A Teller of Tales.



I admit I am caught in a conundrum…as a tradesman first, who enjoys a smidgen of putting pen to paper, I know I am trespassing on the hollowed ground of  grammatical correctness that demands at least a semblance of structural purity. Trouble is, coming from the rough and tumble world of oral story-telling ; Front-Bar style..ie; jokes or buffoonery anecdotes, the nuances of replacing wild gesticulation and spray of beer with a written word demands a discipline that I often find difficult to embrace, for I love the well told yarn.

Trouble is, and I realise it as much as any academic writing on the subject, the blue-collar multitude does not spend much time sifting through the wordiness of a book. Easier to punch the remote and cheer the team..or listen to the front-bar jokes.

It wasn’t always so..There was a time..in my youth..where many a deep conversation could be had about Lawson, or Marx from the same group…more diverse were the conversations over a pint of the best…from The British Hotel to The Seacliff  (Adelaide) to The Seabreeze in Darwin..indeed, one could get crucified for pretending false knowledge or a slip of the tongue…I remember myself making many a faux pas in mixed company and suffering deserved embarrassment for it ( ah! women can cut a young fellah so cruel!).

A pity, because the strength of a society is in the flexing of it’s cranial muscle rather than it’s biceps..the pen being mightier than the gladis..so to speak!

But without contacts to a publishing network, or the academic cred’ of recognition that opens at least SOME doors, where does one go with a “raw” manuscript?..These days of social media, some people start up their own blog to deliver their work to the reading public.. but the difficulties of maintaining these sites is the thing…someone has to do the hard yards as well as write the contributions in many cases..I know too, as I used to (till just after retirement) run the community blog for the organization I volunteered for..It too is now closed from lack of ..I can’t say interest, there were tens of thousands of hits, but the lack of capacity of others to contribute along with their own work-life meant it was shut down.

There once was an education structure named WEA. : Workers Education Australia. That followed on from the varied philanthropy inspired “Mechanics Institutes” and such, on the principle that an educated worker would be a more inspired worker..and the world would be a better place for it..I presume. I would like to see a structure, much like the Australian Sports Institute, where the Arts and artists are encouraged to work at and hone their skills and talents with a kind of open scholarship system..open to submission of their works and then assessed on those original works to gain funding on the proviso of sincere improvement to their works….why not? ..it seems to work for sport and the arts are just as vital to a society’s health as sport. At least it could give an opening to many from a lower socio-economic group an opportunity to grow their natural skills…to deliver story or work from an undisciplined training but insightful nous of their subject matter.

You can read me rail against the middle class here sometimes, but I could just  as much shake my fist in the direction of an indolent working class for all their lapsing toward a chronic dumbing down ….aaaaaaand …lovin’ it…easier the tele’ than “the telling”! But it is in the telling of tales that we of the progressive side of politics are in vast difference to the rubbish side..In the telling of tales, we get to give witness to a side of life that shows lessons of joy, of pain, of enduring strength that demonstrate the sympathy and acknowledgement of another’s life is the underlying foundation of modern civilization, and when that “there but for the chance of fate go I” realization gets swept aside, we lose our civility..and with the loss of civil security, there is a loss of heart that precipitates a loss of courage…the hunting ground for the opportunists in every society.

The telling of tales is a wonderful sensation..Being in charge of that tiniest piece of personal / family history that ONLY you know and then taking a deep breath, sorting out your approach, clearing the old throat with a “hrumph!” or two and then holding the floor as you relate your experience…it is a good feeling..it is a moment to shine and if you can structure the tale adequately, you can humbly relish in the sharing…and maybe , like Kevin Cotton, (a marvelous story-teller who doubled as a “cook” in one of the many camps I have bunked down in my time as a journeyman carpenter) get shouted a beer on the strength of it.

Hell!..it’s no bloody crime to try..I’ll tell you all about it someday..



Bedtime Stories #10.

Come Saturday Morning..; The Contract.

Fairytale Nation pt. II: Melissa Bedtime Stories (With images ...

Saturday mornings were a special moment for us youth in our little group. This was in the days of our mid-teens, too young to go to the pubs but old enough to have a motorcycle licence. All of us, to a lad, were apprentices…most of us were in the building industry.. a couple in the Auto industry. Our take-home pay was such that we had to make our own fun, fortunately, petrol was at such a low price (relative to our income) we could go tear-arseing through the hills playing at boy-racers, like our heroes on the Isle of Man TT. Circuit.

What has one gained

When a tally done?

Are pelf and possessions

Worthy of time gone?

If a smile is lost

And bright eyes grow dun.

We would meet at a certain cross-road and take off into our favourite “runs”. If it was a short run, we would go through Coromandel Valley / Clarendon…if it was an all-day affair, it would be the Murray Bridge run on what is now the “old road”, through Mt Barker, Nairne, Kanmantoo / Callington. With long straight stretches where you could unwind the bikes to see how fast they would go. On the winding roads, we’d make a single file, snaking through the corners on what was understood as ; “The Right Line”, after a short film of the era that featured a racing bike on Brands Hatch, with the camera fixed to the front axle and it took you through the “line” most suited to the fastest speed in the corners…I believe the bike was a Manx Norton…I remember the throaty big-piston sound that they had….a thrilling ride ..then!


Sometimes , on those long straight lengths of road we would ride side by side and exchange chatter, my Japanese two-stroke a higher pitch than Ron Parker’s BSA or Russel Hamby’s Triumph…those British bikes had a certain smell of hot oil and a distinctive hum of chain driven gears…those Brits loved chains!…But I loved that smell of burning oil…it also was prevalent on the old steam trains, a smell of steam and oil would sometimes shisssh out from the front drive of the train as you walked past…shishhhwhoosh!..and there was that smell.

So I am now clasped in a hold,

I cannot stay young,

Dare not grow old.

But cannot stop feeling

What my heart  be told.

Was life,

And all its promises,

But a Judas kiss !

This idyll went on for several years in my youth, work was there, a sense of permanence was there, routine was in place and the reward of the inviolate weekend to relax permeated through the whole of society. Mums and dads were at home, doing things in the garden or the house, dinner, mundane as it sometimes was,  was always there. Kids were climbing trees or running over paddocks and we teens were going to the beach or the pictures watching banal American “teen-flicks” with Annette Funnicello, Gidget, Eric Von Zipper and a host of rhinestone cowboys and other ghastly indoctrination pieces. We were being shown “the good life”, the “American Dream”, like when television came along and we got “My Three Sons” or “Leave It To Beaver”, ”Father Knows Best” ..then those series of “Crime doesn’t pay” gumshoe-detective genre I believe was in the mix also. One is inclined now, with the wisdom of age, to ask ; “What were the adults thinking!!?”

But now, we do know just what “they” were thinking.

They were showing us “The Contract”. An unwritten agreement that “all this” could be yours if you stick to the line and the terms of the contract and just do as you are directed. It was the age of wall to wall Conservative Liberal Governments…Federal, State, Local, one great big broad church of conservatism with a capital “C”. The endless long-weekend with work aplenty, radio, tv, the flicks, sun, surf and an endless horizon that seemed as if it could have gone on forever….an endless ;”Come Saturday Morning”..and it wasn’t us workers who broke the contract.

Bring me no roses.

Bring me no roses, on this sad day.

No fancy words, no bright eulogy, pray.

Bring nothing but your tears,

Your regrets and fears..for what has gone awry,

And what is now come into play.

My people are dead, their works repealed,

Their strikes, their rights, their hard-won wages reviled.

Their lives of toil and camaraderie forgot,

Traded away as an auctioned lot,

Along with their “crude and clumsy jot”.

Their fumbling demands for rights at work,

Dismissed by “class-less” finishing-schooled jerks,

With soft, crème’d hands and a tongue that is forked.

No..bring me no roses on this, such a day,

For I am still weeping for my lost comrades..

Give flowers to the “pretty people” as they go about their play,

The soft, sweet scent will hide the stench as they betray.

I was apprenticed to a builder who held a major contract with the then Housing Trust, and he ran one of those old family businesses, a Latvian whom I now suspect of being one of those Nazi collaborators in the 2nd. WW. I worked in the joinery / machine shop. I was in my third year of the apprenticeship and I was keen to extend my carpentry knowledge with a stint on the job with roofing and wall structures. I asked if I could leave the joinery shop and go on the job.

I was told ; no, as there was only sub-contractors on the job, not company employees.

I then asked if I could be assigned with one of these subbies so I could learn more about carpentry. I was told no, and that was the end of it. ..I was to stay in the shop.

I then started to wonder how this system worked.. Why were there so many apprentices in proportion to tradie joiners?…Were these “joiners” really tradesmen or just bench-hands? I soon worked out that not only were the workers there not tradesmen, but that there were more apprentices as that was the cheapest labour…and when I queried both the “apprenticeship commission” and my union on the situation, I was told to shut-up and not to make trouble.

