May 2008

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Biblical repercussions

And then She cometh home from the festival of scribbling and Lo but she was stricken.

 

Stricken with the throat of fire and the head of death. Yea but I have already been strucken, she retorts to the authorities, cans't thou not spare me a second affliction right when I was supposed to be getting on with things? Seriously, you should see my bank account.

 

The booming response cometh. "But Lo! What is this column on the left? It doth report plenty of enjoyment and not enough rest! THOU MUST REST ON THE SEVENTH DAY, AND IF THOU DOST REFUSE, THOU WILT BECOME STRICKEN WITH THE POX, OR SIMILAR."

 

But I'm not even religious, She complaineth.

 

Pox, retorteth the authorities. Throat of fire and head of death. Get thee to a bulk billery.

 

And so she donneth the tracksuit pants of hideom and she begat the hell out of here to someplace medical.

Sydney Versus Melbourne

Last year, I wrote about the rather baffling "Sydney versus Melbourne" phenomenon. I never believed in it. I thought the two cities both had their charms and that Sydney is gorgeous, fun, accessible for everyone and Melbourne is full of secret corners and fun bars and culture and sometimes, streams of people wearing the same scarf and walking in cold groups from a brightly lit oval to a warm pub, or waving their fists out the windows of passing cars.

But sometimes myths perpetuate themselves. Wearing our normal clothes, ie not a suit, Stew and I just tried to get a cup of coffee in Sydney. We were refused at Young Alfred by a waiter who apparently is the most important person in the world if anyone's been wondering where you mind find him. Apparently, at this cafe, you had to order food. If you had just had breakfast five minutes ago, that was tough luck. Please order a wafer with some goats cheese and a herb infused gonad covered in withered spinach.

THEN, we finally got into a place that wasn't Starbucks (I was actually tempted) and the guy said "Hm. Just wait there, we'll get you a table". He got us an unmade table which he plonked away from the other patrons, whose tables had tablecloths on them and who were looking at laptops. Now, I can look at laptops as well as the next person. And, if I wanted to, I could have a job that forced me into wearing a suit, daily. BUT I DON'T. And I shouldn't have to. And I like Melbourne. In Melbourne, I accidentally didn't have enough money once foa coffee (I had forgotten to check) and instead of taking me up on my offer to hold my credit card until I got back from the ATM, they said "Bring it in next time".

Dear Mr Waiter, you are an ambassador for your city and even if we stick to your bakrupt logic that you only serve rich people, I may be the richest woman in the world. I may not look it, but I have a billion dollars in my back pocket. I heart Melbourne.

Filling your head

During the comedy festival, my head empties itself of all useful information in order to make way for budget considerations, house sizes, other peoples' names, news on whose show is doing well, what's going on with the actors, what's going on with the reviews, how much sleep I can squeeze in between appointments, and whether or not I can stand to eat one more roast potato from the place on the corner.

 

That's why I love coming to Sydney for the writers' festival. My empty head has to expand (I'm like a lollypop at the moment). There are sessions about war, environment, history, memory, disease, humour, kids, adults, families, wars, fascism, politics, music, science, space and time.

 

We're about to go and check out the Press Photography exhibition, which is always very sobering. Not sure if the learnings will fit inside my skull, but I'm going to give it a go.

 

By the way, I'm on timed internets here, so please excuse the shambles.

Sydney Writers' Festival Lineup

Until this morning, I hadn't had a conversation with anyone whose name I knew for two whole days. I had no deadlines except session starting times. I had no obligations, no responsibilities, although could I please turn off any mobile phones or pagers and was I aware the writers would be signing their books after the sessions in the bookshop which is to our left.

 

I've seen hilarious sessions, inspiring sessions, one or two quite dull sessions, and a couple of truly excellent surprises. Today, for the excellent surprises:

Excellent Surprise #1

Last night, just because I liked the title of someone's book, I went to the book launch. When she read from her book, a memoir about her (Scottish) childhood entitled Poking Seaweed With A Stick and Running Away From The Smell, I laughed out loud in the middle of a room full of people who knew each other, and I didn't want the author, Alison Whitelock, to stop reading. Ever. I bought the book despite my limited budget and I read the first few chapters with relish. Not actual, fruit-based relish. The emotional kind.

