Sunday, 20 September 2015

A bucketful of sunflowers and sorrow

Yesterday I was moved by a bucketful of sunflowers. They were leaning on each other; their bespeckled faces pointed cheerfully in various directions. Tall. Joyful. Those thick-stemmed blooms sparked a golden chain of connected thoughts that led me to sadness. They led me to lovely lost-to-us Liam.

For years, Liam Davison and I were colleagues. A smiling, gentle man with an expansive manner, he had faith in me and in my skills. I admired his immense talent with words. And people.

So, I decided to share an extract of his work with you. And I hope it inspires you to seek out what he wrote for us all to keep.

In one of his haunting short novels, Liam captures time and landscape and character in his imagining of the story of the mysterious White Woman, who, legend says, was held captive by the Kurnai People of nearby Gippsland in the 1840s, the time of early settlers.
The narrator took part in an expedition to find the woman. Forty years later, he tells his tale to the un-named son of a fellow traveller, who has come in search of the truth about his father’s role in the event.

It’s odd how memory serves you.  Or how it fails.  Before you arrived here tonight, knocking surreptitiously at my door for answers to your half-formed questions, I could barely recall your father’s face.   Oh yes, I could conjure up the vague outline of a man if I put my mind to it (large, heavy-jowled, a solid jaw) but of course there was never any need.  He belonged to his own past, you see, as much as mine.  Nowadays, no doubt, you’d make a photographic print to hold it fast, the image of him as he was then, as if you had to fight against the past to keep him from slipping into where he belongs.  Yes, I’m right aren’t I? Memory’s not enough.  Tell me you haven’t sat in front of the magic box yourself and winced at the phosphorescent flash.
    Yet now, with you sitting here before me, the outline sharpens; it takes on your features, your voice, your manner of holding the hot tea to your lips. Your father is back before me. All the years before have gone and I find, yes, I do remember.  I remember what he was like.  I talk with confidence about the things we did.  The events fall easily into place, day follows day, night follows harrowing night.  I open my mouth and it all comes tumbling out as if it happened yesterday: the search for her, the first signs of your father’s presence, the journey up the river… Almost without thinking, it finds its undeniable shape.
    But I worry.  If it was somebody else who knocked, somebody else who walked impertinently into my shabby little room to claim association with my past, would I have just as readily recalled a different face?  Would things have moulded themselves just as comfortably to accommodate a different set of features, different questions, different expectations?  Would I have found myself recounting a different story about a different past? And if no one had knocked…? 
The White Woman, p. 73

How did smiling sunflowers lead me to sorrow?

Photo from
Liam and his beloved life-partner Frankie were on MH-17.
Only his words remain. 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Pedantic Idol

I am not a grammar Nazi.
Nor am I one of those language Luddites who think the 'rules' they parroted at school ... the ones their parents had their knuckles rapped over ... the same rules the nuns used to pull their grandfather's ear for forgetting...  I don't believe those rules should never change. 
I believe language is organic.
And while I'll confess to being a complete and hopeless David Crystal groupie, I'll shout from the rooftops that I have zero-tolerance for Lynn Truss and her stick-up-her-arse zero-tolerance approach to English grammar and punctuation. Nobody else would get a look in if she entered Pedantic Idol.

I'm also willing to testify that I'm just a bit fond of Constance Hale, who...shriek ugh omagod... is American.  Worse yet... She's Californian... 
Surely this zee-saying interloper can have nothing valuable to offer on the sanctity of the grammar of the Queen's English..
I mean...
American English?
Is that even a thing?

Well... cop this. I totally love the smell of this quotation from Ms Hale's Sin and Syntax in the morning:

The flesh of prose gets its shape and strength from the bones of grammar.

Amen to that!


Friday, 18 September 2015

To quote my hero...

If you are a regular visitor to The Rock, you will know that in November 2014, I had a stab at my first blogging challenge, during the course of which, I met my best blogging buddies Mary-Anne up there in Canada 'Breathing Life' and Judy over in England at 'Edwina's Episodes'. 

Well, Judy is something of a crazy blog-aholic; she'll chug-a-lug down any writing challenge as if it was a tepid cup of tea.

