I am woken at lunchtime by a text from Mr Wild:
Hey Thea. You in upstairs?
I need to print manuscript paper. Is there a printer there? Hi!
There is. Although how it works is anyone's guess.
A moment later the full force of his personality is stood in the kitchen as I try and figure out why the kettle keeps short circuiting all the electricity. I fix it. I have no idea how, I've only been awake four minutes but the feral need for coffee briefly transforms me in to an electrician.
'Coffee.' I state.
'GREAT!' He booms.
I take him in. He is barefoot, his long white hair wild as usual. The only alteration are his glasses which are now held together with masking tape upon which he's stuck a small plastic red heart, the sort you find in children's sticker packs.
'Pin fell out. Decorated it.'
We take our coffee and go to stare at the printer. It stares back. A Phd and a First Class Degree and we haven't got a fucking clue between us.
'Well it's a wifi printer so I should be able to connect it to my mac without too much trouble,' I say uncertainly.
Mr Wild presses some buttons and shouts; 'What about now?' for twenty minutes or so, and a mere decade later it is up and running. We are ridiculously pleased with ourselves. I have been conscious for less than an hour and have knocked two pieces of electronic equipment in to shape. In normal circumstances I wouldn't even try. I'd just call a friend and scream 'Make it work! Make it work!' until they capitulated and came round. If the day continues like this world domination is on the cards.
We celebrate with a fag and another coffee.
'So what are you up to today Mr Wild?'
'Welllll,' he sighs. 'I'm supposed to be finishing my Phd but a friend has a show on in a few days and the composer is having some personal issues and has had to bow out, so I've been recruited to prepare the music.'
'Is that difficult?'
'Not normally but there's two problems. The first is that it is pop music, which would be okay, but its done in the style of the late 19th century, late romanticism to modernism. Self absorbed bores they were, and their whole thing was that nothing should be predictable. So it jumps from one thing to the next and it's impossible to second guess.'
'And the second problem?'
'The composer only managed to drop off some of the music. And its gobbledegook.'
'Yes, complete gobbledegook. He did provide some additional information. At the bottom of the sheet it said “PTO” and when I did there was a note saying “These are my favourite things” and two pictures. One of a penis, the other of a cat.'
We think about that for a while.
'I'm sorry I missed your show last week. I was stuck up a mountain with Madame M,' I explain.
'Oh that's alright. It was bloody good though.'
'How did the Glass Harmonica sound?'
'Great! Particularly with the Horse head fiddle and the throat singer.'
'The what and the what?'
'Bloody thing kept breaking down though. Y'know a glass harmonica is basically a sewing machine with glasses attached yah?'
'I did not know that.'
'Oh yeah. Peddle, spin, turn.'
'Got a man in. He fixed it. It broke again. He fixed it. That's the thing with instruments back then. Volatile.'
'Horse head fiddle?'
'Mongolians. Obsessed with horses.'
I tell him I've been researching Grants for a writer's retreat at the Banff Institute in Alberta.
'Ah Canada. Going to live with the grizzlies are you?'
He starts giggling and I know why.
'You've watched that documentary haven't you. Grizzly Man.'
He giggles some more. My friend BGR told me about it a couple of years ago. A bloke called Treadwell decides to go and live with some bears. Like a bear whisperer. The documentary is pretty full on and Treadwell believes he has a connection with them and its all about the love, until of course one of the bears gets bored and rips his head off.
'I just keep thinking of Herzog's voiceover saying: “I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder.” And then sure enough, dead.' He is still giggling.
It reminds me of something else BGR told me that I found fascinating. Apparently a bear cub has facial expressions much like a human child: Fear, Joy, Sadness etc. Until it makes its first kill, after which its face loses expression. I've tried to verify this with online research but all I can find is evidence that cubs have facial expressions and bears mostly use their stance and ears to communicate. I say 'research'. Google, ten minutes.
I went to a BBQ the other day. My first proper Aussie BBQ. Anything that ever had a face was on that BBQ. I ate Goat steak and African Sausage and chatted to strangers. Initially I was talking to a retired couple who have recently returned from a nine month drive through America. The woman was clearly head over heels with the place.
'So we started off in Hawaii and made our way to San Francisco...' she told me about every state they visited and what they ate and how the Deep South is very much the Deep South. It was really interesting and I enjoyed her stories but when she finished and I said;
'Well it sounds like you had a blast!'
She responded with;
'Well we started off in Hawaii and made our way to San Francisco...'
I was able to fill in some of the details myself by the third telling of it; 'No silly, you wore the new hat in Texas. I think you'll find the best steaks you had were in New Orleans.”
I also met Madame M's new flatmate Miss T. She didn't know anyone either and looked as startled as I do when taken under the wing of Madame M.
We end up chatting over chicken wings. She asks about my tattoos and reveals that she has one of her own. She pulls down her lip and inside she has 'Go fuck yourself!' in Italian.
'But you're so pretty and dainty to have that inside your mouth!' I exclaim.
She grins. 'I used to do a bit of modelling but I'm also a tradie.'
'I'm an electrician.'
I like her very much. Nothing about her is expected. A bit like late 19th century music but without the self indulgence. She is getting the inside of her upper lip tattooed too. And possibly her tongue.
'Why all the internal inks?' I ask.
'Well in part the modelling. I would like to have had my chin done too but my Dad says I look beautiful regardless.'
'Your Dad think you're beautiful despite not having your chin inked?'
'I'm half Maori.'
I stare at her blankly and she explains their tribal markings;
'One half of your face belongs to your mother, the left, and one side belongs to your father, the right. So the 'Moko' you see on a Maoris face represent their family and tribal history. The chin, the 'Mana' is your self. It represents you.'
'And how do you know what your self looks like in ink?'
'Ah you go to the tribal elders and they look at you and tell you.'
I am about to propose marriage to her when someone passes around a dish of pork lollipops and I'm momentarily distracted.
We then get in to my favourite discussion, after food, which is the importance of storytelling. We talk about oral histories, fairytales, mythology and the importance of sharing your stories openly with others if you want to have half a hope of making a connection with anyone. We pause briefly as I fall upon a mountain of what look like lamb cutlets and before long I have the meat sweats, we have exchanged details and she has offered to tell me anything at all I want to know about her and her life so far on this earth for writing purposes.
'I'll give you a pseudonym,' I offer graciously.
'Just use my name, I don't care. It's Tai. Tai Emery.
I have been spending a lot of my time lying on my back in the last couple of weeks. And not in the fun way. I need constant external motivation or I would do nothing at all and have to be poked with a stick to check I'm still breathing. After nearly three weeks I'm missing Kate and Keir's company and the sound of their music drifting through this house. I'm looking forward to seeing them again in Darwin this weekend.
Kate sent me a message on FB the other day. It was at the end of a longer discussion:
Thea, make sure you don't forget to
- put music on
- drink herbal tea
- go for a walk
- have little routines
She also gently suggests that I write at least an hour a day and that maybe this time could be spent working on 'That Novel'.
I mentioned to her a while ago that my darling Ex Tom always used to softly but relentlessly kick me in to action and it was the only reason I ever finished the first draft of 'That Novel.' She remembered and has wholeheartedly taken it on board and I love her for it.
I think about the list as I lie on my back on her big red sofa staring at the sky for an hour or two and I wonder if she'd agree that this constitutes a routine.