Excellent Surprise #2

Jeanette Winterson, whose book Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is one of only a few books I have ever read... wait for it... twice... wait for it... out of choice... wait for it... AFTER HAVING STUDIED IT, is as quick-witted, hilarious, well-informed, thoughtful and spunky as I'd imagined. Possibly more so. She ran a session entitled Ask Jeanette Winterson Anything! (punctuation not mine). And people did. Someone proposed marriage, someone asked herto clarify something in her thesis, someone asked whether she'd tried to trace her biological mother (the answer to which was quite moving - Winterson has always believed that her adoptive mother knew her biological mother and could have come forward if she'd wanted to. Winterson now believes she has built herself a bit of a profile partly so her mother could find her if she wanted to and partly because, having no biological story, she had to write her own story. I couldn't be missing, she said. There are clues in several of her books which Winterson believes her mother would know if she read them.

Excellent Surprise #3

Book launches, which are at about the time when you're dying of hunger and wondering if you should just call it a day, serve free food and wine. I know. Seriously. Next I'll find out there's free internet in the cafe in which they don't mind if you don't buy their overpriced coffee. Oh, wait.

Huzzah! (Somebody bring me a hot flanelette and a plate of shucked oysters would you please? Winterson? You're not doing anything. There's a good lass).

OMOGOD

I JUST MET JEANETTE WINTERSON.

 

that is all.

Packing

I find it interesting that, in organising my trip to the Sydney Writers' Festival, I have checked in my bag before I have packed it, I have decided I've had a lovely time before I've arrived, and I plan to read the books by the authors I see discussing said books, after returning to Melbourne.

 

I would like to thank the world for accommodating my postmodern approach to the universe.

Passive/Aggressive

After the comedy festival, which was a month-long show and which tuckered me out more than I thought it would, I had a long list of things I wanted to do (some of which are listed below). Then, life happened. I got crook, I had a few major things happen  that were outside my apparently very limited field of control, and then, finally, this weekend, I returned home. I hoiked my suitcase upstairs, made myself a cup of tea, clambered into my PJs and said "I might lie down here for a bit".

 

That was on Thursday. It is now Monday and I have only just forced myself out of bed like one of those baby lambs, steaming and fresh from the womb, wonkily stumbling sideways into fence posts and attempting to shake off the cold. For those of you weren't in Melbourne this weekend, let me tell you what happened: it rained. It hasn't rained in Melbourne for an entire day like that since I can't remember when and this weeekend it absolutely throttled us.

 

Even if it hadn't, I still think I would have hybernated. The fact of the matter is, after a show like that, when everything has to be done instantly and all decisions need to be made, acted on, and followed through to their practical conclusion without any time for contemplation or analysis, I always end up hiding under a rock when it's done.

I realised the ther day what it is: I get passive. Having been active for so long, I now insist on hanging back. I read emails but I never reply. I scour the paper for information but don't really process it. I never make phone calls. I never make appointments. I read but don't write. I listen to music and watch TV (never films - going outside is an effort). I don't pay bills. I see friends only by accident and when I do I am weird and fuzzy and embarrassed and awkward. I hybernate, mentally and physically.

 

This is why the Sydney Writers' Festival is always such a godsend for me. It's always just after the comedy festival (with enough time in between for me to get a virus) and I have absolutely nothing to do there except for read, listen, watch, drink coffee while staring at the water and standing in a queue, and ask authors questions. If, in some hypothetical universe, I wrote a book and was invited to speak at the Sydney Writers' Festival, I might think twice about compromising the beautiful winter-sunned, expensive-coffeed, lonely but hopeful context-free zone that is the Sydney Writers' Festival experience for me.

I'm going on Thursday. When I return I promise to be a more active member of society, clad in daytime wear and doing adult things like paying bills, having conversations with actual people, and getting some work done. And I might even write something interesting in here, although that is by no means an iron-clad rock solid promise.

 

 

Comedy Festival Flu

So... the post comedy festival bug has hit those of us not sensible enough to take an immediate holiday.

I am currently imbibing chicken noodle soup and harry potter. Also, I dropped Tim Winton in the bath.

Any other major developments will be brought to you immediately, as I imagine you desire to know all this and more. The action simply never stops.