Proverb / Parable.


Proverb : Knots well tied are easiest undone.

Parable : Richard Hocking gingerly poled the punt off the bank of the Murray River  with the butt-end of the oar. The Mid-wife comforted and settled Mrs.Grace Hocking as best as possible in the cramped craft. Considering the advanced state of her labour, this was no easy task for either woman.

Grace groaned with another prolonged contraction.

“There, dear..It’s near now, we’ll soon be over the river and at the hospital”. The mid-wife soothed.

Now, in those days, the government, in its’ kindness, gave a family an endownment of five pounds for every child born. In the years of the great depression, five quid went a long way..with the Hocking family, it went the whole hog!..Fivers wern’t something you came across every day, so it had already been earmarked for some desparately needed items for that family that lived in a wheatbag-tent on the” wrong side of the river”.

Richard Hocking was standing in the punt as he rowed across the river, so he hadn’t noticed the mid-wife subtly cajole his wife into signing a document that granted the said five pounds to her ; the mid-wife, for “services rendered”…never mind that she was already in the pay of the government hospital !  Grace hocking was in no state of mind to contend what she had groggily signed her name to.

The mistake the mid-wife made was to hold the freshly signed document away and up to the sun for the ink to dry and in doing so inadvertantly displayed the treachery to the curious gaze of Richard Hocking, whose face was only inches away from the paper as he rowed the punt across the river.

“Five quid!” He cried as he snatched the paper.

The mid-wife froze with her arm still outstretched, mouth slightly agape and a sharp gasp sprung to her lips.

“Mr. Hocking!..Now give that back this instant. That is a legal document and it is mine!” She demanded.

Richard looked at the document, then at the mid-wife. An angry smile came to his lips.

“Then swim for it!” and he screwed the paper up and flicked it into the river.

“Ahh! You can’t do that!” the midwife cried and with both hands gripping the gunwhale, watched the ball of paper drift away and sink.

“Consider it done!” Richard smiled gleefully.

“Then..then I’ll not attend your wife!”

“Ohhh!..” groaned Gracie.

“Then we’ll stay right here on the river!” shouted Richard as he flung the oars into the punt.

“Ohhhh….” wailed Gracie again..and at this point nature intervened and a baby girl was born in the punt on the middle of the Murray River.

Five quid went a long way in the great depression.



Proverb :    ” Bread and cheese at home is better than roast meat elsewhere”.


Parable. ;    Nicolle detested polenta! So that when he came home from the fields and spotted the polenta on the stove, he started thinking fast.

” I won’t be here for dinner, ” he said as he flung a scarf around his neck ” Giovanni has invited me to his table tonight.” and he rushed out the door before his wife could say anything.


Little did he know that his wife had cooked up enough polenta for all the relatives in the village. all he saw was the little she kept for themselves ! So he rushed over to his son’s house as fast as his little bow-legs could carry him. There, he milled around in front of the fire and chatted small talk while the wife prepared the table.

‘ You’ll stay for dinner, father? she queried “…we’re having polenta.”

He winced at her in horror…”Oh bugger!” he said to himself..then ; “No, no, caro… sister, she has invited me to her table for dinner…speaking of which..I better hurry on..” and he flung his scarf on again and hurried out the door.


‘Hungry, hungry, hungry..” he whispered in time to his quickening steps and his stomach rumbled as he passed through his sister’s front door.


‘Ah…Nicolle! ” she greeted him..” just in time for dinner. Sit down, I’ll get you some polenta!”


” Gesu Christo!” he cried as he flung his hands to the heavens..” doesn’t anybody in this town eat anything but bloody polenta!?” and he stormed out leaving them with open mouths and a slammed door. He came home to his own kitchen with a long face and slumped shoulders. He was beaten and resigned to his fate, polenta it would have to be.


His wife (who knew his dislikes by now) glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and smiled. She reached into the oven and pulled out a covered dish which she placed in front of the dejected man at the table and uncovered a bowl of ravioli and cheese….Nicolle’s face lit up into an ecstatic smile and he sighed very, very deeply. His wife patted him on top of his head…


“Better, you see, to eat at your own table, rather than run around town for scraps from others.”

Nicolle nodded his head gratefully, for his mouth was full of food.



Proverb: It costs a lot of money to die comfortably.


Parable:    Nickolai Petrov was a moderately wealthy man, an old traditionalist in his way, but he was such a skinflint. Many acquaintances used to scold him with the old adage : “You can’t take it with you when you go, Nickolai…”. He hated that expression and would wince whenever he heard it spoken.

He was old now and was dying of cancer. The surgeon told him this at his bedside in the hospital.

Nockolai’s wife sat at his bedside consoling him, holding and stroking his hand. A tear fell from her eye on to the bed cover.

“Ah Nicky…my dear Nicky…what can I do for you?” She sang in sympathy.

Nickolai thought about this for a while…then said

“Trishka, my dear…one thing you can do…”

“Yes, my dearest…just say it.”

“A…a cushion…an embroided, red velvet cushion.. Like that tradition in the old lay my head on when I…pass on…to put in the coffin for me to rest my head on…” He turned his eyes to her.

