PULSE: reflections on the body

Pulse

 

he finds my pulse, pulse—

milk squirts—our—blood—drum—strum—his—

small hand— on my throat

I have a rather rapid heart rate and pulse rate that is most likely encouraged by high levels of caffeine. I found it embarrassing when I was at school when such things were measured in Sport and Science. (But then I think I found nearly everything at school embarrassing.) And I have caught myself wondering over that esoteric observation that everyone is allotted a certain number of heartbeats in this life; that this is predetermined. In my case, this is not comforting, I have been using mine up quite quickly.

a chalk drawing of a dalek saying recaffeinate outside a cafe

Always. And always with Dr Who reference. Thank you, Lonsdale St Roasters.

I went to the opening of an exhibition PULSE: reflections on the body last week at Canberra Museum and Gallery. I highly recommend it. Twenty-seven contemporary Australian artists are represented, and the public program involves performances, floor talks, and a seminar, and as you know I am jumping in by facilitating a writers workshop – Writing on the body on November 15, 12-5pm at CMAG. We will have some time to view the exhibition, and I will guide writers through exercises and games to respond to the exhibition and to discover and refine writing with/in/about/out of the body. I hope this will be the first of a series of guided writing workshops in response to exhibitions and collections at CMAG and around Canberra. Let’s see how this first one goes.

Write with a sense of the body. I have often offered this advice over my many years of creative writing teaching. This is not just about physical descriptions like hair colour or length or style, eye colour, height, or shape of your characters, but how they actually feel (or even not feel) in their bodies. The body is something we can all relate to, whatever our gender, culture, race, or other cultural definitions that accompany us, and if it is left out in crafting fiction or even poetry, something vital is most likely missing. I often find that this one piece of advice will lift a piece of writing to a new level, and often solve a number of other problems as well.

PULSE: Reflections on the body, is so rich, so stimulating, and so accessible. I really can’t do it justice in a little blog post. But I will engage with the exhibition in this space over the next weeks and invite anyone in town, nearby or passing through, to join my workshop, and more importantly, just go along and enjoy the exhibition. For the workshop book through the ACT Writers Centre, 02 6262 9191 or online https://app.formassembly.com/forms/view/10261

My haiku at the beginning of this post was inspired by Patricia Piccinini’s To fall under gravity, which I wondered over at the opening. This is the artist of Skywhale fame, and dear to many Canberrans’ hearts. In my first encounter with To fall under gravity it seems to me to be a series of floating nipples (or pimples) or they could even be air bubbles. They could be female or male nipples, and they are unassuming but also erotic, and quite plain, just ‘there’. Everyone I watched viewing it smiled, and some (like me) shoved their hands deeper in their pockets, resisting the urge to touch them. This exhibition actually affects your body. Of course it does. Can’t wait to be over this flu and cold (sniff)  and to get back to CMAG and Pulse. (I didn’t get the germ there, don’t worry! I got it at a dance class, or from my mum.)

ecard for Writing on the Body

 

Foot

Medical models of two feet, one with veins and tendons on cross section, and the other a skeleton

Don’t you love medical models of body parts?

 

I long for foot massages, and beg my loved ones anytime we are sitting down together and relaxing, to please rub my feet, to please manipulate the joints and stretch the tendons. In general they kindly comply. I don’t think good feet run in my family (sorry for the pun). I have suffered a lot of pain over the last few years that has meant I have had to stand up a great deal, and now my feet are the sore points. I pore over pictures of foot anatomy and try to locate the exact points of trouble. They have been x-rayed, ultra sounded and injected, and they still hurt to blazes. Massaging can make them better, and can also make them worse, but it is a risk I’m happy to take as it is sheer bliss in the moment.

I have always considered my feet as a point of distinction, as I have two webbed toes on both feet, and whenever I am asked that ‘getting to know you question’ in a class, Is there anything special about you?, I always reveal  the duckiness of my toes. Do you remember those great scenes in Local Hero when the marine scientist, Marina, (played by Jenny Seagrove) randomly emerges from the bay in her wetsuit like a Venus, and then later when Oldsen massages her foot and discovers her webbed toes? (He is played by a young Peter Capaldi, the latest Dr Who incarnation.) Mermaid heritage, I have always believed.

