The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Joy Golliver
Dear Mr Rudd
Like most people in this country, and no doubt quite a few around the world, I watched with utter disbelief on Thursday afternoon. I held my breath when you fronted the media and said you would not take another run at the ALP leadership. At least I think that’s what you said, you really have quite the round-about-way of speaking. I felt sick to the stomach watching yet another leadership spill, but nothing will describe how I felt watching you back down. The Prime Minister had had a magnificent day in Parliament, had shown the country the calibre of leader she is, but it all fell away to nothing, and once again, you were at the centre of it.
I am a proud Left winger. I am a progressive, feminist, reformist small l liberal, who believes the ALP are the only party with any vision for this country as a whole (and not just big business). The night you were elected, I sat in a pub in country NSW, and bawled with joy and disbelief. I couldn’t believe Howard had gone. I wandered around in what felt like a leftie dream in the first year of your Prime Ministership; I honestly had to pinch myself because I felt like I was dreaming. My vote is the most important thing I have; women died for my right to vote, and it’s something I do not take, nor give, lightly. I voted for you, Mr Rudd, because I thought you were a decent man, who was connected to something bigger than himself, who would restore this country and fix the damage of the Howard years. I was wrong, Kevin, and I want my vote back.
I don’t know why your colleagues dumped you; I wasn’t there, so perhaps will never know the truth. It was a terrible thing, and I can’t imagine how it felt. But in the years since, any compassion I had for you, has vanished simply because of the way you have behaved since. I have had the incredible fortune to work with journalists, which means I’ve been privy to things the general public have not. Your inability to go gracefully and your blatant unwillingness to be a team player, has made me see you for who you are; a man not fit for office, and a man not fit to be part of the ALP. A man who does not have what it takes to lead.
This week Simon Crean did one of the most extraordinary things; he put his own personal feelings, desires and relationships aside, and acted for the good of the party. I’m sad to see a man punished for an honourable, courageous and commendable act. But it’s a leaf from a book I think you need to take. For the good of the party, and for the good of the country, please resign. You are not a team player, so step away from the team. You appear to be a man driven solely by self-interest, and you only need to look to the current ICAC investigation to see where that leads. For the good of the party Kevin, resign. For the good of the Country Kevin, resign. I beg you.
A summer spent with Tony Soprano and family left my mouth watering. Not because I have a hit list. Because when the mobsters weren’t whacking people, they were eating. David Chase’s mother issues aside, he clearly ate well as a kid, because the food is as central to the story as the other shenanigans. Holy Hell, the shenanigans. Tony Soprano didn’t need a therapist, he needed a whack to the side of the head with The Female Eunuch.
I’m certain I was Italian in a past life. Actually, a Jewish-Italian mix. Oi vey-o. Their language is the second sexiest in the world (Russian rocks), and the Italians design like no other nation. My hunch is that Italian food is the best in the world. It’s as easy as you need it to be, or as complicated as you have time for. And who isn’t comforted by a bowl of spag bol?
I’ve been waiting for the weather to cool, so I could make meatballs. I’ve never made them before, so I scoured my recipes and cookbooks, and decided to go with Andy Bunn’s recipe in his Seasonal Kitchen book. He serves the meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, with tagliatelli. I ended up eating them with and without the pasta; they are perfect either way.
Andy’s rich tomato sauce is appropriately named; with both tinned and fresh tomatoes and passata and very little else, it is heaven in a pan. Being a meatball novice, I was surprised to see cream and breadcrumbs in the meatball mix. My first batch I used a bagel – cos that’s all that was in the pantry – the second batch homemade white bread. Personally, I prefer the density of the bagel, but that’s probably just the pseudo-Jewish in me! I used half the mince the recipe called for, and used beef not veal. Actually, I halved the meat recipe, but kept the sauce recipe as is. The second time around I made the balls smaller, and didn’t fry them off first, just covered them in sauce and baked them in the oven.
It’s a pretty time consuming recipe, this is definitely not something you would whip up after a day at the office. You could split the recipe up, and do a bit each night, or you could spend a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen. I did both, and both produced perfect results. They also freeze and reheat well.
I’m not a domestic goddess by a long stretch, nor do I aspire to be one. But I think, should Viggo ever get his act together and come over for dinner, this will be the dish that gets him. It’s not the prettiest dish (see below), but it is melt in the mouth, and will fill your belly and your soul.
This is a reasonably long post; I’m afraid I’m a woman you need to make a commitment, of sorts, to. I’ve always been impatient with people who skim the surface of things. But I hope, of all the posts I’ve written so far, that this time you will stick with me until the end. Because if you are someone who seeks a little more, who dives headfirst into the depths, then I have the feeling the following may just break your heart.
