A man’s home is his bike

Image: The Brophy Machine (bicycle)

The Brophy Machine at rest

I’m at home on the saddle of my bicycle, pushing up a hill or gliding down one. My bicycle creates a circumference of reachable places along routes that squeeze through Brunswick lanes, skim across Parkville parklands, slip under bridges on bike trails in Fitzroy or dodge pedestrians on footpaths in Carlton. I’m at home with my bicycle’s gentle call to exercise, the timing of its low gliding. You can park it anywhere. You can keep it by your desk or by your bed. It’s slow enough and fast enough. It has no fear of rain or wind, and there’s that fizz of air as I push off.


Kevin Brophy is a writer and teacher.  He lives in Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

Kathrin finds beauty

Tempelhof Airport, in the middle of Berlin, feels like a relief. It ceased running in 2008 and thanks to engaged communities fighting for public access, it became the city’s biggest park in 2010. Whereas Berlin has swallowed me up in the past, I can choose to vanish in its fields. My ears hear layers of distant sound, people are flying kites, rare birds suddenly give company. Its beauty derives from being an industrial ruin; a vacancy in the middle of city life. Though I have always loved the atmosphere of functioning airports and the promises they hold, their symbolism has become more difficult to embrace in our age. Maybe Tempelhof seems comforting because Germany feels like a big productive machine, eating its way into our last quiet places, unstoppable. Climate Change will bring about more of these ruins, I expect.

[Kathrin Bartha is a PhD candidate at Berlin. Her hometown Frankfurt houses one of Europe’s biggest airports.]

[Photographer - Veronica Bartleet]

[Photographer – Veronica Bartleet]

Remembering a boy in a tree fishing for carp

The dam is at the bottom of the street where I lived as a teenager. This Christmas, I went for a walk and ended up here, ambushed by nostalgia and belonging. I escaped from this daggy Adelaide suburb as soon as I could.  I stood at the dam, now landscaped, with a fountain and a boardwalk for birdwatching. Back then it was a pool of muddy water where the boy I liked would sit in a tree and fish for carp.  I was reminded of the simple consolations that this suburb and the water and trees nearby will always be a part of me.

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Jo Case is a writer, editor and festival manager who lives in Footscray and grew up in Adelaide.

A Mighty Woman, the 11.15 train to Flinders Street, and thoughts on forgiveness

This morning I caught the train to Williamstown, a western bayside suburb of Melbourne. I was on my way to the funeral of Dot Cannon, an Aboriginal woman of great character. Dot was born in the state of Western Australia. As a so-called ‘mixed-blood’ child, she – along with thousands of other Aboriginal children – virtually became the property of a racist state government. Children were taken from their families, sometimes separated for life, and were able toP1060771 do little in their lives without the permission of the state. That Dot overcame the violence she was subject to is testament to the strength of her character.

Hundreds of people attended Dot’s funeral, each of them touched by her generosity. Most of the people at the celebration of her life were non-Aboriginal, including her husband of fifty-five years, Pat Cannon. As a couple, Pat and Dot embraced each other’s cultures; he her Indigenous story, she Pat’s Irish heritage, articulated through the great poets such as Yeats and Heaney.

I left the funeral and caught the train back into the city, looking out the window and marvelling at what I consider to be Dot’s capacity for forgiveness. I would not be presumptuous enough to say that she forgave those who were directly responsible for the attempted destruction of her family. Perhaps she did? Only those closer to her than me would know this. But I would say, with confidence, that she must have forgiven White Australia for its ignorance and mistreatment of Aboriginal people. Dot was not ‘colourblind’, but she would never let colour, or race, or prejudice of any kind stand in the way of her helping others, of offering friendship, of being there just when we needed her to be.  (As I discovered personally some years ago when I experienced a profound personal crisis).

