“ If you could imagine us all walking side by side toward a sunset, with our lives trailing away behind; a shadow drawn in perspective from the point of our birth. We are all facing the front so none of us really knows the substance of our neighbor’s ‘shadow’, and we can only make calculated … Continue reading
I am going to tell you a story that happened back in the late fifties (last century!) as told to me by an aged Nun, who had some connection to the incident. While the story I tell, dramatized as it is, is a true story, the ending as I portray it, is , unfortunately a … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
Cruel Madonna. It was a month now since he had first gone to her, and his perceptions of her had shifted from that initial phase of blind adoration to a more abstract collation of her little mannerisms. Malcolm was twenty-seven years old, an illustrator-painter who, like most artistic types that arise from the ranks of … Continue reading
My mother worked as a servant girl at the station on the Murray where this event took place..She heard it told by the station owner to a guest one night after dinner. Those stations in those days were almost like miniature kingdoms on their own. It is one of those little things that one sometimes … Continue reading
Many years ago, I was invited by a close friend to come to Perth to do some major renovations to his house..a kind of “carpenter’s holiday”. There, I met the lady about which this story was written. I got to learn about a kind of “way of life” for seemingly many single parents there..ie ; … Continue reading
Years ago I was “doing a reno’” for this Greek bloke who was managing the job for his daughter…who was the owner of the house. She was as the lovely “Anna” described in the story below. She would come around to the job every few days and talk to the old man about design and … Continue reading
“Buongiorno signore e signora turisti”.. Bertouli called out effusively with appropriate operatic gestures with the arms. ” Welcome to my humble stall….Scusi signora, but your shadow falls on my bowls and utensils and dulls their shine….grazi!” he danced around his wares manipulating the tourists with gentle hand movements, all the while keeping up a running … Continue reading
Introduction to a “reading opera”.. I have written this “opera” as a reading experience..in truth, perhaps more the story of an opera in three acts…I would have liked to do a “real” opera, with music and libretto etc, but was not able to find someone with both music composing capability or instrument playing skills … Continue reading
A Ukulele Opera. Act #2..: Artini the woodcutter and Tess, the Aboriginal girl. The tragedy that happened with Artini was in disobeying the request of the young Tess, distressed at the wanton cutting down of so many trees, to leave his mighty axe on the other side and cross the river by himself..but he … Continue reading
Enrico and Rosaline. [A surreal opening scene: The stage is depicted as the river’s edge…with the cliffs over the otherside moonlit…Rosaline stands on the near bank while Tess is seen over the other side of the river…the river is narrow here so they both can see each other..there is a whisper of the wind in … Continue reading
A Play.. This play is centered around a well-worked story ; that of “The Kelly Gang”..But the difference is displayed in the title..I hope to have delved a little at least into what I call ; “An Arrogance of Power”…It is political and social power sometimes held by a charismatic individual , or an Authority … Continue reading
The possibility to dream.. Act #1 Scene :1 Opening set….stage is in darkness, the faint clicking of Aboriginal music sticks can be heard, this slowly increases in intensity till it reaches maximum pitch meanwhile a small spotlight appears against rear wall of set….this elongates vertically as the stick/sticks reach maximum intensity, then as suddenly as … Continue reading
Finally!…lunch time..I squeezed our basket shopping trolley between the seats to a table in the crowded Zuma’s Café there at the Central market. We come to this café for lunch every time we come to the market, which is about once a month..it is always crowded at lunchtime..a popular spot…lots of noise..lots of noise… Michael, … Continue reading
Jean Clements always came home from work to an empty kitchen. She came from her work as principle of the Hudson Street Primary school always in an agitated manner, primarily because of certain incidents that bedevilled her at the school, mostly concerning the behaviour of students and parents reacting to certain students there, or because … Continue reading
What can it be that “anchors” a refugee to their personal situation and can give them the strength to persevere but a cultural / familial reflection back to happier times in their own country with their own family. As to how far back that memory must go would surely have to depend on what their … Continue reading
It stood on my grandmother’s dresser in the lounge. A strange, glass bowl about eight inches across, of several soft colours, neither striped nor layered, but like clouds in the sky, their burred edges blended and vague..touching and yet not..where two colours would have a common border , then interrupted by another intruding between the … Continue reading
“Tickets please….Tickets please”… The porter made his way from seat to seat checking and clicking the tickets of the passengers of the 12.30 pm. train to the southern suburbs..It passed through the flats onto the hills stations to finish at Marino Rocks. Annette clicked open her purse to extract the return ticket to Brighton from … Continue reading
If you were ever to ask old Jack Henke about it, he’d go all modest and dismiss any such notoriety about his discovery, and say ; “I wouldn’t say I ACTUALLY discovered it, because it was already there!…Had been all along…Like Penicillin..or Australia…they were always there, but someone just recognised the fact..I just happened to … Continue reading
Anyone familiar with that 1998 film.: “The Truman Show” will not be too amazed at what I am about to reveal. I will warm those unfamiliar with the aforementioned film up a tad and bring them up to speed on my revelation. “ He doesn’t know it, but everything in Truman Burbank’s (Jim Carrey) life … Continue reading
A Gap in the Line.
