I rubbed my thumb over the smooth surface of the silver-keychain-compass and thought back to the night she gave it to me – my last night in Australia.
She’d kissed me and cried as she said: “so you will always find your way back home”.
I had a stupid habit of pulling it out every now and then and looking South East — the way “home”.
Lost in thought, my mind would wander out across the Thames — past Tower Bridge and around the nook of the river to the Isle of Dogs, where investment bankers and traders at Canary Wharf worked late trying to flog money out of a struggling economy.
Further my thoughts would travel, out of the city limits to where the river meets the North Sea. There was an LNG tanker there, from the Middle East, berthing at the Isle of Grain and carrying liquefied gas pumped out of deposits 3,000 metres below the seabed of the Persian Gulf. Soon that gas would find its way into the national grid and eventually burn to provide heat through the boiler in my bedroom in South London.
Out into the English Channel my mind wandered still. There were a couple of Australian tourists leaning out over a barge’s railing, throwing up stomach acid, alcohol and mushrooms, nauseous from the sea, alcohol, hallucinogens, empty bank accounts and depleted serotonin from the previous night in Amsterdam and the bus journey through Belgium they’d be be surprised to hear they were on.
Down the French coast it traveled, past where my Grandfather piloted a shrapnel-shredded World War II bomber towards the white cliffs of Dover as the heart of his gunner drummed its final beats.
Straight South to the democratic national state of Spain, where administrators in police departments calculate damages in rooms next to nervous cops, while anarchists sit on mattresses on floors in slums thumbing through pages of Emma Goldman essays looking for guidance.
Taking a sharp left, my mind sweept across the Mediterranean Sea. Squeezing through the Suez Canal, I couldn’t help but feel the surge of power from young men without power (in the electrical sense) in Egypt still reeling in disbelief over the role they played in igniting a spark dubbed “the Arab Spring” which started a fire they had hoped would burn and provide warmth the world over. It wasn’t to be.
Out past Somalia my conscious drifted further, to where there is ‘food’ for thought as millions lay starving while out past the Horn of Africa, well-armed Somali pirates stalk a cargo ship which left the former Apartheid nation of South Africa, drawn in by the relentless hunger of the Indian economy — a country which knows the hunger of Somalia, the racial discrimination of South Arica, and more wealth than those London bankers will ever know.
But still my mind persisted, out across the Indian Ocean… Australia-bound.
The beaches in Western Australia looked nice, but there wasn’t much happening in Perth so I continued east across the Nullarbor Plain where dialects are dying faster than anywhere else in the world — victim to the colonisation known as ‘Australia’.
Finally, after a journey across oceans, continents and hemispheres, during which time nothing had snagged my mind, not war, not pestilence, not beauty nor destruction, my mind is held at bay in Brisbane as every inch of my soul aches to know what she was doing now…
So, back on London Bridge I pull out my smartphone, click on the Facebook app, and check her status update.
It turns out she just checked into the GPO with “the girls” and there was a guy in the line who looked “just like the guy out of Get Him to the Greek… not Russell Brand the other one. The bouncer wouldn’t let him in but he was “so funny lol”. She’d attached a picture. He didn’t look like Jonah Hill. He was just a fat 19 year old with stubble who spent too much time on his hair and at the Kangaroo Point KFC and was undoubtedly traumatised as to why these girls were pointing, laughing and taking pictures of him and why he wasn’t allowed in to the club which he which he would soon realise to be just a cesspool of pretentious arseholes.
How the hell is my mind able to slip into the human trait of always viewing the past in a better light than it actually was when modern technology continues to force feed the past through my eyes and ears, scarring my frontal lobe at broadband speeds?
Missing things just isn’t what it used to be. Hell, I had visited the UK just a few years prior, when to organise a short, sketchy phone conversation with my mother, I had to put £23 in a phone box, dial 48 numbers and try ignore all the flyers of scantily clad women dying for me to call them for sex, and focus on the voice on the line only for it to drop out mid-way through, leaving me with a need to disinfect my hand and ear.
This time round, it was a whole different story. I’d just click “video call” on Skype from the comfort of my bed and watch my parents bicker about where they put the TV warranty for 15 minutes.
Technology has killed homesickness. I don’t miss the little things. The little things are still rammed down my throat and annoying the hell out of me. What I do miss, is missing things.
