I was just thinking about how to spell “apocalypse” and remembered that it was the same pattern as “calypso”. I’m sure I’m not the first person to conflate the two words, but doesn’t it make apocalyptic nightmares feel like a lot more fun?

At a tender and impressionable age I read a graphic account of the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. Burnt into my brain. My teenage years were full of nuclear holocaust nightmares- stark barren burnt blasted twisted landscapes. Craters and bottomless pits. Pretty much a continuation of the hell-fire-and-brimstone of my fundamentalist Christian childhood, where our Sunday school teacher (Mr. Bradshaw) would describe the smell of burning sulphur, the heat, the eternal blistering (soon to be nuclear) of the pits of hell.

I guess I have carried an apocalypse in the back of my mind now for at least half a century. And what has happened in that half a century? The American president hasn’t (yet) pushed The Button and the tidal wave has not (yet) reached our shores. We may be under threat from global warming, coastal inundation, volcanic activity, meteorite strikes, starvation from drought and lack of bees, plague (in the news a bit), nuclear warfare, chemical warfare, terrorist attack, alien invasion, sunburst, sink holes, seismic activity, terminal narcissism, cancer, electromagnetic radiation, apathy, affluenza, and general lack of kindness and compassion. But who knows what will take us out?

 I am tired of this apocalypso dance of life and death. I know we need to think about our death every day, so that we can enjoy being alive. I know that I need to risk death in order to fully live. But the dance goes on endlessly, like the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the dancing red shoes, which the wearer could only stop from making her dance by cutting off her feet.

Well, I’m looking for a less painful option. Good books, good company and a hobbit house to live in. Like Bilbo Baggins I have no desire for adventure to any dark mountains. I want to stay home, barefoot, and watch the grass grow. I want to watch the birds in my garden, and try to understand some of their complex patterns. I want to cook with fruit and vegetables from my garden, and feed the scraps to the chooks and guinea pigs. Like Joni Mitchell, I want to get “back to the garden”. Explore my hobbit-self. Being barefoot most of the time keeps me connected with the sensuous earth; the damp grass, the soft sand that connects the earth to the ocean.

Ahhh the ocean! Love and forgiveness.  A constant redemption (you can see the fundamentalist childhood peeking through?) as the ocean remains connected with the shoreline, even when covered in dead birds and black ash. Constantly cleansing what is thrown in and placing relics on the shore for the earth to acknowledge. And what happens in the ocean, that we have no notion?

That is another chapter.



Friday 500 #2.           GRIEF.           2 March 2022.

I have a tough exterior and I bounce things off it. Inside I just want to weep. Words constantly fail me because I don’t have the poetry, the gift of lifting above myself.

Here I am, two feet firmly planted on the ground, the beautiful warm damp earth. The contradiction is that I walk around in this glorious country, carrying vicarious grief for those who can’t. If only they could see this place through my eyes, instead of through their pain and preoccupation.

A glorious orange flower has burst into technicolour near my front door. Surprise! I don’t remember planting it. One of many plants given to me by a friend in grief over the loss of her garden. She wants it to live on in other people’s gardens. I go out the front to feed our new chooks, given to us by a friend who got a job in Hobart, and couldn’t take them. The chooks have adapted to her absence, but has she adapted to theirs from her new life?

Then I feed the guinea pigs, who don’t appear to suffer any grief if one of their numerous babies dies. They just continue grazing calmly next to that little dead body. Very pragmatic; if you’re alive, you keep eating. Someone has to. Is this what it will come to? Have I important things to learn from these small furry creatures, possibly the rulers of the Universe?

Four weeks ago my younger brother died. It hits me at odd times and in odd ways. My life goes on, but his doesn’t. I sit in a garden where he may have sat, and enjoy a coffee for him. Vicarious, my enjoying things on his behalf. I play his favourite bass guitar, on his behalf. I feel healthy and active, savouring the salty ocean and the briny sea air, marvelling at the sky and the cloud formations. I don’t know whether he is sharing the experience, or has moved on to things even more glorious. I sense his companionship.

I make sense of things by trying to sort things. I sort possessions, books, items that may be of use to people who have lost the original that this item replaces. Some things can be comfortably replaced, some things never. Everything must have a use. Form and function. Making a little place of common sense in the complete vortex of chaos that is the world around us. How am I ever going to process this changing world?

I go through my litany of How the World Ends. If it is covid, then it is definitely with a whimper, not a bang. Bang would be nuclear, volcanic, seismic, tidal waves, everything washed away. A quick clean meteorite strike. But I suspect it will be as Nevil Shute envisaged; waiting quietly on the beach for the Last Day.

