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A few days ago, my friend Sam posted this essay about his impending move away from Adelaide. He’s moving to Sydney (which means I’ll see more of him — hurrah!) sometime in February.

Although it’s about different places, the essay quite aptly describes my own struggle to figure out where to call home. I’ve lived in Sydney now for as long as I lived in Melbourne. In between the two, I lived in Canberra for a few short months. Growing up, I called Forbes, a small town in Central West New South Wales, home.

In a way, all of these places are still home for me. It’s like they contain different versions of me — almost as if, visiting, I might run into myself. And in a way I miss all of these places. Or maybe I just miss those versions of me. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

When it comes time for me to bid Sydney farewell, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about home.

Adventure

Looking back over the last few posts here, I’ve realised that I seem to spend an awful lot of time writing here about not doing things. Or at least about needing to do nothing because I manage to keep myself busy and occasionally need a rest. But I rarely write about the things that I actually am doing.

So I thought today I would write about something that I’ve actually done. Today I went adventuring with a friend — a kind of research project for both of us. We caught the bus from Newtown to Coogee with no real plans, except to look around and maybe find somewhere we could eat pancakes. We wandered along the beach, in the rain, and took pictures of sand, boats, trees. We found a cafe in which to eat pancakes (yum!), and we wandered around a local green grocer without shopping baskets, trying to resist the temptation to buy any food. We walked up hills into the residential streets, gazing at all the interesting houses and interesting gardens.

We talked a lot, and I got damp toes. And we took pictures. Here are some of mine.

Busy

Lately I’ve been busy. It’s easy to forget that I’m busy sometimes, when I’ve got whole days at home, spent in my house clothes, drinking multiple cups of tea. I forget that I’m working on those days too — planning and writing.

Other days I leave and re-enter the house three, four, sometimes five times a day. I spend lots of time outdoors, and my shoes are well-worn.

I have a whole list of things that have fallen by the wayside, waiting (sometimes not so) patiently for a quiet week.

I’m tired. I don’t sleep well because I dream all night about the things I have to do in the coming days: banking, catching buses, doing laundry. Process dreams, I call them. My hips, my knees and my shoulders buzz, reminding me to stop every now and then. I find myself sighing when my work day is over.

But I like being busy. Especially because I’m doing things I love. My days are filled with yoga and reading and writing. I just need to remember that it’s okay for me to sleep in occasionally.

Nostalgia

I’ve been writing this post for weeks, on an off. It seems appropriate to finish it now — a death in the family always lends itself to remembering and nostalgia.

For a couple of months now I’ve been carrying around a little vial of nostalgia, everywhere I go. Sometimes I really do feel as though it’s rattling around in the bottom of my handbag, and when I go searching for something else I come across it.

The thing about nostalgia (at least for me) is that it’s so unspecific. I can’t really say where it’s come from, or even what it’s about. Or maybe it’s that I can say where it started, but then I’m unable to contain it to that. Nostalgia breeds nostalgia.

Sometime last week I found myself sitting on the couch, home by myself for the night, with a huge pile of recipe books, flicking through pages, making mental lists of things I’d like to cook next time I find half a day to spend in the kitchen. As I turned the pages I came across recipes I’d marked months ago, and finally worked out the root of this bout of nostalgia: I love my new house, but I’m also missing my old one. I miss my old housemates, I miss the house itself, I miss Astro the cat, I miss living down the south end of Newtown. I’m not despairing in the missing, it’s just a lingering sense of… sadness at the finality, I guess.

We cooked a lot in my old house. I cooked a lot. It wasn’t a great kitchen — it had a huge oven, but we also spent the last six months in the house cooking by lamp light — but it’s where I really feel like I cemented my love of cooking. I spent hours and hours cooking in that kitchen, sometimes many dishes at once, often on my own. Cooking became a kind of meditation; thoughts about other things popped into my head during big cook ups, but the focus always came back to whatever was on the stove top.

I also spent many hours in that kitchen, sitting on the step between the lounge and the kitchen or perched gingerly on the barely-held-together stool we’d borrowed for a party and somehow never returned, chatting to one of my housemates about life — work, boys, politics, religion, music, books, writing, cats, dogs, babies, family. We cooked, we talked.

