Lord Howe Island

Room Service

doorwayI caught a lock of your hair the other day.

It travelled very far. Swept under your door and down the stairwell.

Across cobbled streets and tiny lanes, over rooftops and mountain ranges, into clouds filled with rain, it came down beside me and whispered your name.

© James Grant Hay 2016. All rights reserved.

 

Blue Cashmere

blue

I dreamed of you in blue cashmere.

The kind of blue a father would choose for a lover who did not know your colour.

 

© James Grant Hay 2016. All rights reserved.

 

Corset

leg

The day may never find us alone.

But if we were, I would bury myself
between your lips against the garden gate to your door.

© James Grant Hay 2016. All rights reserved.

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Q&A with James Grant Hay

DigStanding outside the Feros Marquee in the pouring rain for unpublished historical non-fiction at this year’s Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, we spoke with James Grant Hay. 

Par Avignon: Thanks for being here. You’re something of an unknown to publishing, people know about you but they don’t really know you, or do they?

Grant Hay: Who you are, and what the people think you are, are two very different things. Everyone has a private life, which is of course private to tell.

PA: Describe your childhood.

JGH: Privileged. Broken around the edges. A fairytale of sorts.

PA: You went to boarding school in Australia, but lived in Paris, what was it like?

JGH: Well, I was constantly trying to run away from boarding school. We had a house in Melbourne, but my father died and my mother decided it was best for us to live away from home. It was a cold and dreary wind-swept place, built on a volcanic shale limestone cliff, overlooking a polluted tidal sea inlet. I didn’t go to Paris until much later. It was a great time. A great city.

PA: You’ve talked a lot about television. What’s happening in television right now?

JGH: Nothing is happening in television that hasn’t happened before, except it’s evolution. When we talked about connecting TV to the internet four or five years ago, people got really excited and began to imagine what it would be like. It followed the trend of connectivity, but the stumbling block has been the OEMs lack of innovation and willingness to open the box without a clear vision to market what people can do on their TV sets. We can do anything. But the lobbyists, regulators, advertisers and even their clients want to keep the status quo. So the only person who really understood where television was going, was Steve Jobs.

PA: But what about your vision? You’ve sat on a plan for years that nobody even knows about.

JGH: That’s right. When you’ve got the best ideas, better than anyone else’s, you don’t share them with anyone, until you’re in the room with the right people at the right time. That’s the great advantage of being relatively unknown, people constantly underestimate you.

PA: OK. In the meantime, you’re a collector. What exactly do you collect?

JGH: I invest in rare things (grins). Because a thing of beauty is so rare these days. It comes along maybe once or twice in your life and maybe never again. Books are interesting. First editions. Stamp covers pre-war. Etruscan coins. Things like that.

PA: Are women as rare as books?

JGH: (Laughter). Well yes. There are beautiful women. Aesthetically. But a beautiful female soul is the rarest thing of all. Some can be ancient. Very few men understand this about women or possibly even themselves. Perhaps one in a million do.

PA: You’ve begun to write about history, what’s so interesting about period history?

JGH: Its origins. Because I truly believe all of us are the sum total of our parents and ancestors past before us. So narrative and story I find fascinating. This combined with genealogy, ancestry and archaeology is what makes us human today.

© Paravignon 2016. All rights reserved.

Road to Transvaal

CROn the road to Transvaal, the Likhubi drew a terrible stench and Mrs Porter was nearly sick. Overton was twice her age, and he reminded her that he had been in her service from the time of the Boer War, and the Porters were grateful for his loyalty.  He was a tall man, with short grey hair and overcoat and cane from Carnaby Street. He spoke very little English, on account of his parents strict home school learning from age eleven, but he was a crack shot and had saved the Porters dogs, Nell and Pup from the lions.

East of Pongola, the sun peered down on the cabin in second class, which was no less hotter than first, and the overhead fans did little to ease the passengers comfort disembarking at each station. Mrs Porter pressed a handkerchief to her lips.

‘You will have to remember, the game wardens here are vile, not like us land owners, she paused. You must be firm with them, is that understood?’ Overton nodded, but did not answer back.

The Porter family were Irish Protestant and Minnie’s mother’s father, Thomas O’Rourke, had led the Duncraig uprising with Niall O’Shea and Michael Collins. She had met Charles Porter quite by chance on the day of the revolt, outside the Irish Times headquarters, where her grandfather worked as editor.

Charles Porter was Ireland’s leading civil engineer and had been appointed by Cecil Rhodes to build the first railroads east of Pretoria. Scholarly and handsome, he had stroked Bann to victory against Eton on Trent the summer before the war and was something of a legend.

