Australia lies between the Pacific and Indian oceans. It is the largest island – and one of the largest countries – in the world. Its closest neighbours are New Zealand to the east and Papua New Guinea to the north. It has a large mountain range that runs down its east coast. Most of the centre of the country is covered by desert. The majority of its population live on the coasts.
George Brandis QC
George Brandis was the High Commissioner for Australia at the time of recording this episode. He was formerly a Senator for Queensland and his appointments have included Attorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Leader of the Government in the Senate, Federal Minister for the Arts, and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. A barrister by profession, since completing his term as High Commissioner in summer 2022 he has returned to Australia where he has been appointed a professor at the Australian National University, focusing on national security, law and policy.
Jaya Savige was born in Sydney, raised on Bribie Island in Moreton Bay, Queensland, and currently lives in London. He is the author of Latecomers (2005), which won the NSW Premier’s Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, and Surface to Air (2011), which was shortlisted for The Age Poetry Book of the Year, the West Australian Premier’s Prize, and the ALS Gold Medal. His most recent collection, Change Machine (2020), was a finalist for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award and several other national prizes. A former Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, he is poetry editor for the Weekend Australian newspaper, and has held Australia Council residencies at the B.R. Whiting Library, Rome, and the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris.
Clancy of the Overflow
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just “on spec”, addressed as follows: “Clancy, of The Overflow”.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of “The Overflow”.
The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze …
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
Whatever the question, the cordless
Whatever the question, the cordless leaf blower is his answer most Sundays. Ergonomic, instant start, cruise control—it’s optimal for managing a plot.
It works a dream
for purging light
debris, but comes into its own in turbo mode, with soggy cuttings, sods and rotting limes. He works in bursts, strafing the drive with semiautomatic jets; and in the rests day’s quietude pathetically returns
like a wallaby cradled in a fire blanket. He is there still, wearing only the pink briefs of dusk, herding into a nice pile the last outstanding invoice. With one more pass he could well whisk
the tantalising clod
of muck that ruins
everything. Manoeuvring the nozzle, he swells the tattered shade cloth like a god, and sails west beyond all monologue.