Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What a good idea, to go by ninky nonk

Charlie woke with a cold and I heard him from my room, talking to himself: a sneezing, a murmuring, a sneezing, an earnest narrative. Sometimes a scolding. He was figuring something. It was a long, low, murmuring, scolding dissertation in there. Eventually, it was quiet. I went in. He was standing. He looked calm and determined. He pointed to his nose and said, “Nose.” “That’s ri—” I began. But he wasn’t done. Now he concentrated hard, watched my face and said: “Sticky.”
“You’ve got a sticky nose!” I said.
His whole body relaxed, the beautiful relief of being understood.
I changed his nappy and he kicked his legs out, cranky now about his sticky nose. His foot went smack into my eye. I was feeling a little low myself. I asked him to stop kicking. I tried to explain. “It’s just that I really don’t feel like being kicked in the eye today,” I said.
I switched on children’s breakfast television. Imaginary creatures climbing aboard a multi-coloured, flying caravan.
“What a good idea,” the narrator enthused, “to go by ninky nonk!”
I thought of all the curious sentences floating around my house.

It was Mother's Day, the Other Day

The last few weeks I’d find junk mail advertising mother's day gifts and I’d say: “Huh, that’s right. Mother's Day coming up soon.” I’d say, “Um, I think that’s when people get breakfast in bed?” I’d say, “Mothers, I mean. When I say people, I mean mothers.” I’d say, “Pancakes. When I say breakfast? I mean pancakes.”
And so on.
But Charlie must have been thinking of other things

The Story of the Lost Sock

Remind me to tell you the story of the lost sock, one of these days.

Once, watching Play School

Once, watching Play School, a while back now, I saw that the teddy bear, dressed as a lion, was searching for a lost ball of wool.
“Getting hotter, getting hotter, oh, now you’re cold!” said the Play School host.
Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed. All the things to teach Charlie about the world! What was that creature, for a start? Was it a teddy bear or lion? What did it want with the ball of wool?
And how to explain that getting hotter means you’re almost there? Why, after all, is burning so right and freezing wrong?

Pangea Day

Still, on the morning of Mother's Day, I said, “Charlie, say Happy Mother's Day” and he looked at me and said, “Happy. Day.”
The afternoon of Happy. Day I drove into the city for a rerun of Pangea Day. It was in a conference room up high. Harbour bridge lights in picture windows. Floating champagne. Another mother said to me, “I’m glad we didn’t bring our boys.” We looked around the room and it changed. Now it was a beautiful expanse for running; now it was white cloths to tug heavy glasses to the floor.
But this Pangea Day. It was a global event bringing the world together through film. Everybody watching the exact same films at the exact same time around the world.
Not so much us though. I mean, for us, it was a rerun from yesterday.
But I still felt excited.
Yesterday’s audiences flashed onto the screen now and then, and some of them looked cold. The parties woohooing around the world, but sometimes they looked separate to me, oddly huddled. Some of them seemed impatient or not quite there, and some felt almost like ghosts.
But maybe I was just too conscious that they were yesterday. I was tomorrow.

Now, no disrespect, but I wonder if it might have been better just to show the films? Without the presenters, I mean. Once, a presenter said: “This film is only two minutes long but it packs quite a punch!” Then a two minute film and all around the world, audiences waiting for the punch. So, of course. I mean, the whole world had its defences up.

Trouble with the Neighbours

Time was, the neighbours were ghosts. They come and go, I said, at the strangest hours. Could not see their faces for bright lights. Murmuring names. A black dog. A dark-haired girl whose eyes slid sideways when I said hello to her. She seemed close to the dog, the dark-haired girl. She seemed to live a separate life to the man and woman who stood in the shadow of bright light.
Separate ghosts in the house next door.
And then this happened:
One day, I saw the dark-haired girl slam the door of a van and drive away. On the side of the van: PERKY PETS.
Everything fell into place.
That dark-haired girl doesn’t live in the house next door. She’s a dog walker. Of course she leads a separate life. Of course she comes and goes in the middle of the day. Of course she has a relationship with the dog. She walks it.

I went to New York and asked the neighbours to collect my mail. Do you know what they did? They fixed my mailbox. It was loose, hanging by a thread, my mailbox lid. If it had been a tooth you could have got your dad to grab it in a handkerchief and wrench it from your mouth. It wouldn’t have hurt at all. Next day, money from the tooth fairy.
But my mailbox lid, the screws almost all gone, hanging loose. And the neighbours fixed it tightly back, so the lid doesn’t clatter sideways anymore when I lift it in the rain.

At easter time, the neighbours came over for Charlie’s first Easter Egg Hunt. They hid the Easter Eggs. They hid them ingeniously: I mean, for a 1-year-old, it turns out you hide the easter eggs in plain sight.
And while Charlie searched, in an ecstasy of suspense, the neighbours said: “Getting warmer, getting warmer, cold! Cold! Cold!”
He understood.
Nobody explained.
Such a beautiful calm overcame me.

The trouble is: no ghosts any more, just fine and lovely people, so where’s the story?


Unless I tell them I’ve been blogging about them? I could tell them that. They might not like it. There could be open hostilities.
Or better, they could pretend not to mind. They could laugh and say that’s okay. Yet secretly, they’d simmer. Begin to plot some form of ingenious revenge. Hide their revenge in plain sight. Drill small holes in the wall between our houses.
I don’t know why they’d be drilling small holes. But they’d know.
That might be a story.

The Neighbours on the Other Side

The neighbours on the other side are no help. Once I thought their house was on fire but it was only a candle flame moving about behind a window. Also, the other day, the girl from that house was out the front with a can of insect repellant.
“Watch out!” she said to me. “I just found a redback spider in my mailbox.”
She offered to spray my mailbox, in case there was one there too.
People around these parts are just too kind, that’s the trouble. Particularly when it comes to mailboxes.

What I am working on Right Now

I am writing the next book in the Ashbury-Brookfield series.
Just to explain: the Ashbury-Brookfield series began with Feeling Sorry for Celia, a book set at a private school called Ashbury, and also at a nearby public school called Brookfield.
This was followed by Finding Cassie Crazy (also known as The Year of Secret Assignments).
And then Bindy Mackenzie.
Each story is independent of the others, although sometimes characters wander between books.
You are welcome to read the books in any order that you like.
The important thing – the essential thing – is that you read them.

The next book, the one I’m writing now, takes place in the year following Bindy Mackenzie. It features two new characters named Riley and Amelia. Also starring Emily and Lydia from The Year of Secret Assignments, and Toby from Bindy Mackenzie.
I cannot say what this book will be called.
But I can say that it is a ghost story.