An Emotional Impasse

It’s a while since I have mentioned Young Donald – a couple of years probably. He left home some years ago and lives in another state. This was a strange adjustment for me to make. One moment, I was excitedly anticipating the arrival of a baby, one that I’d gone to considerable effort and expense to conceive and in the blink of an eye, eighteen years had passed and he was off to face the world on his own.

There was a brief period where he returned home from a few months, but then he was gone again, and our contact was limited to very occasional visits – either me to Perth or him to Adelaide. He always worked over Christmas so that special time was not shared anymore, nor his birthday which followed a few days later. I was always sad that we were apart at this time, but had to accept it.

One of the important lessons in becoming a parent is that we don’t create clones of ourselves; rather we give birth to separate human beings, with their own views, personalities, attitudes, hopes and dreams.  As Gibran said, ‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts’. While we are alike in many ways, we are also different in so many others. That, I had to learn to accept.

There have been frequent phone calls over the period of separation. Sometimes it has been to ask advice – how to cook something, what to buy, or some such. The calls that I liked best were those that were simply to have a chat. Not that they were frequent. Usually he was in the car and calling to fill in the time until he reached a destination.

I couldn’t escape from the feeling though that there was a growing distance between us; a separation over which I had no control and couldn’t breach. What caused me the most angst was that it seemed to be an indifference. He was moving onto his new life, one which didn’t really involve me to any great degree.

Gradually, I could see that his ideas and perceptions of the world were changing. Although I’d tried to bring him up with an appreciation of social justice issues, and values which reflected a fair go for all, his interpretations on events around us were developing differently to mine. This meant that we frequently fell into arguments, and when I spoke to him on the phone, I needed to have other topics up my sleeve so that I could quickly move us onto safer ground when it seemed that we were reaching an emotional impasse.

I was dismayed to see these views evolve, but could only surmise that they arose from his current circumstances. He has been living with other young men in shared households and most of them are online gamers. Their interaction is with others of their ilk, and I suspect that many of the views perpetuated in the online forums are conservative and misogynist. His work environment is likewise a manual and male-dominated environment, not known for intellectual debate.

Now we have reached not a point of no-return, but are currently estranged. Part of the problem lies in communicating electronically, where issues and meanings can become distorted. I don’t wish to detail the issue that gave rise to this breakdown in our relationship, but what I thought was a discussion he interpreted differently and responded with astonishing vitriol and hatefulness. He also told me to f*ck off and not speak to him again. So I haven’t.

It was such an inappropriate response to what I had disclosed to him. If it hadn’t been for those final words, I would have attempted to salvage the situation but my heart is shattered into a thousand little pieces. I can’t let the situation remain indefinitely, but am not at the point of mending bridges either. I’m not sure if he even understands how totally inappropriate his response was, but there is another thing that worries me. He has little emotional support. Whatever differences we had, I was still at the end of the phone for him, and now he has no one. I worry about his emotional resilience and ability to cope on his own. Young men don’t always do well with emotionally negotiating their way through life and when you have a person who habitually sees the negative rather than the positive in a situation, that scenario is magnified.

Although he should apologise, I am not sure that he will or will fully understand why he should. I still need to resolve what I will do and when, but until that time, the night hides my tears. He is still my son.


Children born through IVF have no souls

An acquaintance reported recently that another guest at a BBQ was loudly critical of people who used IVF services and declared that children born via IVF ‘have no souls’.  As my friend (unknown to the gathering) was mid-cycle with her latest IVF attempt in conceiving a child, thins was highly distressing to her.  As the mother of a child conceived via IVF, the comment was insulting to my son and I was understandably indignant .  You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at dim-witted comments like that.

Young Donald is now 21 so I have had plenty of time to observe the soul-less creature.  He was a fairly conventional kid really.  Baulked at eating vegetables, had too much screen time, thought that I nagged him too much and protested at being made to walk or ride his bike when surely it would be much quicker for me to just drive him.

Admittedly he didn’t have much of a religious upbringing – well none really.  I had to attend a church service in an official capacity when he was about four and took him with me.  We sat up the front with the dignitaries.  During one of the hymns, all in attendance standing of course, I looked up from my hymn book to realise that he was standing on the pew along side of me, conducting the rest of the congregation.  I don’t think that we have attended a religious ceremony since then, except for a recent wedding in Japan in a Buddhist temple. I guess there wasn’t the need for someone without a soul.

