Friday, May 22, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: GILLIAN POLACK

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

Today we welcome author and academic, Doctor Gillian Polack:





When Lee asked me about a post, I was full of ideas. They were practical and sensible ideas, for I am a practical and sensible person. I use butchers’ paper on the backs of doors to plan my fiction, for instance. This is a practical and sensible thing to do. I only do it for some novels, however, for not all of them require protection against demon infestation through the ritual application of arcane writing on portals. Currently, I’m writing something shorter and so all the paper on my doors are polite lists encouraging me to do work. Currently my flat is demon-infested. Not that this is relevant to this post, but it means that objects develop a life of their own.



I surround myself with small bits of paper in the hope that they will turn into fiction, too. They don’t. They turn into shopping lists. They turn into rude notes to myself. They turn into draft incantations against demon manifestations. They even turn into academic papers. My fiction, however, remains sublimely independent of small scraps of paper. Except that, like most things around me, this can change. I used small scraps of paper to move the history side of me to the fiction side of me for Langue[dot]doc 1305. I had a couple of hundred scraps containing key bits of detail (verified, awesome and not related at all to demon infestations, except one, where I’d found evidence that my time travellers may well have been considered as demonic by some upstanding citizens) and I put them in order the way I would for non-fiction and they magically transformed into telling detail in the novel and then equally magically disappeared into the recycling.
I like pens. I have so many pens it isn’t funny. I need at least three for each pile of scrap paper. Even if I don’t use them, I’m happy to have them round. I love their variety and the fact that they create colonies and occasionally mutate.
I use them for note taking and for editing, but not for writing. They’re part of my security blanket. They don’t write my novels, though. A computer is my main tool, and I can write anywhere. Right now, in fact, I’m writing during my evening break, which happens to be Sleepy Hollow. My viewing of choice explains why this post is haunted.
Music doesn’t work at all. Ever. Music makes me get up and dance, which is wonderful and stops my RSI getting worse, but it doesn’t get me writing. Except when it does.The Art of Effective Dreaming is full of folk songs and I’m positive that the text changes tone when I changed tunes. I’m also positive I drove two sets of neighbours to find new places to live simply by listening to my astonishing singing.
I do have systems, I do. I have comfort-objects and routines. The rub is that every novel has its own system. Ms Cellophane was partly influenced by a plague of ants, and also by a mirror I possess that was safely in my storeroom. Both ants and mirror were invoked, rather than being part of what I regularly do, which explains their quality in the novel.
So what do I do that’s not improvisational? What actually grounds me when I write?



I often start with a notebook to get the feel for a given novel into my mind and to keep it there. Because I write over a long period and other things keep intervening, I need a way to regain the mood of each novel. Other methods fail reliably. At one stage I tried collecting antiques, but I’m pretty positive this was just an excuse to collect antiques for a week (I ran out of money before I ran out of the desire for gilt cups), for that novel was never written. So I don’t buy antiques, but I do establish a memory keepsake, in the form of a notebook and I pretend to plan the novel in it. Instead of planning, what I do is mark the space with some words and imprint it on my mind that this is the mental space for that novel and this is the feel of that novel. For the tone and feel of my story, I need something I can pick up and that contains an infused memory. And, let me admit, I love notebooks.
After I’ve written a novel and contracted it, I use something to keep me on the straight and narrow: daruma dolls. My Japanese friends introduced them to me about the same time they introduced me to some of the rhymes and songs I used in The Art of Effective Dreaming, the ones that drove my neighbours away.



For every book contract I sign, I fill in one eye on a doll. For every published book, I fill in the other. Several dolls currently inhabit a shelf near my TV and each time I look they’re in a different position. The pink doll and the small red one are back to back right now, refusing to talk. The pink one thinks it’s superior, because its book is already out.
The most difficult bits of the whole writing process (besides sagging middles, which are something else entirely) are beginning the novel - moving from the props to the keyboard - and getting through the publishing process. I envy the beauty of others’ inspirational objects, but for me, the beginning and end are where I need..something. It’s like setting the table for a dinner party and washing the dishes after: they make the dinner party into a meal. Paper, pens, notebooks and daruma dolls, and the novel has the support it needs.



