Sunday, August 29, 2004

Trust me. Hah!

Says the Prime Minister in announcing his Octobeer 9 election date, "trust me". I trust him alright. I trust him to lie and lie and lie. Mendacious, dangerous, self-serving politician.
But, sadly, the public will trust like hapless voting lemmings and this era of war-making and economic rationalism will go on. An American critic put it perfectly when commenting on the aquiescence of the American public under the Bush regime of fear and deception. He surmised that the public has succumbed to "an Orwellian false reality".
Thus is it here, too. And it is deeply disturbing and very depressing.


My idea of perfection. Hours spent reading in a seat by the window with the islands outside and the sea reaching into the ever yonder. And a long walk around to the old screwpile jetty with the bay still and sheltered and the water a sheet of reflected sky. There were six shags sitting on one rock - all looking in the same direction. Like an audience. And the Pacific gulls were perched on crags of the bluff, posing for the world to admire how handsome they are. Only two desultry pelicans were at the boat ramp, although lots of boats had been out fishing on this perfect day. Not much of a catch, said one fisherman. But it was so lovely out in the bay, he said he did not care. Lovely it was - with fishermen on the rocks in each little inlet, happily casting their lines, sipping on a beer, gazing at the sea.
Tonight there has been some steady, nourishing rain. Crickets are singing a rhythmic song outside with the waves providing periodic percussion.
The city does not lure me back - but return I must. Sigh.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Aahhh Friday

TGIF. I've fled the city driving a very snazzy Lexus RX330 which really came into its own when I hit the country roads. Now, with a coffee and a ciggie, I let go of the wicked week. Too much work in it to think straight. Taking on a freelance job which consumed two nights of writing was the straw on this camel's back. Getting too old to hack the pace, methinks. But perhaps it was a tough week by anyone's standards. But now, the sea is outside and all is calm.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What writers do

Carlos Ruiz Zafon was our celebrity author last night - and a magical man of vivid words he turned out to be. So often writers are very separate entities from their works. But this Spaniard inspired and delighted - even in a second language. Oh, the wicked things he had to say about his years as a Hollywood scriptwriter. And the reasons why he would not sell screen rights to his book "Shadow of the Wind". Which were linked, of course, to his experiences of the cannibal world of screenwriting.

From Carlos's fanciful gothic world, I am now immersed in that of Mark D'Arbanville who is "The Naked Husband" - and I read with revulsion, loathing the man from deep within my gut, as many female readers will. His book is an explanation of his infidelity to his wife, of his discontent with a perfect life, and his need for another. I thought, in reading this book, that I would gain some enlightenment about the male of the species, or particularly about the ex-husband who betrayed me in a similar way. What I have understood from this man's attempt at controversial paperback writing is that men can be brutally selfish and feel sorry for themselves at the same time. I knew that already. But the wounds of all that are far behind me. Faded old scars. And the negative turned into a positive. For had life not taken that turn back yon in England, I never would have found my Bruce.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Chocolate Intensity

An assignment to judge chocolate for the Royal Show. Oh, how the colleagues oozed their envy. I must say I was not displeased with the challenge.
Equipped with a very prestigous judge's badge and a lab coat, I was one of three judges - head judge being a leading retired chef and culinary teacher, the other being a confectioner and speciality cake maker. My only qualification was my choc snobbery, being one who refuses to eat couverture or compound chocolates and who believes that Belgium's Leonidas chocolates with their fresh cream centres are the best in the world.
Chocolates were laid out in categories on trestle tables. 66 samplings in 12 categories.
Sadly, we had to start with the worst and work our way up to my favorite - chocolate ginger. This, said the head judge, because we work from mild flavors through to the strong.
Shaving slivers of chocolate bars and cutting centred chocolates, we let each sample melt naturally on the tongue to explore its qualities after examining the appearance of each offering. I had not realised how many things there were to be considered. But I caught on. The head judge was a wonderful teacher. And, hey, it's hardly an unappetising subject.
Well, it took four hours to go through all those chocolates. Four hours of nothing but chocolate and water.
I had not had breakfast, apart from the usual coffee and cigarette. But the chocolate did nicely as first food of the day. In fact, as the hours wore on, I found I was feeling charged and a little high with all the chocolate. It is good energy food, after all. The process, however, was incredibly intense - so much so that one hardly noticed the time passing. It was an adventure in subtleties puctuated by thrills of excellence. The top chocolates were world class. They rivalled Godiva and Hefty. They were sublime. Two in particular - neither of which I am permitted to reveal until the results are announced. But both are made in Adelaide.

