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Today's quote:

Saturday, February 27, 2021



I woke up this morning thinking that I had dreamed about having gone out in the middle of the night to feed our resident possum and her joey in the possum penthouse, and then also feeding a second possum that had been sitting on top of the power pole.

Then I realised that it hadn't been a dream at all but that I really had been up at four o'clock in the morning to go outside to do just that: to give our resident possum breakfast in bed. It didn't stop me though from serving her a second breakfast just after seven o'clock, and as I did so while casually appraising the new day unfolding around me, I saw this huge eastern grey kangaroo leisurely grazing no more than twenty feet away from me. He was one powerfully built fella and so confident of his own strength that my presence didn't bother him at all and he was still there when we left "Riverbend" for our lunch at Raymond's at Malua Bay.

Which propelled my usually twisted mind towards today's re-reading of Lawrence's novel "Kangaroo" which took care of my usual post-luncheon nap on the old sofa on the verandah and of the rest of the day. If your own reading of D H Lawrence does go beyond "Lady Chatterley's Lover" - which would've been handed to you surreptitiously in a brown paperbag at the time you bought it - you'd know that the "Kangaroo" alluded to in the book's title is the nickname of one of the characters, Benjamin Cooley, a prominent ex-soldier and lawyer, who is also the leader of a secretive, fascist paramilitary organisation, the "Diggers Club".

The story of the book is extremely simple. An English writer named Richard Lovat Somers and his German wife, Harriet (who do not even pretend to be other than D H Lawrence and his wife), arrive in Sydney with the idea of settling in Australia. This simple story, however, is interspersed with long descriptions of the Australian landscape, with many penetrating observations on the Australian character and with typically Lawrentian reflections on Life and Politics.

Most of what he wrote in 1922 was still true in 1965 when I arrived here, and much of it is still true today, almost a hundred years later. Consider Lawrence's remarks about Australian society, and particularly its democratic aspect: "There was really no class distinction. There was a difference of money and of 'smartness'. But nobody felt 'better' than anyone else, or higher; only better-off. And there is all the difference in the world between feeling 'better' than your fellow men, and merely feeling 'better-off'." And again: "Somers for the first time felt himself immersed in real democracy - in spite of all disparity in wealth. The instinct of the place was absolutely and flatly democratic, 'a terre' democratic. Demos was here his own master, undisputed, and therefore quite calm about it. No need to get the wind up at all over it; it was a granted condition of Australia that Demos was his own master." page 17

As I myself found out when I came here fifty-five years ago, it is one of the pleasantest things in Australia that nobody does feel better than anyone else and, perhaps more important still, nobody feels worse (aside from the professional whingers strutting their stuff on the ABC). The working man who goes to mend a broken tap in a rich man's house may envy his wealth or, more likely, grin sardonically at its evidence, but he does not feel inferior. As Lawrence said: "... there is all the difference in the world between feeling better than your fellow man, and merely feeling better-off."

Lawrence's insightfulness is all the more astonishing when it is realised that he spent only four months in Australia, from May to August 1922 - a fortnight in Perth, a fortnight in the ship to Sydney, and three months living alone with his wife in a cottage on the coast about thirty miles south of Sydney in the then little mining village of Thirroul (in the book this is called Mullumbimby), where he wrote his book.

I leave you alone now so you can watch the movie while I go and see if the big boomer has turned up again.

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