Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is

It’s possible the reason I circle the apse of a church is the hope I might run into my past self. A silly thought by sensible reasoning, but I firmly believe in the faith of fantastical things, and Doris Day. I've never wanted to meet my future self. Truth is, I'm not sure a future me exists. And that thought makes me happy enough.

I believe my past self will help me to remember the details of my life that time takes. I'm one of those people that are paralysed with the fear of forgetting. I’ve taken to pinning reminders to curtains, and writing a daily planner in biro on my skin. I've even put my own children’s birth dates in my phone calendar. I don’t know what I’d do if I forgot them.

Maybe my wolf needs to be bigger? If my wolf was woolly mammoth size, there’d be no chance of forgetting. And true to her form of turning up at odd times, Irene seemed to appear from the idea of a wolf-mammoth. If anyone was going to understand my latest thinking, it will be her…I think. Irene is the type to poke at a bruise or a scratch. She never said why, but I figured it out. It is the pain, she feels, proves her existence.

Irene worries she’s not real and I worry that I’ll forget everyone that is real. The irony of our circumstance is not lost on either of us.

“Oi Sarah you've really lost it this time – a wolfy-mammoth? What’s with that?”

“Irene, always great to see you” It’s true; I loved it when Irene appeared out of thin air. It always meant shock, and tales of Billy, and Sam. Irene wouldn't leave the subject of Sam alone. Even though I'd remind her of the obvious: Sam left… remember Irene? It's only a matter of time and I’ll forget him, and hopefully Irene will too.

I couldn't help it, I asked sardonically “Is Billy coming?” Irene stood impossibly straight twisting a strand of hair. I could tell she was weighing up her response. Before she had time to respond, I grabbed her hand and pulled her in the direction of St Patrick's. I could feel the pull of the apse. Irene didn't need to ask where Sarah was leading her. It was always St Patrick's.

“Well are you going to tell me about the wolf and the mammoth? I haven’t got all day” And just like that Billy was forgotten.

I wasn't sure how to word it, so I went with a question.

“Have you heard of athazagoraphobia?” I really shouldn't have been surprised by Irene’s response; I figured she probably knew about athazagoraphobia but nothing could have prepared me for the story she told. I’ll get into the story later, but for now there’s circling to be done. “Nothing is for certain, right?" Irene didn't answer, she just winced. I wanted to tell her to stop squeezing the bruise on her arm, but I didn't. I could tell she wanted to tell me to stop growling, but she didn't. The growl inside of me felt like a foetus growing. I turned to Irene in desperation, but I couldn't see her. The apse was gone too; I was no longer in St Patrick's. I worried I’d stepped into the future, and it was as I feared. I was lost.

Monday, August 18, 2014

breathe


"Life is a process. We are a process. The universe is a process"― Anne Wilson Schaef

I walked into work this morning to the news that a work friend had died. Diane never gave much away about herself but she always took interest in my stories, about my family, friends, writing, and travels. Her idiosyncrasies were often the subject of office gossip, such as her 90’s fashion - including a red leather jacket with supersized shoulder pads and high-waisted stonewash jeans. Last year I wrote this note about another one of Diane's idiosyncrasies. It’s not flattering (to me) (an exasperated glare and a peeved scowl). It has me thinking about the type of person I am/can be. Diane was a gentle and private woman. What type of woman am I? 

Recently, I started reading a daily mediation book.  It was given to me years ago.  I wish I could remember who gave it to me - 'Mediations for Women who do too much' Anne Wilson Schaef.  Did Diane do too much? Following the clues she left behind, I can conclude she almost certainly did.  

I distract my mind all of the time. I'm always doing something, even if that something is sitting in front of the TV watching banality like The Bachelor.  And here I am again distracting my mind from what I must face.

Diane is dead.

Diane is dead.

Diane is dead.

R.I.P Dear Diane, I'm going to miss you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

peppercorn tree wallpaper

Charles Voysey's Apothecary's Garden
My day started painfully - it’s a hangover situation. 

My dream was arrested by the sound of the next door neighbour’s door closing. BANG! That bang means only two things; one, Glen (spunky neighbour) left for work early, or two, Glen’s on time and I'm late. I reached for my mobile phone, which is also my alarm clock, and my umbilical cord to the greater social-world. I blinked as hard as I dared (without causing myself intense pain) to gain first morning vision. First morning vision is similar to first morning voice; scratchy and out-of-order. The time confirmed, number two - I was late. I had two options; call the boss and say I'm going to be late in, or, call the boss and ask is it okay to work from home. I went with the second option, and the boss said yes to working from home. I felt sweet relief knowing I didn't have to get out of my pj’s. Showering, dressing, and applying makeup is not required for my home office. Surprisingly, I got a great deal of work done, and by lunch my head felt improved.

