With Mum and my step-dad fighting like alley cats, Sally said I could crash in her dad’s empty shed. I was almost asleep, when I heard footsteps outside getting closer and closer.
“Stop being such a baby!” I scolded. “It’s just the cat.”
However, then I heard the distinct clomp of heavy boots on the footpath. This was no cat. Suddenly, the door swung open. “Who was it?” I panicked, slinking down the bottom of my sleeping bag, as he hit the floor drunk.
With nowhere else to go, I held my breath and prayed for the sun to rise.
This is another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
How are you all? I hope you are well and this weekend, I can offer you some cheese biscuits with a chive and parsley cream cheese filling along with your choice of beverage. They’re very addictive!
This last week has been a case of recovering from the adventurous week before, which is what I’m going to focus on today.
On Thursday 18th August, we dropped Miss at the local train station. She was heading off to Queensland’s Gold Coast with the school’s cheerleading team to compete at Nationals. She would also be competing in a few solo events as well. Although we seriously considered driving up there to watch and be a part of it all, it wasn’t long enough to pull it off and so Geoff and I decided to head off to Bathurst 200 kms WNW of Sydney. We live night near the beach, and I’ve never been out that way and was interested in its goldrush heritage and all the photographic opportunities it offered. Meanwhile, we stayed at Rydges Mt Panorama which was right on the race track at Conrod Straight. In case you’re not aware, Bathurst is also home to the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which is what’s brought Geoff and Jonathon to Bathurst before.
I’m in the process of writing up about the trip. However, so far I’ve written up a fairly extensive overview which you might enjoy: here.
However, probably what you’d like to see most are some photos of kangaroos taken in Hill End. We were there past sunset into the twilight, which is when kangaroos become most active. Great for photography when we were walking around town, but potentially treacherous driving back to Bathurst. Indeed, we had a very stressful near miss when a huge male hopped in front of the car and instead of getting out of the way, he kept turning back in front of the car. Obviously, he was out to collect the Darwin award, but we didn’t want him taking us with him. Fortunately, Geoff grew up in rural Tasmania and is well-versed in country driving, but even he found this particular kangaroo too much.
In addition to all the architectural attractions, there was also the race track. The Bathurst 1000 takes place the weekend after the October long weekend, and will be held 6th-9th October this year. The track itself is 6.213 km long and runs on public roads 174-metre (571 ft) elevation difference between its highest and lowest points The race is 161 laps in length and generally takes between six and seven hours to complete, depending on weather and Safety Car periods. A likely race finish time can be anywhere between 6pm and 8pm AEDT and I can tell you, you don’t disturb Geoff too much especially towards the end of the big race.
Geoff has walked and driven around the track before. However, being my first trip to Bathurst, naturally I’ve never been and I made a decision to drive around the track myself. Normally, this wouldn’t be a small consideration because I’m quite an anxious driver. However, I seemed to get into a different zone and wasn’t nervous at all in the end. By this stage, I’d been round the track with Geoff a few times making note of where the trouble spots were and preparing to go at a snail’s pace if necessary. I didn’t care if I clocked up the slowest lap time in Bathurst history. No one was recording it and I truly enjoyed the experience.
However, before we left on the trip, I received some awful news. A friend of mine called to say she was having trouble reaching our friend, Stephen. His phone wasn’t answering and had a message saying it was out of power or something to that effect. I rang and got the same response and sent an email letting him know we were concerned and to get in touch. Nothing. I had to look up my old hardcopy address book and my friend and her husband went down to check on him. They spoke to his neighbours who were also concerned and they rang the police for a welfare check and both he and his cat, Pippa, were found deceased. At the time, we didn’t know how long it had been and I was initially devastated that my dear friend would die in such circumstances, even though he’d chosen to shut himself off. However, as time went by, it turned out family and friends had been keeping in touch with him and it hadn’t been that long. Well, it’s kind of inevitable when you live alone and don’t reach out. He was 65 and had some health issues, and we’re still waiting for cause of death.
