I drift inexorably towards my conclusion. I trust less and less the prediction made by Caroline the op-shop lady. Back in early April, she assessed my personality, and judged that I “function better by working towards a deadline”. But here we are, with only two days to go ’til my exhibition, and I’m still blundering about like Mr Ryder, the pianist in Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled.
The entire time I’ve been working on the ‘sham, I’ve been reading this novel. And I feel like it’s had some powerful yet subtle influence over my writing, not to mention the way I move through time and space in the suburb. In The Unconsoled, Mr Ryder arrives in an unspecified European city. He’s a famous pianist, and is booked in to do some sort of presentation on “Thursday night”. Trouble is, everyone seems to know what he’s supposed to be do except Ryder himself. Worse still, it appears he’s agreed to countless minor appointments between “now” and Thursday – none of which he can recall. He rushes, flustered and irritated, to make each meeting, only to be waylaid en route by someone who has been expecting him somewhere else. In fact, he should have been at that encounter more than half an hour ago. And so on. Each journey bifurcates, and every subsequent path is itself diverted… After four hundred and thirty seven pages (I’m not yet at the end!) Ryder still hasn’t arrived at Thursday night.
In novel time, less than three days have passed. But for me, it’s been more than fifty days. And although most of my days in Petersham have been nowhere near as frustrating as Ryder’s, to a certain extent I share his feeling, that I’m not quite master of my own destiny. And even more: the absurd sense that the looming deadline is somehow rather meaningless. In my case, all the more so, since my exhibition is going to take place in Camperdown. And still, I allow time to wash over me, moving me closer to the end.
Just after two, Reuben arrived. I was checking my lettuces. Some of them have been eaten by snails. They’re so vulnerable in that way.
I made us coffee, and while we were drinking it, I proposed we make the flan/pudim which has been the focus of much speculation lately.
Inside the cardboard box was a tiny sachet containing a pinkish powder. We emptied it into a bowl, added what seemed to be a lot of sugar, then a drizzle of milk to make a runny paste. Immediately, the powder mixture turned the colour of egg yolk. But at least it dissolved pretty well. When the milk was hot enough on the stove, Reuben trickled in the paste while I stirred and took a photo. It began to look like custard, and took on a kind of eggy smell. We poured the resulting solution into two round takeaway containers, whacked em in the fridge, and went out for a walk.
[This post was written on Sunday, and “the afternoon” to which it refers is last Saturday arvo. My poor image manipulation skills have delayed the launch of this one – it took me a few days to put together the maps which appear below. Cheerio! – Lucas]
In the afternoon, the Cake Lady came to visit, bearing natas fresh from Sweet Belem. I made us coffee and we sat in the kitchen chatting away. She’s staying at the Regent’s Court Hotel in the Cross, its a kind of artist-in-residence where the hotel puts you up in exchange for watering the plants in their beautiful rooftop garden. Not a bad exchange. The Cake Lady’s working on some new animated films, which generally channel her rich vault of memories growing up in North Queensland. Recently she’s been running art workshops with the kids who travel around with circuses. But the conversation meandered wildly and I forgot to interrogate her about that. Which is a pity, cos I reckon it’d be an interesting story.
The Cake Lady had suggested an assignment to be carried out in the ‘sham:
You and a friend/partner arrange to arrive in a foreign city on the same day. Take different forms of transport to get there. Do not make a place to meet. Try and find your friend/partner.
On Friday morning, I knocked on Luciana’s door. I had two things in mind. First, to debrief about the real estate visit. And second, to get her to help me carry the bench from our balcony at the back of the building, out to the front porch. That way, we can sit out there in the morning and drink our coffee. This serves three purposes. First, we catch the morning sun. At this time of year in Sydney, the air is cool, and to spend time in the sunshine is a pleasure. All humidity has disappeared. Second, we get to check out the neighbourhood – we become local “vecchietti” ( little old men and women who sit on their front porches and watch the world go by). And third, by occupying the porch, we send a message to would-be burglars that this place is not empty – so they better not try any shenanigans on us.
One for the fans only: this post is going up on Saturday arvo, whereas it was really written on Friday. I also wrote for Barbara Campbell yesterday, which threw me out a little. Not that I had to do any extra work – I just edited down the second section of this entry to squeeze in under her 1001 word limit. Once I’d done this chopping, it felt like quite a different piece. I wasn’t sure whether it was better or worse. Nor do I really have any criteria for judging. I tried to make it a bit less wordy, so it would be easier to read out aloud (which is what Barbara does, each day, at sunset). But then I thought, hmm, maybe I should use the reduced version in my own blog, so I put off putting it up online to think about it. To cut a long story short, here’s what I’ve done: the original longer wordier version is below. If you want to compare and contrast, check out the brief version in Barbara’s archive.
OK, enough boring admin talk, on with yesterday’s post…