Remembering Liam and Frankie Davison

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I was shattered at the news last Friday of the death of our closest friends, Liam and Frankie Davison in the Malaysian Airlines disaster in the Ukraine. He was a fine novelist and short story writer, and a wonderful human being. We were friends for over forty years, since Teacher’s College. He was my mentor, my listening post, my fellow editor at Peninsula Writing, cycling friend, just friend. At some time, when I’m a bit stronger, I intend putting up something more substantial online to honour his writing and try to bring together various pieces of writing. Meanwhile, you can read an obituary by Nat O’Neill HERE, read some of Liam’s writing at his Gillhaney blog HERE or read his most recent piece in The Griffith Review HERE.

There was also a piece about Liam’s writing in the Sydney Morning Herald by Gregory Day HERE.

Some details about the memorial service on Sunday are below:

Sam and Milly, along with their extended family, invite friends to gather at Toorak College on the upper playing field overlooking Port Phillip Bay on Sunday 27 July 2014 at 2:30pm, to pay tribute and share our love for Liam and Frankie.

Liam and Frankie’s family’s have been extremely touched by the love and support received over the past week. In 2011 Frankie and Liam visited The Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home in Pokhara, Nepal, where they were both touched by the incredible work being done there. These efforts rely largely on donations, in which the Davisons were instrumental over the last few years.

A trust has been set up for the Orphan Home in Liam and Frankie’s memory. Rather than flowers, we ask that those wishing to continue their support to the Davison family make donations to this fund.

With much love and thanks.

Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home, Pokhara, Nepal

Account Name: Amelia Davison Annapurna Orphanage

BSB: 06 3550

Account Number: 1036 2702

 


Crossing the Yangtze

I love rivers. A couple of years ago in China I had a spare afternoon and a driver, and no-one else had any better ideas so I asked if we could see the Yangtze River, which wasn’t far away. So we drove down there, drove over and drove back. I didn’t get out of the car and certainly didn’t taste the water like I didn’t taste the water like I did when I came to the broad majestic Shannon years ago. Anyway, I took lots of photos and today found them again and spliced them into a movie. The sci-fi effect is linked to the odd dislocating experience of this surreal river crossing. I’m glad I’ve seen it.


The Eye

I’m sure this will be a poem sometime: sitting in the bird hide in the Briars late yesterday afternoon, after a walk in the cold and wind, just enjoying being inside and watching some cormorant drying their black wings, suddenly a white egret flying in and sitting inches away, feathers rustling, holding itself close against the wind and the cold, it’s bright, unblinking eye.

Egret in the Briars
Egret in the Briars


Walking by the bay

Refreshing the spirit

First day of the mid-year holidays after a busy term’s teaching, finishing up with lots of report writing and deadlines.

So, nice on a cold Saturday morning next day to walk along the edge of the bay from Mt Martha to Mornington and enjoy the wind and the bay in my head.
Too windy to ride I decided and, while I like getting out on the bike, there’s something more contemplative possible when you’re seeing the landscape at walking pace. I took some photos along the way and blended them into this short movie to start the holidays.


Out of time

Sometimes you step into a place that seems kind of strange. Or warming. Or sombre. Or something. Places have emotional connotations for me; it’s part of the joy of travel to find some of those places that resonate with you. Or re-visiting ones you know.

So, I was interested to find this new little place not far from where I live. My normal walks around the Briars were closed because of the Easter holiday so I walked a different way and found this new creek, and new landscape. Very still and seemed full of story somehow. I captured about forty seconds or so on the video below. I expect poems!


Surf stories

I caught up with a lot of surfers yesterday at the 40th anniversary of the Peninsula Surfriders Club; a surfing club I joined in Year 12 in 1974. I don’t surf much these days but it was great to meet up with some faces from the past and to hear how many are still surfing, lots of them seeking out warmer climates now that the old bones don’t enjoy the cold waters of the Mornington Peninsula so much.

