Thursday, November 15, 2007

~ the smiling ghosts

My regular visits to Queensland began during the early 1980s when my band began touring. The first thing I found there was Nikki Lambert. She worked for CBS records, decorating record shop windows with posters and album artwork - though she also painted beautiful lavish canvases of her pets, and led a secret life of crime.

She was older than me, but looked sixteen. She was tan and lithe and spirited, and spoke with the broadest strine I had ever heard from a woman. She became my window into the outlandish northern regions, and remains so twenty-five years later.

Her house in Mullet St, Kenmore was a tumbledown queenslander, haunted by lazy, smiling ghosts and held together with pink-flowering bougainvillea. You could lie in bed there and watch the coming and goings of paper wasps from their nest in the ruin of the ceiling. Downstairs there was a gargantuan children’s python in the bathroom walls. Called Clancy [of The Overflow], sections of it were always visible, here and there, among wires and pipes and beams, but never its head. The toilet cistern had a broken lid and in it lived green tree frogs - sometimes, on entering, you would see as many as three lined along the front, forelegs hooked over the rim, their sweet eyes delving.

Mullet St was an idyll, but it’s all suburban now. It evaporated with the inexorable expansion of Brisbane.

Nikki became a solid friend and occasional lover. In time, she was to descend into various hells, but ultimately floated to the surface on Stradbroke Island with her daughter Sidonie. In the years I’ve known her, I have never seen her less than enthusiastic about anything - except drudgery - and she is a genuine seer through of projects. Nikki will almost always ignore a person’s given name and replace it with one of her own devising. In her company I have met Dead Tom, Snapper, Kaptain Kronk, Graderhead, Twenny, Brasso, Lizard, ad infinitum … As you enter her universe, you are renamed, as Adam did the beasts.

Nikki is also the author of one of my favourite quotes - “There’s something deeply relaxing about chickens, don‘t you think?

As I write, in her yard on the island, there are at least four full-grown hens with a dozen chicks scrabbling in the mulch, clucking peaceably to themselves. Nikki will never be without chickens - or, indeed, a menagerie of dogs, cats, horses, birds, guinea pigs… In that past she has told me she judges people by their interactions with animals.

I have a lovely table beneath a blazing poinsettia tree at which to work. The drums of doom are fading already, the fear abates, the paranoia withers into the breeze. I just hope I have enough time here to really reset my spirit … before I lurch once more into the breach.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, nice surprise to find a new blog here, I didn't realise you'd have your computer and working while you were on holidays. It must be great living on an island! So has your friend Nikki given YOU a nik-name??? She must have been so proud of you using that stuffed chicken as your profile photo ha ha!
Enjoy the rest of your holiday!
Love Amanda
P.S. Glad you use a larger font size now, makes it so much easier on the old eyes.

Sam Sejavka said...

Well, my laptop died and the connection here is intermittent, but I'm managing. In answer to your question: Pusbucket.The font size increase is not intentional, but maybe I should always make it this size. You think?