Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When Santa Came To Nippers

To all who pass this way from near and far,
this fish wishes
a wonderful christmas to you all,
may you all feel blessed
and happy,
and if you don't,
I shall send blessings and happiness your way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

in which the sea reveals a memory of reading

You seem in a better mood today, I said to the sea.
That was an uncommonly bad tantrum you were throwing yesterday.

You shouldn’t have been here, said the sea. Come in now. I’m being very nice.

I was shocked. So shocked, that I slid straight in before thinking too much.

Lie back, said the sea. Trust me.

So I lay there. Only my nose poked out, my head tipped back.
I could sleep here, I thought. I spun myself in the direction of the morning sun and pointed my toes at it. My hair fanned out beneath. I thought about Jane Eyre, almost finished, lying on the sofa at home.

You’ve read that book before, said the sea.

I jumped.

You remember that? Me reading Jane Eyre? I was so young! How different I read it now!

and I thought briefly how strange the sea should know of such things, but then again, how not?

Yes, you lay in the sun, by Cabbage Tree Bay with practically nought on yourself, and dipped youself in every twenty pages or so. You were skiving off school.

I had indeed. I remembered thinking that the moorlands, in their colour and texture may have looked somehow like the surface of weedy rocks around Fairy Bower, but the Yorkshire light, back then, was something I could not imagine. I remembered my little bikini in all shades of blue, and the damp corners of each page of the book, the sand in the spine. Then I began to think of all the strange contexts in which I had read such books, in the sun, under the blue, with my hair in long pale strings dripping salt onto the covers. I used to think I had lived my life in books as much as in the real.

I put my head back again, and lay awhile: the sun poured up my nose and into my brain. I would have slept awhile, but that the sea saw fit to tip a little seawater up there too, so I swam back, all the way to the shallow.

I asked the sea, ( since it was being so loquacious)
Yesterday, Did you think I wouldn’t come in? With you behaving like that?

Of course not, it hissed, laughing seaishly.

I return home: Eucalyptus branches are my Christmas tree, lashed to one of the millions of guitar stands found around the house. It looks quite funny, but pretty enough, and now there is a present underneath.

Monday, December 15, 2008

the fish, the sea, and the saga of the tree

I am finding it hard to muster up any kind of festive spirit right now, no matter how much I try. Life whirls on around me.

I have been in some kind of paralysed state: I couldn't bring myself to buy a Christmas tree this year, because if I buy a live one it will die, a dead one will make me sad, and a fake one will go the way of the last one: rusted and unfoldable within a very short time.

Yesterday I hit upon a brilliant idea: out the front I have a eucalypt in need of trimming. Why not use the large branch as a tree? Festive and environmentally friendly all at once! I hastened out with my secaturs and returned up the stairs brandishing two huge branches.

I’m not sure whether using an Angophora was really a clever idea, since they are known for their curving branches. I lured the children in with suitably festive phrases and bade them to stand by armed with decorations. Disturbingly, neither was particularly interested, and the thought occurred to me that were I to avoid putting up a tree at all, no one would even care very much. For me, as a child, tree time was akin to witnessing a religious miracle, but I had far less in my life than these two do.

I dragged up the big, heavy vase and thrust the recalcitrant sticks into it. To make them less like a willow tree I bound a stray stick to them with ribbon, which made them straighter. We trimmed the tips of so they didn’t touch the floor, and began to attach sparkly things, which was rather hard as the branches were so droopy.

It was decided that we would fetch the large heavy riverstone which props open my door against the wind, and place it in the vase to keep the branches still. I placed it into the vase, where it sat wedging the bottom of the branches. It all looked a bit comic, with one branch containing a row of four baubles in a row, looking like a row of eggs. We all remark about the missing decorations from when the cats stripped the tree last year, pulling down branches and smashing all the pretty decorations. Right on cue, Babby comes and sits by, ready to create destruction.

It was just then that we heard a very nasty crack.

The riverstone had shifted and hit the bottom of the vase.
Both children looked at it, then at each other, and took off. 
I stood, horrified: the entire base of the vase was severed from the top.

It didn’t start out life as a vase: it was some old item from a power station: heavy old industrial glass which weighed a ton, performing some industrial function originally, and having been in my possession longer than I have had children. It was one of those finds from an antique shop somewhere, back in the day when the mister and I used to haunt such places, in another lifetime, when such things seemed to make everything alright. When the finding of such treasures with which to decorate my nest was enough for me, when domestic life still seemed like a bit of a game, when I still felt I was in possession of such powers to control what went on around me.

I think the year has tired me out. I did what anyone would do, and retreated to the sofa with Jane Eyre till midnight, glass sparkling there on the floor. Outside the summer wind picked up.

