3:30am up and off to Flughafen Schönefeld, cheap easyJet and exit row seat for 3 hours to Malaga, taxi pickup to Marbella and further on to Puerto Banùs, 3 hours being scanned and having consultations while squalls blow in and beat the mountains behind the town into a dark haze, back to Marbella for a museum, because of course I do, fall asleep in an apartment by the marina early-evening, up again in the darkness for another pickup back to the airport, another flight and exit row seat, and Berlin’s loveable bus and U-Bahn home, 36 hours later. Yes, I did go for a ride after. Yes, that is the Matterhorn almost dead centre, flying over the border of Switzerland and Italy.
My fam and sisters know what I was doing in Puerto Banùs yesterday.
This year I haven’t had much enthusiasm to write about what I’m reading. Maybe that’s because I haven’t had much enthusiasm to write long blog posts in general, or because I’ve been a little too negative lately and tend to emphasise the things I haven’t enjoyed in a work over what I have. Some of these books I’ve enjoyed hugely, but can’t muster enough of a cheer to write a whole post about. Perhaps it’s habit. After years of writing about everything I read, my impulse is to say, nah fuck it, that’s enough. Who am I writing this for anyway, besides myself?
So, a small pile of books I read between February and April, alphabetically.
Two from Alastair Reynolds, he of the madness of Revenger, which I also read again during these months. He also of Slow Bullets. He’s best when he writes women as main characters. Chasm City is one of his Revelation Space novels, and I got a kick out of those. Elysium Fire is a sequel to The Prefect. I like Reynolds, in specific instances. Neither of these two really got me. See what I mean about negative?
Barbara Newman’s Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine I’m still plodding through. (like I’m still plodding through Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak’s An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Capitalism, 18 months later). Good stuff here, of that dense, Germanic mediæval stuff. Not easy reading, hence the plod.
Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate in the World: How Aborigines Made Australia, and Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? I read immediately post-Naarm. They cover similar ground but are complimentary rather than duplicating. They should be compulsory reading for all Australians, and I felt fucking ashamed at my ignorance reading these. Fucking ashamed. Another reason why I haven’t been writing about reading is if I did on these two, it’d be a long piece of anger against white invasion and genocide and erasing history. And I feel like so much of my life and the lives of friends and acquaintances is full with anger and fear these last years, ’cos it’s far from being over.
Devdutt Pattanaik’s Shikhandi and Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You is a rather sweet short collection of reading Hindu mythology for queer and trans stories. I have absolutely no way to evaluate the scholarship of Pattanaik, but still, one of the barely begun tasks is re-finding the diversity of selfhoods in pre-colonised cultures; we’ve always been here.
Fred Grimm’s »Wir wollen eine andere Welt« Jugend in Deutschland 1900-2010: Eine private Geschichte aus Tagebüchern, Briefen, Dokumenten. Zusammengestellt. has been on my shelves for ages. Katrin gave it to me as a present, and I’ve read bits and pieces of it. I’ve a heap of books I’ve never blogged that I didn’t read in the conventional start-to-finish way like this.
JY Yang. I think I read about them on io9, or maybe on one of the Asia-Pacific blogs I read. It was definitely in the context of an article or two on Singapore sci-fi / fantasy / speculative fiction, and coming off reading The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia (which was awesome) so I was vaguely paying attention. I read these in the wrong order, ’cos I liked the cover of The Red Threads of Fortune more than The Black Tides of Heaven. I also liked the former more than the latter, but that’s partly my particular preferences. I seriously love JY Yang and will read anything they write.
I’ve got a whole ’nother stack of books I’ve read since then and not blogged. Maybe doing it like this is the way for me to go for now.
One of the three suspensions for which my climbing skills have been useful, the cliff-top tree above the gouged out bay where waves hit tide-line caves like the sound of distant artillery. Tree-climbing though isn’t one of my skills. It feels treacherous and slippery, especially with the apparently un-Majorca-like rain we’ve had every day but the first.