She wept a little at his request “So like the man” she thought,

“Yes, Yes my sweet…I’d love to.”

And she made him a large, soft velvet cushion, embroided with also a tasseled edging. She brought it to him in the hospital the day he was to be sent home. The doctor had given him a couple of months to live and he spent these finalizing his accounts and business and even arranging the funeral services. He insisted on doing this work himself and said:

“While I have the strength, let me have the dignity.”

And so he died and was buried with the cushion under his head. His wife mourned for weeks in sadness, but, life goes on and the bills keep coming in.

One day she went to the bank to take some money out, – there was none there! – the account had been closed. She went to the building society…that too, closed!…No money? Where had it gone? She asked all the relatives if Nickolai had given them proxy after death to handle the money? No, no one knew…Had he hidden it in the house? She turned it upside down in the search…No…gone… lost! At last she went to the grave of her husband.

“Nickolai, I know you’ve hidden it…but where?” She glared at the tombstone through slit eyes. “You old devil.” She hissed “Where did you hide it?” Then she looked to the photograph of Nickolai Petrov fixed in the left side of the tombstone. He had a certain “Mona-lisa” smile fixed on his face.

“Damn it Nicky, I need…” She stopped short as a niggling nasty realization crept over her mind. She flung her hand-bag to the ground. “You swine!…0h you.. you bastard!…the cushion, the cushion.. you did take it with you after all! You little pig!” She shook her fist at the grave.

It cost Trishka five thousand dollars and a lot of affidavits to exhume the coffin and redeem the money from the cushion. She replaced the cushion under his head when they reburied him. but this time she filled it with rocks!


Accent on Humour.


Recently, I wrote a small cameo piece about a “cross-dresser” and the time and place he “came out” publicly in a small country town. I wrote it as (what I thought) a humorous piece, acting on the logic that where or whenever such an “event” happened, be it in the place chosen, for it’s degree of comfort and camaraderie, or in the main street in full drag , it was bound to be confronting in a pathos – bathos scenario that could occasion a few laughs from the distance of many years hence..I sent it to a younger person employed in an local govt’ artistic / cultural occupation as an adjunct to a conversation we had on certain “local” issues….I was least , mistaken in the perception of what a new generation of readers finds funny. Perhaps, as been suggested, my aged, male, working-class perception of what is or is not funny is now thoroughly dated!…. “…it’s just not funny anymore”…has been at odd times  leveled accusingly at yours truly….I’ve had my own doubts before…It may be time to believe it!


Though, when one analyses the condition that creates a “moment of humour”, so that a laugh involuntarily springs from our lips, it is understood as the sudden “leap” from pathos to bathos and the swiftly altered situation thereof…like the flaying of arms and legs in a sudden “banana-slip” moment…a kind of slapstick suddenness….but something has changed…There appears to now be some hesitancy to guffaw innocently at others foolishness or mishaps…you think about it…how long since you have heard a string of good jokes?…I used to hear many….one “tuned one’s ear” for the grand joke from a good joke teller…..they were considered rare treasures…one “good” joke could make or break a reputation in any front-bar! remember that “Clayton’s…the drink you have when…” advert’ with ..what’s ‘isname..?…oh yeah!..Jack Thompson, THAT was the accepted locale for the dispersion of male humour. I’m sure that other gender has a similar locale!


Now it’s all gone…but people are still laughing…the guffaws are still coming…but what are we now laughing at, if not socially incorrect slapstick?…I think we are more inclined to seek out humour in the more perverted absurdities of the increasingly bizarro-behaviours of people and situations…I think we are finding more laughs in a kind of sado-humour than we did before…..and it is a worrying thing….I’m not saying certain ghastly racist/sexist jokes aren’t deserving of the dustbin of history, but there is a worrying criticism of satire that is very “over the top” censorship…There seems less inclination to humour, and more inclination to litigate such skits as one would find on “The Hampster or “Ripping Yarns” or “Python” etc.


Yet, I have seen rise alongside such cruel treatment that one occasionally views on a channel-surf expedition of “Reality – Tv”, an appreciation of sado-humour, where cruel or victim-selection programs are on top of the ratings! I have watched several so-called “funny home-videos” skits that seem to me to be brutal and dangerous..that one can see such moments have been deliberately staged to get the video on the show…same with those “competitive cooking / singing ” programs etc. There can be no better display of sado-humour than one sees on such channels…yet they are the top-rating programs..What gives!?


One can track the evolution of such sado-humour back to the days of “try-hard” Hollywood “black humour”, where the big studios tried their hand at so-called crime-comedy…I remember the hit movie “Beverly Hills Cop” was the beginning of such a genre…where it was billed as a comedy, yet I counted seven quite brutal killings in the show…( I was a “forced viewer”…been taken to the cinema against my better judgement by acquaintances who “just loved it and you will to!!”)…I hated made me wince..I’m a sensitive bloke.