He touched the medals tenderly, the ribbon colours sublime,
The case of burnished velvet, the soft attractive shine,
He touched the medals tenderly, an Uncle’s Great War “shrine”.
Posthumously given for courage, in “closing a gap in the line”.
In closing a gap in the line he died, in mud, gore and slime.
It was for these tokens of honour, he marched, to fill a gap in the line.
With Union men, many of them with those medals he’d proudly stride.
Union men, many of them and a title his Uncle wore with pride.
Himself, a Wharfie, born and bred, right down the family line,
His Uncle too, t’was always said, could lump a hundred-weight a time,
Bagged sugar, sticky with sweat, soaking wet, at eighty tons an hour,
The men would lug from those cargo holds with no break for tucker.
In the Summer strike of ’98 they marched for conditions fair,
When “Patrick” crawled to Howard’s Government to send the coppers there.
Along with the Farmer mercenaries trained by the covert ; “Sandline,”
They sought to break the strikers…to break through a gap in the line.
In the middle of the night they sent in the thugs, the scabs and the dogs,
It was hard to tell which was which among the slavering, crawling hogs.
And deals were made and rights were trade between the ruling class,
That left the strikers on their own to hold the line tight to the last.
Howard set the dogs on the men and the women and children in kind,
Reith, the crawling bastard, banked the scabs through a mercenary company; “Sandline”,
And the Journalist sucks and the Murdoch hacks lent their honour to that shameful crew,
And wrote of “overpaid wharfie bludgers” when of sweat and blood they NEVER knew.
And he saw the look in the breaker’s eyes, he saw the hate confined,
So clasping tight, holding the next striker’s arms with all his might,
He called and bellowed fit to wake in fright..:”Hold boys, Hold!”
“ Hold my bastard boys!…we’ll not let them force a gap in the line!”
There comes a time in everyone’s heart, where honour and justice combine,
We must choose which side we’re marching on..what a sense of honour defines.
Would his Uncle have him march for nought, but just a place in a line,
Or should he honour best his Uncle’s pride with his class aligned.
Today he touches those medals tenderly, with a habit long refined,
But he’ll not march on Anzac Day…not while those Tory scabs declaim,
No..there’ll be a space where he held his place with the others marching time,
And owed in respect for his Uncle’s indebt’..they’ll now see clearly outlined,
That in the place of his marching space…there’ll be a gap in the line.
There’ll be a gap in the line my fellows…there’ll be a gap in the line.
Owed in respect to an Uncle’s indebt’…Today there’s a gap in the line.
A short biography of a working-class warrior. Let me present to you an image of an aged man, rather heavy-set, sitting deep in a relaxed posture in a large, plump, rounded sofa purchased “unused” from an eBay seller five years ago that was gifted to this same man sitting in it from his children on … Continue reading
Got talking to Pete last Friday down the local..the subject got onto the passing of one’s parents..I ‘spose because we are both old now ourselves and it comes as no longer an immediate sorrow, but rather one lived through so many years ago..And we got onto the reactions one experiences at the funeral, what with … Continue reading
The twist of the knife.
“ ‘Twas the cruel hand of fate”, some will attest,
“Plain bad luck..had to give it best”.
No plot nor plan nor Nemesis,
That loss of life, fortune..no redress.
There was that time for just the smile,
Luck, sweet mistress, walk a mile,
Friends, well wishes, oh wilful guile,
Was jealous intent? or blunt revile!
