Old Stomping Ground

April 30, 2007 at 6:51 am (Uncategorized)

I love the contradictory, strange known-ness of returning to a place you once knew well. I enjoy the sensation of uncanny recognition, the familiar unfamiliarity of being ‘back again,’ so it was with a real and zingy spring in my step that I made my over to Bondi on Friday. Llew and I were ‘house-sitting’ for his sister Flic, but really this is just a polite way of saying we took advantage of the empty one-bedder for a weekend back in the old ‘hood.

And it’s not just any one-bedder. It is – was? – our one-bedder, the place in Bondi Beach Llew and I rented so lovingly for more than two years. Our home before this one. It was – is? – such a great place, more a little cottage than an apartment, more the stables than the granny flat. It is a site of many happy times and so many memories. And when we moved out because we’d bought a place of our own, which we love almost monstrously, Flic took over the lease and has made it her home now for almost as long – is it possible that it’s been longer? – than we made it ours.

And so it’s no longer our place – our place is here. It no longer looks as it used to look, and yet of course it still does. It was as much a spatial reckoning for me as an emotional one – it staggers me just how differently people will interpret the same space. I love Flic’s home not because of the extent to which it resembles my old home, but almost precisely for the extent to which it does not. It is her place now not just because it contains her things but because of how those things are arranged. Everything is different, and the home’s identity has been completely transformed along with the shifting identity of its inhabitants.

And Bondi Beach? Well, it will always exercise a strong tug on my affections. My heart will always lurch coming down Bondi Rd, then Campbell Parade and into Bondi Beach. It is where so much of my identity lies, or at least where lies the explanation for it. It is where I’m “from,” to whatever degree I can be said to be “from” somewhere. It’s probably the place that, overall, I have spent the most time. Undoubtedly some of the most significant moments of my life occurred in Bondi or with Bondi as the specific if long distant backdrop. It is my reference point, the way I navigate my way through life in the way sailors defer to the stars.

It will always be home, too, even though I haven’t lived there for more than two years. It has a claim on my heart and mind like no other place I have ever known, though there are many others that hold me in thrall. I felt so emotional leaving yesterday, Sunday afternoon, to come home, because part of me felt that in truth, I was leaving it. It was sad and strange and I almost cried. Then I got home, home to this one, and I was so happy to be here and within these dear and familiar walls that Bondi immediately receded, and I am left to think it was always thus, and shall always be. Home. Here and there.

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A Question of Faith

April 26, 2007 at 10:56 pm (Uncategorized)

I am not a religious person. I was Christened a Catholic, and even made my First Communion, but by the time it came to make my Confirmation, I was resistant, and felt unable to confirm much of anything, least of all my faith in the existence of God and my preparedness to be in some way wedded to it. So I passed, and thus ended my religious development.

Of course, that’s not to say I’m not interested in religion. I am. I find the idea of faith endlessly fascinating, and the fact that people appear, en masse, to need something to believe in is a source of real wonder to me. I wonder why we look beyond ourselves for meaning. I wonder why we look beyond the world we know, the empirical world, to explain us to ourselves. But I do have serious problems with many aspects of organised religion, and I think this example helps illustrate why:

Llew came home the other night seething about a new edict handed down by the Vatican, which he read to me from the newspaper. The Catholic Church now stipulates that babies who die before they’ve been baptised may now proceed directly to the pearly gates of Heaven. The Church has decided it’s a little rough, really, to leave those infant mortality souls locked out, forced to wander forever in Purgatory. One can only imagine the stampede from Purgatory to Heaven once word got out that all the unbaptised dead babies of history may now gain admittance to the Good Club. And to me the sad thing is that there are doubtless people for whom it matters, deeply, and who must believe, fervently, that their lost baby won’t be excluded from the Hereafter now in the way they were tragically excluded from life on earth. These same people must have believed until this week, and suffered for it, that their baby hadn’t made the cut at Heaven’s door. How awful that anyone ever deemed it appropriate, nay, Holy, to extend a parent’s suffering like that. It’s really a bit rich considering the irony of who’s in charge.

But don’t you think it’s weird that they can just make up the rules as they go along? And don’t you think it’s weird that a bunch of guys sat in a room and one day decided that perhaps babies, yes, just babies, we don’t want children under the age of 10 because they’ve had long enough to get dunked in the holy water, let’s face it, ample time, by Christ, can be admitted to Heaven without being Christened? I mean, just what kind of club is this?

Mexico has recently passed new abortion laws, despite heavy opposition from the Vatican. Mexico is the second largest Catholic country in the world, and more than 2000 women die in Mexico each year from complications and infection as a result of previously illegal backyard abortions. 2000 women. And to men who take a vow of chastity, who have (supposedly, although boy – no ghastly pun intended – don’t we know it ain’t the truth) never known sexual intercourse with another human being, or ever had to live with the consequences of it, and certainly not in poverty (there’s nothing ascetic about life in the Vatican, that much is painfully clear), I have this to say: who are they to decide? They don’t even know the first thing about it.

The AIDS epidemic in Africa, which has spread so virulently thanks in part to the success of the missionary project of instilling a contraception-is-sin mentality, could largely be halted by the widespread education about and use of condoms. But no, we can’t have that, because that’s contraception, and using contraception is a sin in the eyes of the Lord. Or so they say. The men in the room. The men in the room doing all this deciding. The men in the room handing down all these arbitrary and sometimes bizarre rules to the faithful.

I just have to wonder if they actually believe this stuff themselves. Do they really believe that there’s a gated Heaven through which unbaptised babies now, but no other unbaptised innocents may pass? It’s just too spurious for words. I think just changing the rules like that also lets everyone in on the fact that, well, they could just change all those other rules, too, if they wanted to. Everything’s open to interpretation, after all. And let’s face it, whatever version of the Bible you prefer, it’s still a document that was written by…oh yes, a bunch of guys in a room. It wasn’t written by “God.” It wasn’t even written by Jesus. It was written, and then rewritten, by a bunch of mere mortals, just like the ones who changed one of the rules this week. Do they even believe it themselves? I don’t know how they can, but that’s just me. I do respect the right of people to freely pursue and practice their religious beliefs. Unfortunately I don’t share them, and I say unfortunate because I believe there must be a measure of comfort in religion, and in the belief that there is meaning and continuation of self beyond what we can ever possibly know. But I also believe in the right of all people, both the religious and the non-religious, to question religion, and call it to account. I just keep finding it so desperately wanting. Others fare better, and good luck to them, but what struck me as odd when I was a child seems even more incredible now. I’ve been Christened. And I know I’m not a bad person. But I do not believe. I do not see how I possibly can. I don’t know – no one knows – what happens when we die, but I do know that those men in the room would have it that if there is a Heaven, I’m no longer getting in.

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Lest We Forget

April 25, 2007 at 12:55 am (Uncategorized)

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia, an annual public holiday. Scores of people have braved the truly dreadful weather in Sydney this morning for dawn services around the city to remember the disastrous Gallipoli landing of WWI, and all the fallen men and women who have died serving their country.

I always get emotional thinking about all those lives lost so young. It’s part of Australia’s mythology now, the ANZAC legend, and it certainly captures my own imagination time and time again. I just can’t bear to think of all those kids, so many of them still just kids, trapped on that beach, dying en masse, pawns in a political game being played behind closed doors and in secure premises far from the Front. It makes me sick to know this is always still the case in war. Politicians commit their young people to wars they themselves would never dream of fighting. I kind of prefer Homer’s version of the (arguably apocryphal) Trojan War. In Homer’s skirmish, even the gods are fighting, but the kings are too, down alongside their subjects. I can’t help thinking John Howard might have waited for better intelligence before committing troops to Iraq if he thought he’d have to go too.

When I see elderly Diggers every ANZAC Day out wearing their medals, I always get a stubborn lump in my throat and spontaneous tears well up in my eyes. I don’t know why this always happens, it’s partly because I am hopelessly sentimental, but I think part of it is definitely related to the idea that people made real sacrifices and experienced devastating horrors so that Australians back home, their loved ones, the people they cared about, could live in peace and prosperity. And it is the same peace and prosperity we in this country continue to enjoy today. Australia has been called the lucky country, but on days like today I like to remember that luck really has nothing to do with it. Certainly there was no luck in landing at Gallipoli that fateful morning. I look at the Diggers out marching today and I always want to walk up and say thank you, but I’m always afraid I’ll immediately burst into alarming and inappropriate tears. I know I would – I get choked up just thinking about it. So how do I express it, the largely inexpressible and deeply conflicted feelings I have about all this? Because I am conflicted. I don’t believe in war, I don’t believe it’s the solution, I don’t believe in sending people off to die, but I look at history and I see that war will always be with us. And that even today some people who go off to fight really do it in the belief that they are fighting to preserve our way of life. I have to respect that, and I have to appreciate it. It’s for that reason I want to say thank you to the Diggers.