I have a store of toilet paper, pasta sauce, chocolate and wine against that slow demise. I just hope it will happen before I have to upgrade my phone or my computer. I can’t bear this rapidly-changing technology; it is tedious and time-wasting. I have better things to do in my final days.

Watching the grass grow and the birds play. Spending time with my friends and beloved. Not measuring out my life in coffee spoons, but proudly knowing I have fully lived my life, having done what I needed to do in this life. Whatever comes next will take care of itself.



500 by Friday   #3      HOMOGENISED.   10 March 2022.    Kate Jackson.

It’s always been a battle to be different. As a chronically shy child I just wanted to be invisible, but for some reason or another I never was. Out of step with my glamorous mother and sisters, unable to answer all the questions in the Dolly magazine quiz, and scarred for life by the fashion items that I couldn’t understand. My peer group; girls who had older boyfriends who could drive them around, and who had fascinating weekends being driven around. I walked or caught public transport. Sometimes I would help drunken friends steer their cars, but I never learnt to drive until I was in my thirties.

While my sisters were getting married and having babies, I was an inner-city wild child. While they were getting divorced I was studying feminist philosophy. One sister told me I was “so lucky to be single and have no children”. Luck? I don’t think so. I chose not to. I missed out on all the accolades of bridal showers and baby showers, preferring the showers at the pool.

I wore second hand clothes before they were fashionable, converting op-shop fabrics into what is now called shabby chic, or boho, or bespoke clothing. I was drawn to just be myself and do things the way that felt right for me. I was guided by a lot of reading- Zen and feminist philosophy, heartwarming stories of kind people and friendships. Things that were often uncool.

Why are we constantly being homogenised? Thrown into the same vat, so that we can come out looking the same. I have always loved our differences, our diversity. Why have we been blandicised? Having homes that match all the others in our street. Having interior décor that looks like a hotel foyer. Houses that look completely assembled from Ikea. Are we afraid to do something different? To do what we like?

Like T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock, do we dare to eat a peach? Consider the mess. Do we dare part our hair on one side? How daring! Or roll up our trousers and paddle in the sea? Who will ridicule us and destroy our self-confidence? Who will tell us we are out of fashion. As Billy Connelly so wisely said: “Beware of beige”.

Dare to dip a toe or throw your whole self in the ocean. Join a group without needing to be the best. I gave up on competition a long time ago. Someone was always going to be better than me. But I can be…different. Our diversity contributes to the mix. A famous classical music conductor said that they don’t need “perfect” musicians; that a range of musical abilities makes a far more interesting concert. In our tribal group we need the technicians, the academics, the artists, the nurturers, the entertainers, the village idiots, the keepers of the fire and the mad prophets. Everyone makes a contribution to a healthy society.

Don’t box us in, dumb us down, expect us to always be obedient. Even a slave has an inner life, a dream of reincarnation. I need to work on my tolerance, my judgement, my name-calling. People who don’t think the way I think may not be stupid. People who make different choices from me may not be failures; it’s my judgement, my viewpoint. If too many people agree, then that becomes what “normal” is. It’s the average number in the middle, the Norm, consensus. Doesn’t factor in all of us on the fringe, on the outer, at one extreme or another. Move over, make way for whoever wants to get on the bus.



500 by Friday #4.  Telling the Truth.  17 March 2022. Kate Jackson.

My sister is posting platitudes on social media about telling the truth. Methinks she doth protest too much. All those desk-calendar sayings are supposed to educate us; or are we saying we’re already enlightened? The postings take the moral high ground, showing the virtue of the person who can rise above everyone else’s bad behaviour.

My Nanna, who was completely nasty, used to say virtuously, even sanctimoniously, that she didn’t “owe anyone anything” and that she would never be a bother or an imposition, because she’d paid for her own funeral. That must have been a comfort for her, knowing in her heart that no-one really cared that much about her, and that she never gave anything to have it given back anyway. We all know our own truths, horrible as they may be.

We are all capable of just being ourself. Good, bad, kind, nasty. It’s OK. Unless you believe that there is a god judging whether we are good enough to enter heaven, the only real requirement is to find a place you fit in, where you are recognised and appreciated. We are herd animals, after all. Find your herd, your tribe, your community. I guess it’s more helpful to be kind than horrible, if you want to enjoy the company of others. But be yourself. I appreciate people who are being their true selves a lot more than people who are pretending. I am learning to move around people whose dishonesty I don’t understand, trusting that they will find a friend, but it doesn’t have to be me.

