IF I LIVED IN BALDIVIS, I’D BE HOME NOW

This is it. Everything is packed. Everything is put away. Everything’s been disconnected.  Tomorrow the truck comes, and the Batthaim is no more.

We’ve been here over five and a half years. It’s the longest I’ve been in a single house since I shared a two bedroom duplex with my Mum and younger brother when I was a teenager, 23 years ago.

My bonus son, Aiden, reached adulthood and embarked on his own life from here. Miss 13 graduated Primary School here. Master 10 was home schooled here. We’ve had grandchildren, boarded adult family members and childrens’ friends, struggled with major illness. I sold my first novel here, and my second and third. Luscious became an educator, and fought tooth and nail to advance her tertiary education. Our kids learned to swim in this house, to ride bikes, to read and write. We’ve lived here, when all is said and done, really lived, that sort of life you promise yourself when you move to a seaside town from the city.

It’s a white elephant of a house. The gardens are too big and the weeds have never been under control. The reticulation is a bitch to operate. There’s not a right angle in the fucking place. You can’t reach the ceiling in the foyer to clean it. The taps screech and scream and not one of the washers we’ve fitted over the years has solved it. The patio was designed by a five year old with crayon poisoning, so that the rain pours down onto the seating area instead of away from it. We don’t get terrestrial TV, The mortgage is too high and we’ve struggled to afford it and maintain any sort of standard of living for the kids. I’ve grown to dislike it terribly. I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

And yet, it’s been our home. Really our home. It’s been a significant part of our lives. No matter where I’ve been since, the house I lived in with my parents between the ages of 8 and 13, before it all went to shit and they divorced, is the one I think of as my childhood home, the place where my memories really began. This will be that house for my children, I think: when they look back on their childhoods, this will be the place where their memories really begin. And now we’re leaving it behind.

It’s for a better deal, there’s no two ways about it– the place we’re moving to is closer to my work, close to Miss 13’s secondary college, closer to all the places we choose to spend our time when we’re out and about, deep in the heart of Rockingham– my old town, my home town. It’s more compact, less sprawling and unwieldy. It’s more manageable, more affordable, newer, better built. The gardens are smaller. We’ll have more money, more time, more leisure. There’s no down side to this move.

But still, this is our home. The Batthaim. And now we’re leaving it.

We’re going to need a new name.

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY ADDENDUM: CHARLIE HEBDO

So: two days ago, three murders burst into the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and gunned down two policemen and 10 members of staff. At least another 11 have been injured.

There’s a lot of talk around the content of the magazine, the cartoons it published, the religion of the assailants, the nature of terror and of terrorists. Truth is, right now it’s all hearsay and speculation. The full reasons behind the attack will not be known until the gunmen are apprehended and interviewed, and even then, it’s likely to be veiled by a thundercloud of polemic and grandstanding– on all sides of the argument– for longer than it’ll take to convict and sentence them.

In the meantime, here’s what I know: journalists and artists were gunned down, in their place of work, and it’s likely that they were murdered because somebody didn’t like the nature of their art.

So let’s be clear: If your response to a work of art is to kill the artist, you are not a soldier, you are not a freedom fighter, you are not a terrorist or a religious zealot. You are a murderer, pathetic and tawdry like all murderers. And you should be treated accordingly. No soapbox to stand on, no flag to wave. Who gives a fuck what Martin Bryant wants to say? Or Ivan Milat? That’s you: you’re scum.

Now, here’s a thing, or for me, at least, it’s a thing: way back when, I wanted to be a cartoonist. It was a serious ambition, until I came to realise that I could be an author, or a cartoonist, but not both– I did not have the time to hone my skills in both departments well enough, and writing was a more immediately applicable use of my practice. But there’s always been that desire, and in the meantime, I had accumulated a collection of a couple of hundred scribbles and thumbnails, put aside until I had the skills to translate them to full drawings properly. The skills never arrived, the thumbnails endured, that’s why Thumbnail Thursday began.

The idea that I might be brutally murdered because of a drawing is one that resonates along my bones, and I haven’t quite been able to shake it for the lat couple of days. I know there are acts of brutality and awfulness that occur across the globe, every day of the year. I know that somewhere, someone will be lining them all up and readying a response that says “Oh, this one or that one or this one over there is worse.” I believe you. I’m sure you’re right. But this is the one that’s still shivering for me.

I’ve wanted to do something, and my initial response has been: I want to draw. It seems a stupid, small thing, but I want to make a little note that says: hey, French artists for a magazine I didn’t know existed, and which I had never read! Me too! I’ve held a pencil. I’ve made the image. I have my art.

Art must always win.

For two days, I couldn’t think of a thing: I’m out of practice, and pretty much, I couldn’t think of anything profound enough to pretend that I had a place amongst the myriad of genuine artists who were publishing their responses. Until I realised: that’s not the point. My whole thing has been the thumbnail, the scribbled outline on a post-it note or scrap of notebook paper. So I decided I would post a blank page, torn out of my notebook. That would symbolise my response. And then I came up with this:

 
 
 
So, that’s my response. From me to Charlie Hebdo.  
 
And now, here’s a thing: it’s not enough. Art must always win. Against guns, against threats, against the brutality of human ignorance. Because art, no matter how basic and untrained, no matter how slapdash and mundane, is an expression of beauty, of the desire to translate human thought and personal philosophy into an object that adds to the flow of human progress.
 
Murder removes: art adds.
 
So here’s a post-it note. Draw something on it, please. Post it on your own blog, or Facebook page, or tumbler or whatever social page you use: stick it to your fridge, or a lamp post, if that’s what you have.
 
Add some art, to help cover the loss of the future works that have been taken from us. Draw something for Charlie.
 
 
 
 

FETISH FRIDAY: ALAN BAXTER

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.
I don’t believe in writer’s block. 

I believe in procrastination, and writers are Procrastination Masters. And yes, that needs to be capitalised. But we tend to procrastinate when things are proving tricky and often it’s necessary to find headspace to properly ruminate on whatever that particular tricky thing is at that particular time. Trouble is, the kind of rumination necessary is something that can’t be done easily with the forebrain. It needs to percolate away in the hindbrain. At least for me, my subconscious is far better than my active mind at figuring out story nuance or just what the hell it is I’m writing. So I need to distract myself and let the old brainmeats permeate. 

Lots of things work – mowing the lawn, walking the dog, going for a swim – anything that occupies my mind enough, but not so totally that it can’t stay busy in the mental basement. Those tasks that require engagement but not concentration free up the subconscious to work out writerly issues. And for me, by far the greatest of those is riding my motorcycle. It needs my awareness – I have to watch the road and watch the traffic (because the safest way to ride is to assume that every bastard out there is trying to kill you), and I can enjoy the scenery. Meanwhile, the dark and dingy basement brain is busily whipping its captives with barbed wire flails, extracting story juice. Whenever I know that a story or book requires some thought or I feel a bit lost and entangled in plot and characters, I hop on the bike. Or I put the story aside until I get a chance to go out for a ride and let that word baby simmer. And that’s only one reason my bike is a fetish item. It’s also super fast, hella fun and just damn sexy as hell. 

I mean, come on – Look at it! VROOOOM!



Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. 
He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. His latest work is the dark urban fantasy trilogy, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction(The Alex Caine Series, HarperVoyager). 
Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxterand Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.
Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise.