All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Not to memory, but to dream

Way back in the distant past, in 2001 to be precise, I was nonchalantly browsing the books of a Cancer Council charity shop in Inverness. Various titles jumped out at me, various authors who were familiar to me made their presence known, but none more so than Charles de Lint. For there, sitting on the shelf, was a dog-eared, moth-eaten book entitled ‘Memory and Dream’. I had never read any de Lint, but I knew of him, my friend Deborah, who I’d met whilst long-terming in a backpacker hostel throughout the winter of 1999/2000, had recommended him to me on many occasions. But I’d never had the chance to read his work. None of the bookshops in Inverness carried his art, and at this time in life, few people shopped online as the internet was only beginning to take hold in people’s lives. So, in memory of our friendship, I paid the 50p for ‘Memory and Dream’ and popped the book into my backpack.

“The stronger a woman gets, the more insecure the men in her life feel. It doesn’t work that way for a woman. We celebrate strength–in our partners as well as in ourselves.”

Later that night, as it was quiet at work, I pulled the book from my bag and began to read. To say I was instantaneously captivated was an understatement. From the very first sentence of the book it grabbed my attention and spoke to me in ways that few books ever had. Never before had I found an author so capable of blending the atrocity of contemporary life with the beauty of the magical that so few humans choose to believe in. Within fifty pages I had fallen in love with Isabelle Copley, the gifted artist, and her best friend Katherine Mully, the aspiring writer of fairy tales. Within a hundred pages I knew Deborah had been right; de Lint was the author I had been looking for my entire life. A writer capable of weaving the fantastical and the mundane. A writer blessed with the ability not to simply tell stories, but to make them take on mythic, legendary status.

Over the course of four nights I devoured the book and, by the time Isabelle’s adventure had come to an end, I had grown to love both her and her numena in ways I had never experienced from fiction before. These were not simply characters on a page; they were living, breathing, real life individuals. Human beings that existed not just within the confines of a book, but, if you believed hard enough, able to live in the real world. Leaning back on my chair at work, I announced to an empty reception area that ‘Memory and Dream’ was one of my favourite books of all time.

“But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.”

As time moved on I became somewhat obsessed with de Lint’s tale of magic, art and myth. The book traveled with me wherever I went. A weekend in the Outer Hebrides; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to soothe me. An overnight camping excursion to the shores of Loch Linnhe; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to comfort me. When the time came to leave Inverness and resume living arrangements with my parents, ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to ease the stress. And when I decided to leave the UK behind and begin anew in Australia, ‘Memory and Dream’ took pride of place in my backpack, making the long, stressful plane journey into something less overwhelming and frightening.

For eight years ‘Memory and Dream’ continued to accompany me wherever I went. A weekend break to Apollo Bay. A week-long vacation to Wilson’s Prom and Gippsland. Even a day trip to Melbourne town, ‘Memory and Dream’ came with me. It lived perpetually in my backpack; easing my troubled mind with just the knowledge it was there should I ever need the comforting, inspirational words contained within it. The book was one of the few items that I refused to sell following the tragedy of my breakdown. It remained in my possession as I drifted into mania in Adelaide, was there for me following the chaos of the aftermath of rape and offered solace during those first few months of homelessness.

“It’s a mistake to go poking about in your own past,” she’d told her. “It makes you shrink into yourself. Every time you return you get smaller and more transparent. Go back often enough and you might vanish altogether. We’re meant to put the past behind us and be the people we are now, Izzy, not who we were.”

By 2010 ‘Memory and Dream’ had been through everything I had; abuse, assault, homelessness, breakdown…and it had never let me down. I read it religiously at lease once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Sometimes I just dipped into my favourite passages and allowed their grace to wash over me. But then, in April of 2010, a book I had protected, loved and cared for for nearly ten years, was stolen from me. An arrogant, cruel man, who appeared to be one of those hipsters I despise so much, decided to steal a homeless man’s bag; and with it the book he cherished the most.

