Monday was my last chance at finding jewellery to go with my outfit, so H and I paid a trip to The Family Jewels and luckily found a necklace that ended most conveniently just above my cleavage, and a pair of (more subdued) matching earrings. Tuesday I had an interview at the ABC studios in Ultimo about Georgiana Molloy, which went very well despite feeling groggy because I’d eaten a plate of couscous the night before and my body didn’t like the wheat. The interviewer was a very intelligent woman and it was refreshing to be able to talk about my book on a more intellectual level.
On Wednesday arvo, I assembled my outfit and it looked splendid. H and I caught a cab (more lovely cabcharges!) to Redfern where mum and dad were staying. En route I madly rehearsed my speech, scrawled on a tiny bit of paper. We found mum and dad in an airless hotel room with our sister, who was capering about making lots of noise as usual. She told us not to tell any stories while she was in the bathroom because she didn’t want to miss them.
I was nauseous with anxiety, so I made everyone get a move on, and we ended up in Glebe early. Mum flaffed around trying to find money for the parking meter while we had a coffee in the back garden of a café down the road. Some men were sitting a little further down, smelling odiferous. There was a swing, of the nasty plastic variety, at the back of the yard so we sat in that and dad took a family photo – the first one in a year.
Then we headed down to Gleebooks and I introduced myself to M, the lady running the show, who turned out to be a good friend of A+’s. Then the people started flocking in – most who I hadn’t seen for years – and it was hectic, and hard work too, trying to hear them all. I knew pretty much everyone there but the strangers spun me out, because it was hard enough trying to communicate, let alone with people I didn’t know. By the time I got onto the stage (after waiting for L, who was stuck in traffic) I was hyperventilating.
A+ gave an excellent speech and said lots of good things, and described an argument we’d had about my use of the word ‘gleam’ in a poem, which he was against and which I had adamantly refused to change, so he was forced to concede the point. I couldn’t remember this transaction at all but was in no doubt of it having occurred, as it sounded like one of many conversations that we’d had. I was glad that my talk was quite perfunctory in comparison because M had told me not to go on for long, as people were standing and wanting to get back to the wine. I made them laugh though, and that was the important thing. Afterwards I was hurried to the writing table and began signing books. It was only when R* handed me her nice black pen to sign her own book with that I realised I should have been using something fancier than the blue Artline pen A* had given me in Melbourne, because I’d been penless then too. Anyway I will get it right next time.
After a few hours, people began to leave, and I shepherded out the last of them because M was wanting to pack up. We repaired to the Mexican restaurant down the road, and to H’s and my astonishment, my parents, and most of their friends, hadn’t ever had Mexican before and didn’t know what to order. H ordered for them, while L and a friend of R’s from uni got trolleyed on the sangria. I was utterly drained by this point and just wanted to go home, but when I finished dinner I joined E and S-j down the road for a chat, then H and R swung by and said they were going to a Spanish bar up the road.
E and S-j walked me up there, saying, ‘You’re not going on your own dressed like that!’ and my shoes were pretty hard to walk in so I wouldn’t have been able to effect any fatal self-defence moves (apart from a stiletto heel in the groin, but even then my shoe might have gone flying before making the necessary contact), and agreed it would be good to have their company. E knew the bar, so I waited with her out the front until her man picked her up. H generously bought me a Toblerone cocktail and I joined L and R, and L’s toyboy who’d also come to the launch. Then J, who H was hoping was single and available, turned up. He was a lovely man, but unfortunately I was too tired and drunk to chat to him much. There was some kind of metal peacock attached to the wall, its tail fanning out across the wall while the bird itself stuck out of it in a sculptural way. J used its beak as a back scratcher and then, when I got up to go to the loo, my dress got stuck on the wire and I panicked, and J gave an excellent rendition of a peacock squawking violently. It was all very confusing, amusing and worrying as I sought to detach myself without damaging the dress.
After my second cocktail I was pretty much losing the plot and, to the discomfort of H, R and I (J was probably just amused) L was making out with the toyboy with increasing intensity. I was exhausted, and J had to work the next day, so we called it quits without H being able to make much of a move. We used my final cabcharge to get home, and H got sick with a cold that night because he didn’t turn the air conditioning off.
So it was a wonderful launch, the only sad thing being that I didn’t have a chance to talk to people properly, when they’d made an effort to come and see me.
The next morning we had to get up at 9am, having had a protracted argument with our mother about the absurdity of the hour, but she’d refused to get there any later, saying that she and dad would have nothing to do in the hotel and had to be on their way. When they arrived we had a coffee at the café down the road (which has Rick Hatch pottery) and I painfully mustered some conversation, then they took H home and I went down the road to buy some wine for L and P for having us to stay, then went back to bed. That evening I flew out to Brisbane and my sister met me off the plane, in even worse shape than I was, because she’d had to fly back that morning and go to work, so I decided to stop feeling so sorry for myself.