Thursday, 17 January 2019

Why I Blog

I had a plaintive little yelp on FB today, about the sudden and ubiquitous pressure to take sides in the culture war about tidying up, and very delightfully, one of the very oldest friends of this blog (and of all good blogs) worked her conversation-defining magic and turned the thing into a trip down the memory hole. A good trip! I don't go into the archives here ever really but I wanted to find this post, which got mentioned today, and so, Why I blog, from thirteen years ago.

Basil's ashes are scattered under the apple tree growing so fine and strong in the garden but he really was the best cat ever, and I'm just grateful I captured something of that while he was around.

Now: that's done. No more dwelling in the past. Since we have to 2019 we might as well make the best of things.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Waves become wings

I whine a lot, I know that. I have said before that I worry a bit about how this whining goes down with the people following along at home. So I have been thinking this evening about whether it's a really a good idea to be writing at the moment. Obviously, I made the decision that it's better than not writing, better for me, I mean.

Writing, not as a substitute for therapy, not as a plea for help, not as a specific and directed communication. Writing as thought, writing as my dear D.W. Harding characterised it: the putting of experience into words. Writing as articulation, as naming the parts and putting them into functional relations with each other.

I don't know what I'm going to find to say but it starts with this: I am very, very low. Rotten things are happening. And I am so, so miserable. I've been in some bad places (I mean, just last week I lost my favourite t-shirt) but I don't remember ever feeling this much negative emotion. (This Mortal Coil probably isn't helping, but fuck it.) Reaching out an arm to the shelf, taking down the key reference works from the library of memories of crises, what's happening now doesn't belong with any of the stories of past bad times. The difference is that I am stronger. In the past I have felt irreparably broken, unable to help myself or imagine help. But now, I don't feel shattered, personally compromised or destroyed in that way. Nor in any other way. It's a different sort of pain.

The image that comes to mind is of myself, a whole person, a valuable one with a lot of good things inside to give, pinned and bound and weighted down, seen only from a distance and obscured by heavy ropes and cords. And this is a horrible feeling, in its own way worse than feeling unfixably broken. It's why I've been sitting here in the dark, writing, fighting off sleepiness, as burning tears fill and refill my eyes. I have to hear myself say something, hear myself give this experience a form and a name.   

Tuesday, 8 January 2019


Many annoying things happen every second of every minute of my life: people laugh insufficiently at my jokes; the Guardian pushed notifications to my phone today of the discovery of a 64m long fatberg beneath a seaside town in Devon; and, I have lost my favourite t-shirt. I lost it highly effectively in the superior loss mode of losing something without even knowing how. It is not special or cute to lose stuff by, say, disembarking from a train and forgetting to take it with you, then going Oh No I left my thing on a train. Tragic dignity comes only with total mystification.

Well, this t-shirt, which is black, has a deep scoop neck and elbow-length sleeves, was last seen when I wore it to Ballarat on 29 December. It's not in with the clothes I'm giving away and it didn't go into the wheelie bin, and I have established quite definitivilively that it's not interleaved between my bed sheets. Having said that I know I am going to spend another restless night moping in the groggy conviction that indeed it IS somewhere inside my bed, probably I'll grope around under the pillows and lose my sense of direction. Last night I worried about it from maybe two a.m. to around five, when I fell asleep and had a nightmare where it made a cameo appearance. At the very worst moment of the dream I woke up with my heart pounding and limbs heavy as lead. Obviously the real source of worry is something other than the t-shirt although I really would be pleased to see it again. You can never go back, though, can you?

If you ever see my t-shirt please say hello to it from me.

Monday, 7 January 2019


I haven't read that novel of Murray Bail's: should I? Is it good? Or perhaps that question should instead be, Will I like it, since I like plenty of things that are not good and I don't like even more things that are, and liking things is extremely important to me right now.

I did like Holden's Performance which is the only novel of Bail's that I have read. What I would really be interested in reading again is a short story of his which I don't know the name of but I came across in a number of the magazine called Australian Short Stories, when I was about twelve or thirteen, so mid-eighties. It was about a family freaking out, in diverse ways, on November 11, 1975, and I read it and reread it. I think, with hindsight, it might have been a sort of pastiche / send-up of the earnest aspects of the Don's Party genre of Australian storytelling. There was a lot in it that I didn't understand and still don't - a string of references to Sal Mineo - and some things that I understood with a sense of receiving also a flash of broader illumination: one man tells another a joke about Margaret Whitlam saying to Gough, Oh Gough, Do it to me like you're doing it to the country, only slower. I've often thought about that story and oh dear, having written all this down now I can see I shall have to look up the Austlit database tomorrow, work out what the story is, track it down and read it, and then somehow manage to stagger on with my life under the burden of the inevitable disappointment, sense of waste etc.

Also this is a really interesting portrait of Bail in the National Portrait Gallery. It's by Fred Williams. I didn't know he'd painted people.

