This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been 

WRITING Mobile Tales 4 – a fishing expedition

READING Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

MAKING 

  • Bookmarks for my class
  • Florentines with my Mum, Lucy, Saskia and Laura (must remember to be careful with the chocolate…)

CELEBRATING

  • My birthday!
  • Thanksgiving with our American colleagues at work.

WATCHING Fantastic Beasts and where to find them (how fab to visit the world of Harry Potter again – albeit many years earlier).

VISITING Echo Point at Roseville Chase with Lucy, Sui-Sui, Alessandro, Saskia, Laura and Rowdy for a lovely picnic, a walk along the beach  and a game of Sardines (climbing rocks and trees barefoot).

MEETING up with Vastra for a coffee while Lucy practised dancing.

DRAWING peonies on a paper tablecloth and eating a favourite desert (Flan Catalan with blood orange) with Lucy and Max at a lovely local restaurant.

REQUESTING  some fast-finishers in my class to sort dirty dance gloves from clean ones (I did not suggest they sniff each one and yet they did…).  The grimy gloves are currently soaking in the laundry, soon my clothesline will look like we live with a company of mimes.

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Mobile Tales Despatch 4 – a fishing expedition

By Vita Forest

In which Christabel is alerted to a passing school of Parmesan cheese.

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Christabel opened her eyes, suddenly alert. If she was not so suddenly distracted, she may have pondered that it was indeed strange that it was her eyes that reacted to the stimulus, when it was her sense of smell that had been awakened.  Her nostrils prickled.  Yes, there could be no doubt.  The People Below were eating cheese.  The sharp, tangy aroma drifted up to the galleon on the eddies from the deep, spiralling up past the domain of the whales, leaping up from the very surface of the water and through the open window of Christabel’s cabin.

She leapt from her slumber (an afternoon siesta – these late spring days could be so draining) and spun around in order to locate her Cheese Hunting Equipment. An operation of this sort demanded nerves of steel, the right tools (kept near at hand and in good working order) and a skill honed over years.

Luckily Christabel possessed all three. For though she verged on the jittery, there was nothing like the promise of Parmesan to sharpen her resolve.  As luck would have it, Christabel had, that very morning, found a delicate length of black cotton floating by the good ship Possession.  She had fished it out of the water with her butterfly net, attached it with a sturdy knot to her existing fishing line, and added a sharp hook made from a silver pin to its end.  All this before the heat and humidity sent her scurrying below deck with a wet hankerchief draped over her face.

Now she tiptoed up the stairs carrying her periscope and fishing line. She peered down into the depths of The Tabletop.  They were still eating, The Three.  When there was three, there was more chance of mess, more chance of pebbles of Parmesan to fly from the pasta, from a travelling fork, from a moist morsel of bolognaise sauce.  The conditions were perfect, she just had to bide her time and hope that the table was not cleared too quickly (or too thoroughly).

The meal progressed slowly, with the garbled sounds of speech rising upward, causing the ship to rock slightly and spin on its anchor in the ceiling. Christabel was forced to move from the port to the starboard side, but she quickly set up her watch again.  She was not flustered, she would remain calm and patient.  It would not do to fish too early or too late.  Timing was everything.

As the minutes passed, she tuned her ears to the slightest flick!the slightest pat! which signalled a wayward crumb of cheese on The Tablecloth. She located three.  Would there be time to get them all?  Was it better to concentrate on one?  Different scenarios and options scurried about her mind – but patience, patience! she reminded herself.

At last the opportunity came, one of the people left for The Kitchen carrying her plate, one left for The Bathroom and the other one left to answer a phone. There were two plates left abandoned, simply wallowing in cheese!  Christabel swung the fishing line over the edge of the ship and watched the line unravel, watched the silver hook, spin lower and lower, until…

It hit the plate with a tiny Ping!

She stopped.  Would the whales be alerted?  She had to work quickly.  She worked the hook around and around, drawing circles over and over again and catching up a bounty of cheese as she did so.

There were footsteps – she must hurry!

With all her might, Christabel heaved and heaved her catch up off the plate, up off the ocean floor, up through The Deep, through the currents, through the shallows, until it burst out into the air and over the side of the ship.

She sat on the deck of the boat for a moment to catch her breath.

Success!