Last week I bought a book called “Tiny Beautiful Things”. It’s written by an American writer by the name of Cheryl Strayed, who was until recently, the anonymous author behind the Dear Sugar column on Rumpus. Go out. Buy the Book. And then clear your day of all social commitments and obligations, grab a bag of your favourite things to munch, and curl up with this book. Dear Sugar is the wise, funny, arse-kicking friend we all wish we had. She will tell you the truth, a truth you already know, but she will tell it with such compassion and heart, you will wish you knew her in real life.
And the really really great news? She’ll be in Sydney for the Writers’ Festival.
I read this column, had a bloody big bawl, thought about calling my mother and then went out and bought the book.Dear Sugar, I read your column religiously. I’m 22. From what I can tell by your writing, you’re in your early 40s. My question is short and sweet: what would you tell your 20-something self if you could talk to her now? Love,
Seeking Wisdom Dear Seeking Wisdom, Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea. In the middle of the night in the middle of your twenties when your best woman friend crawls naked into your bed, straddles you, and says, You should run away from me before I devour you, believe her. You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart. When that really sweet but fucked up gay couple invites you over to their cool apartment to do ecstasy with them, say no. There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness. One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him to fuck you anyway. This will be a mistake for which you alone will pay. Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet. You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else. Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room. One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do. Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you. When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t “mean anything” because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes. The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming. One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life. Say thank you. Yours,
I need words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence.
The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven.
He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself.
There’s something I need to tell you. I feel quite awkward and silly, and you will be forgiven for mistaking me for a schoolgirl, because right now that’s how I feel. My palms are damp, my pulse has quickened and my mouth is dry. Emotional declarations are rarely easy, particularly when there is no certainty on how they will be received. I have my fingers crossed that you are one who finds joy in public expressions of emotion. I’m not going to yell it, I will say it quietly, so lean in a little so I don’t have to raise my voice. Are you ready?
I have fallen ridiculously in love!
Yes I said love, capital L LOVE!And as these things are want to do, it snuck up on me without me even realising it.
We’ve been hanging out for some time now, maybe two years, maybe three. On the surface of things, it didn’t seem like a relationship I would go for, the differences between us are so great. I’m a girl who knows what she wants, at least I thought I was, because never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I’d be here. We were curled up on the couch the other night, wrapped around each other like teenagers, when I looked up and realised I had not been this happy for a long time.
I see you shaking your head and rolling your eyes, exasperated. “Yes, Yes, I know, Viggo is your true love, and you’re just waiting for him to come to his senses and return your calls.”
I’m not talking about Viggo.
Now you are paying attention.
Do you want to see the object of my affection?
Can you believe a girl who was so devoted to 100% natural fibres, has lost her heart so recklessly to a cotton blend? Absolutely, utterly, no two ways about it chum NOT MY TYPE, but it just goes to show a girl should never say never.
It started innocently enough. A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted a vintage bakelite cherries brooch. You remember those daggy brooches your mother pinned to the bodice of her pantsuit in the 70s? Those my friend will now set you back a pretty penny. And then some. So I decided to make my own. But I needed the right colour red for the cherries, not an orange red, but a dark blue red.
I went to a couple of yarn stores for inspiration, and then, in the aisles of Lincraft (which has become one of the most un-inspirational places on earth) I spied it. The most divinely scrumptous raspberry red yarn my eyes have ever seen. Next to it was a spearmint green, which matched perfectly. My heart skipped a beat. I had the yarn for my cherries. To be on the safe side, I snaffled a sweet pale shell pink.
I went home and within a matter of hours, I’d done it.
And there it was. A summer fling, a breathless kiss in an alley, an acknowledgement of desire despite incompatibilities. No names, no pack drills. And like a first date with a card-carrying Liberal, it should have ended there.
But it didn’t.
to be continued…
Like so many of my generation, and the generations hot on our heels, I have been preoccupied of late with simplicity and simplification. Life has become ridiculously busy, so busy most of us are missing it. Last year I decided to declare war on “busy” and started stripping from my life the insignificant, or perhaps more accurately, I looked at what was truly important to me, to my well-being, and chose to focus on that. That has meant shedding skins and removing what no longer serves. If I don’t look upon something with delight, then out the door it goes.
Part of that process has been trying to engage, as much as time permits, with where my food comes from. I’ve always been anti supermarket chain, and thanks to the permeate in milk kerfuffle last year, now source most of my food through Aussie Farmers. I might not know exactly where my food is coming from, but I feel better knowing it’s at least grown in the same country as I am.
Aussie Farmers has completely changed my relationship with food. And because my days at the moment are my own, I’ve been cooking more. We talk all the time about how much love goes into making a meal for someone, but it never occurred to me that that love should go into a meal I make myself.
