Day on the Green: Florence and the Machine

Dusk’s multicoloured cloak enrobes the hills outside Geelong, softening the dry brown grass hills into something beautiful, a burgeoning moon rising of over the hill. This is when Florence and the Machine take the stage.

A wild will-o-the wisp trips across the stage, a heart and head of burning, fierce joy. Her gossamer wings and tail spinning and swirling across the stage in frenetic exultation.

She entreats us to dance and to love one another in the practiced cadence of a spoken word poet, something childlike in her voice. Ensnaring us in gothic magic, the age-old trappings of song.

The supplicant crowd moves, undulating, swaying, hands clasped and smiling, unrestrained in formless dance. A girl draped over her mother’s hip, bedecked in a flower crown, smiles beatifically at the crowd. Another rides high on her father’s shoulders, silhouetted against the bright stage lights. Babies tucked beneath arms, wrapped in blankets in their carriers, their mothers swaying as the babes slumber on.

As the last notes fade, last sunlight sunk beneath the weight of evening sky, we the crowd file out under soft fairy lights and the stars, carrying away picnic rugs and baskets, throats husky and hearts buoyant from those free moments in the half-dark where we could just embrace the unrestrained joy of being.


The last comedy of Hannah Gadsby

Hannah Gadsby, Nanette: an experience and a lesson

Hamer Hall

Tonight was the last show of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette in Melbourne, a show that has toured the world and international acclaim. I went expecting some incisive comedy and some laughs.

And that’s how the evening began. Jibes at the insensibility of homophobia and the rhetoric, particularly in Australia—Hannah is an excellent mimic of the troglodyte slurs.

Hannah lead us through her life, through the pressure of representing a community, to the skills learnt. That comedy is about building tension, and then breaking it.

What it meant for her life, her sexuality, her experiences and internalised homophobia to be the punchline of the joke. How it drowns out the rest of the story: her mother’s evolution from Hannah’s coming out to the recognition and regrets of failures in her parenting; to the end of the encounter with a man who misgendered her, and then beat her.

How she was broken by her community’s debate of her humanity, her right to exist, both in Tasmania in the 1990s prior to homosexuality being decriminalised in the state and in Australia’s shameful opinion poll on allowing LGBTQI Australians to be treated as second-class citizens. Talking about how she internalised that people she loved thinking she was a pedophile and also the rhetoric from the mainland damning those same people she loved as less than.

When people were implored to think of the children, Hannah points out that most of our lives, we spend thinking of the children, our future, regardless of whether we spawned them. It’s too late for her, she says, but other children like her can be saved.

Hannah is anger and fire as she tells straight white men to pull their socks up, implores us all to be better, in public debate, to each other; to re-embrace our humanity. That she’s leaving comedy because it doesn’t allow her to tell her story and requires her to mine her own trauma for laughs. That she’s leaving us with this tension that has never left her body.

As the lights come up on Hamer Hall, there are sombre faces. I wish everyone in this country was there to see all the red eyes, tears from people (mostly women) being comforted. How pervasive this trauma of othering is, whether because you’re a woman or gay or don’t conform to what some Australians think others should be.

Hannah leaves the audience with carefully curated words from John Farnham purposely to leave us thinking as we file out like sheep.

We’re all someone’s daughter

We’re all someone’s son

How long can we look at each other

Down the barrel of a gun?

Post-book depression

Frequently, when I finish a book I enjoyed, or a series of them, I suffer what feels to me like a depressive state. Dragged from that world, populated by characters I could rely on and places vividly expressed in my head, adjusting to the often mundane, gritty and imperfect world is a challenge.

It seems that it depends on how you view books. Are they a gateway to knowledge? Escapism? Easy entertainment? If I answer it for myself, it was immersion. Being somewhere else, someone else.

I was a kid always with my head in a book. My home was always safe, I was always loved and cared for. There were bullies, times of maladjustment and loneliness too, but not on-going ostracism to build this need for a book into something innate. This melancholia, present before I could even spell the word or describe it.

There’s two reasons I can see for it in my case. A book will never reject you. It can disappoint you, be unsatisfying but never specifically make you feel insufficient. Having read it can connect you to others, though I can probably count on one hand the close friends I remember discussing books, particularly formative books with.

The second is you can be the best version on yourself. You inhabit someone’s psyche, a moment in time. You can stand up to injustice, dare to take on the evil, hold someone who you feel deeply for when they cry, and yes, love a little. A great author can make you feel everything.

Their words can take you to places you want to go to but have never been without that cultural disconnect, the jet lag, the biting insects, or soggy socks and bone deep fatigue. There’s no work or cleaning or ablutions. No one needing anything from you.

Regardless of what drives you to disappear into a narrative world, the broken, flawed but very real life seems a disappointment. And the next book is unappealing for a time: it’s not the right world. You can’t know what is between those covers.

Short of waiting, and wallowing, the only answer I’ve found is time, letting the echoes of that previous novel fade before you can begin that new journey.

Until then, I’ll wait over here with my disappointment and personal grey cloud. Just until I am ready to start, all over again.

Waking dreaming

Grief is an uncaring emotion. When you think you’re past it, it sneaks up on you years later and hits you straight in the solar plexus, leaving you emotionally bruised and struggling. It can be even worse when it hits you when you’re unguarded; when you’re low or lonely, when you have none of your regular conscious defenses.

In my case a simple conversation about beloved dogs (I believe) triggered mine; the boss and I were talking about how dogs have individual characters. Going to sleep, I wasn’t even thinking of that conversation, and besides, I like to remember Tam, my family’s first dog.

We lost Tam, our very own red dog, over 6 years ago. She lived to a ripe old age for a mid-sized dog, and she went without trauma or suffering.

Our beautiful old girl

She has been a frequent character in my dreams since we lost her. There was one time she had a very Death Becomes Her cameo, complete with cartoon-ish hole in the middle (she was happily trotting around, unawares, so it wasn’t all terrible). I often remember these dreams, so in a way it’s good to have a memory of her there.

The grief that has hit me was only a little bit about missing my first dog. It was what I said to her in the dream.

“Haven’t seen you in a while.”

And it’s true. She hasn’t been a part quite of my dreams for a good while.

It’s reality; life stretches on and you have other experiences. You won’t remember one person, entity, memory quite as frequently. And so it goes.

And that is what is driving my waking grief today.

My writer brain is trying to step outside, to think about how this applies to stories I might write. The compulsion to write is there, hence this blog post.

Grief is also tricky to capture. It’s a diverse experience, that has no time limit, few hallmarks of returning to life. It can be crushing, melancholic, hovering.

I’m feeling, wanting to talk about my grieving today. We are often encouraged to go on, ignoring that loss doesn’t follow the same course for everyone. If you do want to talk about yours here, feel free to drop me a comment. Or if you’re feeling sad but want to chat, drop me a line any way you know how.