Well, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Which, I’ll grant you, is a ridiculous thing for a mother of small children to say. Things NEVER go to plan. Oh, it started well enough. We were in the car – dressed – by 8.30. In the AM! I know! And the car ride was fun, and we sang songs, and although we got stuck in a bit of traffic, we still made it to Cottesloe roughly on time to meet my beautiful French cousin-in-law and her small half-French son. But then, I dunno, things started to deteriorate.
I don’t know if small children are a commonplace sight in Cottesloe, but mine were definitely frowned upon, particularly at the shall-remain-nameless café on John St where I met my beautiful French cousin-in-law. Both the staff and the clientele seemed to take an instant dislike to our three children, even before they started emptying sugar sachets over the table. The coffee was great, and the cakes were good, but the service was horrible, and the atmosphere cold, and we couldn’t get out of there quick enough, truth be told. We weren’t there for the café, anyway – we were there for Sculptures by the Sea, and we were EXCITED.
I know this isn’t billed as a child-friendly event, but it still looked fun, and I’d sold it to Frankie on the back of the bouncy balls buried in the sand. I’d seen photos of kids having what Frankie calls “massive great fun” and decided we wanted a piece of this interactive bouncing action. We decided to build up to the balls – save it as a grand finale, if you will – and headed to the sculptures on the left-hand side of the beach first. But there was a problem. Some of the sculptures allowed – nay, encouraged – children to clamber on them. Others had signs saying: “Don’t touch”, while still others had signs saying: “Don’t climb.” YOU try and explain that to a 3, 2 and 1 year old. Go on. One of the signs was slightly hidden, and the kids started climbing, and a mean woman picked up a sign and waved it under my nose so I couldn’t miss it and it was then that I rather lost my enthusiasm for Sculptures by the Sea, to be honest.
It was hot, and really humid, and Alice wanted to be carried, and Frankie wanted to swim, and sweat was dripping into my ears, and I felt very much as I did when we took Ben to the monkey forest in Bali. As in: I know this was my idea, and I’m sure others are gaining great enjoyment from this, but right now, as a rabid monkey/small child nips at my ankle, this is my idea of hell.
STILL, at least we had the balls to look forward to. If all else fails, we’ve got the balls. Except, as we got closer to the balls, it very much looked like the balls were roped off. I looked at my cousin-in-law, and she looked at me, and we weighed up our options, but it was too late, the kids were heading for the balls, under the ropes, caring not one whit for the signs that clearly said: “No bouncing on the balls.” Ahhhh, crap. As we dragged the kids out, the screaming started. From my two, anyway. Let me ask you: have you ever considered how many times a small child can repeatedly scream I WANT TO BOUNCE ON THE BALLS? From Cottesloe Beach, back to the car, and home to Madeley, a 40-minute drive away? Yeah, quite a lot actually. It’s still ringing in my ears, two hours later.
Now listen. I don’t want to detract from the magnificence of this exhibition. The artwork is quite wonderful, and it’s brilliant to have something of this scale on a Perth beach. I’m all for it. But next time, I’ll be leaving the kids at home.