Unfortunately, losing Stephen has reminded me of how many people I know in similar circumstances and as much as I would love to reach out to them all, my days simply go up in smoke often with very little to show for it. However, my heart is in it and I also recently did a suicide intervention program through Lifeline, which I found very helpful.
I realise that this is a rather heavy subject to consider while having a cup of tea or coffee with Rowie and I hope it hasn’t been triggering. As a positive, if each of us called someone we know who is doing it tough once a week, I’m sure we could make a difference.
This is a good reminder that I need to start thinking about having something to look forward to myself now this trip is over. I’m not sure whether living from holiday to holiday is a good thing, and so I might organise a few get togethers with friends as well. After all, we’re about to launch into Spring here and come out of hibernation.
Lastly, speaking of Spring, I was struck by all the daffodils and jonquils we saw while we were away. They were EVERYWHERE!! I felt so grateful and could’ve thanked each and every soul who’d planted each and every one of those bulbs. I’ve gardened myself and have only been thinking of my own enjoyment and making the place look attractive and cheerful. It’s never crossed my mind that a stranger could be walking past and get some enjoyment out of it. Better still, that someone who is doing it tough could feel a moment’s joy simply because a stranger had planted a bulb in the ground. While I was trying not to think about Stephen too much while we were away, it was inevitable and seeing all the daffodils and jonquils truly helped.
Indeed, I ordered in a couple of bunches of daffodils from our local florist when I got home. They are so happy! It’s like having my own personal cheer squad every time I go out into the kitchen. Such a blessing!
“Why did you do it?” The judge asked Jane Sutton, a 16 year old student from Queen’s College. Academic, popular, beautiful, rich and from an impeccable family… why did she go on a staggering shoplifting spree totalling over $20,000 on a fake credit card? “You didn’t need any of this stuff! You had it all.”
Jane didn’t want to speak or acknowledge her crimes in any way. Indeed, she was on suicide watch, and no one would’ve blamed her for taking her life. They would’ve done it too if they’re been this stupid and brought such unfathomable shame and disgrace, not only on her own name, but also her family. Her mother was the Australian CEO of the Red Cross and her father was the Bishop of Sydney, although they were both feeling pressured to resign. After causing so much trauma to those she loved and loved her more than life itself, she couldn’t bear to admit why she did it.
She was bored.
Geoff and I were in Carcoar, near Bathurst last week and marvelled at this gorgeously quaint village time forgot. Such a shame the courthouse wasn’t open while we were there. It really is a step back in time.
This has been a contribution to Stream of Consciousness Saturday hosted by Linda G. Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “board/bored.” Use one, or use them both for bonus points. Enjoy!
Absence is the sign of a great, well-enjoyed holiday – absolutely no posts until well after you’ve arrived home. That’s because you’re not only seizing every single moment you’re away. You’re also so exhausted from your holiday, that you also need to recover.
That describes our trip to Bathurst well.
On the 18th August (just over a week ago now), Geoff and I left on a four day escape to Bathurst without the kids. After two years of intermittent covid lockdowns and isolations along with just over 18 years of parenting, this represented a tremendous achievement. Indeed, it could well be argued that it would be easier to climb Mt Everest, except you’d probably accuse me of hyperbole or that old favourite….being a drama queen! Anyway, the only reason we could get away now was because Miss was off to the Gold Coast for four days competing in Nationals for cheerleading.
However, just like Cinderella, we had restrictions in place. Firstly, we had to drop her off at the station at the unholy hour of 5.30am necessitating a 4.30am wake up for this die hard night owl. Then, we had to pick her up from the local train station at 4.00 pm Sunday afternoon. Of course, we didn’t want our beloved red Alfa 959 to get turned into a pumpkin if we ran late. If you’re the parent of a teenager or if you’ve ever been, you’ll know the teenager should not be upset, inconvenienced or forgotten. Being turned into a pumpkin could be an optimistic outcome!
Well, you might ask why we would go to Bathurst when we could almost go anywhere on the planet for our special extended weekend away. Well, given the time restraints, not quite anywhere but there was still quite a smorgasbord of choice available. Firstly, since we live at the beach, we wanted to go to the country to experience something different. We are both pretty interested in history and photography and we thought we’d check out old mining towns in the area as well as the race track at Mt Panorama.
