This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (but only a little bit because I have been)

WRITING

VISITING

  • The Grounds of the City with Max and Lucy (Steampunk meets Fantastic Beasts Oh and the food was delicious!)
  • The Anzac Bridge on Anzac Day (Lucy and I (and Max and Briony for a bit) walked from St Leonards to Rozelle following part of the route of The 7 Bridges walk with a few adjustments.
  • lovely work colleagues and ex-colleagues.
  • Gelateria Gondola for the most sensational choc-orange gelato…

WATCHING

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society with Betty (very lovely).
  • Sami in Paradise at Belvoir St Theatre (it’s been a while since I’ve seen something from this fantastic company – absolutely brilliant!)

ATTENDING an Open Mic Night with my Writers’ Circle group (we all read from our novels) and Sui-Sui and Alessandro.  Very inspiring!

SEWING costumes

GETTING ready to return to school tomorrow…

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Cranking up the old Hill’s Hoist

By Vita Forest

The screech of machinery stops and out of the darkness of the shed, emerges the lanky bald man.  He blinks in the brightness of the afternoon sun and shifts the weight of the paint-splattered crate he carries.  It’s heavy in his arms.  Later he’ll use a trolley to shift it, but right now he can still manage carrying it this way.

He walks along the cracked uneven path to the clothes line at the bottom of the yard.  This garden is no thing of beauty.  Occasionally it bothers him and he thinks about putting in a few more plants.  Dolling the place up.  But so far it hasn’t happened.  It’s not his area of expertise after all.

Still, it’s big and useful for testing things out.

Like these boards.

He reaches the clothesline and squats down to place the crate amongst the little flares of grass that have somehow managed to grow up through the chinks in the concrete.  He stands up stretches his back, then cranks up the handle of the Hills Hoist, watching as the wires rise higher and higher.

It always reminds him of being a kid and swinging on the bars when his Mum wasn’t looking.  If he was caught, he’d get a wallop across the back of his legs.  But it was useful, this old relic in the yard.  An old metal thing, silver in colour, probably one of the originals, not one of the new-fangled bright green contraptions with their rubber coated wires.  But he did have to make sure that he kept away from the rusty spots when he was pegging up his clothes.

The handle whirrs then sticks and will move no further.  The kite-shaped frame is extended to its full height.  He reaches down into the crate and plunges his hands amongst the silky rectangles of wood.

Picking up a panel, he rubs a thumb over the grain of the wood, admiring the smoothed corners and enjoying the scent of the oils released from cutting and sanding the timber.  He taps a couple of pieces together. 

He’s still not sure about this.  Nothing for it but to give it a try. 

On the four sides of the clothes line, he has hung a line of metal hooks about five centimetres apart.  He stands with a handful of his shards of wood and threads them through the hooks. 

He waits and watches. 

They don’t swivel.

He goes back to the shed and returns with a ball of rough brown string and his scissors.  Sitting on the ground, he cuts lengths of the twine and threads a loop through the hole at the top of each wooden rectangle.  The dog potters over and nuzzles against his shoulder.  He rubs her head then returns to his work.

Soon there are a piles of paddles ready to go.  He stands and hangs them over the hooks as if he’s decorating a Christmas tree.  This time they swing.  He fills the wires with the pieces of wood, adjusts the distance between them and stands back to wait.

The wind arrives and he holds his breath.  It flickers along the edge of the wood and suddenly the air is filled with the chiming peals of the rods striking against each other.

Putting his hands on his hips, he grins as he watches the whole thing dinging and donging away.

He pulls out his phone from his back pocket, finds the number and hits the Call button.

‘Do you hear that?’ he says into it.  ‘I think it’s going to work!’

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass  by Philip Pullman (I cannot recommend this trilogy enough!)

WRITING, WRITING, WRITING

VISITING

  • Op shops for costumes for our performance group
  • School
  • That lady and her unicorn at the AGNSW
  • Middle Cove for some spectacular views
  • The Coal Loader at Waverton for some

SKETCHING twice in one week!