Chance will intervene yet awhile,
To arm the hand, repay the slight,
Fate; cruel mistress will plunge the knife,
Yes..Fate’s deft hand..would repay it best,
But truly I say ; ” ‘tis the twisting of the blade,
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 eternity..like cats seem to have..like 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 … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
“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 … Continue reading
The search for soul… Down the Adelaide Central Market, between Marino’s butchers and the Samtass fish market, there is a walk-through breezeway to Gouger Street. Years ago there was an arcade type stall there selling second-hand books..it was run by a bloke in his fifties, if I recall…I used to browse there when I was … Continue reading
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, … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
Those Roman Women! (From “History of Rome” ; Theodore Mommsen) An equally characteristic feature of this period was the emancipation of women. In an economic point of view the women had long since made themselves independent; in the present epoch we even meet with solicitors acting specially for women, who officiously lend their aid to … Continue reading
Come Saturday Morning..; The Contract. Saturday mornings were a special moment for us youth in our little group. This was in the days of our mid-teens, too young to go to the pubs but old enough to have a motorcycle licence. All of us, to a lad, were apprentices…most of us were in the building … Continue reading
I read of this incident, one of many, in a biography of Albert Namatjira called “Namatjira ;Wanderer Between Two Worlds”, by Joyce Batty. If ever you want to read a matter of fact account of simply appalling , disgusting, vile racism that can ever be afflicted upon and to deliberately destroy a fine … Continue reading
I worked for some years with several Greek families, so I got to know them quite well..One doesn’t get regular work with some people unless they trust you..it’s funny that way. I got to know the teller of this story quite well over a few years. It happened so many years ago now . He … Continue reading
I wrote this piece from memory after a wonderful stay in Italy back in the late 70’s…
Roman Holiday. The sun may have set on the British Empire, but Imperial Rome is very much alive and kicking!…even if only within the precincts of the “Commune di Roma..S.P.Q.R.” and while it is true, Christians were never really torn apart by lions in the Coliseum, and the only cries you will hear in anger … Continue reading
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.
A Little Bit of Greek Wisdom!
We rise, good company these Greeks!
And the laughter~…what, ho!
And the coffee…; syrup of Arabia.
A novelty to me, custom to these.
We rise, and matter of course, (or custom?)
Did I take my cup to the servery,
While, without thought they left theirs table’d.
“Ah, so!” She cried in mock accusation…
Her supple white arm lifted thus,pointing,
Her other hip’d, tea-towel clutched.
“You can see which are the Greeks!
Their dishes left for me to clear!”
They halted, inquiring, eyebrows raised.
For a moment, siding with the woman,
Seeking to appease, seeking feminine approval,
I thought to challenge them; “Clear the table fellows!”
But experience held my tongue, instead I spoke thus:
“Raise me not above my equals, my Lady,
With such visible flattery, lest…outside, beyond thine eyes,
In vexation they should smote me to the ground”.
She turned to me her eyes,
Greek eyes, Deep eyes, dark Greek eyes.
That hold the secret of the Trojan wars.
And whispered thus:
“I would come to help thee”.
Oh! the eyes, the voice, the breathless whisper;
The three together promised delight,
Men have risked all for such promises,
Where now; Troy? where Marc Antony? and Eden’s garden?
An (Australian) Children’s Tale. Melancholy Max’s Christmas. Of all the characters throughout the Mallee, between the Murray River and Pinnaroo, the most well known and disrespected was “Melancholy Max”! Everyone called him by that name because he never had a good word for anything! I mean it!, You’d say to him: “You bewdy ,Maxy, … Continue reading
A silent, still night on Darwin Jetty…fishing..it wasn’t my idea of an eventful evening, but Bernie wanted to fish…and after “fishing” him out of the local lock-up the last night, I presume the last thing he wanted was another “eventful evening”. I won’t go into the details of Bernie’s jailing, many and varied are the … Continue reading
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 … he told me the basic rudiments of the story .. as one does when relating a matter of interest, rather than a … Continue reading
When a catholic priest goes to a convent to hear the confessions of the nuns there, it is said he goes to ;”Dust the Lillies”….the lillies, of course, being the ;”Lillies of the fields”…: The nuns.
