Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cool Change

Sometimes, being a writer is the coolest job in the world but lots of times it's just hard slog. Writing under commission is one thing but writing on spec, just to have something on paper, to practise your craft, to tell a story that needs to be told, is challenging. I'm trying to write a new play, I'm trying to keep a journal, I'm trying to blog and I'm trying to write a new tv show and I'm not doing any of it very well just now.

Particularly this month, with Tricky not back at daycare and C face to the grindstone on reports and presentations. I am scratching for time. Everyday is another outing, another trip to the park or museum. These outings must be finely calibrated to ensure that an afternoon nap is also to be had, thus ensuring the chance of two hours of work.

But this must also be juggled with the heat. And in the loft apartment of The Big House the heat has been aggressively anti-inspiration. Temperatures have been soaring, along with tempers. If i don't write, I don't feel like a writer. Instead I feel like a bit of a failure.

Last week boasted weather so hot and stinky even the beach was rancid. 

We have had horrendous nights of unbeatable heat, nights where the air never becomes cool, the much anticipated sea breeze never eventuates and I have to get up in the middle of the night to have a cold shower.

On one delightful day we decided to overcome the heat by picnicking with friends and accompanying toddler in a park overlooking a beach. To reach said beach/park combo we thought it would be a marvelous idea to drive miles through traffic, crawl slowly the last mile or so, cruising for a car space, and then park the car several suburbs away because every man and his dog had come up with the same idea. 

As soon as we got out of the car Tricky started to whine. He did not want to swim, no, what made us think that was a good idea? No he did not want to put on his swimmers 'just in case'. He did not want to see his little friend swimming, no, yet another stupid parents' idea. He did not want a sandwich, or a drink, he did not want to sit quietly with Mumma under a tree, AND HE CERTAINLY DID NOT WANT TO LOWER HIS VOICE. 

In the end, and in the classic tradition of We Are The Parents And Hence You Will Love This, C and I struggled to peel his clothing from his screaming, writhing little body and slide on his swimmers (Too hot! Too tight!) and then wrestle him three metres down to the water (NOOOOOOO!) where....miracle....he was instantly transformed into Perfect Baby, all smiles and giggles and kickaboo feet.

Greatly refreshed we all stepped forth from the ocean and within ten steps were overheating again. It was now the turn of the four adults to start bickering and whining. 

We have to go, we wailed to ourselves. 
This is horrible. It's too hot! 
This was a stupid idea! There's too many people. There's not enough space for our towels. We'll get dirt in our chicken.

We glared, we spat, we mumbled and Sighed Heavily. It was H's idea to come to the beach but it was my idea to move the towels into this loathsome site. I had thought it better situated to catch a cool breeze. This was proved to be faulty reasoning. There was no cool breeze, only baking hot wafts of other cranky parents' B.O.

C had left the stroller at the previous less-loathsome site because the hot wind had made him shitty, and blind apparently, and he had to stomp back to retrieve it. B had chosen the first site, on the far side of the beach, out of boring predictable habit, which had started the whole chain of item movement and exacerbated stress levels. 
And another thing, how dare you call me a martyr? 
Why did you only tell me those pants made me look fat after I'd been wearing them for a week? 
When are you going to stop biting your nails? 

Recriminations flew.

What saved our marriages was the enormous old fashioned shower blocks, set back from the beach; heritage listed pavilions, cool and sheltered from the gritty dry wind that was biting at our bodies and faces. If we could have picnicked right there on the tiles under a shower head, we would have. Instead we decamped to the grass on the opposite side.

There under a fig tree we could at least pretend to be cool, we were walking on grass instead of boiling dirt and sand. We could be adults again, and speak cordially to each other and the children could frolic in the nicky noo-nah. How I wished we could frolic in the nicky noo-nah too but frankly it wasn't really the suburb for those sort of hijinks.

It got hotter and hotter. H started hallucinating about us all pitching in and getting a suite at the Sheridan. Room service, she moaned. And cable tv. And...air conditioning. There would be room for all of us... it's a good idea isn't it? Isn't it? 

