Monday, June 28, 2004

Winter in the country

Driving the winding country roads from the coast in my divine new Forester, it was the symphony of greens which was the delight of this day. There are myriad greens in this landscape but in winter the new growth brings forth a richer than rich green - a vibrant, exuberant, vivid celebration of green. A shrill cheer of green. It sings from the trees and shrubs, saying that winter is lush and alive. And along those roads amid those greens are also the showy splashes of brightest yellow - the wattles coming into bloom. No wonder the birds are so happy. Winter is beautiful.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Another Festival Over

There was only one free night left in my week and the boss decided that was the night he would take his staff out for a team-bonding dinner - since he had a free table for 10 at a master chef dinner. I was not excited by the prospect and said I would rather be knitting, but Simon is a lovely boss and, oh well, team spirit and all that. So I went. And wasn't I glad. What a divine repast. Course after course of delicate, imaginative morsels of absolute excellence. With luscious wines. Lots of wonderous culinary treats but never too much. And we co-workers got to chat and swap life stories and see each other as individuals outside the work place. After all, we are a sort of family and we spend more time with each other than we do with our blood families. Yet we don't really know each other all that well. Just within the work context. We see each other under stress. We know each other's strengths and talents. Yet not much of the private selves at all. I "met" a couple of my workmates that night and, tired as I was, I was loathe to leave - although I was the first to do so.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Vale Milan Ivezich

