I'll be off-line this week. Tasks be need doin'.
Meanwhile, literary types might be interested in Five Dials, a new pdf format magazine from Hamish Hamilton (which is a Penguin imprint). I know it sounds like one of those advertising magazine-y things but it isn't. It features Alain de Botton as a Agony Uncle and has an article by Gustave Flaubert.
30 June 2008
27 June 2008
Last Sunday morning, Wilcox gathered his kit and drove Geordie, in the car Geordie came in, to the house Geordie lives in. In Canberra. Which is the same house Wilcox grew up in. Geordie was going home forever. Wilcox was coming home on Thursday. Which was yesterday.
With me so far?
"Ouchy toof," I grumbled to myself on Sunday afternoon, after they'd left. I felt for the tooth but it was the tooth that wasn't there. I have a missing tooth. (I already knew that. It's been missing for some time. I didn't just go to rub my tooth and discover it was missing.) I rubbed my gums instead. I missed Geordie.
"Really, really ouchy toof," I wailed on Sunday night. And tried to rub my gums, but they were too tender to rub. And took some painkillers. This is not always a good move for me.
"shoot me, grandmammy. my leg is broke. be strong for me now, boy. old smithy can have the house! just shoot me, just kill me. wait! wait! dig two foot down under the old apple tree, just two foot mind. alrighty, now do it," I whispered, sliding in and out of delirium at about 3am Monday morning. I think it was the worst pain I've experienced in my life thus far. It wasn't so much that it was so incredibly excruciating, it was more that it was so diabolically unrelenting. You know how doctors want you to put it on a scale from one to ten? Well, it was only about a seven, really. But a lot of people have pain that's a ten for five minutes, then they slide back down to a five for a minute or two, which is a release for them. I had no release. This was just consistently, persistently seven. Or maybe even eight.
So I took some more painkillers. This is sometimes bad for me.
After that I got some sleep, and did try to pull myself together on Monday. I was just in pain a lot. But, hell, I thought, this isn't the first time I've had tooth pain or fillings falling out or indeed teeth falling out since I last went dentist six years ago! Jeez, oversensitive. Gimme anovver one doze nurofenz plus. And that was all out loud but to myself because Wilcox is gone to Canberra, remember.
Memories of Monday night and Tuesday and Tuesday night are a bit hazy jumbled together. At one point I vaguely remember being pleased that I hadn't eaten anything except alcohol and nurofen for twenty-four hours so was bound to have lost some weight, and actually it wasn't that bad, I wasn't even hungry, so maybe I could just keep it up for a month and be size ten again. The pain was completely consuming — I could think of nothing else but the side of my head. Wilcox was gone and while I could talk to him on the phone, I couldn't ring anyone else or move much or do much except think about the pain or take nurofen or sleep. At one point, crashed out in front of the telly, I realised the vision in my left eye was blurry. Either that, or... Is that my cheek I can see?
I went to the bathroom mirror. The whole side of my face was puffed up like a cat fish. I though I had a black eye, until I realised it was just the shadow that this great pus-filled ball was casting on my face. And yes, I could see my cheek out of the corner of my eye.
I felt a bit faint.
I went back to bed.
I thought, I should probably ring a dentist. I wonder if it is morning or night.
I don't even have a dentist in Melbourne. Stupid dentists. I used to have perfect teeth until I was twenty-five. All pearly white and no cavities or nothing. Then everything went downhill, quite rapidly — a filling, then another, then a couple more, then it was straight on to the root canal. I noticed in my early thirties that smoking had taken its toll — as Rob Brydon says in A Cock and Bull Story, they're not so much white anymore as Barley Meadow or Tuscan Sunset*. Consequently, I became, at that late age, at over thirty, afraid of dentists. Though to be honest, I am more afraid of the pain of them draining my wallet then the pain of them draining my gums, though I'm afraid of the pain too.
The upshot was that I ended up avoiding dentistry for a couple of years. Then, in my late twenties, I lived overseas for several years, and rationalised that I couldn't go at all, because I was overseas, and all the overseas dentists were bound to be foreigners. Then one of my molars actually fell out, which was a shock. It didn't fall out all at once, it fell out bit by bit, but the shock was the day I realised it really just wasn't there any more, in tooth form. It had become a stump.
