Last drinks.


Most adults that practice yoga take classes at some stage to learn the poses. That is not a requirement for breastfeeding toddlers. They seem to instinctively know all the moves and all it takes is a nipple to be placed in their mouth, for the purposes of life-affirming sustenance, and suddenly they’re rocking stances that would make my yoga instructor look rigid.

My little Roxy was no exception. She would contort herself to watch her brother lining up his matchbox cars, or to watch her dad put his boots on, or simply to check whether the curtains were still open. She’d take my nipple with her, obviously. Because eating should not get in the way of curiosity, they exist together like teabags and mugs for a breastfeeding toddler.

I have loved feeding my little girl and found it lot easier than I did with the first bubby. We didn’t have the biting saga this time around, my milk came in without a fuss and Roxy fed with the sort of efficiency that would make a German rail engineer happy. We existed together at feed times for 13.5 months until last week I decided the milk bar would close. It was a very sudden decision, fuelled by my looming wisdom-tooth surgery and while I think it’s the right decision for the whole family, I’m incredibly sad this interlude is over for me and the little girl. If it wasn’t for the surgery, I reckon we could have gone on for another year, so maybe the surgery is a blessing in a painful disguise.

This far post-pregnancy, I didn’t expect hormones to still be playing such havoc with my mood but I’ve been more hot and cold than a Scandinavian spa this week. Every night I express the last of my precious milk in the shower and feel like crying as the supply gradually declines. They’d barely nourish a lady beetle now.

And then there’s the clucking, which would put a poultry shed to shame. Almost instantly from the moment I began weaning, I felt we absolutely had to have another baby. Don’t get too excited, we’re not doing anything just now! And Ben feels differently to me about this. He is more likely to commit to a year of washing up than he is to want another child, but he’ll be up against some serious female hormones if he wants to stop at two children.

For now, I’ll enjoy the freedom. I have been breastfeeding or pregnant for 3.5 years. I have loved it and I am grateful for my children and the experience of growing them and nourishing them both to the point of independence. Also, I feel proud of myself for making it work and for making sacrifices so that I could do it the way I wanted. I am also grateful for a kick-ass husband who has supported me. He even gave up onion and garlic, some of his favourite flavours, because I had it in my head that those foods upset my milk and prevented Roxy from sleeping.

Several times this week I have entertained the idea of going back, letting her feed when she politely taps me on the chest and says ‘booby, booby’ with her innocent expectation that it’ll always be there for her. But I feel different now that I’m not feeding her. I’m lighter without the responsibility of someone needing me so intensely. The whole weaning thing has been more bittersweet than chocolate with hints of sea salt (Whoever came up with that flavour?) but I am determined to continue now we have come so far and the girl hasn’t been distressed by her beloved milk bar closing down. I doubt I’ll look back, despite the hormones kicking my tear ducts into gear.

So, what to do with this newfound freedom? I’m a completely different person now to the party girl who could go hard until she fell asleep on the couch in the club and had to be escorted out by security. These days eating garlic, pouring a glass of wine and staying up until 10pm seems wicked. I wonder how long that will last for?

Playgrounds are for children.

Bhote Kosi and meSlides, swings and fun little tunnels to crawl through. Nothing beats a playground if you’re a small child with a penchant for running away from your mother and climbing on things that help you to grow your gross motor skills. It’s also a bonus if you can raise your mum’s heart rate to the level that generates the growth of grey hair.

Last week I took Banjo and Roxy to a playground by the river in Noosaville. It was idyllic with the glistening sun on the saltwater and plenty of funky slides and spiderwebs to climb through. I had my cousin and aunt there, so surely it would go better than the wind-bitten experiences we have in Stanthorpe. But I didn’t bargain on the steep incline on the biggest slide and when I helped Banjo to the top, I felt a slight reluctance to let him drop down the steep plastic tunnel. Let the kid be a kid, my relaxed side coaxed at my conservative side. I let him go and he raced to the soft-touch bottom with a rather heavy plop. I wasn’t eager to follow, but also didn’t want to give in to a silly slide, so with one last look at the drop that suddenly seemed more daunting a bungee jump, I slid.

