Yes, I’m Still Alive

I don’t think I’ve opened up my own site for almost two years, which is terrible for a writer. To say that I was shocked that anyone had visited the site recently was an understatement. Hello to the many visitors from Germany, also a surprise! Briefly a few years ago, I had an spike in people from Brazil, but no one  from there has visited lately so no need for a shout-out. Simply put though, to have anyone interested in reading my random thoughts fills me with happiness on this overcast, drizzly morning.

There are times when joy is hard to find, and for the last couple of years I lost it a bit. I would try to write, but nothing that came out was any good, or excited me enough to be able to transfer that excitement onto the page. I went back to working in an office for the second half of last year which ended up being a turning point. Finding out that I still had useful skills increased my confidence, while sitting at a desk sorting out other people’s issues showed me how lucky I had been, being able to immerse myself in whatever I found interesting, no matter how tangential to to the subject I was researching.

By the end of the year, I finally realised that what I wanted to do, more than anything else, was to be able to inhabit my own thoughts and explore issues that work left me too tired and brain dead to think about. To have the freedom to do what I want is a luxury, and I finally gained a true appreciation for it, rather than it being something I did between wrangling children. Getting back to doing what I enjoy has also made me less cranky, much to my family’s relief.

So currently I have three very different works in progress and they are all going well. An “after the fairytale ended” novel about the complicated relationships between sisters, an elves-as-metaphor book about trying to turn your life around and revisiting a half-finished work about whistleblowers and reworking it to examine what would happen if current wealth inequality continues and we find cures for many of the conditions of aging. If wealth becomes even further consolidated in a few individuals, what would this mean for society? Lockdown has been great for my productivity. Now the kids are back at school, it should hopefully take off and I’ll finally have something finished this year.

I thought I’d make a comment about the state of the world, but it feels too hard. There are big complicated issues all seeming to be being raised at once, and I find myself at a loss to really understand any of them enough to comment. There are so many shouty headlines that all nuanced, balanced discussion has been lost in a sea of anger. Though this is, of course, a huge simplification, it feels like when close friends have a nasty relationship breakup. Both sides are telling you how horrible the other is, giving past examples of how the other has greatly wronged them (excessive use of force by police, like violence in any relationship, is clearly indefensible). There is nothing you can say that will magically make everything better, nothing that you can do that will make the pain go away. I don’t know what to do, except listen and try to understand, even if there is no right answer or clear path forward. Systematic racism, relations with China, COVID-19 response,  economic recession, global warming, sexism, terrorism, homophobia, rise of nationalism – there is so much to worry about, so many different agendas and people trying to convince you of their points of view that a retreat into a world of my own creation is a quiet relief.

So while there are terrible things happening that need to be thought about and actioned, there are still things that we can hold onto to try to keep some joy in our lives. Books, music, art, a new puppy, cleaner air and water, a new baby in the family, movies, a long walk on a sunny day, friendships, loved ones, flowers, cake! Finding a respite is essential, so that the big issues don’t overwhelm and lead to inertia. I hope that amongst all of this, you too can find something that brings you happiness. Maybe not retriever-in-a-field-of-flowers happy, but we’re only human.

flowers puppy


In Defence of Fifty Shades


I went to see Fifty Shades of Grey last night, despite the terrible reports I’d heard. Mostly because it was a night out with the girls and I’d already bought the tickets. So my expectations weren’t high, which coupled with the lovely wine we had during the movie, turned it into a much better than anticipated evening’s entertainment. Frankly, on the way out I was wondering what it was exactly that people were objecting to, calling it glorified domestic abuse, appalling, worst movie ever, etc.

Clearly there were a lot of people watching it who hadn’t read the books, which given how well they sold is surprising in itself. This was made abundantly clear by the groans and calls of “What!!” at the final scene, which was identical to where the first book ended and should have surprised no one. The book gives more context to what happens in the end, but the movie was far superior in the way you didn’t have to listen to an annoying inner monologue about “inner goddesses” leaping about repeatedly. The sex scenes were tastefully done and there were moments of humour. I thought Dakota Johnson was very good and captured the conflict the heroine feels perfectly. Sure it’s about BDSM, but more than that, it’s about pushing personal boundaries.

Most of us in our twenties did this, maybe not exploring kink, but in other ways. It could have been seeing how long you could go without sleeping. My record for this is nearly 36 hours, where I went to uni on a Friday morning, then straight to work behind the bar at a nightclub where I worked a 12 hour shift until 6am then drove an hour outside Sydney to a skydiving centre and jumped out of a plane. By the time I finally got to bed it was early afternoon.  I generally partied hard, drinking and dancing for hours, pushing my body to do more, imbibe more, keep going longer and longer. This is what you do when you are young. How do you know what you are capable of if you don’t test it?

If you haven’t seen the movie and plan on being surprised, stop reading here. The final climactic scene, where Christian whips Anna too hard and she breaks up with him, has been called by one reviewer as glorified domestic violence. I think this is a simplistic interpretation. She asks him to do it, to show her what it is he wants, testing both her limits and his. His limit is clearly further than hers, but when it becomes too much she doesn’t safe word out. In the second book this is explained as “she forgot” and he gets upset with her for not saying stop, even though he reminded her before they started. If she had said the safe word “red” and he hadn’t stopped, then I’d agree it was domestic violence. Though I don’t get the attraction to BDSM, I do understand wanting to see how far you can go with things. This scene is similar to any video of extreme sports – base jumping, free running, skateboarding or snowboarding when someone attempts a skill and doesn’t pull it off. They went to the edge and fell off. Do you think less of the snowboarder who tries their best but still stacks it? No, but because it’s sex that is the medium rather than snow, there’s far more judgement. Just because we wouldn’t personally attempt something doesn’t make it our right to say that no one should.