So I got back to Sydney, where I lived back then, and went to the dentist my flatmate recommended. He worked round the corner from us, in Darlinghurst and was (and I'm sure still is) an excellent dentist, highly prissy and poofy and precise. My flatmate would sometimes bump into him at some big faggy party when they were both on Eing off their nuts, and yet the dentist could still make Tezza feel somewhat guilty about not having seen him professionally for seven-coming-up-to-eight months. He want to smile, but end up sliding his hand over his mouth. And Tezza has really attractive teeth.
My mouth was a mess, but he was kind and fixed it up for me in exchange for my first born child. (Sucked in him — turns out I'm infertile!) Unfortunately, I accidently forgot to ever see him again. And then I accidently forgot to get a dentist when I got to Melbourne. So I don't have a dentist. But I knew Wilcox has a good friend who has a dentist near us, so I texted him to ask her. Eventually, I managed to speak to the dentist's receptionist.
"I need to see the dentist. Quite urgently really. I'm in some pain."
"That's fine," she said. "The dentist will be able to see you or one of your ancestors in 3017."
On Wednesday I went to the doctor. Dr Head Girl was busy so I had to see another doctor, so as you can imagine I was immediately on the defensive. However, she was great, she gave me a script for what she said were the strongest antibiotics she could think of and said, "Get it filled out now and take right one now. If it gets any worse, go to the dental hospital. No, no! Don't do that! Go straight to casualty!" I was well pleased with her drama and the depth of the wrinkles in her concerned forehead. Doctor Head Girl is too contained to be dramatic.
My head, by this time, was the the size of a pumpkin, but even just as I got home and before I took my new pill, my mouth filled with green pus. Sorry, but it did. The thing had bust, just by itself. So I took my anti-biotic and spat green pus out on to tissues and I did immediately feel better. I've been getting better ever since. I'm not totally better — my gums are still pretty cushiony on that side of my mouth, but I'm nearly better. Wilcox came home and that made me a lot better. But I still miss Geordie.
Anyway, as my Swedish cousin would say, "And so it was." That signals the end of a story.
Meanwhile, Red Symons is not Miss Schlegel — I made that up to fool youse all. I'm feeling especially proud of not being Red Symons because I caught him being a dickwad the other night, after I saw the doctor. I went to the bottle-o, which, yes I know, I shouldn't have done on antibiotics — because what does it provide but fuel for my sorrow and tooth pain and my general despondency I was right in the thick of at the time? Oh, and make the antibiotics work less well. And the antidepressants. (It does turn the heat up on the Aunties though!) Anyway, there was a chick in there getting served and I just stood next to her and stared up at the rows of reds, like big vials of blood behind the counter, trying not to cry. Then I heard the door creak and felt a large man behind me. The girl beside me turned round and obviously started, then he said, "Don't worry, it's only me." She laughed and said hi. I assumed they vaguely knew each other.
Meanwhile, she paid for her booze. I didn't look at anyone cause I was still trying not to cry, and was aware this might have made me look grumpy which I wasn't, just sad. The guy behind the bottle-o bar (which is attached to the real pub bar) was the oldest guy they have, a very sweet old bloke who's probably worked there since the war, and probably came with the place when the latest owners bought it. I got ready to tell him what I wanted because it was my turn. But the big guy behind me just threw a fifty buck note down on the counter and pushed his bulk in front of me. The old guy looked at me, and suddenly I was really grumpy, very grumpy at people and their lazy and overdeveloped feelings of entitlement and their pushy-in-ness. I said, "Please," and let him get on with it.
Anyway, that was Red Symons.
After he left, the lovely old bloke behind the bar reached over and squeezed my arm and said, "Sorry love, you were next, I know." He found my cab sav for me. "You know that bloke, that's Red Symons, from the telly. He's a rude man. The other day he came in here and wanted money from the EFTPOS and we didn't have it yet. We don't carry money specially for EFTPOS, we have to make it first." I agreed that I knew this because I had been caught out with the same problem, although of course I was perfectly charming about it because I have good manners. "Anyway, he got stuck right into me. Totally pissed off. Well it's isn't my fault. It's not the way we do it round here."
