This week

By Vita Forest

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This week I have been

WRITING A gypsy caravan, a fire balloon and a Baby Austin

READING Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

DRAWING in sunglasses in the Sydney Botanical Gardens with my lovely Sketch club.

ATTENDING Classic Flow at Barangaroo with five hundred other yogis (yoga to live classical music – ah bliss!)

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LISTENING to the grand piano and cello at Classic Flow and then the surprising addition of a wonderful choir (I had my eyes closed and didn’t see them tiptoe on!)

WATCHING Gloria at the Griffin Theatre

EATING Flan Catalan with Saskia Mmmm!

ENJOYING some beautiful spring weather

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This week

By Vita Forest

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This week I have been

WRITING Justify

READING

  • Greene on Capri by Shirley Hazzard
  • Tell the truth, Shame the devil by Melina Marchetta (well the last two days anyway – don’t normally buy “just released” books but it is MM).

RESTING due to being absolutely floored by the flu.

VISITING the doctor. Twice.

LOOKING after my sick children too.

WATCHING The Bridge (Swedish/Danish version) on DVD (not with the kids).

CUDDLING up with the kitty cat gals.

SOLVING puzzles in my Codewords book.

SLEEPING a lot

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

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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.

Somme Song

By Vita Forest


Was it because of or despite the shattering shells and the mud and the death? Was it despite or because he didn’t know whether he would ever again see that beloved river, those beloved trees?  It could not be examined too deeply, it could not be thought about, but somewhere, inside his head, he was hearing a tune.  A rhythm that came from the river, his river.  The softly-falling stream, the trailing willow branches, the lazy boyhood days fishing and lying back in a rowboat, face full to the sun.

He heard it through the deafening shells, through the screams, through the steady thrum of rain that pounded dully on the sandbags and turned the ground  to a stinking grey slurry.

He heard it when his eyes were closed, when his eyes were open, when he couldn’t sleep, when he couldn’t dare.  It was there despite it all, singing to him of his river.  He set the notes down where he could, in his mind, on the darkness on the back of each eyelid, branded red against the black, like the afterimage of a shell-blast.  He teased out the tune, holding a line in his head, replaying it, adjusting it, perfecting it, then committing it to memory until a piece of a paper and pencil could be had. He crouched in the trench, over the mud-splattered paper and wrote it down, by the light of a stub of candle, flickering in the gloom.

What it came down to – what it all boiled down to – was that beauty was important.  It was everything when there was no room for it, no room to be human, no place to escape but here inside his head.

He peeled it back and back, burrowed deeper, past the mud, the rotten stink, the thudding flashes crashing up the sky, the wounded, the loss!  The loss!  The lack of any good thing except this piece of paper and this pencil and the puttering light of the candle that let him see enough to get it down.  Drawing down, down to the tip of the lead, the real place, the only place that mattered, the only way to get through.

The whole point of being alive.

His song.

This week

Vivid 2016, Circular Quay

Vivid 2016, Circular Quay

This week I have been

READING Those who leave and those who stay by Elena Ferrante

WRITING Mermaid and school reports

VISITING the The Vivid Festival 2016 with my kids.  Make sure you check out the Cathedral of Lights in the Sydney Botanical Gardens!

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WATCHING Australia while playing board games on a wild and wet Sunday afternoon.  We are experiencing a deluge.

EATING a slow-cooker chicken roast on a weekday.  Love those slow cookers!

 

 

 

Mermaid

By Vita Forest

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Prue walked deliberately down the hallway, her toes shooting needles of pain up her shins every time they made contact with the floor.

“Please wear them,” Owen had begged her, and she had put on the shoes with the ridiculous heels.  Though she would be on her feet all night, though she would be walking back and forth from the kitchen, from the front door, from the deck.  Laden with food, laden with drinks, laden with plates.  The perfect hostess.

“Please.”

His work colleagues were coming.  The whole office.  The whole lot of them.  He had been in a state all day, adjusting the furniture, checking the menu, checking the bulbs in the fairy lights.  How much it took to give this appearance of unstudied elegance.

They had nearly had words.  Prue had come in from the garden with an armful of gardenias to see Owen, hands on hips, pulling selected cushions from the lounge.  Her tapestry cat, the patchwork number their son had made in primary school, the cheery yellow knitted cover she had bought at a craft market.