Writing about ‘the body’ has always interested me. Creatively, I have found this preoccupation rich and engaging. It is somewhere we can connect, through our senses, through the rhythms of our flesh, our creatureliness, our pain, our sexuality, our being. It has become an area of research for me as well, the place of body in philosophy and how it is represented in literature. But more of that later.

I remembered a piece I wrote, Foot, that was published in Body lines: a women’s anthology edited by Jillian Bartlett and Cathy Joseph, published by Womens Redress Press in 1991, and thought it was time it got its socks off and came out for an airing. So here it is.

FOOT 

I hold a foot, freshly washed, with dirt ingrained in the whorls of its sole. The flesh of the toes is soft like fruit. I bite it and the skin is powdery and white, but smooth. The sensitive arch cringes, and I hold it firmly as the foot wrenches in the air, and we laugh. It is the foot of a city walker, a pattern of callous, ridges the shape of shoes.

But this foot is made for wandering over plains, for long stretches of earth, for hills. It is made for me to kiss and bite. The toes fit perfectly in my mouth. They only just fit shoes, and they make holes in socks.

I separate the metatarsals, the delicate long bones and ligaments. Remember your foot when you were a child I say, it was like a hand, flexible and playful. Feet at rest and relaxed, relaxes the whole body, and your mind. Toes, their strangely different lengths separate, and manipulated, are free and grasping. The fluid in the joints flow, they rotate.

* She bites my foot again and the pain is so beautiful I nearly kick her in the face and fall off the chair. I can’t stop laughing until she digs her nails in and then massages the sole. She says my feet are dirty even though I just washed them. I don’t care. Remember your foot when you were a child she says. She captures my foot like a fish, trying to slither away. *

I am the massage. My hands and the foot are covered in oil, like they’re ready to be cooked. She kicks the bottle of oil over and it sinks into the carpet. Heat and cold pass between skin. Soft skin, rough skin, the two parts, hand and foot, manipulator and runner. The foot of a dancer. The foot of a singer. Touches the ground, heel and side and each toe in turn. And again, hips swaying, stamp after stamp. I feel the dance in this captured foot. I feel them dangling from a tree, about to touch the ground. I twist it and she loves it.

The other foot is less sensitive and more stubborn, it avoids my teeth. Like grains of earth under the skin, I can feel grit in the sole, small painful pebbles on which she walks. I draw the toes out, pulling them till the joints separate gently. Run my knuckles over the sole, into it. I bend the foot back, and pull it forward. She is almost asleep. I release the foot, the reflection of the body. Her mind is still as I put it down. We rest our feet together, sole against sole.
………………………………………………..

It is good to imagine pain free feet! It is interesting to look back over your writing and to come to understand your preoccupations, what your work might be ‘about.’ “The body’ definitely is important to me.

There is an exhibition about ‘the body’, just opened at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, Pulse: Reflections on the Body. I am running a writing workshop on Saturday November 15 in the afternoon, where you can view the exhibition and write with me and in a group in response to the exhibition. If you are a local or nearby you are most welcome. It is being run in association with the ACT Writers Centre, and you book through them.

ecard for Writing on the Body

Writers Workshop: Writing on the body

with Sarah St Vincent Welch

12pm–5pm Saturday 15 November

Discover how developing a sense of ‘the body’ can take your writing to a new level. Explore the exhibition Pulse: Reflections on the body, at Canberra Museum and Gallery, through writing, with Sarah and a group of fellow writers. Be inspired by visual art and learn ways to bring your writing to life. This guided and immersive workshop caters for all forms, and will include writing exercises and games, time to view the exhibition, and time to write and discuss. Follow up material to encourage participants to continue writing will also be provided.