There would be feasting tonight…

A tale of two brides

By Vita Forest

From a hill in The Rocks

From a hill in The Rocks

After meeting my sketching pals near the quay, we dispersed to go our separate ways, to find our own preferred subjects, to see what would catch our attention, to do our own drawings, before we would meet up again later.  Some of the group gravitate towards architecture, some to street scenes, others hone in on individual plants – leaves, petals, stamens.  Some like landscapes, others tiny-crafted details – door knockers, statues, gates, while I seem captivated by people and plants (an aversion to straight lines?)  We use different media too – coloured paper, textured paper, tiny, discreet, hand-held sketchbooks, larger pieces of paper clamped onto boards, cheap cardboard and thick watercolour paper on wooden easels.  We use pastels, ink, paint, varying lead pencils through the range of “B”s, waterproof permanent pens, watercolour crayons and graphite.  Though we sketch at the same time and vaguely in the same place, it is exhilarating to see the diversity of styles, subjects and media.  And even though we might not see each other again until the end of the session, we offer each other some kind of moral support.

I walked up the hill and headed to the historical area of The Rocks.  There were historic buildings, there were tourists at cafes, there were market stalls.  I could sit on a step outside a shop, or on the ground in a park, or on a café chair, or stand against a wall.  There were endless possibilities.

I wandered through the crowded markets hearing gentle melodies wafting through the air and headed through a cool, narrow alleyway.  I climbed metal stairs, stone stairs and found a shady park against a cliff, overlooking rooftops.  There were benches beneath jacaranda trees, strewn with purple.  There were rusted silhouettes of household items set incongruously in the stony ruins of a house built up a hill.  There was shade (shade is a priority for sketchers as the weather gets warmer).  There was a gnarled and twisted pepper tree with delicate sheets of fish-scale leaves swaying in the breeze.  There was a pepper tree…

I swept purple blossoms off a wooden seat, flicked open my sketch book, chose my favourite lead pencil and began to draw the pepper tree.  As I drew, mauve bells sprinkled down from the jacaranda tree above, tourists wandered through the outdoor rooms snapping selfies on their phones, and a bride and her posse clanged down the metal stairs in high heels, cameras swaying from shoulders, the train of her skirt held high by a friend.

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I finished my sketch and walked down to the market place.  There was a busker on one side whose music I did not like, and another couple further on that I did.  (Music and other ambient noise is another consideration when sketching).  I found a discreet table by the side of the plaza and sat and looked at the scene – the busker with jaunty hat strumming his guitar and singing a mellow tune, the onlookers relaxing at circular tables, the trees and plants framing the scene.  The people staying still.  (This is an issue for my drawings – sometimes my figures become an amalgam of a bunch of different people if the subject moves on too fast).  I pulled out my pad and drew again, conscious of people peering over my shoulder, but continuing nonetheless.

The Busker

The Busker

What kind of sketcher are you?  Do you announce you are an “artiste” setting yourself up squarely with your equipment spread out about you? Or are you incognito, hidden in plain view, a recorder of the scene without being a performer?  There are added difficulties if you draw people.  It might be fine to have onlookers scrutinize a scene of the harbour, but it is a little disconcerting to have your subjects break down that “third wall” and come and look at how they have been portrayed…  And yet, I understand that if someone is drawing, you want to see what it is that they are working on.

There was still a little time left, so I strolled back to the harbour and tried to scribble a few quick portraits while I waited.  But the people were not cooperative, kept moving, kept rushing on, not waiting for longer than it took for a quick selfie before striding away.

Then I saw the bride.  Hobbling along in her high heels, train held off the ground by a photographer’s lackey, her groom on his phone chatting.  (It was very romantic).  The photographer had scouted out a good spot with a view of the Opera House in the background and so they stopped.  Perhaps if I was quick…  I stood under a palm tree and scribbled it down – the assistant adjusting the veil, the proprietorial black stripe of the groom’s arm around her waist, the tight fists of roses in the bouquet, the skirt billowing in the breeze.  And they held their position for just long enough.

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The photographer was happy and so was I.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Isaboe “helping” me with school reports


I have been

WRITING 


READING 

  • The charming quirks of others by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  • An American Tragedy by the very eloquent David Remnick

FINISHING a course on Dyslexia

LISTENING to Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons with the light out, as the sun set, with a cup of tea, as I try to 

FIND some sense in this crazy world

On the other side of the world, after the election

By Vita Forest


This morning I walked down to my classroom after a staff meeting to hear my class engaged in vocal warfare. Believe it or not, my Year 1s and Year 2s were screaming each other down with “Donald Trump!” to which some of them were adding “Sux!”

