It’s May Day! Sound the bells! You may feel awash with weariness, one thousand per cent glad that the week is drawing to its close. You may want to sit and crankify in a corner, developing an over-hanging upper lip and a penchant for saying “If I had my way.” You may prefer to think yourself misunderstood when in point of fact, you’re just feeling sour. And I know, you have good reason. But smell the rain in the air, touch the chill breeze with your fingertips, remember the colour of red by seeing it in your own frosty nose, and laugh, come on, why not? Laugh, because it’s the end of the week, and you don’t have to be the King of Cranks if you don’t want to. You’ve got five minutes to have a good wallow. Then off with you, to the place you know you belong, the throne room in a field of roofless flowers.
Bouncing from morning through to noon today, you’ll see the balls everywhere. Coy, shy, little spheres, making their way from ceiling to floor just for the joy of flight. Big, ponderous, ballooning bubbles, with snaking noses and giant eyes, sloping the path to the water cooler. Booming baubles bristling with brightness, bustling from the bathroom to the balcony to see the blue of the sky. They’re your newest friends in the game of imagining your way through to lunchtime between task lists and emails and what-all’s-next. After lunch, as the day winds towards the end of working hours, your rotund lil’ buddies will take it slow, shifting their weight to the pool-side of the day, taking longer sips from taller glasses, offering you snacks and smoothies. Don’t worry; it’s ok to take their food. Smarties and jaffas are only the tip of the iceberg of the goodness of round things.
In the last post about my quest for self-publication, I recounted my trip to Paddington markets to find the man who had done the drawing which now hangs in my study, who I knew in my heart was the person to illustrate Mr Middleton.
It was 3.30 pm and my friend D and I had just discovered that the artist was working at the Surry Hills festival at a stall selling his prints. We dashed off to grab the next bus.
Surry Hills was aswarm with too many groovy people. I looked down at my comfortable shoes and tried to look defiantly nonchalant next to the red-booted, high-booted, platform-booted around me. D, noticing my anxious face and dwindling blood sugar, led me without further ado to the foodstalls serving Thai noodles and Japanese balls of rice. That girl knows the right thing to take me out of my worries. Soon, fed and refreshed, I was ready to seek the artist and be my charming, relaxed self.
We sauntered towards the area where the bands were playing, scanning the stalls nearby in as non-stalkerish a fashion as possible. There he was! The stall was perched on the edge of the line of wares, and was doing a roaring trade. They seemed somewhat inundated with funky young things, palming their way through the boxes of prints and treating themselves to the artist’s personal version of whimsy, just as I had done.
“Why don’t you go over?” D asked as I stood, staring from about 50 metres away.
“Oh, he looks too busy. How about we wait awhile and listen to some music, and then go over?”
D nodded, because she is an understanding saint, and we took a seat on a patch of vacant grass. A band playing plugged in electric guitars was on stage, but they weren’t obnoxiously rock, instead creating a lovely, late afternoon relaxed vibe with their slightly reggae beats. I bobbed my head obediently to the music, D genuinely enjoying it as she reclined next to me, kicking off her flip-flops. Occasionally I would look over and notice with a mix of relief and increasing anxiety that the traffic to the stall had not slowed down. What if they pack up and leave while I am sitting here, pretending to have fun? I thought. But the idea of going over and standing around awkwardly was too much for me. I stayed put.
After about 20 minutes of becoming increasing cognitive dissonance between what I actually felt and how I wanted to look like I felt, I stood up.
“I think I better go over now, before they leave.” D hopped up obligingly and came with me for moral support.
When we got to the stall, there were only two or three people looking through the pictures, and the stall-holders were indeed starting to pack up.
“Um, hello?” I mustered my introverted self into a posture of courage. “I’m Jackie. I think your brother might have called to let you know we were coming?”
“Oh yeah, Jackie.” The artist, an Australian-Vietnamese man who could have been any age between 20 and 30, held out his hand. I shook it.
“I’m Hoang, and this is my brother Hieu,” a smaller fellow with a big, friendly grin waved. I smiled back and started to relax. These guys were genuine, nice people, not too cool for a conversation. They didn’t look at my comfortable shoes once. I had a good feeling about this.
“Yeah, I’ve got a story I was wondering if you would be interested in taking a look at. I have the interest of publisher X, and I want to present them with an illustrated version to see if they will go for it. I bought one of your pictures and I really love your work. I think it would really go well with the story.”
“OK, yeah, I’ll take a look at it.” Hoang held out his hand and I handed over the masterpiece, which now looked ridiculously small, and I felt ridiculously self-important, all of a sudden, asking someone to illustrate my story, as if I had some sort of right to do that sort of thing.
