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A bathtub. Regrettably not filled with words.

A good friend of mine, an accomplished writer, once told me that she loved words so much she’d like to bathe in them.  It may be slightly wacky but it certainly is a brilliant image: you turn on the tap and out come your favourite words, rushing and swirling, the bath every so slowly filling up until it’s time to take off your clothes and lie down amongst the little bits of language, soaking in it, all those wonderful sounds and meanings touching your skin, perhaps even seeping through to your bones.

I have a handful of favourite words.  Home is one, in fact I saw it on a book cover in a bookshop last week and it made me stop, not because the cover was especially well designed or the font was eye-catching but because the word itself.  Home. It is such a complete word, which I know is a problematic thing to say as all words are complete, even one like arrivin’ as in ‘arrivin’ home after a big day out’, even when it’s missing its ‘g’, but still home as a word really gets me going.  It’s the sound, it’s the shape, it’s the meaning, and it’s the fact that for ever and a day it’s something that I’ll be searching out.

Community is another personal favourite.  Derived from the Middle English and Old French of ‘communitas’, meaning ‘common’, as in ‘have something in common’, this is truly a very special word.  (Now I think about it, common is another word that I like very much, partly because of its almost symmetry – it’s such an architectural word – but also because of the sound, as if it’s a spice, as if it’s a way of moving.)  But back to community.  Like home, this is a word that can stop me in my tracks; it can make my body tingle as if I’ve just swigged something very pleasant.  Yes, if it was possible to bathe in this word, then I would, I’d get naked and immerse myself in it.

Another word I’d love to immerse myself in is acquiesce.  This is a funny one, strange funny not hilarious funny, because I don’t use it very often, actually I can’t recall the last time I used acquiesce, but my God it’s a winning word.  It may mean ‘to agree’ or ‘submit’ or even ‘comply’, but with this one it’s entirely the sound.  Listen: ack-wee-ess.  It could be a bird call, or something on a menu, as in ‘Roasted half spatchcock with Potato and Chive Gnocchi with Acquiesce Sauce’.

Yes, it would be great to be able to lower myself into a bath filled to the brim with words, although I’m sure if I told non-writer/reader friends that I’d tried to do this then they’d probably wrap me up in a sleeping bag and drop me off at a hospital for special people.  But heck, what’s life without a bit of risk.  I’m going to head to the bathroom right now and do it: put in the plug, turn on the tap, and close my eyes.  If words come out, favourite words, you may never see me again – I’ll be pruning up in a lovely mix of home, community and acquiesce, with a touch of common to make it anything but.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, December 6 2008)

One day they'll get these things pocket-sized.

Sorry, I’m doing it again.  I wrote about record players last month but in the spirit of that great old saying “Everything in moderation except the things you love”, I must keep exploring this new element in my life – for three reasons.  Firstly, the cute little baby is now happily ensconced in my house.  Secondly, the process of returning to technology that by rights should have been extinct years ago has been surprisingly revealing.  Thirdly, I’m in love.

It’s such a humble object: all black, no brand name (I didn’t buy it from a supermarket, it’s just that minimalism is how modern turntable design is done), and it has only one button (on/off).  Even though I’ve had it for two weeks I still find myself checking it out.  Sometimes I wonder what it’s doing there: as soon as it was out of the box it gave the loungeroom a very 70s feeling; but in the right light it also looks like it’s flown in from outer-space and is nesting beneath the television.  Other times I just gaze at it longingly, lovingly, wantonly.

But it needed setting up.  That’s right, it wasn’t just a matter of plugging it in and bunging on a record – I actually had to piece it together.  And this is where it all became quite strange.  Turntable technology hasn’t progressed in the last twenty years; in fact, it’s regressed like nothing else on earth.  To change the playing speed you must adjust a ‘fan-belt’ (as described by He Who Loves 2008 Gadgetry Not 1978 Gadgetry).  To  get a deeper bass sound you adjust weights.  To improve clarity you tweak a thing at the back that looks like a little man fishing for carp.

If the truth be told, I had to get a man in.  He arrived with tools attached to his belt and then proceeded to spend an hour explaining how I’d put almost every component together incorrectly, which was why the first record I played – ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush on single – sounded like I’d trodden on an al-foil covered cat.  When the man was finished, however, I poured myself a cheeky port and put on a record and let my hearing do the rest.  Yes, there’s the familiar crackling and popping, but once I’d readjusted my ears the sound was amazing – it’s very perky indeed.  The musicians are in the room: I can hear plectrums hitting guitar strings and bows drawing across cellos.

