First I used to sleep with my older brother, later with my sister, finally with my younger brother. I liked the closeness. Nowadays I sleep only with my wife and with persons whom I pay for their services.
These latter liaisons occur infrequently. I enter a smallish room where my hostess – or as it sometimes plays out – my host, invites me to remove some of my clothing. I lie down in whatever posture my companion suggests. There my companion applies lubricant liberally and proceeds to caress my breasts. Of an instant my nipples leap to nuggety erection while the echocardiographer’s probe performs its ultrasonic mysteries. In the course of these intimacies I invariably fall asleep. In this way I have slept with a lady scientist from Shanghai, an earnest Adventist from Portland and a courtly Zoroastrian gentleman from Persia. (Noting the ritual fringes beneath my shirt, that gentleman and I compared notes on our respective holy undergarments.)
Following these pleasant liaisons I wipe my breasts, get dressed and visit my cardiologist to learn the bad news.
In his Saturday column last weekend Philip Adams wrote: ‘… when Qantas sat the first lady beside me I can still see Mrs Howard’s expression of distaste. “Don’t worry, Janette,” I soothed, “I’m passing out.” And, popping on the eyeshades, I did. But couldn’t resist telling listeners that night: “I just slept with the prime minister’s wife.”’
The story reminded me of another journalist, invited to cover the Concorde’s one and only trip to Australia. As part of the media gaggle the reporter sat in the body of the plane, with notables seated further forward. Among the notables was then prime minister, Gough Whitlam, a large man. (Malcolm Fraser, asked once how he’d compare himself to Whitlam, responded: ‘I’m taller, he’s wider.’)
In the course of the flight Whitlam wound his way down the aisle in the direction of the reporter, slowing as he neared. The reporter felt intrigued and excited: Why me? – he wondered. Whitlam came to a stop at precisely that row, and, turning away from the reporter, leaned forwards to speak to another media person seated in the opposite aisle. The ample prime ministerial posterior moved ever closer to the reporter’s face. The conversation went on for a good while. Eventually Gough straightened and returned to his seat. After sitting in a state of prolonged near-intimacy the reporter wondered: ‘Has any citizen ever been so close to his leader without exchanging words?’
Malcolm Fraser lived and worked his work, then he died. His political career and mine started around the same time: he became leader of his party and I became a voter. I enjoyed voting against Fraser and I enjoyed disliking him. At the time I barracked hard for the brilliant Whitlam. By contrast I found Fraser dour, unimaginative and colourless. But from the first moments following the Dismissal I liked Gough less; the oratory which had always sparkled now became tarnished with absurd hyperbole: expressions such as “Maintain the rage”; “Kerr’s Cur” and so on. In time I discovered no-one could adore Gough as much as he loved himself, while Malcolm seemed to grant himself no more regard than we did in the electorate.
Decades passed, we lost the war in Vietnam, and the refugees whom Gough rejected (he judged they’d all vote for the conservatives) were succoured in their tens of thousands by that cold man, Malcolm Fraser. We buried Fraser last week and those refugees took out a full-page advertisement to express their sorrow and their regard for that colourless man. The page teemed with Vietnamese-Australian organisations, marshalled on the page, pouring out thanks and regret in a poignant
Around the same time I received the following from one who is a friend of the friendless in this country:
The following is an abridged version of Rachel’s story, reproduced here with the writer’s consent. Rachel a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was resettled in Adelaide seven years ago (taken from Faces of the Refugee Story: Portraits and Stories of 15 people who now call Adelaide home):
“I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but when I was about 1 years old the First Congo War broke out and we fled and we went to our first refugee camp in Nakabande and then from that camp we returned back home again to Congo. The Second Congo War broke out and I was almost 2 years old. My family fled again and when we fled this time we knew it was something that was going to be permanent – we wouldn’t be returning back – and it’s a very long journey from Congo to wherever we are going because we didn’t know where we are going. We found ourselves on the border of Congo and Uganda but we didn’t know who was going to be waiting – it could be the rebels to kill us or it could be someone to help us. Luckily the UNHCR were there and we were rescued by them and they took us into another refugee camp in Uganda…from there it got too crowded – too many people coming in – and so they had to move us to another camp. We were given cooking oil, beans, flour and we settled there. The UNHCR gave us tents and eventually land to start our new life there and we were able to build our own houses.
In 2002 we were attacked by rebels in that camp. We did have protection but…it was quite a walk from where we were to them. It was a military base where they had soldiers and they were supposed to protect us but because they were so far away from us the rebels came from the other side, not the side that they were on, so they were not aware of us being attacked until some of the men …went to tell them that we had been attacked.
They had taken my Dad. Because our house was the first on our Block (like a suburb) and the place around us hadn’t been cleared of heavily grown bushes we didn’t hear anything. About four heavily armed men kicked down our door (this was about 11-11.30pm) and wanted my eldest sister but Dad said no and so they took him. I remember that very vividly. They killed a woman that had a baby on her back but her child survived. My mum took us and fled with the other women and we went into a part that was well hidden by overgrown grass and trees. We were stuck not knowing whether Dad was coming back in the morning or not.
The soldiers [came] and fought [the rebels]. There were lots of guns going off and I could hear them from the ground we were laying on keeping quiet. Continue reading