Friday, July 20, 2007

The one with all the random thoughts in

I had a surprise dinner invitation last night and didn't get a chance to blog, but I've had some lovely verbal feedback about the poems and most recent short story.

My mum's comments made me laugh the most. The first thing she said about my short story was, "Anyone who makes someone wear a bridesmaid's dress like that deserves to be cheated on."

I explained in some choice terms that this definitely did not qualify as literary criticism. And - in case everyone else is curious - it was the only picture I could find that showed a dress that looked like it was hanging up (as the dress was in the story) rather than it being on a mannequin. Now I'm going to get emails from women complaining that their bridesmaids dresses were exactly like this or similar, and like so much else (including my existence), it will ultimately be all my mother's fault. Who'd be a mum?

I've promised tonight to go down to Commercial Road at midnight with my friend Paris to collect the new Harry Potter novel. I was drunk when I agreed to it, of course. I may take my broomstick and hat with me, but who would notice?

In my travels through the world of collective nouns, I have come across some real surprises (yes, I really do spend my time this way - I'm not telling you any of my other hobbies, you'll think I'm weird), some of which include:
  • an abomination of monks
  • a prickle of hedgehogs
  • a crash of hippopotami
As I'm writing this in the Peace Cafe (if you haven't been yet, come down on Monday - I'll be the one serving you latte), the cheeky chirpy Clarky just asked me what the collective noun for a group of writers was. I was shocked to note that I didn't know it, and when I looked it up, I discovered there wasn't one. He suggested a "wretch" of writers and a "wriggle" of writers, before we decided that one probably didn't exist because writers are fairly solitary creatures and rarely travel together in packs - too competitive!

On another, random note (as if it hasn't been random enough), I don't know if any of you are keeping up with the travels of the rather amazing Laurel of the Cold Photo blog (see link right). Her last few posts have been amazing and are worth checking out for the photos alone - make sure you have a look when you get the chance. I've pinched the picture accompanying today's post from her site, a picture she took whilst climbing a Siberian mountain. Now that girl is impressive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Dress

The washing machine cycle ends with a whimper. She hears it sound a whine from the kitchen and lifts herself up onto one elbow towards the window. On the field outside, cars are drawing up for the wedding and she watches, expressionless, as guests clamber carefully from their cars. Women tiptoe towards the yard, avoiding the sudden snatch of their heels in the dry earth, still soft from two day old rain.

The television behind her is switched on but muted. She can neither here nor see Kylie spinning around in tiny gold hot pants. She is too high up to catch more than the low murmur of guests as they speculate about the food, the ceremony, the rumours of recent discord amongst the family. Earlier, when she woke before dawn, the screams of gulls were competing with the mournful whistle of the starlings across the morning air. It had seemed like another world. A world with no cars and no guests in it. A world with no wedding.

The birds are not singing now, and under her breath she notes, "I do not think that they will sing to me."

Below her, deep in the house, she hears a door slam and, anticipating her mother, she springs from the bed and runs the short distance across the room to lock the door. She leans her naked back against the cold white door for a moment until she can hear her mother's heavy, determined, tread approach and she returns to the bed.

She perches nervously on the edge, her wary eyes on the door, waiting for the sound of knocking. When it comes, her mother's voice is not far behind.

"Loren?" There is a pause and an audible sigh, "Please just tell me you're dressed. Your hair and make up won't take long, but please. God. Tell. Me. You're. Dressed."

She looks at the dress before she can help it. It hangs on the side of the wardrobe like an accusation. The outfit chosen for the bridesmaids - the two sisters of the bride - not too formal, but smart, clearly for an occasion. She had hated it from the moment her sister brought it home.

"Jesus. Loren. Please. You promised you wouldn't be like this. Not today. It's just one day. Come on honey, please?" Her mother's voice is cajoling, gentle, a familiar plea.

She stares at the floor, knowing the sweet tone of persuasion will not last. There is a long silence. She cocks her head, uncertain if, lost in her thoughts, her mother has wandered away. But moments later, there is a hard, angry banging on the door. It makes her jump and she reaches, without thinking, for the pillow, bringing it slowly to her face.