But perhaps the most extraordinary gift this little black contraption has given me is engagement.  There’s the whole cleaning-the-record thing for starters (in warm dishwater, say the audiophiles), and then you must carefully place the stylus down on the vinyl, but, as the arm is not automated these days so you have to lift it back up again once the record is finished, you really can’t put on an LP and then go clean the bathroom.  To get the most out of it, you have to stall your life for the music, you must stop and listen.  And in a world which seems to be fracturing at a horrific rate, stopping and listening to beautiful sounds, or melancholic or bone-rattling aggressive sounds, are good things, great things – fundamentals.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, November 1 2008)

I’m going to do it, get the needle and slowly, carefully, put it where it needs to go.  Then I’ll stretch out and let it wash over me, through me, and enjoy the utter gloriousness of it.  After decades of abstinence, you see, I’m going to have a record player in my house again.  And I can’t wait, though I will have to wait because I have to scrape together the last few pennies.  But I’m already going through my small (and rather dusty) collection of LPs and singles, trying to decide which will be lucky enough to have First Spin status.

It could be New Order’s Substance, partly because it has ‘Blue Monday’ on it, which will sound great through the new speakers (you can’t buy a record player without getting new speakers), and partly because I can remember riding my bike up to the St Ives Shopping Village, which was my haunt for the first eighteen years of my life, and buying this double album, although it actually contains “12 x 12-inch a-sides”.  Back home, however, I discovered in one of the records an imprint of a sneaker, so I returned it to the store and was given a replacement.  But I’d learnt that at some stage in the manufacturing process, records must be pliable enough for a mark to be left when, perhaps, an overworked factory employee stumbles.  Vinyl indeed.

'The Queen is Dead' by The Smiths. Greatness.

Or it could be The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead.  The first time I heard this record, in 1986, my last year of school, I didn’t understand it one bit – my older brother’s best friend had just told me that if I was keen on music I must give The Smiths a listen.  But I thought the singer, whose lyrics referenced Wilde and Yeats, sounded like a morose yodeller and his lines ran counter to the music, the music being pleasant enough, in a jingly-jangly sort of way, but it simply wasn’t to my less-than-developed private-schoolboy taste.  Needless to say, two or three years later I realised that Morrissey sang all his words for me and me alone.  Even now, at the age of 39 and 51 weeks, I’m still a Smiths obsessive.

Or the first record could be ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ by A-ha or ‘Victims’ by Culture Club, both on 45.  Then again, maybe not.

It’s true that this is all about nostalgia – I even admitted as much when last weekend I nervously walked in to a hi-fi store and told them what I was looking for.  Yes, I’m having a sentimental yearning for the past. But what does ‘sentimental’ actually mean?  A romantic or nostalgic feeling; by emotion rather than reason.  Hang on, my decision to own a record player is entirely reasonable, and sensible, and logical; emotion has nothing to do with it, thank you very much.  Besides, even now, in 2008, some bands still put out music on LP, so this might not be about the past at all – it’s just about…options.

Whatever, if I am being nostalgic, I really don’t care.  It was Lou Reed who said ‘I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine’.  And this nostalgia is all mine, baby.  If only I was cool enough as a kid to own a Velvet Underground record.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, October 4 2008)

An Australian snowfall. Not yesterday.

My name isn’t Miss Smilla but I do have a feeling for snow, well, a thing for snow at least.  Why a sixth-generation Australian (whatever that is) would have an obsession for the little crystals of ice that can fall on mountain tops is beyond me.  I was obsessed by it as a child, and again as a young man when a friend and I would go camping in the Snowies just so we could be surrounded by whiteness.  Now, in the potentially tricky ‘middle’ years, the obsession isn’t waning one bit, in fact it seems to be getting worse.  And let me say upfront that I’m definitely not a skier – on the slopes I’m only good at breaking stocks, over and over again.

Recently I was lucky enough to spend time in a place nearby where a snowfall was possible – a year ago to the week there had been an unexpected dumping.  As if trying to bring it on through fashion, I packed beanies, scarves, gloves, thermal underwear, and, most importantly, a pair of uggboots.  Day in, day out, I gazed south and watched as the telltale puffy white clouds formed on the ranges, but never did they make what I was looking for.  Then, however, on the very last day, the radio announced it: a major change was coming through and a snowfall might indeed happen.  So, armed with a plunger load of coffee, and a nana rug wrapped around my lap, I sat by the open fire and watched, and hoped, and almost prayed to the heavens.

