Thursday, May 7, 2020

early morning & goodbyes


In early morning I wake to see the dawn through my bedroom window and hurry outside. Mist clings to the hills and leaves silver droplets on fences, spiderwebs, leaves. I hurry to capture it before my day begins. A moment of quiet.

It is bitter-sweet. I love the view from my back garden - soon to be ex-backgarden - but we've been told we have to leave. It's understandable - four kids, dog, cats - are hard wearing on a house, add a few months of learning from home and yes, I understand the landlords point of view, we're not the best tenants.

But having to pack up now and find somewhere new, when we're all in lockdown, when my Beloved is working crazy, stressful hours, when for most of the day he can't breath properly through his mask, not helping his asthma, is hard.

We're on the final weeks until we have to move, and we still haven't finalised where we're going. My plan b. is to fly home with the kids to Victoria (I'm not very keen on Queensland at the moment) but my Beloved doesn't like that plan as he still has six months of his registrar training to go, and it might mean us being separated until he finishes. I'm not so fond of it myself, but it at least is a solid option.

I tell myself that in three weeks this time of uncertainty will be over, we'll have worked it all out, packed up the house and be settling in somewhere. In the meantime the kids are returning to school after two months at home, and I am enjoying the small moments. The dew on the spiders webs. The sunrises. The fierce kisses of my toddler, the gentler hugs of my six year old.

Everyones lock-down, everyones experience of the-time-of-Cov-id-19 is so different. This is ours. Chaos, uncertainty, beautiful sunrises, an abundance of hugs and kisses, and spiders webs.









Monday, April 20, 2020

vitamin sea




I looked out of the window this morning and then - sotto voice - called for the girls to quickly run over. About thirty feet away, beyond the garden fence on a slope of browned grass, was a delicately grey wallaby. (Or baby kangaroo. I'm still not good at telling. It was a hopping creature with large dark eyes.)

There are many things I love about our new home - looking up at night to see the smudgy pale and brightnesses that is the Milky Way. The lovely gifts my husband gets as a country GP - mandarine jam, date scones, honey, crab. The changing light on the hills outside.

But I miss the sea. And I miss home. And sometimes it feels very far away. (A twenty-two hour drive away, to be precise. Pretty much Edinburgh to Barcelona.)

These photos are old - a year or two ago - from a half finished blog I never posted - and I look at my wild ones in the long-ago, so vibrant and unconstrained on the beach I love so much, and oo and ah over how they've grown and changed, but I look most at the shores of home and wonder when I will return. And I am so grateful that I had that time, I have those memories, to keep me company now, when I am landlocked and so far from home.
















Morning


Words are hard to tumble together at the moment. The chaos of constrained wild ones and lost of change unravels me. There are so many moments of delight and so many moments I'm pulling my hair, sometimes at the same time. But here are photos of my solace and my joy from the quiet before my loves awaken.











Tuesday, March 31, 2020

three by sea


Sometime in the far-away of last summer, I took my three daughters to the shore, at a place caught between the Pumicestone Passage and a beloved playground on Bribie Island.

The light was waterlogged, impressionistic, and I sat above the tidemark while the welcome swallows swooped and darted around me, and took photos as my children played, watching as they came together and then moved apart, came together then moved apart, each caught in their own world.

The light caught and held them, so at times it seemed they moved within a painting and I watched the changing light and shifting reflections on the glassy water until my youngest daughter persuaded me it was time to be a dinosaur mummy and hatch some sand eggs.













That time is in the 'before' now. But this time of enforced inaction, with nowhere to go and no urgency to do anything. is bringing with it time for reflection, for looking back and remembering how silken and easy the air was that night, the joy of the children, the feel of complete content.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Then and Now and Story




Before the sun rose, in the smoke-hazed early morning, before my children woke, I left my parents' house and strode down the street to the train station. It's a busy line and the train was unexpectedly full - mostly of men wearing high-vis tops. My parents still live in the house we moved into when I was eight - but I was travelling back to the home of my first memories.

When I ascended from the depths of the underground loop at Parliament Station it was still dark - the sun still a promise. I walked quickly - lacking time before my children arose to conquer the day.

I passed a swish, old fashioned hotel, all plush and chandeliers, studied Parliament House across the road and sighed over the extravagance of the Princess Theatre - spoils of the Gold Rush I assumed.
I had planned to catch a tram, but within minutes I'd turned down oak-lined Victoria Parade and was passing the hospitals.

