from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Breakfast with Papers …

March 1, 2021.

Looking across the River Torrens north to the Adelaide Oval

Today, I attended ‘Breakfast with Papers’, a program of free hour-long live interviews that continues for two weeks during the Adelaide Festival. Mostly socially distanced.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/events/breakfast-with-papers/

The only problem, is that it begins at 8 am and at the moment dawn is 7am. It’s a tall order for a retired person to get into town by 8 am – and in a reasonable state. I managed that this morning and was richly rewarded with a very interesting discussion between three authors and journalist. The discussion centred around the issue of aged care in Australia and the Royal Commission that has tendered its final report to the government.

https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/

Australia has an ageing population and, without counting immigration, has a declining population. The government must now consider taking on board the 148 wider-ranging recommendations that are contained in this commission, and this is while the level of public funds being thrown at the age care sector is considerable. (2017–18, the Australian Government spent over $18 billion on aged care). This afternoon, our government announced that another 452 million aud will be spent in this sector. They are printing lots of money.

In two years of hearings, the Commission was presented with countless confronting cases of abuse and neglect in aged care facilities. Something radical had to be done to improve the services provided.

On top of this, there are a hundred thousand people on the waiting list for a package for their age care needs. The top package is valued at 52,000 aud.

I then went to the first session of the day of our Adelaide Writers’ Festival.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/writers-week/writers-week-schedule/

We finished the 2020 Festival just before the first lockdown of last year. So, we are delighted that the 2021 Festival is open.

There are two sessions, running concurrently, from 9.30 till 6.15pm, every hour and a quarter. They take place under East and West ‘tents’ – really shades slung under the many trees of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

https://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/94

The first session was an interview with Louise Milligan, an investigative reporter for the ABC TV program Four Corners, on the subject of her book, ‘Witness’, an investigation into the brutal cost of seeking justice for victims – mainly of sexual abuse. There is a problem with our system for complainants of sexual crimes. Louise explained how harrowing it is for victims to ask for justice from our system, how the victims are belittled and suffer long term damage psychologically from the process. Many victims suicide. There are lifelong consequences of these crimes.

https://theconversation.com/review-louise-milligans-witness-is-a-devastating-critique-of-the-criminal-trial-process-148334

This is all very pertinent, as the issue of reporting and dealing with alleged sexual crimes by members of our government and their employees is in the news.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-26/pm-senators-afp-told-historical-rape-allegation-cabinet-minister/13197248

I will write something about the next interview in another post.

I had a wonderful day, and when I return from 5 days down the Yorke Peninsula, I shall drag myself up early, into town, for more ‘Breakfast with Papers’ before our Festival ends.

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Lonesome George and the Cowboy

Lonesome George

June 29 I enjoyed Nike in Katerini’s account of sleeping with an owl and a snake by her bed.  In her culture, these are choices full of classical meaning.  In my own more prosaic world, I do not instinctively turn to such mythical objects when in need of guidance or security.

I was raised in a Protestant denomination.  Methodists focus on words, whether spoken, read, preached or sung.  They do not employ three-dimensional symbols to embody spiritual verities or to keep us safe from Bunyan’s lions, dragons and darkness.   I do, nonetheless, keep two objects on my desk to guard my endeavours, albeit of an altogether more humdrum nature.  

The first of these is a small, carved, wooden tortoise whose provenance I have long forgotten.  I explained the connection between this animal and the lot of the long-distance writer in the entry for April 29.  I have an engagement with tortoises beyond the ownership of my pet Herodotus (Nike may note that I was stretching for a classical association).  Ten years ago, whilst still a university manager, I was sent to give a keynote speech at the remarkable Loja University in central Ecuador.  The organisers arranged for the speakers to visit the Galapagos Islands before the conference started.  There I met Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island giant tortoise, just two years before his untimely death at the age of 102.*  It is one thing encountering a tree that has survived over centuries, it is quite another gazing eye to eye with a creature that has moved so little and seen so much over so many years.

My second penates is quite different and much slighter.  It is a mass-produced, 6.5cm high plastic model of a cowboy, six shooter in each hand.  I don’t know where I found it, but it speaks to me at some unconscious level.  I must have owned such a toy as a small child.  Now it stands at the opposite pole to my other desk guardian.  The tortoise represents the slow daily slog that all scholarly writing requires.  But I have read book after article after manuscript where the routine has overwhelmed the inspiration.  Each page represents a dutiful journey between evidence and interpretation, all true, all hard won, but lacking any spark in either the prose or the argument.   It is far from easy to sit down day after day and attack the project, putting to flight mediocrity of thought or writing.  My cowboy with his guns reminds me of that requirement.

So it has been during the pandemic.  The tortoise element has not been so difficult.  For those already living in semi-lockdown, surrounded by sufficient creature comforts, the prohibition on movement has not seemed a practical problem.  The real threat is avoiding the descent into the Slough of Despond which faced Bunyan’s Christian.  Deprived of the stimulus of events, travel and fresh company, it becomes a challenge to generate the spark of energy and creativity during a day that begins and ends in the same place as the one before. 

I have to find the six-shooter in me, up for whatever drama and danger I can manufacture.

*In February of this year, naturalists claimed that after all they had found thirty near relatives.  Too late for George.