Postscript: I was talking to Llew about the conflicted feeling I have every ANZAC day, and he made the very true observation that there is something fundamentally different about being conscripted to war as opposed to willingly joining the armed forces today. That definitely resonates for me. And although WWI, II, and the Vietnam War all brought conscription to Australia, it’s worth remembering scores of young men also wanted to enlist, and did so voluntarily. That’s very different to joining the army and receiving the proper education and training before going on a tour of duty. That difference is part of why I get the lump in my throat. Most of our wartime casualties have been civilians dressed up to look like soldiers.

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Coffee Mecca

April 24, 2007 at 4:36 am (Uncategorized)

I had an appointment downtown with one of my editors this morning. Mel from Is/Not magazine was up from Melbourne, and, as we’d never met face-to-face, we both braved the ghastly weather and dripped, sodden, into Mecca espresso bar this morning. Mecca is probably my favourite place to grab a coffee in town. Aside from being apparently incapable of making a dud cup of coffee, it has atmosphere, and I love it. It feels welcoming, that’s certainly part of it, the service is always excellent, but they have also perfected the cafe aesthetic. It’s understated but warm. Stylish but simple. Cosmopolitan but also lived-in and accessible. There’s nothing pretentious about it, and they’ve avoided that common, wanker trap of trying too hard to be “European” in what is and will always be Sydney, Australia. Quite a distance from the Continent, in other words, and there’s nothing worse than grasping for something you can never really be. Better to come to terms with what you are, and make the most of it, and that’s what Mecca does so well.

As a general rule, Sydney has great coffee. It’s kind of difficult to get a really bad cup these days – you have to vigorously set yourself the task of uncovering one and pursue it doggedly until finally someone scalds the milk and fails to tamp the coffee. You’ll get there eventually, sure, but you’ll stumble upon many superior coffees in search of a bad one. A very happy predicament, if you ask me.

Just in case you find yourself in downtown Sydney thinking “All right, Di, if you’re so bloody confident about this being some kind of caffeine heaven, where the hell can I get one?”, I thought I’d tell you about Mecca, which is underneath the Grace Hotel, corner of King and York Streets, and a couple of other spots as well. One is Intermezzo at the GPO, Martin Place side, George St end. It is a fully operational and rather swish restaurant, but you can also very happily while away an afternoon sipping a coffee whilst sitting in the huge GPO foyer at one of Intermezzo’s two little tables just along from and opposite the bar. I’m sure you can sit at any of their tables and have a coffee, but I like these lounge-style chairs and the vantage point they afford of the wonderful exposed sandstone and soaring atrium of the GPO refit.

Toward Circular Quay is my third recommendation for the day (although this comes at the expense of countless others), and a new discovery as of 8 o’clock this morning, when Llew and I had a coffee before we went off to our respective appointments. The Governor Macquarie Tower occupies the point at which Young St, Bent St, and Farrer Place converge (I’m not sure where it stops and Governor Phillip Tower begins… I believe they’re part of the same complex). It’s a great building in its own right, with vast, almost science fictional floating spaces carved out of its side. At ground level right there you will find Salon GMT. Like Intermezzo, this cafe enjoys very high ceilings. I’m a big fan, although the pressed tin of Mecca’s exterior awning, part of the Hotel’s original facade, is also really lovely. Inside, Salon GMT feels kind of retro, but not in a particularly studied way. Really it is just down to a couple of pairs of low swivel chairs over along the frosted glass wall that made me think of Larry Tate’s office in Bewitched, if I’ve got that name right. Darren’s boss, anyway. Very cool chairs. We sat on two of them and had a fine old time, and two fine coffees, before reluctantly heading off to start the day.