Manners. I was going to post once about manners, but I've gone on too much so I'll save it for another time. Instead I'll leave you with one of my favourite bits of an interview ever. It is from an interview with Stephen Fry in The Times, during publicity of The Ode Not Travelled, which I own and have read, although, shamefully, I never finished all the exercises.
... the chief cause of bad verse, says Fry, is laziness.* To remember the exact shades of Rob Brydon's teeth in A Cock and Bull Story I googled it and arrived at one of those "memorable quotes" pages, where I cacked my pant over the following exchange. Dr Slop, you'll remember, was played by Dylan Moran in a pitch-perfect, I'm-just-in-my-living-room-aren't-I-?-What-are-all-you-people-doing-? performance. This dialogue may not be funny if you haven't seen the movie. If you haven't seen the movie, STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING and get to a video shop.
“You cannot work too hard at poetry,” he says, tapping his saucer for extra emphasis. “People are bad at it not because they have tin ears, but because they simply don’t have the faintest idea how much work goes into it. It’s not as if you’re ordering a pizza or doing something that requires direct communication in a very banal way. But it seems these days the only people who spend time over things are retired people and prisoners. We bolt things, untasted.”
He puffs contemplatively on a full-strength Marlboro, and pours more tea.
“It’s so easy to say, ‘That’ll do.’ Everyone’s in a hurry. People are intellectually lazy, morally lazy, ethically lazy …”
“All the time. When people get angry with a traffic warden they don’t stop and think what it would be like to be a traffic warden or how annoying it would be if people could park wherever they liked. People talk lazily about how hypocritical politicians are. But everyone is. On the one hand we hate that petrol is expensive and on the other we go on about global warming. We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it’s not good enough.”The solution? Poetry, thinks Fry. “At its best poetry engages with the realities of existence. That’s why it’s so grown up. It’s the absolute opposite of this Disney idea that if you dream hard enough you can get anything - that’s so manifestly not true. Good art has a skull showing. We just need to knuckle down and produce it.”
Dr. Slop: I can't extrude the baby's head before the mother has a chance to mash its head to dough. Captain Shandy, make a baby's head of your hands. You're to imagine these sleeves are Mrs. Shandy's... funnel.
Rob Brydon: Funnel?
Susannah: Meat curtains.
Rob Brydon: Meat curtains? Brother?
Steve Coogan: My brother knows nothing of women.
22 June 2008
... which indicates improving sanity levels. Hopefully. Looming deadline, anyway.
Thought I should mention, though, this fabulous exhibition Design for the Other 90%. There was a terrifically interesting interview with the curator, Cynthia E Smith, on Sunday Arts this week. Basically, it's self-explanatory — designers put their talents to creating low-cost solutions to the basic survival problems of very poor people in very poor countries. You can't actually go to the exhibition, of course, unless you're in the very northern hemisphere — i.e. Canada, at the moment — but the website is very smart-looking and thought-provoking.
Right now, thought, I'm watching this Schapelle Corby documentary. I hope y'all are too. It's frickin rivetting.
17 June 2008
Haven't posted much lately. Think it's this Zoloft business. I have insomonia at night and somnolence during the day. It really does say "somnolence" on the pack. It struck me as a pleasing and slightly underrated word so I wikipediated it, and discovered that: "[Somnolence] is considered a lesser impairment of consciousness than stupor".
Thank god for that.
Of course, I should add that my somnolence was compounded today by an an hour and a half of massage, bought for me as a treat by an extremely remarkable, talented, hilarious, clever and stunning friend of mine. It was so cool of her, and totally compensates for not being able to have children.
