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What does an Au Pair do?

My day officially starts at 7:30am when I leave my “house”, that is my granny flat in the garden, and I walk about 12 steps to the back door of the house.
On a good day I will have had time for a peaceful breakfast and might even be strolling over with a cup of tea in my hand. Yorkshire Tea, purchased recently, which makes my day start an awful lot better than Bushells.

Breakfast time consists of teamwork to get T & S dressed and fed, so T can get out of the door for school on time with Dad. It doesn’t always go smoothly – Fridays are particularly painful mornings. When the TV is switched off – my preference – the morning is a breeze. When it’s on, which it usually is – it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

After T goes to school, S and I can start our day. My morning tasks are getting S to have some breakfast, as it’s unlikely this was successful earlier, and a second attempt at dressing her. When she is pottering about with the dog, or today’s teddy, I unpack and repack the dishwasher, tidy the kitchen and make a start on the laundry, make the beds and have a think about today’s plan.

If I haven’t already had a conversation about tonight’s dinner, it will be written down somewhere. Making dinner is an important and enjoyable task for me, so it needs to be factored into the day’s plan.
Very often S and I will pop to the local shop to top up on ingredients. She will go in the pushchair, and my bag will be loaded with snacks and supplies and off we go. Sometimes we pick something up and turn around and go back. Sometimes we have coffee together in the cafe. And less recently due to bad weather, we will come home via the park.

Most sunny days lunch is a picnic at the park. We sit on the picnic benches together making crow noises and discussing what dogs are doing. We lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds, sing songs on the swings or we go on an adventure to the wooded area of the huge park we live near to “see what we can see”. This is a general term I use for any journey we embark upon, as it seems to give it some purpose.

After lunch S usually has another energy spurt, so whizzes around the back yard on her bike if we are at home, and I use the opportunity to lock the dog away and make dinner. Not locking the dog away, as I very quickly learnt but surprisingly often forget, very often results in something or everything being stolen by the pesky Labrador.
S often helps me make dinner: I give her a bowl and she does “mixing” which consists of her collecting all the peelings and leftovers in her bowl – we often season it, add water and “taste” it to see what she has created.

On these recent boring rainy days I have been doing a number of little baking activities – scones, or cupcakes perhaps, which we later eat at a teddy bears’ picnic in my granny flat, sometimes under the table if it’s raining really heavily! Getting a 3 year old interested in baking isn’t difficult. I measure things out, she pours them in: complimented all the time on her great pouring skills. We can’t wait until it’s in the oven, so we can both be naughty and lick the bowl.

After a few stories and cup of tea it’s time to locate shoes (never an easy task, as they never stay on for long) and a cardigan, a book or two, some snacks for the ride, water and anything else I can think of before we head to school to collect T. Very often I have to do “fast walking” because the previous tasks took longer than I wanted them to and we race to school, nattering all the way, looking for things to point out, so S doesn’t fall asleep.

T gets a high 5 if he’s eaten all his lunch. If he hasn’t, “nasty nanny” makes him eat his sandwich before he plays footy. We hang out at school for as long as the weather and the caretakers allow, or we head to a park and we kick and pass the ball or have running races before heading home. Apparently I am “awesome” at this. I have tried to teach him “English football” (I refuse to call it soccer) but I can’t get him to stop picking the ball up!

Dinner comes round pretty quick, as I’m doing a few last minute adjustments and bringing in the washing, it all happens at once. Countdown is on: tidy up music is playing on my computer, play area is tidied, hands are washed, table is set and bottoms are on seats for a 5pm sit down. The 3 of us sit together and enjoy our dinner with silly conversations and mostly good manners. Politeness and table manners are greatly rewarded and seeing empty plates and smiling faces makes me happier than I can express. Dinner done, everything is put away and we might just have time for a story before mum gets home. Or if she’s stuck in traffic we run the bath and they hop in. To pass the time we sing songs about frogs, or tell stories.

When mum gets home, we have a debrief and the children turn from calm collected creatures to manic little monsters on their second, third of fourth wind of energy, so I bid my farewell and head to my room.

I later meet with a fellow au pair and friend and we go for a good stomp and a vent… often all the way to the shopping centre for frozen yoghurt.