Bathurst was traditionally owned by the Wiradjuri People, or “the people of the three rivers”, being the Wambuul (Macquarie), Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidjeri (Murrumbidgee). Meanwhile, the city of Bathurst was founded in 1815, and is the oldest settlement west of the Great Dividing Range. It is located on the Macquarie River about 200 kms West-Northwest of Sydney. Following the discovery of the first payable gold at nearby Ophir, on 12 February 1851; all roads led to Bathurst. Indeed, on the 17th May, 1851 the Bathurst Free Press reported: “A complete mental madness appears to have seized almost every member of the community. There has been a universal rush to the diggings.” The goldrush has left it’s imprint on Bathurst and the surrounding regions architecturally, which was one of the reasons we were heading up there- photography! Bathurst’s other great claim to fame is the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which goes around the legendary Mt Panorama Circuit. Car racing is more Geoff’s thing, but I was also looking forward to driving round the track for the first time.
So, let’s get cracking…
Day One- Umina Beach to Bathurst.
After dropping MIss off, we headed to Bathurst via the Bell’s Line Road, which is an alternate route across the Blue Mountains to the more conventional Great Western Highway via Katoomba. When asked why we went this way, Geoff tells me “it is a much more fun road with better scenery and you’re not stuck in traffic all the way. Why would you want to be stuck in traffic all the way?” Makes sense to me.
Now, I’m going to pick up our journey from Bell’s Line Road, which took us through the Blue Mountains National Park. In 2019, four horrific bushfires swept through the region decimating bushland on an unimaginable scale. We drove through vast expanses of burned out vegetation at times stretching as far as the eye could see. It’s starting to regrow, but the loss was catastrophic. You can get an impression of the scale of these fires on the map here. Yet, we also stopped to enjoy spectacular views of soaring cliffs, and also saw a few wildflowers.
We arrived in Bilpin around 8.00am and were delighted to find the Grumpy Baker. We shared one of their epic sausage rolls, while I also indulged in the most luxuriously delicious cinnamon scroll I’ve ever had, and Geoff ordered an apple turnover. With eyes much bigger than our stomach’s, we also ordered a cheese stick for in the car. I almost forgot to mention my coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee due to my heartburn. However, feeling like a veritable zombie after around 4 hours sleep, it was a must, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I could well understand how coffee keeps the masses alive.
Before we left Bilpin, I had a rather “interesting” experience. The public toilets were a short drive down the road. Although this should have been a very straightforward experience, I actually got locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out. The lock was a bit complicated and I’m turning it this way and that and pushing and then Geoff realized I was stuck and started pushing from the outside without any luck while I kept fiddling with the lock. By this stage, a mixture of dread, panic and potential embarrassment was setting in as I was starting to think we would be needing to call the police to let me out. OMG!!! That happened to a friend at a restaurant once and he was just lucky he’d taken his mobile phone with him and called us at the table to let him out. You could just imagine the laughter. We were such a sympathetic bunch. So, while you might say this was karma 30 years later, I didn’t see it that way. Anyway, I looked up and saw a second rather serious looking lock and hey presto, I was out. The toilets had just been cleaned and it looks like they hadn’t latched back the lock. Phew!
We arrived in Bathurst around 10.00am (can you believe we’d travelled 248 kilometres before 10.00am? I doubt it!!). Our first stop was the Visitors’ Centre where we came across one of three restored Cobb and Co. coaches in existence. Now, we really knew we were travelling back in time. We left with a swag of tourist brochures, heading for the town centre.
Almost…Geoff being Geoff, headed straight for Mt Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 track before we’d had much of a look around town. It was interesting, even a bit exhilarating, to drive round the actual track in person after watching the race on TV. It certainly gave me a much better appreciation of what the drivers go through at speeds of up to 300 kph, even though we had to stick to the speed limit of 60 KPH which dropped down to 40KPH in a few treacherous spots. I was too tired to even think about having a go myself.
