Bibelots

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Category: stories (page 1 of 4)

Tell me a story.

Of fire and will: a letter for Lyra

'letters to myself' old faded cover of a magazine

Letters to myself and other words I’ve never set free, image via British Library

Dear Mr Phillip Pullman

I’m a bit angry. You see, I only recently started to read Northern Lights. The world is full of books and somehow I missed this/you/the boat. I’m halfway through and I’ve had to stop and put it down. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it. I’m loving it.

Oh, yes. It’s exactly my cup of tea. No question there. And it’s not that I don’t like Lyra. I madly, deeply love her. I don’t want to be like her, I want to be her. Lyra is a thousand million types of wonderful. She’s wilful. She’s fierce. She’s a firebrand. She’s on fire. She is luminescent and wild. She runs across rooftops and breaks my heart with every bound. Because it’s all a little late.

She’s who I wanted to be when I was a young girl. Only I didn’t know her. You hadn’t written her yet. I can’t say she didn’t exist, because she did. In my mind and, no doubt, in the minds of countless others.

So, yep. I’m angry. But only with your timing. You’re only a few decades too late. What’s that between friends? Everything, I tell you. Everything. What wouldn’t I have given to have her as my companion. But it’s okay. I think I did. It feels like I did. Did you know? Where you inside my head? Could you hear me? But, no. You couldn’t have. It all came too late.

I’ve put her aside, because when next there’s a day that I want to steal boats and set fires, I can pick up the book and be there again. I’ve done this with books before; there’s one book on my shelf with 3 pages unread. Its story will never end. I know it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t need to. My younger self – my version of Lyra – she’d understand. If a treasure is good enough, you should bury it deep.

So, Mr Pullman, I’ll forgive you and your rotten sense of timing. If you’ll forgive mine.

Yours

 

A fellow firebrand, aka Pirate Rose

Podlike: Paper radio & a prawn

The big prawn

a bank of lights

shining a light on the Paper Radio podcast

Paper Radio is an Aussie/NZ podcast. Their last podcast was end 2015, but more episodes are on the way. Paper Radio recently snuck back into my consciousness when they were made a Radiotopia Podquest semi-finalist. And for whatever reason, it seems that crayfish are everywhere right now too. So when Paper Radio came back into view, their big prawn story crawled right along with it.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and yet somehow that big prawn episode has always stayed with me. I thought that maybe the theme of big things would not carry overseas. But I discovered recently that Katia Pase’s tale was rebroadcast as part of an episode of The Truth (and on Radio Tonic).

There’s something timeless here. It’s not only the tale, but the way the tale has been edited and mixed. It sings and it stays with you. It left a haunting little place in my heart.

We could see the creature a mile away. Dad pulled in at the servo and I got out of the car and looked at the Big Prawn from across the road. It wasn’t pink at all. It was a faded white colour and it’s eyes were all googly and weird.

The big prawn is, for me, a story about searching for something you can’t really hope to find. And that’s a message that can be shared anywhere in the world.


 

Recalling the yabby

beautiful black and white photo of a chef and a giant pot

What’s in the pot?
Stirring image by SMU Central Uni Libraries

The Macquarie’s Australian word for this week is yabby.

Seeing that word gave me an immediate tap into a distinct childhood memory. A good tale, because, like so many good yarns, it’s tinged with a faint hue of horror.

We used to go yabbying as kids. Though that’s not quite the honest truth. It’s more that I used to go running around in the creek or on the railway when my brothers left me behind as they went yabbying.

One day I convinced them to take me along and show me the ropes. I begged. I pleaded. I even promised to behave. And even though I was a little kid, I did behave. It was bewitching to watch. String, catch, net. Squirm. They were catching river bugs! Yabbies, they called them. Beautiful was what I thought.

On the way home I picked out the prettiest, bluest beautifulest one. I named him. Goodness knows what. I only recall that he was now mine. My new pet yabby.

I left him and his mates on the back verandah, swirling around in a sturdy bucket. I didn’t want to leave him, the shining little wonder, but I’d been called inside. Who knows what for. A bath, a tidy up, a telling off? Or something equally ridiculous and unimportant.

When I came back the bucket was empty. I left the backdoor swinging and went through yelling for my Mum. Where was my little mate?

You can guess, can’t you? I couldn’t. I can still remember it. The kitchen. The slow dreadful walk. The big lidded pot, boiling and roiling.

‘Mum? Where’s my yabby?’

She picked me up so I could get a proper look. What a good mum.

I can still hear my screams to this day.

On the act of writing

The pen is mighty, so is the keyboard

Typists, the old fashioned way

Typing: the grace, the beauty,
George Eastman House on Flickr’s The Commons

After spending my whole day surrounded by words working on writing,  editing writing, and plain old writing-writing I come home and write some more.

Sometimes, of course, I don’t. I might do something visual, make something real or do something physical. I might even allow myself to be enveloped in the hedonistic act of reading.

Often though, when I can’t imagine I can fit anything else in my day, when I thought there was nothing left but sleep, I write.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want do this. As soon as I could read, I wanted to write. More to the point, I wanted to write stories. Like everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs with it. When I’m exhausted, what I want to tap is boxed up and unreachable. Before computers came along, my hands would often cramp and I’d be dispirited before I could even begin.

I occasionally hear people say ‘the youth of today have lost the art of handwriting’. I’m not that young. I know how to wield a pen. But, actually, I think that’s bollocks. They know how to write. They also know how to type, swipe and whatever the hell else you can throw at them.

So, yes, I know how to put pen to page. I can fight you, sword tip for pen nib. I love a good fountain pen; dipper and cartridge both. I have notebooks and pencils for capturing fleeting ideas. But for the outpouring of storytelling, it’s the gentle, loving stretch of fingers across a keyboard that calls to me.

Let me describe it to you.

Open the lid. Watch the keyboard glow. Allow yourself a few minutes to disperse busy thoughts. Get it out of your system and onto twitter, if you must. Open your manuscript. Or start a new document. Don’t stare at that blank screen, it’s only going to stare back. No. Run your fingers over the keys. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. Caress the keys. It’s a slow dance of creativity and love. Ready?

Now.

Close your eyes. Feel your breath. Empty your mind.

And go.

Hours or minutes later, you’ll find me still. Curled up in a tight embrace of my own making. If it’s going well, I won’t even notice you’ve arrived. I’ll be somewhere astonishing, wild and new.

Pens, notebooks or keyboards. Oral, digital, or physical. Honestly, none of that matters.

What matters is that a story is told. Told and allowed to unfold.

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