I want my life to be just like a…

By Vita Forest


These school holidays we have had a movie marathon.  A movie marathon of the High School Musical movies.  Night after night, we watch as Troy and Gabriela and all the gang meet and smile and sing and dance and learn and grow and iron out their misunderstandings.  The songs get slicker, the dancing more intricate, the special effects increasingly elaborate.

There are shows within shows, there are parts where they are singing but are not singing, not dancing.  Chad sings a song called “I don’t dance” even as he sings and dances.  He is not one of those kind of kids.  They live in a world of rules and expectations where to break them is to disappoint and confuse.  The pressure of their friends and their families to conform to ideas of who they should be is almost soul destroying.

And I see the bright-eyed natural kid with a bit of blond in his hair in the first film, shining on the screen, appealing, likeable.  And I know that as the years go on, he and Gabriela will kiss for real.  Will fall in love for real.  And fall out of it.  And part.  And move on.  My phone tells me he will have issues with drugs and alcohol and violence.  But he hasn’t had a drink for four years now.

So that’s good.

And Gabriela, so full of hope, so wholesome, will nearly not make it to the third film for a mistake, for trusting the wrong people to keep those photos private, intimate, for their eyes only.

And that Rocket Man, so droll, so light, so silly – will terrorize his ex in years to come, until she fears for her life and her sanity.

And they all look so young.  And my kids were so young when we first cuddled on the couch, watching their adventures.  Back then, they were not yet at school, let alone high school.  Let alone old enough to know whether it was all just a dream after all.

This time, we pull apart some of the threads, some of the themes, speak about some of the lessons.  Friends can be mean, friends can be so selfish that they don’t want you to succeed.  (Luckily these ones on the screen realise their mistake and all is forgiven).  Dads can be kind of dumb, trying to relive their own younger years, trying to be part of the gang when they should be adults, when they should let their kids find their own way, have their own plans.  If you’re not careful you can be pushed and pulled and moulded into shapes you don’t want to make.  You can lose yourself trying to please others.  There will always be unfairness – always the Sharpays with their own rules, their money and their far-reaching grasp that can fix the system in their favour.  It’s funny how she gets her own car spot, her own assistant, her own lunch tray complete with pink flowers in a vase.  Until it’s not.

We noticed the homages to other movies, other stories – boy and girl from two different worlds like in Romeo and Juliet, the staff stealing the limelight at the talent show like in Dirty Dancing, Troy dancing out his frustrations like in Footloose, even Troy being seduced to want a different life like in, I kid you not, Great Expectations.  My kids now notice that Ryan is probably gay, that all the adults are pretty stupid, but not so dangerously stupid as in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but that it’s still up to the kids to set the world right.  We talk about how some of these lines have entered our own lexicon (What time is it?  Always – Summer time! 16, 16, 16 more minutes running out of time… and so it goes).

We dug out these old DVDs after Max heard a girl at school, all of fifteen, saying how much she loved them.  Indeed, they were worth revisiting, worth a trip down memory lane.  These films, like that other gem Strictly Ballroom give you an instant lift, an instant pick you up.

We all need one of those sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This week

By Vita Forest

Reflections at Rushcutters Bay

This week I have been

WRITING Mobile Tales 10: in which Christabel is charmed by a singing stone

READING

  • The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Spark Joy by Marie Kondo which spurred a bit of

TIDYING

Yachts at Rushcutters Bay

LAUGHING when one of my students won a “look alike” competition with a Poo emoji soft toy…

FINISHING a very busy Term 3 at school

SKETCHING a fantastically gnarled tree at Rushcutter’s Bay on a summery Saturday


GIVING myself permission to laze in bed and sleep in rather than doing a yoga class

PLANNING some holiday expeditions and catchups

PICNICKING near the Lane Cove River with my parents and my sister Briony

And here’s that tree again!

Mobile Tales 10: in which Christabel is charmed by a singing stone

By  Vita Forest

Like the reliable sailor she was, Christabel kept a close watch on all the goings-on in her part of the ocean from her post on the Good Ship Possession anchored in the ceiling.

