A solid winter’s day, with sun

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Three children are passing outside, it’s the end of the afternoon, school is done. My door is slightly ajar because at the moment, it won’t shut properly. One child makes a graceful leap at one of the spinning balloons and knocks it to the ground. And stands aghast.

His friend is outraged: You put that back up! You just put that back up, now. Quick, do it. Before they see.

A third boy is looking through the glass door and is amused: Yous, she’s just sitting in there reading a book. Look, she’s just sitting there. Oh my God.

I look down quickly, not at a book, but at an electricity bill. Hopefully they will stay a little longer. But they are anxious to be gone. One child has put the balloon back very gently,  upside down.

The all regard it seriously. He explains: I can’t reach it. They nod because it’ll do.

They all turn in a single movement and leap in various angles down the street, lightly, like grasshoppers, scratching gently at the surface of life. I can still hear them, one is telling the others not to touch the posts because he once put chewing gum there.

 

The Digger

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There is a family gathering at the end of summer. The oldest of this bowlful, the great grandparents, look benignly down across everyone. The youngest on the playground, the two year olds,  look up in astonishment at everyone.
Noah and Max aim their cousinly flights through two things only. Matchbox cars and slices of bun. There is a tiny digger of monumental value. This is because it is a digger, a tiny yellow plastic digger that they both want. The digger. They can both say digger. This word, for Max and Noah, lives in the cave of their mouths, already there, a solid, tasteful item. Digger. And there is the added delicious conflict that there is only one toy and two of them. This conflict provides enough material to enrich the entire afternoon.
They zone from table to garden and back again. They have stolen a thousand pieces of doughnut and bun. Great Grandma encourages the thefts, she looks on with approval. They are able to carry an entire theft in one fist. Mashed in with the cakes are the digger, the bulldozer and the cement mixer. The cement mixer is full of doughnut.
They have found a patch of garden that contains loose dirt; wealth equal to gold, diamonds or cordial.
Here they sit serving their own version of refreshment by the fistfuls until suddenly they both stare at the digger. There is a lurch and a chase, but they are only two years old and the purpose of the conflict becomes lost in the joy of muscle, movement and a snail.
(Reminders of toilet, safety and manners flick at their ankles and are ignored, lost).
There is another chase that ends suddenly because nobody has the digger now, it is lost. They stand perplexed. Suddenly they forget the toy and there is yet another race, wobbly, wild and scribbling, but the nappies weigh heavily, ballast is out of balance and there is a fall. There is exhaustion and despair and then finally, tears. It is time to go home.

Ebb and Flow

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There are two children in the playground here.
Two children on a metal whirler with bars for hands and bars for feet and around they go. A girl and a boy, he’s smaller. But with a hoop and a swoop that child was down and it was a beautiful down.
There he lay, stretched out soft as cotton across the bark chips.
His sister kept spinning. And singing. She swirled her spinney hair in patterns, first one way, then the other and her brother watched. Then he stood up and said, let me. She said, it’s my moon.
She swirled three more times for authority, then another and another and he waited round and round patiently round.
Then she stopped and allowed him on. They whirled together, locked eyes, orbits on, leaning back, caught in roundy rings and sibling hoopy blur.

Sculpture ‘Ebb and Flow’ by Alison Bell

British Tits

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I made a window display after Christmas and lined up the books in an amusing way by accident. Many people stopped to comment. Some leaned back and leaned in and read and re read. Some people have taken photos. One boy said to his friends: omg, look at this: British Tits or something. Is that what it says? But his friends have walked by.
One lady said: oh well, that’s a funny old set of books.
One man stopped and pointed, he tapped the glass over and over and his laugh split in pieces and dropped all over the footpath. But his friends, one with a walking stick, had moved on.
One lady rode her bike across the footpath and stopped at the window and took a photo of the display.
Some older teenagers lingered there, and all worked hard to say the funniest thing. One boy said that his tits had thrush and his friends looked at him politely but without enthusiasm.
One man parked his motorbike and took ages to stow his helmet, fold his jacket, haul out his bag, find his wallet. He stood packing things in and out and regarded the display impassively. Then he went to the bakery.
A child said: look at the cat.
On man said: British Tits to his wife, twice, and she looked at him and didn’t smile.
Two old ladies together read out the titles and looked at each other and laughed like anything. One of them said: what’s wrong with Australian tits. Her friend leaned back and laughed about sixty years of life easily up into the sky. They walked away arm in arm and triumphant.
Some high school aged students, two boys and a girl walked past and one boy read the title in surprise. He read it out loud but the other boy didn’t hear and the girl raised her shoulder against the joke and so he could not continue it.
One man roared out: British Tits to nobody and nobody responded and he continued on to the bakery.
Sometimes I feel as though I am on a houseboat. And life gently gulps past the window, removing and returning, on and on, and never really stopping, not even for British tits.

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Pish

2019-01-03 09.29.23.jpgMax is gazing through the eye of a squid. It is bright and soft with sea and also, now dead.  Max breathes in and treads through the smell and says: smell.  Then he says Pish. On the warm, white track through the sand dunes, he says: smell.  There is no breeze there, he holds both hands out in front of him as though touching a delicate curtain of salt, seaweed and heat.

