Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Board tree

Oh! So THAT'S where surfboards come from?

(I stole this photo from my friend, Isabelle Braly - nose-rider extraordinaire!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wax On - Hazelhurst Gallery


You should go to this exhibition - Wax On. It opens on 5th December and it's going to be amazing!!

Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre is proud to present Wax On: From Cronulla to Palm Beach and Beyond, an exhibition that showcases artworks about surfing and its significance within contemporary Australian visual culture.

For an example of some of the works that will be exhibited, you can check out the Wax On blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The sounds of my night

For the past few months, I've been staying in the bedroom that was mine as a child. My family has lived in this house, which they built, since I was 4 and sometimes it feels like it is my entire world. This is the room I first shared with my sister. This is the room where we used to play. This is the room that I vacated as a young woman leaving home. This is the room I come back to.


Of an evening, I look up and out of the windows above my bed. I can see the stars clear and unobscured by the small-town lights. The number of stars and the size of the night sky, never fail to dazzle me. When I'm in the city, I miss the stars and I have learnt to pay them due attention when I'm home. The view out of the the window is through fly screen and a security grill, which my mum had installed years ago to protect her three daughters from the evils of the world. It meant that we were allowed to keep our windows open through the sticky, humid summer months and it also meant that we could sleep to the sounds of the night.

I close my eyes so I can listen better. The best sound - the very best sound of all - is the sound of the Pacific Ocean, about 150 metres from where I lie. The rhythmic wash and roar that changes with the swells and weather, but which never fails to soothe me. When it storms the oceanic lullaby is lost and mixed within the sounds of the rain, the wind, and the leaves rattling together. Like variations of the same sound, they meld into their own symphony outside my window, leaving me safe and dry despite their best efforts.

In the morning, the light streams in across my bed and face, waking me up. In the summer the sunlight is full of too much heat to be comfortable and closes off the option of sleeping in. It's bright and relentless and reminds me to get out and about before it's too hot for me to cope with.

From the angle in my bed, I can see the fronds of the palms and the acacia trees on the eastern fence line. I use these trees to tell me about the wind each morning - where it's coming from, how strong, if it could change later. Years and years of the same trees from the same angle have taught me to know when to get up and go, and when to chill. That one view, that one window has created a sanctuary at the end of the house for me. It is a window to a place that I know, a view that I know and sounds that I know, and that all mean more than a good night's sleep.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

32 (again)

And a tile too!! How lucky am I today!

Thanks mum. I love you.

(and Gerry again too!)


Oh my!! Look what I got given today!

Tea time!

Art that you can use is the best kind of all.

It's my favourite new thing!

Thanks Kate, Carl and Miss Leelu.
And thanks Gerry!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A walking view

This is a view from the walk around the headland where I live.
It's a really special walk and ridiculously pretty.

When I take the time to walk this track, my day is always, always better.

One day I'll tell you more about it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Last Night

Last night, as I tied the boards on my car, I looked up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When is a compliment not a compliment?

Yesterday I went surfing with my friend, April. She just won a new board in a comp raffle and was excited to try it out. She rang to invite me to come along with her, so we met up in the carpark of a busy local break and I sat and chatted with her as she waxed it up and put in the fins. There was a guy a few cars down from us in a van.

I just asked that chick over there out, but she's got a boyfriend.

He pointed at a bikini-clad woman over by a car on the other side of the carpark, while staring at us and waiting for us to respond.

Oh, right. Um, well, at least you asked. Good for you.

I had no idea who this guy was. Nor why he was talking to us. I looked at April.

Yeah, you didn't have anything to lose!

We went back to our own conversation. But he wasn't done.

Would've been better to wake up tomorrow morning with her in my bed but.

Oh, OK. Ha ha.

It was weird. It's weird having a conversation with a stranger about him trying to pick up girls, while I'm just in my swimmers, sitting in the grass. I walked to the back of my car, and away from the guy...

Although late in the afternoon, the sun still holds its sting so April and I covered ourselves in sunscreen and April used tan coloured zinc on her face, like always - most people around here do. It sits thickly on her face but it means she doesn't get sunburned. After a lengthy discussion on whether I should wear a vest or not while we waited for the suncream to sink in a bit, we went to grab our boards off the grass in front of our cars, ready to get in the water.