When small Young Donald loved cuddle time (and still gives me beaut hugs), is always ready to give his mates a hand, and is very generous – especially for a soul-less person.  He has morphed from at times being a morose and moody juvenile to being a socially adept young man who charms one and all with his conversation.  It gives me a frisson of pleasure when people seek me out to tell me what a personable young man he is and how much they have enjoyed their conversation with him.  What a pity he doesn’t have a soul.

I am reminded of a Valentine’s Day a few years ago, when Daisy was very much a feature in young Donald’s life.  He took her out to dinner, selecting a cuisine the he knew she would enjoy.  When he brought her home, he had set up my massage table in his bedroom and scattered the whole room with red rose petals.  When they arrived home, she was greeted with soft lighting and massage oil.  Whatever else she was greeted with, I as his mother don’t really want to know, but think what he could have done if he actually had a soul.

I started to wonder just what might have been intended with the reference to ‘soul’ and resorted to online sources for interpretation and definition.  There were many, all much of a muchness and Wikipedia captured the essence with this explanation.

    “The soul, in many religious, philosophical and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal and in many conceptions immortal essence of a living thing.”

I’m not going to debate the presence or otherwise of a soul, whether from the religious, philosophical or mythological perspective.  In my son however, I can see and hear the essence of many who have gone before – my parents and probably their parents and it is possible that his essence will be reflected in those who are to come.  I see mannerisms, I hear laughter, I see reasoning, I see a sense of social justice, I see an observant young man – and I see an individual.  This individual has a resonance that impacts not only on myself, but also on his mates and those he holds near and dear.  Does not that impact render one immortal and if so, is that the influence of a soul, that incorporeal essence of being?

Whether or not my son has a soul is irrelevant really.   What that man was insinuating was that my child, and others who were conceived via assisted reproductive services, is somehow deficient and not a complete human being.  It’s that sort of bigotry that has fuelled the justification of those who would impose segregation on others, and worse.  I just hope for his sake that when the time comes that he wants to reproduce, that his swimmers are up to the task. How would he cope with fathering soul-less children of his own?  That would be karma.

Ode to Mothers

Mother’s Day is approaching, giving rise to what it all means – mothers, acknowledgement of mothers, the relationship with our mothers and then our relationship with those that we mother.

And here I have a confession to make.  Sure when I was a child, I bought my mother ludicrous ornaments and soaps and scents or whatever, and eagerly watched as she opened them.  Looking back I had totally abysmal taste.  As I grew up though I moved around a lot, and lived interstate for a long time.  I lived  a single lifestyle and although I was always family orientated, was also fairly self-absorbed.   Mother’s Day was not something that featured strongly on my horizon.  After all, it was such a commercial event, with the letterbox full  of brochures and the retail industry in your face for weeks before hand.  I didn’t want to be part of that and I was sure that my mother didn’t either.  Mother’s Day faded from focus for me and sometimes I never even registered that it had come – or gone – beyond wishing my mother a happy Mother’s Day in our regular Sunday  morning call.

Time rolled on, and then I was pregnant.  This was a long time coming, given that I was a couple of months shy of 40 at the time.   I was a whole 8 weeks pregnant by the time the next Mother’s Day came around.  To my surprised delight, a friend and his partner sent me a Mother’s Day card.  It made the who motherhood business seem so much more real.  That card was so treasured.

By the next Mothers’ Day of course I really was a mother, with an infant who was a few months old.  Parenthood was a solo venture for me, so I didn’t have a partner to express any sort of appreciation for my maternal efforts, but I had a beautiful child and we had a mutual adoration thing going. We were pretty absorbed in each other and my mother was a big help too, making the interstate trip whenever possible.  She had a special relationship with my son as well.

With each year, another Mother’s Day rolled around and passed again.  Another commercial opportunity that I chose largely to ignore, except that I was a little more aware of it now.  My friend never sent me a card again, so there wasn’t any acknowledgement of my own motherhood, beyond my own reflections.  My son and I moved back to my home state and my mother was so pleased to have us close to her.  We were pretty pleased as well and over the next years that were challenging over many fronts, Mum was always there for us.

