Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Move

Here we are bang in the middle of it, virtually camping in our present home, surrounded by chaos and increasing dust, as we fill boxes with glassware, knick-knacks, and books, books, books, books, books…. We have permission to stash stuff in the garage of the new home before actually moving in, which will save us a lot of money in removalist’s fees. Boxes from our two local liquor stores are particularly good for books, we’ve discovered – small but sturdy, designed for wine bottles, not too heavy for us oldies to lift and carry. Various good friends are coming and helping us pack. Some have done it a few times themselves, so they are very efficient by now at wrapping, taping and labelling. The removalist will only need to take actual furniture.

M from the WordsFlow group came Monday and Wednesday. She has some chronic condition to do with ligaments, which means that she can’t sit long in an ordinary chair and if she over-taxes herself in any way she suffers excruciating pain. She brought her portable recliner chair which travels on the roof rack of her car, and sat in that, wrapping glasses and ornaments and putting them in boxes as I handed them to her. Or she knelt on the floor, taking books from shelves and boxing them. She had the alarm set on her mobile phone so she knew when to stop and lie down flat for 10 minutes.

D, an old friend who is also in WordsFlow, came on Tuesday even though she’d given herself a painful back from overdoing things in her garden the day before. ‘I think I can still help a bit,’ she said, and sat at the dining table lovingly wrapping and packing our crystals. A friend of hers from the Back Pain Relief Association had travelled all the way from Brisbane that morning to give her a special device to stop her back from spasming. I am blown away by the selflessness of these friends.

On Sunday a friend with a van is coming over at 4pm to help transport whatever there is, paying forward the recent help she got from some other friends (not us) when she moved house. On Monday another friend with a van is coming. He is the guy who mows our lawns – as a favour, because he sees that we help people and so he helps us. He’ll be pleased with the new lawn: the proverbial pocket handkerchief!

A WordsFlow participant who works as a cleaner phoned and said she has to visit her Mum one day, but as soon as she knows what day suits her Mum, she’ll get back to us and work out which day she can help here.

Today our coven sister WhiteStar spent most of the day with us, packing books much faster than we could have managed and following us to the new place to help us unload at that end. WhiteStar was cheery company, and she was enthusiastic about the new place. She exclaimed over the lovely courtyard, the well-kept garden, the clean carpet (so different from what we’ve been putting up with here).

‘Feel that lovely sea breeze,’ she said and indeed it was beautiful. It feels like high summer here already; it feels like Bali. I’m sunburnt just from ducking out to the shops today, briefly, in a sarong. February will probably be stinking. That breeze will be very welcome! (Yes I know; sorry all you Northern Hemisphere people freezing in the snow.)

We’ve developed a pattern: get up and get to work on the packing, fill the car with boxes, take them over to the new place and unload, repeat. It’s great that it’s only a five-minute trip, no chore at all! We’ve been making two or three runs some days. Then we go for a late afternoon swim in the creek. We’re experiencing king tides all along this coast at present; the creek is high. It’s turquoise-blue and clear. Today we shared it with a stately pelican cruising past us like a yacht – until he suddenly flapped his wings, lifted slightly out of the water and then plunged his long neck under the surface. Sure enough he brought it up a few minute later and raised his head high in the air to gulp a fish down that great gullet. ‘Poor fish,’ said Andrew. ‘Lucky pelican,’ quoth I.

We also shared the water with a tiny yellow runabout which kept a safe distance from us, and with a young mother giving a swimming lesson to her little girl who was just past toddler-hood. The child was reluctant to get out again when it was time to go. So were we!

Although we can walk to the beach from the new place – in fact that’s the only way to get there – it turns out to be quite a hike over the dunes in soft sand that’s very hard to walk in. And once you get there, it’s quite a small stretch of beach: I can walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes. I think we’ll continue to drive to our favourite spot in the creek for a swim, and to our current nearest (vast) beach when we want to go walking by the ocean. That’s all right; it will take no longer than it does to drive there now.

