Book Review: A Thousand Wasted Sundays

A Thousand Wasted Sundays

by Victoria Vanstone, pub by Pantera Press RRP$34.99

Victoria Vanstone is the creator and the host of the hugely popular Sober Awkward podcast. Her new book is a warts-and-all memoir, looking at the modern-day drinking culture, its impact on mental health and one mother’s journey into freeing herself from the grip of socially normalised binge drinking. Victoria began drinking at the tender age of 11, and she doesn’t hold back on sharing her journey.

The book swings to and fro from her youthful days downing cheap wine in local parks and travelling the world whilst dodging disastrous relationships as she keeps telling herself that her drinking is social and under control. Finally, eventual sobriety for her came through pregnancy and motherhood.

She tells her story with humour, often oversharing her various disasters whilst deep down hoping that her story will strike a chord with anyone in a similar situation.

It’s raw, it’s funny, it’s honest and is an inspirational read.

Victoria moved from the U.K. to Sydney with her husband John, living firstly on the northern beaches and then moving with her family to Queensland. She has three children now and started writing this book the day she gave up drinking.

(Extract from A Thousand Wasted Sundays)

Antinatal classes were held in an old red-brick building that was on top of a hill and looked a bit like an asylum. I wasn’t nervous. I liked meeting new people, as long as they weren’t too pretty or had better banter than I did. I hoped to make friends I could roll my eyes and giggle with when the nurse held up gigantic sanitary towels or said the word ‘discharge’.

I imagined we’d all look the same, seeing as we were at the same stage of our pregnancies. As I entered the room, I wondered if I was in the wrong ward. Unlike me, the woman had tiny bumps, as if they were carrying small rodents in their wombs. Elegant, with blonde bobs and glowing cheeks, they wore stretchy outfits with running shoes, like they were coming from a Pilates class. No sign of fatigue or spotty faces; they were the image of beauty and health.

I made my way through a gap in the chairs like a blubbery old walrus. Heaving my giant body around the room, tapping sweat from my brow with a hanky, I couldn’t hear the other women move. Like they were mice, dainty and quiet. I scraped chairs across the floor and pushed tables out of the way. Being levered into the antenatal ward by a crane, like an elephant delivered to a circus, would have made less of a kerfuffle.

‘Lardy bum coming through!’ I said, trying to get a laugh,

I found the chair and plunked down my bottom, part of it hanging off the side like the crumbling edge of a meat pie. A daft smile hid my judgement of the bobbed-head hair brigade. Then, with a bumper packet of Fizzy Cola Bottle sweets produced from my handbag, I waited for the fun to begin. I saw John cross and uncross his legs a few times and eye the exit, so I held his hand.

The nurse, a kindly-faced lady with dimples and jet-black hair pulled into a tight bun, appeared. The bubble on top of her head looked like a cherry on a cupcake. As my eyes scanned her body, I noticed she carried a wicked-looking doll under her arm.

‘Hello! My name is Susan and I’m going to teach you how to be a mum. Oh, and this is Clive.’ She lifted the doll in the air, like Simba at the end of The Lion King. ‘Just pretend Clive is your baby.’

She used Clive – the devil doll- to demonstrate a baby’s various positions inside the womb and help us visualise the journey through the birth canal. Its head protruded upside down from our fake spongy vag, its bright blue eye (the other one had fallen out) locking on to me. When showing us how to swaddle, Susan dropped the doll. Its head twisted unnaturally, and its eye glared straight at me. Again.

‘Cyclops baby is out to get me,’ I mumbled to John.
‘Shhh,’ he said.

I knew I was supposed to be engaged with the class but instead I daydreamed about Clive coming alive and chasing me with a bloody knife down a dark alley.

After some inane chat about feeding, which I ignored, we watched part of the birthing video, which was more terrifying than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There was crying, screaming, chunks of wobbly flesh put in metal trays. I don’t know what else there was. I closed my eyes, put my fingers in my ears and hummed The Wombles’ theme song in my head.

John tapped my arm.
‘It’s over.’
‘God, I need a beer after that.’
‘Me too.’

A Thousand Wasted Sundays
by Victoria Vanstone, pub by Pantera Press RRP$34.99


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