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Last night, t’was a Friday night, I stayed in and kept the animals company and snoozed on the couch. Hardly the stuff of Trainspotting or The Bad Lieutenant but there was a reason, several in fact. The reasons being to catch up on some much needed beauty sleep(The World Cup has been playing havoc with my sleeping patterns), not that my looks are deteriorating at a rate of knots, but because I had a hot date down at the Victorian Writer’s centre. Several dates in fact. I was to queue up at the desks of several publishers and agents and spruik my wares and toss a few pitches here and there. Well that I did, even though I’ve nothing completed for publication but I have fantastic ideas and great intentions which to paraphrase the late great Humphrey B. ‘don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.’

It was the usual gathering of bubbly middle aged ladies in floral dresses, introverted waifs clutching their latest can’t put down novel and no more than 5 guys to the 30 odd women. Even the agents and publishers were mostly female. Now here’s the thing; all you’ll ever hear about the publishing world is how it is totally biased and skewed towards male writers. How can this be when the agents of change are female themselves? I would like to know the answer to this conundrum or anomaly or whatever you wanna call it.

Anyways I got some useful information, some encouragement and not much else for my $30 dollars worth. When standing in line three minutes can seem like an eternity but when sat down in front of ‘them’ you’d barely have enough time to get through your ABC’s. Although things got better when I left early, there was a horrendous queue to see the one publisher of note and even at three minute sittings there weren’t enough minutes left in the hour for me to get a hearing so I decamped, upped sticks and took myself down Swanston street way.

Swanston Street is the main commercial thoroughfare in Melbourne city proper and as is the case with these popular places they tend to be spotted with crap food joints, even crapper ladies wear shops, street performers and government buildings. Swanston Street has the Town Hall, a beautiful old building from the gold rush era when money was something used to light Cuban cigars with. Well, today was my luckyish day as I strolled past the The Town Hall. At twelve noon they were to open an interactive attraction as part of refugee week. Seriously, I knew not of this event and why would I? I’m not a refugee nor do I work with refugees although I should perhaps have heard mention of it on community radio but hey, thems the breaks. Todays event was ‘The Bureau of Worldly Advice’.

The by line was…take a number, have your paperwork ready and choose the advice you seek….with some possible suggestions and or examples of what you could ask the half dozen or so worldly people with advice, such as; human rights or the complexities of having a difficult name; wearing a hijab or translating; homesickness; the similarities between us; how to eat a meat pie or wade through technology. There was a board with general topics listed and the corresponding table number to sit at.

I plumped for language and something else and was directed to a lovely desk manned by a middle eastern woman and presumably her young daughter. As it turned out I was talking to Raya, an Iranian Christian refugee fresh off the plane. We chatted for about 15 minutes about whatever her limited english could handle as I speak no Persian/Farsi. She was a tour guide in Iran making good money and leading a comfortable life when things took a turn for the worst. I daren’t not venture into the specifics of her case but was lead to understand that her application was pending and as such they were existing on government money and doing their best to enjoy Melbourne. Raya liked Melbourne already, especially the rain. Well it takes all sorts.

 

To be honest I was expecting something a bit more theatrical and perhaps mystical. Perhaps somebody behind a big old Teak table was gonna tell me the secret to landing that book deal via some clandestine process involving trips to the font of soul selling and the passing of indecipherable notes. At least a few laughs would have been rendered by yours truly in any event.

After exhausting our conversational rations I bid her farewell and the best of luck in her application and sauntered out the door which brings me onto the second topic in my discourse on Swanston Street. There appears to be an infestation of trickery street performers of late on the pavements. What I mean is the ‘find the queen’ card tricks that you know about from watching the movies but wouldn’t have ever seen in person. Today I saw two such enterprises and several statuesque actors just standing there in their make up and plaster of Paris. Hardly ripping stuff for a Saturday morning downtown but better than old dears singing greensleaves, there is no doubt in that for sure.

I wonder how these performers get their licenses? One must give a performance of your street art in front of some municipal officers in order to be granted a permit to work. Does the officer get ripped of looking for the queen and lose a tenner or do they fall asleep while watching Christopher Columbus stand motionless for half an hour with only the odd exploratory wink from a made up face to wait for?

On a side note the whole of the street was peppered with religious types. First off I noticed the Falung Gong contingent protesting against the current Chinese ‘dictator’ followed up by the ‘Islam is friendly’ brigade handing out leaflets, followed by the ‘Christians for Islamic understanding’ front, followed by the ‘Repent ye sins now for we are offering bulk discounts on indulgences’ mob and then there were a motley crew of political protestors on the steps of The Library being closely monitored by an even rougher bunch of cops.

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On a side note I ventured into Dymocks book shop to see if they had ‘The Feel-Good Hit of the Year: a memoir by Liam Pieper. They did. I bought it even though I’m strapped for cash. The reason being that it is a book very similar to something that I might want to get published soon. So I’m on a research mission and shall read it while waiting for the work phone to ring and see what I can take from it, not plagiarise but for form and style.

That’s what I did this morning, this is what I did before beer o’clock and now I’m off duty. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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