Where were you last night when 2012 turned into 2013?
Is that where you’d wanted to be?
Last night in Australia was the end of the first day of January. This morning it’s the second. But I’ve awoken to the questions above because WordPress people are still getting through the first day.
But to cut the waffle and answer the first of their two questions, I was on the lounge with my husband watching Sydney fireworks on TV and hearing Canberra fireworks exploding in the distance. We’d had my brother-in-law and his wife for a BBQ of lamb steaks, marinated chicken, salad, baby boiled buttered potatoes and the best tarte aux pommes (apple flan) I’ve ever made thanks to a Christmas gift from my son: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But after coffee and Swiss chocolates, our guests were tired and left, an hour and a half before midnight.
The evening was pretty well perfect. But it was the first year I’ve not seen my three sons or heard from them on New Year’s Eve. Nor did I see or hear from them yesterday, the first day of this new year.
9th Dec – My son told me he hides in car boots to get into places… He reminded me that my grandfather was a stowaway on a ship going to the First World War.
10th Dec – To sell their house, our neighbours got rid of their chickens, and now a small tree grows where they used to run. Something on a branch hanging on my side of the fence caught my eye – cherries!
11th Dec – Read two articles by professional translators, one grumbling about dogs and their owners, another who can’t work without his dog beside him.
12th Dec – Walked into a friend’s study and was confronted by a dress hanging beside the door, a 1920s apricot lace dress with a satin hip sash and bow that she’d bought in a 2nd-hand shop. While we sat talking, the handle of the door turned, the door opened a fraction and closed again, the handle turned back. She assured me it was air movement and that it wasn’t the woman coming to claim her dress.
13th Dec – Put on a lip balm called Baby Lips; my lips swelled outside and in, like an allergic reaction. I think that was the cosmetic plan, to puff them up like a baby’s.
4th Dec – My 40-year-old Chinese student doesn’t know where Israel is, and has never heard of it.
5th Dec – My 12-year-old Cambodian student prefers to write left-handed but in Cambodia it wasn’t allowed.
6th Dec – I tutor a primary school student who asked me if tutor is spelt like shooter. She formed her hand into a gun and shot. I assured her they are spelt quite differently.
7th Dec – Sitting in the new café at the National Archives, I listened to public servants placing orders: double-shot small latte, normal small latte, soy flat white, weak cappuccino, double-shot cappuccino. No one actually ordered coffee. Not even me. I had tea.
8th Dec – On a hot road, I saw reflections of passing cars in mirages.
19th Nov – Spoke to a new migrant to Canberra, Australia’s capital, who ardently believes the capital should be on the coast. His opinion shows the movement of priorities for Westerners: in 1908 the inland capital site was chosen for its fertility and adequate water supply, but in 2012 the pleasure of seaside living is more important.
20th Nov – Tried on shoes in a shop but they were too tight. Was given a stocking and told the shoes would feel looser with it on. If I add a layer, won’t the shoes be tighter? No, as it turns out, they did indeed stop pinching. Did the stocking elastic push my foot flesh up my ankle?
21st Nov – The bathroom ceiling, painted a few months ago with unsuitable paint, is peeling in white flakes that float down before my face as I clean my teeth.
22nd Nov – I teach a few continental Europeans who tell me stories of very effectively demanding and receiving money they are owed. They like the statement, ‘This is not negotiable.’
23rd Nov – Made a hot chocolate from a product which recommends organic non-dairy milk alternative. But I used chemical, antibiotic and hormone-infused non-organic dairy milk. Full cream.
14th Nov – Someone from the Ancestry site sent me an obituary of my great-grandfather. The phrase ‘engaged in suppressing the slave trade’ leapt off the page. It’s given me hope.
15th Nov – In a car park, a young African immigrant was trying a car door and peering in the window. Then he walked over to another car as I watched suspiciously. I heard an electronic beep and he opened the door of a car identical to the first one he’d tried to unlock.
16th Nov – A very butch butcher, tattooed and pierced, prickly asymmetrical haircut, a woman in men’s clothes, sold me some meat and asked for my shopping bag to put it in. Taking my small orange carry bag, she squealed “Oh that’s such a cute bag! So cute!” as only a girl can.
17th Nov – A chicken pizza recipe found quickly online included no pizza base in its ingredients. Instead, chicken breasts are pounded flat and round until they resemble a base, on which you put all the toppings. Pffft. As if that’s a pizza.
18th Nov – My son lost his mobile phone last night and today the city police station called to say someone had handed it in.
9th Nov – Accidentally gave my dog three lamb chops I’d bought for dinner. For us.
10th Nov – A penpal from Germany phoned me today from Central Australia. Our first conversation after two years of handwritten letters.
11th Nov – When I give a student the writing prompt, “Heaven is like this…”, I often doubt we could imagine it. Earlier this evening, in the garden lit by filtered sunset and perfumed by jasmine and roses, the street beyond quiet, all neighbours and dogs at peace, I imagined it.
12th Nov – Making up a bed, I threw a clean fitted sheet over the mattress, and a small bird’s nest fell out of one of the elasticised corners.
13th Nov – Hands are constantly visible when tutoring. I notice nails growing, each day a fraction longer.
4th Nov – Heard recently that Jack London’s books are great to read when learning to write fiction. I wouldn’t have picked him for inspiration. But today, my husband and I were reading White Fang aloud and I was all ears listening to London’s masterful use of short, active, common words. Here’s a pretty good paragraph:
5th Nov – Three and a half years ago I applied for work with a tutoring company. This week they’ve offered me a temporary job.
6th Nov – A strange building, a strange lift, a stranger, mop in one hand, cleaning bucket in the other. As we moved from the 5th floor to the ground she established from my basket of teaching materials that I could help her son learn to read, and took my number.
7th Nov – Every week for the past six months, my neighbour has put a vase of fresh flowers in her kitchen window (which is happily opposite my own). She’s trying to sell her house, but hasn’t. It seems buyers aren’t swayed by flowers.
8th Nov – In two shops this morning, Norah Jones was singing Come away with me. Must be the ultimate music for relaxing a shopper’s grip on her purse.