Reality Writes -- Brief 2 -- Introduce yourself
Who am I?
To paraphrase: if you want all that Holden Caulfield, “David Copperfield kind of crap” then – unlike the formerly famous, alienated teenager from the early 1950s – I’m your man. (By the way, was that ever truly an innovative, rebellious introduction to a fictional spoilt brat? I’m not sure it was but never mind).
My name is Dougie Herd.
Technically it’s Douglas but (until recently) only my mother calls me that. It’s odd how circumstances change. In the last few years -- when folk want to reach beyond the somewhat gruff exterior of the grumpy old Scottish Presbyterian man’s persona I have cultivated (for ironic, destabilising or self-defensive purposes) – people resort to my full name. "Douglas," they say. And we know we are on easy terms.
That seems odd; rather counter-intuitive. Unless I’m completely misunderstanding what’s going on.
It would not be the first time that’s been true.
Scottish then. That much is clear. It is a blessing and a curse in some regards. Damned by faint praise (perhaps) I am told quite frequently, “that voice. We could listen to you reading out the telephone book and not grow tired of it.”
I'm touched by people's kindness but two less generous thoughts occur to me here.
One: could they not link this voice of mine to a more uplifting text for pity’s sake? I nominate – off the top of my slightly balding head -- ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ (how appropriate) or ‘Tintern Abbey’ or the first few pages of To Kill A Mocking Bird (wherein the author’s words flow like wine – to coin a tired old cliché).
Two: no one uses a phonebook these days. Even the metaphorical references folk use with me in mind are 20th Century.
It appears that I am analogue.
Scottish and a migrant. Part of a national diaspora. Glasgow, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, London, Edinburgh, Direlton, Sydney, Canberra. We are not in Kansas, Toto. But then again, we never were.
I am an old man from a century that is long gone.
My adolescent years – my young adulthood too – are taught in schools these days as history. People can now probably acquire a modern history PhD on the ancient period when I was a (hopefully thoughtful but) sometimes strident student political activist. Once upon that different time my peers at Stirling University might have looked at our long-gone period through the lens of a Minor unit in contemporary politics.
Eventually we all become lost in the mire of history. A generation from now – two if I’m exceedingly lucky – no one alive will remember me or know of my existence. That too is the way of the world. I shall strive, nevertheless, to leave behind me a trace which someone – or millions – will make out among the chaos and noise of the even busier, more crowded future.
Analogue and egotistical it seems.
Is that why I write?
So, Scottish and Australian living in Canberra with my glass artist partner and her adopted cat, Thistle (who was known as Kit Kat by the family from which she fled). We’ve been living here for seven years in a mildly ridiculous, giant bungalow in a deep-south suburb of the ACT known by the name of Gilmore. The house is much too large for the two (three) of us but it’s wheelchair accessible and the en-suite shower room was comparatively cheap and quick to modify. So, we bought it – or took out a mortgage on it – because we needed to find somewhere to live in a hurry when I was recruited by the National Disability Insurance Agency in 2012 to help launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2013. The Agency paid me a ridiculously large amount of money – almost $200,000 – when I joined its leadership team. We could, therefore, afford to buy, rather than rent which made it simpler to modify. So, we did (buy and modify – that is) and our relocation from Sydney was accomplished quickly and painlessly.
That was then and this is now. I’m back in the non-government sector (taking a $70,000 salary hit) but we just about make ends meet. The collapse of Capitalism helps. If interest rates start to climb again we’ll be in trouble. But there’s time. I’m just not sure for what.
And that, dear reader, has been (some of) the story of most of my life to date. I’ve had plenty of time but no real plan of what I’d do with it. Now, in my early-sixties, the clock ticks on remorselessly and metaphorically. One’s days are numbered – but that number is hidden from my view and only those I leave behind will know how small or large my number turns out to be.
But the clock ticks also in the real world. And it is late. I’m meeting the new ACT Minister for Disability Services in the morning to give her an update on the work of the Territory's disability advisory committee (of which I'm Chair).
So (as no one really says where I come from) I’m aff tae ma bed.