This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • The Novel Habits of Happiness By Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles By Hiro Arikawa

WRITING Power Play

WATCHING Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (wow!)

DODGING the raindrops on a quick walk at Kiama where we are

HOLIDAYING at the beach and

LOOKING forward to better weather ahead

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Power play

By Vita Forest

While climbing up the steps to the house, her house, for the moment anyway, she hears unfamiliar voices.  Children.  Adults.

Unknown.  Strange.  Alien.

She hesitates.  Stands on the threshold.  Looks into the lighted box of the hallway.

Have I missed something?  Have months skipped by?  Years?  Does a new family live here now, a new family with the same picture of Bronte Beach on the wall and the same bed visible in my son’s room?

The front door opens with her key.  She enters.  Stands in the hallway, listening.  There amongst the chaos is his voice.  She checks her phone.  No messages.  Stands in the hallway, wondering.

A woman creeps up the stairs unsteadily, her hand gliding over the banister, her wedding ring rasping on the metal tubing.

A strange woman in her home.

The woman looks up, “Oh hello.  I’m after the bathroom, is it this way?”

She nods and the stranger shuffles along the corridor, hands skimming the wall, feet uncertain on the floor.  The bathroom door closes.

Voices.

Climbing down the stairs and turning the corner into the light.

Her children waving from their bowls of ice-cream.

Him.

Another family, an extended family, three generations, one, two, three.  She recognises the couple from years ago; they recognise her.  They smile while she clutches for their names.

Neil and Ursula.

And she thinks – he always puts the male first, in these pairings, these couples who came into their lives.  The male always came first, the female an attachment, an afterthought. 

And she thinks – why did he not tell me they were coming?

Neil and Ursula.  They belonged to him.  Would belong to him.  When they knew.

They stand and come to embrace her, arms closing about her stiff body.  Ursula starts the introductions.

Their children, her father, the creeping woman upstairs; her mother

Nodding, her eyes flick over to him.  His eyes flit away and he stands.

“Have some ice-cream.”

His chair scraping back on the floor and he disappears into the kitchen.

Sydney traffic.  Taronga Zoo.  Manly Beach.  Two weeks.  Returning west tomorrow morning.  Sydney buses.

Neil stares and she stares back.

She thinks, Neil knows, Ursula doesn’t.

Sydney weather.  The heat.  The humidity.  And how do those new buses work anyway?

A bowl of ice cream placed in front of her.  Staring at the glistening, white domes as her hands clench and unclench under the table.

She could throw it at him, she could stand up and walk downstairs and out of the house and into the night.

She could announce their news to this happy family.  Their son is playing cricket; we are separating.  Their daughter is learning the violin; she is looking for a new place to live.

It could be that easy.

She smiles and picks up the spoon.

 

This week (or so)

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Holiday at home

READING

  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

SWIMMING in the waters of Balmoral Beach

SKETCHING at the Art Gallery of NSW on day too wet to sit outside

WATCHING many, many episodes of The Bureau (C’est formidable!)

MAKING Jules Clancy’s chocolate and pecan tart (spectacular)

MEETING Sui-Sui and Alessandro  for a long lunch full of good company, good food, good chatting and cat-patting!

PERCOLATING lots of ideas for writing, teaching and general creative endeavours in the year to come.

Holiday at home

By Vita Forest

With the children spending some time with their father, and myself still feeling rather worn out from the year that has passed, I recently spent a very good day doing really not much at all and feeling a whole lot better for it.  My day included:

  • Sleeping in then making a gourmet breakfast for one.  This included hot sourdough toast (which the butter melted into), a handful of spinach and rocket leaves drizzled over with Persian feta and olive oil and  a fried egg whose yolk broke and ran over the top of it all, orange juice made from a real orange and, of course, lashings of tea!
  • Reading, reading and more reading.  Finishing one book and immediately picking up another from the pile gathered from the local library from my To Read list.
  • Reading sitting at the table, reading lying on the sofa, reading lying on the booth seat with a cool, refreshing breeze brushing into the room through the open windows.
  • Later, much later, later than you would ordinarily expect to have lunch, I tied my favourite apron around my waist (a thick olive-green drill affair with pockets for any tools I might need – nothing dainty about it) and layered up, in my lovely Marimekko bowl of just the right size and proportions: segments of oranges with the skin removed, slivers of green kiwi fruit, slices of white nectarine with its blushing scarlet skin intact, the luscious contents of two passionfruit, three lychees which I broke apart with my thumbnails, nectar dripping over my hands and into the bowl as I tore the opalescent fruit away from the smooth brown seed inside and the gorgeous jewel-like seeds of a pomegranate falling over it all, as I held half a pomegranate cupped in my hand and whacked it with the back of a spoon, watching the seeds and juice splatter into the bowl below.
  • Occasionally the cats would chase each other across the mountain ranges of the furniture.  Brief bursts of scrambling, skittering and sliding before relapsing into their more usual tranquil resting that added to the atmosphere of peace and contentment.
  • Later again, I drove to the beach and plunged beneath the surface of the water, waking up every cell in my body in the salt water.
  • Later again I watched a few episodes of my latest crush on SBS On Demand and then went to sleep at a decent hour.

