Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Post 249 - The faces of the silent men below showed total bewilderment as they pondered be thine foily thing a duck or a goose

Winter in Tasmania - perhaps like other parts of the world, although in Scotland it brings on bunion ache if the legends are true - brings out the old folk who like to ponder to total strangers just how cold it is. I haven't seen their close cousins lately, the cheer up it might never happen family, but I'm sure they are about somewhere. Summer, they'll be in the same place, flipping and subverting the question to ask if it's hot enough for you, as though they are in charge of temperature and are keen to make sure you are comfortable. Eastlands even kindly got them a meeting place, a shop temporarily where the book shop used to be. When I say shop, it's three tables with tat on it, absolute tat like little ornaments you buy for people you don't like and Xmas trees made out of foil. There's nothing else in the store, no desk and no staff, just those three tables and so much space up the back in this once packed out store that you could sit there and have a picnic or just loiter for a while pretending to look at little foilnaments, but really just badgering strangers with comments about how cold . There's a printed out piece of A4 paper stuck to the window in a desperately apologetic font that seems to suggest this store will only be around for 2wo weeks, like a squatter they can't shift until the paperwork is finalised, or a relationship with a 2nd date scheduled before the first one that you go through for no apparent reason. There's something quite nostalgic to me about the apologetic font, a sort of throwback to my primary school days when inappropriate acts were made up for by someone printing out an apology on the BBC micro, and some of those apologies from under 9ines who took your pencil would still tear your heart out with their sincerity. There's an Elvis Costello a like up the back of the shop, picking idly at one of the foilaments, holding it up to the light as if assessing it on Antiques Roadshow. He's casually munching a sandwich when he sees me, and I suspect from the adjusted angle of his trilby that he's in need of someone to compare temperatures with. It's always a man in a trilby with me who bails me up in conversation, and I have no particular place to go, but no particular desire to get involved in the fading lights of suburban temperature assessment, so I shuffle on, not least of all because all the thoughts of temperature are just reminding me of flash cards with how to spell, and by the looks of the ornaments, some poor kids are spending their mornings learning to spell by flash cards, and their afternoons in a sweat shop with a box of foil and all the air out of the room...no one will ask them how cold is it...

While clumsy fingers and good old fashioned Scottish ineptitude - we used to invent in the days before Buckfast - meant that my foilaments ended up far away from any market stall, I did find in my cupboard a little bracelet my cousin made for me. That would be my cousin who we adopted from Korea who said Melbourne has too many Asians, that one. She went through a period in her life where she would spend her weekends making little trinkets and I must have been supportive and got myself one made with my idols name on it - Ralph Wiggum. Ah, casual cartoon irony, how you have kept me warm through the years. Why wasn't it Snagglepuss? He must have been out in 1995. She sold them on cold mornings at Penguin market, pre the gay guys buying it, and in howling gales next to endless tables stacked to the sky with buckets of honey and buskers who could only play Solid Rock by Goanna, she would offer up her items to the gods of Penguin commerce, little old ladies in the Lions Club who poked and picked at the market stalls on their way to lunch. Finding the bracelet made me a little sad because there must have been a morning where she got discouraged and stopped, like a million other ambitions throughout life that never got followed up on. My keyboard was switched off one day, my ice skates were thrown in the cupboard when Mum said I wasn't skating, I was marching around the ice like an infantry soldier. I could have blamed the skates, Magnum standard issue blue wellington boots with skates that acted as a bizarre ice repellent, but they bought me Gretzky hockey skates and I still sucked. Or so they told me, and on one final Sunday morning, I just lost the desire when I realised that my fun and adventure through the world of ice had become a learning process, and I hated education. Finding ice skating boring is sort of a defining moment for me, because I essentially realised that if I wanted to get good at something, I'd have to study, and as I stared into that grey Irvine sky, I for the first time couldn't be bothered. A little girl with a bowl cut and a fringe swept across her face excitedly held her ice skates up to the sky and smiled a toothy smile to everyone, and as she marched up the ramp enjoying herself, I yearned for her innocence. Mind you, I was 10en, and when I later recounted this story to Debbie over a shared Malteser, she told me I was too young to feel so old, and we sat in appreciative silence for a moment after she told a story about her sister, who was 12elve, who had got her first pimple, right on the edge of her nose. I might not have been able to skate, but my skin was soft as linen. Or something like that...