Milan died today. The memories cascade around me. I never wanted to see Milan again. And I won't. That is not to say that I did not have abiding love for the man. He was one of the loves of my life. He wanted to marry me. I turned him down. He was too dangerous for me. He liked to live on the edge. I am a creature who likes to be earthed. So I had the distinction of being the only woman who had ever turned him down although I thought he was the most beautiful looking man in the world - dark-skinned and velvet-eyed. He was highly charismatic. He was brilliant, a genius. He was dazzling, glamorous. In his heyday. Until he discovered heroin.
As a geo-physicist Milan made millions in the Poseidon boom. He lived like a movie star and he had star presence. Heads turned when he entered a restaurant. The first words he uttered to me when we met in the early 70s was an invitation to go to bed. I thought him impertinent and proceeded to ignore him. But when he phoned and offered to give me a lift to a party with his friend Christopher a few days later, I accepted. He rocked up in the back of the car with Xtopher at the wheel, music playing, joint burning. Xtopher chauffeured us a rather roundabout way until I realised that we were going nowhere near the party. "You've been kidnapped," said Milan. We ended up at his house and I did not come up for air for many days - finally going home just for clothes and returning to the surreal world where Xtopher waited on us as people came and went and quite often we received them sitting up in bed like John and Yoko.
But I had to leave. I had commitments. I was only visiting Adelaide. And so I flew away, on a long route back to Edinburgh where I had been living with the doctor who was later to become my first husband.
Milan followed me with love letters miraculously delivered to every place I visited and he caught up in person on the island of Rhodes where he insisted on hiring the biggest motorbike on the island - which we promptly crashed and spent our romantic time holding hands from single beds across a garret room as we recovered from our bruises and grazes.
Then Milan went to his native Yugoslavia while I went away back to the island of Halki where I had been staying with my old friend and travelling companion, Dimitris.
When I arrived in London, so did Milan, desperate to stop me from returning to Edinburgh. For days and days he dazzled and he promised and he wove dreams around me as only Milan could. It was an intense time for both of us - but all my instincts warned me away from him. I bade him an agonised farewell, advising him to lick his wounds by discovering my precious Bali. Which he did, ending up making Bali his home for many years.
And I went back to Scotland and the doctor.
Milan, who had divorced his first wife, subsequently met Bronwen and married her. His demise began when they were in Thailand and his father died. There were expectations that Milan would return to Melbourne and take over the Yugoslav newspapeer his father edited. Milan did not return. His distraught mother took an overdose and hanged herself from the rotary clothes line. Milan spiralled into pain and guilt - and found the panacea of heroin. And he began to shoot his fortune down his veins.
He was a wonderful artist and he left geology and adopted the artist's lifestyle, chumming up with Brett Whitely and having heroin-high painting sessions. He lived a while in Bali and then settled in Byron Bay where Bronwen gave birth to their son Misko. He said that Bronwen never succumbed to the drugs. But one night she did - and died, with her wee child beside her.
I had been back in Adelaide for a little over a year and was having dinner in a Chinese restaurant with Xtopher the night that happened. We had looked forward to that dinner - and then we could not eat it, both of us feeling strange and down. We left the restaurant early and returned to my house - and the phone call came. A desperate Milan crying for help. We told him to come to us - and he did, with child. Bronwen's sister, Megan, took Misko and I took the broken Milan. He stayed for a year and I tried to help him get off the heroin. He turned my world upside down with the darkness and light of his being. He could not sleep alone. We were never lovers again, but I took him into my bed and kept him company. Like brother and sister. I promised him that I would take him back to Bali once he had kicked the heroin.
That was tough. He ate deloxyn like lollies and hid drugs all over the house. Brett Whitley made calls offering to send him "care parcels". Heroin dealers zeroed in on him whenever we went out. He would go off the heroin, endure the savage demons of withdrawal, sparkle with pride in himself - and then drop back into the mire. It was a big dipper. But throughout it, he was loving and good to my children and also to me and my housemates. He was always protective towards the children, interested in teaching them and ever ready to play. We all loved him and wished him to be well.
He still had the charisma. He still had the brilliance. He was still a larger-than-life individual. People wanted to know him and to be with him.
Finally, he stayed clean. I took him to Bali. I was preparing to move there at that time, having been spending regular times there working with a friend and colleague on English-language publications. I had been studying the language and I had a place there. This trip was to organise resident visas and school for the boys. And to part ways with Milan who was planning to find a place in the mountains and focus on painting.
We were no sooner settled in Bali than a Dutch woman called Yoka arrived to claim Milan. Milan ran away and hid in the hills. Yoka clung to me for day after day in torrents of tears raving about her dreams of perfect life with Milan. It was all a bit much. The boys couldn't stand her and nor could I. Milan, in his way, was always enriching to us all. But this woman was disruptive. I managed to locate Milan and force him to deal with her. She wanted to take him to Europe. We waved them goodbye, relieved.
It was a couple of years later that I saw Milan again. He turned up in Bali when I was back there on a visit. He had dumped the Dutch woman and found a beautiful German girl called Erika, a sculptor. I adored her instantly. He seemed to be doing really well. They settled in Bali and lived the artists' life for some years. Their son Odin was born there. But Milan had never really left the drugs. His life became more complicated and he was forced to leave the island under dire circumstances.
The family turned up in Adelaide to be near Misko - and ended up staying with me and the boys. We lived together for a year. For Milan it was a mercurial year with assorted drug phases. Erika and I bonded like sisters and our children melded into a big happy family. Milan retured to geology and opal mining ventures, then eventually they moved to Kalgoorlie and gold mining. He sent me money to repay me for things he had stolen from me on his drug binges over the years. They later moved to Cairns and Milan, mining ventures all failed, sank deeper into his drugs, disappearing to Bali for years on end. Erika discovered, as she supported him through Narcotics Anonymous, that she had been "an enabler" for all those years. She began to draw away from him, finally completely. She was doing well as an artist and at raising Odin. They had a life without Milan and saw him only occasionally.
Milan, she would tell me in our long phone calls, was looking shrivelled and prematurely aged. He had shrunk. His body had been ravaged by the drugs. He was a compulsive liar. He was a lost soul with illusions, endlessly drying out from drugs and then going back on them. His sparkling brilliance was drugged away.
And we had all stepped back from him. Milan was trouble. We had all tried to help him. We had all failed.
"I am glad you never saw him in these last years," said Erika tonight. "He was such an old man."
Milan collapsed and died in the street. They say it was a heart attack. He could not be revived. He was still taking drugs.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Another Festival

