Quiet after the Storm

Photograph of a broken umbrella, lying next to a car on a dark street.

The worst storm in 40 years, someone said. An elderly couple dead after their car was washed off a bridge. A ship run aground.

Tattered umbrellas litter the streets like so many dead jellyfish. Like this one on Victoria Street, Potts Point last night, blood-red under the sodium lamps.

Stay at home, it may last a while, they’re telling us. Severe weather warning… flash flooding… hazardous winds… damaging surf… gale warning for coastal waters and closed waters. Yeah, I get the picture.

Right now there’s no real wind, though. There’s just the gentle sound of steady rain. And that always provides such a quiet, contemplative mood — even if it is only 13C outside. It’s perfect for cups of tea, re-stacking papers, reading… writing… apparently even relaxing is allowed on a long weekend.

Last night we all knew it was a bad storm, but we still went out. That’s amazing. Our trust in electric trains, the internal combustion engine and the electricity grid is such that mere Primal Nature in All Her Fury is no match.

Our salmon was perfectly grilled, the chilli sauce on our lamb was phenomenal. The wines, from both McLaren Vale and Victoria, were well-blended, subtle. Later, the performer was more than adequately entertaining. The front bar was rowdy but welcoming at the same time. There were smiles, laughter. And then a cheerful Pakistani lad drove me home in some sort of heated pod with chairs for a little over $20.

Outside, the stormed raged on. We were all but oblivious as our urban lives continued unabated.

Ah yes! I love being Homo sapiens! Mammals rock.

The Inaugural Paul Neil Milne Johnstone Award goes to…

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my very great pleasure tonight to announce the recipient of the Inaugural Paul Neil Milne Johnstone Award for Language Mutilation.

Photo of real estate sign reading: Well appointed medium size studio apartment Situated in a quiet enclave in Enmore. This studio apartment offers a new canvass awning over the balcony, Chardonnay cool with a south-easterly view over terra cotta rooftops. Lounge and meals area, good size kitchen & bathroom

This award is named in honour of the late Paul Johnstone of Redbridge in England, who was cited by author Douglas Adams as writing the worst poetry in the entire universe. This award isn’t about poetry, however. It’s about Language. Language — and especially the abuse of language — in all its glory.

Of the many things which make us human, Language is one of the most important. Language binds our society together. Language, some even say, is what allows us to think rational thoughts.

Photograph of Claudia Mendez

So when people use Language badly, when Language is abused in order to mislead, to corrupt, to baffle or to sell a product, we shouldn’t ignore it. We should stand it on a pedestal, call up the author, point to them and say in a loud voice, “This person is destroying the very meaning of humanity.”

With this in mind, I’ve chosen as the recipient of the Inaugural Paul Neil Milne Johnstone Award a representative of a profession — if I may call it that — which is renown the world over for misleading language, namely, a real estate agent.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please put your hands together for Claudia Mendez (pictured right), of Laing+Simmons, Newtown.

Now as Claudia is making her way to the stage, I’d like to say a few words about my choice, and take a look at her work…

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