For months I mourned the loss. No longer was I able to take solace in the magic de Lint weaved. No longer was I able to comfort myself with the unrequited love of Isabelle Copley, or her best friend, Katherine Mully. I knew I had to replace the book. I knew I needed it in my life, for without it, life seemed more frightening, more unbearable. For years I looked in every bookstore, every op shop, seeking ‘Memory and Dream’, but I was always left wanting. No bookstore stocked it. No bookseller had even heard of it.

“One expected growth, change; without it, the world was less, the well of inspiration dried up, the muses fled.”

But then, five years after it had been stolen from me, on a quiet afternoon in Wodonga, the sleepiest, most uncultured town I’ve ever visited, magic returned to my life. For there, on the bookshelf of a Salvation Army op-shop, was a copy of my old friend; ‘Memory and Dream’. It was the same imprint that I had once owned, the same delicious, beautiful nymphs dancing on the cover against the orange backdrop of some long forgotten forest. I grabbed the book in a flash, flicking through the pages to make sure they were complete and undamaged, I rose the spine to my nose and inhaled the gorgeous scent that only a second-hand book can contain; part musk, part hope and part magic. And I took it to the counter and purchased it without hesitation. My five-year search had ended; ‘Memory and Dream’ was mine again.

To relish. To love. To protect.

Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

Me, with my new copy of ‘Memory and Dream’, my much loved, much admired friend (August 2015)

The reading woman sits by the window, lamplight falling over her shoulder onto the book. It is the book that glows a golden bath of lemon yellow faintly touched with orange, surrounded by violet shadows. The glow of the book casts a soft light onto the woman’s features, a soft light and softer shadows, and sets the tangle of her hennaed hair aflame.

It is possible to see diminutive figures in the shadows, crouching on the arms of the chair to peer at the words in the pages of the woman’s book, peeping out from in between the curls of her red hair. Tinier shapes still, not quite the size of mosquitoes, hover in the lamplight. Some are silhouetted against the curve of her throat and the shadow of her nose, other against the faint spray of freckles on brow and cheek.

Their heads are like those of fledgling birds: noses sharp and long, features pinched, brows high and smooth. Their figures – when in silhouette – are not unlike a tadpole’s. They have limbs like small crooked twigs, bird’s -nest hair that stands up in surprise and in ungovernably wild. Some have wings with the gossamer iridescence of a dragonfly’s.

The reading woman gives no indication that she is aware of their presence. The book captures her full attention. But surely she can feel the press of miniature bodies as they move against her arm, or the faintest movement as they slip in and about the curls of her hair? Surely she can see the tiny shapes flitting in the dusky air that lies between her grey-green eyes and the page?

Or perhaps they are only shadows, nothing more. And the summer’s night that lies outside her window belongs not to memory, but to dream.

La Liseuse, 1977, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Collection The Newford Children’s Foundation.

~ from ‘Memory and Dream’ by Charles de Lint.


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Melbourne 2015: Day 07. A rather solemn affair

My final day in Melbourne was a rather solemn affair. It began innocuously enough; sliding myself out of bed, stepping into the shower, slipping my clothes on and then sidling out the motel room for another day exploring and relishing in the greatest city in Australia, but as the day progressed and time ticked slowly on, I was overcome with a melancholy that I wasn’t expecting. The fact of the matter was I didn’t want to leave. Since being in Melbourne my mental health had, for the most part, not been an issue. I was walking past hundreds of people a minute and my social anxiety was nonexistent. I was in constant connection with memories of the most traumatic periods of my life – abusive relationship, homelessness – but my PTSD had barely registered. Being in Melbourne, it seemed, was good for me.