So I make myself useful with clambering around the boughs, covering Dasniya with clay, variously organising things like a good assistant on set, and taking what photos I can. I particularly liked the silhouetted trees and Dasniya forward of the grey clouds, and also found something funny – in a Dutch Masters or some such style – of the composition of Bernard and Eric talking together, with Antonie on obscured on camera and Dasniya grappling with the tree.
Later I enjoyed myself setting up anchors around a tree and then hanging over the side above still-turbulent waves and killingly sharp rocks.
The last day of Majorca, (written when I’m back in Berlin). More rain. It’s highly improbable to have so many days of greyness and rain in a row, and still more so a storm of the size we had, of which the effects linger. We went to Cala Mondragó (I think), to shoot Dasniya coming out of the ocean. Arriving, the beach was destroyed, detritus strewn up well past the sand, and where once was a beach was now a pile of seaweed and other decomposing things.
Back to Caló des Moro then, the beautiful cove we were in on the first day. Post-storm, the beach is also missing, which perhaps is the natural state, as the limestone is cut by the tides all the way to the end of the bay, well above where the sand was, suggesting any sandiness is of the ‘dumped by dredgers’ kind.
Setting up the anchor was a lot quicker today, with all the changes in how it would be shot – these were basically test shoots, as there are plans to return later in the year to get them when the ocean has returned to its pristine clarity. I spent most of the afternoon squatting far above the water, enjoying the view, while Dasniya and François the diver slogged through the cold water. It was a little like Parsifal: most of a day of setting up for 20 minutes of action.
The evening was eating the remainders in the fridge – Majorcan cheese is delectable, and the wine also – the usual night viewing of the day’s rushes, accompanied by a friend of Bernard who is a real estater in Santanyí. The last night in that beautiful studio bedroom, and then 5am darkness arising for the homeward-bound leg.
After the storm last night, woken in its depths with lightning and violent rumbling and thudding of waves, our plans for the day underwent much reconsideration, not the least because it was too dangerous for diving; the storm was still generating large swells in the evening, and the previous day’s clear turquoise bays were thick and cloudy with sediment and detritus.
Instead, we photographed and filmed the waves breaking on the promontories, smashing into the cliffs, spray hurled up as high as the houses above then falling in turbulent veils. Not a particularly large storm, windy days on the coast of Victoria churn the oceans just as much; it’s the shape of the bay, which funnels the waves, giving nowhere to go except to bash from all angles against each other and the rocks.
I joined in the videoing, and looking at some sites for things tomorrow, and in-between, turned my gaze to the minutia of the gardens. Layered down the slope of the underlying limestone, paths wind amongst a carefully tended wildness. In summer, it probably makes sense, the thin, small trees above baked earth; now, it seems in places almost like the high-altitude flora above the tree-line. Dasniya then spent some time in the pool, testing some underwater footage we’ll be shooting later this evening.
And earlier, some not happy news: Heppenheim for this year is most likely not going to happen, as there is unexpected street works, of the digging and heavy machinery type.
This is where we wake up each morning. We moved the table later today so we have a complete, uninterrupted view. The windows – if they can be called that at such a size; walls perhaps – also open. Last night in the storm with the lights out, I opened the one directly in front so we were exposed to its massiveness.
Some years ago, I saw a video of the most-grunting Chris Sharma, the Tom Cruise of climbing, deep-water soloing a sea arch, which he finally summited after much heroic falling into the brine. It was impressively hard, unrepeated, and went at 9b. It took me a while, when I discovered I’d be accompanying Dasniya to Majorca, to work out where Majorca was (besides, that is, in the Mediterranean), and to work out from there where we would be staying.
The website of the house only located it as near as the town, though from the images, I could see there was a sea arch within view, which gave me something to work on. This mainly because there was talk of perhaps doing something on it, and the photos I’d seen made it difficult to differentiate a four- or five-meter high bridge of limestone from a 20- or 30-meter one. I thought it looked like the former, so while Google Mapping my way along the coast from the town, when I saw a ship-sized off-shore bulge, decided from the shadow it was way too large and kept scrubbing along the coast. Nothing. Either it’s too small to show up, or it’s somewhere else, because it can’t be that shipwreck of a rock.