My back clanged awkwardly against the slide and with the speed of a fish flipping out of its bowl, I was at the bottom. My elbow brushed against something, although I have no idea which part of the slide tore the skin off my funny bone. Then there was the impact on my left little toe, which already sports an ugly duckling toenail that’s twice the size it ought to be. It copped a beating on the soft-touch material which was about as soft as a brick. I limped away, bleeding slightly from the toe and the elbow, wondering where it had all gone so badly wrong. I used to be able to slide with the wind in my hair and landings that would spark envy in a Qantas pilot. These days my hips are too wide for the non-tunnel slides and the tunnel slides are way too gnarly for my out-of-practice movements.

Perhaps I should stop stressing about the kids hurting themselves at the playgrounds and stay off the slides.

PHOTO: Me before bungee jumping from a suspension bridge in Nepal a few years ago, showing the sort of fear I now reserve for steep slides in children’s playgrounds.

It’s a boy!

Two weeks ago, Ben and I welcomed our son, Banjo, to the world.


The clichés don’t do any justice to the enormity of the moment, it’s truly spellbinding. Finally, I was able to put the pregnancy into perspective. It was hard to understand why I had turned into such a monster during the pregnancy because until I held that baby, I could not process that there was a human growing inside me.

And, in the past two weeks, I’ve learned a few things:

  1. My baby is perfect in every way.
  2. Cricket season is a really good time to have a newborn.
  3. Our bodies are truly awesome to be able to create life. I was studying the pores on little Banjo’s tiny hand the other day and couldn’t fathom that I had created this child that had all his fingers and toes and even bloody eyelashes. It’s astounding that my body can do that, but it still cannot process a bottle of Shiraz without serious complaint.
  4. Six hours sleep in a night is bloody great. Seven is pure decadence.
  5. My baby likes to poop in clean nappies, preferably just after the press studs have been done up on a cute-looking but complex onesie. Seriously, did Satan himself design baby suits as some sort of cruel joke? Even the midwives made fun of Ben and I attempting to do up the jigsaw of buttons. It’s not a one-person job.
  6. We are so lucky in Australia to have such a phenomenal public health system.
  7. I no longer have time for long blogs.

When the due date comes and goes, I squeeze oranges.

14925507_10154065406592934_4066788426135773446_nI’ve taken to squeezing my own orange juice in the mornings, then hungrily chewing out the pith, taking my time with the fibres and then taking even more time with the flossing. After my fresh OJ, I contemplate cooking, or seeking a massage, or finding another book. Time is a luxury I am wallowing in like a lazy hippo at present. And at eight days past my due date, I’m basking in the luxury with a bittersweet impatience like a contented sea lion lolling around on the ice bergs, thinking about catching itself some prey, but more likely thinking about how nice it is to loll around.

It’s a curious predicament. I’m aching to meet my baby and every day Ben and I wake with the same anticipation: we could become parents today. A pretty bloody monumental lifestyle change to be confronted with when you’re wondering why the curtains parted overnight and let some horrible sunlight in to spoil an otherwise wonderful morning. And then that night we go to bed again, still just a solitary couple, waiting for our much-anticipated kiddy to make us a family. At eight days over, I’m beginning to wonder if it will ever happen, but we assume that at some stage little Baby Potter will come along and shock us out of our complacency. Sometime soon I will not have time to milk the oranges for my breakfast.

I won’t go into detail about the efforts I’ve undertaken to attempt to bring the baby on, but I mention this because I’m sure readers are wondering if I’m just sitting back resting my ankles (which wonderfully have not swollen yet) or if I’ve attempted to speed up baby’s entrance to the world. I’ve tried most of the old wives’ tales, aside from the dreaded caster oil, and I will say with authority that my baby is decidedly disinterested in the effects of acupuncture, massage, nipple stimulation, pineapple, dates, raspberry leaf tea and sex. I just hope the child doesn’t grow up to be perpetually tardy.