Indeed, the “humour” of the aged, white, working male may be dated beyond redemption…but the basis for such humour  ie; the “situation comedy” surely will not date…The spectator / viewer, looking on to the unfolding of a unscripted public slapstick moment, whether by accident or by self-deprecation, surely must be allowed a release of laughter at the ironic absurdity of the situation without guilt or remorse, rather than be driven to “approvingly” laugh sneeringly, cruelly, publicly, at the misfortune and hard-luck of others.


Bring back The Hampster crew I say!



Time for a bit of Protest poetry.


The Hill of Content.


There’s rowdy celebration

In the houses of Beaumont.

There’s champagne corks a poppin’

Amid cheery faces of content.

But there’ll be no smiling faces

In the lowland avenues,

Just wasted young people treading

The weary paths to local dole queues.

There’ll be a dozen new dreams fostered

In well appointed offices.

Their well-fare’d suckled children

Safely tucked in colleges.

But there’ll be no dreams for children

Of the outer city sprawl,

Save the dream of permanent income

From the social welfare maw.

And you can’t help having contempt

For those folk on “Content Hill”,

When they ravish “well-stocked tables”

While we swallow the bitter pill.

The Final Fall of Delphi.

“Tell the king…..
The fair wrought hall is fallen,
No more hut, nor prophetic laurel,
The spring of eloquence is quenched….”

Tell the folk :
Delphi ; the house of Apollo is fallen.
The Oracle speaks it’s last,
In stuttering tongue, before dusk,
And cometh now an age of gilded lust.

Tell the people :
The Gods are gone, their whisp’ed scent
From spring and bough wisdom sent
Is barren now….rubble strewn,
Where once was beauty marble hewn.

Tell them all :
The temple walls are forlorn and broken!
The paths of herb and steps awry,
Beast debased, their perfumes descry!
Man’s heart’s desire…now a banker’s token.

Yes!..Go!..tell the Kings of the world:
Of the thousands who have homaged Delphi,
Now..only two of us stand on the Sybilline Rock
….in the pouring rain….
Two stand ; the merchant and the poet..

….but only one of us is crying.


The Conversion of Father Carravalo.

Continuing my Italian Story theme..:

I heard this tale from my sister when I once visited her in Italy back in the seventies. She told me she had not long been in the village when one day whilst sweeping by her back door, an older woman hurried past. My sister said “hello” in politeness, but the lady did not stop, she just quickly said that she was in a hurry to get to her mother’s as she was looking after her children..”I have their clothes” she motioned to a bundle under her arm and on she went. A few moments later an older man came and asked if my sister had seen his wife come past with a bundle of clothes under her arm. My sister related the quick meeting with the lady and told him that she had gone to her mothers’ to pick up the children.

“Ah”..he said sadly, “Her mother has been dead these many years and so have all the children…I will go and find her”….and on he went.

I tell the story of the events as my sister told them to me all those years ago..The priest in the story is, of course, a metaphor.

It went like this:

The Conversion of Father Carravalo.

My name is Pietro Carravalo, of the diocese of San Angelo di Povero. It is the ninth day of February nineteen hundred and fifty one.

Yet ,just three days ago I was known throughout the district as Father Carravalo. I was the parish priest of the aforementioned diocese. Three days ago I was proud to be known as such! Three days, three days I have groveled in this dirty cave out of sight for that period, out of sight for fear of meeting another human whilst I pondered on the sad misfortune of Signora Marzetti.

You notice I use the past tense when referring to my status as parish priest. This is no accident, nor the result of official dismissal from my post. It is self absolution I henceforth rescind that title, as do I likewise any association with the institution known as ” The Church”. I pace the dirt floor of this cave as I reflect on my decision, as I have done so for the last three days! But there is no other way, I cannot in all honesty claim the privilege of spiritual healer or guider or whatever when I no longer have faith in the basic tenets of ” The Church”.

Three days ago Stefania Marzetti lost her last child. He fell down the stairs at his home and broke his neck. It was the fifth child she had lost in three years….I’ll repeat that; five children….all her children…dead within three years! Madonna Mio I tremble to think of it…one after the other ; polio…typhus…scarlet fever….then little Paulo from something as clumsy as a fall..well..she is mad now, I saw it in her eyes before I fled to this refuge, maybe I too am mad! but no! I can talk as such to you because I am sane, shocked but sane. Maybe it was this shock that jolted me out of my fantasy of high priest of absurdity!

Complacent…. self satisfied I was in my privileged position as priest to those simple people. their lives were ordered, quaint, predictable, as were my duties concerning their spiritual guidance. How many years have I poured Latin and lassitude into their souls? Too many to contemplate. How I reveled in my obligations, how I enjoyed those sanctified moments, those pauses of silence when intoning the mass ;  “Nome il Padre e Figlio e Spirito Santo” ahh! flows like a piece of poetry, eh?

Then came the polio How many children did we lose?… How many of those little ones that I myself baptised, did I place in the ground? How many shoulders did I embrace as they heaved and wept, while whispering “couragio, couragio”, into their ears? How much sadness can you record onto a death certificate? How many broken families onto a tombstone?

