a band of angels while sitting in our outside toilet. It wasn't an ordinary
host of angels. There were no sopranos, altos or tenors, hallelujahs
or four-part harmonies. This was a pub brand of choir with a 'let it
all hang out' attitude. Masculine, meaty, loud, and strangely, balladeers
of Irish song. Of course, I didn't know they were angels at the time.
It wasn't as if I'd actually seen them floating through the air with
harps, golden tressed, and robed in white. But angels come in all sorts
of packages and they'd turned up in Glebe, four doors down
We had moved to Sydney on a whim several months earlier because of one of those 'feelings' I often have. I'm not exactly what you would call clairvoyant in the crystal ball sense, but I do exercise my intuition regularly and every feeling I've had or prediction I've made, has eventually turned out to be accurate. I just knew we had to go to Sydney. We looked upon this safari north as an adventure and ourselves as pioneers. So we closed our gift shop by the sea, packed the trailer, loaded the animals, and headed off.
We camped at an inner-Sydney-suburban caravan park where we'd arrived on the morning of St. Patrick's Day. It was a sign. I just didn't know it then. It was 7am, sunny, hot, and humid. I was more concerned with a fretting cat, a wandering dog, and making friends with the big, pony-tailed bikie who ran the place.
My boyfriend, Poss, put together a makeshift gypsy kitchen at the back of the trailer and we all slept in a four-man tent. Conditions seemed less than satisfactory if one forgot that we were adventuring pioneers.
After five days and nights and no luck in searching for a new abode, the cat got squished under an anonymous tyre. She was pronounced dead, dead and squished, when I found her on the sixth morning. Another sign surely but what did it signify? She'd been my little baby, my pal. My partner in debate. And now here she was, lying on the side of the road. Squished flat. How humiliating for her. Our puss Pushkin. This was no demise for such a grand cat. I wanted to send her off in the finest manner. But I couldn't see why she chose to perish now, just when friends were so scarce.
I decided that a ceremony 'at sea' in the back canal that ran along the edge of the park was appropriate for this refined, furry lady. She would find peace in a watery grave. With Poss away at work, the dog and I stood over Pushkin, blessed her little heart, and then I threw her across the fence to her final resting place in the Rockdale Canal.
But alas, cats
don't sink. They bloat. I know that now. And canals have nets draped
across them so that debris can't be swept out to sea. I learnt that
too. Our fabric abode on the banks of the canal with the bloated cat
had now greatly lost its appeal. The rain had set in. We needed to find
a place more habitable than this. I prayed to Pushkin for help.
Pushkin, I reminded
myself, was my friend, albeit a dead, floating, feline one, and with
her newly acquired angels wings, I was positive she could fly over Sydney
and find the home destined for us. After all, why do our loved ones
pass over if not to help us in some way? Well, I was eager to try out
my theory at any rate. It helped make her death feel less senseless.
Quite soon after I'd made my request to my new patron saint Pushkin,
we found our place in Glebe. Another sign.
The house was
a dive, in terms of what we had been used to. But the two-hundred-dollar-a-week
unrenovated, single-story, cold water, one-bedroom, outside-toilet,
terrace house complete with roaches and other assorted wildlife, was
a bargain for Glebe, which is where we wanted to live. So thank you
Pushkin. At least it had sturdy walls, no leaks in the bedroom, and
a backyard for JoJo. We were grateful. We were home. We were where we
were meant to be.
And so it was
there that night, sitting on the drop toilet, that I heard the voices
of the manly, angel choir echo and bounce around the brick-fenced, courtyard.
The dog pricked his ears and turned his black head sideways. I listened.
Curiosity may have killed my cat, but it was time for me to see the
faces behind the voices. I tuned into the direction the sound was coming
from and followed it to a pub four doors down.
this evening, I found myself standing outside the pub alone, the closed
mint-green doors before me, peering through the glass at the fearless.
I pushed through. Once inside, the faceless manly voices lurched higher
and louder, reaching for an impossible note in the chorus of Waltzing
Matilda. I grimaced. I found myself a spot at the bar and wedged myself
in. I was still scared. I would not have been scared if Poss had come.
But he was busy. Busy Poss.
I ordered raspberry
lemonade. Taking my first sip, I nervously eyed the room, peeping over
the edge of my glass, hiding behind its rim, imagining myself invisible.
And I watched. 'And waited 'til the billy boiled
place themselves high up on a stage as some performers prefer but rather,
on the ground level with their audience. At first I thought this was
strange, because I'd never seen it before, but then I realised that
the musicians had no desire to be apart from their audience because
the revelers were a collective member of their band too. They showed
an open and welcoming display of generosity. At least it explained the
footy-club choir - there were more than just seven people singing at
any given time.
