For most of my life I have lived in large old country houses, where I collected and restored furniture and effects obtained at deceased-estate clearing sales. I have always liked order but am more flexible on filth. As a child, God stood over our Methodist household threatening violence to children who were careless or wasteful. Adults paid me to impose order on pantries, spare rooms and overflowing sheds because, à la Marie Kondo, it sparked joy in me, and it was useful. It rarely involved throwing things out. Over the last few decades, privileged, westerner consumers have changed their patterns […]
When you drive through the Tarkine wilderness, as my partner and I did this January, you encounter numerous highway signs noting that the Tasmanian devil remains endangered. What, precisely, the authorities intend you to do with this information never becomes clear. Slow down, perhaps? Certainly, we saw far more devils dead on the road than we ever glimpsed alive, which suggests that lower speeds might make some difference. Then again, the signs don’t mandate any particular limit, nor suggest anything else that individual motorists might do. In any case, they lose whatever moral force they might have possessed as soon […]
Of all the moonlit, chocolate-dipped-strawberries, rose-petals-on-the-linen ways to observe Valentine’s Day, the celebration that most piques my interest are the happenings at the El Paso Zoo in Texas. In a seasonal marketing gimmick to outshine all others, the zoo is giving the cheated on, the abandoned, the bitter, twisted and vaguely vengeful among us the opportunity for a V-Day purge. If you message the zoo with the name of your ex, they’ll name a cockroach after the bastard and feed it to a meerkat. As the meerkat destroys the insect incarnation of your erstwhile lover, a kind of crunching catharsis […]
Deep Time Dreaming, Billy Griffiths Archaeologists work with toothbrushes and sieves. They sit on folding stools in the bottom of very neat holes they have dug, shoulders hunched and peering at a fragment of something or other between their fingertips. They wear khaki and no-one cares what they think. Ancient Australia has no material record—and therefore no archaeology—because Aboriginal people moved lightweight over the land and didn’t build anything. And even if they did leave traces, and they were found, the material would be of no more than academic interest to a handful of obsessives. There. Have I covered the canards? […]
Of the few Indigenous Australian languages still spoken as a first language, Warlpiri is one of the most alive. My people have an earthy, often self-deprecating sense of humour. Their profound linguistic awareness leads them to invent hilarious jokes about their constant mispronunciation of English, and other Aboriginal languages, as well as the mispronunciation of Warlpiri by tin-eared English-speakers.
I promised my wife that she could throw the first stone. There’s a story called ‘The Lottery’. You might have read it. Carnage, very literary, hell of a twist, which is nothing really, not once you’ve come home late and your wife’s in bed, tears streaming down her face, and she can’t get out, not now, and you think, I know what I need to do.
The image of Australia is of a man in an open-necked shirt solemnly enjoying an ice cream. His kiddy is beside him. —Donald Horne. Have we done with the man in the open-necked shirt solemnly enjoying his ice cream? It would appear not. For a long time he was there in the flesh, as real as you or me.
Slippery vinyl, cold glass,
the old smoke of your uncle’s embrace,
pulse flamenco dancing,
as streetlights smudge to neon
in the click and hiss of an aluminium can.