Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maybe they were very strict about changing the water in everyone's bowls

We, I should have started ringing child care centres twelve months ago. At some places they were politely upfront about my chances: "There is a very long waiting list."
At others, confrontingly honest: "Your baby will not be a baby any more by the time a place for a baby opens up on our books. By then he will be a toddler!'
"Ha ha," I laughed.
"Our toddler spaces are also full."

Finally a place became available. Two places, actually. Both near our house.
We're mildly suspicious, but we visit the one which confirms over the phone that he has a place.
Our first experience of the place occurs on the way there when I am tailgated by an arsenecked maniac in a black Commodore. He's swerving, trying to pass at high speed on a suburban street. I block. I play dumb. I drive towards the centre. I speed away from roundabouts and slow again when he catches up.
He is, of course, one of the parents coming to pick up his children from the centre. I give him a friendly wave as we park next to one another.
The place is a converted house, surrounded by fake grass, interrupted only by single faded plastic slippery-dip. It looks deserted; an impression intensified by the dozens of photocopied notices flapping about on the veranda.
The door is opened by a slightly confused, heavily pregnant woman who informs us that the director is sick while the familiar ethereal waft of the nappy bucket floats past her from the darkened hallway.
The place stinks.
She shows us the baby room in which half a dozen poppets sprawl around on mismatched mats, loudly playing with a few plastic toys. Intermittent lonely crying can be heard from an adjoining room. Our host reveals its source when she cheerfully whips aside a curtain to reveal a red-eye little boy rubbing his eyes from on of a row of cots with thin metal bars. Like cages.
'Oh hello, sleepy!' she coos, and leaves him there. More crying. She recites the daily routine for the babies, including the time for sleeps, changes, eating, sleeps and more changes. She directs our attention upwards.
'And we have a hanging wire for Xmas artwork!' There is indeed a length of fencing wire from which hang green squares of paper daubed with red paint.
As we leave that room, a little boy tries to show us the aeroplane toy he has been shouting excitedly over since we arrived. He seems older than the other babies plopped around the room.
'What a cute kid,' we both remark.
'Oh that one!' Our host replies. 'He is a biter! So we move him to the baby room.'
We laugh. Nervously.
The tour of the baby room complete, she leads us past another sleeping room and a small kitchen with a vintage stove.
'What do you feed them?' asks Mele, Queen of Culinaria.
'Oh we give them mixed mashed vegetables once a day and their bottles, and we also give them fruit mixed with custard or jelly.'
She shows us the nappy change room, tightly-packed with every child's quota of nappies, and the miniature toilets. The odour is strongest here. The entire building smells like a place you'd board an unloved poodle.
Speaking of small canines, the toddlers room does resemble an exercise yard. Small children roll under foot, growling and barking. One child lays prone on the floor clutching a shoe. He looks like his owners have just left for two weeks in Port Douglas. A young girl with a green, monogrammed shirt smiles at us from the corner as she watches the roiling mob.
The pregnant director-of-the-day leads past the pack, over depressed boy and outside to the back area. It is identical to the front, but for the addition of an extra plastic slippery-dip.
'Sometimes when we have too many children, we just take everyone out here to run around!'
We take the forms. We ask questions about availability and cost.
"Fifty-nine dollars per day."
"How much for a half day?"
"We do not do half-days. If you leave him here, it will be fifty-nine dollars. It doesn't matter when you want to come and pick him up." She smiles encouragingly.
We thank her for her time and she looks for a pen to write down Mele's mobile number.
We step out into the light once again and breathe the fresh air.

At the second place, the director immediately sits us down in her office and spends five minutes cooing over Charlie before remembering herself and talking us through accreditation, Centrelink, nutrition, safety, how beautiful Charlie is, acclimatising children to childcare, activities and the different pens Charlie can play with in her lap.

Guess which one we chose?


Answer to the last poost: Option e). I left them in the tree. I felt bad about it, but I left them there. Your heart hardens in a certain direction when you become a family man.


  1. Oh yeah, I remember the horror of finding a childcare centre only too well. Thankfully, the one we chose in Melbourne (when Sapphire was nine months old to 18 months) and then Adelaide (right up until school started) were both brilliant.

    E, you did E? Please tell me that you at least phoned the RSPCA about it, please. It's interesting that you say your heart is harder now that you're a father; mine got a helluva lot softer. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad....

  2. No guesses necessary. I KNOW which one you chose. I used to be a baby-minder for working mums. Never had more than two at a time, different ages and the mums were so happy with the level of care one of them voluntarily paid more than what I was charging. (back in the 80's, I charged $50 per week per child)Can't do it now, these days you have to be inspected and licenced, plus I just don't have the patience anymore.
    Isn't there a vet in your area where you could at least report the kittens to?

  3. Oh boy. We have a run of good child care places. Well, 2 good. Out of 3. One place we had little choice - oldest was there for about 6 or 8 months and burst into tears every time I drove in that direction. We got him out and into a place near home that - at the time - was family owned and run... great people, their own cook, different food each day - so good they published their own little-kids-cook-book. So good we were buying them extra toys and things for the kids as a thank-you (toys never last long).

    CARE shows.

  4. Kath - I put them back in the tree, felt mildly depressed and reasoned that I simply didn't have the time to ring the RSPCA to send them on a potential wild-goose chase at night. Nor did Mele have the time or the allergy repression to deal with two cats until they came to take them away to be put down.
    I wish I did, I wish we had two cute, appreciative little kittens right now, but we don't. Hence the whisky.

    River - The reason I liked the second one so much is that it reminded me of the childcare centre I went to.
    No vet. No time. Sorry kitties.

    Shippy - Totally.

    Ashleigh - I once worked in a restaurant where the cook from my childcare was the head chef. He caught me eating a meatball and admonished me, not for stealing, but for not retaining my vegetarianism. Supposedly he went to great lengths to cook lots of delicious vegetarian food.

    JT - Yeah, except these kids will be called something worse: Gremos or something.

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An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32