A Game of Books and Restlessness

… I climbed the three staircases, raised the trapdoor of the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over sequestered field and hill, and long dim skyline – that then I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen.. I could not help it; the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.  – Jane Eyre from Charlotte Brontie.

I always felt that Brontie explains Jane’s emotions so well in this paragraph, where the reader can easily identify with her too. Restlessness has always been a major puzzle in my life, both physically and mentally. Reading books did not come naturally to me. Neither did being able to sit down quietly or having the patience to finish something properly (to the frustration of my parents). High school was a trial, especially getting the grades needed to graduate. I like to think back with a curious fondness to the moment I received the call from my mentor whether I had graduated or not. That man in particular was a dry, wrinkled and humourless teacher, though an honest man which he confirmed when he spoke to me that day on the phone.  “Hi, Elise, I have received the results from your tests and well,” he uttered in his slow, monotone voice, “I did not expect this but you have passed.” No hint of sarcasm, no sound of a quick smile. I was happy nonetheless and continued to struggle with my restlessness throughout university.

As I got older though, I actively undertook steps to learn to sit down for a while in order to read. First, a page or two were almost unbearable for me, but after a while, I read page after page and now, if I feel like I have absolutely nothing else to do, I can read a book in a day. I read ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ in one day each – yes, I feel I’m allowed to boast a little about this. On the road trip around Australia, reading was my main entertainment in the evenings. We collected half a library in the back of the car and in order for me to stop buying books since I’d finish them rather quickly, I decided it was more profitable if I bought larger books. Naturally, I started to read Game of Thrones from George R R Martin. I can assure you when I saw the books for the first time, I could’ve never dreamed that I’d be able to read through all of them, but I did. It feels like an accomplishment, besides the fact that it was made easier since the books are utterly captivating.

Now, reading books is a relaxing experience for me, though I still have to tell myself to sit down and stop fussing about all the other things that need to be done. Rather to think of reading as a mandatory exercise needed to learn something or maybe for the aesthetic of it all, it truly opens up a new world filled with wild dragons, heated discussions, stonecold zombies, fiery passions, unsalted opinions and unexplored universes.

 

The man on the bus

A lovely sunny morning had made way for an ominously cloudy afternoon, and so I took the bus to work. While the drizzle softly ticked against the windows and streetlights flashed by like fireflies in the night, I noticed a man sitting in the corner. Now, since a bus is a public form of transport and since the evening was not so far advanced that everyone had retreated to their bedrooms, it was not particularly unusual to see a man on the bus. Neither was the fact that this man had his head rested against a yellow pole, snoring peacefully yet noticeably. To be fair, I reckon everyone’s had had their share of bus napping.

However, what caught my eye most was the way he was dressed. He was a man of advanced age; silvery streaks through his dark brown hair, prominent eyebrows (and a prominent under chin, I have to add) and a large belly, where his hands rested on. Yet while this man slept harmoniously, I observed that he was wearing a beautifully coloured jumper, which could’ve been handmade. Horizontal stripes in a vague orange, pink and blue, made me think of the type of jumper the Weasley’s would wear. I expected to see a wand tucked in the back of his trousers at any moment. In the same style, a woollen scarf, casually draped around his neck and shoulder and on his head, a tweed flat hat like the ones from Peaky Blinders. I absolutely loved his appearance. He was the perfect fusion of a slightly more sophisticated George R R Martin, Ron Weasley and a golden retriever.

I suppose he caught me examining him when the bus suddenly stopped and the man roughly awoke from his fine dreams, looked around startled and caught my eye. An awkward moment followed where he clearly felt embarrassed,  even after I’d smiled at him.  And in the gloom of the afternoon, he shuffeled out of the bus, adjusting his hat firmly to his head and taking his cool jumper with him.

Spring in Sydney

Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day – Elizabeth Bowen

While the soil is still damp from yesterday’s rain, the sun warms the porch with a radiance I had almost forgotten. Cries of the yellow-crested cockatoos fill the sky, overshadowing the soft chirping of the smaller birds. The scent of citrus, eucalyptus, freshly washed laundry and sea fill the air, a smell that I love and recognize from when I spent my first summer in Australia. Unacquainted as I was as a Dutch girl with absolute, raw heat, Australia’s summer felt relentless when I first set foot in Melbourne. I remember my first day trying to conquer the 40 degrees. In an attempt to walk from my dormitory to the cafeteria, which roughly takes 20 minutes one way, I arrived completely drenched in sweat, panting like a seal and a head so purple it could possibly match the colour of a blueberry. It was possible that in my stubbornness, I had neglected to wear something better suited for this type of weather, but at least I got a good sample of how insanely hot it can get in Melbourne.

Sydney is not the exception and a few years later, when I arrived at the Kingsford Smith airport on Christmas Eve, the heat welcomed me back like an old friend. I was surprised, with a touch of shame, how easily I got spoiled after a few months basking in its sun on the beaches of Northern Sydney. When finally winter came, a cloudy day with 18 degrees left me miserable and complaining like a sour old man, whereas it would’ve been a treasured day in Amsterdam, even in their Dutch summer. However, when the sun appeared this morning, hot, crisp and radiant, I could not help myself but to open all the windows and declare this day as its first fine spring day!

While the ants are gathering on the grey table on the porch, conspiring maliciously to squirm their way into the kitchen, and while a wild Ozzie is trying out its new chainsaw a few gardens away, I am sitting here, enjoying the lukewarm breeze and the smell of lemongrass and eucalyptus and the saltiness of the nearby sea.