This week

By Vita Forest

Pokemon hunting at Circular Quay.

Pokemon hunting at Circular Quay.

This week I have been

HAPPY that my Dad is home and doing pretty well after spending a week in hospital.

WATCHING our dance group do their big audition for the inter-school performance (they smashed it!)

READING Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (what a great book).

WALKING over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and around the city with my kids and sister (who knew Pokemon Go would actually make Max want to go for a walk?)

ENJOYING being back in my very own home (after “The Great Flood”).

UNPACKING some of the “stuff” jammed into boxes, cupboards, shelves and the garage.

EATING  “the best ever” tomato and cheese toasties cooked using a method I learned from Sui-Sui who learned from her Mum.  My kids love them!

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This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

READING

  • Possession by A. S. Byatt
  • As I walked out one midsummer morning by Laurie Lee

WRITING Possessed by who?

WATCHING The Literati at Griffin Theatre (thanks for the free ticket Briony!)

VISITING Centennial Park to go cycling with my kids and to walk the Labyrinth.

MOVING furniture around to be ready for the installation of timber floors and new carpet next week (yay!)

LOOKING forward to bring back in my own little home soon.

Possessed by who?

By Vita Forest

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Earlier in the week I finished rereading Possession by A.S. Byatt, a book I first discovered over twenty years ago.  I don’t know when it was I last read it, but I can kind of date it by which character I related to at the time. I love it when this happens – when you read the same book at varying points of your life and it has completely different meanings; new events, distinct characters, alternate lines just jump out at you, depending on what is going on in your own life.  (I have written about this before with Tim Winton’s Dirt Music as the book in focus).

In my last reading, it was the early Roland Michell I related to.  Roland, an “Ash scholar” (Randolph Ash being a fictional Victorian poet), finds a tantalising scrap of letter from Ash to an unknown lady poet, thus beginning this literary mystery that moves between the 1860s and 1980s, using poems, fairy tales, letters and prose.  Despite the high level of Roland’s education, he survives on small grants and piecemeal work handed out by those with more power.  At the start of the novel, he is spending his time examining another’s work and living unhappily with his unhappy and disappointed girlfriend Val, who supports them financially through her own disappointing work.  They are a couple that should not be together but are bound by guilt, emotional dependency and fear.  (In fact, I think I can quite clearly date when I last read this book…)

But by the end of the novel, a new life beckons to Roland, full of optimism, independence and opportunity, a new relationship (that works) and his own words.  Unlike Blackadder, his old boss in the “Ash Factory” (as Val dismissively calls the Ash scholars working in the British Museum), for whom the study of Ash had effectively crushed any ambition to find his own creative voice, Roland discovers that he has things to say and the desire to say them.  At this reading, I related to this second Roland, discovering the joy of writing, of his own ideas, unbound or unconnected to someone else’s work – the Optimistic Roland.

And then there are the women.  This time, the ideas of Christabel La Motte, the independent, determined 19th Century poet (again created by Byatt), who shunned conventions in order to live an independent artistic life, also resonated.  She is fiercely protective of her artistic space, of having the time and focus for her own creativity.  Maud Bailey, a La Motte scholar in the 1980s section (to whom Roland turns to discover if there is a connection between the two poets), has similar concerns.  In fact, Roland and Maud both crave solitude and autonomy, even within a relationship, a space for themselves, without being “devoured” or “possessed”.  I see this in myself and in many of my friends. Yes, the fairy tale romance would be lovely, but equally important is the space (both physical and mental) for our own endeavours, for the very things that make us unique.  This is to be fiercely guarded and cherished, as Christabel La Motte well knew.

Which fictional characters do you relate to?  Has it changed with new readings of the same book?

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

READING Possession by A. S. Byatt 

WRITING  Suburban Pool Tales

SPARTYING (that is enjoying Diana’s spa with its disco lights).

CATCHING UP with some lovely old high school friends (check out the view from the appartment!)

HOUSE and CAT-SITTING for Diana “up north” (half an hour from home).

CLEANING up a lot of dust after my apartment floor was jack-hammered and repaired…

CHOREOGRAPHING a dance extravaganza for Year 2 to perform to “Surfin USA” (with the assistance of Lucy).

WATCHING most of the Harry Potter movies with the kids… (We like number 3 and number 8 best).

Suburban pool tales

By Vita Forest

  
A few weeks ago, Saskia sent me a link to an Australian exhibit at the current Biennale in Venice which is based around that Australian institution – the swimming pool.  It got me reminiscing about the centrality of that (usually) rectangular body of water in my own suburban childhood. 

We lived an easy walk to the local pool and my sisters and I spent much of our summers there, with or without our parents.  We often went with another family of three sisters (two brunettes  a and one blonde in reply to our two blondes and one brunette).  For quite a few years, both families had a season pass to the pool (it wasn’t open all year round back then), and children under twelve did not have to “be accompanied by an adult”, an older sibling would do.

The pool was an arena for games of Tip, for Rider and Pony fights, for Marco Polo, for handstands, backflips and somersaults.  We would jump off the starting blocks in unison or dive down to the deepest part of the deep end, despite the ache in our ears, despite the bursting feeling in our lungs as we raced back to the surface, erupting out into the air again.

We were also a family of serious swimmers, rising early on a Saturday morning to race against others and our own Personal Bests, then sharing our twenty cent coins to pay for a few minutes under the breathtakingly-hot showers, raising hands and turning backs to those blissful, burning jets.  Some had yellowing streaks through their hair from the chlorine, some were almost green in their blondness (not me who inherited my mother’s dark hair).

Our next-door neighbour had a pool – a circular above-ground affair stewing with eye-watering chlorine.  It was no good for laps but excellent for whirlpools (created by a team effort of jogging around in a circle, sculling the way behind you with your hands until there was enough momentum to lift up feet and be carried around  and around and around again.

We reeked of chlorine, our hair was stiff and straw-like from the stuff, our backs branded by the tan-lines of our racing costumes.  The clothesline was hung with a permanent collection of dripping cozzies and beach towels.

Now I prefer a salt-water swim if I can get it, and the pools have morphed into year-round aquatic centres with water slides and wave pools.  But the smell of chlorine always takes me back to those long-ago summer days when the pool was our parent-free summer playground.

This week

 

By Vita Forest

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This week I have been

WRITING

READING Possession by A. S. Byatt

HOUSESITTING at my lovely friends’ homes as the repairs on the apartment continue… (Thanks Vastra and Diana).

CHOOSING new carpet to replace the sodden mess that has been removed.

SENDING home school reports.

DISCUSSING said reports with some of the parents (Sound is good!)

CELEBRATING the 4th July with some American colleagues.