Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Flag Blag

Natural Disaster at Seat of Pants

Australia Day. I ambled onto my rear deck this morning and what did I see? Arrrgggghhhh. The patriots below have inappropriately unfurled all over my view. Don’t that thing stand out? It’s not only my egocentricity that’s affronted. I was already feeling a certain yeeeuuucccchhh about the whole Australia Day blaahhhttt. Sorry about the onomatopoeia obsession but my homeland tends to bring out the beeeuuulcccchhhh in me I’m afraid. You can blame Barry McKenzie for that one. Forgive me while I


Okay, I feel a little better now that I’ve had an Alka-Seltzer and a stiff gin. Here’s where I stand on overt displays of nationalism. A homemade replica of your country’s flag scrappily tacked up in your front window during a major sporting contest, if and crucially only if, your country incredulously ends up in the final when it wasn’t expected even to qualify, is acceptable. Iceland, Cameroon and Jamaica – your flags are welcome on any occasion. France and Holland – only if cheese is involved. I know I should be staying calm but these maniacs have put up a flagpole. Where have I landed? Nazstralia? Who puts up a fucking flagpole unless they plan to open a military academy?

Australia Day, celebrated on 26th January every year, commemorates the day in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip fetched up on a great southern continent which had been successfully owned and operated by a continuous collective of indigenous peoples for around 40,000 years, and claimed it on behalf of a dysfunctional monarchy that had been around for a few hundred. Mad King George III was tottering on and off the throne at the time and quite frankly, in addition to his many personality defects, had a bit of a plunder problem. Some Aboriginal people naturally regard this day as a token of mourning and refer to it as Invasion Day. I wonder how the Aboriginal family next door feel about our neighbours over the back flying the flag of their tormentors on this of all days. Aboriginal Australia has a flag too, one that signifies the history and geography of this country. Why not display that flag if they must put one up?

I lived in Britain when the Union flag was appropriated by the National Front to taunt black residents. It was a horrible time but eventually those racists were soundly despatched by ordinary, decent folk who just wouldn’t have it. These days in Britain the jack has no function in public display apart from letting everyone know that there are royals about and they should scarper unless they want to end up on the front page of Majesty Magazine. Instead it has assumed an appropriate afterlife as a popular pattern for undergarments, which naturally Pants approves wholeheartedly. The Australian flag incorporates the jack which is the source of most of my discomfort. If its country of origin has already conceded its oppressive power and tempered its invocation, surely ordinary, decent Australians must realise that they might be offending people by running it up a flagpole in their backyard on a contentious day.

Today, Aboriginal activist Mick Dodson was named Australian of the Year. It’s a supposedly prestigious honour bestowed upon a person of great importance and influence, at least that’s what the Prime Minister inferred when he handed it over. Then Mick Dodson used his position of importance and influence to make the modest suggestion that Australia might consider celebrating its national harmony on a different day from the one that Aboriginal people feel is the most inappropriate out of the 365 on offer. And all he asked for was a conversation about it. The Prime Minister snapped back,

Let me say a simple, respectful, but straightforward no.

It was the back-flip that shattered a carefully orchestrated illusion. Here was the same Prime Minister who less than a year ago made that historic and cathartic Sorry speech, huffing in a tone that suggested what he really thinks is, ‘oh for crying out loud, haven’t we humoured you people enough already?

Amongst today’s events was a march through the streets of Brisbane to protest the continuing scandal of the stolen wages. For decades Aboriginal children were herded into dormitories where they were taught domestic skills and 'manners' and then farmed out to white employers, often on remote cattle stations where they were treated with contempt and very often actual cruelty. They had no choice about these placements and, if they decided to ‘resign’ i.e. exercise their only chance to reclaim their lives by running off in the middle of the night, they were hunted down, beaten and returned or sent somewhere even more awful.

In return for hard work and long hours they received ‘pocket money’, a tiny portion of their wages. The rest was supposedly held 'in trust' by the state and most of it was never paid out. Now it transpires that this money has disappeared. In any other situation this would be fraud but it’s just those pesky Aboriginal people rehashing unfortunate incidents from the past to be annoying. In an act of extraordinary gall, the authorities have offered a one-off payment of $4,000 as compensation. That’s the monthly wage of a low ranking public servant and to Aboriginal people whose savings were fleeced over twenty or thirty years, must be a worse insult than being offered nothing at all. It’s an admission of culpability but at the same time a glaring statement of just how little Aboriginal people are valued. For some families, those stolen wages meant the difference between owning their own home and paying a lifetime of rent to someone else. In real terms the money owed to them is more like half a million.

