Sydney

FICTION: Nice Ride by Claire Doble

Having only just discovered the re-blog – here’s another one of my stories that was published about a month ago I forgot to mention! oops… enjoy!

We weren’t supposed to end up in the bath. It was one of those intense blue afternoons where it’s almost too hot in the sunshine but disconcertingly dark and shivery when you step indoors. The kind of afternoon you get in Melbourne in early spring. But this was Sydney, autumn. I was sitting out on my balcony, eyes closed as I soaked up the brightness when he stopped by. I had other things to do. But he was far more appealing.

Joel was a taxi driver so I always half-expected him to visit anyway. He’d knock on my door to use the toilet when he was passing by and had a spare fifteen minutes. Toilet breaks are the bane of a taxi driver’s existence. I’d learnt to listen out for the engine’s wide hum as he pulled the cab onto the concrete slab in front of my block of flats.

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Gothlist

This photo was only taken ~20 years later. So beware kids – this recipe can have long-lasting effects.

 

Recipe for a goth teenager c. 1994

 

Hair dye

Booze – beer or cask wine

Long black skirt – essential if female, optional if male

Fishnets

Ribbons – purple, royal blue, crimson, green or silver

Acid

Nitrous Oxide

Tattoo/s

Piercing/s

Band T-shirts

Studded wrist bands, belts and collars

Industrial music: see Wax Trax! Records

Fairy wings

Glitter

Black eyeliner: pencil and liquid. Lots

Lipstick

Peroxide

Directions hair colour

Silver jewellery

Ability to travel to/from Newtown and/or Glebe Market

Cigarettes: standard, menthol or clove

Speed

Weed

Es

MDA

Butane

Canvas shoulder bag with band names

Doc boots

Stripy socks

Underwear as outerwear

Safety pins

A corset or something resembling a corset

Lace

Hair spray

Leather jacket: essential if male, optional if female

Mild-severe melancholy/ teen angst

The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxie, Nick Cave, etc.

The Crow: movie, soundtrack, poster

Night clubs

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Deep insecurity coupled with awareness of own superiority

Interest in vampires / the occult

Optional extras: pet rat, dreadlocks, boy/girlfriend who wears black, playing in a band, friends who are also goths, interest in the fetish scene, an attitude

We had a lot of fun, really.

 

Today’s NaPoWriMo post was to write a poem inspired by, or in the form of, a recipe. Mum & Dad – please don’t read this one.

It’s poetry month again!

 

I’m doing GloPoWriMo / NaPoWriMo again this April, since I had such a great time of it last year.

It’s kind of fitting that I’m at a writer’s retreat this weekend. So I’m looking at the Alps (above) from my hotel room window, but I’m thinking about my life back in Sydney because I’m doing this writing course about memoir.

This poem came from the GloPo prompt, which was to write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, the US poet laureate from 2008-2010. According to GloPo a Kay-Ryanesque poem is: short, tight lines, rhymes interwoven throughout, maybe an animal or two, and, if you can manage to stuff it in, a sharp little philosophical conclusion. (I actually think a lot of my poems work out like this anyway, so this wasn’t too big a stretch!)

My course prompt was to write using your special knowledge of something. I thought about the walk I used to do everyday from home to school along a straight street, listening to my music. Then, a few years later, my walk from home to work along another long, straight street – Wilson Street in Newtown/Redfern – usually listening to Elephant by the White Stripes. At the end of this walk, one morning in Februrary 2004, I passed through the aftermath of the Redfern riots over the weekend.

Plus – the added bonus of spoken word! (link below)

After today, I’ll put this explanatory stuff at the bottom, underneath my poems. Enjoy!

 

Elephant

 

the steps I took

to walk to school

were only mine

no other fool

could walk it as I did

listening to songs

my footsteps

tapping along over

concrete where

my name was scratched

several times

then

on another tread

the street beside

the railway tracks

where at the end

the bricks

did meet

and clash terrible

while

I

(and Jack & Meg)

strode on by

with our nice lives

 

 

Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/user-808707280/elephant

Wynyard

Wynyard Station Entrance. Photo: J Bar

Wynyard, Wynyard

your windy yard

the vent we sat at

after dark

what a lark

all dressed in black

our faces painted

our hair teased up

 

Wynyard, Wynyard

your 70s brownness

serried escalators arc

unconsciously modernist

a real-life Jeffrey Smart

Wynyard, Wynyard

Sanctuary in your depths

the handicapped toilet

full of thick brown tiles

count them and you might

have the number of miles

we danced

or pranced

with trails of gossamer and tulle

following us through

your pitched inclines

our tresses

our rounded arms

brushing carelessly past

your unspecial address

with Town Hall before

and Circular Quay after

(the queen of the harbour

with her Cahill crown)

 