“Dusting the lillies”.
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 lillies’.
To dust the lillies gently,
Lest such petals fade and die.
I’ll embrace their hips,
Kiss their lips,
And whisper a little white lie!”
Who will give them kisses, sweet kisses,
Essences distilled from secret sentences.
With touching fingers palpitating the heart.
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!”
The tide had ebbed. He was strolling down the still waxy sands, she, with her two frolicking children, aged three and five approached from the opposite direction. Suspended from a coarse, frayed piece of rope gripped in his hand, was a glass net-float. It swung, pendulum like as he walked. As they drew near to … Continue reading
I was told this little episode of life in the hushed tones of scandal by a nun I once knew many years ago…I thought it was one of the most tragic things in the everyday work-world that I had ever heard… It went like this..: The Last Lingering Kiss. “ I can’t stop now!” … Continue reading
Opening set….stage is in darkness, the faint clicking of Aboriginal music sticks can be heard, this slowly increases in intensity till it reaches maximum pitch meanwhile a small spotlight appears against rear wall of set….this elongates vertically as the stick/sticks reach maximum intensity, then as suddenly as the sticks stop, the light BLASTS out over the whole backdrop of the set. to reveal a huge painting of an Australian desert scene painted in the style of Albert Namatjira. At the same instant as the light blasts out, we go into the introductory piece of ‘Pink Floyd’s” album: ..”Dark side of the Moon”…WHAM!!
(music fades after approx’ one minute)
A stout, tall Aboriginal, dressed in slacks, rumpled, white shirt and sandals, sits centre stage on a rock. He holds a painting in his left hand and a paint brush in his right. He is looking at the painting as the music fades, then turns to acknowledge audience. He places painting and brush carefully to one side, stands and with hands in pockets, addresses audience. (turns to stroll to left centre as he does so).
Albert: “My name is Albert Namatjira. I am known as a painter of some (pause to gaze sideways toward audience cunningly and with broad smile ) repute…Though now, in my twilight years and with fading health, I have come to question why I ever persisted with such a futile pursuit, for although a successful artist and quite able to support myself with my art, as you can see, I am still dressed in rags and living (sweeps arm to indicate off stage) in a hovel…(drops arm and shoulders wearily) that I am too ashamed to invite you into though (points finger heavenwards).. I was once visited by a Duke and Duchess! (drops arm in a flop).,..But now….I don’t suppose my death will cause them to attend a wake in my honour.. (guffaws quietly, then raises voice as to make a point) ..as an old Afghan camel driver said to me .. ” If, verily, a poor beggar dies, there is none to weep… but yea! (raises finger again) shield your eyes from the heavenly pyres when a prince breathes his last!” (throws head back and laughs….then slowly grows sad) You may look upon me now as a bitter wanderer between two worlds, isolated and used by both…yet, once I was a bridge between two peoples (spreads arms out with palms upward and gazes at them) a bridge few would dare cross Racism, I have learned ,is also a class issue.”. (stage darkens…exit)
An old man and a young man sitting under a gum tree. only the trunk is seen. there is an enlarged photograph on the back wall of the stage showing the mission buildings and several white people standing around two motorcars. Albert Namatjira (the younger man) appears to be gazing toward these people.
Albert: “Tjamu?” (he addresses the old man) Who are these White people, they come and go as they please in their motor-cars like they own the whole world (he pauses) Who owns the land, our tribe or theirs?”
Old man (Elder): “Listen, wurre Namatjira,…We own the land…they own the property”.
Al: “What’s the difference?”
Eld: “We live with the land….They prosper off the property.”
Al: “Like the mistletoe in the gum trees?”
Eld: (turns to gaze at Alb’ …nods head slowly).
Al: “Well, they seem to have lots of money”.
Eld: “That’s their totem if you wish to be a part of white man’s world, you must have money.”
Alb: (turns to gaze at photo on set..nods head slowly, he is thinking finally, he speaks softly aside..)”l crave their ease of purchase. (turns to elder) Tell me Tjamu, why are we slaves to so many desires?”
Eld: “We are slaves to but one desire, wurre”.
Al: ”And what is that, Tjamu?”
