Holy Sheet


I wonder what I’d have thought if told in 1997 that my baby son would be obsessed with Manchester when he was 22?

Probably, ‘Excellent, I’ll hang on to my New Order records!’

Turns out it’s manchester, not Manchester.

The current obsessive items Happy Chin drags around wherever he goes are a motley collection of sheets, doonas and pillowslips. I would have preferred New Order records, really. So much more portable.

Primary colours are favoured, and his beloved teddy bear linen of course. As we lost the matching bear pillowslip a long time ago, he simply brought me a permanent marker and a plain white pillowslip and demanded ‘Draw!’ He now has a bear pillow, albeit one with a slightly deranged looking bear on it. It’s fair to say that I’m not the artist in the family.

He’s also enjoying the activity of laying sheets over his bed and neatly smoothing out the corners. He has so many layers on it’s getting a bit Princess and the Pea in his room, and since he still enjoys his midnight snacks of leftovers, we’re using real peas!

Still, it’s a harmless enough activity, and hardly to be discouraged. Making his bed is good, right?

Take books – always a must have accessory, but bang on trend right now according to Happy Chin. Turns out the subject of the book doesn’t matter in the slightest, it’s the jacket colour scheme that’s the key. If it’s black and red, it’s worth a read, or at least a trip in the car to his house. I really don’t mind him taking our books to and from his place. I mean, he likes books! Who cares why he likes books? He just likes them, OK? Books are good.

So this morning when I dropped him off, he had a good collection going which included Roget’s Thesaurus, a German dictionary, Anna Karenina, Women in Love and Emma. I expect on Sunday morning I’ll be picking up a fluent German speaker with a wide English vocabulary who is well versed in 19th and 20th century romantic literature! Or not. I mean, whatever.

His vocabulary is steadily increasing, though. It seems every week when I go to pick him up he’s acquired a new word. Mr August taught him a new one recently, sitting on the toilet as HC pounded on the door.

‘Occupied!’ Mr A shouted, desperately trying to manage number 2’s while propping one leg against the door to prevent intrusion (who said special needs parenting doesn’t teach you cool new skills?)

Strangely, it worked. Happy Chin retreated, and shouted ‘Occupied’ at the top of his lungs for the next 2 weeks every time someone closed a door.

I made the mistake of telling him not to be a dickhead last week (yeah, I know, my bad, but it just slipped out) and he danced round the house for the next 3 days shouting ‘Dit Head.’ I’m only hoping his carers failed to understand what he was saying (I bet they didn’t).

He’s also learned about polite greeting when encountering strangers, and randomly bellows ‘Hello!’ at people when we’re out and about. It’s slightly alarming I imagine, out for your daily walk and being loudly greeted by a large bouncing individual with headphones and a doona cover, but the strangers mostly smile, so I guess it’s OK.

For years I’ve had a dream that he walks into the kitchen and says ‘Mummy, can I please have a Vegemite sandwich?’ I don’t know why I keep having this dream. Perhaps other parents dream their child is saying ‘I’d like to thank the Nobel Committee.’ When you have a child like Happy Chin, your ideas on what constitutes a Great Achievement are different, I guess.


Name That Stain



So Happy Chin has discovered red wine. Usually he drinks juice or water with his meal (our children favour apple and blackcurrant, quite a similar colour as red wine) but he suddenly decided what we were drinking looked interesting. Sure, we said, you can have a glass (he’s 22, after all), so he went ahead and poured a large glass for himself.

Now, we knew he was unlikely to drink it. HC favours sweeter flavours and this was a dry red. So we weren’t surprised when he chose instead to wander round the house with the full glass, finally abandoning it on the kitchen bench just before bedtime.

Cut to Wednesday evening. Mr August and I are standing in the kitchen. I gaze at the floor and sigh.

“I wish I could be bothered to clean that red wine stain off the floor.”

“Mmm” agrees Mr A. “And I wish I could be bothered to scrub that coffee stain off the ceiling.”

How the coffee stain got on the ceiling is another story, but Name That Stain is a game that’s been played in our house for…well, about 22 years actually.

