2

Here I am, happy in Hobart

ferry

I’ve been accused, obviously in the past, by both strangers and loved ones, including my wife, of ridiculous and unknowable underdressing.

It’s dark as a pint of stout and only just past five bells here in Hobart. As luck would have it, I’ve located a stool in the front bar of The Telegraph, and let me assure you, I’m suitably clad for the climate.

It’s July, but the side door is wedged open, tempting a decidedly crisp draught to gush into the pub, and phantom about us, like an anonymous, yet Arctic ghoul from the Harry Potter series.

Ordering a Cascade Pale Ale and a pizza, I note that Old Mate behind the bar is wearing shorts and a t-shirt. A quick scan of the dark, convict interior tells me that he’s not the only one. If my wife were here, she may well now be in an involuntary foetal position, wailing for a Bundy and a blanket.

Scrutiny of the pub’s décor also tells me that stripping away the uptartedness, this is an old world, maritime boozer. I can almost hear The Pogues, playing Rum Sodomy & the Lash.

Already, I’m happy in Hobart.

*

With the MONA ROMA ferry hurtling up the Derwent there was music thumping across the deck. I was instantly smitten hearing Joe Tex and his 1977 classic “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman).” I mean, who wouldn’t be?

Australia is wobbling on the edge of drought and, even here in Tasmania, the hills are brown and thirsty. It’s a massive harbour, and is more Port Lincoln than Sydney with its expansive stretches and rustic, inviting appearance.

*

How tremendous to invest an afternoon in this most modern and confronting of museums?

The architecture is instructive for we are sent, mole-like, to the depths, and in exploring the exhibits, are to ascend, towards the light. This establishes a central theme of the vast collection, for it is about decay and marginalisation. MONA is more Nick Cave than One Direction. I’m eager.

It’s also surely a first-world indulgence that we have the luxury of introspection and probing questioning. Each room has a theme and the first two I visit are declared as opposites: faith and satire. I take an inner breath. Here’s two ideas I hold important. Are these so incompatible? Do I have to surrender one? I fear satire may be just in the lead.

I pause at an ancient TV which is looping endlessly through the clip of a band unsuccessfully trying to master the Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen.” The singer holds a sheet of lyrics in front of her agonised face, while the drummer and guitarist are bravely attempting the same song, but in violently clashing tempos.

Each musician is an octogenarian.

It’s funny and probably cruel and I wonder what I’m supposed to think.

*

There’s a large cement cavern, vaguely reminiscent of London’s Tate Modern and its turbine hall, with its evocations of empire and space and dark. Along its length is Sidney Nolan’s installation, “Snake” comprising over 1,600 individual paintings across 46 winding metres. When it was conceived and assembled Nolan was already elderly, and I gasp at the colossal nature of his singular, ambitious vision.

A major departure, as near as my innocent eye can tell, from European galleries, is how this collection celebrates unheralded, everyday artists. Many of the works are Art Brut and Outsider Art, often by commoners and folks suffering mental illness, especially in the London-based Museum of Everything. There’s an insolent rejection of high culture, and a preference given to solitude, and the voices of the disturbed.

My audio companion instructs me in the work of a Prussian butcher who was fascinated by the cosmos and space travel, and created accordingly. Until recently he received no acknowledgement. How great, how vast, how rich is this planet?

I like that, at least in these very minor ways, there’s an arc towards democratisation.

I swing back through the galleries, past the dinosaurs assembled from found objects such as cable ties and one, a large asaurus of some note, built from both blank and pre-recorded cassette tapes, including incurably hideous disco tapes, but none by Joe Tex. By hang tight folks, if vinyl can make a comeback so can dinosaurs and tapes, like Ripper ’77.

I also take in a smiling hermaphrodite illumination and other happy collisions of ideas and amateur execution, including an entire darkened wall of vaginal casts, and its accompanying eight-minute audio commentary. I wonder if it has been commissioned by my favourite conceptual artist, Maude, of The Big Lebowski. I hope so.

Suddenly, the bright, southern day is rushing to the east. I’m back on the ferry and the Tasmanian velvet is pushing in, all over Salamanca Place.

I head to the pub.

maude

2

AFL Round 10- Adelaide v Carlton: The Pogues or Paul Kelly?

Image

Our eldest son lost his front tooth yesterday. Already dangling, the other is now lurching across his gum. He is six.

Smiling, he is a little like Shane MacGowan, the lead singer of The Pogues. You know, the one who somehow maintains a pulse. Despite his sustained dedication to not, over these last four decades.

With the annual, happy promise of snow, a big Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square, and BBC Radio 2 being obliged to play “Fairytale of New York” every fourteen minutes across December, England does Christmas better than Australia.

It just works better in the dark and the cold.

“Fairytale of New York” is a superbly bleak song. Marrying misery with a rousing melody, the doomed couple bicker and snarl, and of course, it ends badly for them.

Which connects to both Carlton and Adelaide, except that it is only May. For much of the first half, the football goes back and forth, perversely suggesting the call and response form of the duet between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl

I could have been someone

Well so could anyone

You took my dreams from me

When I first found you

I kept them with me babe

I put them with my own

Can’t make it all alone

I’ve built my dreams around you

While this festive ode is euphoric, Sunday’s MCG fixture was dour, and for much of it, lacking music. There would be grander joy within an afternoon spent shopping in Luton. At least there’d be the chance that your umbrella might be picked up in the sleety gale and speared into a Bedfordshire oak tree.

In their peculiar tribute to “Fairytale of New York”, The Crows continue to set their watches to Christmas Island time, well behind that in Melbourne, chronologically and in humanitarian/football supporter terms. And so they only have two goals at the major break. Adelaide’s pre-season strategy of starting in an excruciating way persists into a tenth week. John Farnham has enjoyed shorter retirements.

Norwood boy and Crows fan Paul Kelly’s “How To Make Gravy” is our finest seasonal song. Like The Pogues’ tune, it is jubilant in its despair. Both are anchored in familial misfortune. Each begins with a gentle, welcoming melody, and then erupts into a torrent of regret.

Living in St Albans, just north of London, Paul Kelly’s tour de force was my umbilical cord to Australia. Its evocative power, and fraught, jailed brother were overwhelming. On many a Friday evening I played this song in our tiny townhouse, after beers at The Bunch of Cherries, The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, or The Goat.

When Peter Luscombe’s drums kick in at

I guess the brothers are driving down

From Queensland and Stella’s flying in from the coast

They say it’s gonna be a hundred degrees

Even more maybe, but that won’t stop the roast

I’d be a goner. The heat, the ritual, the anguish. There I’d be, on our couch, blubbing away, wondering what the feck we were doing half a world from home, having, in a sense, voluntarily imprisoned ourselves. Both songs signify Christmas and the end of the year. Although winter has not begun, 2014 is already finished for The Blues and The Crows.

Yarran and Betts have some electric moments, while Thomas for Carlton and Laird for the vanquished, contribute meaningfully. Kade Simpson appears to roam about unchecked and collects a mammon of disposals. There are more clangers than a Chinese gong workshop, and Adelaide’s sixteen behinds is telling.

I’d like to say that the second half was artistic and masterful like Paul Kelly and The Pogues, but I can’t. The error and turnover rates fell. Each team kicked eight goals. It was close.

Within a few weeks, our son will have a new front tooth, and his smile will again be complete.

Adelaide needs to stop its decay, and stop it urgently.

pk