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Monday, 1 February 2010

We say the weather "has closed in" when it pours torrentially for days, when going to the shops becomes a small adventure, and when playing board games takes over from playing superheroes in the park. For a child, this state of affairs can seem claustrophobic, constrained. For me, today, it feels comfortable, secure.

I shut the louvres in the bedroom last night and slept with a thin blanket for the first time in months. This morning, I put on a long-sleeved shirt for the first time since log-knows-when. I've got my coffee. The browser's fired up. What do I read online?

First, there's Alexandra Adornetto writing in support of Tony Abbot's call to conservatism among young women. The leader of the opposition very effectively took over the public debate last week, when comments made in reply to questions from The Womens Weekly headed like crazed lemmings for the minarets of the broadsheets. Teenagers should guard their virginity, he said. The response was cacophonic, with most female commentators telling the politician to mind his own effing business.

Adornetto, on the other hand, makes a strong case for caution. But if you read her piece, in The Brisbane Times, with care, you'll find that all she's advocating is that the girl should wait for a guy who will call her in the morning.

This seems like sound advice. The alternative, she says, is a drunken hump on the nature strip outside the house where the party had taken place. Not recommended, she says. She also says that this has happened to people she knows.

Adornetto hit the headlines back in 2006 when, aged 13, she wrote a novel that went on to be published by Harper Collins.

The soft-focus viewpoint of my day continued when I read a piece by Christian commentator Greg Clarke over at The Punch.

Clarke's nominal standpoint would be about as different from mine as chalk and cheese, but I found myself agreeing with what he wrote about artist Chris O'Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa). I'm a big fan of O'Doherty's. I own four of his paintings, for a start. When a new illustrated biography of the painter appeared at the end of last year, I snapped it up.

What Clarke says is that O'Doherty, who often depicts Jesus in his work, is more like a true Christian than many nominal Christians. The iconoclastic painter, he says, seeks the actual essence of Christ, rather than relying on received wisdom from church elders to guide him.

He has problems with the institutional church and “hopes there are better ways of doing it than by being enthralled by some authoritarian religion, which does all your thinking for you”. It’s as if he is still on a journey to find the naked body of true Christianity underneath its strange and off-putting costumes.

So what's happening today, with the rain pummelling the balcony tiles and the wind howling like a banshee through every crack and cranny it can find in my building's fabric? Is this an epiphany? Is this the voice of my mother coming to me when, aged 10, I had escaped from some dreadful childhood scrape? Is this a turning point?

Probably not. It's just that, sometimes, the universe seems to contract, become less foreign. Many seek out this state in an effort to make it a permanent characteristic of their world. For me, an unrepentant sinner, it's like a gift rather than a right.

And while I cherish it when it happens, I don't demand it everyday.

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