Our Father.

That meager kitchen light

Cut his reflection on the glass.

He looks…the collar of his overcoat tugs,

A fumbling with the latch.

Another dawn interminably,

The workplace calls him down.

The trains, the jostle, the silent journeys

Through winter’s cutting edge.

Though visible within my memory,

No touch, no talk, no sound,

But an awkward gentle smiling,

That baleful knotted frown.

The evening family rosary;

Pray God maintain our health.

HIS prayers I’d say were directed

To stay the creeping stealth

Of years, that cut a swathe

Through the patience of the man,

The blocks, the bricks, the working tools

Raised welts of callouses on his hands.

When the cup of love went empty,

Would do to fill it up with wine.

He drank to forget the future,

He drank for Auld Lang Syne!

The weakness was his, they tell us;

The drink, the swearing, the hand

That struck us fiercely stinging…

But I see the courage in the man.

And though his “achievements” were empty,

And poverty enriched our band,

I’d do worse than esteem his persistence,

Nor prefer I memories of “better” men.

So there it was..; the perfect fool’s paradise..; The factory filled with cheap labour churning out a product for a conservative govt’ being run by a conservative opportunist with the permission of conservative govt’ authority overseen by a conservative / R-wing union.. As long as the status quo was maintained, all would be sweet..; Work would come in, wages would go out, “The Real McCoy’s” (with Walter Brennan) or “Rawhide” (with Ward Bond and Clint Eastwood) would keep repeating and every weekend would be another ; “Come Saturday Morning”.

But the bastards got greedy, they got away with the shit wages and conditions for so long, they saw it as their privilege, so that when the workers did finally get some unions with balls and did kick up about it, they got heavy and then the shit really hit the fan! It was called Vietnam and protest songs and freedom!

Time for a bit of protest poetry!

A Gap in the Line.

He touched the medals tenderly, the ribbon colours sublime,

The case of burnished velvet, the soft attractive shine,

He touched the medals tenderly, an Uncle’s Great War “shrine”.

Posthumously given for courage, in “closing a gap in the line”.

In closing a gap in the line he died, in mud, gore and slime.

It was for these tokens of honour, he marched, to fill a gap in the line.

With Union men, many of them with those medals he’d proudly stride.

Union men, many of them and a title his Uncle wore with pride.

Himself, a Wharfie, born and bred, right down the family line,

His Uncle too, t’was always said, could lump a hundred-weight a time,

Bagged sugar, sticky with sweat, soaking wet, at eighty tons an hour,

The men would lug from those cargo holds with no break for tucker.

In the Summer strike of ’98  they marched for conditions fair,

When “Patrick” crawled to Howard’s Government to send the coppers there.

Along with the Farmer mercenaries trained by the covert ; “Sandline,”

They sought to break the strikers…to break through a gap in the line.

In the middle of the night they sent in the thugs, the scabs and the dogs,

It was hard to tell which was which among the slavering, crawling hogs.

And deals were made and rights were trade between the ruling class,

That left the strikers on their own to hold the line tight to the last.

Howard set the dogs on the men and the women and children in kind,

Reith, the crawling bastard, banked the scabs through a mercenary company; “Sandline”,

And the Journalist sucks and the Murdoch hacks lent their honour to that shameful crew,

And wrote of “overpaid wharfie bludgers” when of sweat and blood they NEVER knew.

And he saw the hate in the breaker’s eyes, he saw that hate confined,

So clasping tight, holding the next striker’s arms with all his might,

He called and bellowed fit to wake in fright..:”Hold boys, Hold!”

“ Hold my bastard boys!…we’ll not let them force a gap in the line!”

There comes a time in everyone’s heart, where honour and justice combine,

We must choose which side we’re marching on..what a sense of honour defines.

Would his Uncle have him march for nought, but just a place in a line,

Or should he honour best his Uncle’s pride with his class aligned.

Today he touches those medals tenderly, with a habit long refined,

But he’ll not march on Anzac Day…not while those Tory scabs declaim,

No..there’ll be a space where he held his place with the others marching time,

And owed in respect for his Uncle’s indebt’..they’ll now see clearly outlined,

That in the place of his marching space…there’ll be a gap in the line.

There’ll be a gap in the line my fellows…there’ll be a gap in the line.

Owed in respect to an Uncle’s indebt’…Today there’s a gap in the line.


Now it’s time to make for some sleep, lest we wake the souls of the dead with our songs…So it’s goodnight and goodbye from me to thee…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKYjUn-SBcg : Graham Nash ; “Our House”.


The Puppets of Margie Maegher.

96 Best Waldorf Puppet Story images | Waldorf, Waldorf inspired ...

“ If you could imagine us all walking side by side toward a sunset, with our lives trailing away behind; a shadow drawn in perspective from the point of our birth. We are all facing the front so none of us really knows the substance of our neighbor’s ‘shadow’, and we can only make calculated guesses from facial expressions and mumbled half truths.” (From The last writings of Carl Jung. )

It seems to be always some physical event that motivates humans to “get up and do something constructive.” Such events have a propensity to the catastrophic, like a sharp jab in the collective ribs of  humanity, otherwise we’d probably just lie prostrate in the dirt like a contented sow with half a dozen piglets suckling on its teats! So it was not long after her husband left her that Margie joined the “puppet group” at the school. She joined to ; “Break that cycle of thought that possesses and locks one into a cycle of hate – contrition.” She had read that in a therapy pamphlet, and nodding in agreement, decided to join the puppet group.

They met once a week at Mauve’s house; this group of parents from the school. They met at eleven o’clock every Thursday to encourage and assist each other with their dolls. They made soft-bodied hand-puppets for the little plays they would perform for the younger children every month or so and at festivals through the year. When she joined, Margie did not know how to make a puppet in a pink fit! but, with the sympathetic encouragement from the other mothers (sympathetic to her marital situation, that is), she soon got the hang of it, and by and by the materials became “putty” in her hands. In fact, it wasn’t long before she was producing puppets with such beautiful and tender features that one of the women: Pamela, was moved to say that “It’s a gift….pure and simple…a gift.'” and Margie blushed  and said “Oh surely not,” and went on to explain that she had always been good at crafts; “From me mother…I ‘spect.”

“Oh no,” said Pamela, shocked, “It’s a gift…a real gift'” and Margie blushed again and said

“Oh well…”

The first play that they put on for the year was “Hansel and Gretel”…. Margie was given the job of making Hansel. The finished product was so good, so fine, that the other women gazed upon him open mouthed. He had a soul almost, behind those eyes, and what eyes! “as crisp as a Summer dawn, the left hand of God,” and his costume and the cut of the cloth made his shape, his proportions seem so unnatural, uncanny, so that next to him poor Gretel looked like a cheap “tart”….so much so that Margie was asked, nay: ‘implored’ to take Gretel home and to “fix her up,” and gosh! did Gretel ever look so beautiful, so innocent? that together; Hansel and Gretel as puppets matched the immortality , almost, of the classical tale.

After that performance, Margie was given the job of making the star puppets. And didn’t she fulfill that task admirably.

“It’s a gift…a real gift,” Pam would repeat in her parroting voice.

“I’d say it was a release from the stress,” Mauve would comment with a nod of the head then pinch her lips together.

Mauve was the expert on stress…. “Yes….you’re stressed,” was her usual prognosis whenever someone expressed a weariness. Yet another: Jocelyn, who held a degree in humanities and had studied a year in psychology, would pronounce in dry, measured tones (not for psychologists the heady passions of mankind!) that the beauty of the dolls was ;

“…quite naturally an acceptance…a bringing to the front, the beauty of self…the awakening..so to speak..of respect for self and realization of self after the defeat…so to speak…of the broken relationship…you understand?”

Others added their opinions to the pot also, but all were equal in their admiration of the puppets. And Margie basked in their praise, though her big, round  face would colour in a blush, she would smile and finger the dolls tenderly and say:

“Well, yes, it does bring me out of myself…helps me to distance myself from me troubles.” And she’d bend to her work, her clumsy-looking fingers deftly sewing a smock or line stitching a vest for the prince.

So it went on, story after story: Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, all perfect joys and didn’t the children Ahh! and the parent’s Ohh! and the applause after each show witnessed their appreciation, and Margie’s puppets were eagerly touched and stroked by the children as if they were exotic talismans.

“It’s a gift,” Pamela could be heard at one side telling a parent, “It’s a real gift.”

One woman: Bea, started to notice a certain similarity about the puppets, an air of something familiar about them, but, not having them all side by side (“….like a police line-up,” she would later say), could not be certain of her memory. But she had a feeling that behind those fabric faces, those carefully stitched costumes, deeper than the wool fibre stuffing in those familiar shaped heads, was the “raison d’etre” for their very being!

