You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2014.

Feist

Kim Gordon

Annie Proulx

Natalie Merchant

Dorothy Porter

Juliette Binoche

PJ Harvey 3

Laura Linney

Parker Posey

Catherine O’Hara

Sofia Coppola

Peaches

Aminatta Forna 2

My life for a screen. But it's worth it. Maybe?

My life for a screen. But it’s worth it. Maybe?

Come and go
This blogging thing: really, what’s it all about?  The blog-shaped hole in the universe that you’re currently in came into existence back in mid-2009 and somehow it’s still chugging along.  I’ve seen some truly brilliant blogs come and go; for whatever reason, the blogger has decided to end it all.  I, too, have thought of throwing in the towel – many times, in fact.  But then I think of the people I’ve met, the conversations had, and the points of view and life experience shared, and I realise that there’s no real harm in continuing on.  Perhaps I also like the fact that Under the counter of a flutter in the dovecot (which is still officially the most ridiculous name in all of the blogosphere) is archived by the National Library of Australia.  What’s been created here will exist forever.  In theory.

The pieces
Across the years I’ve often wondered about the point of a blog like this one.  It’s partly a depository of pieces I write for the Canberra Times and related Fairfax publications; if the house burns down and I lose the physical file of clippings there will always be the digital copies kept here.  Then there are the outrageously self-serving updates on my adventures in Fiction Land – frankly, they rarely sit comfortably with me, but writing and publishing literature, especially in Australia, is too difficult to justify being a wallflower.  Then there are the brief, diary-like flashes about my home or my hometown or the writing life.  Then there are the reviews, mostly of albums that I’ve bought and I want to talk about – some of the albums I’ve loved, others not so much, but I still want to work out what I think by writing about them.  Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to write about music?  It’s near impossible!  Finally, sometimes I post collages or simply photos with captions. When I’m all out of words.

For the stumblers
Does all this add up to much?  I’m not sure it does.  But for the bugger who produces it all there’s still some enjoyment to be had, and I sincerely hope there’s still enjoyment to be had for those who stumble here.

Lashings of thanks
As others have noted, what keeps a blogger going are the comments, many – most – of which have been amazingly thoughtful and thought-provoking.  So thank you to everyone who’s commented.  What surprises me even more are the subscribers, some of who have been with the blog from day one.  So here are lashings of gratitude to each and every one of you for following UTCOAFITD – I appreciate it very much.  I do hope you get something out of what’s posted and the comments that generated.  All writing, even if it’s fiction, is an exchange of information.  I just hope that you enjoy the exchange that happens here.

All the best, till next week. Unless I get hit by a bus.

If our sky wasn't so dangerous it would be beautiful.

Summer in Goulburn, Australia: if our sky wasn’t so dangerous it would be beautiful.

The chooks are panting.  They’re holding out their wings as if they have sweaty armpits – this despite the fact the coop and run have for weeks been covered in an old tent fly.  Outside the coop and run the birdbath is a dried-up clay-pan.  The large wattle adjacent is yellow, not from flowering but its tiny stressed leaves.  The dirt, it’s sandy.  The clematis around the front of the house, planted at the end of spring and for much of the time since has been growing vigorously up the verandah post, is now limp, fading.  The two standard white roses beside the front gate look like miniature street-trees in autumn – they’re leafless.  Inside the house it’s dark, all the curtains and blinds closed even though it’s the middle of the day.  When eyes adjust, the cracks in the walls are obvious as the ground shifts and splits.  There’s no breeze coming through the hallways and rooms because the doors and windows are shut tight.  The skylight’s honeycomb covering is drawn across, making a cave out of the loungeroom.  The corrugated-iron roofing creaks like a ship keeling into the ocean (if only).  Sometimes the mad and maddening whirr of a trapped-in blowfly.  The fridge motor bravely trying to keep up.  The Old Lady of the House dragging herself from one place to another, head down and puffing.  The coolest place, she knows, is in the writing room, because its only window faces east – the room is protected from the worst of the afternoon.  There she finds a writer in grey gym shorts and white t-shirt.  Look at the blackened souls of his feet.  Beside him is the six-fin bar-heater, dusty, silent, switched off but plugged in.  The heater is waiting for cold rain.

Me shaving at Brideshead Castle, October 1923. (Warning: this post may contain things that aren't strictly true.)

Me shaving at Brideshead Castle, October 1923. (Warning: may not be strictly true.)

Summer is the land of tradition and regrettably I’m no different.  Making the morning cup of coffee before heading to the writing room and getting stuck into it is one, as is marinating in a glass of wine at 6pm to celebrate the end of the day.

All things considered, however, these are relatively recent traditions, one befitting of a man who’s slipping disastrously into middle-age.  If there’s something I’ve done for a very long time, from when I shared a home with parents and brothers, it’s this: to celebrate the completion of some writing, a novella say, I play the soundtrack to the BBC’s serialisation of Brideshead Revisited.

My family, avid ABC viewers the lot of us, had the Brideshead soundtrack on vinyl record, but these days I have it on CD.  It’s dated 1981, so perhaps the series aired in Australia that year, or the one after.  I would have been thirteen or fourteen years old.  With the music playing I’d spend whole days on the couch under a blanket, a pad in my lap, pen in hand, and make up a story – a school assignment.  I can remember the plot of one of them: two country-town boys who aren’t old enough to go to war are forced to stay home and do the hard work of grown men.  Where on Earth I got that from I don’t no.

I simply wanted to listen to Brideshead Revisited and write and wish that I didn’t live on Sydney’s North Shore but in a humble abode called Brideshead Castle and be a Marchmain or a Flyte (but not Sebastian – he was too uptight, even for me); perhaps I could be Charles Ryder and waft here and there and fall in love with this and that and do a watercolour painting whenever the mood had me.

It’s odd, because I’m not fond of classical music, and my music knowledge isn’t sufficiently refined to know how to describe the Brideshead score – contemporary chamber music?  All I know is that, just like Eveyln Waugh’s famously fading English family with their own twisted traditions, I still like to play the soundtrack to Brideshead Revisited whenever it feels as though a piece of writing is on the home stretch.  Perhaps it reminds me of being under that blanket on that couch, crafting a story without a clue as to what I was doing.  How comforting.

(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 25 January 2014.)

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