Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The heatwave we had to have


It was the week we had been dreading. After a comfortably mild December and early January, the inevitable heat wave was finally coming our way.

And it is going to be a killer. Five days straight of 40-degree heat. Perhaps it’s payment for the overdue hot days we missed so far. Plus the inexorable path of global warming. For a few cool days it seemed that all was pleasant in the world.

And then, on the first of the days, a gentle southerly breeze tempered the heat. Around midday, the temperature suddenly dropped and it seemed that perhaps we could escape the worst. Perhaps a butterfly sneezed in Beijing, and the high that has settled over Tasmania has quickly moved on.

But the northerlies eventually prevailed. If anything, the forecast now has got worst. It is going to be 43 degrees on Thursday.

After the collapse of Wall Street last year, the Australian government introduced a stimulus package to stave off recession. For a while, in December, it seemed that we would escape the worst. Extra dollars poured into shops for Christmas and there was plenty of fruit on the trees. It even rained.

And then there was the Obama inauguration, when the world seemed unified in a vision of hope. A passenger jet landed on the calm waters of the Hudson river. Obama started his mission ‘faithfully’. Jelena Dokic re-emerged from nowhere to win hearts at tennis.

But as the year rolls on, the newspapers are filled with more bad news and commentators are warning that with the downturn in China Australia will not escape economic hardship.

Things will get worse before they get better.

Last night Dokic lost.

It’s enough to make you a Stoic.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mandatory Europeanism


The chemist occupies a special place in a neighbourhood. The pharmacist claims a strangely intimate relation to the client. We entrust the man or woman in the white coat with the embarrassing details or our ailments, and niggling concerns about skin conditions and less savoury things. They help us in maintaining the armoury of public life.

Late last year, someone came into our chemist with an offer that was hard to refuse. He was about to open a branch of the super-chain Chemist Warehouse around the corner. ‘You can either sell us your business now, or you will go broke, as there’s no way you can match our prices.’ So they sold.

In its place is a chemist supermarket. The windows are plastered with crazy offers – I it looks cheap and nasty, people will think they are getting a bargain. Inside, it looks like any tacky supermarket, with aisles groaning with remaindered goods.

I decided I had to come and confront these demons soon after they were open, to give them a chance to win me over. Perhaps they are doing a social service, offering medical goods at a price that poor people could afford. No, instead the young man behind the counter sympathised with my position, and could see that it was a loss of neighbourhood. But, he said, ‘That’s what they are doing in Europe now, so, well…’

That’s certainly something to touch the sensitive republican nerve. So it’s done in Europe. Ok, I guess you’re right. Let’s give up on our local values, as if it is happening in Europe now, then it’s inevitable that will be happen here too. Resistance is futile.

This is our international European designer brand mentality, consigning us to the rubbish bin of history at the bottom of the world.

Or is it?