4. London Diaries

The London Diaries; some writings on writing... Twelve volumes of diaries record my marriage, work, friendships, travels in England and France, from 1988 to 1996. Its been said that the journey is both the richest and the most banal of all tropes. In-between richness and banality, a long, expatriate journey ricochets internally as a constant, warring set of feelings - love and loss, failure and success, inclusion and exclusion. But the full meaning, the real sense of the journey (its 'why', its 'what') and its importance takes some time to appear.

It astonishes me that nowhere in these volumes are any references to being an expatriate - a stranger....Its almost as if I couldn't bear to spell it out, so preoccupied as I was with adapting to the new life I had chosen. Or perhaps on the page, I was at home.

This is the story the diaries record:

In early 1987, at the end of my studies in visual art in South Australia, and while travelling in Europe, I met a man who lived in London. It never occured to me that I would do anything else but join him. I left good artistic opportunities, family, friends, house, belongings - behind. I would do it all again - it is wonderful, terrifying and rare, to meet someone worth leaving everything for.

Love and living abroad; they impact on the course of a life with the same headlong, fateful power...and so often occur at the same time.

I arrived in London. I moved in to his top floor flat in an ivy covered mansion block on Camberwell New Road. The Northern, (or Misery) line served this area, and our nearest stop was the Oval. Our bus to the West End went past the Foster's Oval - and in the summer from the top deck I'd see the Australian cricket team engaged in battle with their 'old enemy'.

The flat overlooked a gospel church whose parishioners made up a professional choir which gave performances all over the UK. On Sundays the bedroom was filled with a multitude of halleliuiahs. From the bathroom I could see all the way to the dome of St Pauls on the other side of the River.

To the south stood five council house blocks, towering together like tall brothers in a family. To the south west, past Camberwell Green, stood the Camberwell Art School, The Baths, the Maudesley Psychiatric Hospital, and Kings Hospital - which overlooked Ruskin Park. In the two weeks of summer when it was hot enough to swim, I had the dizzy choice of either the Tooting Bec, or the Brockwell Park Lidos.

Straight away I gave up my first dream of being an artist and I trained in a new profession, art therapy. His painting shot ahead, and gained a new depth, (a new subject/object?), and he began to paint 'twin' images on double canvases.

Settled (but still questing for something I couldn't name), I gave up art therapy moved unhappily into a series of administrative positions, quite a few of which involved working in art galleries, and one in the editorial department of an art magazine.

Working on the administration side of the London art world was, in a word, insecure. I was made redundant three times in three years, as organisations closed down or restructured. I was truly tested by this... Tested too hard, too strained by the day to day to deal with the simple but profound problem of 'what I really wanted to do'.

My newly born London self seemed to have lost the daring and confident self I left behind in Adelaide. My London self was more thoughtful, more open but less creative, and far more frightened of risk. I just didn't know what steps to take.




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