Author: Brian Matthews

  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    George Orwell's chicken feed solution

    • Brian Matthews
    • 01 March 2013
    4 Comments

    'On this day in 1939: Belgium signed a trade treaty with France, 71 people died in the Black Friday bush fire, and Orwell's chickens laid two eggs.' Orwell's domestic diaries seem trivial, but it is wrong to assume he saw his recording of vegetables, egg laying and other small-holder concerns as dwarfed by the great world. 

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Teaching literature to rock stars

    • Brian Matthews
    • 01 February 2013
    2 Comments

    He appeared in the doorway of my study one day in 1971 and asked if I was the one who was starting a course in Australian literature. His voice was soft and melodic, his accent beautifully Irish. Born in Belfast in 1947, he had grown up amid the horrors of 'The Troubles' and would in later years refer to himself as 'a recovering Catholic'.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Retirement home bureaucracy comes unstuck

    • Brian Matthews
    • 07 December 2012
    8 Comments

    Pam, 90, returned to her room to discover that three family photos had been removed from her wall by order of the new manager. Blu-Tack, it seemed, was expressly forbidden. Her complaints were met with a promise that the manager would consider alternatives. A few days later he came up with a 'solution'.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Supermarket witches and the Australian pumpkin boom

    • Brian Matthews
    • 09 November 2012
    13 Comments

    Last week saw many people all over Australia observe a ritual that is entirely imposed, bears the magic and irresistible imprimatur of the US, and grows out of nothing in our own history, traditions or folk lore. What significance can Halloween have for Australians about to embark on their hot summer?

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Historical precedents for Jones' Shamegate

    • Brian Matthews
    • 12 October 2012
    10 Comments

    The name Charles Hughes Cousens is not one that has been canvassed during the lamentable and often tawdry debate about the Alan Jones affair, but perhaps it should have been. Cousens' ordeal as the target of a treason-baying press lies in the distant but pointed background to Jones' assault on Julia Gillard.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Fuzzy thinking on obeedjunt wives

    • Brian Matthews
    • 14 September 2012
    15 Comments

    An old Dublin man once observed to me that my wife must be an 'oncommonly obeedjunt woman'. Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen's argument regarding the suggestion in his diocese's draft new prayer book that brides be invited to 'submit' to their husbands is equally fuzzy.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    The trams revolt

    • Brian Matthews
    • 17 August 2012
    6 Comments

    Like a uniformed and undirected army, they queued end to end, an implacable wall of yellow and green. The trams seemed to squat somehow lower on their shiny rails — and all their lights went out. For more than a month they paralysed the city and everyone could see the government had entered its last days.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    The lighter side of dementia

    • Brian Matthews
    • 20 July 2012
    4 Comments

    Just when my friend was thinking to find a quieter place for this lost and distressed elderly woman while he worked out what to do next, she turned to him, her face alight. With one movement she opened her mouth, removed her denture and held it towards him. On the 'gum' was clearly inscribed her name and a phone number.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Rain on the Queen's parade

    • Brian Matthews
    • 22 June 2012
    6 Comments

    Constant rain, sullen skies and a scarcely articulate commentary did not deter the massive and sodden crowds or diminish the momentum of the Queen’s recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Only the bigger picture and the jaundiced eye of history could assign the event its comparative place in the great panoply of royal extravaganzas.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Sandal-wearing pinkos of the modern era

    • Brian Matthews
    • 25 May 2012
    7 Comments

    George Orwell lamented that socialism attracted 'fruit-juice drinkers' and 'sandal-wearers'. Former prime minister Paul Keating accused Sydney mayor Clover Moore of being a sandal-wearer and 'muesli-chewer'. 'Sandal wearing' survives nearly a century to be the star insult for each of them.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Letter from a lost soldier

    • Brian Matthews
    • 27 April 2012
    5 Comments

    'I wish this war was finished for I am fed up. My dear Ann, you and the children try to be as cheery as you can. I feel all buggered up but I shall just have to carry on the best way I can ... we are on another front now and it is actually hell ...' Whatever ambiguous solace Annie could derive from Alex's letter, it was soon lost.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Close-ish encounters with two queens

    • Brian Matthews
    • 30 March 2012
    4 Comments

    I saw a gloved hand at the window and that was it. The experience turned out to be the one time when I saw the Queen 'in the flesh'. I had gone under duress, having even at that young age vestigial republican tendencies. A few weeks ago I went with more enthusiasm to see another Queen. 

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