It's not a far walk to the suburb of my first memories - one of Melbourne's oldest. I grinned as I turned down Brunswick Street - all the memories from my late teens and early twenties - meet ups with friends at the Veggie Bar, dates at the Black Cat Cafe, the Rob Roy hotel where I lost my dad's green leather jacket he'd kept from the seventies. I walked these streets so many times, dressed up and eager to be going out, tipsy in heels and heading for the last train home. I was wearing heels then, in honour of that time, and also a habit on my few kid-free occasions, to mark the event. My camera was heavy around my neck - I was unbalanced in all direction

The council high rise flats spiked into the sky opposite the turreted shop I bought a Persian carpet in with my first professional-job pay cheque. Most of the kids in my prep class were recent immigrants who lived in the high rises - I think I was one of only two or three kids in my class who spoke English as a first language. I wonder if any of the kids from that class still live locally.

Gertrude Street is a strange mix of highly styled, hip retro shops, with concrete floors and lots of in-jokes, lovely old terraces and colourful but slightly unsettling graffiti. I walked down with joy, eagerly noting the mix of new and remembered.





On a whim I crossed the road and veered down Napier Street to the church I went to as a child. (Memories of haunting, ancient music and the scent of blown candles.) In the shadow of the high rises, it's an old, bluestone building and I caught my breath when I saw it had been turned into high-security apartments.


O.

The church is one of my main connections to a young woman whose life I stole for one of my characters. She was born ninety-nine years before me, went to the same church as me, her father owned property on the street - a block away - that holds my first remembered home. She attended Methodists Ladies College, which is where my grandmother went and my father taught. Her father and brothers went to Scotch College, like my cousins, uncles, grandfather and great grandfather. One of her brothers went to Melbourne Uni - my Uni, and also my first home. She had a brother called Caleb - my son's name, a brother called James - my nephew's name.

Her name was Grace Cheong and she died of complications after influenza in 1898. If she had not died she would have gone to Melbourne University. (I think about her daily and hope any distant relatives do not mind how much of the facts of her life I have purloined. I hope it helps I do so with love and respect.)

Of course, my character (my book being a fantasy) has powers of water, bestowed by being outside during a phenomenal solar storm, but I discovered Grace while doing research on the Chinese in Victoria during the time period I set my book. (Fire & Tempest begins properly in 1905, when my character - Lilias- is twenty-two, a widow, with a half-indigenous child who has been stolen and placed in a mission.)

Pondering, I continued on my way, imagining Grace walking beside me, laughing with her sisters, escorted by one of her brothers, secure in the knowledge she was 'the flower of her family', protected by wealth, education, strong church connections and family, from the racism of the time, not yet affected by the White Australia Policy.

Retracing my steps to Gertrude Street, I turned at the next block down Gore Street, where we moved when I was two. The hodgepodge of old houses and the overgrowth of greenery delights me. There is peeling paint and graffiti - incongruous with what I know of the astronomical house prices in the area.

I passed the old house of childhood friends, tried to work out the house across the road that was my childcare, where Father Christmas one year decided to journey across the roof, fell, and broke his ankle. There are apartment buildings where the carpark used to be where I'd play kick-the-can with the big kids after community meals. I believe there might have been a murder there at a later date.

After I studied my first home from across the street, the big ashram next to it that ensured I fell asleep to chanting through most of my early childhood still large and imposing, I made my way down to the grunge and history of Smith Street.

I've taken this area as the setting for another group of stories - about a group of five sisters granted access to a magical world created by the wishes of Scheherazade's descendants. My on-earth descriptions are too one dimensional so I was attempting to observe and document, solidify the now, rather than the blurrily remembered. Compared to where I live now these streets appeared grimy, hemmed in, chaotic. I was overwhelmed with the confusion of colour, style, brick and blue-stone and tenacious green living things. Memory, history and the Now collided in a cacophony I needed time to make sense of and I struggled to take in all the details I was determined not to forget.









The sun had risen, hazy from the bushfires. The rubbish truck lurched up the street. (I made a note of the time and day for later use.)  Time for me to leave, to try to unravel the density of memory, history, story and the scents and visual details of the-here-and-now.

A quick call to my mum - the kids are still sleeping - but they won't be for long. My eyes darting here and there, camera constantly clicking - the focus playing up as I'm out of practice, my head completely taken in story and fragments of description, I cross the road to the tram stop, eager to begin the journey back to the suburbs and my life as it is now.