Tag Archives: family

The Cartographer

The cartographer
saw the vastness of landscape
and rendered it knowable.
Transformed terrain
to elevations, angles,
contour line etchings
and watercourse filigree.

The cartographer
used his raptor vision
to view conflict as landscape,
charting paths through
political quicksand,
over bureaucratic dunes
to the ocean of truth.

The cartographer,
now guided not guiding,
his acute compass
dizzied by Alzheimer’s.
Piercing the fog,
he cedes, all pauses and sighs,
“I’ve lost the path”.

Snapshots from a novel #3

Extracts from the sensory and beautiful How To Make A Bird by Martine Murray.

‘I didn’t mean to say it like that. Sometimes sentences rushed out before I checked them over for holes or hidden weapons.’ p6

‘I spent a lot of my life waiting, to tell you the truth, which was why I was getting out of town. It was a deliberate strategy, a counterattack to waiting, which wasn’t getting me anywhere. There are two types of waiting. There’s the waiting you do for something you know is coming, sooner or later – like waiting for the 6.28 train, or the school bus, or a party where a certain handsome boy might be. And then there’s the waiting for something you don’t know is coming. You don’t even know what it is exactly, but you’re hoping for it. You’re imagining it and living your life for it. That’s the kind of waiting that makes a fist in your heart.’ p16

‘It’s not surprising that someone in my circumstances would always be wanting something. Probably ever since I started out with the wrong shoes. There was the wanting and there was the waiting, too. That’s two feelings that move all out of step with each other. Waiting doesn’t really move, it doesn’t have direction, whereas wanting dashes out of you, like an arrow. So if you wait and want and wait and want, then you live in a jagged way. You go along in zig zag, not in a clear line forward, like most people do.’ pp41-42

BTW, I was reading Martine’s Henrietta Gets A Letter aloud to the Little Monkey (5) recently and was pleasantly surprised when the Little Dragon (9) joined us, then my god-daughter, aged 10. Moments later my god-son (7), added to the throng. Only a good story draws kids in like that. The Henrietta books are junior fiction in the vein of Lauren Child’s Charlie & Lola books – quirky & fun.

Poetry in motion

I’m no petrol-head, as anyone who has seen my battered Honda would attest. Unlike many of my mates, I don’t feel the need for speed. I rank safety, reliability and economy much higher. However, there is a chink in my automotive armour. I think Bugattis are the most beautiful vehicles ever conceived.

There’s a reason for this affliction – and a story, of course. A strong rev-head vein runs through my family and my grandfather used to own a Type 22 Bugatti. Pa Ern wasn’t a wealthy man, so he was atypical of Bugatti owners today, who tend to be millionaires. A trained mechanic, he worked two jobs, playing banjo in a band and supervising a production line at the Massey Ferguson factory, so he could afford to buy the pre-owned race car in 1926. Apparently my grandmother used to say “once he heard the engine noise of that car he was never the same again”.

It was a tiny, narrow vehicle built for speed not comfort and unsuitable for a young family. My uncle remembers sitting in it crushed against his sister and father, with hot engine fluids leaking onto his legs. Pa owned the car until 1948, by which time he’d cut a dickie seat into the rear bodywork in order to squeeze three children in.

I grew up thinking Pa only sold his eccentric, much-loved racer because finances were tight in the aftermath of World War II. My uncle also points out that the car was no longer practical (if it ever was) and that his Dad agreed to a “regretful sale”. Family members have often remarked on what the car would be worth (in excess of $100,000 apparently) if we’d manage to keep it, given it was an unusual variant of approximately 2000 Type 22s built and Bugattis are highly collectable. That’s all academic though, as the car is gone. Pa Ern was a wise man and wouldn’t have made the decision to sell without good cause and much consternation.

The car was in America, last we heard, hopefully in the care of someone who loves it like Pa did. It would be good to know its full story.

I’ve retained an interest in Bugatti, renewed recently by the Veyron experiment where engineers set out to build the first 1001 horsepower car and ended up with a vehicle capable of 407 km/hr. Having succeeded in building the world’s fastest car, Bugatti are now looking toward the quickest ever four door vehicle. I do confess to being somewhat conflicted here. At full throttle, the Veyron runs out of fuel in 12 minutes. Fuel economy clearly wasn’t a design consideration. That said, I believe the Veyron and its sibling-to-be, the Galibier, don’t belong on the road so much as in an art gallery. Check out the interior shot at the previous link and you might understand what I’m getting at.

Anyway, I managed to visit the Bugatti family exhibition at Victoria’s National Gallery earlier this year and here’s a gorgeous Type 57 coupe. Apologies for the picture quality; I was snapping sans flash while restraining two small creatures from climbing on the cars. Perhaps there’s Bugatti in their blood too.

Bugatti Type 57C