The winter sunshine was flooding into the room, and so deliciously inviting, I decided on a lunchtime walk. I replaced my pj’s with a pair of tracksuit pants and a mismatched windcheater; laced on my runners and closed the door behind me with a BANG. Immediately, I felt a lift. I'm convinced sunshine has magical properties. I didn't have a plan on which direction to walk, I just took off one foot after the other. The first stop I made was at the Edible Nursery; I’d wanted to visit for ages. I was pretty chuffed my feet took me in that direction. It’s not that I planned on buying anything; I was after inspiration and ideas. That’s a constant in my life, the pursuit of inspiration and ideas. The nursery was sweet with an outdoor and indoor section. It was the indoor section that really took me. There are two rooms, both lined with shelves that hold seeds, gardening books, baby forks and hoes, and watering cans. Large prints of vegetables dot the walls. 

The prints got me thinking about wallpaper. I thought I hated wallpaper, but, I've changed my thinking, and I even have a project in mind that involves wallpaper. I left the edible nursery feeling inspired. I’d not walked far when I saw a sign on the naturestrip. According to the sign, the area of Ripponlea was once market gardens as far as the eye can see (all the way down to the sea), and famous for Peppercorn Trees. I felt instant pride; it’s not like I’d planted peppercorns in the 19th century, but somehow I thought, one of my relatives probably had a hand in the planting! I walked for a further hour; not taking in the sunshine, and the beautiful tree lined streets. All I thought about was peppercorn trees. My feet turned in the direction of home. I was consumed with thoughts of researching, and writing a story, or perhaps an essay, on my new tree love. It’s possible, I might even become a peppercorn tree aficionado!

Alas, Google didn't provide the peppercorn sinew I was lusting after. I did discover Nathalia, a pretty Victorian country town - also the spot of the earliest recorded peppercorn tree according to The Register of Significant trees of Victoria. In Nathalia, I discovered the Mechanics Institute and a poultry auction.

I now have, peppercorn trees, Nathalia, Mechanics Institute, and a poultry auction. Now I need some humans; I reckon a turn of the century female farmer and her beau. Books, articles, the St Kilda library, get ready to have me finger through your pages!

I can tell you, my day ended joyfully.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

punch drunk love in the Bywater

Preservation Resource Centre of New Orleans

Billy was the first to speak. His every blinking thought since making eye contact with Irene was - I can’t live without her. He realised he was likely going mad, but he didn't care.

“Billy”

Irene could feel the heat of his skin mingle with hers. They’d walked the short distance from the arrivals terminal to baggage claim without saying a word. It was the oddest sensation. How is it possible, she thought? We spent 14 hours on a flight together without a hint and now I'm weak at the knees!

Billy boy, Billy, Billy boy...it felt familiar, and rolled off her mind the way a sensual word rolls off the tongue. Yet the only Billy she’d known of, was the convict Billy Blue. It had started in primary school and Mr Reilly’s Australian History class. All the other kids loved hearing stories of Ned Kelly, but Irene preferred the lesser known convicts. The ones that had been shipped for life for stealing nothing more than a handful of sugar. She was determined not to let time forget the lesser known ones. She had a plan to take all the Billy Blues’ footnotes out of history books, and write their stories above the line.

“Irene”

He noticed by the way she said her name she was thinking on something. He hoped it was him. And then he remembered, Irene, Irene, oh Irene, they murdered her. When he’d first told his mum he was applying for theology, she assumed he was entering the priesthood. The pride in her eyes didn't last long. “Don’t be stupid”, he said, “The micks don’t accept heathens”. It was the blood and bone, and the myths of theology he craved; not the monastic life. The story of Irene and her sisters was one of the stories discussed in the first lecture he went to. You don’t forget your first lecture. Irene refused to tell Dulcitius (Roman governor of Macedonia, 4th Century) where the books were. Billy couldn't remember much more about the lecture. He left the lecture hall that day, feeling despair for Irene and her sisters - murdered for a bunch of books. What a fucking joke.

“Is this your first time in New Orleans, Irene?” The moment he asked the question he knew it was a lame one. He watched the baggage carousel churn, and thought how easy it would be to jump onto the conveyor belt and disappear into the opening in the wall.

“No it’s not my first time, it’s my third. “And you, Billy?” Irene felt her cheeks betray her. She poked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, and wondered why she was never cool. Just once in my life, I want a straight spine!

“First time”

Irene felt her spine straighten and her lips move without her permission.

“If you need a tour guide, I’d be happy to show you around”

Billy left all thoughts of the baggage carousel to its own looping.

“I'm staying in the Bywater”

Irene smiled and thought about her favourite Bywater haunt, Vaughan's Lounge.

“Do you drink, Billy?” This straight spine thing had conjured a flirty devil. Shapeshifting in New Orleans was not entirely new to Irene.

“Is the Pope Catholic?” Irene couldn't control a high-beam grin; her brother Paul also used the pope idiom. She didn't know it at the time, but that was the only thing Billy and Paul had in common.

Next thing: bags are thrown into the back of a cab, and Irene is giving the driver directions to Vaughan’s Lounge.

They spent the entire day talking and drinking artificially coloured cocktails.

Jet-lag started to take a hold as the band set up. Billy gave Irene a look that meant there was no way she'd be checking into her Treme B&B any time soon.

The door of Vaughan’s banged shut behind them. “It’s only a few blocks” Billy said. The yellow shotgun house was a welcomed sight; it took a few fumbling minutes for Billy to get the front door key working. It didn't take Billy long to find the bedroom. 