I had an afternoon nap on Sunday which terrified me anyway even before I found the Orbis Italia 90 sticker album and realised I was one South Korean Left back short of a full album - how can I fulfil that as an ambition? I had a nap because I had absolutely nothing else to do. I was on the computer writing a story, and lost interest in what I was writing. I had the ingredients to make a lime spider and I couldn't be bothered making one, and the 1/2 finished book on my table was so boring all the words curved into one, and that word was Bulgaria. So I went to bed, in the middle of the afternoon, and almost immediately jumped out of bed in fright, because while an afternoon nap can sometimes be a noble accomplishment, I couldn't imagine a time when my options were so limited all I could do was sleep until a new day came around. I know there were a lot of people at uni who would just go and have afternoon naps so when they woke up, enough time had passed in their day so they could recheck their e-mails and see the one extra e-mail they had got, and they didn't have to wait for it. I was genuinely scared that I had lapsed, and had nothing to do. Sure, I was hungover and been out all day the day before, but I had succumbed to the Sunday terrors, or some sort of horrible onset midlife crisis that I couldn't cope with. Did all the little unfulfilled ambitions in my life add up to one big waste of time, or had that just been something left offer thematically in my brain from that episode of Red Dwarf where they were all judged? And should I know more about art than Red Dwarf anyway? I freaked out a bit in my own kitchen in that oh my god my life amounts to 6ix Lily Allen VHS tapes and a lime spider shaker kind of way. This hypochondriacal mood passed quickly though, because out of nowhere I came up with a great idea for something to write, and typed it really quickly into my laptop. In the background, my football team failed miserably, and over the back fence an argument broke out over who really shot the sherrif, but my ambitions were clear, type, type fast, don't miss anything out, and there was no one around to disrupt me...it was such a wonderful moment of solitude I had to share it with someone...really and truly as ironic as a black fly in your chardonnay, or lime spider if you will...

The people who made the foilaments had a dream I suppose, a dream that their little foilducks and bears will one day spring out from the wasteland of Eastlands, off the tables and shelves, and take over the world and be feted by Oprah but if your ambition is fatally bad to begin with - making a Xmas tree out of foil in April for instance - failure is surely the only option. You could argue at least they are trying, while I toil chasing my Dad in football tipping, and perhaps the argument is valid. I watch as Elvis Costello ambles down the road. It's then I realise where I recognise him from. Many years ago, he had handed me a business card in the middle of the street. I think he was offering me a job. Or he wanted to nail me. One of the two. Girls with blue eye shadow don't offer me business cards. She was door bitch today, but anyway, back to the point. He made these little Tasmanian animals out of pewter or silver, and they were great. He had a stall of course and because he came into work he gave us all one one Xmas, I've still got, it's in the cupboard next to Choi Chang Uls non stickery presence and the bracelet with Wiggum spelt wrong - my fault. The ice skates went to another cousin of mine, personality so lost to time he's boring to write about. Of course, one day when I was walking past, whistling the tune of the day, possibly Soda Pop, I saw the animal maker go into the TAB. Nothing bad with that, we've all been there. It was after 25ive consecutive days of seeing him go into the TAB that I kind of thought something was wrong, and sure enough gambling debts got to him in the end, and those little animals ended up unsold and uncast in their moulds, another talent wasted, another dream unfulfilled. My empathy is up though, because later I'm standing in the sandwich shop, looking around, waiting eternally for miss I'm too old for a nose ring but no one will tell me to finally serve me. I smile idly at the passers by, and entirely to shake myself out of the comfort zone of unfilled dread, I ask the most beautiful girl in the shop if it's cold enough for her, and only step away when I realise she has a speaking voice that could shatter glass from a thousand feet...