Gillian Polack is a writer, editor, historian and critic. Her most recent novels are The Art of Effective Dreaming (Satalyte, 2015), Langue[dot]doc 1305 (Satalyte, 2014) and Ms Cellophane (Momentum, 2012). Ms Cellophane (then called Life Through Cellophane) was shortlisted for a Ditmar. Her next book is non-fiction (The Middle Ages Unlocked, co-authored with Katrin Kania, Amberley). She has edited two anthologies and has seventen short stories published. One of her stories won a Victorian Ministry of the Arts award and three more have been listed as recommended reading in the international lists of world’s best fantasy and science fiction short stories. 






Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS IT FROM ABBIE SOMEONE

Pretty much a complete rip from a classic Gahan Wilson cartoon, this is still one of my favourite thumbnails. It's not so much the obvious grand guignol of the central gag that gets me when I look at it now, but the expression on the face of the mad doctor behind his counter-- there's such a little boy "Oh, please don't catch us out" look about him. It might not have been anywhere approaching original, but at least I captured some secondary humour by accident.




Sunday, May 17, 2015

A LITTLE LATE-NIGHT POETRY FOR THE HELL OF IT

So I'm taking over an hour of the Rockingham Writers Centre Tuesday Night writing group this week to throw some poetry exercises about, and to get people warmed up I've asked group members to write a poem starting "What good is a day..."

It's rough as guts, very much a first draft; there are edits for rhythm and to make each stanza correspond to the sentence infrastructure of the first, BUT here, at least, is my effort:

What good is a day that ends in apocalypse?
What good is a day without you?
What good is the end of the world with no witnesses?
What good is a singular view?
Where is the sound of the rapture inside of us?
Where do our souls re-align?
Where can I go when you've risen away from me?
Where do I look for a sign?
How did the horsemen ride into our love affair?
How did the bed grow so wide?
How do the oceans not swallow the continents?
How many times have we lied?
Where are the angels to carry us to our rest?
Where are the wrong and the right?
Where are the chariots bringing the sun to us?
Where are you sleeping tonight?
What good is the life that creates an apocalypse?
What good a life without you?
What good in the end of a love with no consequence?
What good can I ever do?

Friday, May 15, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: KATIE HOLLAND

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


This week we finally get away from the writer types as I entice one of my oldest pals to join us. Please make welcome the utter chanteuse that is Katie Holland:



“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.”

Maya Angelou



     I hate to trot out the tired cliché of feeling trapped but that is precisely how I spent the first three decades of my existence. A perfect storm of poor life choices, unfulfilled dreams and mental illness came to a head in 2012 forcing me to make a decision: leave an unhappy marriage on my own two feet with some shred of sanity left, or leave it in a pine box. To avoid any confusion, the problem with the relationship was not a fundamental failing on behalf of the other party, it was my dawning realization that you can live the truth, or go bat-shit crazy trying to live a lie.

Birdcages may seem an odd choice of inspiration for a mild claustrophobe with a fear of enforced deprivation of liberty and general dislike of being restrained but there you have it. I love birdcages more than I love sequins (and as a half  European showgirl  I really love sequins). The birdcage motif adorned the house I purchased after the marriage, a sanctuary for myself and my children. An empty birdcage with an open door fills me with calm and peace, which when creating on a deadline enables the kind of focus that a working parent can sometimes find hard to muster.

   



There is a beauty and simplicity in the design. In my mind, I can enter the cage and still observe the world around me from relative safety. The open door means I can leave at any time.  Today the symbolism of the birdcage is alive and well in the house that I share with my current partner. Hanging outside, tucked in corners, peeking around door frames. To me they whisper ‘home’. 



The bird still sings, but not for the dream of freedom. She lives the dream already.




Katie Holland is a Perth based vocalist, musician, artist and occasional writer of amusing Facebook updates generally centred around “Who done a poo?” When she isn’t wrestling with the ubiquitous day job she performs with her 8 piece rock/soul/jazz/funk band “Random Act”, records as a session muso for anything from country to jazz to metal, gets her Burlesque on as saucy minx about town “Holly Hooray” and generally takes part in anything that will allow her to wear sequins, red lippy or PVC. Preferably all at the same time.