“Thanks!” I said. “I mean, there is nothing certain with the publisher, but if you like the story,we’ll take it from there.”
“Yeah no worries. Yeah I was approached at another time by another lady who wrote a story, but it just wasn’t the right time, you know? But now, we’ve been thinking about doing a story, so it’s funny that you should have come up right now, you know? It’s almost like it all fits together.”
“Yes! I know what you mean!” I felt exactly the same way. “It was like that when I bought your picture, and then only a couple of weeks later this opportunity came up, and I was wondering, who can I get to illustrate this? And then I saw your picture!” I nodded vigorously, then tried to slow my neck down and calm my excitement. You’re an author, Jackie, not a crazy lady, I told myself.
“Ok cool,” Hoang said.”I’ll read the story, and then maybe we can talk about it in a week’s time?”
“OK. Maybe we can meet after your markets close next weekend?”
“Sounds good. I’ll be in touch.”
“Great! And if you have any questions about the story at all, just give me a call. My number is on the front there.” I pointed at the manuscript, which so far had only been read by me, my fiance, the editor and my friend who had given it to her. It was a funny moment, handing it over wilfully to a stranger. Almost like it was a real book, and I was a real author, and it was going to take on a life of its own, and this was the first step in it becoming something beyond my reach or control…
OK, I was over-thinking things again. D and I left them to it, me smiling and waving as we departed. I owed D a drink. It was time to go and get it. I had the whole of the next week in which to worry and wonder, but mostly, I felt pretty good, as if this was really meant to be…then of course my brow furrowed in concern. Hopefully, when he actually read the story, he would like it and not, for example, decide I was an odd-ball who was too old to believe in the power of fairy-tales.
To be continued.
To see Hoang’s work, go to www.studiooat.com.au. It’s pretty ace stuff. You won’t regret the click.
It’s Wednesday, known as hump day to many, some for reasons beyond the appropriate language for this blog. You may be feeling tired today, but do not despair: no matter how little sleep you have had, and how much work you have yet to come, the day can be punctuated, pocked full of tiny little holes of sunshine and camaraderie, all of which go towards making things more light than dark. There is definitely time for that cup of tea, and if you slow down for a few minutes to say hello to someone you like, not just someone you have to like, it will work wonders for your temper. You know, sometimes you’re bound to feel small, weary, another traveller on a long, straight road. But look out: the most lovely of things will happen to you, out of the blue, blowing your certainty out of the water and sending you right back into the twist and twirl of the possible. Make sure you come prepared today with an open heart and a pair of ear-warmers, because the roof could fall at any time, bringing you the sky.
It’s a day of liberation. Free the feet from their sandals! Free your neck from its collar! Muddy, wet grass, leaving marks on your ankles; a string of paper dolls around your neck, daisies flung upon your hair. Don’t look twice, there is too much to do! Everywhere you go today, there will be someone for you to emancipate. The colleague who sits across from you in the open office space; he needs to be freed from his crippling fear that his personality makes people not like him. Go up to him and offer him a chocolate; the shy smile of disbelief will be its own reward. And the girl who serves you coffee, slightly bitter from her own crankiness. Tell her, go on, tell her whatever you like – tell her you like her necklace, just tell her before she makes the coffee, and you’ll taste the difference for yourself. Everywhere, swarms of beings just waiting for you to set them free. Grab your chain-cutters before you head out the door, and go, go, go!
Monday, Monday. A minute, a second, a nanosecond passes, and suddenly, it’s a new week! A new…leaf! A new take on life! Maybe it’s been a while since you could last afford a new pair of shoes. Maybe the best you can do to mark the transformation is wear your hair to the other side. But as you keep flicking your head to keep it in position today, you might notice, out of the corner of your eye, something you’ve never seen before, used as you are to turning the other way. What is that flicker of colour? Could it really be…yes, don’t question it. It’s true! Kiss the air: a pair of lips may be waiting for you where you barely dared imagine they might be, in the hidden place between surprise and meant-to-be.
A beautiful day for a beautiful face. Hear that, in the distance? The faint sound of pipes, weaving their way into your sub-consciousness, reminding you of fields, and daisies, and all good things that can take you out of doors, away and along a path to beyond. After you morning shower, after your morning newspaper, after your morning coffee, pause. Take heed. They are singing your song. Shoes, door, out, up. Now you can feel it: the breeze in your hair, the rose in your cheek. Now you can smell it: the dew on the grass, the sun on the earth. This World is yours, all yours, yours for the taking.
I took a detour in Part 6 of this journey, talking about an alternate reality game which we are trying to make to emulate the world of Mr Middleton. But I still haven’t told you about how I finally found the illustrator of my dreams…
In Part 5, I at last realised that the answer to my prayers had been right in front of me the whole time – I had to find the artist who had drawn the print I had bought at the Paddington markets.
