On the road between Melbourne and Adelaide
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 with an assortment of items; a plant stand, suitcases, Astro turf and some toys.
Ruby gets in the car and immediately tucks into a bag of lollies.
Jess hesitates before she gets in and says: Mum my back’s itchy.
I lift up her t-shirt, expecting to see a scratch maybe, or at worst a flea bite.
My heart sinks. Her back is a mess of familiar looking welts.
You’ve got chicken pox. I say. Get in the car.
Let’s all go it will be fun, we haven’t been back for years. I’d said all those months ago, when I’d registered to be part of Adelaide Fringe.
We wave goodbye to James who still looks quite ill.
Then we hit the road.
I press play on the album Baby Caught The Bus by Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes. I lose count of how many times I replay Love Letter.
Don’t move from the house I tell the kids and don’t answer the door to anyone, I’ll be back in two hours, I say, as I head off to do the first show of the season, a cry baby session at a library. I’m so PC about my comedy that I try and make my shows as accessible as possible, to as many people as possible.
I can’t take my kids to the cry baby session as planned because of the pox, but I figure that Ruby is ‘just’ old enough to ‘baby sit’ in the holiday rental at Glenelg.
I set up the Astro turf, the plant-stand and toys to create a quirky looking set.
Excited librarians set up chairs and say, We’re so happy to have you here. Can we get you a water? Or a cup of tea, even?
Kelly Menhennett, a local musician, has agreed to play music to placate the baby’s during the show.
Kelly sings and the babies stop crying.
I spin my comedic yarn. Deliver the punch line which is the title of the show; A Handful of Walnuts, (you had to be there).
I pack up, thank the library staff and Kelly, then drive back to Glenelg.
The kids tell me that they have been for a walk around the neighbourhood to try and find a park. This is Adelaide I yell at them, What the hell were you thinking?
The next day I head to a venue in the North Adelaide to do another cry baby session.
I’ve paid an enormous amount of money to perform at the venue. The cost I was told, would pay for promotion. I arrive to dozens of chairs set up in rows, most of them are empty.
I do the show, Kelly sings to the babies and she sings to two men who look confused and walk out three jokes in.
I do the show during the evening at a posh hotel over the next five nights.
Then I turn the car around and drive back to Melbourne.
As we head out of Adelaide towards the freeway, the kids begin their mammoth DVD watching session and groan in unison when I press play on the Clairy Browne CD.
I bump and grind to the rhythm and yell out the lyrics as we clock up the kilometres back to Melbourne.
I begin to do the math; festival registration, accommodation, food, petrol, numerous guilt-ridden purchases to placate the kids, and, one sick husband.
I stop doing the math.
I’ve done my first interstate comedy festival show.
For good, for bad, or for worse, or for better.