Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Weekend Shattered...

Natalie's away -- incipient Igoritis of the spine and all -- in Hobart, doing Big Medicine Stuff. Fair enough, too. Like any group of professionals, doctors need to keep their knowledge current, and make sure their skills stay up to date. I just hate it when the Big Medicine Stuff weekends happen at difficult times, such as right now.

Actually, Natalie's back is improving, which is fortunate. I remembered that I'd bought a TENS unit a few years back to take care of a muscle strain that wasn't resolving itself properly. (Okay -- it was a groin muscle, and the goddam strain lasted six goddam months.) Zapping an electric current through your skin may sound a dubious sort of measure, and it's true that nobody seems entirely comfortable with the science behind it as yet, but it works. That muscle strain of mine went away in under two weeks of TENS treatment, and I've had no further problems there.

The application of the TENS unit to Natalie's back has coincided with a sharp uptick in the rate of improvement. It was getting better before, but very very slowly. Once we got the electricity into it, the improvements happened almost hourly. She's well enough now to successfully drive her bucket-seat, low-slung Honda to Hobart and still function at the other end. Compared with a couple days ago, that's positively miraculous.

Unfortunately, this is also the weekend of the big Harley-Davidson owners' rally here in Tas. That's not so bad in itself, although it gets a bit tiresome listening to all those thumping great hogs charging around the hills. But along with the Harley mob came Roz and Steve and their youngster, whom we shall call "K". K and Elder Son were great friends when Roz and Steve lived down here in Taz, so there was much excitement over the prospect of a reunion.

Aha. But with the HOG rally came a stonking great concert for the Harley crowd, culminating in a late night performance by St Jimmy Barnes of the Concrete Tonsils. And thus came the dreaded suggestion of 'The Sleepover'. I could say "no."

So the kids and I tidied the house yesterday, and that went well. Very well. I was impressed by the boys efforts, so I promised 'em we'd find something nifty when we went shopping. Then we went to the car -- and the rear tyre was flat.

Well, fuck.

I've never changed a tyre on the Terrakhan before. Just finding the tools was a job and a half. Locating the barely-adequate jack and tyre iron didn't take long, but finding the special rod to slide into the body of the car to unwind the device that lowers the spare tyre which hangs under the back of the car body took the owner's manual and about forty minutes of car-emptying, swearing, searching, seat-folding and carpet-lifting.

Okay. Tools assembled. Spare tyre duly extracted. Time to jack up the... oh shit.

Ever tried to jack a high-wheel-base vehicle using a compact hydraulic jack with no more than 15cm (six inches) of travel? Seriously: fifteen centimetres of lift, no more. Bloody lucky the tyre died on the concrete pad in the garage. If it had been roadside, I'd have been totally fucked. As it is, I grabbed a wooden chock and then spent fifteen minutes poking around under the car, finding the one and only point on the frame that would actually allow the tyre to clear the ground using no more than fifteen cm of lift...

Of course, once all that was done it was gravy, sure. But by that time, there was no more wiggle room for shopping. Roz arrived with young K, and it was Game On.

We let the kids wear themselves out for a while, then loaded everybody in the now-repaired Terrakhan, went down to Scottsdale and bought some essentials -- pizza makings, a big watermelon, some telescoping aluminium walking sticks for the boys (that was their choice. They wanted the damned things. They were cheap, so what do I care? Weird kids.) and some gin, some curacao and some ice.

Roz stuck around for a cool drink -- just long enough for Feral Rob to show up. Feral Rob is the father of Elder Son's best friend, who we shall call "J", and sure enough, J was in the car too. Happily, there was also a six-pack of Stella Artois. Feral Rob is a man of great and civilised spirit.

K, J, Elder Son, Younger Son and the Mau-Mau tore around outside in the afternoon sun while Rob and I put a dent in the Stella. Finally, the Feral clan had to go, though, so it was back to just me, and a pack of kids.

I put Plan P into action: first, lots of home-made pizza. Second: baths for all kids, and pyjamas. Third: reinstall the big screen and the digital projector in the loft over the garage, and make a fuckload of popcorn.

The kids ate pizza, bathed, pyjamaed, and then rocked out to "The Tale of Despereaux" on the old mattresses in the loft. It wasn't a bad gig, and I was enjoying it too -- at least, right up until Younger Son decided that his tummy hurt.

Younger Son's digestion has been a bit dodgy of late, and this time was a bit worse than usual. I had just time to grab a large, mostly-empty popcorn bowl and shove it under his face before he got started. Now, the Younger Son is a stocky, surprisingly muscular little gobshite, and unlike most kids of six-going-on-seven, he has serious goddam abdominal muscles. Every gym trainer, every doctor who's ever examined him, practically everyone who's ever lifted him up -- everyone notices. It's odd.

And when he's puking, it's unfortunate -- because all that abdominal muscle just tightens up into one huge spasm. He gets range, and power, and by god he gets vocal volume. Sounds like he's trying to gargle a chainsaw. Despereaux definitely came off second best, even in full digital surround-sound.


Happily, it was a one-chuck event. Once he'd divested himself of watermelon, ginger beer, home-made pizza and popcorn, Younger Son was quite happy to brush his teeth and get on with the film.

I took the Mau-Mau down to her bed when the film ended, but as it was a treat for the boys, I let them choose another film. They went with "The Revenge Of The Pink Panther" (the real one, with Peter Sellers) and I left them to it. After all, I could easily hear them from my bedroom, and I didn't want the Mau-Mau to be alone in the house, even when she was sleeping.

The original plan was for the boys to camp out in the loft, on the mattresses with the sleeping bags and all -- but they chickened out, so when Clouseau had finally thwarted poor old Dreyfus once again, they trooped down and set up in the boys room.

Of course, being as how it's summertime down here, there was no goddam hope of a lie-in, no matter how late they were awake. 0630: the sun's well up, and the thump-thump-thump of clumsy sub-teen feet is all over the house... sigh.

Gonna be a long, hot day today. I've already loaded 'em up on pancakes and watermelon. They've played the Wii on the big screen for a couple hours, but it's too hot up there now, so they're left to their own devices. I can't let that go on too long, though... so I'm cutting this short.

Natalie gets back maybe 1930 tonight. Roz and Steve will -- theoretically -- come to collect their spawn sometime before that. So... I've got maybe eight hours to go.

Wish me luck.