Somme Song

By Vita Forest


Was it because of or despite the shattering shells and the mud and the death? Was it despite or because he didn’t know whether he would ever again see that beloved river, those beloved trees?  It could not be examined too deeply, it could not be thought about, but somewhere, inside his head, he was hearing a tune.  A rhythm that came from the river, his river.  The softly-falling stream, the trailing willow branches, the lazy boyhood days fishing and lying back in a rowboat, face full to the sun.

He heard it through the deafening shells, through the screams, through the steady thrum of rain that pounded dully on the sandbags and turned the ground  to a stinking grey slurry.

He heard it when his eyes were closed, when his eyes were open, when he couldn’t sleep, when he couldn’t dare.  It was there despite it all, singing to him of his river.  He set the notes down where he could, in his mind, on the darkness on the back of each eyelid, branded red against the black, like the afterimage of a shell-blast.  He teased out the tune, holding a line in his head, replaying it, adjusting it, perfecting it, then committing it to memory until a piece of a paper and pencil could be had. He crouched in the trench, over the mud-splattered paper and wrote it down, by the light of a stub of candle, flickering in the gloom.

What it came down to – what it all boiled down to – was that beauty was important.  It was everything when there was no room for it, no room to be human, no place to escape but here inside his head.

He peeled it back and back, burrowed deeper, past the mud, the rotten stink, the thudding flashes crashing up the sky, the wounded, the loss!  The loss!  The lack of any good thing except this piece of paper and this pencil and the puttering light of the candle that let him see enough to get it down.  Drawing down, down to the tip of the lead, the real place, the only place that mattered, the only way to get through.

The whole point of being alive.

His song.

This week

By Vita Forest


Pelicans at Merimbula.

This week I have been

EXPERIENCING my own disaster – the flooding of my apartment while I was away in Merimbula (over 500km from Sydney….)

RUSHING back to Sydney to the aftermath (thanks Alessandro and Sui-Sui).

FEELING very touched and grateful  to the tribe of people who helped with mopping, moving furniture, cat-minding and offering accomodation and other support. A big shout out to Saskia – you are a champion! 

CAMPING out at my parents’ place.

READING small snatches of Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (comfort reading late at night, Marchetta always makes me feel better).

WATCHING the DVD of As it is in Heaven after a lovely dinner made by Saskia. 

REMEMBERING it could have been worse…

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING 

  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan.

WRITING Overheard… At Pambula markets 

VISITING 

  • The Sydney Maritime Museum with my class.
  • The 36th Merimbula Jazz Festival with jazz pals Sui-Sui and Alessandro.

LISTENING to a whole lot of Jazz.

SEWING 1920s style headdresses and lining them with felt to make them more comfortable for our dancers.

WARMING up again in the beautiful winter sunshine on the Sapphire coast.

Overheard… at Pambula markets

By Vita Forest


As the figure above (who did bear a more than passing resemblance to our current prime minister) strolled among the stall holders…

From a taciturn stall holder watching grimly, “Bloke said to me we should push him in the ocean… I said – Nah, I wouldn’t do that to the fish.”

From a small child in a stroller pointing, “Look Mummy, it’s that scary man again!”

To a stall holder at a stall featuring a lot of cutting implements – “Hey Donnie, you got a good deal on scissors ay? Buy one, get a million free.”

And at another where a stall holder had just returned from a wander – “Mike saw me coming, he said – don’t you start in on your bargaining or I’ll double the price right away!”

This week

Vivid 2016, Circular Quay

Vivid 2016, Circular Quay

This week I have been

READING Those who leave and those who stay by Elena Ferrante

WRITING Mermaid and school reports

VISITING the The Vivid Festival 2016 with my kids.  Make sure you check out the Cathedral of Lights in the Sydney Botanical Gardens!

IMG_0154[1]

WATCHING Australia while playing board games on a wild and wet Sunday afternoon.  We are experiencing a deluge.

EATING a slow-cooker chicken roast on a weekday.  Love those slow cookers!

 

 

 

Mermaid

By Vita Forest

IMG_0183[1]

Prue walked deliberately down the hallway, her toes shooting needles of pain up her shins every time they made contact with the floor.

“Please wear them,” Owen had begged her, and she had put on the shoes with the ridiculous heels.  Though she would be on her feet all night, though she would be walking back and forth from the kitchen, from the front door, from the deck.  Laden with food, laden with drinks, laden with plates.  The perfect hostess.

“Please.”

His work colleagues were coming.  The whole office.  The whole lot of them.  He had been in a state all day, adjusting the furniture, checking the menu, checking the bulbs in the fairy lights.  How much it took to give this appearance of unstudied elegance.

They had nearly had words.  Prue had come in from the garden with an armful of gardenias to see Owen, hands on hips, pulling selected cushions from the lounge.  Her tapestry cat, the patchwork number their son had made in primary school, the cheery yellow knitted cover she had bought at a craft market.

“Not appropriate?” she had teased, smiling.

He turned to her, preoccupied, his face serious.  Then he scooped up the cushions, walked by her to the bedroom and threw them in.

“I know you don’t think so, but this is important.”

She blinked and felt her eyes smart.

Then the shoes.  As she was dressing, he dug around at the bottom of the closet and produced the box.  She had forgotten them, they were so uncomfortable, so ridiculous, so not her.

“Please.”

So she had put them on and here she was, mincing up and down the hallway.  The interminable hallway, the endless hallway.  Brandishing the tray full of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears.  Prue stopped at the end of the hall, adjusting her eyes to the darkness beyond.  Most of them were down in the garden, there were just a few up on the deck, leaning on the verandah balustrade, drinks in hand.

She paused and then she saw them.  She blinked and looked again.  It was not a trick of the light.  She was not mistaken.

There they were.  Her husband Owen and that Cressida.  That Cressida who he was always mentioning.  Her husband and that Cressida leaning on the verandah looking down at the garden.  Shoulder to shoulder.  Innocent from the garden.  Two colleagues having a chat.  But from behind, from where Prue stood, the light from the hallway caught their hands.  Their two intertwined hands, fingers twisting together out of sight of the party below.

Prue stared.

She backed away, away from the party.  She turned into the dark study and put down the tray on the desk.  She found the chair and lowered herself into it.  And with great tenderness, reached down and removed the shoes.