The Australian Dream, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, writer Stan Grant, director Daniel Gordon.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000lpv7/the-australian-dream

I’d never heard of Adam Goodes. Let me put this into context he plays Australian Football League. A sport I don’t know the rules, or follow the game. The easy part is telling who Adam Goodes was, by making a comparison with David Beckham. He was the David Beckham of Aussie Rules Football. He almost single-handedly won his Sydney Swans club grand final after grand final and was voted the best of the batch of first picks divvied up between teams in 2003,  the most valuable player twice in 2005 and 2006. He was also voted Australian of the Year 2014. The documentary follows him from 2013 to 2015, when Goode declared, ‘I was done’ and retired from the sport – he once loved.  

He was also ‘a black bastard,’ ‘a nigger,’ ‘a coon’ and ‘an ape’. The latter remark came from a thirteen-year-old girl during an Aussie Rules match. Goode went back to where she was sitting, pointed her out and had her thrown out of the stadium by stewards.  Afterwards every touch he took of the ball was booed by opposition fans. He was told to toughen up, called a bully.

Goodes called out the inherent racism in Australian society. He called into question a society that celebrated Captain Cook’s arrival at Botany Bay over 300 years ago, to claim a county for Britain, with the semi-legal term, Terra Nullius, Latin for ‘empty land’. Aboriginal natives who had lived there for over 60 000 years and whose majesty was in their claim that they didn’t own the land, but the land owned them, were classified as part of the indigenous flora and fauna. Genocide took place as it did in the Americas.

Aboriginal people weren’t real people, because they weren’t white people. Fill in all the usual tropes about them not being able to take care of themselves. The white man’s burden to discipline and re-educate, then after genocide you have the eugenics programme which is still running. Adam Goodes father was a white man from Scotland, but his mother was aboriginal and taken away from her own mother and locked up to learn how to become assimilated as a proper Australian by living in a dormitory, re-educated, and trained to work as a domestic for white women. China is now doing something similar with around three million Uighurs in XianJiang re-education camps. But this is Australia land of the free and easy. Dream on.

Matt Haig (2017) How to Stop Time.

matt haig.jpg

I rattled through this book in no time. A simple story told in the first person voice of Tom Hazard who was born on the 3rd March 1581 and is now—I’m crap at arithmetic, so I’ll jump from page 1 to page 316, near the end of the book—and say Tom is around 439 years old. He’s done a lot of living. And his daughter, Marion, who is also over 400 years old, calls the American President ‘a motherfucker’. Wisdom comes with age.

Only it doesn’t. Look at Trump. There’s a shadowy character a bit like him called Hendrich, who is rich, but obviously not as dumb or he wouldn’t have lived to be near 1000 years old. He is the leader of a shadowy organisation, the albatrosses (or albs, for short) whose purpose is to preserve the lives of those that live to a Malthusian age. The albs help Tom change his identity every eight years and move on. That’s the optimum time before people begin to notice people like Tom don’t seem to have aged and begin to ask difficult questions like what kind of wholemeal diet are you on? Tom explores what it means to be human.

Tom and the other albs, or in medical parlance, ‘anagerias’ do age. ‘Just much slower…generally it is a 1:15 ratio. Think of dog years which are a ratio of 1:7, or Cher, who grows younger and gets a better figure every year. Tom admits to be a bit of a name-dropper (and Zelig) in his relative youth, after his mother was drowned in a ducking chair as a witch, he plays the lute in William Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and the Bard saves his life when the same the witch finder that snared Tom’s mother tries to arrest him.  By then Tom has responsibilities. He has met the great love of his life Rose, who is two years older than him, which isn’t anything, but remember that ratio. And remember in the seventeen century living to adolescence and not being covered in body lice was a considerable achievement. Rose aged quickly, Tom stayed the same. What devil is this? their neighbours asked

Each chapter from the past is interspersed with Tom in the present. He’s taken a job in Oakfield School in London’s Tower Hamlet territory. He’s the new history teacher. As you’d expect he’s pretty good at the subject. He watched Rose die in the great plague, was there in the great fire. But he’s not a stay at home. He was on the Adeventurer, sister ship of Captain Cook, when he discovered New Zealand. He played piano in Paris during the roaring twenties and congratulated F Scott Fitzgerald on his new novel The Great Gatsby. He had to reassure him and his wife Zelda that the book was indeed Great, before the infamous couple nipped off to have cocktails with others of the Parisian avant-garde such Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas.

Those who cannot remember the past, observed the philosopher George Santayana in 1905, are condemned to repeat it. And you only need to switch on the news to see the dreadful repetitions, the terrible unlearned lessons, the twenty-first century slowly becoming a crude cover version of the twentieth.

A life without love has no meaning. But it’s a bit like Fight Club. The only rule in Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. The only rule in the albs have is you don’t pick up attachments. Not human, Tom gets a dog from Hackney Pet Rescue Services with sad eyes to keep him company and to take on walks in London Parks.  ‘History is people’, Tom tells his head teacher when she interviews him for the job.  But he’s not a real person, he needs rescuing from himself, because he’s not allowed to fall in love. ‘We are who we become.’ So, of course, he falls in love with the French teacher, Camille. Of course, he does, he was born into the French aristocracy all those years ago.

Will Tom or won’t Tom? We know he will. People are what they are. There’s wisdom here. Look at Trump, he could live to be 1000 and he wouldn’t learn a thing. He’s a monkey brain in long pants and painted on quiff. ‘All the worlds a stage, And all the men and women merely players, And one man in his time plays many parts…’

Read on.