I’ve had three coffees today – two more than usual but still nothing like the old days – and I feel fine, another dead giveaway sign of quality coffee. In fact, I could almost have another…

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The Thunder Down Under

April 23, 2007 at 4:37 am (Uncategorized)

Llew and I were invited to Cas and Simon’s place for dinner last night, and whilst there we were all treated to an absolutely spectacular thunderstorm that started just as Llew and I were leaving home. The sky falling in seemed as good an excuse as any to stop in at Shore Club en route, and we sat there stunned and impressed as chaos reigned outside. When the break came, we were ready, hightailing it up the steps to Cas and Simon’s block, which sits right out over the Fairy Bower near the sheltered cove of Shelley Beach.

Their place has jaw-dropping ocean views right up Manly and then north along the coast – it really feels like you could reach out and touch the horizon when you’re sitting on their balcony. We found out last night that they’re moving, so I’m very glad we were able to sit out there and enjoy the storm with them last night.

There have been a few fairly fierce electrical storms across Sydney recently – certainly we get them severely on the coast – and it seems to me they’ve increased in frequency, at least compared to the last few years. I do remember them happening a lot when I was little, and perhaps it’s that association with youth that explains my almost childlike reaction to these storms now. They still thrill and terrify me. Cas and I both cried out at one particularly ominous, bellowing clap of thunder. You could see jagged sticks of lightening stabbing down into the ocean, lighting it up for a second so that the whole ocean looked…skeletal, almost, like we were viewing it under X-ray. It felt so brutal, so dangerous, and we were all there huddled undercover, sipping red wine and feeling very, very small. It’s kind of Big Band weather, I think, no mucking around. All the instruments – or in this case, all the elements – combining together to produce an awesome spectacular, a feat of light and sound. Ka Boom.

One lone bat flew haphazardly past the balcony, looking panicky and lost. He swerved down the side of the building and flapped off toward Manly, looking for all the world like a commuter taken unawares by the storm. I imagined him cursing, muttering to himself about the damned weather, ruing the decision to brave it and get home. He dodged and weaved through the rain like a man with a wet briefcase – in a hurry, pushing through, but half blind from the pounding wet weighing him down. We watched him until he merged with the inky night and disappeared, our attention drawn back to the horizon as another shuddering bolt of lightening lit up the sky. We waited, tensing slightly, ears pricked for the delayed growl of thunder sweeping in to shore.

What a night.

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Waiting for DeLillo

April 20, 2007 at 3:09 am (Uncategorized)

Back in August 2006, I stopped having anxiety/insecurity attacks about doing it, and sent Don DeLillo a bound copy of my PhD thesis. This took me a while. I sat on it for about nine months. That’s how terrified I was of Don DeLillo thinking my thesis was a piece of shit. Anyway, I conquered my fear just long enough to hand it over to registered post. I sent it via his publisher, Nan Graham, after confirming via a direct email that she would kindly pass it on to the author.

For the first couple of months, there was a part of me that waited for a response, an acknowledgement of some kind. I had already assured Graham that I did not expect to establish any kind of correspondence with DeLillo – no, I just wanted him to have a copy, and to know that it existed. I had written a note to accompany the text, and I had inscribed the thesis as well. I had expressed all that I wanted to express. It was merely a gesture, from me to him.

But then, if I’m to be completely frank, I hadn’t banked on never hearing anything at all, nor did I anticipate how that would make me feel. Over time, I started to realise I did want a correspondence, just of the most basic rather than ongoing variety. I wanted to express something, and I wanted DeLillo to respond. That was all.

The anxiety/insecurity attacks soon saw their opportunity to mount a stunning resurrection. Why hasn’t he acknowledged my 86,000 word ode to his fiction? Why, it must be because it’s such a lousy thesis, scarcely worth the paper it’s printed on. Maybe it was the note. Maybe I said something wrong in the note. Maybe he didn’t like my tone. Maybe he thought it was arrogant of me to inscribe the copy I sent to him – who the hell do I think I am anyway? Maybe he read the abstract and chucked the whole thing in the bin. Maybe he doesn’t like the colour orange, which I chose for the binding of the extra copies because it is such a vibrant colour, and one that for me reflects the liveliness and colour of DeLillo’s language much better than the generally fairly staid offerings on show at a binder near you. Once I shrugged off the crushing weight of actually writing the thesis, I started to feel alive again, too, and the colour I chose for binding was also part of that. Orange is such a celebratory colour, and I wanted to share the love.

