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01 Melbourne face 3

02 Melbourne shop 1

03 Melbourne cocoons

04 Melbourne (do me)

‘Every vigorous age has had its own vision of urban splendour.
Why should we be deprived of it?’
– Walter Gropius

05 Melbourne facade 1

06 Melbourne (what are you looking at)

07 Melbourne facade 2

08 Melbourne face 4

Might it be this little guy?

Might it be this little guy?

Something is stealing my water.

It’s actually the chooks’ water, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an important matter, one of life and death.  They have a ten-day waterer, but in the last two weeks it’s been depleted every day, and the hens aren’t impressed, not at all.  Could it be that with this unseasonally warm winter and spring they are thirstier than usual?  But even at the height of summer they don’t drink this much.

Could the sparrows be the ones who are drinking it, the sparrows who are determined to drive me crazy with their pesky ways?

It just might be that there’s something else in my little garden.

Every morning I wake to find the mulch disturbed, some of it flicked over the paving and stepping stones.  I always broom it back to where I want it – that is, after all, the whole point of having a garden – but the next morning there they are again, the scatterings of mulch.  Something is digging, and it might also be drinking.

Recently, if I’m up early enough and look out into the hopeful dawn, I sometimes see a darting shape, almost as if it’s been flung across the yard by sling-shot.  Yesterday morning, I waited for the light to come and got a better look: it’s small, and black, with a bright red beak.  It’s a blackbird.

They say blackbirds came to Australia in the 1850s via Melbourne, and since then have formed colonies up the east coast, particularly in the lush, basaltic gardens of the Blue Mountains.  But also, quite evidently, in my Goulburn yard (now that Cat the Ripper is nothing more than an ache in my stomach that won’t go away).

Is it the blackbird that’s stealing the water?  It’s possible that it is.

Unless I also have a snake.  But let’s not go there.

Sometimes I’ve seen a large brown hawk sitting on the ridge of the old shed that is my garage.  The hawk could be after the sparrows, or the chooks, or even my blackbird.  What a little world is in my garden.  There are days when I wish that I could sort myself out, forget about this whole writing madness, and just let plants and birds be all I need, let this small patch of life sustain me, in essence be my water – so I could live out my days simply sipping.

(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 16 November 2013.)

It was an odd thing to do but I was getting desperate.  Within minutes I’d be on Melbourne radio by telephone link-up and talking about a novella of mine published last year, but I was already into the writing of the next novella.  I made a coffee, hoping this would break my concentration, but it didn’t have the desired effect.  I quickly fed the chooks, but still my brain was filled with the work-in-development.  As the interview crept closer, the only idea I had was to just return to my writing room and hope my head would clear.

But my head didn’t clear; all I could think about was the new story, the one that’s still in the process of being born.  On air would I mix up my titles and characters and plots and themes and end up sounding like a fool?

Highly likely.

Could it be that all we have to do sometimes is sit in a different chair to sort everything out?

Could it be that all we have to do sometimes is sit in a different chair to sort everything out?

As a last resort, I stood up, walked to the other side of the room, and breathed in slowly, deeply, breathed out.

There’s a chair on that side of the room.  It’s a simple 1930s piece which I bought just after I moved in – my house is old so it seemed only right that I have some old furniture.  I’m not into antiques per se; I don’t like gloss and shine and perfection.  If I find a piece that’s been discounted due to an obvious flaw, I’m more interested.  This particular chair was so unloved that the shop kept it outside under a lean-to.  No one wanted it.  Except me.

I sat down and – oh my – what on earth was happening?

I like writing, I like working hard, so when I’m in my writing room I’m always at my desk, not in the old chair in the corner, which really just exists these days for decoration and atmosphere.  But while I sat and waited for the interviewer to ring, I saw a completely different view of the room.  From this angle, the room appeared larger, taller; it even smelt different.  For a minute, two minutes, three minutes, I just sat quietly in the old unloved chair and felt altered.  It felt as if I’d stepped outside myself, the way some people describe an out-of-body experience at the time of near-death.  Of course, I wasn’t dying.  I was just being differently.

After three minutes, the phone began ringing.

I stood up and calmly answered the call.

(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 25 May 2013.)

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