This morning, feeling defeated, I left the pile of branches where they lay, the broken vase sitting on the balcony like a dead thing, and noted that the sea had risen wildly in huge swells. It had played nasty tricks on me on the weekend, the sea, surging against the soles of my feet when I was on a particularly deserted stretch of Saturday’s Ocean Race and giving me the horrors. Right there at Butterbox, where the large creatures dwell, the sea poked at me, and I was frightened momentarily. Today an impossible swell marched northwards.

The waves hurled themselves as far up as they could, flailing at the grassy sandhills. It was the devil’s own work to run the beach. The lifeguards closed the beach so I stood a moment, and stared at the yowling sea.


You have never once defeated me, or kept me out, I said.
I shan't return home dry.

I ran as fast as I could through the foam, and the sea sent me a cracker: I held my ground and shot down and through at the last moment: no fish anywhere here, I thought, and hung on, before shooting up and through the weight of water, tumbling back and hitting the sand with a bang. Again, I thought, you old beast, and took off again, flying over the next at full stretch and landing on a moving wall of water which carried me down and along at a frightening pace.

Then the water disappeared, every last bit of it, as the sea inhaled, and sucked up every drop into a huge thick dripping cave which seemed to hover above my head.
I was on my feet and running up the runnelled slope in a second, before the whole lot crashed down behind me and pulled my feet backwards. Thank God that wasn’t my neck. The lifeguards were on their feet, and I unable to adopt any disguises in which to hide.

You can’t have me today it’s not my day you old snash of an ocean old beast of a water I shout at the sea.

Don’t push your luck, old girl. No fish tricks for you, today, the sea replies to me.

And indeed this was so: for each time I tried to melt into the water it hurled me around like a mad stick. I ran across the surface of the water at the next yawning wave, and shouted into the curve of the wave which rose up to take me: water fountained upwards off my shins as I ran
not today, old thing, not today.

I returned, covered in sand and detritus, heart thumping. Past all the old blokes, who laughed, and shook their heads. We saw that, you mad thing, they said.

Back home the gum leaves are already curling, laid on the floor still covered in sparkles. From where I sit I can look at the sea through the glass of the broken vase, lying on its side, the words “Power Station” barely visible.

So much to do before Christmas: so I shall do what any sensible person might do, fortify myself with a few chapters of Jane Eyre.
 Despite my vow to remain in the here, a quick visit to Yorkshire won’t hurt, while I pick the sand from my hair, and eat a few nectarines, and not think about broken glass, or Christmas trees, or presents, just for the minute.

 There's always tomorrow.

I have swept up the glass, and stood up the branches: for all their silliness, they look quite pretty.
Now , some presents to put beneath.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

in which the fish tries to avoid dreaming too much

Queensland was wondrous. It was burning hot, tropical, and satisfyingly filled with unexpected wildlife.
The architecture was very majestic and colossal.

Gallery  of Modern Art, Queensland

One night in Brisbane I met Jelly. She was brave enough to come to drinks at GOMA.
May I assure all those concerned that she is slim and lovely as well as clever! Don't believe a word about cellulite: she has none that I could see.
Meeting a blogfriend is interesting because you already know the person quite well, so you don't have to indulge in all that explorarory smalltalk, which can be tedious. It's also confronting to have someone looking you in the face, your real face, and seeing the real person rather than the bitsy online version.
Jelly even took me on a tour across the bridge! Then we had lots of late night chatting about life, the universe and axolotls.

Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Queensland

I am home again. Feeling more than ever like I have made myself up, and thus am trying to firmly plant myself in the here and now.
Difficult, sometimes.
In fact I spent all of Tuesday in some strange imaginary place, dreaming and wafting. Having lived a life in words for a month, I am eager to drift back into the Nest of Fish, for some picture making. I'm rather worn out, on Monday I gave a very strange impromptu paper, in which I took rather a large risk and talked about a load of nonsense. I am not able to gauge a completely accurate response, as four people came and requested copies, one complimented my on my mesmerising voice , but one lady sat the entire time staring at me with a look of utter disdain, or perhaps disgust: frowning with one eyebrow raised. Pft, I say.
I talked about falling into things, I talked about pretending to be Ariadne.
I remembered my synaesthesia, which seemed to disappear in my twenties. I was reminded of it, I was reminded of trying to articulate it and having no idea how.

I talked about smelling things, of feeling things. Of looking and hearing.
Some of you out there know what I mean.

Resident of the Garden at Griffith University.