The new place is the same number of rooms (except for the ensuite) but they are smaller in size. My huge desk has had to go, which my friend Leah bought me – good heavens, ten years ago! – in return for some transcribing work I did for her on the handwritten diaries she kept when she moved from Australia to Israel. We donated the desk, which was getting rather worn by now, to the op shop at the Neighbourhood Centre. Our four ancient armchairs went the same way, and so did a huge, I mean HUGE, toy dog which in a fit of madness I insisted Andrew buy me for my birthday. He was a blue heeler, almost the size of a person, and looked very convincing with his front legs propped up on something like the arm of a chair. ‘How can you bear to part with him?’ squealed a wizened little old lady working at the op shop. But we had our $20 worth of fun out of him and, as Andrew said, ‘It’ll bring some child joy.’ (He asked me what I planned to do with my teddy bear collection. After deliberating for some days I gave him the answer: ‘I’ve decided to keep them.’ Well there are only four – it’s just that they too are quite sizeable, even if nothing on the dog. I’m a child at heart!)

We’ve even managed to cull some clothes and some bedding, also some curtains we’ve been dragging around with us to four different places now without ever using them. The one thing we can’t cull, however, is of course the books. People ask why we don’t give them away when we’ve read them, and share the pleasure with others. Are they mad? Don’t they know about the pleasures of re-reading?

I was proud of myself for budgeting well for the move, and of both Andrew and me for finding cheaper removalists and carpet cleaners than the first ones we spoke to, thus saving ourselves a considerable amount. But things are not as cheap as they were last time we moved, five and a half years ago; we wound up short of some of the money we’ll need to pay out on Wednesday – the Big Day. I asked First Foster-Son and his wife if they could lend it to us, saying we could pay them back within two months. A message came, saying a late Christmas present is on the way, non-returnable, and we should take ourselves out to dinner once we’re moved and settled. Yes, it’s quite a lot more than we requested, and that would be a very slap-up dinner indeed! We’ll undoubtedly follow that excellent suggestion, and it will enable us to do some other things we’ve been desiring, too. New shoes for me, a book Andrew needs for a screenwriting course he’s just enrolled in, and so on and so on.

Life is good.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Maureen Watson, poet and storyteller, passes

I have been asked by her grand-daughter, my friend Kaiyu Bayles, to post the following to my blogs and social networks.

I myself only met Kaiyu's grandmother once, briefly, at a writers' festival in the eighties, but her poetry, her passion and her compassion were memorable! She is a loss to the nation.



Celebrate the life of Granny Mook/Aunty Maureen Watson

Vale Aunty Maureen Watson/Granny Mook,
Blessed this earth from 9/11/1931 - 4/1/2009
“honorable ancestor...’

"We want to make the world a better place, that's the bottom line I guess, we want to make the world a better place, for my children, for his children, her children, your children, we want to make the world a better place." Aunty Maureen Watson, Brisbane, 5 February 1998

Funeral Service:
12.30pm Monday 12 January
Murri School, cnr Beaudesert & Mortimer Rds, Acacia Ridge
For more information contact Tiga Bayles on 3892 0100

Aunty Maureen Watson was a storyteller, poet, singer, actor and political activist, highly regarded for her stories which told of Aboriginal culture and experiences within urban Australia.

Born in Rockhampton in 1931, Aunty Maureen was a proud Birri Gubba and Kungalu woman who left school at the age of 13 and at 21 married Harold Bayles to have five sons.

She later returned to her education, eventually moving to Brisbane in 1970 to begin an arts degree at the University of Queensland in 1970.

In 1981 she moved to Sydney, where she set up the Aboriginal People's Gallery in Redfern and was a driving force behind the development of Indigenous broadcasting in Sydney community radio.

Aunty Maureen was at the forefront of the Aboriginal protests against the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982, and was arrested three times while participating in demonstrations.

Her first collection of stories and poems, 'Black Reflections', was published in 1982 and she subsequently produced six more poetry anthologies, one children's book and one picture book.

