Clive James rolls in Hay

I lept at the chance to hear this gentleman speak. I’d always thought he was the guy that did the programme about adverts from all over the world when I was a kid. The guy that had some sort of obsessive interest in Japan. Oh and he reviewed films for years.

pic. Eamonn McCabe
picture Eamonn McCabe

Lately I’d realised there was more to this aging Australian. He’s a prolific writer and columnist, raconteur, wit, satirist, poet and social commentator. He thinks before he speaks, he doesn’t feel a pressure to fill empty silences with redundant noise. When he speaks or writes it’s considered, thoughtful and insightful.

He’d want to be seen as a lover not a fighter but isn’t afraid of confrontation if cornered. He will make the hard choice and give you the tough love of truth if that’s what is needed and justified. I found him honest, self deprecating and a pleasure to spend time with. Like Stephen Fry you don’t want the session to end, there are several hours worth of chat, memory and debate still to be had when they start winding up.

Sure he had a book to promote but I’m also inclined to discover more of his earlier works. He confessed to loving several homes around the world, London, Oz, Japan and across Europe. Age wisely prevents him globetrotting with the vigour of a younger man so he has a minimum excursion time of a fortnight, usually more – there’s a certain wisdom to that.

The nugget I remember from the session: asked about Australia’s response to the ‘Aboriginal Problem’ he paused and replied; ‘There never has been and there isn’t a Aboriginal Problem, there was only ever an Australian Problem, the Aboriginals were there already.’

Food for thought.

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