I thought

A). Where do these children pick up this language? and

B). We were going to have to start the day by discussing the results of the U.S. election.

I got them all to quieten down and take some deep breaths before entering the classroom. They were not allowed to enter until they calmed down (this meant one boy crashed into the door frame and needed an ice pack on his head…)

They took their places on the floor and we began our discussion.  There was a mixture of fear, anger, excitement and confusion.  Some of them had heard that a war is going to start.  Some of them had heard that Trump calls girls and people from other countries mean names.  Some of them had heard he is going to build a wall near Mexico to keep the poor people out.  Some of them had heard that he lies.  Some of them heard it is going to hurt Australia.

I took a deep breath and launched into it.

At school, and in life, should we be screaming into each others’ faces?  (An issue we have quite often during soccer games).

At school, and in life, should we be calling each other names?

At school, and in life, should we try to include or exclude others?  How does it feel when we are excluded?  We did a show of hands for who had been born overseas or who had parents or grandparents who had been born overseas (everyone’s hands went up).

We talked about how lots of people in the U.S. and in the world were very surprised about the election results and some people were very happy and some people were very upset.  We talked about how to be a good winner and a good loser (as we do for any game we play).  We talked about how sometimes things happen that we don’t like and whether it is a good idea to panic straight away.

Then when everyone was more or less friends again, I called the roll and we started the day.

At school we are trying to teach children to get on with each other, to treat people with respect, to be kind, to be inclusive, to solve their issues with words not their fists.

No wonder they felt confused.

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING 

READING The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith

DRAWING at May Gibbs’s old home Nutcote

WATCHING The Hundred Foot Journey with my kids

PICNICKING with Lucy, Max and our old buddy Fleur on a fine spring day

CELEBRATING 

  • my Dad’s birthday 
  • Diwali

LISTENING to Hamilton some more…

ADMIRING the Jacaranda and Grevillea Robusta trees in bloom

    Mobile Tales Despatch 3 – in which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure

    By Vita Forest

    In which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure.

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    Do not imagine that the fact that the Good Ship Possession is firmly anchored to the ceiling, limits in any way the interest that Christabel La Mouse finds in her surrounds.  Not at all.  For the sea is full of life.  A great percentage of all living things live there, so Christabel has read somewhere or other (and if something is written down, it is generally true).

    There are of course, the comforting creatures of The Deep who reside on the Tablecloth, the school of flying fish who live near the Distant Doorway and The People who swim about freely as far as the spyglass can see.  But most intriguing of all (as well as most terrifying), are the elegant, the graceful, the beautiful, the monstrous – those leviathans of the deep; the whales.

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    The whales fill Christabel’s heart with fear.  Their size!  Their strength!  Their razor-sharp teeth!  The hooked talons of their claws!  But as well as making her tremble, the whales fill her with fascination.  (How often is it thus?)  And so Christabel is careful to maintain control, to not lean too far over the edge of the ship, to avoid succumbing to the siren call of the whales, to the hypnotic glamour they exude.

    She knows all about these creatures, of course.  You can find a plethora of information about them in any handbook on ocean voyaging, in countless tales told to children (to entertain, but also to warn youngsters about surrendering to the temptation of diving down and curling up in soft white scales, or along an ink-black tail).  Christabel must constantly remind herself that if she lets go, if she gives in, these creatures would indeed EAT her, would not see her as a kindred spirit (as she feels she is), but as a tasty and unexpected supplement to their diet.

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    There is The Elegant White One who chirps and hums – perhaps as a means of detecting distance, or maybe she is composing a tune (it is so hard to tell), or it could be she is calling to those other pods of whales that must migrate past their little corner of the world at some point.  (Floating on the warm currents of the Tabletop or perhaps breaching the surface of the sea with a young calf.  Just imagine!  And yet, she really mustn’t…)

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    And there is The Masked One who chews pieces of cardboard and paper to keep her teeth in good working order (and perhaps to terrify any quaking prey who witness such violent crunching of her jaws).  This one likes to curl up in the depths of the Tabletop, perhaps atop a sewing basket, or any whale-sized white rectangle left about.

    Christabel knows the danger, and yet, these dragons of the water with their white whiskers and their sinuous bodies, curling up in spirals among the rocky floor of the Cushions, are nothing short of mesmerizing.  It is shameful to admit, and she would never report it in any official despatch, but a good part of her day is spent observing the goings-on of these enthralling creatures.