Story telling from Australia
Spot on, Joni.
Demolition of the house that adjoins my little writing studio starts Monday, followed by three-metre deep excavations into the bedrock below. Construction of the three storey house is likely to take 10 months.
So today I sit in my quiet studio for the last time, this special place that allows me to retreat from the madness of Sydney surrounded by objects that symbolise peace and tranquility.
The shelves are full of notebooks containing random thoughts, half finished drafts of stories that will never see the light of day, diary notes and conversations with myself that no one would understand. There are letters I’ve kept because they meant something to me once. If I looked at them now, would they still I wonder?
I’ve never really looked closely at the objects I’ve chosen to include. The mask above the door was bought on a weekend trip to Venice, with a friend who’s no longer a friend. The smile is slightly threatening. I love the way good writing can capture the menace behind a smile.
The clock with only one hand is deliberate because time has no meaning when you’re in the zone. Fancy takes flight. A working clock next to it avoids the need to check my mobile phone, which invariably leads to checking emails, clicking on links and before you know it bam! Bye-bye productivity, hello needless distraction.
Buddha exerts a calming influence, and a playful one too. I realise the pin board is way too small and it’s too late now to put up the larger one that’s been sitting in the bedroom for two years, waiting for me to fetch a hammer and nail. Family photos are on the back wall , so they’re with me, without distracting me.
I’ve watched the garden grow from this tiny studio, such as it is, and it turns out to be not so bad. I still hesitate to call it a garden since there are no plants growing directly into the earth – everything is planted in raised beds or pots. It’s unlike any garden I’ve ever know, yet plants do still grow in spite of curl grubs and black spot; mould and aphids; overwatering and underfeeding.
The weak citrus we inherited and that I never managed to identify has given up the ghost, refusing all treatment as if it knows the end is nigh, but the honeysuckle has reached the top of the wall and the climbing rose survived a shocking onslaught of black spot.
I’ve watched it all happen from this studio, pausing to follow the progress of a butterfly or a bee, spotting dragonflies flitting past the window, oblivious to the writer sitting quietly on the other side of the glass.
Countless cups of tea have been drunk and endless distractions allowed when discipline failed me. Throughout it all, Maggie has lain on her bed at the door, the biggest distraction of all, waiting for me to brush her coat, throw her a ball or – her favourite – head toward the toaster in the kitchen.
It’s too hot in summer and too cold in winter, the door doesn’t shut properly and the brickwork bubbles with rising damp, yet I love this little studio and the freedom it affords, allowing me to sit and write undisturbed.
The demolition may not be as bad as I fear. Then again, it may be worse. Either way I have a plan.
The Sydney Mechanics’ School of Art is a short bus ride from here and it has a beautiful library. Australian Tom Keneally (author of Schindler’s Ark, which Spielberg turned into Schindler’s List) is heavily involved and the Tom Keneally centre looks like a wonderful space for writers. I joined it last week.
So that’s where I’ll be heading when we get back from a talk in Taree next week if it all gets too noisy. And who knows? Maybe an enforced move will reduce distractions and increase production.