Self Portrait with Bill Henson Image

This morning I was surprised that the ocean was so warm. I thought it may have been the sea welcoming me home, and said as much. But the sea merely told me, very curtly, not to get too comfortable, and pinned me by the head to the sand.

Ahh. Home.

Now I must try to be here in the here. I must anchor myself to the present, I must not dream of the faraway.
I am here, this is now. I am here. Now.

But just for a minute, if I close my eyes,

I am still here

and elsewhere.

Monday, December 1, 2008

in which the fish talks and talks and talks

It’s late, and the evening hanging outside my window is hot and salty.

I have had a lovely, wild, wonderful week. Full of strange coincidences and fabulous things, of terror and bliss, of words, and thoughts, of peach-coloured thunderstorms and clear blue skies.

I wish I could put it all into words, perhaps another time. It has been one of those moments which seem more significant than designated “moments”, or measurings of time and endings and startings, such as New Year, or the end of winter.

But I will tell you this, as a small part of the story.

I woke up having had a hideous nightmare last week: in it, I had found myself having to give a paper, and was reading the program.

A writers’ conference, it was.
I read the list of presenters….Helen Garner, Delia Falconer, Gabrielle Carey….me….

What would I know about writing? What on earth am I doing at a writer’s conference?

I had a sudden vision of Pavlov’s Cat sitting in the audience, shaking her head at my awful grammar. Made note to self: remember to take rusty stapler, That way if I spot Mme Cat in audience, I can shoot myself in the temple and claim lockjaw.

You know the end of this dream: where it goes really well, so well in fact that it really is a lovely dream after all, with fine things said, beautiful friends made. I talk about unknowing, and creative process, and show my lovely film, and watch the faces watching it, and oh, their expressions something to behold.
And still, though it seemed dreamt, I am sure I was awake at some point.

But I digress. I was going to respond to an invitation from this beautiful girl in Maryland, who shows me ponies and hills and woods, and her most charming and fetching little daughter dressed up as a Scottish girl. Her blog is called spruce hill, and she is one of the birds who came to visit from the lovely Alice's place

Ten Honest Things About Me.

I used to hang out with Hugh Jackman.
I started every day with a dose of Hugh after my run and gym class. He worked at the gym, and I would spend almost half an hour chatting and having coffee. He was the sort of person who was so interested in people that he always asked me things, enquiring about work, my art, whatever. He talked little about what he as up to. He was completely adorable.
I hadn’t realised just how little I had poked into HIS business until a few months later I saw his name in some promotion for a blockbuster production, and said:
“That can’t be MY Hugh! He’d never do a thing like that!”
It was my Hugh. And he would have, apparently, and still does.

Sometimes I think I am not real and that I have made myself up.
Actually, that’s not entirely true: I always think that.

Many of the other fish in the sea regard me with suspicion and hostility, because I am not a pure breed of fish.
Firstly, fish are not known for their acceptance and understanding towards fish who might seem different. Secondly, I suspect that they may know I told Roy-the-fisherman where the whiting were hiding because he had not caught anything for six months. Roy is nearly ninety, and I only did it the once, I swear.

I very much dislike those large green caterpillars, the ones which have nasty little horns which shoot out and spray you with stinky stuff. Actually, I hate them. They horrify me.

Often I do not brush my hair for days and have things sticking out of it. One day I am sure to find some family of wildlife taking up residence in it, and will therefore be able to charge rent: I just hope it isn’t those whiting that hang out in the deep hole just past the sandbar. That could be awkward, because everyone knows whitings never honour their debts.

When my cats jump up on the table I pretend I can’t see them.

I have very large feet.

I dream of going to Heron Island, Yorkshire, Broome, Nova Scotia, Norfolk, Rome,
The Blue Mountains to see Mary, The English Coastline, Maryland, Courcheval, Azay-le-Rideau, Scotland….
I am going to Brisbane on Thursday. It’s an Art History conference. I imagine I will be taken many places by the many things I will hear.

Sometimes the best place in the world is my sofa, curled up and looking at the sea, thinking about far places.

I have had the experience of opening a novel and reading all about myself and certain characteristics I display when undertaking certain activities. Very detailed, accurate and unmistakeable. It is a curious thing, to read about a fictionalised self, a peculiar feeling, and one, which I am not sure I can articulate. It was an award-winning book, but thankfully now out of print.
I used to feel very sensitive about this, but now, having recognised that it is only in stories that one can endure, frozen in a moment like that, I am happy enough. At the time I was horrified, but now if I do get my copy out and have a read, I can recognise, between the lines, something a little bit like love. Shining, pale, contained and far away.

All of this is true.

I would like to tag you all to do this. I am going to tag whomsoever feels like telling us things about themselves.