Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Stunned Mullet Called Lucky

"I think I am a little bit drunk," I mumble as I stumble over the bull mastiff. He leans against me even more lovingly, thinking, perhaps, I will stroke his throat one more time.
Hours before, I was in Video Ezy, when surprised by my Honours supervisor's enigmatic text message.

"I love it when one of my students gets a Phd scholarship."

I expected it. In fact, all year I beavered, putting sentences in the right order, deciphering post structuralism texts and booting people out of my house, with the explicit intention of procuring this scholarship.

Now I feel slightly dazed and a bit of a fraud. It's all been too easy. That gleaming river stone of future promise, the one you pull out of the water and lay it in the bright sun - words on a page, letters worked into sentences, into paragraphs - the one you watch dry up into something pretty but not quite what you visualised. I was expecting that and yet hoped that the shining stone would hold to her rash promise and stay true ... and for once this has happened.

Today, I was emotionally exhausted, not from reality, but reading The Bone People (Keri Hulme) for the fourth time in ten years. It's a beautiful book that never fails to stamp on my guts - an intriguing, charismatic, violent lover I return to, over and over, to remind myself why I can't go back. Like the beginning of any relation based on self-demolition, I bought that book, with a nose for trouble, on the strength of its cover.

And then. And then. In Video Ezy with Storm Boy, whose latest research project is Alien Versus Predator, my supervisor's message bleeps and, for the first time ever, I know what I'm doing for the next three years and that I will be paid to do it.
Three years to write about those characters from the past whom I've obsessed over; the Maori William Hook, the odious Samuel Bailey, the Menang Moennan, that elusive little girl who disappeared between the written words of Commandants and Colonial Secretaries, the Pallawah women driven from their home by the Black Line and Van Diemen's Land Company survey pegs, the whaling Black Jacks of America. These are some of the people who converged on Breaksea Island in 1826. Now that is a ripping yarn.

So. I am a little bit drunk, full of the relief of the ejaculated, sort of guilty but not dirty, clean, kind of groan up, and wearing the foolish grin of someone who just can't believe their own luck. It is a strange collection of feelings.
One day, I will experience life from the inside of the machine. This thought unsettles me, coming from the fringes as I do, a furious sole parent who rails against real estate developers, right wing politicians and D.E.C. bureaucrats who wanna lock up all our islands. I am beginning already to experience the osmotic effect of entering that bubble, and the compromises enclosed.

Another coupe last week, (it was a corker week) is having not one, but two stories accepted by indigo journal, a biannual anthology of Western Australian writing. That's coming out in February. Far out.

To retain some sense of what ordinary life is like, I'll stay on the tinny and continue working part time for Old Salt. He's not that enthused about having a deckie called Doctor Toa, but I'm sure he'll cope, so long as I don't sleep in or stop laughing at his jokes.


  1. Congratulations!

    Never a more deserving soul, Dr Toa!

  2. Thankyou Sontag! It's a bit exciting hey?

  3. Well done Dr. T, very well earned, and deservedly so! The book launch(es) i'm sure will be a ripper.

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  5. Cheers John! And very nice to see you in the neighbourhood, welcome1

  6. Well Sarah Toa, in the hope that it will assuage your 'guilt' slightly I will make this observation. You have been living on the fringes for a very long time, making a living has always been interesting I think and sometimes a real struggle. And you have always been very generous with the little you have sometimes had. SO....I think it is just your reward, for not compromising, for maintaining your integrity. And I can't think of a more deserving soul.

    I know that slight concern at the thought of finally 'coming in from the cold' - your identity, like mine, has perhaps been forged in opposition. BUT, I think you can still contribute to the machine without becoming part of it, in fact, it is encumbent on you to do so, otherwise where do all the innovative ideas come from, not from within the machine.

    Some people have hinted that I have 'sold out' by doing post-grad study, but although I make compromises, they are not critical to what I am saying. And neither will they be to you. Congratulations. I so look forward to reading your thesis.

  7. Thanks Michelle, that is brilliant. And you are right (as always), we are alike souls in that way.

  8. I am incredibly proud of you and your achievements, Sarah, and know that there are more to come.

  9. Cheers BT. It was great catching up with you.