This has never happened before! These children swung into the shop during the afternoon, so suddenly that I didn’t see them until they were directly in front of me and clasping their hands together as a plea, they asked if I might look after their bikes, please and please, while they went to Woolworths to get some things. They were bright with cold and energy and woven together in a tight clump of children and daylight and endless time.
And they had already parked the bikes in a neat row along the window of the shop; they showed me this a little anxiously. And I said that this was all good. And off they went.
A little later a boy came into the shop in a puzzled and worried way and told me that he knew the people who were of those bikes. He stood with his hands in his pockets and looked at the Asterix books for a while and then asked me if those people were actually in the shop and I said no, they were around the corner and up the street and he dashed for the door and out and around the corner and was gone.
Later, I checked the bikes; they had obediently stayed in their courteous row.
An hour later, the children were back, as suddenly as they had left. They thrust a handful of gentle flowers at me, orange and white daisies, they said: here’s for you, for looking after the bikes, and then they were all backing out, banging into each other and into the doorway, calling and calling: thank you very much for looking after… see you another time…see you….
There’s a little boy come into the shop with his sister, they are allowed in by themselves while their mother waits outside with their dog and all the shopping.
The little boy holds a cork with two blue straws taped to it, it has tinsel on one end and green paper on the other and he cradles it, enchanted by it, lives with it. While his sister reads he flies his bird gently along the shelves and up and over the stacks, greeting the window with a glass kiss, they both look through the window, wondering about the day, inquiring into the magic.
But then one of the plastic wings drops and falls away and he kneels down, cupping the bird, soothing its cork heart, he tenderly attaches the wing again, under the same worn tape where it holds quite well. He sees that I am watching and he holds up the bird, shows me that all is ok.
His sister is finished, she has chosen her book, she says: come on…and then all three of them are slowly leaving and flying home.
Sculpture by Rex Homan
A little girl wandered into the shop here one morning with a bucket of chalk and she was all by herself. She said: I’m just looking at the books.
Then she looked at me and said: sometimes I see words that are really small and I’m like…
There was a long silence while she waited politely for me to understand what it was like to see words that are really small.
Then she said: yeah.
She continued walking gently around, noting out loud what she liked.
I like Olivia.
I like this. I like this, maybe.
The door swung open suddenly and her father was there, looking at me in amazement. He looked at his daughter and said: God, what are you doing, we couldn’t find you.
He checked his phone. She said: just looking.
He checked his phone.
She kept on looking and he checked his phone.
He said: ok, come on. The weather’s coming in.
She walked past and bid me goodbye, serene and glowing. She said: I like mice.
And her father ushered her out, hurrying onwards and outwards into the weather and into the future.
Photography by John Wilhelm
There are two young children here in the caravan park, in the warm summer, on the hot grass and they have a metal detector.
They are purposeful, their backs are bent and their thin arms concentrate on the work. Every patch of patchy ground has potential…. gravel, sand, garden, asphalt, earth, kerb, grass, cement…all are tried and tried.
The detector beeps a small hoot every now and again and they stop and bob about to retrieve the treasure – a bottle top, a slip of metal, a casket of jewels. They scrape sand back reverently but there is usually nothing there. Then they push the sand back into place, gentle caretakers of this unnoticed ground.
But suddenly they have found something, and the detector makes a vast sound.
He says: it’s nothing.
She says: it’s something, look.
And they lean in, knees hopeful and noses together.
He says: it’s metal?
She says: it’s glass. It’s this. It’s this.
She picks it up, a small thing, holds it cupped and close, running eyes over the pleasing magic.
She says: it’s golden glass.
He says: it’s gold glass.
They take it to the tap and rinse the sand away from its golden value and the detector lies in the grass forgotten. The entire day, so deeply entered, is also forgotten.
The tap flashes in the sun, the stream of water flashes in the sun, their blond childhood heads blaze through the water drops, the warm, ticking scrub leaning kindly over them and the sea itself acknowledging the wisdom.
Photography by Yeshi Kangrang