After my mammoth YA effort for the Bendigo Writer’s Festival, I’ve been struggling to focus on reading. I’m not enjoying our Book Group August title – “Foal’s Bread” by Gillian Mears – and I don’t really know why. Perhaps I’m just not into horses. It’s not lack of reading matter, either. I’m always in and out of bookshops, new and second-hand. Op shops too, and of course the library. I have started lots of books, and either put them straight down, or skimmed and skipped, or simply read the last pages so I knew what the ending was. I wonder whether I just need an old-fashioned children’s book – a bit like a long, hot bath – for rest and relaxation purposes. But I can’t actually think of one I’d like to read right now. I hover my hand along the bookshelf but nothing calls to me and my hand stays empty. British crime on the telly, instead?
But perhaps it’s no wonder I can’t concentrate, distracted as I am with events in Canberra. I’m finding myself more and more interested – but also, more and and more frustrated – by politics as I get older. As a young woman, I was always kind of greenie-leftie in a lazy and unthinking way, marching in PND rallies and the union protests against Jeff Kennett but never reading the political news in the paper. Boring.
Quite the reverse lately. I’ve been glued to updates of the Turnbull-Dutton drama, alternating between horror and fascination, wondering how I could ever have found this stuff dull. It’s positively Shakespearean; the halls of Parliament House seething with hatred, envy, bitterness, revenge, ambition, betrayal, disloyalty and lies, lies, lies.
I was pondering the state of politics during the week while I was driving. I’d noted the way that we (drivers) are all in our individual cars, going in various directions with differing destinations. Most of us, while pursuing our own itineraries, make sure the roads work for everyone; we don’t speed, we obey the rules, we give way and stop at the lights. Generally, though not always smoothly, we get where we are going in safety. It all works out, even if sometimes it’s annoying to have to wait or slow down or take our turn. We learn to co-operate.
However, it very nearly didn’t work out on Friday. A P-plater (sigh) in a shiny metallic ute, decided that his journey was the only important one. This idiot ran a red light, missing another car by a whisker, and sped through a school zone at pick-up time. As luck would have it, there wasn’t a tragedy. No crash, no kid on the crossing. But there so easily could have been. I thought that traffic wasn’t a bad analogy for what it’s like to be a citizen. Or a politician. But lately the clowns in Canberra are the kid in the ute.
And then, this morning, a friend was telling me her experience driving in bad weather along the freeway. A driver in the right late missed the turn-off to Kyneton and so they stopped and reversed. REVERSED, IN THE RIGHT LATE, ON THE HIGHWAY. Is that not the perfect metaphor?