This time next week I will be in Hawaii. Joan Didion’s words to describe her thoughts on Hawaii as paradise come back to me: ‘I lack all temperament for paradise, real or facsimile.’
I took these words down on my trip to Bali last year, another such paradise, real or facsimile. I would not be going to Hawaii except for the conference, another such conference where I will present a paper along with some 150 others. I will be in a panel of three that runs concurrently with four other panels. All of us addressing in some way the issue of translations and autobiography/biography. Our topic: Editing and generating the self, selves and voices. It’s the third time I’ve moved places in this conference and I’m beginning to feel as I did at the last conference at which I presented a paper in Newcastle when I was re-located at the last minute, out of place and out of time.
I went to the last such auto/bio conference in Mainz Germany in 2006, my first ever-international conference. It was a challenge then, this time less so. I’ve become a seasoned conference presenter, at least at the postgraduate level. I can’t see much difference between the postgrads and the professionals, though the postgrads have a tendency to be limited in their presentations, usually focussing on their thesis work and the graduates, the professors and senior lecturers tend to have a broader knowledge base.
Millie just rang. She is house sitting for friends in South Melbourne and has run out of money. Whether for this reason or simply because she misses us, (unlikely) or because she’d enjoy a meal out, she’s asked that we take her out for dinner tonight. We have specially bought French sausages for this evening’s dinner. Millie suggested she could even tolerate the idea of eating them, (if they’re special) so we still might eat in. The thought of eating in a restaurant with just the two of us, Millie joked, is ‘a bit too intimate’. What a joke, her parents all to herself. It hardly ever happens. It never happened for me, except maybe at my birth, but since then Millie, like me, has had to share. Only the oldest and the youngest ever get their parents to themselves for significant periods of time.
Stephanie Duphil told me yesterday that the idea of revenge has only a short life and I agreed with her, but I want to focus on revenge as if it were a spark, the spark that can become a fire. If you stay in the spark too long, then everything, including yourself, will burn up. If it can be a spark to creativity not to destructive flames but to radiant new ideas, it is constructive. They call the negative regression that can occur through email, ‘flaming’, from the verb to inflame I imagine, the notion that a person might hit out and attack another via words on the internet, much as my brother did to me, years ago when he told me that he forbade me to use his name or any of his activities in any of my writing anywhere, ever.
I will defy his edict. What right does he have to control my writing this way? These big brothers. They are full of hatred towards their younger siblings, especially these days when we do not do as we are meant to do, at least in their eyes. Here I am generalising, and not owning up to my own anger. I am angry with my beloved older brother. Mixed feelings are the hardest of all.
As a consequence of his inflammatory email I have written more about my brother, the one in question, than I would otherwise write, but I have simply made a point of not including his name. Given that I have five brothers, four of whom are older than me, it’s anyone’s guess, outside of the family, as to the identity of the brother so described. He will not silence me.
As my friend, the late Judith Eardley used to say, ‘silence is a crime’. I will not be silenced. Bugger my brother and all his efforts to shut me up.
Now I sound angry. I’m not so much angry but simply wanting to try out a bit of invective on the page. It feels good, to write such useless words, words like bugger, and fuck, they give me a thrill, but I imagine for a reader, they’re useless, they lack clout. I should be a more sincere and honest writer, not one given to hyperbole.
New words I have wanted to include, first in my diction and then on the page, words like peripatetic, segue (a bit hackneyed from over use on the radio) and hyperbole, as I just used it above. Hence my train of thought.
Yesterday at the basketball, I watched as the other team thrashed my daughter’s team. The other team were dressed in blue, our girls are the pink sphinx’s. The Sphinxs won their first season a year and a half ago but since then they’ve gone downhill. They have no coach, they have no proper organiser. The original organiser gave it up and her predecessor would prefer to talk about where she went for dinner the night before than to watch the game. I have a reputation for becoming overly concerned about the game. I identify with our team, my daughter. I so much want them to win. I hate having to watch. My adrenalin kicks in almost instantly. I need a water bottle to suck on no matter how determined I am to stay calm. I need to drink as though it’s me who’s playing, my anxiety rises, almost the minute we arrive at the courts. Will there be enough players, and which players? Do we have enough of the strong players? What does the other team look like? Are they all tall? Is this height significant? There are some tall players who despite the advantage of height are not so strong and some tiny players who are fast like whippets and streak across the court. Are they aggressive? Our team is not aggressive enough, all except Georgie, who’s not so much aggressive as a top player, fast and tactical. Yesterday it was as if she were playing the game alone. Fourteen year old Ella, my daughter tried hard, as did Louisa but according to Ella, the other players are all too busy being cool. Adolescence and the need to be cool and beautiful seems to have kicked in, more than the competition.