Writer’s block again


Three days not writing. My first failure to keep up my 5 days a week commitment. I’ve been doing well up to now. I think it is major distractions, a couple of personal/family issues clogging my thinking, which make my daily scribbles seem a lesser priority for now. Yet, as the author Ann Patchett says, ‘My husband is a doctor, and he’s not allowed to have doctor’s block. He’s not allowed to go home, sit on the sofa and eat pop-corn.’ She is so right—any plan to get good at something involves disciplined practice, not lots of sitting around waiting for the next big idea.

And I certainly don’t have a big idea to write about, but I know I need to put down one word after another, even if the result doesn’t have potential appeal for newly-excited mass audiences. Who wants to know that I’m a bit knackered after carting a few hundred bricks around my garden in a wheelbarrow? Or that I had a Vietnamese pork and salad roll for lunch? That’s it! I’ll start with the little Vietnamese lunch-shop near our house.

Roll In Saigon opened about two years ago, and there has been a queue out the front, sometimes winding down the street, almost since day one. Their rolls are just about perfect—full of vegetables, a little chilli and the meat of your choice. All for $6.50. They are so successful that the whole family takes a month off at Christmas time, and the queue forms the moment they return. Up till now it has been staffed by the family, but today there is an Anglo young woman on the counter, trying hard to keep up with the flying hands of the Vietnamese.

Actually the garden project is a bit interesting. My partner and I have had a running difference of opinion about whether to have a timber deck at the back of our house. After five years or so I’ve acquiesced, because it is about the only solution we can think of for our messy, uneven bricks, even if it is costly and risks being out of character with the house.

I am a low-performing handy-person, with limited skills and slapdash attitudes. But working alongside a good tradesman, as I have been today, is a joy. Scott has the whole project in his head; beautifully sequenced so that double-handling is avoided, and so mistakes can be rectified before they force a return to the beginning. He has spent time last night drawing up a plan, and explains to me what we will be doing when. It’s all going like clockwork, with none of the mounting costs and crises of confidence I experience on my own: none of the “Oh, I was meant to do that before I did this’ or the ‘No-one will notice’ shortcuts that would keep me awake at night because I know they will put safety or reliability at risk.

Of course, Scott is using tools that are way out of my league; a jack-hammer that I’m sure wants to injure me, and a laser device for taking levels that he says ‘Took me a long time to work out.’ I can’t imagine my chances, but it is a delight to watch as Scott says ‘If you want it to line up with the step at the back door, the deck will be just above your garden border over there’. Right now, experienced DIY-types are saying ‘Well, that’s what you do, duh.’ But I am childishly fascinated by this toy that replaces my guess-work with dead-straight lines. And I’ll take fascination over smug certainty any day. Maybe that sounds smug as well, but I’ll think about it later.

Thankfully, I do have some skills—and brick paving is one of them. While Scott wrestles with the jack-hammer, I have been using some of the bricks we have just pulled up to re-pave the area near our side door. Despite the mounting pain in my lower back (750 bricks, 5 at a time, hurts) I love the result. As one of my friends would say, ‘It looks just like a bought one.’ The levels are a bit informal, but in this context it just adds charm with no loss of function. My place in the team is secure.

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