But there’s no love in return. In fact, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing. No, here it is so many months later, so many acutely humiliating months later I can’t even bear to count them anymore, and I haven’t even received a typed form letter thanking me for my interest. A couple of months ago, I sent an apologetic email enquiry (“So sorry to bother you again, but…”), again to Nan Graham, looking for at least an acknowledgement of receipt, and that went unanswered too.

What to make of it? Did DeLillo receive it? I don’t know. And I don’t really know how to find out now I’ve evidently exhausted the good will of my (no doubt extremely important and busy) direct source. If DeLillo received it, why hasn’t he acknowledged it? Again, I don’t know. I keep wondering what I would do if someone from the other side of the world spent four and a half years analysing my work, and I know I’d send a note. I’d think it was pretty cool, and I’d be flattered, even if I was a famous literary giant. I’d think of that person waiting in another time zone, hopefully checking the mail box off and on, waiting to see if their hero would say ‘Hey, thanks, I got it,’ and I’d make it my business to put their mind at ease.

As it is, it’s like someone releasing the hounds, just in my mind. This is almost entirely self-inflicted, I see that, but there’s also a bit of the ravaging self-doubt and disappointment that is coming from an external source. It’s a rejection of sorts, isn’t it, to send something so huge, that was so, so, so hard, and that I worked on with all my heart and grey matter, with everything I had emotionally and intellectually, halfway around the world and have it go unacknowledged. And I can tell you that as rejections go, this one stings.

I know he’s a big, important author. Jesus, why the hell do you think I thought his work merited a PhD thesis? Knowing how great his work is was one of the only things that got me through my darkest days wrestling with this project. I get it. Believe me. But there just can’t be that many people writing PhD dissertations almost exclusively about DeLillo’s fiction, and I know for a fact there aren’t many who are doing it in Australia. So even if he is the busiest man alive and even if he is wholly disinterested in academic responses to his work, I find it amazing that he hasn’t at least (assuming he did receive it) been curious or gracious or irritated or flattered enough to let me know he got it.

It’s a bummer, and it makes me feel bad. Things like this eat away at me because it took so much for me to get up the courage to send it to him in the first place. Oh, if you could only see the drooling, growling, fang baring hounds of hell closing in on me whenever I catch myself, like the fool who never learns, opening the mail box wondering if today’s the day. It’s not, and the beasts draw ever nearer.

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A While Between Raves…

April 19, 2007 at 2:01 am (Uncategorized)

I know I have given living by the beach rave reviews in the past. I know it. And I know people get sick of hearing about it. Truly I do. But I just have to tell you about my morning. I can’t help myself. I know I am like a crazy beach-living evangelist, but I have to spread the word.

It started at about seven, when Llew and I went across the road for a swim in the surf together. We both get in the water at least once every day, but we don’t always go together, especially not first thing. No, I’m a cup of tea and the paper in bed kind of girl, so I sometimes just can’t be arsed going as early as Llew needs to go. I wave him off from somewhere deep in the doona and go back to my cuppa. But this morning, lo and behold, was one of those rare mornings when I open my eyes and feel instantly awake. Usually it takes me a solid half hour of denial and regret to finally accept the day and my part in it has begun. Not today. Today I was clear, present, and accounted for. So I got up with Llew and we went for a swim together.

Lovely. You know how I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the water’s really warm at the moment? Well, that window is closing, it’s already a degree or so cooler, so hurry up and go swimming whilst the going is still this good. Llew got ready for work then we walked down to the ferry together, stopping to get a couple of very good takeaway coffees and the latest copy of the Big Issue from our vendor Peter along the way. We took our caffeine hits down to the water, harbourside this time, and drank in the gorgeous Sydney views along with the coffee. I said goodbye to Llew and walked home along the beach promenade.