Sarah St Vincent Welch is a creative writing facilitator with over fifteen years of experience. She received a citation from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council for ‘devising playful writing spaces that surprise, stimulate and support creative writing students to write and keep writing.’ Her short fiction has been published and anthologised, and has won the Marjorie-Graber McInnes Short Story Award twice. She won the inaugural Marian Eldridge Award, and The Jessie Litchfield Award. Sarah is interested in leading a continuing guided writing workshop that responds to exhibitions and collections.

Venue: ACT Writers Centre workshop room
Code: All
Cost: $54 members, $48 concessional members, $84 non-members (includes 6 months of membership)
Bookings: You can book by phone on 6262 9191, online or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking.

Wetland haiku

Misty wetlands with trees reflected in the water

Banksia St Wetlands very early on a Sunday morning

curra-wong, curra –
frog clatter stops – breathe out, in,
morning wetland mist

I lay awake this morning and imagined the wetland. I just wanted to be there, even though it was still dark. I drank some warm milk and tried to go back to sleep, but eventually I knew I must just get up and go there.

Tree submerged in wetland with reflections in still water

This tree perch provides protection for birds and makes beautiful reflections

So at first light I found a warm coat, my notebook and pencil, and decided to try and write haiku in the wetland, like I did back in April. On the way, when I noticed a duck sitting on top of a streetlight on Northbourne Avenue (our main road), I knew I had made the right decision. It seemed like a good omen.

I did question myself, as usual, Will I be able to do it? Will I feel disappointed if I can’t write a poem to my satisfaction? A haiku, just three lines and seventeen syllables, so small a poetry creature, can feel at the same time so large, and the attempt sometimes difficult.

How to reflect or capture experience? This, for me, is always the question. It is a bit like a dare, I might be able to, or I might not. And I won’t know if I don’t try.

It was misty and cold and exhilarating at the wetland this morning. As I found myself in a soundscape of birdcall, frog chorus, and insect hum, it did occur to me that my human language, the marks on the paper, the sounds in my mind, seemed very inadequate in comparison. The haiku at the beginning of this post is what I came up with.

Snail on twig and flower

The snail thinks that flower looks yummy

Like a haiku, Banksia St Wetland seems small and big all at once. It seems tucked away as you approach it, but big as you wander through it. It is the first wetland in the Australian Capital Territory to be developed in an established suburb, and it is a magical place, but also very practical. Water from the storm water drain gathers there, and the reeds and sediment take up the nutrients in the water and improve the water quality of the Sullivan Creek catchment.

Duck crossing sign mother duck with chicks

Duck crossing signs are so gorgeous (and compassionate)

I helped facilitate a community event at Banksia St Wetland earlier in the year, Haiku in the Wetland, with Edwina Robinson (Urban Waterways Coordinator). All the participants wrote beautiful haiku and the Centre for Cultural and Creative Research (CCCR) and the Institute for International Poetry Studies at University of Canberra and the ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate supported the event. You can read the poetry and enjoy photos from that day on the CCCR website.

It felt good to return and write at the wetland again. I might make it a regular writing place.

Mother and father ducks with chicks crossing a bike path

Crossing the bike path

I usually take the photos for this blog, but this morning Dylan Jones came with me and did his usual amazing nature photography. We were very lucky to end our visit by watching a duck family with chicks waddle to the water, and plunge in.

Ducklings swimming close up

Having taken the plunge

Take us by the hand, arts leaders, and tread softly

Childers St street sign

Who knew Mondrian designed the street signs in City West?

I half ran, half stumbled across Civic last Monday morning on my way to the Childers Group Arts Leadership Forum 2014  at the Canberra Theatre Centre and Canberra Museum and Gallery. I said hi to the Antler Girl as I scooted up Ainslie Avenue, and was splashed by icy spray from The Canberra Times Fountain.