Choi Chang ul, you don't know it, but I'm gonna find you...get ready...

13 comments:

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Bunions in the cold, foilaments, Korean cousins, lime spiders (what is a lime spider anyway?), Red Dwarf and a midlife crisis - and I'm thinking Haruki Murakami and a wild sheep chase. Hmmm...

sparsely kate said...

I find napping really worrying as well, it seems like such an old person's thing to do, or a depressed, lifeless, brow beaten sod's type of thing to do..that I panic when I do it. I think that maybe I'm heading into a cloud of depression only I don't know it yet.

No you were right not to sleep your afternoon away - there are always other options!!

Kettle said...

I've never heard of foilaments before. At primary school we made little people out of clay with upturned faces... they were called star gazers and their heads were tilted up looking at our hopes and dreams... awwww. Perhaps life would have been better if we made foilaments instead?

Miles McClagan said...

Well my guy dressed as Elvis Costello, not a sheep, but I have read two Murakami books so does that count vaguely as an influence? I don't have any at all, other than Wisconsin Death Trip. A lime spider is a drink. Made thusly...

http://www.schweppes.com.au/experience/recipes/22-lime-spider.html

It terrified me utterly that I had a nap. It seemed like giving up. Like my nanna did in the last few years of her life. I jumped out of bed in just terror...I had to get up and do something...even if it was just watching Boomerang...

Miles McClagan said...

Little people out of clay, that's awesome...we made so many foilaments after a while they lost all meaning...the foilaments went away today and they had some claycats in the shop, it's all very surrealist...star gazers may save their business if it's suggested...

squib said...

And should I know more about art than Red Dward anyway?NO!

Miles, I was walking past a hat shop in Freo and I saw a window display that relied very heavily on those feather duster plant things (what are they called again?). Anyway I thought of you

Kettle said...

Ah mercy, have you ever seen foilaments and/or claycats in someone's house? I suspect no-one actually buys them, they're just pulled out of storage at shopping centres to fill empty shops. At least I hope that's it anyway.

Miles McClagan said...

I'm very happy in retrospect with a love of Red Dwarf. I've learnt more from Rimmer than Rimbaud any day of the week...I've had a big week, hat shops and Ross Noble posters inspire thoughts of me, it's a great world!

I must admit, I haven't, I think you only see them if you buy them for someone, and they have to drag them out of storage when you visit...you should have seen the cat...I must get to that today...

Baino said...

Can't nap at all. My daughter is a 'power napper' just an hour before going out and ripping it up. I'm full of unachieved ambition, very frustrating. But in terms of motivation I have vowed, that every quiet Sunday, I'll take the camera for a walk come rain hail or shine. It prevents the malaise. I'll nap when I'm dead.

Jannie Funster said...

WHAT?!?!? You had the ingredients to make a lime spider and didn't??

I best be comin g over there to Oz and straigten you out.

A.S.A.P.

Miles McClagan said...

I can nap, I'm tired at odd times now, like I get tired at 3 in the afternoon but if I don't nap I'm OK by 4...I think if I napped, I'd end up like my Dad, sleeping through endless things! If I feel like napping, I'll write instead, or do a Sporcle quiz...

I know! I know! A nap instead of a lime spider...it was a horrible decision...I deserve the straightener...

Mrs Slocombe said...

Well Miles, we didn't get to Penguin but we did hear all about it and the gay guys etc from a friend in Hobart who grew up there.....our Freycinet car park run in with the guy who was living in his car made up for it though......

Miles McClagan said...

The gay guys - how dare they try and fix up Penguin! Shame you never made it up there - the post office is super great, super efficient! People are from Penguin everywhere you go - it's fun to meet them!