Even today in some parts of Australia Aboriginal people have their incomes quarantined, regardless of their circumstances or their capacity to manage their own finances. How can this kind of discrimination be tolerated? So yes, Mick Dodson, you have my vote. Let’s change the date. I honestly think it’s the very least we should do if we are sincere about equal rights for Indigenous Australians. I suggest April 1 and then I can have a jolly good old giggle when my neighbours over the back put up their flag.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Watching Barack's Back

Photo courtesy US Government

There’s an old saying in politics, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ Barack Obama’s appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is either genius or suicide. Let’s hope it’s the former. Only time and the crumbling of the economic cookie will tell. Clinton makes no secret of her disdain for her former presidential rival, clearly feeling that some gross error has been made. She makes no attempt to conceal her intention to challenge him for the leadership in 2012. Obama assumes the worst economy since Roosevelt inherited The Great Depression from Hoover, with an as yet indeterminate potential. His oratorical gifts won’t help him much if shanty towns start springing up in Central Park. The temptation to call them Baracks would just be too great. But hey, how bad can it be if America's still standing after eight years of Bush?

At the moment it feels like a brand new world out there. I’m experiencing the same feeling of elation and reprieve I had after that other mad, trigger-fingered fucker Reagan finally left the White House. It’s as if we’ve all exited from a bunker blinking, and realising we haven’t been blown up, are all hugging each other and yelling, ‘we’re alive, we’re alive’. In some ways Obama has the easiest job in the world. All he has to do is be the opposite of Bush, i.e. stop digging and make some sense. His inauguration speech goes some way towards putting the coherency back into politics. Here’s someone with the confidence to articulate whole sentences instead of stumbling through a couple of biggish words and then nodding wildly like the combination actually means something. Obama’s speech was simple and sober and called for Americans to exercise a little more commonality and a lot more humanity. How difficult that is depends on just how badly the Bush years have damaged the American psyche and I wouldn’t even like to take a guess at that.

It’s been very interesting to observe the first black president phenomenon. Some pundits are clearly having a distasteful Mogambo moment, swooning over his elegance and infusing him with a dangerously stereotypical virility. The most vehement proclamations of how far we’ve come seem too often to demonstrate precisely the opposite. We can’t have come very far if a black leader of the world’s most prominent democracy is such a novelty commentators find it near incredulous. Clearly a remarkable change has taken place but more because Obama’s election has enfranchised a substantial cohort of black Americans who never felt represented and that will have far greater historical consequences because it has permanently altered the electoral landscape. I read one report claiming only four out of ten white Americans voted for him. If that’s true, he’s not only got an awful lot of black and Hispanic voters to keep happy, he may be the first in a line of black presidents. Now that would be progress.

A few commentators niggled about Obama’s failure to credit the two white women who brought him up, preferring to cite the black father who deserted him as his inspiration. You have to feel for the guy trying to negotiate this emotional tightrope. I have been told by friends of mixed race backgrounds that a mixed race child will most likely identify as black, even if they have been raised in a totally white environment. Barack Obama looks like a black man, married a black woman, has black children and has clearly lived a black man’s life. It would be grossly unfair, not to mention racist, to expect elastic ethnicity from him. His moment in history arrived precisely because America wanted to elect a black man. That he is obviously so comfortable with his identity was one of the factors that made him so electable. Again, he is the opposite of Bush who always looked as sheepish a twelve-year-old who’d just snuck into an ‘R’ rated movie when carrying out his presidential duties.

Clearly, America wants to change for the better, even to heal. Most citizens don’t want to be the world’s bully. The rot may have stopped but at some point in the very near future, all of this is going to need careful unpacking. Yes it’s brilliant that a country with such a firmly entrenched culture of racism chose to elect a black man to lead it but it doesn’t mean an end to racism and may not even mean the beginning of the end because you can bet it wasn’t the racists who put him there. And it’s great that America gets a much-needed boost to its self-esteem but it won’t be too healthy if Obama’s presidency turns out to be merely a symbolic totem and one magnificent excuse not to do the work of eliminating inequality. When Nelson Mandela became leader a South African friend gleefully offered me the rhetorical, ‘isn’t he the coolest president, ever?’ She was correct, in a certain context, and Mandela’s presidency of South Africa was enormously important but unfortunately in a much more limited way than its potential deserved.

