Day 412 | getting into Point Ann: a long day's journey into (almost) night

57 km | Heading west total: 14,758 km

A full day of drizzle never quite reaching the definition of rain.

In these conditions you can’t stay dry: it was as wet inside the raincoat as outside. But at least nice and cosy, glasses fogged and dispensed with.

On days like this I can be excused for wanting to escape, for once just dream off into another world to take my mind off the bleak and blurry surroundings. After all when you average under 9.5km/hour for 6 hours the day is inevitably a bit of a grind.

I switch to Radio National which I can surprisingly pick up and it’s the Book Show, usually a 50/50 prospect, 50% extremely interesting, the rest why bother.

Today was a 40 minute talk by one of Australia’s leading social demographers: Hugh McKay. A lifetime of hearing people’s anecdotes as they attempt to make sense of their lives has left him with a broadly humanistic view of the world, still optimistic about the prospects of change for the better in the country, well you have to, the alternative makes for a bleak future for humanity.

But he regards his life’s work of statistics and analysis of feelings about the world similarly to what someone said about Henry James’s novels: written as if looking out a window to people on the street, a world experienced secondhand.

McKay has written a couple of novels he thinks get closer to the truth of the actual world. His latest novel, Ways of Escape, well written with insights into life, follows the fallout on 5 peoples lives after a husband/friend/work colleague simply disappears one day.

The theme to the book came to him after a train smash in the UK some years ago when after two commuter trains collided: 25 people couldn’t be accounted for. No bodies found, they weren’t victims of the accident, they simply disappeared.

The idea of people just walking away from what they saw as a miserable life has some resonance with this bloke as well as as many in the general population apparently. After 6 months 20 of the people had returned, popping back into their lives, realising that you can escape your surroundings but you can’t escape yourself.

5 remain at large years later, never having gone back, a new identity, a new life. In Australia, of the 30,000 who go missing each year about 300 never turn up again.

McKay’s last point sounded too common sense to go unchallenged: people are fundamentally motivated/dependent on social relationships, that is ultimately the meaning of life.

For me that’s only halfway there. The important thing is binding relationships through shared activity, or at least shared experience.

Active, not passive, and no, shopping doesn’t count.

There’s nothing like mutual overcoming adversity to cement a friendship.