Word by Word

ANNE LAMOTT – Bird by Bird

“I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.”

Much can be read from this line that comes from the book on writing and life advice by Anne Lamott.

1: Her mention of Jesus makes one think that she is religiously-inclined, that it is a significant part of her life, or that it plays a pivotal role in her daily decisions. From what I have read, that would be correct.

2: The fact that Jesus himself would become an alcoholic based on the things she says, kind of paints the picture of an insanely articulate yet unhinged, hilarious writer whose bark is worse than her bite, and who manages to make the darkest of themes, like even death, humorous.

From what I have read, that would also be correct.

Lamott has a wicked sense of humour. From the outset, I could tell that I would like her. Her witty, sharp, insightful remarks and views on the world, ability to poke fun at herself and allow us to see and hear all her very real insecurities and jealousies about being a human, and about being a writer, made me immediately sympathetic to her story. She’s honest and real about the struggles in a writer’s world, and let’s face it, trying to get into it in the first place, yet despite her stark frankness in the matter, suggesting that only a small number get to go on Letterman, she has put together this book in an effort to encourage and help aspiring writers, as she has often done in her writing workshops.

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish your work, you have something important to pour yourself into.”

This book made me laugh, and it made me cry. It gave me some good hard advice, as well as some awesome little snippets and ideas on what I can do in my writing life to just generally be better at it.

So let’s begin Anne’s writing class. (I usually call writers by their surnames in my reviews but after reading this book I feel like I know her so well).

SET THE MOOD

“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it…”

I got quite a few good tips from Anne on ways to improve my writing environment. Firstly, it seems simple, but using some kind of external trigger, like a candle, and the act of lighting it, when done repeatedly over time it can serve as a kind of switch for your writing conscious to kick in. This excited me because for my birthday I got given this beautiful candle in a glass jar, and the wick actually crackles as it burns (I actually picked the candle for myself and my parents paid, but same thing). As if I didn’t need further reason to get it, the lady behind the counter said “when the house is quiet, light it and listen to it crackle as you read a book.”

Um, what about write a book? God if she knew. So that will be my thing, the candle, in particular this most awesome-nest of awesome candles, the wicker-crackling candle.

And speaking of the conscious mind. The rational mind is probably our worst enemy. Second guessing ourselves, reading over what we’ve written, trying too hard, sticking to plans and not letting things flow – this all obstructs the natural story-telling and writing process. She says that characters are created in our unconscious mind, the area in which we have no control over, so it would come to reason that we should relax a little, try to listen to our intuition more, and just let the unconscious do its thing. She uses the metaphor of broccoli for her intuition, but whatever ‘voice’ it is that you can’t control within, as long as it works for you. I love the metaphor and vision of the butterfly, and it has significance for me on many levels, and with its random yet gentle fluttering, I’ve decided to watch this creature in my mind’s eye and follow where it leads me. Just as a green vegetable will work for Anne, a transformative insect will work for me.

Preparation-wise, Anne has index cards placed pretty much all over the place at her house, in her car, she even takes them with her on walks in case an idea, thought or inspiration strikes her. I have to say, when I’ve had a great thought and not had the necessary pen/paper/mobile to capture it, I whole-heartedly agree with Anne when she says:

“That is one of the worst feelings I can think of, to have had a wonderful moment or insight or vision or phrase, to know you had it, and then to lose it.”

There’s nothing wrong with needing a prompt to remember things. Being a mother herself, she offers a great insight into one reason you may need these cards in your life, something that despite my uber-organisation, I can totally relate with:

“When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand, like those babies born clutching IUDs.”

There will be bad days. You will have writers block, which she says is less about being ‘stuck,’ and more about ‘filling up again.’ She tells her students to try to write at least a page of something, anything, dreams or streams of consciousness or memories, every day, and that on bad days to try and do this just to keep their fingers from becoming arthritic. And in the event of being ‘empty,’ to go out and fill up again.

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.”

HOW TO WRITE

E.L. Doctorow once said “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It was interesting to find this quote in Lamott’s book, because I had just finished reading Loon Lake before getting Bird by Bird, and it was in fact this precise Doctorow quote, reading it literally before his death, that rang very true for me.

I didn’t do a whole lot of research, or any writer’s workshops, or join any online writing groups when I first started on my book. I just went into it, with a handful of characters, some strong themes, and a round-a-bout destination in mind. I knew A, I knew somewhere E was going to come in, but then I didn’t know anything in between, just a rough Y and a hazy Z. It’s always comforting when you read that someone you aspire to, such as a successful writer, does the same thing you do, or confirms something you’ve always thought to be true. I never really thought of a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write, I think we all just do what works for us, but this above metaphor that applies not just to writing, but to life, rang so true to me. Because from my A, B C and D sprang forward, and just by writing scene by scene, character by character, a whole story formed, and I surprised myself on multiple occasions.

You don’t need to see the path to your destination, nor even see your destination at all. Anne talks about ‘Short Assignments,’ and when you struggle in your writing to just think of getting one memory, one scene, one exchange out in front of you, enough that would fill up a one-inch frame. Focusing on one thing at a time is far less overwhelming than worrying about how your protagonist is going to confront the bad guy three chapters away.

“Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other.”

Writing can be a very difficult experience, something she admits for herself and for most writers she knows. Getting by is to write a shitty first draft. In this stage anything goes, even phrases like:

“Well so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?”

You just need to get anything down, no matter what it is. Her friend said:

“the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up….And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

 “Vonnegut said, ‘When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’”

This is so comforting.

You can even liken your writing to your dreams – the way one absurd scene just flows into another, so too must your writing be “vivid and continuous.” In discovering plot, Anne says her characters know where they are going, she just needs to stay with them long enough. She needs to care for them, polish them, and then suddenly they will show her the way. Another way to think of it is this:

“they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

What about me then? I need my characters to do everything for me because my handwriting beats that of a doctors!

In writing, you need to revoke all control you have. You may be focusing on the fence, but the yellow sparkling flower in the corner of your mind-frame starts to sparkle and all of a sudden, it’s stolen the show. You must explore that.

“If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. It is hard to stop controlling, but you can do it.”

Anne says that when she starts writing she wants to fill the page with witty insights so that the world will see how smart she is. Whoops. Where I fall into step with the favourable Doctorow quote, so too do I have to begrudgingly agree that I sing along with this writing flaw. But as you write, you want your characters to act out the drama of humankind, which doesn’t include your witty and ground-breaking life insights.

“…the purpose of most great writing seems to be to reveal in an ethical light who we are.”

FUNNY STORIES

Anne made me LOL so hard, that in my re-reading of notes I was still laughing out loud. Oh geez.