As we walked away the guy from before stopped April.

Have fun on that board.

Yeah I will, thanks.

April is the type of person who is kind and polite, and generous with her conversation. I'm not. I walked faster, leaving him behind, still talking. The guy is a creep and I wanted to get away from him. But, again, he wasn't done. He calls out to April.

And even with that clay-face, I'd still do ya!

He actually said that to my friend. And he wasn't even drunk or high. April looked at me, incredulous, and laughed awkwardly. I walked faster, shocked and annoyed but not feeling the need to make a scene - I didn't think April would want me to.

Out in the water, it became an anecdote, something strange and slightly funny to tell our friends and wonder at. But quel dickhead! And what a proposition. Or was it meant to be a compliment? I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and what an arse he is.

And even with that clay-face, I'd still do ya!


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Gerry Wedd - AGAIN!!

Ok, so as you already know I really, really like the work of Gerry Wedd. What I like about it is the texture, the lines, the colours and the ceramic forms, which always make me think of the shards of eroded and smoothed terracotta I have found on the beach over the years. There is something poetic about the way he works with pottery to tell stories and say things about oceanic experiences that makes sense.

One of his latest offerings particularly resonates with me, and I appreciate the thought and observations he presents in the images and structures. Wedd offers images and stories in places and contexts where they haven't yet been presented, and this seems to be especially sensual in the form he gives them in this case - as an urn.

As Wedd points out in the attendant blog post (click pictures to go there!), images of women surfing in Australia from the 50s to the 90s are minimal, and this is something I have thought about a lot too. So where were the ladies then? Even if they weren't surfing, surely they were around? Even if they were just being the guys' girlfriends or cooking them dinner or hanging out? I imagine there were women joining the men-folk on at least some of their trips? But then, maybe there weren't women on the kinds of trips that made it into the mainstream surfing imagination? Maybe not? Maybe they just weren't there!

Which, I must tell you, is hard to take. Really hard. The idea that there were no women involved in the cultural movement that surrounded surfing is just too difficult to believe. The idea that women weren't seen as central or important and therefore not recorded... well, that's easier to swallow.

And that's why a work like this urn of Wedd's is so interesting to me. It speaks to the same ideas and aspirations that I just wrote about in my review of Surf Ache - that diverse stories get represented and published in ways that speak to and within the culture itself. Because it makes it harder for people to keep justifying telling the same stories over and over while ignoring others. And when the representation is as beautiful as this urn is, it makes it easy to listen!

Surf Ache by Gerry Bobsien - a review

The beach and the ocean are often the setting for Australian stories of teenage romance, reflection and sexuality. And understandably so! For many young Australians the coast is a place that is a central part of our world, our lives, our friendships, and can't really be separated from the ways we have grown up. My own teenage world was defined by the beach - I would walk home from school along its length, I would meet girlfriends for weekend sun-tanning sessions, I would retreat there when I was sad or confused, I would take afternoon walks to the headland with my mum, I would avoid the town beaches patrolled by the clubbies and their binoculars, I would go there for parties at night to play and explore and make mistakes (and jump in the salt water the next morning to clear my head of the hangover). I mapped my life by the sections along which my friends and I all lived - my beach, Kelly's beach, Lyn's beach, Joel's beach, the caravan park, Ren's beach, the creek, Jonah's beach - and over time I discovered my own boundaries of behaviour, risk and possibilities. My teenage years were spent in the sand and the water, and were a place and time of experience, emotion and discovery.

But surfing was never a part of this. I mean, it went on in the water as I lay on the sand and lots of my friends did it and my mum worked for the local surf company and I would read all the magazines and knew all the famous names and had access to boards and so on, but I never got around to actually going surfing. There’s a whole host of reasons for this, including being a self-conscious teenage girl and not having anyone close to me who was willing to help me, but the main reason I suppose I didn’t ever learn was because, at that time, girls just didn’t really surf. There were the odd local (and highly successful) exceptions to this rule, but they were exceptions. These girls were friends of mine and we hung out and socialised, but they just never really spoke about surfing with me and it remained something that they did with the boys. So it wasn't that I couldn't have surfed, it's just that I never would have.

