Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lady Cutler Award

Last night the annual NSW branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia held its presentation dinner for the Lady Cutler Award. This award is given to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian children's literature. And the winner was the lady to the left, Susanne Gervay, who is not just a writer of wonderful books, but one of the most generous people in our little corner of the book world. She offers her hotel for a huge number of events, often free of charge, she mentors new authors, chairs and sits on a number of boards and committees, is very active within the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the whole time keeping her finger on the pulse of the industry. She then passes on whatever information she gleans, without fear or favour. There is a huge number of authors and illustrators who love and respect Susanne, not only for what she offers them and their careers, but for the amazing enthusiasm she brings to everything she does, often with scant regard for her own health or well-being.

It was a lovely night at the Drummoyne Sports Club, with ninety CBCA people (including the current national president, Bronwen Bennett), authors, illustrators, the latest Frustrated Writers winners, and several previous Lady Cutler awardees. Glenda Millard was the after-dinner speaker, and she spoke with humour, warmth and eloquence.

Special posthumous recognition was also given to John Winch and Joyce Fardell, both of whom passed away earlier this year.

So warm congrats to Susanne - this gong is greatly deserved.

Nicely put...

Steve Biddulph, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald about the deceit of the Howard government's economic prowess:

The big lie of Liberal supremacy was economic management. In fact, they knew how to generate income, but not how to spend it. We could have been building what Europe built in this past decade - superb hospitals, bullet trains, schools and training centres, low cost public transport of luxurious quality, magnificent public housing. We pissed it all away on tax giveaways and consumer goods. On bloated homes that we will not be able to cool or heat, or sell, and cars we won't be able to afford to drive. A party based on self interest may evaporate along with our rivers and lakes, and have no role to play in a world where we co-operate or die.
I couldn't have put it better myself.

(Full article here.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

A very good day

Far be it from me to revel in the misfortune of another, but this particular misfortune John Winston Howard brought on himself. It seems clear now that Howard had become such an empire builder, so blinded by his own ambition to emulate Sir Robert Menzies, that even when the best thing to do for his party was to step down, he refused to do so.

He had plenty of warning. But the polls were all wrong, apparently. When more than 80% of the 54% of Australians planning to vote Labor said that this was due to the draconian Work Choices legislation, he refused to believe it. When he was told by the public, and even by those whose counsel he actually sought that he was tired and failing to make an impact, he dismissed it. As much as I dislike Peter Costello, I have to admit that Howard should have handed over to him earlier. That would have taken the puff out of Labor's "New Leadership" platform. It's not all that Rudd had, but it was a pretty solid starting point.

And now he's gone. The people have spoken against him, and his colleagues. If just the seat of Lindsay had fallen, you could have claimed it was because of the laughable farce of those bogus Islamist brochures. If just Bennelong had fallen, you could have said it was a backlash against the man himself. If just marginals had fallen, you could blame swinging voters. But this was huge. Long-standing blue-ribbon Coalition seats turned red. Despite Michael Kroger's rather pathetic bleats of denial, this was the mother of all landslides. Over a decade of deceit (Tampa, children overboard, Haneef), arrogance and cynicism ("Those were non-core promises"), refusal to accept accountability (AWB scandal), brown-nosing (Dubya), war-mongering (Iraq), recessive industrial relations (AWAs), flip-flopping ("The GST will never be a part of our policy. Never ever."), paternalism (NT interventions) and an absurd refusal to simply offer an apology, we have at last seen the end of a morally compromised and cynical government. Best of all, their leader went as well, along with their deputy leader, and their treasurer. I agree with Allan Ramsey - if only Ruddock, Downer and Abbott would make our Christmas complete by disappearing as well.

Yes, Saturday was a good day. A very, very good day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Yes, I know it's petty, but I get really irritated by people who think that Thomas is a tank. OK, so maybe only a steam nerd like me would know that a tank engine is a real thing, ie a steam loco with self-contained tanks for water and coal, hence having no need for a conventional tender, but still. 'Do you want a Thomas the Tank showbag, Braden?" If by that you mean a mid-blue Belpaire 0-6-0 pannier-tank locomotive with bifurcated Walsy valve and a face on the end of the boiler, then give him his proper name. Otherwise you might be talking about Thomas the large, grey, caterpillar-tracked armoured mobile gun.

Oo, oo, I hear the 3801 coming up Lapstone Hill! Where's my notebook and box brownie - I want to catch it coming out of the tunnel!

Life's little oddities

A couple of months ago the family and I we were wandering around the cemetery in Gerroa on the South Coast, and I was reading the cremation plaques when I found this one:

"Robert Henderson*. Lived and died by principals."

It must be a hard life, being a schools inspector.

All in all, he's just another brick in the wall...

(* Not his real name.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Collinsville for a day

It was a big 48 hours, that's for sure. Left home at 7.30 am, drove to the airport, flew to Brisbane, then another flight to Proserpine on the Whitsunday Coast, then drove to Collinsville.

How do you get to Collinsville, you ask? Well, you drive north to Bowen (about 85km), then you drive south for another 85km. Now, sixth-grade geometry should dictate that I would find myself back in Proserpine after such a journey, but no, the second leg was actually slightly west of exact south, so I ended up in Collinsville, a mining town of about 2,500 people, which is about 60km west of Proserpine, but without a direct route between the two.

I did an awards night speech in the evening, then stayed at the Town and Country Hotel/Motel before heading out to Collinsville High School to do two workshops the next morning. I was all done by 11.30am, which left me enough time to say goodbye and head back to Proserpine via Airlie Beach. Then it was two flights home via Brisbane, and home, to walk in the door at 10.30pm.

Is Collinsville somewhere I'd have ever just gone and booked a trip to? Doubtful. But I'm so glad I did it, even though I saw very little of the town itself.

I love small Australian towns - they have a certain feeling of self-containment and self-assurance that is very hard to describe. They make me feel humble, too. It was a long way, yes, but worth every mile.