Despite the obvious impatience, it’s been a blissful few weeks. I have read a host of Maeve Binchy classics, polished off Colleen McCullough’s epic The Thorn Birds and brought the garden to a lush state. I’ve finished entire crossword puzzles, read newspapers from cover to cover, crushed sudokus, had more strolls on the beach than I care to recall and the house is sparkling so cleanly I wonder if I have turned into a neat freak. And then there’s the cricket, I smiled like a kookaburra with a piece of stolen sausage when I realised a test match was beginning and I’d have five days of speculation about the WACA pitch. Alas, the bloody thing is nearly over, our batting has been disappointing and I still have no baby.

Of course, there’s still my tax to do, and I could do some more promotion for Ben’s business. But I have unparalleled skills in procrastination for tasks that have more meaning than crosswords. I have considered looking for a copy of War and Peace, because surely there’s enough time to knock that beauty over before I turn into a time-poor sleep-depraved breastmilk-spraying mother. Or maybe I should just get started on my first nap of the day. All of that orange squeezing is hard work and, you never know, maybe that will bring the baby on…

Don’t hate me.


Don’t hate me. But while you guys were staring at a computer screen, rolling your eyes while conversing on the phone and occasionally glancing at the clock wondering how that hour between 4pm and 5pm has more stretch than a yoga instructor, I was wrapping up my second book for the week and wondering what low-carb snacks I had in the fridge. Well, the in-laws fridge.

IMG_0812Tough week, I thought sarcastically as 5pm ticked over and workers rejoiced the weekend. I tried to catalogue my achievements for the week, but the list looked like a battery hen counting its feathers. I was up before 8am on Wednesday. Did four laps of the ocean pool at Yamba on Monday. I applied for a job on Thursday. Plucked my eyebrows Friday. Didn’t eat too many carbs. Not surprisingly, my working pals gave no high-fives for my weekly triumphs.

It’s been almost four (gasp!) months since I set an alarm with the intention of bringing home some bacon. Yep, four blissful months of travel through Europe, getting an unintentional Aussie summer tan, catching up with family, planning a wedding. We’ve shunted between relatives with a mobility usually displayed by kamikaze kangaroos on a dirt track at dusk.

IMG_0813It’s been thrilling to see my Osprey backpack thrown under an Australian Greyhound. I’ve loved camping at the beach and checking out new spots along the coast. The fishing rods stay in the ute and our swag has been rolled out on fresh dirt and grass. We take the brown signs for the tourist drives, doubling our on-road time and avoiding any activity that resembles the rat race. It’s wonderful to be a tourist in our own backyard.

It makes me wonder if the ease of overseas travel means we overlook the opportunities in our awesome country…

But on the other side of my backpack, I am craving the stability of my own home. I want to dig up a vegie patch, unpack some boxes and find a new running track that I can find excuses to avoid. I want to slow roast tomatoes on a Saturday, find a local coffee shop and fishing spot that the tourists don’t know about. My days of reading on Wednesdays are numbered.

I just hope that when we find a new house we don’t lose the wanderlust.


Sun, snorkelling and a sinking boat in Belize

It’s not every day you’re lucky enough to be on a sinking boat. I pulled a four-leaf clover last week when I signed up for three-day sailing, snorkelling and island hopping adventure in Belize, travelling from Caye Caulker down to Placencia. And, for once, I got a bloody adventure.

We set off from the picturesque coral island on Tuesday morning with high spirits and an air of promise that is hard to avoid when the only tasks you have scheduled are snorkelling, swimming, eating and drinking.

The fancy catamaran fit 21 tourists and four rasta-accented crew members with ease, although it was always a battle to find shade. Our sunscreen use in one day was more than an entire Canadian city will need in a year.

The first great exertion was setting the trawling rods from the back of the boat. Ben and I took turns with the rod, mostly because the sun was fiercer than a grizzly separated from her cubs. We even began a competition against some other Australians. First catch had to shout dinner in Placencia. When they saw how serious we were and ultimately gave up a German couple took their spot, for at least three minutes. However, it became obvious the fishing would not be prolific, apparently the water was too hot. Captain Jerry chimed in with his favourite tip for catching a big one. “All you need to do is pass the rod to the person next to you and then the fish will jump right on the line.”