© James Grant Hay 2015. All rights reserved.

Strike off Cabo Blanco

The La Paz was a Lanchashire nobby with two masts and a gaff rigged main inside a beamy shallow hull with twin diesels. She had worked the outer banks of the Agulhas that summer, carrying a prize haul of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye. Half a mile out, Yannick could see the break and the feeding grounds of the Montoks overhead.

‘Machiara!’, cried Taki. The line to stern abruptly sneered. Danzig let out a yelp, and the black fish rose some sixteen feet before a crashing seven hundred yard tailwalk.

Scobie called to tag, but the fish had other ideas, plunging the main line body into a vertical sulk hit dive, that lasted over half a minute. Danzig shook his head. ‘It’s a sword alright,’ gripping the reel. ‘He’s at depth!’ Scobie shouted.

Yannick backed off, easing the pull over his shoulder and preventing Danzig from becoming an amputee in his own chair.

© James Grant Hay 2015. All rights reserved.

Turning into Feldspar

BergenI would come and take a man for his worth and not for his feeling or for his touch on the day that it turned cold in Utøya.  I would blame my father for his adultery, my helpless mother for her weakness and all mankind for his cruelty.

‘Who’s that?,’ Jeanne asked.  That’s Old Tom, he’s a legend.

‘He’s beautiful’.  He sure is.  He saved a man once and helped herd the whalers.

‘How did he die?’ Old age, I guess. ‘I’d like to die of old age someday’.  Me too, said Tina.  ‘How long have you lived in Eden?’ About a year. ‘Do you like it?’ It’s quiet. ‘You don’t sound Australian?’ I’m from Bergen.

‘Is that Iceland??’ Close. Just not as cold. They laughed.

Jeanne had a heart, but she didn’t want it to work.  She had turned it off at Islington after Johnny Rotten had taken a piece of it with him.

© James Grant Hay, Feldspar 2015. All rights reserved.

 

Poems from Antiquity

 

A Thousand Suns

FaceAriadne of a thousand suns

Setting down on me

Face of a thousand suns

Resting in my arms

Face of a thousand suns, I waited for you

© James Grant Hay 2015. All rights reserved.

 

New Born

mother_child

Gentle as the wings of a butterfly

Gentle as a breeze in June

Gentle when thou ‘art near to me

Gentle when you are afar

Gentle the whisper of tiny toes and crowded feet

So gentle in your arms

Gentle the words that are spoken, of when two hearts meet

© James Grant Hay 2014. All rights reserved.

 

Nairobi

Peter-Beard8-640x600

From the flower of a thistle

In the meadow of a stream

Set adrift across an ocean

To the rocky mountain plain

Perched the outline of a lion

And the pride of your domain

© James Grant Hay 2013. All rights reserved.

Letter from Tangiers

Not a word was spoken. Angelique stood up and in that moment the ground beneath her feet trembled like a rollercoaster. Was this all that had come to pass? She thought to herself, or was life a museum, a cradle that uttered no sound but the vanquished that left a dead soldier in the night?

The journalists stood still. Romain De Vallée did not respond. He glared at Angelique Morville who had asked the unthinkable. The Press Officer from Damascus interrupted, ‘That will be all for today,’ he quipped. The corps immediately erupted into a melee that drowned the quiet triumph between Angelique’s ears. ‘Angie, please we must leave now,’ shouted Hubert.

From the salon of the gallery, Hubert Dassin led Angelique out to the foyer of the Hotel Yasmin and onto the Bab Touma to the awaiting transports at Masada Airport.  The driver, a Christian from Qassaa had escorted Angelique and her entourage many times over since their landing in August, and his English was excellent.

Agence-France-Presse had devoted the post-war years to developing its network of international correspondents and Angelique’s Father, Matthieu Morville was the first Western journalist to report the death of Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin in 1953. Angelique had followed in her Father’s footsteps, graduating from Rouen University with a major in classical literature and journalism, moving to Paris at age twenty-four before taking up her first assignment with Le Monde.

From the air, Tangiers pulled into view and Angelique studied its geography. Built on the slopes of a chalky limestone hill, the city had once served as a playground for eccentric millionaires, secret agents and villains of all types during the War, “an Eldorado for the Haute Volée,” her Father once told her.

As the wheels of the aircraft touched down, Angelique’s thoughts turned suddenly towards Sanders at the Embassy and she wondered if he was still there.

 © James Grant Hay 2012. All rights reserved.

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