Postcard from St.Kilda
I am going to Armenia. Say goodbye to the dundun ding ding of the Carlisle St trams and their electric hum and steel track and grit as they rattle down to Luna Park. To dinners with my daughters on Acland St at Greasy Joes or Chinta Ria or Ricocco and one glass of wine too many and talking of family and philosophy and plans in certain and uncomplicated ways that makes the world seem small and manageable and simple and just waiting for the last few puzzle pieces to get into place before that becomes that and we solve marriages and boat people and what to say to others so they will know us and value us and things can be worked out. And to old Port Phillip Bay with broken oyster shells in the shallows thrown by aboriginal peoples over tens of thousands of years of eating cold salty raw flesh and where I first learned to swim at the sea baths in Brighton at my Dads insistence on cold cold mornings in syrupy sea specked with seaweed flakes. And I can still smell the dried seaweed of that place. And the swim teacher Miss Finlayson assumed my polio leg would hold me back so she spent a year teaching me to dog paddle until I could dogpaddle into the sunset and back.
I have packed the rooms of my house into boxes and bubble wrap and some has gone into storage but most has been shipped to Armenia. It goes through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, then into the Black Sea to the Georgian port of Poti and by road to Yerevan. It will reach there in 12 weeks. I spent days struggling over what to keep, old china Donald Duck egg cups given at Easters by my loving parents 50 years ago, paintings my daughters made, two decades ago when they were three and five, so many things like locks of lovers hair, worthless to others but hard to discard even now. I labelled what was to be shipped, what was to be stored and what was to be left for me to sort and give to the Salvos or throw. But the moving crew on the second day was different to the first and now apparently kitchen drawers full of rubber bands and old tap washers, blue tack and string and the futon bed from my spare room that I was going to sleep on this last week while I clean up and then store with it my Mother and so I have a bed to sleep on at Christmas time….have gone in the container to Armenia with who knows how much other junk. And what am I going to do with all that stuff in Yerevan, except puzzle the garbage men with buckets of trash from the other side of the world.
So the next few days I am camping in my empty place to spend some days scrubbing out the memories of 10 years that have found their way unnoticed, brown and sticky into the corners, dry crusty rusted shapes on lino and stains on the walls and cupboards. There is ageless lonely dust and fluff mixed with the hair of my former girlfriend and cotton thread, tumbleweed messy on the polished boards. In the clutter of my life and all the busyness I never noticed I was living among all these hidden marks and stains.
With my futon bed gone I bought a Coleman airbed at Rays Outdoors and it is so big I got a Coleman plug-in electric pump, it has enough power to inflate a zeppelin. And now I am sitting on the airbed which is tight as a drum and in front of me on a blue plastic crate table covered with my last tea towel, a refugee from the packing, Indian take out, a flimsy white plastic fork and a coffee mug of wine. I didn’t really think through the living-in-an-empty-apartment-to -clean-up-before-I -leave part with enough clarity. I can’t imagine how I thought a microwave and a cup was enough to survive for a week. I guess it is because my mind had so much on in getting ready I only thought to this point. Still I am surprised by how little I need to live. Two full trucks of stuff from my life gone and I don’t really miss it. And I am wondering how much of what I have and what I do is really necessary. Between TV adverts, spicy curry and red wine, I am thinking there is another lesson here somewhere.
I am on leave but still taking care of some loose ends here and there and preparing for my work in Armenia. I Skype a friend, asking if he will be available in September to do some training in Eastern Europe. He is stuck in Italy after a motorcycle accident which left him with seven broken ribs. The doctors s told him he can’t fly back to his home in South Africa yet as a rib might re-break and puncture his lung. His wife has joined him in Italy but his three kids are home in Durban.
A day later he Skypes me back.
Jock I don’t know what to say. This is a month of disaster. Last night my daughter passed away in an accident falling from a balcony at her 21st birthday party. I cannot tell what my September movements will be. I want to thank you for the opportunities that you have given me. I want to continue to work with you. But I must get over this issue with my family.
I leave the day after tomorrow and won’t see my kids for six months. One of my daughters calls me and wants to chat and nothing now is more important than she and I having lunch at the Galleon in an hour, whatever we talk about. And the trams outside on Carlisle St go dundun, ding ding as we talk.