This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • The Novel Habits of Happiness By Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles By Hiro Arikawa

WRITING Power Play

WATCHING Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (wow!)

DODGING the raindrops on a quick walk at Kiama where we are

HOLIDAYING at the beach and

LOOKING forward to better weather ahead

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This week (or so)

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Holiday at home

READING

  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

SWIMMING in the waters of Balmoral Beach

SKETCHING at the Art Gallery of NSW on day too wet to sit outside

WATCHING many, many episodes of The Bureau (C’est formidable!)

MAKING Jules Clancy’s chocolate and pecan tart (spectacular)

MEETING Sui-Sui and Alessandro  for a long lunch full of good company, good food, good chatting and cat-patting!

PERCOLATING lots of ideas for writing, teaching and general creative endeavours in the year to come.

Thinking about Balmoral

By Vita Forest

It’s the summer holidays and that means lots of time spent swimming in salt water.  One of my favourite haunts is Balmoral Beach, a place with so many layers of memory washing over it.

There’s the lemon scent I catch as I walk down the street where I usually park the car, from who knows what plant – it’s not a lemon tree.  This street with the sign at the entrance to the driveway of a block of apartments “Don’t even think about parking here” which causes equal parts outrage and laughter.  The flats, with the garage that at one time had its door raised to reveal a private gym, and another time, another year, a stall of random items for sale including a couple of Margaret Atwood books.  One day I bought The Blind Assassin.  The next day I bought Alias Grace.  A street I walk along and wonder, which house would I live in?  If I could?  Or would I choose that low-maintenance apartment with its shady verandah looking out over the beach?

There’s The Baths.  Years ago, we used to have our initial swimming carnival for high school there (before moving onto to the more serious North Sydney Olympic pool for the finals).  It was a fun day out, with those who wanted to participating in the races, diving off the floating blocks into the often choppy water, while those who didn’t, sunbaking on the slatted wooden jetty or splashing about in the shallows near the sand.  In recent years, Max and Lucy have floated there on giant doughnuts or blow up boats or snorkelled under the jetty looking for fish and crabs and the rumours of seahorses living in the waving kelp.  In recent years I have returned here to swim, simplifying my routine by swimming without goggles or a cap.  Perhaps that is why I don’t do Freestyle anymore – too much water gets in my ears.  Instead I keep my head out – all the better to see where I am going and to pause every now and then to look up at the bush on the headland or the clouds floating in the blue sky.

Further south, there are large fig trees that grow on the grass behind the sand.  Some of them are like pavilions with branches extending over the beach itself.  It was under one of these that I used to sit with Lucy as a baby, her body lying between my legs, her feet kicking into the air as she gazed up at the twinkling brightness of the sun through the fig leaves.  It was here that her feet were first dipped into salt water, tiny toes flaring up at its coldness.  It was here I rocked the pram covered with a muslin cloth, groggy with lack of sleep, and watched Max play on the pirate ship in the playground.

Heading north, there’s the island attached to the promenade by an arched concrete bridge.  It was here we drank cheap champagne on one of our last days of high school.  It was here I have stopped with innumerable friends on innumerable walks up and down the beach in summer and winter, sunshine and rain.  It was here a month or so ago, I sat on a rock and drew a fig tree growing out of a crevasse between two boulders of sandstone, its roots clutching and wrapping around the rocks.  It was on that occasion that I saw the young bride and groom, she in a backless white gown that showed off the tattoos on her tanned shoulders.

It’s to this place I have come in summer, either early or late, to avoid the harshness of the midday sun.  And so I never see Freya, who I work with, who only goes there at the hottest time of the day.  She is young and invincible and lies in the sun to get a tan, something I never do.  Me in my long-sleeved rashie seeing if I can still swim a kilometre.

I can.

 

This week (or so)

By Vita  Forest

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This week (or so) I have been

READING Death comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

WRITING and EDITING my novel!

VISITING

  • the city to see the Christmas lights

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  • Manly for some sketching
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Ferry ride to Manly

  • The Goods Line, the UTS Building by Frank Gehry and the Central Park Precinct  (- the kids and I gave my parents a little tour of the area).

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SWIMMING

  • at Cremorne Point and Balmoral Beach

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Tourists at Cremorne Point

SKETCHING at

  • Manly
  • Cremorne
  • The Botanical Gardens

MAKING White Rocky Road (mmm mmm!)

ENJOYING being on holidays!

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Through the wardrobe

READING Thomas Appleby Convict Boy by Jackie French (getting ready for next year’s history topic).

SAYING farewell to students and teachers and other staff who are leaving the school.

CLEANING the classroom

WATCHING the excellent Year 6 musical

PERFORMING a surprise teachers Christmas dance for the students (we felt like rockstars!)

SEEING some old pals at our Christmas party

SKETCHING a witch’s house at Annandale

EATING fish and chips at Balmoral Beach with Vastra then seeing a movie

PUTTING up the Christmas decorations at last

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Mobile Tales 11: a sky full of stars

READING The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making by Catherynne M. Valente

PLAYING Muggle Quidditch at school after

MAKING broomsticks out of newspapers and masking tape (but no one completed their homework and learned how to fly…)

VISITING The Finders Keepers Market at Barangaroo with the whole family

ATTENDING the Year 6 Farewell

FEELING rather exhausted

Layers

By Vita Forest

Inside the Tramsheds, Harold Park

This morning we went sketching at the Tramsheds at Harold Park.  Here are some of the things I saw

  • a girl at Central Station wearing a long dark skirt emblazoned with a print of Hogwarts at night.
  • a toddler sitting on his father’s shoulders on the Light Rail carriage.  It was crowded and his father held the boy’s foot with one hand and a pole with the other.  The little boy helped by holding onto a strap with his  tiny hand.  It looked precarious but they were quite relaxed and there were no accidents.
  • Preparation and setup at the Tramsheds by the staff before they opened for business.

Preparing pasta

  • A group of men meeting for coffee with their boosted (skate)boards leaning against the walls, waiting.  They left later, some wearing helmets, some without.
  • Lots of still lives – native flowers in vases or pots or jars resting in alcoves.
  • Men watching sport on a corner screen as they waited at the barber, their spouses waiting outside on comfy text-splattered arm chairs.

At the barber

  • a boy having a tantrum as his parents watched, bewildered.
  • An old tram turned into a cafe (a popular subject for the sketchers in all its green and gold).
  • cricketers in white playing on the oval in Jubilee park.

Here are some of the things I drew

  • Stacks of bowls and plates making pleasing shapes on shelves.
  • Long, freshly made strands of pasta drying on hanging rods.

Making Pasta

  • A wall of brightly coloured lockers.

Lockers

  • Studded grey/green leather diner stools.

  • layers and layers and layers (screens and windows and shelves and slats) that you could peer through).

Layers and layers

  • the dangling roots of an indoor fig tree.
  • sculptural pendant lights.
  • a service bell in the shape of a crab.
  • pipes from an exhaust fan
  • a stack of baskets
  • a rowing boat suspended from the ceiling with swinging silver fish hanging beneath it.
  • Orange lentils, golden cashews and brown almonds in matching jars.
  • scarlet plastic coated wires near metal tubing.
  • electric globes hanging in trees.
  • neon signs.

One of my sketches

With a touch of colour added