Goodreads Review: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

A sensuous, tragic story about a fascinating woman trying to survive in Post-Revolutionary France.

Josephine Bonaparte is living on borrowed time in the beautiful garden she has created at Malmaison. Her failed attempts to produce an heir for Emperor Napoleon are about to have  her booted out of her self-styled paradise as he openly pursues his affairs with a string of fertile and eligible young women.

The lives of two other women are bound up with Josephine’s precarious existence. There is gardener’s wife, Anne Serreaux, who is only too aware that the security of her family depends on the survival of Josephine’s teetering marriage. Then there is botanist’s wife, Marthe Desfriches, contemptuous of tyrant Napoleon and with a score to settle of her own.

I was captivated by the stories of these three women, and the way their relationships shifted between rivalry and solidarity. Despite being so different from each other, they are united as women who are at the mercy of their husbands’ choices and the place that society has designated them.

Stephanie Parkyn has written about an exciting time in history, with sensuous descriptions of decadent Post-Revolutionary France and an ambitious garden populated by flora and fauna from around the world. The descriptions of Australian plants and animals as seen through the eyes of Europeans encountering them for the first time are particularly delightful.

Like Manderlay, Camelot and Shangri-La, Malmaison is born of a beautiful dream. Josephine’s efforts at creating a private utopia are reminiscent of her tragic predecessor, Marie Antoinette, who created a rustic retreat for herself and her inner circle, away from the formality of the Palace of Versailles.

It’s as though both women are trying to escape from the devastation of their own people, which by association, they are somewhat complicit in. But turning a blind eye, both women retreat into their gardens and try to create a world apart from the horrific realities all around them.

And we all know how that ends.

Posted by naomilisashippen in Book Reviews, 0 comments

The Artist’s Way: Week 2

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity

With my new routine now established, I sit down at my dining room table every day to do the morning pages. They no longer feel like an imposition on my time, but a necessary kick start to my day, just like my morning coffee.

For some reason, I prefer this space I share with my family, to the privacy of my desk in the spare room. If anyone’s up and about, they’ll stop to have a chat, turn on the TV or generally go about their day. Usually, I would find this background noise distracting while I write, but with the morning pages it’s different. I need the stimulation they provide to give me ideas.

Cameron often stress the importance of paying attention to what’s going on around us in order to fill up the creative well and stimulate our imagination. We must learn to balance our outside experience with the times when we sit down to write, and that’s where the morning pages come in.

This week, an idea literally came to me in my sleep and the next day when I sat down to do my morning pages it wouldn’t leave me alone. Rather than fight it off and save it till after I had finished my morning pages, I incorporated my story idea into my free writing and then developed it over then next few days.

When this story was complete, I shared this it with a few trusted friends and received some honest and helpful feedback. It is very important who you decide to take on your creative journey with you and Cameron cautions against “poisonous playmates.” Just as we would steer our children away from others we would consider a bad influence, so too, we must avoid those who we know would undermine our creative efforts. There are exercises in the book that help clarify who you should and should not allow into your creative circle.

Just as we must be selective in the company we keep, so too, we must be selective in the use of our time. Cameron dispels the myth that an artistic life requires “great swathes of aimlessness,” but argues that artist need to be extremely focused. We must pay attention to our surroundings and be present in the moment, so that we have plenty of supply when we go back to produce our art. The exercise on mapping out how I used my time each day was vey telling and has help we avoid some of the pitfalls of wasting this precious resource.

For my artist date, I went to the bookshop and browsed the mystical section. I bought a small pack of tarot cards for a nominal amount of money. I have always had an interest in tarot readings and put it on my list of 20 Things I Enjoy Doing, and l wrote next to it the last time I had a tarot reading. It was over thirty years ago. I took the cards home and spent time reading the instructions and learning how to set up and interpret the cards. It was a fun little exercise, that as an ex-Catholic, felt a little bit daring.

Setting up and reading the cards allowed me a little sliver of time, just for myself. It was a time of introspection, focus and fun. It is these little chunks of time out of your usual routine that allow you to nourish your inner artist and give you some breathing space from the usual obligations of life.

This week felt a little gentler than the one before, and I was less resistant to the morning pages, the affirmations and the exercises. I did not feel guilty for taking time out for myself or feel silly about taking care of my artist.

