February 20, 2021
Well, we have cancelled our trip to Victoria. We decided it was too risky with the threat of Premier Andrews suddenly slapping another sharp lockdown over the whole state. South Australia has not yet lifted the quarantine requirement for those returning from greater Melbourne. And – if we went – all venues still have strict rules of numbers and masks wearing. So instead, we will have a short local holiday on the Yorke Peninsula.
Yesterday I enjoyed a busy, interesting day. I woke up to watch the BBC’s live streaming the landing of the Mars Perseverance Rover. NASA talked about the ‘7 minutes of terror’ as they waited for the landing. The entry, descent and landing phase (EDL) was to take 7 minutes and much could go wrong. Nothing did, and the rocket powered sky crane landed the Rover in the chosen spot in the Jezero Crater. I saw the first images of the Mars terrain sent by the Rover. It looked like our desolate Australian Outback: a curving horizon, some nondescript rocks, pebbles and dust overlaid by the shadow-shape of Rover’s robotic arm. Surely, this was a pretty all-round bloody amazing effort! Not sure anyone would want to move to Mars though! I do wonder about the wisdom of the plan to bring back microbial fossilized rocks from the planet, even if that will only take place in a decade or so.
While the East coast of Australia is being pelted with rain, our three-day heat wave ended yesterday with the arrival of a relatively cool change. Last night was the opening of our Adelaide Fringe Festival (900 events at 392 venues). Our Fringe Festival, Main Adelaide Festival and Writers’ Week will go ahead in controlled circumstances over 3 weeks. There are fewer international artists, many shows are on for a single night and we have to wear masks for all inside shows. Many events have been moved outside.
We attended the preview of A German Life, a play by Christopher Hampton starring Robyn Nevin. The single actor show was first presented at The Bridge Theatre in London in April 2019. Robyn Nevin acts as Brunhilde Pomsel, (1911-2017) (yes, she lived to be 106). Brunhilde lived an extraordinary life and Robyn Nevin took 90 minutes to recount some of it. (Brunhilde was depicted at the end of her life, living in a nursing home.)
Brunhilde Pomsel is most famous for the interviews she gave telling of her years working in the office of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda, where, for example, she massaged down number of German dead and increased the numbers of German women raped by the Russian army. During the show, short video clips of various events in Germany were beamed onto the stage. (eg. Goebbels making his 1943 Sportpalast Speech, or Total War speech – which event Brunhilde attended.) To the end of her life, Brunhilde maintained that she was not guilty of complicity, that she did nothing wrong, that she did not know of the genocide of the Jews.
The director Neil Armfield developed the play during 2020. He spoke in the notes about how much he was aware during that year of the fragility of democracies …’more and more this play seems to be as much about our contemporary world as it is about Hitler’s Germany … in one of Brunhilde’s last interviews she said, “Hitler was elected democratically, and bit by bit he got his own way. Of course, that could always repeat itself with Trump, or Erdogan …”’
It was somewhat shattering to emerge from the confronting expose of Brunhilde’s life into Adelaide’s mild summer evening. My generation all have stories of the Second World War. My father was born in 1911, the same year as Brunhilde. We are the children of those that fought and or suffered in some way from that war. For us, in terms of war and national strife, life has been kind but when I watched on January 6 the madness of Trump’s enraged followers as they attacked the Capitol, I realised that the veneer in our democracies is indeed skin-deep.