Graffiti in Newtown

April 29, 2009

I love graffiti a LOT.  Yesterday, I discovered an amazing graffiti wall near my house.  It’s on the back sandstone wall of a church cemetary, and faces onto a beautiful north facing park…green green grass, dogs, humans, trees. 
I read my book, examine the graffiti, and feel that everything is pretty good.  Here are some faves!
This one might be my favourite...but can someone tell me who the dude on the left is?  I think the other two might be Darwin and Shakespeare, but I could so easily be wrong.  Easily.

This one might be my favourite...but can someone tell me who the dude on the left is? I think the other two might be Darwin and Shakespeare, but I could so easily be wrong. Easily.

I think once a upon a time he had a very big jaw.  Now he can't tell anyone about his light bulb moments.  Sad.
I think once a upon a time he had a very big jaw. Now he can’t tell anyone about his light bulb moments. Sad.
Behind a tree is the PERFECT place for a wee...That's what I often tell myself at 2am.

Behind a tree is the PERFECT place for a wee...That's what I often tell myself at 2am.

Hi, I'm a giant and particularly amazing man head, next to a very average lady sticker.

Hi, I'm a giant and particularly amazing man head, next to a very average lady sticker.




I jes be fiddlin!

I jes be fiddlin!

Now I jes be fiddlin next to my goods fren, Massa Debble Man!

Now I jes be fiddlin next to my goods fren, Massa Debble Man!


I adore this one...

I adore this one...

Hi, I'm David Schwimmer, but in GRAFFITI!  But someone drew a big black line across my eyes, and now I can't see so good.  Oh.  Sadness.

Hi, I'm David Schwimmer, but in GRAFFITI! But someone drew a big black line across my eyes, and now I can't see so good. Oh. Sadness.

Hi.  I'm Alan Rickman.  I'm Graffiti Alan Rickman.  And no, I don't know who the pink-jumpered chump is behind me.  Leave me alone.  I'm serious.  Not, I'm serious about leaving me alone, but generally I'm a very serious guy.

Hi. I'm Alan Rickman. I'm Graffiti Alan Rickman. And no, I don't know who the pink-jumpered chump is behind me. Leave me alone. I'm serious. Not, I'm serious about leaving me alone, but generally I'm a very serious guy.




April 25, 2009

The pot I inherited from Grandma is perfect for making chutney.  The choice of fruit is dictated by what’s abundant in the garden: in Surrey Hills, it was tomatoes, in Yarraville, nectarines, and in Footscray the birds and I battled it out for apricots.  In the months prior, jars are washed and stored, rather than being thrown in the recycling.  Dainty St Dalfour’s jars, giant purpose-serving pasta jars, all are stroked as I decide whether today is the day they get plunged in scalding hot water, then placed in the oven to heat up.  Bruises and blemishes cut out, the fruit goes in the pot along with onions, cloves, vinegar, brown sugar.   My jaw aches with desire at this point – the moment when the smell of boiling vinegar fills the house.  Shit…I dip a spoon into the mix, and drawing it out, I taste the brew.  I do this a lot.  A whole lot.  I like cooking it down further than where it should be cooked down to.  I like cooking it down til I can feel the onions stick.  I lack burn fear.  Who DOESN’T like the taste of slightly burnt onions?!  Taking the warm jars out of the oven, I arrange them in the sink.  Once, a jar exploded when the chutney hit it.  That was before I learnt the sink trick.  An old plastic jug is used to pour hot chutney into hot jars.  Bubbling, fizzing…this does NOT help my fear of exploding jars.  That evening, I am kept awake by the clicks and pops of jar lids sealing themselves.  This is obviously science, and something I try to understand, but cannot.  All I know is that from here I need to wait three months before discovering how good it is.  The vinegar calls me, it does.