As I gear up for week three in The Artist’s Way, I now feel safe in claiming my identity as an artist.

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The Artist’s Way: My 12-Week Journey

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program based on the book of the same name, by Julia Cameron. The program is designed to enhance creativity, with weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Week 1 – Recovering a Sense of Safety

The first thing I heard about this program were the morning pages, which are one of the “bedrocks” of this course.  The morning pages require you to complete three pages of free writing at the start of every day. You write whatever comes into your head, without censure, you can even write that you don’t know what to write. These pages are for your eyes only, and not even that. The Artist’s Way tells you not to edit and not to look back. And I don’t. The idea is to focus on the process and not the end result.

At first, I thought these pages were a waste of time. I already have an established writing routine, so why waste time writing drivel when I should be getting on with my next novel? But morning pages work in mysterious ways. Combined with writing lines of affirmations, I find a new strength in my writing voice. I have started writing about topics I would usually shy away from and things that other people might not like.

I shared some of these writings with others and I was blown away by their response. They remarked on the tone, urgency and pace of my work and said that I had really found my voice.

And that’s what the program does.

It helps free you from the inhibitions that hold you back; the fear of rejection and the desire to please. It’s ironic, but in trying to please our readers, we are actually short-changing them. We produce work that is disingenuous and wishy-washy, half-arsed and craven. It takes courage to write about what really matters to you, and The Artist’s Way is certainly making me feel braver.

Affirmations are the second part of the morning pages routine. Cameron offers a selection to choose from, and in Week 1, you write ten lines of your chosen affirmation every day.

Writing ten lines of “I, Naomi, am a talented and prolific writer” felt silly at first. I imagined my grandma telling me that self-praise is no recommendation and my mother screwing up her face in disgust. I pictured my cousins giggling and my kindly aunt patting me on the hand and saying, “Of course you are, dear.”

These objections to our affirmations are what Cameron calls “blurts.” Blurts are the negative little voices that pop up when you write your affirmations. Cameron tells us to reverse every blurt we get. If a blurt tells you that you can’t write to save yourself, you simply respond with, “I am a good writer.” Cameron says that our blurts “hold us in bondage” and “must be dissolved.” And it’s amazing how easily dissolved they are. As I continue with my daily affirmations, grandma, my cousins, my aunt and my mum all fade into nonexistence.

The other bedrock of The Artist’s Way program is the artist’s date. The idea is that every week, you take yourself on a little excursion to fill up the “creative well”. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money. You just take yourself out of your usual routine to see and do something different, to stimulate your senses and kick start your imagination.

No one can come with you on this date, it’s just you and your artist. Your inner artist, that is. According to Cameron, there is a little artist that lives inside us. Like a child, this little artist must be encouraged and nurtured.

Another batty idea. But still, I play along.

Being in lockdown has some limitations, so I decide to use Cameron’s example of going out to buy cheap stationery at a thrift shop. I used this stationery for some of the exercises for this week, which included writing letters to myself about people who have variously encouraged or mocked my creative efforts. In thinking about these things, I am very happy to realise that the positive feedback I have received by far outweighed the negative.

With Week 1 complete, I have formed a daily habit of writing my morning pages and affirmations and of attending a weekly artist’s date. And as silly as the exercises felt in the beginning, I can feel them doing me some good. My inhibitions have loosened and I am writing more what I want to write, not what I think I should.

As the repetitive nature of the exercises becomes ingrained, I feel my writing muscles getting stronger.

As Mr. Miyagi says to his young apprentice in The Karate Kid, “Wax on, wax off.”

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 4 comments

The Virus Chronicles: Enough is Enough

As Restrictions Ease, Will Our Time in Isolation Bring Some Positive Changes?

May 7th, 2020

My sister said she has saved a lot of money since going into isolation. She is no longer buying coffee and lunches everyday or takeaway dinners during the week. These were the little treats she gave herself as a reward for the 9 to 5 slog. Instead, she is cooking at home from scratch and has even started a veggie garden.

Similarly, I have been making some economies at home. The Friday night takeaway has been replaced by homemade pizza, more delicious than any we have ever bought, and I am saving a small fortune on petrol, public transport and maintaining a business appearance.

Now that I have the time and energy to sort and launder them, I have decided that we all have enough clothes to last a lifetime. I clean the house myself rather than pay a fortnightly cleaner and we exercise by walking, gardening and doing things around the house rather than paying expensive memberships at the gym.

