Phobias, Foibles and Characters

I like to think of myself as a reasonably well-adjusted, rational, intelligent woman, with the usual quota of foibles and idiosyncrasies. But I do have three completely inexplicable and bizarre (except for one)  ‘phobias’.

Let’s start with the one that I believe is sensible and, given my seaside Sydney home, perfectly justified. Although, it has been known to induce fits of hysterical laughter amongst good friends and family.


Not to be trusted - ever

Yes. Sharks. You’re with me here aren’t you? Who isn’t concerned about the possibility of a shark gnawing on your quadriceps as you have a leisurely swim in Sydney Harbour or at one of our gorgeous beaches? Quite understandable.

I have a proven method of avoiding a shark singling me out when I’m swimming. (Proven, because I have not once had even the briefest glimpse of a shark in the many years I have been practising this method.) When I’m in the water, I make sure there are always several swimmers ahead of me. A shark bait buffer zone. This, combined with my ‘if the water’s too deep to see the sandy floor, I’m too far out strategy’, has proved fail-safe.

But sometimes, the terror of the shark is so great that I simply have to get out of the water. Even in an indoor swimming pool. Yes, that’s right. Laugh away. I have been so overcome by my fear of the shark that I have clambered out of an indoor pool. Of course I know there is not a Great White cruising in the deep end, niftily camouflaged by the black line on the bottom of the pool. That’s what a phobia does. Rational thought is immediately jettisoned.

Which pretty much sums up my second big fear. The open staircase. Or even worse, the open spiral staircase. I hate them. I will avoid them at all costs. My fear of slipping through the riser-less gap is profound. I have been known to freeze on them, my legs refusing to function. A wave of nausea and prickling fear can sweep over me and I just can’t move as I cling desperately to the railing.

Nightmare Scenario on Cockatoo Island

Going up is terrible. I can see the potentially lethal gap as I climb the staircase. And as for going down? It’s just as bad. I can’t see the chasm (four inch space), but I know it’s there just waiting to seize my ankle and pull me through.

I have absolutely no idea how, when, where, or why this fear made an appearance in my life. Maybe it’s because I’m so um…  height challenged (5′ isn’t so short is it?). Who knows? I sure don’t, but I’d put money on a traumatic past life experience.

Unlike my final phobia in the Big Three. That humble vegetable, the pea. Or as I affectionately refer to them, ‘little green balls of misery.’

so green, so round, so utterly revolting

I come from the generation where the evening meal was meat and three veggies and force-feeding was part of the daily ritual. You ate what was on your plate. Quietly, so dad could listen to the news on the wireless, and without complaint. My mum, a lovely woman,  simply could not believe that her four children disliked peas. And so she kept serving them and I found all kinds of ways to avoid eating them, like hiding them under my lamb chop bone. I can still feel the horror of the night I discovered that peas do not flush down the toilet, they just bob around in the bowl, accusingly.

To this day, I still will not, cannot eat peas. I dissect spring rolls, samosas, pies, anything that may contain a pea. I have left, untouched, bowls of fried rice, minestrone and any other dish with a surfeit of peas. And as for watching other people eating them? Blah.

So, when I’m thinking about characters that I’m developing, I remember that I am a well-adjusted, intelligent, rational woman with a couple of phobias and a penchant for ironing tea towels. We’re all a bit weird in our own way and so are my favourite characters.

Winding Down

It doesn’t matter how often I stop and watch this, it still amazes me.

23/6/11 4:54 – 5:14pm

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I love Belle and Sebastian and the animation in this clip is gorgeous, I’ve been to yoga and it suits my mellow state. Winding down at the end of the week.

& We Shall Write In Gardens All Misty & Wet

Ian Marr 2009 - Slate
















 Sweet Thing  from Astral Weeks  1973, Van Morrison.

Carved in slate, these words greet you at the entrance of Wendy Whiteley’s Garden. A not quite secret, but usually quiet, idyll of lushness created from waste ground abandoned by City Rail.

It’s a garden of narrow paths meandering over it’s steep, terraced slope with handmade stone walls and staircases to paths that may or may not lead you somewhere. It has dark glades with hidden benches that beckon lovers, or camouflage the secret lairs of dragons and fairies. Other paths lead you to sunlit lawns or open onto views of Lavender Bay, the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park.

Throughout the garden are pieces of sculpture and objects that are no longer functional, but have become far more interesting, amusing and inspiring in their second life. It’s a place of texture and contrasts, of foliage rather than pretty flowers.

It’s a wonderful place for a writer. A natural den to escape to and let your thoughts wander, to have your creativity replenished. To be reminded that when the rubbish is cleared something of great beauty can emerge. If like Wendy Whiteley you’re willing to start at one end and see where it takes you.

Of the garden Wendy Whitely says, ‘It will never be finished. That’s the thing. Like a life is never over until you’re dead.’

Head - Joel Elenberg 1970

Change of Pace Friday

It’s been a busy week and I’m easing into an even busier weekend. Yes, it will be predictably White. There will be scarves, farmers’ markets, a moleskine notebook even some musical theatre (#77). Today, I’ve warmed up with some downward dog at yoga and summoned the creative energy whilst in Warrior 1 because there was a blog post to be written before the busy weekend. But so far, I seemed to have only tweaked a hamstring rather than opened up  a flow of original and wonderfully entertaining new ideas.

So in the absence of any such ideas, I humbly offer the view from my bedroom balcony. Not into Johnny Depp’s apartment, unfortunately, but across Sydney Harbour to Barangaroo  and the city skyline.

From The Room With A View

In the foreground is a rusted relic from the days when Sydney Harbour was a working port and not just about corporate Harbour cruises and doof-doof party boats with male strippers. ‘Who’d like to take him home to meet mum and dad?’ Yes, please do. Anyone. Take him away so I don’t have to hear it next Friday and Saturday nights as well.

There are rowing crews having whistles blown at them in the pre-dawn chill, liners fog-horning their departure and the regular chugging and tooting of the ferries. The Water Rats (Police) are at the end of the street, but we’re still waiting for any sign of life from there.

Across East Balmain to the Bridge

As night falls, the red and blue logos of skyscrapers seep across the water, blurred  and diffused like one of Monet’s waterlily ponds. And of course the fireworks. Not just the New Year’s Eve extravaganza, but an almost weekly event at Darling Harbour or across at the Opera House. The snap, crackle and fizz of the red, green, silver and gold celebrations still send me to the window to ooh and aah.

It’s well-filling, inspiring and beautiful and that’s where I turned to today when my Warrior 1 failed me.