And my experiences have been largely reflected in fictional literature and film about the coast and surfing in Australia in the 70s, 80s and 90s with books and films like Puberty Blues and Breath (and even last year’s Newcastle) clearly maintaining the line that boys surfed and girls didn’t, but with this situation obviously changing, so must the stories. And so they are.

The newly released Surf Ache by Gerry Bobsien is a stellar example of how things have changed, and continue to change, as more women and girls are surfing both in the water and in the corresponding literature. One of a growing number of teenage surf fictions aimed at young women, Bobsien's book is set in contemporary Newcastle, where the 14 year old heroine, Ella, has just relocated with her family from their home in Melbourne. Ella leaves behind a boyfriend, a life of ballet and a host of school friends to find herself in the middle of a very different cultural world that centres around the beach and waves. To sum it up, Ella starts surfing and through this learns a lot about her new home, her family and herself, and makes new friends along the way. The book has it all - romance, triumph-over-adversity, friendship, family reconnections and choices - and once I reminded myself that Surf Ache is a fictional book for teenagers, not for overly critical 30-something women, I really enjoyed it.

Ultimately though, what is great about this book (and what brings me back to my original point!) is that this book doesn’t speak about Ella’s surfing experiences as if they were separate from surfing experiences more broadly. In other words, Ella is simply a surfer, not a girl-who-surfs. She is included unproblematically in the water and Bobsien never writes any kind of negative event based around Ella feeling excluded or badly treated just because she’s a chick. Ella certainly gets teased and embarrassed as she learns, but it’s because she’s inexperienced, not because she’s a chick. Ella and her friends admire Layne Beachley and Steph Gilmore and Occy and Mark Richards and don’t demarcate between their styles (although the obvious generational differences are interesting anyway!). There is no boys’ club that she is trying to access and in fact, her biggest competition as far as surfing goes is other women – they are her harshest critics and her greatest inspiration. But that doesn’t mean it’s a story of ‘girl power’ or sisterhood either. It’s just a story about young people surfing together, and the network of relationships that circulate around that. Ella is surfing for herself – not to make a statement, not to say anything, not to rebel.

And I am not saying that what Surf Ache presents is representative of everyone’s surfing stories, but I am saying that it is a changing approach to how we write about surfing in Australia – as an inclusive practice. Whether this resonates with wider surfing experiences of teenage girls in Australia, I don’t know! But imagining and writing that change is a creative step to unleashing a new set of expectations and ideas. And publishing them!

In the end, that’s why I liked Surf Ache. Bobsien doesn't need to make an overarching critique or statement with this novel, because she writes the kind of contemporary surfing world and experiences that are in fact to be found in many surf breaks around Australia – urban, busy, complex and potential. Ella and her friends never question their participation as surfers, because they have no reason to. They are not confused about their access to the lineup.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Common, but Contrary, Comma.

As someone who enjoys words of the written variety, I take an interest in issues of grammar. Some might argue that I don't take quite enough of an interest much of the time and, to be fair, most of my working knowledge has come from a kind of osmosis through reading. While I can find fault in the punctuation of others, sometimes this radar is a little under-used on my own work. But I try.

Years ago when I was visiting a friend in the UK, she gave me a book that we both found tremendously informative AND hilarious (my favourite kind of book). It's called Punctuation by Graham King and it is genius!
For example, the main chapter on punctuation is called Devices for Separating and Joining and the sections within have names like Scree-e-e-eech! The Full Stop and The Common, but Contrary, Comma and The Serviceable Semicolon and The Seductive Embrace of Parenthesis (Brackets). Aren't they great names!

Anyway, I have been spending a nice half hour reading a little bit of it again and thought I'd include part of a section which is (and let's be honest here) quite pertinent to my own writing. Because as you may have noticed over time, I overuse commas to a fault! (And exclamation marks, but that's by-the-by.)

The comma is the most flexible, most versatile of all the punctuation marks. Because it is the least emphatic mark it is also the most subtle and complex. And contrary. Not surprisingly, many writers feel a nagging uncertainty about using commas.

While the full stop bring proceedings to a screeching halt, the comma, with its mortar-like ability to build complex sentences, enlarges upon thoughts, joins them to further thoughts and afterthoughts, binds in extra information, and generally has a good time. A writer with full command of the comma can have a ball.

See why I love commas so much? I mean what's not to love about a punctuation mark that "generally has a good time" and allows writers to "have a ball"?