Max and Noah are on the edge of the sea and playing in that slice of joy that lies directly where the sea meets the sand. Here they can trot about with competent feet, carry sand in grainy wet loads and roar bravely at the sea. They can enter the water and become caught in the muscular pull of cold weight around their hearts and quickly stop still. Max sniffs the surface and is shocked with salt. They both make squinting eyes. The bay is a lagoon nursing heat and light and small children, beyond them, a dog swims patiently in and out, enclosing his owners in soft ripples, there is no noise, Noah says: doggen.
And they keep playing on, smudged and warm and covered in beach and the dog swims silently by.
Brenda and Frank came into the shop and they were bending forward, with raised shoulders and concerned hands as though pressed in through the door by the heat outside. When they straightened up safely, Frank saw me and nodded and told me that he did most of his reading on the can. He said: I’m going to branch out, starting with Mopy Dick, I saw the film, I read history you see, true stuff.
He bent forward to
stare at a set of Britannica literature and he was delighted, he said: is that
the whole lot… flipping heck… Charles Darwin…no, no, I don’t know him. But I’ll
find out! He looked around and indicated the whole shop, swept its outline with his can of beer: this is a place of good
Brenda, said, don’t worry about that, what are we going to get now?
I’m going to start at the top and work down, going to start reading that way, I really want to, don’t I, Brenda. She agreed affectionately, regarding him as the living treasure he actually is and they chose a copy of Moby Dick with delight and left again, blazing out into the hot day, going for coffee, carrying goodwill, a passion for living and Moby Dick.
When Max got off
the plane in Melbourne, he couldn’t get off the plane. Instead he turned into
the cockpit, compelled by the lights, pulled into a sparkling, startling new
version of his plane ride. Unaware of pilots or areas not for infants, he
scanned the display of diamonds and emeralds that had just flown him from
Adelaide to Melbourne, and then he himself had to pilot all the language he had
available for such magnificence. He said “pretty,” and the pilots looked
A man walked past this morning wearing a green shirt with a printed Christmas tree and headphones with a long chord and the chord hit each post as he passed it and I heard the clinking each time until he picked it up and wrapped it around his neck. He has a newspaper and a coffee and when he stops at his car, his friend who is waiting, says: turn it off now, man and the kerb next to them is hopping with sparrows and they both look down at them while they drink their coffee. Inside, a man has paid for his books and said to me that Christmas was a quiet one this year, he was off to get a pudding or something and some beer, it would be ok.
There is a young girl drifting around, lost in some place, not here, and a lady near her has red tinsel tied to her glasses. She says she can’t come at second hand books for Christmas herself but her friend, Dot, always gets some but she is silly as a wheel anyway. Eventually she tells her friend, Dot, who is silly as a wheel, that she would wait in the bakery. And she passes the young girl who is drifting around like slow music and she snaps the door shut and goes away from the second-hand books. The young girl is carrying plays, poetry, short stories and a complete volume of Edgar Allan Poe, and as she leaves, she tells me she is on holidays and this is why she has bought too many books. Then she has to wait in the doorway to let a man pass by carrying a wooden window frame containing rectangles of coloured glass; he says sorry there, sorry there, nearly there and the footpath is stained with lozenges of red and green and yellow and a child crouching down holding out both hands to the sparrows at the back of the ute receives coins of coloured light across his forehead and the girl with the poetry walks the other way and the crouching child’s mother calls him away from the car and the child says that the birds are magic birds who only eat twisties and water.
Finn is tangled up in a family Christmas event where there are four generations ploughing gently through the afternoon; eating, arguing, drinking, thinking. Finn, whose needs are profound and simple, seeks eye contact and joy. Luckily, he receives both at once in dizzying measures right across the afternoon and evening, each dose causing his legs to rise up, the bones to grow, his ears to fill, his head to balance and his hands to reach out and hang on to the day. A proper Christmas.
Warm and quiet and raining here. A child, here with her parents looks at the sheep on the front of a nativity story book and says “lizard”.
There is a Christmas tree in a trailer parked right outside the shop and the little tree is held under yellow straps and is glistening with rain. Next to it is a box of tools and a grey water bottle and some metal bars wrapped in a striped towel.