The last challenge she passed on to Mary-Anne and me was to write at least a paragraph without using the letter e. This time it's to post three quotations that mean something to us over the next three days.

So I'm going to start with an extract from the novel I go to whenever I want to be inspired. Or moved. Or to remind myself that I'm not a writer's bootlace: Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. 
Will you look at us by the river! The whole restless mob of us on spread blankets in the dreamy briny sunshine skylarking and chiacking about for one day, one clear, clean, sweet day in a good world in the midst of our living. Yachts run before an unfelt gust with bagnecked pelicans riding above them, the city their twitching backdrop, all blocks and points of mirror light down to the water's edge.
His shameless Australian diction. 
His unique ability to use the wrong adjective to create an exact image, or to invent the perfect word where none existed before. 
How he breaks the rules of punctuation so carefully that all meaning is possible and positions a word as an unfamiliar part of speech to build a sentence that sings. Or cries. 
Art with words.
Poetry in prose.
Tim Winton is my hero.
What would Cortazar say that reveals about me?

Friday, 4 September 2015

Letting Go

The countdown to Manchild finishing school has begun: 40-something days till final exams. And frankly, we're both poo-ing our pants. Neither of us is ready for this. How the hell did it happen so quickly? 

Preparations for the final day and Valedictory Dinner are well underway. I know this because the school recently sent me a terrifying and inordinately long e-mail. Terrifying not just because I had to cut through all the dross and dodgy syntax to work out what the hell they were trying to tell me — leaving me trembling at what they might be teaching my kids about good writing — but bowel-looseningly terrifying because of this section of the communication:

 ...I am inviting you, as a parent of a 2015 Year 12 student, to join us in this recognition of students by writing a letter to your son or daughter. It may be a chance to let them know how much they are loved; express some of your fears for them, as well as your joys or tell them how proud you are of their achievements – it is entirely up to you.
This letter is confidential- please do not let your son or daughter see it or know that you are writing it so that it will be a surprise when it is given to them at the House meeting. The Year 12 students will have a chance to reflect and take some time before their final Assembly. In this time the letter from you would be read. It will be a meaningful time for each student to be able to reflect on their relationship with their family...
Last day of school... Ever...
A meaningful time to reflect on his relationship with his family?
So his final day of school isn’t going to be about throwing eggs from the bus and getting his uniform signed by his peers then?
Are you sure?
Have you met my son?

And after the week that we’ve had — a phone call and two emails to let me know about his 'behaviour' and failure to apply himself, plus a detention for arriving late to a class carrying a cheese toastie and cuppa-soup  — right now my letter to the Manchild would begin something like this:
Dearest Light-of-my-life,

It somehow never occurred to me that my amazing intelligent son would spend his last few weeks of school being a total dick. Why don't you just pull your finger out... and your head in?

I'm pretty sure that's not what  they're looking for from me.
My whirling panic about WTF to write stirred a memory of a piece about his  first day of school I wrote for a parenting magazine all those years ago. I found a copy filed on the first external hard-drive I ever bought. Here’s how I started that article:
Suddenly, my big tall boy, who’s always looked so much older than his few years, had shrunk. I watched him through the blurred filter of tears I knew he mustn’t see. Attention focused on the task of tying his shoelaces, he wore the face of one who understands the burden of responsibility. Heavy black shoes and long baggy shorts emphasised his thin brown legs.
I resisted stepping in to help him. With the task completed to his satisfaction, he looked up and beamed. Such a familiar smile. The one he’d worn the first time we saw him. The one that enchanted everyone when we carried him proudly through those big customs doors at the airport more than four years ago. The smile that makes my heart sing and his eyes disappear in his face.
My baby boy was ready to start school. And he was so proud.
For so long – understandably – we parents, mothers especially, focus on the desire for a baby and the delights that becoming a family can bring.
But those babies are with us for a blink.
Too soon they are independent people – off to make their own way in the world, facing experiences that do not involve us, trying to make sense of a life that so often has no reason at all. That’s what we want them to do. That’s what we raise them to do. But when they actually set off to do it, we feel a deep sense of sorrow, even loss. We cannot protect them from any hurt they may face...
And here’s how I finished it:
 It makes my throat constrict and my heart pound whenever I have to wave good-bye and head back home on those days when he has trouble disengaging from me. But this is only the beginning. We have a long way to go. I’ll get over it. But that big smile at pick-up time —  the one that makes my heart sing and takes me back to a hot afternoon in Seoul when I first met my son, I’ll never get over that. 
He used to have trouble disengaging from me.
Now, for his last day at school, the situation is reversed.
I think I know where to start my letter.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