She performed in many plays and films including Fringe Dwellers and in 1986 Jack Davis' play, The Honey Spot, in its tour of Victoria and New South Wales.

Her gift for storytelling helped her to travel widely across Australia, New Zealand and Europe to give presentations.

Over a number of years she worked with Sisters Inside, a support group for women in prison.

In 1996 Aunty Maureen was awarded the Australia Council Red Ochre award for her outstanding national and international contribution towards recognition of Aboriginal arts, and was the first winner of the United Nations Association Global Leadership Prize for her outstanding work towards achieving cross-cultural understanding and harmony.

Aunty Maureen continued to work as an active leader and highly respected elder in Brisbane for the next ten years or so before suffering a stroke and spending her remaining days on Stradbroke Island, close to some of her 24 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

She will be greatly missed.

For more information contact Tiga Bayles on 3892 0100 or 0429 871 989

A family-approved photograph of Aunty Maureen can be accessed at Portraits of Australian Aborigines, 1981-1984 / photographed by Penny Tweedie

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Moving House

Well, everything happened very fast! A week ago our landlord came round to give us notice, as he wants to move back in here himself. We were oddly un-bothered by this, even excited. He promised us a good reference – which he afterwards gave us – and even to help us move if necessary, to save our costs.

We put the word out to all our friends in this area, and one of them emailed us almost immediately about a place she’d found on the net which sounded perfect. It turned out to be for sale and we were told they could only offer us a 6-month lease, so we lost interest. We want to be assured of longer tenure than that!

We registered with the agents anyway, in case something else should come up that might suit. And we started looking at places listed with other agents, but couldn’t find anything suitable in our price range. Having cats is limiting, too; so many places stipulate no pets.

This morning the agent for the first house phoned and offered us a 12-month lease, telling us we were just the kind of tenants the owner was looking for. She pointed out, too, that any place we might get could later be put up for sale. So we went and had a look, loved it and said yes. We’ll move within the next two weeks.

It’s actually $20 cheaper in rent than where we are now, much closer to the beach – almost on top of it – and has air conditioning, which we haven’t had here. There’s also a big ceiling fan in the main bedroom. There are three bedrooms, same as here: one for us, one for visitors, and a consulting room / temple. The yard is much smaller, but adequate for the cats, and will need a lot less mowing and weeding. Here we have an ensuite and another big bathroom; the new place has only one bathroom – but that’s not a big deal.

It’s about the same distance by car as we are now from the shops, and from our favourite swimming spot in the creek. We’ll no longer have a local store that we can duck down to in five minutes on foot via the back lane, but again that’s not a very big deal and will be more than compensated for by being able to duck down the lane to the beach in even less time. I know where we’ll be going for our daily walks from now on!

So I don’t have to resign as Secretary of the Neighbourhood Association – a position I was appointed to just two months ago – and will have no trouble continuing as facilitator of the WordsFlow writing group, which meets at the Neighbourhood Centre every Friday during school terms. We’ll be able to keep going to our local doctor, who suits us very nicely. (We’re fussy about our doctors, so are most reluctant to leave one we approve of!) I can continue with my Tai Chi lessons at the Community Hall, consult the same physiotherapist, and keep buying from the excellent local butcher. We’ve built up a rapport with many of the local shopkeepers; we won’t have to start over. We’ll have exactly the same proximity to nearby towns we like to be connected with, and we’ll still be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean.

We’ll leave to the landlord the rattling sun roof he never fixed, the cockroaches that came back after he failed to authorise a recommended follow-up to the first spraying, and the filthy carpet that he promised to replace as a condition of our moving in, but kept finding excuses not to for five and a half years. Every cleaner we got always said, ‘There’s not much we can do with this,’ and they were right. It looked good for only a short time before the underlying grime showed through again. It‘s just too darn old – and was obviously not a great carpet in the first place.

This morning I had a sudden fit of grieving, in reaction to the thought that there’s no point starting some replanting I’ve had in mind. When you live in a place so long, it gets to feel like yours; and we’ve been happy here. But that was before I saw the new place, which is certainly a great consolation!