Friday, October 29, 2004

The smoker

We were sitting at the window of a country town cafe tucking into a breakfast of bacon, eggs and grilled tomatoes, gazing out into the street at the morning activities when a man who seemed to have been walking fairly briskly down the footpath, stopped abruptly right in front of our window, took a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, extracted a cigarette and lit it. He then stood quite still, his weight on one leg, the other with the knee slightly bent - a fairly elegant posture - and proceeded to smoke. He smoked in very rapid puffs. Small, speedy puffs, one after another. His eyes darted around but he moved no other muscle, just hand tight to mouth and the cigarette going in and out and in a out - the smoke pluming and clouding, the red ember flaring. He did not look our way, although he was standing directly in front of us, quite close. Occasionally he tapped the ash, a momentary pause in the almost mechanical rhythm of the smoking. It was not frenetic, but it was compulsive. And incredibly intense and swift. There seemed no time to inhale before he was sucking again. I have never seen anyone smoke like that. Usually it is a form of relaxation. But not for this man. It was an exercise in express smoking. Of course it did not take long to efficiently finish the cigarette, at which point he dropped the butt on the ground, stepped on it, and went on his way. Most odd.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The eye of the beholder

The sound of running water is what gives serenity to a garden. I have always had a tiered pond with water gently cascading over it. Some years ago, with the help of dear James, my mother's staunch and talented gardener, we built a real grotto - a large, enclosed stone arch in which a Buddha statue stood amid shade plants with a pleasant cascading fall of water into a small pond. Because The House of the Raising Sons is a colonial house with a central hallway leading from front to back, feng shui ordains that running water is the proper seal for wellbeing. So, when the pump gave out, I started to nag the kids, who now have possession of the garden, about the importance of getting it up and running again. They were pretty slack and indifferent, so I asked James to give me a hand and get something organised. This put a bomb under the kids - and off they went. The result is - no pond, no waterfall. Instead, we have a mahogony-coloured ceramic head, a sort of gloomy Easter Island head. Water runs from his eyes! He weeps in the grotto. But worse. Smoke comes out of his mouth. He is the most dismal and afflicted creature. Anything but serene. He is clearly deeply depressed.
The kids, however, love him!! The are proud as punch and have restructed the interior of the grotto to complement him.
I really don't know what to say. So I say nothing.
After all, the only thing I specified was running water. Water runs.

Post post post mortems

An immense weariness overcomes me at the very thought of politics. I have kept up to date with Kerry/Bush, and I have explored every aspect of the post and post-post mortems on the Australian election - and it is all perplexing.
The young are voting conservative. The religious are voting conservative. The politically indifferent are voting conservative. The educated middle classes are voting for social justice. Not quite what was expected.
The only way to have the masses see reason is to teach them reason. Education. But with the conservative policy of making tertiary students pay for the rest of their lives for their qualifications, we can't look to a more educated country. Catch 22.

So, for a while, I retreat from the very thought of politics. Have a little rest from it. It is not good for the soul.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


It is now a strangely bruised and quiet country. Postmortems of the election bring people together in sad and puzzled groups. I have yet to meet anyone who admits to having voted for John Howard. My colleagues, kids and friends say the same. Everyone seems simply baffled. One radio station, having observed the same thing, put out a call asking anyone who had voted Liberal to ring in. The phone lines were silent. And yet the country has had a massive swing.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Oh, well

It confounds me to see this world swinging to the right. It would seem to mirror a society which has lost the ability to care about people, one disinterested in healthcare, education, the environment, human rights... Speaking to people individually, though, they clearly do care. Yet when it comes to voting, they choose the interests of big business over their own.
Truly it is very Orwellian. The media has a vested interest in the Right and it also has blanket infiltration into the community. Gradually it has been able to abandon all pretence at the old rules of objectivity and fairplay and to project its agenda in a relentless stream of propaganda. The people, for whom the media is "soma", are hapless vessels of their message. And so it comes to pass that they willingly and, with a sense of right (no pun intended), can act against their own interests, thus empowering goverments to continue to disempower them.
It is frightening. Democracy is a fine principle - but the thought-power control of a ubiquitous media has managed to make its processes token.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Short long weekends

The rest of the world has another day - but I must hasten back to town in the morning, for public holidays do not belong to journalists. It has been incredible to see the deluge of people who descended onto this resort town for the long weekend. Traffic jams in the main street - although, in sweetest serendipity, there was a prime car park waiting for me when I ventured down. All the holiday houses are occupied. Suddenly I had neighbors on both sides. And packs of society people, all so perfectly groomed for being seen at leisure, were taking the walks and converging on the cafes. An epidemic of garage sales broke out. And, of course, the market was in full swing, the stallholders relishing fresh crowds.
I decided to plant a row of hebes along the side fence because I am sick of the farmer neighbors coming down and hacking the oleanders into stumps. It is ugly. I want some autonomy in the hedge department, and hebes are tough enough to survive on the seafront here, or so I was advised by the darling man with the heavenly garden around the corner. He sold me the hebes at $3 each - and I spent an hour or so digging holes and planting them, interrupted frequently by people stopping to say hi.
With so many people walking the foreshore, Paul suggested we walk a lovely bush road he had discovered - and so we did, among cockatoos and yakkas and wonderful gnarled gums and sheoaks. The local cows, who clearly don't see too many people, were very curious and came to their fences to greet us when the dirt road sloped between pastures, with a vista of the ocean across the fields.
Now, with the window open, the sea is loud with breakers rolling in across the reef. Lovely. But it is late - despite intentions for an early night. Time just slithers away - and the very need to sleep seems to be a nuisance.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Debate and escape

Of course the first great debate was in worktime. I prowled the office looking for a cable connected telly where I could sneak a look without disturbing work. There was none, but film critic neighbour, Ben, offered me his headphones with long cord - and they just reached from the high wall telly to my desk. So I was set. The only person in the entire newspaper office watching this event in the US, I may add. The only one who cared passionately, of course.
And I watched, with immense agitation. Bush was smirking and repetitive. He had his catchcry on Kerry "changing positions" and he uttered the word "position" with a special sibilance. He repeated "American people" as often as he could. He had been well trained for the event. Kerry kept the higher ground, took no baits, extrapolated. But he seemed nervous and he barely glanced at the camera, unlike Bush, who hunched over his podium and looked directly at the people, rather than the interviewer. The analysts on Sky called the debate a draw. I suppose it was. The problem is that both men are speaking to the converted. They need to draw some rabbits out of the hat. If one compares the support system - the massive wealth, sophisticated marketing machinery and the media domination of the Bush administration with the defensive and modest campaign of the Dems - Kerry is severely back-footed. I have no faith that the American people will wise up to the corruption and mendaciousness of their administration. They are subjects of the marketing machine - media brainwashed into aquiescent mindset. They are believers. It is like trying to talk science to creationists to make them see reality. And thus it remains deeply worrying.

And, as I ponder this, it is to the sound of the sea softly lapping. It is a calm night and the window is open.
I managed an early escape - having done all work, every last bit of my list. And I managed an en route appointment with the doctor to see why I am having pain in my hips. I am now on Glucosamine. *sigh*
And the long weekend traffic was behind us as Annie and I hummed along the highway and down the winding country roads to this scene of tranquility - just in time for that exquisite, soft sunset, when the still sea shimmers in shades of mauve and pink.
And we bought fresh, succulent oysters redolent with the scent of the sea. And fresh Coorong mullet, asparagus, Charlotte potatoes and salad. And we opened a bottle of good red wine. And we drifted contentedly into the evening.