For, having once cast off all the shrouds of resistance, each of us enters the creative obligations of the psyche, whether we succeed or fail in these pursuits of desire depends on the depths of the individual’s well springs of courage, of the risk of surrendering to the will of the muse.

Bea, of all the women, was wary of Margie’s seeming fatalistic acceptance of the breakdown of her relationship, and though she had never met Margie’s husband, she, like any group of school parents still felt on “common ground” with the family. But now the family was broken, and Bea worried less the disappointment was too much for someone as exacting as Margie to bear, so she “studied” Margie, looking for cracks in the facade much as we all “study” people under trauma with that guilty morbidity of wondering if and when they will “crack”! Pondering on this, Bea decided to pay Margie a home visit.

As she knocked on the front door, she heard a raised voice emanating from within the house. It was the middle of the day, so the children were at school and although the voice was muffled, it nonetheless was quite tense. Bea knocked louder and the voice stopped, there was a hiatus and then the door was gingerly opened….Margie’s face appeared, flushed and wary in the opening.

“Bea?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Just popped ‘round to say hello.”

“Well…come in then.” Margie eased the door open, Bea hesitated with one hand raised in gesticulation:

“But do you have visitors….I thought I heard….?” Margie glanced furtively to one side.

“Oh….no…no, it was just the cat….” and she stood clumsily to one side so Bea could enter. A pot of tea was suggested and accepted so Margie adjourned to the kitchen while Bea sat on the edge of the lounge sofa and let her eyes wander around the trimmings of the room.

A photograph setting on a side table caught her eye….something familiar?….the slope of the eyebrows?…the cheeks? or maybe the soft contour of the face?…

“Your….your husband?” she enquired. Margie popped her head through the door.

“Oh…yes…ex-husband'” and she came into the room and took up the framed photograph listlessly.

“Richard….”the rat”….sometimes I call him “Dick,” short for….well, you know what” She dusted the glass with her T-shirt and replaced it on the table.

There, Bea realized, was the similarity between the male puppets….Richard Meagher with one “sleepy eye” and the brows sloping away “just so”, and those boyish cheeks that Margie had captured somehow in an abstract way in all the male puppets….”It’s a gift…a real gift.” Pam’s voice resonated in Bea’s mind…curious, the flow of mood from mind to hand in a clever person, again, that artistic interpretation of psyche. Bea gazed hypnotically at the photograph and wondered about the other woman, but discretion forbade mention of so delicate and wounding a subject. Having solved one of her curiosities, she was satisfied she would soon find the other elsewhere so she settled down for small-talk and tea.

“Who did Margie’s husband clear off with?” Bea asked Mauve one day.

“No-one I know, but I’ll tell you who does.”

So with a little discreet enquiry and conversation Bea was able to see a photograph (thank heaven for that invention that fixes time and place to deed!) of the woman in that duet of complicity. Bea came away from that visit with the second mystery solved: that of the similarity between the female puppets. And …also the knowledge that Margie’s husband had left with Margie’s own sister! a double blow! betrayal and treachery! Oh woe is the bearer of a broken heart, but even more vexed is the spirit betrayed….especially by one’s own kin.

Bea went quiet after finding out the background of Margie’s domestic life, sometimes enough is enough when it comes to insights into others tragedies, after all…one’s own life has to be journeyed, eh?

Then the time came for a production of that immortal theme of love and betrayal – “Rapunzel.” Once again the little group fell to making miniature props and scenarios and puppets for this, the end of year show and it was to be a real bang-up affair. Margie seemed to put all her efforts into the two main puppets. Rapunzel was beautiful, her eyes glowed with an innocence enchanting and childlike, her body lithe and well proportioned as one could imagine in such a waif with yet maidenly allure! like the eyes of a portrait that seem to follow you around the room, so in reverse were one’s eyes attracted to that doll….and then the hair…such golden bounty was unnatural, uncanny, it flowed (can that be the word?), flowed….like some mythical fall of golden fibres…so long…so silky…not a hand could resist trailing it through the fingers…ah!… And the prince, too, such were Margie’s skills that he complemented Rapunzel  impeccably, equally without over-shadowing each other, like a matched pair of flamenco dancers, each a part of the other. You can imagine the Ohhs! and the Ahhs! of complimenting Margie received for these puppets, even Bea, wary of over-reaction now she knew the hurt behind these marionettes, could not but help admire sighingly the aura of that duet of complicity.

“It’s a gift…a real gift,” Pamela sighed and they all laughed at the familiar compliment.

Around the middle of rehearsals for this play, Bea on returning home from the city one evening remembered a bolt of cloth she had to pick up from Margie, and as it was not too late, decided to turn down the street to Margie’s house on her way home. It was late spring and the wind rippled freshly through the new-leafed trees, almost like the tittering giggles of youngsters at play, such is Spring when the waking of nature seems to bring a friskiness even to the breezes! And the flowers…like the halting twirls of a carnival calliope their petals would duck and sway while overhead a mellow darkness swept upward through the trees into the night.

An old place, was Margie’s, with a laced wire gate sprung on squeaky hinges. The path led straight off the street to a flight of three steps to a verandah. Bea knocked gently on the front door, being aware as she did so not to knock too loudly as to wake the children. On receiving no acknowledgement from her gentle knocking, she gazed around perplexed as to her next move. A glow of light brushed silver over the flickering leaves of a rain-washed tree, a light from down the side of the house. Bea stepped off the verandah and made her way quietly down the side-path, the light from a nearby window was enough to show the precise, ordered garden beds between the fence and the path and like the front yard, they reflected the meticulous discipline of Margie’s personality.

Bea came abreast of the lighted window and through a small gap in the damask curtains could see a figure bent over a table. It was Margie, her large body adorned in those heavy woven clothes that she used to make her dresses, her hair pulled back in a wispy roll on the back of her head. A soft overhead lamp threw its light onto the work bench. Margie’s face was intent on the two puppets she was arranging on front of her on the table…her lips moved in a tight then relaxing pout as she sat the two dolls facing her, a slight musical hum in three notes of a descending order issued from her lips at small intervals of a few second each. She sat back, crossed her arms and stared at the two puppets, they were “Rapunzel” and the “Prince.”

“Well now, there yer be,” Margie sat back and put her hands on her knees.

“And now, my dear Shelia, what would you be havin’ to say for yourself?” This wasn’t Margie’s usual voice..She spoke a curious softened Irish brogue in a different pitch than her usual voice.

“Will ye not answer your own mother?” the voice more tense “just to be a sittin’ there dumb as pots!”

“I told her, Shelia,” this was the old Margie’s voice, “I told mother what you did.”

Bea frowned, for indeed this was something new to her, this behaviour, for with just a slight change of inflection in her voice, Margie had conjured up an entirely new personality; her apparent mother, a person long deceased..a sudden split in personality, then just as swiftly a return to herself, like an actor playing two roles at the same time on the one stage!

“Hush now, Marg!” the ‘mother’ interrupted, “You’ll not be interrupting me.” The puppet fell to one side and Margie leant to gently prop it up again, her tongue pinched between her lips in concentration. She sat back again.

“So you’ll cower in silence before me, daughter….Not answer to my accusation….you would be stealin’ your own kin’s spouse while all the time shelterin’ under her roof…. while eatin’ at the same table…exchangin’ glances of wicked delight all the while I’ll surmise, and there, in golden innocence your own sister ignorant of the treachery you and your lover conspire,” Her voice rose in intensity as she went  on.

Margie jumped up excited:

“They did, they did, Mother…Oh, the sin of it, all the while I worked, all the while I looked after the house they were scheming and smilin’ and I was the fool…the silly, silly fool for all their wicked coupling….and under my very nose….” She shook her fist at the puppet’s face.

“Well, I’ve got the thing to pay you for your treachery, my sweet,” and Margie swiftly took up a large darning needle and raked it again and again across “Rapunzel’s” face so the cloth fretted and shredded in its wake.

Bea put her hand to her mouth to stifle a cry, but still she watched. “What sort of madness was this?” she was thinking. Margie paused, put her needle down and astutely took up another with red thread in it and without a word set to swiftly and deftly line stitch red marks across the puppet’s face so it looked as if it had been raked by a claw! She completed this morbid make-up with little dots of red ink to simulate blood. All this was done so swiftly that Bea still had her hand to her mouth.

Margie then turned her narrowed eyes upon the “Prince.”

“And you, Richard,” (the mother’ again), “could you be so vulgar so underhand to your own wife?”

Margie stood and turned side on to talk out of the corner of her mouth.