The question remains, just how good does Barack Obama have to be? The bar is set low and, metaphorically at least, the only way is up. He’s already ticked the most important box going by being the furthest from a Bush it’s possible to imagine. Americans should be very afraid of political monopolies. Incredibly, the world’s most famous democracy is almost as serially plagued by dynasties as the world’s biggest. In my lifetime alone there’s been a Bushburger and very nearly a Clinton focaccia, not to mention the perpetual possibility of a stack of Kennedy pancakes. They now have what they’ve needed and craved, a man from outside the established political class with no special affiliations or apparent agenda other than to make things right again.

And yes, of course it’s right to invest hope in this man. The election of a black president carries unavoidable symbolic weight which is both a strength and a weakness. Barack Obama is the beneficiary of unprecedented global goodwill but also the recipient of the biggest bag of expectations since Atlas. It’s a form of racism to impose different expectations on someone because of their ethnicity, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. America needs to keep this honeymoon short and be very careful not to undermine its president by casting him as the leading man in its saviour fantasies instead of the head of its government. It has real work to do on itself to alter the habits that have brought it so low. Is there a structure there for all these yes we can-doers to get in and start fixing? Let’s hope so. The last thing America needs is to settle in for a good long nap on its clever little laurels. And I’m coming down on the side of genius re Hillary Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State. There’s another old saying in politics, ‘give your most dangerous rival the toughest job’ and it won't do him any harm to have her gnawing away in the background reminding him that it's all still politics. Good luck with Iraq Hillary…

Monday, January 19, 2009

All Booked Up

Just another day at the office with apologies to Tracey Emin

A bird caught in a room is supposed to bring good luck. I’m more superstitious than a coven of witches on a black cat motorway so I’m inclined to read the recurring incident which I’m about to relate in a positive light. Amongst the prodigious array of wildlife that calls Seat of Pants mi casa is a pair of particularly curious sparrows. One of them is fearsomely adept at falling down my chimney while the other is skilled at screaming encouragement or calling the fire brigade. I don’t yet speak sparrow so I’m not sure which is the case. I must learn as I sure would like to be more acquainted with its motivation. Any road up, it usually happens early in the morning. The birds around here drink strong coffee if their dawn-timetabled hyperactivity is an indicator. The episode commences with a lot of screeching and scratching as the hapless creature grabs frantically at the metal circumference of the flue which, by chance, is right outside my bedroom. By the time I’ve downloaded the dishwasher and filled the mini Bodum, it’s made it to the lower storey and is pecking furiously at the glass door of my quaint cast-iron stove. Luckily for the adventurous avian, the stove is always clean. After beating down unpleasant Hitchcockian fantasies and ensuring that all windows and doors in the vicinity are wide open, I unlatch the stove door and stand back. The little bird flies to freedom. There must be a life lesson there somewhere.

Life lessons are something at which I can be relied upon to score an ‘F’. Like the sparrow, I see a chimney and am immediately overwhelmed by an instinct to dive straight in. Unlike the sparrow, I don’t have anyone waiting at the bottom to free me, although there is usually no shortage of eager attendees to show me the door in any given scenario. A lot of people these days feel as if they’re surplus to global requirements, in fact I suspect it’s one of the definitions of humanity in a world where commerce is the lingua franca. I like to think there is an alternative to the bleakness of the marketplace.

You can see from the picture of my ‘office’ above that I inhabit a universe quite apart from anything you will see in Elle Decoration or even Ikea at sale time. Having no television, I find myself frequently drawn into something called ABC Radio National which is a cross between BBC Radio 4 and a motivational tape. Fortunately, it’s more Radio 4 and is strangely heartening, not least of all because no one is badgering you to purchase air conditioning. Yesterday I was listening to one of those ubiquitous and mellifluous Americans who’ve carved a comfortable living from ego therapy explain that there is only one road to fulfilment in the post-industrial age and that is through the imagination. Suits me. I imagine much better than I do most other things.