“Not appropriate?” she had teased, smiling.

He turned to her, preoccupied, his face serious.  Then he scooped up the cushions, walked by her to the bedroom and threw them in.

“I know you don’t think so, but this is important.”

She blinked and felt her eyes smart.

Then the shoes.  As she was dressing, he dug around at the bottom of the closet and produced the box.  She had forgotten them, they were so uncomfortable, so ridiculous, so not her.

“Please.”

So she had put them on and here she was, mincing up and down the hallway.  The interminable hallway, the endless hallway.  Brandishing the tray full of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears.  Prue stopped at the end of the hall, adjusting her eyes to the darkness beyond.  Most of them were down in the garden, there were just a few up on the deck, leaning on the verandah balustrade, drinks in hand.

She paused and then she saw them.  She blinked and looked again.  It was not a trick of the light.  She was not mistaken.

There they were.  Her husband Owen and that Cressida.  That Cressida who he was always mentioning.  Her husband and that Cressida leaning on the verandah looking down at the garden.  Shoulder to shoulder.  Innocent from the garden.  Two colleagues having a chat.  But from behind, from where Prue stood, the light from the hallway caught their hands.  Their two intertwined hands, fingers twisting together out of sight of the party below.

Prue stared.

She backed away, away from the party.  She turned into the dark study and put down the tray on the desk.  She found the chair and lowered herself into it.  And with great tenderness, reached down and removed the shoes.

Nothing, not much

By Vita Forest

Inner turmoil

Inner turmoil

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“What happened today?”

“Nothing, not much.”

But it was not fine and much had happened.  But not so anyone else could tell.  Only inside Sonia’s head was a tempest, a storm, a whirlpool, a tornado of emotions that miraculously stayed contained inside the box of her skull.  She wanted to tell her mother what her friend had done.  She wanted to tell anyone.  Was Mia a friend anymore?  Everyone thought so, even Sonia.  But was that really what friend’s did?

Sonia wished she could go back to when she was five years old when she told her Mum everything.  Every new sound she had learned at school, what other children had told for news, what Mrs Carroll had worn to school that day and if her nails were painted red or pink.

Sonia wished she could go back to when friends were easy to read, when they knew how to say to each other, “Stop it, I don’t like it!” when the other did something wrong, when their feelings were hurt, when they wandered off the “kind” path into “meanness”.  Back then it was OK to like the same thing – the same sport (soccer), the same books (Tashi), the same kind of lollies (Lemon Sherbets).

Perhaps it would still be OK if the “same things” were not boys.  When your best friend didn’t end up with the boy you liked.  And she knew!  How could she not know?  Sonia had kept it secret, she had told no-one, not even Mia.  It had been a strange maelstrom of suppressed emotions that bubbled to the surface whenever he was near, whenever he was mentioned.  For a while Sonia hadn’t even known herself, didn’t link the way her body seemed to react violently for no apparent reason when she thought about him.  The sticky tangle of highs and lows that were all to do with whether she even saw him.  Whether they spoke.

But Mia knew.  Like Sonia knew that Mia liked chocolate ice-cream but not mango sorbet.  Without being told.  Just by watching.  Just by paying attention.

She would have known.

Why had she done it?  Why had she chosen him?

Today at lunch they had suddenly appeared together, hands linked, laughing. In front of everyone.  Mia hadn’t even told Sonia first.  Mia and Ryan.  Ryan and Mia.  The whole group had stopped talking, stared at them.

“You all know Ryan,” Mia had announced in a new voice.  A simpering voice.  A sly voice.  A betraying voice.

“Yeah, we like, all go to the same school!” said Sam in a sarcastic voice as he checked his phone.  “We know Ryan.”

Sonia had been grateful for his response, her lunch turning to cardboard in her mouth.  She concentrated on chewing the bread, on her jaws mechanically opening and closing, her teeth pressing and grinding it into paste.  She had let her hair fall forward over her face so the others wouldn’t see the shame of this announcement, the shock.  How long had it been going on?  She and Mia talked everyday, all the time, yet she hadn’t even thought to mention it, to her best friend, hadn’t confided in her, hadn’t thought her worthy of anything more than this public announcement on the school oval after Maths.

