Sydney Writers’ Festival 2012: When Mummy gets man flu…

I bet no man with man flu has ever had to:

1)      Get out of bed.

2)      Make the kids fried eggs on toast.

3)      Feed leftovers to the dog.

4)      Fill up the dog’s water bowl.

5)      Empty the dishwasher.

6)      Reload the dishwasher.

7)      Turn the dishwasher on.

8)      Look after sick child with “Princess Flu”.

Despite having man flu myself, that’s what I had to do this morning. Actually, make that this afternoon.

Before you start picking on my husband, he hasn’t exactly been idle. It’s Sunday morning and he left for work at 5 am. Obviously, he’s no couch potato either.

The reality is that neither of us have the luxury of getting sick. That’s all. The world doesn’t suddenly grind to a halt and stop spinning on its axis because we can’t get out of bed in the morning. No little fairies suddenly do all our jobs just because we’ve “got a headache”. It doesn’t work like that. Instead it’s more than likely that if we sleep in, the kids will completely demolish the place. As every parent knows, that’s the price you pay for a good sleep-in.

That said, lately I’ve decided that instead of just adding to our workload, the kids are actually an untapped labour force. I mean if my husband and I are both working, why shouldn’t they contribute? After all, isn’t the family the original team? Everyone needs to pitch in… especially when Mum is sick!

Isn’t it inevitable though, that when one gets sick we all go down? Rather than waiting on me hand and foot, our daughter is curled up in a blanket in front of the TV. That’s where she’s been for the last three days except when she got transferred to an alternative chair at my mother’s place on Friday while I scooted off to the Sydney Writer’s Festival. Our son spent most of last week at home off school and has so far missed out on the dreaded NAPLAN tests.

Hang on a minute. I sense you’ve smelled a rat… an enormous, very well-read rat? How could I possibly get to the Sydney Writers’ Festival if I really have man flu? As everybody knows, man flu is by definition totally debilitating. You can’t move. You can’t even raise your head off your pillow.  All I have is a severe case of attention-seeking hypochondria! That’s all.

In my defence, I’ll argue that even when it comes to man flu, where there’s a will there’s a way and I had a mighty strong will.

Such a strong will that I actually managed to survive two whole days at the Sydney Writer’s Festival. Against the odds, I also endured shacking up with friends in the city and put up with going out for dinner and breakfast. Against my will, I was chauffeur-driven to my morning session with Andy Griffiths. My friends even loaded me up with tissues and cold and flu tablets. Even my strong will couldn’t hide the fact I’d turned a sickly shade of green.

I know. If I was well enough to do all of that yesterday, then I should be well enough to manage the home front today. My husband had his turn and now it’s mine… quid pro quo! But just you try telling that to the man flu? Man flu has no concept of fairness…or convenience. It just strikes when it wants to and doesn’t care who it upsets.

See! It wasn’t my fault! Man flu made me stay in bed.

Actually, I was lucky to make it to the Sydney Writer’s Festival at all.

With only one day to go, I woke up with the biggest brick in my chest and the cough to end all coughs. This cough was seriously threatening to put me out of business. The last time I coughed on a train, somebody pulled out a mask and another woman pulled her jumper over her head and that was just my regular cough. This cough would empty the entire carriage and I wondered how long I’d survive in the seminar room. They’ve given lepers better treatment before.

But I’m no quitter. More determined than ever, I waged a serious counterattack… swallowed spoonfuls of olive leaf extract, chewed handfuls of vitamin C, guzzled cough mixture by the gallon and ploughed through the cough lollies as well as taking a couple of Panadol.

There was no way I was going to miss out!

But then Friday morning came. My cough was just passing muster and I was feeling marginally better. However, both kids were still miserably ill and almost comatose. My husband was having a particularly busy week at work and couldn’t really take the time off. Once again, it was all starting to look too difficult when Mum came to the rescue and agreed to look after our two little germ-making machines.

She understood exactly what the Sydney Writer’s Festival means to me.

You see, ever since having the kids, the Sydney Writer’s Festival has been my thing each year…”me time”. The first year, my aunt was a featured writer and I actually made it inside the Writer’s Green Room. I also managed to get one of the official guide’s shirts to take home. That shirt is still sacred! The next year, I heard playwright David Williamson speak. I remember looking up at him hoping that some of that stardust would sprinkle over me. Then there was a writer’s workshop with acclaimed kid’s author, Jackie French where I got a behind the scenes look into our much loved book The Diary of a Wombat. Last year, when I found out Morris Gleitzman was going to be at the Writer’s Overnighter at the Powerhouse Museum, my son and I lugged our sleeping bags in on the train and we ended up camping under the stars in the space room while the light rail seemingly roared through our heads.

This year, I was booked in for two writer’s workshops. One on Friday afternoon with Alice Pung on writing memoir and another with legendary kid’s author, Andy Griffiths on Saturday. While I am currently writing a memoir, I was busting to meet Andy Griffiths.

I was literally busting to meet him and had told absolutely everyone everywhere that I was going. I had waged a heroic battle with the Internet to get the very last ticket and no cough was going to stop me now. This was destiny!

At last, I got there. Andy Griffiths totally exceeded my expectations. It was huge. He not only signed all our books but he also posed for a photo with me as well.

Full of inspiration, I somehow managed to stagger down to the Walsh Bay precinct for a coffee, cup cake and another session. I was bursting with ideas.  It’s amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.

I just can’t quite explain where all that stamina went once I got home.

I guess I’m only human after all!

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