By Arti Behan]]>
Finding herself with an empty nest and no-one to share it with, she disappears into her books, fantasizing about all the great writers and what she’d like to do with them! One of her friends talks her into joining their book club, something she had tried to avoid for years. It proves to be the making of her in more ways than one. Not only does she meet a fabulous group of women from all different ethnic and social backgrounds, but she actually fulfills one of her fantasies…
Join the brilliant Amanda Muggleton (Prisoner: Cell Block H) for a night of pure entertainment!
‘The play and Amanda Muggleton are marvellous…..a tour de force’ – Sydney Morning Herald
‘Amanda Muggleton is uproariously funny, achingly honest and admirably brave’ – Theatre Now
‘Amanda Muggleton is simply brilliant. If you only see one play this year, make it THE BOOK CLUB’ – The West Australian
Venue: King’s Head Theatre
Dates: 11 October – 5 November
Director: Nadia Tass
Runtime: Approx. 90 mins
Cost: Tickets from £15]]>
Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the ammendment to the so-called ‘backpacker tax’ increase on Monday, following intense pressure from backbench colleagues and the agricultural industry who rely on working holiday makers to fulfil seasonal harvest jobs.
The proposed 32.5% tax would have been too much of a disincentive to those workers, making it even more difficult for farmers to adequately harvest their crops, many argued.
Instead, working holiday makers will now pay just 19% tax, from the very first dollar they earn. They will still not be able to to take advantage of the normal tax-free threshold like regular Australian workers.
The government will also take 95 cents from every dollar of superannuation earned by a foreign working holiday maker.
The eligable age for the Australian working holidaymaker visa will increase from 30 to 35 years old.
Victorian citrus grower and chairwoman of lobby group Voice of Horticulture, Tania Chapman, said she was pleased with the changes to age eligability but that uncertainty about the government’s position on backpacker tax and super had had a negative impact.
“We have got such bad publicity out there at the moment about this backpacker tax, a lesser rate would have maybe made it more attractive to people who have already booked their flights to New Zealand or to Canada,” she said, acccording to the ABC.
“That reputation, I really have no idea how long it’s going to take us to rebuild that, social media is going to play a huge part.”
“As one said, they were a pig in mud when it came to the changes that I’m about to announce now,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.]]>
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17-year-old Cooper Allen was recuperating in hospital after having been mauled by a shark while surfing on Monday morning.
Allen was treated at the scene for a lacerations to one of his upper-thighs before being taken to hospital in Lismore, according to Richmond Police Inspector Nicole Bruce.
According to the ABC, the victim’s father Ned Allen said the teenager was “all good” and would be fine.
A NSW SharkSmart crew chased a 3.5 meter great white away from the area on Monday.
3.5m White shark spotted at Lighthouse Beach by NSWDPI aerial team pushed out to sea after attack on male surfer pic.twitter.com/r1NNYIGwMN
— SharkSmart (@NSWSharkSmart) September 26, 2016
The attack occured while Allen was surfing at Lighthouse Beach. It is the fourth serious incident in the area involving a shark in two years.
A new so-called ‘shark eco-barrier’ trial at the beach, part of a $16 million government response to a spate of shark attacks along the NSW coast in recent years, was halted just last month due to ongoing problems in rough conditions.
A second eco-barrlier trial at Seven Mile Beach was also abandoned this month after it became apparent that the new design wouldn’t work when a section of net became detatched.
The latest victim, Cooper Allen, was a friend Tadashi Nakahara who was killed by a shark in 2015 while surfing in Ballina.
Following the fatal attack on Nakahara and the announcement of the eco-barrier trials, Cooper told News Corp earlier this year that surfers always risked being attacked by a shark and that in his opinion the barriers were a waste of money.
NSW Premier Mike Baird has insisted that the new shark net technology could still work though.
“We have committed on a range of strategies in relation to sharks,” he said following the failure of the trials.
“Obviously when you’re trialling new technology, there is a risk on all of it that some will be very successful and some won’t.”
TOP IMAGE: Cooper Allen, via Facebook
Premier Mike Baird visited the flood-struck town of Forbes in the state’s central west on Monday, praising the efforts of local State Emergency Service volunteers and giving hope to those whose lives have been affected that further help would be forthcoming.
“It is very likely to be declared a natural disaster which will mean further assistance will come,” Mr Baird told reporters while visiting the town.
The local river peaked at over 10 meters at about 9:30 on Sunday night. The SES advised people in low-lying areas to evacuate. The evacuation orders are still in effect.
The appears to be little respite on offer for those already suffering, though. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned of a new low weather system set to dump more heavy rain on Australia’s south east coast from Wednesday through to Friday.
