Sunday, Bloody Sunday…

August 25, 2010 at 9:49 am (Uncategorized)

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.

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12 Comments

  1. Grad said,

    We older ladies still have some spunk, young whippersnapper! Fugitive told me she was taking a writing course with you. Of course, I was immediately envious of both of you (or ” ‘da boda youse,” as we say in Chicago-ese.) And on another note, I found rye wraps. Life is good.

    • doctordi said,

      I never doubted it for a second, Graddikins! Yes, she could certainly show me a thing or two, that’s for sure.

      Oh, don’t talk to *me* about envy – Fugitive Pieces turned up with her Grad Gift – AND a handwritten letter from you. I had a good mind to grab them both and make a break for the doors.

  2. Fugitive Pieces said,

    It’s all my fault. (Apart from the snoring. And the election.) If I’d brought a packed lunch, like a proper grown-up, and not skittered us up the road like we were escaping from the asylum – we’d have stayed at our desks and hammered those words into some kind of shape. And how I wish I HAD soldered my mouth shut. Apparently the lure of reading unexpurgated drivel to a room full of strangers, you and Cate Kennedy was just too much to resist. Mffnargh. Why does jetlag make me so garrulous? Next time, could you please just straitjacket me?

    • doctordi said,

      You know, Fugitive, it really *is* all your fault – you told me about the class in the first place!

      You did really well!!! What are you talking about?! I was proud of you and slightly ashamed of myself – who goes to a workshop and then steadfastly refuses to actually workshop??

      • Fugitive Pieces said,

        Someone who’s exhausted and feeling overwhelmed, Di. That’s who. Besides, you DID workshop; you were open to Cate, you talked about problems you knew you were having in your work, but you didn’t read out a piece that hadn’t yet found its shape. (And I wish I shared your common sense in such things.) You also cracked the best joke of the day. And after all this you drove home, so all round *WIN*

      • doctordi said,

        Maybe I’d be feeling ever so slightly better about my prospects had I been attending a workshop on standup… I’ll take the laugh any day, but I can’t help feeling a bit gutless about hiding behind a wisecrack.

        Cowardice and common sense aren’t the same thing at all – I think you exhibited more of the latter by far by taking the opportunity that was presented instead of letting it pass you by. But thank you, darling, I am more than happy just thinking I made you chortle.

  3. Lilian Nattel said,

    I feel the same way about our PM, but a hung parliament is better than a majority.

  4. litlove said,

    There’s something about workshops…. I like the idea but know I would be completely crippled in coming up with ideas on the spot because it’s all too performative. And good writing isn’t performative to me. It’s not a race or a competition. You don’t see woodworkers rushing to produce the perfect dovetail joint pour epater les autres (sorry, sometimes only French has the phrase you need). It’s slow, private work, like prayer. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the strategies of others – download them and use them yourself when you’ve got the spaciousness inside and outside to do so.

    And I think I would have MUCH rather nicked off for a good lunch with the Fugitive than stayed like a swot at the desk working. 🙂

    • doctordi said,

      Yep, LL, I hear ya. A bad case of performance anxiety seems to grip me every time I am in one of these scenarios – with disastrous results.

      I was glad we escaped the asylum too – not only for the pleasure of the Fugitive’s company, but also because I badly needed a coffee that wasn’t dispensing out of a vending machine.

  5. davidrochester said,

    He could – and should – fuck off further, fuck off faster, and fuck off for longer than anyone else in the world.

    Oh, how I laughed at that.

    Very interesting to read about the workshop — and I am so glad you enjoyed it. From a different perspective than yours and Litlove’s … I stay away from that kind of thing because I have an unusual ability to perform on the spot in such circumstances — I’m facile and clever with a very quick imagination and flow of language; the same dubious talents that made me good at stand-up comedy and improv when I did theatre stuff long long ago. But at least for me, that kind of thing is a party trick, and fools both me and people around me into thinking I’m a better writer than I am. I think Litlove has it right when she says that true writing is “slow, private work, like prayer.”
    And that’s the way I prefer to do it, because I know that if I have a ten-minute deadline, by God I’ll meet it … with something good, but not necessarily with something real. But observing the circus can be a lot of fun, and it’s good to be around a big surge of positive energy from other writers, who are more often a solitary lot.

  6. doctordi said,

    It really only became a laughing matter well after the fact!!

    Yeah, I think my moments of class clownery are an attempt to deflect attention from the work itself… like if I’ve been a wise ass all day, it kind of creates the impression of contribution and participation, so that no one feels the need to call on me or draw me out, which is what happened to a couple of people on Sunday.

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