Thursday, April 1, 2010

Prior to which the best of intentions were beset from all sides

Upon arrival in Sydney, we were warned of the brazen motorcycle gangs and the accompanying perils of roadside steakhouses, pickpockets to rival Oliver Twist’s most kleptomaniacal fantasies, the dangers of walking on grass with bare feet (funnelwebs abound!), vicious teen muggers, eleven-year-olds carrying knives, ATM skimmers, ‘self-pruning’ gumtrees endangering passersby, violent hailstorms, termites, snakes, cockroaches and the apparently furious bidding wars for desirable rental properties. The worst thing I’ve found so far is the number of Robert Lowell books in the second-hand bookstores. (Lowell’s often the last book on the LOW-- shelf, so I’ve been blaming him for the lack of Lowry). Still, Sursum corda, and be glad I’m not stuck with a Lois Lowry collection.

We got here on Feb 13th, and I don’t think I’ve found Australia yet*. Not that I’ve been looking terribly hard; most of our time has so far been caught up the the rush to find a house before our savings ran out, or our welcome ran out with the extended family. With that done (living just outside of Balmain in the Year of the Tiger has its own appeals for anyone passively schooled in late-nineties NRL fandom), we may now have a little more time to start casting our eyes sideways. There is a very loud amusement park right beside our present lodgings. It seems that way, anyway – in all honesty, it’s mostly just the recurrent problem of Antipodean girls.

I’m wary of judging a country by its free-to-air programming – where, on that scale, would NZ fall? – but it’s difficult to avoid it. Case in point: I’m now living in a city that is big enough to warrant its own news hour, and this is not entirely a bad thing. How provincial, to think it would be! When the wind blows from the mainland TVNZ is almost aware of its Auckland-centric coverage, but I’ve never watched enough TV in Auckland to appreciate just how reassuring it can be to hear about nothing further away than the outer ‘burbs. It’s distressingly insular, but comfortingly so. When we stabilise enough to secure an internet connection, I do intend to catch up on current affairs from the rest of the world; 13,000 RSS items and counting await that luminous moment.

We wandered around the CBD earlier this week, turning when we thought that the iPhone was pointing in the right direction, and found – by chance – two small public sculptures, each comprised of three small square blocks. The first set we found had one block labelled ‘HELL’, I think, and two blank; the next again had two blank, but the middle block was engraved with the word ‘PURGATORY’. I suppose they have something to do with Pyrmont’s imaginatively named sandstone quarries, but we’d already found limbo; even after filling out too many customs forms, we have to wait six to eight more weeks before our personal effects (read: my books, Jen’s clothes) arrive, and as of this evening our freshly assembled flatpack shelves don’t hold much more than a television and various pieces of paper that may or may not prove useful sometime in the next 36 months. Thirty-six months (42 in the laziest case) is now the yardstick against which any major future plans are measured.

We didn’t find ‘PARADISE’ engraved anywhere, although Gould’s Book Arcade, panacea for a house filled with empty shelves, is probably a reasonable fascimile. Gould’s poetry shelves don’t show any kind of organising principle, though, so instead of blaming Lowell I just find my hopes flaring up briefly whenever I see his Collected Works.

*Australian media still seems to be trying to sort this out, incidentally. Not in any sensible kind of way, but in true PSA fashion, where the good ship HMS Federal Racism Statistics is broadsided with advertising dollars in the hope of bringing her down.

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