But then she wasn’t.  Her cancer was sudden and cruel and we never made those last goodbyes, mostly because we hadn’t quite comprehended that it was really happening.  We were rather a ‘stiff upper lip’ type family anyway and weren’t open about affection and our feelings.  That last morning I reached her a few brief minutes before she slid into a coma.  I’m sure that she knew I was there during those minutes, but I never knew if she heard and understood the words that I softly whispered to her over the next hour as I massaged her hands with cream and gently massaged her scalp and face, easing the transition for us both.

As the saying goes, your never appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.  So, it was far too late to tell her when I really acknowledged and appreciated all that my mother had not only done but sacrificed for me.  Part of this understanding came from an evolving maturity (so OK – I was a late developer) and part of it, well perhaps a lot of it came from being a mother myself and looking at life and events through totally different eyes.  I was very much aware of what I did for my child, with much of it unacknowledged and un-thanked.  I began to understand motherhood in a way that I never had before.

It’s poetic justice of course that my son, now in his late teens, gives no recognition to the significance of mother’s day.  He always sleeps in on Sundays so there is no breakfast in bed.  I may get a passing hug if I’m lucky, and perhaps he will ruffle my hair on his way out the door with his mates.

I still think that Mother’s Day is unnecessarily commercial and that making an event of one day out of the year is in a way to belittle the support our mothers give us not just through the year but through all of our lives.  I still could have shown my appreciation more demonstrably. I could l have told her how much I appreciated all that she did.

I miss you Mum.



Uneasy Transitions

Transitions are never easy. There have been many changes in my son’s life over the last twelve months. Donald is 18 and so has acquired adult status, in years anyway. He now sports a cool stubble and his bedside drawer reveals a box of condoms. He has a girlfriend (Daisy) and other female friends, at least one of whom would like to be a little more than that. At least I can see that she would like this, but it doesn’t quite seem to have registered on his horizon.

Daisy has turned his life upside-down over this year. She is very needy and also very manipulative. She is used to clicking her fingers and for Donald and whoever else she requires, to come running. She frequently has emotional episodes which require hand holding, brow wiping and attendance, regardless of the time of day or night. Given the huge quantities of caffeinated drinks that she consumes, these episodes usually occur at night, meaning that Donald is frequently summonsed in the wee hours, with his absence discovered the following morning.

With so much nocturnal activity, Donald’s school work bit the dust last year and he only passed one subject of his final year of high school. Daisy dropped out just before the exams so she did not fare any better. They both have casual jobs and are supposedly studying again but I will be very surprised if they complete the academic year in their enrolments. Their entire focus is on partying.

Remember how when your children are toddlers, they love to help you around the house? Whatever you are doing, they want to do to. Sweeping, washing up, working in the garden and especially cooking. Helping mum is wonderful. Sigh. It doesn’t last. For a start, Donald sleeps for a greater part of the day because he is up all night. When I race out the door for work in the morning, I might leave a note asking him to hang out the washing or some such chore. I then need to ring him later in the day and tell him to read the note as I cannot assume that this will happen without prompting. When I get home, there will be damp clothing on the line, indicating that it has only just been hung up. Assuming that it has. Some days, it is still in the basket and I hear ‘Oops – I forgot!’

Doing something of his own volition just does not happen, although on odd occasions, (very odd) I will come home to find that a meal has been cooked. More likely though I will get a text message through the day asking me to pick up more milk or whatever on my way home because there is none left. (Yes, he has drunk it all.) He feels that he is being responsible in advising me that we are out of this item. The idea of actually stirring himself to go shopping would not occur to him. This sort of organisation does not rate as highly as continuing with the computer games that he plays most days, when he is not watching the latest series that he has downloaded from the internet.

You start to get the picture here that his life is all about rights and not at all about responsibilities. Daisy is even more strongly an adherent to this philosophy, and to a general extent, so are all of Donald’s mates. The mates are generally reasonable kids – just totally wrapped up in themselves and the lives that they want to live. I frequently wake up and find that one or more of them has stayed the night, with all concerned assuming that this is OK. In general, yes it is but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Usually though they have arrived in the early hours of the morning whilst I am fast asleep. If they happen to see me as they slip out the back door in the morning (the easiest route to and from Donald’s room) they chirp ‘thank you for having me!’ before dragging their dishevelled and red-eyed selves off home. I can’t complain about the amount of water that they use, as they rarely shower.

