Ben Winch

writer / rocker

Crash Landing

A sort of homecoming

October 22nd 2018

For anyone who’s kept up with my online journal Hand Drawn Heart, it will come as no surprise that, for me, the last nine months have been arduous. More than arduous, heartbreaking.

We – my wife, my stepkids and I – returned from London via Iceland and the United States in late January, and took up refuge in a dilapidated house in the Byron hinterland near Nightcap National Park. The place is 30 minutes by car from Mullumbimby and 40 minutes from Byron Bay and Lismore. The roads are terrible. It’s out of the way, and it seemed the perfect place to bring my father when, following a stroke and a lifetime of alcoholism, and a short spell in a Japanese jail on assault charges, he fell prey to dementia.

Dad stayed for three-and-a-half months, during which time, given the amount of work required in and around the property to make it liveable, not to mention the strain of caring for him and managing his affairs, I managed no creative work except an essay on Robert Walser for Thresholds International Short Story Forum and three blog-posts detailing the disintegration of his mind and of our relationship (see Hand Drawn Heart). Finally in May I found a place for him in an aged care facility and he’s been there ever since. I’m still his attorney and legal guardian, and in charge, to a large degree, of his divorce settlement (I was in charge of his lawsuit too, when he still had domestic violence charges against him), but I’ve now had five months of freedom.

It’s been hard to get motivated. At first I eased myself back in slowly via music mixing, which seemed less emotionally demanding than writing. To make sure the stakes were low I started with material that had sat on the back-burner for over a decade: I remixed and mastered what remained unreleased from Cottage Industry Recordings. The entire 90-song CIR back-catalogue is now available online – for me, a minor miracle.

Next I tried something closer to my heart: Light Traveller’s Better on Your Way EP. Sure, I had hoped to have finished the whole album (Falcon Falling) by now, but chose instead to narrow my sights lest the whole project spiral out of control and remain unfinished for years like so much of my past work. I worked hard on this, trying with my entry-level equipment to reach a level of professionalism which seems always just tantalisingly out of reach. Still, I’m pretty pleased with the results. I’m just so sick of this computer screen!

Despite that computer-sickness I’ve just spent a good couple of weeks on web design, updating my various sites so that hopefully I can ignore them. Meantime, more as an exercise than anything, I’ve posted a few music- and book-reviews, just like old times. Next, with any luck, I’ll redraft some or all of my London stories (three handwritten notebooks totalling 50-60,000 words and dating from late 2017, when I wrote three-to-four days a week at the London Library), and maybe brush up the COQworks saga as a warm-up, since these last months of near-total literary inactivity have sapped my confidence.

And Dad? He’s deteriorating by the month, and given he’s over two hours away by car I hardly see him. But he made his bed, I guess. The question is can I live with it. I think so. And I’m doing it, slowly.

Hand Drawn Heart

Book reviews

Music reviews

Ben Winch, Mt Jerusalem

Mt Jerusalem NSW
Photo by Tim Sinclair