Turns out I was wrong. Combining all my information with a search for climbing turned up as the first video, Sharma yelling his way up into the crotch of the arch, the top of which is visible from our bedroom curtain-wall windows. I’m rubbish at estimating heights, so let’s say it’s two or three Berlin apartment blocks in size, and the climb goes from the inside of the right leg, topping out to the right of the keyhole. As far as climbing goes, it’s that particular type of hard, overhung limestone sports climb, which has all the beauty of cleaning behind the stove while one’s head is in the neighbouring cupboard.
It’s dead beautiful though when getting pounded by storm swells, like a supertanker, inexorable against the water.
The Mediterranean is un-sea-like. I mean, it doesn’t smell and taste of salty ocean the way it does in Australia or elsewhere down below. The swell is also more subdued. But oh is it glorious to be perched above a vast, disinterested body of water once more.
We woke at 4am, me finishing a peculiar dream where all my teeth wobbled and then fell out, ivory rubble on the night asphalt. Some half-awake packing, and 5 minutes of last-minute internet madness, then off to the Geneva airport once more. Lucky for Speedy Boarding because the queue was like Guangzhou Main Station at Chinese New Year. A shortish plane journey where I alternately snoozed and worked out how a GoPro works (a bit like a mobile phone from 2001), met the remaining two of our six, and then arriving, finding our car, a supermarket stop somewhere, and arriving proper.
We six are staying in a house, so to speak. By Australian standards, it’s a normal-to-large family home, mostly on one level, with a winding stairwell to the master bedroom, and from there a ladder to the turret roof, where the view approximately east takes in a swathe of ocean bookended by dry limestone cliffs and shrubby arid flora. Beside, and off the entrance/dining area is a pool which flows over one end, giving the illusion that it becomes the sea. And below that, off to the north-ish side, is the small studio, curtain windows on two walls overlooking gardens and that aforementioned swathe, and where Dasniya and I shall be sleeping and waking the remainder of the week.
Yes, it’s quite surreal. The ocean is an endlessly deep, clear, and brilliant turquoise, cobalt, aquamarine, azure, depending on the sun, or leaden when the clouds move over. To the left, just viewed out our bedroom windows is the massive sea arch which Chris Sharma soloed in 2007. Yes, that one. It’s our bedroom wall, more or less.
Not that we have spent much time admiring the view from here. Unpacking, a quick lunch, a walk along the coast to look at locations, repacking ropes and other equipment, a drive through towns and through narrow roads bordered trench-like by hand-built limestone walls, olive groves and houses, buildings of ochre, terracotta, umber, to another vast plate of ocean and sky above equally rampart-like cliffs, and then on to another more subdued bay down a narrow path, following the coastline until arriving at a rectangular bay shaped like a chisel-stroke, the sea unbearably light blue, and for us hours of discussions, walking, looking, pondering, eventually for me building something of a seven-metre, three-point anchor above a cave undercut into the stone by the tide, in front of which, Dasniya will hang.
Which we will return to tomorrow. We have a cameraperson, a diver, a musician, an artist, a performer, and me, something of ‘assistant’.
In my long search for the perfect lighthouse to wage piracy from, I’ve stumbled across a chain of Soviet era nuclear-powered lighthouses running up the coast of Sakhalin, and others dotting the Polar regions of Barents, Kara and Laptev seas. Mys Aniva, in La Pérouse Straight, with seven levels of crew quarters and accessible only through treacherous seas is now utterly my favourite. Shame it’s radioactive. Which didn’t stop someone at English Russia from taking a tour, and led me, in a search to find out where tower was firstly to the remarkable Lighthouse Directory, and then to Sakhalin Lighthouses. One more excuse to venture north-east, as if volcanoes and Kamchatka Peninsula weren’t enough.