8th Feb – A neighbour working on an old Jag removed the muffler and took it for a test drive. He roared it round a corner where a woman was pushing a pram. She jumped back a few feet.
9th Feb – I drove in a storm today for the first time in years. Doesn’t rain much here.
10th Feb – A friend who does no gardening, not even pot plants, showed me four full buckets of peaches from trees in her back yard.
11th Feb – Driving from Queanbeyan to the coast, there’s a strip of several kilometres where people nail teddy bears and other stuffed toys to trees. It’s hard to stop for photos because it’s a highway, but I did capture one crucified teddy:
12th Feb – My son who has no cameras who is engaged to a photographer with many cameras gave me for my birthday a disposable camera.
3rd Feb: My son and his fiancée just ordered their wedding rings from a country in the other hemisphere. The new way of shopping. I’m still getting my head around this.
4th Feb: When leaving to walk the dog, the couple in the Housing flats called out: ‘How are ya?’ This is the first time any of the tenants have voluntarily spoken to me.
5th Feb: Bought an antique chair for my son’s fiancée. I saw swirls etched into the seat, but she showed me they were hearts.
6th Feb: I just bought fabric from a country in the other hemisphere. Never say never.
7th Feb: Translating a passage about a dying abbot, I paused for a moment to search for a song online for background music, and found several covers done by Amy Winehouse. I wouldn’t have let her into my personal space, but when I played her version of Billie Holiday’s ‘There is no greater love’ all the grimness of the abbot’s death was forgotten. I never learn to never say never.
29th Jan – My son and his fiancée showed us a circle of firs in a park, a green cathedral, where they will get married. If it doesn’t rain.
30th Jan – Tonight, just after falling asleep, I woke screaming. A large heavy painting had fallen off the wall behind my bed and slipped down behind a chair.
31st Jan – A woman in the Housing flats opposite my window just bought one heaped-up ice-cream cone from the Mr Whippy van. She’s holding it out for 5 children from the neighbourhood who take licks in turns.
1st Feb – I crossed the line today to congratulate another couple in the flats on the birth of their baby. They were gracious, grateful and clean-mouthed.
2nd Feb – A short walk from my house, in a small university run by the Dominican Order, monastic buildings enclose a round cloister and a garden, in which I found rose beds and a sign: No Smoking in the Rose Garden.
24th Jan – A visitor arrived at the Housing flats but, before getting out of his car, was assailed by a tenant spewing the loudest tirade of abuse yet heard in this street. It was about money paid as maintenance for her 2 granddaughters – $50 a week. Her vocabulary was quickly exhausted, so for about 10 minutes she repeated two obscene words several times in each sentence.
25th Jan – I noticed when I knock on a door gently to wake someone, only the knuckle of my middle finger does the knocking.
26th Jan – A manuscript appraiser suggested I break up my translated text using a dinkus.
It’s a tiny design dividing otherwise undivided text. I like this one.
And below, here’s one in place.
Dinkus in ‘Almost French’ by Sarah Turnbull
27th Jan – My breakfast-on-the-deck was better than usual: I saw a possum curled up in a corner of the roof guttering. Turned out she was hiding something…
28th Jan – As I drove onto the bridge to cross the lake, I had to slow for 15 horses and riders and a black and white sheepdog in my lane.
19th Jan – A 19 year-old girl, just returned from 6 months abroad, told me her best moment was arriving in Istanbul at night and going into Hagia Sofia. I thought of the unlikelihood of me knowing what this was, except I’ve studied art history.
20th Jan – A metallic violet Police ute drifted past me; number plate: RAPID 3. Its black and white checked stripe followed the lines of the ute, the back end of the stripe dissipating in the wind speed.
21st Jan – A very British architect interviewed on radio said you have to tickle the boxes. For 3 seconds I imagined how I would tickle a box, before I understood he’d said tick all like tick’ll.
22nd Jan – I was standing alone on the beach at 8.30 pm, the light almost gone. An adolescent boy rolled onto the sand in an electric wheelchair. For a few moments it was just him and me and the vast ocean. He did a u-turn and went back to the park behind the beach.
23rd Jan – A distant relative rang after 9 years of silence and within seconds was asking me for help with French pronunciation.
14th Jan – I tried to tear up some poorly framed photos I’d had printed for 10 cents each. How disappointed I was to feel the photos resist my cranky hands. The Kodak XtraLife II paper has a top layer of plastic that won’t be torn. To destroy it, I had to go in search of a pair of scissors and then cut, cut, cut. Where’s the satisfaction in that? Tearing up a photo, especially of an unpleasant face, is one of the great pleasures in life.
15th Jan – Watched Gone with the Wind for the first time in 30 odd years. In the hospital scene, some long dark shadows cast onto a wall didn’t move exactly as their owners did. The shadows seemed to have been filmed and attached afterwards.
16th Jan – My husband uses an old wardrobe in the shed for tool storage, and the possum uses it as a hideaway:
Jan 17 – I received a letter from Germany in an envelope made from a paled scan of a letter I’d written myself.
Jan 18 – My lady butcher’s hands are red, like she’s had them deep inside an animal’s flesh. But they are that colour even when clean. I said, ‘Your hands have been working hard,’ and she said ‘Yes, I have ugly hands.’
8th Jan – Tonight I found the very first comment on my blog. It took 8 days.
9th Jan – I was having coffee in the far back corner of a café when a short European man dumped a heavy cardboard box on my table. I jumped. When he went off to speak to the manageress I took a peek and saw 8 plastic boxes full of honeycomb.
10th Jan – I saw a bike chained to a rack, its front wheel twisted by vandals. But something about its melted form was worth remembering.
11th Jan – The Housing tenants are sweeping their path, hosing the gutter, picking up rubbish and putting away the seven chairs they usually gather on to smoke and drink and abuse passers-by. A 9-year-old girl picks up debris while her corpulent grandmother holds open a large plastic bag, a cigarette dangling from her lips. The authorities have visited.
12th Jan – A Swiss friend made une tresse, a plaited bread roll, for me.
6th Jan: I put out seed for wild rosellas and a rat came to nibble on the leftovers.
7th Jan: Outside the most expensive shoe shop in Canberra, an old Chinese lady sits behind two Styrofoam boxes, one holding large bouquets of hydrangeas, pink, purple and blue; the other holds herb bunches. She counts her cash, moving her toothless jaw in and out.
Every day I see or hear at least one thing that makes me look, or listen, twice, because it’s not something I was expecting. Here are the unusual things I’ve seen so far this year, this leap year, when there will be 366 days. A bonus unusual thing.
1st Jan: The housing tenants across the street welcomed the new year with coprolalia.
2nd Jan: A thin dirty woman in a mini-skirt, ankle socks slipping into her clogs, was walking past the video store, hugging the glass wall. She stopped to pick up a dead half-cigarette, pulled out a lighter, lit the cigarette and smoked it.
3rd Jan: Neighbour no. 1 phoned and neighbour no. 2 emailed to tell us that neighbour no. 3 is a police informer with a gun.
4th Jan: My son’s new employer, a jeans shop owner, wants him to wear their $300 jeans. They’re made with special bacteria and can’t be washed. The bacteria eats the dirt.
5th Jan: A pretty twentyish blonde girl serving me at the car repair place bent over to write down my details. I saw ‘Joshie’ tattooed in beautiful black copperplate across her left breast.
Fertile Ground: In a long crack in a short concrete wall, a Johnny-jump-up grows, unwatered and ignored until now. Years ago they grew in a pot plant near the little wall, a very poor specimen which I abandoned. Hope reigns.