Archive for April, 2010

One Year On

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 by ladyredjess

It seems peculiarly apt that, a year to the day I flew back home, I will be moving out of Sister’s and into my own place.  I will have to get a divorce from the coffee machine.  This is heartbreaking.

It has been a haphazard year.  Every second that could be spared — from thesis corrections and conference presentations; finding a job and enough money to stay afloat while writing; babysitting, cooking and cleaning; making new friends and flirting; cycling, running and swimming; travelling up and down the East coast to home, to Bundaberg, to Canberra and Sydney — was spent on my novel.

The patchiness showed in the text, my agent said, as she found it hard to figure out who the characters were and what was going on.  It jumped around a great deal.  I had been jumping around a great deal also.  So I battened down the hatches and did another draft, and I will have to finish it amidst the move, surrounded by boxes.

Despite my unsettlement, it has been heavenly to start life again in Brisbane.  There has been much good coffee; Turkish Delight and Oriental lilies from the markets on Saturdays; my sister and her captivating children; bookclubs at Avid Reader and dance classes; drinks with clever people on Friday nights; a fluffy puppy that sits at my feet as I write and runs with me in the afternoons; old acquaintances who have become good friends; babies to play with and hold; a river to ride along; lush vegetation and, above all, the gorgeous, abundant, glorious sunlight.

Even though I still often get tired, I think of how miserable I was for years in London, and I count my blessings.  For now I am as happy as I was when I was a little girl, running madly along the verandah before the summer storms.


On Fictocriticism

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11, 2010 by ladyredjess

M. asked me to talk for a bit about the process involved in writing my Ph.D. thesis at the London Consortium, for her class on practice-led research.  As a creative writer, I found it impossible to produce a conventional piece of literary criticism for the thesis because I can never write anything without making stuff up, so I found fictocriticism (a combination of fiction and criticism) an indispensable vehicle.  I ended up putting myself into the text as a character, then using first person narrative to write about my three subjects – Georgiana Molloy, Rosa Praed and myself.  This then tied neatly into the concept of the writing self being divided into two selves – the self which exists, and the self which writes about that existence – as described by Margaret Atwood in Negotiating with the Dead.

I also discuss the impact my deafness had on my style, in that because I can’t hear everything, I make the rest up, so what I write will invariably be made up of both truth and fiction.

WordPress didn’t like my video (and I am not technologically literate enough to work out why) so I put it on YouTube instead of here, but then they only accept files 10 mins long so I had to break it into 2 bits.  The first section is mostly an extract from my final chapter, and after that there’s a discussion of my writing practice, which in this instance was motivated by a need to complete a process of mourning.

Easter Shenanigans

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 by ladyredjess

Easter was a wonderful escape from the stress and confines of Bris Vegas.  I was liberated by J1&S at 6.15am on Thursday morning when I was far from compos mentis, but it was a very pleasant and relaxing trip to Coonabarabran. The baby went to sleep, and so did I.  Then I read some of my book and watched the scenery.

Outside Moree we stopped in a park and the baby sat on the grass and S went off to find booze.  On his return, he said that he’d just heard Tony Abbott had been stepped down for possession of steroids to help him run his marathons.  I was beside myself with joy: I resent Abbott’s patriarchal attitudes & his antagonism towards gay people & how he thinks he’s hot in his budgie smugglers when he’s really an ugly mutt, not least because of his personality.  Then S explained it was an April Fools’ joke and my balloon was pricked.  Sometimes being the most gullible individual in the universe has its drawbacks.

L&F’s property was just gorgeous, especially because the country was so similar to the country in which I had grown up.  I helped S collect firewood (I picked up 3 pieces), then drove the quadrunner, which I haven’t done since I was 15, and S directed me to the top of the hill to watch the sun go down.  The end of the day, when the light was long and low, was always my favourite, and the dusk with its soft purples and pinks was the same as on our property, and as in the watercolours my father painted.

The next morning I went for a run and scratched my legs in the long grass and infested my socks with grass seeds.  The smell of the bush, wet with dew, was just as I remembered it, and the sky was the same shocking blue above the low hills.  I ran among the native pines as I had on our property, until I ran into a spider’s web, saw the size of the spider, had a minor freak out and galloped back to the road.

E&R turned up before lunch so we had a glass of champers, then lunched outdoors in L’s beautiful garden.  Then L took E and I to a dam for a dip.  I had buggered my bikini in another dam on Australia Day and hadn’t yet got a new set, so I was reduced to my pink Bonds undies and my sports bra.  It was warm on the surface but bitterly cold beneath and we didn’t stay in for long.

