Saturday, June 30, 2012

We are ugly ... but we have the music

Tonight was spent fireside for an hour or so in a house walled with books and paintings, in the company of the sculptor mason Moon, the writer Ursli, her impossibly gorgeous daughter, her impossibly elegant mother and the resident louche Jaybird. Now I know the word louche may have negative connotations in some quarters but let me make up my own interpretation here - disheveled and quite probably disreputable, executed in a lazily attractive manner that belies his integrity beneath - now that is Jaybird all over to me. I haven't been around to their house for a while due to working out of town and forgetting what a normal life is. Sometimes I think I'm probably just not that civilised but recently I decided to start saying 'yes' to invitations, instead of holing up at home and so here I was, with folk I love and have missed terribly lately.

Sudden Ocean friends. People who can talk about a great book and somehow weave work dramas into the same paragraph without pausing for breath. Ursli's Dad was an architect and he remodelled the little Mt Melville cottage into something useful and sprawling and beautiful. There is a photograph on the side board of Ursli's parents riding a Vespa the colour of dove eggs through an Egyptian desert. Two rooms are completely lined with books, the worn Penguins neatly lined according to their colours.

Ursli cracks me up with her sly, gentle wit. Jaybird lounges, fresh from his radio showcase of local garage bands, red nosed and flaky with man flu, rousing himself as the conversation quickens, his new Edna glasses misting with his sniffles and laughter. Ursli's Mum shares shack anecdotes with me (she's a fellow shack builder and rain collector, a woman who understands the need for a bush shack of one's own), Ursli's daughter gives me tight hugs and assures me that LA is much the same as Perth. Moon says 'When I get on the plane for Frankfurt tomorrow I'm wearing my lucky silver jacket and my Italian shoes.' Right now, he's wearing Blundstones that have blown out at the sides and plaster coated jeans. 'I'm getting a haircut too,' he says. The tabby tomcat lay on Gran's lap with his pink paws pointed towards me, his stripy tale flicking against her legs.

On the way home, I stopped at the crossing for wood chip train. I sat there in the blinking of red and yellow lights and this song came on the car stereo. It's not related at all, to anything. Just one of those moments ...


  1. Having shared the company of these wonderful folk your blog put me right there in the loungeroom. Yes, Jaybird - lurches from one financial/emotional/health crisis to the next, yet always rouses himself for other people. And his lovely wife, an eccentric, smart and interesting creature in her own right. Always enjoy seeing them.

    1. Thanks MF. The title is probably misleading because of course none of us are ugly :-) but it did remind me of that moment that Cohen captured with Janis in the Chelsea Hotel, with the concentration of talent, creativity. Sometimes an eve like that can be a distillation of all the good stuff in life. Lovely.

  2. Seamus Heaney talks about a man who could see poetry. I tend to refer to it quite a lot, probably so I don't forget. This post may be one of those audible poetries. For some reason the point at which you stop at the railway track and 'Chelsea Hotel' comes on the radio made me think of that moment when Tracy in the movie Little Fish comes in off the street to the town hall where the kids are rehearsing Cold Chisel's 'Flame Trees' and it stops her in her tracks. Flame Trees is a slice of blokey sentimentality but the melody and lyrics have truth at their heart. There's nothing fake about the combination, it works. I know, because it stopped me in my tracks not so long ago, brought me all the way back to the bench seat of my old Falcon station wagon, parked in gravel look-out up in the Darlington woods, above Midland in Perth, looking out one night over the twinkling city below knowing the relationship with the girl sitting beside me was crumbling and that it was gonna hurt like hell saying goodbye.

    Hope the link works..

  3. Love the serendipity ... 'Sordid times at the chelsea hotel' on radio national today.

  4. A wonderful post, full of vivid detail, and I love the Cohen song. He is a true poet, one of my top favourites. Like you, he speaks of people you don't know, in intimate ways that make them present. His songs haunt me.