I’ve always thought surfing was more than just something to do at the beach when it’s hot. Maybe more than a sport.  When I was surfing a lot, I wrote about it a lot too, not so many poems but stories, articles, journal entries, trying to understand it all. I’ve got still a eighty page poetry sequence sitting in Scrivener waiting to be turned into an ebook, or a major section of some larger book someday. Maybe I should get back to that.

One of the surfers told me about a journal they liked called PaperSea, which looks part-travel writing, part surf-writing, photography and counter-culture.  Looks interesting, and good to see others interested in the subtler nuances about surfing and the sea. They write:

Creative men and women with an appreciation for hand-crafted quality will find honest stories and critical pictures about surf, travel and art from the world over.

We saw the need for a creative alternative and so we present to you a quarterly book for people who share our affinity for the ocean, creativity in its infinite manifestations and the thrills and perils of travelling amongst far away cultures.

Full-bleed images by the world’s best minds accompanied by their stories behind the moments are set alongside in depth interviews and stories. We are publishing first-hand experiences as we explore not just the beaches but also the cultures of far away countries.

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It made me go back to my own work too, and see what about surfing was there already. This poem, from my collection The Colour of Maps, probably owes as much to Gerald Manley Hopkins as it does to the waves, but celebrates an early surfing moment:

The Waves in the Bay

These fine light pulses
flicker across rippling sand,
perfect solids, half-lit wedges,
tubes unravelling continually
like pvc, along a precise depth of moment
and the spilling forward motion
is thrown out and over along an angling
vortex, punching out air like engines minutely,
crackling like small arms fire
along calf-deep edges
of sandbank promontories.

Or, on still days,
with the bay
stretched taut as glad-wrap,
wrinkly, oily looking,
and strange sets,
yes waves arrive in sets
like Meccano, assembled,
dark stacked mounds of water
appearing from somewhere abruptly,
unexpectedly complete,
the bow waves of some great tanker
that passed by ages ago, perhaps,
or merely the sea itself, its slow stretching
sending children skittering
from their floatables, new water
running up the smooth sand,
lapping at towels briefly like affairs,
the old tales of the seventh wave
that sinks ships: ask sailors about it.

And then, that perfect day, the miracle,
when, after the strong wind had finally
transformed the bay’s wayward cross-chop
into lines of swell that darkened
and caved out of the cold depths like bears,
the wind swung around, and while the pulse still beat
strongly in for an hour, fading at last by degrees,
with the sun,
those perfect waves
pushed still against an offshore,
smoothing before our amazed eyes,
these natural things becoming startling,
in surfing dreams come true at last
in the temporary crossing of energies.

And as they beat, still more faintly
from the yellow sunset
and we turned for home,
they were already depleted,
and we, rubbing the salt from our eyes
as if in a dream,
could already barely recall
the moment at all,
or the first fine lace spray
off an offshore in the bay.

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The end of place

Any long-time half-listening reader of this blog would know I’m fascinated by place. The placeless of the place. Where things were. What happened here. Maps. The uniqueness of these coordinates: where the battle was fought, where the rivers converge, where the babies came home.

I write often about specific places, landscape poetry sometimes, landscape-memoir my daughter calls it. I try to capture some of these in my poems, or photos. A kind of preserving.

So, I was a little sad on a long holiday walk last week to find our old house, our first house, falling into disrepair. It’s in roughly the same area we live now, only a few kilometres away but I don’t go up that way often. So, I was saddened to see what had become of it.

We weren’t there very long; less than five years, but it’s where we started as a real family. We bought the kids here when they were born, thirty years ago now. My grandfather and my father helped me build bookshelves and extend the verandah. We planted trees, I was proud of a native frangipani that somehow thrived in the sandy soil. We built a sand-pit, a barbecue and put up a tin shed. My daughters hid letters and drawings in the structure of new cupboards and bookcases for the future. Which is here now it seems.

It looks like the place is being pulled down. The fences are gone and it looks like it’s being dismantled bit by bit, the materials being stacked up to be sold. Maybe a block of flats next? To paraphrase Dylan Thomas: Place passes. Have a look. Place passes.

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Below: a long time ago, when the house was new.

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