The kitchen in that house will always be somehow special to me.

Thinking about that kitchen inevitably leads to thinking about the garden at that house, my little room and the neighbours whose backyards my windows overlooked, the creaky floorboards in the upstairs hallway, the sunny lounge room, the cracked walls, the ballroom-sized bathroom… the list goes on and on. And then spills over into other parts of my life, occasionally going as far back as childhood.

That my trip to Melbourne happened in the middle of all this nostalgia really hasn’t helped things. I miss Melbourne with such a visceral ferocity that it’s sometimes overwhelming. Going back there, I wander around the streets, amazed that I still feel so at home there, even though I’ve now lived in Sydney nearly as long as I lived in Melbourne.

Strangely, I also feel nostalgic about writing (this is far harder for me to explain). Spending time at writers’ festivals, like I have this last month — especially ones like EWF where I spent a lot of time in the company of other writers — exacerbates this kind of nostalgia. I think maybe what I’m trying to do when I write (fiction, at least) is capture that feeling of nostalgia, that little twinge of melancholy. So somehow thinking about or talking about writing brings about those feelings I’m trying to capture. Does that even make sense? I don’t know.

Perhaps this nostalgia, and its settling in for a lengthy stay, is why I’ve found myself wanting to write more fiction. For the last six months I’ve been working steadily on a big non-fiction project. I love it, and I don’t want to put it away, but I think maybe I need to let myself venture a little more into whimsy from time to time.

Manly Wharf

As I sat in Hugo’s, having a beer with my parents, these kids jumped off the wharf, swam to shore and came back to jump off again and again. Their jumping was accompanied by lots of shrieking and laughing. The weather in Sydney has been so fickle of late, and that afternoon, with a cold beer in hand, looking at these kids getting in and out of the water, it really felt like summer. What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Looking at this picture again, I was reminded of some others I’d taken while I was waiting for someone at St Kilda beach on my last visit to Melbourne. There’s just something about a large body of water that’s so awe-inspiring.

It seems appropriate, in a post about water, to mention the disasterous flooding that many communities in Queensland are experiencing right now. I’m sure it doesn’t seem like summer to them. There are lots of different avenues for putting a donation towards rescue, sheltering those who’ve evacuated, and rebuilding when the water subsides. But this is a good place to start.

Yum

Over the weekend I went on a food tour in Sydney’s Bankstown with one of my housemates, as part of some research I’m doing for a story.

I learnt so much — about Bankstown’s culture, about food, about my own likes and dislikes.

I won’t go into any more detail just yet, but here are some pictures I took on the day. Yummo!

Paradise Updated: a literary event

Hurrah! A literary event in Sydney! Elena from With Extra Pulp let me know about this one last night, so I went along and got to meet her as well. We talked about writing, drinking wine and getting distracted by graphic novels. Lovely!

Mic Looby (who I know better from his Big Issue column) was talking about his book, Paradise Updated, with Ben Groundwater. We were treated to a reading from the book, describing one of the older, jaded travel writers; and the conversation largely focussed on what a terrible job being a travel writer really is. I’ve been as guilty as anyone, assuming that travel writing would be a great, glamorous job. When it’s explained more fully (think covering an entire country on a two month deadline) it doesn’t sound quite so fun.

Elena, having read the book (and reviewed it, in fact), has a slightly more informed and amusing review of the night up here. Hopefully there’ll be some more events like this one for us to go to soon!

Going off on a bit of a tangent for a moment, the venue where last night’s event was held also happens to house my preferred cafe to write in, so I was there this afternoon making notes and scrawling down outlines. I have high hopes for this place: a jazz quintet set up and played a set or two while I was there, and the beginnings of some kind of art exhibition became apparent as I left and tables full of wine bottles were set up. I’ll have to keep a close eye on this place.

I recorded a small snippet of what I heard at Da Caff (as I’m now calling it) to share here. Unfortunately I’ve got no idea how to convert it to the kind of file I can actually upload… so for now it’s sitting on my desktop. Any help in that regard would be greatly appreciated!