Christmas was subdued this year, as Brother and Sister were away. Being an impoverished writer struggling to save dollars and carbon, I couldn’t fly home, but caught the bus, which entailed a 9-hour journey with a gourmet stopover at the Matilda Roadhouse, where the only offerings were fried chips, fried sausages, or fried [insert unidentifiable item]. I always have a horror of sitting next to some sweaty, smelly person on bus journeys, or of being groped (as has happened on British public transport), and thus I was relieved when an intelligent-looking woman sat next to me and turned out to be the daughter of my Year 11 Ancient History teacher.
Seeing as I had 9 hours to kill, I read Nikki Gemmell’s The Book of Rapture which wasn’t nearly as good as The Bride Stripped Bare. This might partly be due to the fact that Bride is one of my favourite books, with its sensual expression of all that makes up a woman: the need for security in a partner; the luscious delight in good, empathetic sex; the overwhelming bounty of pregnancy and motherhood; and the callousness of your best friend’s betrayal. Rapture followed the same format as Bride, as though hoping to capitalise on its success, but it seemed contrived. The little platitudes in Bride on 18th Century womanhood complemented its subject matter. In Rapture Gemmell likewise used quotes from the Bible, the Koran, C. S. Lewis and the Dalai Lama to reflect the subject matter, religion and playing god, but they seemed overblown, and became so irritating that I skipped over most of them. It was interesting to read her representation of how the love for one’s children and one’s parents can affect and alter events, particularly in the sterile and totalitarian world she created, but it lacked the evenness and originality of Bride.
Out the window of the bus I saw a beige coloured bra strapped to a gum tree and two men raking onions, spilled onto the side of the road, into piles.
At home I found that my mother had done most of the cooking for Christmas, and that it was predominantly the same as the year before, which annoyed me as I enjoy cooking and trying out new things. I watched seven DVDs, had the obligatory fight with my father, drank too much of Peterson’s pink bubbly Moscato and slept badly most nights. On Christmas Day the rellies came up from Gunnedah, which provided much liveliness and amusement. When they’d gone, Dad and I watched Wake in Fright, a clever critique of all that is revolting (and, to a woman, often frightening) about Australian masculinity.
Sister, who arrived a few days later in a hurricane of dogs, children and noise, asked if I had weighed myself before Christmas. I said there had been no point, as what was I going to overindulge in: fruit salad? She also failed to adhere to my Christmas List, which worried me greatly. She assured me it was a fantastic present, which to me indicated that she had intuited that I wanted a $500 gift voucher from Alannah Hill. Hence my worries were confirmed when I found she had given a Vietnamese family a piglet on my behalf via Oxfam. Reverting to her 10 year-old-self (which was unable, as I sat on the verandah doing my homework, to walk past me without poking, hitting or aggravating me in some way), Sister thought it would be amusing the plumb the depths of irony, refer to me as a capitalist pig and provoke me by seeing what would happen when I didn’t get what I wanted. O how we laughed. Well, one of us did. However she and Brother-in-Law also gave me a lovely pen, which will make my book signing much more glamorous, and secretly I was quite pleased about the piglet.
And once more I have found my incompatibility between my expensive tastes and my writerly impoverishment rearing its savage head. Heading into town today to stock up on much-needed lipgloss and foundation, I found myself inexorably drawn to Alannah Hill. Often I stand outside this shop like a little girl at a candy store, and never venture inside unless there is a sale. Yet somehow the sales always coincide with my birthday, and so it was I found myself selecting a beautiful, summery, white, red and pink skirt which goes perfectly with the dark pink top I bought from Alannah two birthdays before, and what could I do but hand over my credit card, especially as one of my favourite songs, Flashdance, was playing?
Then the guilt was so overwhelming that as soon as I got home I cut up my credit card into 15 pieces. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because you can make them on any day of the year, but I suppose now might be a useful time to dictate to myself that there is to be no more shopping until I am a fiscally responsible adult, and that I might think to myself, now and then, of those poor villagers who need piglets, and who could never dream of walking into a shop of such delicate, frothy clothes.