26 February 2015
On Monday night we went to the Tim Minchin concert. The steps of the Opera House filled with happy people. The sun went down and the lights of the city filled the buildings with Klee-like patches of yellow. Ferries beetled in and out of Circular Quay, jolly with their patch of splashing water. Tim Minchin talked and belted around the stage, singing songs where the wordplay mixes sharp needles with custard. Nice custard that warms the heart; clever, acupuncture needles that hit the right spot and make you smile maniacally along with him.
On Tuesday I went to the state funeral for Faith Bandler. I suppose all funerals are moving, but this one, with its collection of people, many of whom are publicly important, gathered together to honour someone who has affected our world in so many valuable ways, without having had huge recognition in the wider community – this was particularly moving. Speaker after speaker talked of her grace, of her perseverance. She spent ten years speaking to community groups before the 1967 referendum – a referendum to change the constitution regarding Aboriginal people (including them in the census – as Linda Burney said, “before that we were nothing” – and removing the prohibition on the federal parliament having the power to make special laws about Aboriginal people) that was agreed to by 90.77% of the Australian people – the highest number ever. Faith Bandler was a formidable activist, feminist, strategist, mentor, humanitarian, internationalist – an inspiration. And she was, as Professor Paul Torzillo said so forcefully – and to the great appreciation of the until-then sober and respectfully quiet crowd – “she was a leftie, and we’re claiming her as ours.” Maybe Barry O’Farrell didn’t applaud that one.
On Wednesday I woke to the news that there was a crash on the Harbour Bridge. Southbound traffic was banked up to The Spit. Traffic on Wattle Street was at a standstill. Extensive delays through the peak hour. Buses delayed by an hour. It sounded like the whole centre of Sydney had turned into one massive traffic jam that I didn’t want to join. I dawdled in the flat, waiting for it to clear. By the time I did leave the streets were normal, with a feeling of relief about them. I drove across the bridge and up the highway, turned onto the motorway. I drove through heavy rain and sunshine, on wet roads and dry. I arrived at the farm in the late afternoon. The creeks greeted me with a bit more splash than they’ve had for months.
This morning, Thursday, I woke to this year’s family of blue wrens belting around the garden. Their tiny bodies are barely heavy enough to weigh down the parsley or basil they land on. The grass is wet from last night’s rain. Since last Sunday a lot of the zucchinis have melted, their big strong scratchy leaves gone, their hollow stalks reduced to a puddle on a yellowing stem. Wallabies have found the sweet potato and its leaves have gone too, only the stems left to stand, empty, on their vines. Two of our first plantings – the live fast die young tamarillos – have died and we cut one of them out last week. I pile its bare branches onto the mattress springs that the sweet potato grows through as one more hurdle for the wallabies. It’s good to give the tamarillos another purpose before they become kindling. They deserve a lengthy send-off. These pioneering trees formed the basis of the food forest in the top garden. We planted coffee bushes under their shade and shelter, ringed them with lemon grass and comfrey, grew out from them with greens, then carrots and tomatoes, then arrowroot, further out with marjoram and feijoa, joined their bed up with plum and peach trees. This summer we extended again, with turmeric and yacon, melon and cucumber. But the tamarillos were the first: they established the centre. Our first crop, they taught me to love the tart, red-blood ooze of their fruit.
This is my life. City and country. Light and dark. Frontloader and twin-tub. Chicken and egg. Joy and pain. Life and death.