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The Receipt

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Fitzroy Streets make me cry

Fitzroy Streets make me cry. 

Jasmine scents, basil plants, fried coffee grounds on the gas stovetop. Purple love-bites wander downstairs, smeared mascara, bruised thighs. Paperbacks strewn on the dusty carpet, threadbare runners on the stairs. Overflowing gutters and fragile drainpipes, smashed-in cars and broken hearts-these are the days that float back on the warm air.

Cornflowers in a metal vase, Jonathan Richman and Billy Bragg playing from a tinny stereo. John Berger's Ways of Seeing, Karl Marx, Terry Eagleton, Helen Garner's Monkey Grip and Susan Sontag's On Photography. Pasta pots and ashtrays, tumble-down dunnies and creepers hanging low into the lanes. Dark night lights on the cobblestones.

Sunday night sessions at The Standard, with a roast cooking in the oven as the pedal steel wails. Heart strings playing, lurching gut, blushing over the beer order. A deep bass vibrates across the bar.

These Fitzroy street are filled with fever, tears and rage. Ornaments on a side…

Not smiling, wanking

The bricks were always cold underneath my bum. Cold and hard. I could feel their sharp edges. In the nights we sat and talked. The smells of sour smoke and saliva on one, body odour on another, and menace on the other. The fluorescent globes hummed from the station platform, and the street lights pooled at the corner.

Inside was out of bounds to these boys, so we met on our side stairs. The frosted glass door between us and our home. Outside; offside: the limits to friendships. These were the kids we didn’t trust, the boys from the wrong side of the tracks. Where were their parents? Absent fathers, unsighted mothers, these boys roamed the streets and set me on edge. The attraction to the dirt, to the smell of one’s mouth...I can still feel it now. It was an urge, but not an infatuation. 
The hearts of these boys remained hidden. It was as if they walked in costumes, played their parts, and kept their distance. We weren’t allowed to welcome them in.
One day, my mum greeted me at the side …

Shadow of the Oaks

As soon as I saw it, I wished I hadn't.

There was something deadly ominous about the darkened room. Bare wood floors, panelled wood walls, slices of weak light coming in through the long, autumnal windows. Funereal. I could hardly process it. 

A sign.

The room was empty, the service cancelled, the food and drink all dried up. Finished. 

It was our last day in New York, and we had returned to the Oak Room at The Plaza to toast Dad with a negroni. At this stage, when we knew he was fading, each negroni seemed like a communion. 

The Plaza was one of the places him and mum had honeymooned. The last time we'd been in NYC, with kids in tow, we had blown a couple of hundred dollars on fancy burgers and lemonades for the kids, and champagne and wine with dinner for us. Spending mum and dad's trip gift money. 

That was nearly 5 years earlier. We had taken our girl to look for Eloise, the little literary inhabitant of the Plaza Hotel. The doorman played along, telling us she had only just…

Nature Notes, Days 1-5

Womankind Magazine's Nature Challenge
Day One
Head out into the air this morning on my engaging challenge. My first encounter is with possum piss, its frothy stench hitting me as I walk out our front path. I hose it away, cursing the urban wildlife. The wattle is out, the scent bringing back my dad and making me cry. 
After some lovely meandering down the canal, watching birds and holding my 'in memorium' sprig of wattle for dad, I take my tears down to the salty water of the bay. 

There I walk out on the rocks, go that bit too far, slip on invisible moss, smash various parts of my body and end up almost in the water. Thankful that I haven't busted my head open, I fling my little sprig of wattle towards the water, where it falls short and lies on the rocks like me. Ready to be picked up when the waves come in. 
I reach for my phone, make sure not to drop it, take a photo of the wattle as it waits, as I wait. I have wrenched my shoulder, and I am shaking.
Day Two
I plan to wal…


The rain is sporadic, but the stream peeling off the roof is constant. An insistent pouring onto something plastic, not the comforting spattering of drops. It jars with my yearning for a certain type of rainsong. While the room warms up, I sit in beanie and overcoat, coming to grips with my space.

The blue car in the old shed has not moved. Some days there is washing on the line. The Hills Hoist carousel has three pieces of baby clothing on it today, hanging, sopping, in the rain. One day there was a free-wheeling pink sheet, fresh and joyous. It sang like a flag.
My room is my own. Unadorned. The desk has piles of books, some propped open on pages. Significant letters: S for studio. Topographical maps for placement, location, anchoring in space. 
Turn the page. F for freelance. I have been paid for my writing. I am out there in the world, selling my words. Making a mark as a writer of sorts. Feeling allowed to own this identity, this voice. Inhabiting that place where I feel contentment…

Growth Plate Fracture

In the days straight after the federal election, I stood in a doctor's waiting room, with a sad, soon-to-be panicked child. As I looked around the reception area for notices regarding bulk billing eligibility and restrictions, I had the strange realisation that this small regional medical centre did not bulk bill. Not for kids or pensioners. It seemed, not for anyone.

The election had brought Medicare into sharp focus, and here we were, city dwellers, usually with a choice of medical services at our doorstep, at a small town GP, shelling out $80 for a consult. A consult which had been conducted by a nurse, in fact, with the GP doing only a brief pop into the procedure room. $80.

Money wasn't the main focus for me, luckily, but I was aware, in this post-election mess, that for many, such a trip to the doctor for a kid's school holiday injury could break the weekly budget. After the GP, there was the X-ray in a neighbouring town ($90), a return to the GP, and the instruction …