Frannie Hopkirk

Sometimes I would ride our horse Copper, a stock-horse–cross, or walk across the few paddocks separating our farms, and along the creek to visit Dorrie and Tom. Tom would always be sitting by the kitchen fire, whatever the temperature outside. I would sit with him, listening to his stories which, as were always stained with complaint, as with all farmers, watching him as he stared into the fire like a big old cat. The kitchen had become his last pozzie in life.

Why, exactly, two small children and a dog were on the end of the Longueville baths that day, I do not know. In retrospect perhaps we had been told to stay on the beach but a brand of Whiteley anarchy had put us in danger. Perhaps it was my fault for not taking better care of my young brother. Whatever the reason, the events are indelibly inscribed on my memory. The blind, screaming horror of it is as vivid as a freshly experienced nightmare.

“All is vanity” said Rembrandt – perhaps referring to the art of portraiture. One wonders where vanity intruded on his many illuminating and dauntingly candid self portraits. The vanity in portraiture lies in the conceit of being chosen in the first place, quickly followed by dismay at the result.

Sitting for a portrait means putting oneself on the altar of how the artist sees you. Over this perception of oneself comes another truth – how others see you. There lies the terror and the ultimate definition of vanity.

The day dawned still and sure As the first day might have Dawned. No wind whispered Across the white dust. This Was a day like any other. But She knew it was not. The woman had slept fitfully Through the hot night. Her Slumber the shallow sad Unrest of one tormented by Life, the unquiet of one Who dreads the dawn, The black and dire prospect Of another day, another week, Another year another moment, Without rain. The terror, the monotony, The pitiful lonely unremitting struggle In a parched and dying world. Outside her open window the moon Grew fat and lovely.