Highly stylised and slightly disturbing sculpture of cute girl in floral tut with antlers on her head, called The Other side of Midnight, made by Anne Ross, on Civic Walk

That Crazy Antler girls says hi (detail of the sculpture ‘The Other Side of Midnight’ by Anne Ross), on City Walk

I thought I might be a few minutes  late, but the organisers had left plenty of time for registration and for participants to talk as they gathered. Phew! I was lucky enough to be sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Design (FAD) at University of Canberra to attend as one of their students, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Canberra Times Fountain

The Canberra Times fountain – so glad it’s back on, I missed it

I am not an arts leader; let’s get that clear! But I have roamed around the arts in Canberra since 1987, participating in many ways, and loving every second of it, from being amazed by the (literal) fireworks of Splinters Theatre in Yarralumla Brickworks, to tearing down that fourth wall with Benita Tunks in our installation ‘Writing on the Wall’ in the multi-art-multi- media event, ‘Synchromesh’, at Jigsaw Theatre, to joining Dead Poets readings at Poetry at the Gods in the dead of winter.  I have found Canberra’s  arts community so welcoming and inclusive, especially when I first moved here.

Canberra is an interesting environment in terms of arts practice and enjoyment. It is a relatively small place and also relatively well resourced, and the home of major national collecting institutions and galleries, and always just a little under siege psychologically, a little bit edgy. The citizens of Canberra incur the dislike of the rest of the country, as where we live and work and make art is also where our country’s politicians wrangle each other in Parliament in the big house on (and under) the hill. We have a bad reputation because of this, even though most of us have little to do with the machinations of Parliament.

Like the spurned child in the playground, we make our own fun. And what great fun it is.

Canberra’s Centenary in 2013 was a big focus for arts activities, and our Skywhale now swims through the Australian skies singing of the wonder of her hometown and of the places she visits.

I think there is a sense of regrouping in the arts, a feeling of where to now? And in this climate of cut backs, and major changes in direction in so many areas, what sort of leadership do we need in the arts?  Leadership is a quality and practice whose elements are often interrogated, as leadership is key to the success, or at least the viability, of many organisations and businesses and communities.

So The Childers Group gathered together arts leaders to mull over the topic of leadership in the arts. They are an independent art forum, formed in November 2011, and advocates for the arts in this region.

I have decided instead of trying to condense my whole experience of the forum into one post, to reflect on it over a few. So expect more. It was such a rich afternoon  I will be buzzing with what it offered for quite awhile and I want to share some of what I observed. (In fact, I suspect FAD requires me to!)

As a writer I have a special interest in language and story, and my account of the forum is likely to  be influenced by this perspective. Though I saw friends and colleagues involved in writing, like Kelli-anne Bertram and David Vernon from the ACT Writers Centre, and       Jen Webb and Katie Hayne from The Centre for Cultural and Creative Research, (and at last met Rosanna Stevens from Scissors Paper Pen), and of course Nigel Featherstone who represents literature (among other things) so well in the Group itself, I was reminded writing is just one field in a wide and various art scene. But I did notice many references to the importance of language and story during the discussions, central concerns of the writer. (It is good to feel one’s skills may be useful.)

Canberra Theatre Centre

Canberra Theatre Center (with blossoms)

The first plenary session was held in the Canberra Theatre foyer. The speakers were    David Williams (Emeritus Professor), Harriet Elvin (CEO of the Cultural Facilities Authority) and David Fishel (Board Connect and Positive Solutions).

I was especially struck by Elvin’s reference to the Oxford English dictionary definition of a leader:

One who conducts, precedes as a guide, leads a person by the hand …

One who guides others in action or opinion; one who takes the lead in any business, enterprise, or movement …

The clarity but also the poignancy of leading a person by the hand, its gentle intimacy, but also its respectful quality, resonated with me, and I recognised something in it about my experiences of working with good leaders. I resisted the description ‘effective’ leader here, because I think the adjective ‘good’, also implies a moral and partly selfless dimension that for me is an aspect of the sort of leadership I admire. There is also a sense of travelling together.

To indicate the significance of the arts for our communities Elvin also quoted                 John F. Kennedy’s reflection inscribed on the Cultural Centre named after him. “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” This rhetoric (in its true sense) places art as part of our core, and is a reminder of our possibilities, of our best. (And, oh my gosh, look at that sentence structure! Exquisite.)