Irene didn't hesitate, or fumble, when Billy ran a finger down her spine.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dear Mum

Dear Mum,

Your letter arrived, and it is such a comfort. I've been keeping its warm pages under my pillow. I know it sounds silly, but, I'm sure it’s the reason why I'm now sleeping through the night. You asked how Billy is, and I want to tell you he is great; but nothing’s changed since I last wrote, well that’s not true. Things are worse than ever. The other day it took three hours of soothing and assuring him I would return, before, he let me go to the shop. And then he called me at least a dozen times, while I was gone, and all to say “how can you stand row after row of identical aisles they’re fucking evil” then hang up. I was only gone for 40 minutes. Some days he won’t even come out of the bedroom; he reckons the rest of the house is out to get him. I had to call Doctor Melancon last week, and you remember what happened last time the doc had to come. Actually, this time wasn't that bad, Billy decided it was a better to take the meds than be taken in.

Things seemed to be calm right now, but I've this awful feeling in my stomach. I look in the mirror, and I'm convinced my reflection is grey. My skin appears translucent and deathly, but I know it can’t be dead, as I can see the redish-brown lines beneath. Perhaps, I'm going mad too? They say the mind and heart can only take so much. Why don’t we get a chance to stop the mind-heart assault before it’s too late?

On a different note: I recently found a large ball of wool and knitting needles at French Market. You know I was never good at knitting, I don’t know what possessed me. Remember how you tried to teach me? I wish I’d listened to you - about many things. Mrs Jeansonne from next door has taken pity on me. It only took her a few minutes to cast on and start the first few rows of knitting. She is a good teacher, and clicks the needles to a rhythm of Emore James' It hurts me too. Slowly, I'm making progress, and I now understand why people enjoy knitting. It’s akin to the Blues and Tai Chi.

I know you want me to come home, but it was you that told me to go. Remember? You said go back to New Orleans, you need her stories. Of course I miss you, I miss you so much at times, I want to dig my hands into my chest, and throw my heart to the wall, so as to stop the ache once and for all. Billy shouldn't have happened. I should have known better after Brett. No I still don’t want to talk about Brett.

Tell me...did you pick Dad or did Dad pick you? Please don’t tell me you picked each other at the exact same time. It just doesn't happen that way. I'm almost certain that one person falls first, and it’s the falling, that the second person falls for.

Do you really think Dad will let you come? You know what he’s like; he can’t cope without you, not even for one day. I still haven't given up hope that he’ll fly one day.

I'm going to finish this letter now while Billy is sleeping. I want to go to the library and check out every book I can on...Separation Anxiety.

Please don’t worry about me, I'm feeling strong and, I'm working on a plan.

Kiss Dad for me,
I love you both very much,
Love Always,
Irene xx

PS: I hope you like the vintage linen postcard; I found it by chance at a bookshop I literally stumbled into. I love serendipity, and cocktails! You see, I'm fine!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vieux Carré

Irene pulled the last daisy petal off. ‘He loves me not’. All that was left was a skinny stem between her thumb and forefinger, and Billy’s words echoing from her stomach to her head. “You fucking bitch”. It’s impossible; those can’t be the last words - the last of Billy. She released the stem and watched it drop to the ground. In the time between releasing, and the stem touching the ground, New Orleans drained of colour and sound. There was nothing, yet, the levies she’d built in her bloodstream opened to the possibility, she could be everything. Her battered Dr Martens hit the ground with an earth-shaking execution. The stem didn't have a chance. There was no back breaking crunch; it sounded like a grape bursting. Irene didn't look back, there was no point she knew the stem was well and truly pressed into the earth. 

She picked up the pace and continued walking down Toulouse Street. It occurred to her, she’d never really taken in this famous New Orleans Street. Toulouse Street had been a means to Decatur Street and Decatur Street was an end to a constant destination - St Louis Cathedral and its comforting ghosts. It’s really true, there are ghosts. Irene will never forget her first ghost meeting. It wasn't any ordinary ghost; it was New Orleans finest Voodoo Queen. Marie Laveau’s ghost sat with her in Jackson Square, after her first collapse with Billy. The rage had been so unexpected; they’d just finished a meal of gumbo washed down with several Pimm’s. The walk home involved stopping in Jackson Square to look up at the three spires of St Louis Cathedral, and to pat as many cats as they could. It had become a ritual that started on that first day, after they’d walked off the plane together.

Jackson Square is on every tourist’s itinerary. Most don’t know why other than having read about it in their pocket travel guide. Billy and Irene had longed for Jackson Square for Vieux Carré (The French Quarter) since childhood. It was more than Tennessee Williams, voodoo, creole food, jazz and the Bayou. It was a place where the past meets the present, and the future is not thought of. And there was Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street, of course. It was Billy that told Irene that Tennessee Williams was a Lafitte’s regular. Irene thought she knew everything there was to know about Tennessee Williams, from his New Orleans address to his shoe size. In those early days Billy and Irene willed each other to share, to teach, and each followed the other without hesitation - even if it involved a horse and carriage, and a crotchety old tour guide.