“Yes…why Richard….why would you betray me so….was it for a bit of skirt?…an easy ‘conquest’?” Margie sneered the last sentence, “or would you just be a sheddin’ and avoidin’ your responsibilities….hmm?….”

“Richard!!” the ‘mother’ yelled. “Answer your wife! a coward’s life for a coward’s courage….and the devil take your soul,” she hissed while Margie turned slowly and leant to pick up a ‘Stanley’ knife lying on the bench, slowly she moved her left arm and grasped the puppet and raised him toward her, then with an angry gesture swiftly lifted her arm with the knife …

“This for your betrayal'” she cried hoarsely and swung her arm wildly to slash the puppet’s face from forehead to cheek so the tight-packed wool stuffing burst proud from the cut, and there, in jangling craziness of the light awry which she knocked in her violence, each in its own pigeon-hole shelved on the wall, leered and stared the other puppets made by Margie during the year. But! There were twins of each puppet! Twins of Cinderella, Prince Charming, Hansel and also Gretel and the rest, identically clothed and painted, doppelgangers in shape and face… except weirdly, while one would be whole and untouched, its twin was gashed, torn or mutilated this way or that… Hansel’s eye torn from a gaping socket and left hanging down by a thread, Prince Charming’s face too was slashed, Cinderella’s hair was almost ‘scalped’ from her head and so on, all of them sitting squat in their respective pigeon-holes and appearing to gaze interestedly down on this grotesque theatre of tortured souls. Bea looked back to Margie and saw that she was intently touching the lips of the slashed face with red dye on her fingertip so they bloodied with the ink, all the while humming that same three descending notes of sound in short intervals.

Bea’s eyes opened wider and a silent scream choked in her throat as there, in the flickering light, rack upon rack, stood the only witness to Margie’s despair, all those compliments she received must have driven her grief ever deeper into her soul, every “It’s a gift,” a nail into her heart so this charnel house of thread and cloth and dye grew out of the tempest of her hatred, this was the theatre of shadows that lurked behind her fatalistic psyche! And yes, there too in the recesses of that table, beyond the mutilated bodies of “Rapunzel” and the “Prince” stood their twins, gazing on in mute innocence with Margie busy putting the finishing touches to her macabre cosmetics while soft tears edged down her rouged cheeks and saying over and over with childlike hurt:

“You broke my heart, you broke my heart!”

Bea turned away shamefaced from the window, her curiosity satiated, her emotions wretched, for here in the silence of another’s despair she had gazed into the forbidden abyss and in doing so was she not edged just that little bit closer to her own?


Bedtime Stories #9.

Pin by Nikita on Place-Ageis (With images) | Ancient paintings

Those Roman Women!

(From “History of Rome” ; Theodore Mommsen)

An equally characteristic feature of this period was the emancipation of women.  In an economic point of view the women had long since made themselves independent; in the present epoch we even meet with solicitors acting specially for women, who officiously lend their aid to solitary rich ladies in the management of their property and their lawsuits, make an impression on them by their knowledge of business and law, and thereby procure for themselves ampler perquisites and legacies than other loungers on the exchange.

Ode to Women’s beauty.

Speechless and numb, I gazed on her beauty there,

Her limbs, her hands, her soft flowing hair.

Her voice the whisper of an angel’s prayer..

SHE..roamed her eyes over the banquet fair,

The roasts, the salads, the fruits so rare,

And of my adoration, just so….au contraire.

“There is so much beauty before us here ,

It is so hard to decide….you tell me, my dear,”..

She said..

”What to you is the most desirous fare?”

But it was not merely from the economic guardianship of father or husband that women felt themselves emancipated.  Love-intrigues of all sorts were constantly in progress.  The ballet-dancers (-mimae-) were quite a match for those of the present day in the variety of their pursuits and the skill with which they followed them out; their primadonnas, Cytheris (Volumnia Cytheris was an Ancient Roman actress and mimae dancer). and the like, populate even the pages of history.

But their, as it were, licensed trade was very materially injured by the free art of the ladies of aristocratic circles.  Liaisons in the first houses had become so frequent, that only a scandal altogether exceptional could make them the subject of special talk; a judicial interference seemed now almost ridiculous. An unparalleled scandal, such as Publius Clodius produced in 693 at the women’s festival in the house of the Pontifex Maximus (Julius Caesar at that time..hence his divorce from his wife, claiming that now famous line ; “Ceasar’s wife must be above even suspicion”), although a thousand times worse than the occurrences which fifty years before had led to a series of capital sentences, passed almost without investigation and wholly without punishment.

The twist of the knife.

“ ‘Twas the cruel hand of fate”, some will attest,

“Plain bad luck..had to give it best”.

No plot nor plan nor Nemesis,

That loss of life, fortune..no redress.

There was that time for just the smile,

Luck, sweet mistress, walk a mile,

Friends, well wishes, oh wilful guile,

Was jealous intent? or blunt revile!

Chance will intervene yet awhile,

To arm the hand, repay the slight,

Fate; cruel mistress will plunge the knife,

Yes..Fate’s deft hand..would repay it best,

But truly I say ; ” ‘tis the twisting of the blade,

Gives most pleasure…

Above ALL the rest ”

The watering-place season–in April, when political business was suspended and the world of quality congregated in Baiae and Puteoli (Naples)–derived its chief charm from the relations licit and illicit which, along with music and song and elegant breakfasts on board or on shore, enlivened the gondola voyages.  There the ladies held absolute sway; but they were by no means content with this domain which rightfully belonged to them; they also acted as politicians, appeared in party conferences, and took part with their money and their intrigues in the wild coterie-doings of the time.

Any one who beheld these female statesmen performing on the stage of Scipio and Cato and saw at their side the young fop–as with smooth chin, delicate voice, and mincing gait, with headdress and neckerchiefs, frilled robe, and women’s sandals he copied the loose courtesan– might well have a horror of the unnatural world, in which the sexes seemed as though they wished to change parts.

A Cold, Cruel Dream.

I dreamt she’d died, unsatisfied..

And our children asked me to attend the rite.

And though divorced these many years,

Would I please to view her in state?

Now that, is not something I’d normally do,

The plastic presentation of death I eschew.

But curiosity urged me abide ,

To view that woman I’ve many years evade.

As I gazed on the broad, Irish face,

That had lied and cheated from my embrace,

I blanched at the look of innocence there,

Rose blossoms dappling her now grey hair.

As if to deny to me by this final sight ,

The justice for many years that was my right.

Forgiveness not what I sought,

But rather admission for the damage wrought.

Upon marriage, relationship and our children begot.

But now, in the silence of this final place,

No word from those lips so bitter she’d trace,

No reason, no ’scuse, no thought of disgrace.

Just an emptiness , as per her usual escape.

Nothing..save one long-stemmed rose strategically placed,

HER request, no doubt….sensitive to an image she’d like embraced,

Always keen to leave an impression entranced…


I turned to go…then..in a moment inspired ,

I took that rose there so astutely attired,

Broke off part of the stem.. and did place

The thorny stalk, it’s vicious spikes,

Across those tight, pressed lips now forever chaste.

What ideas as to divorce prevailed in the circles of the aristocracy may be discernedin the conduct of their best and most moral hero Marcus Cato, who did not hesitate to separate from his wife at the request of a friend desirous to marry her, and as little scrupled on the death of this friend to marry the same wife a second time. Celibacy and childlessness became more and more common, especially among the upper classes.  While among these marriage had for long been regarded as a burden which people took upon them at the best in the public interest, we now encounter even in Cato and those who shared Cato’s sentiments the maxim to which Polybius a century before traced the decay of Hellas, that it is the duty of a citizen to keep great wealth together and therefore not to beget too many children.  Where were the times, when the designation “children-producer” (-proletarius-) had been a term of honour for the Roman?


Into the fire she did cast,

Letter by letter until the last.

Her stern face, flame-lit aglow,

No pity nor sentiment did it show.

No regret, nor heartfelt loss,

As letter by letter she did toss.

Until the last in hesitant hold,

One short sentence writ in bold,

One final line that caught her eye,

And though the rest she did despise,

That one broken promise with love’s death,

Gave pause for memory’s catch of breath,

Forgotten above this, all the rest;

“Forever my Love, my love, to you,

I do bequeath”.


Time now, my little chickadees to sign off on both Roman Women and the day…night-night my little ones…

Joni Mitchell… “The Circle Game”.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9VoLCO-d6U



Bedtime Stories #8.

Machiavelli in Context | The Great Courses


The Cabal of Complicity.

There is a curious double standard inherent in these regional communities that goes way back to the pioneer days and has it’s roots deep in the soil of “old family / old traditions” loyalty. Sure and it is a misguided loyalty in these times as those same “old families” have been long watered down by new systems, new blood and new technology that has swept away the old work-ethic creed and community morality standard.