Katie lives with her partner, 3 mostly adorable though occasionally sociopathic children, and (in her dreams) a pet goat. Her partner won’t let her obtain said goat so this biog may shortly be amended to remove him, and substitute the goat. She isn’t addicted to white wine, Pepsi Max and crackers as she could give them up any time she wants to. She just doesn’t want to.










Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY CAN'T ALWAYS BE A WINNER

Bad jokes badly told. That's the Thumbnail Thursday promise. Even so, I feel the need to apologise for this one. Even Dick Emery would have turned this one down.


Disadvantages of a paperless office.

Friday, May 08, 2015

WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? MAIL ORDER, JUST BELOW THE RUSSIAN BRIDES.

Want to know where story ideas come from?

Yesterday, as part of my day job, I travelled to Perth airport to pick up an artist from Sydney who's appearing at the outdoor sculpture awards I administer.

While I'm sitting in the arrival lounge, waiting for the plane to land, the tannoy announces a final boarding call for Ray and Mary Nelson, for their outgoing flight.

Ray and Mary Nelson were the names of my Mum and Step-Dad. 

They died in 2003.

Yeah. Like that.

FETISH FRIDAY: KIM WILKINS

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, we say a hearty hello to Queensland author, academic, golden child and all-round Queen of Pleasantness, Doctor Kim Wilkins:



For me, it's tea.

I know writers are supposed to love coffee, but I can't stand the taste of it and it gives me the jitters. But I have never sat down to write without a cup of tea beside me.

I like Assam leaves the best: strong, sweet, and malty. But it's not just the drink, you understand. It's the ritual. I prepare the pot, I spoon in the leaves, I boil the water then let it cool for ten seconds (so it doesn't scorch the leaves), then I brew the tea while I prepare my writing space. Light a candle, put some suitable music on, quickly clean up any dust and cat hair that might distract me while I'm writing.

Then I pour my tea into the appropriate cup (I have several I use in the same order every day; the one in the picture is for my second cup, when I first start work), and I sit down to write. I drink every drop.

Sitting down with my tea next to me, I know the day has started. My brain focuses, and I'm off. Preparing my tea is preparing to write.







Kim Wilkins has published 26 books and is translated into 17 languages. She is a senior lecturer in writing at the University of Queensland. She writes under her own name and under the pseudonym Kimberley Freeman.













Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 


Thursday, May 07, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE PUT THIS UP ON VALENTINE'S DAY

Anyone remember 7-Zark-7? Anyone?

Sigh.

This was a lot edgier before gay marriage was accepted. I'm prepared to sacrifice my comic genius for the sake of reason and social progress...



Wednesday, May 06, 2015

GROUP ACTION. IT'S BEEN A WHILE

With the advent of a new Writers Centre in Rockingham has come writing groups. And, as one of those groups is helmed by my very own Luscious, I found myself attending the first writing group meeting I've been to in something like eight years this week.

Writing groups can be a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's an opportunity to spend time with like-minded souls, discussing your passion and working in a supportive and welcoming environment. On the other, they can become platforms for mediocrity and personality conflict, and-- particularly when work is being critiqued by a group of vastly differing levels-- horribly unfocused to the point of uselessness. I gave up attending groups at my previous writers centre when it became obvious that everyone involved was more concerned with egoboos and capturing the perfect snarky put-down than actually goddamn writing.

But Luscious is on the committee of this new Centre, and this was the first meeting of the group she was conducting, and she's an excellent professional who knows both how to write and bring out the best in others, and I'm an incredibly loving and supporting husband, and I was told I had no choice in the matter, so I went along.

Of course, Luscious is an excellent professional, and she knows how to make anyone and everyone in a room feel valued. The group was small, first time out-- eight of us, including Master 10 and Miss 13, who came because both parents were going but contributed like the children of an artistic household, with creativity and verve. And because she's good at what she does, I came away with three solid gold story openings.