As they walked toward Jackson Square; their belly’s full of rich gumbo and the bitter pleasant taste of pimm’s of their tongues, a shift happened. They always finished a night out with voodoo daiquiris’ at Lefitte’s. Billy was quiet on the walk to Jackson Square, and as they arrived to rising spires and cats, he said, "I’m bored". It was no ordinary bored, it was an aggressive bored. Irene took a step back almost placing a boot on a ginger stray.

"Bored?"

Billy moved within a touch of Irene’s lips and repeated. "Bored" He then turned and walked out the St Louis Cathedral gate. Irene called after him. "Billy, Billy, Billy." He didn't turn around and race back to her, and explain that the gumbo had messed with his brain chemistry. She wanted to run after him, but something or someone held her back. Instead she sat on a bench in Jackson Square, with cats circling her ankles, and Marie Laveau holding her hand.

The cats and Marie Laveau didn't answer the questions she spoke out loud to the stars and palm readers. And they didn't leave her side.

She didn't return to the yellow shotgun house that night. Marie Laveau didn't want Irene to return, and the cats agreed they’d keep a close eye on her from this night forward. Cats are like that.

Irene did return to Billy and the yellow shotgun house the next day. Billy didn't say anything at first; he was sitting on the lounge drinking beer in his jocks.

Finally (hours later) he turned to Irene and said.

“If you fucking don’t come home again…I’ll kill you”

Three years later: Billy felt the wood of the front door bruise his hand as Irene slammed the door – so long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen!

he loves me, he loves me not, goodbye daisy, hello Vieux Carré can we start over? If you show me your stories, I’ll let you in on a secret and often a cliché (but I’m not adverse to the odd cliché).

The future is what we write. Shall we?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

es war einmal (it once was)

Thurston Hopkins

Julie Rainer never laughed at me, even when I said things like - witches can only fly during the witching hour! And Julie Rainer never told me to go away. It’s taken over thirty years to realise just how lucky I was to have a best friend in Julie. Childhood can be like regrets that sit in your lower-lower stomach percolating and acidy. Julie was my soothing antacid.

Friendship is the keystone that locks me to me. And me is one story after another story. When I take the time to read back over my stories, there’s a pattern to see and a theme to follow, and most begin with “once upon a time”. I've not written my last story. I’m hopeful it ends with “and they all lived happily ever after”. It sounds much nicer in French "il était une fois" and a bit scary in German "es war einmal”.

Sleeping over at Julie’s meant sticky marshmallows and Mrs Rainer’s best sewing scissors. My preparation for the sleep over, consisted of, clean pajamas and the latest copy of TV Week. I timed it, so I'd arrive just as Mrs Rainer was dishing up dinner. Dinner was usually a roast that’d been cooked in an electric frypan (I still think a roast cooked in an electric frypan is strange). After dinner, Mr Rainer would head to the back room, and play the organ. Mrs Rainer would give us a bag of pink marshmallows with instructions not to eat them all. Knowing full well we would.

On her bed, Julie would carefully place the packet of marshmallows, scissors, and our copies of TV week. Julie was very particular about order and she was strict. She’d made up the one rule. One marshmallow for every spunk cut out. However, if the cutting was sloppy and any part of the spunk was nicked - no marshmallow! I don’t know how many marshmallows I missed out on, but I know it was more than Julie. By the time we came to the end of the TV week our fingers were so sticky. It didn’t matter that they were, because there was never any spunks at the back of the TV Week.

About this time Mrs Rainer would knock on the door and enter with a banana lounge under one arm. She always looked a bit of a sight, with her hair in bright blue curlers under a fluorescent yellow hairnet. The orange banana lounge didn’t look at all out of place on her. The banana lounge would be transformed into a bed for me. It took three conductor sweeps. A sheet waved to the left, which fell light as a feather onto the lounge. A blanket took a double handed circle wave; it fell heavier, more like an apple then a feather. Lastly, a pillow was shaken like a percussion instrument, and then allowed to drop freely onto the lounge.

It wasn’t that the banana lounge was uncomfortable. And it was positioned right next Julie’s bed. Still, I didn’t feel close enough. Julie didn’t seem to mind when I’d crawl in beside her. I don’t have a sister, but I imagine this is what it must feel like, if I did. I can still remember the warmth of Julie’s body next to mine. I don’t think Mrs Rainer minded, when she checked in on us, and discovered, we were in bed together. At least she never said anything. I was scared of my own shadow, when I was a kid. I didn’t have to tell Julie about being scared of the dark. And I never told her, that crawling into bed with her, felt right, and always soothing. We were only ten. I stopped crawling into her bed by the time we were 14. It’s only now when I close my eyes and will myself back to Julie’s bedroom, that I can see the quizzical look in her eyes. Did that look follow the first time, I didn't crawl into her bed? I can't be sure, but I like to think so.  Our worlds changed so much as we went from 13 to 14. Julie had KISS and pot and I had Charlie.

My friendship with Julie included sticky fingers and spunks, but it was mostly about acceptance and true body warmth.

That sort of friendship combination doesn't happen often. Trust me on that.

William Blake,
says it better than I ever could. "The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saving Spencer Street Station

Seeing Pa off was always a special night. 

