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.


These are things once memory sees,

Cannot be forgot, nor disdained.

These things that we do treasure,

Things lost or all forlorn,

Which I did adore is grown pale and wan,

What was ever so beautiful once,

Is gone…is gone.

Nature may mark the species,

But history marks the men,

Lies shape the person,

Whose fortune is already damned.

The stupid repeat their mistakes-and

A fool is condemned in vain.

These things our memory has seen,

Not to be forgot, nor to be disdained,

Lest that we most treasure, be lost or forlorn,

And which we adore grow pale and wan,

So THAT beauty that ever once was,

Is gone…is gone.

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..





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 it’s goodnight from me to goodnight to thee…  ( 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 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… 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 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” 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 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 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 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..    (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 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 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 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 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 than 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…  (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 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 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 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 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.

Bedtime Stories #3.

Kids Listen: Little Stories for Tiny People: Anytime and bedtime ...


Got the old shack up for sale…years ago, back in around 1980..we (the family / brother, sister and the old folks) chipped in a few hundred quid each and bought this block of land on the peninsula and I built a holiday shack there..sure an it was built on the dirt cheap , out of bits of sticky-tape and bent wire sort of, but it was great for the kids to get away from the city and we’d go fishing, crabbing, that sort of thing…

You’d get there and the first thing is you’d run to claim a bed and throw your clobber in one of the two big rooms with four beds in each, grab a crab-rake or fishing rod from the corner and make for the beach..the shack..and it really was a shack..was just to flop in for the night..cook the tucker in and watch the fire burn and crackle before you hit the sack….it was effing great when the kids were growing up..

You’d go for a walk in the calm, balmy evenings down to show your body to the ocean..all was well there when on holiday..

A Summer Evening Walk.

A melodious whistle serenades the Summer evening air,

A gentler light falls tonight upon the buildings where

I walk a solitary walk down the empty street,

In company to the tune I whistle, my foot falls to the beat.

And I murmur simple flattery to the prism of the sky,

It’s strata’d colours ascending in layered symmetry.

My eye is caught by a flutter of geraniums upon a wall,

A host of colour trembling, a sight to be enthralled!

A woman appears, a laughing toss of golden, long-tressed hair,

Her laughter balanced the moment caught,

. . . I stop whistling to admire.

You know…treasures can be stolen from life’s relentless drudge,

That would sweep our eyes, our ears, our heart ever over its fidgeting edge.

Then…I continue my melodious whistle serenading the evening Summer air,

A gentler light…I feel…falls tonight,

Upon these buildings here.


But now, the old shack is up for sale, I am getting too old to maintain it..and after the recent hernia operation ( I’ll tell you about it someday!)’s all getting a bit too much for me..The kids have grown up into gen Y adults..and are no longer interested in “crab island” or “cockle cove” or “starfish rock”….the shallow flats are “smelly” now..and just who wants to gut and clean their own fish anymore?..indeed…who wants to even go fishing anymore..and the old place has that “old smell” and never was pretty..the old shack..not like the brand-spanking new McMansions popping up all around the little enclave..and NO-WAY will anyone be using the “out-the-back” dunny..even if it is a flush toilet..the spiders?.the dark!? And the rainwater in the old it safe to drink?…doesn’t everyone nowadays have an ensuite?

And those retirees who came here to getaway from the city…and brought the city expectations with them, expect there to be ; services, no fire risk..and that grey-water run-off from the kitchen and the shower that goes under the trees to keep them watered in the long hot that a health risk, is it legal?..and if there is a bush fire, those trees around your shack could “catch on fire and send it onto my house..I’m going to ring the council”…But the birds, the animals, you protest..the delicate native lilies and such?..Poison the lot…not a blade of grass..not a hint of verdant cover shall tarnish the scoria and gravel expanse..

The Ant.

The ant, in silence, goes about

It’s ordered business,

It builds nests,

And it knows.

The worm, in depths of dark, damp Earth,

Tunnels and turns,

In silence,

And it knows.

Humanity, goes about its intent,

With all the noise and rancour

Of accrued wisdom,

But it knows not.

