Nice work if you can get it…

July 26, 2007 at 3:41 am (Uncategorized)

… as my sister said to me this morning, and she’s right. I won’t be able to post for the next few days because I’m going on a travel writing gig to Wanaka in New Zealand. Yes, it’s sickening, I know. Llew can’t even look at me at the moment. He’s actually a good skier, whereas I am a complete klutz. There is no justice, it seems. Whilst I am getting some desperately-needed lessons and whizzing down the slopes at Treble Cone, or soothing my aching muscles at Oakridge Spa Resort, or checking out the funky bars of Wanaka, my poor Llewie will be stuck at home studying for his SIA exam…Ew. It really does seem rather unfair, so it’s no wonder he walked out of the room when I started to read out my itinerary the other night.

I’m not quite despicable enough to carry on gloating, I can see that it’s already wearing thin, so I’ll just say I won’t be blogging until next Wednesday, 1 August, when I shall fill you in on the delights of one of the most spectacular destinations in the world. I know because I’ve been there once before, and back then Wanaka almost made me weep, I was so moved by its beauty. That was in 1994 on my first backpacking trip. I went with Sarah and our friendship was properly born. We were hysterical the entire way around New Zealand, and all my memories are accompanied by a kind of phantom pain in my ribs from all the laughing we did. And when we stopped laughing, it was only because our jaws dropped constantly over some new and unbelievable vista. If you’ve never been to New Zealand, you really must go. It is so superb, really just incredibly beautiful, and Kiwis are super hip besides.

Exciting! See you next week (is it just me or is this year eating itself? How oh how can it possibly be August next Wednesday??) for the full rundown of all my ritual humiliations. Ski bunny? Not so much.

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Reviving the Republic

July 25, 2007 at 5:34 am (Uncategorized)

John Howard did his best to bury Australia’s chances of becoming a republic back in 1999, when the phrasing of the referendum confused many people, just as it was intended to do. Rather than put the question in terms of ‘Should Australia become a republic, yes or no?’, Howard very cannily constructed a referendum around choosing a particular republican model. This crucial difference had many people confounded – I don’t think many people felt equipped to endorse a particular model of republicanism before the question of republicanism itself had been decided. The referendum was narrowly defeated.

Llew and I were in London for the referendum vote, which we duly cast at the Australian Embassy along with thousands of other Australians who were temporarily living in the UK. We were excited, hopeful, and felt the time had come for Australia to take a step toward an independent future. It was the end of the millennium, and it seemed our national identity was about to undergo a fundamental but overdue and requisite shift away from our colonial past. There’s no question our historical ties with England will remain an important and in many ways (irrevocable damage to our Indigenous community notwithstanding) affectionate part of our national character – too many families are too intertwined and too many cultural characteristics are shared and enjoyed for that bond to ever be severed – but should Australia remain a constitutional monarchy? I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now. And I know I’m not alone – Queen Elizabeth II looked completely stunned by the result.

And what were we, at that moment Australians living in England at Her Majesty’s pleasure? We were horrified. I have never been more embarrassed and more acutely aware of our too easily enfeebled nature than I was that day. Australia was utterly cowed by the terms of the referendum, and the (albeit narrow) majority of us went running squealing to hide behind the Queen’s ample skirts. I was so devastated to learn most of us didn’t want to stand on our own two feet. It’s still enough to force a lump up my throat. It pains me to think of it because I felt completely humiliated as an Australian, especially for being in England when the results came through. It made me feel colonised, and that made me feel compromised on a level I can’t really share, and I say that with all the respect and affection in the world for our English friends and their country. They wouldn’t have a bar of this themselves, and what was so mortifying was that this time, Australians were choosing it, choosing their lowly place in the pecking order. It still makes me want to puke from anxiety and disappointment.

Australia won the Rugby World Cup a day or so after the republican referendum was defeated. The next day, there was a huge photo on the cover of one of the London broadsheets, showing the Queen presenting the cup to the enormous Australian Captain, the great John Eales. He towered over her, every inch the Australian ideal of fitness and good sportsmanship. The headline? ‘HE’S KING OF THE WORLD…AND SHE’S QUEEN OF AUSTRALIA.’ I’ll never forget it. So when Kevin Rudd was quoted today saying Labor would put the republican debate back on the table, my heart leapt in my chest as though I were a schoolgirl with a crush. Bring it on, Mr Rudd, bring it on.

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Dirty Words and Cursed Cliches

July 24, 2007 at 6:07 am (Uncategorized)

I was reading Mia Freedman’s column in the ‘S’ section of The Sun Herald last Sunday when I burst into a completely uncontrollable fit of hysterics. I haven’t laughed that hard and that loud in quite some time. It took me and everybody in the pizza place Llew and I were sitting in completely by surprise. People stopped in the street and glanced down at me sitting there with tears streaming down my laughter-creased face. Every time I remembered why I was laughing so hard, I set off again, peals and peals of unstoppable laughter ringing out towards sea. I’ve been told I have a “distinctive” laugh – a polite way of saying I cackle like a hyena on heat – so my attack of the killer giggles probably ruined at least one person’s hard-won Sunday peace, but still the words got the better of me.

I don’t usually find Freedman’s column so hilarious. And it was really only the first section this time that was – the other two thirds were back to her usual almost-but-not-quite level of holding my interest. But that first third was funny as all hell. It all started with a riff on the word ‘panties’ – women don’t like it because it sounds smutty. That’s true. It does sound dirty. I never call my underpants panties unless I’m endeavouring to make some kind of pornographic point. Freedman then recounted the experience of a friend whose doctor kept saying ‘panties’ during a physical examination of the panty region, and I was chuckling in fond agreement when the icky word moved seamlessly (no pun intended) from ‘panties’ to ‘moist.’ I no doubt laughed harder just at that moment, because I know the colleague of two great mates also loathes the word ‘moist,’ and I’ve laughed long and loud at their stories of torment in the past. “Moist,” they whisper in her ear. “Moist,” they announce at staff drinks. “Moist,” read the Christmas cards. And I find that damn funny. On Sunday, then, reading Freedman’s column, I found myself wondering if her friend and the colleague of my friends were one in the same. If not, I wondered, just how many people are there who can’t bear the word ‘moist’? How about ‘damp’? Is ‘damp’ okay? And really, isn’t the word ‘wet’ also totally salacious in this context? Where does the smut line end?

I was feeling pretty happy at this point, Freedman’s column giving me much more sustained enjoyment than ever before. I was really lapping it up, not to put too fine a point on it, and had no sense at all that my funny bone was about to snap right in half. I read on, and she innocently confided a few lines later that the same friend who hates ‘moist’ takes serious umbrage with ‘finger bun.’

Well, that was me gone. Finger bun. This popular, innocent, primary school baked good – a real staple of the Australian playground – had been smuttified for all time. Panties. Moist. Finger bun. Where were we and how did we get here? Finger bun. Finger bun. And because of the new and unexpected connection with words like ‘panties’ and ‘moist,’ suddenly ‘finger bun’ became lurid and X-rated right before my eyes. ‘Finger bun’ was now mysteriously and irrevocably related to what happened to Year 5 girls when they ventured into the dank sports shed with Year 6 boys. Suddenly a ‘finger bun’ had everything to do with sex and nothing at all to do with sweet icing and sultanas. The power of association is such that ‘finger bun’ will never sound or look the same to me ever again. It’s now on par with ‘panties,’ and I have Mia Freedman to thank for that.

I also have Paul Sheehan to thank for making me think about all my crimes of cliche. How awful to find I am so guilty of so many. It’s alarming not just because I’m an English PhD, but because I’m supposed to be a writer by trade. As I said to Sarah, his opinion piece is (ho ho ho) a real wake-up call.