Eld: ”To have all that which we desire!” (smiles broadly)
Al: “Tjamu!…look around you, (sweeps arm over detritus of camp) white-man does not have what we have, yet I do not believe he desires it!..”(laughs)
Eld: (wags finger)” No, wurre Namatjira, not this rubbish, for white-man scorns this with his eyes, it is cast from his grasp, so he does not value it. What he values most is that which he does not see, that which is beyond his grasp, yet he knows is there! Watch a snake seek the heat it cannot see, so will white-man seek to possess the soul! looking this way then that and if he ever grasps it, he will first drain it, then crush it to powder lest a little of its gold be denied him! He is addicted to meddling with mysteries! (leans forward and points finger) Beware YOU wurre, the silvered word and the grasping hand , for there is a weakness within you for that which is denied you by birth!”
Al: (rises and stares at the elder ) “What has been denied me by birth I shall secure to my breast by cunning!”. (he departs)
Enter a Pastor, who, on seeing the old man stops, sighs and approaches. He stands and talks down to the elder.
Pastor: “I trust God preserves your health Thomas?” (the elders’ “given” name).
Eld: “My eyes opened with the sun, and they will close with the night, wither they open tomorrow ?” (shrugs shoulders).
Pas: “Ahh!…will we never bring you to have faith in our God, Thomas?”
Bid: “I have faith, Pastor. ” (grins broadly)
Pas: (Smiles also and shrugs shoulders) “Faith in what, Thomas?…that the mission will supply you with food and water in the hope of converting as many of your people as possible?”
Eld: “You will do what your God demands….and we Aboriginals….we are so wanting.” (smiles again).
Pas: (sighs)”Ah yes, we will do God’s wish….but you must show gratefulness.”
Eld: ” In our language there is no such demand!…our daily bread is divided amongst us, and by eating your surplus, I am only eating what is rightly mine.”
Pas: “But you are wrong…you see, the food belongs to us and we give it out of charity.”
Eld: “How can one “own” what your “good book” says is gifted from God?” (smiles)
Pas: (straightens his back, remains silent, staring at the old man…nods head and moves away..stops, turns head to talk over shoulder to old man) “There will he flour at the store today, Thomas, send Albert to collect it.”
Eld: “why Albert and not another? “
Pas: “I like Albert, he is a clever boy.”
Eld: “The goanna is clever…until it is caught. “(rests against tree, closes eyes)
Pas: (turns to go, halts, gazes to elder, then hesitantly talks…) “Thomas, you must let us educate those children without interference, they are very receptive to learning at their age and Albert…”
Eld: (turns head wearily, opens one eye to stare at pastor)”What are you talking about…interference? YOU are interfering with us!”
Pas: “When you take the older boys away for initiation. . . “
Eld: “Would you deny them their manhood in exchange for foolish gibberish?”
Pas: “Gibberish!…I’d hardly call a sound educa…. “
Eld: (turns head back and closes eye)”Gibberish…my fathers’, fathers’, fathers’, father, etcetra, etcetra taught his children the same as we teach them now ; how to survive, how to live….you wish to teach them how to make money…out in this country you cannot eat money….ours is a better teaching, yes..ours will endure.”
Pas: (heatedly)”With education you have freedom.”
Eld: (calmly replies)”You wish them to have freedom? then leave .. leave us and go back to your “freedom.” Why have you left it? we are born under this sky, we live under this sky, we will die under this sky .. spread your arms pastor and embrace it!….no, you cannot!…now tell me how much more freedom you desire? you lecture me of freedom but the first thing you build are walls, you talk of “education” yet the first thing you teach is to be “dumb” to all except that which you permit taught!…gibberish, pastor, gibberish!” (a gesture with hand).
Pas: “Gibberish?,…(heatedly) No!..no, we have come here to teach you….to bring you the word of God….our God…The God of wisdom and love who sent his only begotten son…”
Eld: (stands and points to pastor) “Then you have come here for nothing….nothing….a fool’s errand, naive fools ( throws head back and roars with laughter)..The simplest amongst us can show you that the flowers of the desert need no instruction to bloom…the rivers need none to point the way to the lakes..does one tell the tree where to place its roots..? tell its seed how to sprout? No, you have come all this way for nothing save to teach us your own mistakes!….You cannot teach wisdom, it needs no messengers, you have come not to save, but to destroy.”
Pastor frowns, turns, raises arm as if to answer, then moves silently away.