Another festival in the festival state - more late, late nights and erratic meals. It's only the Cabaret Festival which is relatively small with fairly superficial reviewing demands. But it means two weeks without a night at home.
It's rather a nice thing to do in winter. It is heartening to see the Festival Centre swarming with people while the rain pelts down outside. And, since it's all light entertainment, it brings out a broad demographic. For once, I know hardly anyone in the foyers. Ah, yes, foyers - my natural habitat. I realise that I have "foyer friends" - people I regularly meet in theatre foyers and see nowhere else. Ah, maybe foyers are another dimension.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Big Brother shock

The live Big Brother show went into disarray. Something terrible had happened. An intelligent political statement had taken place. Political conscience on trash reality TV? Heavens above. How shocking.
Merlin, the evictee, had taped his mouth and held up a sign saying "Release the refugees". He refused to participate in the trite chit-chat and bitchery which is the routine content of the weekly eviction show. He simply sat there with his rather tatty sign...and a massive audience.
Of course the Queensland rednecks in the live audience did their bit of booing and the cretin footballer in the house showed his disapproval. Dimwits united.
But it was a brave, brave use of a mass audience to communicate a serious message, shared by many of us.
The next night Merlin apologised for putting the show's glib host in a difficult position and he apologised for offending children in the audience. Eh? Children were offended by a humanitarian statement?
They are not offended by the sexual innuendo, the brainlessness and profanity of the show. They are not offended by a trans-sexual being sent into the house to flirt with the men? But they are offended by a gesture of compassion towards broken people detained in almost concentration camp-like circumstances?
Now that really is shocking.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Science strikes again

How much money are these researchers spending to establish that dogs have a vocabulary?
We now have the scientific "finding" on Rico the border collie - it asserts that this dog can indeed learn and maybe even draw conclusions. But it suggests that this dog may be an exception, an Einstein dog, even.

This is a case of scientists wasting our time and money. Anyone who has had anything to do with dogs knows that they learn human vocabulary. They also can tell the time, albeit not in the same way as we do. Furthermore, they have added senses beyond ours.
No, they can't talk. But they certainly express themselves.
All the dogs I have owned have not ony learned the spoken commands, but the peripheral language around them. Our present family dog, a 9-year-old doberman, knows the names of all the family members and friends, of all his toys, and of a series of commands, some of them different phrasings of the same command. If asked to go and locate a certain toy, he will get that specific toy. He has a lot of toys. The house sometimes seems to be an obstacle course of his possessions. They all have names - ball, ring, bear, teletubby, rope, chook... He also learned to pee on spoken command. He is not an Einsten dog. He is just a dog from one of the smarter breeds.
We don't need teams of scientists to tell us that dogs learn language.
If they really want to add to the body of knowledge about dogs, let them tell us what dogs think.
That is the mystery.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

A drive in the country

A beautiful assignment - out in the countryside on a sunny winter's day. The new Forester loved it for it was a first chance to be off road - along dirt tracks, through gates and across the landscape to a eucalyptus arboretum. 900 varieties of eucalypts and 7000 trees. What diversity. Such splendid, extraordinary trees are eucalypts. They look so ancient and their seed pods often look primeval, but they turn out to be one of the more recent species around - still speciating, said the eucalyptologist.
It was a joyful day to be out there among that splendid vegetation - and, oh, the scent! The air of the landscape was heady with it - that fresh perfume which somehow we feel is in our blood. The fragrance of Australia.

Friday, June 11, 2004

A bad night at the theatre

So much work. So much hope.
They don't always pull it off.
Of course art needs experiment. Risks must be taken. Failure is part of the process.
But understanding that does not make it easier to sit through.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Church crisises everywhere

Boston is still reeling over its church scandals. It has been an epidemic of disgraced priests. What is the problem with these men of God?
I return to Adelaide - and here it is again.
They have been calling for the resignation of the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide for some time - but he has held on doggedly waiting the couple of weeks left for his retirement. It's all about paedophilia coverup at the city's top boys' school. The Archbishop's idea of dealing with a sinful priest would seem to have been to visit him as he packed to leave the country, worried for the man's welfare and not, it would seem, the boy/boys. I listened to his description of this meeting as he was interviewed on ABC radio. He remained supercilious, I thought, as if he was a bit above it all. It did not surprise me. This archbishop has, in my opinion, been a vain and self-aggrandising man throughout. And thus does his downfall look to me suspiciously like karma.