Then I went running for an hour. It was the perfect morning for it. Some high cloud cover and a light sea breeze kept the temperature down, but the sun was still catching the water and the sky was at its vast, blue best. People were already out basking in it. The mothers with prams, people sitting down to breakfast al fresco, walkers, cyclists, volleyballers, photographers, and artists. It was all happening out on the beachfront this morning. After my run, I went for my second swim of the day to cool off. Divine. Again. And after a run it’s simply the best thing one can possibly do. Guaranteed.

Then I came home, ate a banana, made a fresh pot of coffee on the stove top and started work still wearing damp swimmers and a sarong. Does it actually get any better than that? Personally? I doubt it. I just can’t imagine how it possibly could. In case you haven’t noticed, I really think everyone should try living by the beach, a beach, any beach, at least once in their lives. It just kicks arse.

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On a Happier Note…

April 18, 2007 at 4:32 am (Uncategorized)

I just got this e-newsletter from the Art Gallery of NSW, so I thought I’d pass along a bit of good news seeing as yesterday’s and today’s headlines are so devastatingly awful.

It’s a small thing, but it’s still worth knowing, and it’s absolutely still worth celebrating. JP Morgan has generously underwritten a 3 year free admission policy at the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills (2 Raper St, to be precise, open Saturdays and Sundays only). And that’s cool. I hope that means many more people spend a bit of time checking out not only Whiteley’s work, but the place in which he created a lot of it. It’s a great space, and his studio has, for some time now, been converted into a permanent exhibition venue for Whiteley’s work. If you haven’t ever been, you really should go. His paintings are cheeky and superb – very lively, pulsing, and sexual – and I personally covet his pelican sculptures to the point of mild obsession. I just love them.

Around the corner is a really fantastic bakery – sorry, I can’t remember the name, but it’s on Bourke St – where you can pull up a milk crate, have an excellent coffee, a divine, melt-in-your-mouth baked good, and a moment of reflection about all that you’ve seen – and afterwards you can wander around some strange streets letting yourself get a little bit gloriously lost. All over Surry Hills there’s great little galleries and stores full of art and design. Make a day of it, or at least half a day. Trust me. It’s really worth it. Oh, that’s right, it’s free!

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Something is Wrong with this Picture

April 17, 2007 at 4:05 am (Uncategorized)

I just don’t understand how someone can arm themselves and then go out and shoot scores of defenceless people to death. There’s some kind of short circuit in my brain that stops me being able to access the kind of thinking that would make it possible for me to imagine doing something like that. I just reach a theoretical wall I can’t get around. It is, quite simply, beyond me.

I have a theory, and I doubt it’s mine alone, that the whole crime and punishment system is deeply flawed because it doesn’t seem to – at its foundation – acknowledge the a priori existence of some kind of mental disturbance within its strategies of prevention and rehabilitation. Mental illness. Something wrong with the way the neurons are firing. Because it seems to me something has to be wrong with you, something must be mentally imbalanced, in order for you to be capable of any number of criminal acts. If you are incapable of reason, and you must be if you fail to comprehend the gross unreasonableness of murderous feelings, then it seems to me to logically follow that you are therefore mentally unsound. And if you’re mentally unsound, then you’re unwell.

I don’t know how many criminals receive psychiatric and/or psychological treatment as part of their incarceration. Is it compulsory? And is a mental health assessment compulsory? Is there any kind of acknowledgement that, gee, you know, there has to be something mentally wrong with you if you’re capable of walking through a campus and shooting students and teachers in the face before turning the gun on yourself. Wrong. Something is definitely wrong. In the head. And whilst I do think America’s gun laws are part of the problem – it just shouldn’t be that easy for people to gain access to lethal weapons – I also think Australia shares with at least the US an inability to deal with and in some ways even accept the challenges of mental illness and its relationship to criminal behaviour.

I know I’m oversimplifying this and I’m sorry – I am not a healthcare professional, and I don’t have the language or the expertise or the experience to really grapple with these issues on anything other than a basic, generalised level – but I can’t help think there has to be something mentally wrong with someone who commits certain crimes (and maybe even the teenage shoplifter has something going on mentally that is related to their law breaking). If everything is humming along smoothly upstairs, you don’t generally go off and do sick, violent things. They don’t occur to you. Ever. In fact, they abhor you. Mentally well people do not settle their differences and disappointments this way. They just don’t. They communicate and resolve their problems in a variety of other ways. And maybe if one of those ways included really looking closely at mental health as crucial to society’s well-being overall, and supporting its development properly with funding and research and facilities and time, maybe, just maybe, one of those problems wouldn’t keep coming to this.