It doesn’t take much to have a deliciously decadent delightful day.  And that is what holidays are really about.

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING Thinking about Balmoral

READING

  • Spinster by Kate Bolick
  • The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

BINGE WATCHING

  • Game of Thrones season 7 (wow!)
  • The Bureau (also wow!)

SWIMMING at Balmoral Beach

SNORKELLING at Shelly Beach Manly – saw a blue grouper and four stingrays and a whole lotta fish

SKETCHING at the Royal Botanical Gardens and enjoying the wildflower meadow along with the butterflies and bees

CELEBRATING the new year – Happy 2018 everyone!

Thinking about Balmoral

By Vita Forest

It’s the summer holidays and that means lots of time spent swimming in salt water.  One of my favourite haunts is Balmoral Beach, a place with so many layers of memory washing over it.

There’s the lemon scent I catch as I walk down the street where I usually park the car, from who knows what plant – it’s not a lemon tree.  This street with the sign at the entrance to the driveway of a block of apartments “Don’t even think about parking here” which causes equal parts outrage and laughter.  The flats, with the garage that at one time had its door raised to reveal a private gym, and another time, another year, a stall of random items for sale including a couple of Margaret Atwood books.  One day I bought The Blind Assassin.  The next day I bought Alias Grace.  A street I walk along and wonder, which house would I live in?  If I could?  Or would I choose that low-maintenance apartment with its shady verandah looking out over the beach?

There’s The Baths.  Years ago, we used to have our initial swimming carnival for high school there (before moving onto to the more serious North Sydney Olympic pool for the finals).  It was a fun day out, with those who wanted to participating in the races, diving off the floating blocks into the often choppy water, while those who didn’t, sunbaking on the slatted wooden jetty or splashing about in the shallows near the sand.  In recent years, Max and Lucy have floated there on giant doughnuts or blow up boats or snorkelled under the jetty looking for fish and crabs and the rumours of seahorses living in the waving kelp.  In recent years I have returned here to swim, simplifying my routine by swimming without goggles or a cap.  Perhaps that is why I don’t do Freestyle anymore – too much water gets in my ears.  Instead I keep my head out – all the better to see where I am going and to pause every now and then to look up at the bush on the headland or the clouds floating in the blue sky.

Further south, there are large fig trees that grow on the grass behind the sand.  Some of them are like pavilions with branches extending over the beach itself.  It was under one of these that I used to sit with Lucy as a baby, her body lying between my legs, her feet kicking into the air as she gazed up at the twinkling brightness of the sun through the fig leaves.  It was here that her feet were first dipped into salt water, tiny toes flaring up at its coldness.  It was here I rocked the pram covered with a muslin cloth, groggy with lack of sleep, and watched Max play on the pirate ship in the playground.

Heading north, there’s the island attached to the promenade by an arched concrete bridge.  It was here we drank cheap champagne on one of our last days of high school.  It was here I have stopped with innumerable friends on innumerable walks up and down the beach in summer and winter, sunshine and rain.  It was here a month or so ago, I sat on a rock and drew a fig tree growing out of a crevasse between two boulders of sandstone, its roots clutching and wrapping around the rocks.  It was on that occasion that I saw the young bride and groom, she in a backless white gown that showed off the tattoos on her tanned shoulders.

It’s to this place I have come in summer, either early or late, to avoid the harshness of the midday sun.  And so I never see Freya, who I work with, who only goes there at the hottest time of the day.  She is young and invincible and lies in the sun to get a tan, something I never do.  Me in my long-sleeved rashie seeing if I can still swim a kilometre.

I can.

 

This week (or so)

By Vita  Forest

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This week (or so) I have been

READING Death comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

WRITING and EDITING my novel!

VISITING

  • the city to see the Christmas lights

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  • Manly for some sketching
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Ferry ride to Manly

  • The Goods Line, the UTS Building by Frank Gehry and the Central Park Precinct  (- the kids and I gave my parents a little tour of the area).

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SWIMMING

  • at Cremorne Point and Balmoral Beach

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Tourists at Cremorne Point

SKETCHING at

  • Manly
  • Cremorne
  • The Botanical Gardens

MAKING White Rocky Road (mmm mmm!)

ENJOYING being on holidays!