I grew up telling lies. It was part of the family culture. Five children who all said “it wasn’t me” to our harassed and not-really-paying-attention parents. We learnt how to get leverage, how to get that precious attention, to have a moment of being “special”. Don’t we all? Children who want attention will go to a lot of trouble to get it. The problem is when it continues into adult life.

I was a liar into my early twenties, when kind people cruelly told me I was creating my own truths. Call them lies or stories; they don’t work well with people who speak the truth. Like a reformed smoker, I now have very little tolerance for lies. If someone has lied to me, I can never be sure when, or if, they are speaking the truth. And maybe I have become a little brutal in speaking my truths.  I try to learn from people I admire- there must be a gracious way of telling someone they can’t sing in tune?

But there is my truth and everyone else’s truth. Sometimes they match, sometimes not. Everything is about our history, our experience, and that place on the mountain that we’re viewing the situation from. In my inner self I know my truths. The Dalai Llama says that we all know what is right, in our inner heart, mind and gut. One of them will be in a state of discomfort if an action is not true. Look at guilt, sleeplessness, anxiety, stress. What truths are we avoiding? Look at things that pain us if we are living a lie. My heart breaks for the situations people find themselves in.

John Lennon’s mantra was “just gimme the truth”, but we complicate it by having so many versions of the truth. We can only give someone our truth, as we, in good faith, perceive it.



500 by Friday #5.    BIOGRAPHY.   7 April 2022.   Kate Jackson.

If we are all pixels in a bigger picture, which pixels am I interested in? Mine, of course, due to the First Law of the Universe, which is to look after myself. But then I look around. Hmmmm…that pixel looks colourful- nah-too self-absorbed. Ah that one has an interesting shape- most intriguing; must find out more. That pixel is attracting my attention by flattering me – nah- a narcissist looking for a mirror.

I have always been interested in people (not pixels really). I like to observe our interactions, to see how being a human works. After bushfires and covid, I really understand the importance of our companionship, the comfort of each other. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated that having a cup of tea and a biscuit together. I have been astounded by the emergence of a whole range of community activities that come with free food. Ever since the out-of-date chocolate bullets were passed around, we’ve had the sausage bbq, the pot of soup, the food vans, the Greek soul food, the boxes of pizzas, the home-made scones, the jars of pickles and jams, the zucchinis left on the doorstep. An overwhelming and wonderful array of nourishment for the comfort of our traumatised selves.

So where are we now? Ready to write up our stories? Tell it to the ABC? We have some distance and hindsight to our traumas. Lessons learnt that we can share with those currently traumatised by war and floods. And more covid. I keep forgetting. Food and comfort. The sharing of our stories. What we now understand.

I am very interested in biographies. The best autobiographies are by writers- no surprise there. The worst ones are by people who have to write out their self-importance. I guess they want to make a mark, or leave a legacy; afraid that if they die, no-one will miss them. Like Scrooge in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, who is shown his future and realises that it depicts his funeral, and everyone celebrating that he is dead. My worst fear. When I die I want to stay in people’s hearts and give them comfort. Like writer Isabel Allende, I believe the dead may keep us company. The spirit of our ancestors and the sense of not losing beloved people, because they live on in our memory.

A good biography stays with me. I feel I know the writer. Anne Frank. Weary Dunlop. Roald Dahl. Watkin Tench. Real people. Some autobiographies leave me bored with the ego or the endless “shopping list” of their activities and achievements. I find myself uninterested in facts and timelines, wanting to get to the truth or the essence of the person. Biography can be a tricky thing. Some of my friends have written other people’s stories, and have been hampered by the subject and/or their family censoring the truth. How difficult was it for Pamela Stephenson to write husband Billy Connelly’s biography? Such courage, for Billy to approve her writing of his abuse in childhood. Pamela alludes to the difficulty of living with Billy, but can’t tell all the truth, as this would hurt his and their children’s feelings. Anyway, what is the absolute truth? Jimmy Barnes did really well, as did Archie Roach. Such honesty.

Can I write my own truths? Or is it my viewpoint and no-one else’s? If I write your story, will I capture, as a good portrait does, the essence of you? Perhaps the most telling stories are obituaries, where we say all the good things about a person, and omit the worst. The omission is what interests me. The earworm I keep hearing is John Lennon singing “Just give me the truth”.



500 by Friday #6.    GREED. 14 April 2022.  Kate Jackson.

I have been ruminating (one of my son’s favourite words) over the idea of greed. Is it an addiction? A crime? A strength or a weakness? Is it necessary for survival or is it leading to our extinction? I have so many assumptions that I need to examine. I’m assuming that wealthy people are greedy, which is why they keep buying up all the real estate and dumping their garden furniture at the tip when it gets a bit of rust on it.