Wynyard, Wynyard

our gateway to town

the Hunter Connect

(always made me think

of that Computer Cat pet)

we kids

let loose

and yet

in your wide brown history

merely

another set

of passers by

as your steep shoulders shrug

and shudder with the trains below

an ancient spot

dressed up, ignored

tired of our bored

congress

 

Wynyard, Wynyard

tho

it seems odd

to cherish a dusty park

a station! a bus stop!

just off the bridge

Wynyard Wynyard

I hope you know

I think of you

(it surprised me too)

if not as the place

where dreams come true

at least a spot

where dreams embark

even scruffy ones

after dark

or: gave up, headed home

waiting

for a taxi to the North Shore

it’s changover time again…

enough – I’ll say no more

about

Wynyard, Wynyard

 

Link: https://soundcloud.com/user-808707280/wynyard

I don’t know why I suddenly had a nostalgic pang for this central-Sydney station but there you go. I did spend a lot of time there I guess. One for the old Sydney goths out there – particularly the North Shore ones (a select group to be sure!) And, obviously, I had to record it because anyone unfamiliar with Sydney will not know how to pronounce “Wynyard”.   PS: Does Sydney do ‘Poems on the Underground’? 🙂

 

 

The Fall

Autumn in Zurich Feeling a bit sad lately for various reasons. But not depressed. It’s full-blown autumn now and I’m finding myself slightly dreading the winter months of cold and dark weather and being stuck indoors. Which is kind of crazy because last year’s winter was actually pretty magical with all the snow. And this year, I’m not even pregnant, which basically sucked last winter. There were lots of blue skies too, although people have told me that’s quite unusual for Zurich.

A freelance job ended recently and it was a bit of a shock. I’m mostly relieved, because the work really wasn’t compatible with my family commitments. But still, it was a rather abrupt and unexpected finish that left me flailing a bit.

It was also a bit annoying because after my recent post musing on work v. German classes had helped me decide I should focus on the German, it turned out the classes I was interested in were booked solid! And then I thought even more about it and figured starting childcare and German all at once would put too much pressure on not just me but the family so I’d decided to leave it for a few months and focus on work. Luckily I have other bits and pieces to do.

My baby is 9 months this week and I’ve just this morning dropped him off at a casual daycare, which should give me a bit of a breather… I thought it would be easier leaving the second child. And it is, in a way. On the other hand, it’s somehow more devastating.

I’m also sad because October is the month I’m usually off to Australia – for the past four years I’ve visited my homeland in October-November. I may have slightly talked myself into this one but it doesn’t stop the fact that… ARrrgghhh!!! I could-should-would be getting on a plane right now!! Instead of golden leaves and crisp breezes, I would have a lilac sea of Jacaranda in soft Sydney springtime. Not to mention the sea itself – that sparkling blue-green ocean, set off by tawny beaches and buff cliffs of Sydney sandstone. And now Facebook is showing memories of me out on the town with my two besties/bridesmaids… Oh, my heart.

Besties

Homesickness can take some funny forms though. Out of the blue recently, I got a craving for Iku macroburgers. These meatless mofos were a delicious treat, best eaten when one was hungover or equally ravenous! Anyway, after a bit of frantic googling, I decided to have a crack at making my own. The Iku website lists the ingredients for the tofu fritters, but has no recipes – however I found this approximation on Billie Bites and, with a few modifcations it came up a treat (couldn’t find Aussie-style brown rice, and wanted to include umeboshi vinegar, not that I could find the stuff in Zurich!) I also found a recipe for the steamed buns but since I am not a breadmaker and it would involve purchasing special equipment (ie: steamer) they will have to wait for another day. If ever. My homemade Iku-style tofu fritters and tahini sauce, on a bun and with salad, while not a dead-match, is close enough to quite vividly recall the real thing. Yumm. I was going to post pics but a) They don’t look that amazing and b) I didn’t take any – too busy eating.

Plus there was a mystic ipod moment – while eating them, my ipod on shuffle threw out Crowded House (Weather With You), Cat Power and AC/DC… I dunno, sometimes things just come together.

Now I’m also wondering if it’s time to really have a crack at that novel? There’s so many ideas floating around in my head. My biggest problem is picking one to stick to and then fleshing it out with, hey, actual story, plot, characters (rather than just fancy turns of phrase). I guess now we’ve started this childcare, I might even have time for that too…

Sometimes, I think Autumn is my favourite time of year. The turn of season and the bite of the wind feels like there’s so many exciting possibilities, with that all-so-important dash of melancholy or nostalgia that seems to produce the best art – stir the creative juices. I hope I can capture that feeling and not be too sad as the days close in this year. Maybe I need to also book a plane ticket for Sydney at some point. I don’t know if I can wait until 2017!

