drawings by my girlfriend

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right iliac fossa pain – ?inguinal hernia, b/g alcoholic cirrhosis

28:2 - right iliac fossa pain ?query inguinal hernia

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Andrei places the glass onto the edge of the worn dining room table and watches her eyes as they flick to the window. The knife slips off the edge and into the carpet. He stands up and strides to the door, thrusting his foot against her navel. Her body sinks deeper into the shag.

“Get away from me,” says Nora. Pebbles of spit spray a weighted hemisphere of mist around her mouth. Her fingers are knuckled round the base of the grinder and her lips are slightly parted. Andrei says nothing, twisting the base of his heel before he continues on his way outside.

A man standing directly outside the front door collides with the opening of the hard frame. His clothes are streaked with midden, presumably from the nearby fields, and he bears a book of collected poetry that is greasy with lost words.

She waits inside the room and flings herself onto the bed. It is hot and her skin sticks wetly against her shirt, against the sheets, against the bed.

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Why I love Goatperson, and other tales

When I was a much younger person I came into the possession of a book which, although I didn’t know it at the time, would go on to hold a great significance in my life. The book itself did not give the impression of any particular remarkableness on first appearance – a short collection of whimsically drawn pictures and words, shakily written and shakily drawn, that appealed to my no doubt discerning childhood tastes (raised as I was on an abundant anglophilic diet of J. K. Rowling and Diana Wynne Jones). It was only as the years passed and upon the general enhanced reflective qualities that are gifted to the individual upon rumination in hindsight that I would come to appreciate the uniqueness of this book – and the rarity of the simple word written on simple terms in a world otherwise characterised by the pervasiveness of the convoluted.

This book was Goatperson (and other tales), a collection of cartoons by the Australian ‘poet, cartoonist, and cultural commentator’ Michael Leunig. It was published in 1999. In that year I was six years old, a recent migrant from Burma to Australia, and even more recently from Perth to Adelaide. My mother and father had made the decision to move east for work and training at a hospital in the centre of the city – the sort of opportunity that was not to be passed up however much myself and my older siblings protested. I was not to discover the book for several more years, coming across it finally in the late summer of 2004. It was February, and it was hot, even inside the Angus and Robertsons that I found myself in whilst my mother was shopping for groceries in the city. I was now eleven years old, and, having survived the turmoil of relocation back from Adelaide to what was to reassume its role as primary site of habitation in Perth for the next decade, I was busy bracing myself for the impending doom of the new school year.

In my experience, it has been those books that I read in my childhood that have found themselves capable of establishing within my mind a position of great import, a feat that seems to increase in rarity as the years pass. As I grow older, I find more and newer bundles of text in my search to sate the appetite for engagement, emotional as well as intellectual – but it is only rarely that a sufficiently satiating morsel is found. In my younger days it seemed such morsels were wedged between every second book amongst the shelves. So it was into this externally receptive and openly impressionable period of my life (long before the descent of the burdensome clouds of cynicism that were gifted to me by a rather unspectacular adolescence) that Leunig’s book inserted itself.

This is not to demean it’s significance or question whether the book deserves it – Goatperson was, and is, for me, an uplifting, alluring, magnificently marvellous and exceedingly good-looking collection of cartoons. At the age of eleven, these little images and words made me feel that I had found someone else who understood the beauty that exists in life – a man who rejected all the stuff and the things that were ‘the rage, duh.’ And with a deft touch too, never without a sense of humour and healthy self deprecation (something that is somewhat lacking in my own work). I did not know it at the time, but this little book would come to greatly influence my teenage years as I somewhat unconsciously adopted the collection as a sort of narrative mantra. As I have grown older, the things and the stuff have changed – upgraded and updated – but for me, Goatperson has not. I love it still.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude – my memories

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, changed my life.

