Monday, 24 September 2012

Spring has Sprung Down Under and a writer's thoughts return to the Brisbane Writer's Festival and Tall Stories and little ships...

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...)
This is a fantasy brought on by the hot Queensland sun. There is a 'germ' of truth in it! But we sure had a mighty good Writer's Festival. More from the Ministry of Truth later...


  1. lol, Denise!!! What were you drinking? And can I have some? Shame I missed the festival. Sounds like an awful lot of fun.

    1. Next year you must come. Think of the mischief the three of us could get up to!

  2. Hi,

    That was entirely hilarious! Is it okay to wonder what is the "germ"? On second thoughts, never mind...quite fun not to know...

  3. Now that was a tall tall, indeed. Entertaining though. :)

  4. Well now I want to know what part is real!

  5. Very entertaining and fun to boot! Sounds like you had a super time, Denise. I look forward to reading that orange book, I love her other books.

  6. Hi Denise
    What a hilarious little piece you've got there. I've been to many writer's conferences and wondered at some of the speakers. Well done and I see the 'Truth or Dare,' folks coming your way. LOL

    1. Ha ha, well even I had trouble sorting fact from fiction!

  7. A fantasy? I call it a nightmare! Yikes!

    Glad you had fun at the writer's festival.


  8. Ha ha! I was excited about the scandal in the writerly community until the end :) It sounds like a great fest!

  9. Of course there was too much champers for me to remember clearly, but I may or may not have tied bricks to Germaine's little wicker boat... oopsie!

    Thankfully on that occasion the company more than made up for the entertainment - I was so lucky to have you to guide me through so many great talks and workshops, where the speakers were too ignorant to realise literature is wasted on us Queenslaners. :)

    1. Hee hee. What an event! I'll post some more on the marvels of our immersion of that strange thing - literature. Thanks for joining me on the quest of learning from some great authors. Roll on next September!

  10. Just testing comments as Google has finally forced the new interface on me. Maybe I've got Captcha Codes?

  11. Hahahaha you had me hanging on every word. Loved your yarn. :-P

  12. Haven't had a good week until today, and am trying to catch up on a few friends' blogs. I'll have to bookmark this and come back later to read it as I have to now go and rescue the chicken from the oven. Jen will be crushed if I ruin it!!

    You look like you truly enjoyed the Writer's Festival. How lovely to sit and gaze out at the river - and in a "pineapple lounge" as well. Sounds SO exotic!

    ((( )))

  13. Loved your tall tale! Hilarious!

    Nas :)

  14. How entertaining. Loved it. I am definitely not volunteering at the Festival next time, I missed too much. Ms Greer doesn't realise that newspaper reading is actually in decline all over the world and Queenslanders know where this best reading is: L'Aussie Writer!

    1. Thanks Raelene! Lol! Maybe I'd better send GG this link. She can't sue me coz it's true! :-)))

  15. LOL; an entertaining time you two had. I feel I missed out :)


  16. Hi Denise .. that woman is opinionated that's for sure - but delighted to read your post and the fun you've had making fun of her ... good laugh and glad the two of you had a great time .. cheers Hilary


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