3 Things I've learned from Mindfulness Meditation

Do you ever have an a-ha moment that leaves you wishing that whatever it is had never actually occurred to you, but had remained locked in the box marked ‘Blissful Ignorance’?
Well, I do. All the time.
Maybe it’s part of being an over-thinker.
Maybe it’s because until now I’ve been lacking in self-awareness.
Or perhaps I’m just weird.
Anyway, as I get older, as inevitably I do, my memory is becoming shitter and shitter still. If walking determinedly from one place to another and then standing perfectly still wearing a bemused expression ever becomes an Olympic event, I’m a shoe-in for a medal. Ditto for the Where-the-fuck-did-I-put-that World Championships.
So, in an attempt to stem the flow of stuff I used to know into the Post-menopausal Blackhole — and as part of the therapy needed for me to learn to tame the Black Dog — I’m having a go at Mindfulness Meditation.  Just twenty minutes a day of focussed brainwork, specifically designed to help me be more calm and aware and focussed. Brilliant.
I’m a complete novice at this. I’ve never even attended a yoga class. But I’m learning things about myself already and I’d like to share my first few realisations.
As the man with the oh-so-soothing voice croons: ‘Just focus on the breath. Notice the rhythm. Feel the motion of your body. Relax into the regularity of the pattern…’ this is what happens inside my skull:
What pattern? What regularity?
No rhythm. I have no rhythm.
How deeply should I be breathing? Crap, I’m such a shallow breather.
As easy as breathing… isn’t that how the saying goes? Or is it as natural as breathing? Not relevant… focus on the breath…
Which breath? The in or the out? No, it’s both… He said both.. In through the nose and out through the mouth… How hard can that be? … Well, clearly too hard for you, Dickhead, coz you can’t do it right.
Shit, Wendy, get it together…  just fill your lungs with air and then push it out again.
Count… yes, maybe if I count …
Realisation Number 1: I don’t know how to breathe.
The simple task for yesterday was to be aware of the motion of my body each time I sat down or stood up. To be present to what I was doing just at those moments. If I could be mindful of my sitting/standing even fives times in the day, the croony guru assured me, that would be good. The aim is for those moments to be anchor points to my being present to my own actions.
My results were significantly sub-good.
Not once did I catch myself in the movement of sitting. It wasn’t until after my bum hit the chair that I remembered the task. And by the time I stood up, I’d forgotten again.
Realisation Number 2: I’m a slow learner with a disconnect between my brain and my bum.
Which leads to Realisation Number 3: This is gonna be a long journey.
All tips, advice, suggestions, wise counsel or pointy-fingered cajoling will be gratefully received.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Good talk, Son...

We recently acquired a ridiculously snug pre-loved couch. It has been broken-in and worn-soft by friends who, sadly, could no longer accommodate it. The possibility of said-couch ending its days waiting dejectedly by the gutter for the hard-rubbish collection was too horrendous to contemplate, so we lugged it and its two comfy-chair buddies down to The Rock where they seem to be enjoying a whole new batch of bums on seats.

Yesterday, Manchild was lying full-stretch on the new old couch while I sat ensconced in Comfy-Chair B with my knitting. The footy was on the tv. Manchild and I support the same team, and although this has been a disastrous season, we remain blindly hopeful that one day soon they will rack up a win. With yesterday’s opponents being almost as hapless as our lot of late, we both harboured a tiny optimistic flicker that this just might be the day.