Our time poverty has created a culture of wastefulness, but hopefully, this is going to change.

As our leaders talk about easing the restrictions, I am noticing a change in the air. The tone on social media is more optimistic and a few more shops are beginning to open.

When I went to my local shopping centre the other day, I noticed chairs and tables stacked outside one of the cafes. They were still cordoned off behind red and white plastic tape, but at least they were there, ready to be set up again and used. And one of the clothing stores had opened. The lady stood at the door and squirted me with hand sanitiser before she let me in, but at least she was there. People lining up at the bakery talked about the “silly” rules as they stood 1.5 meters apart, on the painted feet that separated them.

A recent survey revealed that people are more worried about the economic threats of the virus rather than catching the virus itself. Australia has managed the situation very well and with the lowest rates of infection and death in the world, people are becoming restless and want to venture out again.

The other day, I watched a beautiful video about a father reading his children the story of  The Great Realisation. The story compared the world before and after the virus, with a world of rush and excess being replaced by one of peace and connection.

We have had to make many sacrifices during this isolation period. With financial constraints and lack of supply, many have been forced to live with the basics. I like to think that we have learnt something from this time.

Hopefully, we have learnt that things don’t make us happy and that it’s the love for each other that matters most. Hopefully, we have learnt that to appreciate what we have and stop chasing what we think we should have.

And hopefully, most of all, I hope we have learnt that enough is enough.

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The Virus Chronicles: Enough is Enough

The Virus Chronicles: Enough is Enough

Will Our Time in Isolation Bring Some Positive Changes?

May 7th, 2020

My sister said she has saved a lot of money since going into isolation. She is no longer buying coffee and lunches everyday or takeaway dinners during the week. These were the little treats she gave herself as a reward for the 9 to 5 slog. Instead, she is cooking at home from scratch and has even started a veggie garden.

Similarly, I have been making some economies at home. The Friday night takeaway has been replaced by homemade pizza, more delicious than any we have ever bought, and I am saving a small fortune on petrol, public transport and maintaining a business appearance.

Now that I have the time and energy to sort and launder them, I have decided that we all have enough clothes to last a lifetime. I clean the house myself rather than pay a fortnightly cleaner and we exercise by walking, gardening and doing things around the house rather than paying expensive memberships at the gym.

Our time poverty has created a culture of wastefulness, but hopefully, this is going to change.

As our leaders talk about easing the restrictions, I am noticing a change in the air. The tone on social media is more optimistic and a few more shops are beginning to open.

When I went to my local shopping centre the other day, I noticed chairs and tables stacked outside one of the cafes. They were still cordoned off behind red and white plastic tape, but at least they were there, ready to be set up again and used. And one of the clothing stores had opened. The lady stood at the door and squirted me with hand sanitiser before she let me in, but at least she was there. People lining up at the bakery talked about the “silly” rules as they stood 1.5 meters apart, on the painted feet that separated them.

A recent survey revealed that people are more worried about the economic threats of the virus rather than catching the virus itself. Australia has managed the situation very well and with the lowest rates of infection and death in the world, people are becoming restless and want to venture out again.

The other day, I watched a beautiful video about a father reading his children the story of  The Great Realisation. The story compared the world before and after the virus, with a world of rush and excess being replaced by one of peace and connection.

We have had to make many sacrifices during this isolation period. With financial constraints and lack of supply, many have been forced to live with the basics. I like to think that we have learnt something from this time.

Hopefully, we have learnt that things don’t make us happy and that it’s the love for each other that matters most. Hopefully, we have learnt that to appreciate what we have and stop chasing what we think we should have.

And hopefully, most of all, I hope we have learnt that enough is enough.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
Goodreads Book Review – Ben Cousins: My Life Story

Goodreads Book Review – Ben Cousins: My Life Story

It’s been ten years since Ben Cousins: My Life Story came out, and a lot has changed since then.

After watching the latest documentary about former West Coast Eagles star, Ben Cousins, a friend recommended I read his autobiography. Written ten years ago in 2010, the autobiography describes Ben Cousins’s early life and his spectacular Australian Football League career.

Arguably the most talented player of his era, the book details every season of Ben’s career and will appeal to footy buffs. But even if you are not a sports fan, there is a lot here to keep the pages turning. The narrative style is light and often humorous and you can hear Ben’s voice coming through on the page.

