Monday, 31 January 2011

Tall Women

I have always had tall women friends. It is not because I am short, I am average height really. Once a tall skinny friend suggested I have a height complex because I always wear silly heels, but I don't think it is that. I have always worn heels. I remember my first mini platforms when I was around nine, and my first cork clunkers when I was twelve. Precious thing I was.

But I drift towards tall women. Maybe because they seem stronger, more resolute, they've had years of people staring at them. I like walking alongside them. They are easy to spot on the dancing floor in clubs.

Last week I caught up with a tall friend, now separated. We had a lot to speak about - about creativity, about men, about handbags. But that makes it sound simplistic. We talked about the courses our lives were on, and how we had set out as twenty year olds into the world.

My first glimpse of Europe was when I was nineteen. I instantly fell in love with the gritty Paris of the eighties that has shifted now. As soon as I had saved up enough, at twenty-one, I went back there to live, enrolled in the Sorbonne, wrote a novel in my room above the sweatshop downstairs. My 'family' were artists and there were murals painted on the walls, a dark room for printing and - oh yes! - a baby to look after. Malou was a classical Parisienne rebel who organised her world into creativity-motherhood-womanliness. She was my first and strongest example of these forces at work, and the main reason why I was determined to write, while getting my childbearing on the way.

And that was where I met my first tall friend, a dancer who basically helped me learn Italian (my boyfriend thought my accent too cute) while I ironed out her English. She too was easy to spot in nightclubs and walked with a remarkable back. We have since grown older and danced together in clubs in Tokyo and Moscow, thinking ourselves very exotic.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

And still she wanders

There is a myth out there, sometimes debunked, about the warmth and sensuality of Italy. About the richness of living here in the bosom of the ancient Romans, about being surrounded by frescoed churches and Palladian villas, markets bursting with produce, swarthy men in dozens driving sports cars about to whisk one off to chic bars ...

Beh! On some days I beg to differ.

In my book I try to talk about certain other truths. How women of an age become competitive, sour, unyielding, while dressed immaculately in Prada. About the out-of-season tans and massive handbags, the Sophia-Loren cleavages and a distinct lack of smiling.

Or the ruthless checking-out should you parade along a cobbled city centre street. What is she wearing? What brand is it? Could it be a Chinese copy?

I am skinny and wear heels and get looked at. I love clothes - but cheap clothes, designer markdowns, stuff I pick up abroad. In big European cities I might get blinked over, but not shredded over with mean, biting eyes.

Where is the sisterhood? I thought that yesterday as I was checked out again as I strolled through the school gate in my Barbarella boots and cheap fur jacket. That woman with the pulled and puffy face - was she smiling? Laughing? Where are the ladies in gym suits or with messy hair and no make-up? Where is another woman dressed a little crazy, stylish but in her own way?

No no no. Sometimes Italy is very very cold.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

white heat white bliss

You may or may not know that this divorcée has fallen in love. With a huge hunk of a man, an epic wonder to behold, a lender of burning strength and searing conviction.

Oh and he is of rocky and muscled build, handsome as they come, particularly astounding in the moonlight, offering a terrain of lusty secrets in the summer.


He's also around 3000 metres in height and covered in ice at the moment, although there are gentler folds of blue snow. Most of the time I just can't stop staring.

Yesterday this divorcée went up there. Put on her embroidered Pakistani 1970s fur coat at 5.30am and drove up into the dawn, whacked her telemark skis on the rooftop and pounded down the slope. No weekend warriors, no kids in my hair, perfect snowscape and no writers' bum for me!

It was worth it. And I am truly in love.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Back to the book

Now the moping must stop and I must cull something from the present. That means concentrating on the Book. Publication date is 1st June, so I will be in limbo until then. Should I read my horoscope? A mate says I am due for money from June. Better money than love? This month I say Yes.

The cover needs to be hiked into shape. I am happy with the front, but the back is not easy enough to read. I've been studying book rears from the shelves downstairs. A box to set off the text? Or my faded pink leopard print. Are we getting tacky? But I cannot continue the church nave background on the front. My protagonist Marilyn's antics include Italian underwear and (Italian?) sex. Surely that requires a lustier template.

I hate toying with Photoshop. Feels like I am up against someone far brainier who hides all the rules.

I am also working on my contact list for book reviews. So far I'm on the Release List for the Chick Lit Club and am working my way around. It's a start. Any ideas? Journalist friends? Bookshop owners? I am aiming to target not only English women with a penchant for Italy, but women who have travelled or who live abroad, or who simply want to exercise their English and have a raunchy laugh.

Back to the screen. Arrivederci.

Monday, 10 January 2011

December heat

I escaped from Italy. Packed suitcases with folded summer dresses and threw in this year's green plaited massive heels from Milan. The Mango dresses I think I'm still young enough to wear. Bikinis (plural) and Paul Smith's Rose perfume (the Summer Edition). A huge pair of beaded blue earrings.

And left.

The plane drumming through the night. Awful plastic meals. A glutton for film after film after film (do women like Angelina Jolie? Please tell me). Watching trucks trundle over the tarmac in Abu Dhabi at dawn.

Every two years I travel back to my home city which is Sydney. I think. After twenty-four hours in jet-fuelled limbo I cry over the Blue Mountains hunched against the New South Wales coast and check for the suburbs. My kids laugh at me. Mum! You are crying! Mum's crying! What are you crying for!

And this time no jet lag, a big beer, cawing birds in the morning.

It was a fast, windy, salty month. It is never long enough, hot enough, lazy enough. But going home is good. Even when the old gaps and doubts spring apart - where am I? Where is home? Who the hell am I playing at? - it is good to go back, smell the harbour, hug Mum, jump off the jetty.

My kids pretend they are Australians but they are not, they are something else, something hardier and layered, but they lap it up, the sun and the flipflops, the water skiing, the camp fire under the rockface. I devour books - La Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Haruki Murakami's stories, Junot Diaz - and feel a little dizzy, my heart is in my suitcase under the bed. Perhaps it wants to stay.