It’s the school holidays..and there are no kids fishing..not even an adult walking the beach..nor at the wharf at Pt. kids, no people even to watch the crayfish boat sidle up to the wharf and unload it’s catch..not a curious soul..what has this a kind of Brave New World of hideaway there no wonder in nature anymore? cry of children in a discovery of delight..Do not the parents delight in showing and explaining even with a touch of bullshit those strange shells and twists of sea-worm tell lurid tales of the goings on there just around the next cliff of “smugglers cove”..of dark nights and pirates and booty and good lord knows what else to see the wide-eyed wonder in their eyes as they fall to sleep snuggled in your lap by the fire in the old shack…

The Little things…

Bodkins and bobbins and little things you need,

Hatpins and napkin rings or whatever you please.

Boxed and tied with ribbons and bows,

Tho’ whatever for these days, God only knows.

For that world has passed such need to sew,

Socks and pinafores, aprons..ricrac in rows.

“Where the remote!?” is now the cry..

“Where the laptop?…Where the phone named “ i ”?

The day is gone where a passage of quiet,

Would presage not unease, but a healthy diet

Of patience…music or meditation on life,

And wine, friend or lover in company with thy,

Neither gone nor forgotten from the sight of eye,

Ever our company..ever our thoughts occupy.


The shack is up for sale now..and I was there to cut the grass and tidy the place up a tad so it’ll look good…But really, it is only being sold for be wants a shack see..everyone now has an ensuite..the kids their ipads or smart-phones..But you know, as we were walking on the cliff-top road down to the jetty there..for just a it the wind-blown smell of the mallee trees in flower, or the cry of a gull surfing the air…for just that one short inhale of breath, I was back in that time with the kids and our arms full of fishing gear and buckets and a crab-net and we were all laughing and heading to the jetty and my little boy was saying that he bet he will catch a big, big squid…for just that one short moment…

Time has stolen the years from me , and I could bloody well weep.

The final fall of Delphi.

“Tell the king…..
The fair wrought hall is fallen,
No more hut, nor prophetic laurel,

Its waters murmur, sigh and sorrow,
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 whispered 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 Sibylline Rock
….in the pouring rain….
Two stand ; the merchant and the poet..

….but only one of us is crying.

But it’s no use crying over spilt they say..and anyway, it’s getting late and this old bloke needs his beauty sleep now more than It’s goodnight from me..








Bedtime Stories #2.

Bedtime Stories for Kids Ages 5 to 12 – HarperCollins UK


Out here in the Murray Mallee, the flats and slopes of the undulating dales are turning green again after so long a drought. The acres of tree and shrub replanting we did are showing signs of kicking back into life…it was a touch and go moment there when it was so dry. When my mother worked at Portee Station along the Murray River back in the war years, she worked with an indigenous girl who told her that their people would mark trails through the low, stunted Mallee by twisting two sapling branches of a mallee tree around each other and fixing them so they grow that way, thereby marking a route that could be easily lost in that vast forest. You would sometimes in years later see these left-over markers from an age so long gone..and the trees would look like they were a couple of lovers embracing in a dance…

Adagio Dancers of the Mallee.

The Mallee trees hold rock solid,

Like a pair of adagio dancers,

Feet fixed on stage, last step’d,

Posed, poised and arms svelte-twist’d to the applause:

Of the rasping cry of cockatoos in delight,

Silhouetted against the striking light..

Silvered limbs naked sheen,

The dancers twirl under evergreen

Rustle of sequin’d leaves.

A glimpse of heaven in between.

The adagio dancer can never seem,

As slender-limbed , as argent-sheened,

As the Mallee trees I have seen.

Then, in the age of mechanisation, vast areas of Mallee were cleared, Farms were forged further and further out to where it was ever only marginal cropping country so that after the first years when the soil lost its fertility, those hardy pioneers were forced to abandon all their hard-won work and move to more productive areas…but the damage remained. You can still see the evidence of trial and tribulation in the wrecked remnants of out-buildings of post and beam sheds, crumbling thatched roofs and hitching posts for the teams of draught horses to be “tacked up” for a day’s work in the fields…every piece of wood is a piece of history and the dust has settled on many a family’s story.

The Rose and the Plough.

In the back-blocks of the mallee

‘Neath Mrs. MacFarlane’s sill,

Grew a rose bush many years ago,

(I ponder it’s there still?).

