boys attract me?
good men instead
dangerous to know
pain and anger
Broken wings healed
here, some redeemed.
I bumped into a real estate agent in the supermarket yesterday who I had some dealings with about eighteen months ago; she recognised me behind my mask from my earrings.
‘How are you? Are you working from home?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I’m getting used to it now after a couple of weeks.’
‘A couple of weeks? I’ve been working from home since March.’ I laughed. She was pretty blown away. I didn’t even tell her my work life is now least 30% video conferencing.
I’ve mostly settled into the restricted lifestyle we have here in Melbourne although I do get a bit stir crazy every so often. Trying to find a balance at the moment is tough.
Last week I took a few days annual leave from the day job to attend the Romance Writers of Australia virtual conference. It ran Wednesday to Sunday, some of the sessions were great, others less relevant to me. I struggled to give my attention to my screen all day, especially in the pre-recorded sessions.
In a virtual conference some death by powerpoint is inevitable but I came out of the week feeling pumped about writing and more confident in describing my current work in progress.
The writing community is so encouraging and warm, I am hugely thankful to be a part of it. I’m glad the conference was able to go ahead in the face of a pandemic, hats off to the organising committee. I was disappointed not to be able to see Perth, or meet everyone in person. I guess I’ll have to wait till next year on the Gold Coast (fingers crossed).
I can only hope we come out the other end of this period of history wiser, kinder, safe and healthy. Breathe deeply, drink more water, get some sunlight, and remember you’re a like plant with complicated emotions.
Global pandemics, like grief, affects each person differently. Some people in my circle have been able to produce a lot of work during the pandemic, others have produced almost none at all. I completed a survey last night on the effect of the pandemic on mental health which included an array of psychological test scales.
One scale measured body dysmorphia* which tapped into a few thought patterns I hadn’t been aware of. It’s just over six months since my accident and I’m still attending physio several times a week. My ankle is strong enough to walk to the local coffee shop and back, about 30min round trip, but not much further. The mobility of the joint is still compromised, especially after sitting for a while or getting up in the morning. It’s also much bigger than the other ankle.
Part of me has always known my left ankle will never be the same, but another part of me thought if I tried hard enough it would recover. I’ve had my final surgical review, and finally got to see the x-rays (I think they were hiding them in case I was upset) and I have a couple of pieces of metal in my ankle which will stay there permanently. The surgeons also informed me that in ten to twenty years I would be arthritic, so I have that to look forward to.
The coronavirus has affected people in very different ways. I remind myself I’m doing well in comparison to some – I still have a job, my income is stable, my housing is stable and safe, and I’m not unwell (injury not withstanding) – but I can’t help feeling down at the idea of repeated waves of increased transmission, going into and out of lock-down, and being worried every time I go out into the world until we find a vaccine.
I live in Melbourne, our city and state has been doing much worse than the rest of our country lately and it doesn’t look like it’s improving. Days blur into one another. The view of my terrace/balcony is lovely, but I’m getting sick of it.
I’m tired. It feels like I’ve been tired for a while and it’s hard to know whether it’s really tiredness or just boredom, or stress. I worry we’re going to come out of this period of human history and all be total weirdos.
What have I been up to during lockdown v2? I am working the day job (from home), editing a manuscript, attending physio rehab, doing trivia with friends on Zoom, baking sourdough bread, reading, watching a lot of streamed TV, procrastinating doing work on the mural in my hallway**, yoga and other exercise at home. I try to keep myself busy but it often feels like an uphill battle.
I hope you’re staying safe and keeping up your mental health routines as much as possible. It is comforting to know that everyone is in the same boat, but it’s also okay to acknowledge a hard time to be alive.
*A quick Google shows it was the Dysmorphic Concerns Questionnaire
** The mural is quite large and quite complicated, based on this image by Christian Waller, and whenever I think about doing a bit of work on it I become overwhelmed and do other things, like writing blog posts.
I sit, my belly boils
with the smallness of life
with my poetry
Outside, everything is dark
hide inside, afraid
or not afraid enough
I watch people walking around
anxious on their behalf
I am a worrier, overthink
everything, don’t know how
to turn it off. How will
I stay sane here alone?
How will I stay healthy
when everyone is a
It wouldn’t happen to me
Until it does.
It’s heated blanket and tea weather in Melbourne. Despite the government easing restrictions on social gatherings I’ve largely remained cocooned at home cooking and receiving delicious baked goods from friends.