Manchild had been out late Saturday night. He’d stayed at a mate’s house after a big social event and the lure of the couch was far stronger than the pull of his desk. Even with final exams less than ten weeks away, that damn desk remains a pathetic weakling in any tug-of-war… food, sleep, music, computer games, sport on tv… they all win without even trying.  Anyway, he must have been extra-tired because not only was he lying down, but he was snuggled under a blanket. He looked particularly calm and just a teensy bit vulnerable. I could see the little boy he used to be hovering just under the surface. He was warm and settled and focussed on the football. So I did what all good mothers of almost-grown-up sons do.

I seized the opportunity to start a particularly annoying conversation, confident that he couldn’t be arsed getting up and walking away:

You looked so handsome last night. Did people tell you how great you looked?


Lots and lots of people?


Male and female people?


What about one special person? Is there one special person that makes your heart go pitter pat?


 IS there? Is there someone special?


A special girl? … or is it a special boy? Have you even decided that yet?

(Crickets… with the slightest suggestion of upturned corners of the mouth)

Aha… I saw that!  You are listening…So IS there?

Stop talking Mum.

As far as conversations go between Manchild and me, that was a pretty good one. 
No mention of food on his behalf or dirty washing on mine.

And our footy team did win.


Yesterday was a good day.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Of Friendship and Feet

 I’m not sure how to say this without it sounding like a pathetic cry for help… or an attention seeking teenager’s lament. It is neither. It is what it is. And it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now, gathering momentum, growing obese and knocking other stuff around as it travels. So I’m setting it free. For it’s own health.

And mine.

I’ve never had many friends. I was never one of the popular kids, never a cool girl, not someone to be seen hanging out with. I’ve never been part of a sporting team, or one of the arty crowd, nor even queen among dorks. I don’t think I’ve ever had a tribe.

Like most people, work-me and social-me have often blended. Work colleagues have become the people I socialise with, and some of them have come to be what I might call friends. That’s usual, right? Because most often it’s those with whom we spend the most time that become the source of our circle of friends…. Isn’t it?
Is it?
Is it a truism that our friends are drawn from the group with whom we spend the most time? And that who we have as friends, therefore, changes as our life-situation changes? 
Is friendship transient?
Or do friends meet in unexpected ways? Untold spontaneous ways? 
And stick.

Like when you comment on a blog that speaks to you from another part of the globe, and you end up connected to someone you’ve never met. The way pen pals used to be connected. The way women once wrote to random soldiers just so they knew someone at home was thinking about them. 
Words connecting lives through space and time.

Over the past few years, I’ve been consciously reaching out to people who I
once called friends. People with whom I spent a great deal of time. People with whom I shared many experiences, thoughts and conversations — one I spoke to almost every day while our children were young, another loomed large during our adoption journey, a third was once a regular companion on outings. And there are others. People who have known me for decades. People I thought would always be my friends.  

Almost all of them have dropped away.

They were pleased to hear from me… or seemed to be… when l reached out to try to reconnect. I believed they were happy for me to travel to their homes when I asked if I might do so. And travel I did. But that was where the contact ended. My visits were followed by silence. 
The same nothing.
And I find myself damp with the fug of rejection, wondering just what friendship looks like.
Then dampness chills to brain-freezing realisation that the common denominator is me.

But I asked someone I don’t know if she’d knit me a pair of socks as a physical reminder of the unfathomable way in which words can connect lives. And she said, ‘How big are your feet and what colour do you like?’

And better still, she knitted herself a pair too.
In the same colour.
The colour of friendship.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

I should have listened to the watchman: A book review

Like hordes of other book consumers, I recently devoured Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. And I feel a bit grubby about it. It didn’t exactly give me a pain in the gut… or the heart… it was my conscience that ached. 

With all the controversy about whether Lee was duped into agreeing to publish her manuscript by a greedy relative and/or lawyer and/or agent and/or publisher, the morally sound course of action would’ve been to refuse to pay for the novel. But I desperately wanted to read it. And I’m way too impatient to hang around until our ill-equipped local library found the time to purchase and process it. Besides, by the time the book landed on July 14th the library reservations list was already heavy with equally-curious readers. Mine would have been a long wait. So I visited the local bookshop and bought a copy.