Donald and Daisy’s relationship has been turbulent, as he has gradually come to realise that she is not always honest, not always faithful, and uses people shamelessly. He has gradually met a number of her discarded friends who have been used and abused along the way and now choose not to get too close. She cannot manage money and so frequently spends his as well. Progressively Donald has become aware of her shortcomings and has experienced much in her company that has distressed and dismayed him. Consequently, he has broken up with her – several times.

Last Thursday evening was the last of those occasions and it was with an indication of relief that he told me that he was meeting her later that evening to tell her that it was over and to give her back her possessions that she had left at our house. The next morning he confirmed that there had been tears because she loves him, but she had accepted his decision and that they would stay just friends. Ha! I popped home at lunch time and found them both fast asleep in his bed and I believe that this is where they were for most of the day. Not sure how she talked him around again, but the pair of very sexy red and black knickers that I found on his bedroom floor probably had something to do with it. I still wonder what she wore home that day! Donald went off to work that evening (three days ago) and he hasn’t been home since. He is presumably staying with Daisy, but has not seen fit to let me know that, nor to answer my texts asking that he check in with me on a daily basis, as he is supposed to do.

For some time, I have been contemplating telling Donald that it is time he moved out of our house. The reasons will not be new to him – I am sick of being taken for granted, and also don’t like losing control of the house. It is time that he learnt to take responsibility for himself and to pay his way in life. I am not being treated with respect and I do not deserve that. The concerns that I have of course are those that would occur to any mother. He barely earns enough to support himself – how would he manage and would I be putting him in moral jeopardy? Would he keep up his current course of study or would this be the final straw that encouraged him to drop out? Would it be the start of a downward spiral into a boozy and perhaps drug-related lifestyle, which would be more restricted if he continued to live with me? He would have to rent a room somewhere and could not afford anything too comfortable. Should I give him a small allowance to ensure that he has enough on which to sustain himself when combined with his wage?

The alternative is to ask him to start and pay board, equivalent to 25% of his earnings or thereabouts. This would also help to reinforce the understanding that there is no such thing as a free lunch, although I know that in order to get this money I would have to set up a direct debit arrangement. The down side though is that he would probably feel that this payment absolved him of any further domestic responsibility, and still would not abide by domestic rules that have been put in place but are difficult to enforce without his cooperation.

Donald is still a nice kid, and others are always telling me that he is so pleasant, helpful (to them), sociable, etc. He is not a lost cause and in future years he will probably become a reasonable human being. Right now though he is selfish, lazy, feckless, self-centred and unreliable.

This transition in in Donald’s growing up is difficult. No doubt there are issues for him, insecurities, unknowns, etc. but it is also immensely difficult for me as his parent. It is especially hard given that I work 40+ hours on week days and so am not around through the day to monitor what is happening at home. When he is awake, I am asleep and vice versa. If we are both awake and at home, there are often other people around, making personal communication difficult. There are days when I so wish that I had a partner with whom to address these issues and who could talk about man stuff, and respect, and the meaning of life and all that. A decent role model would be brilliant, but we have never had one of those in our lives. I am just hoping that he is home when I get home from work tonight, or at least has the decency to contact me.

Living with Other People

I built my house 13 years ago, and for most of that time have had either lodgers or have hosted international students.  Living with other people perpetually in your space can be a challenge,  (just think about some members of your family!) but  it also has given me a steady income stream.  Occasionally I was surviving way below the poverty line, so that income meant that I was able to continue living in our home. I did come close at one stage to taking my son and moving back in with my parents and renting the house out.  The complication with that would be that I would then have jeopardised my eligibility for a government paid parenting allowance, given that I am a solo parent and for many years was ‘under-employed’.

Fortunately my house is big and there is room for everyone.  I tend to spend a lot of time in my office, which is at the front of the house.  Whenever my celebrancy clients visit, they come in the front door and make an abrupt turn into the office.  This means that they do not see the unwashed dishes or general household detritus, nor are they disturbed by TV or whatever.  My son has the attic room upstairs.  This is quite large and there are a couple of beds up there, plus trundles and these days I never quite know how many teenagers are going to be sleeping up there after a big  night out.  Our house seems to be a convenient crash pad, especially as it is only 4 kms from the CBD.  That leaves the other two downstairs bedrooms for the lodgers.

