Monday, August 16, 2010


On September 10, there will be a one-day ‘Teen Writers’ Masterclass’, for 12 to 17-year-olds, at the National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour. It will be run by Anthony Eaton, Susanne Gervay, publisher Linsey Knight, and me. The details are here.
Also, I am speaking at the Abbotsleigh Literary Festival tomorrow, at MLC next week, and at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival on 31 August.
Thank you.

Sponge Cake

My friend came to visit and she said, I’ll make a sponge cake, and she did. Her children played with Charlie, a game with the giant plastic candy cane from last Christmas. They were sliding it down the bannister. Also, they all painted pictures, and we pegged the paintings to the security door at the back of the house to dry in the wind.

They left behind a quarter of the sponge cake, and all of the children’s paintings, and one of these paintings — a rainbow of colours by my friend’s three-year-old - was so good, the colours blending so beautifully, subtle yet bright, gently symmetrical — that I wondered if I should save it, and use it as a thankyou card the next time a distant relative sent Charlie a present.

On the phone, later that day, I told my mother about the sponge cake — how perfect it was, how glad I was that there was still some left to eat - and my mother was filled with excitement. ‘In my whole life,’ she said, ‘I’ve only ever known two people who could make sponge cake! And one of them is dead!’

Later still, I looked at the little boy's rainbow painting, and a memory came to me — how I once said to a friend, ‘Should I get coloured contact lenses? I’d like to have green eyes,’ and my friend said, ‘If you did that,’ he said, ‘if you got coloured contact lenses - that would be the greatest lie you ever told.’

I threw the rainbow painting away and I got Charlie to do his own splashed, blotched, leaking swirl of clashing colours, to send as a thankyou card to his Great Great Auntie Ivy for the remote control monster truck.

Dwarf Magnolia

We were walking down the hill and there was a notice pinned to a tree that said, ‘This weeping bottlebrush has been scheduled for removal’. The reason for removal was its ‘advanced state of decline.’ The council planned to replace it with a ‘dwarf magnolia’. The tree hung so low, and was so grey, and no wonder it was weeping.

It might have been the same day

It might have been the same day, walking down the hill, and I’d just collected Charlie from pre-school. He said, ‘I lost my voice at pre-school today,’ and I said, ‘Did you?’ and he said, ‘Yes, but then I found it in the sandpit.’

'The wind blew the cover of the sandpit aside,' he said. 'And there was my voice.’


I went to see Fanfarlo at a place called the Gaelic Club, and we were waiting near the back, and someone with a big camera said, ‘Can I photograph you for the -?’ and we couldn’t hear what he said, but we said, okay, fine, and smiled. Then we saw him approach another person, who shook his head, no, no, and another, who also shook his head, no, and another after that.

In the girls’ bathroom there was a boy at the sink applying mascara, and a blonde girl beside him was helping him, and they both turned to me and laughed, and then there they were on the stage, in the support band. Its name was Guineafowl. I felt a strange connection to them, since I’d just seen them applying mascara. I felt proud of them too, they were good! Then another support band called Wim, and they were good too! Then we were waiting near the back of the room, and down the stairs behind us came running footsteps, and then right in front of us, a row of small people, with smiles and bright eyes, and my friend said, ‘I think that’s the band,’ and we moved closer to the stage. So I felt a connection with them too, having seen them running right by with their bright eyes. They were wonderful! I loved them!

And I always listen to their CD when I’m driving out to Castle Hill, so each song at the Gaelic Club took me straight back to that journey — this one I’m overtaking a truck on the M2, this one I’m just switching my headlights on as I head into the Lane Cove Tunnel, this one I’m merging onto the transit lane and Charlie is saying, along with the music, 'the sky is too quiet, the sky is too quiet', with his own quiet pride, and I am saying, after a moment, 'I think it says the sky is so shallow.'

So, now, when I’m driving out to Castle Hill and listening to my Fanfarlo CD, it takes me straight to the Gaelic Club, and there I am close to the stage, and then in turn I am taken directly back to the M2, to the Lane Cove Tunnel, to the transit lane, to the too-quiet sky.


We were walking through a canyon - through a street with houses set high on either side of us. Charlie shouted, once or twice, for the echo. He likes echoes, shadows, reflections on water, people who have his name. He shouted, ‘hello!’, once or twice, then he gave up and began speaking to me in his ordinary voice. Only now he was adding a soft, fading repetition to the end of each sentence. ‘I’m getting tired – tired – tired. Can you carry me – carry me – carry me.’
I laughed. I said, ‘Ha, you’re doing your own echoes.’
He said, ‘It’s not funny – funny – funny. Why can’t you carry me – carry me – carry me?’
I said, ‘Well, I’m carrying all the groceries, I can’t carry you as well.’ He walked along moodily for a while. ‘You could put the bags down – down – down,’ he said, ‘ and carry me – me – me.’
‘You’re three years old,’ I said, ‘you don’t need to be carried.’
‘Yes I do - do - do. My legs aren’t working – working - working’.
‘You do that echo well,' I said, laughing again.
‘Why are you laughing – laughing – laughing?’ His voice was angry except for the echoes, which faded gracefully, indifferent. ‘I’m not being funny – funny – funny.’ He looked up at me, troubled. ‘It’s just that we’re in echoland – echoland – echoland.’ And he kept it up, never once smiling, until we got around the corner and out of echoland.