Tag Archives: writing

Reflections on the gap

Mind the gap. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Mind the gap. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Normally, the gap year is reserved for the young, fresh out of high school, ready to conquer the world. But like youth, the gap year really is wasted on the young.

For starters, at that age you have very limited means. This means you have to work a shitty job in a shitty café – or worse – to fund your fun year out. At 48, I have accumulated a certain amount of wealth from many years of working really hard and living quite frugally, as well as an amount of long service leave I could use sensibly for the purpose. I compare this with the time when I as a 16 year old also took a gap year to attend an English language course at Cardiff University for three months. I really had very limited means and no steady income. I am sure Cardiff would have been much more fun with dosh.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Joy and pursuit of unhappiness

Six grey cygnets are out. One egg remains. Swans at the Lakes in Copenhagen. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Six grey cygnets are out. One egg remains. Swans at the Lakes in Copenhagen. Photo: Lone. 2015.

The bird life on the Lakes in Copenhagen is surprisingly plentiful and diverse. Each time we walk around the lakes we notice new nests or – even better – new tiny baby birds in the coot’s nest, striped young ones on the back of great crested grebe or ducklings paddling with their mallard parents. If the weather is good, we stop to watch their funny antics and take photos. Today, mother swan was busy with six little grey cygnets, fussing to add feathers and other warm materials to the remaining grey-green egg. With spring comes new life, fresh and full of opportunities. It gives me moments of unbridled joy, following this happy addition to the abundant bird life in the middle of Copenhagen.

Continue reading

Blixen’s own room

Baroness Karen Blixen with her brother, Thomas Dinesen, in Kenya. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Karen_Blixen_and_Thomas_Dinesen_1920s.jpg

Baroness Karen Blixen with her brother, Thomas Dinesen, in Kenya. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Karen_Blixen_and_Thomas_Dinesen_1920s.jpg

Karen Blixen started her writing career in earnest as a man. Not like some Orlando, who experienced an acute sex change overnight, but because she understood that in the 1930s her writing might have more weight if everyone thought she was a man. Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen was published in Denmark and Great Britain in 1934 and won her some acclaim. When she wrote Min Afrikanske Farm or Out of Africa about her 18 years in Kenya, she wrote and published as herself in 1937. And the rest is history, including film history.

Continue reading

Heart of pinkness

The river runs through a pink landscape - Richard Mosse: Platon (2012). Photo: Mick 2015.

The river runs through a pink landscape – Richard Mosse: Platon (2012). Photo: Mick 2015.

Colour blindness comes in a version where green and red are indistinguishable. I cannot imagine not being able to see the many greens that colour spring and summer or the reds of tulips and cherry blossoms that are starting to show.

Richard Mosse (1980) is an Irish artist whose work The Enclave (2013) is exhibiting at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presently. This work explores the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, changing hues of green to hues of red and pink. Mosse used the now discontinued Kodak Aerochrome to film events in DRC – the US Army used this surveillance film to show invisible infrared light, turning green into red and pink to detect camouflage. This war is largely ignored by Western media and therefore largely unknown outside Congo and Rwanda, even though more than 5.4 million people have died in this war since 1998. Continue reading

The spirit of the age

Perhaps a pictorial for female toilet would have been a better design choice that accorded more with the spirit of the age? Sydney Opera House. Photo: Mick. 2013.

Perhaps a pictorial for female toilet would have been a better design choice that accorded more with the spirit of the age? Sydney Opera House. Photo: Mick. 2013.

Orlando (1928) is a short work of fiction, highly acclaimed and thought to be the most accessible of Virginia Woolf’s works. Frankly, I found it tedious and long in the tooth. It took me forever to read, getting lost in long passages of description. I had to look hard for the insights and gems.

Continue reading

An old man and a determined woman

A young man by the sea, France. Photo: Andreas 1985.

A young boy by the sea, France. Photo: Andreas 1985.

After enjoying Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, I decided to read the book that won him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1956 – The Old Man and the Sea. The library had it, not in English, but in Danish as a sound book. A number of cardinal sins already committed right there – a book should be read in the language in which it was written and listening clearly is a different experience from reading.