“’Twas planted for my Louise

When she were newly born.

I mark the contrast of the rose:

The blossom above the thorn!”

MacFarlane ploughed the dry soil of that block

With machines tended of sweat and tears.

While Louise blossomed with the rose

All through her growing years.

But age slowly wearied him,

The years of labour took their toll.

So young Tim Brey that season worked the plough

And a bumper crop did sow.

Creeping fingers of evening shadow

Edged ’round mallee scrub and tree,

As Tim drove through the station gate

And Louise, he did suddenly “see”.

One warm evening ‘neath a mallee tree,

With the harvesting finally done,

The “old man” grumbled toward the house,

While Tim and Louise talked on alone.

A silence fell after all was talked about

With dusk thru’ dust aglow,

Tim clasped the bough above her head

And leant toward his “rose”…

…The wind would move the fields of grain,

A swollen swirling “sea”,

Of “ebb and flow” in the crops

On the Breys’ new property…

Themselves now grown so old,

Their children too have flown.

But still the rose bush given

For their wedding blossoms on.

The mallee is not so prosperous,

The price has gone from wheat.

The farm is dusty, the house too old,

Deep lines fan Louise’s cheek.

Tim Brey harrows still with his plough

The “home paddock” into rows,

While Louise battles with their accounts,

As dust silently falls – on the petals – of the rose.


I sit by the heater on cold nights, reflecting on those “left-over” people who stayed long after the feasibility of their farm was able to continue…slowly selling off blocks of paddocks to other local farmers who themselves needed to increase the size of their holdings to keep their hopes alive. Many of these people took up new “careers”…I met a lady when I worked at Second Valley whose uncle was just one such person…he was a Soldier Settler after the second world war who had a dusty little spread out near Lameroo..but it failed and he took to selling life insurance. He lived his life out by himself as a bachelor and upon his passing left very little to be remembered by…the only physical evidence this lady had of him was the ‘breeks” she was wearing while she did her gardening at the Second Valley Mill…they were army issue and that is what drew my attention..when I asked her about them, she said..

Bachelor Bill.

“He was a bachelor, you see.

He was a soldier-settler

Out in the Mallee scrub…

And he died…

Father went through his things

But he couldn’t throw these out…”

She “thumbed” out the pockets of her breeks.

“They have his army number on them, see !

He was a lovely old man , my Uncle Bill.”

But we have seen a few “Uncle Bills”,

Spurned or turned from a woman’s embrace.

Uncertain and clumsy in affection

Toward sisters’ or brothers’ children…

“The breeks were army issue,

Part of the “deal” for soldier-settlers…

God only knows how he struggled out there.”

(A soldier-settler alone in the Mallee).

“God only knows.”


When I was a child of around nine years old back in the 1950’s, I was sent to relatives in the Mallee while my mother was busy with her new child. I travelled there via the old Zimmerman’s Bus Service, going up The Gorge Road to Birdwood and then to Keyneton and over Sedan Hill. I remember when we just topped the crest and I could see out over that vast stretch of Mallee bio-forest that was still in place those days…and it was a magnificent sight…dark and mysterious..and even today, whenever I arise on a beautiful morning, I still delight in the things that greet me.

Y’ know..

I go outside in the mornin’,

Pause..take in th’ weather..; yawnin’,

Mark how the dawnin’ sun

Gives the silver’d branches a dun

Coloured sheen…nice ‘n clean.

Matching the wing of a galah

Tight-cling’d there…..on a spar.

An’ I’m thinking..

In this quiet, morning haste,

That one oughta’ feel some poetry,

Whilst in such a place..

But then…’d just be a waste…

Sure an the Mallee can be a lonely place to live, but it also can be ideal for those who like to have many animals as company…even wild animals can become accustomed to a single human and will often seek water or food from one’s garden in times of drought. We had a kangaroo come often to our back door looking into our house in curiosity…we never fed or encouraged it, it just became familiar with our presence..I even once reached a friendly hand out to it and it did likewise to me, our finger to claw touching for a moment like that scene in the film “ET” …not that I have ever watched the film..a bit silly as far as I’m concerned..I prefer the reality of what I see and sense around me. Yes..the Mallee is a deep and spiritual place for me..I have family connections through marriage that reach far back into the early days of settlement and their struggle is written in the build and lay of the land around me.


