I Fled

Jules Evans writes -Jeanette Winterson was walking through Amsterdam ‘one snowy Christmas, when the weather had turned the canals into oblongs of ice’. She says: ‘I was wandering happily, alone, playing the flaneur, when I passed a little gallery and in the moment passing saw a painting that had more power to stop me than I had power to walk on…What was I to do, standing hesitant, my heart flooded away?…I fled down the road and into a bookshop.’
Ahh! The comfort of a good bookshop, a familiar bookshop, a new bookshop or any bookshop! I am mystified by those who grumble about e-books and the disappearance of ‘real books’. I suspected when I bought my Kindle that I would become a firm fan and use it daily. I also predicted that I would continue to love and read books printed on paper, books you can hold in your hand, smell and luxuriate in. I was right on both predictions and am about to add a i-pad to my collection of useful toys. I love audio books for those really bad days when holding a book or a Kindle is too painful and they are great pain relievers. I have all my old favourites and some new releases for balance. I am a great fan of podcasts, TED talks and all those wonderful British programs like “In The Psychiatrist’s Chair’ and “Desert Island Discs”. I buy earphones by the half dozen because my oldest cat has never grown out of chewing things with wires. She chews the plugs off phone chargers and gets up to all sorts of mischief, no matter how I try to hide the objects of her interest. IMG_8306 Here she looks the picture of innocence.
One of my Daughter’s neighbours has offered to loan her a painting, because she believes it would fit nicely into her new house, now a cosy, inviting home. It is of a scene in an Amsterdam Brown bar and painted in that very time consuming Pointilist style. It took 200 hours to complete and is a beautiful study in reds. It may remind my Daughter of the time we took her to Amsterdam, the things she enjoyed, the things she marvelled at and the things that horrified or amazed her. She encountered her first all out in your face meat eating restaurant, Argentinian and not for the faint-hearted or vegetarian leaning. She also met with her first heroin addict begging for money, openly and desperate. These were not the things that had occurred to me prior to the visit might need explaining and I suddenly had to see Amsterdam through the eyes of a child. How very illuminating these adventures always are and how they turn our world on it’s axis. Children always teach us so much if we let them!
From before I could read, books were a big part of my life and I read as soon as I could, eager to ‘know’, to learn and to understand. Not much changes in all these years! I am currently reading Anh Do’s autobiography. He fled Vietnam as a toddler with his courageous parents and relatives, who were given a number of choices of country to be accepted into as residents. They chose Australia, then welcoming, accepting and helpful to people who had nothing. They made a success of their lives as so very many refugees do. Anh became the very first Vietnamese Australian stand-up comic! I was particularly moved by the rescue of the ‘boat people’ by a German ship. The captain threw down to them an axe. They were puzzled, but quickly realised that they were not supposed to be rescued unless their boat was sinking. It soon was and the sailors helped the people on board with great tenderness and care. They were safe and on their way to a new life, certain of refuge status, unlike today when a cruel life in detention seems to be the outcome, or worse.Anh
We have heard stories of women asking for abortions rather than raise a child in detention, of babies being separated from their mothers and of children who are stateless because of where they were born. They should be given Australian nationality and citizenship, but that has repercussions none of which seem good options under this current Government. I have never know so many talk so often about politics. The people are disgusted, shocked and disbelieving as each day rolls out with a new round of horrors. We are the laughing stock of the world, seen as cruel and heartless. I’d like to think this Government does not represent us, but someone voted them in and so few are admitting to it! The only blessing is that they will be around for one term only, but the damage they have inflicted will take decades to repair.

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