After the judging I had thought maybe I would feel sickly. But no. Instead I had a passionate craving for salad.
And I absolutely could not face another chocolate. For at least a few hours.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Sharing friends

Never again will I tell one friend of another "you'll love him/her". No, sir! I will make no assumptions that friends with things in common will get on with each other. Not after last weekend when, thinking I was delivering the gift of potential friendship, I brought two interesting friends together as houseguests, only to see them go for each other's jugulars in a steamy dinner table argument about, of all things, the atrocities that King Leopold inflicted on the Congolese. Friend A, who has lived in Africa, attempted to tell the Friend B that some of the techniques of utter cruelty used by Leopold's minions were adoped from Congolese tribal punishments and that colonial Africa and colonies generally had been rife with brutality and genocide. Friend B took this as an expat Third World colonialist apologia for Leopold and went into a state of deepest, grim hostility - from which he refused to emerge. And thus was our jolly weekend a complete disaster.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

O, Lympics!

Thank heavens for Roy & H.G. and their nightly Dream show from Athens - that uniquely Australian sense of nonsense, the high art of taking nothing seriously. How else to deal with an international sporting extravaganza set against a backdrop of empty seats? The awful truth must be coming home to the IOC, that real people just aren't interested in a mass of esoteric sporting activities. They don't know the rules. They don't care. And they don't want to sit for hours on end in the blazing sun.
Athenians, of course, have always most sensibly had siesta in the afternoons. They are night people. And their national sport is conviviality. From what I gather on the Olympic blogs, the Plaka is one of the most interesting spots where they seem to have set up some do-it-yourself games for people to play between coffees and retsinas. It is clearly much more fun than the official venues where the catering seems to be junk food with McDonalds in a starring role.
Fortunately there are thousands of athletes, officials, volunteers and security people to keep the event looking busy - because, obviously, the general public came for the theatre of the opening ceremony and promptly left.
Maybe the Olympics should be scaled down - just competitions for which country can hold the best opening ceremony.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The job on Kerry

Trying to help a colleague learn about John Kerry's policies, I did a quick Google - to find that all searches now are loaded to the negative to such an extent that it is hard to find anything else. Now that really is an efficient demolition job. And a (propagandist) marketing strategy, methinks.

A cut above the rest

It was blessed relief to get a call from the surgeon's rooms saying that the removed mole was benign - and no more cutting would be necessary. A couple of hours later, I did the cutting myself - trying to cut a recalcitrant mangosteen which skidded off my desk and across the floor, leaving the knife with my weight on it to gouge down into my finger. Later, realising the wound was a bit nastier than my first assessment, I got Sam to drive me to the private hospital A&E where, in lieu of stitches, an overworked Irish doctor glued the injury together - and his tattooed and hearty male nurse, Rick, popped a dressing and bandage on it. Only problem is that the dressing is now glued to the wound.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Butler did it

Distinguished weapons inspector. Australian diplomat abroad. At home, Richard Butler is immersed in controversy as he resigns from the post of Tasmanian Governor amid accusations and derision. What was his sin that he offended the Tasmanian Government House flunkies to the extent that they resigned and set the media a-frenzy? Arrogance, they said. Oh deary me. How terrible. Fie.