On this particular day, she peered through her spy glass over the starboard side of the galleon and trained the instrument down into the ocean.  She was following the progress of a large grey stone travelling from a continental shelf in The Lounge Room to its new resting place on the murky floor of The Tabletop.  The stone was about the size of a block of parmesan cheese with rounded edges and a growth of silver barnacles on its upper side.  It sat solidly on the ocean floor, sending ripples over the surface of The Tabletop.


She was not the only one whose interest had been piqued by this stone.  The great white whale had followed the procession of the stone and had leapt up onto the The Tabletop to inspect the new arrival.  The stone was sniffed and nuzzled and found to be quite satisfactory.  It lay there, sturdily on the ocean floor, settling into the sand.


The light was shining in from the northern windows and sending drifting shafts down to the deep part of the ocean.  It was afternoon.  The whale lost interest in the stone and leap from The Tabletop again to gaze out the window at the World Beyond and enjoy the warmth of the sun’s caress on her soft white skin.  Christabel did the same – lost interest in the stone that is, there was no point looking at a stone when one could look at a whale.


But suddenly, the attention of both Christabel and the whale was drawn back to the stone by a most surprising occurrence.  The stone starting singing.  Christabel stood for a moment in amazement, listening to the notes of a – what was it?  surely a piano? which drifted up, spiralling on the eddies of the water until it seemed to wash over the bow of the Good Ship Possession itself.  Christabel not only heard it but felt it too.

It was quite extraordinary.

She closed the spy glass and it put it back in its holder and held onto the wooden side of the ship with both paws.

Yes!  It was true – she could feel the singing.  Christabel closed her eyes and felt the reverberations travel into her paws, up her legs, all the way to her scalp.  How the fur stood up on the back of her neck!  How the notes danced off the end of her tail!  She stood for a few moments, listening and feeling.  Feeling and listening.  The deep resonance of the low notes.  The sharp percussive spike of a high one.  She was being washed over in sound.

Eventually, when her whole body had been loosened and calmed with all the cricks and the aches and the pains erased, Christabel opened her eyes again and took a deep breath.  The piano music continued to sing up from the stone, filling the water, filling the air, filling the galleon.  In her peaceful state, she took out her spyglass once more and trained it down onto the stone.  The white whale was entwined about it, its eyes closed in a state of bliss as the waves of sound fell over its spine.


How marvellous, thought Christabel.  How mysterious.

And she closed up her spyglass and lay down on the deck of the galleon and listened and felt the music soar up through the water, through the creaking wooden boards of the galleon and into her very bones.

 

This week

By Vita Forest
This week I have been

From Harold Reid Reserve, Middle Cove – right in the middle of Sydney!


WRITING 

READING Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith

WATCHING the Dance Academy movie with Lucy 

VISITING the Harold Reid Lookout in Middle Cove with Lucy for a picnic and a bush walk and

Looking across to Castlecrag


EATING a baguette, cheese, dips and veggies 

ENJOYING some warm spring weather

On top of the ridge at Harold Reid Reserve


BEING surprised by a homemade cake from some of my students baked on a play date 

PLANNING out my week and 

DOING my chores through the weeknights so I had a lovely chore-free weekend 

HOPING to keep up this new habit in the future 

Spring wildflowers seen on our bushwalk

A rabbit goes a marketting

By Vita Forest


I sat on Katrina’s special collapsible portable stool, that weighed almost nothing and folded to fit in her backpack.  I sat in the shade and looked out at the sunny side, the side of the building, the side with the sunbakers, the coffee takers, the side with the arched windows and metal pipes and picturesque bricks and the old boiler that could have been part of Howl’s moving castle.  Maybe it had broken off on one of his jaunts and he hadn’t noticed it yet with all that creaking and banging and carry on.  Perhaps it had found this spot in the sun by the railway track and decided to take a rest til he came back.  There was plenty to see here after all.


There was a small boy wearing a milk crate on his head and a woman in a floral silk robe belted about her waist  that billowed behind her as she strode along in her fluffy magenta slippers.  There were dogs of all sizes pulling their owners along by their straining leashes and children making trains of upside-down milk crates lined up in a row.  There was music drifting outside from inside the huge metal shed where a man on a cello stroked its strings with a long bow as the shoppers wandered by, their bags full of watercress and tomatoes and home-made pasta sauce.  There was the smell of coffee and sourdough bread and the patina of flaking paint on the sturdy old brick walls.


