Inside the pages of the old school atlas, the small boy holds the pencil, angling it as he edges around Australia’s shores. My father’s hand has been here, tracing the coast, the grey lead pencil pushed down hard into the paper.

My father’s atlas appeared in the family house pack-up after he died and somehow made it home with me. ‘Could I take it? Just to look at,’ I had asked my mum. I held it tight to get it home. Few of the family records had ever left my parents’ house, and this felt like contraband. Along with the…


I’m gazing into a postcard of the mountains of Massachusetts, a bookmark with an Emily Dickinson quote in my other hand: ‘It’s all I have to bring today…’ the quote says. But there’s more. Before me are four pages of a handwritten letter, from a stranger in Birmingham, Alabama. For privacy reasons, I won’t be sharing what my new penpal told me of her life, but I know I urgently need to write back to her.

On a white and turquoise tablecloth, my first letter is laid out. It includes a postcard of mountains, a bookmark of green fields and a Frida Kahlo transfer.

Letter writing has become a way for people to connect during lockdown. Penpaloooza was started by New Yorker writer and editor, Rachel Syme, with…


When I heard a woman remark ‘I’d rather die than not have my hair done,’ I wrote the words down, stunned. It’s strange what has been deemed ‘essential’ in the time of Covid-19. Shopping for food, sure. Medical appointments, yes, if necessary. Exercise, OK. And until recently, a trip to the hairdresser. What? As a person who usually gets a haircut once every 12 months, it was beyond me.

But soon enough, Melbourne’s stage four restrictions ripped this ‘essential’ service away, along with other things we had taken to be ordinary aspects of our lives: going out between 8pm and…


From my bed, propped up with cushions and with my fancy headphones on, I sip gin and watch the screen as I sing an arrangement of Ball Park Music’s Surrender.

“It’s OK, it’s alright, true terror in the middle of the night, give in if it makes you feel better. So surrender, so surrender.”

On the Facebook livestream members of our choir make comments and jokes, or poke the emoji button until we are swirling in a sea of hearts. In my little house, my family stack the dishwasher and play with the dog. …


A photograph of a new mum, squinting into the sun, shadows hiding her face, shrouded. Standing beside her, stationed on either side, a girl and a boy, aged 6 and 5.

They are all in front of a Hills Hoist.

Nappies flap, flannel sails fluttering over their heads, catching the November wind. The new baby’s head is bent into his mother’s shoulder.

Hills Hoist and family. Home, East Camberwell © Robert Sublet

It has been thirty seven years since our home had been sold. Here I was, standing outside it on a Sunday, taking photographs of my bedroom window from the park next door.

‘That’s quite a view,’ a man…


Festivals serve up more than bands, martinis in mugs and craft beers in custom-designed bottles, so in the spirit of risk-taking and surrender, I decided to submit myself to an ‘artistic experience’ in a silent hair salon at last year’s Mona Foma festival. But to what was I surrendering? And why?

‘The Terhairium’ offered an indulgent immersion, leaving the customer at the hands of the silent hair stylist in a foliage-filled caravan. There would be no speaking and no mirrors. Limited stipulations could be given in writing before the appointment, the example given being: ‘no shorter than the jawline’. …


The magpies used to greet me as I arrived at the beach shack, and as we left, they’d re-assert their place once more, striding back into the front garden. But they seem to have moved on down the road these days. In their place, we have the bullet-proof bodies of the currawong, beady-eyed, tough-beaked, sleek-winged, with their flash of white at the tail. They clatter like earthmoving machines on the tin roof and watch fiercely from the gutters.

They might be black and white, but they’re not my magpies. It seems our magpie family has moved on down the hill…


Around a campfire many years ago, our mates asked each other “what is something you’d really like to do in your life?” Some said making a film, others said climbing a mountain and one said they wanted to write a book. My partner delivered this clanger: “I’d like to come up with a fair tax system.” (In retrospect, good on him!) I was quiet, then confessed, “I’d like to sing on stage.”

A few months ago, the reality of our tenuous hold on life hit me and churned me back out into the world with a new sense of hunger…


In the one hour of old video, her bloated face and heart consider the person she was, and the person she was about to become. Thirty-nine weeks pregnant, overblown, primed to explode. Watching this more than ten years later, the file stalls on the screen of the laptop. She is peering back at a trace of her identity. There she was: ‘mother-to-be.’ And there she goes, as she was: unencumbered, unfettered and free.

The laptop seems to groan and shudder, then it grinds to a freeze. Her pregnant face, frozen mid-word, mouth open in hopeful fear. …

Anna Sublet

Curious reader and undercover scribbler. Published in The Guardian, The Age, Australian Traveller, Footy Almanac, The New York Times.

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