Tuesday, 25 October 2011

coming to a wall near you!

I love getting things in the post! Most often it's Fimo. Last week it was a new set of gorgeous Escoda paintbrushes, still waiting impatiently for me to use them (lots of drawings to finish this past week).

But today, some very special pieces of paper arrived- the invitations and flyers for my upcoming show, 'strange creatures, sweet allsorts'. Be sure to swing past my stall this Thursday at Mindil, Friday at Palmerston (both the last for the year) or Saturdays at Parap to pick one up for yourself, and another for a friend!

And of course- watch this space for more sneepy peeps leading up to the December 2nd showdown!

Mel x

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

the woodchopper's daughter

My Auntie Cheryl and Uncle Steve have a wonderful sprawling house in Tyers, in the Gippsland region of Victoria. I spent almost half my childhood in this house, and it is one of my very favourite places to be in the world. 

From the lounge-room window at night-time, you can see all the lights in the LaTrobe Valley, like so many fallen stars waiting for the morning to return home. In the summer, the cicadas chirp and the air crackles with hot winds and the whispering of the pine plantations my father’s family have forested for so many generations. The backyard backs onto a gully, verdant with grass and blackberries my four-year old self would happily stain her fingers and mouth with, once I'd tired of petting Mitsy, my Aunt's pet goat. When I was five, my grandpa and Uncle Steve built me a cubby house with a view of the gully, and it was here I'd eat my Coco-Pops before Auntie took me to school in the morning.

There was always a friend for me to play with: Sam, the first of many faithful labradors my Aunt and Uncle have loved over the years, who would patiently sit anywhere he was told to whilst I stroked his velvety ears. There was dear old Skippy, so named for the leg he lost in a rabbit-trap as a kitten. Never was there a fluffier, happier little rag-bag cat, a marvel to watch as he hopped along at a quicker clip than most of us care to walk. After Sam went to doggy heaven there was Jake, who had eyes only for Uncle. Auntie and Uncle would always talk to him like a real person, and Jake seemed to understand them: he knew the word 'rabbit' meant sit up straight and proud like a setter and scan the lounge-room for any possible hoppity interlopers. He also knew the word 'bike' meant real and proper adventure in his elderly years: Jake had been trained as a puppy to sit in a (rather largish) crate my uncle had attached to the back of the motorbike he used to check on his cattle. Roaming around on the property was Jake's favourite thing, besides his 'Dad', my uncle.

The house itself is huge. Uncle took it upon himself about ten years ago to renovate parts of it, starting with a beautiful black slate floor to run its' length. At the time there were three mini-lounge rooms, which Uncle turned into one. The supporting beam is a sleeper from the old Melbourne docks, now festooned with gas lanterns to hang from the arm-sized nails that still stick from it. Backing onto the lounge room is a wooden deck, where I loved to sit as a child and listen to storms as the rain pounded and bounced in a deafening roar off the fibreglass canopy.

But my favourite of all is the wall by the front door. This has become a kind of family tree photo album over the years: hand coloured black and white, my beautiful late Grandma and my Grandpa on their wedding-day. Their features alike and ghostly with the age of the paper, my Uncle's family, the Richards, when they used to run the mill on Mount Erica. My beautiful cousin Kylie in her twenties, with freckles on her nose and the sweetest little pixie-cut. My Uncle's sister, who to me was always 'Auntie Pat', her lovely heart-shaped features framed by a silky-grey mane of hair, spilling down to her waist while she made something sparkly and delicate with her hands. Me, blonde and five years old on my first day of school.

But my favourite picture on this red-brick wall is of my Uncle Steve. Here, he is twenty-two, laughing hugely and balanced confidently atop a man-sized log; his hands gripping an axe that is forever caught in mid-air, mid-chop, hair bouncing thickly to his shoulders. I can't imagine he's changed all that much in the forty years since this photo was taken, though his hair, even in black and white, seemed closer to a crimson than the strawberry, pepper-flecked tones he keeps in his sixties, and much longer. But there is that same twinkle in his eye, of mischief, of a face that smiles often; a face that looks at home with a deep rumbling belly laugh or a few bars of an Elvis song, pitch perfect. In photos I've seen of Uncle a little later, he lopped his curls off into an Elvis-style pompadour. And when I came along, we'd spend afternoons in the sun room, he on the keyboard and backing up my broken little vocals to 'How much is that doggy in the window'.

'The Woodchopper's Daughter' is a little tribute to all of this: a landscape of gum and pine, of crackly summer days, of a house- you can't see it yet, but just over that hill yonder, of childhood adventures. And the hum of an Elvis song.

Mel x

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

goodbye dear friend

It's been sad here.

Three weeks ago Dave and I came home from a rare day out to find a tiny bobtail kitten on our doorstep. After wolfing down the entire contents of Monty's foodbowl, I tried following the advice of the local pound and attempted to drop her off at a vet's. Of course, they couldn't take her, and it being 5.30 in the evening, the shelters had closed. I took her back home where she made herself cosy on the couch, did kitty things in Monty's litter box without any prompting or accidents, and at night, jumped daintily onto our bed and fell asleep between us. By the next afternoon, she'd been checked over for a microchip (not surprising she hadn't one given how dirty and starving she'd been), given a bath, and, little guts swollen like a barrel and spotted fur aglow, claimed as ours. We called her Willow- her tabby colourings gave her a shimmery look in the light when she bounded along like a miniature bear, but her paw-pads were a smoky black, as if she'd trod in willow charcoal.

Monty, quite naturally, had his wee nose out of joint for the few days following the arrival of this interloper, and spent his waking hours chasing her like a common dog, obsessing over her tiny twitchy tail. By the weekend, Dave and I would wake up to find them sound asleep on the leather office chair, each a rounded ball of fluff and spots. Monty was a complete gentleman, and sat aside patiently whenever Willow decided she wanted to scoff her face at the foodbowl. I even caught him giving her a little kitty kiss.

And then Monty got really sick. After two trips to the vet and two relapses of listlessness and a complete disinterest in food or anything else, we knew our bouncy kitten wasn't right. More tests and another x-ray showed he had both FIV and inflamed kidneys. We visited him at the vet's for most of last week, to try to tempt him with his favourite snack of sausages, to brush his lovely fur and tell him how much we loved him. Mostly we just cried.

The vet told me on Monday morning that Monty had passed away. We'd been looking forward to the day, partly because he'd been booked in for an ultrasound at another clinic, and he always loved car rides. Mostly we just wanted to spend as much time with him as we could. He was seven months old. The vet told us he'd very likely contracted the FIV from his mother, which is pretty rare. Fully-blown FIV, like human AIDS, doesn't really make itself known until the cats are quite a bit older. We would never have known, and we're so thankful we didn't. The kidney failure was just one of those things- rare, but not unheard of.

Our little Monty had the very best five months with us, and we with him. It's so hard losing a pet, and harder still to explain to people without them why you feel like part of your world has ended. I grew up as an only child, but was always surrounded by cats. I told them my secrets. They snuggled especially close when I was sick or sad. They were always there, quiet company to fill a room and my heart.

Goodbye Monty.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...