Banned TV

April 21, 2009

I hereby declare that the follows TV shows are forever banned from my schedule:

  • Meerkat Manor
  • Bondi Vet
  • RSPCA Rescue
  • Big Cat Diary
  • Animal Rescue
  • and that one about the kangaroo family, where the joey dies.

That’s about it.

April 20, 2009

I dream of the birds in my house: magpies, rosellas, flamingos, canaries, swallows, swans.

In my mind, the fog sits on the river beside my future home, my desired home.  Still, still.

I hold myself back from wanting.

I hold myself back from waiting.

I dream of Clooney

April 15, 2009

I’m a big one for recurring dreams.

When I was a kid, I had a recurring dream about sharing Mars Bars with my friends.  I know, I’m kind even in my own DREAMS!  So nice!  Cos let me tell you here and now, I HATE sharing in real life.  In fact, I believe that anyone that says they love sharing is lying so you like them a little bit more.

No-one likes sharing.  Sorry to spoil the party, believers, but it’s true.

In my adult years, my recurring dream has been of a forest on the side of a mountain.  In this dream, I’m usually walking along the track, by myself, and it’s so very beautiful.  Rich, green, dappled.  I think I’ve dreamt about this place maybe three times in the last ten years.  I’ve never been anywhere like it.  ANYWAY, last night I dreamt that someone was asking me the way to somewhere.  I gave them the directions, and when I woke up I realised that the place I was telling them about was this place I’ve been to in my dreams.  I pointed across the valley, showing them where it was. 

But I didn’t get to go there last night.

I’d like my recurring dreams to be more spicey.  Or involving George Clooney.  Clothing optional.

In this weeks Who Magazine, George says: “Sense of humor is number one for me.  It’s not the first thing you notice at 21, but it’s the first thing you notice now.”

WELL, George Clooney, if sense of humour is number one for you, then what am I doing sitting here in my Big W sneakers and ancient black hoodie?  I’m sure that cocktail waitress you were banging last year was a REAL bag o laffs.







George needs lessons in funny.  Can someone give him my number?


“Well, I’ll see you……sometime!” My Grandma was a shell. Skin hanging off her now tiny frame, no hair, she was wanting to say goodbye to me like it was no big deal. But we both knew that this was it. This was the final time. I’d left her a letter the night before, saying I’d like to use her maiden name as a name for one of my future children. She was an only child, and when she died there would be no more Finneys left in the family.

I adored her. When she first became sick, I would clean her house for her, stopping for cups of tea. Once, we stopped for Michael Hutchence’s funeral. I was surprised she knew who he was. But now, clinging to her on her hospital bed, I was surprised by how tiny she felt. My Grandma had already started leaving. She whispered in my ear: “I read your letter last night, and I think it’s a lovely idea.” Later, standing on Liverpool Street and weeping, I marvelled at how as an adult, losing my Grandma was the closest I’d come to feeling like a child again. Three weeks later, at her funeral, I was overwhelmed by the number of old women, friends of hers from the Victoria League, that commented on how similar we were in appearance.


Grandma scrabbled through her bag as I sat on the change room bench, weeping. “Oh no, darling,” she said, “don’t cry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.” I was fifteen, and we were shopping with my Mum for new clothes for myself. Grandma had been commenting on my weight, again, and it was now, in Harris Scarfe Hobart, that I deemed it appropriate to let her know how much she hurt me. She had never called me “darling” before. Mum walked into the change room at this point, looked at my tear stained face, and said nothing. She agreed with Grandma. The tissue found in her bag was old, fibrous. She obviously hadn’t used them in a while. This, after having been told that if I didn’t lose weight no boy would ever find me attractive. I’m the same weight now that I was in high school. My body, used to feeling cumbersome, shame worthy, is the same one that men now track with their eyes. It’s the same one that men follow into bookshops and ask out for dinner. I am fluent in the silent language that exists between pedestrians (me) and drivers (them) at traffic lights. In my early thirties, I have realised that my body is a powerful thing. I control who sees it, how it’s seen and when it’s seen. I can control how it looks, too, but only to a certain point. Nothing will ever change my groundedness, my earthiness. When I was a teenager I longed to look like the distant cousins on Grandma’s side of the family: long, willowy, strawberry blonde hair and delicate noses. Nothing like me: dark skin, big nose, dark hair, wide hips, strong shoulders. I was taught how to hate my body. A silent lesson, passed down through the women in my family. Teachers not realising they were teaching, students not realising they were learning. My body held my Grandma’s secret, her shame. She made all of us carry it.


