James leans heavily against me as we leave the hospital. He’s a big bloke and he puts all his weight on me. I feel like a complete bitch, but I say it anyway:
I’m leaving in the morning, no matter what. I have too.
The car is packed. An assortment of items fills the boot: a plant stand, some fake turf and some wooden building blocks.
Ruby hops in the car and immediately begins to tuck into a bag of lollies.
Jess hesitates before she gets in:
Mum my back’s itchy.
I lift up her t-shirt to take a look, expecting to see a scratch maybe, or at worst a flea bite.
My heart sinks. Her back is a mess of small familiar looking welts.
You’ve got chicken pox. I say, Get in the car.
We stop at Robe, a has been kind of a town, just after the border of South Australia and Victoria.
Jess’ face, back, legs and arms are by now spattered with chicken pox. I will the pox not to get worse, for her not to break out in a lather of a fever, for the journey to continue well and for it not to fee like all the stars are conspiring against us.
We stay overnight in Robe, at a very ordinary motel and head off early in the morning for Adelaide.
Don’t move from the house I tell the kids anddon’t answer the door to anyone, I will be back in 2 hours.
I can’t take Jess to the cry baby session with the chicken pox. Ruby is old enough to look after her, but I have never left them in a strange city before and Adelaide is strange.
I leave them in a holiday house we have rented in Glenelg for the duration of our Adelaide trip. I head off to the Burnside library, for the first show in the my Adelaide Fringe season: a cry baby session.
I set up the fake turf, the wooden building blocks, the plant stand and assortment of domestic items that create a quirky looking set.
Excited librarians bring in some chairs.
We are so happy to have you here. Can we get you a water? Or a cup of tea, even?
The set at the Burnside Library South Australia
Mothers with babies, some older folk and a guy who is clearly a reviewer settle in to watch my Adelaide Fringe offering: A handful of Walnuts.
Babies cry, Kelly Menhennett a local musician has agreed via email to do the music during the cry baby shows. Kelly sings and the babies stop crying. I hand out some sponges, I tell a collection of the best jokes from previous shows and Kelly plays some more.
I deliver the punch line: If a friend comes over for dinner and they offer to bring something, tell them just to bring a handful of walnuts.
I pack up, thank the library staff and Kelly and drive back to Glenelg.
The kids are fine. They tell me that they have had a walk around the neighbourhood to try and find a park. I’m furious, shocked and so relieved that nothing happened to them.
There is no show the following day so we ‘do Glenelg’: the Maritime museum, the shops, eat ice creams and damn fine kebabs.
The next day I head to the North Adelaide Community Centre for the second cry baby session.
I have had to pay an enormous amount of money to perform at the venue. The cost I was told, would pay for promotion.
I arrive to 4 dozen chairs set up in rows, most of them are empty.
I do the show, Kelly sings to the babies and to the mums, she sings to the two men who look confused and walk out three jokes in.
I finish, pack up and go back to Glenelg. James is there with the kids, having flown in earlier. He is still in pain and looks very tired.
It will be fun, let’s all go as a family. We haven’t been back for years.
I’d said all those months ago, when I had registered for Adelaide Fringe.
I do 4 evening shows at The Treasury. It’s a small 20 seater venue, under the Medina Grand, a hotel in the city centre.
Audiences at The Medina are lovely, hotel staff could not be nicer and the shows go well.
Sunday morning, I turn the car around to drive home.
James flies out, as he is still too unwell to drive the distance.
As we head up out of Adelaide city centre towards the freeway, I begin to do the math: accommodation, food, venue hire and festival registration.
I stop doing the math. The show has haemorrhaged a huge loss.
I look in the rear view mirror.
Jess chicken pox, thankfully were not a full blown doozy of a case and almost look like they are fading.
Ruby is tucking into another bag of lollies and they are both watching a movie on the portable DVD player.
We drive, we stop for the toilet, we stop for more ice creams, we stop at the big lobster.
When the sat nav’ tells us we are only 3 hours and 20 minutes from home, we vote not to stop at the accommodation that we had pre booked in Horsham.
It’s after 11pm as we pull into our drive – way. Our dog Holly comes bounding out of the house to greet us.
I have driven 9 hours straight, performed 6 shows at 3 different venues in five days.
I have fed the kids a lot of guilt ridden ice creams and a variety of confectionary.
I have told some jokes and discovered that there tends to be three types of reaction to being given a coloured sponge: the person who is happy to receive, the diffident recipient who leaves the sponge behind, the recipient who wants to be able to choose which colour sponge they get.
I felt a huge wash of relief that Jess’ chicken pox faded almost as soon as they appeared.
I felt anguish that James was so sick and yet he still came to Adelaide.
I felt blessed that my family came to the 3 evening shows laughing and cheering each time.
All of it, the financial loss, the pox, the long drive, the ice creams, the sick husband.
All of it, I chalk it up as done – my first interstate festival.