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A King-sized Confession

July 23, 2007 at 6:18 am (Uncategorized)

It’ll be six weeks tomorrow since I sent the sample chapters and synopsis to my dream agency. I haven’t heard anything, and it’s fair to say I’m gradually losing hope. Their website says responses usually take between 8-10 weeks, so we’re still in the midst of the consideration period, true, but there’s part of me that argues quite persuasively to the rest of me that it probably doesn’t take that long to hear something if they’re interested.

Think of it. If you’ve applied for a job, for instance, you learn fairly promptly if you’ve made it to the interview stage. It’s only the rejected applicants who don’t get a phone call. After a reasonable interval, they get a letter advising them that they’ve been unsuccessful on this occasion. I feel like I am in the middle of this interval right now, because I think if someone were considering taking our correspondence any further, I would have had a call by now. I’d be prepared to bet that the agency phones the people they want and writes to those they don’t.

Rejection happens to just about everyone in this game, so I’m told. I can expect to be rejected for years. Non-stop. I may have to write four or five unpublished manuscripts before something happens for me. Even then nothing may. So I almost have to be rejected by this agency. It’s all to do with probability and the law of averages. What are the chances of an unpublished author having her first manuscript picked up by the first agency she approaches? Slim, approaching anorexic.

So it was heartening to read this in today’s SMH online. You really have to admire a guy who leaves ‘King’ off the end of his name so as to protect his credibility and quash those nepotism rumours before they even have a chance to hatch. I mean, Stephen King is a pretty big goose when it comes to the laying of golden eggs (oh please, God, let me walk away unharmed from this metaphor wreckage before the authorities arrive…), so had his son been prepared to exploit that happy paternity, and had Stephen King been willling to accommodate such efforts, one would have to assume agents and publishers alike might have been…what? Compelled or persuaded or curious or sycophantic or smart enough to listen. Instead, the son drops the royal seal from his title and goes forth into the world dressed in rags, determined to find his own long and difficult path toward his own, er, King-dom.

And throughout his journey to publication and a movie deal, it seems his sense of humour never left him, not even with four failed manuscripts screaming at him from every corner. He’s very funny talking about his anonymity, which, he suggests, was so easy to protect thanks to failure. Nothing averts scandal like complete indifference, after all.

Only now has he shrugged off his beggar’s cloak and revealed the princely robes underneath. Now the world knows he’s Stephen King’s son, and I bet that is one proud daddy-o.

* As an aside, Stephen King’s text On Writing is a very practical guide to trying to write. It contains advice I will never forget and to which I constantly refer.

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Spoil Sports

July 20, 2007 at 7:15 am (Uncategorized)

I can’t fathom spoilers, I really can’t. I have a hard enough time coping with trailers and reviews these days, both of which seem hell-bent on telling me absolutely everything there is to know about the film/book/play/exhibition in question. Why do they have to wreck it for everyone by summarising the whole story or revealing the cliffhanger or naming the murderer? I kind of thought the idea was to enjoy getting to that part myself.

Yes, like everyone else on the planet, I’m talking about Harry Potter. Unlike everyone else on the planet, I’ve not read a single book in the series. I’ve not read one line. I’ve not seen any of the movies. I know J K Rowling is the author, and one very wealthy woman these days, and I know the young star of the film franchise, Daniel Radcliffe, caused a furore recently when he appeared on London’s West End in the buff. But I don’t know so very much more about the Harry Potter phenomenon. Which is not to say I have a single thing against it. On the contrary. Anything that gets anyone reading is brilliant as far as I’m concerned. Anything that gets this many people reading for this many years is absolutely stupendous. I’m a big fan of everything Rowling has single-handedly accomplished for children’s literature and the health of worldwide publishing in general. I couldn’t admire her achievement more, and I will one day sit down and read every single one of the Harry Potter books, if for no other reason than that they collectively represent a serious cultural moment in my time.

