This week

By Vita Forest

From Wendy’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay

This week I have been

WRITING chapter after chapter of my novel, but nothing for the blog.  Sorry.  I am trying something new where I set a timer and work and work work until the alarm goes off.  It’s really working!

READING

  • Shipwrecks, Sailors and Sixty Thousand Years by Jackie French (in preparation for next term).
  • The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

PAPERING two huge boards in two classrooms with medieval-style maps of Australia and its surrounds, ready for  Term 4.

From Clarke Park, Lavender Bay

VISITING Lavender Bay with Betty and Diana, then again to do some sketching from a slightly different angle.

 

CATCHING up with two cousins from two different sides of the family on the same day!  Wow!

CELEBRATING my nephew’s third birthday (pirate theme).

WALKING

Berry’s Bay, Waverton

  • around Ball’s Head, Waverton
  • around Curl Curl to try and spot some of the whales that have been passing by Sydney and eventually

On the headland near North Curl Curl

SPOTTING some spray shooting up out of the water off North Curl Curl

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This week

By Vita Forest

On the track at Echo Point, Roseville

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville (very enjoyable and positive about what could have been a dark tale)
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (finally managed to snaffle grab it from the library! This is the biography that Lin-Manuel Miranda read and resulted in   Only a few chapters in but what a story!)

Interesting that both these books take place during the same historical period and examine race, nations and slavery…

WATCHING

The Homosexuals at The Griffin Theatre company.

GOING back to school

TRYING out a few new things with my class – new seating arrangements, some new behaviour management techniques, some meditation… all going well.

PLAYING a lot of Bananagrams with my kids.

WALKING at Echo Point in Roseville.

I did not know. Echo Point, Roseville

MAKING an orange and almond meal cake for my Mum’s birthday.

This week

By Vita Forest

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Reclining Figure: Angles 1980, by Henry Moore

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith

VISITING

  • The Art Gallery of New South Wales for some sketching
  • The Sydney Opera House with our fabulous performance group (they were wonderful!  The end of nearly a year-long project…)

WATCHING more Scandi-Noir The Killing…

CELEBRATING World Teachers’ Day with a slap-up lunch from the P and C – including fresh prawns and macaroons.

SEWING up the last few costumes for Lucy’s play.

CATCHING up on sleep after a couple of late nights.

SIPPING tea in the dark on the balcony after a long day, looking up at the stars.

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?

U is for… Unconscious

By Vita Forest

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How much of what Nicola did was unconscious?  Was it an unconscious decision to apply for that job?  In that other world she thought she lived in, Nicola didn’t have to do that.  It had not been part of her plan.  They had more than enough money for a comfortable life and she had time for contributing to her children’s life, to her family’s life, to the community.  But somewhere down deep, a tiny hand had tugged at her shirt tail and told her to put in the effort and apply for that job.  Told her that even though she didn’t have to, she should.  Called back to her from the future that it was an absolute necessity.

And she got the job.  Started building her career again.  It was good to feel useful, to be good at something, because she was unconsciously beginning to get the message that she wasn’t good at being what Joe wanted anymore.  That little hand again, tapping at her side, pointing out the way he winced as she spoke (shrill), the way he sneered at her achievements (small), the way he stayed out more and more (Important meetings).

Was the swimming unconscious too?  Was the building up of her strength and stamina just something that she happened upon?  Afterwards, she would charge up and down the pool, screaming into the water, as her fingers clawed and her feet thrashed and her whole body beat out her frustration.  Up and back, up and down, back and forth, following the black line on the base of the pool, hypnotised by that thick black line, her world reduced to getting to the end, then slapping the side and doing it again.  Turning herself into a warrior.  Strong.  Flexible.  Resilient.  And smelling a little of chlorine.  But it gave her a place to go.  It gave her something to do.  Something regular.  Something calming.  Something slightly more wholesome than turning to the drinks cabinet (which was also tempting).

