This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung

WATCHING Jasper Jones with my kids

KNITTING a tea cosy from some lovely wool from lovely Sui-Sui.

COPING with a sudden switch to proper autumnal weather (quite a shock I have to say).

COOKING a big pot of Albruzze soup

MAKING a gift for a friend with a big birthday coming up…

HOPING to get back to some writing next week

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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

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

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.

This week

By Vita Forest

Auburn Botanical Gardens


This week I have been

WRITING  

READING The Piper’s Son by Melinda Marchetta (I just love this book)

EATING Gyoza dumplings when

VISITING Auburn Botanical Gardens for Hanami and some


SKETCHING of the cherry blossoms and other lovely things 

CELEBRATING Betty’s upcoming nuptials with a Girls Night In complete with drag queen 

LEARNING how to use a hammer drill (sorry neighbours)

PRACTISING our class play to be performed next week

FIXING props damaged in said practice 

Selfies with cherry blossoms

Eye Contact

By Vita Forest


Sean trundles along with the herd, following the signs to the Sistine Chapel.  He has lost the others.  He glanced away for a moment and when he turned back, they were gone.  They must have been pitched away from him on the tide of tourists they are travelling in.  Too late to even throw him a life line.  He supposes they will meet again at the exit, when they are all spat out some squalid hole in the wall like the rest of the waste products.  Why didn’t they make a plan?  They should always make a plan.  There are so many people here.  He feels giddy.  If he really needs to stop, he will have to fight his way to the side, cling onto some statue and get out of the pull of the current. 

Every surface seems to be busy.  The clashing colours of the clothes of the tourists pressing onwards, the paintings smothering the walls.  The noise too!  It ricochets off every surface.  He is being pelted with syllables from all sides.  He can’t understand most of it.  He would just like to rest.  They swing out of a gallery and into another corridor, but even in this between-space there is no relief.  The walls of the corridor are decorated too.  Can’t even rest his eyes before the next room!  There are fat babies balancing on towers made of fruit and veg – not how Phoebe would describe it, but it about sums it up for him.  Pattern crawling over everything like a disturbed ant nest.

The floors in these places were so hard.  He should have worn his hiking boots.  Tomorrow he will wear them.  He can feel each step jolting all the way up his spine.  Hiking boots…  Not for walking over peaceful, green fields, but to cushion the blow his heels make when they slam down on hard, city surfaces.  Both inside and out.  If it wasn’t marble floors, it was cobblestones.  What were they thinking?  All very impressive, as long as you didn’t have to walk on it.

Green fields…  He liked what they did in Austria.  Climbing up from the lake, walking through the arch of the trees, balancing on boulders to cross the streams, the smell of crushed pine needles prickling their nostrils.  There was still snow on the peaks of the mountains and the water stung their feet with its iciness.  He and Phoebe had paddled barefoot into the stream, shrieking.  Later, they sat looking down over the valley.  He cut thin slivers of apple, passing them over to Phoebe as she leaned back against a tree.

That had been a good day.

He sighs and treads water in the bottleneck at the narrow doorway at the end of the corridor.  If he loses his footing he will probably drown.  He glances out the window and sees the Papal gardens.  He would prefer to be out there in that soft greenness.  He could snooze under a tree and wait for Phoebe.  They should have arranged a time to meet.  They could be waiting all day now.  The others wouldn’t mind arranging a time, setting a limit.  He knows their interest in museums is minimal.  The Vatican is just one of those things you have to see.  When in Rome… ha ha.  He wonders if they were as bored by his suggestion of bush walking? (or hiking or whatever it was called over here.)  Possibly.  They are all being so polite.  It wouldn’t last.  This gentility.  They should set times to meet up.  If they had done this earlier, say in Austria, he could have climbed just that little bit higher and seen what was making that sound they were hearing.  Bells?  Was it goats?  Bells hanging from their necks as they strolled through the long, wet grass? 

He’ll never know.

He supposes he could just get out of here, have a quick coffee and sit on the steps in the sun to wait.  Close his eyes.  Shake his ankles out.  They would all have to come out the same exit surely?

The crowd spills out into a huge open room.

And suddenly he is there. 

This is it.  He thinks flatly as he glances up.  The Sistine Chapel.  Woo Hoo.

