Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Cairo Necklace and Jimmy Newell's Harbour

Well, what fun a good exhibition opening is. There's another one on today but I'll get to that in a minute. First the necklace thing.

I wore a blue necklace to the art centre last night. As I clasped it, I had the strangest sense that I would get busted wearing it, even though I've worn the necklace many times and gotten away with it. At the exhibition, True, another artist friend, saw it and exclaimed, "You know Sarah, when I was eighteen years old I bought a necklace exactly like that in a market in Cairo! Just like that one."
"Did you lose it?" I asked her.
True stared. "Yes."
Snow was with us and said, "Did you find it, Sarah?"
"Yes, at the town hall."
"Is that my necklace?" True said.
"Probably," (Sooo busted.)

Turned out that four years ago True loaned the necklace to her niece, who was in the same school theatre production as my son. I didn't know True back then. After the last show, there was a small pile of lost property, costumes and props asking for a home. The necklace didn't make it back to the school ... or to True ... but to my bower of sparkly, lovely things.
So when I put it on last night I knew for some reason that the necklace would find its original owner, that someone in the crowd of friends and art lovers would see it and know it was theirs. And she did.
Weird huh? Or maybe just the law of averages in a small town.

Anyway, Anne North is having her exhibition opening today. Here is my personal favourite of her paintings - Jimmy Newell's Lookout

And here are the exhibition details:

Sunday 29 Sept till 13 Oct. 7am till 6pm everyday.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cathy's exhibition

Okay, so there is some other gig that Sandgropers are all excited about today ... but when that is done and dusted, you can come and look at Catherine Gordon's gorgeous paintings and eat and drink with us! See you there. x

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A best letter day

In the final week before Gillard was rolled as Prime Minister, Cloe Hooper spent some time with her and wrote a portrait in The Monthly. Hooper outed herself as a convert, having grown to admire this resolute, warm and hardy woman who was copping it from all directions.

"Like an emissary of the man himself, someone in a giant dog suit comes past, and breaking ranks presents her with a doll that has Raggedy Ann hair and a Pinocchio nose. The media lurch forward, cameras flashing, and Gillard has to laugh and thank the dog-man for his kindness.
The crowd’s murmurs don’t bode well. The locals agree she doesn’t have their votes, some with more politeness than others: “They should fucking drown the bitch!” shouts an older man with withered DIY tattoos. “I wouldn’t give her 50 cents!” He’s just shambled out of the local TAB, which is directly opposite the dais."

The article was more poignant with post-publication hindsight of knowing that, after her tour of Queensland and then PNG, Gillard flew home and straight into her night of the long knives.

Today, in  'correspondence' section of September's Monthly:

In her account of Julia Gillard's last months as Prime Minister ('Diary of a Convert, August'), Cloe Hooper mentions a junior staffer. "If everyone could spend a week with her, she'd have their vote," he'd said, voice catching, "because she's ... bloody lovely." Is he crying, I had wondered, holding the phone from my ear, slightly repelled?
    I wasn't crying. I had something in my throat. I don't cry. I just give a thousand yard stare and stand very still. 

James Kenyon
Brunswick North, VIC

The Monthly, Spetember 2013, p. 57.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A mullet fest goes asking

I can hear Sandpatch booming tonight. The tides must be swelling with the moon.
On a low tide note, here are some waning portraits of the harbour this week. Stormboy and I, driving home, both said at once: 'Stop! Stop. Let's stop!"

Pelicans just love this low tide. They've been hanging out in the shallows like magpies in cafes, like shearers at a B&S. I just knew those mullet were laying up in the corner but I'm not a fisherwoman anymore and so all I could do was take these photographs ...

He saw a man swallowed by a whale

He saw two large Sperm Whale three miles away
He saw two boats launched
He saw them them spear the fish
He saw the second boat upset by the lash of a whale's tale
He saw the men thrown into the sea.
He saw a man be drowned and another,
James Bartley, be disappeared, and not to be found.

He saw the whale lying by the ship's side
He saw the crew busy with axes and spades
He saw them removing the blubber
He saw them make the tackle to its stomache
He saw the sailors start
When they saw Bartley writhing inside.