When I was twenty, I lived at my grandparents’ house for two months while they went on holiday. Cupboards I’d been longing to open, but too shy to ask permission, were rifled through for hours, days. I discovered letters written from my twenty one year old mother – living in a remote town in Canada, describing the birth of her first child, me – to her mother back in Tasmania. Old jewellery, cassette tapes of family dinners, photos. But the best find, the find to end all finds, was a knee length black velvet coat. The coat, smooth to the touch no matter which way you ran your hand across it, was obviously handmade. Never has a jacket fitted me so well. Curling around my waist, my shoulders, I couldn’t believe I’d never seen it before, and I quizzed Grandma on it when she returned. “Oh,” she said with barely a smudge of interest, “I had that handmade for me when I was twenty.” I don’t wear it anymore, but it still hangs in my cupboard as a reminder of the amazing connectedness between Grandma and I.


There is a small town in southern Germany called Schwä bisch Hall. Tiny streets lead down to, and over, a river that for most of my time spent there, was frozen over. Ducks walked along the river with us humans, looking as confused as we were delighted. My apartment was built in the late 1600s. My bedroom looked over an ancient, disused prison, while the living room looked down onto a cobbled courtyard. If I was a braver person, I could have reached out the window and stroked the clock tower. Schwä bisch Hall was one of the very few towns in Germany where all buildings, all fixtures, were still as they had originally been built. Set in a valley, at a curve in the river, the allied forces in World War Two were unable to gain a clear vantage point from their bombers. I had chosen to study here purely because the school had a practise room with a good quality piano in it. I envisaged mornings spent studying languages, afternoons at the Steinway. In reality, however, afternoons were spent in tiny bars or cafes, delighting in my newly made friends, or quietly cooking with my Korean housemate, using our mediocre German to discuss our favourite films. I loved hanging out in Schwä bisch Hall. Everything felt easy, and everything felt like home. I particularly loved the local ladies that ran craft afternoons – crafternoons – so the students had another place to practise conversing. I was amazed by how much like Grandma some of these women seemed – same round faces, short bodies, broad shoulders. My heart ached as I helped them prepare Easter decorations, gluing delicate pieces of paper to cardboard rabbits. It was like being back with her, and I realised that I still missed her terribly.

On the last day of school a teacher from one of the advanced classes asked if I had any German family. I said that I didn’t, that both sides were Irish, or Scottish, but that I felt there were aspects of our physical appearance that indicated an ancient link to warmer climes. “You just seem so at home here,” she said, “like you belong here, or have some natural affinity with the place. You should consider moving here.” I was dumbstruck. I knew how natural it felt for me to be there, but hadn’t realised that this was noticed by others, by people that didn’t even know me.


“We don’t know where it comes from. She’s just always been like it, singing before she could talk, teaching herself to read music. It’s just who she is.” Mum never had a very satisfying answer for people that wanted to know where my musical gift/talent came from. People always looked disappointed when she said this, like they wanted a giant, epic story involving multi-generational music making. But apart from Grandma being able to play a few slow tunes on the piano, we put my musical personality down to growing up in a family of music lovers, rather than practitioners. Nuture, not nature.


