The Sausage King

October 30, 2007 at 4:58 am (Uncategorized)

I have to finish a travel piece today. My mind is currently swimming with South Coast facts but is so far refusing to assemble them into working order, so I thought I’d take a break and at the very least file a new post.

Since Llew copped it sweet yesterday, I thought I’d write a pro-Llew post in the interests of balanced reportage. He may not be much around the house, but as a celebrity chef he really is second to none. As planned, we spent the weekend with Llew’s parents up at their place in Palm Beach. We packed away the David Thompson cookbook, and dragged it out Saturday morning to decide once and for all what was going into our Thai nosh that night. Llew designed what he called his “Ingredient Matrix,” which was one long list of everything he needed for all the recipes combined, and what Katie didn’t already have in the garden or cupboard we procured from Avalon village, including sausage casings (cleaned pig intestines, I think) from the butcher. We were all set, even down to a whole coconut.

It was a case of all hands on deck in the Jenkins kitchen Saturday afternoon. Prep started at about 4 o’clock: Llew was head chef, I was sous chef, and Peter was all ’round scullery slave, since it fell to him to crack said coconut with the remarkable tool they brought back from their years in the Philippines that was specially designed for the purpose. It had a much better name than ‘coconut cleaver,’ but it escapes me now. After the coconut milk was safely in its bowl for later use, Peter also scored the plum task of scraping the flesh out with a zester. Oh yes, some people have all the luck…

As for me, and alongside Llew, I washed, sliced, chopped, peeled, stirred, picked and so on. Llew likes to line up all the ingredients in millions of little dishes just like they do in cooking shows – he really needs his own mise-en-place – so assembling everything for three courses really took some time. And then our maestro stepped up and began to prepare the dish he’d been wanting to make since we first encountered it on a bus in Thailand nearly four years ago: Thai sausage. The one in David Thompson (smoked sausage or sai grop) differed from the one the vendors piled on to sell that day in northern Thailand – theirs had vermicelli noodles and Thompson’s did not. But many of the other ingredients were identical: the minced pork, the coriander, the chilli. Once his filling was all ready to go, Llew fitted a sausage casing over a piping bag and then filled the bag with the sausage mixture whilst we held our collective breath. Would it work?

It did. Like a dream. One big, fat, utterly phallic raw sausage later, we were in business. Llew made two plump beasts and rolled them into wheels that were eventually fitted into a steamer and smoked over a base of coconut flesh (nice scraping, Peter!), tea leaves and sugar. It took hours of prep, but the sausage came off beautifully. As did the dtom yam gung (hot and sour prawn soup) and the chuu chii hoi shenn (red curry of scallops), both of which Llew also made from scratch. Katie also stepped up to flex her own formidable Thai cooking skills to whip up a delicious pork and peanut Thai dip (anyone mind if I lick this bowl…?) and Thai-style asparagus from her own Bangkok-sourced bible.

Yum yum, pig’s bum (and many other piggy parts if the Ingredient Matrix was anything to go by).

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Pick It Up Yourself, Mate.

October 29, 2007 at 5:45 am (Uncategorized)

This may come as a surprise, but it was actually Llew’s suggestion that I post on this topic today. It hadn’t occurred to me until he said “So I guess you’ve got your blog for today, huh?” and then I thought, why yes, I suppose I do. Thanks for the idea, dear husband.

Yes, it’s about housework, and how sick to absolute death I am of doing well beyond my share. I am so sick and tired of increasingly picking up after Llew like he’s regressing right before my eyes into some kind of man-child that I could break all of his things into a million tiny pieces and leave them in a pile on his side of the bed. A deep, burning rage is taking up residence inside me and it surges into action every time I walk through our apartment and see the things Llew has left in his wake. Things he simply could not be arsed picking up, putting away, disposing of or whatever. Things he just left for someone else to deal with, and that someone else is me.

We used to be a much more democratic household. Llew really used to do a fair-ish share of the work it takes to keep a place nice and livable instead of CRAZY-MAKING and cramped. Then, slowly but surely, he started to slide. In corporate parlance he might understand better than a ranting wife on the end of the phone, he started failing to meet key performance indicators.