Sonia hadn’t spoken to Mia after that.  She had walked through the rest of the day in a daze and had wondered, how many people out there were like her?  How many people were trying to adjust to major disruptions, catastrophes, while they went through the motions of everyday life.  Write down an answer.  Pack up a bag, Get on a bus.  Walk home.  Looking normal, looking like everything was under control.  When inside they wanted to scream and rage and tear their friend’s hair out.  How many people swallowed it down, kept their voice at a reasonable level, continued on their path that suddenly didn’t mean anything anymore?

How many people said it was nothing, not much?

 

 

The A to Z of my A to Z challenge 2016

By Vita Forest

The changing colours of Skyspace

The changing colours of Skyspace – for the letter S

Well, the April A to Z challenge finished just over a week ago and I am still processing the roller coaster that it was.  I learned a lot and spent the month fairly buzzing with creative juices.  Here are links to all my output.  Some travel, some artistic adventures and lots of flash fiction.

Enjoy!

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A is for… Art

B is for… Bed

C is for… Cinderella

D is for… Doorknob

E is for… Everything

F is for… Flowers

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G is for… Gabriel

H is for… Home

I is for… Ibis

J is for… Joy

K is for… Kiss

L is for… Love

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M is for… Monolith

N is for… Narcissist

O is for… Old-school

P is for… Peak hour

Q is for… Quentin

R is for… Red

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S is for… Skyspace

T is for… Train

U is for… Unconscious

V is for… Venice

W is for… Wedding

X is for… Xanthe

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Y is for… Yearning

Z is for… Zone

 

Z is for… Zone

By Vita Forest

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The shoes!  The shoes!  What was she thinking? How did people stand up in them?  Let alone walk.  Let alone dance.  They had to come off!  Pip pushed her way through the people, and the thudding music, which seemed almost a physical presence, and left the lounge room.  She blinked in the brightness of the hallway and bent down to wrench off those high heels.  Those stupid sexy shoes she had been talked into buying in a moment of weakness.

“Sitting down shoes,” her sister called them.

Indeed.

Pip found her jacket and hid her fabulous sitting-down shoes beneath it.  She wriggled her toes and arched her feet.  Much better.  She would simply go barefoot.

Pausing just beyond the doorway, Pip let her eyes adjust to the dark again.  The room was full of dark shadows, dark figures lounging around the perimeter against walls and windows, the centre full of bouncing, flailing dancers.  Her hips starting moving again.  Then her shoulders.  Then Pip’s arms flew above her head, and in the next instance she was dancing in amongst them again.  Who knew where her friends were?  At this point it didn’t matter.  If you were dancing, if you were in the zone, you could dance anywhere, with anyone.  So she did.  She did her hip hop moves.  Some salsa.  Joined a conga line.  She was up for anything.  Any song that came on was her favourite.  Was the cause of whooping and cheering.  She was in “the zone”.  She found her friends again, held Sophie’s hand, mirrored her moves.  Led Sophie through her own.

A searing pain in foot.  Burning.  Pip’s eyes widened and she fell to the floor in a heap.  Jonny lifted her up and carried her out of the dark into that blinding light again.  Through to the kitchen.

They all groaned as they looked down at her foot.  A red welt slashed into the skin above her toes.  A hole.  Purple around the red.  Pip stared at her foot and felt the pounding of her blood through her whole body.  Her vision began to blur and whiten, she stared and stared, as if falling back into a tunnel.

“Let me through!” someone shouted vaguely from a distance.

She felt someone lift up her foot, her poor fragile foot and slap something cold over the top of it.  Pip breathed out through her teeth and felt the whiteness retreat.  Felt her mind return from that tunnel.  Come back to her.  The hot burning was fighting against the cold burning.  It was spluttering.  The fire was going out.

“What is that?”

“Just peas,” someone said.  “Mint peas actually.  Shelled and snap frozen.”

“Do you want to go home?” Sarah brushed Pip’s hair out of her face with gentle fingers.

“No.  I’ll just sit with the peas.”

They carried her back into the darkness (Make way!  Make way!)  and found her a place on a couch.  Sarah piled up the cushions behind her back.  Jonny nursed her legs.  Mira held her feet and draped the peas over Pip’s foot, now only dully thudding.  Sophie brought her a cold glass.

“Just water,” but who knew “Just water” cold from the fridge could taste so good.  Pip leaned back and peered out into the dance.  From the friend zone.