Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A goat in a coat

Pretend it’s Wednesday, okay? I’m having a day out with Ma Pants tomorrow and my internet access problems have been well documented elsewhere. I present to you an elegantly, if inappropriately attired goat. He was as sartorially splendid as any other inhabitant of Jaipur and is eerily illustrative of my present mood. I find myself incapable to fitting in. Now there’s a surprise.

It is exactly a month today since I arrived in Australia. It’s awful, obviously. I knew it would be. Not because it’s a horrible place, far from it. It’s like being put back in the house where you grew up after a lot of other people have lived there, painted the outside a hideous colour and divided the lovely, big, airy rooms up into heinous little entertainment pods. It just feels all wrong.

The worst part is I have succumbed to emotional paralysis. I have no notion what to do next. I’d had ideas, none of which seem even vaguely viable in this hemisphere and half-baked plans, all of which have burned to a crisp while I’ve been huddling in a corner wondering why the world doesn’t like me. I made a decision that I would no longer live by the random crumb method of advancement. The problem is, I know no other strategy.

Paranoia that is normally kept under lock and key has surfaced as sacks of forwarded mail arrive. It’s all stuff that I have already dealt with. Service providers simply cannot grasp the concept that you are moving abroad. They want to cling to you like a love-sick limpet. If they feel that strongly, they should top themselves. It’s the only honourable exit. Yes, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse, I’m talking to you. With bank statements flying willy-nilly around the globe, my longstanding fear that whatever I manage to scrape together will be extorted from me sooner or later, seems more of a clear and present danger than a frivolous fantasy.

You can sympathise, I hope, with why I might be feeling more than a little besieged.

In this mounting crisis, I’ve done the only thing I can think of – I’ve started writing another book. When I can do nothing else, I can still think and type. That should be a useful transferable skill but is not, sadly. The book is about a father and daughter. They are the only surviving members of a Sydney family. The son was killed in the Vietnam war and the mother died of breast cancer. I enjoy inventing other people’s suffering. It takes my mind off my own misery. I’m torturing them with nightmares, dilemmas, disastrous decisions and the odd insidious external force. Better them than me.

I’ve sent The Full English off to one or two agents in the UK. No joy yet. I’m pleased with the way it turned out. The sleepless nights while taming it to a satisfactory conclusion towards the end of last year while I was attempting to disconnect my London life and pack for India were not appreciated at the time I might add. The snooze account has been balanced now and my physical self is in reasonable nick. I could do with a hair cut though.

If all I had to do for the rest of my life was write, I think I could manage. Ironic really as a lot of people who get paid to write have difficulty getting the words on the page. It’s never been my problem. I have to find something to do. I don’t mind working, once I’m there. I simply have no idea where to look. If there are employment opportunities in Australia for someone like me who is quite good at a lot of things but not at all good at describing any of them, they are heavily disguised. I might as well be in Tibet. If it’s all about contacts and networks, then I best hotfoot it to the nearest welfare outlet as I’ve none of those. The last time I lived in Australia, Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister.

I have the greatest admiration for immigrants. I can more or less speak the language unless it gets too technical. Someone has kindly explained to me the meaning of the word ‘bogan’ which is excellent because now I have a word to describe the vile family next door. I’d thought they were dugong, initially. But I have not set up a bank account, purchased a mobile phone or thought any more about where I’m going to live. My roots are flailing about helplessly. This was an insane idea. They don’t even have free health care here I don’t think. Not that I’ve ever needed it before but I’m bound to now. What have I done? Barney, will you shut the fuck up.


Wisewebwoman said...

Oh dear, dear Pants, what a nasty little corner you are in. It is all only temporary as you know but while one is in the stinking hole it feels like forever.
A little phrase that has helped to sustain me through such crises is:
"When my life feels as if it is falling apart, it is actually coming together."
I have clung to that nugget in the worst of times and guess what?
It's true!
Congrats on getting the book off, I had no idea you had finished it. I look forward to reading it all as I loved the chapters read so far.

Reading the Signs said...

Dearest Pantaloon,

Just remember that you are wonderful and please keep these posts coming because what you are writing about speaks to one on many levels - yes, even though one may not be, even remotely, in the same situation as you are now, it speaks eloquently. How good that you are bashing on writing. It encourages Les Autres no end to hear that.

Maybe the time now is not to do but to wait and see what unfolds, innerly and outerly.

And remember that there is still Brighton!

Andrew said...

Twenty five years was it Pants? It is a long time to be away. Being Australian will come back to you. But guessing vaguely where you are, isn't the heat doing your head in?

Ah, you could pass some time by dissing the English at Surviving Britain.

phil said...

"It's cold, I must go and put a goat on."

Um, yes, and stuff. You'll get through, this is a wonderful country with countless opportunities, blah, blah, more blah, and bogans.

trousers said...

The first paragraph by signs (hello Signs, I've not popped over to see you for a while, much to my shame) very much sums up my response to this. You might be all at sea (so to speak, though I'm told worse things happen there), but your expression of it is such that it had me nodding and empathising with a hell of a lot of it even though I've never been anywhere near the specifics of the situation you're in.

I do hope you get The Full English published, for very selfish reasons: having enjoyed the chapter that you published, I want to read the rest of it.

Oh, and give Barney a stroke from me will you (no not that kind of stroke).

BlissHill said...

Australia is the most beautiful country; I can't say any more than that.

You will come to love it here if you give it half a chance.

Life's a great adventure. Be brave and push on; you will find your feet.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we do have free health care - for Australians, and a reciprocal arrangement with the UK for visitors. (Sorry, can't work out your natioality from your profile. You appear to be a 'citizen of the world')
Don't knock emotional paralysis. It can be a great coping stategy in times of adjustment

Dame Honoria Glossop said...

You mean you're missing us already??? I know they don't have Marmite in Oz, but Vegemite is similar.

p.s. it's freezing over here right mow.

Frances said...

Its not the same but I gave up a good job to write what I thought was going to be a book and then spent months in a daze wondering what sort of a stupid thing I'd done.
Keeping focussed is the thing - to concentrate on why you decided to move back, or if you've forgotten, keep writing and believe.

That's So Pants said...

Hello everyone and a special welcome to Frances and Bliss Hill. Thanks for your generous words and completely misguided faith in me. Touching...



Anna MR said...

Hei Pantaloonie, it's too lovely to be reading you again (I know - you've been here, I haven't. But the beauty of it is I've got a lot of you to be read now, almost like finally discovering a good book. Which brings me limping smoothly to The Full English - like trousers, I too enjoyed the first chapter and selfishly want it published so I can finish it. Unselfishly I also want you to have some dosh in your pocket.)

Anyway, I'll be lurking here, off and on, for quite some time, until I've caught up with what you've been up to. I love your writing, Pants. You're a star.

Hugs from the topside of the planet.


That's So Pants said...


How lovely to hear from you. Thanks. I will post up some more when I get a minute.