When I got home, I finished reading a new and important book on climate change: Don’t Even Think About It by George Marshall. The book deals with the peculiarities contained in the relationship between climate change and our ability to think about it, both rationally and emotionally. I also watched a program (on YouTube) where Marshall spoke with an audience and expanded on the issues raised in the book (followed by a conversation with George Monbiot, the environmental writer and Guardian columnist). Marshall is an impressive speaker and writer. He is clear, direct and engaging. While the issue may be difficult to deal with for some, Marshall’s is a guiding voice. Toward the end of the conversation Marshall spoke about forgiveness. I’m not certain about this, but I think that Marshall believes that we, having collectively damaged the planet, feel guilt over this, and subsequently turn away from considering climate change emotionally. I think he is also suggesting that we perhaps should forgive ourselves, and through the experience of forgiveness, turn to engagement and take responsibility for our relationship with the Earth.

So, the connection between Dot Cannon and George Marshall? Within an issue of complexity, something simple and instructive, I believe. We sometimes become stuck for ways to deal with problems that perplex us, or frighten us, or stand in the way of us ignorantly having a good time. Sometimes, we stick our heads in the sand. At other times, we look in the wrong places for a easy solution. Today, two people brought a thought together for me: the means by which we deal with one crisis in our lives can aid us in dealing with other issues of difficulty, seeming disconnected, but in fact not.

It’s not surprising that Dot Cannon loved the land – both the red dirt of the desert and the rich loam of her suburban garden. She nurtured her garden and it reciprocated, in its colours, and shapes, and scents, and the birds that found her waiting for them. I had not seen Dot for some time before she died. But I know that if I were to ask her advice on how to think and speak and write about climate change, she’d tell me to get out there … do the best you can.

Tony Birch

Boab Dreaming with Stephen Muecke

The Sydney City Council cleared some trees at the end of our street, opening a space right at the beginning of King Street, the main drag. On impulse, I wrote to the council suggesting they plant a Boab tree. I said this tropical variety could be iconic; it might become the ‘Newtown Boab Tree’. It would welcome strangeness while also being a sign of global warming. Andrew from the Council rang me within a couple of hours. He was sympathetic and said he’d put the idea to a meeting – though of course, those responsible for streetscapes had a master plan … Master plan? I should have known.

Boab Dreaming - Words Stephen Muecke, image Joe Muecke

Boab Dreaming – Words Stephen Muecke, image Joe Muecke

Stephen Muecke lives in Newtown, Sydney. Young Joe lives in Copenhagen.

Robbie Egan’s Feet


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The northern end of Princes Park has a shallow pond adjacent a lawn bowls club. The pond has two fountains and sculptures of ducks affixed to its concrete floor. The surrounding lawn slopes down to the pond’s edge and is ringed with eucalypts. I often sit there on my way home from work as I like the sun, even on days of extreme heat. However the last drought saw the fountains turned off and the pond drained; the grass browned off and the ground hardened like rock underfoot. When I sit there now I wonder how long it will last.

Robbie Egan – (Robbie is the manager of Readings Books in Carlton, Victoria.  He lives in Brunswick with his family)

Bishop Blows Hot Air

An unfortunate but accurate summary of Australian Foreign minister, Julie Bishop, and her performance in Lima. We may yet win the title of the dumbest government in the world. A ‘first world’ country with a ‘fifth world’ mentality.


In the Wake of the G20 Summit Australian PM Finally Releases Climate Change Policy


Late Summer Afternoon – Lukas Hoffman, Sophie-Scholl-Schule

Berlin, 20 September 2014

Berlin, 20 September 2014


I look up.
The ocean that we call sky is clear.
The burning light of the sun hurts my eyes.
Instinctively I turn my head in another direction.
What I see is the reflecting after-glow on the other side of the big mirror.
My brain tells me it’s a good day,
but it’s been a cold day.
The sun wants to tell me something,
now that I have been thinking about her.
But she doesn’t like what I have been thinking,
so she goes and her place takes a red and orange cloud.
This beautiful blue ocean turned into a dark unclear cover.
All that happened within a few minutes.

Lukas Hoffman, Sophie-Scholl-Schule, Berlin