Of course I know no more than the rest of the country, exposed only to what the media chooses to report. However, my interpretation has it that Butler simply did not take the post of Governor, of Queen's representative to the little Apple Isle, so seriously. He is a declared opponent of the Monarchy for Australia and a supporter of the moves to make the nation a republic. Not the ideal choice for an absurdly pompous, ribbon-cutting archaic role. Indeed, it was aberrant of him to accept the job and downright silly of Tasmania's government to appoint him.
He was right, however, to cut the pretentions of the institution down to size. I hope it leaves a mark on this arch colonial tradition. It is long past its use-by date.
That he is being paid some $650,000 on top of his $350,000 salary by way of a golden handshake sticks in the craw a bit. That's easy money for 10 months of not work.
Now let's just hope they find something more constructive to do with a smart man who should be an asset to the country.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Under the knife

A nasty little mole in a difficult spot. The GP referred me to a plastic surgeon. His rooms were a picture of elegance, upstairs in a handsome colonial mansion on the edge of the parklands. Rich wood panelling, gracious windows with lovely aspects, collections of artworks on the walls, classical music tinkling through the air...
Arriving for my surgery, it was a long wait in an overheated waiting room. But valuable for reading. Finally to the operating theatre, as spartan and ugly as the consulting suite was lavish. Off with my top and laid out on an operating table under huge lights in the centre of the room - looking at huge, ugly brown-painted doors. The surgeon gave me a local anaesthetic injection and asked me to hold some gauze over it while it took effect. And he vanished, as did his nurse. And for the next 15 or so minutes I lay there alone, my book out of reach, listening with increasing irritation to the perky strains of some ballet score. Around me was a mass of equipment which, I realised as I passed time gazing at it, was largely for medical emergency. Oxygen cylinders, emergency stretcher, defibrillator... It all loomed large. "I'm only here for a mole," I reassured myself. I could hear voices in the next room and wondered if it was another operating room. I had images of an operations factory. And I wondered why it was that the medical world always had this way of unnerving and dehumanising its patients with this sort of solitude. My mind drifted back to the horror story of the birth of my first son - the last time I was left alone in an operating theatre. Jacked up in stirrups with an epidural which had only partially worked, ongoing contractions, and no sign of delivery after 18 increasingly frightening hours.
Finally the surgeon returned in his whites and busied himself with the hand sterilising rituals. Lovely hands, of course. And he painted my breast bone in hibitane and centred a hole in a green cloth over the mole and told me to look away. I did not have to be told twice. It did not hurt exactly. But it did not not hurt. It felt. And it felt nasty. After cauterising, he proceeded with the stitching and that felt really nasty. Piercing and dragging. I felt as if the skin of my chest was being hoisted. I felt like the performance artist, Stelarc, being raised in an art gallery on meat hooks. It was a particularly repugnant sensation. Disproportionate, considering the size of the mole. I did as I do at the dentist, went into "it-has-to-finish-some-time" mode - and, of course, it did. And I went off into a day punctuated by involuntary shudders of revulsion as the sensations were recalled.
So much unpleasantness for such a little thing.

In praise of the aged

Old people are wonderful. Today I addressed 50 something members of the Over 60s Education Group, all of them over 70. They have problems getting the young 60s members, they said. Looking out at their faces, I saw sensibility, intelligence and curiosity. People with stories to tell. People with knowledge and experience. And yet, they are somehow adrift in our society, filling time learning more, but not being used as a resource by society. It seems wasteful. For indeed, our society is ruthlessly youth-oriented and, if anything, there is a disdain for age. The young, of course, think it has nothing to do with them. It is as if the old are another species. Oh, indestructible youth, you will find out soon enough.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Apres le deluge

And when will that be? The rain goes on and on. I have given up on my hair. It occurs to me that Adelaideans are always poorly prepared for weather - probably because they don't see much of it, this being such a temperate place. So people in the streets are dressed for the office rather than the rain. Men go out in the cold and rain in their business suits. Some are in shirtsleeves. They may carry umbrellas, but no one has a real raincoat or proper hooded jacket. Well, I saw one woman in a proper waterproof jacket but she had nothing on her head and her hair was drenched into rat-tails. I am just as bad as the rest. I go out between the showers believing that the rain has gone away - and then it starts and I am unprepared. I've managed three soakings. Hence the big hair.
I don't remember this much rain, constantly, day after day. From our verandah we can hear the rushing torrent of the creek over the road, It is like brown rapids, surging and roaring, raging at the banks and attacking the tree roots. Trees will fall.
But the reservoirs are filling and for this dry place, we offset our sodden, scampering discomfort with the knowledge that we are lucky.