The whole family would pour into the family car, an EJ Holden lovingly called Grey Ghost. We’d pick up Pa from his neat as a pin home; a California bungalow.  I always thought the same thing every time we pulled up in front of Pa’s house. I wished we lived there. Even as a kid I loved architecture. When I was ten, I decided the first house (as an adult) I’d call home was either going to be an Art Deco apartment or Georgian manor house. As it turned out it wasn’t the first place I lived in; that was a 70’s brown brick unit. It wasn't the second, either; that was a brand new house in a new estate, way out in the suburbs. It was the third place I moved to – a beautiful Art Deco apartment.  I feel it’s important to say that my childhood home remains deeply close to my heart. It’s a 50s-50s. After a recent chat with my daughter, Stacy.  I learnt it’s not a 50s-50s it’s a 50’s double fronted weatherboard. I take pride in the new knowledge that Number 9 (family name for the 50s-50s) has its own architectural category.  

Pa always dressed in trousers, a pressed shirt, tie, cardigan, wool coat (if it’s winter) and a fedora.  When he took his hat off, his hair was slicked to the left side - always the left. He also always carried a clean handkerchief.  I know this, not because I ever saw Pa use his hanky. When I had the cries; Pa would reach into his pocket and, present me with his perfectly folded hanky. Pa's hankerchief always smelt of clean. and it was always warm.  

Driving into the city felt like an adventure.  It was just far enough to make it an exotic trip.  Being night the gas lights dotted along the road at the count of, one, two, three, four, blinked, Lisa.  There were red tailgate lights and stop lights of green, amber and red. My brother Wayne, used to hate the red tailgate lights. I wish I remembered why. As we got closer into town, restaurants popped up; some had a bunting of coloured lights, some, flashing neon. I didn't much like the neon lights. I thought they were overly showy.

Dad would park the Grey Ghost as far away from the front door of the station as he could. My brothers would always whine, and Mum would turn around and say, come on lads you’re not scared of a walk in the dark, are you? To which my brothers scoffed and as quick as can be jumped out of the car. Pa softly laughed under his fedora. All I could think about was the smell of Platform 1 - a mix of leather suitcases, powered faces, and engine oil.  Spencer Street Station was always a conveyor belt of suitcases coming and going. Pa’s suitcase was just like him, neat.   

The Southern Aurora was always waiting faithfully on the platform; shiny like royal silverware. There was always movement going on by the train’s side.  Families, lovers, and singles, were being ushered to their car by train conductors, dressed in sharp navy blue uniforms.

Just like we’d all poured into the Grey Ghost, we’d pour into Pa’s sleeper.  Dad would lift Pa’s case onto the rack above the bed. You couldn't see the bed; it was inside the train wall. I never did see the bed made up, and I always wondered if Pa had ever fallen out of it. The bathroom was equally tricky; you had to unlatch the basin from the wall and coax it down with a tug. 

Mum would let me and my brothers go for a wander up and down the train aisle, which was a feat at times, as passengers were searching to find their sleeper, or the sit up car.  My brothers and I once made it all the way to the dining car, but a bossy woman turned us away before we could make it inside.  Still we all took turns peering through the circle window. The dining car was pretty, the tables wore white table clothes, and there were lamps sitting on the centre of the table. Every table was adorned with silver and crystal.  It was very fine.

The voice on the speaker always took me by surprise, even though I knew it was coming.“Would all non-passengers please leave the cars.”  I never worried that the train might take off with me still on-board.  I wanted the adventure.  I even dreamed about stowing away.  But Mum always seemed to know where we were, and before I knew it we were on the platform looking at Pa through the window. He always looked happy. Dad didn't. 
The sound of the platform bell rang constantly, until the beautiful Southern Aurora was out of sight.  I didn't like that Pa spent every Christmas in Sydney, but I did like our adventure to Spencer Street Station. 

On the way out, we’d stop and pay homage to the Model B60, apparently, a special locomotive, but I can’t recall why. To me it was a cool model train that remains locked in my memory. Like so many other things. I can’t go back to visit Spencer Street Station, as the powers of progress guttered her some years ago. It’s now Southern Cross Station. A waving shed of a station. It may have some architectural merit; but like the 50s-50s, it will be many years before it’s recognised. 

As for me, I’ll keep dreaming of Platform 1, Spencer Street Station, and stowing away. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

riding shotgun


Irene was tempted to scream SHUT THE FUCK UP, but she knew that would probably rile him up more.

Billy hadn't shut up all morning about some crazy he’d seen on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. She wanted to say…so what if some woman was only wearing boots, an apron, and a Stetson. It’s the Quarter! And seriously the windows are filthy; it was probably one of those street artists, and I bet, she was wearing a nude onesie under that apron. Billy didn't have the best eyesight!

Irene made several failed attempts at diverting Billy from the crazy story, but he just kept ranting on and on about a cowboy hat and a naked apron. It started to sound a bit like the game Chinese whispers with every new rant there was a change in order, or a missing item.

“It's so typical of you, Billy. You only ever care about yourself”

“What about the HAMS?” she finally, spat.

It did the trick. Billy tightly pursed his lips and rushed up behind her. He reached out to grab her shoulder, but it was too late. He wasn't quick enough, and instead of the warmth of her shoulder, he felt the wood of the front door bruise his hand.