Noah and Max stand at knee height and note details from complex hectares of information. There is nothing that does not add value to the hour and a caravan park yields an astonishing harvest. Once, a boat engine, unseen, coughed seawater from its throat. Once, a small girl rinsed a set of textas at the rain water tank, the cement turned briefly purple. There is a strange bird that bites the air sharply, causing a brief pause in life everywhere.  Once a monarch butterfly came into the tent and provoked anxiety. The air is full of taps and sunlight, hoses, glass bottles rattling empty melody in crates, tent pegs, buckets, low voices humming and humming, on the grass a lost child’s sandal with green tinsel tied to it. Max wanted the tinsel.

Each infant begins on a startled intake of breath, a raised hand pointing to eternity and an eye contact with anyone to ensure collaboration. It is possible sometimes to pull out a word. Once, a baby cried somewhere and Max said: cup. When their own baby (Finn) cried, Noah said: no.

But when sea water churns coldly through sand barriers and chokes up small legs and moves the entire surface of the earth sideways without stopping there are no words yet to fit over the blend of terror and radiance and hold it still.  They can only look at each other’s faces and read its diabolical intensity there.

These Girls are Friends

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These girls came into the shop together, very hot and very happy and they circled in a purposeful sort of way each of the tables and then came over to me and said they were out practising their hiking skills and fitness and that’s why they seemed kind of fit. I said that I noticed that they were kind of fit. The first girl said yes and she bounced in her shoes in strong sort of way. Her friend had a backpack and she was examining closely a copy of Black Beauty. She didn’t say anything, so the first child continued the story: they were practicing for a hike and getting their fitness up. They looked at each other and nodded and said I had nice books in this shop and then they swung out of the door and on down the street to continue the hike, the day and the strength.

Artwork by Gaelle Boissonnard

Sally and Jane live next door

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Sally and Jane live next door and we call them the Fairy Canaries and they are always interesting, always unfailingly kind and always say really good things.

Sally says its good that they don’t live too far away from us.

We think so too.

This afternoon when I arrived home from the shop, Max has just spilled off his little bike into the grape vines and is fairly unhappy.

Sally and Jane can hear him from over the fence.

After school each night Sally and Jane have a rainbow life in their garden, front and back, and also out on the road with all their friends, racing thought the warm sunlight, inventing games and multiplying their ideas, their health and their life every hour.

When they hear Max, they ask after his health. They say: is Maxy ok? Is he all right? Kerry, can we see him?

I hold Max up and he stares over the fence in amazement at Sally and Jane being right there and he is covered in tomato sauce, biscuit crumbs, vine leaves and tears.

Sally said that when she was a bobbler she also had a fall from her bike and she showed me with her foot the exact place that she fell, which is where she is standing right now. She measures out a line and explains how she crashed right there. Then she examined the line and rubbed it out. She redrew it carefully about five cm to the left and said: no, actually it was there.

They told me that they are practicing for sports day.

They said that Max needs a bath.

They said oh well, never mind, Maxy, these things happen and then will you be ok again.

Then they went away and the afternoon continued on, moving through the dazzling warm light and the dust and the children playing and Max not wanting to go inside for a bath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Emma came over.

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Emma came to visit the other night and brought with her the Fairy Canaries. Their names are Jane and Sally and they are 7 and 5 years old. Tonight they walked all the way to our house which is next door. It is baby night and we have two babies here: Noah and Max and the Fairy Canaries came over to examine them both and see that everything is ok.

They are kind and particular and pay attention to details. They consider every question closely and answer with dignity. I asked Sally how she knew that Max would be a boy and that his name would be Max and she told me that it is because she is magic.

They communicate with joyful rare phrases. When it was my birthday, they did not say happy birthday. Sally said: many happy returns. And when Max was born they told me that they were so proud of the mother.

Once Jane saw me at the fence and invited me to come over and see their shed because their shed is pretty good.

In the summer, I often hear them outside,  shrilling to each other over games with the hose or some sticks or with nothing at all. The games are always complicated and important. Once, in winter when I was in the orchard I saw them through the fence and they called to me significantly that their dog, Tucker, is in love with our dog Maysie and that it was possible that they might get married.

This afternoon Sally picked some little tomatoes for us and handed them through the fence. She picked each cherry tomato slowly, looked a each one,  frowning through her glasses for defects and then dusted the tomato and twisted off the stalk. It took nearly an hour to find twelve cherry tomatoes, as valuable as gold or lollies.

On this evening,  the baby evening, late autumn and with the fire lit and cosy inside, I am giving a bottle to Noah. Jane is standing close by and examining his every feature. She tells me that he is like a beautiful cute little baby troll.

She adds that me must always keep checking him, and all babies, that they only ever have five toes. Because this is all they are allowed to have. The adults are all busy talking and talking so she returns to Sally and the ipad game to offer advice on Subway Surfers but Sally says no no no no no no no no no no no.

Then Jane returns to me and suggests that when I have finished milking Noah, she will have a hold.

 

 

 

Rex’s Gate

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Rex visited the shop today and told me about his gate. He made this gate for his grandchildren, of which there will soon be ten. The gate is the entrance to the playground, and he made this too.

The gate is the only entrance to The Playground, and even though the playground is not actually fenced, the grandchildren always line up and enter carefully through the gate. The gate is then available to swing on because this is the second best way to use a gate!