I’ve said on these pages that the world needs another food blogger like it needs a hole in the head, and I’m not interested in joining those ranks. But my blog is about making things and putting those creations out there, and food is part of that. Now there won’t be any high-falutin’ food language here (except to take the piss), nor will there be any over styled meals, “plated up” for an audience that may or may not be there. Blogs I guess, are nothing more than diaries – diairies with the locks ripped off, but diaries nonetheless; all I offer here is a journal of the things I’ve made.
In the spirit of slowing down, of stopping and inhaling the cappuccino, I decided to make my own butter.Actually the cow needs to take most of the credit, and the Kenwood the rest; all I did was supervise the separation of butter fat and butter milk. It took about twenty minutes all up, and was pretty damned exciting.
Of course, this begged a bigger question. What to do with a saucer full of butter?
You make a loaf of bread and a jar of lemon curd, of course.
I rarely make resolutions at the turn of a New Year. Everyone else is doing it for starters, and I’ve always been a bit anxious in crowds. But it’s not just an aversion to running with the pack. I like to take January off – both physically and mentally. January is a time for kicking back on the surface of the sea and feeling the sun on your face, both literally and metaphorically. It’s a time for daydreaming, not planning and scheming.
While January is the start of the year, it’s also the beginning of the end of a birth year for me. March takes a step into another year older, and if the universe is good, then a step towards being a little wiser. I like to make my resolutions – or set my intentions – at the beginning of another birth year. Am I living a life I’m proud of, and if not what do I need to do to change it? What behaviours and beliefs have not served me and are best left behind? What do I want to make more time for,what do I want less of, and what do I think will feed my soul.
I’ve talked here – albeit briefly – about my regard for the word courage, and how deeply the word resonates. It’s a word I strive to embody every single day. Most days I fail, but that’s the beauty of a new day – you get to try again. So while courage was the word that defined 2012, and will continue to define me, I think I want 2013 to be about commitment. And by that I mean keeping my commitments, something I’ve not been good at in the past. Keeping my commitments to other people, but most importantly, keeping my commitment to myself. Because I break the promises I make to myself each and every day.
One of those commitments, is a commitment to writing, and writing every day. It doesn’t have to be good, it probably won’t be. Some of it will be done here, and some of it will be done elsewhere, but I intend to commit myself to writing every day. Starting today.
Happy first of March, Happy first day of autumn. Happy St David’s Day, and if you are turning 28 for the umpteenth time, like I am, then Happy Birthday to you. I leave you with the most lovely image, a photograph taken by Abby Powell Thompson, and the first thing I ever favourited on Etsy, but foolishly did not buy. It’s a little eavesdrop on the most delightful conversation ever to take place on a vintage quilt, on a summer lawn.
Ladies and gentlemen
I am very pleased to be here today at the launch of Australia’s celebration of the 1993 International Year of the World’s Indigenous People.
It will be a year of great significance for Australia.
It comes at a time when we have committed ourselves to succeeding in the test which so far we have always failed.
Because, in truth, we cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous people of Australia – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.
This is a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will: our ability to say to ourselves and the rest of the world that Australia is a first rate social democracy, that we are what we should be – truly the land of the fair go and the better chance.
There is no more basic test of how seriously we mean these things.
It is a test of our self-knowledge.
Of how well we know the land we live in.
How well we know our history.
How well we recognise the fact that, complex as our contemporary identity is, it cannot be separated from Aboriginal Australia.
How well we know what Aboriginal Australians know about Australia.
Redfern is a good place to contemplate these things.
Just a mile or two from the place where the first European settlers landed, in too many ways it tells us that their failure to bring much more than devastation and demoralisation to Aboriginal Australia continues to be our failure.
More I think than most Australians recognise, the plight of Aboriginal Australians affects us all.
In Redfern it might be tempting to think that the reality Aboriginal Australians face is somehow contained here, and that the rest of us are insulated from it.
But of course, while all the dilemmas may exist here, they are far from contained.
We know the same dilemmas and more are faced all over Australia.
That is perhaps the point of this Year of the World’s Indigenous People: to bring the dispossessed out of the shadows, to recognise that they are part of us, and that we cannot give indigenous Australians up without giving up many of our own most deeply held values, much of our own identity – and our own humanity.
Nowhere in the world, I would venture, is the message more stark than it is in Australia.
We simply cannot sweep injustice aside.
Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure, that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not.
There should be no mistake about this – our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world.
However intractable the problems seem, we cannot resign ourselves to failure – any more than we can hide behind the contemporary version of Social Darwinism which says that to reach back for the poor and dispossessed is to risk being dragged down.
That seems to me not only morally indefensible, but bad history.
We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us.
Didn’t Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia? Isn’t it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians – the people to whom the most injustice has been done.