Even an imagination as wild as mine requires occasional stimulus. Books are my weakness but they are expensive in Australia, unless of course you frequent library book sales. Modern libraries are struggling to reconcile the reading desires of the general public with their traditional role as repositories of literature. Larrikin’s Enders want car manuals, Dummies’ guides, blockbusters, romances and westerns. Consequently the monthly book sale can stock you up on former Booker and Pulitzer winners and plug the gaps in your classics collection very nicely thank you. Last week I got six books for 25c each, a discount of around 99.3% on the full retail price. One of my wise purchases is Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 Booker winner The Remains of the Day. This book began its public life as a donation to the shire library services from The Washingtons of Eagle Point. I know this because their name and full address has been embossed on the frontispiece using some kind of fancy letter press. Why would anyone do that and then give the book away to a municipal library? I just don’t get people sometimes. Used to be that library books had a little sheet in the front stamped with the return date which enabled you to see how many times the book had been borrowed. The bar code scanner did away with that but the desire to peruse a book’s borrowing history remains. Now there’s a grid sheet cunningly placed in the back enticing you to interact with its accompanying tome as follows,

I have read this book and this is my mark.

Mostly these grids are completed in the kind of laboriously elaborate rendition of initials and dates which signal an exacting but quite elderly individual. I’m always tempted just to etch in a shaky ‘X’ for some reason. The Remains of the Day offers an insight into its readership history in keeping with its calibre,

ELA writes,

Beautifully written, understated, wonderful!

A clearly captivated CWD contributes,

Into the mind of a faithful robot – poignant, limited, humorous and deeply sad. A fine book.

Then again, an anonymous and clearly disgruntled punter simply offers,

RUBBISH – although capitalised and double underscored, it is rendered in pencil, which suggests to me at least, a modicum of restraint.

I guess one reader’s remains is another’s detritus. Still, it’s an ill-tempered wind that doesn’t blow someone a little fortune and the library service’s quest to replace an erstwhile comprehensive collection with multiple copies of every single Clive Cussler and Catherine Cookson volume, ensures that my personal library continues to expand. In the future you’ll have to come to me if you want to read Patrick White or Elizabeth Jolley. Perhaps I’ll do a Sylvia Beach and open a subscription lending library. Nothing wrong with my imagination. Perhaps I should give thanks for that little bird too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must roll over and get back to work…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This God-Forsaken Space

Photo from

In Australia they named a swimming pool after a Prime Minister who drowned, yet any attempt to lampoon this idiocy is met with a face wetter than the no doubt current state of the never-seen-again former statesman. Australians don’t get irony which is a shame because locating it in the tedium of existence can be the most fun you’ll pull from a day and might even keep you going into the night with a prevailing winsomeness and enough accompanying Sauvignon Blanc. They named a Greenpeace boat after Steve Irwin too, although I can’t help thinking a submarine would have been more appropriate.

No doubt somewhere in Texas there’s a Buddy Holly Airport and a John F Kennedy Rifle Range. Americans don’t get irony either. The English name their airports after words you’ve never heard before or since in any other context (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted). You can’t be too careful where planes are concerned as they can fall out of the sky with rather spectacular consequences. And they never name swimming pools after actual people either. Since most English people can’t swim, such a temptation to fate would be unthinkable and most likely in breach of several Health and Safety regulations. Even irony requires a certain amount of risk management – it ceases to be fun when someone loses an eye.

A life devoid of irony is indeed drab. I don’t watch television, even though that would constitute a fine ironic act in itself. I just found I got unnerved by the thing screaming at me every few minutes to buy new tyres and that demolished any gentle sense of the absurd I might have gained from the incalculable awfulness of it. Some mirth can be drawn from the unintentional humour of Australian newspapers, especially the pathetically flimsy attempts to disguise prejudice or appear clever which are generally very funny for all the wrong reasons, like Tom Cruise or Nicholas Sarkozy. I have been especially amused this week by the Australian media’s abysmal failure to extract even one chuckle from The British Humanist Association’s London campaign which gleefully informs us via eight hundred of the city's finest big red buses,

There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

I could weep. Seriously guys, this is a gift. Maybe you need to know Britain to truly appreciate just how many different levels of hilarity are operating here. Perhaps you need to be aware of just how much joy Britons derive from compounding misery with hopelessness and how eerily empowered that state renders them. It can be quite creepy if you’re not used to it but after a while you can gauge your own mettle by it. Could the timing have been any more opportune for this weird communal alchemy – the coldest winter in decades, the economic apocalypse? It just knocks the spots off naming a swimming pool after a drowned PM.