Nicola liked the way swimming made her lungs burn, her arms ache, her temples beat in time with the blood pounding around her body.  She liked the way the water blanketed and obscured the noise of everything outside the pool.  She was a fish, a dolphin, a stingray, communicating through clicks and squeals.  There was no language.  No words.  No betrayal, just survival.  And that was unconscious too.  Nicola could go through the motions, let herself be carried by the water, by her body, by her routine, until the time came to emerge from the pool and get back on land.  Among the living.  In that new life that she had had no inkling of, except in her deepest unconscious.

That place that seemed to know everything.

 

A to Z Challenge – Ready, Set…

By Vita Forest

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

A to Z challenge April 2016

A few days ago, I signed up to the Blogging from A to Z April  2016 Challenge which certainly sounds challenging.  Basically, participants have to do a post a day for the whole of April, with Sundays off for a bit of a breather.  The first post should be about something beginning with A, the second B, and so on, until we reach Z at the end of April…

I have thought of a few topics and plan to write a mixture of Travel-type observation posts, but with the bulk of them being intensive flash-fiction sessions to build my creative writing muscles.  I will give myself a time limit and a topic and produce… something.  There are  few topics for longer works that I might start exploring too.

Apparently, some bloggers have written all their posts already and will just post them in the coming month, but not me I’m afraid.  I have made some rather nice pictures containing the letters of the alphabet, but that is as far as my preparation has gone.  So good luck everybody!  Looking forward to seeing some fine work and discovering new blogs.

It’s really going to be a challenge.  Come along for the ride!

 

Accentuate the positive

By Vita Forest

Two ways of looking

Two ways of looking

The problem with being involved with any high profile activity is that there are dramas.  As Max said to me, “Whenever you are involved with a drama there is drama.”

Yes, this is even true in the smaller microcosm of a school.  All parties are emotionally invested and this sometimes leads to conflict.  Even with eleven year olds.

So, my colleague and friend Minna and I, have started rehearsals for one of the senior dance groups.  The one that the kids had to audition for.  The one that may be part of a big public performance on an iconic stage.  The one with the prestige.

It’s a sought after gig, but attracts children and parents (and teachers!) with strong ideas.

After coming up with a concept that fits the designated theme, building a story line, starting on some choreography, costume ideas and characters, we have had two rehearsals for our dance-theatre piece.  We were feeling very positive, we thought it was going well.   While a boy with a relatively small part became a scene-stealer, with his risk-taking, enthusiasm and playfulness, a more seasoned performer (she was in it last year) withdrew into herself, and simply went through the motions.  We didn’t think much of it, until yesterday, when the girl’s mother rang the principal of the school to complain…

Apparently there have been tears – there has not been enough dancing – she doesn’t like it!  (This is Week 2 people…)  Luckily our principal supported us, we are lucky that way.  Of course, this has sapped our energy and made us throw up our hands in outrage.  (How dare she be so entitled?  How dare her mother let her be such a diva?  Doesn’t she know about teamwork, patience, resilience?)  This comes after last year drama when a mother tried to redesign my costumes to meet her ten year old son’s fashion needs…  (I said thanks, but no thanks.  He ended up leaving the group and we went on without him).

But after having an internal hissy fit, and a few choice words with Minna, I took a deep breath and thought of some other things…  our satisfaction and excitement about our story, our characters, our music choice.  And remembered the enthusiasm and delight of most of the dancers in the group.  I remembered the many unsolicited “Thank yous” from a lot of the kids, how a bunch of them helped us by getting out equipment unprompted.  I thought of the smiles on their faces, the energy that they have put into these very early rehearsals when it can be so easy to be inhibited and stand-offish.

And I choose to think of that scene-stealing boy, who after Monday’s rehearsal, told his class teacher that it was the funnest thing he had ever done.

That’s what I’m thinking about.

Why is it so easy for the negative to obliterate the positive?