Our HouseThis picture is a couple of years old but this is Avalon, temporary home to many.

The very first lodger arrived shortly after we moved into the house.  At that stage, it was very new – not much in the way of furniture or furnishings and no garden to speak of.  David was a taxi driver, and as I was so naive about the accommodation business, I did not ask him the right questions – like

  • do you work at night and sleep during the day;
  • are you a very light sleeper who complains constantly about the weekend chatter of little boys and their friends;
  • are you more sensitive to mattress quality than the princess and the pea (yes, I bought him a new mattress);
  • are you also a client of social security and doing a bit of financial juggling on the side; and
  • do you have a gambling and therefore a cash flow problem?
We crept around the house every weekend for a year before I bit the bullet and asked David to move out.  It was such a relief to be ourselves on weekends without shushing all the time.  He left me a legacy though.  To help cover up our concrete floors, he gave me a Persian Rug that his girlfriend was throwing out.  Too late I discovered that it was infested with moths and they also ate the edges of another much-loved rug that I had.  At least he had paid up all the money that he owed me.
Next, two women arrived within a week or so of each other.  The first, Sarah, had a four-year-old daughter and told me that she was a vegetarian.  Sometimes the daughter lived with her father and sometimes she stayed with us.  Mother and daughter took over the attic room, as at that stage, young Donald was in a downstairs room, close to mine.  The day she moved in, I was surprised to see Sarah heat and eat four meat pies – surprised in relation to the quantity and also because I thought that meat pies were a strange choice for a vegetarian.
Her behaviour became stranger and more erratic and I got phone calls asking for her under a different name.  Eventually Sarah explained.  She suffered from multiple personality disorder and I never did find out how many women were living upstairs.  One was a teenager and talked on the phone all the time, curled up in a corner of the lounge.  Another couldn’t drive and that was a problem if she surfaced whilst the previous personality was driving the car.  One presumably was a vegetarian but others weren’t.  The only person who was more confused than me was the little girl.  One day I heard her ask ‘Am I Mary 1 or Mary 2?’ which made me very sad.
Another issue that made me sad was that one of the personalities took my bound copy of my thesis, written for my Masters Degree.  I didn’t actually have proof of this, but nobody else had the opportunity and I knew that a couple of the personalities would have been interested in the topic.  I asked her about it of course, but whichever personality was around at the time denied all knowledge of it.  It was a perplexing problem and I had to ask her to leave as well.  For my own sanity.  I gave her plenty of time to find alternative accommodation but she left quickly and  I discovered after a while that she had gone to a women’s refuge and said that she was escaping from an abusive situation.
I was asked by a mutual friend to take on the other woman who arrived at the same time, also with a small daughter.  This child was around two years.  The first night, I was woken at around 3:00 am by Dorinda who begged me to take her to hospital as she was having a heart attack.  I checked her out and noted her symptoms and soon concluded that this young woman who was in her mid twenties was in fact having a panic attack, not a heart attack.  It took me a couple of hours to calm her down and send her back to bed.  I soon discovered that she was a manic depressive, not managing her medication very well and was generally away with the pixies.  I found that I was taking over the care of the little girl who was sadly neglected as Dorinda was in a perpetual emotional and mental fog.
The little girl’s father soon started visiting as well and staying more and more nights in their bedroom.  Not happy with that, and even less happy when I realised that he was accessing my computer and the internet when I was out.  I asked her to find alternative accommodation as well.  It was only after they went that I realised that a key text book that I required for my Microsoft Certification Course was also missing.  The boyfriend was also studying IT. I could not afford to replace this book and without it could not sit the exams.