So, regular Tuesday night writing group looks like a thing, and maybe just the thing to keep me in fresh material for the next wee while, which can't be anything but good. Because when a writing group works well it's usually because it has a strong, experienced, knowledgeable hand on the tiller, and I'm lucky enough to be married to just such a hand.... you know what I mean.

The room is littered with chipboard splinters. They're ground into the carpet, spread like snow across my bed. My fists, and the soles of my feet, sting where a billion tiny slivers have pierced the soft flesh and now lie embedded, waiting to fester, and poison, and ooze septic pus. The pain should make me angry, or afraid. I'm not. I want to laugh. I want to laugh so hard I run out of breath. I want my ribs to ache, my heart to burst. I want to double over and collapse to the floor. I want to rub my face in the carpet until my cheeks and forehead and lips are a spiderweb of tiny cuts and splinters. I'm so happy I want to fucking scream. I want the corners of my mouth to split. I want to taste my blood. I want to hurt something else. Anything will do.

Exercise: Picture something from your childhood. Something intimate, that has great meaning for you. Now destroy it, utterly, and irretrievably. Why have you done that? How does it make you feel?

If you want to know more about the Rockingham Writers Centre, or Luscious' Tuesday Night Writing Group, you could do worse than checking out their Facebook page.

Friday, May 01, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: STEPHEN DEDMAN

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, we present one of my very good friends, author of several fantastic novels, teacher, academic, and short story machine, Doctor Stephen Dedman:

Confession time: I don’t have a fetish. That is, I don’t just have one fetish; I have several. More than a talismonger in a Shadowrun novel. More than the House of Lords. More than a national furry convention… okay, maybe not that many, but you get the idea.

            That said, most of my fetishes aren’t physical objects. I have a rather messy desk, but I like to be able to write when I travel, and to travel light, so the only item on the desktop that is fetish-ish is my current favourite fossil, a beautiful ammonite with streaks of opal or ammolite. Having something millions of years old near my keyboard may not help me write, but it puts the process of dealing with publishers into perspective.

            Music I use to motivate me to write includes Ennio Morricone’s magnificent theme from The Untouchables, which is the closest thing I know to auditory caffeine (the 1812 Overture can serve the same purpose, but I’m usually too busy conducting to keep my hands on the keyboard). Fast-paced film soundtracks and instrumentals help me to write action scenes; song lyrics provide me with working titles. I’ve lost track of how many of my stories started off being called “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…”

            I’m not sure whether this counts as one fetish or many, but I have long been fascinated by the outre, the alien, otherness – and I keep lists of monsters, obscure trivia, weird beliefs, other people’s fetishes and phobias, a mental bag from which I can draw story ideas like pretty rocks. Of course, sometimes I have to wash my hands afterwards… and occasionally I feel the need to count my fingers, too.


            And, of course, I have a fetish for books as material objects, not just for their content. Why else would I have spent so much of my life trying to surround myself with them? 













Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY ACTUALLY POSTS A GOOD ONE

Another one from the 'completed' files, and I actually like this one. I think I get it just about right.





Sunday, April 26, 2015

A COMPASS THAT DOESN'T WORK MAKES ME THE WORST PIRATE I'VE EVER SEEN

The Parakeet and the Mermaid, Matisse, 1952.


Luscious and I spent this evening watching a documentary about Henri Matisse's final years and his rejection of paint in favour of paper cutouts, and it's got me thinking. Incapacitated by illness, feeling the onset of his approaching death, this man in his 80s experienced an artistic explosion. He moved away from the paints and sculpture which had made him famous, and took to cutting directly into coloured paper, arranging them on (often) vast canvasses in a riot of colour and form in a frenzy of reinvention that secured him an artistic legacy even greater, and more respectful, than that which he had already secured. Despite his terminal illness, Matisse's last years were amongst his most productive, and his most revered. I watched, and wondered, not only at his energy and almost supernatural ability for reinvention, but at the way this wonderful craftsman was able to distill such incredible emotion and form onto a page with such sublime fluency, simplicity, and staggering effect.