We cooled down with a colourful snorkel before the crew showed their talent making rum punch, the ultimate social lubricant. a few moments of careless frivolity before the left hull of the catamaran got rather intimate with the Belize Barrier Reef. A bang, a bump and the look of pure fright in the eyes of the crew told the passengers that this was not likely to be a drill. The lads began shouting about in Creole and one of the guys took a look under the hull with a snorkel. The passengers gossiped rather noisily and swapped thoughts on what might be wrong with the boat.

We continued sailing toward Rendezvous Caye, our stop for the evening, and it wasn’t until the Captain asked everyone to stand on the right side of the boat and began moving things around with a speed that is completely incongruent with the Belizean go-slow nature, that I guessed we were in a trifle more trouble than a slow leak. Indeed, the bags were soon hauled from the hull and piled on to the roof. I could see my pack and, assured the passports were safe, asked if the rum punch was still available. Of course, the crew replied. Anything to keep us out of the way.

It was here that our Captain made an expert choice that saved everyone’s ass. We had a good distance to go before we would reach the Caye and help was a few hours away, if the cell phones ever connected to base. So, we steered away from our destination and headed back to the reef that had wreaked the havoc. Captain found a nice sandy spot to sit our majestic catamaran upon and we sat there safely.

The entire left hull was underwater. The motor had been pushed up when we went over the reef, ripping the boat apart. The water had gushed in and filled all spare cavities, as water does. It might have taken about 5 minutes from bump to park, although that is pure conjecture. We had no idea of time.

Despite the sinking nature of the afternoon, you would be hard pressed to find a happier bunch of tourists anywhere in the world, than we were on that boat once we had stopped moving. The crew served ceviche and rum punch was applied liberally to everyone’s nerves. We couldn’t think of a more interesting segue in the trip. It’s rare that you sign up for an adventure and actually get something extraordinary.

In fact, we were having such a splendid time watching the sun set into the sea that when the rescue boat arrived the Captain had to order us off the sunken vessel. “This is an emergency evacuation, in case you didn’t realise it,” he said in the deep rasta voice and I noticed two 2.5L bottles of rum being secreted into the life boat.

I must point out here that our amazing crew were not having the time of their lives at this time. They were professional and efficient through the entire process and we cannot commend them enough.

Later that evening, after they had cooked us the catch of the day and the catamaran was lifted off the reef and set sail for repairs in Belize City, the crew told us a new boat would arrive later that evening. We all wanted to sail on, wanted our trusty crew with us and we put our hands together, the Captain shouted “are we men or are we mice” and we all screamed unintelligible rum-punch fuelled screams to indicate we wanted to continue. Incredible how close you can become with strangers in just a day.

We sailed off into the heat on our new boat the next day with many comments that one boat for a three-day trip would not have been good enough anyway.

The group bonding continued over snorkelling and the full-time quest for shade. Ben and I enjoyed the diverse group with a crew of Europeans, Americans, a guy from Hong Kong, an interesting Israeli dude and, of course, a smattering of Aussies. Finally, people who understood our accent and our jokes. It hit me afresh how much I miss Australia.

We snorkelled, swam and applied sunscreen with the vigour I usually reserve for eating guacamole, but then decided all of that was too hard in the heat so donned lifejackets and floated around the ocean discussing bowel movements and other travel-related stories. We talked hobbies and a pretty German girl described how she and her boyfriend enjoy rock climbing and also parasailing. I joked that they probably climb up large cliffs then fly off into the alps together. She agreed that they were indeed that intrepid. Not to be out-done I told her that occasionally Ben and I go to the liquor store early in the morning and get a carton of beer, take it home, put it in the esky, empty the ice maker into the esky and drink the whole thing. It’s no wonder the Aussies have a name for being drinkers.

