Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back to where Raquel came from...

What this show demonstrated more than anything else is what most refugee advocates have long believed: the hard line reflects a failure to empathise that reflects a failure to imagine.

Raquel copped it, but right from the start others riled me more. Surely those dishing out the vitriol in her direction could see at least some of the causes- a lousy education and modest circumstances (to put it mildly). Her racism was honest and refreshing in one sense; it is plainly not an uncommon view of the 'other' in this country but it is one furiously and aggressively denied. She said it, and said it simply and without malice. And as the show developed she made the most remarkable progress.

A couple of the others made far less sense in my view, having the benefit of more time in and understanding of the world. The homicidal hatred expressed by the ex-disability advocate was astounding.

But all of them improved markedly during the show. All showed capacity to reflect and learn. Which just sadly emphasises how far public opinion might shift if people were able to imagine their plight, and empathise. It casts light on the role of selective reporting as well. If each image of a boatload of Afghanis were accompanied by images of the Taliban hunting down schoolgirls it's not beyond hope to think that many people's reaction would be a little less hateful.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hard for a boy, it is

Mitts is struggling with life at 2. He has started being physically and verbally assertive (to put it mildly) and I am sure the collective weight of correction from both ourselves and others is getting him down. He can't get away with hitting or shoving. On the other hand with the bulk of his playmates being girls there is a tendency for him to be at the rougher end, noted as such by the parents of girls, without necessarily being the instigator. Part of learning is not to hit, part of learning is not to snatch or boss other kids about. And dare I say being hit by their friends when they try to wrestle a teddy away from them is one of the ways kids learn that they aren't an island. Which is to say that it ain't always his fault.

Still. He can't hit and we will keep making that clear. And there are a few ways he is testing ground, asserting himself, pushing boundaries, most of which need some curbing at the fringes. But perhaps we need to add some other carrot. I think a boy is sad and world-weary.

He held on today, as he now often does, at childcare. His chin slumped on my shoulder, yet his grip around me was firm. The new normal, before which he was better than fine and he'd adjusted well to childcare from the start. As with Bear who hurls herself in, loves her kinder teacher, and currently strikes a nice balance by waving to me from the window but then leaving to return to her friends before I have driven off.

Men have a lot of lessons to learn as they grow up. There are a lot of contradictions in those lessons. He will be baffled many times. My job may be to guide him through those lessons, teach him to be a decent man, but it is also to make sure the weight of contradictions and the size of the task of tackling life itself don't overwhelm him. At first, he needs love and reassurance. While keeping the rules firm, I need to find more ways to give him that love and reassurance.

And hang out throwing mud and stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On writing - starting midpoint of a listless journey?

From blogs, to where? How many of us want to write more, to connect with the enduring power of a novel, or even that rare poem or short story that hooks in?

For the 140,045th time in my life I am pondering the writing ideal. It could be worse, having whinged much about my jobs at least I sometimes get to hone the craft here, albeit through the distended language of policy or law. I write this in my belated lunch break. I can do that now I have belated lunch breaks.

How do you simply sit down and write something good? Ask a bunch of writers and you get the sprawl you deserve I guess, but reading this article, printed off and stapled, on the train, one of the scattering of suggestions was keeping a diary. I thought 'well I have a blog', then realised, perhaps embarrassed at the realisation that most of us out here probably want to write a wonderful novel (and more than one visitor to this site is a published, seasoned writer), that I have barely put words down on this quest.

At times I have written as I would always want to, but there are at least 3 voices I have been happy with. A brooding, emotional language where pain and happiness are drawn out with raw imagery (a little perhaps in the preceding post...). Funny - I love doing funny but it is so hard to hit the spot, it just seems to come out right from time to time. And dry, political analyst. I also do a pretty good academic essay but you don't really see that here.