Why exactly do I love snow so much?  It can’t be because of the Irishness in my blood, can it?  No, it’s not that (though surely the Eire DNA plays a part).  As high-falutin as it sounds, it’s because snow reminds me of art, all kinds of art, the best kind.  Snow is both beautiful and dangerous.  It absorbs light, but also emits light.  It is frustratingly unpredictable: it comes and goes as it pleases.  Most of all, however, it is the simplest of the simple, but also inherently – perhaps infinitely – complex.  It was the German-born US author and poet Charles Bukowski who wrote in his Notes of a Dirty Old Man, ‘An intellect is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.’  Do you see?  Snow, too, says a difficult thing in a simple way.

So did it snow that final day out in Woop Woop?  Well, yes it did actually.  In the evening, as I huddled by the fire and cooked myself a celebratory sausage, a sudden rush of wind bolted up the valley and dived down the chimney like a banshee.  Then, with a frightening VROOMP, it shot itself out of the hearth.  Stunned, I turned around and looked up.  Inside the living room it was snowing, actually snowing: little white flakes were falling slowly, silently, covering my laptop, my stereo, my CDs, my books, the rug; even the sausage I’d just burnt to perfection was covered in the stuff.

But, of course, it wasn’t snow.  It was three weeks’ worth of soft, fine ash.

All I could do was shake my head and laugh like a madman.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, August 23 2008)

In art as in life there’s something about beginnings and middles, but endings are what get this humble scribe really going. Not long ago I came home from an extended time away, and after giving Cat the Ripper a quick cuddle I wandered through the house as if expecting to find it turned inside out. Realising that nothing at all had changed, I unzipped my backpack and put on three loads of washing. With the machine sloshing away nicely, I found the twenty Polaroid photos I’d taken of my travels and Blue-tacked them up in the loungeroom and the kitchen, stuck one to the bedside table, and then scattered the rest around my study. I wanted reminders of where I’d been and what I’d done. But I also wanted to reclaim my home, to let it know that I was back, that we were together again.

It got me thinking about one of my desert-island films, Bill Forsyth’s completely wonderful Local Hero. The story follows a Porsche-driving North American oil executive whose boss instructs him to go to Scotland to purchase a seaside village and replace it with a refinery. As he negotiates with the suitably eclectic – and eccentric – characters of Furness, Mac finds himself falling for the village, and a certain happily married woman. Needless to say he returns to Houston a changed man.

The film’s final moments are spellbinding. Mac opens the door of his high-rise apartment, turns on the lights, walks past his hi-fi equipment, his fine paintings on the walls, his slim-line timber furniture (the film was made and set in the early 1980s), and pins to a noticeboard photographs of the place and people he’d gotten to know so well back in Scotland. Then, as if he doesn’t really want to but feels compelled, he steps onto his balcony and watches the blue light of dusk spread insidiously across the skyline, the wail of sirens in his ears. The sense of anonymity is overwhelming, and it collides with the deep knowingness Mac had experienced abroad. For the penultimate shot the filmmaker takes us back to Ferness with a still of the little village, our eyes coming to rest on a bright red phone booth. And then the phone booth begins ringing out across the sea…

Literature too, of course, has provided us with endings that pack a punch. One of the best occurs in Tolstoy’s short work The Death of Ivan Ilyich. The story, which we are told is ‘of the simplest, most ordinary and therefore most terrible’, concerns a bright and likeable member of the Supreme Court in St Petersburg who endures a painful illness which ultimately consumes him. After navigating his memories, and achieving a level of understanding about how he’d lived, as well as enduring days of screaming agony, Ilyich arrives at a critical moment: ‘And all at once it became clear to him that what had been oppressing him and would not go away was suddenly dropping away on one side, on two sides, on ten sides, on all sides.’

As the final sentence, Tolstoy so precisely, so devastatingly, but so beautifully, gives us this: ‘He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out and died.’

