The Great Australian Novel? Chapter I

Once upon a time, the period from Christmas to the end of January was supposed to be a news-free zone – not that I think it really ever was. Anyway, the events of the past three weeks, especially in federal politics, somewhat dispove that claim.

On Boxing Day I briefly published this post, and then retracted it because of the bushfires. As I wrote then:

Some of youse Pubsters may have noticed that I haven’t published more of the late Malcolm B. Duncan’s “Chronicles of Nadir” recently. The change of PM in September has everything to do with that.

The lawyers have a term for it: ex abundante cautela, and given a certain person’s proclivities, that seems sage advice.

Instead, I offer something from a manuscript on which Mr Duncan was working in the months before his death.

Not that I would suggest Mr Duncan was anything other than original, but if any Pubster can suggest a possible source of his inspiration they might find themselves with a Golden Echidna.

The reasons I’m republishing it now are, (1) it had such a brief (30 minutes?) airing first time around, and (2) the way things are going I want a sort of place-holder post which I won’t mind bouncing in the place of more immediately exciting material. Meanwhile, peruse and enjoy . . .

Ralph Slatton

All Mimsy are the Borogoves

”Bugger the canaries,” I thought He said.

Quietly looking up from my sudoku, I raised a half-quizzical, half-disinterested eyebrow which I had developed in the days when I started smoking Sobranies and said, “You what?”

“Bugger the canaries,” He said again with a more vehement emphasis than I had heard for a long time – longer still than we had been companions and certainly longer than my first flight on a Virgin.

“Which canaries?” I asked, folding the paper in quarters, inadvertently obliterating the weather section.

One never knew quite what He was on about if it came in more than five words and wasn’t intransitive or imperative. Mind you, “bugger the canaries” was fewer than five words, on one view of it was certainly transitive and clearly on any view was imperative. Why now, though? As my thoughts competed between gaffer tape, old jokes about parrots and a rough recollection of Island geography, I quietly sipped my tea and pondered on the likely response.

“Bugger the canaries,” He said.

“Yes, I think we’ve established that,” I replied. “What the bejesus are you on about?”

“Read this, have you?” He asked, thrusting a crumpet-flecked finger at the remnants of the paper not containing the sudoku. A thin smear of butter attached itself to some newsprint on page 21A of the weekend paper.

Momentarily distracted by wondering when we started having pages like 21A (I rather think Professor Hilmer may have been responsible – strange thing, the effect of competition policy on numeration), I tried to concentrate. Clearly we were getting somewhere in that He had asked a question which invited a response but exactly where we were going remained a mystery.

“I’ve been doing the sudoku,” I said. “Do you want this other piece of crumpet?”

“Don’t you Virginia Woolf me,” He said in that irritating manner he had of combining esoteric literary knowledge, misogyny, a hatred of lesbians, and the economic theories of Keynes – I always thought of it as his Bloomsbury phase. “Have you read this bloody thing?”

Now we were getting somewhere. He had said bloody.

“Of course I haven’t read the bloody thing. I’ve been doing the bloody sudoku. What bloody thing are you on about?”

“Canaries, man. Bloody canaries. Buggered.”

Claude, the 18 year old diabetic cat, finally stirred out of his hypo. His was a limited vocabulary, but a previous owner had taught him the Mayo clinic equivalent of protein content for rats and most common domestic birdlife, and he was cognizant of a few words here and there. Eye fillet was another phrase he knew. Slowly he raised a half-quizzical, half-disinterested eyebrow which he had developed in the days when he started mainlining insulin.

“I have to go to a lecture at five next Thursday. How long are we going to have this conversation?” I asked.

“Don’t you understand?” He asked. “The bloody canaries are buggered.”

“Oh,” I said, “I missed the comma.”

“Bugger, the Canaries,” He said.

All became clear, as they say, in a flash. Putting thoughts of Wuthering Heights aside, I realized we were onto one of his current obsessions – global warming.

“I think I’m with you now. Jonathon Chancellor is worried about the Canaries, is he?” I interposed sardonically but, I thought, perceptively. Claude looked for all the world as though he thought Jonathon Chancellor might be some new form of edible protein. As I’ve never met the man myself, I couldn’t say. Exhausted by now, Claude hunkered down for another sleep. Where might his limited thoughts wander? Socrates, Sartre or perhaps his latest senile hobby – snowdropping? It had been a considerable mystery where the frilly underwear was coming from until we realized that we had a new and gorgeous next door neighbour – Siobhan. I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed about returning anything in my life – I mean, do you wash them first – and what cycle do you use in the machine? But, perhaps I’m straying from the point.

