Aus­tralia is a spa­cious place. Take an evening flight from the scur­ry­ing ant heap of some city in East Asia, set­tle down for a fit­ful sleep in cat­tle class, then lift the port­hole shut­ter at dawn and gaze from 10,000 meters upon a con­ti­nent in blaz­ing cre­ation. You are an avatar, a mes­sen­ger come for strange mes­sages from other gods in a strange land. The sun rises like a meteor, the night chill upon the land below shrinks like plas­tic wrap on an oven plate, and in a trice you are hov­er­ing above a ter­ri­fy­ing, track­less waste of shim­mer­ing browns and reds and yel­lows, bony ridges of old rocks, some­times a scar where a river might have been a mil­lion years ago. It goes on and on for hours. It is Aus­tralia, and it isn’t home. Some­time around 8am your space­craft will slide across the Great Divid­ing Range on the east coast of the con­ti­nent. Then with aston­ish­ing speed, a few min­utes, you will be cir­cling above the sparkling Paci­fic Ocean, and mak­ing a final approach to an air­port in Syd­ney or Bris­bane or Mel­bourne. Your craft bumps onto the tar­mac, you sur­vived and you are once more sub­merged in the scur­ry­ing ant heap of a city, an Aus­tralian city. Its pale and puffy cit­i­zens, per­haps painted with fake tans from a chemist shop or tat­tooed in mock sav­agery, wad­dle to their huge four wheel drive wag­ons and drive bumper to bumper to their per­sonal com­fort zones. Their homes are stuffed with every mod-con, bought on bot­tom­less credit cards, while the real estate itself in these ant heaps in now amongst the most expen­sive on the planet, bid up relent­lessly, fam­ily against fam­ily in pur­suit of imag­i­nary wealth, a giant pyra­mid scheme that amounts to a national delu­sion…

Yeah, you’ve got it. Yours truly, your ram­bling writer, seems to be not quite a cer­ti­fied Aus­tralian. It is a con­di­tion that has per­sisted from birth in some for­got­ten New South Wales coun­try town where my father dumped his job as a lum­ber worker two weeks after my arrival. We drifted pen­ni­less to the mega­lopolis of Syd­ney, and con­tin­ued to drift about its out­skirts for the whole of my child­hood. Later I widened the drift to Ocea­nia and East Asia, as well as a brief adven­ture into Europe. Thus, dealt by fate as a stranger to set­tled ways, I am the quin­tes­sen­tial out­sider. That might have been a cat­a­stro­phe for some­one in urgent need of cud­dling. Oddly enough, it seems to have suited the stuff I’m made of. I’m a teacher, I care for my stu­dents, yet through the decades of a poor but not bad life, I have remained more of an ant observer than an ant. My father, addicted to booze, cig­a­rettes and risk – a dif­fer­ent crit­ter from me alto­gether – would bang rest­lessly about the fam­ily home before declar­ing loudly, “gonna go check out the local wildlife”. He would roll in late at night, soz­zled, but brim­ming with tales of scoundrels and heroes, danc­ing girls and fabled char­ac­ters. In the cold, early morn­ing light of city streets they might have been, per­haps, your usual pathetic col­lec­tion of human flot­sam. But to me, as a kid, his sto­ries, his brave but hope­less cav­al­cade of imag­i­nary pil­grims, fused in my soul a view of life as a novel, a suc­ces­sion of chap­ters that had their own inner integrity. All the pre­ten­sions of feed­ing and breed­ing, love and hate, careers, sta­tus and wealth, have remained some­how exter­nal and sec­ondary to the magic of the story itself. “It takes all kinds of peo­ple to make the world go around,” may father would say grandly in an expan­sive moment of good­will, and that, scrib­bled in my own fit­ful way, is what this blog is about – some imag­i­nary spaces, shad­ows and sun­light, between the acci­den­tal Aus­tralian char­ac­ters I’ve caught out of the cor­ner of my eye.

Prob­a­bly you have had the expe­ri­ence of deja vu. As you walk down the street you come upon faces which seem to be some­how famil­iar, yet you can­not put a name or a place to them. You mem­o­ries are a col­lage of frag­ments, and some of those frag­ments are shared by many among us. So it is with writ­ing. The char­ac­ters in this blog are col­lages, assem­bled from frag­ments of mem­ory and embroi­dered to the writer’s taste. I’m not try­ing to defame your best friend, or put a halo on real heroes, unless I hap­pen to give them a real name and claim pho­to­graphic hon­esty for the descrip­tion. If you see a tale about “some­one you know”, put it down to your own active imag­i­na­tion. Me ? I’m more inter­ested in my ver­sion of the truth, and real named peo­ple with birth cer­tifi­cates are chameleons, shape chang­ers who are usu­ally too damned hard to pin “the truth” on for more than five min­utes at a time.

Years ago I wrote a series of prose poems called The Wrong Address which also told tales of a kind about the many houses I had lived in. The Wrong Address is online at http://thormay.net/literature/wrongaddress/wrongaddress.html; (also poems of a dif­fer­ent kind in Time Pass­ing at http://thormay.net/literature/timepassing/timepassindex.html )

In the unlikely event that you want to know more about Thor May him­self, a bio of sorts can be found on his old­est web­site, The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic, at http://thormay.net/docsite/aboutthor.html.


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