So I’m as outraged as any ardent reader of Harry Potter that some people have seen fit to spoil the thrill of the final instalment’s arrival by revealing the outcome. Who would do that? What on earth would possess someone to post the final pages of the novel on the web? It’s just so small and mean. I grant you, I’m a surprise kinda gal, I love surprises, whereas some people loathe them and just have to know, but I find it difficult to fathom why anyone would decide to send a wholesale wrecking ball through the centre of someone else’s party. It’s really very sour of them, and a genuine disappointment for all of Rowling’s many, many fans who have waited a long time to learn the fate of their boy hero. I’m galled on their behalf that the spoilers have been so busy about their self-appointed task. Boo hiss.

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A Moment of Reflection

July 19, 2007 at 7:27 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been getting the disquieting feeling lately that things are going to start getting harder. Not in an economic sense, really, because Llew and I have been walking a fairly fine line already this year, thanks largely to my career choice and my (thus far) fruitless efforts to actually launch it (life may well have been simpler if I’d always had a burning ambition to be a futures trader…). No, at the end of the day, economically we’re okay. We can pay our mortgage, pay the bills, buy our food, and once in a blue moon even have a whopping great night out like last Saturday. I’ve been far, far worse off financially in the past, so that’s not what I’m concerned about.

I’m concerned that things are going to get harder in an emotional sense. My friends and I seem to be on the brink of some kind of age-related change to our hitherto rather jaunty and fun-loving equilibrium. It’s like things are getting more serious, somehow.

Some of my friends are having or have had their second child. They’re all exhausted – just so, so utterly exhausted that their eyes fill with tears whenever I ask them how they’re doing. Other couples are having tremendous difficulty falling pregnant at all, or are discovering they simply can’t, or are experiencing the full range of human heartache and endurance when it all goes horribly wrong. I can’t tell you how unbearable some of these stories are – especially when they belong to people who I know for a fact would make sensational, loving parents.

Some of my friends are sitting back asking themselves why they’re doing what they’re doing as a career, and how they got there in the first place, and how the hell they’re going to get out before it’s too late. I don’t know that many people who really love what they do, and because I know a lot of people, that concerns me greatly, especially in those cases when they can enunciate in no uncertain terms what they’d prefer to be doing. Some of my friends are obsessed with material wealth, with having an endless supply of nice things as though expensive stuff were a true measure of success and contentment – maybe in some cases it is – whilst others are relentlessly flogging themselves just to make ends meet.

Then there are friends whose marriages have broken down. Regardless of what we know of divorce statistics, I really hadn’t bargained for the first wave starting until we had hit our 40s. I thought that was more in keeping with that whole second round ethos. Mid-30s seems so very early to be consoling friends whose weddings, in all these cases, were only a few years ago. But then spare for a thought for the many friends, and friends of friends, male and female, I have in Sydney and elsewhere who are having trouble finding a partner in the first place. Smart, funny, attractive, cool people who are in some cases really starting to get a little scared (and just try feeling sexy and relaxed when you feel like you have MID-30s SINGLE FEMALE emblazoned on your forehead). They thought – and I thought right along with them – that we’d all be skipping through the tulips two by two by now. Where’s the happy ending? Taking its godforesaken sweet time, that’s all I can say.

We’ve all lost friends. Drugs, cancer, Motor Neurone Disease, suicide, adventure, light aircraft, automobile. Look around my age group and most of us have already farewelled someone our own age. It is terrifying. Parents are older and some are infirm. Things crop up, little problems and scares whose importance is amplified by our awareness that our parents are no longer young. This, too, seems a sign that things are about to get harder. I know what it is to look after someone who had always looked after me – it is a role reversal one never, ever forgets.