He saw them lay Bartley out upon the deck
He saw them treat him to a bath of salt water
He saw Bartley rise, raving
He saw him rave for half a moon
He saw the man who was swallowed by a whale
and resumed his duties after twenty one days.

From Ambrose John Wilson, The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and its Modern Confirmation, vol. 25, Princeton Theological Review, 1927.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The girl who turns into a leopard

Yesterday a friend dropped off several boxes of books. "If you don't like them, take them to the op shop or give them to folk, or burn them," he said. "They have to get out of my house."

Most of the books were novels by writers I'd heard of and not particularly interested in but one I picked up. "David Ireland," I said, picking up A Woman of the Future. "Oh, I'd like to read this."

David Ireland has interested me since I read The Glass Canoe, a novel about the hard drinking patriots at the Southern Cross Hotel, set somewhere in western Sydney. It is Wake in Fright without the outback. The book ends with a bar fight so nasty that it shits all over any Pulp Fiction scene. It's a book of short anecdotes, of bad folk and exploding beer kegs. It is so brilliant in its bad boy genius that I was beguiled and won over by this Australian Bukowski.

David Ireland won three Miles Franklins, for A Woman of the Future, The Glass Canoe and The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. Ever heard of him? No? Publishers rejected his further work, including the manuscript 'Desire' which was described as an "American Psycho without the music and fashion and restaurants." Desire was deigned so dark and dysfunctional that one publisher said it should never see the light of day. And it didn't. Ireland disappeared from the Australian literary scene soon after that, even though he continued to write. It seemed that his own peculiar genre ceased to be a  genre just as fast as it became one.

Last night I read A Woman of the Future (1979) and walked around today courtesy of Ireland's fugue. It is about a girl who turns into a leopard. Or it is about a girl. Imagine a novel that is narrated by a girl, her most intimate experiences written by a fifty year old man. Somehow he hails her as a young woman/child. He describes her conception, her childhood, her school mates and her drugged gang rape in psychedelic detail, as her. He describes her being bought and sold and being in love, her predatory behaviour and how a singular touch shocked her into love against a post and rail fence. He describes how fast she can run and how strong she is. She wipes out her peers accidentally because she doesn't know her strength. She doesn't even know how smart she is until her marks come in. He does all this in the female first person. It strikes me that this is a father writing for his feral daughter. This is one of the most confronting and annoying novels I have ever read and that is why it is so fucking good.

The epilogue really got me. I could just see Ireland finishing off this book. I really envy him. I wish I invented Alethea the leopard:

Alethea Hunt, with 490 marks out of a possible 500 in the final High School examinations, was placed second in the state to a male student with 491.
She was at her family home when notification of this result was received from the Education authorities.
Several days later, she left with food supplies in her small car and drove toward the mountains, apparently headed past them toward the western plains. Civil authorities broadcast appeals to the public not to shoot at animals of unfamiliar or exotic species. To the date of publication of this book the car has not been found, nor has Alethea Hunt been sighted. In addition there have been no complaints from farmers, graziers or cattlemen in regard to depredations on flocks, herds or poultry.
Mr. Hunt has offered a reward of one hundred thousand dollars if Alethea Hunt, or a female leopard, is captured painlessly and without injury.

David Ireland, A Woman of the Future, Allen Lane,  Melbourne, 1979.

She will break

Channel Mouth by Catherine Gordon

Parrys Beach by the way, for the locals ...
Cathy's exhibition starts the 28th of this month.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Against the law

On books

It was just delectable music and poetry last night at Liberte' bar, when Inkerman and Blunt launched (or partied in) their inaugural book Australian Love Poems 2013. Although Inkerman and Blunt are an Australia wide operation, there were so many downsouth writers published in this gorgeous lushy book, that we had an event all of our own.

I arrived five minutes late and immediately regretted my clompy heels on the floorboards in a room full of renaissance furniture and mirrors and silent listeners and poets. But the bookseller sidled over to me while I stood stricken in the doorway and said, "I've been reading your book. I finished it last night. I'm calling you Lightning Rod Sarah from now on."