Unlike the other days of my Melbourne adventure, my final day in Melbourne saw no tourist attraction being explored. I considered going to the zoo (but that was too expensive) and I looked into going to the Old Melbourne Gaol (but that also proved too expensive) so instead I just meandered around the city. I undertook a laneways tour; reacquainting myself with the alleys and back streets that I used to know so well. I explored the Queen Victoria Market; and felt ashamed by the grotesque prices being asked for tatty tourist merchandise. I meandered various shops that I once knew so well; PLAY, a DVD shop selling rare and hard to find titles, JBHIFI, a music/DVD shop selling mainstream titles and various booksellers at the top end of Bourke Street, whose collections were interesting and diverse. Alas, I couldn’t buy anything. After seven days in Melbourne my finances were low and I needed what little money I had left for food and beverages.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

It may sound boring, just walking around a city, but it was anything but. Melbourne may not be the prettiest city known to humankind, but once you get past the hipsterfication, it still heralds many architectural and retail gems. Walking around the city was something I used to do every week, and as I strolled around the CBD that final day, I was overwhelmed with memories of my past lives. Of when I was overwhelmed and excited upon arriving in Australia. Of when I was happily in a relationship with Louise. Of when I worked my arse off at the backpacker hostel. The memories flowed thick and fast that final day in Melbourne, but never once tipped me over the edge, never once did the PTSD overwhelm me. For once, I was in complete control.

By 1:30pm I was settled into Federation Square, shocked at how fast time was moving, so decided to slow things down with a final visit to one of my favourite places in the city, the NGV: Australia in Federation Square. It would be my third visit since arriving, but I didn’t care. There is something calming, something altogether relaxing, about roaming around the gallery, soaking in the majestic, inspirational art on show. To add some diversity to my visit I decided to undertake one of the free gallery tours they offer, in which a volunteer guides you through the gallery, regaling you with stories and history of various, important artworks. There were only two of us in the tour, but the information provided was interesting and informative. It cast the artwork in a new light; adding life and vitality to work that I have grown to love and care about.

Inside the NGV: Australia

Inside the NGV: Australia

After the tour I left the gallery and, on Audrey’s request, returned to the secondhand bookstore we had found days earlier. Bookshops, like galleries, are also a calming and relaxing venue for me. There is something about being surrounded by books that fills me with happiness. For nearly half and hour we scoured the shelves for anything that sounded interesting and, eventually, left with two books; one for Audrey (Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White) and one for me (Glencoe, John Prebble).

After a brief visit to ACMI we still had time left on our hands so, spontaneously, decided to return to the NGV: Australia, where we spent another hour roaming the halls and photographing the various artwork that spoke to us the most. It still amazed me how calming I found the NGV to be, and it hammered home just how stressed I have become from living in Wodonga, and how much I desperately need to leave that rural backwater town.

We ended the day in our usual way; a canister of Irn Bru, a visit to the Little Library and a relaxation session on a bench in Flagstaff Gardens. This bench, like many places in Melbourne, I had a personal history with. When I was homeless in 2007, following a year of abuse, breakdown and mental catastrophe, it was the first place that I called my ‘home’, with many nights spent curled up upon it trying desperately to sleep through the night. But I sat there, that final night in Melbourne, reflecting on my life now and my life then; how far I have come in certain respects, and how similar I remain in others. After solemnly leaving the bench I meandered to the pizza shop, treated myself to another beautiful potato and rosemary pizza, and returned for a night of relative calmness in the motel.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

Unlike my other days in Melbourne, this last day was far more reflective and quiet. I didn’t undertake any lengthy walks, I didn’t spend a huge amount of time doing the tourist thing. I just allowed the city of Melbourne to wash over me and, in turn, reignite my love for the Victorian capital. As I drifted off to sleep, filled with a cantankerous malaise over the end of my holiday and my inevitable return to Wodonga, I realised once and for all that I would need to leave that suffocating country town. For the sake of my mental health, for the sake of my sanity, for the sake of my life; I needed to leave Wodonga.

The next morning I awoke early, switched on breakfast television, and put off packing for as long as possible. I knew that packing would mark the end of my holiday and, truth be told, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be walking back into the city for another day exploring the urban landscape and relaxing in the concrete jungle. But I couldn’t. All I could do was stumble out of bed, throw my possessions together, and make the long, slow walk to the train station where a stressful four hour train journey awaited me.