The two below cases in point I think really paint a great picture of the dual character-traits she encompasses. Take the story of when readers were surprised to hear that she didn’t love to garden like one of the characters in her book, that she had in fact been researching it heavily and ‘winging’ it instead:

“’You don’t love to garden?’ they’d ask incredulously, and I’d shake my head and not mention that what I love are cut flowers, because this sounds so violent and decadent, like when Salvador Dali said his favourite animal was fillet of sole.”

Oh my fucking lord. I love it.

(I was on a swearing frenzy following Loon Lake, so screw it let’s go).

(Let’s not make much of the fact that one quote on my calendar once said ‘Swearing exposes weakness not strength.’)

A second moment, where she is talking about paying attention to the world around you and using religious metaphors in doing so, displays the heavy theme of God in her life, while also reminding us that she doesn’t give a shit:

“There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. Or maybe you are not predisposed to see the world sacramentally, to see everything as an outward and visible sign of inward, invisible grace. This does not mean that you are worthless Philistine scum.”

Her chapter on jealousy is refreshing. If a writing friend of hers is successful with writing, sometimes she wants –

“for him to wake up one morning with a pain in his prostate, because I don’t care how rich and successful someone is, if you wake up having to call your doctor and ask for a finger massage, it’s going to be a long day.”

These images are so clear and paint such a humorous picture, and the fact that she does it all, making it appear so effortless, makes you realise how great of a writer she really is.

I can re-type countless funny moments and stories of hers, but I just need to do one more, I promise. I love the following mental picture. When researching for the name of the ‘wire thing’ used for wines, she called a winery to try and found out its proper name. The receptionist there didn’t know the name of it either so she transferred her to:

“a two-thousand year old monk. Or at least this is how he sounded, faint, reedy, out of breath, like Noah after a brisk walk.

And he was so glad I’d called. He actually said so, and he sounded like he was. I have secretly believed ever since that he had somehow stayed alive just long enough to be there for my phone call, and that after he answered my question, he hung up, smiled, and keeled over.”

Oh God. I love it!

Okay, back to the serious writing stuff (clears throat). Writing can be hard (duh Fred). Even for published professionals such as herself, there is still a lot of staring at clocks, staring at blank screens, and yawning. Making phone calls and distracting oneself with other tasks other than writing, is very normal. Sometimes voices would continuously harp at her, and she’s use a tactic a hypnotist once suggested to her, to imagine all the voices as mice, and to one by one drop them into a jar, turn the volume on the jar up and then down, and watch them claw at her as she then muted them. It’s interesting she mentioned this, since I have a kind of different picture, just something I use for when someone I can’t stand is driving me insane in my head. I imagine them as a ball, and with a baseball bat (for some reason it’s baseball, maybe because the ball appears to go very far during that game) I strike it so hard and so out of view that they are no longer seen, or heard.

Perhaps slightly violent, but it does the trick. You can use that for yourself, tell me how you go.

Anne talks of the publishing fantasy, and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She mentions the early draft process, and when she gets her friends to initially provide her feedback on her work. When she doesn’t hear from them by the next day, she starts to think –

“… about all the things I don’t like about either of them, how much in fact I hate them both, how it is no wonder neither of them has many friends.”

When she gets to sending her writing to her editor and agent, her thoughts are equally as insane and hilarious, if not more so. She convinces herself that they are in cahoots, laughing their arses off over her book, now proclaimed the worst book ever written.

“At one point your editor is laughing so hard that she has to take some digitalis, and your agent ruptures a blood vessel in his throat.”

But it doesn’t stop there. On the date of publication, the blow to the ego comes when your phone ISN’T ringing off the hook, and the 5 people that turn up at your book signings, as well as the review that likens your book to dog poo, just makes it all seem not worth it. Additionally, dealing with people who ask “have you written anything I might have heard of?” while others claim they read everything and yet do not know your name, leaves little to be desired in the world of publication.

She makes the process sound quite shit. She is a great writer after all.

SAD STORIES

Just as I laughed, so too did I cry.

The sad moments made me tear up, quite bad, punching me hard in the heart. Perhaps some of the saddest material came in her section on ‘Letters,’ where she suggested that if you’re stuck in your writing, write an informal letter to someone you know. This has not only been a beautiful present to the person in question in her own life, but has captured a moment of time that will never be forgotten.

The three letters she speaks of are the ones she wrote to her Dad, her best friend, and the couple of a boy who passed. The first two ended up being published books, with both her Dad and best friend getting to read her book dedicated to them, before they passed. It was especially hard for me to read the part of her Dad dying, since I have someone in the immediate family who died from the same thing that struck her Dad. It was shocking, and frightening, to say the least. The fact that she got to write something for her Dad and he read it, and it got published, is heartbreakingly bittersweet.

I was almost crying my eyes out at her third example of an informal letter. A couple she knew had lost their son at 5 months of age. He had been called ‘Cloud Boy’ by his mother’s friends: because he had been resuscitated at birth, he was neither here, nor there. She wrote a piece about him and it was broadcast on radio, and the fact that I had earlier been very cranky with baby girl, just broke my heart. My note on this read:

‘Makes me feel guilty for getting upset earlier at baby girl –big hug later :)’

Page 205, has quite frankly the best story of giving, EVER. It is so painfully moving and inspiring, that I cannot will myself to re-tell it here, in fear of butchering it to death. So just do yourself a favour and get the book and read the damn thing, especially page 205.

Finally, the following poem is one she re-tells, as having thought of it in regards to a student of hers who wasn’t doing so well in his writing. Its fragility is touching.

“Above me, wind does its best

to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the noise

of failure growing beautiful.”

LIFE

The title of Anne’s book Bird by Bird comes from one of the best stories, in my opinion, to come out of the book (apart from page 205). It is so relevant to life, that I’ve found myself quoting and muttering it ever since I finished reading it.

Anne tells of the story of when her older brother had a report due on birds the next day, which he had had 3 months to write. Close to tears, surrounded by bird info, and overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task, his Dad had put his arm around him and said “Bird by bird buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Now I find that I’ll be doing something and I just go ‘bird by bird.’ Some passer-by may think it means I’m collecting the aviary kind, but the significance is just so great, I can’t help but to say it out loud.

She discusses libel, which is one of the most memorable and humorous lessons in the book. If you must make someone horrible from your life a character in one of your books (God help me, I threaten every twerp I meet in my mind with ‘oh you wait ‘til I make the world hate you in my novels, mwa ha ha!’) change all their traits so they can’t sue you, and make them impossible to trace and identify from the people in their life… and of course give them a little penis so they won’t come forward even if they’re suss on you.