I am not trying to be maudlin. I hope this post doesn’t sound grim or even glum – that’s not what I intend nor how I feel. I’m just aware now that these changes are very clear and bright in my periphery – they’re all around and they make me wonder. If things do start to get harder, what will I learn about myself? What will I learn about my husband? Our friends? Family? How do people land when they fall? Differently, I expect.

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July 18, 2007 at 6:11 am (Uncategorized)

We had another full blackout at our place last night. It’s the second total outage in as many weeks, and the fifth in a month of various depletions, and I have to say it all feels a trifle… well, primitive. It is 2007, after all, and we’ve already passed the halfway mark. We’re not in some kind of remote desert outpost – we’re in Sydney. I know for many people around the world Sydney is precisely their idea of a remote desert outpost, but for those of us who actually call the place home, we like to imagine it’s a little closer to civilisation. So I don’t love the fact that we keep losing power, especially because it’s the dead of winter.

Sydney experienced its coldest day in 21 years yesterday. I think today is having a fair crack too. Which makes a blackout rather a downer when you rely on two (albeit gas) heaters to warm the hearth. Both our gas heaters have fans that pump heat outwards, so neither works properly during these power outages. One sort of blazes impotently, the three gas panels all lit up with nowhere to go, and the other just goes on the blink as if in sympathy with all the white goods with which it keeps such cosy company in the kitchen. They’re all in it together.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is because sometimes an interruption to one’s routine becomes an opportunity to enjoy a new activity, and that’s certainly what happened last night. We’d been watching a DVD when the room was plunged into complete darkness, and because it was just past 8 o’clock, it was far too early for bed (we’re night owls). My ever-resourceful husband suggested a game of chess by candlelight, and so that’s what we did.

He’s got a cool chess set from his childhood period in the Philippines: all the pieces are hand-carved. And it’s not one of those eminently practical but disappointingly dinky travel sets, either – it’s full sized. We set tea lights and a few candles all about the lounge room, and would have opened a bottle of red had we not raided the cellar so comprehensively a couple of weeks ago, and settled into the game once Llew had apprised me of the rules. All in all, it felt very pleasingly like being snowed in at a remote log cabin.

Well, I loved it. I didn’t win, but I loved it. It was so gripping – I really did try to outsmart Llew, but in the end my king was surrounded on all sides. He was outnumbered, outwitted, and outclassed by Llew’s hostile forces, and I couldn’t rescue him from the slavering jaws of a most decisive defeat. I felt bad for the guy, I did, especially as he was all dressed up and standing so proud and tall, but on this occasion I just wasn’t up to the task of defending his kingdom. When you think about it, it was rather a big ask for a complete and utter novice. There’s only one thing for it: a rematch, and soon.

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Food, Glorious Food!

July 17, 2007 at 7:09 am (Uncategorized)

I keep smacking my lips together every time I think about Saturday’s meal at Bistro Balzac. It’s got to be the best one I’ve had in recent memory… In fact, maybe it’s the rose-coloured afterglow of a happy dining experience, but I really can’t remember anything I’ve had lately that was even mildly in the running up against this level of competition. I should ask Llew about this. I know we did have something, somewhere, that we both really enjoyed once, but now I can’t seem to recall it clearly…I think I’m suffering from dining amnesia. It’s either that or the fact that I’ve rarely ventured out my front door in recent months – restaurants have become quite an alien concept this year. Oh, it was probably Sailor’s Thai. We went to the upstairs canteen for Flic’s birthday a few months ago, and that was a fantastic meal. We’ve had some decent food since, sure, including another excellent Thai meal at a place in Kirribilli – Thai Phoon or Thai Foon, you get their drift – with dodgy decor but great nosh. But this was different. This was the whole nine yards, with wines…

We started with an amuse bouche of a freshly shucked oyster in a delicate red wine vinaigrette. I feel sorry for people who don’t eat oysters, I really do. During this little tester, I stuck to my pre-lunch drink Pelorus, a delicious NZ sparkling I order as often as I can. As sparkling wines go, they don’t really get much better.