I am guilty of prejudice, having come from a wealthy family and having to learn to counterbalance it. Maybe it’s guilt for the privilege I grew up with, where I observed the culture around me as being one of “it’s not fair; they have more or better than me”. A perpetual whinge that someone had a better deal. Everything was measured on appearance and possessions. We had a swimming pool and a tennis court, but we didn’t have any stables, let alone horses. Not fair! Alain de Boton calls it “status anxiety”. Clive Hamilton calls it “affluenza”.

I moved as far away from that culture as I could, learning to live simply. My whole adult life I have mostly bought my clothes, furniture, décor from op shops. Rarely new. I love the stories that come with artefacts. I don’t get any joy from new things in plastic packets that no human hand has touched. Do people that only buy new things have a phobia about that? I don’t know. For some people it is about the brand, for others the newness. One of Dad’s cars was keyed along the side- someone resentful of his salmon-pink Mercedes- and he had to trade it in. I suggested he could get it repaired, but he sadly told me that it was “not the same” and that he would “always know” the scratch was there.

At what point is enough enough? Where is the point of contentment with what we have? I remember schoolkids who had to collect every yo-yo or every Beanie Kid, every KinderSurprise or Transformer. Is this where the addiction starts? Does our culture create such addictions? An endless yearning to fill an emptiness. I think of the Buddhist image of the “Hungry Ghosts”, who are always hungry, always eating, but never sated because they are ghosts.

Once again, at what point is enough enough? Have I had enough wine? Enough dinner? Enough guzzling of the world’s resources? What can I learn to live without? What am I going to HAVE to live without? Way too many questions here, which shows that I am thinking but not coming up with any answers. Maybe our Affluenza is a disease that has been happening in our culture for so long, we see it as normal. Normal to always want more.

The most important thing I have learnt is to be content with what I have and to practice gratitude. No-one will love me if I’m a whinger.

Have you noticed that the first drink, the first smoke, the first chocolate, is always the best? It’s downhill from there on. But alcohol waves at us from the entry of the supermarket, offering us two for the price of one. Cigarettes, well, not a lot of choice once the addiction kicks in. Chocolate blocks get bigger and bigger and cheaper. We are encouraged to “binge watch” television, to read endless series of airport novels, and to constantly have music streamed to us. A soft slow death of discernment. The end of choice. Of thinking. It’s the fall of the Roman Empire all over again.



BEACH #1.  The Polystyrene Tirade.   Kate Jackson. 16 June 2022.

Scene 1.

I am skimming the washed up storm detrus for plastic waste as I walk along Tip Beach. There is seaweed, branches, lots of pumice and cuttlefish, an ethereal bleached pufferfish skeleton, and so many pieces of polystyrene that seem to break up and multiply before my eyes. It never disintegrates, just proliferates.

Curly packaging pieces, thin noodly strands, bits of surfboard, meat trays, hot chip cups and takeaway cups.

One type just keeps appearing, over a kilometre of beach. White polystyrene cup pieces with a distinctive blue pattern, reminiscent of willow pattern on real crockery. I collect, and collect.

When I get home, I tip out all the polystyrene pieces. For some reason I put all the willow pattern ones together. They make up a complete polystyrene cup, with one small hole near the base.

Scene 2.

A Hong Kong marketplace. A tea stall, and Harry gratefully buys a cup of Oolong. Hot and fragrant, reminiscent of home and the willow pattern china that was his mother’s pride and joy.

There are no rubbish bins, so Harry throws away the cup, into a gutter that will eventually wash into the South China Sea.

Scene 3.

Hong Kong harbour is busy during the working week, with ferries bustling to and fro between Quay and Islands. Mainly commuters, locals visiting the Big Smoke, and always tourists. The water is surprisingly clear, with currents pulling polluted water out and away, on the journey water makes around the world. Endlessly. Container ships on the horizon are already on their way with cargoes of cheap goods for hungry consumers. Buying on line means waiting for that slow boat to China. Sea mail. Patience.

There are luminous jellyfish in the harbour, surprisingly, and there must be fish, for the seabirds are swooping and skimming. One of them pecks at a polystyrene cup, mistaking it for a fish.

Scene 4.

On a lonely rock a seabird dies, its stomach full of plastic. No food, only plastic pieces that sit and do not digest or pass through. This bird died of malnutrition, thinking the blue plastics were seaweed, and the white plastics were squid or fish.

Think about it; a stomach full of plastic. One piece with a willow pattern.