But let’s move from this height, to something very practical. I was impressed that as a leader, Elvin measures her own success by the success of her staff. It says it all, really. Oh, that all leaders should think this way.

She also examined what the arts sector had to offer business, rather than what business offered art. Generally the art sector excels at teamwork. It is an intrinsic part of the arts, getting a live performance together, a publication, a film, a concert, or an exhibition, requires extraordinary levels of cooperation and commitment. The arts also embrace ‘creative lateral solutions to problems’, and ‘creative partnerships,’ as it is always looking for ways to make the most of limited resources and to push the limits of what they can achieve and also sustain.

We are always, always tempted to focus mainly on funding and finances, and I was refreshed to find the conversations that afternoon circled around that eternal dilemma, but also widened to refocus on other goals, on innovative art practice, communication and enjoyment.

Elvin’s quote from a Yeats’ poem, He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, was also apt, suggesting how to respond to the love and dedication and sometimes frustrations of arts workers for their work, and how leaders needed to be mindful of their staff’s aspirations and vision as well. I think leaders in general need to consider this (I glance to the hill).

‘Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’

My walk back through Civic that night was with such a light step.

An island that is a goddess

Grey lava like waves has several sky holes, that is holes where you can see the molten rock, fiery orange, just below, also mist and steam is rising up, and there are some silvery patterns on the great lava surface

Skyholes in the lava flow of Pu’u Loa

Pele taptaps ash
on lava waves, stubs skyholes,
exhales clouds and earth

When I ordered seaweed at the Odiruko, in Waikiki, Mike paused. He checked my order. Then he asked where we were planning to travel in Hawaii. We told him we were going to The Big Island. He paused again and said, ‘You are going to an island that is a goddess.’ He came from The Big Island.

Then he told us about Pele. He said that if we saw a Hawaiian woman hitchhiking at night, to not stop, as she might be Pele, the goddess of the island, who often appears to travellers, especially just before the volcanoes erupt. We wanted to see Pele, and though we didn’t, I think we felt her. In Hilo every few minutes the sky weeps. There is not much difference between air and water, it is so humid.

We asked where it was good to swim in Hilo, and Chris said, ‘Oh just out there, in the Cold Pond’, pointing out the window. The Cold Pond is a volcanic crater so deep it is biting cold, and we swam from the warm sea, into it.

Pele smokes. I imagine her taking a drag, watching, a frangipani in her cloudy hair. She’s been known to ash her cigarette in a crater, just before the next eruption begins.

7.21 A Standard Day

An image of a wide open eye with a cross hair on it indicating the iris is being scanned, it is a bit sic-fi and disturbing, quite blood shot

Julian’s iris scan

I slipped into the chrono-synclastic infundibulum as I walked past the red bookshelf. I started searching for Time Pieces, a short story collection that Craig Cormick and I edited, and that was published by Ginninderra Press in 1999. It was so deep in the infundibulum I could not reach it. But Craig could from across town, and sent my little story ‘7.21 A Standard Day’, from Time Pieces, through the ether. I wanted to check the version I had on Word against the published version.

I’ve been thinking about the Writing from an Equinox I did that arose from my Invitation to Write about Equal and Angles. I have settled on trying to write about an Angleorium with an atrium and its designer. I’m thinking the Angleorium might be speaking to the designer as it is being designed and built. Dear Heavens, it sounds like it might be set in science fiction land, it really does.

‘7.21 A Standard Day’ is the only overtly science fiction story I have written so far. I read classic science fiction in my youth, and especially love the work of Olaf Stapledon and H.G. Wells, and I guess you have worked out I am fond of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing as well. I also studied the Utopian and Dystopian Novel in the early 1980s with Margaret Harris at Sydney University along with a number of alarming, vocal and hairy Marxists and semioticians who turned into professors and art critics, I believe, and there were a heap of other students and writers of many varieties in that wonderful class, including a goddess of children’s literature. I sat there so quietly in so much awe.

