September 11, 2022 · 5:02 pm
Resilience and heartache in the Australian bush
Jann’s return to the little farm after thirty years had seemed like a good idea. Travelling to a neighbouring town to meet old friends had provided an opportunity to return again, to dig deeper into a previous story, to examine a past life.
The decision to move from professional jobs in the city. The decision to buy a property in the country. The decision to build a rammed-earth hut using materials from the property. All a test of a relationship, a test of physical and mental endurance. It had all ended so abruptly. She had grieved the stories she had been fed since birth. She stood awash with memories from thirty years ago. Another time. Another life. The place she had known, which had been so familiar, had all changed, changed utterly. She had changed. Society had changed. And her Australia had changed.
The Storm Builds
The log-crossing had almost become effortless; she no longer had any concern about falling in, as she had done on a couple of occasions or dropping her precious resources into the water below. She felt less guarded and she felt she was becoming a different person. The car lights beamed brightly across her path and created a narrow-tunnelled opening through the forest and dimmed slightly towards the path that led to the hut. She looked around her. This place she thought was unique. The stillness. The light through the trees. She felt cocooned by both.
Visibility had become impaired as she looked through the window and started to feel anxious about living in an isolated hut some distance from her nearest neighbour. She remembered only too well the windstorm that had destroyed their campsite. Back then, she was not alone. She had a mate who would protect her. She suddenly felt very vulnerable.
Twelve months of hard labour, ramming dirt and making bricks yet still no verandah or toilet. It was amazing how readily they had learnt to do without. Weeks of digging, shovelling and ramming had not brought them emotionally any closer. Their plans to get back to nature, to leave the city and to rescue the marriage. Jann had wanted to believe it all. She had interpreted the move to the land as an opportunity to rebuild.
September 26, 2015 · 5:46 pm
In Against the Wind: Memoir of a Dissident Dubliner, I postulated on the commonality that exists between the plain people of Britain and Ireland. Below are some extracts to ponder as we witness a dramatic change in British politics.
“Often throughout history it has not been the people themselves but the arrogant and superior attitudes foisted upon them by monarchy, religion and class that has led to an unfortunate enmity between the plain people of both countries who otherwise have much in common and could, if allowed, get on quite well together. I believe that both countries have dissidents who recognise there has always been as much connection as separation between the ordinary people of Ireland and England”.
“In England, there was a crop of younger writers and playwrights who were challenging the established order of things. John Osborne, Arnold Wesker and Shelagh Delaney were making names for themselves in the theatre. As were John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and later Lynn Reid Banks in literature; all writing stories with working-class heroes as in turn the Beatles would recognise in a song ‘A working class hero is something to be’. The media dubbed them ‘The Angry Young Men’. When I had told Fred I was pleasantly surprised to find so many dissidents in his country, ‘Not nearly enough,’ was his caustic reply”.
“It amused me to hear a Ganger man yell, ‘Tear it out of it, lads. Sure, it’s not our country,’ to a gang of Irish navvies wielding picks and shovels in a trench. But I did not appreciate that they knew nothing of the Irish Chartists and their struggle to better working class lives in this very city. This separatism and lack of integration worked against not only the Irish but also the other immigrant communities from all parts of the Commonwealth. West Indians did not sit with Pakistanis or Indians in the site canteens, nor did their communities mix well in the rundown areas where they could afford to live. And though there was no organised policy of discrimination like there existed in Northern Ireland, the lack of assimilation was not an evident concern of those that ran the major cities of Britain at the time”.
Now a dissident English republican will surely find common ground with those who in George Bernard Shaw’s phrase live on John Bull’s Other Island to the west. And hopefully those that live on that island will find common cause with him.