My holiday was over…and it saddened me greatly.

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

It had been seven blissful days of excitement, exploration and (occasional) extravagance. I had seen centuries old artwork, chillaxed in gardens, played with penguins, fought my demons and reacquainted myself with a city I once called home. It had been exactly what I needed; a break from my mental health, a break from stress, a break from Wodonga and a break from myself.

My holiday was, in one word, blissful.

A week I will never forget.

 


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Melbourne 2015: Day 04. Chillaxing in Fern Gully

And so we enter day four of my magnificent adventures in Melbourne. Today, the photos outweigh the text as we take a blissful stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens, chillax in the art galleries and take a tour of Melbourne CBD via some abstract architecture photography. Enjoy! :)

22nd August 2015, 7:51pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

Another. Busy. Day. It all began at 9:15am when I left the motel for a bracing stroll to Federation Square to visit the (much-loved) Book Market. It’s not the most jam-packed of book markets, but any volume of books is blissful for me. Although there were several books I wanted to buy (Murakami, White, Welsh, Robbins) I showed restraint and purchased only one: The Crow Road by Scottish literary master Iain Banks. This is a book I have loved since I first read it, a book that is firmly in my top ten of all time and a book I’ve been seeking out for years. And, as I’m currently embarked on a quest to attain a copy of each of my top ten favourite books, couldn’t pass up this literary bargain!

My top ten books of all time!

1. Quest for a Kelpie (Frances Hendry)
2. Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)
3. Northern Lights: A Poet’s Sources (George Mackay Brown)
4. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
5. The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)
6. The Stornoway Way (Kevin MacNeil)
7. The Crow Road (Iain Banks)
8. Still Life With Woodpecker (Tom Robbins)
9. Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson)
10. Voss (Patrick White)

~ Bolded titles indicate those I currently own ~

After the book market I decided to return to the NGV and spent a good hour chillaxing amidst the art. Then, after a Cherry Coke break, I decided to head over to the Royal Botanical Gardens for a couple of hours getting in touch with nature. It was so serene and peaceful. And I totally fell in love with Fern Gully; a calm stroll through a pseudo-rainforest that reminded me of the Dandenongs and, by association, that fateful day in October 2007. It also occurred to me as I smelled the flowers and squealed at the cacti that I’d never spent so long in the Botanical Gardens. I’d been there before, when I first arrived in Australia, and a visit with my abusive girlfriend, but never for the length of time I spent there today. It was quite wonderful and easily one of the highlights of my trip thus far.

Following the gardens I roamed past the Shrine of Remembrance on my way to the NGV: International, where I spent an hour chillaxing amidst the art. And today I was (finally) able to get up close and personal with The Banquet of Cleopatra, my favourite painting in the collection. Yay!

Banquet of Cleopatra Selfie - NGV International, Melbourne.

‘Banquet of Cleopatra’ Selfie – NGV International, Melbourne.

By this point in the day my blisters were growing and walking was becoming extremely painful, but I persevered and spent some time window shopping in Dymocks and taking a few photos around the city.

I then hobbled to the pizza shop, treated myself to a (spectacular) potato & rosemary pizza and returned to the motel to gorge myself on carbohydrate and cheese. I’m now exceedingly tired, unable to think straight, my feet are beyond painful and I’m wishing I’d brought more comfortable shoes with me! So I’m kicking back with Total Wipeout and anticipating a beautiful sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is another blast from the past – Lygon Street – and a return to the ocean, something I haven’t seen since 2009! :)


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Teaser Tuesday: The Dead Beat

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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The Dead Beat
by Doug Johnstone

The Dead Beat

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So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…


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Teaser Tuesday: Seconds

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

This week, my graphic novel obsession continues with…

Seconds
by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds66.

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So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…


2 Comments

Teaser Tuesday: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim - Teaser Tuesday

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So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…


5 Comments

Teaser Tuesday (August 05)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night
by Christopher Brookmyre

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night

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So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…