"I can't do this, Loren. I just can't fool around like this with you today. Get dressed. Sort yourself out. Come downstairs. If you're not down in ten minutes I'm sending your father."

There is a pause.

"We've been through this. Today is not the day for one of your temperamentals. It's Samantha's day. Samantha's and Ben's."

She inhales deeply into the pillow, as the footsteps echo sharply away.

She can still smell him, the acid sweetness of his aftershave, the vague after-scent of his sweat. She closes her eyes and breathes it in, remembering his face as it neared hers on the night of the engagement party. She can almost taste him again as the memory runs, old and familiar, behind her eyes. The images are so sharp they slice through her. The arch of his back as her hands move across his spine. The whisper of her name on his mouth. The sting of his regret in the morning as she failed to feign indifference. The final humiliation of his endless apologies.

She drops the pillow to the floor and lets the tears come. When they have taken her over, and finally given her back to herself, she is not sure how much time has passed. She picks up a creased shirt from the floor and stretches to pull it over her head, walking to the window. A small crowd are gathered in the courtyard of the farm, but she barely glances at them, picking him out immediately, a solitary figure by the side of the old dairy.

His head is resting against the wall as he inhales deeply on a cigarette, although her sister has told him many times she will not marry him if he smells of tobacco today. They both know it is an empty threat, that Samantha would not call off the wedding she has been planning since she and Loren were in their teens. While Loren had dreamed of tiny Parisian lofts and mornings spent consuming black coffee and roll ups, hunched over a notebook, her sister had made scrapbooks from Bridal Monthly, collected fabrics for wedding dresses and pictures of stately homes for her reception.

As if he can sense her, he turns suddenly toward Loren's window, places his hand to his eyes as he squints upward. She darts backward, catching her shin on the bedside table. She lacks the energy even to curse.

She remembers his worrying, wondering face as he asked her, "Are you going to tell, Loz? Are you going to tell Sam about this?"

She has loved him for as long as she can remember, from the first moment her sister brought him home to meet their parents. She cannot imagine denying him, she cannot imagine hurting him. It is a constant surprise to her that she could betray her sister with ease, but cannot bring herself to defy him. No matter what it costs her, she cannot tell.

She turns back to where he stands, still staring up at her window. Though she knows he cannot see her, she almost smiles as she sees him raise his hand up toward her, pointing with the other hand toward his watch.

It is almost time. She crosses the room. She reaches for the bridesmaid's dress.

Copyright: Sarah Cheverton. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ready to Fly

I started packing my belongings tonight in preparation for the big move from The Heights. This is hard. I begin packing with a sense of great determination and focus. There is little emotion. At first. I'm not consciously detaching myself from feeling, I just feel happily busy with so much to do.

As I pack away some Mrs Beeton cookery books (not much for the vegetarian in there, but they are a slice of my childhood, and as such, I love them), I notice a movement from the corner of my eye. It's a bat swooping from somewhere beneath my kitchen window out into the darkness. A memory hits me, hard and sudden, of my ex and I: we are stood, enchanted, at the window as a small colony of bats sweep around the yard behind my flat, in that hurricane year when we shared the Heights.

As an aside - I have a minor obsession with collective nouns - did you know that colony is also the collective noun for ants, beavers, lepers and penguins?
Course you did.

I remember this (the memory of bats, not the idiosyncracies of collective nouns) with a smile and a slight pull at my heart. As I turn away from the window and back to the kitchen, I look up at all the pictures from the children and young people I used to work with in Portsea and I wonder - what should I do with those?

So far my rule of thumb has been: if I haven't used it for a year, then it's going, but children's pictures aren't the same, are they? I look at the names on each one as I stand in front of them for five long minutes, wavering between options. I remember faces and laughter and the energy you only find in the young. The pull at my heart becomes a tug, it stretches and begins to hurt.

To distract myself, I start to look around the kitchen, but the mood has set in and everywhere are memories of ten amazing, volatile, painful, glorious years here in the Heights. Packing is hard. I shall miss being here.

I shall not , however, miss the stairs, I realise.

Then I turn my mind to the new flat, to try to capture the whole truth, not just the one I'm leaving behind. Immediately I know it has a name, just as I knew the Heights without thinking. My new place is The Loft. I know this because artists live in Lofts and the new place is all about the writing. The Loft is my room of my own. A whole new place waiting for me to define it.