We headed back into town. After doing a quick drive around the streets where I was literally salivating over all the historic architecture, we parked at Machattie Park on William and Keppel Streets and set out on foot armed with our cameras. Machattie Park is a wonderland all by itself. Moreover, it was surrounded by an incredible array of striking historic buildings. To be honest, I didn’t know quite where to point my camera, and was very grateful for digital technology where I could snap away to my heart’s content.
After sunset, we made it to our hotel, Rydges at Mt Panoroma, which is located right on the race track on Conrod Straight. Of course, it would be incredible on race day, but entirely out of our league. We have no idea how much it would cost, but it’s booked out for the next three years. When Geoff, Mister and their crew went to Bathurst, they were slumming it in tents, although being out in the paddocks had a culture all of its own.
We didn’t see much beyond sunset and crashed for the night. The early morning start had well and truly caught up with us.
Day Two – Carcoar and Milthorpe
The second day of our trip was a reminder that there’s only 24 hours in a day and brings to mind that old question about whether life is about the journey or the destination.
It began with breakfast at Nicky’s Cafe in Bathurst after we slept through breakfast at the hotel. I wandered across the road dazzled by architecture and a laser display and then wandered down an alleyway being lead by my camera and not by the clock. We were heading for Carcoar to see an old school friend of mine and Geoff mentioned getting there before she closed but I had all day. This steady stop-start meandering continued all the way to Carcoar, and you guessed it, she was closed by the time we got there, and she’d had to shoot off to Orange. Another note to self about prioritising.
We scooted around Carcoar which was absolutely stunning. We drove back to Bathurst via Millthorpe.
Day Three- Driving Around the Bathurst Track, Sofala and Hill End
By day three, we were well and truly into holiday mode, which in our case, had nothing to do with relaxing and was all about trying to squeeze as much as we could into one day.
Before we headed off to Sofala, yours truly finally had the chance to drive around the racetrack at Mt Panorama in our Alfa 159. While neither a Ford nor a Holden, Alfas have also had their day out at Bathurst. I was really proud of myself for “conquering the mountain” because I’ve generally been quite an anxious driver and I wasn’t nervous at all despite some very sharp bends. I’d gone round the track again with Geoff taking note of the trouble spots and thought it doesn’t matter if I take those serious bends like a snail, as long as I made to the end. After all, I wasn’t trying to be Peter Brock, the undisputed King of the Mountain! Hurray! I did it!!
After going round Bathurst i.e. the track, we were off to the former gold mining town of Sofala, followed by Hill End. Artist Russell Drysdale immortalised Sofala with his award-winning landscape (pictured above). I have a feeling my parents had a print of Sofala at home growing up as it feels very familiar. Another artist, Donald Friend, was with Drysdale at the time and did his own version which isn’t as well known. For some time, I’ve been wanting to get out to Sofala and and photograph my own version. I was most annoyed that a telegraph pole was put right in the way along with all the parked cars, but otherwise the scene looked pretty much the same. However, being Winter it didn’t have the omnipresent sense of blazing heat of Drysdale’s work.
Next stop Hill End. By now, we were hungry and I remembered reading about Hill End Pies at the Hill End Estate found at 3664 Hill End Road, Hill End. Thanks to plumber turned pastry chef, Steve Rattray, we were in for a treat, especially with the Danish pastries we had for dessert. Oh golly! I’d get in the car and go there now if it weren’t for the 319 kms drive!
Day Four – Abercrombie House, Bathurst.
Unfortunately, by the time we reached Day Four, we were living on borrowed time and needed to be back home by 4.00pm to pick up miss from the station. Their team came a very close second at Nationals and we were looking forward to seeing her, while also not real thrilled about going back on the leash and the time pressures involved. Yet, in our usual carpe diem style, we headed out to historic Abercrombie House. We couldn’t leave Bathurst without experiencing this magical castle.
Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family, Rex and Mary Morgan bought the house in 1969 it’s been the home of the Morgan family since then. They’ve fully restored the house, outbuildings and grounds and share it with the community. As it turns out, Rex Morgan also founded a successful private school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Pittwater House. My best friend used to go to Pittwater House and they used to stay in dormitories at Abercrombie House for a week, which included dinner at the main house one night. It sounds like quite the experience, especially with plenty of ghost stories thrown in.
