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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

'All passengers to the lifeboats . . .'



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Derek, he speak: I see Elizabeth Jane Howard has died at the age of ninety. I remember very well indeed being a fellow guest of hers (and John Braine’s) at the Cheltenham Festival in 1957 – or was it ’56? She and Braine were The Novelists and I The Poet – more stories to be told about that then there is room for in a mouthful of twitters. However I do remember her as a very handsome woman indeed, in her early ‘thirties; not personally devoted to her novels, but she was certainly a writer worthy to be read.
‘News’ – how can one call it news? – that Australian heat-waves are growing more intense and frequent. Nothing, of course, to do with global warming; oh, no. Meanwhile governments sit tight and say nothing – Abbott hasn’t so much as mentioned the subject since coming to power, and the alarmingly cack-handed and stupid substitute for the carbon tax (which at least has achieved something) he proposes will do nothing. But then, what people don’t realizes is that It’s too late! No government is now even going to contemplate real action on carbon change, because it would be so expensive to do anything effective that no government would impose the necessary taxation; and if it did, it would be thrown out of office, if necessary by armed revolution. Oh, indeed, it’s turning to a great century the 21st.
The Byron talk went reasonably well at the Nicholson Museum, and was crowded out: we took our old friend Jan Leeming along, who I think was impressed by the University and by the museum. Crowded room – the philosophy lecture room! – and on the whole I think I held their attention; at least, few sleepers and/or snorers, despite champagne beforehand and the heat.

On Circular Quay station the small kiosk whence messages are relayed to passengers was unattended: serious temptation: ‘This platform has been holed and is sinking by the stern. All passengers immediately to the lifeboats, please.’ Sadly, I didn’t quite have the bottle.

Dropping into Dymocks for a coffee, appalled at the price of books: picked up a copy of Beryl Bainbridge’s Girls of Slender Means, no more than 150 pages or so, and it’s priced at $22 in the Penguin paperback edition. Ludicrous. No wonder people are rushing to their Kindles to get at least a small percentage discount. And she’s dead, so she doesn’t even get the money! In the meantime, reading Garcia Marquez’ The General in his Labyrinth – not the best of his books; I guess there’s nothing to come up to 100 Years of Solitude and Love in he Time of Cholera, which can be read and re-read innumerable times.

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