Santiago is the old man living in Cuba as a fisherman, but he is out of luck. For 85 days he has not caught anything and the boy, Manolin, is no longer allowed to go to sea with him. Santiago goes out on his own and catches a large marlin. He is dragged further out to sea by the large animal and it takes three days before it dies and Santiago can return to Cuba. He ties the fish to the skiff and raises his sail for the passat winds to blow him home, victorious. However, the blood from the dead fish attracts sharks and Santiago fights a brave fight firstly to protect his catch and secondly to protect his own life. He returns to the shore in one piece, but the marlin is reduced to its skeleton.

Much has been written about this story’s meaning – it is a much studied and analysed novella. Hemingway is quoted as saying:
No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. … I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things.

I was mesmerised by the rhythm of Hemingway’s writing (or perhaps the reader’s voice?) The writing has a certain calm and patient quality. The story is a slow and patient battle between two proud creatures – Santiago and the marlin. While Santiago wins through his perseverance, they are both beaten by the sharks. Santiago’s time waiting on the sea brings with it lots of monologue, reflection and introspection as well as description of the natural environment in almost spiritual tones.

In one sense The Little Mermaid symbolises the helplessness of women Hemingway is proponent of. Except she made her own choice. Edvard Eriksen: Den Lille Havfrue, 1913. Photo: Mick 2015.

In one sense The Little Mermaid symbolises the helplessness of women Hemingway is proponent of. Except she made her own choice fully aware of the dire consequences. Edvard Eriksen: Den Lille Havfrue, 1913. Photo: Mick 2015.

With my friend’s warning that Hemingway was a male chauvinist ringing in my ears, I was struck by a particular view of the sea that Santiago explains. Though others might refer to the sea in male terms, especially when it shows its unrepentant fury, Santiago considers the sea a woman because like a woman the sea cannot help what happens, it just happens. No women – aside from the sea – feature in this novel. However, this way of equating the nature of the sea with the purported helplessness of a woman to determine her own destiny is an inexcusable infantalisation of women.

Perhaps this view is Hemingway’s response to the gradual liberation of women through his lifetime, which may have made his philandering and womanising more difficult. Juxtapose this with my other reading, Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own, based on a series of lectures on Women and Literature she gave in 1928 at Cambridge University. Her basic tenet is that for women to write literature she must have her own money and her own room, quite literally. And that women need access to education. This is at a time when women still largely were property of men, first their fathers, then their husbands and a time when the Oxbridge universities were entirely male dominated and largely closed to women, expect for select faculties. Yet, Woolf reflects, if one only knew women as described by men in literature, one would imagine them to be even greater than men.

A young woman jumping in a lake, Norway. Photo: Lone 1981.

A young woman jumping in a lake, Norway. Photo: Lone 1981.

At the time when Hemingway was developing a writing career in the cafés of Paris, Woolf stood up for women in the halls of Cambridge and called out the reasons why only few women were able to do what he was was.

If through the 20th century all men retained Hemingway’s ossified view of women as helpless creatures unable to determine their own destiny, then gender equality would still be a major battle in the Western world. It still is in some places – even in the Western world – but when girls are given access to education, they excel at traditional male subjects and in 70% of countries exceed the performance of boys. It is only a matter of time before this excellence and excess will show in the centres of power.

In Denmark, it seems the first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Smith, is much maligned  for being a woman, just as Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was. Gillard famously admonished the leader of the opposition in her Misogyny speech – reflecting perhaps that we have some way to go still before women are judged for what they do, rather than their gender.

For the first time, in my home state of Queensland, a woman has taken a party from opposition to victory in a state election. She has also included a record majority of women in the Cabinet room with eight out of 14 ministers being women. Time will tell whether people will judge her on her performance or on her gender. I hope for the first, perhaps against hope?

On blogging

Since I started blogging in April 2014 I have published 34 posts, which have been viewed 1800 times in 42 countries. My posts got 100 likes in 2014. Thank you to everyone of my readers – I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I do.

Today is the beginning of 2015 and the beginning of my reverse migrant experience to get a foot on the ground in Copenhagen. My resolution for 2015 is to write – and read – much more.

Happy new year to you all.

image

Click here to see the complete stats report on my first year of blogging.