Eld: (calls at the departing pastor)”Nothing…Nothing!.”(repeats in Arrernte) exit. scene.
Albert Namatjira, older now (approx’ 30 yrs old) and pastor stand to the left of the stage . On a wall at the right are some paintings hanging. A white-man (Rex Battarbee) hangs and adjusts another, then nods to the pastor and leaves. Albert and the pastor stand, gazing at them. Albert approaches a painting and touches it.”
Albert: “How much do they get for these paintings, Pastor?”
Pas: “Oh, about fifteen or twenty guineas, Albert. “
Alb: (reaches out and gently touches painting with fingertips)” I could do some like that, Pastor.”
Pas: (turns to stare at Albert.) “Come now Albert!..these are trained artists..while you may be clever with your mulga-wood carvings, it takes a lot more skill to turn out one of these.”
Alb: “I could do that , can you get me some paints, Pastor? I could do better than that .”
Pas: (looks askance at Albert) “I’ll speak to Mr Battarbee about it.”
A suburban lounge-room with a large, long sofa centre stage on which are placed to view three paintings. They are being assessed by Rex Battarbee and his friend John Gardner. They are standing back a couple of steps and each would, at different times step forward to point and trace a particular line or technique of the artist’s style.
Rex; “Amazing, don’t you think, John….and to think that he has only had a couple of months tuition.”
John: (plunges hands in pockets) “Well Rex, he certainly has the “eye”, has he also the soul to improve and continue ?”
Rex: “I’ll say he has!…You should have seen the way he melded into his work…like…like he was pulling the colours out of the very hills and sky…and then while I would fuss or deliberate on a mix of colour, he would up and say..”There, Mr Battarbee..that’s the one you want” and he’d stab his black finger under my nose and point out my mistake…not to be clever mind, but because, and this I feel is the crux of his desire to paint, because he wanted me to do the best possible portrayal of his tribal land….it’s hard to put in words, John, but I’d say he was …”proud” of the majesty of ”his” country….it was always ”his” country like a gardener here in Melbourne will show off “their” flower beds…”
John: “You sound like you have an affinity to this black man, Rex.”
Rex: “He is an honest man john, an honest man and an artist also.. (picks up a painting) and a recognised artist when I have my exhibition.”
John: “You intend to show them then? “
Rex: “With my next exhibition….display only, to see what interest they bring.”
John: “Be careful Rex, We may be toying with something here that is beyond our ken.”
Rex: “How so, John “
John: ”Well, While we may gain artistically by incorporating primitive techniques into our art, remember, he may one day be expected to meet our standards and perceptions.. what I’m saying is that we may place expectations upon him that he cannot fulfill.”
Rex: “What’s good for the goose. . . if we can pinch primitive techniques, why cannot he paint in the western tradition?”
John: “Why not indeed?…but I least of all would object to that proposal….yet there are those that would prefer to see the black-man stay primitive, like a walking museum.”
Rex: “No, John,..Albert has a dignity far removed from mere servility.”
John: “I’m not talking about his dignity, I’m talking about the jealousies of the artistic clique…of the society set, they may deride him as just a “clever native”.”
Rex: “He is not just “clever”, why look! He is an artist!”
John: “All fools have an itching to deride, And fain would be on the laughing side .”
Rex: “Well, the laughter will be on our side of the face when he gives his first exhibition.”
John: ”When will that be?”
Rex: “I’m planning a full exhibition in Melbourne later in the year….and if we can get the minister to permit, maybe even Albert will attend.”
John: shrugs shoulders and leans over closer to examine one of the paintings.)”Well, perhaps the time has come….”
Front verandah of mission, Pastor Albrecht is reading aloud from a letter to Albert .
Pastor Albrecht: ( reads aloud from a letter to Albert)” . . . and with the triumph of this exhibition to assure continued sales, it is imperative that Albert gets a move on with some paintings for another exhibition in Adelaide later in the year , or perhaps in the next. Congratulations and well-done Albert” kindest regards. .Rex ‘Battarbee (folds letter up and replaces it in envelope, talking as he does so) , well done indeed, Albert. (Albert nods head and lifts hands in a gesture of acknowledgement)…This could well be the start of a very fruitful career, Albert.. However, as Mr. Battarbee states, you must build on your recent success, and not let the grass grow under your feet as a famous playwright of ours once said, and l quote…” There is a tide in a man’s life, which, if taken at the flood, will lead him on to greater glory,…missed, and he shall wallow in the shallows for all eternity.”..and think that says it all. . . “(he is cut short by Albert).