A number of changes contributed to Llew’s performance review result of unsatisfactory. One is that we employed fortnightly cleaners a bit over a year ago. Before that, we both had chores in the weekly clean line-up. Now I continue to do mine once a week and Llew never does his, simply waiting for the wonderful day when the cleaners arrive and remove all sign of his letting the side down. Another is that Llew used to wash and iron his own work shirts. Now he pays someone else to do it and because I’m here all through the day, I’m the one who drops them off at the laundry at the end of our street and I’m the one who picks them up again. Llew now doesn’t do anything as part of this transaction except wear a shirt every day. Sometimes he can’t even be bothered removing the collar stiffeners and cufflinks before tossing the shirt in his basket, but as if by magic they’re always removed. A third is related to the second, which is that I work from home.

There are several related issues here. I am perfectly aware that I am the one with the unstable income who doesn’t put on a suit, go into town, and work in an office every day. I’m aware that right now, Llew is the regular and primary income earner in our household. I’d be a fool not to know this, and to fail to recognise and appreciate the fact that I am married to someone who really believes in me as a writer. He believes in my freelance work, he believes in my potential to become a published author, and he believes that my working full-time on the two sides of this vocational coin is the only way forward. His belief in all these things allows me to do them because what he is saying is that I don’t have to go and get a conventional job, that he’ll help me do what I need to do. This is generous in spirit and in fact – clearly this path means we are making financial sacrifices. It’s only money, but money matters. I do know how fortunate I am, and I am really grateful to Llew for his willingness to do these things on my behalf. But I did also bring money into our marriage, and I have worked many, many jobs in the years we’ve been together. I maintain us too. I have gotten us ahead too. I contribute financially too. I have made financial sacrifices for our sake too. So… what I don’t feel is that I owe Llew, or that our arrangement means I should have to do all the housework.

Let me qualify that. I am aware enough of the situation that I have taken on the majority of the housework. I work from home, so isn’t it easier if I do the grocery shopping? I work from home, so isn’t it easier if I pay all the bills? I work from home, so isn’t it easier if I do the towels? I work from home, so isn’t it easier if I do the sheets? I work from home, so isn’t it easier if I do the rest of the washing? Hang it out? Bring it in? Fold it up? Put it away? I work from home, so isn’t it easier for me to make dinner? I work from home, so isn’t it easier for me to sweep and plump and tuck?

Okay. I can put up with just about all of those things – I have a routine that allows me to avoid the pitfalls of working from home becoming nothing more than a permanent housekeeping job (all this with a PhD! You too could be a cleaner full-time!!). I do spend most of my day, every day, at my desk writing. I have to. I make myself. I make myself stop doing the chores. But what I really can’t abide is that Llew’s now not even doing the bare minimum of work to help me, and that’s picking up after himself. Now he’s not even doing that.

He’s leaving shoes, parcels, glasses, ice cream wrappers, bits of floss, paperwork, items of clothing, dirty gym towels, socks, empty water bottles, orange peel, newspapers and, at his lowest ebb, clipped nails behind for me. And I say “Oh no, you don’t, pal,” and still it continues. And because this is both my home and my office, I can’t just leave it. I do so much picking up after Llew because I just CAN’T STAND the stuff being left there in the first place.

I CAN’T STAND IT.

So Llewie, dear husband, who like most men doesn’t mean to be bad, he’s just doing what most men do which is get away with as much as they possibly can (and women are often just the idiots who let them), this is what I would like to say to you: do it yourself. Please just do it yourself. Because here’s the thing: I’m not doing it anymore.

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Sailors Thai

October 26, 2007 at 4:05 am (Uncategorized)

It was Llew’s birthday yesterday (phew – it’s a very long month between my birthday and his because of those 36 days each year when he can truthfully claim to be two years younger than me!). He decided where he wanted to eat quite a long time ago, and that was the Sailors Thai canteen at the Rocks. You have to understand something about Llew: he loves Thai food. Really loves it. He lived in Thailand as a child, and the country’s food made a profound impression on him. It is without a doubt his favourite cuisine, even though, like me, he just loves his food in general.

Sitting in bed the morning of his birthday, Llew pored over David Thompson’s seminal cookbook thai food trying to decide what he’d like on the menu for his birthday weekend up at Palm Beach with his mum and dad. This was no easy task, because the book verily throbs with exquisite dishes, each handled so lovingly by Thompson and placed so firmly in the context of its creation. Everything, every ingredient and every dish, seems to have a story behind it, and there’s a really lyrical narrative to Thompson’s style of recipe sharing that I just love. It’s a beautiful book. Functional, inspired, thoughtful, inclusive, generous and lovely to behold. Quite like Thai food, in fact, and I don’t think that’s any accident. It was a gift from our dear friends Nick and Kerry. Nick’s parents were Australian expats in Thailand at the same time as Llew’s, and it’s where the two boys met and became friends. I can’t think of a better commemoration of those formative years than cooking from this book.