“You fucking bitch” he screeched at the wooden door.

She paused, and for a second considered going back. It was the sound of the next door neighbour’s kids playing that jolted her forward. If he really loves me, he’ll follow, and she began pulling petals off an imagery daisy (he loves me, he loves me not). She always played this fatalistic game when a Billy scene happened. It always ended the same way. He’s NOT going to follow. He can’t follow. He hasn't followed in 3 years.

A doctor had diagnosed agoraphobia, but Irene remained unconvinced. At the time she really wanted to smash the doctor in the face, and demand a new diagnosis; an allergy of some description, that would be cured by a prescription. She still daydreamed about smashing that doctor in the face.

As soon as Billy heard the word agoraphobia, he embraced and displayed every symptom. He was so committed to the diagnosis he became a pinup-classic-case for Agoraphobia Monthly.

Irene turned her back on the yellow shotgun house, and Billy, and headed in the direction of St Louis Cathedral. 10 minutes, that's all it will take, she kept repeating softly over her lips. A person can think about a lot in 10 minutes. She thought about heading back to Melbourne. She really did miss Melbourne. Mostly, she missed her family. After her Nan died, things had turned strange in her head. It was her Mum that suggested going back to New Orleans…you need her stories, she said.

Returning to New Orleans was the only thing that made sense. Meeting Billy didn't. But Billy happened anyway.

The flight to New Orleans was long enough to entertain a league of thoughts. Yet all she thought about was the last time she saw her Nan alive.

Her Mum had taken her Nan home to nurse her, in those last days. Those last days were constantly referred to as, her last days. How could three words, haunt, so thoroughly? Her Nan was tucked up in Irene’s childhood bed. That last day, Irene sat on the edge of the bed. Her Nan lifted up the blankets, and said “have a look at these” she pointed to her swollen legs, and said “HAMS!”

The next morning her Mum asked her to pull up the bedroom blind; as she couldn't do it. The blind HAS to be up, her mum chanted. Irene pulled the cord on the Holland blind, letting the light flood in. It took some internal prodding, but she knew, she had to look. That first sight, and recognition of death remains so clear. Irene wouldn't want to wipe it away, even if she could.  But she's learnt, there's a cost to everything. 

Billy was sitting next to her on the plane. He hated flying. He hated talking… so the fact the attractive woman to his left, hadn't said a word in 10 hours, meant, he had to know her. They reached for their overhead luggage; it was in the pushing and pulling to free their bags, they first made eye contact. It was instant and undeniable attraction. A current had pierced and tied them irrevocably together. They walked off the plane side by side, and have not left each other’s sides - until today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

well, at any rate, I'm Lisa Jewell


caught in the middle (when I was a kid, men used to hold the door open for women, and nobody thought much about it. Men no longer hold the door open, well maybe a few do, and I think I'm the only one that thinks about it)

waxing and waning (a term that makes me think about the moon, but I don't understand its roots. I think I'll start a waxing group!)

homing pigeon (I'm a homing pigeon - I think about home at least once a day. Home is usually childhood. It's probably childhood, because, that was my time of little responsibility.)

the Johnson Girls (My grandmother and her two sisters. Only one is still living, my Aunty Moya. She's sophisticated, and a well refined and dressed lady.  She looks incredible for her 86 years. My plan is to write a story based on The Johnson Girls, family, and the psychological value of friendship.)

know your local (From the moment I leave my front door, what and who do I encounter? The men working with their shovels in the gardens, the joggers, and always the guy at Leroy's that makes a great coffee.)

Our lady of the television (I’ll never forget the sight of Mrs Rainer dusting the plastic Virgin Mary that sat on top of their oversized television set. There’s a suction cup on the bottom of Our Lady, you see, she’d say... then she’d cross herself with the feather duster.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It started with a syngonium podophyllum



Irene hadn’t given houseplants much thought. When Brett asked about looking after his syngonium podophyllum while he was overseas, Irene had to think.  

“That’s a big responsibility… it’s living right?” 

Brett turned away from Irene and let out a humongous laugh.

“Irene, it’s an arrowhead vine - you know a houseplant silly” 

“You better come in and tell me more about this vine.” 

Irene didn't like people in her flat; she preferred to conduct conversations through the screen door. Brett was different. Brett had been inside her flat before. The thin walls had given the resident flats gossip the unlikely news. It was impossible to have sex and not be heard (clearly an architectural feature of the free loving 60’s). Irene and Brett’s sex romp was quickly hung out to scrutiny under the communal clothes line. And just as quickly as the dirty laundry was hung out, it was taken down and put away for good. Irene didn't like gossip. Brett tried a few times to get back inside Irene’s, but she kept the screen door tightly locked. Remarkably, they discussed the founding of the Jesuits and the downfall of the baby boomers through a panel of wire. Brett almost made it back inside. It was during the great discussion of the 60’s sexual revolution, but Irene changed her mind for no good reason; at least that Brett could tell. So when Irene invited him in over a houseplant, he was understandably, suspicious.
.
“Don’t get any ideas…this is just about your plant”

“What ideas?” 