Little Window on the Western Wall.

My little window on the western wall,

Opens out on the whole wide world.

It opens out on the Mallee plains,

It opens out to the summer rains.

It opens out on a sonorous dawn,

With it’s promising colours in pastel tones.

And embraces within all sorrows and joys,

In silent parade past my western wall.

Flowers of Spring as the seasons go,

Winter wild, Summer mellow.

Fields below the farmer sows,

Crops in serried paddock rows.

A child cries out! A strange bird sings,

Through the sphere of silence rings.

A whiff of desire of a memoried dream?

Against the clatter of urbanity.

Upon a highway that cuts the view,

Cars sweep past in the morning new.

That with the deepening, darkening dusk,

Wearily steal back home to rest.


My little window on the western wall

Opens out on the whole wide world,

And within its embracing vision deep,

I watch the world wake..I see it sleep.


And now, my little peeps, it’s time we too went to sleep…

Sheryl Crow..: “Beautiful Dreamer”












Bedtime Stories.

Books and Art — Bedtime Stories. Little Golden Book Number 2, the...

I stare into time’s eyes…She stares back at me. Actually, it isn’t time as in measurement, it’s my cat..she has that stare of cats seem to she has been born into forever. I stare into her eyes sometimes as she sits on my lap..we exchange knowledge..I have to admit to her that I do not like raw, gutted mouse and she draws the line at chilli con carne…..lose the chilli, she says and she’ll give it a go…but she is partial to a nibble of smoked salmon…then she curls up on my lap and we both go to sleep.

I like bedtime stories….I like the night.

I am the night.

Beware the people of the day,

Their plans, their tools, the schemes they lay.

Beware the people of the light,

They have no feelings for the night.

I am a person of the night,

I bask and wallow in its quiet delight.

I stand drenched in the light of a million stars,

I wash my soul in Celest’s sweet baths.

Night..soft as scented smoke,

Velvet smoothed draping cloak.

Comes, caresses me gentle all around,

Sweet as complexion rain on a Derry Down.

I stand under the sight of a million stars,

Starlight pouring down on me,

Each a whisper in this night,

Each star a story delight.

I am a person of the night,

I bask and wallow in its quiet delight.

I stand drenched in the light of a million stars,

My soul washed clean in Celest’s sweet baths.

My mother used to read me “Lassie Come Home” when I was very young. My mother wanted to be a writer..she did write some short stories and sold a couple too. But in growing up in extreme poverty like so many of that generation from the great depression and the wars, she held her own self and her privacy closely guarded, so she couldn’t be her stories didn’t go deeper than a recalling of anecdote or observation..for to tell stories of a person’s situation, you have to reveal some of yourself…you have to cut out a piece of yourself every time you draw that picture.

But I do have a scratch of a poem of hers she wrote when a teenager in love…it is only a section, but it says a lot..I think..

“Now at last I am free!

Off through the scrub I run

Where sheep tracks only are seen

Nothing but bush and sun

Till all of a sudden I come

Out where an axe swings free.

Cutting, for love and money

The axe bites deep in a tree…”

My mother married that axeman…an Italian interned as an “enemy alien” during the war.. They made a sort of life in the fringe suburbs of the capital city..on the southern hills near the sea…far from the bush and Mallee, far from the Dolomites…two strangers in strange country..but the irony must be admitted in the revelation in the correspondence and account books of my parents after their passing, that while my father sent a not small amount of money back to his parents in Italy, my mother, likewise, invested regular amounts in the Brighton Parish of the Catholic Church…and we kids went around dressed in hand-me-downs…But the Rosary figured central to our meals every night after eating.

The Tide.

Like a sailor old, who watches the tide,

Life’s many moods I do abide…and still I watch,

For there comes a wash of the river flow,

That carries the ebb, what comes and goes.

That “tide in men’s lives” that carries their thoughts,

Like flotsam swept before a wave wild wrought

By wind and storm or by deceiving calm they be brought,

To wreck upon Charybdis rocks or wash up on rugged tor.

Fortune for that sailor who with astute eye,

Will risk the temper of mood and tide,

And call the exact moment makes best to ride.

He casts the ropes that hold him belay,

All wind and storm be no delay.