The winter weather gods have been particularly wintery this year. They seem to be taking special delight in dealing out Saturdays that are snap-frozen followed by mostly sodden Sundays. Perfect reading weather. An anticipated book always deserves an extended first sitting.

And a pot of tea.

Or a bottle of wine.

Before I started, I knew that Atticus is revealed to be racist. Or rather that the Atticus of this manuscript is racist. Because this is not a sequel, even though it has been published after Mockingbird, and despite the fact that the narrator—then Scout now Jean Louise­­—has grown to adulthood. So Atticus isn’t a person who’s changed his mind. If we are to believe that this is the first rejected version of life in Maycomb, Alabama, then this is not a changed Atticus, but a different Atticus – a completely different character in a different time (as is the confusing Calpurnia). This is a different plot in a different manuscript. A weaker manuscript. I knew that, yet as I read, my love for the Mockingbird Atticus Finch still had me hoping there’d be a plausible reason for him to be closed-minded. (There isn’t.)

So what did I think of Go Set a Watchman? I thought it was patchy and largely unconvincing. There were certainly chunks of engaging writing… bits here and there… not pages and pages. I thought much of the dialogue was more like diatribe, and found some of the characters to be so sketchy that their motivation was unclear… or absent. Quite honestly, I didn’t care what happened to any of them. I was not absorbed into their world.

At several points, I found myself wondering whether what I’d just read would make sense if I wasn’t already familiar with the events and characters of Mockingbird.  And towards the end… well… it all became so awful that I struggled to believe Harper Lee wrote that bit at all. The conspiracy theory that other writers cobbled together what Harper Lee had left incomplete—or had abandoned — is more credible than some of the conversations and actions of the characters. 

So did I enjoy the book?

Yeah, sort of. Nobody was forcing me to finish it, I did so of my own accord.

Would I recommend it?

Only for the curiosity factor… or as a comparative study with Mockingbird to teach editing.

Should I have waited in line to borrow it?

Yes. I should have listened to the watchman.

The blurb trumpets that this is ‘ a landmark new novel’ that ‘imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee’. That Go Set a Watchman serves as an ‘essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to a classic’.


This is not a ‘new novel’. It’s a flawed manuscript. And as it creates very little sense of either time or place, it fails to add any ‘depth’, ‘context’ or ‘meaning’ to Mockingbird. Zilch. Nada. Mockingbird doesn’t need any of that anyway.

Those responsible for publishing this work clearly did not heed the Biblical inspiration for the title:

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.  (Isaiah 21:6)

Me-thinks all they saw-eth was dollar signs.

This feels like a well-orchestrated cash-grab… and I fell for it.

What about you? Have you read it? Do you intend to?
Do you think I’m being harsh? 
Are you going to take a stand and not read it? 
I’d love to know.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Without Ease

For a number of reasons, I’ve been missing from this blog for a while now. Missing-not-in-action. 

 Granted, it’s not a very large number of reasons and, to be perfectly honest, quite a few of those not-very-many reasons are so limp they could barely stand up, but one particularly dark beastie has been keeping me silent. The words have been there, though, milling about inside my skull, pressing uncomfortably against the temporary fencing —hoping to slip through a breach or anticipating this inevitable opening of the gate.

During the hiatus, Charlotte over in Sweden was kind misguided enough to consider me worthy of the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you so much.

And the marvelous Mary-Anne, up there breathing life in Canada,   challenged me to write a paragraph without using the letter ‘e'. I said I’d give it a go, and I did—but until now it has been silenced by the dark beastie.

Silence broken.

Sounding Old

I’m finding it’s not so much wavy vocal chords and lack of puff that signal how old I am, it’s wind. Lots of wind. Occasionally, nasty stomach gas slips out (TMI?), but mostly I’m guilty of involuntary gusts of lung air that assault my world with sounds approximating whoomph…. hoougggh …  aurrrghhhhhh as I hoik my body upwards from a chair, or out of a low-riding car. It’s nasty.

