November 3rd, 2003


A Fresh Monday

I'm going to Australia at the end of December. It's not a country I've ever felt at all excited about. Maybe that will change when I get there, I don't know. My reason for going is that I have some particularly close friends out there, that they live in Australia is almost incidental to my purpose. Pat got in contact, his wedding is in January. Gid'n'Cath are trying for a child, so a last chance for child-free rabble rousing for old times' sake. Since I made the decision, I'm certainly excited by the prospect of seeing them again, but Australia...

My mother's going to be there at the same time and we've arranged to meet up in Alice Springs, slap bang in the middle of the outback. I'm sure that when I'm there, I'll be bowled over by various thoughts about the wonders of creation. But, sitting here, I keep on hoping that it will feel like Texas.

I'm not sure quite where this antipathy to Australia stems from. Despite (or perhaps because of) its relation to the UK, America is a place that interest me a whole lot more. I can think of a thousand things there, and in Australia... mmm... I suppose I have to try and remain open-minded about it. Here's a list of five things that I like about Australia:

1. Jenny Agutter in Walkabout. This was one of the few films show on TV in the 70's that promised any degree of nudity (Well, aside from Women in Love or Don't Look Now (which is also by Nic Roeg). Searching for a link reveals that the search terms 'Jenny Agutter Walkabout' generally bring up perv clips over critical examination of the film. A young girl's burgeoning sexuality awakens in the Outback. You could make this kind of stuff back in the 70's. It's still a good film in some ways, but men's memories of it are generally centred around Jenny Agutter.
2. Picnic at Hanging Rock. This was one of these films that was purportedly an enigmatic mystery about the disappearance of some young women on their way to a picnic. I'm not sure how well this one has stood the test of time as I haven't seen it in years. It's certainly a landmark in Australian cinema, but it's curiously reminiscent of the sort of soft-focus paedo-or-is-it smut that David Hamilton was churning out at the same time (The fact that Hamilton's site demands payment to look at Bilitis says it all really). It's alright dear, it's an art book, I'm just off to the potting shed, I shan't be needing tea. Something to do with presenting very stereotypical male versions of feminine (and childlike) sexuality.
3. I could go on about films I've watched over the years, but I've a special fondness for The Sullivans. This WWII soap was always shown at 12.30 and coincided with lunchtime during school holidays. So the association of toasted cheese makes it a particularly pleasurable memory. I'm sure it's portrayal of the Pacific War was very questionable, but I didn't give a monkeys about that when young.
4. Is that it? Come on, try harder! No, I really have to abandon the list here. Apologies to Australia, I'm willing to be won over.

A poster for Singapore Airlines I saw yesterday promised me 2,000 forms of entertainment in my seat on the way. I suppose trying to list them all might help me get some sleep. 'Singapore Girl, you're a great way to fly' is also very reminiscent of this same 70's period. 'Serial groping' is apparently an anagram of that phrase. To be honest, the less contact I have with airline stewards the better. I don't get the whole hostess thing and would happily settle for gritty Aeroflot style service at any opportunity. "Your pilot today will be Captain Mayakovsky", well, me and one other woman burst out laughing when we heard that. The idea of a suicidal constructivist poet at the controls held a sort of death wish appeal.

A weekend at home, we buried my father's ashes in the orchard and planted a Japanese maple. It wasn't particularly difficult. He so clearly wasn't in this surprisingly heavy box. We're still going through many of his belongings. I had to go through all the old computer paraphernalia. He was never a fan of the GUI approach and resolutely stuck to doing all his work in the DOS version of Word Perfect. It was a bit sad to see all the rubbish software he'd been sold over the years. It was mostly battle simulations of the Napoleonic and American Civil wars. A few oddities like horse breeding, sailing. These were all ordered from catalogues at full price, when a visit to most stores would have shown you could actually get them for £1.99 or something. I was telling someone recently about a version of Scrabble he'd bought. I played this just after he died and wrote an irate (and unreplied) email to the company that one of his last actions had been to buy this travesty of programming. It would play words like 'Ironier', which you couldn't challenge it on. You can't just turn nouns into comparatives like that, you piece of ... Then it made it a plural.

Train journey back to London. For the first time in years, the cloud formation looked like something. Admittedly it was Picasso. When you're young, clouds seem to become their other with no effort. They don't look like something else, they just are. No conscious comparison involved. But, in time, this goes. It takes work. It wasn't the clouds as such, but the sun shining through them, so it burned this Picasso image onto your retina. My, it's early still. Let's get to work.
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