For today’s “new thing” I visited the Front Cafe Gallery in North Lyneham (Canberra, Australia), which I’d walked past but never visited. I’d read online that a photographer named Beth Jennings was exhibiting this week (until 27 April, in fact), and I walked in with a little trepidation but an open mind.
Beth Jennings is an extraordinary artist. The gallery itself is a single (not very big) room adjoining the cafe, and I was alone. There were perhaps ten pictures hung on the walls, and each one mattered. I took away more from those ten pictures than I usually take away from a full-size gallery. One made me laugh, another almost made me cry, and the rest were fascinating. My overwhelming sense was of a very human warmth behind each perfectly observed picture.
The pictures were taken on a road, from a camel’s back, and through the window of a locked house. One photo was of footsteps in the desert the author stumbled across on holiday, another was of graffiti on a wall, and a third captured a woman dancing to the pulse of pizza-shop neon lights. I suspect that if I ever met Beth Jennings, I would like her very much.
Her web site is www.bethjennings.com.au
“BRIDEZILLA” tale so far:
It’s pay day, so I buy pillows. Luckily my wedding dress makes a good maternity dress. I hope this plan works. Tomorrow, here I come.
I dress as a VERY expectant bride and go to the bakery store. As I order a huge pile of hot cross buns, I put one hand to my giant stomach.
“Oh you poor dear!” says the matronly type I’ve been observing for days. “Don’t bother paying for those buns.”
She winks, “And may I STRONGLY recommend entering our restaurant-dinner-for-two competition?”
I obey her while silently applauding my act.
Today I’m a goth bride with heavy eye-makeup and blood-red feathers on my neckline. I mingle in the bar before Amanda Palmer’s concert.
Amanda comes out, hugs me, then takes in my full outfit. “Congrats,” she says – “And you’re NOT paying – or your fiancé, wherever he is.”
Being a goth bride rocks. It’s even better than yesterday’s pregnancy. I’ve never enjoyed a concert so much – or been given so much beer.
I promised my daughter a huge pile of Easter eggs – but I also promised she could continue at her school. So I dress her as my flower girl.
Easter eggs: Check. Nausea: check. Chocolate smears on May’s face: check. Getting chocolate for a flower girl at Easter is almost too easy.
A shrill voice cuts through my pleasure – my ex-bridesmaid, Cherie. “Anna! Did Rob come back and marry you after all?”
“Uh. . . sure. Yep.”
I’m embarrassed after lying to Cherie, so today I go for the dumped bride look. My mascara runs beautifully, and I get more hot cross buns.
As I’m lugging a garbage bag of buns to my car, one of the bakery girls comes and helps me. She says, “Wait a second, do I recognise you?”
I shake my head, but she says, “Yes! I saw you dumped on YouTube. . . but that was a month ago. What the. . .?”
Today I dress as a mum. An emotionally and financially stable mum. I try to arrange my stockings so the holes are hidden inside my shoes.
“We’ve been making allowances because of your. . . incident. . . a month ago. But we must have next term’s fee by the end of this month.”
After the meeting, I go give May a hug. Her teacher stops me and asks for my number.
“Oh no! What did May –”
“Nothing. I want to call YOU.”
I eat hot cross buns, and ask my boss for a raise. Neither goes down well.
When May gets home, I interrogate her about her dark-haired, dark-eyed teacher.
She says, “He’s nice. I got to be the queen in story time.”
I get the card for the free dinner for two at a real restaurant. Yay! Less than an hour later my landlord “drops by”. Uh-oh.
May’s teacher calls, and arranges to pick me up on Saturday. My heart’s fluttering so hard, I can’t eat my dinner (of hot cross buns).
May dresses in her best dress for our dinner of Real Food. I wear a skirt. They greet us with champagne. “Where’s the other newlywed?”
“Uh. . . he had to work,” I say. They hustle us to our highly beflowered table and tell us to order anything we want. We do.
May gets them to make her a hamburger. I have a huge pile of meat and a giant salad. Neither of us eats our bread rolls.
I re-use my pillows to make myself an overweight bride, and take May with me with only an hour to spare before Jack comes to fetch me.
We go to a child care centre. I ask, “Can you fit her in? The reception’s about to start and my normal babysitter quit. Today!”
“Of course we can,” the staff say, “and don’t you dare pay!”
My date is wonderful. Jack is good company and the food is DIVINE.
I shave my eyebrows to become a more lucrative faux bride, and go shopping. I’m about to graciously accept free Docs when I see Jack!
Jack! Shopping as I scam! Disaster! I duck behind the nice lady’s desk, biting my nails in terror. Has he already seen me?
The lady gives a commentary on Jack’s passing. “The hot guy’s trying on sunglasses. . . now he’s going away. He’s gone!”
I flee the scene.
My landlord says, “Pay your rent by Wednesday, or I’ll have you evicted.”
I flaunt my Doc Martens and say breezily, “No prob. See you then.”
May and I spend the first day of her holidays sorting our possessions into “Sell” and “Keep”. I get $3 for four books.
We’ve tried ebay and twelve different friends, but oddly no-one will buy May’s lifesize poster of Edward Cullen. Go figure.
I eat lunch with Jack. He doesn’t mock my eyebrows, but says, “Can we have dinner Friday – with May?”
“YES! Er, that’d be nice.”
I fake receiving an SMS break-up at the service station and get a free tank of petrol. Nice. My eyes are getting tired from fake crying.
May and I put everything we can’t live without into our car and go camping. I don’t think she believes it’s really a holiday.
We go swimming in the creek and May finally relaxes and starts to laugh. For dinner, we roast our hot cross buns over the fire.
Pay day. I’d need three more to pay school fees, and there’s only one more this month. But I have a plan. Today we buy food – sort of.
Eggs for protein and zucchini for vegetable matter. Somehow, toasting zucchini isn’t the same as toasting marshmallows.
For our dinner date with Jack we eat roast lamb with gravy and pumpkin and potatoes. May doesn’t eat the zucchini, and neither do I.
The night is perfect. It’s even kind of fun to pretend to go into our old house before sneaking around the corner to our car.
[the story so far appears each Friday]