Happily, though, much puff… wind from this old bag… can still pump through songs from my youth. Songs bursting with story and mood-inducing history that play almost continually as I mark my days with words, tapping out my worldly spot by placing symbols in a syntactic row.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Mother Bear... or adoptive mother dragon lady?

What I'm about to say may alienate and polarise. I might be accused of being melodramatic... or self-indulgent... or extreme. And so be it. Everyone is free to stop reading at any point...

Being an adoptive mother is different from being a birth mother. Yep... no shit, I hear you say. And you'd be right. I'm stating the obvious. But today was one of those days that made the difference so real that I want to puke. So real, that I have had to sob. So real that I cannot sleep until I have written this.

My daughter (I just deleted all the adjectives I wanted to use to describe how brave I think she is) had an interview today at the Department of Human Services with two social workers she'd never met before to explain why she wanted to be allowed to see the file that contains the recorded details of her birth while we are in Korea over the next couple of weeks. 

She had to demonstrate that she has the maturity to discover nothing... or everything about her identity. 

She had to answer questions about whether she imagines that her birthparents might now be married and she has full siblings. She hadn't... until that suggestion was put to her... 

She had to explain how she feels about going to Korea and why she wants to see her adoption file to two people who do not know her... or me... or us as a family... or our experience with intercountry adoption or the Korean adoption community... 

She had to convince two social workers who have never been to Korea... and never met the people at the adoption agency in Seoul who made our family possible... that she was ready to see what details may exist about the conditions of her birth.... two people who know nothing of us and have lived significantly less of the adoptive experience and of Korean culture than we have. 

Immeasurably less.

Yes... they were doing their job. And certainly they are both delightful people. Gorgeous, both of them. Don't get me wrong.  I understand that none of their questions or comments were intended as barbs, nor even intended to be seen as a test. They were doing their job. But their job requires them to determine what might be best for my daughter.... MY DAUGHTER... a person they'd never met before... 

Mother Bear Me wanted to roar... burned to rage. But she couldn't. Daren't. Mother Bear had  to be quelled. Caged. She had to be still and quiet... to deny all her instincts. She had to  watch her cub in anguish and pain... and stay calm.  She had to trust that her baby girl, trained to be brave and strong, would find a way to hold her head up in the face of heartbreaking anguish. 
And she did. 
We both did.

I have never been more proud of my daughter. 
I have never been less in control as a mother.

It was a huge day. 
Tonight has been tears and hugs. 
Other mothers think I'm over-stating the situation, or being histrionic when I try to explain that adopted kids have a tougher road to walk and that being an adoptive mother has challenges other mothers cannot comprehend.
Today was one of those days.

I'm not seeking sympathy and I'd never want to discredit anyone else's pain. 
I love my life.
I am nothing but blessed to have been allowed the privilege of raising my two children. We have a wonderful and complex family life. Like all families.
But I have no idea what to expect next week after our meeting at the adoption agency in Seoul. 

Neither of us do.

I am not a birthmother.
I am not the birthmother of my children.
I am mother to two children who were born of other women. 
I am mother to two people whose mothers relinquished them because they believed that was best for their children.

I am not what's best...
Sometimes I'm not even what's good...
But I am Mother Bear.

Next week, Mother Bear will have to sit by as her cub discovers everything...
Or nothing...
There will be more tears and hugs... 
of the joy of discovery...
or the pain of never knowing...

We are both scared, my baby girl and I.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Maybe I’m a sky snob…

 As a neophyte at mindful meditation, I've been taking the time to notice and appreciate what's around me much more.... 

I've joined the Headspace tribe and I'm loving it. Let's face it, Andy Puddicombe's voice could probably persuade me to do anything. He has that effect on women. Today the Greek Goddess, a committed crazy hard-working family-loving devoted-wife and friend declared that she wants him to marry her and move in so that he can reassure her personally a hundred times a day with that sensual lilt that everything is going to work out just fine. But truthfully, I know that since we moved to The Rock I've found myself marveling at the natural beauty of the place daily, but Andy is teaching me to take even more notice. 

 Added to this, just recently, another committed-crazy family-loving friend, the Greek Philosopher, urged me to 'remember to look up'. So I've been doing just that. And I've become more than fascinated by the colours and the clouds and the patterns. I've become a bit obsessed.

