Tuesday, January 06, 2015


I'm reading in preparation for the trip. Re-reading John Irving books (he has Vienna in many of them; at the moment I'm reading a little-known one of his - and possibly my favourite - called The Water-Method Man. It's about a man and his relationships, and how he fucks them all up. The title refers to a urological problem he has. His urethra is a 'narrow, winding road' as described by his urologist. One of the options of management is to drink lots of water and pee after sex. Another option is to stop having sex. A third is to treat with antibiotics when the problem arises, and the fourth is to have surgery. The main character tries the water method but then, later on, when it doesn't really work, he opts for surgery.)

John Irving was the first writer I read,  in my late teens/early twenties, who I just fell in love with. It was total, absolute adoration. I think reading The World According to Garp was the first time I realised what a novel could be. It wasn't my first love. My first adult novel love was Wuthering Heights, but Garp was different. Garp was funny AND sad, and had a central character who was very human, hurtful to others, but so loveable. The other thing was Irving's secondary and even tertiary characters: he populates his novels with people who are startlingly original and so entertaining. Much later I learned that Irving is a big Dickens fan, and this made sense to me. I haven't read more than a couple of Dickens novels, but both writers have these characters that become like people you have really known in real life.

I plan to take with me Anna Funder's Stasiland, which is non-fiction, and which will cover Budapest and Prague, and Berlin too. I'm not bothering with an in-situ London read. I think I'll be too busy, but I might take another Irving novel with me. It should really be Setting Free the Bears, his first book, which is about the liberation of all the animals in Vienna's zoo, but it's really not as enchanting as his second (Water-Method) or other early ones.


So, that's reading. All accommodation is booked, and train travel and so on. I fly London to Budapest to meet P, and from there we train to our other cities. It's going to be cold so we are packing all sorts of thick winter clothing, which means less room in the cases for shopping. I don't want to shop much but perhaps some boots/shoes in Vienna (we've been told about an amazing boot/shoe shop) and maybe a woollen jacket in London. I bought new runners to walk in. My feet need to be happy.


In London (or outside of it, in Cheltenham, near the Cotswolds) I'm staying with an OLD friend, an English woman I met here in Melbourne years ago, when we were early twenties. We met while both working at a restaurant, the Island Trader, on Warrigal Road Ashwood (or was it Burwood?) I know this place features in my Bad '80s Diaries. We had to wear sarongs and fake flower clipped into our hair. Also a lei (fake) which allowed skeezy male customers to make their skeezy jokes. I am the only person in my family who worked there (3 of us siblings) who didn't get fired. And who spent time in all the possible work roles (apart from management): waitress, bar, food prep. I'm not sure why I'm even proud of this. Anyway, I'll catch up with E, and that will be great. I'd thought about a side-trip to Haworth (Bronte country, see above) to make it even more of a literary pilgrimage, but it's pretty far and it's going to be bad cold weather. Squib went there recently and seeing her photos on facebook made me very wistful. I shall just have to make sure the next time I'm there is summer/autumn so I can do those sorts of things.


In Prague will be the Great Reunion with M and J. We were all learning Turkish together in Istanbul in 1994. All married to Turkish men, we bonded big time. M is from Montreal and J originally from Slovakia, but now living in Prague. I haven't seen M since I took P there when she was 3 or 4 (we did a side trip from Istanbul where we were living 1999/2000) and J I haven't seen since those times, in 1994. It will be fantastic to see them. We're planning to go to the opera here as well. I don't like opera but P does, so, you know. Self-sacrifice and all that. I can cope.


Berlin is the place I think I'm most excited about. I've found 'unter-welten' tours where you can go into bunkers etc. P is very interested in all the war stuff, the history, as well as art. And the food as well. We can't wait for the different local food.


We have two days in London before we fly back out. We plan to do a couple of galleries/museums that she won't have managed to get to in her week there before we meet up, and I won't either. And we'll have a 'nice meal' somewhere on the last night. Suggestions welcome. Even though I lived in London way back, I din't like it and didn't explore it at all. What an idiot but I suppose I had no money. Also I was only there for four months.


When we get back it's action stations. P will have hopefully enrolled in uni while away. She got her score on Sunday and did very very well. Her IB score translates to an ATAR of 96.35 so that's more than enough for her to get into the course she wants (Arts) at her preferred uni. So she'll be doing uni stuff, maybe moving into college, buying books etc etc.