As well as voice confusion, and genre/fiction v non-fiction/purpose confusion, there is also the simple reality that as often as not I don't hit the spot at all. I know it, readers show it. The blog is, at least, a great place to test this. With posts such as this- navel gazing, rambling, and self-serving! Still, a diary the writer said so here is the first jot on the epage. I will start by collecting a history in a dozen lines or so...

Writing great little horror stories at age 11, until told to desist or get expelled from thick-skulled catholic school. Hardly wrote again until adulthood.

Random efforts in poetry and short stories from the end of school into university, a play somewhere that I submitted for drama but have since lost.

The real trigger was a series of long emails I wrote to friends from the end of Uni, some of which were quite experimental as a way of breaking the 'travel email' tedium, on topics from Andalucia to skiing to the emotional experience of winning a welfare appeal. Then I started to get a few responses suggesting more than polite flattery, a friend or two really did seem to think this was something I should explore. No doubt at this point I am not alone among the triptillion would-be writers out there.

Under the blanket of rain in London I started a novel. Got about 3 pages in. Read Stephen King On Writing and -inspired- ditched the excess description, looked around, saw a beggar with a dog and started again. Attempting to meld something close to horror or the magical with rambling, observant depression. A bit over 8000 words later I had lost momentum, mostly because the colourful detail drawn from expatriate life in London was threatened by my move to Melbourne. Also, the underlying theme of loss of sanity from the circular relentlessness of single life was polaxed at first base by the arrival of Beloved.

King says don't plan, just write, but this did make it hard when the inspirations became distant. Where exactly was this going? I have no idea, it still sits in a draw somewhere. Subsequent attempts involve a lawyer going crazy (always plenty of personal inspiration for that one and I do like the idea of subverting the lawyer genre, given it captures none of the darkness and frustration involved with real lawyering) among others, none of which got far. I dabbled in non-fiction and had articles published. I came close to switching into journalism. I wrote essays for a Masters, and while they often queried my poor referencing, argumentative structure or general gist, they normally liked (sometimes loved) the writing.

I bunged out a couple more poems and songs along the way. Oh, and some blogs. Dry and political, then ponderous and emotional, then something crazy about a cat (still my most loved effort I think), then drabs of each continued to appear on this, the resulting, long-lasting diary of several years of random thoughts.

Which I love on many levels. I also know that if 1/4 of the energy put into this went into other types of writing, I would probably have a novel, or a few published articles, or something... when it comes to the creative and unpaid, time is precious and game theory applies. One replaces another, unless you want to be up at 3am.

So on I go. If you got this far and have your own tips or links, posts on your own journey, please leave them below the dotted line...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

With a sick boy at midnight

Not that bad the Doctor said, but by 5pm sheer tiredness overwhelmed him and he slept. Until 11pm.

A succession of thumps announced his awakening. He stood in the dining room squinting, thrown by the lack of routine and order. Saw us approaching and smiled.

Beloved was wrecked and left me to put him to bed. He was awake and needed to adjust before sleep might come again. Clutched a bottle of water and asked to sit with me. I hugged him close, flicked over the channels but realised nothing was suitable, least of all the biker violence I had drifted into. This late I wanted a compromise, no Fireman Sam or In the Night Garden DVDs with my remaining Shiraz. We settled on A River Somewhere and sank deep into the couch.

"Car", "House", "Moo Daddy Moo" were pointed out to me. He leaned his head back on my shoulder and I told him I'd missed him that day. As Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner waded up the Howqua River, water spraying off their airborne fly lines, he asked: "Daddy and Mitts did it?"

Perhaps one day little man- if you aren't a vegetarian. But it still made a small warm place in me. After the episode he asked for "read it?" and we snuggled through a couple of short kids' books. It was midnight. He wanted more. We stood together, he wrapped his arms around the back of my shoulder, and I went into the bay behind the curtains. Outside it was dark, cold and still, the world on pause.

"Sleep time". He still wanted another book but the protests were weaker. I tucked him in and kissed his forehead. Bear snored peacefully beside us. He smiled and blew kisses with an audible smack as I walked out of the room.