Next was a pretty fabulous risotto of bugs, prawns and courgette. Lovely sweet, fleshy meat and a creamy, flavoursome white risotto. This was served with a William Fevre 2005 Petit Chablis. Life was good and getting better all the time. This probably came in at a close second place in the line-up for me. It was great.

We moved on to the shoulder of lamb with Jerusalem artichokes and white beans – a little sliver of lamb’s tongue wasn’t for everyone, but I polished mine off and am still glad I did. All the flavours were balanced and I wanted to lick my plate. This dish was accompanied by a 2004 Minervois Chateau Coupe Roses. Yum.

Skate wing and beef Bourguignonne was a nice contrast especially when washed down with a Spanish wine – I don’t think we had the one that was listed but I am sure no one cared.

Okay, I think the next course was my personal favourite: rare roasted venison with red cabbage and celeriac puree, served with a 2003 Provenance shiraz. Bliss. The venison was perfectly cooked, so tender and just delicious with its accompaniments. Divine food, brilliant eating.

We had a little break and some more Pelorus before the pre-dessert. Let’s take a moment to appreciate a concept as golden as pre-dessert. It’s basically a polite way of saying “You pigs are getting two desserts,” in this case strawberry compote with cream and meringue. I was expecting a sorbet, just a palate cleanser but one of my favourite desserts anyway, so the richness of the pre-dessert was a shock, but by this time I was literally ROLLING with the punches!

A word on our dessert wine. I’ve always enjoyed Noble One when it comes to this end of the wine-drinking spectrum. A lot of offerings are disappointing if not downright nasty. But we had a 2006 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon from NSW’s very own Hunter Valley that was just superb, and it wasn’t because it was my seventh drink of the afternoon…truly. With it we enjoyed another favourite of mine (and really, the entire menu felt that way. I wasn’t the guest of honour by any stretch of the imagination, but talk about a few of my favourite things!): citron tart with creme fraiche. The gods might be crazy, but sometimes they are so very kind.

Oh, and then I got a truffle with my espresso, I think, but I was experiencing a fairly high-range foodie euphoria by that stage so it’s all a little hazy. The whole thing was such a potent reminder of why I love eating and drinking. There’s so much to love! A beautiful sandstone building, a lovely table, our obliging and indulgent waitress Marie, such memorable food and wine, and all enjoyed with our wonderful friends… I just don’t think a winter’s afternoon in Sydney gets any better than that.

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I Take It All Back

July 16, 2007 at 2:23 am (Uncategorized)

Every nasty thing I was thinking about my fellow residents. Every curse I muttered under my breath as I retraced my steps. Every scowl I shot the staff at the store where I had last seen my wallet. I take it all back, and apologise unreservedly for ever doubting the general good nature of other people. In this case, their honesty went untested, because it turns out my wallet was never lost.

On Saturday, a full eight days since I’d last held it in my hands, I was readying for our excursion to Randwick for Evo’s birthday lunch. I have a bag and hat rack above my dressing table, and some of my handbags live inside their own protective bags. Yes, it’s all very Russian Doll around here. So I reached into one of these protective bags to remove my handbag elect – a lovely example I bought in Siena in Italy whilst we were in the short-lived but divine midst of sparing no expense. Oh, happy days. And instead of finding my soft leather bag, my fingers curled around something smaller but still familiar. My wallet.

I have no idea how I came to place my wallet in a handbag protector. No idea. My rack is a kind of wall mount – reaching up to get my wallet in there would have been quite an awkward thing to do. Besides which, there is no conceivable reason for me to have done it. It would be like putting my wallet in the freezer. Actually, I thought the latter likelier – the freezer was included in my wallet search, but the protectors were not. I remember glancing at them, hesitating, and then thinking “No, don’t be ridiculous.” I stand before you: ridiculous.