It works like this .. :

Every regional community has its’ number of “old families”.. “long-time residents” .. “long-time employees”. Every single one of these people over the years evolve to become part of a strata of acknowledged hierarchical status, ie ; They are allocated their place in that community. Some have a leadership place, some have a “drone” place, some have the inherited if unearned respect of an influential family, while others are what you would call “floaters” ; in and out of favour at some time or other … The perfect example of the Peter Principle .. Then there are the “blow-ins”.

(From) ; Ode to Machiavelli..

“. . .The biggest mistake being; not understanding history,

But make mystery of what we WILL NOT see..Is it just me?

Or is it thee who takes more pleasure from the infinite variety

Of incidents in this or that society and scandalous pleasure

As your measure of understanding, rather than demanding

We take heed to the answers to those deeds, as if these

Times have changed the behaviour of men and then of women too

It’s a shoo-in to see ; the Sun the Moon, the sea and thee

Have not changed their motions and power, hour on hour

From ancient times, I’d avower and from such error; allora!. . . “

All of these “old” regional communities seem to thrive on a social diet of rumour, envy and schadenfreude. There are short and long-term feuds, niggling, petty hates and overall the cautious, suspicious envy of what the neighbour may have that you have not .. and if they do have it, how did they get it!

The level that these petty trysts achieve and are operating on can be seen by the state of beauty or disrepair of the township. Those towns in a greater state of turmoil show little regard for their environment, or for the general civic repair or beauty of their town, being more concerned with their feuds than their civic obligations.

BUT! .. but, strangely, all these communities, no matter how divided within , will unite against what is perceived as a common outside threat. This unity of concentration is called ; The Cabal of Complicity.

The mirror tells its secret tale,

What is REALLY YOU will prevail,

When all may not be as it seems,

The really you will haunt my dreams.

There are, of course, the age-old bigotries against race, religion and politics … Then there are the new hatreds .. : Environmentalists seem to fill the void for a common enemy, as do refugees, strangely as most who came to this country and particularly those regional communities were refugees of one kind or another and there is that lovely old standby distrust .. : The Indigenous Peoples.

Curiously though, there is another “player” that comes into the picture about now, he is a “blow-in”, a newcomer, but he is saying all the right phrases that appeal to the local prejudices … He pushes all the right approval buttons. This toady targets the most influential to his station and needs. With astute flattery and sycophantic conversation, not to mention the strategic “on me” beer, he soon becomes accepted into the cabal as a “friend of the community”, he “legitimises” local opinion as being “in-tune” with the broader population and is often privy to a host of secrets, while juggling conspiracies and confederacies. He is a strange animal and in most cases a reject of the more cosmopolitan world of city-life.

This “strange animal” adopts the dress, the language, the scepticisms and the inherent suspicions against that universal political generic : “The head office” … The Guvverment . There being no easier audience to find applause from than that who knows already and shares as their own ; your every story, every joke your every prejudice.

In each of us there is that twist,

That in the end will come to this.

No matter the culture, the mother, the art,

Each to each,

Heart to heart.

To enter such communities and hold views in conflict with the status quo (listed above) is to court social pariahism. For although you may be of the opinion that you have just had a “heated discussion” with only one member of the community …. because such a member “went to school with … “, “grew up with … “, “played football with … “, “drank with … “, “did a season shearing with … “, “works with … “, or just plain “is related to … ” , it won’t be long, regardless if the culprit is despised, hated, reviled or spurned by nearly every other single individual in the entire cabal ….. YOU will “have the problem”.

Because the one grain, perhaps the only grain of carved-in-stone knowledge in such communities is that its very weakness is its’ strength, so each is complicit in backing-up, right or wrong, innocence or guilt, with silent dismissal or wilful disdain, its’ “in-house” member.

Jacta alia est.

Jacta alia est..; The die it is cast.

Caesar quietly mumbles the words,

Mixed with the tumbling Rubicon’s waters,

And when he whispers his secret,

Who does he direct his knowledge to?

What lines do the poet place on page?

Is there those who will like the rhyme,

But curse the metre?

Will like the idea,

But curse the action?

Jacta alia est..; The die it is cast.

But there is no-one left

Who knows what chance is.

None want to take the risk.

So he says it quietly..under-breath,

And leads the dumb and blind

On to their deserved death.

It is the strength of their denial, it is their unifying fear of “divided they fall”, for each individual, lacking a worldly confidence, distrusting worldly knowledge, has no solid footing, but is fixed in the matrix of all .. it is the age-old maxim of “honour among thieves” …. so take on one, you take on all!

It is The Cabal of Complicity.

And now it is late for this little tacker to be up and about…time for sleepy-byes…night, night tweeps…sweet dreams..

“The Windmills of Your Mind” ..: Noel Harrison.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEhS9Y9HYjU





Bedtime Stories #7.

Sedan. Ruins of 1870s pug and pine cottage. | Sedan. Ample e… | Flickr

Haunted with History.

So I drive to the town, pick up a few groceries, check the mail, chat a while..a bit of goss..a bit of this an’ that and then hit the road to home again…and that is where the haunting starts.

You’ve seen them, as you drive along the main roads and the back roads…sunlight slanting off white sepulchre…you catch fleeting glimpses of them through the trees…deep in the scrub, sometimes almost complete, sometimes but a shadow of their former glory…….you can sometimes drive past them for years before you suddenly realise they are there and then you get a shock at their “sudden appearance”..: ruins of old cottages and huts…scattered, crumbling ruins…sad testament to optimistic aspirations.

The Son’s Heritage.

Bleached, white bones all awry,

Road-kill bared to the open sky.

The windmill there clunks and sighs,

The windmill beside where it lies.

Golden wheat on the paddock rise,

Golden heat in summer skies,

Dust upon dust blinds the eyes,

And pummels the cloth of countryside.

The whitened bones.

The mill that groans.

The crop all golden , all golden shon’

That leads the eye on and on,

And on under an aching, searing sun,

From an empty soul all forlorn,

With regret of the place to which he is born.

Mostly we drive on…just giving an acknowledged glance to these pieces of jaded history…someone else’s tribulations, another’s history. I have stopped at several of these sites…joined in a pagan-like offering to another’s story…tossed a pebble or two into the underground tank out the back. I’ve stood for a moment in the remains of a back door opening, silent, wondering on the view they must have seen from that same place, another time…a time which may move inexorably on, yet the human condition remains.

Who were these intrepid builders? What singular ambition drove them to sculpture out of rough earth and stone, from memory and trial and error these testaments to a hopeful dream? They haunt me, these vacant souls…shuffling through sad ruins, backing onto abandoned fields that once must have swayed wave-like with fronds of wheat or oats. Now, scavenging crows pick nastily at an obscure morsel and a cruel sun rakes it’s talons over old wounds.


You can stand, transfixed,

For as long as you can bear.

Staring at the thistle flower,

A spot of yellow bliss in an ocean of dust.

The sun beating down on your back,

A thunderous beat as heavy

As the lumbering speech of a stupid man.

The only bright bristle ,

In a field so barren,

Is that one yellow flower of the courageous thistle,

Pleading for it’s life to the open sky,

And I wonder and wonder..for the life of I.

There are stories out there, hovering around these ghosts of the past. An entire population of early settlers with their children and animals, gone now, the only memory in some cases being a headstone or two marking a seriously foreshortened life and along with such disaster the presumed tragedy for the rest of the family, having to absorb the sadness into their hearts. When one scans the landscape of those long-ago years, the inevitable hardship and difficulties faced, one gets the feeling their lives were dominated by the practical demands of weights and measures, time and distance. The burden of necessity, always the prime consideration of their immediate attention.

Strangely, the history of these ruins seem to be shrouded in mystery…few if any people living now have knowledge of the folk who built and lived in many of these ruins. Their short moments of occupation at odds to the effort it must have taken to erect such structures. It is as if strangers to us all had swept fleetingly through the land, leaving no word or lasting deed of their presence save these crumbling hovels. One wonders what the indigenous peoples would have made of these pioneers, struggling with stone and beast, fire and plough to make a meal for their family when food was in abundance all around!…….madness, surely!

This Island Earth..

Lament, fair children, Lament fair child,

Lament for what you have to abide.

Born to us a gift supreme, sight sublime,

Beauty’s hand to hand in mine,

But now I turn mine eyes askine,

Now in shame and guilt decline

To walk hand with hand in thine.

Whilst fair Beauty and her entourage

Lay dying in irreversible damage.

And ponder I, why ‘tis always encouraged,

That we pluck the prettiest flowers,

But leave the weeds to flourish..

