which we can't really do until the kid finds a school. Open some bank accounts. Buy a king-size bed. Use saunas naked. Let Godzilla's bewildering language explosion explode all over German in a way that includes something besides him yelling "Dankeshen, Bitteshen, Morgen, Tschuss!" and then laughing like a madman (even cuter than it sounds).

And Hilts is dead. He hasn't been around here in awhile, and to be honest I don't really know why he started coming around in the first place. I know why I went around his place. He just seemed so decent and so - how to say it? - unapologetically still in the grip of the honest confusion of youth. There was something really refreshing about that because I don't believe most of us ever get over that great confusion of youth so much as learn how to ignore it, either because we can't bear it or we don't have time for it. There's something a little heroic about the men, and usually they're men - women usually find more pressing things to do with their time - who don't ignore that confusion. So Hilts being gone is like a hero being gone.  

lunedì, ottobre 13, 2014


I am fretting about the boy's school next year, in a way I've seen and heard of parents doing but never imagined I would do myself. Well, here I am. Fretting. The school that loved Godzilla the other week sent us a definitive answer - which was, don't count on anything because of all the people on the waiting list before you no matter how much your kid charmed our teaching staff you fucking arriviste.

Bit of a kick in the teeth since I asked to get on their waiting list in March 2013. But this is just the sort of thing I need to be ready for, moving back to Europe - kicks in the teeth that might have something political behind them, or might have incompetence behind them, or might be from a self-inflicted failure to exactly follow the letter of the law of each administrative effort.

Still, this one is getting to me. Before this visit I hadn't even been expecting a definitive answer from anybody by the end of the visit. It never would have occurred to me to hope for one if the teachers at this one place hadn't fallen in love with Godzilla and over-committed themselves to telling us they wanted us there. But now I'm all glum and feeling helpless about it. One of those mums who is obsessing over getting her kid into the right school.

Not tiger-mummish, though. Because the thing with these schools that I want for Godzilla is that they're in the fucking forest. Outside. Children learn so much better outside, and are so much calmer, and get along with each other so much less Lord-of-the-Flysishly, however counter-intuitive that seems, when they're outside. And Godzilla has his whole life to possibly be stuck inside doing boring shit - I would like to spare him all that in kindergarten, at least. He enjoyed his trial days so much that I'm going to feel like a bad mum if he doesn't go to a forest kindergarten.

That having been said - I need to look at this again.

Any kinder he goes to will be better than here. No pedagogy, smaller classes, more teachers, more outside stuff. No book learnin' for years. And I can only do what I can do, even if it frustrates and depresses me when I suspect that there is some sort of nepotism happening at these awesome schools that I can't take advantage of as a stranger and a foreigner. Because the only places the F-word and I aren't strangers or foreigners are places we don't want Godzilla to grow up. So there. This is how it is. I have to stop being dumb about it.