G’day from Port Campbell,

I didn’t realise it until a few days ago, but it’s been around twenty days since I saw the ocean. Having grown up in a seaside town, I think that’s a record for me.

As I drove the winding road south from Timboon, I saw it emerge between two rolling hills, running out to the horizon. My first thought – and I’m not joking – was “Thalassa! Thalassa!” This is what the ancient Greek mercenaries under Xenophon are alleged to have said around 399 BCE when they finally glimpsed the ocean from a mountain in what today we call Turkey. They were fleeing a disastrous loss after being employed in a Persian civil war and had been through hell and back trying to get home.

My own journey has not been quite so dramatic, but for some reason, it’s what I thought of. What can I say, it’s good to see the sea. (I also got the words wrong; after a quick Google, I realised it’s actually “Thalatta! Thalatta!” Damn, thought I was getting cultured there for a second…)

Port Campbell, Victoria

Camperdown, Victoria

I’ve been sticking to my reduced rate of travel, which has been helpful. I feel more settled and not in such a rush all the time. I going to try and double down on this; spend more time in each place, maybe do a minimum of a week to a spot. I find myself getting restless after three days, so we’ll see.

Camperdown was lovely, but it rained a lot. Beautiful botanical gardens right behind the caravan park I was staying in, and lovely hilltop lake views.

I headed out to Timboon after that, staying at a local footy oval (which I didn’t realise was a thing). Apparently, they lease the space around the oval for self-contained travellers like myself to park and stay. I even had access to the toilets and showers, and all for $20 a night. Not too shabby. It was a little awkward when the kids and young adults had footy training; felt like a bit of an intruder, but otherwise a great experience. Went for my first run in three weeks. No shirt, no shoes, just me and Ruben doing laps of the Timboon footy oval. It was great!

I walked all around Timboon. The more I saw of it, the more I fell in love with the place. Walking along the Camperdown-Timboon rail trail was beautiful. Giant, straight gum trees. Abundant bird life. Slowly getting over the self-consciousness of wearing a weight vest everywhere I go.

Maybe it’s just being near the sea again, but Port Campbell is gorgeous. I can’t believe I’ve never been here before. It’s nestled in a cove on the rugged southwest Victorian coast. A river flows into the ocean here. A bridge spanning the river takes you up this hillside staircase to a track that runs out along the clifftops. The views from up there are insane. The ocean just runs on forever, all the way out toward Antarctica.

The place was packed when I went for my hike this morning. There was a festival happening down on the foreshore. Crayfest, someone informed me. I saw everyone gathered on the beach for an Aboriginal “Welcome to Country” ceremony, followed by a lot of kids digging in the sand (for something crayfish-related no doubt). Later on, when I was writing, I heard live music being played. Something called me to go down there, and I didn’t. I don’t know why. I was writing. I guess I felt a stronger call to keep writing. I made rationalisations for why I didn’t go, why I can’t ever give myself a day off. I regret not going. I think it would have been fun. But I also think that if I did go, I would have regretted not writing. It was a tough call. I’m not sure I made the right one. Probably something to work on.

I did get a hell of a scene written though.

Port Campbell, Victoria

Port Campbell, Victoria

What I’m working on: Sword & Sandal is at 45,780 words, meaning I got 18,700 words down this past week. For anyone keeping track, yes, that’s 59 words less than last week. I know, I know – I’m a hack who peaked somewhere around 20-21 March 2021 and it’s all downhill from there. I’m loving how it’s coming along. It’s developing in strange ways I didn’t anticipate, which is always the case. I’ve also got my next few books lined up, and they’re all really intriguing to me in different ways. I’ll have more on this in coming weeks…

What I’m reading: Page/passage-a-day from The Daily Stoic, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Tolstoy, Allie Esiri’s poetry and Shakespeare books, the King James Bible (up to 1 Chronicles, which seems to be a rehash of the stories I’d read previously in 1 and 2 Kings). I’m deciding I’m going to put audiobooks here, because the “What I’m listening to” section is often dominated by podcasts and my daily physical reading doesn’t usually change that much.

I listened to Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire. Been meaning to get around to this for the longest time and finally did and I was not disappointed. This novel – a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae through the eyes of a young armour bearer – is incredible. The battle scenes are some of the most beautifully brutal pieces of prose I’ve ever read, and the fact that the author didn’t get published until he was 52 always gives me hope. I’m just starting his next historical novel, Tides of War, and so far, it’s just as good, if not better.

What I’m watching: Glengarry Glen Ross. Don’t know how I’ve never seen this before; it absolutely blew me away. The acting in this is phenomenal, as is the writing. I’m always fascinated by film adaptations of a play, how they maximise the use of minimal sets, how dialogue-driven they are, how they convey so much with apparently so little. Weirdly enough, it reminded me that the book I’m working on right now, which very much feels like a play in novel form. You’ll see…

What I’m listening to: I came across Renegades Born in the USA, Barack Obama’s podcast with Bruce Springsteen about the current state of America and the historical trends that have led there. It was incredibly compelling and informative, especially their discussions of race and masculinity. In an effort to balance out my political news diet, I’ve started listening to a few more left-leaning podcasts that I’d stopped following for a while, The Daily Zeitgeist and Worst Year Ever. I find Robert Evans on Worst Year Ever often has an incredibly fair take on things, plus he reminds me of a modern-day Hemingway. While there are things I take issue with, I generally take issue with a lot more on the right. I think the key is constantly exposing myself to both sides and deciding for myself what makes sense and what doesn’t, what I agree with (and don’t) and why.

It’s a never-ending battle, much like my never-ending battle between writing (observing the world from outside) and being a part of the community.

Until next week…

 

Cheers,

J.G.