Out my study window today was what I call a 'Simpsons sky': fluffy clouds scooting along, each on top of … or maybe it’s below… or in front of… the other. I thought about saying they were scudding but (a) I got caught up trying to determine why that verb is used pretty much only for clouds when it sounds to me like a dirty-undies-related word (apparently boats scud too) … and (b) it has extra-negative connotations because it implies that the clouds were going to cause all manner of explosive nastiness. So I chose scooting. Much less violent.  But feel free to replace it with skipping or flitting or even skimming if you prefer…

 Yesterday was dark and brooding    a mostly-Turner-sky with a single glowing gap like a reverse halo, or the hole the sugar makes as it sinks through the foam on your caffè latte.
JMW Turner, Calais Pier

WM Anderson , Cloud Latte

The Monty Python foot

But on Saturday, I drove back from a conference in Melbourne under a distinctly Monty Python skyscape. Well that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn’t Pythonesque ALL the way home, just the last bit. The bit after the road curves to the right and heads downhill towards the bridge.  One almost tangible spotlight  made a perfect golden circle on the water and magical glow enclosed me in its giant dome. I expected a golden chalice to appear, or a huge foot.
The Wendy Python foot
Sir Russell Drysdale, Red Landscape

And I know Drysdale was thinking of a decidedly more inland landscape than ours here on The Rock when he created his red skies, but anyone with even the teensiest bit of artistic talent could give him a run for his money with one of our sunsets sometimes. 

Her Mighty Rockedness, Shit-hot Sunset
So all of this up-looking inspired me to look up what some of my fave poets have had to say about clouds and I declare the winner of the Shit I Wish I'd Said that First Award to be:

...  feathery curtains
Stretching o'er the sun's bright couch...
~Percy Bysshe Shelley


Which all just leads me to ponder the terrifying thought that maybe I've become a sky-snob.



Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Foo was here

It was scratched or scrawled somewhere on pretty much every stall in the women’s toilets of the Menzies Building and most of those in the Union Building when I was at uni in the late 70’s. A version of Aussie activist Irina Dunn’s classic catchphrase : A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.
Yes, American feminist Gloria Steinem often gets the credit, but she popularised it, she didn’t create it —and I think I probably had one of these badges but this one is from the collection at Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia. 
Somewhere nearby you would almost invariably find:

My mum made me a lesbian and I will be forever grateful

 Then someone else would have added:

If I buy her the wool, will she make me one too?

It was graffiti. Yes, it was the illegal defacing of university property. Vandalism. But in 1976 it was bloody funny.  And it was designed to provoke discussion. I can remember being excited by the way the world — the universe — opened up to me when I started univers-ity. Provocative ideas. Rebellion. Protest. Feminism was queen, the anti-nuclear movement was alive and well, and we were there because we wanted to get an education… not a job. 

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Excuse me for a minute while I just climb down off this high-horse and clamber up onto my soapbox.

Tagging. That’s what’s been bugging me. I know it’s been a “thang” for… like… everrr… but I still don’t get it. Why leave your signature everywhere? What’s the point of defacing property with a symbol that is your own personal version of :

Aussie soldiers started graffiting Foo wherever they went in WW1, a weird tradition picked up by the Brits and Americans (who felt the need to change his name to Kilroy — Really? Kilroy? What’s wrong with Foo?) and then carried on into WW2. So, although there seems to be no definitive explanation of who Foo was and why it mattered that people knew he’d been there, it doesn’t take a great leap of logic or faith to imagine that these were largely untravelled and inexperienced young soldiers in a foreign country, so they  could very well have seen Foo as a kind of visual indicator to civilians of the spread of advancing allied forces.

But what's the logic behind tagging a train, a fence, a street sign, a building, an advertising billboard or even someone’s car with your personal logo? What purpose does it serve? It doesn’t raise awareness of an issue or create discussion for social change. It doesn’t engage viewers, nor does it qualify as street art. Tagging cannot be compared to this:

So here’s what I’ve been wondering… 
is graffiti tagging just a selfie in a spray can?