Title: Disasters in Splendour

Author: Gregory O'Brien

In: Sport 13 Spring 1994

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, October 1994

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 13 Spring 1994

3. Six Years Later, Auckland, New Zealand

page 61

3. Six Years Later, Auckland, New Zealand

Julian and Sharon. He piggybacks her across a field and she asks him why. And he says he needs to know how it feels, traversing fallen telephone poles, her arms around his shoulders, belly pushed hard against his back. And that is why.

A recollection. The last postcard Rosanna sent to Julian was of a rotund blond mermaid in a mystical landscape. She said she had just met a millionaire and was moving to a private island off the coast of Tasmania. He was coming around to pick up her stuff in his helicopter. ‘You don’t want to be lost in someone else’s slipstream getting there,’ she wrote.

Julian later heard the millionaire’s wife had started causing trouble and Rosanna had, after a series of unpleasant evenings, caught the ferry back to the mainland. She subsequently joined a stilt troupe and fell in love the day before falling fourteen feet during a street performance and breaking her back.

But the man she had fallen for—and she insisted she had never ‘loved’ before—waited eleven months for her to recover and picked her up from hospital in his convertible on the day of her discharge. Together they drove hastily off into prospects of children, travel, unlimited happiness, her gaze intent upon the future, her black hair trailing back into the past.

March. ‘There is,’ according to Julian, ‘only that which leaves at once, that which lasts and that which never was.’ He is thinking of a law of physics and how, over the last six years, his emotions have ‘walked down an arcade of Sharons’.

They are holding hands in the early afternoon, discussing the practicality of sleep this early in the day, with their five-year-old daughter, Ida, playing on the lawn—Ida Lupino March, in lupins—then running towards them. For her parents, she insists on reciting the numbers up to twenty:

One two three
four five six seven
eight nine
ten eleven light
toy mystery
air gun
person no hand zero nothing.’

page 62

Memento. There is a photograph on the mantelpiece in which Sharon and Julian are watching a woman in waders up to her waist in a river. They are paying particular attention to the play of light on her waterproof clothing and her yellow hat with fishing flies around the rim.

The woman reels in a beautiful rainbow trout and hands it to them before wading back out into the river in the photo. Sharon and Julian are sitting on the pebbles, talking about rainbows and trout and how the two came to be together, here.

Julian and Sharon. Whatever else they might love, there is always the wind across the tops of waves.

Postlude. Sharon’s polo-neck jumper is the colour of sand on a tropical beach. Now the weather is improving, she will place it at the bottom of the wardrobe beneath the inflatable boat.

Julian comes through the door with a letter in his hand. ‘It’s from Gino and Miranda and they’re coming to stay—they’re planning a sketching tour of the South Island. Imagine in our very own living room: A Sketching Tour Of The South Island!’

Julian says Gino has just returned from a European excursion— ancestral villages in Italy then a Dublin brewery where he stuck a stamp on the back of a Guinness coaster and posted it to Jack Marx ‘for the fun of it’, only to be met on his return to Australia by an irritated Jack Marx who said he had eaten the coaster, assuming it to be impregnated with LSD or something. Why else would someone send a thing like that through the mail, and without a note?

Ida Lupino March starts laughing because her parents are laughing. And Sharon adds that if she was a novelist she would now be finishing a novel entitled Six Years of Tears and Heartache.