I also thought it might be fun to publish my 2018 poetry chapbook as a free ebook for people looking for new content.
It’s a short, pithy, and potentially upsetting set of works, so please take care when reading.
Today I bring you my interview [socially distanced via the interwebs] with the fabulous Nicole Henriksen. Nicole has written their debut work of prose, Daydreamings, following years writing and performing several award-nominated theatre and comedy shows.
Daydreamings is a collection of flash fiction, in which Henriksen dips into the stories of diverse friends, family, and lovers, over thirty-two pieces.
A remorseful ex attending a wedding, a friend helping another be brave and honest, a disconnected father trying to finally find common ground, the excitement of a new romance, and so many more.
Fleur: I met you in 2015 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival after seeing your show Honeycomb Badgers on Acid, and we’ve been in contact since then. I really enjoyed your comedy/theatre work, tell me about this new project, how does it relate?
Nicole: Thank you for reminding me! I had forgotten how we met, that’s the chaos of Edinburgh Fringe for you. Thank you for your kind words about my live shows, they’ve definitely influenced my prose. Daydreamings, and all the prose I’ve written, is very much composed in the rhythm of the spoken word.
The way I use language in my prose, is more similar to a song lyricist or playwright, than a straight up and down author. It’s something I wasn’t aware of, until my editor, Mireille Stahle, pointed it out to me.
But I really like prose to feel like someone is reading it out loud, as though it has flow and feeling, as though the beats of the words have meaning, and sit well when read out. This is something I didn’t know was unusual, or interesting, because I myself don’t and can’t read, it’s the reason I started writing as a child, and developed an ability to bullshit an essay, without reading the main text, as a teenager.
F: In the last few months I’ve watched your journey since getting your Autism diagnosis. Tell me about how this has changed your creative process and/or your life more generally?
Thank you for following along on that journey, it’s strangely special to share it with other people. It’s an interesting and awkward process for sure, a lot of emotions, difficult and painful self-reflection, and learning about my brain.
N: There’s a relief with a diagnosis, but also a daunting new reality, and also a realisation that it’s not a silver bullet. Every issue I’ve had in the past isn’t magically erased because I now understand why I find certain things so incredibly challenging that I have panic attacks, when other people can just fill out the damn form.
It’s changed my creative process by giving me a greater insight into how my brain works differently, and in turn, how I apply that to my writing. For example, I often am not privy to a lot of “normal” experiences, and end up an observer of those experiences, rather than a participant. It was something I felt guilty about before my diagnosis, but now, I realise it’s one of the main reasons I feel so compelled to write.
That observer perspective is the narrator. It’s the child watching their parent drink alone, it’s the remorseful ex at the wedding, it’s the reflective young adult watching their parents dance at family Christmas. It’s a really important tool I can use to explore love, death, loss, and connection.
F: Your show Makin’ it Rain referred to your work in the sex industry, does this new work, Daydreamings, refer to this work?
N: It was a real “kill your darlings” moment, but I had a couple of pieces about sex work, and they simply didn’t fit with the collection. The tone was all off, so I had to cut them out.
In this collection, I’m really looking to explore connection, and to me, connection has to be genuine to have meaning. I wouldn’t say that for me, the connections I make in the sex work industry, at least with clients, are genuine in that same sense. I also think that honestly, that’s a whole collection in and of itself.
F: As a writer, I try to walk the line between serious and absurd in order to shed light to issues I believe are important. How does maintaining this balance inform your writing?
N: That’s a great way of putting it. I’d definitely say I’m intrigued by that same balance of serious and absurd, though I lean more toward a balance of awkward truth and tension-relieving comedy. It’s something I very much brought to my theatre works as well.
I really feel like intimacy and genuine connection, which is the main theme of this collection, is inherently awkward and cringey, there’s something so embarrassing about some of our most honest thoughts, desires, shared moments, it’s something mostly only shared with trusted people in our lives, in my observations. And I also feel that there’s a chance for comedy in some of those moments, both in terms of banter between characters, and in the harrowing experience that is sharing those cringey truths.
F: Finally, tell us about your work Daydreamings.
N: Daydreamings at its heart, is an exploration of the mortifying ordeal of being known, and its overwhelming benefits, despite how difficult it might seem at certain times, perhaps after a fight with a friend, or a romantic break up.
I’m obsessed with connection, because it’s something I’ve struggled with as an autistic person, and something I’ve always sought to have tremendous control over, which of course, is a futile exercise. So, because of that lived experience, I still have a lot to learn, but I have a lot I’ve already taken away from the many types of connections I’ve successfully, or unsuccessfully, made.
