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.


Monday, March 24, 2014

An epistolary little vine

Dear Lisa,

I know you often think about how frightened you were of the dark, as a kid. You wish you could travel back to 1973 - to reassure yourself that there are no monsters coming to take you away. Mum is awesome and spends many a night sleeping next to you, but not every night. It’s the alone nights that haunt you. You’re all grown up now, and the kids are too. You’re living by yourself; the dark doesn't scare you often, but you wish your kid self could travel through time so you could keep each other company on those alone nights.

I want you to know I understand, and if you ever need company for any reason, you know how to reach me.

Me X

Dear Me,

The timing of your letter is remarkable. Firstly, do you remember how Mum used to drive us to school in her brunch coat? I've been dreaming about Mum and the next door neighbour Mrs Holmes. I still have a giggle when I think of Mum and Mrs Holmes tearing down the driveway wearing nothing more than brunch coats and curlers. It’s a wonder how any of us ever made it to school. I figured the significance of the dream was brunch coats, so I googled the history of the brunch coat. And wouldn't you know it, there’s a whole book about the house dress (another term for brunch coat). The House Dress: a Story of Eroticism and Fashion - Elda Danese. As thrilling as it was to discover on the first hit that a book exists on the topic, it does bug me that everything I think I dream up, has already been dreamt up. But that’s a whole different letter. Anyway, it’s probably not about brunch coats. I think the dream could be prompting me to think about Mum and Mrs Holmes friendship. Before I forget, yes I often think about time travel - it’s usually about travelling to a time in order to right something, but sometimes it’s about going to a happy place. You've got to admit the 70’s were cool!

I can’t wait for your next letter. We’ll always be able to find each other, even in the dark.


PS: I’m going to make Mum’s upside-down pineapple cake using her original recipe. I’ll save you a slice.

Dear Lisa,

Your letter had me smiling and sighing. I'm sorry I won’t be able to take you up on the slice of upside-down pineapple cake. Work's such a bitch, and with the threat of losing my job I've been putting in extra-long hours. What I’d give to head back to the 70’s. I’d love to see Mum and Mrs Holmes in their finest brunch coats. Do you remember Mrs Holmes' car, it was a green falcon, and it had three on the tree…I think that’s what you call the gear thingie bob? Well anyway, whatever it’s called, I keep having a vision of Mrs Holmes changing gears. It’s really very strange. Of all the things I could be thinking about, I pick some really random thing that has no significance whatsoever. At least I don’t think it has. Maybe it’ll mean something to you? You reckon there might be a book in a three on the tree. I've got to google it. Well I’ll be, there are lots of hits on how to shift gear, but I didn't find a book. This could be it. What do you think of the title…Three on the tree?

I'm going to leave this up to you to laugh at or explore. If we keep sending notes to each other, I reckon the alone and dark thing will vanish.

Me X

PS: wish me luck with work….oh and yeah, did you get the THREE on the tree?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lexicon - Red Nan, wabbit & a bucket full of lists

When I was a kid, my maternal grandmother often called me little Miss Malaprop. And when she did I replied, funny Red Nan. It was many years before I actually understood the nickname - I still have little linguistic integrity! But I love words, writing, and reading; another example of a threesome in my life.    

Red Nan encouraged me to make word lists. She said pick a word out of your reader, and before you look it up in the dictionary, write an example of how you'd use the word in a sentence. She added: there might be words you’ll need to sleep on. I thought she meant literally, so I wrote the word on a scrap of paper and slipped it under my pillow.  It really did work, because when I woke up I was filled with ideas.  As I got older the words I read and heard moved from being distant relatives, to conflicting sovereignties. It was the 70’s and there was a litany of cool words to say, but I struggled to find any written references to them, to use on a list.

Verbal words took over when adolescence struck. I continued with the lists until I was 14, but I did so in secret.  I was pretty sure Red Nan wouldn't like a list that had words such as, dickhead, mole, rooted, doobie and chunder on it!  It was a far cry from the lists I created in primary school, which included words like.

A princess wears a crown and lives in a castle with prince charming.
The daughter of a monarch

A fairy wears pretty pink dresses and uses special sparkle dust to make magic.
A small imaginary being of human form that has magical powers, especially a female one

My favourite colour is yellow because it makes me feel sunny and feeling sunny makes me happy.
A colour like that of egg yolk, ripe lemons, etc.; the primary colour between green and orange in the visible spectrum

When I grow up I'm going to live in a castle with a prince.
A large building, typically of the medieval period, fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers, and often a moat

A lot changed during my teen years; I stepped out of a world that was in many ways shaped for me, into the great unknown…with its tempting of coolness, boys and desires. I think the word lists blew away with the spring winds, but I can't be sure, as I didn't notice their absence at the time. What heterosexual teenager notices anything other than boys and best friends?  My relationship with Red Nan also changed; all of sudden she seemed so old. I felt annoyed at having to spend time with her. Truth is, it wasn't just Red Nan, it was everyone that was not a boy I was crushing on, or a best girlfriend.

I didn't think about word lists again until I’d been married a year or so, and it was not grocery lists (I was only 19 at the time). It was survival lists…that turned out to be similar to the lists I’d created in primary school, the ones that held my fantasy world and imagination. I guess the reality of marriage was a shock, and as it turns out, I wasn't good at it.

If Red Nan was still here, I’d tell her Miss Malaprop and lists are back, and never leaving again. I'd also tell her, I'm sorry that I had to be a teenager, but all is okay now...I'm back to being just a girl!