Do As Mummy Says, Not As Mummy Did – #1 “Turpentine”

monkey annie butt mother

This is the first instalment of a new section of my blog: 

“Do As Mummy Says, Not As Mummy Did.”

Here I will be telling bedtime-like stories about actual events that have happened in my life in order for my children to learn and not go through them themselves. I do not doubt for a second that all 3 of my children are much more intelligent than I ever was or even currently am, but common sense isn’t always common even in the most intelligent people…


The year was 2009 and I was 19. I had just moved into a house in Richmond, Melbourne with 2 of my oldest and dearest friends. It was the country, seaside girls take on the most urban scene Melbourne could provide. The house was a two story town house with jail-like bars on all the windows and doors and a view of the railway station that was on the same street. The trains literally stopped out the front of my bedroom window. At the end of the street to one side was the commission flats, to the other was Victoria street (where many drug dealings would take place.) Not surprisingly, that meant where we lived it was common to see arrests or even from time to time, someone fall in front of a train. Need I say that it was a different landscape to the beach views we had grown up with.

So when we moved in it was evident that the place the 3 of us were now attempting to call “home” was not only dark on the inside (due to a distinct lack of natural light) but also the outside (where there were definitely no rainbows and white picket fences.) Therefore, it was agreed we would paint some furniture to brighten the house up.

The kitchen table was old (and not even an op shop would have it) so we decided to give it some love. The colour of love of course meant it got pink.

As I was the chief procrastinator of the house of 3 girls attempting to put themselves through university, I (not surprisingly) volunteered to paint it. I went down to the hardware shop and purchased the brushes, pink paint and the turps to remove the paint from my hands once I had finished painting.

I set up out the front in our tiny jail cage we called our ‘front courtyard’ and proceeded to paint the table. I should point out that at this point in time the trusting, laid back country girl was not yet replaced with the much more street smart, common sense, assertive city girl I believe am now (still not 100% there on the common sense yet but I have improved out of sight!) We all hadn’t learned to lock the front door of our house and we were frequently forgetting to put on shoes to avoid getting a syringe in our foot when we walked outside. We were learning but very slowly and this particular day was no exception.

To avoid getting paint on my good clothes, I decided to paint in an oversized t-shirt and… knickers. That was it. Yes I know, I eye-roll at myself too. If that 19 year old me met the 26 year old me, I’m positive we wouldn’t be friends. So yeah, my whole bum was on view like a drab and not at all hot version of the “Cell Block Tango” scene in Chicago.


And then, I preceded to paint. And paint I did. I could feel the rain on its way so knew I had to paint as fast as a face painter trying to get through the school holidays line at disneyland.

I was aiming for complete coverage (not so much quality) and after about 30mins, I had reached my goal. It was time to clean up and get the table in before it rained. Stupidly, I decided to clean up first. I went into the bathroom, undressed and stepped into the shower with the biggest bottle of turps that was in the shop. Knowing that turps couldn’t be washed directly down the drain, I had taken off the lid but thought I would try to wash myself with soap first. So I started the shower and began to wash. The paint was everywhere. I looked like a kindy kid that had painted myself on purpose. After a long period of time scrubbing my skin raw, the paint was still there.

At this point I think most people with reasonable general knowledge have recognised where this story is going. I am in a hot shower with a bottle of turpentine spirits, that has its lid off and I am in a small enclosed space. I will give you a minute if it still hasn’t clicked….


Yes, I was getting myself unintentionally high.

It wasn’t long and I had completely forgotten that I was trying to be kind to the environment. I bent down and picked up the bottle and was splashing it all over my arms. Then my legs. Even my bloody face. I was getting higher and higher and… “hold on, how did that get there?” A huge spot of pink paint on my butt cheek. So I poured the turps into my cupped hand and bent over. The room in my mind was on a gargantuan lean. And then, the exact moment that I slapped turps on myself (but not where I was aiming)… I winked. And not with my eyes.

It burnt. It burnt bad. It burnt somewhere in between the pain of excreting a very spicy meal and the burning you have when the baby’s head is crowning out your vagina, you know that blow torch feeling? Yeah, somewhere in the middle. I dropped to the shower floor in a foetal position and with any energy I had left, I tried to pull my cheeks apart and let the shower wash over it (at this point I was so of my rocks I was just about to vomit but still hadn’t thought to take the turps out of the shower. Smart.)



After about 10 minutes, one of my housemates arrived home. I started yelling out her name and she came into what I’m sure looked like the moment Mr Bean falls from the sky at the start of every show, but naked. She was so confused and helped take me up to my room. We rang my aunty who is a nurse (who also vowed not to tell my parents as I was already failing at living away from them) and she said to use sorbelene to try and cool it down. The only issue was it was mostly internal, not external. And no, I didn’t call any poisonous hotline or go to a doctor. I didn’t think of something as basic as keeping the turps out of the shower so I hardly registered do those things.


Anyway, this is a 3 day injury. Almost 3 bedridden days I tell you! I may also add that it rained on the table so the paint never did set.

So my children, don’t ever take turps in the shower. In fact, be carefully with all chemicals.


Your Mum