And in Daydreamings, I dip into a diverse series of moments with friends, lovers, family, and others, to share some of these experiences, and the challenges that come from trying to simply connect to other human beings, as we move through life.
You should know (given I keep telling you) I’m releasing my third novel, My Mother’s Secret today! I just had a launch party on my Facebook author page. If you want to, you can watch it here.
I’m also giving away a copy of my book to the best ‘terrible meet cute’ until 7:30pm tomorrow (Melbourne time), so make sure you comment on the video to win a copy.
Thank you for everyone who attended, and who has/will buy the book.
It’s been nearly four months since I was hit by a car. Some of you may be surprised to know that I’m still hobbling around on crutches, although I am rid of the moon boot as of last week. I need one further surgery to get all the metal taken out, it was supposed to be last week but then I had a bit of a sore throat and the hospital told me I couldn’t go in until after I’d had a test for COVID-19.
The test was unpleasant but tolerable, much in the same way as a pap smear test is unpleasant but tolerable. I don’t have it, thankfully, just some other unrelated sore throat issue. The whole saga reminded me of how weird the world has become. Things which would have been totally normal this time last year just don’t happen anymore, and things that would never have happened last year are common place – like having nothing scheduled every night this week. Lots of people are out of jobs, though thankfully in Australia we haven’t had huge numbers of deaths.
The whole world reminds me of a sketch I saw once, I’m pretty sure it was Bill Bailey but of course I can’t find the clip anymore. He described an East-German sitcom he’d made up entitled ‘Das ist verboten’ (translated it can mean variously: it’s illegal, it’s forbidden or it’s not allowed).
Everything I used to do feels like it’s illegal, forbidden, not allowed. Going to see a band, modelling for an art class, catching up with more than five people. I went to the supermarket on Saturday to get supplies for my isobaking and isocooking and there were so many people there. It was stressful. I didn’t feel as though I could get far enough away from people and I was wearing a big jacket because it was cold outside, but it was not cold inside so I was overheating which made everything worse.
Time is moving both extremely slowly and dizzyingly fast. I was released from hospital exactly a month before lock down started, but I wasn’t very mobile then. Now I’m more mobile, I have more energy, I’m even back up to my regular hours at the day job, but there is no where to go. Since being in partial isolation I’ve forgotten how to socialise. People exhaust me. Life exhausts me. I guess that’s kind of par for the course – everyone is exhausted or stir crazy or both.
I announced a while ago that I would publish my third novel on 1 June 2020, that’s only a week away. I blame the weird action of time for this. I’ll be hosting a virtual book launch on Facebook next Monday evening (Melbourne time) and I’d love you all to come. I haven’t entirely worked out what I’m going to do but it should be fun none the less.
If you don’t fancy the book launch or you live in a time zone where it will be awkward, you can always purchase your copy of My Mother’s Secret on Amazon and all good online book retailers. There might be a recording of the launch too.
One day we might look back at this time and think of all the things we learned, all the bread we baked, and all the government deficits we accumulated and smile, but it will be a long time from now. Until then, just try to be excellent to each other I guess.
Yesterday, 30 April 2020, was the last day of NaPoWriMo and I managed to complete my thirty poems in thirty days, as I have in years past. WooHoo!!
I didn’t manage to do a poem every day, there were a couple I missed, but I made them up the next day.
Many poems were about isolation and the weirdness that is the global environment at the moment, which I guess isn’t surprising, it takes up a lot of everyone’s brain-space at the moment.
I’ve increased my hours at the day job, working from home of course, and doing rehab for the broken ankle four days a week. And I’ve become obsessed with baking sourdough bread (haven’t we all).
So keeping myself very busy!
I’ve organised a virtual book launch for my new novel, ‘My Mother’s Secret’, due for release 1 June 2020. I’m still figuring out exactly what a virtual book launch involves, but feel free to come long and join me!
Pre-orders of the book are available on Amazon in e-book and paperback, and other good online book sellers.
The cold weather is coming
we’re locked in our houses
my brain no longer works
as it should – stuck
a needle on a record
skipping ‘round and ‘round
the same day repeated
Be creative, that will help pass the time
be disciplined, use the time wisely
but how can I when everything is
broken and dying?
The world is faded, grey
an old picture, a flashback
in a movie. Desaturated
technicolour of not seeing friends
lacking human touch, dulled lust
all that remains is blunt hunger
ever present and never satiated.