Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Arrival #ewf14

I flew into turbulence but when the pilot crackled 'bumpy', he actually meant ‘the air will shake the plane violently up, down, and side to side and those with a window seat may care to watch the wings bounce’ but even then the message would have been lost on the man with ear plugs, who still attempted to stagger and flail his way to the bathroom.

The air hostess was trying to indicate, as she clung to the back of a chair with one arm and hooked a knee around an arm rest that it was unsafe for him to roam.  He bobbed his head at her - lord only knows what he thought she was mouthing at him. She did the only thing she could and yanked on the cord and his brown eyes appeared from above his glasses as he registered the musical intermission.
'Sit down will you!' 
He saw she meant business and turned as if to make his way, an elbow in the head for every person he passed, back to his seat halfway back up the plane.

'Noooo, sit there'
she said with one arm flung and flapping in the bumpity-bump as he looked at the empty aisle seat with the female passenger sitting beside it,  her arm braced against the window, the other around her tiny baby lashed to her chest. At last the tightly tethered child had stopped crying.

I gripped the seat in front of me with both hands and watched the single strand of curly black hair caught in the bulkhead, swing crazily until the pilot finally announced it would all be over soon as we commenced our descent into Melbourne, and I thanked god I’d had wisdom enough to take a pic earlier to include on my blog.

My new journal by pure chance, as how could my sister have known, was embossed on the cloth cover with the words 'another day, cloudy memory'.

First impressions of yet another airport I’d be breezing through, were the men positioned at the exits and edging towards us at the baggage carousel. They stood out amongst us, who’d just traveled from Byron Bay to Melbourne, Us, a line in yoga pants, long hair, skinny bare shoulders and sandals and me in it-goes-with-everything black - and them, these extraordinarily well dressed gentlemen in accents and soft tones, murmuring ‘taxi?’ at us with the ease and confidence of Nimbin street drug dealers.

I was already committed to catching the Skybus – and not taking the lonnnnng way round to my hotel, yeah, call me cynical – so I rolled past with my enormous suitcase of Melbourne woolies, murmuring ‘no thankyou’ from the corner of my mouth, just as I do in Nimbin.

I only knew them passing by, and yet I was already lying for them, keeping their illicit taxi driving service under wraps.

Several bus rides later of me giving every indication my arms were painted on – could you help, sorry I know it’s enormous, oh, wow, one hand, thankyouu – and I was at my hotel and admiring the fish swimming around in the vast aquarium behind the reception.

Barney, Cultural Diversity Officer, City of Melbourne
Along the way I’d spotted a National Reconciliation Week exhibition through an open doorway into a room straight off the paving, at the Melbourne Town Hall. I’d stopped to chat and tweet and with one eye on my suitcase I’d clarified ‘oh, no, I’m not homeless, I’m here for the Emerging Writers Festival, next door’.
Long, long ago in the Creation, the all-powerful Bunjil took the form of the eagle and created the Kulin people - their languages, their laws and their lands.
Bunjil's nest will be built from sticks, that people are invited to inscribe with a message of reconciliation. Short films and talks will also be held, between 10-3pm, until Tuesday 3 June.

The simple arrangements of sticks and leaves was a quiet moment in a new city, and the crisp white cloth was another sign that it was the anniversary of our mother's funeral. 

My hotel room is grand and a Queen Room easily converts to a Traveling Writer suite  – all but one purple top in an otherwise entire wardrobe of black, hangs from two coat hangers; with my trusty extension cord I’ve set up my laptop, after adjusting all the furniture, to exactly where it should be; my assortment of journals are in ‘their places’; and the instant noodles are pyramided next to the electric kettle. 

Opening Night of the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival 2014

It had started to rain – warm and black onto the narrow one-way street as I emerged from the hotel just as a taxi pulled up outside.

I lunged and wrenched the door open with my black wrap around my head ensuring maximum ‘wet shawl hair’ and asked ‘are you for Parker to Federation Square?’ to which he quickly agreed that yes, yes he was. I hadn't rung and he didn't care.

Being one of those people who doesn’t quite trust their VIP status really exists until I am actually in my seat, I raced down to the front like the doubter that I am even though there was clearly no one there.  Well, there was one man. Quite tall, a nice smile and in a moment of absolute madness, I sat behind him. Why with a sea of empty seating to choose from, did I think that was going to work? Am I really the self saboteur that a fellow writer suggested two years ago when I declined overtures from an editor on the grounds they mistook my social realism for mere political satire?

Am I so desperate for acknowledgement that someone young enough to be my son smiling at me had me flapping my wings into dust against his fine head of hair?

'Nice face' Derrick Brown - inside joke for Opening Nighters.
By shouldering to my right – into the personal space of the talented young lady beside me who won one of the two short story awards – I managed to take a blurry pic of keynote speaker, international guest, and poet in a Texan bolo tie, Derrick Brown.

I just had to. By then I’d been worked up into wild clapping and clasped hands by great speeches from people excited about writing, and a performance by a last minute stand in that simply blew my hair back. She made poetry \m/ rock \m/ and boom and finish in a spray of fine droplets over the sign language interpreter - both interpreters were brilliantly evocative - from two water bottles in a closing interpretative dance.

The rapturous audience fell quiet and shiny eyed as Maxine Beneba Clarke let us into her world since winning last year’s Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript award – an exciting world, where editors say, wow love you work, have a book contract, in fact have three and let’s tour Malaysia. We had a reading from Miles Alison, this year’s winner, who commenced by saying ‘there’s a word here I don’t know how to pronounce, but I know for a fact that you don’t know either’ We tittered, thinking as one 'come on bring it, come at me, what is the word….oh, yeah, we don’t know THAT word from an ancient Indigenous Inuit language'.

The Lord Mayor capped off a night of great speeches - and easily the most heartfelt and dignified acknowledgments of country that I've heard in any place, one after another from each dignitary - by making most of us sad we hadn’t had such a cool, literature loving high school teacher who filled the room to it’s vaulted industrial metal ceiling with his appreciation of literature that adds to the ‘intellectual, cultural and spiritual’ life of Melbourne. And reminded us that at 5k the Lord Mayor's Literature Prize was something to earnestly consider.

More than an opening night to a writers festival - it was an awakening. 
It reminded me of why writing is the only thing do. 
The rest of the time I am just passing through.

You should:

And read Writer, Sam Twyford Moore  Director of of the Festival, recently in TheGuardian : Take it from me, there is no shame in being on the dole

And be aware:

My attendance at the Festival is made possible by RegonalArtsNSW and my huge appreciation for their fast turn grant around and commitment to developing the regional arts profile and capacity that the Northern Rivers is fast becoming famous for. And most exciting of all are the initiatives for Indigenous storytellers, writers, screen writers, and filmmakers.

The Regional Arts Fund is an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote  and very remote / isolated Australia.

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