When Stephania Marzetti lost her first child from the polio, she was not alone. At least a dozen children in the diocese went down with him, so it seemed her suffering was not a lonely vigil. I took her aside after mass one day and helped her light a little candle for the child and to place it at the feet of the Virgin in memorium, then joined her at the altar rail for prayers of help and forgiveness. I did the same for all the distressed parents. Then in that same year came the typhus and she lost the youngest,…a girl. Again, there were others too that lost a loved one, though not all the same families, so that we thought it rather unfortunate Stephania should again be afflicted with such sadness for the second time. Again I consoled her with the blessing of God and a candle at the feet of the blessed virgin. Another name was chiseled onto the tomb! Masses were dedicated to the protection of the innocents and the plea that the typhus would pass without more sadness. Then she lost another child to the disease, the eldest. In the name of God, what more could I say to comfort her? What platitudes this time?

“God is merciful ” ( what mercy?) .

“We will rely upon Him to guide us through this valley of darkness?”

“They have gone to eternal life?” (while she suffers a living death?)

Words, words, diversions from emotions, yet still I found glib passages to placate her despair. Quotations from this or that book in the bible, words of “wisdom” to salve her wounds and all the time feeling like a salesman endorsing his product! : ” Here, take a little of this, it’ll do you wonders!” or ; “Much more than Islam or Buddhism our product is guaranteed to ease the pain in your heart!” Mind you I wasn’t so cynical in my heart, I  wept for Stephania, but all those..those weak sounding platitudes! I mean,… the woman had lost a whole substance of her life and I was trying to fill it back up with Quasi intellectual gobbledygook, such are the incantations of religious doctrine…I no longer am spellbound by it’s “mystery”.

But there came a relief of two years in which she was spared further trauma. Sometimes we look back on such peaceful times wishing we could imprison these moments for eternity in a frame to hang on the wall, and gazing on that tranquility say; ” Ahh! such peace, I remember it well!”

Ah! such a day it was when I was returning from Fragneto. The priest there had fallen ill with a flu so I stood in for him those two weeks. I would shift their Sunday service back a half hour and ours forward the same so as to accommodate both congregations with minimal disruption. It was a clear, cold spring day, early in the season with still quite large patches of snow capping the hill tops. The village was not far away so I walked the distance.

Yes! a clear spring day, the wind crisp and fresh over the thawing earth. My breath frosted in the air as I exhaled and my eyes stung a little as I gazed from the crest of the hill down the crevassed valley to the rising blue hills of Campangolo in the south. I could see for miles and miles! And wasn’t it a lovely sight,….bello!

Just as I reached the high point at the top of the village, the bells of my church started ringing .”Ah! good”,I thought,”Young Tomaso can be relied upon at least”. and I was in very good spirits as I descended the slope to the presbytery. I had not been back but five minutes when Stefania’s husband; Bertolo, rushes in all flustered and dropped his bombshell!

“Oh Padre, you must come quickly, our daughter, Elvira, she is dying with the scarlet fever, you must come quickly”. He stood there like most of these poor peasants, with his floppy cap crushed in his club-like hands.

“But wait there Bertolo, two days ago you said all she had was a cold, a small cough.” I was indeed doubtful.

“Ahh! we thought too padre we thought too! Oh! sacred heart of Jesus! if only that was so but then the vomiting, the fever so we call in the dottore this morning and he confirms it ….Oh blessed saints what wrath have we awoke in our poor family! please padre ,come quickly”.

I don’t think I need go into the details of the child’s death, I..I do not like to dwell on it myself, another round of futile incantations, incense ,holy water and prayers to a deity as distant as Zeus! Oh we laugh at the pagan worshipers of old and their ridiculous offerings to those impotent gods of theirs! we laugh! …but., here in the twentieth century, I have to ask: Are our gods greater? or are we moderns merely slaves to the same illusive desires and frustrations? I, at least, have leaned the answer!

Back then, however, I was still in awe of the “power” of the church. As though the theatre of my “sacred performances” would make all diseases and tragedy vapourise with the swirling incense! I supplicated their tears, but could not stay my own. I rebirthed their belief in the faith, but my own doubts grew! Indeed, Stephanias’ wide eyed helplessness made my speech falter till at the sight of her my set pieces of religious diatribe came jumbled or completely stuck in my throat and I had to go away from her lest I fall completely there and then! You see, though I was seriously beginning to doubt, I still retained the security of those years of indoctrination that bolstered my flagging faith! Her courage stood where mine (in the face of tragic reality) failed.

Still she would come to the church and place a candle at the foot of the Virgin Mother. Still she would ask me for forgiveness from some sin of the past. A sin!…a sin’  my heart wept at her wretched pleas to god for forgiveness from what? for what? How, how, how! I began to realise there was nothing I could say nor do that would have the slightest effect on her or anyone else’s fates in that village still she would come pattering down the aisle of an evening and catch me unawares as I was about my duties and make me jump! Then I would guiltily light a candle for her and bustle about her, helping with a cushion to kneel on, holding her elbow to assist etc. in short just fumbling about when all the while I wished to throw my arms up in surrender to futility.