So ending Llew’s birthday at Sailors Thai was the perfect complement to its beginning. David Thompson’s book, David Thompson’s canteen. We didn’t actually sit at the communal table, we took our chances with the cool change and ate outside up in the trees. The food was, in a word, sublime. Sailors Thai food is what the expression “taste sensation” means to describe. All I can say is make sure you try it one day because your expectations of Thai food – and as lucky as we are in this city of enormously diverse eating, Thai restaurants in Sydney are suffering from the same crisis of mediocrity that befell our Chinese restaurants in the 70s and 80s – will never be the same again. Talk about raising the bar, whetting the appetite and tingling the taste buds. Yum yum, and Happy Birthday, my darling Llewie. I’m looking forward to leaning on David Thompson’s expertise again this weekend.

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Cross Projections 2007

October 25, 2007 at 2:32 am (Uncategorized)

If you’re in Sydney over the next few days, get along to the Cross Projections exhibition in Potts Point one night. We went to the opening last night to support Llew’s sister Felicity, who is one of the photographic artists being shown. It’ll cost you twenty bucks but it’s worth every cent, and although I am undoubtedly biased, I can still say with absolute confidence that it’s so, so, soooo much better than sitting at home watching some god awful TV show instead. So head to Tusculum House, 3 Manning St, Potts Pt. It’s just off Macleay St, and at least last night, the start time was 6:30 for 7 pm.

It’s not your average photographic exhibition. For a start, there’s a different guest speaker each evening briefly kicking off proceedings, but the defining difference is how you view the works. It’s basically done as a video stream, showcasing the photographic work of different artists with the help of the big screen and a great musical score. The theatre was full last night, and I hope they get the same numbers for the rest of the run because it’s great. Like most people, we took the wine and handmade chocolates they were selling into the theatre from the foyer, so we were able to focus on the photos rather than the pressing question of where our next drink was coming from. There was also an interval, because for the reasons just mentioned we all needed one pretty desperately about halfway through. And the anticipation steadily built throughout the break: what was up next? What was still in store for us?

Work from Flick’s Antarctic series kicked off the second half, and the images on the big screen were even more haunting, beautiful, and altogether surprising than I already knew them to be from her portfolio. It’s an incredible icescape, and much more varied than seems possible. Shadows in one photo made an iceberg on the horizon look exactly like Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). Patterns in the ice reveal fossil-like flakes you’d swear were fallen autumn leaves. The sheer scale – the absolute vastness – and form of some of the bergs takes your breath away. Yes, we were biased, but we weren’t the only ones offering thunderous applause at the end.

Flick’s selection isn’t the only one that moved me. Indeed, two artists in the first half managed to move me to tears with their photos (and no, it wasn’t the red wine). Michael Amendolia’s presentation in North Korean Blindness had me silently weeping into my ganache. Mayu Kanamori’s Bacio della Vita captures centenarians of the Italian island of Sardinia, set to their deep and laboured speech. John Ogden’s Australienation spans 3 decades and, like the two presentations I’ve just mentioned, succeeds in telling the story of our sameness, our basic and enduring humanity.

I could happily take you through each one, there wasn’t anything that failed to elicit a favourable response from me, but I think the point is that you should get along and see it yourself.

I have two gripes. One is that to the best of my knowledge Cross Projections is not a travelling exhibition. It should be. The other is that it ought to be possible, surely, to purchase the full presentation as a DVD. Indeed, I think Cross Projections is in its sixth or seventh year. I would certainly consider buying DVDs of the previous shows, and I think it would mean excellent potential exposure for all participating artists both here and overseas. DVDs are so wonderfully portable, after all, and they require far fewer overheads than attempting to book out a theatre space. It just can’t be that hard to work out a contract whereby the artists and musicians perhaps receive a percentage of the royalties. I don’t have the money or the space to buy all the work that captured my heart, but I’d definitely love to enjoy the exhibition time and time again. Imagine running it on a bare wall as the background to a dinner party – that would be just terrific. And you never know: maybe a dinner guest or two would develop a taste for something that money can buy.

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It’s a Big Issue, All Right.

