Family holiday, part four

‘You know we have to run up the stairs too,’ I say.


The younger of my two brothers and I have been running barefoot across the grass and the car park near the beach. It has started raining, and the weather patterns from the last few days suggest this light rain, after a stinging hot morning, will soon get much heavier. The rule about also running up the stairs is not related to the likely weather outcome though; I’ve just made it up arbitrarily, the way children often make up rules for games they’re playing.

We’ve just come from the playground at the other of the beach. We had to wade through ankle-deep water to access much of the equipment (hence the bare feet). We stood together on the platform atop four large springs, our weight on either side of the bar spinning it around. We squealed. We were disappointed to discover on the monkey bars that our adult-sized bodies were harder to lift than either of us ever remembered our child-sized bodies being, our upper body strength, perhaps, not having kept up with the increase in size and weight. We climbed over the top of them instead. The slippery slide seemed shorter than when we were children, and the woodchips covering the ground sharper.

Ostensibly, we left the playground to beat the weather home, but it’s probably no coincidence that we made our decision shortly after a small child and his parents arrived.

At the bottom of the stairs we pause briefly. Look at each other. I can hardly believe this man is my little brother; that when he looks at his sister he sees a woman. We run up the stairs together, and across the road, the cement and asphalt roughing up the soles of our feet.


More nepotism | the Value Chain

I’m afraid there’s going to be a fair bit more of this nepotism stuff happening around here, because I’ve got a keen interest in this project my brother’s working on. His latest Sustainable Marketing Project post is about the Value Chain, and how that relates to sustainability and the carbon footprint of a product.

If you’re interested, read more here.


PS. Posts about Melbourne and the Melbourne Writers’ Festival are coming, I promise.

A little bit of nepotism…

My brother Tom is nearly finished a Captain Planet degree — that is, a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sustainability. As part of the degree, he’s pulling together what’s called a Sustainable Marketing Project, with a particular focus on a post- or low-carbon future. Because he’s just as much of a food nut (pun intended) as I am, he’ll be looking specifically at food.

It’s interesting, I think, that the two of us have both come to be writing and thinking about food, and that we’ve come at it from such different educational backgrounds (at least on a tertiary level). A large part of Tom’s degree has been necessarily science-based; I, however, have not studied any science since the hopefully-named ‘Physics is Fun’ semester I did at the end of year ten. My background is in arts and communications.

And I guess that’s why I’m particularly interested in this project. I think it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed with food; eating it, yes, but also thinking about where it comes from and how it gets to be on my plate. These questions are sometimes questions about process, and they’re sometimes questions about ethics. Tom’s project is attempting to cover both: how carbon is embedded in our food, and how to calculate that, but also why knowing that is important or relevant. This project is about information, but it’s also about telling a story.

The marketing element to this project, I think, is what makes it so interesting. Information about this thing we call ‘sustainability’ (what does that word even mean anymore?) is so often tinged with negativity, or completely overwhelming because of its sheer volume. It’s something I certainly struggle with in my non-fiction writing on food. The story-telling element is so important to get right, or you lose your reader (or viewer or listener) after about half a second.

Have a look at Tom’s first few posts on this project here. He’s just getting started, and I’m sure he’d really appreciate some feedback. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Writing as activism

Things seem to be pushing me lately to get writing again about the things I talk passionately about. Heated discussion (not necessarily heated because of disagreements) has always been a part of my life. My parents always encouraged me to think for myself, to find out when I didn’t know, to constantly question.

Talking about literature as activism (and activism for literature) at the Academy of Words started this ball rolling. Then I went back to uni and my teacher talked about how we use words to explore the consequences of the world’s happenings (“If this is so, then what are the implications?”). Then I read some of my uni texts and found myself sobbing by myself on my couch, hoping my housemates wouldn’t come home in time to see me like that (even with the explanation “Kids with cancer”, a red-eyed 25-year-old with tears running down her face, unable to speak properly, is not a pretty sight). Then my brother posted this to his new blog. He’s doing what’s basically an environmental science degree at ANU, and it’s not unusual for a phone conversation between us to be entirely about worm farms or gardens or cooking or food or what’s wrong with society. Our conversations aren’t short. But I’ve never really spent much time writing about them before.

Everything seems to be pushing me back towards writing about what intrigues me, what sets off that fire in my belly.

See, I tend to write to explore issues or relationships that intrigue me.

In fiction I write about characters with dementia, or men who are trying to deal with grief and still be ‘manly’, or middle-aged siblings trying to deal with their parents’ old age and death. These are situations I’ve not been in myself, but things I’ve observed in other people’s lives. And I just wonder, you know? I just wonder what it’s like to be them, how it feels. I want to come closer to understanding, and in sharing it with other people, I hope to provide an opportunity for others to at least think twice about people they pass in the street.

In non-fiction I write about food and cooking, yoga… Well. See, I’d like to write a whole lot more about some of the things that anger me, or frustrate me. Like some of the muddy definitions of ‘climate change’ that my brother refers to here. I’d like to write about lots of the ideas that he and I discuss. And lots of the ideas that I discuss with other members of my family, and those of my friends who are willing (or have no choice but) to listen to me ramble on in such a non-sensical way.

I’d also like to write a little more about the concepts I ramble about in my yoga classes (and write about on my yoga teacher blog), while my students hang their heads in paschimottanasana. I wonder, sometimes, if they’re wishing I’d just shut up and tell them about their hamstrings, or hurry up and get to the bit where I make the little relaxation-inducing adjustments on them. But they keep coming back, so maybe they don’t mind (or they suffer through it to get to the relaxation bit).

Anyway, I don’t really know what I’m getting at here. This is a bit of a rant. And this is me telling someone what my ideas and goals are, rather than just setting about achieving them — which apparently I’m not supposed to do if I actually want to achieve them.

I feel like my brain’s switching back on after a little rest. I guess that’s not a bad thing.