My son was in primary school when Ben Cousins dominated the footy world and he and his mates idolised him. The most prominent memory I have of Ben Cousins from that time is of him shirtless and handcuffed, being forced into a police car. I could never understand how a hardened drug addict could also be an elite athlete, but Cousins explains this in the book. It was all about timing. Ben had his training and drug taking schedules down to a fine art. He knew when his training was due and he knew how long it would take him to recover from a bender. He explains that his footy training and drug taking worked in tandem as a warped kind of reward and punishment system.

Ben was able to navigate the drug testing because he had the opportunity to plan ahead. And as long as he delivered the goods on game day, neither the authorities nor Ben himself seemed to concern themselves with the long term effects.

Ben got himself in and out of various scrapes but it wasn’t until Christmas of 2005 that things really came undone. Ben “jumped too early,” and mistimed the start of his Boxing Day twister. As a result, he was in a “right state” on Christmas Day and ruined it for the whole family.

By now, the seriousness of Ben’s addictions were becoming obvious and everyone was worried. Even his underworld cronies. There is a very funny part in the book where they pick Ben up to take him on a “fishing trip”. Ben worries that he has done something to offend them and is thinking the worst, but his mobster mates take him aside and give him a good talking to, warning him of the dangers of ice.

There were a couple of half-hearted attempts at rehab in luxurious, overseas facilities. Whisked away at LAX by two mystery blondes in a Mercedes, Ben’s overseas rehab stint ends up in an ambulance ride to hospital.

Ben spent the final years of his career at the Richmond Football Club, where by his own admission, he was not the best player. However, he had a long period of being drug free and he retired from the club satisfied with his performance.

The book ends on an optimistic note. Ben acknowledges the harm he has done himself and others with his drug use and hopes to bring solace to those suffering from addiction. But unfortunately, things have not gone so well since then.

Fast forward ten years to March 2020 and the latest documentary “Ben Cousins: Coming Clean.” Ben is estranged from his family, has been to prison and is living “between joints.” The following month, in April 2020, Ben is in the news again, back in prison for drug possession and aggravated stalking.

It’s as though the words of a dying outlaw, tattooed across Ben’s abdomen, are becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Surely this is not the future that such a gifted young man envisioned for himself.

I really hope that is not the case and that Ben can finally turns things around. I hope that his life will become more than just a cautionary tale.

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The Virus Chronicles – The Change

The Virus Chronicles – The Change

With So Much Time to Think, COVID May See Some Seismic Changes in Our Lives.

#writersinquarantine #Writerslife #writingcommunity #amwritingwomensfiction #womenshealth

I got an email from my employment agency yesterday, just touching base and seeing if I was still available for assignments. The email said they didn’t have any work at the moment but would let me know when they did. This made my heart sink for two reasons, firstly, because I don’t have a job to go to and secondly, because one day I will.

While it is not sustainable for my family to live on one income for the long term, the prospect of resuming my 9 to 5 existence doesn’t have much appeal. The thought of squeezing back into a business suit and doing battle with peak hour traffic makes me want to pull the doona back over my head and press the snooze button on my alarm.

Being at home has been a novelty for me. I have always worked 9 to 5, even when my children were small and I have always craved more time at home. The end of the Monday to Friday working week leaves me shattered, with little time or energy to do the things I want to do.

Now, I wonder how I managed to cram the most important parts of my life around that 38 hour block of time: the 9 to 5 working week. That voracious, soul sucking monster who is never satisfied, is was always demanding more.

A year ago, I left a job where I was comfortable but extremely unsatisfied. Since then, I have  been in a couple of jobs which seemed the right fit but despite my best efforts, just didn’t work out and I had no choice but to leave.

For many women in their fifties, the way they have always done things seems to stop working and they begin casting around for something new. Their children grow up and no longer need them, the careers they have become proficient in no longer satisfy them and they no longer give much of a crap about what anybody else thinks.

Comedian, Billy Connolly, once said that women are like trees, always branching out and growing, spreading out in all directions and reaching for new sources of nourishment. His own wife, comedian Pamela Stephenson, is testament to this. She became a psychologist later in life before taking up round the world sailing and Latin dancing.

With life lessons learned, skills acquired and wisdom gained, the later middle years can be a time of rebirth for many women. We are smarter, stronger, tougher than ever before and we are no longer afraid to pursue our dreams.