October 24, 2007 at 5:51 am (Uncategorized)

I’m trying to get up to date today with all my charitable donations. They’ve started to back up because I’ve been worrying about money, and for some reason my instinct is to suspend philanthropic gestures first. I realise this reflex doesn’t say altogether wonderful things about my levels of selflessness, but I can honestly tell you it’s hard work keeping up with all the worthy causes, particularly when one’s own income is horribly precarious. This is not to say I am struggling – clearly no one in the world would argue that case on my behalf. I have a very nice life. But we’re also, you know, in massive, migraine-inducing amounts of debt thanks to our mortgage and our credit card. We also have an endless stream of expenses.

I’m much likelier to forego donating to a charity than I am to turn up at a dinner party empty-handed. I’ll delete emails from charities requesting cash but won’t forget to buy a present to take to a baby-shower. I’ll recycle mail requests from the Heart Foundation in a…well, in a heartbeat, but I’ll agonise over what to buy for a friend’s birthday. And yes, damn it, I might not type in my credit card details to every worthy cause, but I’ve just recently signed the slip that makes me the proud owner of my new favourite bracelet.

I am avoiding my local Big Issue vendor like the plague.

I dart past him – Peter’s his name – whenever I turn up at the wharf and see him standing there patiently selling his magazines. I get this tightening in my chest whenever he’s there. I feel like he’s watching me expectantly as I cross at the lights, and the thought is enough to make me wheel around and go off in another direction. The guilt is astonishing. The easiest thing would be, of course, to buy a copy of the mag each week. I started to do this a while ago, and then after another period of budgeting, magazines were among the first things to go. No more, we said. My Vanity Fair subscription lapsed, Llew’s periodical subscription lapsed, we cut back to one weekend paper rather than three, and I stopped buying the Big Issue and started fleeing from Peter the vendor like my life depended on it.

But then certain mags have crept their way back into my possession, and so my guilt about Peter is back to haunt me. Did I really need to buy that birthday edition of Vogue Living to show Llew a window I’d like for our sunroom? And whilst we’re on it, do we really need a new window? We can’t actually afford to do it, either, so what’s the point of buying the magazine to show Llew the picture of the window we can’t have and don’t even really need? I could have bought the Big Issue instead, and a big part of me feels bad that I didn’t.

Llew came home a couple of Fridays ago and told me he’d donated a substantial amount of money to his old and ailing Rugby Club, Eastwood. The club is apparently facing closure, and Llew feels very strongly about supporting them in their hour of need. I confess I blanched when he told me how much he’d given, and then I went further and railed a bit about all of my loyalties and the fact that I’ve been starving them of cash because I know we can’t really afford it. I was upset he’d made that kind of donation autonomously when I’d put off my much more modest contributions. It was quite stressful, and actually for me at least it remains so. I can’t think about that sizable donation without feeling a bit sick, and yet I considered buying Llew a birthday present that was only marginally less.

What is my economy of scale? I guess that’s what I’m asking. Why is one more acceptable to me than the other? I didn’t, in the end, rack up my credit card to get Llew the really expensive gift, but part of me really wanted to, and had to be talked down by another, more sensible part. But the fact remains I was half prepared to do it, whereas Llew’s financial commitment to Eastwood Rugby seemed less important to me than the material thing I considered buying him.

So today I’ve been trying to make amends, donating to several friends involved in various charitable projects and also to my old school, Pearson College, whose board uses statistics on alumni giving to seek corporate sponsors. It’s apparently easier to convince corporations the college is a worthwhile enterprise if they can demonstrate alumni believe in it so much they’re prepared to support its fundraising activities. And because I believe so completely in the college and its mission, I do want to give. I’d like to give more than I have today, and I hope one day I’ll be in a position to feel I can. There’s a wild philanthropist within me – I just need the bank balance to match the inclination. And yes, what I’m also saying is I need to look at how I spend what money we do have, and why, and ask myself whether it might be better spent doing something to try to improve the world instead of just my outfit.

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Quality Time

October 23, 2007 at 6:26 am (Uncategorized)

Three days in Canberra and Bungendore precluded my posting yesterday, and apologies for those of you who checked in that your efforts went unrewarded. By the time I got home, I was so exhausted from an all over general satisfaction that it was all I could do to make a salad and warm up the rabbit pies I brought home on the train from the gorgeous little township of Bungendore. Needless to say they were definitely worth the trip.