What I really intended to say was that I bought a bottle of eucalyptus oil in the supermarket a month ago or thereabouts and when I finish washing the dishes after dinner I put a few drops into the water, and wash down the kitchen sink, cooktop and benches with hot, soapy, eucalyptusised water. Eucalyptus oil is toxic so I'm careful to only use a little, to dilute it a great deal and to keep it away from food and cooking and eating utensils. It smells so good and the smooth unpainted oak bench feels perfectly clean afterwards. What it somewhat surprisingly does not smell very much like is the in situ smell of a hot gum tree, or a hillside full of them. Since 2009 I associate the smell of very hot trees with overwhelming and extreme danger, and smoke and ash.

Yesterday I washed all of the washable woolen garments I own, in castile soap and eucalyptus oil, and they dried on the line all night and day, and now they're hanging in the wardrobe, soft and blank and clean.  The man to whom I lost my virginity talked at length about how my clothes smelled of sunlight from being dried on the washing line. There was a tall and skinny tree beside the Humanities building at La Trobe which produced the longest gum leaves I've ever seen. People used to use them as bookmarks. The tree's gone now, in the place where it used to grow, the university put instead a big building for taking money off international students.

Sunday, 6 January 2019


Last day of this fortnight off from work, and I feel unfinished.

I've played a lot of board games, vacuumed up a lot of cat hair, cooked a lot of dinners, washed a lot of dishes. Four different family Christmas parties: in honesty, three of them were quite okay, but the trauma inflicted by the fourth one is going to take weeks if not months to fade away.

I did do some of the things I wanted to do - I think - I feel like I saw some friends - but I'm a little bit confused about this, there are some people that I feel certain I've hung out with recently but I somehow can't pinpoint when and where. Was it all a dream. Well, I did go to the movies - came away from that experience confused, also, and with no recommendations to make - went to the beach, that was quite nice apart from the big blue jellyfish freaking us out in the water and on the sand. I read eight novels, three of them by Agatha Christie. I've begun running, or trying to run, and I haven't yet managed to injure myself. I started some drawings of the night sky and the moon, and finished sewing a garment I began working on in December 2010. I got a couple of very nasty shocks which completely knocked out of me the small feelings of hope and optimism which had begun to stir with the warm days and long quiet evenings. I've put myself onto a diet: I want to get comfortably under 70kg and stay there, so it's no more sugar for me, minimal bread, and trying to address hunger between meals with small quantities of nuts and raw vegetables until my body catches on and no longer freaks out like it did when I walked past this box of of cardboard on someone's nature strip, this afternoon:

Today I went through my wardrobe and took out every garment that I felt was less than great. It's often really difficult to discard clothing that you made yourself, but today I found it relatively easy. The night before I had been awake from two until around five, in that horrible turgid sluggish effortful broken three-quarters-awake way. My exhausted mind was worrying fruitlessly, intrusively, at a problem that is not solvable by lying sleepless in bed in the early hours. Not an unusual experience, of course. But I have to go back many years to think of a night when I have felt so troubled. Some months ago, my yoga teacher talked about mothering ourselves, i.e. giving to the self the care we give our children if we have them, or that our mothers might have given to us. I often think of this as I lie in bed at night, on my side with my knees drawn in, and I wrap my arms around my shoulders and cradle myself, just as I am, tender and vulnerable and needing comfort and peace. And that is how I was when sleep finally found me.

I've put lots into the bin or into the cotton rag bag, and I've got two and a half huge bin bags full for the op-shop, plus a smaller pile of things that are excellent in themselves but no longer work for me and I will give some thought to how I might pass these on to people who would enjoy them.

Thursday, 3 January 2019


It's going to be dangerously hot tomorrow and Leonard and I will stay indoors. So I went for a ride along the creek this evening. I went north for a change. Around the confluence of Edgars and Merri Creek the light suddenly went soft and mellow. There were a lot of very chilled birds perched quiet and still in various high positions across the wetland. What I'm saying is that it was very beautiful.

I'm not too good at the moment. The thing is, by now I'm used to feeling like this, and used to waiting it out. I don't feel like I can keep it together but I also know that actually I can. I've done it before. Reading is a really good distraction. Writing is not helpful, but I felt it was important to push the last post off the top of the page.

I did pause outside a house by the creek just south of Moreland Road because there was a nice little cat sitting in the driveway, like they do, and I wanted to say hello to it and give it a pat. I was sneaking up to it when out of the corner of my eye, in the dim twilight, I saw the face of a tiny tiny ginger kitten appear in the fork of a tree on the nature strip. I walked very carefully around the tree but the kitten seemed to have vanished. I peered up into the branches for a while, expecting to see it peeping out from the leaves but the tree was empty of kittens. And it was then that I realised that the yard of the house behind the tree had about fifteen cats in it, walking up and down the driveway, sitting in the bushes, climbing on and off the fence, busily rubbing their heads on one another.

Can you see the little ginger here, watching me intently from just beyond the railings of the garden fence?

I stood and watched the cats and kittens for a while, hoping one would come over for a pat but none did.  As I turned to go I looked up at the second-floor window. It was lit from within and a soft warm orange glow came through the heavy lace covering the glass. Outlined against the lace was the dark form of a standing woman, watching me while I looked at her darlings.