I had a coat-hanger
smile. I could not say how I was feeling at that moment. I felt joy
and pride, for sure, but pride for what? For being an Aussie? For being
a fellow singer (although an altogether jaded one prior to this night)?
Or for living four doors down from an amazingly happy place? I felt
deep rumblings of excitement emerge from within. I wanted to be a part
of this happening, to sing with them, to celebrate like them. I may
have retired from my own musical career four years earlier, but I did
not feel like retiring tonight. I knew I'd been led to some good medicine,
but scars from the past were inhibiting my desire to join in. Perhaps
I did need an angel or seven
But now, standing
here in this pub, toe-deep in broken glass and shoeshine beer, something
told me that this world - the world of music - was something I needed
to be a part of again. The search and rescue mission had begun.
There. I'd said
it. Kay's a singer. And the butterflies unfolded from a long-cocooned
sleep. It was almost as if God had led this Irish songstress stranger
into the ruins of my abandoned inner-apartment, and she'd carried me
out into the light single-handedly. It was another sign. The truth about
my self could no longer be hidden from myself. Kay's a singer. Good
Lord, I'm a singer! And this Irish girl had managed, in one small bump,
to force me to admit what I'd long denied. The luck of the Irish.
I mumbled and
ummed my way through a collection of excuses until I finally responded
with an audible, comprehensible, 'No thanks.' It was one thing to recognise
a desire, it was quite another to do anything about it.
heart shook the foundations of the pub and drummed out the girl's pleadings.
I wanted to sing. I didn't want to sing. I couldn't even think what
to sing. I just stood still, too scared to open my mouth. It was birdcage-floor
dry. I needed a whiskey. A seat. A bridge to jump off. A prayer to Pushkin.
man with the microphone stood on his chair. He was singing.
His voice was
honest and strong. He commanded people watch him. His chest heaved with
each heartfelt breath he took. He was singing the only way he knew how
- straight up and as it comes - like bourbon swigged from the bottle.
No measured delivery, just an out-pouring of the spirit within. It was
brilliant to watch him. A brilliant spirited storm.
I was once told
that I sang with a storm inside, but I'd always been in the eye of the
storm, inside looking out. At times I was a hurricane, demolishing everything
in my path, hungry for approval, admiration, and new conquests, never
stopping to see the trail of destruction from riding roughshod over
everything - and everyone - around me. I was blind to my actions, asleep.
But then one day the storm was over. I made sure of it. I didn't want
to be a storm anymore. I didn't want to crave for success and acclaim
so badly that it hurt. My passion had consumed me. I didn't like what
I'd become. It was time to finish it. I couldn't see a way to sing and
feel joy at the same time. I'd lost the point of why I'd become a singer
in the first place. So I retired. Joyless. I shoved all musical memories,
all desires underground. No gravestone. No funeral. I had wanted to
be a singer at all costs and that was at odds with my basic happy personality.
I'd been at war with myself.
I'd never forgiven
myself for not being the kind of rock-goddess my songwriter friends
were inventing. I'd never forgiven myself for not being the country
and western singer my parents had hoped I might be. I'd never forgiven
myself for not being just plain old me. But watching this boy sing,
so natural, just happy to be, with no pretensions, was like receiving
a vitamin B shot in the arm.
pointed his microphone to the squawking open mouths of the chicks in
the audience. I could see the Irish girl and her friend, arms flailing
about like octopuses in a whirlpool, trying to catch the singer's attention.
In a millisecond, I suddenly found the microphone shoved into my gob.
Gob-smacked. The chicks chirped, 'Sing! Sing!' And so I sang.
I sang like
a southern mammy in a Baptist church on Sunday. I sang out so hard that
the bottles of liquor lined up along the bar tinkled. I let out that
storm hiding inside of me and watched it swirl up into the smoke-filled
ceiling above and rattle the chains of ghosts from a hundred Christmases
past. I hollered out my hallelujahs. I sounded my horns. I waved my
'get out of jail free' card to the prison guards who had kept my passion
for singing under lock and key. Full tilt boogie. And the people cheered.
And I was home. Healed.
to Sydney on a hunch. I didn't know where the gypsy caravan of adventure
would lead us, but Pushkin did and that's why she had to die, to help
me read the signs that were there. It was she who led me to my destiny
on the wings of a prayer. She knew where to find the music angels -
a band of healing angels that rescued me in a pub four doors down.