Surprise in a box

Australian customs are notoriously strict in what they allow into their country, in order to keep their unique and delicately balanced ecosystem from being contaminated by foreign chuff. And I can understand why – whenever I see kangaroos sprinting in the local park or tropical coloured birds in the back garden, or find botanic gardens in every town we visit, I see that these far-flung isles have a lot of exotic stuff to protect.

As such, we were warned that our shipping could take four months to get through, and we heard how other diplomats had scraped every bit of mud off their shoes and bikes before packing them only to find that they still got stopped at customs and had to pay a large amount to recover them.

DD and I had taken no such precaution whatsoever. Before we packed, DD had asked me to read through the rules and regulations, I had taken one glance at it and decided that both my life and my attention span were way too short for this, and had thrown it back at DD who worried about it then left it. So on moving day, we just let the packers in and sat on our bots until our lives were packed into 63 boxes. It had occurred to me that perhaps I should have disposed of the bags and bags of packaged Japanese food – much of which was already past their expiry date – since those will almost certainly get caught up in Aussie customs, but I couldn’t even be bothered to do that. Oh well, I thought, customs can do the hard work for me.

A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly thought of something that was potentially a lot worse than a few packs of stale ramen.

‘Oh god,’ I said to DD. ‘Did you empty out the nappy bin before the packers came? Please say you did.’

‘I can’t remember,’ DD replied, looking a little pale.

‘Oh god.’

‘Surely I must have done. But I can’t remember.’

‘I don’t know that you would have done it without me telling you. And I don’t remember telling you.’

I imagined what a dozen dirty nappies fermenting over four months might look and smell like, and what they might do to the other stuff packed in the same box, and felt ill.

‘Ah!’ said DD, brightening up, ‘Surely customs will pick that up and won’t let it go through.’

That reassured me a little. I’d definitely take a few weeks’ extra waiting and a recovery charge over opening that box myself.

So when we received notice that our boxes were going to be delivered today, not even two months after we arrived in Canberra, our reactions were rather muted.

‘I’m not looking forward to it actually,’ DD sighed. ‘I quite like this simple life.’

It’s certainly been eye-opening just how comfortably we could live out of four suitcases, plus kitchenware and bedding lent by the embassy. But, I thought to myself, what we own we must take responsibility for, so this morning the movers came and stacked up the boxes in every spare corner around the house, leaving me with a dirty carpet and a lifetime’s worth of unpacking.

I decided to leave the house immediately. I took baby to playgroup, and when we got back, I tentatively opened the first box and unearthed a mysterious 1.5-metre long piece of broken plastic, a bag of wires and a tea strainer.

Now, with dinner prepped, crisps and chocolate eaten, coffee drunk, and 40 minutes wasted writing this, I think my sense of guilt is just about strong enough that I can shift off my arse and open the second box. Only 62 boxes to go. The big question is, how many boxes until I come across the nappy bin?

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