And it's time they let the women take over the church.

Calm before the storm

I watched the transit of Venus on my computer at work - fairly underwhelming aesthetic really, a black dot moving across a white sphere. But it had to be watched, if only out of respect for Captain Cook and his mapping of Australia - which would not have happened without the scientific expedition to see this phenomenon.
Of course there was no sign of the astral dust cloud predicted by the prophesy ratbags under the stolen identity of my mate Grant Gartrell. But, in their defence, it has to be said that we all seemed to have a somewhat addled sort of a day. One of those sideways days which are not awful but just awkward.
Here in Adelaide the weather was perfect - considering it is winter. Sunny with temp in the 20s. The evening has been positively balmy and I took a pleasant walk around the neighborhood and down The Parade which was bubbling with life, the sidewalk cafes full of happy people. Even the icecream parlors were doing brisk business.
Now, after midnight, the sky is flashing lightning and there are rumbles of thunder.
I am sure the doomsayers would see something in it. Post-transit storms. Oooh.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Identity Theft

What an ordeal for my old friend Grant Gartrell. Suddenly he is in the middle of prophecy hysteria - attributed on websites and forums with predicting the cataclysmic impact of comets on the earth - beginning tomorrow.
Someone on the end-of-the-world bandwagon has found and used the retired physicist's credentials. It is true that Grant is an expert on comets. He did his thesis on the subject - a zillion years ago. It is also true that he is long retired and has not involved himself in that sphere for many years. He is now blueberry grower and, as he has always been, a passionate caver who lobbies for the protection of caves.
And suddenly there he is all over websites and forums. Except that it is not him. Someone has done a lot of homework about him and is using his credentials to generate panic about impending comet impact on earth. What is in it for the imposter? Why would someone go to all this trouble?

Saturday, June 05, 2004


Good grief. George Bush is campaigning for the Australian Prime Minister's re-election. Telling Australians not to vote for Latham of the Labor Party. That is beyond not one but many pales. Impertinent arrogance pales by comparison. I go pale with indignation. Etc with the bad gags. But it is bad.

Meanwhile, it is Friday - yesssss. I have churned out a lot of words through this week. Two columns, four feature stories and two reviews. And I've caught up on the backlog of emails. Phew.

Now I am late to bed after a packed night. I executed a painting for the Florey medical research foundation fundraiser exhibition tonight - with borrowed acrylic paints on a canvas provided by the foundation. It's a portrait of a pelican. of course. I love those birds with a passion.

In the morning I will pack the Forester and head down to Fleurieu Peninsula - stopping at the Willunga Farmer's market to get some fresh goodies - and spend some time adoring the colors of the sea.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Big Brothering

I am not ashamed to admit my fascination with Big Brother. Our household always has had a "thing" for the rats in the lab reality TV phenomenon. It brings us together. A ritual of people-watching over dinner - and onwards since one or other of us usually has it streaming on the computer.
The Aussie BB is vastly different from the American version which I find very hard to watch and even harder to care about. The American production pits the housemates against each other and encourages factions and power games. A great deal of energy is expended on expressions of hatred, one housemate for another. It is all very bitter, backstabbing and ambitious, the eye always on the money at the end.
The Aussies, on the other hand, seem to bond in the house. The big problem they have is finding reasons to nominate each other for eviction and quite often their nominations are accompanied by apology. They weep buckets whenever one of their number is evicted. They put up affectionate little memorials to them. There may be disputes in the house, but mainly it turns into an almost filial love fest.
And thus are our cultures different. Just as we can't produce the sort of characters who populate the Jerry Springer Show, we can't produce a BB house of nastiness. Does this mean we are a nicer culture? Perhaps. Certainly a less uptight one.