First things first.  He looks about at ground level and spots some bare wood – a space has opened up on one of the benches that line the walls.  He makes a dive for it and sinks blissfully down, leaning back on the cool, hard wall.  So there is the ceiling.  There is the altar painting thingy.  Yes it’s good.  He can see why it’s on the list of things to do in Rome.  His feet hurt.  He can feel the blood descending to his toes, pooling there as if his feet were made of stone, like Jesus and his mates out on of top of St Peters.  He will have to rest there for a while.  He can’t move.  He looks at the ceiling and then folds his arms and looks at his watch.  He wonders where the others are.  Maybe they aren’t too far behind him.  Mike and Louise anyway, he can’t imagine that Phoebe would get here this quick.  He leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes.  He can’t block out the noise.  The whispering.  The oohing and ahhing.

All these people from all over the world.  He is one of them.  One of the multitudes.  These all-devouring tourists.  It is making him queasy.  Going to a place where they can’t speak the language and trying to have the right experience.  Sucking it all in during their three or four days.  What he would really like to do, if he is honest, would be to go on a three or four day bushwalk, by himself.  Take a tent and camp beneath the stars.  Alone.  He needs some space.  He needs some time. 

He is still not sure what was happening with Louise.  That time on the train to Sorrento…

They were sitting two across, facing each other.  Louise and Mike on one side and he and Phoebe on the other.  Phoebe was asleep, her head leaning on his shoulder, her jacket worn backwards over her chest like a blanket.  She felt the cold, that girl. He had the window seat, looking out at the scenery.  Mike sat across from him, reading some book or other and Louise was there beside him.  Sean had glanced away from the view and back into the carriage.  His eyes had flicked over Mike and were on their way past Louise, when he realised she was staring at him.  She was sitting right next to her boyfriend, studying him.  If Mike had glanced up, he would have thought she was just looking out the window.  But he didn’t.  He was engrossed in his book.  Sean had let his eyes pass over Louise and down the train, as if he was counting the passengers, as if he was looking for an old friend, as if the blood wasn’t rushing to his face.  His eyes drifted back and there she was, still staring at him.

What?   He wanted to snap.  What are you looking at?

But he didn’t of course.  He looked out the window again and stared grimly outside, as if he was being dared.  Which he was.  She was sitting over there, staring at him, laughing at his discomfort.  He rubbed his hand over his chin and willed his vision to stay outside the train.  He was intensely aware of Phoebe’s head on his shoulder, of the gentle little puffs of her sleeping breath that only he could hear, of her hand resting in his.  He must have moved.  Phoebe stirred and opened her eyes.  He had pulled her close and kissed her rather passionately on the lips. 

And that was that. 

He had tried not to think about it too much.  What was the point?  There was enough friction on this trip without thinking about that, without reading anything into that.

But here he is, momentarily alone and thinking about it again.  He is sitting in the Sistine Chapel with very, very heavy feet.  He opens his eyes and runs them over the crowd.  The place is packed.  There are people standing in the centre of the room, craning their necks back, mouths open.  There are people walking to and fro, trying not to collide with those who have stopped.  There are others sitting on the benches that line the walls. 

And there she is.

He catches his breath sharply.  In a sudden break in the crowd, he had seen through to the benches on the opposite wall.  To Louise sitting on a bench on the opposite wall.  Staring at him again.  Is he simply being paranoid?  His vision is blocked again as a tour group leans into the tide of people and forces their way toward the exit.  The leader holds a yellow flag above her head as if going into battle.  They move on and he can see her again.  No, he is not being paranoid.  She is leaning back on the wall, not looking at the ceiling.  Ignoring the ceiling, staring over at him.  He has the solitude to test her this time, to really make sure.  He holds her gaze.  He holds it as it is crossed by gaping teenagers, retirees, parents dragging kids, people of all nations.  The whole world.  The whole world rushing past.  He looks through them and finds her staring still.

They sit across from each other, their gaze stretched tautly from wall to wall.  They sit and look as they have not looked at the ceiling, or the altar, or the statues, or anything else in this museum. 

Then all at once, Louise slowly leans forward away from the wall and rests her elbows on her knees and clasps her hands.  Moving in closer. 

Closer to him.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Indigo Slam, Chippendale


This week I have been

WRITING

READING Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (it is a ripper!)

WATCHING Viceroy’s House (recommended).

VISITING Chippendale Green for some sketching.  (I sketched Indigo Slam designed by William Smart.  An architecture student came over and chatted as I sketched and told me that all the furniture inside was specially designed too – including a table that seats 100 people!  This is a house that is designed to last one hundred years – fantastic!)

At Central Park, Chippendale


MEETING up with Vastra and Saskia at a favourite local restaurant where my favourite dessert was back on the menu (Flan Catalan – mmm!)

ENJOYING the autumn sunshine in Sydney.