A child presses her nose against the window and stares fiercely at the wooden cat.
A mother, passing by with her family, tells her two small sons that they don’t need books. The smallest boy sets his bottle of coke carefully on the edge of the kerb while waiting to cross safely. He holds on to the trailer with the Christmas tree and when he looks over at the tree he laughs. He says there is rain on the tree eyelashes. When they can finally walk, he forgets his drink and leaves it balanced there on the edge of the footpath, with rain on its eyelashes.
A young tradesman leaves his ute engine running while he jogs carefully around to the bakery and an old man, passing with a bottle of milk, taps the window, trying to find the driver. Then he turns and says to the street, “that’s careless!”
Three boys stand at the door and knock before coming in. The smallest one tells me he came here before and now he is back. He is holding a handful of coins – he asks me if I have any fly spray, but I don’t – I tell them where to go and they say love your shop by the way and they all bump out, leaving fine handprints on the door and lifesavers wrappers on the floor.
An old lady has come in for Christmas presents and tells me that when she taught high school, she rebuked any child who had not written in their text books. She said: make it yours, make the play yours, make the ideas yours. Why are you saving that book you silly child? I want to see it written all over, it is your notes the next person will want. She asked to see any copies of Shakes that I had and she bought four of them for her grandchildren, all of them written through with the furious pencil of previous students, and she was delighted. She bought a copy of Denslow’s Night before Christmas even though he had been a drunken old fool. Then she said she was going back to the bakery for a cup of tea, wasn’t the rain lovely, the lovely, lovely rain.
At the end of the day I have made $29 and get for free a lifesavers wrapper, some handprints, eyelashes, carelessness, the lovely, lovely rain, directions to Shakespeare and a lizard. So an intensely rewarding day.
When I was a child, colours in glass meant Christmas, but I don’t know why. I know we lived next to a church with stained glass windows that would have shouted their outrage all through the summer. Colours of boiled lollies. We sat on the smooth wooden pews in church every Sunday morning, already hot, already ready to leave, across the road the sea went on and on and didn’t even care about Christmas. Our bikes leaned against the gate close by because we only lived next door. Once my brother threw a brick into the outside church toilet and busted the porcelain bowl and we sprinted without stopping all the way home which was only ten metres. Because the minister’s kids shouldn’t do stuff like that.
Christmas time was rich and heavy and brilliant with the sea across the road, Santa in a front end loader and it was a real Santa not some bullshit farmer dressed up and riding in their own front end loader. This was a real one and his reindeer were in the old stone barn at the back of the bank. The kids whose dad ran that bank said this was true and I remember that girl, Susan, in my class, had a dragster bike with pink things on the wheels so it was real what she said. Christmas was stained glass and the nativity, a brilliant tranquil story fired though with candles and sheep, lit up at the back with a stained glass window of another entirely different story, set on fire with the summer, threaded through with the last days of school where we made lanterns with green, blue, red, orange, yellow cellophane, the classrooms blazing with tinsel, the final concert where we sang too loud and the infants teacher was tired and said keep calm and that family that lived in the sandhills in a shack that had no electricity and sand going in the front door. And then we ran home fast as anything because if you were outside when the sleigh went over you only got a bag of sand. The green and blue bottles at the window reminded me of all of that.
I really hate cooking. There is not much more to say about this photo except that I just hate cooking. My mum and her mum, and her mum ( etc. ) were extraordinaires. They could make anything, out of anything, anywhere and at any time. I just helped. And I did this as quickly as possible because I just wanted to get back to my reading. But because I read so much, I was always hungry and so took every opportunity to eat quickly with the book open nearby, breathing its narrative over the top of the oven and in this picture there would have been a book nearby, open and waiting; looking at the age of myself here I think it might have been Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat.
Right now, today, it is the beginning of summer and hot. Outside, the evening is still warm and spiked through with galahs and dust and neighbours, and I am letting a good pork roast burn to death because I have just started reading In Search of Lost Time, and I cannot leave it, the best parts are about food and cooking and how important these are. So that pork roast can just go to hell.