I struggle with writing, and much of it is, I think, because it lacks the visceral response of visual art. Writing is an intellectualisation, from the formation of the work to the absorption-- while visual art is too, of course, writing involves so many sets of decodifications throughout the genesis of each work that, ultimately, it becomes an intellectual game we play with ourself-- rather than instinctively experience a gut reaction, we, as audience, must trick our mind, rather than our heart, into the experience.

As an author, I find myself reaching for simplicity more and more; eschewing literary tricks and language for simpler words, greater repetition, more linear narratives, and viewing Matisse's work tonight I felt a sense of what I'm reaching for: a visceral, emotional response to form, rather than a response determined by a determined level of intellectual vigour.

Blue Nude (1), Matisse, 1952

The truth is, I'm envious of visual artists. I envy their ability to create an immediate emotional response, to create multiple level of connotative meaning in a single work, to utilise such a range of media and forms when I am, to all intents, stuck with one: my words. More and more, I find myself wishing I had the time to work in a visual way. Retirement can't come soon enough: I need time, damn it.

And at the heart of it, I'm beginning to see that it's affecting what I want to write about, as well. I'm losing my infatuation with the accessories and glamours of speculative fiction. A story about a man painting holds more fascination for me right now than a story about a man building a portal between worlds. It's all just dissembling. It's all just getting in the way. Speculative fiction used to be about stepping to the side and throwing light upon subjects we weren't really able to address head on, but in many ways, that no longer applies.

I feel myself falling away from the rhythms and the beats of the genre that has enfolded me for the last 25 years, yearning for the simplicity and direct emotional reaction that it seems to obfuscate when I try to write it. It's frightening, in a way, because I don;t know what I'm really moving towards, or whether, indeed, I can even define it, or achieve it. But then, I look at my writing career so far, and it's a bucket of mist and obscurity, so what harm can possibly befall me? All my life I've been fascinated by polymaths. I surround myself with their works: Spike Milligan, David Bowie, Reg Mombassa, David Hockney. I analyse their achievements, envy their success, yearn for their facility.

Maybe, having taken such great effort for such small reward, it's time to branch out, to test myself in other ways. Maybe what counts is not the medium but the expression.

Or maybe I'm just full of shit.

Tree of Life. (detail) Stained glass, Chapel of the Rosary, Vence. Matisse, 1948-51



Friday, April 24, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: GREG CHAPMAN

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


This week, we welcome Australian Horror Writer alumnus, author and illustrator, Greg Chapman:





At the end of a long 7 and a quarter hour stretch at the day job I like to come home, greet the wife and kids, and then go down to my dungeon and paint the walls in blood.

Figuratively speaking.

My dungeon is the literary equivalent of the so called man-cave, but instead of playing pool, tuning an engine or watching sports, I’m tinkering away at my latest horror story or piece of art.

The dungeon is where I find inspiration. On the walls are pieces of my art, alongside a poster of Neil Gaiman’s Nine Rules of Writing, signed by Keith Minnion. In the centre of the room, is my desk atop which sits my i-Mac where I create most of my illustrative work, “Zara”, a half mannequin, I turned into a zombie and about one hundred pens and paintbrushes that I just haven’t had the time to put away yet. I’m a creative person, so of course I’m going to be messy!




To the left of the desk is a small book case containing books I’ve had published or had stories in and more importantly, books written and sometimes signed by my writer friends. These books inspire me greatly; I revel in my friends’ successes and I thoroughly enjoy reading their work. Adjacent to that bookshelf is a much larger one containing the books I’ve collected over the years. There are lots of books by Clive Barker and King, and a hell of a lot of reference books and dictionaries. Dictionaries can especially spark story ideas as I have a bit of a fetish for obscure words. Both these bookshelves are guarded by two skulls I made for Halloween last year.

I guess this is my brain inside four walls. It’s chaotic and covered in words, and charcoal and watercolour paint, but all my friends and favourite writers are here to join me in my madness.

Surely, I’m not the only writer with a dungeon, right?










Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY THINKS TIPPI HEDREN HAD IT EASY

Every kid on every beach or every park you've ever seen......

Apart from the actually 'talking English' bit, I saw this happen once. If you're going to chase birds, know your weight class, that's all I'm saying.