Anyway, it was rum punch time as we headed towards Tobacco Caye, the coral outcrop where we would pitch our saunas for the second night of enclosed humidity torture they call camping in Belize. We passed the afternoon with a few hours of life jacket floating as the sun set. The Belize Fisheries Department directed their small fishing boat towards the dock and the main man stepped onto the island trading cheeky Creole jokes with our crew and casually toting an M-16. A wee overstatement, I thought, then remembered the nation has a deep-seated piracy history.

It as a quiet night after the knock-out combination of sun and rum. I doubt I made it to 8pm. We woke very early to the sound of deadly coconuts dropping metres from our tents. The fruit is known for killing more people than shark attacks. Alas it felt like the humidity would take us first and no-one had any sparkle in their sleep-deprived eyes as they were driven from their tents to watch the sun rise.

We set sail towards Placencia and put the engineer to use building a bed sheet shade fort at the back of the boat that looked like a happier version of a refugee camp. After the burst of energy, it was another blissful day of snorkelling, floating and, for me, a cat-and-mouse game with my book that seemed to grow legs at times.

We pulled into the harbour later that afternoon with mixed feelings, you’re keen for a shower and desperate for air con but don’t want the bubble of new friendships and a shared adventure to burst. Then again, it’s a sweet feeling to know you’ve made new friends and even sweeter to know you have a shipwreck story you can dine out on for the next few years.

Please note, if you’re on Caye Caulker heading south, do not miss out on the Raggamuffin trip, even without a sinking boat you will have an amazing time.


















Pretending it’s home.

They’re nothing that makes you feel more like a local than showing someone around and harping on knowledgeably about how deep the snow is in winter, what the coins are worth and how much to tip your waiter. When Ma and Pa Langfield and Ben’s sister Jackie flitted to our corner of the northern hemisphere recently, it was a great chance to show off our skill at driving on the wrong side of the road and our vast knowledge of all things Canadian. Yes, maple syrup grows on trees!

We spent a lot of time touring around in The Nugget, our sexy gold speedster, complete with a dancing hula girl and a sunroof which actually gave me sunburn one day. The Nugget has taken Ben and I over 10,000km in the past two months and, not surprisingly with a car that now has 340k under it’s belt, she ran better than a Nigerian in an ultra marathon. There was just that little hiccup with the tyres, but we won’t dwell on that. We’ll never recoup the money…

We started off on Vancouver Island and found quite a few spots to enjoy a wine together.


Ben really enjoyed our company…


The wildlife across the island was stunning with plenty of bald eagles, seals, otters and the occasional sasquatch to gaze at.

We hiked across suspension bridges…


And mum tried to appear at ease while she stood a mere three metres from the edge. Gosh, isn’t she pretty!!


Ma and Pa took off into the wilderness by themselves on a ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert up the inside passage. It was bloody freezing here, and a great example of the Canadian summer. Mum still took the time to find her tea bags in the rain, which was a great relief to everyone. I was sad to see them go and I felt, for a moment, what my mother must have felt while waving me off me at airports in the past.

With the back seat empty, Ben and I meandered back to Vancouver to pick up Jackie. We stopped briefly at one of the villages to watch these logs being mustered by boat with an efficiency that would put some horses to shame.


Ben seemed to really enjoy spending time with his sister. She certainly loved having a brother with long hair, something she’d been dreaming about before she owned her first doll, apparently.


Jackie trumped us on the local card, pulling a few friends out of her hat who generously offered their spare room and a space in their fast-moving vehicle to transport us around town. Thanks Lin and Steve for the awesome tour! I especially loved the part when we got stuck in the parking lot and Steve did a hand-brakie and Jackie screamed. The beer tastings also stick in my mind.. That was a great two days!



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After a few more hair flicks, we headed east, back to Calgary. I’d been told Kelowna was the place to be in summer with stunning vines and even better wines.


Ben and I wore our best clothes for the outing, but unfortunately Jackie missed the memo about dress-up road-trip Monday. She also had a selection of clean clothes.


Jackie and I sampled the produce and Ben took his first ever turn as sober driver. We improvised and committed an almighty wine sin, serving the award winning pinot gris in Pepsi cups with ice. It didn’t dull the flavour. Alas, that’s when the tires decided they’d had enough.