It’s Okay. Anne says this every so often, and always with a capital ‘O.’ There is some significance, and I’ve been trying to work out what… suggesting that Okay is a state of being, holding much importance, it all goes back to being alright…. You got me, I’m not sure. But just remember all you writers out there, it will all be Okay.

She talks about all the great things about being a writer, which hey, we all knew already, right? (And if you didn’t, what kind of masochist are you?) Even though she says that publishing is in fact, a fantasy, telling her students that in writing “… devotion and commitment will be their own reward,” she also says:

“But the fact of publication is the acknowledgement from the community that you did your writing right. You acquire a rank that you never lose.”

Writers “get to stay home and still be public.”

Something I’ve always believed: you get the best of both worlds. I did come to question myself, as I have on so many occasions: why do I do it? Why write? Why do I feel the pull, the need, the obsessive urge to get everything down on paper? I journal passionately, having captured my entire pregnancy, the first year of baby girl’s life, and I have since continued, picking up from where I left off years ago and beginning to journal all of my life again.

There are many reasons. First, so we are not lost. One day we will die, and all that will remain of Hubbie and I, which our children will be able to hold onto, are photos, memories, and this. My journals. My journals will give them a view into our worlds like no one else can. Despite our absence, our stories that we’ve passed on to them, and my words, will still be alive.

This is something that I find so magical. That I can be reading ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ written by Shakespeare, and laughing out loud over the lines he wrote hundreds of years ago. That is amazing, that is inspiring, that kind of life-transcendence, for a story to be living and making people feel long after you’re gone.

Of course, I love to write. It is almost an obsessive urge in me, where I need to get stuff down. Additionally, I have a tremendous story in me that just needs to be told. I believe so whole-heartedly that it will resonate with people out there, that I simply must do whatever it takes to get it heard. I will try.

I don’t always love to write. But I always have to do it.

“But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion…”

The world will always need writers. Stories have existed from the beginning of time, and will always be a necessity. You don’t have to write just for yourself: “Risk freeing someone else.” Make someone else’s day, help someone going through the troubles in their life, by telling them your story.

One of the greatest things her father taught her was to pay attention. And that in itself is beautiful. Going somewhere with a sense of purpose, noting things down, whether because you’re going to review it later (a restaurant you’ve been to, or a book you’re reading) or simply to capture the details for a written piece, either fictional or personal.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

In closing, this is a tremendously inspiring and informative book, one all writers should read, published or not. I’m not sure whether it is better than Stephen King’s ‘On Writing:” that I would need to read again, since his I read during my writing book process, and Anne’s one came much later in the game. But both are equally entertaining in their own way, and really, we should be grabbing ALL the advice that successful writers send out to us, and not question it! Take it, absorb it, memorise it, and then with your arms full run for the hills.

I want you all to take these two quotes I present from Anne’s book, and use it to fuel your story, your passion, and your purpose.

“All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.”

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

And now run.

Please let me know your thoughts on Bird by Bird in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 😊

Friday night conversations #7 To school, or not to school?

I’m putting myself in the line of fire tonight for Friday’s conversation.

I’ve had a few days to settle, and I really wanna know what you think…

Baby girl wasn’t allowed to start school when it resumed on Tuesday… can you guess why?

Well, she has symptoms. Cold symptoms.

Sorry, symptom.

Sure. I get it. Sick kids, cannot go to school with all this coronavirus still so much in the forefront of our lives.

But that’s not the case you see… all she has is a cough.

A post-infectious, non-contagious cough.

She has been under the weather for a while. Because the cold hit her so long ago, like literally months ago, she only still has the remnants of that one, lone, annoying symptom…

The cough. The annoying, cough.

(Cough cough).

The cough that can last FOREVER… but no. She cannot go.

I was soooo cranky. Actually, cranky is not the right word. I was something like, vicious.

I’ve calmed down substantially since then, with a relaxed F$%^ you attitude.

But I wanna know (and don’t let the above throw you off!)…

What do you think? Do you think a child should be allowed to go to school, with a cough, even though it is NON-CONTAGIOUS?

Or do you think all symptoms, any symptoms, catchy-catchy or not, should stay the hell away?

I promise if you respond, I will not bite…

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

:):):)

Things that shit me..#18

Things that shit me…

People who don’t know how to self-isolate!

ARGH!

I had to go to a chemist today within a homemaker centre, and get an ‘essential item’ (note, ‘essential item’) that I could not find at my normal chemist while out doing our ‘necessary’ grocery shop yesterday.

I was baffled at the number of cars parked within this huge centre. Sure, there is an Aldi at one end and they are considered an essential shop… but what about the rest of the HUGE centre?

What about the people heading in and out of Harvey Norman, looking at TVs, kettles and entertainment units?

What about the people walking into Oz Design Furniture for a new lounge room rug or bookcase, enticed by the ‘30% off’ signs plastered all over store windows?

What about the men going to BCF, Boating Camping Fishing? What do you need, a new freaking fishing rod?

WHERE ARE ALL OF YOU GOING? 

To buy a new TV for your second room?

To buy a fancy designer rug for the bullshit room no one is allowed to step into?

To get a new khaki-coloured kayak? To sail out on from this insane mess of isolation and coronavirus?

As one of my favourite comedians Sebastian Maniscalco would say…

“Where are you going???”

Oh. My. God. 

I can somehow, ever so slightly understand stores like Target, or Bunnings being open. Only slightly. Cafes, more so. They are small businesses and can provide essential services (i.e food and life saving caffeine) for takeaway.

They are SO necessary.

That is fine, that is vital. Stay the f&%^ away from other people, and no complaints from me.

Bunnings, Target… hmmm. Okay. You probably don’t need to buy some new plants, or get a new blind for the spare room, or start re-painting your house in muted charcoal…

But it’s saving you. Your sanity. It’s giving you purpose right?

Keeping you from going cuckoo.

Just as for some reason. buying stuff from Target (I assume affordable clothes, endless toys and $4 beach mugs) is keeping you sane in SOME WAY.

But a stereo system? A portable projector? A gypsy print for the hallway?

UNLESS YOUR DISHWASHER IS SPEWING WATER FROM THE SINK YOU SHOULD NOT BE IN HARVEY NORMAN!

Why are people so incapable of listening to the rules? To adhering to social standards during this crazy time where people all over the world have DIED, are DYING and will continue to DIE until people really listen.

Why are people not taking this seriously?

Why are people risking their, and others lives?

There are so many of us going without, and we do it without complaint, without argument, without any kind of fight.

We don’t see our elderly parents who have no visitors at all to keep them company…

We keep our young children inside who are struggling to cope without the usual social activity they are used to for their youthful bodies…

And we reside ourselves in the walls of our homes, day after day after night after night after day INDEFINITELY, and we do it because we have to.