"My buddies here tell me you get a big kick out of chasing seagulls..."

Monday, April 20, 2015

IF THIS POST IS LATE IT'S BECAUSE I'M STILL ON BALI TIME

You'll have to forgive me if I seem distracted: two weeks ago I was standing at the bottom of a forty-foot gorge, having clambered a hundred feet upstream to stand at the base of a fifty-foot high waterfall, halfway up a mountain in the middle of an Indonesian island.

By which I mean, I was in Bali.

Let's be honest: when Luscious organised the trip with her brother and sister-in-law, I was on the 'un' side of enthused. Nothing I'd heard about the island made me want to go there-- everything pointed to a filthy third-world shopping mall fit only for drunken AFL end of season piss-ups and surfer dope-a-thons with bonus dysentery and bombings to deal with assuming you didn't get picked up for not noticing the baggage handlers' dope stash in your carry-on.

Turns out that's just Kuta. And I'm happy to admit just how wrong my preconceptions were, because we found a whole lot to love.

For a start, we managed to avoid the plastic beer-haus atmosphere of Kuta by staying at a villa just outside of Seminyak, rural enough that there were multitudinous rice paddies dotted in between the buildings. As our driver explained, the Balinese grow three types of rice for different purposes-- white for eating, red for ritual meals, and black for religious festivities-- so a significant percentage of the rural environment is held over for growing the crop, something we saw in spades on our next-to-final day when we took a trip up-country to the Old Balinese Kingdom capital of Pejeng to view the National Archaeological Museum.

Before that though, there was a stunning range of experiences: the traditional Aussie-in-Bali market shopping, including a visit to a series of stalls run by a family who lived side by side with their stalls inside an old unused temple; a roadside fish pedicure, with Luscious, Master 10 and I sitting on a bench with our feet inside a whacking great fish tank having our peds nibbled by a swarm of teensy tiny catfish; a hand-in-hand walk along a shell beach with Luscious (I'm a softie. Sue me); the trip up-country through the artist's enclaves at Ubud to view the Museum; a day spent screaming and laughing at the utterly insane Waterbom Waterpark; and to wrap it all up we spent the final night of our stay on a night safari at the Bali Safari and Marine Park, where tigers with heads wider then my shoulders climbed the caged truck in which we stood to feed less than 6 inches from my face.

By the time we stumbled, exhausted and sunburned, onto the plane home, the Battchilder had already started a list of things we'll be doing when we return. I've got one of my own.


The view from the entrance to our villa. Staying away from the plastic FcknOZYEAH! facade of Kuta was the best thing we could have done. It gave us a chance to explore some genuine-- or at least, genuine-looking-- culture without getting caught up in the ugly shopping mall/beer hall environment that was my impression of Bali, and which finds its full expression in Kuta. Lyn's brother and sister-in-law found the villas, and they were an inspired choice: close enough to town to provide access to cafes and shops, but far enough away that we could experience a side of Bali closer to real than I expected.



The common kitchen area inside the villa, just around from the pool and air-conditioned, semi-detached bedrooms. It was hell, I tells 'ee, hell!




Breakfast, round one. Every morning, a fresh platter of fruit to begin the day. It sounds like a simple thing, but we were so enamoured of it that we've brought the habit home with us, and it gives us a huge life each morning. Of course, the $6-each-in-Australia dragonfruit have gone by the wayside, dammit...




The ruins of a beach side temple, ten minutes walk along from the ultra-Western hotel restaurant we ate at one day. I've a fascination for abandoned, ruined buildings such as this. There's such a forlorn beauty about them, such an air of quiet despair. It speaks to something inside me. Also, I totally nailed the photo, which is a rarity in itself. 



Master 10 and Miss 13 go the full Aussie-in-Bali native route: hair braiding and pedicures all round. The girls were particularly taken with the idea that a boy would get the full set, but that's what Master 10 does-- break down perceptions and bring delight. 