It was actually really lucky that we needed four new low-profile tyres rather urgently in a small town in the foothills of the Rockies. Otherwise we wouldn’t have got this stunning photo of Jackie at Revelstoke.


Four new tyres later, and a fair kick-in-the-shins to the bank account and we arrived, safely, at Lake Louise.


We found these cool cats at the lake, apparently acclimatised to the Canadian summer after their trip on the ferry.


Then, we turned the corner and there was A BEAR. A REAL LIVE BEAR. CROSSING THE ROAD…


It’s no coincidence that we bumped into this mischievous trio out in Canmore.


Dad couldn’t resist testing out the glacier water.


Hard to know what’s happening here, but Jan and I appear to be in a musical, while Jackie and Ben are waiting for a bus. Jack is watching stand-up.


This guy thought things were getting out of hand.


We all settled down and went for a walk up Blue John Canyon, near Banff. It was awesome, although I wouldn’t recommend the walk in heeled boots and a dress…




After Jackie sailed to Germany, we headed down south in a beast of a camper, stopping in at Head-Smashed-In buffalo jump. It was one of the best tourist attractions/cultural exhibits that I have ever visited. Imagine a herd of bison walloping over this cliff as the local natives ran after them, securing a food source for the winter. Amazing!


Dad was very taken with the windmills. They’re pretty, eh.


As we started scouting about for a camp site, we realised that we’d taken off on a camping trip on the first week of summer school holidays and the Friday of a long weekend. This happens every time Ben and I go camping, but it leaves us feeling luckier than a mouse that has outsmarted a sticky trap when we find the last camp spot. Especially so, when it’s a beauty like this one.



We became accustomed to these stunning vistas – mountains with a small sprinkling of snow and clear lakes that promised a trout or two.


We shot down to Montana, USA briefly and swam in this glacier lake. It was a hot day and dipped our toes in, preparing ourselves for hypothermia. The cheeky lake fooled us with tepid shore water and an icy middle.


Here we go again, more stunning scenery…


Dad was pretty stoked when he realised it was easier to buy fireworks than it was to find a bakery.

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And the pair finished up their time with us at Calgary Stampede.

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So, I saw my first bear today.

Oh Canada 2299It was quite unremarkable, really, sitting like a lump of decaying wood along the icy road about 200m away. But, then, it’s totally remarkable because it’s my first bear and it blows my mind that one minute I could be standing in the boss’s office mouthing off about paper cuts and, two minutes later, I’m looking at a wild bear. Once again, welcome to Canada.


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Over the past two months, whitewashed snow has become the norm. I have a clearer memory of my own birth than I do of the long stretches of red dirt that I used to call home. Any sort of knowledge that the sun actually emits heat and my tan are long gone. It’s been fascinating to see how the environment affects everyday life, on a completely different end of the spectrum to the extreme heat we had in Australia. When we arrived they were warning us about frost bite. The guys working in the field had to utilise a buddy system to avoid frost bite. Red spots on the face are not a good sign, apparently.

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Then we went fishing with one of the best looking older guys I’ve ever met. We raced along on our snow sleds, brushing past fences, across lakes and down the road on the ultimate all-terrain vehicle to find a spot on the ice This took trust to entirely new heights, before we drilled a large hole in the ice, our only protection from the pit of hypothermia below us. We sipped whiskey for warmth and waited for the fish to jump on the end of our tiny fishing lines. In an interesting twist, you could see right into the hole when sitting inside the igloo tent that was only marginally warmer than the blizzard outside. Despite the pond entertainment, we couldn’t wait as long here as you would in Australia because, once again, frost bite is a real thing. I’d always just thought it was something that happened when you left meat too long in the freezer. In case you were wondering, we didn’t catch any fish but both our companions showed us the ropes – one even stuck his shoe in the hole to kick the pickerel on to the ice. I think the fish had begun to understand the intentions of the crew in the igloo and wanted to take his chances in the freezer of water below the ice.

