Monday, November 26, 2007


We have a new government. I use the term "new" advisedly. I hope it will be filled with zeal and ready to kick the place back into shape.
I should be relieved but I am strangely furious.
John Howard was shown the door by the electorate in no uncertain fashion, and I spent some hours on election night hanging out waiting to see him concede defeat on the TV.
But I'm not entirely sure that he did.
He agreed that the election had been won by the Opposition, but he didn't concede anything much.
And I woke up the next morning in a fury, because one of his major claims in the concession speech was that his legacy was an Australia that is "prouder".
I have rarely been ashamed of my country until the last few years, and I know many others who feel the same. I've been living overseas and been called to account many times for "my" country's attitude to refugees, its own indigenous peoples, Kyoto, and the war in Iraq. (And the rugby scores, but that's another matter.)
I know exactly what Howard means because his version of national pride is completely transparent and God knows we've been beaten around the collective head with it often enough. Howard's pride has to do with installing flagpoles in every school and keeping out anyone different and narrowing the study of history so that it only tells the "good bits".
But pride is not about flagpoles or packaging history.
Nor is history about pride - it's much more interesting than that, and much more important. History has light and shade, shame, regret, humour, anger and innovation.
Only a simplistic nationalist pride is less complicated than history - and that, as we know, can have disastrous consequences.
Howard makes much of Anzac Day and the Gallipoli spirit - that's a central motif in his version of pride.
Well, I've stood on the beach at Gallipoli, and pride had nothing to do with it. What I felt was horror, humility, sorrow, awe and anger. I felt loss. I felt the savage edge of hypocrisy and stupidity, and I felt that nationalism had an awful lot to answer for.
Australia after eleven years of Howard's "history" is not prouder: it's going to take an awful lot to overcome the shame, and the scorn of much of the rest of the world, and to return to the country a decent ethical framework, a deep sense of justice and, above all, vision.
I hope the new government is up to it.
Good luck.

Tom Kitten

We have a new member of the household.
He's not very big.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I fenced when I was young. A great deal. Every day at school, and training in the evenings and competitions on weekends.
I ended up with an enduring obsession with swords, a few medals, and quadriceps the size of Uluru. I even have a sword tattoo.
So it’s not surprising that my first books were about pirates, and I’m working on another now about a duelist – a real-life female D’Artagnan. I sit on the train, researching for the new novel, re-reading some of my histories of sword-life, and imagining the moves and plays in each duel as I read.
The other day I noticed my sword hand subtly moving into quarte – a parry – and get ready to riposte, as I read.

So that’s it.
I have to start fencing again.
My quadriceps are aching just at the thought of it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I don't get to sit at this desk much lately.
In fact, since I moved into this house - the dream house - and started working full-time again, I haven't sat still anywhere at all, except for an awful lot of collapsing exhausted in an armchair in the evenings, something that has resulted in strange new behaviours such as a fixation with So You Think You Can Dance and anything else that might flutter past my eyes.
There's just so much to do. And no clear headspace.
This morning I woke up at five, lay still and good and quiet for an hour, crept out for a cup of tea at six and by seven, when I was impatient to start planting and banging around, it started pouring rain.
So here I am. At the desk.
From here I can see frothy white sea of ti-tree flowers, and misty rain across the river, and the stick that was a rose bush last week until it became collateral damage in the ongoing rabbit insurgency.
I don't think I've actually sat here to write anything creative at all. Ever.
I have, however, started madly scribbling on the train in the mornings, the long-awaited (by me, anyway) novel about La Maupin: an 18th century swordswoman, opera singer and outrageous flirt. A story so ridiculous that it couldn't possibly be true - and yet it is. I started researching her about four years ago, but didn't have her voice in my head to start writing until a couple of weeks ago. Now I can't stop; or, at least, when I allow the time, I can't stop. I sit on the train every morning, with Pergolesi's Stabat Mater in my MP3 (for some reason, if I listen to anything else I stop writing) and scribble.
It's something. It's fun. It might even be readable. One day.