Tuesday, 31 August 2010

We expect to be very interested

My plan was to write another post as soon as election results were known. Ten days have now passed and the two major parties are, as expected, bickering over whom has the electoral mandate while the independents relish the chance of having a say in the future composition of government. Not having a government is strangely not disruptive to everyday life. The caretaker government keeps on going and ballot counting reports change almost hourly. I am sure that it is intensely irritating to those waiting to start work in Canberra and to people dependent on federal government decision making, but most people simply continue on with their lives. In one way it is an illustration of the wonder of a modern, peaceful affluent democracy.

Speaking of continuing on with life, I recently spent a day at the Queensland Maritime Museum. There are many wonderful exhibits (more of this later), but a tiny exhibit in a section devoted to people coming to Australia caught my eye. It was just two pages -- a photocopy of a diary entry from an English migrant who arrived in Moreton Bay in September 1866 and an adjoining typed transcription of the page. Clearly picked because of the drama of the later entries, it gives a real flavour of travel in those times.

Click on the photos to get a larger readable image and please bear in mind that this was photographed through glass using low exposure without flash i.e. please don't be too critical of the quality of the image.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Election day

It was a glorious day in Queensland today -- crisp breeze, bright blue sky, sunshine and early spring blossoms. It was all quite at odds with the dark gloom that enveloped our house. Election day of perhaps the closest and most impossible to call election in Australia's history. I decided not to wear my bright pink sweatshirt as it seemed inappropriate to the seriousness of voting.

Going out the door in navy blue and dark glasses I was contemplating whether we'd need to stock up on liquor to survive the evening of excruciating counting. Having just decided that an entire Dorie Greenspan-recipe apple brown sugar cheesecake would be enough to sustain us through the evening and assuage potential misery, I noticed Blithe Boy's shorts were on back to front.

Remedying the situation, I discovered that he had also forgotten undies. Suddenly a pink sweatshirt didn't seem so bad.

Polls close in 20 minutes. I'll let you know how much cheesecake was required.

N.B. If one is going to expire from cheesecake related excess then this is the recipe by which to do so.

Friday, 20 August 2010

To my friend Absurd Beats

Flicking through photos of our epic November/December/January travels, I found these memories of a cat in New York. So here's to you Bean -- tolerator of small children as long as they are asleep and quiet.

Who was more tired, Bean, the bear or Blithe Boy?

Quiet contemplation before flight.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The grasseaters or the great competition

The view to the north this morning (7.44am)

The view to the south this morning (7.45am)

Friday, 13 August 2010

New worlds

It's hard to believe but I've just launched a twitter site. I'm not entirely convinced of its efficacy, but it's all part of the grand marketing plan.

You can take a look at:

I've also been Google mapped. It wasn't too painful.

So far I have a corporate image but the reality is not yet terribly corporeal. I'll let you know when I'm about to take over the world.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Life imitating art?

I've been a fan of Barbara Kingsolver for a long time. I love the way that she writes characters as people in which I can believe. Animal Dreams is one of my favourite books with its themes of social justice, people trying to make something of the world in which they live, families and the complications of love.

Each of my Kingsolver books in my bookcase has a story behind it. I recently bought Animal Dreams because I went into a bookstore to purchase The Lacuna shortly after it won the Orange Prize. I was expecting to see it front and centre of some display, but the shop didn't have it and would take some time to get it in. I'm not sure if it is an Ipswich thing or a "prize-winning novels don't have big readership so we're not going to waste our time" thing. They did have Animal Dreams and I decided to get my own copy so that I can reread it. The bookshop still got some money from me, but I'm not keen to return.

My copy of The Poisonwood Bible was left behind by a paying guest at the swanky hotel/restaurant at which I worked for a pittance in Minneapolis. As an impoverished grad student I was astonished that someone would leave behind a hardcover novel and not ask for its return. It sat in the lost and found cupboard until one day the cupboard was being tidied and the contents tossed. I leapt in to rescue it. At the rate I was paid, it was worth about 8 hours of wages and besides which, it was an author I loved and I was delighted to get a copy of it.

I'm on the lookout for any of her other books at second-hand stores. I've read all of her novels and a few of her non-fiction books. I've even paid overdue library fines for some of them. I'd prefer not to give my money to some big corporation. And I still find it hard to believe that I can actually buy new books without having to scrimp (too much) on the grocery bill.

Anyway, this was to be a post about The Lacuna and not Barbara Kingsolver in general. I finished reading it a few days ago and the story has been gently bobbing around in the back of my mind. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to ABC (ours not the American one) to read today's news headlines and saw that Osama Bin Laden's cook had been convicted for material support for terrorism and received a 14 year sentence from a Guantanamo Bay military tribunal. I immediately went to see what the New York Times had written about the case and found nothing which is odd in itself.

Of course I don't know the details of the case, but it is eerily similar to The Lacuna. The main character in the novel, Harrison Shepherd, child of a Washington bureaucrat and a Mexican free-spirit, spends time working for Trotsky who is in exile in Mexico. He is mainly the cook but moonlights as typist and friend. He moves as an adult to the Carolinas. Eventually the House Committee on Un-American Activities convicts him as a communist on the basis of his having been Trotsky's cook. He is forced to flee, and you'll have to read the book…

Shepherd of course is not a communist, but he probably did materially support Trotsky, if by that, you mean feed him. It makes you wonder about this case, if you weren't already somewhat sceptical of the "war on terror." When you start to look at the world in a particular way, many actions become justified. We all let our ideology colour our perceptions of course, but not all of us are in a position to do something about it.

Perhaps one of the reasons I like Kingsolver is that she expresses many of my concerns about the world wrapped up in a fascinating narrative. She's not preaching or hitting you over the head but simply illustrating the consequences of particular ways of looking at the world. That's what I want from my own storytelling.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Hill country

Marburg is all about the hills and valleys. Gravel roads wind and twist around the hills and dip into the valleys. Often one road does all of these. Houses seem to be scattered randomly over the land. Some people seem to prefer the hilltops and others tuck their houses into folds in the land or down the bottom of the gullies.

Too often you can speed from one place to another in your busy life and miss the byways. I'm beginning to learn to take my camera and my time; to stop on the side of the road and take pictures; to wind down the car window to listen to the wind in the grass and the birds.

When I moved here I was scared by gravel roads. I wanted bitumen and lighting and signs and cars. Now I admit to a certain fondness for dirt and twistiness and lack of traffic.