The British are a great betting nation as evidenced by the number of high street banks that got turned into betting shops – not that there’s a huge difference these days anyway. On the face of it, it looks like the Humanists have bottled and taken the Pascalian each-way option with that ‘probably’ or maybe there was some advertising standards rule to be dodged – like when Carlsberg could only claim to be ‘probably the best lager in the world’. This probable non-god certainly moves in mysterious ways. London buses are of course, one of the world’s great historic advertising venues. Before radio and television ads, there were big red buses advising you to drink Horlicks and have your hat re-blocked. If you want Londoners to take notice, you put it on a bus. It’s undeniably one in the evangelical eye for the insidious convoy of revivalist church buses kicking around the city that tease you with ‘God Loves You’. And all you can think is, ‘oh yeah? Then why doesn’t he fucking call?’

By chance, I have just finished reading Christopher Hitchens’s God is NOT Great – How religion poisons everything. The title is something of a misnomer in that a non-existent entity can hardly have qualities so its perceived possession or lack of ‘greatness’ you would have thought would be immaterial. I guess it’s Christopher’s little joke. The book is amusing enough and does deal very thoroughly with the absurdity of intelligent people having to focus themselves on proving the non-existence of various deities. Obviously this is very tough to do and must be extremely frustrating to engage in if you’d rather be translating Proust into Sanskrit. I can only guess at the difficulty of attempting to calculate the probability of the non-existence of God. The Humanists clearly have their priorities in order – sod the maths, pop down to London Transport to book some Routemaster time and then retire to the Slug and Lettuce until closing time. Amen to that.

Furthermore, I would give almost anything to have been standing in Charing Cross Road with my toes a distant memory when a full Number 19 wearing the Humanists' philosophical gem flashed by without even looking like it was going to stop and throwing up some filthy black ice onto my new camel suede boots into the bargain. The irony would NOT have been lost on me, I can assure you. And it would certainly have been more effective than some rancid old slob with ketchup stains all over his Parka extolling me to ‘cheer up darlin’, it might never ‘appen’, as I was valiantly attempting to visualise a warm place. (Why is it that never works?) Hey, honk if you love Brian sinner! Blighty – you have outdone your cranky old self. Mon dieu I miss tu quelque temps…

Monday, January 05, 2009

Exit Stage Left

Happy New Year Knicker Lovers.

Apologies for the recent disruptions to service. I am simply bringing TSP into line with the casual approach to commitment practised in the rest of the world. Seriously though, I've been away in Queensland; a situation which although pleasant, adds an extra layer of complication to my already tedious tether to technology. The intermittent connections are one thing but I added hugely to my trials by losing my memory stick. Why are these things so small? Don't answer that. What follows is the post you were meant to get last week.

Tomorrow it will be a year since I left Britain and trekked ‘home’ via India. I wasn’t your average backpacker, having been gone over twenty-five years and I didn’t really trek, although I did have a wicked new Karrimor with lots of straps and zippers. I anticipated when I made the move that I would hate living back here for at least the first year or two. How I detest being right all the time. I must be the only person on this dry and dreary continent who adored the movie and abhors the reality. It makes sense though since I disdained it before I emigrated and it has only become more parochial and intolerant since my own generation has taken charge. I didn’t even like us when we were young and interesting and represented hope. But now we’re stuck with each other for the forseeable future. All things considered, I weathered the global financial train wreck pretty well but will I survive the eternity ahead?

For the last year, I’ve woken every morning with a terrible sense of desertion. Although it’s me that did the deserting obviously, I can’t escape the feeling that my life has done a midnight flit somewhere along the line and left me with a hotel bill and a blank itinerary. I’ve responded by simply putting one foot in front of the other and going in whatever direction presented itself, a strategy which is far less successful than it sounds most of the time. Well, I always said I wanted to be a recluse and now there is very little in the way of alternative courses. I’m pretty much over people anyway. It was the vile spectacle of the power puppets rallying citizens to descend upon their nearest department store with a view to saving the world that finally did me in. Who’s their policy adviser, Oprah?

Although I don’t intend to buy anything ever again out of spite and as much as it pains me to even contemplate it, I will have to go back to work. I have learned to my cost that when you spend most of your money buying a house, the bank no longer sees fit to give you enough interest to live on, even if you do only buy gin, petrol and smoked salmon. I’ve applied for two jobs and had three interviews so far. I punch above my weight in the application department but technical knockouts at interview are not uncommon. I worked contract for the last ten years partly because I can’t stay awake through interviews and also because working more than four months of the year seems like an inequitable work/life balance to me.