DON’T GO OUT UNLESS IT’S NECESSARY! That’s it!

People had to go to war and die. You can sit on your God-damn couch and Netflix.

You have the whole world at your fingertips! Hell you can bring museums, concerts, even the zoo into your home!

ARGH!

You know who these people are? These are the self-entitled bunch who think the rules somehow don’t apply to them. They are used to the convenient, immediacy and luxury of life in the 21st century, and therefore they are beneath listening to any rules.

To staying inside.

To believing there is a problem.

To accepting, that it might happen to them… or anyone they know.

Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can kill in this situation.

Just stay home. That is all.

JUST STAY HOME.

Rant over.

smartphone on an open book

Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

 

A Loon-y journey

loonlake

E.L. DOCTOROW – Loon Lake

“You are thinking it is a dream. It is no dream. It is the account in helpless linear translation of the unending love of our simultaneous but disynchrous lives.”

There are so many things to think and talk about when discussing this book by E.L. Doctorow.

It is about obtaining love.

It is about wanting more from your life.

It is about the many forms of isolation.

It is life’s perversion at its finest worst.

And it is a random bunch of episodes, warped and brutally honest moments that are individual and yet oddly parallel to one another, leading to the same universal goal, that somehow makes it an unexpected whole, a whole that makes sense, yet still leaves you scratching your head.

Confused?

Questions abound in the reading of this novel. From the blurb, you know half of what to expect when you begin to turn the pages. Joe is on the run from authorities, and decides to follow a train’s route when he sees a flash of important people in the carriages pass him one night, including a young woman looking at her naked image in the mirror. Drawn to the obvious wealth present on the train, and hypnotised by the woman’s beauty, he follows the train to its resting point at a very wealthy man’s estate.

‘Very wealthy’ doesn’t begin to describe how wealthy this man actually is. The owner Bennett has his initials on everything, down to the cigarette boxes.

“He was very rich. He owned thirty thousand acres here and it was just one of his places. He owned the lake itself, the water in the lake, the land under the water and the fish that swam in it.”

”But not the dogs? (…)”

“Oh, no (…) Those are wild-running, those dogs.”

And here we have present a hint of humour, something also prevalent in Loon Lake. It is hard to focus on any one element in my review because they are intertwined and dancing with one another in sporadic points, but there is definitely some black humour popping up at various intervals.

With the humour often came some interesting life insight, such as this:

“I could tell that each of them felt badly used to be taking care of some tramp who had wandered onto the grounds. It was an affront to the natural order which made service to people bearable because they were higher than you, not lower.”

And this which I loved:

“And as for Mr Penfield I knew in my bones I didn’t have anything to fear from him. He had a way of canceling himself out if you let him talk long enough.”

So back to the story. What I thought would be the basis and location of the story, Bennett’s estate, ended up changing half-way through. I naively had believed this would be the scene of all the action, since that was all that was mentioned in the blurb. However, the story went further and deeper and darker than just wandering around some enormous estate, looking at lakes, and trying to catch the fancy of the prettiest girl there.

Not that those parts weren’t entertaining on their own. I guess the way the story stops and changes pace and moves in a different direction, often taking other character’s points of view, is something you would liken to real life: how sometimes we go here, we stop; we go there – but wait that didn’t work; we revisit this place, but only in our minds; and then we go back to where we started.

My first thoughts of the book were not much. There was swearing in the first page, which made me think perhaps I could do the same in my writings, however it’s something that I think is a bit borderline since my work is geared towards a young adult audience. Still, I was happy to read:

“Streetcars rang the bell on the whole fucking neighbourhood.”

This definitely was not the sole instance of swearing, and the crudeness continued not only in terms of language, but in behaviours (pissing was a recurring one), events, and really, really horrible circumstances that made you question humanity. The crudeness continued in the written word too, with Doctorow placing some really interesting ‘I’ references that jolted me out of my reader-state and ‘broke the wall,’ so to speak. Lots of jumping from one character’s point-of-view, to the narrator (author) back to the character in a matter of paragraphs. Without warning. Also the character never continuously spoke in the first person, with Doctorow often injecting a different narrative voice just to make you wonder what the hell was going on.

In one instance, the character Warren Penfield is speaking from his point-of-view, and then it changes to this:

“I acknowledge Warren’s lifelong commitment – cancel lifelong commitment – fatal attraction for any kind of communication whether from words, flags, pigeons or the touch of fingertips in hope of a common language, but we must remember how we are vulnerable to the repetition of our insights so that they tend to come to us not as confirmation of something we already know but as genuine discoveries each and every time.”

At first all of this was very jarring, but like the first time you read Shakespeare and needed to get used to the old-style language, or when you read Trainspotting and had no idea what was going on until half-way through the book when their lingo became second nature to you, so too did I eventually become very well-acquainted with his jumpy style of writing.

Aside from this jumpiness in many character point-of-views, changing from 1st to 3rd person, going back and forth in time between the two main men Joe and Warren, and a good smattering of poems, death notices (and one death notice where we are actually introduced to the character whose future death is foreshadowed before we meet him) there is the case of the run-on sentences. This is normal:

“The track went through some woods circled around a small mountain lake and then it started up a grade a long slow winding grade, I was not already in love with her but in her field of force, what I thought I felt like was some stray dog following the first human being it happened to see.”

This doesn’t show the full extent of the much-often absent comma, as the best example is at the end of the book, when Warren’s POV goes a full two pages without a single full stop. At an average of 11 words per 62 lines, that equates to approximately 682 words. That’s a lot of ideas in one sentence. Without googling, this must not be Doctorow’s first work. I’m sorry, but a first-time author would NEVER get away with that (and it kills me that so many things are out-of-bounds for us).

However, Doctorow does it all so well, and so absurdly, breaking the rules that it actually makes sense. He keeps us confused and guessing, up until a certain point before we are about to break with insanity, and then reveals the information we need so we don’t think we are going crazy with misinformation. He keeps us on our toes.

The above quote doesn’t just show how thoughts change abruptly, displaying the real nature of the human mind, but it shows a beautiful element of Joe’s character, and despite the questionable acts he has done in the past, and does continue to do, he has some tender moments. Take this:

“She was happy on the move, alert and at peace, all the inflamed spirit was lifted from her. She had various ways of arranging herself in the seat, legs tucked up or one under the other, or arms folded, head down, but in any position definitive, beautiful.”

And my favourite, this one:

“Her grey eyes shone, her mouth stretched in her tremulous overbitten smile. I danced her out of there out down the corridor doing a fast fox trot full of swirls while I hummed the tune I had heard the night I came ‘Exactly Like You,’ Libby laughing and worrying at the same time, telling me to hush, looking back over her shoulder, giggling, falling against me every other step, brushing my cheek with her lips. And the light lay like a track along the carpet and shone in golden stations of the open doors.”