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Aside from frostbite, driving on slick icy roads can be more perilous than people who refuse to vaccinate their children. We found the highway could also create tension between driver and passenger with the icy verges. Our intuition to drive on the left side of the road also posed some serious hazards. I don’t think Ben or I have ever been honked at so many times. Please note, driving the wrong way down the street or off exit ramps is unacceptable in Canada. Maybe we would have been more comfortable in India.

Back at work, we started to hear murmurs of the snow melting and f the hardware stores were flooded with requests for rubber boots. The great thaw, so far, has been everything it’s been talked about. Underfoot it’s boggier than the Blues Festival after a thunderstorm. But this mud is booby trapped with the added bonus of icy puddles underneath. These mini-skate-rinks are just waiting to send you on a graceless slip. It makes a pile of banana skins look benevolent. Just walking around outside gives you the sort of ominous sensation you get walking around on slimy concrete at the bottom of a boat ramp, but without any visual aid. As my Dad would say, it’s slippery as a butcher’s dick. So, we have the sunny days and the snow melts, then it’s icy, then that ice melts and it’s muddier than a pigsty after a flood and then, of course, there are other days when it won’t stop snowing. Like today. Ben’s crew had their bus freeze to the ground overnight and the lads had to push it out. Never a dull moment.

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All of the extreme weather can lead one to think about what benefits the thaw could bring, aside from sneaky thoughts about exposing your skin to outside air and possibly even the sun’s rays. And that’s how we get to gold panning. Obviously when all that snow melts in the mountains, we’re going to have some serious gold sediments washing downstream. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity last break and headed out into a valley in the Rockies, just over the border in British Columbia. We borrowed a sluice, stocked up on snacks and hit the mountains. Of course, we were over-eager and perhaps a month too early for all the streams were still covered in snow and the banks were thick enough to support our weight, but thin enough to leave cheeky cheating-death looks on our faces. Not much trust on this ice. We found some bear tracks on the river bank and became more paranoid than a stoner driving past a cop car, but resolved that if the bear could walk on the ice, so could we!

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So this next break we have big plans, the gold will be ours and because the climate is just so versatile, we’ll probably also go skiing, and then, the break after that, we might just bust in a trip down to Central America, to see if the sun still does that thing where it makes you warm.

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That time the hole-punch won.

The hole-punch is the worst. I’ve seen people manipulate those metallic beasts with feline agility and even, on the odd occasion, pleasure. Some people slash neat holes in the A4 and then file the pages in a binder without even a broken nail. These people rarely chop holes into the side of the pages that render the original, signed page useless and unable to file. Put simply, they are office geniuses. I am not one of those people and the hole-punch is just the first example.

My first few days in the office at my new admin gig in northern Alberta, Canada, were illuminating and showed how I was truly inept with paper clips and all other office paraphernalia. Except post-its, I have those under control.

I tried to get off on the front foot with my new colleagues. I’ll make them a coffee, I thought, and set about utilizing the American-style coffee machine. Now, I spent three years making coffee to pay my way through university and I developed an ego as large as the rest of the baristas out there. Surely one of those filter things would be easy? Well, actually, apparently there’s a bit of an art to it. And more is not necessarily better in terms of coffee beans, or whatever those coffee things are they have over here. But at least everyone in the office noticed how bad my coffee was as the boys put on a real show and dance to pour my heartfelt gesture into the dregs bottle. Too much coffee, apparently. But I could have sold it for $50 a barrel. They laughed and laughed and I was banned from making coffee. A few short days later, I smoked the entire crew out with some over-zealous sausage-roll microwaving. Not the most popular lunch option when the windows need to be opened to remove the acrid smoke and it’s -25 outside.

Perhaps the biggest issue is the paper cuts. Occasionally I lose track of my thought while handling paper and I forget about the sharp edges on those shiny white sheets. Before I can register that the paper has moved from my lap to my lip, boom, I’ve torn my chin apart and look more foolish than a bird flying the wrong direction to hibernate.

