Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Antony Wickens

Dear hearts,

When I was little, maybe 7 or 8 or even 9, Antony Wickens was my best friend. He lived in the Duplex above my Grandparents in Premier St, Neutral Bay. I loved going to see Nana and Pa. I loved even more going to see Antony. Antony was English. Very English. He wore long shorts with a belt, had dinner at 5 o'clock every day and a mother who never really came outside. I used to think it was because she found the sun too bright. Because she was English. She had the same pale gold hair that Antony had. And the same pale gold skin.

Outside Antony's front door was a beautiful big Frangipani tree. Frangipani tree's grow into the most beautiful of shapes. They are like ballerina's in my mind. Their branches reach out like the extended arms of a ballerina. And the tufts of yellow flower clusters that grow out from the ends of those extended arms have always reminded me of tutu's and Swan Lake feathers. I don't really know why.

Antony and I would climb into the branches of that frangipani tree and sit and talk for hours. We thought we were terribly brave and clever for climbing so high (my father could look us in the eye when he came out to check on us). One summer afternoon after twirling frangipani blossoms between our fingers and sending them downwards in spirals into the garden from our great height, we made the startling and hilarious discovery of the word idiotic. We laughed for three hours. I still remember, and it still makes me laugh to think of us saying the word to each other. Over and over again. It was so ridiculous, so exotic and so, well, idiotic. We collapsed into giggles and into each other. We nearly fell out of that tree. Several times.

It was a summer of cicada's in the plum tree, big fat blood plums and too much sun. Antony and his pale mother and even paler father came to my parents house for an Australian barbeque. I wore my best dress. Pale pink stripes with puffed sleeves and a big bow that tied around my waist. My mother made me wear white tights and black patent leather shoes with little buckles. My best Mary Jane's. My hair was the same colour as Antony's only brighter because I was Australian. And my skin browner because I loved the sun.

The sun didn't love Antony. He had been to Balmoral Beach and on his back the skin was peeling. We played in my back garden on the swing. We couldn't climb the plum tree because it was too big and the branches too high. The singing of the cicadas became louder and louder as the sun went down and it felt like the absolute middle of the summer school holidays. We had a black labrador called Bear who wasn't very friendly. If he didn't like you he would sit and stare you down. If you came near him he would growl as he looked at you. Very quietly. Very deliberately. Sometimes I think Bear lives within me. Or I like to think so.

After our Australian barbeque and after it became very late, my mother put Antony and I top and tail into my single bed. Antony in his singlet and shorts and me in mine. We were quite inquisitive Antony and I. And we had known each for as long as we could remember. I peeled the skin from Antony's back in long strips that you could see in the streetlight that fell through the window. I was fascinated and he didn't move. He just lie there while I worked away at that deeper gold skin. Underneath, the new skin revealed itself the same pale gold as I had always known. The same pale gold of his hair and that of his mother's. My bright light hair and my brown Australian skin showed itself in the streetlight as well and I thought how similar and yet how different we both were.

Antony was very English and I was very Australian.

With love
Miss Mich

Do What I Want...

Dear hearts,

You think that when you become an adult – you can do what you want. The baby often says to me, after I admonish her for some infraction of etiquette...”Do what I want”. We both laugh knowing that she will find her manners, take her elbows off the table and find the correct grammer for the situation presently being discussed. I roll my eyes, but take heart that at least she knows the difference and can mix it in polite company with the best when she has to.

I am footloose and fancy free. The baby is in Melbourne celebrating her coming of age. Of sorts. As a very experienced holder of the fake ID, the child is no new comer to the nightclub, bar, pub et al. Having said this, it will be quite the novelty for her to “be legal”. I can see her swanning in to The Brunswick Green, ID held out like a badge, new brunette hair framing her beautiful face, daring any and check her ID.

Miss Mich can remember herself, sneaking into The Charles hotel in Chatswood only to be horrified by her cousin finding her on the dance floor and making quite the scene over her “little” cousin sneaking into the pub. In those days, Dear hearts, it was easy. There really was no such thing as ID and if one had a decent cleavage that was all that was really required. Luckily Miss Mich ticked the booby box, had long blonde hair and had the place at her beck and call.

So, the question is...can you do what you want just because you are an adult?

Hmmm. Yes. And no.