“Don’t play coy Brett Evans you know exactly what I'm saying” 

“I've no idea what you’re referring to, Miss Irene Collier”

They both laughed, and then Irene gestured Brett to sit on the couch.

Over the next hour or so, Brett outlined the responsibility of taking care of his newly acquired syngonium podophyllum. 

“Must you refer to it as a syn gon ium pod o phylum, can’t you just say PLANT?” 

“Whatever!”  “Call it Green if you like...”

Irene knew the moment she let Brett in, she’d say yes to looking after Green.  She wasn’t sure why, she’d never had a houseplant before.  But she figured they don’t talk, they don’t need much, they just sit and keep a silent watchful eye. 

Brett noticed the look on her face. He knew she was about to succumb. He’d seen that expression before.  

Irene saw that Brett was calculating her body language.

“I told you don’t get any ideas” 

“So you’re saying no?” 

Irene uncrossed her legs and sucked on her lower lip.

“NO! I'm saying you can leave Green with me.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

There’s bound to be a magnolia tree to figure things out under

Erin Austen Abbott

Dear Lisa,

Your day in the life was exactly the distraction I needed. I think your friendship with Bell sounds very similar to my friendship with Sam. I know I've not mentioned Sam much lately; please don’t chastise me. It’s just I’ve been so caught up in research for the new book. Come to think of it, I may have neglected to mention the book, too. If I give you some info about the story, will you forgive me?

It all started with an obituary notice. (I've always wanted to use that line)…

Bordage, Mrs. - January, 1893

It is with sorrow to announce the death of Mrs. Bordage, who died in New Orleans last week at the age of 71 years and 2 months. Mrs. Bordage was a resident of Belle Rose. ~ Source: Sea Coast Echo 01-21-1893


Can you believe that no first name was recorded? I've read it over and over hoping that a name (Cynthia) will jump out from between the lines. Seriously, who doesn't have a first name? I've checked all the obituaries for Assumption Parish, for the year 1893, and get this this is the only one recorded without a first name. You know me; I'm not going to let this go. The only way I can do this story justice is to go to Louisiana.

I know what you’re thinking - such a hardship! I just read that many of the folk in the Parish still speak French. Why haven’t I enrolled in French classes yet? You were meant to push me on that one!

I've a feeling that Mrs. Bordage is going to turn out to be a descendant of a fille à la cassette. 'Cassette (for short) is the term used for single French women who were shipped to Louisiana to marry French men in the early 18th century'. According to Wikipedia these virginal ladies packed all their earthly belongings into one small cassette sized bag. It seems far-fetched, but I've found other sources that verify the origin of the term, and the size of the bag. I can’t wait to find out more about these women. Imagine leaving your homeland for a strange country, not knowing a soul, and then marrying a stranger. Makes me wonder what was happening in France at the time. I must brush up on my 18th century French history.

Mrs. Bordage is going to be married to a swarthy-hued Louisiana lawman, with a proclivity for moonshine. I'm sure going to have fun with that part of the story!

That's all the info I'll give you for now.  I'll send you a draft of the first chapter when I'm done.

I know, I know, where is my day in the life. You'd agree this is better; right?

You and I might not be as pioneering as Mrs. Bordage’s great-great-cassette-grandmother but, we are brave. Even if Sam thinks I live too much in Victorian daydreams and, your beloved thinks you live too much in the 1970’s. I reckon it's brave the way we live in two worlds, and we do it magnificently!

As Rizzo sings in Grease…'There are worse things I (we) could do'.

You must write me right back with your thoughts on Mrs. Bordage and, if you can visit me when I'm in Louisiana. I plan on being there for at least six months, if not longer. Can you picture us sailing down the Mighty Mississippi from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, and then catching a train (similar to the Orient Express) to Fairhope, Alabama?

I’ve enclosed a photo of the room I've just booked…don't you think it's perfect? You know Louisiana isn't that far from Melbourne? Sam can’t make it; you just have to???

God I miss you,

Your ever loving and forever Victorian-Southern belle, 
Sarah XX

P.S I just read the term flea-market meets grandma chic, that’s our style to a tee!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

manic Friday - a day in the life




Dear Sarah,

You've been asking me to write to you – a day in the life. I hope after you've read the below, you’ll retain your high opinion of me - I'll settle for a reasonable one!


I said I was an ex-Nun and he didn't skip a beat. (I know what you're thinking Sarah, but really truly it's true!)

It’s not a typical Friday. It was meant to be a relaxing a day off work, but I’d stupidly brought work home. Instead of lulling in bed all morning, I annoyingly found myself at my dining table reading work emails at 7am. I always thought I’d be such a slacker if I worked from home, as it turns out, I get more done. The plan was simple – head down, focus, don’t check facebook, instagram, or that new date app that has 1% sexy and 99% are you seriously holding a dead fish? It turned out not to be as hard as I’d thought; I didn't open a browser window, or check an app on my phone. I smashed out emails, I attended two virtual meetings, and finalised the project loose ends that have been irking me. Not bad for a flex day. There was one other reason for my industry; Bell was on her way over to spend the afternoon with me. It’s a rare treat to have Bell visit; she did once try to argue, she’s my way once a month - her storytelling knows no bounds!