Llew had the inspired and very thoughtful suggestion that Sarah and I go away for a weekend together since we haven’t been able to really glut ourselves on each other’s company for quite some time. After discussing numerous options, Canberra and Bungendore surged to an easy lead for a number of reasons: Sarah’s parents live in Bungendore, and one of my favourite things to do with her is wake up there and have cups of tea and chat with her mum and dad; our friend Judith was flying up from Melbourne with her little boy for a week with her own parents; our friend Suz had her birthday last Monday; besides the Bungendore connection, we both went to the Australian National University, so we’ll always have an affectionate connection to Canberra; the National Gallery is having its 50th birthday, and there were exhibitions on we wanted to see; plus I could finally catch up face-to-face with Nick, a college friend from those long ago Canada years whom I don’t think I’d seen since 1996-ish.

It was settled.

Everything came off without a hitch – it was a perfectly choreographed weekend. Sarah and I had lots of time on the leisurely train legs to catch up (over wine on the way down Friday night, and treats and Vogue Living on the way back Monday afternoon), and we saw everyone we wanted to see and did everything we wanted to do. This included a truly vintage night out with the girls. The four of us went to Anise, one of Canberra’s many excellent dining options, and enjoyed a three-course meal, wine, and each other for hours. Hours. I think we were in that restaurant for the length of the average workday. There was no stopping us. Even the staff abandoned the idea of kicking us out and just left us sitting on, talking and laughing whilst the rest of the place was folded and packed up around us. Brilliant. Great food, too. In my case (count them, Sydney restauranteurs: f-i-v-e), scallops on a cauliflower puree for entree, then a medium rare kangaroo fillet on a beetroot jus with mixed greens for main, and affogato for dessert, although the other girls had more elaborate offerings: passionate souffle (yum) and what I think was a quince tart (which looked very sticky and delicious). It was all so shockingly reasonable we thought they’d made a mistake with the bill.

Once we finally managed to drag ourselves out of there, it was only to go next door to a wine bar that I think is called Muddle (otherwise known as ‘Convenient’). There we had a bottle of Chandon and continued our conversation without missing a beat. I just love nights like that. I love a night spent out with the ladies. It was uproarious fun and we were all so excited to be there together and clink our glasses and pore over our menus and swap stories and laugh our heads off and lean in and listen closely when someone had something serious to say. It was the perfect night. It felt like we’d somehow pulled off a major coup, all of us managing to be there together like that. These moments are rare, and we all unashamedly basked in ours.

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Glorious!

October 19, 2007 at 5:19 am (Uncategorized)

Llew and I were lucky enough to join his parents and a couple of their friends for dinner and theatre last night in Kirribilli. For those of you not in Sydney, Kirribilli is a fabulous little village directly across the Harbour Bridge from the CBD. It was another “glorious” day yesterday, so after a house-brewed pot at the Lord Nelson pub in The Rocks, Llew and I strolled across the bridge and took in the spectacular twilight harbour scene. We met the others at Stir Crazy, a little BYO Thai restaurant. This place does a roaring trade, it’s always jam-packed and they don’t take reservations (what’s with that trend, anyway?). I’ve been a bit disappointed there in the past, but our food was excellent last night, just the right amount of heat and everything was really fresh and tasty, the spicy duck in particular. Yum. I quite fancy a plate of that right now…

I do have one gripe. I hate bill folders being dumped on the table whilst we’re still finishing up. I really think it’s the height of rudeness, and I don’t care how busy your restaurant is. Patrons should always be allowed to indicate they’re ready for their bill. Departure should be at the patron’s discretion. They should never be or feel that they’re being bundled out the door by an impatient floor staff only too keen to let them know they’re holding everything up. It’s just not conducive to a pleasant dining experience and is often so much more potent for being one’s final impression. I really despise it. And of course because Stir Crazy trucks through customers at the rate of knots, they’re never going to care what I think, it’s of no consequence to them. They just need me to get out of the way. Sigh (“If that were my restaurant…”).

Glorious! is a play by Peter Quilter currently on at the Ensemble Theatre, a great little space you might remember from Rabbit Hole a few weeks back. I didn’t know one single thing about Glorious! and I’m glad. Nothing could have prepared me for it, but I might have mistakenly groaned and thought “Dear God no, not a musical, please, anything but that.” It’s not a musical at all. It’s an extremely affectionate play about a woman by the name of Florence Foster Jenkins, who took on Carnegie Hall and other concerts with absolutely no singing ability whatsoever.