Endings – and homecomings – don’t get much better than this.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, July 26 2008)

In Melbourne recently we came across one of those stores that sell stuff like Star Trek figurines, Tin Tin T-shirts, and comics about ridiculously buxom superheroes. I didn’t really want to go down the stairs and into the store, but they say that compromise is a good thing, so down the stairs I went. Within minutes I was staring at a certain hard-back picture book. According to the strip of red across the top it was the thirtieth anniversary edition. My heart stopped, partly because I was seeing this book for the first time in years, and partly because the number of those years really must be thirty.

And the book? Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rien Portviliet.

Yes, that’s right. Gnomes.

Back home I went over to my mother’s house and found the family copy. As expected it was a little worse for wear and the pages smelled dusty. But it was the book, my book (although strangely my brother’s initials are in the front). Feeling like I’d rediscovered the most useful instruction manual in the whole wide world, I returned to my place as quickly as I could. It was a cold and blustery day, which seemed apt somehow. So with a coffee brewing nicely I started turning the pages my innocent little fingers would have excitedly leafed through all those years ago.

Every page I recognised, every illustration. Here’s a male gnome on a pair of scales, a caption noting that the adult male gnome weighs 300 grams. Here’s a winter scene: ‘If snow has fallen he straps on long-distance skis [which] are absolutely necessary, otherwise he would sink right into the snow, especially when it’s fresh!’ And here is a gnome family’s underground house – how I’d loved this illustration, especially the basket for the pet mice.

Goodness knows why I had adored all this. For some reason it was very important I knew that a gnome wedding is a simple ceremony except among the nobility. That gnomes ‘indulge in pipe-smoking and do not shun mildly alcoholic drinks’ – is that the sort of information a young boy should have in his head? And how about this: ‘to cure depression and general listlessness (doesn’t happen very often) they use St John’s Wort tea or the tea drawn from the white fibres of a walnut’. Huh?

But maybe it wasn’t useless at all. In the pages of this magically illustrated book was a world that I could understand, a world that made perfect sense. It made perfect sense to learn that spiders are not especially friendly to gnomes ‘but a gnome will never destroy a web, because that might bring bad luck’. It made perfect sense to be told that gnome children use the winged seeds of the maple to play at being dragonflies. However, I was never (and still am not) that thrilled to learn a favourite troll pastime is to hold a captured gnome against a revolving grindstone. Quick, turn the page!

Perhaps what I really wanted all those years ago was a magically illustrated book called Humans so I could learn about how the world fitted together. Coming to think about it, I still wouldn’t mind that particular book.

Maybe I should write it.

Then again, why bother when I’ve just rediscovered Gnomes.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, June 21 2008)

Pop music: you’ve got to love the way it can get you in the guts.  The other night, with He Who Likes Being Away At Conferences away at a conference, I came home late and, needing a bit of couch time before bed, I poured myself a glass of wine, propped up The Old Lady of the House on one side, settled Cat the Ripper on the other, and then put on a DVD.  It was a collection of Pet Shop Boys film clips.  I’m not a lifelong fan of the band; I’d only bought the DVD because (a) anyone who has the name Nigel Grey Featherstone and had adored the Brideshead Revisited TV series as a teenager should own some Pet Shop Boys music, and (b) it was really cheap.

Everything was fine (and just a little dandy) until a certain song came on: ‘Home and Dry’.  According to the DVD’s running order, it’s one of the band’s most recent numbers.  Whilst the tune itself is relatively joyful in that joyfully melancholic way pop music can do so well, the lyrics are as wanting as anything.  “So my baby’s on the road/doing business, selling loads/charming everyone there with the sweetest smile/Oh tonight, I miss you/Oh tonight/I wish you/could be here with me/but I won’t see you/’til you’ve made it back again/home and dry/home and dry.”

But the film-clip’s imagery.  It’s devastatingly simple: just hand-held video footage of mice scurrying about an urban railway station.  Amongst the shiny silver train tracks, the mice dart here and there, searching out rubbish – an ice cream wrapper, a discarded biscuit, a mostly intact meat pie.  Sometimes one of the mice suddenly stops and noses another (maybe they kiss, I don’t know), but then off they go again, searching for what has been thrown away.  Sometimes they do little leaps for joy, or so it seems.  Then, however, over the top of the music, comes the sound of a train roaring down the line.  There’s no actual footage of it, just more of the mice going about their lives, oblivious to what might be about to happen.