MAKING costumes for our performance group

ATTENDING my new Writers Circle (getting lots of great ideas and encouragement).

PICNICKING by the harbour with Lucy and Max.

GETTING a bit of rest.

Fire stick

By Vita Forest

We had met at the cafe near the station and looked at sketches  from previous occasions – Neil’s idyllic rainforest scene, drawn and coloured on an iPad, Tomas’ panorama of Cockatoo Island in scratchy blank ink  and Fiorella’s book of treasures – page after page of details  – a chair, a gnarled stump, a delicate tree fern.

We had drunk our coffees and teas and set off to find our own sweet subjects – what would catch our eyes today?  I love meeting up again in a few hours time and seeing howal though we all start at the same spot, our eyes take us in all sorts of different directions.

I started with a tree, an old twisted dead thing whose bark twisted over the trunk.  Whose trunk was scarred with the stumpy remains of branches from long ago and pocked and grooved with deep fissures.  I like a tree with character.  I also  liked that I could fit the whole tree on my page, composition being something I’m trying to improve on.  So I got out my trusty graphite lead and shaved it to a point with my knife and sat cross-legged on the grass and drew that tree in the shade of another tree, a living tree whose leaves shaded me from the hot sun.  Ants crawled along my knee and a breeze swept through carrying with it the smell of smoke.

Sydney is burning.  Parts of it.  The autumn so far has been summer hot and the bush fire season has extended.  We have hardly had any rain and there’s lots of dry branches and leaves turning into brittle fuel on the ground.

When I finished my drawing of the tree, I walked further into the park and along a path that edged a gully.  Down one side of the gully they had done some back-burning.  Possibly yesterday.  The smell of smoke hung in the air and here and there little scribbles of grey smoke rose from still smouldering coals.  The other side of the gully was still a lush green but this side looked scorched and barren.

I put my bag down on the path (away from the blackened leaves beside it) and began to draw this surreal scene.  There would not be too many opportunities to draw the effects of fire.

I hope.

I noticed that the fire must have scorched over the earth and then been extinguished almost immediately.  There were trees with one side of their trunks burned, the other side spared.  There were piles of charcoaled grass but here and there a stem of fern still stood (though it was blacked and shriveled as if drawn in ink).  I stood and drew the stand of rocks beneath the trees, the charred remains of strappy grass and the flaky ash that had crumbled over the soil.  Pedestrians marched past, some turning to look down the slope, a few stopping to snap a couple of photos.

I stood on the side of the path and remembered my dreams of fires and my concern one time that saw me taking my keys and walking outside at midnight – just to make sure I couldn’t really smell the building burning.  And later I sat on a seat with Fiorella, swapping stories and showing each other the contents of our pencil cases and talking about the plants that need fire to germinate.

And I remembered peering down that charred slope and seeing a kookaburra dive into the ashy dirt and snatch up a lizard as a cloud of smoke slowly rose around it.

There is life there yet.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung

WRITING my novel

CONDUCTING 27 parent teacher interviews! (Nearly finished) while

CONTINUING to teach 28 children and therefore

FEELING exhausted…

ATTENDING a local writers circle (which was very inspiring)

SLEEPING in on the weekend and

SWIMMING at Balmoral Beach (the hottest temperatures in April for forty years)

MEETING for a coffee with Vastra and Saskia

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  • Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

VISITING

  • Balmoral Beach for a refreshing dip
  • The Art Gallery of New South Wales for the wonderful The Lady and the Unicorn exhibition

  • The Coal Loader at Waverton

WANDERING the streets of Sydney around Martin Place and Wynyard

EATING a whole lot of Easter goodies

CATCHING up with my family and Saskia

WATCHING

  • some catch-up episodes of The Good Fight on SBS On-Demand (how did I miss that it was back on?
  • The Goonies with Max (classic!)