The crudeness of the novel had rubbed off onto my notes as I was reading, with the following associated with the above: “This guy can fucking do beautiful poignancy!” As another nod to how his themes intertwine and repeat, there is reference here to the terms ‘track’ and ‘golden stations,’ homage to the train he followed to make it to Loon Lake.

Ahh, the elusive Loon. First mention of it comes from a poem by Warren Penfield, before we even meet Warren! This spiked my curiosity, as I didn’t know what an actual Loon was, or even if it was anything, maybe a particular name or place. It is in fact a bird that grabs fish from the lake of the esteemed estate that it’s named after it. This following poem captures the metaphor of the bird, and the story, and the dual nature of things often present in this book, perfectly:

“A doomed Indian would hear them at night in their diving

and hear their cry not as triumph or as rage

or the insane compatibility with the earth

attributed to birds of prey

but in protest against falling

of having to fall into that black water

and struggle up from it again and again

the water kissing and pawing and whispering

the most horrible promises…”

Beautiful imagery is present there. Doctorow makes stunning use of precise details, painting vivid pictures, like this:

“The chief is not cold. He sits at his desk in a short-sleeved shirt. Arms like trees. His wrist watch appears to be imbedded in the flesh. His badge, pinned to his shirt pocket, pulls the material to a point.”

And this, which tugged at my heartstrings with its sadness:

“Warren knew they were poor and lived lives the colour of sag.”

I’ve mentioned crudeness, but the other notable theme is that of poverty, something both of our protagonists share in. Going back to the beginning, we discover Joe has had a fairly pathetic upbringing, and learns to become street-smart in order to get by. He is an interesting protagonist, because he makes choices that would normally make him a very complicated bad guy, only slightly worthy of redemption, rather than the man we are rooting for. Despite the fact that he is on the run at the beginning of the novel due to theft, we come to like him because we see that he’s clever.

He tells the story of how in his early years he stole a cart full of groceries from the fat delivery boy, and instead of taking the groceries for himself, delivered them to all the intended customers, brought the trolley to the store man, and gave him all the money down to the very cent. He scored a job out of this, and it is this event that we start to see, hey, this isn’t some ratbag kid chasing short-term goals. He is in it for the long-term… until he steals the wrong person’s property that is.

He has many ‘save the cat’ moments. There is much I want to say, but I’ll refrain for spoiler’s sake. Let’s just say that he ends up at a carnival, and there are a lot of really sordid, sad scenes. One scene that comes later in the book during a kind of flashback, was really, really distressing to me. I remember finishing that section late one Sunday night and just feeling so low, so crap. Knowing that somewhere in the world, not perhaps that particular thing, but something of the sort, was happening, and had happened, and maybe even would happen again, just made me so sad. Joe is an explosive kind, and despite his own very, very dubious actions, redeems himself in key moments.

“I wanted to do to her what had been done to the Fat Lady, I wanted the force of a hundred men in unholy fellowship, I went at her like a murderous drunkard.”

The whole reason I had sought out this book in the first place is because I had heard of a quote by him that really grabbed my attention:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

When later that week I was in a library, I went in search of some of his name and found Loon Lake. I hadn’t really looked into much of his work, or even been recommended any particular book, but seeing the mysterious tones mentioned in the blurb it seemed within my field of interest.

Despite my initial confusion with almost ALL elements of the novel, I still revelled in it, as I like going out of my comfort zone and exploring different forms of storytelling, be it in movies, music or books.

Confusion abounded in Loon Lake: Joe and Warren’s point-of-views were eerily similar, with similar heartbreaking backgrounds, had travelled similar paths to Loon Lake, and later, were in love with the same girl. Their personalities were so different, yet their journeys so symmetrical, that until they actually met each other, I was convinced they were the same person, just bipolar. However the events leading to their meeting, the events that unfold, and the things that happen after Loon Lake are truly fascinating.

The story felt goal-less when Joe was on the run at the beginning; I realise the enticing incident was the authorities chasing him, making him move on, but there were many pages and many continuous moments of crossing land where I just thought “what is pushing the story forward? What is Joe’s motivation?” I guess this story does mimic real life, as I mentioned earlier in Joe’s jumpy thoughts, where sometimes things just move along, move along, and then BANG! you’re given a reason to run.

Just like life, this story has everything: it has the ultimate goal, searching for love, searching for the one, and searching for the life that you believe you deserve. It does this in a perverse way. It has humour. It has sadness. It has desperation, and it has manic moments. It has frightening insights of bleak honesty, so harsh and eerie that it makes you shiver. There are scary moments – scary from humans, and scary because of life. Some things feel like a dream, things go back and forth, and you question many, many voices that are presented throughout. Like the Warren quote mentioned above where Doctorow ‘breaks the wall’ and begins with “I acknowledge Warren’s lifelong commitment…” this passage is also telling in the random thoughts and flashbacks of Warren’s, including one of his repetitions which is identical to another but refers to two separate incidences. When you read it, you’ll know what I mean. But it had me flipping wildly to the start of the book, muttering “I’ve read this before!”

Still, despite the frequent bleakness, and the fact that I probably won’t read another Doctorow book until I read a few really happy novels first, I did enjoy it, and it did have enough humour and insight that I appreciated. I would read another book of his. Just after a blindingly cheesy-happy one.

The ending is not really an ending: not to me anyway. It definitely isn’t one in the Hollywood movie-ending scheme of things, if we’re talking karma and what not. You don’t have very many answers as you go along, and it kind of just ends there, just kind of like life. Some things are tied up, and sometimes, some things are not.

All in all, this novel is a f*^ked up accomplishment of sorts. It has everything, as it had me feeling, and thinking, long after I finished reading. Well done Doctorow. To make a reader feel and think so hard, is testament to your form. Also, to read a book that has so many analogous yet confusing elements in it, yet still giving enough that allows the reader to make sense of it all, is an achievement. If you only like shiny happy things, you’ll walk away screwed up. You’ve been warned.

I’ll end on this page 76 quote that interestingly foreshadows the future of the story while also painting a terrific metaphor.

“…a loon was coming in like a roller coaster. He hit the water and skidded for thirty yards, sending up a great spray, and when the water settled he was gone. I couldn’t see him, I thought the fucker had drowned. But up he popped, shaking and mauling a fat fish. And when the fish was polished off, I heard a weird maniac cry coming off the water, and echoing off the hills.”

Please let me know your thoughts on Loon Lake in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 🙂

Things that shit me… #17

(Is that bad, that I am up to 17?!)

Things that shit me…

Swimming parents who steal your spot in the change rooms.

