Random Play by Graham Reid


You wouldn’t read about it.

Ignoring the news for a while gives you your real life back. I re-discovered this fundamental truth a few weeks ago when, racing to prepare for a couple of trips away, I neglected to keep abreast of world and local news, the opinions of strangers on issues I vaguely cared about, what John Campbell or Mark Sainsbury were telling me . . . and I found that life continued. Rather more pleasantly, in fact.

As someone who devours news from many sources, it was a weird feeling to be so detached from that lifeline. Yet my nephew’s wedding on the Gold Coast went off despite me not knowing much about current events in the area. We had family conversations in which politics, crime and taxes were never once mentioned.

In fact, sitting on the 34th floor of an apartment block looking up
that glorious, surf-flecked coastline the rest of the world seemed very far away -- and I couldn’t have cared less. A morning and evening swim can do that to you I guess.

Of course I did notice some news headlines in Australia: economic gloom looming, some kid stabbing a teacher and so on.

I came home for a couple of days and found exactly the same stories commanding our headlines. And I noticed once more that those girls who bend their backs in the that weird way on the social pages and their guys who pose with beer bottles in hand are interchangeable all around the world.

I also noticed a consensus emerged about the new U2 album which made me strangely uncomfortable and wondering if there was some collusion between the critics. Hmmm, maybe Bono gave a big interview which explained the album and everyone fell into line? Dunno. I have yet to hear it -- and that has been fine too.

Then I went to Buenos Aires for 10 days and by that time I was so far out of the news loop that I decided to ignore it entirely.

This isn’t like me at all: generally the first thing I do in a new place is get into conversation about politics (after I’ve done a bit of homework) and try to understand what is going on the place I am. But not this time. I ate, drank, went to art galleries, had a lot of fun with people, observed and made lots of notes.

Yes, I had a few conversations about the Peronists and the president Cristina Kirchner . . . But I don’t recall instigating any of them. I did ask the follow-up questions though.

So much of Argentina’s sometimes brutal history is inscribed on the pavements -- and latterly stencilled on walls -- that its politics were impossible to ignore. I took dozens of photos of stencils and graffiti which I’ll post on Elsewhere as soon as I can.

But frankly, I didn’t make that much of an effort to get beneath Argentina’s political skin. It would take years to get a handle on it.

So after three weeks I have become weirdly dislocated from whatever has been happening in New Zealand -- and within a couple of days I go back to Australia for another week in which New Zealand will, unless some dire tragedy occurs, never once pass across my scanner.

I’m getting fearful that I might never come back from this pleasant state of suspended . . . uninterest?. I may be that embarrassment at the dinner table who has absolutely no opinion about David Bane. The unwelcome guest who cannot put a time frame around the length of the depression, or what Obama or Osama have said.

Strange, but strangely enjoyable, times. I’ve observed just how much of our dialogue revolves around wailing about politics and our lot.

In my absence though I kept posting a swag of new music and articles at Elsewhere, although the Argentinean rock, violent tango and other such things I bought the other day won’t appear until I get back from Australia. Meantime take your head out of politics too and check out the music, and my essay on Janis Joplin. I’ve enjoyed the comments that have been added! Feel free to have a go at me yourself.

PS: Just one amusing observation though: on the way out of Buenos Aires there were the customary inspections of bags and people were forced to give up soft drinks and throw away mascara.

Oddly enough, and I had forgotten this, I was carrying a gift in my carry-on bag. It was a clock inside a ball and had some weird wires and rods to support it when it was open up. I passed through unchallenged.

Isn’t it a strange world when you are forced to empty out your water bottle -- but someone can get on an aircraft carrying a timing device?

You wouldn’t read about it.

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