Alb: “Thank you, Pastor, thank you…I can’t begin to express my gratitude to Mr. Battarbee for his tuition and this exhibition and, of course, your time and encouragement I am also grateful for…(stage darkens till only Albert remains in spotlight…he steps toward audience with arms outstretched) My ancestors, my country….you see?. (appeals to audience)…you see? the white-men they like my paintings… they like our country….they will pay me to paint this which I live and breathe (clasps hands together). my country….the soul of our people.. now we may begin to climb out of the rut of charity and make our way in their world. Now I may begin to support my family and live with the respect our people deserve, instead of receivers of charity.(appeals with solemn dignity toward audience) Spirits of my land, guide me to increase my skills to interpret our country with honesty and respect, let me build on this first success so I can earn enough to build a house for Rubina and our family..Ah!..Rubina…I must tell Rubina this happy news!..(calls to the left of the stage) Rubina, Rubina..(left of the stage slowly glows with light to reveal a group of indigenous people sitting in a circle talking softly and laughing softly amongst themselves…Albert calls to them but they do not seem to be aware he is there….however , he continues to talk to them as if they are listening….but they aren’t) Ah!..there you are, have you heard the news?…Rubina! Rubina!..(he goes over and takes Rubina’s hand and drags her away from the group…she comes, but keeps looking over her shoulder back to the others)
Rubina: “Albert, stop..why do you take me away from my friends?…We were having a lovely time telling stories and singing.”
Alb: “But Rubina, I have great news…l have sold a lot of paintings, I have some money now and Pastor says that I will make a lot more.”
Rubi: “Albert, listen, what do you need money for? We have all we need without worrying about making money.”
Alb: “You must be joking, Rubina. Here we are living like…like dogs in the dirt, our whole people, and now we have the means to improve our lot with the purchase of some of white–man’s comforts and you ask ; Why!?”
Rubi: “What comforts have they got!..Have you ever seen a man more driven than the Pastor?..And his wife…the time she spends washing and washing and washing….how white can you make a sheet!? It’s as if they are washing out their very souls! and their bed is as hard as a rock! the red sand of the countryside is softer! (turns aside and pulls a face) it’s as if they are punishing themselves.”
Alb: “Well, I like some of their things…”
Rubi: “Like what?”
Alb: “Like, like…well their trucks for instance…I’d like a truck to go about in, and I could take the family with me…(grasps her arms affectionately) wouldn’t you like that Rubina? To go on a painting trip with me and the children….?”
Rubi: “Well..that’s different…yes..that would be nice.”
Alb: “Of course it would…and I can start to build a new house for us all, instead of that bundle of sticks we live in now..”
Rubi: “I don’t mind that bundle of…”
Alb: “Oh yes!..till it pours rain and we’re floating out the front door! ( laughs)”.
Rubi: “Went yes ,that’s true, a good shelter would be a comfort if we are to stay around here….But Albert, if we lift ourselves above the others of the tribe, that would be unfair and they will surely be resentful.”
Alb: “Rubina…do you think for a minute that I would consider myself “above” my people?..lf I prosper with this windfall, they too will prosper. You see, (turns to concentrate on the choice of words) if the white-man sees that the Aborigine is quite capable of utilising his skills with equal dexterity as they, he will have to admit, no accept, us as equals. (turns to take her shoulders once more) this can be the turning point for our tribe.. I have plans, Rubina, big plans…more I cannot yet say.”
Rubi: “Oh well, Albert, It’s your painting…and I’m sure, I suppose.. that you know what you are doing but….can I go back to my friends now?”
Alb : ( laughs) “Yes Rubina..go.. go to your friends, go to our people and tell them the news….Tell them Albert is going to show the white-man the colour of our country! (laughs again) ….and for that, they will show us the colour of their money!..(laughs loudly till fade out).
(spotlight on Alberts face only, rest of stage in darkness Albert stands still..suddenly, spotlight right up-stage to illuminate the Elder He is sitting cross-legged holding a long stick….he is dressed in traditional skins. the music sticks start).