In my first week back, I have a meeting with my publisher (I think that's the first time I've written that) - our first meeting - and she is giving me editorial notes. I have until end of March to get the ms back to her. I'm really interested to see what her suggestions are. Like really interested. I know there'll be a bit of work to do, even though the ms is in a very clean state. And then that all happens. They are saying it will be September next year. Originally it was June, but has been pushed back. I learned this is common, for things to get moved around, and it doesn't mean anything. I'm glad it's later otherwise I'd be panicking about now, would have had to get the notes by now and wouldn't be able to do anything about them but would be wanting to do something about them. I wouldn't be sleeping and as relaxed as I am now.

Last year I didn't write much in the way of new words but I do somehow have a third manuscript I need to get finished (I'm 2K away from a finished first draft. 'How can you know how  many words you have to write? How can you be so exact?' a friend asked me recently. 'Because I have set myself a challenge, to make the finished ms exactly 49,000 words. Exactly.' 'Oh,' he said.

So that'll be the next one I show to my agent. It's different to my other two and I hope she thinks it's a goer.


Other plans for the year involve continuing yoga, continuing walks, continuing moderate eating along with 'fast days' (they aren't really fast days, just low-cal days) in an effort to continue to manage my reflux, indigestion. Also the teaching business, which is well-booked for March and beyond, so that's great. We may get a casual teacher or two in to help out, because I'd rather teach a bit less, especially as the writing thing is happening a bit more.

It's going to be a big year (as my publisher emailed) and a good one, on lots of counts. Clokes turns 50 this year, in March, so we'll be celebrating that. His boy starts Year 11, so again, pretty busy. My mother's health continues, my health issues have settled (I put all that down to my digestive system, I'm realising it's SO important to keep it ticking over as smoothly as possible), I didn't fall into the cycle of ailments that happened this time last year.

TV to look forward to: Game of Thrones (CAN'T WAIT); GIRLS* (ditto); OITNB (though the last season didn't impress me as much I don't think. And the reason I think this is because I can't remember what happened); Orphan Black (yes, can't wait for this one either); Walking Dead (it's on a season break at the moment, I think I'm getting a little over it); more Gogglebox; True Detective second series (not sure if that's coming this year or next. Probs next.); not sure if they are doing more Sherlock Holmes, but I liked it; and the latest discovery (via P) was Shameless (the US version) - this was probably my late-2014 TV fixation. I've probably forgotten stuff.

Well this has been a bit of a spew of stuff. But I realised that this is the place I can do it. It's where I used to do it, go on and on, in diary fashion.

Do you keep a diary or spill all your 'spew stuff' to someone? How do you get it out? Do you have spew-stuff? We all do, don't we??

* This last week I watched Lena Dunham's movie called Tiny Furniture. She made is before she did GIRLS. And it's terrific. I'm so impressed with her.


Alex said...

Well, you already know where I spew my stuff...

I don't know if I like the idea of going to Europe in winter, but then I don't much like the idea of going to Victoria in winter either, so I guess you'll handle it better than I would. Best wishes to you and P on your travels.

Also, during the cricket, Channel 10 have been advertising an upcoming Aussie version of Gogglebox. Dunno if you're interested, but I thought I'd make sure you knew.

Melba said...

Hey Alex, of course Clokes has already seen those ads and asked did we want to apply. I *think* he was serious.

We are not applying.

I'm ok with cold weather, and I'm just hoping that there's no sleet, rain, clouds. It can be cold and still; snow on the ground is fine. But blue skies would be good.

Alex said...

Am also not a fan of sleet and drizzle and fog.

We are not applying.

Awww, that's a pity. Would definitely watch for that. Imagine the conversations on here after each episode. Might help in promoting the upcoming book too, eh? *nudge*nudge*

squib said...

I haven't read any Irving. Just started Augie March

I'd throw in a pair of Yaktrax - nothing worse than trying to walk on ice

Only just watching Fargo. Dying to know how much of it is actually true but won't google it until the end

Not sure if I sent you a xmas card. I thought I did but maybe I didn't

Have kept journals in the past. Nowadays just have little notebooks, mainly for jotting down interesting words. Should really keep more of a journal type thing for writing. That shall be my NY's resolution

suze2000 said...

Sounds like a fun trip - I would not be concerned about the cold, but I don't normally choose to travel in the Northern winter, simply because the days are so short, you can't pack a lot in before feeling like it's bed time. Still that's a personal thing and I imagine most people don't feel that bedtime happens as soon as darkness falls. ;)

Sounds busy anyway I hope you have a great trip and come home rested for the year at work.