I came across Michael Wilding’s Political Fictions there, and took away a  portion of knowledge that has affected my life. He pointed out that realism was as much a construct as any other genre, it was just that it was more obvious what was being left in and left out of science fiction, as the world creation, how the world related or did not relate to our lived world, was at the forefront of the writing and reading experience, whereas in realism a bit of a nifty was going on. The reader relates realism to the lived world and forgets about what is being left in and left out. Though my natural impulse is experimental, and I feel most comfortable in fragmented and odd shaped writing, I have taken realism as my experiment and challenge from this observation of Wilding’s. So it is strange to be considering writing a science fiction story.

It was suggested to me by Affrica Taylor (in response to a presentation I was giving about attempting to trouble the opposition of Nature and Culture in realist fiction where I represent pregnant female characters) that Nature was just too seductive and would always win. She suggested that science fiction might be the answer, to help me mess up this opposition. I resist this. (She is probably right, but a failed experiment also has value.) Realism is my experiment for this Nature Culture business, my little petri dish. But I’ve also discovered an Angleorium and I think I have to find out what that might be.

Looking back over past work can really help a writer. ‘I did this before, I can do it again.’ ‘7.21 A Standard Day’ is one of my few comic pieces, it was really enjoyable to write, and I found my favourite male character in my work so far, Julian Minus Moon. It fulfilled a promise to myself as I worked in a basement at the National Film and Sound Archive that one day I would write about the absurdity of the Australian federal public servants’ standard day (at that time) which was 7 hours and 21 minutes. As I was the one checking the work time sheets the absurdity was compounded.

I corresponded with Claus Tondering all those years ago, and I think it was the first time I dared to contact a stranger very far away with an odd question online. As a Time buff, he was happy to discuss the fictional plausibility of the Significant Universal Adjustment, which is the crux of the drama of ‘7.21′, and he asked – ‘Why do public servants in Australia work 7 hours and 21 minutes in a day?’ Good question. I’m chuffed that I picked iris rather than retinal scanning to be the tech of the future, but there are still keyboards in my imagined world. It was written before 9/11 and before the Sydney Olympics. Enjoy!

7.21 A Standard Day

Julian M. Moon Start: 8.30. Finish: 12.30. Start: 1.00. Finish: 4.51. Hours worked: 7.21. Balance: 0

Sick day. Perfection. The only way I can achieve a standard day is to take a sickie. Fine weather for the weekend. Clean house. Cooked dinner.

Julian M. Moon Start: 9.06. Finish: 12.32. Start: 1.04. Finish: 4.13. Hours worked: 6.35. Progressive Balance: -46.

Dirty socks and takeaway. La Nina weeps through the week.

Julian M. Moon Start: 9.52. Finish: 12.08. Start: 2.04. Finish: 4.13. Hours worked: 5.29. Progressive Balance: -2.38

Julian M. Moon Start: 10.43…

My second name is Minus. I’m thinking of making it my first name. Julian Minus Moon to Minus Julian Moon. Has a certain beat to it. I needn’t even write it out

A horizontal line

just an elegant line across the page. The magical negative crawling towards zero, or shooting in the other direction, growing fat with increasing numbers, less and less, while growing bigger and bigger. Two negatives make a positive. What alchemy! If I could find my other Minus, I would fill her zero and enter the positive equation. Conquer my Time Record. We could lie in bed on flextime and the shadows of the day would pass over our flesh. Busy old fool, unruly sunne, why dost thou thus, through windows and through curtains, call on us?

The unrecorded break. I flush. Air freshener ejaculates lavender rain. Please be considerate and change the toilet roll if you happen to use the last sheet. I leave one sheet. Hal wuz here 2001. I wuz too. After scrubbing my nails, I whip the battery out of the smoke detector and light up a fag.

The new woman has taken my last work station. God she was quick. Go for a crap and the new girl takes your seat. The only station left is right in the middle. She’s facing the window, doing tai chi. She won’t last.

I rest my hands (they must be absolutely covered in faeces bacteria) on the keyboard and let the bacteria migrate between the keys. The disinfectant wipe doesn’t get in there. Come to think of it, everyone’s faeces bacteria must be everywhere. I gaze at the infected open plan. The system recognises my touch. It’s slow today. I log on. Management never considered bacteria in the office design. I email the Occupational Health and Safety rep about it again.