I sat on my friend’s stool, placed just so, right across from the boiler, in the shade not the sun, against the rippling corrugated iron wall, not as sketchable as the sunny side, not as warm either, truth be told, but sometimes you gotta suffer for your art.  I sat and flicked a blade across the tip of my pencil, sharpening that graphite to a point (how I love a sharp pencil to work with) and my knife slid down the pencil and my eyes slid across the tracks and the pavement to the boiler and I thought about how I could draw it (all the while aware of the blade of the knife of course, all the while taking care not to cut away a finger or a thumb).  And I sketched out the composition, the segments of the cylinder, how it would fit on the page.  And I sketched in the milk crate seats in front of it and I noticed that someone had just sat down on one of those milk crate seats and had set down a few items on a milk crate table and looked like she was there to sit awhile so I started to sketch her in too.  And as I quickly drew in the angle of her head and the slope of her shoulders I noticed her place a clump of green on the ground for her dog I presumed, her dog on a lead, there were so many dogs, but a dog eating greens?  I looked again and saw that the animal with its harness and leash and thick brown fur was not a dog, not a dog in the slightest, but a large, placid rabbit sitting in the sun at the market and eating its morning tea while its human ate hers.

I have never seen a rabbit out for a walk on a leash.  I have never seen a rabbit relaxing in the sunshine as dogs sauntered by, not seeing, not sensing, not bothered by the rabbit nibbling fennel fronds on the concrete.  Perhaps they knew each other, saw each other every week, here at the market, doin a bitta shopping, hanging out in the sun.  I didn’t notice any animal greetings but I noticed passing children doing double takes and stopping to crouch and look and gently stroke the rabbit and one sat quietly and was rewarded by having the rabbit carefully lifted and placed on her lap to pat and whisper to and scratch behind its long velvet ears.

I mapped out the girl and the rabbit then sidled back to Katrina (very subtly of course) and brought to her attention the furry friend that was Not A Dog.  She had not yet noticed the rabbit, she was drawing the boiler and the roof and the windows and wasn’t up to adding any people, not yet, that would come later.  Then I sidled back and kept on drawing and delighting in the nonchalant girl who sat there self-contained but not self-conscious in the sunshine with her juice and her pastry and her rabbit on a leash.

Had they walked far? I wondered as I scribbled in her boots.  Had they hopped all the way? (while I shaded her cardigan).  Was this a regular excursion on a Saturday morning in September?  Did she have a favourite stall for her nibbly greenery or did they try the rocket from the Hawksbury one week and the radish leaves from down south the next?  Would I draw her looking up or looking down at the rabbit, stroking its head, or holding her drink, or leaning on her elbow?  People always move so you have to work fast, adjust, approximate, make it up.  She sat and sipped her juice and I scribbled and drew and tried to get it down before she up and left with her bunny and her bags.

Nell strolled by with a coffee and her photogenic stalk of broccoli and a bunch of lavender and peered over my shoulder.  She hadn’t yet decided on a setting for her sketching, on a subject, on a place to sit awhile.  I brought the bunny to her notice and she laughed out loud and leaned against the wall and watched the girl with her bunny sitting under the boiler and said, “There’s a story in that.” And maybe there is and maybe this is it or maybe there’s something more to come.

So Nell wandered off to find her own sketchable moment and I drew in the milk crates and the drink and the table and the shadows and the sunglasses, but before I could go and ask if I could pat her rabbit and what its name was and how they came to be at the market that day and did they come often and a million other questions, before I could ask all that, she picked up her rabbit and her rubbish and put them both carefully in her calico tote bag and walked away.

So I sat and drew rivets and rust instead of rabbits and shivered in the shadows while drawing what was in the sun.

This week

By Vita Forest

Festival of the Winds, Bondi 2017


This week I have been

WRITING Cold Call

READING Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert (loved it!)

WATCHING The Good Fight

SKETCHING at Carriageworks, Redfern

Farmers market at Carriageworks, Redfern


WALKING the labyrinths to live drumming and didgeridoos at the Labyrinth Dreaming Festival in Centennial Park where we were

The Pilgrim Labyrinth


WISHING the Sydney Labyrinth a Happy Third Birthday and

Sydney Labyrinth, Centennial Park


JOURNEYING into and out of a number of labyrinths including a Pilgrim Labyrinth where you were

The Pilgrim Labyrinth (see the stones?)