After this, I thought that I would provide home hosting for international students who were in Australia to undertake English studies.  I contacted an English college and they were very pleased to have me on their books as we live so close to the city and were on a direct bus route to the college.    There followed many students, from Germany, Japan, Korea, France, Brazil, Switzerland and China.  Their ages ranged from 16 to 50 or thereabouts.
 Some were attending high school in Australia and then I assumed the role of parent in the eyes of the school, and had to ensure that they attended regularly in the required uniform and with all homework completed.  I also had to sort out broken hearts, homesickness and cultural misunderstandings.  Sadly some of the Australian kids were not as welcoming as they could have been and the international visitors were often very lonely.
I had to provide accommodation with at least a bed, a desk, a wardrobe and a desk lamp and all meals.  This was a challenge for some of my guests who were not used to Australian food and the fact that we did not have rice as a staple component of most meals.  Some of the short termers (adults) were more demanding.  They required fresh juice daily and came with a list of preferred foods i.e. only chicken breast, no other part of the chicken, only home-made vinaigrette – nothing out of a bottle, etc.  This was not the deal at all.  It was not a hotel, but some of them came from affluent circumstances and were used to having domestic staff at their beck and call.  The Europeans were the most autocratic with their demands, but for outright wealth some of the Chinese and Korean guests topped the class.
Others politely ate whatever I put in front of them and explored their packed lunches with I think a mixture of amazement and bewilderment.  I would experiment with sandwich filllings, combining foods that they would never have thought of on their own.  I baked each week and so put in home-made cakes and biscuits and also of course some fruit.  Two German teenagers who arrived together told me that they had never had anything other than bread and cheese for their lunches and that their parents had never made lunch for them.  They liked exploring their lunch bags each day, though still came home and had big bowls of cereal on walking through the door in the evening.
One Japanese high school student who was a real sweetie, sat up all night on her last night with us, writing letters to my son and myself, expressing with the aid of her dictionary how much she had loved her stay with us.   She said in her letter to me that all her life she had wanted a mum-made lunch and with us that was what she’d had.  She was so shy when she first arrived, asking my permission to go outside, or to do anything really.
 Gradually, she gained more and more confidence and wormed her way into our hearts.
Food was a major interest for her, and everywhere we went, out would come the camera and she would take a photo of what she was about to eat.  I took her to the Central Market for breakfast with the family (a weekly ritual) and pointed out that there were Japanese and Korean stalls.  I thought that she might be homesick for some familiar food.  What did she order?  A cooked breakfast with the lot – bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms, toast, etc. all of course recorded for posterity.  The only time that the camera didn’t come out, she was probably too gobsmacked.  I served up a salad, made with some vegies from my Dad’s garden and in her lettuce she found a green caterpillar.  It was a story that she took home with her to the family in Japan.
She was 16 then and is now about 28, and we are still in contact.  The day before she flew out, we took her down to the local beach and managed to entice her into the water for the first time.  She was probably afraid of sharks or something but she had stayed firmly on the sand until then.  She, my son and I all cried when we had to take her to the airport the next day.