Comedy ensues.

And yes, it is very funny, Noelene Brown’s Florence is really endearing and fun, but it’s hard to dismiss the play simply as “light-hearted rubbish,” as my dear Granddad used to call it. No, there was more heart to it than that, and in her own super-mediocrity, Florence apparently discerned a real gift for music, or at least a real passion for singing. Not content with the shower stage most of us prefer, she took her bad voice on the road. And people loved her for it. Of course they did – I’m sure some people were only interested in laughing at her, but at least in this play she’s generally delightfully unperturbed by the more snide members of her audience. She’s much more interested in the fact that many more people clearly derive pleasure from her performance. And she derives a really life-affirming pleasure from singing. So what if she’s truly terrible? There’s something so noble and lovely and defining about the fact that she did it anyway, to hell with the nay-sayers, of which there’s never any shortage. I left the theatre feeling quite buoyed. What a character she must have been, and how glorious indeed.

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Listening Closely…

October 18, 2007 at 5:04 am (Uncategorized)

I don’t want to unduly alarm anyone who’s ever been over to Chez J for dinner or drinks, but I have to admit to a genuine desire to commit some conversations to tape. It’s just so frustrating after the fact when I can’t remember that scathingly brilliant thing that so-and-so said, or the stunning witticism what’s-his-name dropped into conversation over dessert, or even the odd insight I myself might have had or, better still, listened to my darling husband hijack and claim as his own (I love that best of all). It’s awful knowing our collective contributions are usually lost for all time, and I’ve often lamented the fact that it’s not really the done thing to, er, tape people without their knowing.

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Not seeking their permission first. But that’s the whole point, because people modify their behaviour to a really staggering degree when they know they’re being watched and/or recorded. I, for instance, try to tone down my naturally very blue tongue. If there’s no one recording me, and if there are no small children present, then stand back, warden, this inmate has something to say. I’ve seen people become nervous, affected, stilted, silent, self-effacing, insincere, monosyllabic, derisive, vaudevillian and sometimes even unexpectedly provocative when they know they’re being recorded. It’s an excellent way to get to the pot of gold at the bottom of the human response rainbow. So it’s a bit of a shame there’s that whole privacy thing in the way, because I’ve been present at some absolutely cracking conversations I’d give anything to be able to listen to in the sober light of day.

Oh yes. That’s another thing. Sobriety. After a night of solving the world’s problems – a task so ably assisted by the simultaneous drowning of one’s sorrows – I usually awake feeling groggy, cranky, hungry, parched and in need of the kind of healing only the Pacific can provide. And I’m usually a little sketchy on the details. It was great, whatever we were talking about, and we were all erudite/hilarious/controversial/impassioned, but… well… nope, sorry, it’s gone. So I would also like a recording of some of these conversations because I would like to see a) if we were anything more than a bunch of tiresome dribbling idiots and b) if so, then what did we say that was so interesting and/or amusing? Instead, I’m left only with the uncomfortable certainty of having sent many more millions of brain cells to an untimely and violent end.

And of course from a creative standpoint, I’d be lying if I said I don’t weigh up certain social settings and juicy revelations from the point of view of possible fiction fodder. I’m not talking about ripping off someone’s life and trying to pass it off as fiction, I’m talking about the spark, the tiny light bulb of human drama that might be the makings of a character or a story. Real experience – someone’s real experience, at some time, somewhere – informs so much fiction even at the most basic conceptual level that it just seems to me to be an essential ingredient in the creative process. Is this pillaging? Turning over broken chairs and abandoned dolls at the tip? Is there something more than a little unseemly, a little parasitic about my lamentation? Perhaps there is. But people have such wonderful stories, and they say such incredible things, that it’s a shame, I think, not to learn something from them.

Think about these quotes. Oscar Wilde was voted Britain’s greatest wit in some poll or other on the strength of this:

On his deathbed, Wilde said “Either those curtains go or I do.”

Genius. And those words deserve as large an audience as possible. Think about what they say about the man. Think about what they say about wit.

Spike Milligan’s epitaph: “I told you I was ill.”

Winston Churchill, accused of being drunk: “Madam, you’re ugly. And tomorrow I’ll be sober.”

And I’m not just giving my friends a rap when I say they are often just as screamingly funny, they really are. And I’d love to put the best of it – or the soul, the atmosphere of the best of it – into my writing, I unashamedly would. Because I hate the idea of all those lost words. All that untapped laughter.