I switch to my draft brief to the Minister; now where was I up to? How do I convince him?

Implications of the Significant Universal Adjustment (SUA)

Background

Time zones were a response to transport innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries. They introduced a standard system of time over the whole globe. But the world has changed.

The EEC’s (European Economic Community’s) proposal that all nations follow their lead in abolishing time zones has great merit. With ever increasing international travel, and some international commuting becoming common for business at every level and sector, complex time adjustment is a growing cost to the economy.

On a more philosophical level, the coordination of time measurement has been one of the final stages of humanity freeing themselves from nature. It is our greatest construct, along with poetry and music. It is an achievement akin to space travel and western medicine.

Her voice pauses at my desk. It is the old woman from Personnel. Her chin rests on my divider. Her eyes flutter over my screen. She has a birthday card for me to sign. I sign it ‘Minus.’ Her step falters as she reads my new signature. No-one celebrates my birthday. 29th February. A catch-up day. My whole life a catch-up life. I’m only eight years old. With the body of a thirty two year old. Ha! This is a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Tarantara!

I have few phone calls to make. I’m worried about the time. I’d better check up.

Natural time (the traditional time of night and day, sleep and wake) and business time coexist across the world, All nations could adopt Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the 24 hour clock. After one generation people would find no problem with the working day starting at 0900, or 1100, or 2000, or 2100, depending where you were in the world. Midday would no longer necessarily be linked to 1200, and would be 2300 midday on the east coast of Australia. Meetings that require physical presence, and corporeal conferences, could be scheduled on business time, late in some people’s day, early in others.

The risk is that, at the time of adjustment, every nation would have to synchronise. The computer systems that make our world coherent would be vulnerable during that moment to industrial espionage, or terrorists like the New Luddites.

The new woman is trying to make an impression. She is cleaning everyone’s monitor with patchouli-scented antistatic spray. She can’t stop moving, gliding around the office. She wipes my screen, the sweet sweat of her underarm next to my face. She could almost be naked. She wears no watch.

I make a few more phone calls. I’m still worried about the time. Something is wrong.

The SUA should logically have been made at the turn of the century, but because of fears about the Millennium Bug, the United Nations decreed the adjustment should take place early in the 21st century.

It transpires that the Millennium Bug (aka Y2K) had only a minimal impact. An air crash in Nicaragua, social security payment deviations in the United Kingdom, a minor fall in the value of Microsoft shares, and rash of Millenium Bug Anxiety (MBA) claims, are the only verified occurrences related to the Millennium Bug. Failures in timing equipment at the Sydney Olympics cannot be attributed to the Millennium Bug, though they have been in the popular imagination. Neither can the failure be attributed to the New Luddites, who claimed responsibility for them. ASIO (The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) denies their grandiose claims, and the ability of the amateur organisations to significantly infiltrate government bodies, The Richardson Enquiry (2002) found the timing equipment failure was due to a sequence of human errors.

The little guy carrying a flag runs onto the screen again. The message under his feet screams. STOP PHONING THE TIME! THE TIME ON YOUR COMPUTER IS CORRECT. YOUR QUOTA OF 1900 CALLS HAS EXPIRED. ENTER YOUR PASSWORD TO ACKNOWLEDGE MESSAGE. I pick up the receiver again. ‘After the first beep it will be…’

It’s two seconds out. The government departments are not synchronised. It has always been my suspicion. I glance at the shadows on the buildings.

Massive resources by governments and private enterprise worldwide were put into deflecting the Millennium Bug, into checking systems and into public education. The risks associated with the SUA now face scepticism due to the relatively easy transition into the new century and the non-event of the Millennium Bug.

And someone in the office has a perfect Time Record. It keeps flashing across the wall. A perfect standard day they actually work. 7.21. 7.21. 7.21. Day after symmetrical day, showing up my jagged daily equations and those of the rest of the office.
I can’t help myself. A stolen surf, leaping down the lines, jumping from my bookmarks into the world. I visit the Royal Observatory. Greenwich. My virtual home. Time here becomes space.