And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.
It begins, I think, with that act of recognition.
Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.
We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.
We brought the diseases.
We committed the murders.
We took the children from their mothers.
We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice.
And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.
With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.
We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me? As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.
If we needed a reminder of this, we received it this year.
The Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed with devastating clarity that the past lives on in inequality, racism and injustice.
In the prejudice and ignorance of non-Aboriginal Australians, and in the demoralisation and desperation, the fractured identity, of so many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
For all this, I do not believe that the Report should fill us with guilt.
Down the years, there has been no shortage of guilt, but it has not produced the responses we need.
Guilt is not a very constructive emotion.
I think what we need to do is open our hearts a bit.
All of us.
Perhaps when we recognise what we have in common we will see the things which must be done – the practical things.
There is something of this in the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
The Council’s mission is to forge a new partnership built on justice and equity and an appreciation of the heritage of Australia’s indigenous people.
In the abstract those terms are meaningless.
We have to give meaning to “justice” and “equity” – and, as I have said several times this year, we will only give them meaning when we commit ourselves to achieving concrete results.
If we improve the living conditions in one town, they will improve in another.
If we raise the standard of health by twenty per cent one year, it will be raised more the next.
If we open one door others will follow.
When we see improvement, when we see more dignity, more confidence, more happiness – we will know we are going to win.
We need these practical building blocks of change.
The Mabo Judgement should be seen as one of these.
By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to the settlement of Europeans, Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice.
It will be much easier to work from that basis than has ever been the case in the past.
For that reason alone we should ignore the isolated outbreaks of hysteria and hostility of the past few months.
Mabo is an historic decision – we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians.
The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include indigenous Australians.
There is everything to gain.
Even the unhappy past speaks for this.
Where Aboriginal Australians have been included in the life of Australia they have made remarkable contributions.
Economic contributions, particularly in the pastoral and agricultural industry.
They are there in the frontier and exploration history of Australia.
They are there in the wars.
In sport to an extraordinary degree.
In literature and art and music.
In all these things they have shaped our knowledge of this continent and of ourselves.
They have shaped our identity.
They are there in the Australian legend.
We should never forget – they have helped build this nation.
And if we have a sense of justice, as well as common sense, we will forge a new partnership.
As I said, it might help us if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years – and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours.
Imagine if ours was the oldest culture in the world and we were told that it was worthless.
Imagine if we had resisted this settlement, suffered and died in the defence of our land, and then were told in history books that we had given up without a fight.
Imagine if non-Aboriginal Australians had served their country in peace and war and were then ignored in history books.
Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice.
Imagine if our spiritual life was denied and ridiculed.
Imagine if we had suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it.
It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice we can imagine its opposite.
And we can have justice.
I say that for two reasons: I say it because I believe that the great things about Australian social democracy reflect a fundamental belief in justice.
And I say it because in so many other areas we have proved our capacity over the years to go on extending the realms of participation, opportunity and care.
Just as Australians living in the relatively narrow and insular Australia of the 1960s imagined a culturally diverse, worldly and open Australia, and in a generation turned the idea into reality, so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into reality.
There are very good signs that the process has begun.
The creation of the Reconciliation Council is evidence itself.
The establishment of the ATSIC – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission – is also evidence.
The Council is the product of imagination and good will.
ATSIC emerges from the vision of indigenous self-determination and self-management.
The vision has already become the reality of almost 800 elected Aboriginal Regional Councillors and Commissioners determining priorities and developing their own programs.
All over Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are taking charge of their own lives.
And assistance with the problems which chronically beset them is at last being made available in ways developed by the communities themselves.
If these things offer hope, so does the fact that this generation of Australians is better informed about Aboriginal culture and achievement, and about the injustice that has been done, than any generation before.
We are beginning to more generally appreciate the depth and the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
From their music and art and dance we are beginning to recognise how much richer our national life and identity will be for the participation of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.
We are beginning to learn what the indigenous people have known for many thousands of years – how to live with our physical environment.
Ever so gradually we are learning how to see Australia through Aboriginal eyes, beginning to recognise the wisdom contained in their epic story.
I think we are beginning to see how much we owe the indigenous Australians and how much we have lost by living so apart.
I said we non-indigenous Australians should try to imagine the Aboriginal view.
It can’t be too hard.
Someone imagined this event today, and it is now a marvellous reality and a great reason for hope.
There is one thing today we cannot imagine.
We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through fifty thousand years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of disposession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation.
We cannot imagine that.
We cannot imagine that we will fail.
And with the spirit that is here today I am confident that we won’t.
I am confident that we will succeed in this decade.
This speech was given by Prime Minister Paul Keating at Redfern Park on 10 December 1992. It was written by Don Watson.