Bookfeast and Dust

Last Wednesday morning we opened our eyes to a world completely transformed: eerie and spooky beyond words. Everything outside was orange, and distance had vanished. Rare conditions of dry inland after decades of drought plus low pressure system plus high pressure system had combined to whip up winds which would vacuum tonnes of silt-like topsoil from the red centre of Australia, fan it eastwards in a cloud almost two thousand kilometres long, then blow it onwards to New Zealand.

Inner city as the dust started to clear

During the night I had begun to smell and feel the dust as wind began to buffet the house. The mildly choking sensation didn’t stop after I closed my window; fine particles leaked easily between floorboards and through cracks who knows where else. A red fog of silt lit by the struggling sunrise created a Martian landscape. Unlike a normal sunrise, red light wasn’t just illuminating everything from the east; it was all AROUND everything.

When light changes here, it usually means bushfires are about, and smoke is toying with the sun. Once the world turned green. That time a cyclone cut a swathe through the city snapping the top third off massive gum trees. When the light changes, one starts to feel a bit edgy.

I was heading into the city that morning with a wheeled suitcase full of books. By 10 am when I was on the move, the dust had tamed to a sickly yellowish fog on a boisterous wind such that the Sydney Harbour Bridge spanned a solid nothingness in a very disconcerting manner. Dust is just that degree more committed than water when it comes to pea soupers.

My mission was to do a double-act presentation with Duncan Ball at an event called Bookfeast where teachers bring kids from schools all over the city to sit with authors and chat over paper plates of lunch. I have to say, Haberfield Public School which hosted it makes GREAT chocolate cake!!!!

Duncan was on a small stage, and I leapt back and forth over it between two whiteboards positioned on either side drawing frantically while he read three short poems from “My Sister Has a Big Black Beard”. It was fun building up a drawing bit by bit while the tale unfolded. I must confess that by the third poem I wandered off topic a bit and drew Duncan in a tutu. Suited him, I thought.

By the time we left in the early afternoon the sky was blue again and the main sign that anything had happened was every car looking like it had “gone bush”, spending a giddy few days on dirt roads.

A milder dust cloud hit on Saturday; some people hadn’t waited until after this predicted second romp to wash their car. Me? I won’t be washing mine for a good while yet. Possibly years. Just in case.

(I have been making postcards today - check them out On The Drawing Table )

How to Drop a Bull with one Rope

So I was driving along a little back road the other day - a little residential street with parking on one side but narrow enough that you have to pull over to let oncoming traffic through. It winds a bit and there are those bumpy things in the middle to keep you on your side of the road. It is a 50 km p h area. There are speed humps. It is an uphill climb to the highway. There are traffic lights at the highway and pedestrians. Suffice to say I was not speeding up to the lights at the top.

I heard someone beeping. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw right behind me a little car with two young fellas in it- presumably laughing and joking, otherwise they were fitting in synchrony. I guessed they had spotted a friend. They were right on my tail. Hey, could they have been beeping at ME???!!!
I was still in a bit of doubt until red finally turned to green and they whisked around the corner behind me with a final auditory rude finger.

Hurrumppfff! How infuriating! How unjust! OK, so my hair is mostly grey - but that’s no reason to treat me like a little old lady driving irritatingly slowly for their coursing hormones and underdeveloped frontal lobes. What about the narrow road, the speed limit, the hill, the curves, the speed humps, oncoming traffic, the pedestrians, the inevitable red light...?

I began to work out what I would have done if only I had realised sooner that they were honking at ME! And if I’d known the light would be red for that long...I would have leapt out of my car, stridden (or whatever the word is in whatever that tense is for “stride”) back to knock on their window and said,

“Are you beeping at ME?”

If they had said yes (or something along those lines) I’d have said,

“So - I can drop a full grown bull with one rope. Can YOU?”

They would have been suitably chastened and incredibly impressed by the obviously vigorous, strong, wiley and superior person that I am in comparison to them.

Too bad I wasn’t wiley and superior enough to work out that I was being honked at.

Incidentally, yes I can drop a full grown bull with one rope and have had occasion to do so, but what does it say that the thing I think of to “show THEM!!!!” has to do with showing off superior strength and toughness?

Food for thought and worth some hearty discussion I think!

Kerry Millard - Unplugged, Unframed, and Ever-so-slightly Unhinged

It was a success!!!!!!!!


After climbing over students and readers sitting at little study desks in order to hang paintings, adding labels, straightening and blutacking, helping with food preparation, picking up wine and teacups, making lists and ticking things off them, the time arrived for the Opening of my first exhibition of paintings which runs until September 30: “Kerry Millard - Unplugged, Unframed, and Ever-so-slightly Unhinged”.

There are 41 works spread along the walls of the Gordon Library, and for me it is wonderful to see them all at once! It makes the library feel like my living room made gigantic - full of books and my familiar paintings.

Duncan Ball (author of Selby books, and My Sister Has A Big Black Beard which I illustrated) gave a lovely introduction and read several poems from our book. I then had a chance to chat about how deeply important it was to me that my mother had loaned me her oil paints when I was 8 and took my painting of a puppy to a gallery owner to see if he thought I should start lessons.

Their respect for me as a painter made that part of my identity- but a part which I had forgotten. And which I have now remembered with great excitement and productivity!

People loved the paintings (yay!) and six sold on the night. All have gone to good homes. I’ve put prices on the paintings in my “gallery” on this website so they are now available for sale here as well. Bittersweet- seeing my babies going off into the world...but you have to let go to make room for the next thing!

And in the middle of it all, a beautiful colourful bouquet arrived from my friend in the Yukon - colours matching those of the paintings!

Sigh. I’m still smiling.