I had forgotten how enjoyable this is.
There is something gamified about moving countries. You have very limited resources and a clock ticking loudly in the background while you attempt to MacGyver yourself into a whole new life.
The thing about Australia is that I have never lived here as a proper adult. I left before I was 22 and that last year was a blur of free drugs, late nights and mostly terrible men. (Some fucking great ones, though.) This was me a year after I left, back for a visit. A child.
So I don’t know any adult things. Who are the main utilities providers I am supposed to choose from? How much is yoghurt supposed to cost? When people say ‘welcome back’ whilst I am grateful for the sentiment the ‘back’ feels incorrect. We went to get our new phones on day 1 and I have no credit rating in this country. Not bad… none.
I have a child’s view of a country that is about fifteen years out of date. The place has changed since then. All places do, obviously, but there is an economic confidence and dynamism in regional Australia that is definitely absent from regional Britain. Even in parts of London. Australia is building roads and commercial real estate. There is an outwardness to their investment that either wasn’t there before or I simply was not experienced enough to notice it.
The jetlag has been the most extreme I have ever experienced anywhere which might be a magic thing but it could also be because it is winter here so it gets dark earlier which makes my traitorous brain want to sleep. This is my first Australian winter in over a decade. The cold air is so clean I am tempted to start eating coal just so my body doesn’t go into anaphalondon shock.
And that smell of winter air smells like teen spirit. Quite literally. Something about the jetlag -and possibly the constant eating of all MMTP’s food and drinking of my father’s wine- means I’m largely signal-jammed when it comes to the spirit world at the moment. It’s like being depressed without the depression. My daily magic practice continues apace regardless -I’ve been doing it long enough to know it works even if I can’t feel it. What that means is that the results show up in the physical in the most bewildering and surprising synchronicitous ways. The smell of the cold, clean air brings back sense memories of being fifteen and roaming about the town, buying magic books and clandestinely trying out the techniques they contain. There is a very specific soundtrack to that period of my life that is inexplicably following me around… shopping mall PA systems, service stations. Because I was that emo proto-gay, this music is The Cranberries’s To the Faithful Departed and Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill… which I never owned but it was everywhere at the time. Non-single tracks off Cranberries albums are not commonly heard in Westfield malls in Newcastle Australia… less so in the one where MMTP used to have her shop.
These and a few dozen other oddities I take as feedback from the ongoing ritual project I’ll describe in the fullness of time. (A lot of the theory will be in Pieces of Eight.) The upshot is, with the signal jamming in place, I’m walking around a slightly familiar, slightly unfamiliar landscape both spatially and temporally. There are moments when I am fifteen. There are moments when I am ninety. It’s like a dimension shift… like that kid from Flight of the Navigator who comes back and his whole family has grown up.
Adding to that are the stars. You write a book called Star.Ships in the northern hemisphere and you become the bore at parties who points all the shit in the sky out. So I look up expecting that familiarity and only get some of it. But there is the underlying childhood half-memory of these particular stellar locations. And I can see them. Every night, standing in my parents driveway… stars after stars after stars. Not exactly the cloudy London experience.
Up is down. It feels like when the plane landed it did this:
Speaking of music and dimension shifting, a song came to mind when I was talking with Charlotte on the podcast last month, about the similarities inherent in regional colonial childhoods. It was Alex Lloyd’s Amazing, shot up the valley from me and apparently about heroin… a fact I only learned when I saw him at my first ever university concert. The story of this clip is a few years too old to be me exactly, but the colour palette and just the sheer weight of the tyranny of distance are pitch perfect. Put it this way… it is set in the 70s and shot in the 90s with no set dressing. That’s my home!
Plus the song itself has actually held up pretty well in its own way.
I went looking for video of my hometown for you and while, for some reason, there are hours and hours of archival footage from its heyday as an imperial coal port, there isn’t a lot of contemporary stuff that highlights the faintly science fiction contrast between newbuild construction and mid-Victorian architecture. (It’s the second-oldest European town in the country after Sydney. Although technically there are two intermediary ‘settlements’ for any Australian history nerds out there: Parramatta and the Macquarie towns.)
What it does have -and I’m pretty unforgiving about these things- are at least two surprisingly non-shit GoPro drone hobbyist videos. The first one gives you a good feel for the colonial hodge podge.
The second one is a bit more leisure-focused but I’m quite impressed with the footage of the surfers. The marshlands at the 2:10 mark are more or less where this happened.
A few updates
Inevitably, being in the wind messes with publishing schedules. So a few updates:
- Pieces of Eight is still on track for release this month. Turns out a book of practical magic is not quite the same as a Hemingway novel when it comes to travel writing. I need quiet and internet and research and such. But it is so very nearly there.
- The All Red Line is going strong, now with TARL Cable videos where I do a Q&A. Sign-up here. If you have missed the last two, just click on the ‘past issues’ link once you get to the confirmation page. Thanks to everyone who has been replying and asking questions! It’s going great.
- About fifty of you didn’t click ‘free member’ on the page after signing up to the site, and I think that’s where some of the problems lay for those of you who couldn’t access the Campfire’s Edge presentation. I have manually added you all as free members so it should work now. For everyone else, just click this link -it’s the actual URL of the presentation rather than the member page- and sign in to watch it. The extra step where you select ‘free member’ is a bit annoying but I didn’t build the plugin. Sorry about that.
That’s the news. Hi from Down.