 

 

Where the light gets in

These summer mornings

The sun hits the outside corner of the bedroom

Its lighthot fingers poking in

Through chinks in the curtains and shutters

Making a dot pattern here

and slanting slabs of liquid yellowwhite light there

The warmth!

It reminds me of something

Is it my grandparents’ house for Christmas holidays?

Those little wooden beds in the room I shared with James

Floral coverlets with machined-diamond stitching, and fuzzy wool blankets with those satin edges — both pushed to the floor on hot nights.

Nana made us breakfast

The oriental tin full of her home-made museli. The dry smell of oats and apricots

Perfectly flecked Vegemite on hot buttered toast

The noise of the planes flying over, shaking the summer morning air.

Or is it holiday houses in MacRae?

Houses rented or owned by my friends’ parents, or someone’s Aunty Dot, or Alison’s sister.

That same feeling of waking in a warm room with my brother

not having needed more than a sheet overnight

The languid feeling of summer holidays

Knowing I’ll swim today.

 

 

The Smell of September

Josefswiese Park, Hardbrucke

Josefswiese Park, Hardbrucke

The world has turned.

It’s a little bit darker in the mornings. I’m taking a jacket out with me again as standard.

I’m feeling the flutterings of new life in my belly.

Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

Again.

P has gone from crawling into our bed each morning at 5am to sleeping through past 7 sometimes. He’s also gone from a few weeks of whining and “nup” to everything back to a lovely(mostly) kid again. It’s so hard to tell with these phases – is it us? Is it him? Something else? Even though I’ve done this parenting thing for nearly 3.5 years now, I always forget that each phase only lasts a couple of weeks. The good and the bad.

I’m in a new phase too. I feel different. Things are OK. Somehow I’ve clicked over from raging against my fate to accepting things and it’s so much better (for now!). I am cool with the boy thing too – so much so that I almost can’t fathom why I was so upset.

Even the language – somehow a shift there as well. From worrying if I “could” or “couldn’t” if I was “good” or “bad” at German to realising I just have to learn it. It’s just knowledge that’s there to be gained and I am taking the classes, doing the study. It’s hard but not insurmountable, it just takes work. Work I can do.

Some piece of myself has returned and I’m organising stuff! I’ve been teeing up a few social engagements and going out to things, buying household items and planning travel. It feels good.

I went to this Motherhood Support Group the other night. Only three people of a projected six showed (including the organiser) but it was good to have a small group so everyone could say lots. We talked for nearly 3 hours! The organiser, who is a psychologist, expat and mother herself, said some interesting things about moving cities/countries/continents that I hadn’t thought of before.

When you cut yourself out of the fabric of your life and try to re-establish those threads of familiarity in a completely new environment, you lose so much. The subconscious things I hadn’t realised were smells and geography.

Smell is such a primal sense, not something you think about so often. When you relocate to a completely new place, you lose all those familiar scents of home. Even of your own home. The streets, the odour of your local newsagent, the office, the Tube. It’s very disorienting to be without all these smells. I almost cried when she said this – it’s so true! When I was in the nasty throes of morning sickness, with the bloody churchbells reverberating through my new apartment, I would crawl into bed and think “I hate the smell in here”. It was a completely innofensive odour of clothes, sheets, dust (I guess) but it was different to “home” – different washing powder, different water, new trees, less pollution.

Feeling a chill in the air this week, I found my nose reaching for the familiar Autumn smell of Horse Chestnut trees and fox shit. A smell I actually didn’t like. But it signalled something: London/Autumn/Now. And drawing a blank on that scent was really odd – like walking into an unlit room in my brain. Early Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. What does it smell like in Zurich? I don’t quite know yet.

Geography too. Just knowing the patterns of your local area – the well-trod journey to the train station, the local park, your corner shop. They build reassurance in the brain: I have been here, I know this, I know what I’m doing, I know who I am. Losing that is tough, it takes time to re-build those familiar routes, make new connections to your local landscape. It’s fascinating, and sort of terryfying to think how lost I felt without this. Also explains why my homesickness often takes the form of small yearnings for odd places – a nondescript corner of Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The view of the sky above the railway tracks as you walk down Bedford Street, Newtown past the Hub. My bit of the Thames as I strode across London Bridge to work. The curve of the path through a crappy Tottenham estate where I weekly pushed my newborn child in his buggy…

This week, we also had a lovely afternoon at Josefswiese park at Hardbrucke, where I’ve actually spent enough time for it to feel like a familiar friend now. When we came to Zuri in Summer 2013, with the move still very much up in the air, I took my son to this park and had my first “This is good, we could live here” moment.

I love it there. I’ve fallen in love with Josefwiese! For me, to fall in love with a place is important. It means taking it into my heart, owning it, but also giving something away. It’s that thing of committing, admitting vulnerability…  I now own a piece of that park and it owns me, a tiny part of my heart will be left there if and when we leave Zurich. And I’ll miss it and yearn for it in odd moments. Like my bit of the Thames in London, or that chunk of sky in Newtown.

