Beginning: The trouble with the first aspect is it can go back. Sometimes forever. So let’s start with a childhood friend. And he has a son. Who comes to London. And his partner, who shares my passion for theatre, is with him. And they eventually go back to Australia but, with family connections and complications, are on their way to Italy via London for holiday. That’s the genesis. Oh, and it happens that while they are in England the World Cup is on. So it is in a pub in the literary heart of Britain, Soho, that I find myself with them and a few of their friends, one who works for an Australian publisher, ostensibly watching the green and gold crash out against Peru.
Middle (1) : It appears, sadly, that the football is not going the Aussies’ way. My mate's son’s partner is a drama teacher. She and her friend, Alice Lewinsky, senior publicist for The Text Publishing Company, and I find literature more and more enticing than the ball play. We swap stories of authors, known, unknown, forgotten or overlooked and, as someone says at one point, ‘Who would have guessed this?’
Middle (2): Alice puts me onto two books, one a reissue, The Women in Black, soon to become a film, Ladies in Black directed by Bruce Beresford, a friend of the author, Madeleine St John and Sarah Sentilles’s Draw Your Weapons. They come to me with a card promoting They’re A Weird Mob, reminding me of a teenage read of the work by Nino Culotta, a pseudonym for John O’Grady. To trim the edges of memory, the graphic for the book evokes for me Faces In The Street by Henry Lawson, which somehow conjures up Collins St., 5p.m. by John Brack, which hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria.
End: The books were both engrossing but very different. Having grown up in Sydney about the time of St John’s book, there are memories, evocations and wonderings that flowed from a deceptively simple and charming story. Sentilles ‘s mixture of anecdote, history, polemic and theology challenge me intellectually and textually. It is a book that is both startling and engaging.
Coda: Thanks to friends. Sorry for the delay in putting this down. Oh, yeah. And bad luck, Australia. But it is a while ago.