...for Knots in the String.
I love watching Survivor.
I love the physicality of the challenges.
I love the socio-psychological game.
But would I ever be capable? Not in a month of Sundays! I’d be mincemeat mentally and physically and so I live vicariously through the competitors and I think to myself that life is a bit like Survivor.
‘Outwit, outplay, outlast.’
But then who am I trying to outwit, outplay, outlast?
Myself, I suppose.
It’s a happiness thing, an age thing, a life thing, isn’t it? All woven neatly, warp- and weft-tight.
A few weeks ago at ballet, we learned a pas de basque but my brain and body were just not in sync. When we came to perform the exercise in rows of five dancers at a time in the studio, I shuddered because I knew I was at a complete loss, and I hated showing my failure. My anxiety ratcheted up in consequence which then led to a total hodge-podge of steps.
I went home, found the steps online and practiced down the hall, across the garden and along the beach. I was not going to be outwitted. I would outplay my fears and I would outlast myself and win.
Today, I did the step – with a new variation: the country pas de basque.
Ah, success is uplifting!
But then there are the double frappes.
Which the videoed dancer makes look easy, but they aren’t, requiring strong coordination between mind and feet. When I first learned a frappe years ago, I learned in a church hall with a planked floor and in the old-fashioned style where we were encouraged to slap the floor hard with our feet, thus we had bruised toes and splinters. I learned to dislike the step intensely.
At my current school, with a heavenly sprung floor, I can now manage a frappe and intend to practice the double at the kitchen sink until I succeed.
And as for writing the latest book, the next and the one after that, I shall outwit, outplay, and outlast.
After all, it’s only me who will vote myself out at Tribal Council…
A solitary swim on a day of complete perfection.
The sea is calm to the horizon although a deep navy line is stitched along the edge – a sign the sea breeze is heading my way. The water is clear and shoals of silver fry swim around my legs. If I stand still, they nibble my calves and I laugh.
When I look out to Black Point, I see a beautiful tall ship – a dark hull with two masts. And on the horizon, another smaller wooden ship, two masted, with 19th century lines. The boats are making their way to Hobart from around the state and country for our Wooden Boat Festival
I examine the lines of the ships and can imagine I see an English fleet arriving with starved, sick and sodden convicts. My great great grandfather, a carpenter, was transported as a convict from Britain (a story for another day) – it’s why I’m here on this glorious coast and I thank the stars.
But on the other hand, I see the emasculation and worse of a 60,000 year old First Nation culture and I’m filled with sadness that such a thing happened. Australia is now facing its past and must make positive reparation in whatever way is best for those who have lost their identities. We will be having a referendum and it would be reassuring to think that compassion and recognition will feature in the national decision.
The deep navy line is rapidly approaching now, and I realise it’s me or the breeze and so I dive in, and the water is cool after a chilly day and night. My fingers and ankles ache but I swim back and forth and then just float; the breeze flutters around me, ripples the water, thinks about staying and then peters out – just a whisper of salt and sea left on the air.
I stay in the ocean until I get goosebumps and then wander through the little shoals of sparkling fish to the shore, feeling my skin tighten with crispy grains of salt.
I’d been feeling lacklustre when I walked onto the beach, a bit blah after a small bout of illness, but now my blood effervesces and I’m happy.
On Kindle, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg.
Many years ago, I did a diploma course in book and papermaking at the University Art School and the feel of paper, the way it submits to folds, the way it has a memory – it’s all there in this strong book. Ceony, the protagonist, is utterly believable from the opening line and I’m so glad this title is number one of a series.
Also reading my favourite Substacks. All highly recommended.
Most particularly, this week and because the content gives my own newsletter content dimension, have a look at this one. 11/10, people!
On audio, I’m back to hist.fict with Bernard Cornwell’s Agincourt. In my opinion, after Dorothy Dunnett, this man is iconic. A consummate writer – folding fact through his narratives so subtly – enough to give firm spine to his timeframe. His characters are nuanced, and in this instance, the story is narrated by Philip Stevens, who is another of my favourite British narrators. I’m glad I had almost 90 minutes driving on Tuesday – good listening time.
Armchair travelling with The Pyrenees with Michael Portillo. Beautiful Basque country and culture and because Spain is his father’s home country, this visit is emotional. He talks of Guernica and Franco and makes earthy connections that reach into the past. Anecdotal opinion of history has so much to recommend it.
Chris Tarrant’s Extreme Railways on Vietnam. One of my husband’s favourite places in the world.
Hope Street. More of the tight Irish coastal town in this odd little series. It’s undemanding and I like it. Others may not…
It may seem that I never stretch my grey matter. But the truth is that I’m faced with intellect-stretching every day. I’m a writer – half my day is spent looking for the right word, the right fact.
My mind is a melange of fact that only matters to me and my tongue tastes words as if the thesaurus is chocolate (I’m what’s known as a lexiphile/logophile).
Today, I researched the Ganconer – a nasty piece of work from British legend. I’ve used him before in my fantasy novels but needed to refresh my memory. Tomorrow, I’ll be deep in British myth and pondering times past when societies lived in fear of mythic creatures who were considered murderously real - mystic beings that explained the unexplainable.
Today we live in fear of the real thing as China and America rattle their sabres over a damned white balloon and the rest of Europe and Russia rattle their swords in the Ukraine like twenty-somethings using steroids in the fight ring.
What is it with men and war?
Have a quick look through history.
Can we outwit, outplay, outlast the lot of them?
See you next week and thanks for being here!
(PS: And I shed a tear that my 4 year old grandson, light of my life, started school - school uniform, a bag as big as him - it’s happened too fast, that passage of time that slid across like a theatre curtain closing on Act One.)