While we were wandering through the gardens at Abercrombie House, a message came through from Miss saying they were arriving back at the station early. Being 4.5 hours drive away, we weren’t going to make it back in time, and we could relax a little. My friend was driving her home. Returning home after only four days away felt rather brutal. However, we’d had a wonderful time and now needed a rest.
Have you ever been to Bathurst? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
How are you? I hope you are well and not freezing or burning to death whatever your particular situation might be. It’s Winter here and we’ve had a chilly day here just when we were starting to dream of Spring and cutting back on all the layers.
How was your week? Good, I hope.
in terms of what I’ve been up to, I finished my Freelance Writing Course with the Australian Writers’ Centre a few weeks ago. Although I’ve paid for two more courses, I put them on hold so I could just let that one sink in. I’m also needing to reorganise the house and create some decent work and storage place for me to freelance. Being organised and on the ball will be very important and isn’t something which comes naturally.
Indeed, trying to set up a work area at home is almost as challenging as pitching to an editor(which I’m sure I don’t need to explain is rather scary!!) For the last two years, I’ve been set up with my computer etc in the loungeroom where I enjoy the comfort of reverse-cycle air-conditioning and a cosy leather recliner with a dog on my lap who doesn’t seem to mind the keyboard perched across his back. However, my desk is actually parked at the other end of the house looking out onto the garden. It’s quite a lovely room with plenty of natural sunlight. However, in Summer it turns into a furnace and you need sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen at the peak of Summer. The reverse applies in Winter and it turns into an icebox. (Well, at least, by Sydney standards). As you might’ve gathered, it doesn’t have air-conditioning or heating. In fact, at the moment, my desk doesn’t even have power. When we had the solar panels installed on the roof, somehow the installers managed to disconnect the back room from power.
As if my workspace wasn’t already seriously challenged enough, it was also buried alive under layer up on layer of detritus (that sounds like a much better word than crap and clutter is too refined.)
Please don’t fall over and die from shock. For a few hours today, the desk was completely clear. I could even admire the woodgrain, which is very rare indeed. However, my triumph didn’t last. Unfortunately, all the stuff I’d piled up on the kitchen table had to move. Fortunately, not all of it went back and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to get it clear tomorrow. Of course, I’ll need to get the power sorted out. However, in the meantime, I’ll be able to read, plan and do some old school writing i.e.as in using pen and paper.
So, getting my office situation set up is going to keep me busy for awhile but I am on my way.
Last week, as some of you would’ve already found out, we had an intriguing visitor at our place -Tallulah who was one of the baby simulation dolls which are often used as part of sex-ed. However, in this instance, Miss is doing child studies and every student had the “baby” for two days where they were supposed to respond to their cries and either change the nappy or feed them and they also needed to change their outfit. All of these tasks were monitored by its inbuilt computer system with particular attention to supporting the head properly at all times and, of course, reporting any harm. Miss had really been looking forward to the doll coming home. However, after 24 hours she changed her tune and abandoned ship. She’s had a cold and is really busy with dance, working at McDonald’s and school and was quite rational about it all in the end. She needed the sleep. Meanwhile, I wrote a post about my experience: Becoming An Instant Grandmother.
This week, I also took part in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS for the first time. I really enjoyed it and was very pleased with the results. Here’s a link to my story: The Network Guy. In case you’re wondering, it’s about an IT Network Engineer like my husband, but this story is fictional.
Lastly, I couldn’t write about my week without mentioning two Aussie singing greats who passed away this week. Firstly, we lost the great Judith Durham from The Seekers. You might want to join me is singing along to Georgie Girl.
Then, there came heartbreak. Judith Durham was more from my parents’ era. However, the death of Olivia Newton-John was something else altogether. She’s been fighting cancer for a long time. So, it didn’t come as a surprise, but I was sad. However, instead of feeling devastated, I reflected on many happy memories and the joie de vivre she carried with her everywhere she went with her “love and light”. Personally, I can’t go past Olivia in Grease. I had a slumber party for my 13th birthday and we watched Grease on the VCR which was new tech back in 1982. One of the girls had been living in America and she’d already seen Grease 13 times and I was so impressed. Of course, that launched my own Grease marathon rewinding the tape and starting over. I have to include two songs from Grease in my ONJ tribute: You’re The One That I Want and at a slower pace: Hopelessly Devoted To You.