I used to be the manager of a small hotel. I’d frequently be called to a room by housekeeping to stand around a bed or sofa and play Name That Stain. According to the domestic goddess book of cleaning tips borrowed from my mother-in-law, you need to know the nature of the stain before you can properly address yourself to its removal. Protein stains require application of enzyme cleaners, oil stains need dry cleaning fluid, blood requires cold water and red wine is best removed with dishwashing liquid and vinegar.

But of course, we hadn’t been involved at stain creation stage, so it was anyone’s guess. I mean we could hardly go asking guests, “what exactly were you doing??”

Is it lipstick? Could it be blood?

It looks like chocolate….but what if it’s not?

Smell it!

I’m not smelling it, you smell it!


And so on.

People who stay in hotels really don’t have a clue how often other people are in and out of their rooms. It’s a regular Grand Central bloody Station in there. Truly, from rom the moment you go out doing touristy things to the moment you return, it’s a cast of thousands in your room!

Firstly, housekeeping have to get in there to clean. That’s a given. Then there’s any number of random tradespeople called in to fix various things that may have gone wrong between check in and breakfast. They’re literally standing by to fix that dripping tap or wobbly shower head.

“Right, they’ve just gone out – in you go!”

2 minutes later…

“Shit, they’ve come back – out you get!”

If it’s magazine delivery day, I or one of my team might be in and out delivering brand new copies of Vogue or Harper’s to your room.

If housekeeping report a light globe out I might be perched up a ladder replacing it, replenishing your fresh flowers, or simply in there because you mentioned at breakfast you’d enjoyed the muesli and wouldn’t mind getting the recipe.

Let me reassure you at this point. We Are Not Interested In Your Things.

Staff at a reputable hotel do not go through the guests’ belongings. We like our jobs. We want to keep them. We have bills to pay. We are not looking under the bed for handcuffs. We do not have time. We have, at maximum, 3 or 4 hours to turn all the rooms over. Sometimes we only have the 45 minutes it takes for you to sit in the morning room and drink a cup of coffee.

We are simply interested in returning your room to the state in which you first entered it. Pristine, spotless, and giving the strong impression that no one has ever slept in it before, even though 867 people have. This is the great hotel illusion we all buy into when we check in. It’s a mutual agreement to suspend disbelief, like going to see a Marvel movie. I won’t tell you it’s all CGI and you won’t ask in case you find out.

In the meantime I wish I could magically CGI away the stains at our house, although they do have a kind of sentimental value. Look at that hot chocolate mark on the wall, I might point out to Mr A, I scrubbed and scrubbed but it never did come off. Remember that day? Wasn’t that the day you had to come home from work at 3PM because I was having a meltdown? And I threatened you with divorce if you didn’t bring wine with you?

In general, parents have a pretty good understanding of the basic range of stains they can expect on any given day. Poo, blood, vegemite, crayon, chocolate, jam, dirt, grass, to name but a few. I would argue though, that it’s only the parents of special needs children who are pleased to discover their child’s face covered in chocolate. It’s so much better than the alternative when it comes to brown stains!

As a parent of a child with Tuberous Sclerosis, blood is my specialty subject. Happy Chin’s angiofibromas (small blood vessels on the surface of his face) bleed easily and copiously when scratched or knocked, so pillowcases and T shirts are often cover with red stains. There’s sometimes a bit of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre moment when peeling back his covers of a morning, then I just sigh and reach for the laundry soaker. I wonder if Napisan would consider a sponsorship?

During the Flying Pasta Days (as previously described in this blog) I often found myself deciding whether to make creamy pasta (white pasta) or tomato pasta (red pasta) based on the potential level of difficulty involved in getting the stains out afterwards.

On the whole, I do wish I wanted a clean house. If I wanted one more, maybe I would do something about it. Instead I’m sat here writing this. It’s a legacy of a childhood spent hiding up a tree reading a book. If I disappear into a book, the world also magically disappears. It’s just a shame the stains don’t magically disappear while I am in the book.

I suppose I could outsource, but really we can’t afford a cleaner. Perhaps if this blog post goes viral….

So please feel free to like and share!