Before long I became lost in the memory of one of my favourite books, Frederick by Leo Lionni.  Rather embarrassingly, I’d read and reread the story as a teenager, not as a child.  Frederick is a sad-eyed mouse who in the lead-up to winter spends all his time staring at the sun and the meadow and catches words in his sleep while his chums work so hard around him.  But then, snowbound in their stonewall hideout, their food stash long depleted, the mice are forced to call on Frederick.  ‘What about your supplies?’ they beg.  So Frederick proceeds to describe all that he’d observed, which gets the clan through the cold and the dark, and he emerges a hero, complete with little flushed-red cheeks.

Lionni’s motivations are clear.  Being a respected Italian painter and illustrator (and advertising executive, it should be noted), Frederick is an unambiguous plea: when all else fails it is imagination and aesthetic pleasure that keeps us alive.

I reckon the Pet Shop Boys would say three cheers to that.

I know I did, as I replayed the film clip over and over until I fell asleep.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, May 31 2008)

Where I live I get to do something special: ride my trusty treadly around the most beautiful lake in the world.  All those different landscapes.  The native parklands with their old-man eucalypts.  The oak groves, which for a few days in autumn light up as if on fire.  There’s even a secret cork plantation.  And the water: it can be mirror-flat, it can be whipped into a frenzy, but always it’s deathly cold, so they say.  And the mountains, that hazy blue wall to the west.  Some days I simply have to be down there, at the lake, just man and bicycle, and silence.

But last weekend, I didn’t have silence.  Before I left I ripped an old CD, Reykjavik by British DJ Nick Warren. There was a period a while ago when I’d come home from a significantly extended Friday-night adventure and, with the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window, I’d peal out of my sweat-soaked party clothes, slide between the sheets, and fall asleep listening to this gorgeous electronica.

I have no idea why I wanted to hear this particular music again, because I can’t remember the last time I was in a nightclub – these days I get the wobbles if I’m out after 8pm.  But it seemed that I had to do it.  So, with my MP3 player loaded up and ready, I slipped into my very unsexy bike shorts and yellow safety jacket, pressed the headphones into my ears, donned my stack-hat, and off I went.

And off I went indeed.

The music.  It’s everything I remember it being: fake yet beautiful, soulful even.  As I reach the lake’s edge, a certain song comes on, the infamous fourth track.  The insistent drums.  The little keyboard notes floating slowly, like autumn leaves.  Then the impossibly maudlin, effects-laden guitars over the top.  And the whole lot of it builds and then builds some more.

My head starts nodding in time.  One hand comes off the handlebars – I’m punching a fist into the sky!  I look like an idiot but I don’t care.

I’m back there, on the dance floor, people pressed in tight, some of them are great dancers, they know the moves – all I’ve got is a bit of a left-foot, right-foot shuffle which makes me look like a robot trying to squash grapes.  But I’m loving it.  I don’t talk to anyone; I just want to get lost.  Once in a while someone nice (or not so nice, depending on your position) comes along and they drop something into my palm and off I go even further.  And I break into the wildest of grins.  And then I feel warm.  And then hot.

I close my eyes.  My other hand comes off the handlebars.  Now I’ve got two fists punching the sky.  My heart-beat’s rising fast, my treadly’s going on without me.  And I realise this: I’m happy.  Happy being middle-aged and on my bike and riding around the lake listening to music that’s past its use-by date, remembering a time that was dangerous (if not stupid), a time that won’t happen again, happy that some things are behind me, happy that some things are still to come.

Yes, some things are still to come.

As long as I don’t career headfirst into the lake.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, April 26 2008)

It’s not yet dawn and there’s screaming coming from my backyard, that’s right, actual proper screaming.  I should just close my eyes, I think, and do what I always do when I can’t sleep: recall the time when I was happiest, a boy on holidays in the mountains, only the smell of pine needles for company.  But the screaming – it doesn’t stop.

I must get out of bed, I must see what’s going on.

With this recent warm weather and all there’s been no need for bedclothes, so I grab a towel from the bathroom, wrap it around my waist, and then fumble my way down the hall.  I open the backdoor.  More screaming, though I now realise that it’s better described as screeching.

My eyes adjust.  The tin garden shed to the left.  The small patch of lawn.   Then I see it, at the base of the Hill’s Hoist.  It’s football-sized.  And brownish.  Off to the right is something else: Cat the Ripper.  He must have escaped from the house by using a series of ropes and pulleys to climb up and out of the chimney.  Perhaps.