Another view of the hair braiding, included purely because it amuses me to see the girls having to stand on the couch to reach the top of Miss 13's head :)



Anyone looking at my hard drive would think I was obsessed with Balinese traffic. Because I was. I spent shot after shot trying to get the perfect image of the slow-motion insanity. This comes close. More often than not, a two-lane road would host three to four vehicles on each side, plus a complete mosquito fleet of a dozen or so scooters: all moving in harmony, all in synchronised motion, no accidents, everyone just flowing along at 30 kilometres an hour ignoring any sense of road rules or logic. Balinese traffic is the perfect democracy. Decided by, educated by, and policed by the people themselves. It's balletic, and I loved it. Also, check out the statue: can they do a fucking roundabout or what?



Fish pedicure. Tiny little catfish nibbling away at your feet for half an hour, while all you can do is sit on a bench with your feet dangling in the water and watch the world go by. You simply must try it. 



Master 10 gets his first nibble. This is what the trip was all about for me: that sense of joy, and discovery, in the arms of my family. 



Also: my wife's an utter babe. A babe at an horrendous, FcknOZ bar that specialised in misogyny, sexual crassness, and a view of Australians that does us no credit at all. But it was good for a laugh, until we realised our kids can read the 'specials' board as well as we can, and it became time to get out and shop.

But the point is: Wife. Babe. Mine.



We spent one day hitting the market trail, because we wanted to do the traditional Oz-in-Bali shopping thing. This was my highlight: a set of stalls inside the owner's house inside an abandoned temple. Magnificent buildings piled on top of each other so that I lost all interest in cheap wallets and board shorts and simply wandered from corner to corner marvelling at the statues and the beauty of the architecture. It was Bali in a nutshell: once you picked away at whatever thin veneer of tourist accommodation faced you, you found unlimited beauty and tradition. That was the Bali I wanted, and I found it in abundance.



Another view. This is someone's house. Their stall inside their house



An hour from Seminyak, past Ubud, we discovered the village of Pejeng, which just happened to be the capital of the Old Balinese Kingdom, and which is now the site of the National Archaeology museum. It's not very big, and there are few exhibits beyond a collection of Chinese, British and Indian crockery that hints at trade links with mainland Asia and Europe going back to the 9th Century, but it's worth it for the architecture-- again-- and these magnificent stone sarcophagi displayed in the gardens. 



Faced with such history, what's a fat man to do but strike a Man of Destiny pose and hope his shorts don't fall off?



On our last night we visited the Safari and Marine Park, and took in a night safari. On a night filled with highlights, having a tiger with a head wider then my shoulders eating a hunk of meat less than  inches directly above my face will go down as unforgettable. Damn the wobbling truck: I have no good photos. This is the best. There's something awe-inspiring about being so close to so much raw, natural power. How anyone could want to hunt animals is beyond me. We cannot allow such beauty to leave the world.



Balinese dancers play with fire in a dance show that incorporated stilt-animals, shield dancing sword fights, and a magnificent, booming drum performance. It was a show my children will remember their whole lives, and was a perfect way to finish our time on the island.



And here they are: the falls I've failed to get out of my system. halfway up a mountain in the centre of the island, at the bottom of a forty foot ravine, with a hundred feet of stream and rock to traverse to stand at their base. Unspoiled (or, at least, as unspoiled as possible) natural beauty; the very definition of 'far from the madding crowd. Luscious, Master 10 and I climbed down, and Master 10 and I made our way to the foot of the falls, where we simply stood and marvelled at the sheer wonder of it all. For a moment, I recovered a sense of peace.



If there is one picture I had to point to in order to define our time in Bali, it is this one. Master 10, all four feet nothing of him, at the base of a fifty foot waterfall deep in the heart of the island, far from the traffic and the markets and the noise and the people. A tin adventurer stunned into a moment's immobility by a sense of wonder at the natural world around him, dwarfed by all the physical aspects of his environment but with his mind and soul expanding with every moment. 

We left Bali with an overwhelming urge to return. There is so much we haven't seen, such a deep culture we've barely scratched. We came armed with half a dozen Indonesian phrases, hoping they would see us through, only to discover the Balinese language itself and the delight shown by the people when we spoke the two or three phrases we picked up-- and what does it say about our culture of tourism that native peoples should be delighted when we learn just a few simple words in their language?