I’ve had to work my way into the optimism of yesterday’s take on the hung parliament. Indeed, I spent a sleepless night after the election. Saturday night, I went to bed feeling anxious and depressed that so many Australians felt comfortable voting in favour of Tony Abbott. Okay, in Australia we vote for the party, not the politician, but the result does legitimise Abbott as the Liberal leader, and it also serves as a tacit endorsement of the Liberal party’s ultra conservative elements. I think that’s a shame, because there’s nothing ‘liberal’ about it, and I’m enormously troubled that a good portion of this country happily voted for someone so rightwing. I find nothing to celebrate in that, and it ate away at me as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling late Saturday night.
I drifted off about midnight, only to be awoken by Llew coming to bed at 3 am after following the election coverage to the point of no return. That was my fragile slumber shot, because he instantly set to a spectacular snoring that no amount of prodding, shouting and pleading could interrupt. I guess some delirium must have carried me off, however, because I was next jolted violently awake by the sound of the upstairs neighbours coming home at 5 am and commencing a drunken ruckus. Five am – now I’m no longer feeling homicidal toward them, I can almost admire the awesome display of staying power.
Between the snoring, the cavorting, and the niggling gnaw of the chaotic caucus, I snapped. I barked something blue at Llew (minus the rhyme), grabbed my pillow and stormed out to the lounge room. After lying on the couch in a rigid fury for another hour or so of sour sleeplessness, I finally succumbed. At 8 am, my alarm went off.
Talk about foul. God, I was in a filthy mood. I just wanted everyone – and I mean everyone – to fuck off. Especially Llew, who became the focus of my icy early morning contempt – yes, he could especially fuck off. He could – and should – fuck off further, fuck off faster, and fuck off for longer than anyone else in the world. Because he woke me up, and now I had to go to a course all day, and I was so exhausted I just wanted to curl into a little ball and cry.
Understandably, Llew spent the next hour gingerly picking his way around the apartment, silently giving me a wiiiiiiide berth, right up until it was time to get in the car. I was having another driving lesson come hell or high water. The course was a short story workshop with Cate Kennedy over at the NSW Writers’ Centre in Rozelle, back across the Harbour and Anzac Bridges of the weekend before, and I can only describe my state as one of grim determination. I’d shovelled my breakfast, knocked back my coffee, sucked down a glass of orange juice and all but slapped my own face, and now I would drive, goddamnit, even if I was locked in an internal battle with some temporary form of Tourette’s.
Oddly, driving improved my mood. I was also so steely that when I arrived at the workshop, the very first thing I did was triumphantly offer Fugitive Pieces – just returned from Blighty and a familiar face beside a spare seat – my upturned palms: dry. Perfectly dry – I was so calm as to be almost entirely unhinged.
The workshop itself was really helpful. Cate Kennedy was warm, funny, clever and constructive, and it was beyond fascinating watching her take the thread of a single idea and spin it into a hundred others, very much the same way Maths prodigies answer complex problems of Calculus by working through them out loud. Of course, it makes everyone else uncomfortably aware of just how dense they are in comparison – or at least, that’s how I felt – but Cate somehow managed to make my own stupidity seem fun. Not that I volunteered to read out my response to the exercise she set. Nope. I completely chickened out. I kept having flashbacks to two prior occasions of opening my mouth in a group writers’ setting – once at a Sydney Writers’ Festival workshop and once at a Sydney Writers’ Festival event – and frankly I couldn’t have soldered my mouth shut more effectively if I’d tried.
I’d just about worked myself up to it when an older lady down the other end of the table read out hers, and that was it, there was no way I was reading my piddling, embarrassing effort after that. She did a really, really good job. Everyone in the room was impressed, including Cate. The Fugitive and I had bunked off out of the grounds during the lunchbreak, and I started silently convincing myself that this woman hadn’t paused for lunch like the rest of us. She’d worked solidly through, I told myself. She obviously didn’t even leave her seat. She couldn’t have. Surely. Swot. And then that mean-spirited, envious little voice abruptly ran out of puff – it had put in a full day at this point, you understand, because it clocks in pretty much the second I can’t sleep – and I was left just feeling, yeah, impressed. Horribly inadequate, but impressed.
At the end of the day – six hours that went by like two – I gathered up my notes, exchanged commiserations with the Fugitive, thanked Cate, and went out to the car park to meet Llew. He swapped seats, and I drove home.