Yet I and thee, chained to life’s fickle destiny,

Can but watch as the vessel sails away from we,

While idly biding…

Like empty shells scattered on a wide, broad shore,

Awaiting tide and waves also, to move us ever-more…

Anyway, we grew up in spite of our parents…even though they tried to stall that inevitability by sending us to Saint Theresa’s Primary School, to be harangued and psychologically tortured by some sexually frustrated nuns…the “Sisters of Mercy”…I think they lost their “by name” calling somewhere along the line…for merciful they were not!…I still remember one of them..Sister Mary Lawrence..who stalked the playgrounds looking for victims (most prevalently amongst the boys) with a chastising length of jarrah in her hands…growing up as a carpenter, I can perfectly record the measurement of that flitch as around 18 inches long, by 2 inches wide and ¾ of an inch thick…it was marked by having a bevel down each side along the full length…presumably done on Sister’s instruction so as to get a better grip when inflicting pain onto a child’s hide!..I can recall one particular moment when Brian Hurley and myself were playing marbles in a “verboten” area of the schoolyard and Sister Lawrence bearing down upon us at great haste with that piece of jarrah held high like a missionary’s crucifix and her nuns habit flowing about her in a voluminous black terror…and to this day, whenever I hear a rendition of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”, I am instantly thrown back to that moment of descending doom!  It’s a pity those nuns couldn’t find sexual satisfaction with the priests in the presbytery next door…as I’m certain THEY TOO could have done with some release of tension!

When a catholic priest goes to a convent to hear the confessions of the nuns there, it is said he goes to ;”Dust the Lilies”….the lilies, of course, being the ;”Lilies of the fields”…: The nuns.

“Dusting the Lilies”.

Wither goest thou, Father John,

On such a splendid day?

Do you follow whimsy’s course,

A carefree wanderer…say?

A laugh, a smile, pause a while..

Then, cautious answer, yea..

“I go toward yonder gate,

Under stately blue-gum tree.

There, (with blessings of God)..

I go to ‘dust the lilies’.

To dust the lilies gently,

Lest such petals fade and die.

I’ll embrace their hips,

Kiss their lips,

And whisper a little white lie!”

I blame our grandmother for the almost fanatical adherence to Catholic doctrine…SHE was a fervent believer that converted from Protestantism when she arrived in Australia…why..heaven knows..but I have my own suspicions and in any case, it caused the catastrophe of her meeting and marrying one Richard Hocking…Theirs was to be a tormented, impoverished existence that burned a sense of shame and frugality into the very souls of their children…I believe parents ought to consider very carefully their own state of existence before inflicting any such example upon their offspring.

I awoke in a startled fright

From a dream I dreamt last night.

From a memory so long ago,

I’ll recall the moment as it did go..:

A child, from the pusher,I broke free,

As my mother walked me by the sea.

I broke free to chase a rabbit fast,

Fled a shrub by the sea-cliff path.

I ran as does a child; sudden, swift,

As the rabbit fled over the cliff.

I too stumbled toward the edge,

But my mothers call of fright,

Drew me to a stop just right.

I could see the waves crash below,

She gathered me frightened in her arms…

But now, in this dream I did fall,

Tumbling over with rabbit and all.

As we fell in that slow dreamy way,

Each to each, eye to eye..knowing .

The creature looked to me to calmly say;

“Do not worry, you will not drown”.

But I kept falling, falling, falling down…

Just then I woke in chilling fright

And in that gasping, grasping struggle for sight

I stared and stared into the depths of night.

The stroking of a cat’s fur is so much more relaxing that that of a dog’s…the cat is a more tranquil hunts, yes..just like a dog..but it hunts by silent stealth, whereas a dog will in most cases run down its prey and tear into it with force and brutality..and they hunt also in packs..I remember when I was in Rome for the first time around 1980 and the dog-packs were getting so dangerous that the authorities had to organize squads of police to mass shoot so many dogs to cull their numbers.

I like dogs too, mind..I like all animals…but I’ll be buggered if I will ever stoop to eating crickets and bugs for protein!…nah…fuck that!

Anyway, peeps..that’s all for tonight…I’ll read you some more tomorrow…goodnight.

The Beatles : “Goodnight”..