366 unusual things: days 59-63

28th Feb:  I felt the pressure of words when I read, across the rear window of a ute in front of me, in large white Gothic lettering, ‘Justify your existence’.

29th Feb:  When I go into homes to tutor, some people tell me to leave my shoes on, even on rainy days on fully carpeted floors.  I never see them barefoot.  Others won’t let me step inside until I’ve removed my shoes, even when they have tiled floors and the day is icy.  I never see them shod.

1st Mar:  Tonight when I was in the shower, a police car gave its siren a short sharp burst right outside my bathroom window.

2nd Mar:  All this rain (4th day) is bringing out garden weirdness.  Today my foot just missed a 7-inch long leopard slug;  a large caterpillar crossed my undrying washing like an omega ;   water-retaining crystals used in the drought have jellified and are oozing up out of pot plants and creeping over the sides.

3rd Mar:  My son said to his boss today:  ‘I’ll just take this back out the back then I’ll be back.’


366 unusual things: days 49-53

18th Feb – Doing some exercises in the book How to think like Leonardo da Vinci:  Seven steps to genius everyday (Michael Gelb), I noticed after a few pages that the cover of my notebook, a gift from a son, says ‘I have nothing to declare except my genius’ (Oscar Wilde).

19th Feb – Removed a metal and glass shower door and replaced it with a rod and curtain.  The splash of the shower is no longer tinny and echoey, but soft like rain on porcelain.

20th Feb – This morning a Housing tenant, the one who exposed himself to the ATM camera at the local shops, is getting into a fluoro yellow hatchback in a fire-engine red business shirt, a blonde woman at the wheel.

21st Feb – Today I noticed that I have 22 followers, many of whom I’ve never heard from.  They follow me like shy phantoms.

22nd Feb – A few weeks ago I ordered some fabric online for the first time.  I wanted this dark red organza with orange and yellow checks, as it is in the sample online.

The online sample
Organza surprise!

But this is what I got:  a bold gold cage embroidered onto look-at-me red.  With turquoise and cream triangles.  It was one of those ‘ha ha ha, well, that didn’t work’ moments.

366 unusual things: days 44-48

13th Feb – Realised today that some people won’t read blogs. Even if they’re writers.

14th Feb – In my bed tonight I’m hearing, from the room in front of me, one son teaching himself a new song, singing and playing on his guitar erratically, and from the room behind, recorded heavy metal music played by another son on his computer.

15th Feb – At the National Library this morning I drove around for 15 minutes before finding a park.  I was there to read a hard-to-find book, but the spaces were all filled by tourists come to look at exhibitions.

16th Feb – Editing an article about a Melbourne coffee shop, I hesitated at the term café latte.  English-speaking coffee namers seem to prefer the French word café, not caffè as it is in Italian, and latte from Italian but not au lait from French.  French coffee in Italian milk.

17th Feb – Met a woman who met a man online.  She has just arrived in Australia to live with him. He’s a vegetarian minimalist. She likes meat and furniture.

366 unusual things: days 29-33

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.

366 unusual things: days 19-23

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.

Rebuilding the wall

On 22nd December I decided to keep a list of concerns that people shared with me over a two-week period.  I’m not much of a talker and didn’t expect to have many conversations to draw on.  Yet even in brief exchanges, my ears pricked up when people invariably told me their troubles.  I was shocked by the number of things I could write after only a couple of days, and realised how often news of problems goes straight over my head.  There have only been two days where no one complained about their life:  1st and 2nd January.  Probably because we’re all on holidays…

Here’s a short undetailed list of the problems of the average Australians I chat to:

*  the Christmas season aggravates the aloneness of the lonely

*   some adult children never contact their parents, even at Christmas

*  some small children go to one parent’s family on Christmas Day leaving the other parent alone for Christmas

*  some struggle to keep their partners happy

*  some have the flu or gastro

*  others are in hospital

*  a few lost their jobs in the pre-Christmas week

*  others have been applying for jobs for months with no result

*  some have threatening neighbours

I don’t have solutions, but I listen and feel sad with them.

I got the idea of noting down people’s problems after reading the first few paragraphs in the book of Nehemiah.  He had asked his brother about the condition of the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and learnt they were in disgrace and Jerusalem’s wall was broken down.  His reaction was to sit down and weep, and then mourn, fast, pray and set about helping them rebuild the wall.

While I haven’t sat and wept, nor mourned or fasted (not possible at Christmas), I have prayed.  And like Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king, I have had some opposition, and some success.

Dear reader…

To my surprise, in my summer years, I find language and words filling my life.  On any day, I spend hours dealing with language.  This weekend, for example, the last day of 2011 and the first day of 2012, I have helped an eight-year-old learn to read;  I have read chapters and chapters, on a recommendation, of Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (it’s my third go at this book);  translated part of a 19th-century French novel into English;  written six postcards telling foreigners of the wonders of Australia;  written a calligraphic quotation for a German penfriend;  listened to my neighbours, government housing tenants, swearing twenty to the dozen as it pleases them on this New Year’s Day.

I recently (last month) graduated with a Master of Translation Studies, and now I’m in search of things to translate.   There’s the interesting 19th-century novel, the one I worked on today, and there’s a French book on teaching three-year-olds to read which I use when I’m tutoring and which would be just as valuable to others, if they could read it.   And there’s my older thesis about French villagers who sheltered refugees in the 1940s, the one I wrote in French and would like, before my winter years, to translate into English.

Meanwhile, I’ve found this blogging way to share my father’s photos, and later his poetry, as a background for my interests, though the connections will at first appear vague to a reader.