SEVERE WEATHER UPDATE: Gale force winds & heavy rain affecting sthn Aus. Current at 2pm AEST 26/9. Info: https://t.co/cDInrl6h0Z #floods pic.twitter.com/E9RrMneFC5
— BOM Australia (@BOM_au) September 26, 2016
“It is clear there is more rain coming, that is obviously bad news,” Mr Baird said in Forbes.
NSW Farmers President Derek Schoen said that due to restricted road access as a result of the flooding, some dairy farmers have been forced to dump milk and that the full scale of damage wont be known until flood waters recede.
”The biggest loss for farmers in flood-affected parts of NSW will be crops, including wheat, chickpeas and canola but with several river systems across NSW likely to remain high for prolonged periods of time, the full extent of damage won’t be known for a number of weeks until water subsides,” Mr Schoen said, according to AAP.
The damage bill is already expected to run into the tens of millions of dollars.
My first impression of English cuisine and beverages was not good. I was surprised to discover that a ‘lemon lime and bitters’ was unheard of and was quite disappointed at how just bad a supermarket steak tasted. Bacon flooded a fry pan with water when cooked and was soggy, flavourless and unappetising.
All was not lost though. Happily, Waitrose stocked Bundaberg Lemon Lime and Bitters and I learned to look for ‘dry smoked’ bacon which behaved as expected in the frypan.
Travel is not about finding a match for all the foods you eat at home; it’s about trying the the local stuff.
My husband and I attended a few English barbeques, which as they are rarer than their Australian counterparts are all the more eagerly anticipated and cherished. While the meat (cooked over coals rather than on a gas grill or hot plate) tasted different, the drinking and socialising were the same and any barbeque invitations we received were swiftly accepted.
Sandwich chains like Pret a Manger and the sandwich aisle at Marks & Spencer and Waitrose made it cheap and easy to grab a fresh tasty sandwich for lunch on your way to work. Whilst at first it seemed odd to have a packet of crisps with a lunchtime sandwich, it was not long before a sandwich alone resulted in the vague feeling that something was missing.
Whilst some would consider the term “English cuisine” an oxymoron, I disagree. I think the British have mastered simple comfort food.
We feasted on fish and chips sprinkled with malted vinegar, and could be found most Sundays at a pub, digging into a roast and marvelling at the delicate crunchy Yorkshire puddings. A Cornish pasty made for a great meal on the go and simple pub meals of pie or bangers and mash really hit the spot.
After wolfing down toast and a coffee for breakfast all week, isn’t it wonderful to sit down on the weekend to a full English breakfast of tea, toast, marmalade, bacon, eggs, sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, tomato, hash browns and perhaps a little black pudding? If you are not that hungry, perhaps opt for a little bubble and squeak (shallow-fried leftover vegetables from a roast dinner) or a bacon sarnie.
And don’t forget the tasty pork pie option around Christmas-time.
Another element the English excel at is condiments. I tried but was not converted by a taste of salad cream but the simply named brown sauce with its mysterious touch of tamarind now accompanies my full English. An encounter with Branston Pickle on a cheese and pickle sandwich resulted in it becoming a regular on the grocery list. I became so enamoured with Fortnum and Mason Piccalilli (a bright yellow relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices) that any time I was in the area I’d pop in for another jar.
Fortnum and Mason and the nearby Ritz are just two of the many places in London where you can experience high tea/afternoon tea. Generally this consists of a selection of teas, tiny crust-free sandwiches with fillings like cucumber, watercress, ham and mustard, cheese and chutney or salmon and scones with clotted cream and jam. So very civilised and so very tasty and an ideal place to take a visiting Mum.
When a colleague requested builder’s tea I learnt that it was not a type of tea, but just strong, sweet, milky tea. Whilst ‘elderflower’ sounded like the drink of choice for lady pensioners, it only took one taste of light refreshing elderflower cordial, for me to become keen to try anything on the cocktail list that mentioned it.
It was in London that I first tried two of my now favourite drinks; Pimms and gin & tonic. Guinness became a winter favourite and many a happy hour was spent sampling the many ciders and beers available in British pubs.
Of course, in cosmopolitan London you are absolutely spoilt for choice and can easily find just about any cuisine, French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese — the list goes on. However in the English mid-Winter when it’s dark and cold and the rain is lashing at the windows, I can think of nothing better than sitting by the fire in an English pub, tucking into the Sunday roast dinner and a half pint of Guinness — cheers!]]>
Interested in the Barbarians’ relationship with South Africa? Read here.]]>
Sean answered a quick-fire Q&A for us about his latest book, the writing process and life as a happy househusband author.