I laughed out loud then because I know the scene that he was referring to. When Old Salt was hauled up by the law for fishing on a public holiday, Fisheries wanted to know what I was doing on the boat, hoping to prosecute me as well. Old Salt got me out of it by claiming that I was his lightning rod, on the day when lightning forked into the sea all around our little metal boat.

"I'll give it to the retail staff next," said the bookseller, "so they can talk it up at the counter. I loved it Sarah. It's a great book, really great. It gets into this country and the people so well. Dunno how it will sell over east but it will go well here."

The band began their answer back to the last poem. She sang in in Spanish, with violin, slide and a slow squeezebox to accompany her. It was just sublime. Close your eyes stuff.

This morning I had a meeting with a publisher about my next book, the one that isn't finished yet, the book that incited Predator Dreams, the book I've been writing and rewriting for a few years now. "It won't be ready as a manuscript until halfway through next year," I told her.
The phone rang in my bag.
"That's fine. Plenty of time," she said.
"PhD novels ... I can always see the PhD in them. They are so ... precise. I don't want to submit that to you. I have to write for the examiners by December and then I want six months to shape it up as a novel."
"That's good. Just don't give it to anyone else."
The phone did a 'you have a message' toot.

We talked about lots of other stuff and then I got on my bicycle and rode around the coast, back to the uni. I didn't see any whales, though I looked for them. I did see the catamaran full of tourists heading for the bay. I passed a woman walking who looked like she needed to walk some shit off her liver. I nodded and smiled at other walkers. I passed angrywomanwalker again. Then she passed me as I sauntered my bike up the hill. I wondered about her life. I could smell that pungent coastal heath flower. The black lizards have emerged from their winter sojourn and they stared at me as they slithered sluggishly away from the wheel.

When I got to the uni I checked my messages.
I guess I have a phone.
I just wanted to hear your voice. Um.
I have some of your books and maybe I should give them back.
Ring me if you so please or send me a message.
Hope you are okay.

My normally cast-iron stomach has been threatening mutiny for a week now. Despite my best efforts this Toa body does not usually let me down. So when I headed for the toilet with a roiling belly and an angry, sick head, on a single phone message, I knew something was wrong.

Recently, on the news that my friend was dying in a  far-off hospital, I took a geographical and drove out to Kundip. How did I feel as I stoked the fire? I felt twitchy, lonely and sad. I'd nearly rung him the day before because I was writing about my sealers approaching Investigator Island and I wanted to know the exact coordinates of Boxer to there. We'd sailed those very same sea roads in April. I didn't ring him and it turns out it was the same day he had his heart attack.

Was I troubled as I sat by the fire?
(A grey nomad who sat opposite the same fire the last time I was out there said that I had a bitter laugh.
"That laugh!" Ms Mer said to me once, because she likes my laugh.
I don't think I have a bitter laugh. I really don't.)

The people that I thought about that night on my flight to Kundip were my dying friend and my futureless lover. I needed someone to walk me over that rickety bridge, that bridge with the troll beneath. When folk die or are dying, I have burnt candles, diaries and mulberry trees. I've stoked a washing machine tub full of books. I've fucked under a blazing grass tree with sparks of resin showering over my bare skin as a cheeky wind kicked in. That night at Kundip I wandered around picking up dried branches of volatile leaves and throwing them on the fire, watching the flames mushroom into the sky and ash fall all around me. The branches burned through and collapsed into the coals. Then I threw on the pallets and stacked them high until light blazed into the sky and drowned out the stars. No one has to die for me to burn things, I thought ... but that night I said goodbye to a few of them.

In case you haven't noticed, this ramble is all about books. A lifetime ago, when a relationship ended or someone died, I'd only have to negotiate the CD's, pets, counselling receipts, furniture, photographs, children, pianos and debts. These days, I have to negotiate our books. It was the mention of books today that made me head for the toilet. Today was all about my books; the ones I have written, have yet to write or owe to ex lovers. Books. In an age of online media and instantaneous outrage, the most important things next to love, birth and death, are our books.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Would the skies turn midnight if dickheads could fly?