But that shape.  Keeping a hand on the rim of my towel, I step over to it.  It’s a hawk.  Or an eagle.  It’s badly injured, of course.  When I get down on my haunches to have a closer look, I see that it’s not a hawk or an eagle – it’s a chook.  Fangs for Brains must have somehow broken into a neighbour’s run.  How Mission: Impossible of him.

My hands are too delicate to do what’s needed at a time like this, so I go into the shed and look around for something, anything.  I find a mattock.  Don’t ask.  I go back to the half-bung bird.  It screeches some more and tries to flap its wings.  I screech too, and flap my wings.  But I am a man, so I pick up the mattock and swing it high, look away, close my eyes, screech again, then bring it down hard.  Thud.

I take a peak.  A motionless chook.  Oh thank God.

But then the bloody thing shoots off across the lawn.  I run after it, screaming at the top of my lungs (could it have been this that I’d heard before, due to some kind of nocturnal time-warp caper?).  Over and over, I lunge the mattock at the flailing shape, the towel sliding to my feet and then leaving me completely.  The Ripper’s left me, too.

After a few circuits of the yard, the bird gives up the ghost.  But then the ghost comes back for Round Three.  Screeeeech.

Realising the mattock was always a bad idea, I return to the shed.  There’s a cardboard box.  And this is what I think: the bird won’t see me or the stars, it won’t see anything, just endless black, it will think it’s dead and it’ll die, if it’s covered – the things our brains come up with!  So.  Back outside, I carefully place the box over the bird.  Then, stark naked in a suburban backyard, I rest a foot up on the box like all great hunters do, and I look into the sky and listen to the night slowly but surely coming to an end.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, March 22 2008)

Recently, while reading a review of a famous ex-pat Australian novelist’s latest masterwork, I came across a reference to Henry James’ What Maisie Knew. Now, I haven’t read James’ novel, which may well be a crime, but it did get me thinking.  If there was a novel called What Nigel Knew, what exactly would be in it?  I considered the question, but after an hour of pacing up and down, all I had was a six-foot high pile of notes on things that I might know but couldn’t be absolutely sure.  So I set myself a challenge: by the end of the day I was to identify just three pieces of knowledge in which I have complete and utter confidence.

Thankfully, I came up with the goods.

1. When feeling blue, plant something.  If you find yourself in a bit of a funk, go outside, get a pot, terracotta’s the best, get some soil, put the soil in the pot, get a plant, put the plant in the pot, pat the soil down, then give the plant some water.  When all is done I guarantee you’ll feel better, everything with the world – and I do mean everything – will be alright.  And just so you know that I walk the talk, I did this last Tuesday, when I found myself concluding that I may never be as good a writer as, say, a certain famous ex-pat Australian novelist.

2. The first cold day of winter is always a treat.  This is true.  When you’ve woken to the great, still sky, when you’ve put on your ugg boots and gone to get the paper, your breath’s ghosting in front of you, and the paper is dusted with frost.  Then, back in the house, you switch on the heater and fill the loungeroom with the smell of burning dust.  Despite the heater staying on for hours, you still have to get out your grandmother’s mohair throw so you can do your usual weekend thing of spending hours on the couch, beside you a plunger of coffee and a packet of Caramel Crèmes, and you get lost in, well, a famous ex-pat Australian novelist’s latest master work.  It’s just bliss.  (Special Note: should they occur on the same day, Knowledge Item No. 2 is outweighed by Knowledge Item No. 3, which is below.)

3. Sunday afternoons are melancholic.  This is an irrefutable fact.  As soon as 3pm Sunday hits, the glums start rolling in.  Now, for me, I’m happy to report that the Late Sabbath Day Sadness hasn’t anything to do with the proximity to five consecutive days of work – I get to spend my days in the arts and you won’t find me complaining about that.  It’s just that this time of the week makes me feel as if I’m the lovechild of Winston Churchill and Leo Tolstoy, which isn’t a good thing.  No amount of dog walking, lap swimming and/or Tai chi yogalates will get rid of the feeling.  Tomorrow I’ll just have to remember Knowledge Item No. 1, and put it into practice.  Again.

At the ripe old age of thirty-nine and a half, this is what Nigel knows.  It’s not much, certainly not enough to fill a novel.

In fact, it’s barely enough for a column in a newspaper.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, February 16 2008)

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