The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

February 23, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Posted in mental illness, miscarriage of justice, optimism, Simplifying, wild camping | 2 Comments
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Nothing left to lose

I’m travelling through Ireland, en route to a writing residency in County Kerry and the bookshops here are brilliant. A favourite one is Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in Galway. My favourite book from there is The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Penguin, 2018).

Sitting before roaring log fires in Shankill Castle’s drawing room (my landlord Geoffrey calls it the withdrawing room), I couldn’t put this book down. But I didn’t want it to end.

The Salt Path was a Sunday Times Bestseller and it’s easy to see why. The author and her husband, called Moth, decide to walk from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall, a distance of 630 miles. They carry rucksacks and a small, lightweight tent, with no money to back them up except a minimal weekly pension and even that uncertain and diminishing for no reason they can fathom or do anything about.

It was an impulsive decision, made when the bailiffs were literally banging on the windows of their farmhouse. They’d lost their home of twenty years, their livelihood from it, and their animals. After three years of endless battle with the courts (using up all their savings), a clear miscarriage of justice had landed them in this position.

Continue Reading The Salt Path by Raynor Winn…

Drinking the days: biographies and oysters

January 28, 2020 at 10:36 am | Posted in Australian memoir, Christina Stead, Democracy, Dennis Glover, Kay Schubach, Living creatively, mental illness, optimism, value of the arts | Leave a comment
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‘Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.’ American writer Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote that. I love it and would often think of it after opening the curtains first thing.

But her words took on a tragic tone in the mornings after the bushfires began. We could no longer open windows. Canberra’s air quality suddenly became literally the worst city in the world.

Actually it wasn’t as sudden as it seemed. Canberra’s air quality has been gradually worsening in the past few years, along with the rest of the country’s, thanks to our Government doing less than nothing about vehicle and other emissions responsible for raising CO2 levels.[1]

But I was aiming at an uplifting, positive post, damn it! I normally slant towards the upbeat, the whacky, the whimsical, but before veering in that direction, a serious point needs to be acknowledged. Continue Reading Drinking the days: biographies and oysters…

Reinventing our lives: surviving with the help of literature

December 28, 2019 at 6:11 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Australia behind, Bookshops, capitalism, Charlotte Wood, creativity, depression, Inequality - Australia, mental illness, optimism, value of the arts, writers' health | Leave a comment
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When I was in Dublin in September I bought some wonderful books. A favourite is the intriguing, personal and beautifully written Hidden City: Adventures and explorations in Dublin by Karl Whitney (Penguin, 2014). (I’ve lent it and others to friends and can’t take a photo of its cover or some other favourites at the moment!)

Stitched Up: The anti-capitalist book of fashion (Pluto Press, London, 2014) is a compelling account of how the fashion industry exploits and damages both the environment and individuals. Tansy E. Hoskins’ exposé was an eye-watering shock to me on both counts.

I had no idea about the toxic chemicals involved in high-fashion clothes production, or how, for instance, models are sometimes treated as they are in the pornography industry – dispensable and beneath contempt.

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Thinking women, hope and regeneration

June 12, 2019 at 6:56 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Australia behind, Australian novels, Democracy, Living creatively, Movies, optimism, Toni Jordan | 2 Comments
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 Am I advocating escapism?

It’s been hard to find anything uplifting to say in the last few weeks. The last time I read John Milton (1608-1674) was in English (Hons) many years ago. But I just came across a quotation from Paradise Lost that seems like a sanity-saver in the world we’re enduring now.

‘The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’

I can imagine a certain homeless lad I see often, camping endlessly outside Dickson Woolworths, waiting for a Government flat to come up – or any of those poor, skinny, desperate blokes on Manus Island or Nauru who find themselves simultaneously in Hell and in Limbo – saying, ‘Yeah, that’s easy for him to say!’

And yes, Milton had his books and his house, music and writing, and his wife (a succession of three) and children.

But everyone has his own trials and Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, and of course when writing poignant poems like ‘When I consider how my light is spent’. His first two wives died, he also lost a son and a daughter, and he had a strained relationship with his remaining daughters.

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Optimism in a world of degradation

April 22, 2018 at 2:24 am | Posted in cooperatives, Inequality - Australia, optimism | 5 Comments
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Quality control

I’ve been writing some brief biographies for an organisation and before I interviewed some of these high achievers, I wanted to note down some basic facts about them. So I nipped up to my local library, chained my bike and went inside to the Reference Section for Who’s Who. They’ve rearranged the library and now there’s a vast empty space in the centre. I walked all around the book shelves on the perimeter and couldn’t find where they’d moved the Reference books.

When I asked a library assistant, a willowy girl with wispy chestnut hair, she said, ‘We’re trying to get people to look up stuff online. We’re phasing out Reference books.’

After I picked up my jaw from the floor I managed to voice my horrified amazement at this retrograde step.

‘You’re welcome to express your opinion in writing,’ she said.

*          *          *

Continue Reading Optimism in a world of degradation…

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