Crackers! #7: Vanessa Berry


We hope you’ve been enjoying our very merry, end-of-year series, Crackers!

We’ve asked eight writers to tell us about the best gift that 2015 gave them/the world, and we’ll be posting their responses all the way through to New Year’s Eve. Today’s cracker comes from Vanessa Berry.

After my car was written off in an accident at the end of 2014 I became reacquainted with the tribulations of public transport. The new year was shaping up to be one long bus ride. The uncomfortable proximity, the odours, being trapped between a bus window and a man enjoying Christmas-themed porn on his phone: it didn’t take long for me to settle back into it.

I often caught an outer-suburban bus used by so few others that I began to regard it as my personal service. At first I found the trips where I was the only passenger awkward, but soon I came to enjoy it being just the driver and I. Our road trip soundtrack was loud talkback radio which filled the bus with a knife-edge, AM treble.

A woman had been sighted on Broadway trailing a leek on a red leash behind her.

One day the shock-jock presenter on the radio was describing an event so perplexing he couldn’t believe it was taking place in central Sydney, just a few blocks from the radio station. A woman had been sighted on Broadway trailing a leek on a red leash behind her. She was out there walking the vegetable as he spluttered with indignation at the weirdness of it.

This sighting picked up on earlier reports from China about young people walking cabbages on leashes as an expression of loneliness. It was announced that cabbage-walking was cathartic, as walkers transferred their negative feelings onto the vegetables. The practice was then uncovered as being part of a performance art project by the artist Han Bing, who has been walking cabbages in China and worldwide since 2000, and not a widespread youth subculture after all.

But sitting on the bus in the outer suburbs as it travelled up and down the steep roads through the bushland, I imagined vegetable walking catching on. The girl with the leek was doing it, after all, right at that very moment. I might even stop by World of Fruit on the way home to check out the possibilities. From this point on 2015 would be the year of vegetable walking, the year when the line between performance art and life finally dissolved.

Vanessa Berry is a writer and visual artist, the author of Ninety9, Strawberry Hills Forever, and the Sydney exploration blog Mirror Sydney.