This is the only part of jetlag I like:It's 5am and I'm sitting by myself, drinking a coffee and waiting for the sun to rise. We're in Australia right now - did I mention this plan? Actually, I didn't, and I know I didn't, and I'll tell you why. Last time we came out here, I tried the approach of Massive Overpreparation - I treated the whole plane-with-twins thing like a military campaign and it was a DISASTER. This time, I tried Deep Denial, where I pretended that we weren't coming until about five days before the trip, then shoved a bunch of stuff into bags and hoped for the best. That worked a lot better, judging by the fact that I wasn't crying or quivering or phoning divorce lawyers when we left the airport. Could be the change of approach (maybe), could be the fact that the children are now old enough to watch the Disney Jr channel on the plane for hours at a time (yes, probably that too) but maybe also that I had to compensate for the time difference by taking a whole extra dose of brain medicine while we were in the air (ding ding ding I think we have a winner).
Okay, that's two things I like about jetlag.
I'm not a morning person, at all, so this 5am quiet and wakefulness is a strange and beautiful thing to me. I'm pretty sure that 5am only exists in Australia, and then only for two or three days after we've landed. The light is beginning to leak out from behind the clouds - yes, it's cloudy here too, as cloudy as England, which does feel like some kind of monumental injustice. When one has to pay thousands of pounds to visit family in the southern hemisphere, one at least expects that the weather is going to be nice.
Things I always forget about this place, though: how much it does rain, actually, how fast the sun rises, how noisy the birds are, how quickly I become an unbearable version of myself when I'm staying with my parents. They've moved house since we were last here, and it feels strange. This place is approximately one hundred times nicer than their old house (for a start, I am no longer younger than the carpet) and it's hard to get used to. They designed and built this new house and it's lovely - lots of white, lots of high breezy ceilings, lots of shiny surfaces, lots of wooden floor. Turns out my mother really does have a talent for minimalist design, like she's been claiming all these years. It makes me wonder where my maximalism came from. I don't like clutter and I don't like disorder but I could never pull this kind of sleekness off. Where is the velvet? Why aren't any of the walls painted charcoal grey? The leopard-print ponyskin brogues I wore on the plane are still lying on the floor and they do look a little sad and out of place.
I have no idea why I just told you that. It's probably time to get another coffee.
While we're here, J and I are probably going to have a drive around and look at the areas of Brisbane where the Ethiopian / Eritrean community tends to cluster. We don't have any plans to move, but the perpetual possibility is always in the back of our minds - Jay's more strongly than mine, which surprises me. I wonder what it would really mean to bring up two Ethiopian children here. There certainly are a lot of white people here, that's for sure. Would living in a different suburb make a difference? I don't know. Yesterday we took two very cranky jetlagged twins down to the park and spoke to precisely one person who immediately asked where they were from. My synapses were firing at very low speed by that time so I hadn't anywhere near formed my mouth to say Ethiopia before my mother said, firmly, England. Technically true, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't what he was asking. Once upon a time I wrote about being a conspicuous family in a big multicultural town. I suspect that being here would take it to a whole different level.
Yet there are things about being here that we love, that the children would love. I think they would happily never go home if it meant that they could spend every afternoon in their grandparents' pool. And I almost hate seeing family when I visit, because it reminds me how much I miss them, and I want to be part of their everyday lives and I'm not. But of course we would feel the other way if we didn't live near Jay's family in the UK. This three-continent-family thing is no joke.
The noisy birds are up. I quite like the straightforwardness of the way they are pretty much just yelling at each other. Here I am, other birds, I'm awake! Oh good, me too! And me! Let's wake up the humans by screeching as loud as we can! Okay!
I think I hear stirring downstairs. Yesterday, I got up at five and crept upstairs to be on my own like this but they were awake. Honestly, I nearly left them to fend for themselves - these first days are filled with people and an hour or so on my own makes all the difference - but my better self won out and instead we met the morning together, munching our bran flakes and waiting for the rest of the world to catch us up. They had lots of things to tell me - Hactually, mummy, hactually - and by the end I only resented a little bit the loss of this morning solace.
I'm glad they slept for longer today, though.
Maybe tomorrow I will do the same.