Shepherd’s Delight

red sky

We were told to stay indoors. That worked for a day or two and then the smoke inside was just as bad as outside. So we go outside now. The UV radiation levels are down, no need for sunscreen.

We’ve taken up smoking again, 34 cigarettes a day, we are told. No cost, no butts.

You can see the asbestos fibres rising off the super six roofing. We used to cut that stuff with angle grinders, no masks, no goggles, no ear muffs. The good old days.

Shrubs and trees are flowering magnificently. Best it’s been for years. And the mango trees are fruiting. Love mangoes in summer.

A new decade is about to begin. We will call it the twenties. We will see the population hit 8 billion. We will keep revising the number of degrees Celsius that the world has warmed. We will celebrate births. We will argue politics and religion until the cows come home.

The cows are coming.

To apostrophise, or not to apostrophise?

DSC_0251

Sample bag from a festival with an apostrophe, set against the backdrop of my bass guitar

 

Those for:

Sydney Writers’ Festival

Wyong Writers’ Festival

Adelaide Writers’ Week

Emerging Writers’ Festival

Mildura Writers’ Festival

NT Writers’ Festival

 

Those against:

Melbourne Writers Festival

Brisbane Writers Festival

Wollongong Writers Festival

Newcastle Writers Festival

Perth Writers Week

Canberra Writers Festival

Byron Writers Festival

Bendigo Writers Festival

Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival

Last Night

Moon

The yelling starts about two am and wakes us both up. It’s not unusual to wake at this time, bladders make sure of that. But you accept bladders, loud angry men are a different story. It’s not even Saturday night, so what is all this yelling about?

Out there, in the yelling department, one man in particular is holding court. The others voices are lesser, sounds like they’re trying to tell the main yeller to shut up. We can’t work out the words being shouted, except for the occasional, “Fuck!” Fuck cuts through. It’s the anger though that is most disturbing.

We both turn on our opposite sides and rearrange sheets and blankets and pillows and snuggle down. It will stop soon, we think. We haven’t spoken yet. We know what each other is thinking and what state of slumber we are in. Sleep with someone every night for an extended period and you don’t need to discuss these things, they are known, information exchanged by nocturnal osmosis, incubated in the warmth of human proximity and contact. Comforting.

Silence returns. We shuffle a bit more, snuggle down further. The angry man must have moved on. Just a small Thursday night aberration. Tomorrow’s Friday, everything’s fine on Fridays. Nothing, not even a shitstorm at work, can wreck Fridays. We feel ourselves and each other falling, sinking, drifting, transitioning into slumber. Warm feet touch.

He starts up again. This is ridiculous. He’s on his own now, shouting at no one, shouting at the moon maybe. It goes on and on. Again, words indiscernible. The anger palpable, clogging the clear night air, disturbing those in bed, like us. We shift around. Still no speaking required, an understanding that there is nothing to be done at this point, except attempting to shut him out, to exercise control over our own minds, to beat him by being unperturbed – able to sleep no matter what filth and disgust and insanity he spews into our neighbourhood.

It goes on.

We both wonder about the durability of his vocal chords. Surely they must wear out soon. Or, soon he will feel better from all that venting, surely. We wonder why the police haven’t arrived. Someone must have called the police. We haven’t called the police. Oh yeah, everyone else awoken by the angry man must be thinking the same. Someone will have called the police. They will be here soon. Surely.

I’ve had enough. “I’m going out for a look,” I say.

“Don’t approach him,” you say with that special loving concern you have for all creatures, including me, especially me.

“Don’t worry,” I say with a sense of self preservation that I chiefly credit to you. Without you, I’d be charging down there naked and stumbling into all sorts of strife. “I’m just going to see where he is so I can call the police and tell them where to head.”

I put on a t-shirt and shorts.

You get up and put on that fluffy white robe.

We walk out the front together. We have forgotten about the bindi-eyes. We support each other as we swipe the little pricks off our bare feet.

“There’s a group of people down at the Metro on the corner, I think they’re talking with him,” I say.

The yelling has stopped.

We go back inside and into bed. With a bit of luck we won’t need to call the police. We nestle into each other. Waiting. Hoping.

No yelling.

The group of people from down at the Metro are walking up past our place. We sit up in bed and look out onto the street. The glow from their mobile phones illuminates their faces. Two young men and three young women. It must be three am by now. The young people walk and post and talk quietly to each other. So considerate.

Without saying a word we thank the young people, and turn on our sides.

Now, sleep.

Journalising

DSC_0237

It happens every once and a while. He writes away in his electronic journal, named El-Jo, and a story creeps in and takes over. It then gets cut and pasted into its own file, is given a title, and edited. Later maybe, it gets posted on his blog or submitted to a literary mag, or entered into a competition.

It’s a good habit this writing in a journal first thing in the morning, if there isn’t some other story currently under construction. Don’t look at the internet before doing this, the internet can induce mighty buzzes of anger – which only bring on venting and raving and wasting buckets of time. And what good is that?

There is a bird outside. He’s heard it before. A summer bird. That’s it, fig bird. He pictures its olive plumage and red beak.

His wireless keyboard is dusty and dirty, but how do you clean these things? No, don’t Google that. Not now anyway.

