By Gillian Harrison
Today I’m chasing an orange Kombi van. From the dirt tracks of Ko-Samui to the gravity defying roads of the Scottish highlands, she pops up every few pages. Here she is again, this time closer to home, marooned by the Indian Ocean, on an isolated stretch of West Coast Drive.
You see, I’m reading through my old writing journals. But I feel like I’m playing a paper version of Spotto. Or Where’s Wally? for vintage vehicles. Because the image of an orange kombi meanders down the roads of so many of my old stories.
This morning I returned home to an old banana box on my doorstep. Knowing I haven’t got around to trying Aussie Farmer Direct (despite it being on my to-do list for the last three years), I scanned the familiar handwriting scratched on the lid: Found this in mum’s garage. I ignore my preconceptions about contents found in cardboard boxes (thanks horror movies and Kevin Spacey) and remove the lid with eyes half-open. There, wrapped in an old cheesecloth shirt (did I really wear this?) and reeking of stale incense lies nothing more terrifying than a pile of notebooks. Dog eared and yellow, my name scrawled over the front cover of each.
16 old notebooks filled with forgotten ideas, short poems and floating sentences, collected between the ages of 17 and 25 and across 8 countries. Returned to me from the ghost of boyfriends past.
I flick through the pages hesitantly, still wondering what might jump out at me. A letter written on my 18th birthday, never sent and addressed to a girl I’m no longer friends with. A single sentence written in silver ink: ”Street Vendor in Bangkok: If you have a white elephant please give it to my lovely King”. Conversations recorded on the back of beer coasters.
Recurring dreams about flying.
A paragraph describing the small quaint houses lining a side street in Munich. A story about a girl I’d met in a French pension, who’d broken into the house of her ex-boyfriend to steal his beer and computer mouse. So many unfinished stories, written in code at times, when I’d been scared someone might stumble across the mixture of autobiographical and creative writing.
As I sit now at my electronic notebook I think about last year’s workshop with The Society of Women Writers. Workshop leader, Frances Richardson gave us a three-month use-by date on writing journals.
Best before 3 months.
The notebooks that lie in front of me date long past their shelf life. Do I hide them away for another 10 years? Should I finally throw them away?
Or do I breathe life back into that old kombi and see where she takes me?