Please, LET ME EXPLAIN.

And if you are this swim Mum or swim Dad, I HATE YOU. You deserve a bunch of soaking-chlorinated swimmers thrown in your face.

This happens more times than I dare to count. If I start to count, God help me.

When baby girl goes to her swimming lesson, it is at a peak after-school time.

When I take her to the change rooms straight after for a quick dry and change, it is still peak after-school time.

Do you know what happens almost all the time?

Breathe. Phew…

We walk in. Baby girl has to go to the loo, immediately.

So I put her change bag and shoes down. At a free spot. One that is a-v-a-i-l-a-b-l-e. One side of the change rooms is all benches and places to hang your towels and bags, and I pick one that doesn’t have anyone else’s stuff around it before quickly heading into the toilet with her.

I head in with her, because while in there I pull off her sticky swimmers and wrap her in a towel.

We are out in 2 minutes. Sometimes less.

And as we walk back over to the benches, I take a deep breath, knowing…

someone has taken my spot.

They are literally changing their dripping child into fresh clothes. They are practically in my spot, almost standing on baby girl’s shoes, practically nudging her change bag, and anyone else walking in would be totally forgiven in thinking that baby girl’s stuff, is theirs.

But the stealer of space is not forgiven. They have invaded my space and they and their child and stuff is all in my face! If I did go to my spot to change baby girl, we would be hugging (or I would be strangling them) THAT’S HOW CLOSE WE WOULD BE.

You haven’t heard the clincher, wait for it…

I look around, and there is available bench space around that doesn’t include my bag.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

LIKE WHAT THE ACTUAL F%$K????

They have room to change their child elsewhere, and these morons continually pick a spot where my stuff already is!

And you know what I do? Like today… I head over to my stuff, snatch it away and walk off… to a free spot.

FACE PALM.

I am at swimming every week having these knocked-around-like-Beyoncé moments:

The woman no matter who she is, will NEVER say anything. I should park my car so close to hers so she can’t get into her driver’s side, and just stare at her when she has to climb in through the passenger and accidentally lodges herself on the parking brake.

Not pissed much.

This riles me up soooo bad. And I know I am all glass half-full gratitude gal over here… but do not be surprised if one day you hear a news report and it goes something like…

“Chaos today on the Peninsula as a woman is pelted with swimming noodles after taking the spot of another in the change rooms… full details after the break.”

That will be me.

How I handled f%$king writing rejection and lived to tell the tale.

Step 1: Stare at the computer in horror. Do this for as long as you have to, to let it really SINK IN.

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Photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash

Step 2: Physically express yourself. Scream. Cry. YELL. Do all 3 and then some. If you are going to throw something across the room make sure you don’t have any strong attachment to the item, it is not heavy/sharp/strong, and also, you don’t care about your flooring/it is virtually unbreakable.

Step 3: Keep crying and telling yourself self-defeating words. Things like:

“I’m a failure.”

“I am shit.”

“I am a shit writer AND I’m just plain shit.”

“I can’t fucking write.”

“I got rejected for a fucking writing course…”

And so on. If you have come this far you are doing well. Your self-loathing is working brilliantly.

Step 4: Wallow in self-pity. Pick someone who has to put up with you (i.e partner, parent, sibling) and tell them how shit you are. Cry as you are doing so. Tell them all your sorrows, including that time in grade 4 when you walked into a pole at school and your canteen partner laughed their head off at you. Go on.

Step 5: More than likely you have just been yelled at and scolded by your loved one. Go off and sulk for about 37 minutes.

I’ll wait…

Step 6: Ok you’re back. Now I want you to ask yourself…

“Are you going to let this beat you?”

That just jarred you didn’t it? You expected me to tell you to go cut some onions and rub them over your eyelids after all that self-hatred and the pity party you just attended with yourself as the star D-grade celebrity.

But SmikG is getting glass half-full right now and she is gonna whoop your ass.

Sit down! You’re not going anywhere.

Step 7: Ask yourself some more questions. Things like:

“Are you going to let one individual/organisation dictate what you can do?

“Will you someone else control your belief of yourself?”

“Is this one incident going to make you stop writing? Really? This ONE thing?”

At this stage, you may want to wallow in some more self-defeating talk for a couple more moments. Go on, whimper. Sniffle. Get some Kleenex super soft tissues, from the Aloe Vera range you weak piece of shit.

Step 8: “Are you REALLY going to let this get you down?”

“You know… you’re not that shit.”

“You’re actually, not bad.”

NOW we’re talking.

Step 9: Time to recall some famous writer stories.

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J.K Rowling. An unemployed and poor single mother goes from her Harry Potter manuscript being rejected 12 times before finally getting picked up… but even so, her editor encourages her to get a teaching job as it is unlikely she will earn much from writing children’s books.

She is now worth over 1 billion dollars (read, BILLION) with her name to one of the best-selling series in the world with 450 million copies SOLD.

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Stephen King. Rejected his own story, Carrie, only to find his wife had taken it out of the garbage with the note for him to finish it. It was rejected over 30 times, but was eventually picked up and even turned into a movie.

He has over 50 novels to his name, has written hundreds of short stories, and remains one of the great fiction writers of this generation.

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Dr Seuss. He had been rejected 27 times, and was literally on his way home to burn the manuscript when he bumped into an old friend. When he spoke of his woes from “a book no one will publish” his friend (also a children’s editor… how “co in-chi-den-che” – see the Tomei-Downey Jr. movie Only You for reference!♥ ) he read it and it was published.

He went on to write over 60 children’s books and remains a classic children’s writer through the ages.

Step 10: Woah. Now we are feeling just a little bit invincible. Almost like the way we felt when we first ventured into the writing world with fear and trepidation, hovering over the keyboard as we posed those first few words.

But we need something else.

Inject some creativity in your life… in the form of, MUSIC.

My fave go-to: Something loud and pumping, ROCK is real good.

Queen, for example.

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Prince doing his Beautiful Ones where he screeches at the end is also uplifting in a very RAW way.

Or you know, on the other spectrum we can go ‘alternative/new wave rock’ and play something like INXS’ Need You Tonight… you know the story, of how Andrew Farriss famously made the taxi driver who was meant to take him to the airport, wait an hour as he wrote the riff to the song? He then passed it onto Michael, who quickly penned the words to what would become the song… incredible.

You need to surround yourself with genius. Genius thoughts. Genius inspiration. Genius creativity.

Step 11: Ok, we are HERE. Perhaps you feel so unstoppable, so charged, the muse starting to move within you, that something you scribble on toilet paper while passing a bowel movement (why do you have a pen in there?) can be considered LEGENDARY.

“What am I going to do next?”