It had always seemed like a simple enough question to my cousin and I, but Grandma never gave us a simple answer. Our mothers were identical twins, which we would say made us genetic half-sisters. The simple question – how many other sets of identical twins were there in the family? How many generations at a time did it skip? What were the odds of us also having twins? As an adult, the thought of having an unplanned double pregnancy has become an excellent contraceptive. As a teenager, the thought of having twins was too delicious to bear, and I had to find out what my future held. But Grandma never answered. In fact, she managed to dodge the question so efficiently that I have no recollection of what she ever said in response.

7. The Answer

My mum’s voice on the phone, the news she delivered, was a golden thread, an answer linking questions I had been asking my whole life. The missing piece of the puzzle. Maybe only a piece of sky – the picture was there, it all made sense, but now it had a wholeness.

My Grandma’s real name was Nancy Keenan. Or Nancy Sulzberger. My family aren’t entirely sure which is correct. Up until a year ago, we knew her as Beverly Finney. Six years after Grandma’s death, Granddad decided that we all should know. She was adopted when she was two years old, to a dear old couple that were unable to have children. Granddad found out about the adoption after he and Grandma were married. And then only when he asked hard questions, questions that revealed that the woman Grandma claimed to be her mother was too old to have given birth to her. My mum and her sisters have tracked down the Keenans. They live in Devonport, and had often heard that their Grandma gave a baby away when it was a toddler. My Grandma had a sister. Looking at her photo is like looking at the Grandma I remember, before she got sick: round face, soft flabby arms…even the way the skin hung off her bones was familiar. The Sulzberger connection is shady, unknown. But it’s the one I like best. The older members of Grandma’s adoptive family say that they remember people referring to Grandma and the Sulzbergers, and not really knowing why. Pieces of paper have emerged from basements, hidden between book covers – old, yellowed – with Grandma’s name and “Sulzberger” written next to it. Does it mean anything? Is it truth or a family myth? The one woman that knew, Great “Aunt” Margie, died while Granddad was driving up the Midlands Highway, desperately hoping to reach her and get answers to unanswered questions. He was fifteen minutes too late. We will never know.

I have chosen to believe the myth. This is my truth. The Sulzbergers that settled in Launceston are originally from a town in southern Germany called Grossbotwar, ten minutes by car from Schwä bisch Hall. My body was returning home and I had no idea, just a sense of peace that I only experience now when I step off the plane in Hobart. Knowing now my reasons for feeling like this, my mind is drawn to Goethe’s character Mignon, and her dreaming for the place that feels like home. “Kennst du das Land?” she asks. Mignon, I do.

The Sulzberger family tree shows generation after generation of identical twins. Pianists, both professional and otherwise, litter the Sulzberger clan. In particular, a man called Marcel Sulzberger: a friend of Ferruccio Busoni’s and a student of Gabriel Faure’s. Not much is known about him, a few pieces composed, a few concerts performed. A typically great, but not brilliant, professional pianist. I can relate to that.


So what do I do with this information, with these half answers to unformed questions? Some of the links are tenuous, most of the information ephemeral. When I asked Granddad why he thought she never told us, never told him, he shrugged his giant bear-like shoulders. “Dunno. Maybe she was ashamed.”

My teenage years were spent crying tears my Grandma should have shed. What would we say to her if she were here now? I ask myself this question a lot, and generally have no answer. Knowing what we know, I am left with no shame. The shame I was carrying was Grandma’s, not mine, and in realising this, I can leave it with her. Even though my family will never have definitive answers on some of our questions, for me, I know enough to continue onwards. My body no longer is responsible for carrying my family’s secrets. I lay my negativity at Grandma’s feet, letting her know that whilst I love her terribly, these bags are not mine to carry. And actually, what felt heavy now has a lightness, a joy. I’ll never really be entirely sure about where I’m from, but I’ve uncovered corners of myself that Grandma taught me how to keep hidden.

There is a joy in knowing, and a love in knowing that I’ll never know.





April 10, 2009

Yesterday I was walking down King St, when I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.

But I didn’t fall over.  Instead, I did this little leap in the air and happened to land on both feet like I was in the opening scene from West Side Story.

I was cool man, cool.