“Jonathon Chancellor,” He said. “What’s Jonathon bloody Chancellor got to do with it? This is bloody Goldring. Lord Goldring. Canaries – buggered. Underwater by Christmas.”

It was hard to keep things straight in my mind with the flow of this conversation. I had a sudden flash of Peter Debnam in his Speedos. With a supreme effort I managed to draw myself back to reality by discounting budgie smuggling as a real possibility in the circumstances. Why they taught us Freud in Psych II had always been a mystery. Well, as much of a mystery as why anyone would ever take any notice of what a neurotic Jewish cocaine addict might have to say about sexually repressed neurotic Viennese Jewish virgins in the first place. It was one of the few sensible strategic things the Nazis did – they left him alive.

“Mother of god, I said what are you talking about?”

“You thinking about Freud again? “He asked. “Read this – Canaries, buggered.”

He handed me the section of the paper he had been reading and I reached for a tissue. It’s funny the effect butter has on newsprint – wouldn’t melt in your mouth. By the time I located the article he was referring to the toilet was flushing loudly. Claude raised a lazy nictating membrane to check the fish-tank for goldfish. It reminded me of the time in New York when He had decided to get rid of the alligator. At the time I thought he was just taking the urban piss.


608 thoughts on “The Great Australian Novel? Chapter I

    • It certainly is censorship

      “There are many questions that need answering with regards to the Coalition’s policy. However, for now, we can say that the facts unequivocally show that claims of higher internet costs are misleading and claims that costs [of Labor’s NBN] will go up over time, are not true.”

  1. just had a read of that article and there is no way you could call that advocacy. It’s analysis pure and simple.

  2. I can only make a quick comment right now – hopefully I can add something to it later – but in brief the trouble with the Nick Ross situation is that the criticism of him coming from ABC-types, and those sympathetic to ABC figures, is flawed because it relies on an ABC protocol that is in itself flawed. Holmes claiming to have criticised Ross not over facts but for some kind of ‘partisanship’ is a case in point. From the perspective of the ABC maybe Ross does look partisan, but that’s because they’re clearly bending over backwards to accommodate a Liberal ideology (and defining it in terms of ‘fairness’). It’s a real problem for them. They can’t even recognise fact-based assessment any longer.

  3. Aguirre

    It’s not really criticism though, they’re just shooting the messenger. They haven’t tried to debunk the claims but have tried to paint Ross as a bitter ex-employee with to grind and are now trying to claim that Ross and New Matilda have broken the law.
    Also I wouldn’t be surprised if these same people condemning Nick Ross and New Matilda defended Farrah Tomazin’s behaviour in secretly taping Ted Baillieu or Royce Millar and Ben Schneiders when they hacked into an ALP database.

  4. Although maybe i shouldn’t be too worried the Chinese most likely haven’t forgotten that he called them ratfuckers and given that the P5 have veto power over the appointment of the secretary general….

    • So much wilful destruction.

      So much deliberate mendacity.

      So much for the ABC (with the honourable exception of Background Briefing).

  5. In a nutshell, the ABC’s non-questioning by the ABC of Fraudband and the Fraudster

    Crucially, Manning establishes the critical point that the Coalition’s cost estimates of Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises network are essentially fictitious. In his interview with Manning, the NBN’s Morrow admits that the NBN never properly analysed what the cost of Labor’s fibre plan would have been.

    Morrow’s admission was significant, because it demolishes the assertion made time and time again by Turnbull and the Coalition: that the Labor roll out would have been tens of billions of dollars more costly than the multi-technology mix. The truth is: the government doesn’t know.

    If the ABC had journalists closely covering the NBN, they could well have picked up on the admission and reported it as a significant revelation. That’s exactly what Delimter’s Renai LeMay did in this post, when he wrote that Morrow’s Background Briefing interview “broadly confirmed analysis by his predecessor Mike Quigley” that the NBN’s cost blow-outs were driven by the multi-technology mix.

    • Good

      “None of the sheep, or working dogs, were injured as the car came to a halt before attempting to drive through the flock.”

  6. I notice Ben Elton wrote that second piece..I expect it is to coalesce the points of the discussion already had..I am hoping the next one sheds more light on the “14th floor” behaviour.

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