So it came to be that I could pick her footsteps out subconsciously and not be caught unawares, this way at least I had a moment to prepare myself to face her again. You see now?….She was the nemesis of my faith! Then came the accident with little Paulo. It finished her! it finished me! It has finished two thousand years of demagoguery!

I was standing at the church doors when I heard the news of Paulo’s death. I nearly fainted on the spot! I started trembling all over as if in a fever. I put my hands over my entire face and turned and ran inside the church as a desperate man would to his executioner to throw himself on his knees to beg mercy!  I ran, yes, ran down that isle toward the altar, toward the holy tabernacle and at the altar rail fell to my knees in despair!…

“Dio,.. Dio”..I cried, then a soft whisper; “Dio..”; the only words I could get out.What could I say? What could I ask?….” I’m only a parish priest, I’m only human . I can’t give anymore strength to that woman, I have none to give! Oh god! why oh why, what is the need of such torture?….Madonna,..blessed Madonna Mother of Christ!” I beseeched, yet speechless for more words,..what could I ask ….only a parish priest,..only human!…I wept..I wept…that poor woman,..that poor woman! My head bowed touching the altar rail as I pleaded to….to…to whom?!

Then in the hollow emptyness of the church I became aware of her soft footsteps approaching down the aisle. I knew it was her, I dreaded that sound, so now it magnified in my mind a thousand fold! Echoing about the walls up to the vaulted ceiling. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up so. The footfalls stopped but I could not turn….in horror of the pity I felt, I could not face that woman, that mother, so I just knelt there trembling.

“Father?”… she croaked breathlessly. “A candle for the Madonna,…please ,Father one small candle for my Paulo? a candle Father?” her voice faltering, yet firm.

I turned slowly..holy mother of Christ..holy mother of all children!…have mercy, have pity,..on me as much as her have pity,…what comfort for such a wretched soul could I give?…only a priest only a man..five children mother of Christ five children….! I grasped the altar rail lest I fell and she held out her hand with a few pitiful coppers in it,..appealing;

“A candle Father, I must put a candle at the feet of the blessed virgin for my Paulo”, and she moved mesmerised over to the statue of the Madonna.

I stood speechless. She placed a bundle of rags she was carrying on the floor and took a small candle from the box, this she lit and placed in the rack provided. She then knelt and kissed the feet of the Madonna, genuflected as she rose then turned to go. I picked up the bundle of rags she had left at the feet of the statue and touched her arm gently.

“Signora Marzetti,” I crooned “These are yours”. She turned, looked at the bundle, then gently took it from my arms and once more turned to go.

“Where are you going, Stephania?” I asked gently.

She looked deep into my eyes, yet hers were vague, unseeing, blank!

“I am going to my mother’s.” she softly spoke.

“But…but, Signora,…your mother is dead,…these ten years.” She looked a little fazed, hesitated, then smiled beautifully at me.

“Oh no Father, I am going to my mother’s….She is looking after the children, I will go and bring them home “.. she turned, paused, then stroked the bundle of rags, “I have their clothes “. She spoke softly, I held out my arms to her as if to help….how!…how?…she had lost her mind now.

Her husband, Bertolo, was suddenly there supporting her, with his hands all dirty and hard from the fields and his cap crushed into his top pocket his craggy cheeks furrowed with tears..

“It’s alright Father,….I’ll take her home, it’s alright.” and he half bowed half nodded as he steered her down the aisle to the group of friends clustered at the nave door. They parted as he approached then swallowed them into their midst. I was left alone in the church still with arms outstretched, gaping in mute despair, the echo of the closing door boomed drum like in accompaniment to my heart. I came around and turned to the statue of the Madonna, the one little candle burning at her feet. I felt hopeless, useless!

I giggled,”A candle Madonna, ” I smiled weakly, “A candle for a child, a trade off from a poor mother to the mother of a poorer Christ  but, there were five children, my Lady,, take five candles!….forgive us humans our feeble gestures of worship…” I laughed at the silliness..” No!..wait here take a dozen more, a dozen candles for a dozen children….ha!…wait a minute, why skimp,.. take a hundred,…all our life blood for you ; Mother of Christ a sacrifice to God from us pitiful people!….a hundred children,..a hundred candles!” and as I tippled the candles over the sand tray,I laughed at the absurdity of it all. Then I grew angry, I looked down at my garments, the surplice with that smell of incense permeated through it, once so comforting to me with its spice-like aroma, I now found disgusting, so I flung it off to the floor, likewise my cassock, then darting to the presbytery, I changed into street clothes and ran desperately away, away from the hopeless shame, the tawdry sham of my life I ran, I ran, I ran…

Till here I am in this cave, and now all the hate and disgust has abated, I shall abandon all the pretexts of my holy office and accept my place as a man amongst my people….

Listen!..The bells of San Georgio ringing out across the valley, crisp and clear in the rising air. I wish for a modicum of their confidence. Indeed their peals shout of glory, of happiness in the new day! Just as a bird sings after the storm ,even from the remnants of it’s destroyed nest.. I have little of such religious feelings left, I was a hypocrite, a liar to have ever stood before my people and purported to “guide” them….Yet!…though I would disown my religion, I would never abandon my humanity,…on the contrary, I embrace it!…Ah! and it is as such that I will serve , No more casting out demons and other hocus pocus, I will redress my wrongs before my fellow men, I will go back now, I will go home.

