stephen clark
August 28th, 2003
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final resting place
I found myself in Sydney last Friday morning, watching my grandmother's coffin descend into a grave. She was being buried in the same spot as her late husband – I heard that they dig these graves double-depth so that they can plan ahead and bury two people in the same spot like that. And in this case, the two deaths were sixteen years apart. It was a cold morning, and people had umbrellas because they thought it might rain, but it didn't. There were not many people there in the cemetary – just thirteen members of the family plus the priest and the undertakers.
card for nan
People were mostly quiet and solemn during the burial ritual, as the priest said his prayers. My sister's two children were not very quiet. You know how children are – at a very young age, they can't fully understand the significance of a death in the family. It seemed kind of ironic, then, that the baby was the only one who cried. As for me, I was observing the whole thing with interest because I'd never seen a burial before, and this was my chance to document one photographically. The family looked like they were thinking really deep thoughts. There was no dirt shoveled into the grave at the end – I think they fill in the hole afterwards, when the family has gone home, and then they replace the grass over the bare piece of ground.
down nan goes
After the ritual was over, the atmosphere changed from sad to mildly cheerful and people talked together with many a smile. Then, they looked around the cemetary at some of the other graves, 'cause some other distant family members were buried there. I wasn't sure if it was okay to walk over people's graves, but the cheaper ones were packed together so tightly, it was kind of unavoidable sometimes. And I bet the dead people don't mind. I wonder what my funeral will be like. Probably quite different, 'cause it won't be all religious like that.
me in the cemetary
Later that day, it was time to go to the retirement village where my grandmother used to live. She had a unit there and it was full of her things. A lot of the big furniture had already been moved out, but we were still a long way from emptying the place. You see, Nan was a collector of stuff – she was one of these people who doesn't throw many things out. She keeps things for years and years, no matter how useless they may be. And while we were going through all this stuff, we often found things that were useful. So we couldn't just throw things out willy-nilly – we had to make a lot of decisions.
nan's medal
it says, "I am a Catholic. In case of an
accident, please notify a priest."

Imagine being in a shop where you can take anything you like without paying – well, that's what it was like. There was a huge supply of art-materials like paint, brushes, paper and copies of Australian Artist Magazine, because Nan was into art. She was also into crafts like sewing, crochet, quilling, flower-pressing, doll-making, and a hundred other obscure crafts that I don't even know the names of. I took a small selection of art-supplies, along with some pens, staplers, erasers and sticky tape. I also took a thing called a "Dux-Episcop" which is a thing where you lay it down on a piece of printed material, and the Dux-Episcop projects the text or pictures onto the wall through its lens, but not very brightly.
dux episcop
Projecting an image

I wasn't really interested in the craft stuff. But there was one thing I did want – a set of metal alphabet letters, used for printing letters onto leather in an embossed way. I don't know if that would be useful or not, but I wanted it for personal reasons. I have a piece of leather at home with the words "Stephen's Room" embossed on it – it was made by Nan many years ago and when she made it, I said that it was a very nice lettering set, and she said that I could have it when she died. I figured it was just a throwaway comment so she wouldn't remember it after twenty years, and maybe she didn't even keep the lettering set. But seeing all this other craft equipment she kept, I thought, "It must be here somewhere!"
leather lettering
So I searched and I searched, through drawers and cupboards, opening every little tin or cardboard box that might contain what I was looking for. But I didn't find it.
    We went through piles of two-ring binders full of plastic pockets containing dress-patterns and knitting-related literature. None of it was any use to us so we threw it away. There were lots of half-finished projects. If we had suggested to Nan that we throw some of this stuff away while she was still alive, she would have said "No, no, I'll get back to that some day." It was funny, really – so much stuff she kept that couldn't possibly be any use to anyone, and she would have kept it still, even if she'd lived another two hundred years.
melanie and nan
At the end, the skip-bin outside was so full of Nan's garbage we couldn't fit any more in, and even more stuff had gone to my uncle's shed to be sold in garage sales and donated to charities later. Nan had two of my artworks which she bought from me eight years ago, and now they will be returned to me so I can sell them again (but I probably won't).
    Later on that night, when my sister Melanie was going through Nan's photo albums taking out photos for herself one by one, I asked her if she had found the leather embossing set. She had gone through most of the craft stuff before I had, and she was taking so much of Nan's stuff that she had to hire a big trailer to carry it all home to Melbourne. I described the set to her, and she said yes, she had found something like that. So it's okay – Melanie has the lettering set and she will give it to me next time she sees me.
dinner before flight
On Saturday night, my parents and I traveled back to Melbourne by plane. It was a cheap flight – there was no free food, no TV screen, not much leg-room, and it was only a small plane, but the cabin-crew seemed very friendly and sometimes they were even humourous when giving their speeches through the intercom. I had a window seat but I couldn't see much because it was dark and cloudy. There was a lot of wind so the plane bumped about while it was in the air.

