The Problem of Being a Writer

This piece was written in the coffee shop of the National Museum of Australia, Canberra in January 2019.

The problem with being a writer is that you see so many stories from snippets of conversation, like the ladies at the table next to me who are speaking about a person they know with mental health issues and how she tried to knock on the door but she didn’t answer and the young boy missed out on going camping. The young girl in the wheelchair, with both legs in turquoise casts to the knee, asking if she can have Facebook or Snapchat, her parents are saying no but trying not to get into a public argument. Now the old ladies beside me have moved on to how the woman got pregnant to a guy just out of jail but due to abnormalities the baby had to be aborted. The judgmental friend has decided that it was alcohol related. How did that girl in the wheelchair end up with casts on her legs- did she fall or where the holidays a convenient time to have surgery? The waitress rushes round dropping tea off at this table and then cleaning that one for the next people.

Across Lake Burley Griffin the library looks stern and stately. It’s a more fitting monument than the triangular scaffolding atop the new Parliament House. The table diagonally opposite me are talking about one of their family who’s moved jobs because the boss at the current job is useless and they won’t cope without this person. I am always amazed at the arrogance of some people. Another couple have joined the crowd outside. They talk softly possibly in an Indian dialect as the rain drops get heavier. A multi colored boat meanders across the lake, its pink white and black paint jarring against the brown, green, grey and blue of the natural landscape. In front of the library there’s a car it seems to be off the road, maybe its shelter for tonight. A ute with flashing orange lights has pulled up behind it- some sort of security patrol

The Eccles cake so inviting in the cabinet has turned out to be too sweet. I’m dissappointed- it has none of the spice that mine had. At the table beside me sits a middle aged woman with a take away coffee She is engrossed in her phone; a magpie sings to us- perched on a branch. that doesn’t look big enough for him. I look at my watch and realise that I have spent an hour here, people watching, developing characters from the vignettes of life. I thank the waitress and leave – mind and body re-energised.

Stopping for coffee and cake provides sustenance and inspiration. Photo taken at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.