Oh, and my current somnolence is further compounded by the glass of wine I'm having. Oh, and the Aunty Val. (My last full one. I'm gradually reducing my dose, because despite what you're insinuating my doctor doesn't think I'm THAT BONKERS that I need both Valium and anti-expressos. So we're winding down from the Aunties — half tomorrow, then ever downwards, until my packet runneth dry.) (My doctor, by the way, is another source of amusement between Wilcox et moi. She's his doctor too. She is tall, blonde, kindly but ever so slightly stern, clever, well-postured, attractive of waist and bottom, younger than us, extremely conscientious, and generally exuding of prettiness and tidiness and efficiency in both appearance and character. We are sure she was Head Girl, Captain of Hockey, recipient of the Maths & Science Prizes, and runner up of the English prize and still not quite sure why and occasionally cross because her carefully plotted little essays let her down of some 1950s boarding school that doesn't actually exist anymore, and has timetravelled into the twenty-first century, where she gets to treat GenX losers like us. Last time Wilcox was there he said, "Me and Miss Schlegel joke that you must think we're the screwiest couple in this practice!" and she said, "A lot of people have problems. You're just doing something about it." And then she said put her hands up beside her face and pretended to be a cuckoo clock — or at least that's what Wilcox said, but I don't really believe him, as she doesn't really have a great sense of humour. Last time I saw her — which was pretty much the day before Wilcox — I tried to lighten the mood between Kleenexes by telling her that when I was a kid I used to steal my parents sample packs of benzos like Valium and stuff — my folks both being doctors themselves. They used to keep them in a ancient, red plastic bowl on the top shelf of the pantry. I thought me and Dr Head Girl would have a laugh but she looked a bit stern and mumbled, "...even then..." and wrote something down. Secretely we think she must go home and tell her husband — who, by the size of her engagement rock, either has a double-barreled surname or works entirley in private practice — "Thank god they couldn't reproduce!")
Oh, and I've got more somnbulation from the brisk hour-long walk Geordie and I had earlier.
I don't know that I mentioned that Geordie is my parents-in-law dog, and very soon — in less than a week — he and Wilcox will be driving back to his real home. I will stay home alone. Good for work, of course. But I'll miss my Geords. The truth is he doesn't much care for me, except as a source of walks and lamb shanks. But I'll miss him. Of course, we need our own dog. We have an ethical delimna about this which I will seek your help with in a future post.
Anyway, so this massage, it was in St Kilda. The first thing we saw as we got the corner of Akland St was a guy throwing up on his sneakers. It was gross, but I kind of envied him the somnolence he was going to enjoy as soon as he got home. He would probably somulate most of the day, then go out again later for some more somulators. Then we got to the place and it was super posh. The girls were all uniformed and efficient and impertinently young, like it was WWII or something. Afterwards we wondered where young masseuses go to die. Eventually they must turn thirty, right? What happens to them then? It's like that joke comedians often make about never seeing baby pigeons.
My lovely youngly was called Christina. At the beginning of the massage she put stones on my back and talked about chakras, and during the massage she played this synth and pan pipe new age music, which I don't get. What's wrong with Bach? I would have liked to hear Glenn Gould playing the English Suites. I would have blissed out at Bach. But apart from that it was pretty much the perfect massage. She was great at the massaging bit — firm, but not painful — she didn't speak except to say what she was going to do before she did it, so I didn't jump, which I tend to when people unexpectedly touch me with fluids in private places.
Wilcox: "So was it a full body massage?"
Miss Schlegel: "No. It was just my boosies and vagina."
(Actually I stole this joke off of [note use of my new favourite idiom "off of"] said friend who bought me massage, who originally told me it was five minutes of clitoral massage, followed by a short break, then off and on again for the whole 9o minutes.)
Meanwhile, another friend of mine — Erica Seccombe — gave me three framed prints of her artwork, which is worth about a million dollars. I will direct you to more of her amazing artwork when she finally gets her website up, but here's a taster.
I know I go on about my IRL friends a lot, but it's only because I'm trying to milk my "tragedy" for all it's worth and develop some competitive spirit amongst them so they keep one-upping each other with treats. Jokes! (As Wilcox says.) The truth is I keep going on about because I can't get over it.
Ok, since you insist, I will seek your help now with my ethical dilemma re a dog. I want a dog that is robust, and will go for a big walk/run with me each day like Geordie does. Wilcox wants a smallish dog that won't shed too much, or take up too much of the house. We both want a puppy. I feel ethically unable to get anything but a rescue dog. Wilcox thinks we can't save the world and we have a narrow range that's suitable for us so we should be allowed to get a dog from a breeder.