I cast my eye over the email again, racking my brain for an appropriate response. I don’t want to cut ties completely, but I really don’t want to go back.

I do some calculations, and although it will be tough, I reckon I can manage to stay home and write for another couple of months. Give it a red hot go.

My husband finishes his work for the day and I sit him down for a serious chat. I know that ditching paid work to write a novel makes about as much financial sense as buying a tattslotto ticket.

But I want to do it anyway.

Although my husband has always been supportive of my writing, I am bracing myself to hear his objections. But he says, “Sure, no worries. You probably don’t have much other choice, anyway.”

And so the decision is made.

I will devote the next few months to writing my second novel, and I’m going to give it a red hot go.

I go back into the spare room, where I do my writing and retrieve the plan for my second novel, the one I abandoned about a year ago.

Sometimes we choose change, sometimes it’s forced upon us and maybe sometimes, it’s just meant to be.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 8 comments
The Virus Chronicles – Swimming Pool

The Virus Chronicles – Swimming Pool

One Day The Crowds Will Return to the Local Swimming Pool

April 9th, 2020

The road that leads to the swimming pool is completely deserted. Usually, it’s so full of cars that you’re lucky not to take out someone’s side mirror when you drive through. Especially during school holidays, which it is now.

Under normal circumstances, this street would be full of cars from the overflowing car park. Harried mums and their gaggle of kids would make a colourful, noisy parade, festooned with floating aids, towels and bright beach bags.

But today nobody’s here. Nobody but the tradies in their hulking, four-wheel drive utes. There are about half a dozen of them in the deserted car park, taking the opportunity to work in peace.

The back door of the swimming pool is propped open and a coiling, silver cylinder snakes out, like the spiralling slinky I used to play with as a kid. This door is for members only, I know because I used to be a member here. I wore a plastic band on my wrist that allowed me entrance through the Members Only door. I would hold it up to the sensor as I approached and the tall glass door would ease open with great reverence, heralding my arrival.

I would ascend the wide staircase that led to the members only change rooms, which would also require a swipe of my plastic bracelet. The change rooms were nicer than the public ones downstairs, small but immaculate with white washed brick walls and blond wood benches. Ladies would hang their business suits on coat hangers while they attended yoga, spin class or did a workout in the gym. The 6am classes were popular for busy professionals, allowing them to keep up with their fitness program and still get to work on time.

As a member, I had a special program designed for me. One that would help me achieve my weight loss goals. I had been required to get a doctor’s certificate before I was allowed to join the gym. I was overweight and had high blood pressure. But with a sensible diet and a proper exercise plan we would soon fix that.

I would get to the gym about three times a week and go through the exercises, as I had been shown. Medicine balls, floor mats, gym equipment. The gym was always packed at the peak times before and after work. Sometimes I was lucky to find a space on the floor. I would get annoyed when there were people lying on their mats, looking at their phones. Didn’t they know that just being in the gym was not enough? Did they think they would just absorb the vibe and let osmosis do the work?

No matter. I preferred the walking machine, anyway. There were lines of them overlooking the swimming pools below. There was the kiddies pool with spurting water fountains, the wave pool were people could enjoy the thrill of the tides without the dangers of open waters and the lap pools, with the designated lanes for beginners, intermediate and fast swimmers alike.

My dad used to take me to this pool when I was a child, and if he could see it now, he would not recognise it. There was no gym back then and a kiosk, not a cafe. The kiosk sold hot chips and ice cream, pies and lollies. The ladies couldn’t even get a salad sandwich, they had to bring one from home. Now there is a café, with spacious, comfortable seating. Smiling, aproned baristas bring you latte and frittata, chai tea and salads. If you want a pie and chips, you have to go to the takeaway at the back.

For reasons of time and money, I gave up my gym membership and reprised the one and only exercise I truly enjoy – walking. I like the freedom of putting on my shoes and taking off whenever I want. And my dog likes it, too.

I live near the pool now, where I used to be a member, where my dad used to take me when I was a kid. I walk past it every day, as part of my isolation fitness routine. I walk past the water fountains that have stopped flowing and the wide glass doors that have stopped opening. I look in through the windows at the empty kiddies pool and the deserted cafe. I follow the path through the native gardens to the back, where the outdoor pool sparkles behind the high cyclone wire.