Splashing in the shallows

There came a time when I found the home hosting to be too exhausting.  With some wonderful exceptions, most would not do anything around the house – not helping with kitchen duties or anything else.  I had the impression that they had never done this at home and why should they start now?  Being cook, housekeeper and nursemaid got to be a bit tiring.  The crunch came for me when my mother died after an acute period of illness.  I had a Swiss girl (20) and a Chinese girl (18) staying at that time.  When I came home from the hospital that day, I explained that my mother had died and that in the coming week I would have to organise the funeral and that the household operations would be chaotic.  Both were wide-eyed, but neither offered any condolences or made any offer of help, which I assumed was due to lack of sophistication and cultural naivety.
On the day of the funeral, I said that I had no idea when I would be home, but that there were a selection of home-cooked frozen meals in the freezer and that they should make their selection and put them in the microwave/oven.  When I returned home at around 8:30 pm, they were both sitting around pathetically hungry.  Neither had eaten and I had the impression that neither wanted to take responsibility for initiating the process of creating the evening meal as it should be up to someone else.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but made moves to extricate myself from that contractual hosting relationship shortly after that.
To add some balance to this story, a German couple, in Australia as English students, stayed with me for many months and became a part of our family.  They did help in the kitchen and in many other areas and as he came from the building trades, he was always looking for things to fix or do around the house.  He could not sit still, but had to be making himself useful.  He even did some kitchen alterations for me, and quite quickly.  I had been quoted over $3000 to do the work and was told that it would be very complicated.  It took him two days and with minimal material cost.  They returned to Germany but not being happy with the employment situation over there, decided to migrate to Australia.  They have now bought their own house here and are still good friends.
I next simply advertised for lodgers – people who would rent a furnished room but were responsible for their own food arrangements.  Initially, I placed an advertisement in the paper but soon found that a lot of weirdos would get your phone number from the paper and I got a spate of heavy breathers and similar such callers.  Switching to real estate portals or even Gumtree brought much better results.  Each year, Adelaide also hosts various festivals and sometimes I would advise the festival organisers that I had accommodation available.  I always advertised a short-term rental.  If the scenario worked out well, and the lodger wanted to stay longer then I could say yes to that.  Having short-termers though meant that we didn’t have to put up with funny habits for too long.
Staying with us on this basis, we have had two comedians, a lighting technician and an event coordinator, all associated with different festivals.  We have had a hotel manager who had just come from a relationship breakdown and ended up renting one of the rooms for three years and hardly ever slept there, after his heart healed and he found a new relationship.  He never prepared a meal or even made a cup of coffee.  No hassles with that one!  There was a trainee pilot for 6 weeks, an IT Project Manager who flew in from OS for a contract, a LIthuanian backpacker who left us a CD of his favourite Lithuanian songs, and an Iranian man who left after I discovered him at home with a young lady.  She had obviously spent the night with him.  I have no objections to people having a private life, but was disturbed by the fact that she looked to be under the age of consent and even then, seemed young for her age.  When he went, he left behind an antique rocking chair that he was supposed to be renovating.  It has been stripped but is still sitting at my place awaiting the french polishing.  He was doing this as a favour for a friend, a person who no doubt is now very sad at having lost their chair.
On occasions, friends have availed themselves of a short-term place to stay and that has been good too.  Other short-termers have become friends and the connections to our house now reach around the world.
I don’t advertise any more.  I am constantly being asked if I will take on more people who need accommodation.  I have just had a Uni student leave (with some relief on my part), but still have an Irish couple who are very easy and are returning home to Ireland in December.  They have been spending some time in Australia because they can get work here but were unemployed in Ireland.
So, in December, it will be just young Donald, the cats and myself and I think that for a while, this will be good.  I am employed now and earn a reasonable income.  Running the household takes a fair chunk of that income but then having ‘guests’ does come with costs as well.  My water consumption has gone through the roof recently with lots of very long showers and endless cycles through my water-guzzling top-loading washing machine.  When young people sit up all night watching their plasma TV and using various other electrical devices, then the power bill goes through the roof also.  Then there are the breakages that occur, the things that wear out from multiple use, etc. etc.
It seems also that I am still the only one who understands the function of a mop or broom as I am the only one that uses them, whilst the house guests all enjoy their weekends and the Australian sunshine.  If I am going to spend all weekend cleaning, I would prefer it to address what I  have created rather than others.  Probably our guests feel that in return for their weekly rent, which includes outgoings such as electricity, broadband and other utilities, then they should have the freedom to come and go without any other responsibility.    In part also the onus falls on me for not asking for enough help.  It is mentioned in their handbook that gives all the details about the house and the environs but with the busy lives that we all lead, we don’t actually connect very much and I haven’;t pursued it.  When one person is in, the other is out, etc.  Also, in spite of the fact that we have a large house with a couple of living areas, 90% of the lodgers have spent their time in their room when at home and not using the kitchen or the bathroom.  They don’t ever sit out on the back deck or read a book in the garden.  I often wonder if they feel that they need to shut themselves away to retain some private space; and whether my influence is too invasive through the rest of the house.
Whatever, we will wing it alone for a while and it will be so good to have our own space.  I have almost finished the house.  Over the years I have installed solar panels, installed an additional carport and also some rainwater tanks; I have put down flooring and installed light fittings in most rooms and also some window treatments.  I have even bought some new furniture to replace the second hand stuff that I have dragged around for decades.  I have installed an automatic irrigation system and established the garden.  I am about to build a front fence.  In short, I am on the downhill run.
I will have room for the occasional visitor, can streak to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a drink and make as much noise as I want to.  I won’t have to feel apologetic if I have left some dirty dishes in my sink or as is more often the case, my son has.  I think that it will be about time.