China in the Tasmanian imaginary

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  • Published 20130305
  • ISBN: 9781922079961
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE SHARP CHILL of winter has settled upon southern Tasmania and I now rise at the same time as the sun to witness an eerily beautiful phenomenon unique to this part of the world. The ‘Bridgewater Jerry’ is caused by cold air draining down the mountain overnight and collecting in the Derwent Valley at Bridgewater, where it is expelled each morning as a dense column of fog that rolls down the river to dissipate into the ocean. The curious name, like so many Tasmanian oddities, is long forgotten vernacular from the early days of the penal colony. According to that sly convict James Hardy Vaux, who compiled The Vocabulary of the Flash Language to assist magistrates translate the patios of felons, ‘jerry’ was London criminal slang for mist. So, this winter morning when I pull back my curtains I see the jerry hovering on the river’s surface, backlit by the rising sun and tinged with gold.

No matter where I am on this island, every day there will be a sight to stop me in my tracks and fill my chest with sudden radiance. What I feel is passion, no doubt about it; Tasmania is my one enduring love. When I am away for any substantial length of time this glorious landscape fills my dreams and impels me homeward. Herein lies my conundrum: I can’t live anywhere else than this beautiful, empty terminus of the world, yet living here poses an intellectual challenge I find difficult to transcend. After an extended period of time in Tasmania, I experience a pervasive low mood settling upon me like a jerry. It can be dissipated by the engagement of lively conversation, or the touch of sensual fingers, but soon enough the ennui will be rolling down again and I will be scanning for the best deal on a ticket out of here.

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