(Or alternately titled 'Will the skies turn midnight if the dickheads all vote?' or more succinctly 'RANT', just so you know whether or not you want to read on.)
I'm breaking two self-imposed and rather lackadaisically adhered-to bans on alcohol and election whingeing commentary here; another caveat. Be aware that my heart is a little bit broken and I have reached the stage in my day where the whole thing is about to unravel in a Pulp Fiction kind of way. So best I stay online sans boxcutters and not on the streets.

When I lived in NZ, strangers would ask me, "Why do you guys keep voting in that short, nasty little man?" as soon as I opened my mouth and revealed my Australian accent. Their question was never couched as a personal criticism, just a kind of bewilderment with our national predisposition to wing right. Despite my protests and leftie hair do, I was usually shuffled into the camp of the homophobes, xenophobes, nay Sorry people, Treaty renegers and climate change deniers, purely because of the bad press we were receiving back then.

That was about seven years ago. Or was it the 1950s? I forget.

So, I've lit the fire and cracked a red. I was supposed to go camping with some mates who specialise in ukeleles but the skies have been raining tears all day and the idea of driving 80 kilometres on a wet road to sit in the rain and commiserate, then swag it in the rain, maybe even wake up in the rain, all the while watching the lizard king rise to power ... well, I'm tough but I'm not that tough.

Jennifer over at No Place for Sheep wrote a great piece today on why she can't call the potential new prime minister a cunt. (Here) She's right. Cunts are actually quite nice things. Mine own has given me an inordinate amount of pleasure over the years. It is deductive logic with a most excellent premise (read Trudy Govier, she's awesome) to state that if the antecedant is true, the consequent will be true also. Therefore the potential prime minister Tony Abbott is not a cunt.

However this kind of deductive overthinking when it comes to giving right wing political party leaders vaginal avatars can self destruct. For example:

(Is that a logic leap? No it is not. The man is still a cunt.)

It's stopped raining. It's dark. I know those guys are sitting beside a fire playing ukeleles and having a marvellous time while I am in front of a screen and still wearing my ugg boots. Nah. It's started raining again. I'd prefer to be here.
Jesus wept.
I don't know where I want to be.
What a fucking day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Australian Love Poems 2013

This is going to be a really cool event ... because it is a beautiful, lush, yummy book, because Donna from Inkerman & Blunt will be here, because some of my mates have poems between the covers and because don't we all just love to fall in love?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sailor True

 His last sojourn began with a phone call.
"Sarah, would you like to crew from Esperence to Albany?"
"Of course Kev!"
"Well, just so you know I've had a minor heart attack and the Tearaway is on her last legs."
"Good. Thanks for that. So ... umm. Anything else?"
"There is bodybag on board." (I think he was joking about that bit.)

So my sis and Mick drove me the Esperence and dropped me off at the yachtie's jetty.

Cull Island
Rabbit Island
Button Island
Devil Island

Weed in the water, cuttlefish bones like strange faces bobbing on
glittery mid-morning seas.
The sky is clear and so is the land.

"It will warm up a bit later on
and the cool air will come in from the sea.
So, off we go ...
We'll get to Figure-o-Eight Island in time for morning tea." 

We ate so well on that sail because Kev was cleaning out his veins. He'd given up sugar and salt and fat. That was the same Kevin who yelled at me for not having a gun while hitch hiking when I'd run out of options home, the man who circumvented/located? (sorry) Australia using a compass and a sextant, whose biggest thrill was coming into an anchorage, losing control out at sea, getting snuck up upon by a great white while abalone diving, who found that the GPS system on his boat 'dismantles me as a man.' He, like Salt, thinks and speaks in inches, feet, miles and knots.
Occasionally he worried about me, before he realised that I was quite okay, really.

At night, the boat sounded different, ropes creaked, a tickling sound fell like a waterfall against the hull. Were we losing water? What was that noise? Some kind of weird electro magnetic static against the hull. Creatures clattered on the roof.
The chain thudded against its bridle.
At midnight I heard his voice, 'Sarah.' 'Sarah.'
"The wind has turned. We have to put another anchor out."

Oh yes, Borges, I do agree.
When this man sailed off his mortal coil on a Saturday afternoon,
another library burned to the ground.