Bring home the night time swell

January 19, 2014 at 12:23 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

At first we almost enjoyed it.

On day one, neighbours nodded at each other in the street and gestured to the blue, blue sky. Bit warm, we’d smile. And we’d laugh, and walk on. Understatement is an Aussie art, in a land that’s equal parts ferocity and beauty. I did what I could to keep cool. I piled my waist-length hair on my head and stripped my leopard print bedclothes back to the sheets. Bit warm, I told my cat. She didn’t answer. She knew what was coming.

If you haven’t lived through it, I don’t know if I can explain the brutality of an Australian summer. For six days in a row the temperature hit 45 degrees Celcius (113 Fahrenheit), almost a week of scorching sun so fierce you could feel your skin frying: in other parts of the country it hit 50 degrees (122). I don’t teach my students the word ‘sunbathe’; there is no gentle washing yourself in the sun’s rays here. No, we use the word ‘sunbake’ and find no humour in it. My local barmaid told me they’d cooked bacon on the roof of the pub by the heat of the sun alone. It’s the kind of thing you hear often here.

After the third day, I couldn’t breathe. The weight of the heat sat heavy on my chest. I caught sight of myself in the mirror and winced at the expression on my face: I looked like I do during a long tattoo session, gritting my teeth to get through it. Except this time, I had the discomfort but none of the glorious ink to show for it, just damp hair plastered to my skull.

Six days of sweltering heat until everyone ran out of conversation, and patience. I sat on a tram with broken air conditioning and ducked from a punch thrown from frayed tempers and cheap beer. Elevators broke mid-floor and train tracks buckled with the heat. Koalas and kangaroos crept into suburbia and jumped into swimming pools for comfort. Melbourne had 33 heart attack victims in one afternoon. And the moon turned blood red from the bushfires.


I did not enjoy any of it.

My cat, panting with her long fur coat, took to the bathroom tiles. I joined her, naked and covered in a wet towel. I dampened a washcloth and draped it over her too. We just lay there for an hour, not speaking. Then she turned to me reproachfully and said ‘This wouldn’t happen if we lived in Berlin.’

Girl had a point.

The good news is, I wrote. My computer overheated and my phone burned up, so I went old school. I picked up a pen and wrote letters. I wrote a dozen pages in my diary, finished two stories, and started putting together a CV for a writing residency I want to apply for.

It’s in Iceland. I can’t tell you how good all that snow looks right now.

I’m also utterly, completely delighted that my first editoral interaction this year comes from SmokeLong Quarterly, hands down one of my favourite literary journals. They’ve just accepted one of my stories, a tale of Russian, Rachmaninov and rib bones, and remind me just why I love to spill this ink of mine.

I was also a runner-up in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Pocketdocs competition, with a story of swamps, jambalaya and voodoo charms in New Orleans.


Every country I visit ends up falling out of my pen at some point…even, it seems, my own.



  1. Holly said,

    What beauty made of something so unbearable, as only you can.

    • inkymouth said,

      That’s what we do, isn’t it – find the gold in every moment with the point of our pens. Thank you darling heart…let’s dip our feet in the ocean together later this week x

  2. Hilde said,

    Babe! I’m sending some wintery cold your way!

    • inkymouth said,

      Honey, it worked! The heat has broken and it’s now a ‘chilly’ 25 degrees. You know I’m a winter wench – god, this has taxed me so much – but Marlow and I will be just fine. Please throw a snowball for me x

  3. gretchen said,

    i break for Rachmaninov. ps. no one knows cold like new york city’s polar vortex. come back. x

    • inkymouth said,

      A hundred degrees again today, honey…how about we meet halfway in, say, Hawaii? I’ll have the pina coladas waiting x

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