Those of you who read Mostly Up will know that I spend Monday and Thursday mornings bending myself into unfeasible positions under the stern gaze of Paola, my Italian Pilates teacher, in the Botanic Gardens. This week we endured a lesson under the fascinated gaze of ont of a year group from a local primary school… One of my fellow-sufferers is Cristina, another Italian woman; we roll eyes at each other while Paola comes round adjusting our posture as we strain to bend and breathe correctly.
Sadly Cristina will soon be departing Australia’s fair shores to return to Italy, courtesy of her inept Immigration Agent who has completely mucked up her family’s visa renewal to the extent that they have been threatened with deportation and ordered to leave the country. They won’t even be able to return as visitors for three years.
Feelings in the group, and in Cristina’s family, are mixed. We feel outraged at the iniquity of her situation: her agent very clearly mucked everything up and I, certainly, feel that s/he ought to be brought to book over the whole affair. Cristina’s devastated husband has started a business in Coffs Harbour making beautiful hand-turned wooden archery bows from local timber and he’s employing local people so one might have thought he was an asset to the country rather than a liability. Their two children are ambivalent. After a year of trying to settle in to local schools and being old enough to remember life in Italy and miss their friends I think they would like to ‘go home’. Cristina can’t work on their visa so her life has been curtailed: she has had to make new friends and find herself something to do and it hasn’t been the best situation for her. In addition she has left elderly parents behind and, although my surviving parent is far from elderly I, too, recognise how difficult that can be.
Anyway, in acknowledgement of the fun we’ve had together the Pilates group wanted to do something or make something for Cristina to say farewell, and I volunteered to make a book.
I don’t think anyone knew what the outcome would be, least of all me! I thought making a blank book would look a bit pathetic: we’re not so close as a group that we’d be likely to fill it with photographs and reminiscences, so it seemed more appropriate to make something small that would remind Cristina of being here, just big enough for us to sign and write our good wishes.
I decided on a concertina binding and cut into the upper edge of each page, then realised that I could increase the effect by ensuring that the resulting images could be ‘read’ with the pages folded up as well as spread out. A folded cover allows the book’s pages to be extended while properly protecting them when closed.
The images are local ones: a breaching humpbacked whale (especially appropriate as now is peak whale-watching season as they migrate northward to calve in warmer waters), a surfer, a parrot in a eucalyptus tree, pandanus branches and the lighthouse on South Solitary Island.
I hope that when Cristina looks at her book she’ll remember the warmth and the sunshine as well as Paola telling us to keep our shoulder blades together as we try and kick the sky!