L was a wonderful cook and catered for my various food allergies, which was amazing, not least because she cooked for 16 other people that night too (they didn’t have allergies fortunately).  I drank too much sav blanc and woke up disgruntled the next morning.  I went for another run, keeping to the road this time.  Milo, the Jack Russell, belted ahead of me and wouldn’t go home when I told him to.  His little feet skittered along, he picked up a rock for me to throw, and seemed to be having a marvellous time.  Then F came on the quadrunner looking for him – they’d been wondering where he was – and scooped him up.

‘Do you want a lift too?’ he asked me, concerned by my sweating and red-faced visage.  I shook my head, intent on seeing it through, and it was worth it because the endorphins made me more civil.

At lunch time we headed to the gorge, stopping en route for clay pigeon shooting.  I didn’t participate as I don’t like violence, weapons or shooting, except for that done with a lens, and I shot accordingly.  The gorge was green and lush, with a creek running through it.  I opened more champers and chatted with N, who had turned up with her husband for the day.  Then the neighbour M2 made some extremely potent cosmopolitans and served them to us in aluminium mugs.  I liked that (I like pink drinks in whatever form), but I was somewhat overwhelmed by the alcohol content, and after I’d said goodbye to N I had a have a little power nap in the car with the baby.  The latter woke me up with his vigorous vocalisations, though I’d turned my hearing aid off.  I ignored it for a bit, then staggered out.

‘You’ll make a great mother,’ S said dryly, tending to the baby.

‘Oh well, my husband will just have to get up to look after the child when it’s screaming, won’t he,’ I returned.  And my conservative relatives wonder why I’m still single.  I like to tell them I’m a lesbian and that I’ve written a novel to prove it.

J1 also expressed her disgust that there was a plethora of available men circulating and yet I had failed to make a move on any of them.  I explained that I wasn’t a fast worker and I was very particular, although I was by no means ungrateful for her efforts.  She still didn’t look very impressed.

Towards the end of the evening, after the boys had exerted their manhood and made a bonfire and E and I were drunk and giggling hysterically, the way we always have since school, E. unveiled some butterscotch schnapps.

‘You wanted something sweet, Jess, here we have it.’

‘Butterscotch?  I’m allergic to dairy!’

‘No, you can still drink it, I’m sure you can.’

‘What are the ingredients?’  I stumbled to fire, the only source of light available, to read the ingredients, but it had nothing listed.

There being no satellite connection available to consult the Oracle, I tried the next best thing.

‘P1, where are you?’ I yelled.  ‘P….1!’

I located him in the darkness and explained, with great eloquence and significant pointing, that there were no ingredients listed on the bottle.  Unfortunately however, P1’s reading had not yet extended to the distillation process of butterscotch schnapps.  Defeated, I returned to E.

‘I’ll pass out!’ I warned her.

‘Well, you’re going to do that anyway.  Just drink it.’

As it happened, I was fine, if exceedingly drunk.  I listened to some ghost stories the boys told, filed one away for a future story, and then conferred with E&R and decided it was time to go home.  I was stuck in the back of the ute and R negotiated us with great care over the rocky landscape.

I woke up at 7 feeling sorry for myself, and staggered out in my hot pink flannel PJs.

‘You’re not going for a run today?’ Fred asked.

‘I’ve got a hangover, Fred.’

‘You’re getting soft!’ he scolded, trying not to smile.

After a cup of tea I managed to clothe myself and accompany M1 into town to get bread for 17 people, whereupon I made various hungover quips about Jesus feeding the 5000 with loaves.

The rest of the morning we passed playing Cranium.  R was my partner and I was most impressed that he accurately detected my rendition of Shakira.  As we played, P1 assiduously cleaned up the kitchen, brought things in from the utes and put them away, then attacked the edge of the table with a cloth, rubbing it furiously.

‘Do you think it’s clean enough?’ I teased him merrily.

Then my poor, long-suffering father picked me up at midday and we drove back home, stopping en route to visit grandma in the nursing home and BabyW, a new addition to CousinA’s family.  He had pretty blue eyes.

For the past five days I’ve been writing, and now I am thoroughly sick of it.  Mum is in NZ visiting rellies so dad and I have been conducting our small rebellions: leaving the door open so the sunlight gets in (and the flies), not cleaning things up immediately, leaving the coffee grinds in the sink … Mum would have a hernia.  However it is always lovely to come home and find your favourite Bushells Extra Strong teabags in the cupboard and a bottle of Malborough sav blanc in the fridge … frankly, life could be a lot worse.