Why the barge?


The title of this blog is an ode to the mesmerising opening paragraphs, and the book as a whole, of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s “The Soccer War”. I have read those lines a thousand times. About living on a barge in the backstreets of Accra. The barge is essentially a hotel, Hotel Metropol. The barge. There are just so many reasons why these opening paragraphs have fascinated me so much.

The barge itself. The barge represents a home away from home, a temporary, fragile living arrangement. It is difficult to separate the barge from the other elements described in these paragraphs, but if one does the result is the barge as an imaginery, symbolic place to live, without the excessive bagagge of “home”. A place where a nomad will stop for rest, where the shipwrecked and lost touch down for a connection with others. Connection for the wanderers, the lone-wolfs, and those who crave solitude.

The barge, of course is a traveller’s oasis, and a traveller’s tale. A point on the map, where life’s hidden details come to meet. The winners, the loosers, those that once had it all and those who are chasing it all their lives. Those who have lost the people whom they lived for, and those who have gone through life alone. This is what the barge is in itself.

Kapuscinski’s barge sits in Accra. An exotic location, especially when the author was there, where heat and humidity take its toll on someone from foreign lands. Now, I have never been to Accra itself, but reading these lines I am very quickly transported to long summer nights on islands of Thailand, dusty streets of Siem Reap, Laung Prabang, Vientien, Australia’s Alice Springs. When one travels or waits for something in a strange place, the days are long and pointless. Then comes the warm, sticky evening, the bars and verandahs, where sitting, watching and drinking can be a luxury for those on holidays, but a kind of never-ending torture for those stuck here, voluntarily or not. To get through it, and hopefully not alone, these lost souls drink. Kapuscinski describes it very well, but the subject also comes up in Graham Greene novels among others.

The key element to the barge is, however the people. The people who ended up on the barge, living in this hotel of sorts. People with wonderfully colourful life stories. All had travelled, some made big money, others lost everything. These colourful stories will be, in some way, the inspiration for this blog.


On simplicity, patience and inspiration.

It was another rainy day in Sydney.  Cold, rainy, nothing to do with summer. I promised myself that I would not get into complaining about the summer. Have to take it as it comes. The only way to stay positive and take advantage of what is on offer … And what is on offer?

The suburbs of Sydney, or at least a majority of them, offer shopping malls and centres, green lawns, modest, outdated playgrounds – lots of them unsuitable for kids to play on. Not too much else to take advantage of in the ‘burbs. The consumption epidemic, way past ‘the tipping point’, seems to an extent explainable in these vast spreads of house-clad land, deserted by any creative spirit or out-of-the box-thinking. Every house is almost the same, every neighbour drives a grand cherokee, or perhaps its eqivalent in the less affluent parts of town. No doubt these parts of the metropolis are vital to the economy. This is where the buying, the consuming, masses do their buying and consuming, few questions asked. But in terms of anything outside the consumption epidemic, there is really little to get into.

Your creative and exploring self, can be more satisfied with a visit, a weekend visit, to Rozelle/Balmain. The Rozelle Markets seem like a gathering point of the good, the bad and the ugly, with a strong leaning towards the collector. There is plenty of items on offer which most would almost immediately dismiss as junk, yet the crowd seems engaged in teasing out the treasures laid out on the not-so-posh displays. I picked up a Graham Greene novel for $3, and that was the highlight. Going to these places with a hope for bringing a few interesting, not planned, reading propositions is always a highlight for me. A good coffee in Sydney is not such a rare find, and walking down Darling Street provides plenty of choice. This is a good street for walking, and with the end of the street being on a wharf, this is definitely a Sydney street worth checking out.

The Inner West of Sydney has lots on offer. This part of town will no doubt offer some inspiration for what is written here. It is not going to be a travel guide, no entries proposing “Sydney’s top markets” or “Inner West’s Best Pubs”. Nothing like that. What I am looking for are little sparks that can get me writing, that can start me on a post which I hope will be enjoyable and challenging for me to put together, and for the reader to enjoy and get inspired. My hope is that the ideas behind this blog will be explained within the context of the next few posts, if I tried doing that here, I am afraid I would never finalise the first post, or finalise it so completely that subsequent posts would require the same studied, structured, sturdy approach, leaving little to play with.

Parts of this first entry had been written in the last days of the old year, and so … lets come back to the begining of this piece. Taking it as it comes and staying positive. Has a kind of a New Years resolution ring to it? Maybe, but it is not totally a New Year thing, or a New Blog thing. For me this is months, or longer, in the making, and intertwined in various topics these mantras are likely to feature on this blog for sometime to come. The “positive thing”, yes, but it is a bit more complicated. The key is taking advantage of the barage of ideas. But not just thinking about them. Not getting excited about some crazy prospect, or an interesting story line, only to come to the frustrated and frustrating conclusion, that it is just another idea for which there is no time, it is ‘just’ a story, nothing else, not relevant. The key is doing something with these ideas. What ever it takes, just going after them. If it means getting up at 5 am to run, write, cook and what ever else – do it. Be one of those crazy people, get “On the Road”. Not doing it, will mean frustration, anxiety, anger and all these feelings that are just not worth the energy.

Simplicity. Patience. Idleness. These are three “traits” for me in 2016. There is just so much to be done! I will no doubt spend a few lines of this blog in trying to workout just how to get it all done, how to work with my head, so that the ideas do not just become a source of frustration, and to put it simply: grumpiness. Getting this exactly right will be a big challenge.

So there, in the short introductory entry, I have put forward some topics which will feature in my writing, but I managed not to explain too much, and that was the idea. So lets meet on the barge …