The Apprentice’s Revenge.

This yarn was told to me back in the early eighties by my brother in law as we walked from his house to the “Top Bar” in his village in Sth’n Italy…It apparently happened in his village, which was known for it’s workers in textiles and shoes..My BiL. is himself a cobbler by trade. He told me the basic rudiments of the one does when relating a passing yarn rather than a complete and constructed story-line…which is what I offer here to you.


It is of interest that in the days of yore, not that long ago..perhaps even to the early 1950’s. In many of these villages, an apprentice was not hired like we do here and now, rather, he was offered to a master craftsman to be trained,  by the youth’s parents…and sometimes money would be paid for that training…the apprentice becoming a sort of “live-in” servant to the master…not being paid any wage, save maybe a little pocket-money, but given board and keep in lieu of.. and perhaps being trained alongside a son as a companion. I have spoken to some older European tradesmen who “served their time” in this “feudal-like” manner…I’ll tell you a story about one, one day.


The downside was that once apprenticed, there was little that could be done to get out of the arrangement and this could result in a cruel master subjugating the youth to all sorts of abusive treatment. The story I heard may or may not be a type of generic village “myth”.. but none the less, it was one of the best “paybacks” by a tyrannised apprentice I have heard. It must be said that the peasants of these isolated villages were very gullible to a well presented lie, and could be persuaded to accept all sorts of  weird and lurid scenarios (what am I saying! it any different here and now?)…It wasn’t long ago that I heard and witnessed a “Evil Eye” consultation with a “empowered woman” in that same village.

The superstitions still remain.. Anyway, to the story for your entertainment..


It went like this:


The Apprentice’s Revenge.

 Little puffs of condensed breath steamed from the boy’s mouth in unison with his quick steps.

 ” Hurry there, boy, hurry ” the Master Tailor poked and prodded the youth in the ribs with his rule “why, I had a donkey once, more lively than you.”

 “Yes!..” thought the boy and I bet it carried almost as much, you old bugger!” but he said nothing and kept on hurrying over the cobblestone road, as he stepped, the pewter’d sheen of window-lamps reflecting off the wet stones made his steps cautious .

“What are you mumbling about?…don’t mumble, just get a move on…we have to be at Gemano Alfonsi’s half an hour ago!…step lively now!”

“Please don’t push me master, for if I stumble I will surely drop these bolts of cloth in the mud!”

“Drop the cloth?! Drop the cloth?! Just you try it , boy, just you try it and you will feel the thick edge of my boot a thousand times…yes, yes two thousand times!!” and he prodded the youth once more. A door opened on their right and a shaft of yellow light stabbed onto the road to their feet. a stocky man silhouetted in the doorway called to them in a mocking tone.

“Ahh! Master Tailor…keep a tight rein on your steed there, for these young ones will find any excuse to spit the bit!”

“Ha ha!…right you are Signor blacksmith….right you are…but never fear, I have this young colt well and truly hobbled..ha hal on with you boy, on with you!…to Gemano Alfonsi’s to measure a suit….hurry now!”

So on they went, down street and lane till they halted in front of a peasant’s cottage at the far end of the village. Through the small window facing the street could be seen the wife and three children…girls (for Signor Alfonsi was blessed with only girls) methodically preparing the evening meal. Waftings of steam from a large pot misted over the window, a man’s hand wiped circular on the glass and a face peered out , then with raised eyebrows of recognition pulled away and opened the heavy wooden door.

“ Master Tailor….and his apprentice no less….we were expecting you an hour ago….lose your way?”

“I was busy fitting a ruby coat to the king of Siam!” replied the tailor.

“And I am to meet him next Monday!..what a coincidence !” mocked the peasant.
‘Ebbene!…my house is your house..Master Tailor….the good wife is preparing a meal for us now.”

“First I will measure you and then I will eat….and tomorrow evening I will cut the cloth….speaking of which, I will leave some cloth for you to choose from. Though if I may suggest…”

“Ah!.. I can guess what you may suggest, Master Tailor,…But I want cloth that is elegant, BUT!..manly…”

“Well, if I may… ”

” A suit with fine lines, BUT!..not too delicate…”

“Well, if I may…”

”Robust.BUT!…”(and here he wagged his finger side to side) not in the style of a pig farmer’s overalls!”

“Allora!…then it leaves me only one option to pursue I will make a suit of clothes for you that when you take the promenade on the Sabbath, people will stop and stare and say :”Ah!..There goes Signore Alfonsi ; a Gentleman!”

All this banter back and forth was done with the appropriate gestures and twirls and twists of fingers and hands, with all the nuances insinuated with raised eyebrows and winked eyes. The two men finished with effusive back slapping.

“Master…” the youth interjected so they both turned a surprised eye to him.”The cloth, it gets heavy.”