But it is the history that haunts me, for it is there, fixed in stone as solid as any Roman effigy, though perhaps not as romantic! But then THAT would depend on the story and the rumour of salacious intrigues! It seems a pity we can stand where they once stood, feel the heat and wind which they once felt and imagine the sweat and toil they once gave to a land and ambition that both their ghosts and our living spirit still share, yet not know their name.

What is its name?

Who is it holds the candle,

Who will ignite the flame?

When we call to that God on high,

What will be its name?

When we strive for God’s glory,

What reason is to blame?

What went so far awry,

When we struck the home with flame?

Who will command cruel deed,

When God cries out their names?

What excuse will we allow ourselves,

When we lay them in their graves?

When all is done and dusted,

Who will kill the flame?

Who are these wonderful Gods,

Would have such things done in their name?


Quo vadis?….Whither goest thou, people…?

Well, this person must goest to sleep, and I suggest you do likewise..so it’s goodnight from me to goodnight to thee…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L6KGuTr9TI  ( Judy Collins..: “Send in the Clowns” )



Bedtime Stories #6.

Oil painting reproduction of The Birth of Venus* (Botticelli)


Aphrodite’s Handmaids..

Ok..let’s talk about barmaids…When I think back on the subject, and I have to “think back” because I no longer inhabit the locales where barmaids are to be found!…age HAS wearied him..and I am no longer haunted by strange, unrealisable fantasies! But I have to admit, as a once keen drinking man, that the barmaid holds a special iconic position in the drinking male’s itinerary of desire. the perfect barmaid is a rare person..a species so valued that physical harm can befall those who abuse or debase such in public. They are not really “personality”…they are …: “elan” personified……vivacity….creating a hunger for something promised but never delivered..and indeed…never really needed to be delivered …no!..wisdom tells us the journey is most times better than the arriving…a desire wanting more fulfilling than the actual reality.

I have known three perfect barmaids. : Shirley (at The Brighton Esplanade)…Diedre (the Postal Institute Club, Darwin) and Noela (The Seacliff Hotel)…

Ever the women..

Come the morning, come the play,
Ere the sun comes upon the day,
Ere the first shots begin to stray,
Here are the women with a cry to say,
Ever are there women..at the break o’ day!

Shirley was quite mature when I met her by accident, dropping in for a cool beer to the saloon bar on the corner of Jetty Rd. and The Esplanade there by the Brighton jetty. She had that sharp, dry wit of an experienced woman that could cheer highly or cut deeply depending on the occasion or the person…I used to go to the TAB., drop a few bets and then listen to the races there on a quiet day when work wasn’t busy…I remember I was there at the bar one day…while Shirley was wiping the bottles in the fridge and this too obvious “high-camp” chap in full gay regalia rushes in and buys several cans of UDL. pre-mix and then just as quickly rushed out…

“What do you make of THAT?” I casually commented. Shirley just leant on the bartop staring blankly out at the chap crossing the road.

“What’s TO make of it? …these days, what with the surgery they do, a couple of clips and snips and bango!..Bob’s your aunty”….she swished the cleaning cloth at an idle fly and went back to work. I could imagine her getting home and the old man asking her how the day went.. “Oh..the usual…five drunks, three proposals, two-on-a-promise and too few tips!” But she was sensitive to the dark soul…I.ve seen a bloke come in to the bar..a local…not looking good (and you’d bet Shirley’d know the problem), order a beer, put some coins on the mat and Shirley put her finger on the coin and pushed it back into the pile with a knowing wink…it doesn’t take a grand gesture to prop a fellah up…a good soul was Shirley.


There is this little secret that ,

I’ll not share with other men.

It’s deep, it’s dark , it’s truth rather stark.

Though the wording mostly unseen.

You may know it or at least sense it,

For it was whispered you at birth.

You wear it as a heritage,

You shed it at your death.

Though you may not explain it fully,

There are times , I think you know..

When the call of men and children,

Must need your attention most of all.

I promise I will never reveal it,

Because that secret is held you see..

In a knowing look , a furtive wink,

exchanged in passing,

Just between you and me.

Diedre was a different woman entirely…buxom, bubbly, sharp as a tack redhead..in her early thirties and real womanly….you could say one thing to her and she’d twist it about like a cryptic clue and leave you open-mouthed working it out…never to be trapped or cornered, but always smiling…She was the bar-manager of the Postal Institute Club there on the hill over-looking the Botanic Gardens in Darwin…a prime position…I would go there Friday nights for a meal…Earle, the cook there in a side kitchen next to the bar would serve the best Barra and chips in Darwin on a Friday night…I would front the counter there and call to him..

“Fancy a beer Earle?”…”

“G’day, “Jay”..one for me and one for (he had a woman friend there helping out, I forget her name now!)…” and he’d serve the best Barra’ that melted in your mouth..and you’d take your plate straight to the bar and Diedre would serve you a handle of amber with a smile and a bit of coquettish cheek so that you thought you had joined the angels and they were ringing the Angelus just for you. She was a shorty, but wore those platform shoes that were the fashion in those days (I’m talking the early seventies)…and when she came out from behind the bar to collect glasses, she would swish about the tables like a dancing girl..like a diminutive Isadora Duncan!…god she was beautiful!..I swear, any number of blokes would’ve thrown themselves under Vishnu’s Juggernaught just at her command….and I do believe I may have joined them!

If you were one of the last there at closing..and I confess that I sometimes was!…she’d call out with the voice of Mary Magdalene..”I’m clearing the lines…anyone want a beer?”…..

The Siren’s Song.

The Siren sang her song.

Irresistible in her comeliness.

And yes..I answered..

Along with others,

But oh..;

The clues were numerous,

The seduction of her face,

The perils of her warm embrace.

Small things ; gifts and trinkets

To secure her exclusiveness.

Along with mine..

Shipwrecked upon her palliasses.

Now, behind cold glass,

I touch her face,

My fingers hesitate on lacq’d plate

Of  the silvered frame.

She smiles out at me.

Again the Siren song my heart fills.

She is calling…!

She is calling…!

I cannot resist..does she love me still ?

I am falling…

I am falling…

I am falling…

Noela…The barmaid at “The Cliff”…It’s a crying shame that medals of valour are only struck for war combatants…otherwise Noela’s shirtfront would be heavy with ribbons and polished brass! But she was not a striking person in any memorable way…she was what mean-spirited people in those days called “plain”…no great witticisms passed her lips…droll was her humour..as a matter of fact one couldn’t be sure if the humour was not an accident of language…for instance, I once fronted the bar on a quiet Monday night, got my beer and when Noela returned with the change I asked her if anything interesting happened over the weekend while I was away….She placed the change there and while looking to someone fiddling at the cigarette machine quite casually noted that : ” Oh..Zero’s beer went flat while he was making a rolly.”….and walked away…that was it…droll, very droll. Of course, you’d have to know “Zero” and to have witnessed him rolling a cigarette…He had the nickname “Zero” because it was considered by those who knew that it was the measure of his IQ…..he was a heavy drinker and had the eternal shakes, so that to watch him fashion a rolly was a temptation of patience…he once bragged he could get 90 rollies from one 2oz.packet of Champion Ruby…but the damn things were so skimp on tobacco, and so loose rolled, he’d light it up, then choke on the first drawback to spit to the floor the loose bits of baccy that came with the inhale. I do recall once seeing Noela, in a quiet moment, elbows on bar, face in her cupped hands, staring intently at a completely unaware Zero, head down in concentration, busy rolling one of his cigarettes…was it satire on her part or just bored interest?…that was it with Noela..you couldn’t tell. But one thing she was…reliable..unflappable..and a patient ear for the lonely drinker….and believe me..there can be no lonelier place than sitting by oneself with a heart full of hurt and a skinfull of booze and an empty hotel bar.

No…give the woman a medal, I say.


A shaft of sun through the Parthenon glows,

Upon a wild, white Athens rose.

The blossom of that tender bush,

Is tinged at heart with a gentle blush,

When held, ‘tis said, ‘tween lovers fingers twined,

Would, with age-old chant, their voices bind;

“Oh Sun who gives the blush to thee,

Grant her cheeks may blush for me,

And with the passing of this day,

Grant the wish I wish I may.”

On that extraordinary musical delight by Santana..: “Abraxas”, there is a poem from Hermann Hesse’s book, Demian, quoted on the album’s back cover:..the painting on the front is : “Annunciation”…

“We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion.

We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it:

We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas….”

I cannot think of a better dedication to the mysterious relationship males have to such an extraordinary institution…: the barmaid.

But it is time once again for this old boozer to hit the sack and perhaps dream again sweet dreams of those barmaids…goodnight everybody..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UofYl3dataU    (Carol King .. “So Far Away”. )




Bedtime Stories #5.

Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume VIII: The Cowboy Who Never Grew Up ...