“What course will I look at?”

“What can I learn from this?”

Start work-shopping ideas to get around your initial rejection.

Step 12: Start with this quote by Albert Einstein: “Failure is success in progress.”

NEXT, sit at your computer.

And start writing.

🙂

 

 

 

Your passion and your loved ones may not hold hands

Hey writers.

Not ‘aspiring’ writers, or ‘published’ writers, ‘wannabe’ writers or ‘successful’ writers…

Just, writers.

I have something I need to share. It’s important.

No doubt it is something we all, as ‘writers’ of the world, have had to face.

Many will be facing it right now.

And if you haven’t already, you’ll be sure to come across it in your writing life.

At some stage, you would have told some of your loved ones, be it your friends or family, that you wish to write.

You want to write. You do, write.

Even if they have already known it for most of your life, even if it is an assumed thing, writing being your background passion and all… no doubt there will have been a moment where you have said out loud “I am doing this.”

I AM GOING TO TRY MAKE A LIFE OUT OF IT.

You are nervous. You are excited. Hell, maybe even like me, you hold off telling most people out of intense fear of their reaction, and only share your personal news with a total of 10 people over a 5 year period.

And when you share that news with your nearest and dearest…

Excited in the prospect of them being sooo happy in you having discovered your life’s purpose, and have chosen to share something so intimate with them…

Relieved to have released a deep-seeded fear…

What do they do?

NOTHING. You tell them, and –

(crickets chirping).

Yup.

There is something you need to realise on this writing journey. And more widely, something everyone needs to realise as they go through life and discover what it is that drives them crazy-happy with a passionate fury.

It is a thing I myself have had to wrap my head around and come to terms with.

The people you love, may not necessarily love your hobby.

They may actually, not think very much of it.

They won’t hate it. But, it might be something of ‘meh.’

Just, MEH.

This can come across as seriously disappointing, especially for someone like me, who has held off on expressing this hobby and passion of mine, to loved and near and dear ones, for years and years and years simply out of fear.

And then, when the moment came… often I realised, it was a bigger thing for me, than it was for them.

And that is ok.

There may be a whole bevy of reasons why your loved ones and your passion aren’t immediate besties… or for that fact, EVER AFTER besties.

Your loved ones may be really busy.

Your loved ones may not know much about your passion.

Your loved ones may find it suddenly difficult to comprehend your sudden discovery at said-passion, and this in turn may highlight some difficult and unanswerable questions for them… those being, what are their passions? What are they doing in their life?

How are they turning their flame on in the routine of life?

Humans are a fascinating and extremely complex breed, and so you can be assured that all of the possible answers will not even begin to fill the paragraphs of this post.

You will notice I have not mentioned a fairly common reason for lack of excitement at the realisation of your passions… and that is jealousy. I have omitted it because real loved ones will not be jealous. They may exude mixed feelings, because of the sudden need to reflect on their own lives. But they will not be envious. They will not see red simply at your long and topsy-turvy journey to getting to your own pre-determined successful, “I’ve made it” destination.

Jealous people are shit people. They are not your loves ones. Keep them at arms length.

They can go f%*k themselves. You need a strong and supportive circle, so get rid of that crap immediately.

Safe to say, you will realise very quickly and easily, who YOUR circle is.

And as is my case, I’ve realised that my circle don’t necessarily have to start a book club for me.

And why should they? I am the only star in my life… as they are the solo star in theirs.

We all have different shit going on. We need to look humbly around us and realise that.

It’s not personal.

It’s just, LIFE.

Your loved ones and your hobby don’t need to get along. They don’t need to go on long walks together. They don’t need to watch a movie. They don’t need to see each other, scream out in delight and exclaim “it’s been so long since I saw you!” before enveloping one another in a giant hug.

As long as they nod some kind of acknowledgement to each other when they pass… that’s cool.

That’s to be accepted.

Our passion isn’t necessarily anyone else’s. And whether you have held off for 5, 10 or 20 years to tell anyone, it won’t be anymore impressive than if you decided yesterday during brekkie you wanted to be a writer after finding 7 grammatical errors in the local paper.

You need to let go of the idea that your loved ones will be as excited for you, as you are excited for you.

In many cases, this won’t be the fact.

And that’s normal.

We can still love our hobbies…. and we can still love our friends…

But we’ll just make sure we see them on alternating weekends 😉

(Note the below is idealistic, yet highly unrealistic!)

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Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

 

 

Things that shit me… #16

Things that shit me…

People who can’t wait patiently in queue BEHIND ME.

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Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

Yeah, you thought I’d been gone a while with my disposition to get revved up the wall by unsuspectingly stupid people. Ohhh, don’t worry, the stupidity is still rife.

And the annoyances are still damn well irritating as hell.

Like today at the Tesselaar Tulip festival. The day was beautiful and the flowers were spectacular as I expected, but one thing that got to me today…

The people who can’t seem to wait their turn in queue.

SEVERAL TIMES I was waiting for something, making an order or waiting to pay for a drink, and then suddenly I would feel something or someone breathing down my neck.

I would turn slightly and see they were practically resting their chin on my shoulder in their extreme impatience to get served.

Like, wait your bloody turn! We are all here trying to get fed/satiated/made happy by the services, just bloody well calm the F down and step away from me!

UGH! Personal space required much? Man these people are shit!

Baby girl says the darndest things #2

She is role-playing. In particular Frozen. Specifically, she is Elsa, and Hubbie has to play the role of Hans.

Baby girl tells him that Hans has to ask Elsa to marry him (no where does this happen in the movie, but you know, imagination).

Hubbie: “Please, Queen Elsa, will you marry me?”

Baby girl: “No!”

Hubbie: “Please Elsa, but I love you.”

Baby girl: “Hans, I don’t like to marry you… You’re shit.”

Oh how I LOL’d! If everyone just spoke their minds like this, Disney movies would be fair simpler, and A LOT different…

elsahanspost

 

A Royally great time

The Royal Hotel
770 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited March ’17)

Minutes before we were due to head out of the house that Tuesday night for dinner, we looked out the window… and saw a storm about to unleash. The weather report had warned of extreme weather and rain, and the south-east was about to cop it, BAD. We stood there, already dressed, asking ourselves “Should we just stay in?” Was it worth going out when the weather was going to be so terrible – hell, even dangerous to drive in?

But then, we realised what we were saying. I mean, what, the weather was going to hold us back? Since when? No bloody way. Besides, we were locals now. We’d be in the car, driving an average of 40ks, for 5 minutes, tops.

So how lucky we were then, to arrive at The Royal Hotel and find a park right out the front. Try to get us now Rain.