And soon I’m going home. To one of my homes. Home, home, home. Oh Sydney, I can’t wait. But I’m working hard to make sure I want to come back to Zurich too.

 

 

Bon Voyage Mimi

Old Mimi

It’s been roughly 1.5 months since we moved to Zurich. I think some of the novelty is wearing off and the reality is kicking in. I know this because things have been running a bit ragged this week.

I had my first pang of missing my house in London (the garden, or rather the washing line!)  as I hung out yet another load of wet clothes in the subterranean “drying room” of our apartment block. It’s actually a good system – all the washing machines are in the basement along with a shared drying room that has washing lines and a dehumidifier (and a small window at street level that always stays open). Clothes dry surprisingly quickly in there, too. But I’m a bit of a clothes-washing addict: I could pretty much do a load per day, except that I feel bad about hogging the drying area – it’s not that big. (And a pang for the environment).

Housework in general is another reason why it feels like the novelty is wearing off. Instead of floating about and loving the apartment, taking joy in keeping it sparkling and neat, I’m feeling annoyed that it’s messy and needs cleaning. I do not love or really even like housework, but I feel a bit like – what else am I here for?  I probably shouldn’t even open that can of worms…

This is coupled with the fact that P is taking a bit of time to adjust to all the changes of the move – he is refusing to settle in his new “Big Boy Bed” at night and when he finally does he’s not sleeping so well (he was previously a champion sleeper), he’s crying when we drop him off at daycare and generally being a bit of a bratty toddler…

Plus we lost Mimi* – P’s favourite toy. A much-repaired grey bunny. We have several Mimis but this was the favourite: “Old Mimi” (there is also New York Mimi, the Nursery Mimi and … uh… Other Mimi). I’ve told him she’s gone on holiday and he seems to accept that. He’ll come out at odd times with “Old Mimi’s on holiday mummy”. We tried everything to find her (retracing our steps, contacting lost & found of everywhere we went, a social media appeal!) but to no avail. It’s hard not to feel like Mimi is a casualty of the move. Although of course the loss could have occurred anywhere.

The thing is – I thought Old Mimi would be with us for the long haul. She was P’s favourite from such a young age and she’s been to Sydney, New York and now Zurich with us. But her loss so soon into our Zurich adventure means that, in the mists of time, she’ll be a “London” thing. It’s yet another a turning point from our old life into the new. I might be clutching at straws, but right now I feel like I have given up so much that I’m extra sad to say goodbye to this rabbit-shaped tie to the past. So I won’t say goodbye but instead:

Bon Voyage Mimi – I’m so sorry we didn’t notice your departure and I hope you’re enjoying your travels. Our new life continues apace. Wish you were here x

 

 

 

* apologies to all Facebook friends who must be heartily sick of hearing about Mimi by now!

Soft Shock

Spring in Zurich

The weather’s come on all warm and springlike. I’m a bit tired and woozy. Although I hate to mention illness in a public (online) forum, it’s relevant that we’ve had sinusey colds and are not sleeping so well. P is still getting used to his “big boy bed” and needs a bit of reassurance through the night too, which doesn’t help. But I don’t really have anything to do so there’s a sort of pleasant… drift…

It’s the perfect day for sitting lazy in the sunshine. Maybe drinking beer. Except I don’t have anyone to do it with, and I’ve got some responsibilities (a toddler to pick up, vacuuming to do, a bit of paid work, blogging, working out what to do with the rest of my life).

I wish I had my fingernails back, a cleaner and some local friends. Not necessarily in that order.

I’ve been wondering about culture shock. I don’t know if hasn’t kicked in yet, or it’s just been very gentle. I haven’t found myself gasping at the huge spectrum of difference I’m faced with. Everything feels pretty normal and nice. Maybe the crash comes later? Or maybe Zurich is just similar enough to both London (a busy European city with lots of banking) and Sydney (there’s an echo of Australia here for me –  pleasant, affluent, quiet, aware of its position of advantage). Maybe it’s the wash of languages rather than being faced with a solid wall of German. I don’t know. But I’m not complaining.

I walked through this incredible park the other day. It was like an idealised world or Stoke Newington on crack: Stock-photo students lounging on benches placed in an arty giant-gravel piazza, happy neighbours playing a round or 2 of ping pong on the public tables, parents and kids enjoying a state-of-the-art playground. A few streets on, the incredible looking MFO Park – which is like the New York Highline on dope – a lazy vertical park dripping with foliage, populated by more brochure-style students and multicultural peeps. P was asleep in the buggy so I didn’t stop anywhere, just noted it all down for future reference.  Need to get among it…