Deveny-inspired Jottings ....

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

In late 2019 I had the privilege of participating in a writing workshop by Melbourne comedian and author, Catherine Deveny. During the workshop, we were encouraged to overcome our fears of taking up the pen, to high-jump over our blocks and just write, write, write ... and write some more.

One of the ingenious devices the lovely Catherine used to fire our imagination and get our pens gliding across the page was handing out to each of us a random object (in my case a foreign bank note from a mysterious Asian nation) and a paint swatch. The paint swatches each bore a rather eccentric name, amongst them Arctic Fox and Atomic Tangerine. I got "worldly yellow". And so here is what I wrote:

Piece 1.

It was brilliant. We had the holiday of a lifetime in a place we never dreamed of visiting. Two hours flight from the capital of Mongolia. We landed in a field of wildflowers with only a 5 tögrög note to our names. Our guide book described the only guest house for 100 kilometres as painted in a shade of worldly yellow. It shimmered gold to us as we approached, weary and anxious.

Next minute, out of the blue there appeared an old man dragging behind him a black goat on a long rope. The goat bleated at us as if to warn us of something. Perhaps it was our fear of the unknown that was all around us. Perhaps the goat sensed it would be our evening meal and was plotting its escape.

As we turned to look back at the mountains around us, the man dropped the goat’s rope. To my surprise, rather than racing off, the goat meandered to sniff at the handle of my suitcase. Then it looked up at me with sleepy eyes and sauntered lazily in the direction of the golden guesthouse.

Checking in a short time later, I saw him staring at me from the creased, discoloured note. I guessed he must be someone important to grace a bill of the national currency. It fascinated me to ponder what I might buy with this note – a box of matches, a lollipop, a night’s accommodation at this worldly yellow guesthouse? The note lay at the bottom of a glass tip bowl, the glass magnifying his regal look and Asian features.

Piece 2:

The Japanese have a saying: “he who dresses in wordly yellow will never be found out for peeing him/herself.” It is an odd thing to say really. The Japanese gent on the 5 yen note I am holding looks far from incontinent. He looks regal, aloof, in control not only of his bladder, but his entire empire. This saying cannot, surely, be credited to him, but rather to some other ordinary Japanese mortal prone to drunkenness or extremes of fear and panic.

Find out more about Catherine Deveny's Writing Master Classes:

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I was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1966. As a student of the Italian and Indonesian languages at Melbourne University in the 1980's I became aware of the plight of the people of a small half-island called East Timor. A colony of Portugal for 500 years, East Timor or "Timor-Leste" was invaded by its huge neighbour, Indonesia, in 1975. It's a long story, but like many Australians and other citizens of the world, it made me angry and sad to learn that my own government aided and abetted that invasion in order to gain the upper hand in negotiating access to oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, just north of Australia. At the cost of a quarter of a million Timorese lives. I decided to do something about it. And I still am today. 

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