“Ah!…if they’re not lazing off in some corner…they’re whining for the little work they have to do.”

Signor Alfonsi “tch’d- tch’d” and nodded in agreement.

The cottage, having one room for eating and meeting, the rest for bedrooms, meant the measuring for the suit had to be done amongst the setting out of the evening meal. The females weaving about and placing dishes amongst the lifting of arms and the shifting of legs….the apprentice eyed the meal, for he was as hungry a young man can be….and ohl..the tantalizing aromas of a hearty peasant feast sent his tongue licking and smacking against his lips!

“But seriously, Master Tailor, I must look my best for the council meeting next month!” and here he bent low to whisper secretively into the tailor’s ear. ”I have heard…heard mind , that a position may be available for me to sit on the commune council for next term….and then ?” (a gesture with the hand).

“Aha!..then you must look to your friends who support your election….and I for one would be grateful for any uniform work that could come my way?”

“Well, I am not elected yet Master Tailor, but the right price for your services…er..I will certainly not overlook the ….er…consideration.”

“BOY!..”called the tailor.”wake up and bring me the chalk!”

“Signori!..” called the matron of the house “Dinner is served!” and placed a large bowl of Chicken Cacciatori in the middle of the table.

“Are you asleep, boy?…ahl…I see….more of a mind for the meal than your work eh?…I didn’t bring you here for a feast  outside with youl_out! out!”

“Ah..truly, Master Tailor..?” began the peasant in protest..

“Out… and next time think more of the duty to your trade than your stomach!..” and he shut the youth outside..The peasant and his family were a little embarrassed at the whole incident, but said nothing, not wishing to further compromise the boy.

” A firm hand…Gemano..a firm hand is what is needed..” a cutting motion with hand-on-edge up and down…

The youth outside sat sorrowfully down on a bench seat and commiserated with himself…then he plotted his revenge…he would have to be cunning!

” Hmm…. Ah!”

( The next day in the street near the post office) .

Gemano Alfonsi gently lay his hand on the youth’s shoulder…

“Look. it was a terrible thing for you to be left out of the meal …We expected you to eat with the tailor as is the custom  (shrug of shoulders) but….?”

“NO, no , signor Alfonsi, think not of it, for I am used to Master Tailor’s growing moods….” here he turned to look about him and then looking meaningfully to the peasant made a twirling motion with his finger about his ear

“He is a bit crazy, you know.” The peasant raised his eyebrows.

” How do you mean…he doesn’t seem….?”

” A little bit what I mean…oh! not badly, mind….he just flys off the handle builds up in him, you know.”

“He did seem a bit tense last night….for he was a little hard on you…”

“Oh that was nothing,.. but it is building up though..little by little….until… ” the youth leant a little closer “That incident last year in San Angelo ?”

“What incident!?”

“Yes, it was hushed up nicely.. cost Master Tailor a pretty penny..” with a nodding of his head. “It’s those lonnng, sharrp scissors he uses to cut the cloth…he becomes mesmerised by them…they say his mother was threatened by a sword-weilding  soldier when pregnant with him”.

“Long, sharp, scissors?”

“Yes, Signor Alfonsi…you’ll see…you watch his eyes when he runs his thumb along the edge to test the sharpness…you watch…mesmerised…”

“But what will he do?….I have my family…”

“Nothing!…nothing, if you act quickly to snap him out of it!…Oh don’t judge him cruelly I beg you….and I chastise myself most severely if I have led you to doubt Master Tailor’s intentions, which, at all other times are irreproachable.. and I beg of you also not to tell of this…this confession to Master Tailor, for, while I feel I must be a sort of guardian against any outrage that he may commit in a…a confused state, I must consider his “face” in the community and his pride…what man needs his pride dragged through the mud…?” at those words the peasant puffed out his chest…for there is none more proud than he!..for it is always so..: The more unworldly a man is, the more that pride has hold of his heart.

“Have no fear of betrayal on my part, boy….but what can I do to snap him out of this..this mood?”

The youth pulled the peasant close in a huddle, shoulder to shoulder, face to face and went through a little pantomime.

‘You will see when he is about to “snap”, for he will be cutting the cloth like this and his tongue will be pushed between his lips and he will be biting down on it …look, look…like this..and his eyes will grow wider and wider as he makes the cut with those scissors…” and the youth acted out the gesture while the peasant, now wide eyed also, obediently watched and followed every exaggerated gesture…. “and when he is doing that, you must have a stout stick handy…no, not too heavy, for we don’t want to brain him!…just stun him…and when he is doing that…whack!..on the back of the head….just here..” he tapped the peasants’ head….the peasant rubbed the spot as if reassuring himself it was really there..”and he will snap out of it and be right back to normal”.

“But, but he will demand to know why I hit him!?”

The youth pulled a confident face and made a dismissing gesture .

“Deny it…and say he fainted..and tell your family to all say the same and all will be well…you’ll see…this isn’t the first time, you know…remember San Angelo..and after all, you’ll be protecting yourselves AND his honour.”

“Why don’t YOU hit him then..since you know how it’s done?”