Tell us in your own words about your book, Wood Green…
Wood Green concerns two writers – one young and aspiring, the other old and spent. They make a pact with one another, each believing they are getting what they want, and both eventually realising their ambitions will cost them something completely unexpected. It is set on the side of mountain in Tasmania, where a small community plays an important role in the writers’ lives. It is a love letter not only to Tasmania, but also literature and music.
What inspired you to write Wood Green?
I was thinking a lot about what means to be a writer. At the time I was 43 and had spent the past twenty years trying to become a published author. I had three manuscripts in the bottom drawer, and no prospects of ever seeing them in print, yet despite these failures I could not stop writing. It made me think about what it meant to be a real writer. Whether it was having a book published, or if it was about something else. Perhaps a commitment beyond all common sense. I also began to think about the industry that has emerged around writing – giving hope to would-be writers through degrees, workshops, mentorships and online courses. All for a price. And I wanted to discuss the idea of art maybe extracting a different price – one that had absolutely nothing to do with money.
Two of the main characters are writers, what was the process of writing about writing like?
I suppose it made me question what I truly believe about writing – what it should be and do, how it should sound, feel and look. For what purpose should a book be created, and what should be the cost of creating it? It is through writing that I understand the world; that I express myself most succinctly and feel I am functioning at my best. It is through writing that I learn about myself, and engage my brain in the most effective manner. So writing about writing was easy. I have thought about writing all my life.
Music plays an important role in the lives of the characters in Wood Green. What influence has music had on your work?
Being the youngest of four I missed out on music lessons, but listening to music has always been very important to me. Putting music on is the first thing I do in the morning, and turning it off is the last thing I do at night. I have written about music for twenty-five years, and I like the way this makes me listen more deeply, think about the ideas at work, and consider their context within the history of music. Music also helps to dream and think, which is very important to my creative process. I do not, however, listen to music as I write. I really cannot understand how writers do this. When I write I feel as if I am composing music. The sounds of words, the beat of sentences, and arrangement of paragraphs. So how could I do that while listening to someone else’s music? I need to write in silence to hear my work.
Do you have a particular process for writing?
I don’t use a computer to compose the first draft. I started writing long ago. Before the era of affordable PCs and the internet. So I tend to write either by hand or with a manual typewriter. I know some people might roll their eyes at this, but it’s just the way I have worked since the age of 15. I find handwriting allows for a closeness to the page that a computer doesn’t offer. A manual typewriter also allows me to bash away like a percussion instrument. One again, trying to find the rhythm of my sentences. Once the first draft is done I type it onto a computer, then print it off and work on paper. Always on paper.
When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?
Reading, reading, reading, listening to music, writing music journalism, working part time in a research library. Cooking for my family. Walking the dog. Housework. Not very rock ‘n’ roll, but routine is important if you want to get books written. I have no aspirations other than to write, help my wife achieve her ambitions, and to bring up my son as a decent human being.
Sean Rabin is currently in the UK for the launch of his debut novel ‘Wood Green’ at The Big Green Bookshop in (where else, but) Wood Green on 23 September, 7pm. Tickets are free and all are welcome. He will also be reading at an Evening of Independent Presses at Burley Fisher on 26 September and at In Yer Ear on 28 September.]]>
It occured to Matt Lawson, a photographer from Melbourne, that people who won free burgers, fries and drinks in the annual McDonald’s Monopoly promotion, currently running in Australia, could give their winning coupons to those less fortunate for a tasty Macca’s fillup.
“McDonald’s is currently running the monopoly game and I’ve got an idea,” Lawson posted on Facebook earlier this week.
“If you win free food by purchasing food you would of bought anyway, why not put your tokens in a jar and take them to an area where you know there are people less fortunate than yourself?”
“I did it today and if all of us do it together we can be part of a small change. FEEL FREE TO SHARE #bethechange #monopolisecharity.”
“I know it’s still consuming junk food, but (we) can teach our kids and ourselves a lesson in giving with no taking,” Lawson added.
Since announcing the simple idea, the Facebook post has recieved over 36,000 likes and shares and more than 1,300 comments.
There was reportedly initially some pushback against the idea from the great golden arches, based on a technicality that the tokens are non-transferrable and so could only be claimed on by the original purchaser.
However, as anyone who’s played McDonald’s Monopoly knows, they never ask you for a reciept. So they have now given their support to the campaign.
“We admire Matt’s efforts and it’s up to customers how they use their tickets,” the company said in a statemnet on Thursday in response to the growing support for the McCharitable idea.
“We’ll honour any ticket presented in restaurant.”