There is no question that it actually gets harder to do what you want as you get older. It gets more complicated. There is the “relationship” (you know how much I loathe that word). The children. The mortgage. The credit cards and the “outgoings”. Not to mention the expectations and aspirations of your neighbours, work colleagues and extended family. And I haven't even started on the media, and social and cultural mores. It's quite scary once you realise how embedded we are into blindly working towards achieving these accepted levels of success.

Do what we want?...yes. As long as it conforms to what is expected. Personally, I have come a long way from the spoilt Eastern suburbs housewife who expected and had pretty much everything. Everything, as it turned out, except what I really really wanted. Spooky huh. It's all very well and good to have a big house, a European car and a country property, but seriously what good is all that when you do not have the warmth of another's belly. When you do not have someone you can lie with and speak with. Or not. When you do not have chest curls to curl up in, or another's breath that you can take as your own. Having had both Dear hearts, I say you can keep your big house, your European car and your country property. I will choose the Cottage and chest curls over any and all of that stuff.

Perhaps the key is to keep it simple. No new secret I know, but sometimes we need to be reminded that less is more and that simple is best. We really can do what what we want if we remain honest and true. And what we truly want may be tucked in behind all of that other stuff. The stuff of imposed expectation, social competitiveness and what everybody else is doing.

March to the beat of your own drums dear hearts. Find what it is that makes you truly happy.

And do what you want.

Enjoy yourself.

With love
Miss Mich

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Salty Sea Dog

Dear hearts,

The Salty Sea Dog.

I've been sitting on this one for a while. It's such a big story. He doesn't really qualify as a charm, due mostly to his impotence, God love him. I can say here and now, though, it was not for want of trying. Me the end I suspect he found me slightly trying...although terribly cute...obvi.

The marina at Rose Bay offers the best in luxury white boats, harbourside views and coffee. Miss Mich spent every morning gazing out across the prettiest boats to unbelievable real estate, catching up with her bestest girlfriends, Miss Mellie included naturally, and sneaking both the SMH crossword and sidelong glances at this interesting fellow. Contact was initially made with Betty Ford. She was very partial to a mixed berry muffin. She was terribly good looking and the constant companion of said interesting fellow. Competition I hear you ask? Betty Ford was intelligent, discerning (she liked both yours truly and mixed berry muffins) and the epitome of canine sobriety.

As a border collie Betty herself was quite the salty sea dog, living on the male version's beautifully restored 1960's 50' Halvorsen cruiser. Google for yourself if you are not familiar with these most stylish of wooden motor boats. Polished timber, white leather, loads of elegant deck space. This was quite the runabout. Each morning the “dog” would glide in on his ex army tender and run Betty along the beach for her morning ablution and exercise. That done, it was time to settle in for a couple of hours drying out (the alcohol) in the sun with the crossword and several coffees.

Over time Miss Mich came to share the crossword,coffee and some interesting experiences at the same table and aboard that stunning boat as both the dog and Betty. Most of these interesting times involved ridiculous amounts of alcohol, Miss Mich disgracing herself spectacularly and some of the best stories I have to offer. Consider this an introduction. Each act of indiscretion is a tete et tete in itself. In the two and half years that Miss Mich shared breakfast, she remained completely convinced that she was a great idea for the dog. In the two and a half years that the dog shared breakfast with Miss Mich, he remained completely resolute that she was not.

And yet....

There was something. He was witty, seriously bright, well built (rowed for England) and artistic (architect). He was also an alcoholic and had that other small imposition...killer combination.

Miss Mich would not take no for an answer. In the end it became the game. Each time we spent time, it was monumental. In the consumption of alcohol, the extreme events, the lengths Miss Mich went to convince the dog she was the one. His grand sweeping rejection. His unspoken acceptance of her around every day and the way he looked at her. It all spoke of an unspoken intimacy.

He did say one thing. Right at the end. Miss Mich is still trying to work it out. I am not sure whether it was a cryptic clue meant to stay under my skin (which it has) or just a throw away line...we'll never know. He was a bit like that. He was interesting, challenging, and the one that could have been.

Now Dear hearts, every time I see a border collie I get a little thirsty, have a hankering for the sea and just wonder what did he really mean?

Enjoy the clue.

With love
Miss Mich