So I got my two hundred bucks back, which we promptly spent like it was “free money.” A win. Some kind of windfall instead of simply our grocery money. Having accepted its loss, its recovery seemed to change its status. We spent it and everything else we could lay our hands on at the wonderful degustation birthday lunch for Evo at Randwick’s Bistro Balzac, which then became drinks afterwards, which then became cabs elsewhere to other bars, which then became a rather late night. The two hundred bucks was just absorbed into the mix, but knowing where it came from did make the spending just a little sweeter. Of course, we’re broke again now, but Saturday was a great day with some of our best friends, and I wouldn’t have held back that two hundred bucks for all the groceries in the world. Quite frankly, I’d rather eat canned tomato soup for a fortnight after dining at Bistro Balzac than not dine there at all.

Anyway, I have my Tokyo wallet back. Nobody stole it. Nobody fleeced me. I should never have doubted my neighbours – I should have known it was me all along.

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Timing is Everything

July 13, 2007 at 2:25 am (Uncategorized)

As far as I’m aware, the next federal election is going to be in November this year. It’s basically mid-July now. That means we’ll all be heading off to the polls to cast our compulsory votes in a mere four months. The way this year is galloping by, four months quite honestly feels like three more sleeps.

What’s interesting – well, one of the things that’s interesting – about the small amount of time left is that the Liberal party is in a fairly unusual position. Certainly it’s different to their election platform in the past. Now it really is dicey. Loose Lips Latham became Labor leader (how’s that for some Friday morning alliteration? I might have another COFFEE) too close to the last election and Labor lost. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that for some reason people seem to believe Howard when he says ‘There will be no interest rate rises.’ At the moment the population of this country seems utterly obsessed with the padding of each individual’s prosperous, plump nest, those big, troubling, cultural and ethical dilemmas of far less interest than protecting one’s own slice of the cul-de-sac. We’ve embraced the principles of capitalism with gusto, and now it’s every Australian for themselves. ‘Screw the rest of you, I just don’t give a damn about any of it.’ So ‘There will be no interest rate rises’ is really all our nude Emperor need say to keep the wheels on his go-cart.

One of the other problems was Latham. His youth and vitality were appealing; his potty mouth and pub arm were not. Then there was the whole timing thing – the election seemed to verily rush into view before we’d really sized up Latham to our national satisfaction. I think most of us who voted Labor – and let’s not forget that even with our severe mortgage blindness, many of us did – did so not because we were voting for a Latham-led government but because we were voting against Howard’s. Maybe less of us would have voted Labor if Latham had had more time or if we’d had a wee gander at his diary in the lead-up – in his case, familiarity did seem to breed a rather virulent strain of contempt. In any case, he was an enigma come polling day, and Labor lost.

The Liberal party under Howard faces the opposite problem now. He’s our old slipper in traditional tartan. There are no surprises left. No shaking of the presents piled so abundantly (because let’s not forget our little sugar daddy says we’ve never been better off), under Howard’s political tree – we already know what’s inside. And because we apparently don’t fancy Costello as the next PM, Howard is staying right where he is going into the election. He fancies himself as the Government’s best chance of being returned, and maybe he’s right.

Then again, maybe he’s wrong. I don’t know about you, but I am sick of the sight of John Howard, and I don’t think it’s just because I can’t abide his politics (oh all right, it is!). I can’t get the same thing for Christmas 12 years in a row and continue to feign enthusiasm. Maybe I’m just a greedy, ungrateful boom-time brat who doesn’t know how lucky she is to have been graced with more than a decade of care under the benevolent roof of Howard’s household, but I gotta tell ya: I’m looking for more in the Prime Minister of Australia. I want out of this house.

So I wonder how the chips will fall this time, timing wise. I wonder if Kevin Rudd’s time is right and if Howard’s time is…well, up. It feels a bit like the Liberal party is damned if they stick with him now and damned if they don’t – or is that just me and my wishful thinking again?

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