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Back to the Drawing Board

October 17, 2007 at 2:23 am (Uncategorized)

At the end of last week, I finally sent my MS off to a Manuscript Appraisal Service. Getting someone (hopefully someone qualified, but who really knows?) to read it and actually tell me what they think is costing me a little over $400. I think this is a lot of money – it is a lot of money – but I’m hoping it’ll prove to be money well spent. I’m hoping that whoever I’m paying has more experience than I do in editorial and publishing matters concerning fiction. What I do like is knowing someone will have to say something eventually, even if it’s all negative. Now that I’m forking out the dollars, someone is going to tell me what’s wrong with it. I can’t tell you what an untold relief it is knowing that a report will hit my post box some sunny day instead of just a form note saying ‘No thanks.’

And then there’s the MS Development Award through the Varuna Writers’ Centre. I’ve applied for one of those, too. There are only 5 places, so I’m not holding my breath, but for the lucky chosen few, it’s a 10 day intensive workshop opportunity to improve the MS with actual, real live editors on hand to help. It sounds brilliant, and I’d really like to win one of those spots. They’ll be announcing a long-list at the end of November, so I won’t have any further news for you until then (I think the MS appraisal is going to take about 6-8 weeks too). I’m not a naturally patient person, but I’m rapidly learning that these things really do take time.

Meanwhile, it’s back to working on MS #2. I have redrafted #1 a couple of times since it bombed out of the Vogel, but I must say that’s a process I could continue pursuing forever. At a certain point, I do need to simply call a halt and send it out into the world for some feedback. It’s not that I think it’s finished – I could tweak it until I’m a hundred. It’ll never be ‘finished’ in the way one finishes a meal or a race or a glass of wine or a cigarette. So for the time being I’ve stopped redrafting. Then I’ll get the appraisal, and then I either will or won’t get a place on the MS Development Course, and then I’ll redraft it on the basis of those outcomes. Then I’ll consider what to do next. Again. All of this could take another year. Maybe two. In the meantime, I need to be working on something new, because otherwise quite frankly I’ll go mad.

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The Countdown Has Begun

October 16, 2007 at 4:36 am (Uncategorized)

November 24. There we have it. Howard has finally called the election, and I for one am very excited. It’s only about 5 weeks away, and things are looking good for a stunning Howard meltdown. Here’s hoping.

Yesterday’s newspapers ran with a couple of interesting headlines. The Sydney Morning Herald had ‘Love Me or Loathe Me,’ with Howard arguing a ‘better the devil you know’ position. Do you think, Johnny? Hmmm, I disagree. And The Australian ran ‘New Leader Vs. Right Leader’… um, no. I don’t think they got that quite right. It’s more like New Leader Vs. Dear Leader, and no prizes for guessing who’s singing “I’m so Lonely” a la Team America: World Police around here.

Oh, come on, Howard, let’s see you go down in a blazing fireball of rank disfavour. Could you do that for me? Please? A really spectacular landslide defeat, that’s what I’m looking for. Thanks old chum, I appreciate it. Because what I am really after out of this election is the kind of ‘critical mass’ loss that might finally give the man pause. I just don’t know how else the Australian people can actually get through to him, assuming those of us who violently disagree with Howard are still in fact entitled to call ourselves Australian. It’s been rather unclear. I’ve definitely had the impression from a variety of media sources, some of which I’ve mentioned in this blog, that you can’t say “John Howard’s Australia is not really my cup of tea” and still expect to be welcome at the cricket. Well, as awkward as it makes things, I really must insist I am both opposed to John Howard’s vision of Australia and a proud Australian. I love this country, and I love so much about my fellow Australians.

It’s just the apathy and resistance to change that drags my chain down into the bowl. That and, oh yes, the whole radical paranoia about “the other”… Australia is incredibly diverse and yet hopelessly fearful of difference – it’s one of this country’s greatest and most challenging contradictions. The combination generally keeps issues like racism paused in a state of absolute stasis – there’s nowhere to go with one that doesn’t immediately implicate the other. So we don’t deal with our social and cultural problems in Australia, we just pretend we don’t have any (a move made easier by our high-range apathy toward and disengagement from the so-called “issues”). Emu, head in sand, national emblem, you get the drill.

I am on the edge of my seat when it comes to this election. It is an opportunity to get excited about the future of Australia for the first time in a long time, and I am not going to let the long shadow of a small man rain on my parade.

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