Or perhaps, as Marquez himself says, ‘the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good.’ (Ref. Love in the Time of Cholera) Perhaps the Marquez that I remember, and the eloquent, hallucinatory, but above all, alive novel of his, is nothing but the product of a distortion of the mind. A novel in possession of a face that could be described, at best, as ‘pretty,’ but one that, with time and distance, comes to embody a purity of beauty, a taste of loveliness that transcends the routine of everyday life to become more. Maybe, perhaps – maybe this is all just hyperbole, and I remain only so enamoured with Marquez not so much because of the natural quality of his work, but due to the embellishment that comes with the obscuring clouds of memory.

Regardless, I did truly come to love this novel – it was my introduction to magic realism, and a the guide to my rediscovery of a long forgotten love for stories. The earnestness with which I praise Marquez may come across as a bit much… but it is an earnestness that I feel should be honoured. I remember how I felt on reading the novel at the age of seventeen that Marquez, more than any other writer before that moment,  was truly responsible for changing the way that I saw the world. He brought the depth of feeling and the intensity that adolescence had bestowed, but tempered it with the whimsical and a lightness of touch that I have only rarely encountered since.

A couple of my favourite passages:

“At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe housees, built on the bank of a river of clear water than ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”

“Carmelia Montiel, a twenty year old virgin, had just bathed in orange blossom water and was strewing rosemary leaves on Pilar Ternera’s bed when the shot rang out. Aureliano Jose had been destined to find with her the happiness that Amaranta had denied him, to have seven children, and to die in her arms of old age, but the bullet that entered his back and shattered his chest had been directed by a wrong interpretation of the cards.

I remember this as the kind of novel that I could eat. A novel in which every page is filled with personality and a rushing stream of fairy-tales and fables of the kind that inundate the senses and appeal to an innocence and imagination that I sometimes feel I have lost. It helps me to rediscover that feeling, and in doing so, to remake myself.

The book is not just about life – it is life, in all its random occurrences, removed of its mundanity so that only the underlying incomprehensibiltiy of it all remains. I love it, and have done since I first finished reading it.

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short – studying at the computer

Study all the time – it always got this way around exams. Therese didn’t know why she remained resolutely committed to a course which now inspired in her a sense of stale fruitlessness, however much she may have once lusted for it. And it was so cold tonight, even with the heater turned to ten and blithely throbbing away – it had been acting up the past couple of months, but she kept forgetting to remind her parents to buy a replacement. A necessary purchase, in her opinion, although one that was sadly not shared by her most dutiful guardians (who felt that their already overstretched budget would inevitably tear under any extra strain, however small such strain might be, Terry).

Maybe she should text Christopher? They spoke every other day during semester, but whenever the looming colossus that was the end-of-semester examinations appeared on the horizon, her brain seemed to just shut down and she couldn’t bring herself to see him nearly as much as she might have wanted to. This year though, she’d definitely gotten better – much more relaxed, not the inflexibly organised girl that she couldn’t help being in the first two years of the degree. It drove her mad to see Christopher, loping around in his relaxed way, dropping down to the shops for an hour or two to gather the ingredients for whatever recipe he wanted to try out in the kitchen today – all while she was frantically struggling to make sure the newly acquired hard-won study-info didn’t just leak its way back out of her head. How he did it, she really didn’t know, and it was with a mixture of proprietary pride and envy that she called him her boyfriend.

Again, like always, her mind had wandered instead of staying focussed on the blank droning of the computer screen in front of her. She did miss the days – ahh, memories of a misspent youth – when, instead of studying stuck to a cold metal contraption, eyes forward and spine bent in twain, she would adopt the same posture hunched over a pile of crinkled, heavily annotated textbook pages. The smell you got from those yellowed books soothed her, convincing in their claims that the attainment of the minutiae of scientific knowledge was a thing to be admired. The betrayal she felt upon the realisation of this lie cut all the deeper because of the soft deception of those books – which is why  she took so eagerly to the cold refuge of the computer, regarding it (perhaps mistakenly) as a symbol of didactic incorruptibility.

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