CHOOSING a river stone and carrying it into the labyrinth then pausing and

LAYING down your burden by placing the stone somewhere along the path on your way out

PICNICKING beside the festivities then

VISITING Bondi Beach and

We touched that dragon’s tail!


MARVELING at the show in the sky at the Festival of the Winds


 

Cold Call

By Vita Forest


“Hello?”

As Prue pauses and listens, the phone pressing to her ear, she smells the earthy scent of soil.

She should have worn gloves.

Who is it?  One of those cold calls?  One of those people from a call centre far away across the globe, sending out calls, fishing for callers, waiting until someone finally bit?

“Hello?  I’m going to hang up.”

She starts to move the phone away from her ear, then hears a tremulous, “Wait!”

She sighs and raises the phone again.

She is impatient to be out in the garden again.  She wants to get back to her work.  She wants to finish spreading the mulch around the camellias, smothering the weeds, suppressing the unwelcome growth.  Suffocating it.  Burying it.  Showing it who was boss.

“Yes?  Who is this?”

“Is that Prue?  Prue Glass?”

It’s a male voice, unfamiliar.  Uncertain.

“Yes it’s Prue Glass?  Who is this?”

“Chris.”  Another pause.  “Chris Leong.  Caitlin’s husband.”

Now it’s Prue’s turn to pause.

“Oh.”

She feels the blood rush to her face and her pulses start to pound, senses that all she has held inside is about to erupt.

“Can we… can we meet?  I think we have things to talk about.”

Prue hears the front door opening.  Luke returning from school.  A normal day.  Just like any other day.

This couldn’t be happening.

“Chris…”  What could he possibly say?  What could they possibly talk about?

She knows very well what he will say.  She knows very well what he will want to talk about.

“It’s really…”

None of your business!  Not necessary!  What could he hope to achieve from talking about it?

Luke walks into the kitchen, earphones in his ears, in another world, nods at her vaguely before dumping his bag down and opening the fridge.

Prue clears her throat.

Struggles to breathe.

“It’s not a good time.  My son…  My son has just arrived home.”

“Ok.  But we need to talk.  I think you know what this is about.”

I think you know what this is about. 

The blood burning her face.  Her skin on fire.  Knowing Luke’s eyes are on her, curious.  She turns to the window.

“Please call back another time.  It’s not convenient now.”

She hangs up.  Takes a breath.  Presses a hand into her belly.

Pressing.  Squeezing.

Tries to fling off the feeling of dread, of the floodgates opening, of her life coming crashing down.

She places a smile on her lips, turns to face Luke.

He is still standing at the fridge, one earpiece out of his ear now.  She hears the tinny beat pulsating from it, pounding out into the air.  The bright white light from the fridge sends a garish streak across his face.  The fridge breaks into a hum.

“Who was that?”

Prue blinks.

“No one.  Just one of those… silly call centres trying to get us to change who we get our electricity from.”

She presses the hair away from her temples, rakes it back again and again, goes to the sink and splashes her burning face with water.  Dousing it.  She imagines she hears a sizzle as the cold water meets the heat of her skin.  Feels steam rising.  She squeezes her hands against her cheeks, looks out the window, looks out to the pile of mulch on the lawn.

No matter how hard she tries, no matter how much she shovels and shovels and buries and piles it up, the weeds will still find their way out, still slither up into the sunlight.  She feels her breath catch in her throat.

Has it all been for nothing after all?

“Mum?”

Luke is still there, standing at the fridge.  Still staring at her.  The light shining on his face, the hum turning into a gurgle, the rows of jars gleaming in the coolness behind him. Olives, Strawberry jam, Tomato paste.

“Why is the fridge still open?  You’ll let all the cold out.”

Prue stumbles back outside, back into the air.  She rushes down the steps, past the place on the verandah where she had seen Martin and Caitlin.  Caitlin and Martin.  In the darkness that night.  She had wondered if it was real.

It was real.

It was all coming home to roost.