The little guy with the flag comes running out. He’s screaming again. YOUR ACCESS TO THE INTERNET IS BEING TERMINATED. SEE DEPARTMENTAL POLICY ‘ETHICAL USES OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY,2.2.’ ENTER PASSWORD TO ACKNOWLEDGE MESSAGE.

I need to finish the SUA recommendations. I need the CEO to support staffing for the SUA project. But I can’t work under these conditions

Julian M. Moon Start 8.17

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. I wait. Everyone will be at least an hour late. The cretins. Daylight Saving gets them every time. The clocks turn back, and they always forget. Or they turn their clock in the wrong direction. Not me. I’m early.

The lift opens. It’s the new woman. She stares at me before she clocks in. Never in my nine years in the public service has anyone arrived on time the day after daylight saving. She shifts her gaze to the Autobundy and it reads her iris. Her perfect timing flashes across the Time Record above her head. She is the one.

Minette. M. Young Start 8.30

‘What‘s your problem?’ She whispers as she sets up next to me, her hands resting on the keyboard, waiting for recognition.
All the stations are free except mine. Sweat on her upper lip. She has been hurrying.

‘How do you do it? You’ve no watch, no phone. No timepiece of any sort. You can’t see the screen. ’

‘You mean the time thing?’

She contemplates the Time Record, hers and mine together. Perfection and imperfection.

‘I’d better stop doing that. It’s a bit conspicuous. You see my body is like a clock. I just know what time it is. To the second. I’m not so accurate below that…’ she leans towards me, ‘unless I’m very, very drunk.’

She touches my arm.

‘And I don’t wear watches or any sort of timepiece, my electromagnetic field buggers them up. I don’t need them anyway. Doesn’t mean I’m always on time though, just when I think about it. I’ve been thinking about Daylight Saving.’

Her breasts rise steadily up and down. She is regaining her breath.

‘It’s genetic, my whole family is like that. But we don’t let the genome project people anywhere near us, so keep it quiet. We don’t believe in that sort of thing.’

The pattern of her iris has imprinted itself on my soul.

‘What are you working on, Julian?’

I want to bathe in her electromagnetic field. I send her the SUA draft.

Julian M. Moon Start: 8.30. Finish: 12.30. Start: 1.00. Finish: 4.51. Hours worked: 7.21. Balance

Recreation leave.

Minette M. Young Start: 8.30. Finish: 12.30. Start: 1.00. Finish: 4.51. Hours worked: 7.21. Balance

Recreation leave.

My stop watch is on the bed head. I time her orgasms. It’s harder to time the multiple ones. They roll into and over each other, and just as I think she’s finished, she locks her legs around me and she starts again. Is she faking? I set the watch back to zero for another try. She reaches back and touches its face. Its hands speed up, and then stop. She pushes against me. Another one is coming.

She grabs my hair, pulling her ear to my mouth. She whispers, ‘Time that is not moved by little fidget wheels is not my Time.’ The words travel into me. I feel a jolt, a release akin to the crunch of the chiropractor’s correction.

At last we lie still, the shadows of the day passing over our flesh. At last I dare to ask, ‘What is your second name?’ She holds her hands over her mouth and speaks through them. ‘It’s silly. Minette Moment.’

She takes her hands away, laughing, gauging my reaction. ‘My family all have names like that. Because of the time thing. Moment and Meridian. My aunt’s second name is Second. That’s the worst. It’s sort of a family joke.’

I kiss her navel, her toes. I bite under her arm.

‘You think my time thing is something special, don’t you? But really it’s meaningless.’

I trace her spine. Stroke her hair.

‘I want to work on something important again. I loved the Olympic Committee. But now the Games are over I have to get stuck into something else. I’ve applied to work on the SUA too.’ I hold her nipple beneath my tongue and listen to the murmur of her heart.

A line and a circle meaning to indicate man and woman (they are side by side)