The search for soul…

Down the Adelaide Central Market, between Marino’s butchers and the Samtass fish market, there is a walk-through breezeway to Gouger Street. Years ago there was an arcade type stall there selling second-hand books..it was run by a bloke in his fifties, if I recall…I used to browse there when I was going past.

At the end nearest the street, there was a tray holding hundreds and hundreds of these …”penny dreadfuls” I suppose you’d call them…not even with a cardboard cover, but just some lurid pic on paper with around 50 pages or so stapled in a folded booklet type thing. Many of them so old and dog-eared as to be almost a throwaway item..

I asked the man behind the stall there about them..

“What are all these scribbled, tags inside the front cover?” I asked.

“That’s the personal initial or tag to identify that someone has read the story”. He replied…He then continued on…” I get orders from several old folk’s homes for them, so I bundle up about a dozen or so at the time and deliver them there on my way home. “

The Unloved.

Who will give them kisses, sweet kisses,

Essences distilled from secret sentences.

With touching fingers palpitating the heart.

And..and desire..

Ahh! DESIRE!..that wicked,

Wily, wonderful want! That demands attendance

At just about twilight.

When everyone else but thee is in a clutching embrace.

And then, late at night,

When all the bedroom lights turn off,

Leaving thee with no company…but the “cold, dark press of night!”

And unshakeable echoes of regrettable vanity.

…or pride (O’ the affection you scorned!),

“But they were hopeless, boors, losers!..

Where is that damn paper when you need it?

Ah! ..Here!” :

Read..: “Do apply if you are honest,

Attractive, with positive outlook.

I am an interesting intellectual,

54 years.

Seeking same for intimate evenings,

Sharing thoughts and hot toddy’s

By a flickering fire……………”

“Reads good!..I hope it brings ‘em in…”


“ What do they sell for?” I asked out of curiosity.

“Oh..there’s only sentimental value in them” he informed me “ I sell them to the people in the homes for 50 cents each…they read them over some months, mark them with that special tag and then I buy them back off them for 25cents each..and they go round and round…I know all their tags now, so I send them ones they haven’t read yet…they are slow readers and it keeps them content…”

Ah..growing old has its mercies..but also its regrets…would that one could drink from Ponce de León’s fountain of youth..I’m sure I would not let so many chances slip by…

If only..:

Would my wit be a sage much wiser.
Would my courage be somewhat bolder.
Would that time could take me back yonder,
To de León’s youthful fountain mythical . . .
There in a blush of delight so typical,
Would I and thee..as Adam and Eve,
As those children in the garden of Ede’,
Brighten our eyes to that first sight,
Of a new dawn rising over the mountain’s height.

If only. . .

I skimmed through some of the copies…they were mostly blatant romance or westerns with a romantic theme…on the front would be a “gunslinger” type or some “muscled young man”, his sleeves rolled up and a touch of “action man grime” in just the right places, with his arm around a “gal” and that determined look on a “chiselled jaw” face…that type of thing..

“ I wonder what they see in them?” I pondered “ They all seem to be about the same”..and I thumbed a copy..

The Secret.

I first heard its whisper in the wild oats,

Whose husks had shed their seed.

The breezes hustled the golden sheaths,

Where small lizards scurried beneath.

It was hushed to me in the cries of birds,

The scratching bark of the mallee tree.

It was held to me in my lover’s embrace,

When we kissed our anniversary.

The secret came from the other side,

Of the wide, vast universe.

But it really started right here and now,

In the confines of this Earth.

It is nothing strange or unusual,

But it can never really be told.

It is as young as a first desire,

As a drama about to unfold and

As needed and as fought for,

As  the last breath of the old.

“Yes..I wondered on that too once…” the seller said “And I asked this German woman who was a regular customer here at the stall..”

“Do you buy them for the romantic story?” I asked her..

“No, no…I am too old for the fictional romance…though I do like that side of it..but I read them to get …” and she struggled for the right words..” to remember the FEELING…the feeling of the emotion of romance…like when you were young….one forgets the feelings…you can remember the doing of some things..but the feelings of those moments slip away..and I want to still feel the emotion of those times and sometimes…not often, but just sometimes I get that feeling back…”

“I would never have thought of it that way” I remarked…but I was much younger then..Now, a much older man, I know exactly what she means…I too now have the beautiful memories…and I like to at moments hold or “freeze-frame” those moments and to then plunge into my emotions to surround that memory with the appropriate emotions and sensual feeling…to marry the moment with the desire…it is a difficult thing, but sometimes it just works…and it is a wonderful feeling..like that first kiss.

The Vanishing Door.

Though pleasant enough ;

These days of wine and roses,

When the wash of an evening sunset

‘Purples the fleece’d horizon.’

And yet..yet..does this doubt seep

Over me, like the fevered shiver

Of an approaching cold.

I have everything..and yet the

Small freedoms I have traded

Seem to hark back to me as whispers

From behind a wall..or door!

A vanishing door!

Through which passes every thought,

But I stay.

I see them vanish, but I stay.

Last night’s dreams..I’ve forgotten,

Yet , I still feel I enjoyed them so.

Gone, with my youthful memories,

Through the vanishing door.

And even the door soon will close forever.

But I fear…I will stay…

I think I can add a quote…for better or worse…from F.Scott Fitzgerald here..it is taken from his later writings toward the end of his life…from “The Crack-up”..essay #3..:

“So what? This is what I think now: that the natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain that you are, “a constant striving” (as those people say who gain their bread by saying it) only adds to this unhappiness in the end—that end that comes to our youth and hope.”

But this aging relic must now go to bed and claim some sleep…best if we all close our eyes and dream sweet dreams…goodnight my sweets…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWc5kD6Fa_c  (Everyone’s gone to the moon…Jonathan King )





Bedtime Stories #4.

CANJ-2 "Kitten Bedtime Stories" Crystal Art Notebook Kit, 26 x ...

“Saffron The  Brave”.

The last of the old hens passed away today..That just leaves two of the young ones left..I made a note to buy another two soon, while I went to get the long-handled shovel to bury the old girl..I did the deed in the “Domestic Cemetery” where we bury all the lovely creatures that pass through our lives, left to while away their time in eternity under the sighing boughs of mallee trees.

While I placed a piece of iron and some heavy rocks over “Caroline’s” grave, I couldn’t but notice just nearby the final resting place of Saffron..called “The Brave”. Saffron was a male ginger tabby of stupendous build, desexed, yes, but he failed to notice that and he kept the verandah of our old residence at Meadows clear of stray cats and toms for many a year. Many a morning we would find him asleep in his bed , tired and battered but not beaten from the nights patrols..brave Saffron.

The little red hen.

So much depends

On the little red hen,

Standing beside the wheelbarrow,

In the pouring rain. . .

When we moved out here to the mallee, he was already past his prime and the area being so much bigger to patrol, he relinquished his authority to the several feral cats that controlled the old property. Fortunately, one by one the ferals disappeared and in the end we had only Saffron and his tortoise-shell long-hair sister to keep us company. Till one night, while engrossed in an episode of “Foyle’s War”, a scratching sound was heard on the fly-wire screen door..There , elusive and emaciated was a tiny black cat with a tip of white on it’s chest and tail.

When we gained her confidence and she joined our little troupe here , we called her “Alice”..a tiny little thing, she immediately attached herself to Saffron as his shadow, and on his part, he gladly took her under his wing and would set about “training” her in the cat-arts of stalking, leaping and gnashing required of a good mouser. I would sometimes catch them at their “lessons”..Saffron would move to an object, give it some vigorous strikes with his paw, then move away a tad and sit sternly observing while Alice went to the same object and repeated the action shown by her mentor…but really, it was with a half-hearted swish she did..I don’t think such a tender thing was born for hunting anything…

I held a bird with broken wing,

No more to fly, tender thing.

Put it down or leave it go?

Let nature deal the final blow?

Yet in its small, frightened eye,

A touch of myself do I espy,

Who am I to refuse it balm,

When never has it done me harm?

Why not, with helping touch,

Can I not relieve its hurt,

And with tender love & care,

Will it not sing once more its air?

“It will not fly” you could say,

And does a tree run away?

And does the oyster glued to rock,

Not wait with patience for its food?

So this bird, broken now,

Us together shall allow,

Some moments when we shall share,

A little of life’s splendid air.


Over the months Saffron and Alice became an inseparable pair..if Saffron was there, little Alice was sure not to be far behind. The one thing Saffron couldn’t help Alice with was her strange tail..unlike the usual cat’s tail, that stood straight up when aroused or active, Alice’s was like a stiff rod from her behind right along parallel to her back so the tip would nearly touch the back of her head..she would sometimes suddenly spot the tail there and try to spin around to grab it..it made for a humourous sight !