That’s right, there are some bills needing to be paid today. He sets an alarm on his phone to remind him to do it later. Later, after the morning writing session.

He hears a garbage truck and remembers he hasn’t put the bins out yet. Should it be done now in case it comes down the street earlier than usual?

He goes outside and unknowingly steps with his left foot onto one end of a fallen twig from the paper bark tree above. Like an unbalanced see-saw, the other end of the twig flicks up into the air and stabs his right foot as he steps forward. His foot is bleeding, not badly. At least the smelly red garbage bin is out. He goes back to his computer and El-Jo.

He journals in third person, an attempt to get out of his own head and into the never-never world of story which is full of fictional characters waiting to be plucked out of the aether and laid down faithfully and magically onto the page. He likes this world. He gets into the zone when he enters into its mysterious timeless dimension.

Fingers go on automatic pilot. Sentences form, clumsy at first. Random adjectives attach to nouns, some are kept, others deleted. The fig bird and the garbage truck fade out. The bills and their due dates are nowhere to be found in his writing mind. The slight throb in his right foot is washed away by a splash of dopamine. He could be anywhere, in any era, of any gender, race, or sexual preference. Anything could happen. 

Nothing else matters, for the moment, on this morning.

What stories should we be telling each other in these anxious times?

what stories

I just put a jacket on. It’s cold again. Winter is having a few last laughs while we ponder a future world cooked by a carbon dioxide soaked climate. The weather, always on our minds.

When I’m one hundred and ten and the young folk ask me what it was like when modern civilisation was in full swing, I’ll tell them, “They were anxious times.”

Not long ago, I was thinking that the time was ripe for some new form of literature to appear on the scene – that the novel, novella and the short story had possibly run past their use-by-date. Of course, there is flash fiction. So quick and easy as we rush around in this busy world. But, is flash just fashion? A flash in the pan?

One other new trend, a genre named ‘cli-fi’, is speculative fiction set within the post-modern-civilised-world of the near future that has been ravaged by climate change. Not having read any of this new genre, I assume that some works of cli-fi paint the future as a pure dystopian hell, while others inject doses of hope into the hot and humid chaos to console our anxious souls. Maybe some of the better examples of cli-fi simply explore the perennial universal aspects of the human condition in this new paradigm where hunting and gathering and small scale horticultural activities have by necessity returned to the daily routine.

However, will there be a new movement, and not just some new trendy commercial genre, but a whole new literary form and style that will inform and enlighten the masses as to the reasons why everything in this world is so confusing and frustrating and unfathomable? Will literary fiction be able to evolve in a new direction that will supplant our current obsessive bingeing on an endless stream of multiple seasons of multiple episodes of escapism currently available at the touch of several buttons on the remote control in our living rooms?

Will it be that this new age of literature only comes into existence when the high-tech dependent mediums go out with the lights? Who knows?

The reality we are facing is one where the world becomes an absolutely horrible place to live in, with millions, if not not billions, of people suffering and dying. Will any of us, when the shit really starts hitting the fan, have the luxury of indulging in the pastime of reading? And what about writing? Will the only relevant literature produced in these times of collapse be works extracted from the ruins, such as the diaries of the those who managed to find a pen and paper, and some space and time and peace, to be able to record first hand accounts of human suffering on a scale which has never been seen before?

Or, will the collapse of civilisation be slow and whimpering and, therefore, a substantially long enough era that will sustain a thriving culture of writing and reading? A literature that will portray humanity in the throes of decline, be they times of joy or mayhem, or both. At some point human civilisation, if our species does survive, will be kicking off once again. And will this new literature be a blueprint of salvation for this next civilisation? Will humanity ever learn the lessons required to ensure that a sustainable existence cannot not ignore the limits to growth on a finite planet?

In the meantime, what stories should we be telling each other? Surely, the classic hero’s journey, or the Bildungsroman, or the stock standard three act drama of rising conflict to climax and denouement, are ultimately irrelevant when the largest human civilisation ever to exist on Earth is collapsing. What is the point of self discovery, or battling evil forces, or correcting systemic injustice, when the reality is that the world as we know it is falling apart around our ears and in front of our eyes?

What stories should we be telling each other in these anxious times?

Happy Equinox

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are so many things that can divide us – race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income. Identity politics is tribalism gone mad.

Today, every human (and every fish, bird, ant and plant; not to mention the beaches and oceans and mountains and plains) on this planet we call Earth, will experience twelve hours of day and twelve of night.

All equal, everywhere.

Even-stevens.

Unity.

Leaving home

leaving home

2013: Australia votes in Tony Abbott as Prime Minister – move to New Zealand?

2016: Australia votes in Malcom Turnbull as Prime Minister – move to New Zealand?? Donald Trump is voted in as POTUS, things could get nasty – move to New Zealand???

2017: New Zealand elects Jacinda Ardern; yes, female, yes, Labour, and yes, she calls out capitalism as a ‘blatant failure’. Malcolm Turnbull dismisses Uluru Statement from the Heart – look up real estate in New Zealand.

2019: Australia votes in Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, who appoints first indigenous person as minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs and then dismisses Uluru Statement from the Heart – book flights to New Zealand.

book flights