Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Friday, 2 October 2015

Michael come into my office

I WOULD say most of us have worked in the public/ civil service or at the very least are one degree of separation from someone who has.
       Public-service jobs are so ubiquitous, often we don’t know when we are standing in one. Literally. 
 As a teenager I took a self-imposed sabbatical from university and landed a job in the Gold Coast Sewerage Department. We worked in the trenches, doing all sorts of things with sewerage pipes. One day they bused a bunch of us to chip weeds in rectangular concrete ponds containing spent sewage.

       Workplace health and safety would forbid it today but then we only wondered why we were doing work far removed from our usual tasks. 
       Up drove a couple of those soulless black limos government officials favor as transport. Out hopped a bunch of men and women in suits and fancy dresses. They watched us standing in shit and chipping weeds before they moved on for morning tea and fancy cakes.
       You don’t read anecdotes like mine above, every day. The first law of working in the public service is that you don’t talk about working in the public service. Michael O’Neill broke the law.
       Michael worked as a staff counselor in the Australian Public Service and state public services for 50 years. After he retired, somewhat involuntarily, Michael approached my friend Ian for help publishing a manuscript he had called Darkness and Denial. This had to be five or six years ago.
       Ian asked me whether Bent Banana might publish Darkness and Denial. I read the MS and thought it lacked reader friendliness. Michael was – he died in 2013, more on that later – an intellectual and predisposed to entertaining himself in wordplay. I said to Ian I would pass.
       A couple of years later the subject came up again and, by this time, the mission statement of Bent Banana Books contained one word: serendipity. I said, sure BBB would publish it.
       We worked with Michael, kneading the MS into shape. Unfortunately, Michael accidentally drowned in his swimming pool at home in 2013.
       Between other projects, Ian and I finished the editing. I suggested a title change to an ominous phrase in the book. We launched Michael we really have to talk . . . last month at Pine Rivers Art Gallery. We are having another launch at West End Library (in Brisbane, not London) on October 31.
       The book has attracted some international interest rising to #34 in the Amazon Top 100 in Public Affairs and Administration.
       My wife read It. “I can see why you and Ian got involved,” she said. “All that political and philosophical stuff.” She continued. “Michael seemed nice. You could see he was consumed with the dispute with Siobhan and that email." (You have to read the book).
“Bit of a shame,” my wife said.
       I said Michael seemed to be letting it go through the catharsis of the publishing process. (I probably did not put it as eruditely as that but they were my sentiments.)
       You will notice I have not made my usual desperate pitch for you to buy this Bent Banana Book. You will find out what it is about and whether it is your cuppa by going to an eBook or print book eTailer, such as Amazon
       I am glad Michael broke the first law of working in the public service. Whenever I talk about this book I conclude with a request that any public servant who buys a print copy display it upright at their workplace as an Anonymous-like symbol. Screen savers of the cover for digital copies are good to go, too.
       Here is our song. I love the Clash version, but, for sheer weird, the Bobby Fuller Four nail it.

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