We need to talk about …

No, not Kevin this time, but … the homeless. I think it all started for me with the Christchurch quakes raising our levels of anxiety about our homes, the having or not having of them, that is.

Around about quake time I stumbled on William Boyd’s novel Ordinary Thunderstorms, in which the main character – someone just like you or me – ends up living rough in London.  Ever since then, the homeless have slowly but surely insinuated their way into my very living room.

And there is no escape, because the subject of homelessness has really hit its straps at this year’s Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2012 where book after book has the homeless jumping off the page at me.

In Dark Night: Walking with McCahon, author Martin Edmond – in an attempt to better understand McCahon’s Sydney walkabout – goes homeless for one night in Sydney. It is amazing how compelling it is to read his account of this. You can’t help but wonder how you would cope with a life lived out of a supermarket trolley.

Charlotte Wood also incorporates the homeless into her excellent novel Animal People. Pet owner Nerida is described as someone who would:

feed a stray cat or fret if Balzac had a cough, but the homeless were as intolerable as vermin.

In Snowdrops by A.D Miller, the homeless have a spectacularly bad deal. Not only is Russia a freezing cold country in which to have no front door to close, but homeless people are often murdered and lie under piles of snow all winter only to emerge like snowdrops  in the Spring thaw.

Only Kathy Lette, in The Boy Who Fell to Earth, doesn’t flirt with the topic. But if she had, I bet she’d have made it laugh-out-loud funny.

It is a subject that seems to be in the air right now. So I wasn’t the slightest bit taken aback to open  The Press  the other day and read of a pensioner who is going to sleep in her car for a week in a show of solidarity with all the Christchurch people who have no homes right now.

It could all be quite depressing – being homeless or feeling homeless. But as a Chinese proverb so succinctly put it:

You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair!

Goldilocks and the three blogs

My favourite festival cover this year.

It had to happen eventually – Goldilocks got tired of bears, their furniture and yucky porridge and took up blogging instead. Her first blog was too hard – she sweated bullets over that one, she really did. Her second blog was too long – she’d got life story and blogging all mussed up. But her third blog was just about right and Goldilocks really got into the swing of it and settled into a steady blogging rhythm.

Then she got sent to Auckland Writers and Readers Festival and that was when Goldilocks realised that there’s blogging and then there’s FESTIVAL BLOGGING. Four days of frantic reading, writing, interviewing and panicking. Colours seem brighter, ideas come faster and she never once thought of porridge. As for beds – that was where you collapsed at 2am, all blogged out. Turns out that festival blogging is like blogging on steroids. And Goldilocks found that she liked steroids!

Youth, hair and flouncing dresses way off to one side here, I’m the Goldilocks in this story. And after much deliberation, here are some of the authors that I am really looking forward to hearing,  meeting and definitely blogging on at AWRF this year.

But first there’s the technology to master. So I took my new laptop to a wifi cafe for a trial run and prevailed on my waitperson to photograph me for this festival blog. In the first photo my nose looked too big. In the second my nose looked too…., you get where I am going with this. After the third shot, my waitron put the camera firmly back on the table and said:

You’re really excited about this festival thing aren’t you?

However did she guess?