Rest in peace.

Postscript:
On the subject of gun control, or the appalling, reckless lack thereof, I received this email from Sarah just now, so I thought I’d share it with you. It’s pretty sobering stuff. Sobering and grim:

I just thought i’d pass on this list of FAQs on Virginia’s gun laws from today’s Crikey. I thought it was astonishing. Our gun laws were radically reformed after Port Arthur – I really hope that Virginia does the same. The way I see it, there will always be people who, sadly, slip through the cracks of society, but it can’t help matters when people have ready access to automatic weapons.

Speak to you soon, Sarah x

Virginia state gun laws. Frequently asked questions:

Is a permit required to purchase rifles, handguns and shotguns? No.

Is registration required for rifles, handguns and shotguns? No.

Is licensing required for the owners of rifles, handguns and shotguns? No.

Do you need a permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No.

Is a permit required to carry a handgun? A permit is required only if the weapon is concealed.

Is there a one-handgun-per-month limit on gun sales? Yes

Are there limitations on assault weapons and magazines? No

May police limit the carrying of concealed handguns? No

Must child-safe locking devices be sold with guns? No

Are background checks required at gun shows? No

Are minors restricted from possessing guns? In part

Is a licence/permit required to buy handguns? No

Are all guns registered with law enforcement? No

Is safety training required for handgun buyers? No

Is it illegal for holders of concealed-weapon permits to carry guns into schools? Yes

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Back at the Burners

April 16, 2007 at 3:10 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve finally got my cooking boots back on. I don’t really know what happened last year, but I lost interest in cooking in 2006. It was strange, a foreign experience for me, but it really had a hold over my inclinations, or specifically the lack thereof. I almost completely stopped cooking for pleasure. I largely stopped taking on chef duties on the occasions when Llew and I did have people over for dinner. I stepped away from the gas. But now I feel like cooking again, out of the blue and for no apparent reason. The urge is back, and I’m glad.

Food is extremely important in our house. Llew and I both love food, and we both love cooking. Usually. Sometimes we’re quite competitive, too – Llew’s signature dish is chilli crab, and it irks me, on some petty level, that it’s the dish our place has most become known for. Llew’s annual chilli crab nights. “When’s chilli crab night?” people will say. “Haven’t been over for chilli crab in a while,” say others. And I think to myself, scowling, “Well that’s just bloody typical, isn’t it? Llew always puts his hand up for the big ticket crowd pleasers, and I’m the schlepp who’s left cooking the day to day meals and cleaning up after his crab carnival.” Yes, I’ve felt resentful. As great as it is being married to someone who loves cooking and food as much as I do, I have felt resentful about Llew’s profile as a cook exceeding my own among our friends. But then, I’m a competitive person. And I like to cook too. And damn it (insert foot stamp), I’m not bad either. Honest.

Llew and I also make completely different food, which keeps life interesting and our diet quite varied. I’m the Euro food contingent, and Llew’s the Asian part of the equation. I love making French and Italian food, and Llew’s a whiz with the Thai and, increasingly, Japanese cuisine. We both do Indian. And whilst I do take on the weeknight cooking for the most part, we both love having dinner parties. There’s something extremely fulfilling about sharing our love of food with the people in our lives. Few things bring us so much pleasure.

So it was disconcerting when I lost the urge, and it’s no small relief now it’s back. As I spent Saturday preparing for a dinner party with some dear friends, I realised I’d missed it a lot. It was good to be back, and there was a lot of satisfaction in chopping, peeling, slicing, simmering, folding, whipping. Along with other nibblies when people arrived, I served a herb and rocket pesto, so green fresh and garlicky from having been made just an hour beforehand. Then there was a zesty mushroom soup with thyme and feta. Then individual beef Wellingtons with a red wine jus, roast carrots and blanched beans. Then toasted pound cake with balsamic strawberries and vanilla icecream. It was good. It felt great to be cooking again. Okay, so it wasn’t chilli crab, but then, that’s Llew’s dish, and he can always cook that next time.

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