“Hello. How are you?”
“I’m not feeling crash hot.”
“Not feeling what?”
“You know, I’m not feeling crash hot. I don’t feel great. You don’t say that?”
“The Christmas tree was delivered today full of ladybugs, a dozen or so. They call them ladybirds here, don’t they?” I ask my three-year-old son, “What a sweet name for a cute little beetle. What’s wrong?”
The look on my husband’s face went from enchanted to terrified.
“Was there anything else in the tree?” he asked.
“I don’t think so. I didn’t really look. The ladybugs-birds, just flew out.”
“Don’t forget we’re in Australia now. I’ll take the tree outside onto the terrace and give it a good check.”
“Ok. I’m sure the Christmas tree farm wouldn’t do very well if it delivered trees full of venomous spiders.”
45 minutes later:
“Ok,” my husband puffs, his face bright red and sweaty, “I pulled out about ten spiders and several egg sacks. I googled to see what they are-nothing dangerous.”
Three days later:
“Honey, this tree completely up and died. We’ve only had it for three days. I think we should see if we can get another one.”
“More ladybirds, PaPa!”
The next day:
“The new tree is here!”
“Wait,” my husband says, “take it straight to the terrace.”
An hour and a half later:
“Ok. Only a few ladybirds in this one pal. There were also a few of those spiders and egg sacks and a couple of weird pincer bugs-I think I got them all.”
The next day:
“The tree looks so pretty, doesn’t it? I’ll just move the tree skirt around a bit before we put presents underneath.”
I scream as I pull out the skirt and dozens of long bugs with little pincers fly out from underneath.
“Wait! Wait!” my husband yells, “Let me get something to catch them in!”
“What are they? They look like earwigs!”
“Earwigs? What’s an earwig? Don’t worry buddy. We’ll get em!” my husband says with assurance to our son as he dives-tupperware in hand- to collect the creepy crawlies as they dart all over the room.
“There’s one over here!” the little guy yells.
An hour later:
“Hi, yes. You delivered a tree here earlier today…
“Yes, that’s right, it’s our second tree…
“It’s lovely, but it seems to be full of earwigs…
“Yes, yes, we did look them up online… so we know they are harmless, it’s just, well, it’s just earwigs aren’t really very enchanting and Christmasy…
“Yes, we know they’re harmless-it’s just, well, earwigs aren’t very Christmasy…
“I understand you don’t use pesticides…
“OK. We’ll keep you posted. Thank you.”
“Well,” I ask, “what did they say?”
“They’ll bring us another tree-or I can go now to get an insect spray and they’ll be gone in a day.”
“Let’s just get another tree,” I say.
“Filled with what this time? Dingos? I’m going to get some bug spray. Let’s quit while we’re ahead.”
“See you in the arvo.”
“In the what?”
“In the arvo, when we pick up the kids.”
“Is that what you pick them up in? An arvo?”
“Nooooo! The afternoon! You know, I’ll see you in the afternoon. See you in the arvo. You don’t say that?”
“This can’t be right,’ I mutter to my husband, “I just poured 3L of milk into this porridge. It can’t possibly all boil off in twenty minutes, can it? Did I convert it wrong?”
“Wait, what are you trying to do?” he asks from the couch, still foggy from sleep.
“I’m trying to make black rice and quinoa porridge from the Blue Ducks cookbook-I got all the ingredients yesterday, but it says here to add 3L of milk. That’s this whole container.”
“Are you sure it says 3L? That container looks like a gallon of milk. How much rice and quinoa did you put in?”
“A half cup of each.”
‘That has to be a misprint.”
“It’s not a misprint.” I say in defense of The Ducks, “This is a gorgeous book from one of the best restaurants in Sydney. They wouldn’t misprint 3L of milk.”
“Maybe they meant 3ml.”
“3ml of milk?? That’s like half a teaspoon.”
“Oh, but 3L makes sense to you? I hate to tell you this-your handsome surfer friends over at Bronte beach made a misprint. Google it. I’m sure someone came across the same problem.”
I google. Nothing.
He walks over to assess the crumbling possibility breakfast will be ready any time soon.
He bursts into laughter, “This is a pot of milk!”
“I know,” I stomp my foot like a petulant child, “it has to be right though-I just know it will cook down.”
“If you boil it for six years maybe. I’ll start on some eggs- next time we’re at the Ducks we’ll ask them.”
A week later:
“We tried to make this porridge and the book says we’re supposed to use 3L of milk,” my husband says to the very chill, blonde waiter at our table.
“Whoa. That doesn’t sound right,” he offers.
He looks at us. We look back at him.
A dingo howls in the distance.
“I’ll ask in the kitchen.”
When he returns he says, “Yeah, they say in the kitchen it could be 30ml or maybe 300ml. Just eyeball it and see what works.”
In the US, if there was a misprint of that size-let’s say in one of Martha Stewart’s cookbooks-I could sue Martha Stewart Inc. for free milk for the rest of my life. The people responsible for the misprint would be sent to a desert island where Martha Stewart herself would watch them fight to the death over one of her salted caramel cupcakes.
Here, in Australia-
“Hey, some lady tried to make porridge from our book-she poured in 3L of milk…
“Yeah, that’s what I said, it’s a misprint, but she just poured it in anyway…
“Yeah, she did seem kind of uptight, she’s from the states.”
“How’re you going?”
“Uh, I’m going by foot? or I mean, it’s going well-life is going well, thank you for asking. I mean, I’m sorry. What’s the question?”
“How’re you going? You know, like how’s your day? How’re you going? You don’t say that?”
Please enjoy this series of text messages I sent to my husband while he was at work. I don’t recall writing them as I was in a state of shock.
The last message I sent from the kitchen as I sought safety under a dish towel. I ran screaming into the kitchen and put a dish towel over my head while this terrified man killed the bug. To be clear, he was terrified of me.
“Oh yeah, she’s a real rang-a (pronounced rang-uh)!”
“A rang-a? What’s that?”
“A rang-a. You know, when someone has red hair, they’re a rang-a. Like an orangutan. You don’t say that?”
“My niece couldn’t say uncle. So she called him unco Tim.”
“Oh, that’s so cute.”
“Yeah, but we kind of felt bad.”
“Well, you know, unco means uncoordinated and she called him unco Tim. What? You don’t say that?”
And now for a game. Please play. Email me what you think the meaning of each bold italicized word is. Good Luck!
1. Would you like some brekky?
2. Are you ready for kindy?
3. Grab your togs.
4. Those mozzies really got you!
5. My brother’s a muso.
6. Are you joining him in Melbs?
7. That was a bit of a dog’s breakfast.
8. Fair dinkum.
9. Yeah, they’re in Shangers.
10. We’ll just pick up a chooka.
11. Oh yeah, he really stacked it!
I wish all the insect, language and measurement mishaps made us dislike Australia, but actually, it’s the planet’s best-kept secret. Please read In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. It makes you laugh until you pee.