Then there are paper clips. For some reason, my hands believe that paper clips should not be left intact. They need to be gently torn apart with the sort of reserved delicacy that is usually adopted when handling precious flowers. Then, suddenly, once the thing has broken in half and has a sharp edge, I’ve shoved it beneath my fingernail with more force than you’d see in the cattle yards during branding. The skin underneath my nail stains burgundy and, once again, I’m left to ponder how I became so absent-minded.

Then there’s the hole-punch drama, where the corners of important documents are sent to me for filing and returned with crinkle-cut edges that would make a chip cutter jealous. The hole-puncher also gets jammed up with small devil-natured circles of paper that can’t be dislodged, even with a spear-shaped paperclip. And the whole time my temper is gradually rising, as if the drama of the poorly punched paper is truly more tragic than the Australian government’s current policy on refugees. It’s easy to lose perspective in the office.

But I have become a morning person. Every day I jump out of bed at 5.30am and prepare to face another 11 hours at the computer screen. I’ve actually become accustomed to the early mornings, but it still freaks me out that I get up so early and still don’t get to see the sunrise as I’m stuck in a large storage container that masquerades as an office. It’s like going to the grocery store and coming home with a few empty boxes.

There is one thing that makes the whole day worthwhile – the post-it shenanigans. There is no office dilemma that cannot be solved with a post-it note message that spreads across three computer screens.

In no particular order.

Shopping: yesterday we caught a taxi to the market and I ended up with a nice Christmas present. Our shopkeeper had the most bizarre compliment for me, “I like you because you’re tall and not skinny at all.” Yep, that’s right, my ghetto booty is sexy in Latin America and for once I am not considered vertically challenged. We left some money in his store and continued on our way.

Fishing: usually when we wet our lines it results in frustration, sore arms from fly bashing and slight inebriation. In Mexico, it took four hours for us to haul in four mahi mahi, or dorado as they’re known here, plus three barracudas… Young Benny Potter was more excited than a garbage collector after a full moon. Perhaps even more happy than a lottery winner. The fight was much tougher than I’d cockily anticipated and when I jumped into the fray to claim the second fish, I quickly realised I’d bitten off far more than I could reel. It took me about half an hour to haul my beast to the boat and my arms did not stop shaking for about 2 hours. They’re still tender.

Post-fishing entertainment: we return to shore elated and search for a restaurant that will cook our prize catches. Zamas will do it for $10 each so we take our seats, order a cerveza and sit back to watch the waves roll in. We got dinner and a show. To add to the feel-good mood for the boys, a pair of fit young ladies took their shirts off and decided to sunbath in their g-strings. As if this wasn’t enough, the beds at Zamas must have been rough because one of the ladies was in desperate need of a massage. Her topless friend happily obliged, pushing the day’s activities onto a different level of wonderful. We needed a siesta that day.

Mayan ruins: for once we decided to hire a guide. Our new friend Martin took us around the seafront Mayan village ruins and gave a comprehensive outline of how they lived and the series of events that led to the demise of the village. It was a fascinating tale of religious battles, sacrifices, wisdom and ultimately the tragic death of a culture. There are just a handful of pure Mayans left. It was a stunning vista over the sea and we enjoyed a few moments strolling around after the tour before our stomachs called us away. Quick suggestion, always get breakfast before a tour, especially if includes a 20 minute bike ride.

The festival: we check into the Hard Rock and are given stacks of complimentary food and booze, just to get us into the mood. The place is massive so Benny and I decide to stroll around the entire thing looking for our room. There are six restaurants, stacks of pop-up bars and heaps of food stalls. Everything is included in the price, such as the liquor in our mini bar and room service. We catch a bus over to the other resort and listen to Cole Swindell, apparently the next big thing and clearly a big deal with the American country music fans here. Benny takes delight asking these diehards who the guy is. They’re incredulous and wax lyrical about how awesome this guy is. He’s ok. The next night we get Luke Bryan, the headline act, and he is quite good. We rock out with a stack of our mates from Oz and kick the sand up, grabbing a few beers or cocktails from the passing waiters. Then the waiters start bringing tequila shots, proving that responsible service of alcohol clearly means the waiters have the responsibility to ensure patrons always have alcohol. Finally, someone gets it.