Anyway, that’s enough from me for this week. Now, it’s over to you.
Thanks to Dan Antion over at No Facilities I have been lured into a new to me blog challenge this weekend- Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS which is kindly hosted by Linda G Hill. Please head over there to get the full rules for the challenges, but here are the details for this week’s prompt. I must say I really enjoyed it. It’s been a good 20-30 years since I’ve done a strict stream of consciousness piece and was quite pleased with the results, which have more than a grain of truth.
“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is starts with ‘u.’ Find a word that starts with the letter ‘u’ and use it however you’d like. Bonus points if it’s the first word in your post. Enjoy!”
“Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility. You can walk away. It’s only a job. There are plenty of others,” Kate told her husband who was the sole network engineer at Parliament House since covid and the staff cutbacks. The Australian people had no idea that Australia’s political and economical stability all rested on Mike’s aching shoulders. That he was the very one person holding this country together like a wretched safety pin. Sure, he was reliable, but he wasn’t infallible.
“What if I get covid? What happens then?” he asked.
“They’ll replace you. Everyone’s replaceable. You know that.” She said, telling him what he wanted to hear, and what the CIO* wanted to believe. However, Mike knew that wasn’t true. No one else cared about the network or understood its intricate inner workings like he did, and nobody fought to maintain its integrity and reliability either. Management should’ve been called “mismanagement”. They didn’t care about people, and they had no mechanical empathy either.
“Why don’t you just walk away before it’s too late, Mike? Your blood pressure’s skyrocketing. You’ve got pre-diabetes and I don’t mean to sound judgmental but you’ve really stacked on the kilos. We could sell up. Move to the country without a mortgage and be free from it all.”
Mike loved his wife, but just for this instance she was sounding like the devil. That wretched serpent luring, enticing him into sin: “You don’t have to go to work tomorrow,” he could hear this enticing voice luring him away. “Walk away. Leave them to deal with the consequences. If the entire country falls into a screaming heap, it’s not your fault. You’re just a cog in the machine. You could actually be lying in a deck chair by the pool sipping piña coladas without a care in the world.”
It all sounded way to good to be true, but he knew it was possible. The house was paid off. They had money in the bank. They could be free. Yet, Mike couldn’t be the one. He couldn’t be the one who brought Australia to its knees – even if it wasn’t his fault he was the only man left standing.
“You know, Mike, it would be really nice if you could just forget about work even for one night and give me your 100% undivided attention. I know that data centre isn’t another woman, but I can’t help feeling you understand it better than me and care more about keep it happy than me.”
“Crikey!” That’s what Mike dreaded more than a total network outage right across Parliament House where all that vitriol usually reserved for their political opponents suddenly hurled itself at him. At least,he knew he stood a chance of fixing that. His wife was a different story and while he wasn’t just capable of understanding machines, he didn’t do well when the going got tough. Got stuck on the finer points of interpersonal communication. That’s when he usually resorted to flowers or chocolates. He didn’t know how they did the trick, but they worked. That’s all that mattered.
Right on cue, his mobile rang. It was work. Almost in synch with his wife, the server was down. Couldn’t be dealt with remotely. He had to go in.”
Kate didn’t even need to ask. She knew where she came in the pecking order, and she knew he’d be back with flowers, chocolates anything but himself.
“A dose of covid,” she wondered, “might not be a curse after all. Indeed, long covid could even be the answer.”
CIO = Chief Information Officer
Hope you enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday, we welcomed home the new baby. Well, baby doll to be precise. She’s not real which is fairly evident from the photos. However, at the same time, she’s not your standard doll either. She’s what’s known as a baby simulation doll and she is manufactured by RealCare Baby. My daughter is studying Child Studies at school and the “babies” were sent home for two days as an assignment. The dolls come with a pseudo bottle, two nappies and the student wears a wristband to log on every time they care for the baby. The doll also also has computer technology onboard which reports back to base how the baby was treated, especially if the baby was dropped or shaken and the baby will emit loud cries if the head isn’t supported properly. A friend of mine told me she accidentally dropped her daughter’s baby doll a few years ago, and her daughter failed. So, evidently, the are a few pitfalls and I don’t want to be the weakest link.