I remember the days when my dad would bring me here to cool down on hot, summer days. I remember the crowds, the sunburned children laughing in the water, the teenagers doing water bombs and the mums frantically calling their children to stay in the shallow end.

I remember the days before the arching, elegant lines of the sprawling sports complex that’s here now, when the local pool was a boxy, yellow brick building, housing two single pools. I remember the days when we pushed through the stiff, rusted turnstile to a world of fun and adventure, a reprieve for the long, drawn out days of oppressive summer heat.

There was only one entrance then because there weren’t any members. There was only a rusty old turnstile, and everyone pushed through it.

I hope that one day, the people will return to the swimming pool. I hope to walk past and see kids and their parents enjoying the water.

I hope I will come back here on a hot summer day and feel the ice-cold water on my febrile summer skin.

Just like I did with my dad when I was a kid.

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The Virus Chronicles – Insomnia

The Virus Chronicles – Insomnia

Insomnia and late night TV lead to some interesting revelations about a notorious Aussie football legend.

#WritersInQuarantine #WritersLife #WritingCommunity #amwriting #takecareofyourself #insomnia

Photo by Chanel 7

April 11, 2020

I try to keep to my 9 to 5 routine, but today things have got the better of me. I woke up at 4am, showered at lunchtime and now, I’m awake at midnight.

Not being able to get back to sleep, I go into the kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea. My son is up watching a documentary about former football star, Ben Cousins, and invites me to join him. I have no interest in sports but when your 20-something son wants you to hang out you take the opportunity. You never know when it might happen again.

My son is sports mad and growing up, he and his mates idolised Ben Cousins, arguably the best player of his day. But all I remember about him was getting arrested for taking drugs. I remember seeing him on the news, handcuffed and shirtless, being forced into a police car.

I could never reconcile in my mind the idea that someone in peak athletic form could be a drug addict. Ben Cousins’s body was superbly muscular and his skin glowed with good health.

“How could he be a drug addict?” I say. “Don’t drugs destroy your body?

“He trained really hard,” my son explains.

But I still don’t get it.

We watch the two-part series Such is Life: The Troubled Times of Ben Cousins. The introduction shows a fresh-faced Ben Cousins warning of the dangers of drug addiction. Staring straight into the camera, he is a talking head reading off an autocue. His warnings about drugs are empty, because he seems to be having the time of his life while his family are distraught with worry.

The psychologist interviewed for this film says that Ben’s adult life had only been about “receiving and not giving.”

“No wonder he’s a narcissistic prick,” I tell my son. “He doesn’t know any better.”

The second documentary, Coming Clean, is hard to watch. Filmed ten years later in 2020, Ben has changed a lot. He no longer looks like a little boy. His face is weathered and there are patches of grey in his shaggy beard. A plain white t-shirt replaces the immaculate dress shirt and dove grey blazer he wore in the earlier film.

But the most striking change is in his demeanour. The smart arse, rapid fire answers have been replaced by long pauses of introspection, where he struggles to find his words and evade the interviewer’s confronting questions. And they are confronting.

Ben’s life has not been easy in the ten years since the first documentary was filmed. He has become estranged from his family, lives “between joints” and has spent time in prison.

Ben made a go of it in prison, getting a job in the cleaning party, responsible for the prison maintenance. Getting a job in prison is not easy, and not everyone does. And Ben says with a smile that it is work he thinks he could do on the outside.

“So, from Brownlow to garbo, inside a jail,” says interviewer, Basil Zempilas. Zempilas then goes on to quote the Cold Play lyrics: “I used to rule the world, and now I sweep the streets I used to own.”

“That interviewer’s a bastard,” says my son.

And I am inclined to agree.

Zempilas brings up some deeply personal issues, making Ben look most uncomfortable, even pained. Like the near naked selfie that became public. The interviewer asks Ben why he took the photo in the first place.

“Trying to get a root,” Ben responds with his characteristic cheekiness.

“And did it have the desired effect?”

Ben looks uncomfortable. “No, it didn’t.”

Next, Zempilas reads the letter Ben wrote to actress, Lynne McGranger of TV Soap, Home and Away. The private letter is heartfelt and respectful. Grainger expresses surprise that he wrote to her and she reads it on air. She supposes he reached out because of the character she plays, a former addict who takes in young people struggling with addiction.

