Monday, July 21, 2008


For some days, after hearing about the body of the as-yet unidentified woman found in a barrel on the outskirts of Sydney, I couldn’t help thinking of the figure I had seen walking along the one road that leads into the town where one of Australia’s most feisty early twentieth century writers was born. This figure, whose tentative steps between the road and the ditch and whose thick, pale blue synthetic jacket with matching beanie and scarf, worn as if in anticipation of the novelty of snow in the nearby mountains, had made me think, not so much of a child, but of those vulnerable people in institutions who are dressed by others and so will always resemble children. I remembered, too, that the murdered woman in the news had been naked except for a garish Swatch watch still attached to her decomposing wrist – a garish Swatch watch whose soft plastic band had been red, orange and yellow: the three colours, by co-incidence, of the backpacks on the supposedly young and eager pilgrims who, even then, were beginning to pour into Sydney, one group after another, to see the pope.

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