The words have been lean lately. The school holidays are the bane of and blame for, lack of words flowing. I am too much of a me, and more of a me person, to try to put down words under difficult circumstances. Multitasking falls to those who are unselfish and can spread goodness and sweetness around no matter what.. They even do it better. I forego flowing words in order to make pancakes or fry speck for the kids. It could just be an excuse to take a break. Regroup! I am not a multi-tasker. Ask my wife!
Do words not deserve a holiday? I mean you can tell words are suffering when you hear people say ‘awesome’ and even ‘absolutely’. Just now I heard on the news, something needing ‘a paradigm shift in attitude’. The popularity of ‘stuff like that’ is on the wane. Thanks to our PM, T. Abbott though, there has been a resurgence of ‘absolutely’ and making things ‘crystal clear’! Saying ‘obviously’ twice in each new sentence is now being patented by Tony Abbott our Rhodes scholarly Prime Minister of funny sayings, absolutely!
The school holidays usually involves both good and bad. The good is self-evident. To have domestic life with sound of children. Pillows on the floor. Tripping over shoes that somehow find themselves in front of your step no matter what direction you take to the kitchen or bathroom. Despite of shoes, it was fine to have them around again for a few days. They are a font of delightful expressions which any writer would use and exploit. They are both still verbally agile and imaginative like most children are. I pray they keep this and not allow it to be knocked out by maturing into stiff and compliant adults. You know the kind who feel that the ability to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is enough to get you through. May be! But a good ‘fuck you’ and ‘piss off’ to bullying adults might stand them in just as good a stead. What is in a word? A lot!
As the painting contracting got more and more colourful, with teams working all over Sydney, the post Italy period was put to good use. I bought an apartment in King’s Cross. I did not actually live in it. I let it out and used the rent to pay the mortgage. It proved to be the most prudent move of my life. I also continued on with painting pictures. I had taken a painting course locally in Parramatta. This was the suburb some years before where I used to meet fortnightly as secretary of the ‘Parramatta scooter club.’ Readers that held on to my blog would know this club disintegrated when Vespas and Lambrettas did not see eye to eye. There was even someone with a Norton 500 cc single cylinder motor bike allowed to join up.
The painting course was run by Ronald Peters, a man who abhorred what was going on at the NSW art gallery. Modern paintings were being hung and crowds would peer at them incomprehensibly. They did not make any sense to him either. He warned us to avoid modern paintings like the plague. He taught me to start with sky; ‘a dark blue at the top of the canvas and lighten the colour as you go down’ he said. ‘It will create distance.’ Gum trees always featured. ‘Put some dappled highlights on the bark’. We were urged to follow his own painting at the front of the class. Step by step! It was the period when D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s lover was still banned and Portnoys complaint whispered about on corners by men wearing rain-coats, some years later. Today, publishers are wringing their hands. Readers are secretly and under the blankets, reading words on kindle, freeloading, copying and swapping!
Book shops now are closing down. Readers are becoming sparse and Borders have shut shop. Celebrity and sport books are still being sold and some bookshops are offering three books for the price of two. I see the smiling open mouthed Jamie Oliver still staring out at Super Markets, but for how much longer? After all those years do people still need to know how to cook a T-bone? Milan Kundera, who heard of him? A cricketer was killed by a ball some weeks back and his wife was offered a state funeral! No such offer for Patrick White though some years ago.
I gave the landscape class a miss even though I was surprised how nice my pictures looked. The dappled effect on eucalypt bark very much liked. Some of those little paintings I took with me in a suitcase on my way to Helvi’s Finland. For a few months I did an art course with John Olson and Robert Klippel. Both were at the revolutionary edge of breaking away from the traditional art scene in Australia. Their work created heated scenes at art galleries with people trying to take them to court. Clashes of traditional art lovers with the young and anti Vietnam war protesters. A portrait by Dobell was taken to court on the grounds it was a caricature. The artist won.
Our letter writing to and from Finland increased and not just in numbers. Exchanges of photos and sweet whisperings became intensely loving. The tyranny of distance could only be overcome by a boat journey. Helvi still needed to do a few more exams but I proposed anyway, and…she accepted. How glorious! I remember it well. Exultation followed by booking a boat to Genoa in 1965.