Once we had managed to slap down her hysteria we drove to the shopping centre, still in our swimmers and beach wraps, where, in the air con, the toddlers fell asleep in their strollers. 

And now we will go to Borders, announced H. And the kids will sleep and we will read books and have coffees if we want and it will be cool.

She was right. 

For the first time ever, I actually managed to see the top floor of Borders. Usually Tricky is with us when we duck in to buy a card or a birthday present, and he ensures that there is no extraneous browsing. 

Now, with him gently snoring in his stroller, there was browsing akimbo. There was skimming of magazines, there was perusal of pages. 

C selected a photography book and H collected a small pile of chick-lit and sat down in the comfy chair beside her equally zonked out toddler with an audible sigh. Her husband was running riot in the History section.  We smiled gently at each other, waved, nodded our approval at each other's reading material.

The drop in temperature was restoring our humanity.

Next picnic, H muttered, is either the library or the freezer section of Coles.

As I rounded one of the aisles, I had a quick peek and caught sight book, Legs Up & Laughing. It was sitting up properly, amongst all the other books. I hadn't checked a bookshop in months and was scared that maybe all copies had disappeared and gone to the Bookclub In The Sky.

But there it was in Borders. 

And as I picked it up and ran my hand over the cover I realised it was not just the heat that had been bothering me. 

And sometimes, you can write something, on spec, because you have a story that has to be told. And it is hard, and it is a leap of faith, and it is scary but it can be done. And it's worth the juggle and the struggle and the heat...

Because one day it could be sitting on someone's shelf.

And that was very, very cool.


Karen (miscmum) said...

Indeed, it's very very cool to see a book one's written on the bookshelves. I get tingles too. I need them lately. I'm in a writing funk.

Maggie May said...

That must be the very best thing, to see your book on the shelves of a good book shop!

All that heat you are describing...... while we shiver in gloom & dank chill. It is just as bad to be too hot as too cold though!

Rebecca said...

I'm more than familiar with the struggles of toddler+work+heat, although not of all that +writing. But I can tell you that I love your writing, so please keep up the struggle!

Anonymous said...

You make me feel as if I was there.
I can feel the sand getting into my undies!

sbs said...

yes. here's to spec stories, and other people's shelves (and stages). stay cool.

Sassy said...

Your book is on my bookshelf too. I'm saving it for when it's cooler and I can read it properly without falling asleep under the air conditioner every 4 minutes.

P.S. This is a really brilliant post. I can *feel* that day at the beach.

Betty Flocken said...

That must have been a wonderful moment, seeing your work at a book store. I forget your summers are as bad or worse than ours in AZ.. I don't comprehend heat at the beach though. On our west coast where I'm from, it cools down on by the beach. You are a wonderful writer. I always enjoy your stories.

Betty M said...

At last a post where I don't feel jealous of your climate!
I get excited when I see a book by someone I know on the shelf in Borders so I can see how if it is your own it is beyond cool.

Anonymous said...

I hated days like that when it was just ME at the beach... I can't begin to imagine what it must be like with toddlers and other smelly adults in tow. Actually, I CAN imagine -- because YOU wrote it. Beautifully.

Nic said...

That heat sounds just miserable! The trip to borders though, a nice break. And so very very cool to see your book on the shelf!

I love the pics of your plays (at least that's what I'm assuming they are) in the sidebar, I don't think I've paid attention to them before (please don't tell me they've been up there for years??)

Jan said...

Very beautifully written . . . it was hot here yesterday in Huntington Beach, but it was glorious - why is that? Not as hot, and not as humid?

Anonymous said...

I've been envying you the heat but I forgave you at the boiling dirt and then actually became a little grateful for all the cold wind and ice at the boiling hot BO breeze. A cool rest at Borders...ahhh.

And seeing your book...the very best tonic of all, I'd imagine.


PS~Thanks for slipping "nicky noo-nah" in there. I'm going to pretend you did that just for me.

OvaGirl said...

Oh but I DID Flicka, I did!