sydney airport gate 36
As we flew down into Melbourne, I looked out the window and saw that it wasn't raining anymore – I could see little lights from towns below. Then, as I continued watching, we passed over an urban landscape and there were thousands of little lights. I never get the chance to see this kind of thing usually – it was awe-inspiring, seeing the lights of the suburbs spread out below me. "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," I thought to myself. "And all those people are living their lives in the city below, with no idea of what a beautiful scene they are part of, because they don't have the perspective on it that I have."

virgin air hostess
There is a rule, on planes, that the passengers aren't allowed to stand up while the plane is rolling along on the ground. Some people tried to break the rule because they were impatient. The air-hostess was very strict about when to let people stand up, but she was cute the way she and held up her hands as if to say "Not yet!" and made a little noise whenever people got out of their seats. Finally we left the plane and picked up our luggage from the carousel, then we caught the shuttle-bus to our car in the car-park – the bus-driver was nice because he drove us all the way to our car instead of just dropping us off at the bus stop. He knew that we wouldn't want to walk through the rain when we were carrying so much heavy luggage. And then my parents drove me home.

Flash animation – click on play
The week following that has been fairly normal. I had a practice with the Pink Floyd Tribute band on Wednesday night down in Cheltenham – it went well. We have a permanent drummer now and we've learnt about twelve songs, though some of them are very short. There was one point near the beginning where there was a bit of tension – the singer is older and more experienced than the rest of us, and sometimes when he talks to us it's like he's talking to schoolchildren. He was saying something about how the microphone has to be pointed straight at the sound-source. The bass-player commented on his superior manner of comment, trying to make a joke of it to lighten the mood, but the singer wasn't in the mood for joking. Anyway the tension dissipated as the rehearsal went on, and towards the end it was forgotten.
Artwork in Kent St Café

Tonight I went out to see the singer, Kirsty Stegwazi. I was feeling a little deflated, like my life was no good, so I figured a bit of a mellow acoustic solo performance would fit just right. I read in the gig guide that Kirsty Stegwazi was performing at Kent Street Café. It didn't say the exact address of the café, and I couldn't find it in any phone-book, but it did say that it was in Smith Street Fitzroy (and not in Kent Street, as the name would suggest). So I arrived early and walked along the shopping district of Smith Street, taking note of every café until I found the one I was looking for.
promotional poster
Kirsty Stegwazi is a good singer, songwriter and guitar-player. She also has a friendly and humourous stage-presence. Tonight in between songs she talked about how she just got a new job, and she's happy because that means she won't have to do her old job which was cleaning toilets. Kirsty Stegwazi is not rich. I'm sure she has dreams of making the big-time with her music career, but, like me, she's doing it just for the love of music for the time-being. And, like me, she gives away her CDs full of original music, for free. But tonight I didn't take home any of her CDs, because she's already given them to me for free in the past. When I listen to Kirsty Stegwazi's music I feel comfortable, and entertained, and sometimes tingly. I don't know what it is – something undefinable. And at one point, a guy tried to get in through the front door by pushing it, then after a while he realised that it was a sliding door. And Kirsty said, with good humour, "You must be so embarrassed."  
kirsty stegwazi
I tried to work extra hard on my painting this week to make up for the lack of work last week, and I painted the colours of the pool-balls and started work on the tiger's face. Maybe the tiger will have some stripes next week, if I can get my motivation together.
painting, eighth session
Old people listen to very boring music. It's classical this, and opera that, and old-time jazz from the forties. So when it came time to pick some tapes and CDs from my late grandmother's collection, I didn't take much. But I did take a cassette of music by the "City Slickers" who specialize in old-fashioned instrumental folk-tunes played on clarinet, piano, guitar and sometimes vibraphone. I listened to it at Nan's place about ten years ago and I remember thinking that it was acceptable and not unpleasant despite being so old-fashioned. I also took a 3CD set of songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, but that was not so good because the songs sound like they were recorded on the cheap using a synthesizer instead of an orchestra.
Today I received a phone call from my friend Boris, the leader of the band that I'm in. He said he had read some of the stuff I'd written about him on this web-site, and he didn't like it – he said it didn't seem fair. His reasoning was, that if I have a problem with him, I should tell him face to face instead of writing about it on the internet. His words disturbed me slightly, and it was one of those disturbances which lasts the whole day despite being so little. So, to take my mind off that, I watched a show called The Lone Gunmen. It's a comedy/drama series about these three guys who try to uncover government conspiracies, and they get into all sorts of dangerous yet funny situations. I like this show because the main characters are so different from the traditional sort of action heroes – they're smart, instead of tough, so their intelligence helps them to win against their enemies.
Historical photo of the week:
Stephen Clark Age 23
Stephen Clark, 23 years old.
I've just started the book called "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". It's about this guy, who's a young wizard, and he hears about this guy who escaped from prison. And later, I think, he's going to go to wizard school. I can see the plot-points forming – maybe later the escaped prisoner guy will come to the school and cause trouble. It's a well written book and I'm sure I'll get through it in about a week because it's so addictive and easy to read – it's a children's book.
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