“ME!…as if I can move about without Master Tailor watching my every move and giving me orders… must be you, signor Alfonsi..or we must ALL take our chances.”

( That night in the kitchen of Gemano Alfonsi’s…)

It was a very nervous family that gathered behind Master Tailor as he stood at the kitchen table with the cloth laid out in front of him. The peasant ; Gemano Alfonsi stood immediately behind the tailor, behind him cowered his wife and the three girls clutching at her skirt. All were wide eyed and trembling.

“My scissors.” commanded the tailor, with hand out.

The youth made a grand gesture of extracting the long shears from their sheaf, like he was withdrawing a sword for the executioner (he had spent some time that day polishing these shears so they gleamed cruelly). The peasant’s hand tightened on a stout stick he had ready behind his leg, his tongue flicked over his dry lips, his eyes as wide as saucers. The tailor snipped once or twice then suddenly spun around toward Gemano…

God. how they all leapt in the air!

“I had the boy sharpen them today….you can’t do a good job with blunt instruments.” and he licked and ran his thumb slowly along the keen edge of the blade. The apprentice puckered his eyebrows toward Gemano meaningfully, fear filled the peasant’s eyes, mama’s knees began to fold and she was clutched under the arm by the stout Gemano and brought around.

“Allora!” cried the tailor, “to work ” and he bent over the cloth, the family in one motion also leant over the tailor watching his lips closely…he straightened up, so did they..

“My glasses!” he announced, reaching into his pocket, “where are they?” he stared into the empty holder….(the youth had earlier deliberately removed them and left them at the tailor’s home).

“I remember you setting them on your desk at your home “. the youth quickly answered.

“Well if you know where they are, go and get them!..don’t just stand there!”

The boy opened the door, stopped for a moment and gazed back at the little scene….The tailor, head slightly turned on one side, his right eye wide-open and close to his markings on the cloth, his left hand held the cloth off the table, his right was ready to cut the cloth with the gleaming scissors, then with an expression of utmost concentration on his face, he slipped his tongue (as was his want to always habitually do) out between his lips and bit down on it gently, his eyes widening in deep concentration… The boy stepped outside and closed the door….he took two steps, halted, cocked his ear to one side to listen…


….the noise of the thump, a trifling interruption in the cool, still, silent air of the night. The youth smiled and with his hands plunged deep in his pockets , went off whistling down the cobbled street!

To the Beat of the Drum.


Sooner or later this year, we are going to have an election. This election outcome is very important for social, environmental, economic and infrastructure well-being for a majority of the nation. It can be accepted as gospel that a re-elected LNP. would spell disaster for most of the above categories as far as the everyday citizen is concerned..and one can be assured that a returned LNP. would soon unleash a social purge upon it’s more vulnerable or radical citizens.


This blog, along with others in the news delivery game on social media and a large Twitter following are all urging the ALP. toward a victory next election. And while we , on the periphery of political discourse can shout outrage and reveal what LNP. corruption that the MSM. is too “yellow-backed” to expose, I believe we need to show those political leaders that represent us , whether they be mainstream parties or independents, that we “have their backs”. No one person can take on the juggernaught of vested interests in the MSM. , the now corrupted ABC. and big-business media spending for the LNP. without knowing that they have the support of those they wish to represent.


It is getting near to the date for the election to be called and I believe we on the left-wing social media need to coalesce toward one track, one intent, one heartbeat.. A joining of separate blogs, perhaps, to coordinate articles that have a “continuity of subject” , a “continuity of exposure” of LNP. corruption..a continuity of message of encouragement and step.. The entire left-wing social media cooperative could do worse than to coalesce toward the beat of the one drum.


“In many cultures, Native Americans, Zulus and so on, drums were beaten before a battle to work the warriors into a frenzy and to un-nerve the enemy. Even British soldiers two hundred years ago marched into battle to the sound of drums.” (random comment on a random blog)


At the moment there are any number of links to and from items of outrage about this or that LNP. member or supporter or policy…these links, like a shooting star; flare up, extract a moments oh’s and ah’s! and then fade away…perhaps we could donate a day or two on all the major blog-sites to the one or two most outrageous acts of bastardry by the LNP. and hammer it home , from post to post, link to link…blog-site to blog-site extrapolate the issue until it saturates twitter and hopefully overwhelms any MSM. dumbing down or obfuscating of the issue.


For instance…today’s information on the submarine contract..or lack there of..This is one of the most important policies for Sth Aust’ LNP. election strategy…yet there is not much MSM. info on the French side of the deal…Then there is the PNG. Manus Is’ debarcle..this is a major corruption scandal in the making as the LNP. tries to bribe certain parties to do their bidding…as sure as eggs!


This election has all the hallmarks of a turning point for the nation. Lobby groups like the IPA. and Big-Banking etc. stand poised to overwhelm the egg-shell casing of Turnbull’s LNP. if he gets re-elected. The nation that we used to know will be sunk beneath the waves…you know it , I know it, a huge section of social media knows it. We need to coalesce behind our selected members and step in unison and shout in enthusiasm to that beat of OUR drum.