Naturally, I was fairly curious. I was also rather excited about the whole project, but was also wondering whether this thing was going to keep us awake all night. After all, newborns are synonymous with sleepless nights. I remember them well. I’ve also seen these dolls on TV before, as they’ve been used fairly extensively in sex education classes to prevent teenage pregnancies. The theory goes that if the teens know how difficult a baby can be, they’ll be more careful. However, research suggests that the students who had the dolls were actually more likely to experience a teen pregnancy.
Although the baby would only be staying for a few days, she still needed a name. Miss decided to call her McKinley. I thought she’d told me the doll was Indigenous American and decided to give her a name of my own…Tallulah, which comes from the Choctaw people and means leaping water. My cousins also have a restaurant in Newcastle called Tallulah. However, as it turned out, Tallulah was African-American. However, I only found that out after she’d gone.
Anyway, enough about names. Let’s get on with the doll. Whoops! I mean, baby.
The thing that’s struck me most personally, is how she latches onto your heartstrings. She feels so incredibly real, and yet not (if that makes any sense). Unlike a standard doll made of hollow plastic, Tallulah is weighted and feels surprisingly heavy. Indeed, she weighs around 3 kilos or 6.5 – 7 pounds, which is about the average weight of a new born baby. So, there was a lot of familiarity, and I really felt something rekindle within, which surprised me.
While I’m not going to comment on how Miss went with her assignment, I did get the opportunity to see how a few others responded to Tallulah, and see that she also elicited an emotional response from them both at the local shops with me and also when she made a guest appearance during my Zoom Bible study group.
Starting with the local shops, I had to take Tallulah down to the dance studio to pick up Miss. This was a bit of an exercise and normally, a baby would travel in a capsule, but Tallulah didn’t come with one. So, I just strapped her into the car seat and hoped she didn’t attract attention. To compound matters, I couldn’t get a park out the front and I couldn’t leave Tallulah in the car in case she woke up and needed attention. Consequently, as a 50 something woman, I was left walking down the street carrying a baby doll.
It was very interesting to see how people responded to Tallulah. I could see drivers being extra careful when when I was walking across the pedestrian crossing. They definitely registered “baby” and altered their demeanor. After all, they wouldn’t be expecting me to be carrying a doll around.
Then, I had a further opportunity to gauge the reactions of others during my zoom Bible study tonight. The doll was supposed to be turned off while Miss was at dance. However, Tallulah woke up screaming with 15 minutes to go. I abandoned Zoom and ditched my headphones racing to Miss’s room as though Tallulah’s life depended upon me. I managed to find everything I needed to settle her down again except the logging on device. So, I returned to my zoom with a screaming baby the group knew nothing about. The instant they saw her, there was an immediate emotional response, and I even sensed a touch of joy. They didn’t know what was going on at the time, and Tallulah looked real enough, and they wouldn’t have been expecting a fake baby who was my daughter’s homework. They were just humans reacting to what they thought was a real baby.
So, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had an emotional response to Tallulah, and it’s interesting to consider that this baby simulator can stimulate these very emotional (and probably innate) responses when it’s just a piece of plastic. I don’t consider myself particularly into babies and young children and tend to prefer older children. So, the fact this doll (let’s call her by her name – Tallulah) drew me in, says a lot although I wouldn’t say that I love Tallulah. Also, as far as babies go, she was pretty easy going.
This raises an interesting point. If these dolls establish an emotional connection with their carers, are they really an effective deterrent when it comes to teen pregnancies? Could they in fact be encouraging them to want their own real baby instead? On the other hand, they do get a feel for how time consuming a baby can be and unlike Tallulah, they can’t just be switched off while they’re at school or in a dance class.