Although a neighbour to Kirks and also on the Esplanade, both establishments sharing amazing bay views, the feel of the Royal Hotel is completely different. And understandably, why would they want to modernise the place when its history holds such Royal ties? Inside it is all white with seemingly freshly-painted interiors, however unlike the sweeping views from Kirks of a full-length windowed wall allowing uninterrupted views from almost wherever you sit, here at the Royal the windows were small, possibly the same as they had always been, and though from there you could also see out towards the bay, you really had to be near them to get that beautiful view.

Intricate ceiling and wall detail, arches, and pillars that separated the left side of the room from the right: both sides that appeared to have been former large living quarters, with a large bar in the centre towards the right of the room, and a staircase leading up from the centre, this hotel had been transformed with a recent facelift, but the old-style feel remained, and it oozed character. You could just see how this place had been in existence over a century ago, at a time of horse and carriage, and adding to this vibe was one more, fairly prevalent thing: the musty smell.

It actually smelt like an old hotel. But not in a rotting, outdated, unclean way. It smelt earthy, original, and very very cool.

The hotel was renamed to its current name after a visit from Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred. Remaining a site of enjoyment for some of the finest members of ‘societe’ over the years, it is clear to see this reflective in the current day interior retaining old-world charm, and why it has continued to hold onto its strong and proud ties to its noble past.

The hotel shows its age with its great, expansive spaces, something I learnt soon after as I took baby girl to the bathroom… on the way there and to your left, is the open-view kitchen that allows you to look in and see the chefs at work. And in the bathroom itself, old-world grandiose continues in the little details, fixtures and fittings, with large amenities too. New hotels are not the size that these magnificent pieces of history are. You can tell this is an old, old building, in the most fabulous and appreciative of ways.

The hotel is open 365 days a year and as well as having rooms for accommodation, it also has the fine restaurant we dined at that Tuesday evening in March.

We were showed to a table that wasn’t in front of the ‘bay’ window, but we could see out through it still from our distance… instead we had a window that showed out the side towards Kirks, and it was nice to see that while we were deliciously snug, it was rainy out.

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I had called that day to see if we needed to book ahead, and I think being a non-peak season period the man suggested it was ok if we just ‘rocked up’ as I would say, or ‘arrived,’ as he probably would.

We were brought menus and ordered our drinks, but realised fairly soon after our French-looking waiter disappeared for a while, that we actually had to go up to the counter and pay and order for ourselves.

We got beer and a Kuku Pinot Noir to start

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while baby girl entertained herself with some pencils and colouring paper brought over by French-man. It was fairly quiet at this stage, so it felt super library-like, and I was super-freaking out over any outbursts baby girl would make. More on that later.

After not too long a wait (there weren’t many people there so it was to be expected) we received our meals:

Baby girl’s Crumbed chicken strips with fries & vegies

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Hubbie got the Murray Valley Port cutlet, mash potatoes, green beans, walnut & parsley salsa with red wine jus

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While I got the Malaysian chicken curry, jasmine rice & roti bread

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So I’ll start with baby girl, and her meal was fantastic. I was really pleased to see something other than the usual chicken and chips on her plate, and it was vegetables! And green ones at that! When provided with chips I know she will prevail on that, but she is a good eater and at home she eats her vegies… so when given the option, she will graze slightly, and so she did that night. She ate the chips and chicken alright, but she also had her broccoli, and that just makes any Mum happy. The food on offer was real, and didn’t look like crappy offcuts or leftovers, so that made me doubly happy.

Hubbie enjoyed his Pork cutlet, and it showed in how clean the plate was on removal… the only thing that wasn’t to taste was the red wine jus, he thought the marinade had burnt, as there was a slightly off-putting taste to it. If it weren’t for that, top marks from that fussy butcher Hubbie of mine.

And, leaving the best ‘til last… my meal was amazing. The highest honours, if only for that. The chicken was falling apart, it was succulent and soft and delicious. The jasmine rice in the banana leaf I believe, was very appealing and looked great, and then there was that roti bread. Drool. Oh man, if this is what all roti bread tastes like, I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT. Of course the next roti bread I have elsewhere will not be up to scratch, I guarantee. But this roti bread was warm, puffed up, stretchy and soft. We all had some, I actually don’t know why I decided to share it as much as I did… maybe it was because I wanted to share my sudden intense love for roti bread… but they all concurred with me that it was definitely mmm-worthy.

I cleaned up my plate, easily.

Dinner had been yummo. I would have gladly stayed on for dessert, but for some reason baby girl just wasn’t working with us, and the other diners were now looking over… grrr argh. Great food, but snob-central. That night at least, we would have to give coffee and cake a Rain-check, so to speak.

Food: 9.5/10. Sensational. Fresh and delicious.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Quiet, library-like when there are not many diners present. You can feel the character of the hotel and so silence is almost necessary to sit and soak up the chapters of history that have unfolded there.

Staff: We really only dealt with French-man, and he was fine, very concerned about doing his job properly, ‘to the book.’ But good.

People: We didn’t come across many. There was an old gentleman dining on his own who left before we did; a few couples beside the long-desired for window seats; and towards the end of our meal a rowdy American family sat near us, and this made me happy as their business and family talk almost blocked out any of the noises that baby girl was sporadically exploding with. I say almost, because she was still loud, and there was a couple, what looked like a 30-something woman with a 50-something man, who gave us ‘looks,’ staring pointedly when baby girl would yell out. Well, you all know how happy I am about ‘looks.’ I gave her a really good one as we exited the hotel, making sure she caught full well my intention… her rudeness and the library-vibe was the only thing that made the night difficult, as even though there is a kids meal section, and colouring and pencils for the kids, well unless they are in a straight-jacket, I don’t know quite how accepted they are there…

Price: $95ish for the lot. For 3 meals, and 3 drinks. The prices were slightlyon the upside, but the food was most definitely worth every delicious morsel I mean coin.

Advice: Book ahead if you want to sit by the window. Order the Malaysian chicken curry (you won’t be sorry). Maybe go at a peak time if you don’t want to deal with snot-faced moles when your child decides to you know, have a voice, and just generally be a child. F*&k me.

In a nutshell: I really loved this place, as Hubbie did too. The character and the food both won us over, but I wouldn’t hurry back (even though the Malaysian chicken is calling me), only because I am afraid of the too-quiet ambience and how that gels with a generally rambunctious and full-of-life baby girl.

I do highly recommend it to anyone else thinking of giving it a go, as I think the food and the atmosphere are something unique to be experienced. Stepping over the threshold where a royal has, is reason enough.

*UPDATE*

A year later, and back we went. And guess what? This is my new fave. The food yet again, amazing. And the alternative to possible snobby people inside?

IMAG9491

Sit outside. Ahhh.

The Royal Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato