Saturday, September 29, 2007

If you have ever had a months worth of Very Important Things to do and only five days in which to do them, you may know how I feel.
It probably doesn't help that it is very necessary to maintain a facade of being completely in control of everything.
But it isn't nice to be waking at 4am hyperventilating as you realise yet another potential crisis you hadn't planned on.


I am trying my best to keep calm. I can't now even comfort myself with the vision of myself standing in one of the corridors of The Hermitage. I am sliding into panic mode.
Here it is 28 degrees and the light as bright and sharp as ever it could be, and the floor of the ocean visible through its turquoise curtain. The flags are out, the shark net bobbing around in the blue, swimmers lazily lapping out there for fun, all the way. The biannual Music festival on the beach almost here, the lifeguard returned and ready in place for drownings.
Russia and Glasgow seem like figments of my imagination. Actually, I myself am starting to feel like a figment of my own imagination.

I have cooked 7 dinners and only 20 more to freeze. I have ordered lunches, booked babysitters and cleaners. Obtained copyright to use the images in my paper. Almost finished editing. Written course content. Locked all my assessment marks i my office and givn away the key.Bought small plastic bottles and a little travel clock. I have not finished writing ALL course content. I haven't graded the 120 assessment tasks from three weeks ago.I haven't written the extensive instructions manuel. I havent checked whether I will be presenting using windows or mac. I haven't timed the latest version of my paper. I haven't checked to see wher my polarfleece hat is. I haven't bought locks for my bag so I don't get drugs and bombs in my luggage. I haven't photocopied the work I wish to take. I haven't decided whether to buy some civilised clothes to wear in scotland or just look like an uncivilised idiot. So much to do. So little time.

Her are your presents. You may choose which things are yours,

Friday, September 28, 2007


this is a going-away-party, and I is handing out some presents.

books for ampersand duck and meli, (look at the cover!) and for Pavlov if she comes by,

shells and blossoms and stones, for jane and 3rdcat, and for arcturus the feather, to hold onto and fly, for shauny the smooth rock from the south coast.

The grevillea is for isabelle, tho she may think them prickly, and for meggie who will love them, and Jelly who may be home soon.
Perhaps Babby for Shoufay though I wish I could give her more,

for the new guys, the laughing one and shula and suse, for rise and molly, precious from the sea,

for little thing, this perfect day, and for Ganching also, who likes a nice view.

some treasure for everyone.
Sorry if your'e left off, I am very sleepy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

albatross, part two

My third encounter with an albatross *

was with this one.

It had preyed upon the wrong fish, an unatttractively prickled pufferfish, which had then lodged firm in its throat.
A stronger soul than me was able to pull it out.

I spread its wings out as a matter of honour, rather than leave it a tangled sorry mess: this seemed the decent thing to do.

One wing stretched from the ground to my nose: The total wingspan was 2 metres, even though it was still a juvenile, as indicated by its chest feathers.

Later I dragged him back out to sea. A sea-bird doesn't belong on the sand, even after its life force has left it behind.

*(Please go to february for the previous albatross post. My link refuses to work.)

Friday, September 21, 2007


At one time I immersed myself in Russian Literature, particularly Dostoyevski, as a strange means to create an imaginary dialogue between myself and an imaginary other.

I learnt Russian, or rather, I attempted to.

I dressed in a long grey dress, red tights and boots and lurched around all winter with my nose in the pages of Crime and Punishment, or Anna Karenina. This kind of set me apart in my little beach community: I have written a short story called The Dostoyevski Sandhill, which I rather like, set in that time and place. One day I will bunch a handful of those stories together.

I never really learnt to speak Russian very well, but I can still decipher Cyrillic. It has always been my dream to retrace the steps of Raskolnikov, or stand outside Nabokov’s house, or to waltz through the Hermitage.
Once a man who loved me bought me a costly book about the Hermitage. With citations in Cyrillic, and he knew I didn’t love him back, but he gave it to me anyway: I still blush when I look at it.
He is now a sculptor, somewhere near Bathurst: Roberto.

I still look at the book, and stroke the illustrations with the flat of my hand, the Cyrillic lettering makes an impression on the paper very slightly.

On a sunny afternoon, not too long ago, I strode into the travel agent in the little cluster of shops near the beach, carrying a bag of green apples and Turkish Bread.
I bought a ticket to St Petersburg.

I went to the Russian Consulate today, and collected my passport, inside of which was a wonderfully arcane and indecipherable visa.

I was reminded of an incident I had in July i Perisher Valley.
This season there were a bunch of new ski instructors from Slovenia.
I decided, as you do from time to time, to do what is called a mountain workshop. Equipped with an instructor, you are led off and taught some special trick. (once, a very old Austrian tought me to ski backwards while singing the blue danube out loud, which is very handy)
This instructor turned out to be the Slovenian National Champion. With three adolescents and myself in the group, he attempted to teach me to do jump turns down a vertical face, with the instruction: "jump to the left, then jump to the right, don’t fall down, or you’ll kill yourself."


Anyways, his name was Alyosha.
“That’s not a Slovenian name” I observed, and he explained how his parents had called him a Russian name.

“Yes, Alyosha, from Dostoyevsky” I shouted into his bewildered face, my tangled brain going haywire, I remembered something Meli had written:

“The Holy Fool!
“You know, the Idiot! Alyosha the Idiot..
oh, hang on he was one of the Brothers Karamazov”

He looked at me, horrified.

Looking back, I think I have just about figured out why he took me up a cliff face and made me jump down, though later he must have forgotten, cause we did helicopters.

And that was fun.

Alyosha and friends, Perisher 2007
illustrations: Ilya Glazunov

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

the russians

News is, I am going to St Petersburg. On my way to Glasgow.

Only that the Russian consulate have stolen my passport and gone into lockdown. Incommunicado.
This has caused me much hyperventilation.
I have broken out in hives, (whatever hives may be, I have broken out in them.)
Breathe, breathe.

I had a meggie-moment yesterday,
scurrying about posting the business mail for the Mr F, attempting to earn yet more good points, I noticed a scruffy, tragic type at the post offfice counter, scuffling throught the phone books. Arduously going throught he columns of addresses, slowly, sliding his finger down each column. So agitated was he, that I almost asked if he wanted me to help him look, I watched him over top of my envelopes as I stuck on the stamps.

He laboriously copied out the address when he finally found it.."Master Jack...."
The envelope was red, a birthday card.
He drew a little face in the corner, a smiling one with merry eyes, so unlike his own.

On the back , he wrote "Bill Jones-your daddy!! xxxx"

I managed to make it out the door before I burst into tears.

"Despair", Ilya Glazunov, from Dostoyevski's "Netochka Nezvanova"

Today, a man approached me looking very hard-done-by. He asked for $1.90. Quite nicely, politely. Like he just wanted change.
I laughed and asked if he needed it for the parking meter, at which explained a long sorry tale about having just gotten out of Silverwater Prison and if he asked enough people for change, he might have enough for a night in emergency housing. He had walked for two hours to find an Anglican Minister, to find him gone to Newcastle.
He said if he asked enough people politely for a small amount....

There is a fine line we walk, between keeping it all together and unravelling entirely. There, but for the grace of something , I could be walking myself.
There was $50 in my wallet.
"I wasn't meaning to beg, love." he said "but thanks"
I knew that.

It wasn't so bad hugging him. He needed it.

I can't help but think I was buying my way out of something. Yeah, ok, perhaps he went straight to the Orient Hotel with it, yeah, maybe. But maybe not.
A Russian Visa is the least of a person's troubles.

Here is a love heart to cheer you up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Scotland and kitteh thieving

(I is stealin' my neighbour's kitteh.)

As I child, I assumed I was Scottish.
There were two reasons for this.
Firstly, the mother did highland dancing. There were photographs of her, with her lovely hair in long curls, wearing Scottish national dress. In one, a portrait, close up you can see her hat and brooch and her dreamy smile, the one she had before her world was turned upside down. In the other, she is dancing, and you can see the kilt, and shoes.

Secondly, my name is Celtic, from Fionn. (Yes, its not really a French name, though it is my nickname and many call me by that name exclusively).
It means fair, and white, which I am. There are a string of us stretching way back, fair haired, blue eyed, long of face.

When I used to travel to London, I stayed with friends in a lovely house, in which also resided two scottish girls, both named Fiona. We had a lot of fun with the two Fionas, mainly playing tricks on the small Fiona. Of the four Scots in the house, only the smaller Fiona had an actual accent: the others had these improbable English accents which they assured me they had acquired at Stirling University. Being an Australian idiot I didn’t get the joke, but I did like leaving notes for the smaller Fiona to find upon returning from a night out: along the lines of “another Australian has called in to stay and I am bonking him in your bed” just to listen to her torrent of rapid-fire scottish accented fury.

one time I travelled up to Edinburgh. By train.
It was raining, but I was excited to think I would be among my forebears.
I phoned Sydney from a phone booth, feeling the homesickness one gets on the other side of the world, to be greeted by a long pause and the electronic hum of thousand of miles in a cable. News that the friend with whom I was hoping to meet back in London had been killed in a road accident.

I went and ate soup in a little café and cried, which seemed to drape Edinburgh in a gauze of sorrow: I walked around dazed, in veils of rain. When I returned to London, back to the scottish Fionas and the English others, I told them I had to leave unexpectedly. I booked a flight to Venice, and fled to a convent on the Guidecca, where there was sun and camomile to lighten the haze.
I saw the Scottish Fionas back in London a year later: piling towels in Small Fiona’s bed to make a hump, leaving a note to say that some guy I had met was asleep in her bed, but we had finished carousing. She still fell for it, amazingly. This consistency was soothing in a world of flux.

I am going to Scotland in October.
I asked the mother where in Scotland I might find some ancestors.
“Nowhere”, she said. “We aren’t Scottish.
I have just always liked Scottish things.”

(My cousin, a history professor later produced the family history, which told me that I was descended from an eccentric who came straight to Australia from England and populated the eastern seaboard with his 14 children, all of whom he named after Homeric and Shakespearean characters. Seventh generation Australian.)

In a consolatory gesture, mother dug about and found me an Irish ancestor who had been jailed for subversion, and a French Huguenot with the surname, L’Andre, which at least is patron saint of Scotland.

This time in Scotland I will walk with my eyes to the skies and the hills, I will look at the buildings. I will be going to the Glasgow School of Art, not as an Art Student, as I had always dreamed, but to speak. To speak of cakes, of dolls, of cars. Of memory and dancing, of childhood and land and The Dreaming.

Of many things from my land in the sun, I will speak, in Scotland.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

in which the fish is granted a wish

The sea was attempting to heave itself up the beach by the elbows, having no luck, falling flat down. Over and over.

That is a frightful smell, I remarked,
you have outdone yourself.

The shore is draped in an endless mass of washed up bluebottles which fill the air with a shrieking stench.

In a gesture of resignation, the next wave crawled up and grappled with the shore before losing its grip. Vast tracts of bluebottles, rafts of bodies opaque, sacs sky blue from the rain on the dark sand. The scent not sky blue at all, but a red rimmed cloud of brown.

“You can have your wings, fish” hissed the ocean.

I stopped.

“You can have your wings. Just show me how you swim today, fish, if you want so much to cross my horizon, show me today how you fly .”

So I launched myself into the sea, it seemed a layer of ice was on the top, and I glanced around for blue bubbles in the foam, but kept my resolve. They won’t touch me, I thought. Not today, or ever. I will always manage to slip between.

Rain flew down in mauve columns and sizzled the surface, but I swam on in the wildness, past the point where there was ever any doubt that I would do this, and would always do this, over the stingrays abed with their golden cat eyes, between the vile electric tails of inky blue dangling in the sea, under the roaring torrents which curled over in fists to thump the sandy bed.

The sea concedes: For a minute there is hush, and I notice she wears her shark-nets again. Dangling and empty as yet.

Go, then, she says.

And the fish prepares to fly over the far, far horizon,
over the dark dark sea.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sunday, September 2, 2007

my day my week

Fathers Day. All the fathers down at the beach for a wave, on whatever they can get hold of. All the born-again surfers, the bankers and doctors on their longboards, the shaven head brigade with shortboards. And all their kids, paddling by their sides..

The fathers are surfing. All the fathers seem to be having fun on their waves, but not the ones on the sand holding the newborns. They are still getting used to things, like pushing the pram, no sleep, no surfing.

trying to write

Working, talking six hours a day, staying up late to try and work and think.
This week, one of my students came to me and told me that, after the MRI scan, it was determined that the damage to her daughters eyesight after the removal of two brain tumours was more extensive than thought. In fact, she explained, she had been in denial that her daughter would live anything other than a normal life. She was wrong, and would I mind if she presented her research another time?
There is no father in that family. He left, when the little one got sick.


Yesterday when I was in the camera shop, complaining about my camera (and wanting a new one,) the manager, who always serves me, came over close and said
“I think you have something in your hair” and he actually took hold of my hair and pulled a strand of dried seaweed out of it.
I don’t know which was the most unsettling, the fact that the seaweed was there, or that this man pulled it out.
“I’d hate it to be a tick”, he said.
Later, the woolly was teasing. “The man in the camera shop loves you .He was stroking your arm”
And I hadn’t even noticed, until the woolly told me, that he had indeed been stroking my arm as he spoke to me. And had extracted one of the two pieces of seaweed embedded in my nasty tangled hair.

self portrait with child

The daughter is surly to the nth dgree. She is a piece of cactus she is prickly she is sharp. She shouts and flounces. She argues and screams. She tries on eyeliner and scowls.
I think to myself that dealing with her sleeplessness and changing her nappies was far easier than dealing with that with which she encumbers me right now.

I have in-laws here from Europe:they cannot understand the flux in which my family exists. They are on holidays, I am not. I have mortally offended all of them. They think I am a failure as a wife to their beloved, because I work and do all the other things I do. I don’t speak German, so they give me a headache. I wish I could go swanning around the continent like they do, but right now I can’t. I shall look at the pics with the Damatijan families, on the beautiful coast of Croatia, and duly give my comments: pretty, lovely. The girls in that side of the family all look like supermodels, and make me look like a rotten old anglo-australian overbaked potato.

I hope they go soon.
I can’t bear to see myself through their eyes.