What do you think?
13 June 2008
Yarra Bend Park — the journey. The walk around the entire river bend takes about two and half hours or so, door to door. That's my door, obviously, not yours, so you'd have to factor in your personal location in order to calculate a more accurate estimate for your own purposes.
But why bother? When you can take a stroll with me and Geordie the Golden Retriever. I would call him the Wonder Golden Retriever except I am no longer twelve.
Okay. So we start in the suburban park opposite our house. The city skyline looks remote in the photo, but it looks closer in real life, and it's only a fifteen-minute trip from our house to Flinders St Station in central Melbourne, as long as the train puffs up as soon as you get there. Otherwise it takes four hours of watching actual grown-up people reading Harry Potter books. Still. I mean, aren't they old hat or something now.
[Pause. Miss Schlegel sniffs and looks around a bit. Then she returns the camera to its case.]
"Okay, okay, I did the thing you said. Now get bullthit thith thing off me!"
You can't see the river, but it's just to your left. This path takes us to Studley Park Boathouse, complete with some examples of Karl Popper's falsifications.
For I am a Golden We-tweever!"
I love birds — colourful, inquisitive, clever Australian birds. When I was writing a big chunk of my book in Tasmania late last year, I watched a family of superb fairy wrens teach their babies to fly. It was wow.
And this would be my view.
At the bottom of the path, we walk along the banks of the Yarra for ages.
"I wasn't like every other kid, you know, who dreams about being an astronaut, I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree."
Till you come to the flying fox colony. It was raining by then, so the pictures is too dark, but the colony is several thousand strong.
Then a bit more of a walk.
Under the ugly but kind of cool and spooky bridge.
Then over the pipe bridge past Fairfield Boathouse.
You can't see Fairfield Boathouse because it's behind those trees. The other day I suggested to Wilcox that we get married there. I like to throw these things at him to ensure he's not in danger of having sudden heart attacks. It seems he is.
Then we go home. I didn't take any more pictures because I got bored of taking pictures.
So. How was it for you?
Oh, and by the way, if you're thinking to yourself, okay, this "Miss Schlegel" must live around the Northcotey, Clifton Hilly, Collingwoody area of Melbourne, she — if she really is a she — is cultured enough to have read E M Forster and quote Betjeman like an ABC-type, yet sometimes sardonic in her approach. Hey, I think the real "Miss Schlegel" might be...
If you thought all that, then I tip my hat off to you, you're right.
12 June 2008
Oh! I forgot! I got tagged for a six-word memoir.
How about... no, I just deleted it. I didn't like it. Okay, now I have three alternatives:
- Like you, but with more freckles.
- Not totally un-super-dooper, if you squint.
- Lawks-a-mussy, I forgotted to grow up!
If I could paraphrase and rip one off from someone who said something like this in a review of a Quentin Taratino film once, I'd say:
An embarrassment of riches, without riches.
I am trying not to go on about things, you know. But it would be true to say that I am not really getting any better. Feeling very tearful and missingy of children not to be had. I try not to go on about it because in the infertility crowd you always had to be careful of the "it's worse for us" types. No matter what happened to you — no follicles, no embryos, no pregnancy — it would always, for some reason that didn't really matter in the scheme of things, be worse for them. I guess they're they types who, if they have children, think that is harder for them than it is for other parents too. These people exist.
Still, it's good to share. It does me good. Here are three things I'd like to share with you.
1. My friends actually are the best friends in the world.
Recently, my friends have:
- offered their eggs to me
- bought all the favourite snacks I mentioned in an earlier post (crisps and mixed lollies and etc) and left them on my doorstep
- come over to my house and cooked me an amazing dinner and didn't let me do anything except sit in the kitchen and drink wine
- left a complete meal, including wine and chocolate, on our doorstep
- offered to borrow me their dogs
- booked us in for a massage
- rung me up and not got offended when I haven't rung back
- listened to me cry a lot
- made me laugh and laugh and laugh.
2. My medicine cabinet has changed.
It used to be full of IVF drugs and pregnancy vitamins and hope.
(Actually there aren't any IVF drugs there cause I already threw them all out.)
