Oh! Beautiful Spring! What better time to hold the Brisbane Writer's Festival - 5 days of writerly fun and games to welcome September. But you should have been there for the official opening...
Germaine Greer likes to visit writer's festivals as she's written a book or two, and she might be able to sell a few. So someone thoughtfully asked her to open proceedings. They failed to note the evil look on her countenance for which they will forever rue the day. I saw it as I was lining up to have my copy of Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris, the most popular book of the show, signed.
Clutching Joanne's book, I rushed to the opening where I'd planned to meet my blogger friend Charmaine who has recently become a Queenslander. Up there on the podium, I could see Germaine sussing up the crowd in that way she has, nodding her head, shaking her head. I knew we were in for a tongue lashing, as always. 'Just watch this Charmaine honey. You're in for a wild ride!' I said as I nudged her in the ribs, waking her from her bored napping.
Germaine creaked to the podium.
She berated her Queensland audience (with a few notable exceptions of exceptional writers from more academic climes - there was Joanne Harris from the Empirical UK, after all.) Joanne didn't mind rubbing shoulders with the colonials Down Under. After all, they were sending her books to the top of the best seller list as Australians, even Queenslanders, like to collect books! They look so pretty on the shelves, don't they, and a pile of print books comes in handy for that extra chair or keeping the fire going if you run out of kindling. Germaine was probably thinking - how dare those rednecks buy Joanne's books, but not hers! She had Queenslanders in her sights alright.
'47% of Queenslanders can't even read the newspaper,' she smirked, dodging the odd rotten tomato and raw egg. This was too much! She'd been discussing percentages with Mitt Romney again! 47%! This is where the US/Aussie alliance is worrying! Where do they pluck these figures from? The entrails of chooks?
'But doesn't she live in Queensland?' asked a bemused Charmaine.
'Yep. Work it out. That's why she's nuts, innit?'
That's when the screaming from the masses began.
'Fair go, mate! We didn't muck out the cow bails early to listen to this s*i@t!' yelled an irate granny in dungarees and headscarf, (she must have already read Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé) sitting two seats from me.
'Get orf!' yelled the farmer type in an outsize cowboy hat next to me, jangling his bridle and flicking the spurs he'd somehow managed to smuggle past security. I pulled my head in before I lost it.
'Get back on your horse, cowboy! 47% of Queenslanders can't even read! Fancy holding a writer's festival here for you yobbos! It's a disgrace!' the Female Eunuch screeched.
That was too much! As one the crowd surged towards the podium, clutching their tablets with their hieroglypical alphabet figures they'd been etching earnestly, taking notes as the guru spoke, chipping away, chipping away. They'd show her! They did so know how to read and write and they had the pictures to prove it!
Ms Greer watched the ominous crowd nearing her safe place. Not big on negotiating skills, she continued to hurl insults - 'peasants!', 'great unwashed', 'your lives will be brutish and short!' These were difficult concepts for the great unwashed to grapple with, so they began hurling their tablets at the shrill dame until she stopped her foul haranguing.
'To the river!' an American sailor (where did he come from?) began the chant which was picked up by the Aussie seamen, all on shore leave with nothing to do but read, then the farmers, then the schoolteachers, then the housewives, then...everyone! I feared Germaine was about to be levelled. Great burly arms held her aloft and down to the river we went, chortling hideously.
The peasants quickly crafted a wicker basket and raft from bullrushes that grew profusely by the banks of the mighty muddy Brisbane River. There's a time when brawn is needful over brain. They raised her supine intellectual aging female form onto the sailing craft and launched her into the river, along with a couple of bottles of water and a packet of muesli bars and the cowboy's hat to protect her from the fierce Queensland sun. Just let her try drinking that river water! Although it's not as murky as the Yarra! She didn't have a prayer. No one broke a bottle of Veuve Clicquot against the boat as Charmaine and I snuck up and grabbed it already and ran up to the Pineapple Lounge bar. No one wished her 'bon voyage' as this was a foreign language, far too difficult for the illiterate masses to enunciate.
'Silly old bugger.' I'd know that voice anywhere. The old silver budgie, Bob Hawke, past and most popular and okker of Prime Ministers, was standing on the river bank chuckling, then crying, as Bob is wont to do. 'Come and have a beer, Bob,' we yelled as we rushed up the hill. This was going to be some party!
I was a little sad for Germaine though. I hope she sailed to more serious, more academic climes like Sydney or Melbourne, where the folk aren't quite so unwashed and really love to read their newspapers except when they're owned by rich-as-Croesus female miners who also have a thing about the great unwashed. You just try washing in the Brisbane River, Gina my girl!
You might wonder why you didn't read about this assailing of the great Female Eunuch herself at the Brisbane Writer's Festival, but the little hieroglyphic tablets are all we have this side of the border and they weren't up to the reportage, especially when they were in pieces on the podium. There were some letters we've not learned yet. And why publish a story when nearly half of the population is illiterate? Maybe when Germaine floats into Melbourne, The Age will pick up on it. Or the Sydney Morning Herald. They love an anti-Queensland story as we keep licking them every year at the Rugby! Brawn over brains again!
'Ah, only in Queensland,' they'll sigh in their upper class accents.
|Two bright sparks, Charmaine and I. grabbed our Veuve Clicquot and watched proceedings from the safety of the|
Writer's Pineapple Lounge overlooking the Brisbane River (as Queenslanders are wont to do...)