Anyway, I had a bit of fun being grandma and taking a few photos. While most of our kids’ toys are stored away in our roof, I did manage to find a sheepskin teddy bear which our elderly neighbours gave her. I also found a sheepskin a school friend had given me. She’d used it for her daughters and we used it when Mister was born. Indeed, I’m going to check whether my friend’s daughter has had a baby yet. She might be wanting it back.
While I’ve mainly focused on the upside of having the doll here, I have a few concerns. Firstly, I’m not supportive of the one student having sole responsibility for the doll/baby and there should be capacity for family members to help. After all, we keep saying it takes a village to raise a child, but then putting all responsibility back onto the mother and there are also some quarters who also complain about the declining birth rate. In many ways, it’s good experience for all of us to have experience of a screaming doll-baby who won’t stop crying before we have our own so we have realistic expectations of parenthood. I don’t know whether there is a debriefing process in place when students return the dolls/babies. However, failing could hit a some people fairly hard and while they might be wanting to prevent teen pregnancies, the aim is not to turn young people off having children altogether. It would have been hard for probably all of us as new parents to have been scrutinised like these students caring for our own children We all made mistakes. All had times we struggled to cope. Yet, an important aspect of this program which goes a bit more under the radar is the importance of not shaking your baby and it does raise awareness of these dangers to young people. So, these dolls are not just about sex education, but also give some insights into how to care well for your baby and what will be involved.
Have you or your family had any experience of baby simulation dolls? I’d be interested to hear from you!
Malcolm wasn’t going to let being broke and homeless come between him and his daily brew. Oozing charisma and charm, albeit in rugged, unshaven way, Malcolm flirted outrageously with Roberto the Barista at Mecca Cafe for free coffee, while shagging Angel over at Nicko’s Pizzeria. After all, a man has to eat. Playing a game of pass-the-parcel, Malcolm also couch-surfed through the rank and file of St Thomas’s Anglican Church. While they were hell-bent on saving his soul, he was happy praying along and raiding the fridge. Anything to survive. Everyone was only too happy to help the homeless.
Thought I’d better warn you before you’re totally shocked. That said, I’m sorely tempted to spin a little story if only my beloved daughter’s reputation wasn’t going to be on the line. What feels like tomorrow, is actually today and Miss will be bringing her “baby” home from school.
“Baby” is one of those baby simulator dolls they send home with teenagers to turn them off teen pregnancies, although apparently studies show that teens who’ve taken these dolls home are actually more likely to have a teen pregnancy and go through with it. That concerns me a little and if she had a boyfriend, perhaps I’d be sending that baby doll straight back to school. However, Miss has been looking forward to this ALL YEAR and it’s been a big motivation for taking her child studies class.
Of course, we never had anything like this when I was at school. Indeed, we didn’t even get to lug around an egg or a bag of flour to get a taste of parenthood in a warped kind of way. After all, there’s very little correlation between a sack of flour and a living, breathing, screaming human baby. Besides, I don’t think my school believed in teen pregnancies, at least ones which went ahead.
Meanwhile, this high tech baby doll does a pretty god job of simulating a human infant (at least according to the promotional video.) It needs to be fed, have it’s nappy changed, cuddled etc Like a real human baby, supporting it’s head is very important and if they don’t support the head properly, the baby gives a pained scream. Ditto if its mistreated. It seems like this baby has all the state-of-the-art computer monitoring capabilities Big Brother would be proud of including a full record of how the student interacts and cares for the baby. So, there’s no covering up poor or mediocre parenting (Or, heaven forbid…a FAIL!!). Indeed, I am hoping I might gain a bit more appreciation after this experiment is over. More understanding. How would you rate my chances?
Anyway, one good thing about this baby is that it only responds to my daughter, who has been given a wristband, which she uses to interact with the baby.
That means I’m let off the hook. No babysitting duties for me.
Well, I’m not sure I’m even going to meet this baby let alone have a photo shoot or spend time together.
I’ve been told it’s hers.
Here’s to switching off and having a goodnight’s sleep…oh pretty please!
Have any of your kids had one of these baby simulator dolls come home? How did it go? I think I want to know…maybe not!