Now it is full of Valium and anti-depressants and sad-nods.
Yeah, I've plunged the anti-deppresso plunge. It's better, I think, than too much wine and Valium, which was how I have been self-medicating. Oh, it worries me. It worries me that it'll dull my UNBELIEVABLY INSPIRING AND GENIUS LEVEL creativity that — I know, I know — smooths the cotton bedclothes of your nights and spring-in-your-steps your days. I heard an interview with Edna O'Brien the other day in which she said, "Only unhappy people write." (I also heard an interview with Umberto Eco in which he said he wrote The Name of the Rose because, "at 48, you either run off with a chorus girl or write a novel, and my wife expressed a preference for the latter".)
Wilcox actually wrote an article about this once. Anti-depressos and creativity I mean. He came to the conclusion that while it may be true that unhappy people write, they don't usually write when they are very unhappy. They know despair, but they do not write when they are in despair.
I take comfort from this.
3. I found some more cool street art near my place.
Yes, I know. There's one missing.
Now what would you would like to share with me?
09 June 2008
Recently, we've had a guest from Canberra staying with us.
I don't know what it is, but there's something about Melbourne that brings out the inner artist. Our friend, Geordie, has discovered a talent for street art, man. Here he is posing in front of some of his creations*.
* I made up the bit about him doing the actual painting.
06 June 2008
The clever and cultured Badger, one of my favourite bloggers, took these incredible photos of the Tate Modern Street Art exhibition.
God I wish I lived in London. If you could bottle all the me wishing I lived in London, you could make it power a rocket that would take me all the way to the moon. Which would be slightly irritating, because I would rather the bloody bottle rocket could just drop me off as it passed London. For a start, I don't think this exhibition will be showing on the moon.
The other weird think about me wishing I lived in London is that everyone I know who lives in London seems to hate it. For e.g., one of my old school friends I've just got back in facebook with has been living in London for over a decade but now she's coming back to live in Melbourne. Whereas everyone who lives in Melbourne seems to love it. Indeed, paradoxically, I am one of those people who lives in Melbourne and thinks it's absolutely pretty much pretty bloody perfect. I moved halfway cross the country and halfway cross the world to be here. I think it genuinely is the world's most livable city. And I live in what is objectively** the best part of it.
AND, more's to the actual point of the post, Melbourne is is hardly a stranger to the spray can, and in fact may be considered the street art capital of Australia. See Geordie's work in the post below, which was just some bloody anonymous alleyway we happened across in Collingwood.
When I was younger — say 30 — it was very fashionable in my crowd to be tired of London in order to prove you were NOT tired of life. Oh, it was all New York New York then. It was all Bristol and Bangkok. It was Saigon, where I lived for two years myself.
But I was always loyal. I loved London then, and I love London now.
Badger's posts always make me love London. Specially this one.
Meanwhile, look at the first photo from the Tate again, and then consider JR, a French photographer, and his rendition of Otis from Liberia. There's something neatly symbiotic about the two artworks — as if they're pointing at each other. According to JR, his work "mixes Art and Act, talks about commitment, beauty, freedom, identity and limit. He is an artivist, extract of artist and activist."
You know how most artists are full of shit? JR isn't.
Please watch the video.
OTIS - LIBERIA // LONDON
Uploaded by JR
Okay. You've all seen it. But it's humungous. And it is beautiful. But I'm poor and haven't got the moolah to pop over yet. Soon, but.
* Or near enough. See here.
** If by "objectively" you mean "subjectively". I'm going to take you some photos of where I live in the next couple of days. I'm going to prove something to you. You're going to be impressed. Prepare.
P.S. For all of youse wondering why I don't just go the fuck to London, it's VISA — you got it? Can't get a GODDAMN visa.
05 June 2008
Wilcox's brother thinks that you cannot feel unhappy listening to The Banana Splits theme song. Yet I find The Wombles theme song far more comforting. Sure, it's more modest in its ambition, it's less showy, yet isn't it more soothing? Or not?
So here they are. Which one do you prefer? Which best nurtures your inner Grade One-year-old? Which will you hum on your death bed, to the affectionate bemusement of your clueless grandchildren?