I think of tall ceilings and broad spaces, open light and choosing colours for walls. I think of unpacking, a bandana wrapped around my hair (ideally I need some dungarees for unpacking, too, but I can work on this part of the fantasy later). I think of a new life, in this new place, with this new self unfolding before me each day.

I think I'm going to love it there.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday, Monday

Flower without colours, by Gittevis at

She enters the cafe, stilling conversation

with hurt, wide eyes. The women give

shoulders and a space in which she can be heard,

while the men offer tea with gentle hands, and retreat

a safe distance to smoke, outside,

until the storm has passed.

The next day, I watch these men at their work,

relocating fish to the cafe. They are

strong arms, moving in a silence only broken

by instruction, question and command. I am

on the edges now, barely helping,

and lost without my women's chatter.

As I wait and watch them working, I wonder

if these men felt redundant in the face

of tears, as I do now, watching them

pour water into the old glass tank.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Make Believe Ballroom

I have one piece of advice to make your Saturday nights from now on. The Oberon Project (hereafter OP) nights at Havana on Saturdays are a must have addition to your social life. I know it's a cliche (and if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times how I hate those) but there is such a variety of sounds that it doesn't matter what you're into, by the end of the night you'll have found something you love.

A small group of us made our way to Havana last night to experience the delights of OP for the first time. My particular highlights were some great piano music from Silent Hours, a seriously great set from The Edible Stems (who just look, sound and feel like such a great band that I cannot believe they've not yet been signed - and their drummer's hot) - including the most amazing cover of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire that I have ever heard - and the night ended with a long drum n bass set from DJ Simon Hm. Kate, Lou and I ended the night dancing like crazies and I told our friend Dan that everyone fancied him, even gay women, which I'm sort of glad I was too drunk to witness with a fully functioning memory card (friends exist to remind you of the embarassing things you do when you're drunk and Kate and Lou didn't fail me).

It was an Ah-Sum night. But don't take my word for it, obviously. We decided to organise a gathering there in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned and I'll let you know. If you can't wait, the Oberon Project gigs are running every Saturday night between 8 and 1. And you don't even have to suffer the smokers anymore - we've been banished to the gardens.

It takes nights like last night to remind me of what a great city this is for daily, urban culture. Grafitti on the streets, art galleries like Aspex, working spaces like ArtSpace, some of the most innovative artists, a university with a thriving commitment to creativity and culture, great bands and some seriously good venues. But what I like most is the constant evolution of that cultural life, the constant movement, change and development that make for a more satisfying, more exciting, and - I'll own it - more drunken life. Portsmouth is great! And I really never thought I'd say that.

My addiction to a daily dose of yielded this Missy Higgins video, Ten Days. I love anyone who can sing with an Australian accent, who isn't also Rolf Harris.

But the cultural highlights don't end there. Here's a great poem from Mark Strand.

Make Believe Ballroom Time

Judging by his suit which was excessively
drab but expensive, and his speech which was
uninflected and precise, I guessed he was a
banker, perhaps a lawyer, even a professor in
one of the larger, better universities. It never
occurred to me that he might be something
else until, during a lull in our conversation,
he suddenly got up and began dancing. The
others at the party, plainly disturbed by this,
affected a more intense involvement in their
conversations than was necessary. They spoke
loudly, rapidly. But the man continued dancing.
And because I recognized what calling,
what distant music he obeyed, I envied him.

He also said something about poetry that I love:

… it's not that poetry reveals more about the world —
it doesn't — but it reveals more about our interactions
with the world than our other modes of expression.
And it doesn't reveal more about ourselves alone in
isolation, but rather it reveals that mix of self and other,
self and surrounding, where the world ends and we begin,
where we end and the world begins.

In fact, I begin to realise that I'm a bit in love with Mark Strand the poet. There's something simple and accessible about his poetry that makes him a real joy to read. There's also something - as there often is with poetry - integrally spiritual about his work.

The Coming of Light
by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:

the coming of love, the coming of light.

You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,

stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,

sending up warm bouquets of air.

Even this late the bones of the body shine

and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.