My first application was for a job in the state government and it was going fine until they i) lied to me for no good reason, ii) dicked my referees about iii) demanded that I go to Melbourne, (a round trip of nine hours), to meet someone whom I would probably never see again as she was leaving immediately for a secondment in Dubai. It was at this point that I weighed in some of the other oddities about the interview process to which I had previously extended the benefit of the doubt. On the occasion of my second interview, the woman I was going to be working for took me to a hot bread shop and parked me between a slicing machine and a queue of people wanting to buy sandwiches. After spending two hours driving to the rendezvous point, I watched her eat a roast beef roll and tried to lip read for half an hour, then drove the two hours back home. I’m still digging for the positives there. Suffice to say I fell at the third hurdle and deduced the job probably wasn’t for me.

Job number two was one I didn’t think I had much of a chance of getting because I’d had no experience in the field and they did specifically say they wanted that. I only went for it because it was re-advertised and that can mean they’re willing to compromise on the experience bit and the race might just be between you and a dog groomer who didn’t finish primary school. They called me at 5.15pm and asked me to come for an interview at 10.00am the next day. It turns out there was a very good reason for this. I wasn’t on the original short list but two people had dropped out at the last minute. This was a confidence-booster all round I can tell you.

Well, I went didn’t I? I ignored the advice that I should cram on the chosen field from the cornucopia of ‘knowledge’ available on the internet. I’d already told them I didn’t know anything. What purpose would it have served for me to recite some drivel of questionable accuracy just because they wanted to ask a question about it? I like to think I’m better than that. So at the interview I told them I would learn whatever I needed to learn if I got the job. I’d done it before, plenty of times, and I’d do it again. It went down surprisingly badly but not quite as appallingly as the point at which I explained that I’m not in favour of ‘leadership’ as a concept. As Brian Wilson said, ‘I just wasn’t made for this world.’ Alarmingly, I think Bri might also be sitting on a slightly higher marble count than yours truly at this point in time. I’ve had worse interview experiences; like the time I went for a job at Islington Council on an elderly people’s wellbeing programme called Live Long and Prosper. In retrospect, greeting the interview panel with the Vulcan salute probably wasn’t one of my better opening gambits. For some reason they didn’t warm to me. The world of work can relax for the moment. It doesn’t look like I’ll be pulling on the pinstripes any time soon.

I do sort of miss Hackney, but more the Hackney of the eighties than the Hackney of now. Local lad Harold Pinter died on Christmas Eve, followed by Eartha Kitt the next day. Both were my kind of rapacious rebel. I’ve written about Pinter a couple of times before so I won’t go over that again but I loved the fact that he’d so quarrelsomely lost patience with just how stupid everyone is. The tirade against the Iraq war that dominated his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech still makes me chuckle. Eartha Kitt was a strong critic of iniquity as well, earning the scorn of the establishment by lambasting the White House over Vietnam back in her heyday. Go girl! I saw her at Stoke Newington Town Hall in 1982. Was a time when Hackney Council used to put on free concerts for residents. You sent in a self-addressed envelope and back came a pair of tickets to see some stoic trouper whose crown had perhaps mislaid the odd rhinestone over time. You don’t realise how much you miss the crusty old lefties and refusniks until they’ve all been replaced by replicants with mission statements where passions should be.

Larrikin’s End is not all that well-endowed with employment opportunities and I’m probably not doing myself any favours by declaring my disapproval of all that twenty-first century organisations regard as sacred like strong leadership (bullying), innovation (not knowing what the fuck you’re meant to be doing) and performance management (making people work more hours for less pay). I’ve no other complaints about Larrikin’s End. Quite the opposite in fact. While most of Australia is one long, seamless palisade of lifestyle opportunities, Larrikin’s End is a gloriously unreconstructed ‘seaside town’. No latté lounges, fusion food or day spas. Just half a dozen chippies, a McDonald’s obesity incubator and zit factory and a pie shop. No jet skiing, paragliding or triathlon training either, mercifully. Just mini-golf,go-karts and waddling up the esplanade with your belly tangoing seductively with your elasticated waistband. With the economic downturn fixed in its trajectory for the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely to acquire a faux Med makeover anytime soon. Perhaps I’ll get a job on an oil rig or a fishing boat. It looks like it’s either that or the graveyard shift at Barney’s vodka bar, where the conversation is refreshingly left-leaning. If there is to be a revolution, you can bet that Barney will be somehow responsible...