Unfortunately, Saffron wasn’t getting any younger and a bad kidney complaint laid him low..He was ill for some time and even the vet had shaken his head sadly in his prognosis..all we could do was make him as comfortable as possible while he saw out his last days..it was touching to see little Alice cautiously approach Saffron’s cat-bed, sniff at his nose and even give him a cautious “nudge” with her paw..perhaps it wasn’t really a nudge, but I like to think it was.

We buried Saffron in the “Cemetery” alongside “Cindy’s” foal that died soon after birth..On a broad piece of iron held down by a border of rocks, I printed the words : “Saffron The Brave”..and we said goodbye to a prince of cats.

A Balloon.

A bright blue balloon

Am I,

As blue as blue as an azure sky.

Catched for a moment

By an Hibiscus flower.

Wind buffeted,

Held for an hour

Of  fragile kind-ship,

We were.


The delicate thread broke free..

Now, can you see me anymore

As I drift away

Shape and colour

Lost against a vast array

Of blue as blue as an azure sky.

My bright blue balloon

And I..

She is gone…

Goodbye my sweet..goodbye..

Alice was all at sea after the passing of her mentor..Saffron had never really completed her “education” and she was clumsy and naïve at her job…It wasn’t much longer that this lack of knowledge got her into a fatal situation with a snake. She didn’t live long after the bite, as tiny as she was I suppose she just didn’t have the build to withstand the poison…I had her on my lap as she passed away, her little body just going limp and her head drooping over my knee.

I buried her next to her mentor and scrawled “Here lies Alice” on the sheet of iron over grave. The one thing that didn’t alter when she died was her tail…still stretched along her back , I left it so when I buried her there.

Oh well…I suppose I’ll have to give Coopers a ring and see if he’s got a couple of chooks for when I next go past.

Were I to fling a cry so high,
Into the vast, open mallee sky,
Would thou hear, by and by,
Like a memory,
A faintest echo,
A longing sigh?

And now it is time for this little peep to go to sleep..so goodnight fellow creatures..and let us sing a little song together..sleep tight and I hope the fleas don’t bite!

“Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart.






The Promising Poppy Syndrome.

Edvard Munch: Beyond The Scream | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian ...

Art, under this current right-wing government has become a dirty word…probably because in these times of economic rationalism, the spending of monies on things that cannot show an immediate “bottom-line” profitability is considered money NOT well spent. Curious that, as in days of yore, many far-right regiems would invest big-bucks in works of art and even use such to legitimise their governance…I am thinking of the Medici’s sponsoring of several now revered artists and architects of that era…and even several Popes in the Vatican pumped God’s lucre into creative works.. But with these times of art becoming both a comercialised commodity and a thing to fear by the right, the encouragement of the serious amateur artist is something somewhat avoided…and many are left to flounder about in abject poverty at the mercy of their own devices.

It’s a curious thing, and unlike the Tall Poppy Syndrome, where a person of well-known repute is attacked for being TOO obvious or famous, the promising poppy is attacked by their closest people from their own class BEFORE they can scale the ladder to known or appreciated works…when they first show signs of talent or ambition to venture into a skilled area of craft or artistic ability. The curious thing is that the budding talent is not destroyed by a more skilled operator, THAT may come later, but first they are humiliated or debased by some of their own level of class…by their peers..those who see themselves as a kind of “gatekeeper” of the status quo…always fearfully on the lookout for that most dangerous of agitators..; the “out of control talent” that may throw a spanner in the works of establishment order.

This is managed by those who themselves lack the “risk factor” to reach for that higher plane of achievement, a kind of social sloth, too scared to expose their deepest thoughts or emotions to the hard, sometimes unforgiving glare of public scrutiny, instead hitching their wagon to the safe long-haul star of established reward and flattery..I recall witnessing just such a moment where a young, keen person, in explaining a scenario in a moment of creative enthusiasm, who in lacking any sort of degree of higher education, mispronounced a word which was quickly pounced upon by just such a one of the aforementioned sloths and the conversation was rudely interrupted while the slight mistake of vowel emphasis was sneeringly corrected with a ; “surely you mean. . . ?” and then followed by that social enforcer of belittlement..; the smug and self-confident derisive chuckle…The ruse worked and the enthusiasm of the young person died and a silence of disempowerment descended over the group..The death of creativity was complete.

The objective of established social order is to control the unregulated and creative person or mind, for there has never been throughout history more threatening to authoritarian order than the new idea…a new way of perception borne on the wings of the creative mind…witness Julius Caesar, Galileo, or even here in humble Australia with Albert Namatjira..a superlative creative intellect that was crucified as a kind of “Black Christ” for daring to escape the conditioned cage he and his people  were trapped in.

If there is no direct or deliberate cruelty in such action, there certainly is no kindness, for the humiliation that is delivered on a opportune basis can be both cutting and destructive to both the individual targeted and to any relationship they may be involved with, as each moment of belittlement chips away at the base of a relationship..and it is not as if such an individual may intend to abandon their obligations and responsibilities to family and society, but would give back to that society a hundredfold if encouraged. I recall a conversation with a fellow worker in the building trade who had set aside small brackets of time to pursue their desired calling so as not to deter from family responsibilities, only to then have those moments of reserved quiet interrupted with calls to their attention or chores suddenly dropped upon their shoulders that took them away from their personal fulfilment. This created both doubt in the integrity toward their partner and a resentment to the broader relationship that ate away at the once secure bond of their marriage.

The end objective may not necessarily be to stop completely the promising poppy’s activity, just to break the continuity of practice or perfection to their chosen craft so that they never can competently work toward that perfection of the art…and once enough interruption is done, the  seeds of self-doubt take over and the promising poppy grows forlorn and doubtful of its budding talent so the perpetrator can forever claim to it not being THEY who sabotaged a promising talent, but rather the person themselves lacking that certain skill that would have taken them to the next level of achievement, when in reality, what is most needed is patience in a personal space of time and silence to hone those skills to perfection.

Even in retirement, when one should have the time if also the health to pursue that long-held dream of finally taking up that task of perfecting their skills, the mischievousness of sabotage can creep into their corner..the continued harassment of “jobs that now can be done”…the interruption of that silence needed with calls to their time and person. There is a sadness in all this in that it seems to be mainly those of the working classes..the “useful person” that suffer most the truncated ambition to achieve a dream..If I look back into the past of three female relatives..now since deceased, I am informed that they all had desires to reach for a higher objective than what their growing years of penury dished up to them..One wanted to be a writer, another a painter and the third a more pragmatic Vet….None however achieved their goal, even though they all chipped away with their hopes..and then their parents stealing away any capacity of making their lives more promising by frittering away a chance benevolence of enough money that could have set the family up with a more secure lifestyle…the selfishness of that action sealing the fate of their daughters ambitions by necessity forcing them into marriages that took away any hope of self achievement.

Society too, has means and methods of locking out those who aspire to grace the art of their country with at least a little of their imagination…Society has framed those who “deserve” their work to be displayed with a border of “recognised training” in a certified institution that “honours” their students with an embossed paper that legitimises a certain level of imagination…a certain level and no more…some go on to a higher plane, encouraged by a network of access to openings of opportunity..while most are satisfied with that certificate of diploma that guarantees at least recognition of attendance and even less application to the chore of originality…I see this “validation” of art to be the new direction of what is little more than the old Australian “cultural cringe”, where an “authority of accreditation” must place a stamp of approval on a work before that work can be accepted as a work of art.

These institutionalised “keepers of the flame”, even though their qualifications may be for subjects completely alien to the one of artistic application, say ; social science or perhaps psychology, they will STILL insist that a amateur scribbler adhere to their most strident interpretation of grammatical purity even while one is striving in a different direction with poetic licence…and once again the low level of mockery is applied and one can be taken back to that instance of the mispronounced word accompanied by the silent chuckle of derision…it is why so many “approved graduates” strive for the glittering prizes handed out to the favoured sons and daughters of those “noble institutions” solid built of sandstone but resting on foundations of clay.

It must be remembered and must be held close to the heart of the dedicated and honest promising poppy that the whole world of the established status quo runs on bluff and they have neither the right, capacity nor dignity to either correct your grammar or steer your ambition. Far too many decent but shy artists have been crushed by the juggernaut of petty jealousy of those who want creative originality but cannot achieve it and those who never had the courage and will not gain it.

A Place of One’s Own.


Within everybody’s heart ,

There is that little pump.

And in the still of the night,

You can hear its tremulous thump.


Within everybody’s heart,

There is a little room.

Upon the wall there is a picture

Of a place we silently yearn.


To some it is just a fantasy,

A desire they can’t fulfill.

Some will strive to seek it…

Some have not the will.


And some will substitute

A lesser philosophy

To dull and blind the senses

To a love they will not see.


We will survive.