Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"A different tea-towel, and it was Africa."

"What was reliably best about childhood -- what I miss now it is gone, what being in hospital gave back to me -- was its spaciousness: the multiplicity of sensations to be extracted from the infinitudes of time inhabiting every day, the infinitude of spaces in even a modest house. In the oblong tent under the table, shielded by the tablecloth curtain and the palisade of familiar legs, at once in society and out of it; under the ironing board, hearing the hiss of the iron on sprinkled sheets, breathing the hot moist air with its inexplicable whiff of new bread [...] Crouched beside the sewing machine I confronted slavery long before I knew the term, as the black man built into my mother's Singer plunged and lunged in submission to her rocking foot. Squatting in the sawdust desert in the slatted light of under-the-house, a striped tea-towel on my head, I was in Arabia. A different tea-towel, and it was Africa."

Inga Clendinnen, MEMORY: EEL OR CRYSTAL?
Extracts from Tiger's Eye: A Memoir
Australian Book Review, February/March 2000 Issue No. 218



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