My mission was this: go to the Paddington markets, and try to find the same stall. This was not as easy as it sounds. Market stall holders change all the time, and the markets themselves are a riot of colour and confusion, each laneway lined with noise and objects and distractions, to the point where you could easily spend half a day, walking up and down, never finding the place you had last been just ten minutes ago, every again.
I geared up. Saturday arrived. I donned comfortable walking shoes. I limited the amount of discretionary spending money in my wallet to $20. I checked and re-checked that I had my ten-trip bus pass. On my way out the door, I slathered a dollop of sunscreen on my permanently sun-damaged nose (a product of a childhood spent in Queensland, back in the days when the local radio station would broadcast at twenty minutes intervals a little dinging sound to remind sunbathing girls to turn over for an even tan). Then, halfway down the stairs, I ran back up again, grabbed the copy of the story from my desk, and ran back down, the door slamming shut behind me and echoing down the stairwell.
My friend D met me at the North Bondi bus stop. She was dressed in summery singlet and jeans and on her feet, carefree flipflops in place of sensible shoes. I wondered if she understood the situation. But then I remembered that it was of utmost importance to the gods of destiny that I had to act carefree and open to grace. I wished I had worn flipflops too.
We chatted on the bus, D skilfully keeping me relaxed, as if this was just a regular, girly excursion to the markets. “They have that delicious thai food, yum,” D chatted. “Maybe we can buy a stick of fishballs.” I nodded. Fishballs as a reward. That was good motivation.
Finally, the bus pulled up. I made a bee-line through the sauntering, loitering crowds, past the faces of relaxed and happy Sydney-siders doing what they love best – shopping outdoors. D’s flipflops flipflopped behind me, trying to keep up.
Down one alley, past the red handbags, the smell of incompletely treated leather…past the jewelry shop where we had considered and dismissed gifts for jLo only six weeks ago…past the shop full of mirrors, past the shiatsu, past the plants, past the hand-made lamp shades….
And there they were! Neat and clean frames of professional quality, and in them, those lovely, wistful faces…elephants, and lovers, and my solemn little man, my apple-offering pixie…
OK, now Jackie, I told myself storecialis.net. Be cool.
“Hello, I bought a print here about six weeks ago…”
“I remember. Cherry blossom, wasn’t it?”
The young Australian-Vietnamese fellow remembered me! And the girl with the beautiful long dark hair who worked with him smiled encouragingly! These people were nice! They didn’t think I was crazy!
Yet, I cautioned myself. Take-it-easy…
“Yes, that’s right,” I smiled. “I was just wondering. I have written a story, it’s a fairy-tale really, and major publisher X is interested. I would like to present it as an illustrated book. Do you think you might be interested in taking a look at the story?”
The young fellow did not shake his head dismissively, or pull away. He…nodded! “Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “My brother does the illustrations, but it’s funny, we were just thinking of branching into books. People are always asking us for them. He’s over at the Surry Hills Festival today, but I can call him and let him know you dropeed by?”
I turned to D. “Or maybe, we can go to the Fesitval? I asked her.
D agreed immediately. Turned out she wanted to go the Festival all along, couldn’t think of anything better to do than trek another forty minutes across Sydney to catch the tail end of the Festival festivities. Bless her.
“I’ll tell him you’re coming,” he said, pulling out his phone.
“Thanks!” I called, trotting back down the laneway. It was already 3.30 pm, getting close to closing time, and we had a bus to catch.
To be continued.
Already, your day is looking up. Your sleepy eyes will open to the chime of bells tinkling as if attached to tiny shoes trotting away from your bedside. Don’t roll over too fast – you don’t want to disturb the elves that visited you whilst you were in the land of dreams, smoothing out the lines on your forehead, blowing away the noise of the week, things to get done, your boss’s view of you, suspicions over who has been stealing your milk form the office fridge… Look! The world has been made anew, and you are the leading light in it! Come now, out of bed. Stretch those arms above your head; even the knots in your shoulders want to be in some lighter place, and you have the power to let their dreams become reality, just by reaching for the stars and wiggling your toes.
Today is Friday, which speaks for itself. When you get up today, you might feel a slight tickle in the back of the throat. That’s the premonition of laughter, later to come. As you walk to the bus or the car (or the scooter, or the train), you’ll almost trip over your tricky feet – that’s because they are getting ahead of themselves, following the beat of music as yet unheard. And when you cross the threshold of your office building, you’ll catch your eyes on a glint, a flash, a slither and shimmer, and you’ll practically feel the sequins slither against your skin. You’re the queen of the night, and it’s only 9.00 am.