She wishes him all the best with his recovery and points him in the direction of his higher power.

Zempilas takes Ben to task about the trouble he has caused the AFL by “bringing the game of football into disrepute.” Chastened, Ben is apologetic, but in an earlier interview he says the AFL wouldn’t care if he was hanging from the beams in the roof.

Young footballers devote themselves to serving an apprenticeship that they cannot take with them into later life, after the game is over. Like modern day gladiators, they put their bodies on the line for the sake of public entertainment and when they are too old and broken to amuse us, we throw them on the scrap heap.

Throughout the film, Ben says he wants to be normal and that he would love to be living a traditional, family life. But after the life he has lived, how can that be possible?

The AFL have turned their back on the problem child that they have created and turned him out into a world for which he is in no way prepared.

The documentary finishes and my son goes out into the cold night air. He sits at the far corner of the outdoor table and the red tip of his cigarette glows in the darkness. I don’t like him smoking but I tell myself it could be worse.

I got both my sons into every sport going when they were young. Football, cricket, basketball. I thought all that running around would use up their energy and keep them out of trouble.

But Ben Cousin’s has shown the flaw in my thinking.

I say goodnight to my son and head off to bed.

But I don’t know if I will sleep tonight.

Coming Clean by Chanel 7

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 2 comments
The Virus Chronicles – Looking for Work

The Virus Chronicles – Looking for Work

After 14 Days in quarantine, it’s time to find a job.

April 1st, 2020

My quarantine period ends next week and I need to get a job. Before I left for my overseas holiday in March, my temp agency said they would have plenty of work in April. But it’s April 1st today and they haven’t returned my calls or emails.

No matter. There’s plenty of call center work around. I used to work in call centers many years ago and I swore I would never do it again but I might have to. I gave up on them years ago when all the work dried up and went overseas. The work all went offshore but now it’s back on shore again and they need new people.

And so, with some reluctance, I update my resume and fill out the online application form. Apart from being an insidious form of soul destroying mental torture, call centres are rife with germs. People sit at close quarters, sharing the same recycled air and often using each other’s headsets and keyboards. If one person gets sick, then everyone around them goes down. Maybe these days the call centers practice social distancing, or maybe it’s set up so that people can work from home. But then they wouldn’t be call centers.

I went for a job a few weeks ago. One I really wanted but didn’t think I’d get. My husband’s work was looking for a Bid Specialist, someone to help write business tenders. I read the job description but didn’t think it was for me, I didn’t have the right experience. But my husband spoke with the manager of the department and told her about the writing I do in my spare time. He told her that I had written a novel, short stories and that I keep a regular blog.

“Oh, yeah,” said the manager, “she’s a writer.”

Just like that. As someone who has never earned money or prizes for my work, I struggle with identifying myself as a writer. I feel like a fraud. But that casual acknowledgment meant the world to me, I could have kissed her.

So on the strength of the creative writing I do in my spare time, she wanted to see me. We met for coffee and a casual chat. The meeting went well and she encouraged me to apply for the role. I applied but didn’t get it. I didn’t think I would, it went to someone with bid writing experience. Naturally.

And so I’m back to the drawing board. Looking for the same familiar roles that have kept me going in circles my entire working life. Like the woman in the cartoon who forgot to have a baby, I forgot to have a career. I always thought there would be more time.

My husband has stuck a red notice from the electricity company on the fridge and has mentioned that he is the only one earning an income. I feel guilty for putting all that pressure on him, it’s not fair. He’s got a job for now in the essential industry of telecommunications but who knows what could happen.

They say on the news that landlords will not be allowed to evict tenants and that utilities can’t cut off supply. I’ve heard that you can access your super and that Centrelink are offering extra payments. But I wouldn’t like to put any of that to the test. I don’t trust governments and I don’t want to burn through what little super I have.

And so instead of writing stories I need to start writing job applications. Instead of finessing my website I need to update my Linkedin profile. Instead of enjoying video chats with other writers I need to get on the phone to prospective employers.

I saw a man on the news last night who had lost his job and only had thirty dollars to his name. He was waiting in the line at Centrelink and hoped his landlord would cut him some slack for the few weeks it would take for his benefits to come through.

I don’t think Centrelink understood that this man can’t wait that long.

So I better get a job soon.

You can’t rely on the government.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
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