Doesn’t sound bad? No, very often it’s wonderful. I adore T and S and on GOOD days they are my two best friends…

Perhaps I need to write a post on the trials and tribulations of life as an Au pair…

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moving on

I am sitting in Flagstaff Gardens as I write this, or at least I was, writing it in my notebook. A real pen and paper: imagine that!

It’s supposed to be 32 C, but it’s cloudy and considerably cooler than it was 30 minutes ago, but that’s Melbourne in a nutshell. Away from the madness of Bourke Street, I sit on the grass in the square shaped gardens with Saturday traffic rumbling past on each side. I can hear the cars, but I am at peace. There are some Asian girls in front of me chatting in a tongue I cannot comprehend, a group of people my age to my left enjoying each other’s silence and in another patch of grass a group of men of varying nationalities kicking a ball around. One is wearing a Chelsea strip a few seasons old, with Frank Lampard on the back, and sandals on his feet.A interesting backdrop for my Saturday thoughts.

And I sit here, cross-legged, with two days left in Melbourne pondering over what I have done, wondering where I am going and reminiscing on where I have been. My blog by my standards is way overdue – is it possible that I have had so much to say, it’s become too much to write about? My family say I write posts that are far too long, so I resolved to write little and often, but that doesn’t seem to have happened at all.

I have not had the opportunity to write about my fourth, yet by far the most fun trip to Sydney; my terrifying yet fabulously rewarding sea kayaking experience in Byron Bay; what it was like to return to a much hotter cattle station and all I realised I had learned about myself as I left again; the return to a city that has the familiarity and comfort of a place that I daren’t call home; the experiences I have had dressing in my suitcase finery and posing as a mystery shopper in Melbourne; eating all day and dancing all evening at a Latin festival; my impression and ideas about Melbourne and my thoughts on my nomadic life so far.

There really is so very much to write about and seemingly little time. I do not know where the last 3 weeks have gone. I do not know where the majority of my audience is based, nor fully understand their interests or what they/you want to read. I know one of my fans will tell me to write it all, write it all Grace!

Here is my train of thought for today, sitting in Flagstaff Gardens on Saturday 24th November…
I am thinking right now about the people I have met so far on my Australian Adventure and indeed on the literal and spiritual journey I have been taking to get to this very place today.

I feel that there are people who come into our lives for a purpose – yes, this is not a very profound statement to make, but there is more to it. There are the people who are in the background, setting the scene, playing the extras if you want a film analogy. They are the people in the park with me right now, the people that serve you coffee, sit next to you on the tram, the person who brushed past you in the street. The passers-by or passengers have, in my opinion, every importance to your day.For, without them, your day has no colour or sound.

Then there are those who are placed in your life because your purpose is to teach them something – they are the student. I don’t say this because my profession is teaching, but because they will learn something from you perhaps without either of you realising. Then, and perhaps it’s arguable that these are interchangeable, but there are the people who came into your life to teach you something. Again I refer not to the didactic role of a teacher, but more the passive role you play as you learn something, very often about yourself, through something this person does or how your relationship develops.

I also strongly believe that some of these people are planted in front of you to serve you a purpose and nothing else. They are passengers who get off at the next stop and need not stay on your train for any longer than necessary. You may never see them again, but you are pleased that they sat next to you for some time. Then there are the others who will continue the journey some distance with you, maybe until the very end because they have touched your soul in a way that the others didn’t. You therefore understand the importance of holding these people close either physically, or in your heart after geographical locations separate you.

As I sit here today, in my pensive mood, I am mentally flicking through the catalogue of amazing people who have coloured this journey and created endless lists of moments to laugh, cry and wonder about. I can clearly categorise the teachers, the students and the extras in my movie. I know who is going to continue on my journey: who I’ll hold onto dearly, and who I will smile at and say a fond farewell when I depart. I also remember those who have already passed through, those who have moved on and those who are coming with me, metaphorically. I remain optimistic about who is around the corner waiting to bump into me, or who will get on my train at the next stop. And I smile wholeheartedly from deep inside at the wonderful people who I’ll be certain to meet again soon or one day in the future.

It’s sad to say goodbye, better to say see you soon and oh so wonderful to say Hello again.