Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Music to my ears

I’m grateful to JR Benjamin for reminding me in a recent post on The Bully Pulpit what an excellent – and prolific – writer Clive James is. He’s an avid reader too, with an immense intellect and a great sense of humour. His abiding fascination is the topic of his own life, but he’s also written extensively about other people, and Clive James never lets political correctness get in the way of a good yarn.


Consider this, from North Face of Soho, published in 2006:

I should say in haste that his [Robert Lowell’s] early poetry gave him the right to think of himself as a giant. But he was also a nutter, one of the manic-depressive type who, when in a downhill phase, accuse themselves loudly of being Hitler. (They never accuse themselves of being the seventh anonymous storm trooper from the right at a dedication ceremony for the new blood banner in a provincial town twenty miles from Dortmund: they always accuse themselves of being Hitler, just as the people who had previous lives in ancient Egypt always turn out to have been pharaohs or chief priests, and never night-shift workers on the crew that put up the third tallest obelisk in one of the satellite temples at Karnak).

I was reminded of Clive James last week, as I sat in my studio churning out the first ten thousand words of the manuscript on farming families (I hope the publisher isn’t reading this, the deadline was meant to be the end of January).

As part of the research for the book, I interviewed Philip and Adele Hughes, cattle farmers who run Rangeland Quality Meats with their family in Queensland. Philip doesn’t have much time for political correctness either.

‘It’s pretty constraining when you’re not allowed to say something; you’re thinking it, it’s just that you’re not allowed to say it.’

‘The good thing about saying stuff is that yes, it might offend some people, but it creates debate. So if I say something, and somebody disagrees with it, then I will be forced to listen to their argument, and they might change my way of thinking, but if they don’t say anything I’ll just carry on thinking what I thought before.’

‘So I reckon you should just say what you think, it’s corrosive otherwise.’

Say what I think? Hmmm…I’m normally one to keep the peace. I tread carefully and hold back what I’m really thinking for fear of causing offence. Maybe it’s something to do with being shut inside a small shed for several hours a day, I don’t know, but recently I seem to have lost those inhibitions. And there’s not much peace to be had here in Sydney anyway.

So, to the neighbour who gamely practices the trumpet at ten thirty each morning, just as I’m getting into the groove to churn out a daily target of two thousand words, I think we can all agree that you know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star quite well by now.

Please, for all our sakes, PICK ANOTHER TUNE.

There, that feels a lot better.

4 comments on “Music to my ears

  1. monsoonwendy
    January 23, 2014

    Darling Deb, I SO hope the trumpeter is reading the blog! Did you see Kerry O’Brien interviewing Clive? Great stuff. See you out here in a few weeks! Woo Hoo!!!!!!! Wendy


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      January 23, 2014

      Ear plugs in place! I missed the Kerry O’Brien interview but everyone said it was fantastic, wish I’d seen it. Look forward to seeing you very soon (and I’m wearing kurta and pants today!) x


  2. nantubre
    January 23, 2014

    Yeah. I think I know what you mean about hearing the same thing over and over. If I had an ounce of anything other than political correctness I would tell the current Bain of my existence “PLEASE pick another FREAKING tune”. Being nice is going to kill me yet. Guess it’s time to invest in ear plugs for myself. Unfortunately, the variable intensity of my husband’s tone of voice is pretty much undefeatable… I know, FYI. but hey, I feel better too.


  3. debhuntinbrokenhill
    January 23, 2014

    Ha ha, very funny Nan. And yes, the ear plug solution is a good one, especially those squigdy pieces of goo swimmers use to keep water out, they work a treat!


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This entry was posted on January 23, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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