The doorbell rang and immediately the work chains fell away. Bell was standing on my threshold dressed in a sheer red polka-dot blouse, figure loving black jeans and knee high boots. She always looks gorgeously turned out. I’d thrown on my standard black skirt and black and white loose fit top. There was a time when I felt good in my skin and clothes, but that day has past, and it seems impossible to bring it back. Perhaps, if I was committed to a regime of healthy eating and exercise, my svelte body would return. I’ll start Monday – that’s the classic promise. Monday comes and with it a deep mourning that the weekend is over. What’s a girl to do, to comfort her mourning heart…indulge.

First thing Bell said, even before she’d made it over the threshold was “let’s go Op shopping” I don’t have to be asked twice to Op shop, it’s one of my favourite things, that, and whiskers on kittens. There’s a large Salvos on the corner of my street. I pass it every day on my way home from work; I usually pop in and see what’s new. It didn't take long for Bell to work out the layout of the shop (she’s an OP shop pro) and head straight to the retro section. I think she can smell out a bargain, and she did, a pair of work heels and the cutest fleecy cap with ear flaps for her trip to Iceland. She’s off to a writer's residency in Iceland later in the year. It’s the best news. Bell was so happy with her purchases; the only fitting thing to do was head straight to the pub to celebrate. We always end up at the Esplanade Pub (Espy), after a couple of bar stops - we decided why not start there for a change. The Op shop was good to me too; I wanted vinyl for my new-old record player. I was rapt when I found, The Mills Brothers (jazz-blues), Rachmaninov (classical) and the Bangles (pop-rock).  

We were happy to see that the Espy was not busy, and that our spot on the balcony was waiting for us. It’s such a great view of the bay, and when the day is full of sun, the water shimmers like a million gold coins. With a glass of white in hand, it was the perfect spot to banter. Bantering is another thing that Bell and I do well; we speak almost every day, you’d think we’d be out of things to say, but not even close. We were onto our second glass of wine, and the discussion had moved to men, when one appeared out of what seemed like thin air, and plonked down at our table.

“I’m bored” he said.

Bell and I looked at each other, and without saying a word it was agreed, we’d go with the flow.

“I’m Ash; hope you don’t mind me sitting here?” 

Almost in unison we said. “Sure” 

 “Where you girls from?” he stumbled over girls, I think he was going to say sheilas.
 
He turned and looked at me. 

“I’m a local”

He seemed really chuffed about that and went on to tell us that he was from up north.  I thought he said Queensland, but later he revealed he's now in Western Australia. He was very proud when he dropped he’d lived in Melbourne for a year. Next thing we know, his uncle rocked up to the table. They were both pretty drunk; apparently they’d been on a pub crawl. It showed, but they were harmless.
.   
Ash: “We’re in Melbourne cause of the Stones” (the Stones concerts have been cancelled due to the death of Mick Jagger’s partner)

Uncle: “youse like the Stones?” 

Me: “I love the Stones; I saw them in the 90’s” 

Bell: nodded 

Ash mentioned something about being from Western Australia, and I said with my tongue in my cheek “that explains it”.  And from over the other side of the balcony a young guy jumped up, and repeated what I said about WA.  He was from WA and it was clear he wanted me to explain my slur.  He glided over (elf like) and joined our table.  Bell and I were making eye conversation…basically we were saying… it’s turning into a weird afternoon. Not long after WA guy had joined us, Ash’s phone rang; it was a friend waiting at another pub for them to show up.  And just like that Ash and the Uncle pushed their chairs out from under them, said thanks for the chat and stumbled down the stairs.  As I watched them disappear I thought, geez I hope they make it back to WA in one piece.

The guy from WA (who looks very much like our hippy-spiritually evolved friend Eranthos), smiled and started to talk.  He told us he’s been living in Melbourne for six years and loves it.  When he mentioned he reads four books a week, he kinda lost me.  Bell asked him what type of books he likes to read, he mentioned mainly philosophy books. The conversation skirted the deep and meaningful subjects, and landed on LOVE.  It’s funny how we mostly all agree on the entity of love, but how we each want it and live with it, is vastly different.  WA guy talked liked he’d reached a heightened level, and for some reason I found myself saying - “I'm an ex-Nun”. Bell looked at me, smiled, and said “yes you are”.  WA guy didn't skip a Jung-Russell of his 101 philosophy beat; he nodded as if to say; I know. I'm certain he truly believed that this woman (who was guzzling white wine, and talking about everything-including-sex) was in fact an Ex-Nun!

And just as the topic turned back to sex, WA guy realised he was sitting between a sexily dressed redhead and ex-Nun.  I'm not sure, but I think I saw a touch of fear in his eyes. To his credit he was sweet when he said goodbye, offering us both a hug.  He then fled down the stairs two at a time.

I’m not sure what Bell did when she got home – the first thing I did was put on a record, The Bangles. The first song was "Manic Monday" – I couldn't help but sing, It's just another manic Friday!

Now, it’s your turn dear Sarah, don’t think I've forgotten, that, this day in the life thing was a promise we made to each other.

Yours
Lisa