This morning, Saturday, quite early, like many thousands of other Antipodean parents, I get up early to take my kid to play sport – in his case soccer. A home game. We drive up Victoria Road, Epping Road, Lane Cove Road, the Pacific Highway and the F3, then down through the Woy Woy Bends to Umina, where he lives, and where the game is. There is heavy cloud but no rain and it is beautiful to see the mist thinning from the river as we cross the Hawkesbury at Brooklyn, the Chinese landscapes of Muogamurra ranging, hill upon hill, into the West. Good too to be one on one with Liamh, we don’t get too many opportunities like this.

Oh, but at the field, we learn that his team is short two members and up against a full strength (13) team from The Entrance. They are confident, resplendent in red and white stripes; all boys. Umina’s nine are five small boys (one the goalie) and four tall girls and they just don’t look up to it. So it proves; but actually, they are a smart and skilful team and, had they had the extra players, might well have made a game of it. At half time they get one more member and do quite a lot better with ten in the second . . . but no subs and by the end I can see Liamh, who’s normally indefatigable in his pursuit of the ball, is so exhausted he can hardly run. His hair is sweat-plastered round his head and his face unnaturally red; yet he still finds the strength (or is it the will?) to jostle opposition players off the ball. Normally a quiet and mild-mannered child, he’s always had the potential to turn beserker and I guess it’s that aspect of his personality he gets to express on the field.

I don’t mind watching sport like this . . . apart from the behaviour of some of the other spectators. The coach for The Entrance, par exemple, throughout the game bellows non-stop at his team – advice, abuse, commentary, instructions, personal remarks – and seems oblivious to the existence of anyone else upon the ground apart from them and himself; and I learn, during the game, that the sport here is plagued by rogue adults such as this who approach what is essentially child’s play as if it were war. There are politics going on behind the scenes just as vicious as you might find in Canberra and these politics are in fact the reason why Liamh’s team is short – someone else poached their players, not because of their skills but for the sake of revenge. Hmmm.

Afterwards I drive up to Woy Woy station to collect Maggie and Ella, who are coming down to Sydney to stay overnight, mainly so Maggie can re-photograph certain stones I have at my place. They – the photos – will be used as illustrations for a book of five essays Holloway Press is bringing out later in the year. Some people laugh out loud when I say the essays are about stones but that is indeed the case; though I suppose you might say they are actually landscape pieces.

She sets up the camera as soon as she arrives and leaves it there while we cook and eat and try to watch a movie (Truckstop Honeymoon) and then, just before bed, checks it and finds it will not turn on. Consternation. I know nothing much about cameras apart from the fact that they are often the source of dramas like these; so I don’t get involved as she checks all the variables to try to find out what is wrong. Replacing the battery solves the immediate problem but why is the other battery flat? The charger, it seems . . . an American model, it has an adapter so it can plug in to the kind of power points we have here and there is perhaps a design fault in the way the prongs on the adapter are sprung so that they may be clicked out, when in use, in, when not . . .

I go to bed thinking about how the diary is considered a naive form and thus, almost by definition, truthful; and yet . . . W G Sebald spoke once of a vogue of documentary writing in German in the 1970s which opened my eyes. It’s an important literary invention but it’s considered an artless form . . . There are of course no artless forms, even a relatively rough and ready online journal like this one is made up of omissions as much as selections, of absences as much as presences. I find I tend to leave out the most intense experiences of my days, simply because they usually involve others and I don’t want to breach their, or my own, privacy.

Perhaps this is different in the case of an intimate diary, the kind you keep for your eyes only; perhaps there a kind of artless truth can prevail . . . but actually I doubt that too. I’ve never been much of diary-keeper but can think of two periods in my adult life, each of months rather than years, when I did write one. Both were periods of emotional turmoil and I guess I had recourse to writing on a more or less daily basis as a means of sorting out what might have been happening to, and around, me. One was in an exercise book, the other, after the advent of computers, on disk only. While I still have both, I’m unable to read either without burning shame: at the rank posturing I went in for, the self-pity masquerading as emotional honesty, the abject attempt to surrender my will to fate, the pitiable strategies I used to try to justify my behaviour. And yet, if someone else did read these things, would they think they tell the truth? Do they?

When you write that kind of diary – and perhaps equally this kind, which ‘anyone’ can read, too – it isn’t really your whole self you’re writing for or from: rather, you are staging a complex shadow play in which one part of you addresses another part while a third watches and listens; three, maybe more, puppet selves, contorting before mirrors. Self as actor, self as mask, self as audience . . . I’m not making any value judgement here, I’m just trying to identify what might be going on but it’s exhausting and in then end fruitless to contemplate these things too much or for too long. Besides, I’m tired . . . and then, strangely, just as I’m dropping off I think of something Liamh said when we were out by the car this morning, getting ready to go. Beside yourself, he said. That’s a funny one. How can you be beside yourself?


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