Eld: “Namatjira!” (almost a demand).
Al: “Tjamu?…is it you?”
Eld: “Namatjira!…You go hunting into unknown country…who is your guide?”
Alb: “Guide?…why….I suppose..Pastor….Mr Batterbee but wait, what is this “unknown country?”.”
Eld: “Namatjira!…You go hunting dangerous quarry…What. are your weapons?”
Alb: “Weapons?…(a laugh.)..Why, I’ll be armed with nothing more than pallett and brush.” (another laugh).
Eld: “Namatjira!…You go to seek treasure you cannot use…What are your reasons?”
Alb: (raises voice determinedly) “To take my people out of the squalor of the camp…to release them from the hand of charity listen, Tjamu…there is land to be bought out here, we can run horses, cattle…we can own a pastoral company, running and managing it for ourselves…we can build houses for ourselves…”.
Eld: “These are White-man’s dreams….they themselves have lost their Eden and so they come here to take ours..do you think they will want the aborigine to take it back?…Have you not noticed your skin?…You are not even considered a citizen of their nation, What makes you think they will consider you as an equal?”
Alb: “Those days are fading when the whites looked at us as inferior. Look how they flock to buy my paintings….I cannot paint them quick enough…They recognise now that the black-man can adapt and interpret the world around him in a common language .They respect me now, Tjamu”.
Eld: (sadly)..”Were you without respect before, Albert ?” (Fade out., darkness)
Alb: “Tjamu?…Tjamu?”( Albert moves about stage in a wandering, lost way…fade-out with Albert calling once or twice in darkness:Tjamu! )
Government office; a sign: “Department of Native Affairs” Two men in Regulation public service dress (open-necked plain shirt, belted plain shorts, knee-high beige stretch socks and patent-leather shoes) are in the office…one is seated ,the other walks about the room as he speaks, stooping over the desk to address the seated man when making a point.
1st man.: ” So that’s it in a nutshell…we have the unique situation of an Aboriginal trying to lease some of his tribal land to use for a cattle station.”
2nd man(seated): (picks up manila folder, flips through it then replaces it casually on the desk)”So what’s the problem?..He’s an Aborigine, not an Australian citizen….he can’t own land…tribal or otherwise.”
1st M : “That’s just it….this isn’t just any Aborigine, its Albert Namatjira….the painter .”
2nd M : (leans back in swivel seat, puts hands behind head…snorts)” So he’s a painter…so what?…I got an Abo’ doing my gardening for me and he can’t buy land neither!” (laughs).
1st m: “Well…I thought we better approach the subject with a little bit of diplomacy, not to mention covering our arses with the newspapers, so I’ve dropped it into the hands of the boss…he’ll be here in a sec’ “.
2nd m : ”That useless pri.. (door suddenly opens , suited man strides in)…oh, g’day Ron….(leaps up)..here, have a seat (obsequiously holds seat for the boss)…now. about this situation, what do you think?”
Ron : (sits) Just what we don’t bloody need….not at this moment.”
1st m: “What do you mean..at this moment?”
Ron : “I mean..(stands and paces behind desk while speaking) the whole bloody centre of the country is being sounded for mineral exploration….from the Kimberleys to the blue mountains….from. Port Augusta to here, Port Darwin….every man-jack mineral company with a licence and a pick will be scouring the desert within the next decade and the last thing they want is to ask permission from a tribe of Abo’s if they can sink a shaft on their land.”
2nd M : “What about the other pastoralists?”
Ron : (stops, sneers)”What about ’em?…they welcome it, royalties per ton of ore will be money in the bank plus the company will sink bores in those god-awful places that the cocky can draw on.. (snaps fingers) That’s it!…water.”
1st M : “What water?”
Ron : ”Ha! Ha!…No water!..(slaps hands together and rubs them) no water.. Mr Namitjira can’t. lease that land for a cattle station b-e-c-a-u-s-e
2nd M: (cries gleefully) “Because there is no permanent water supply!”
1st M : “And we don’t refuse permission because he is an Aborigine but because there is no water.. our arse is covered, the mineral companies are happy, the newspapers are appeased and the only one to miss out is Mr Namitjiral?”
Ron : “And he’s just one Abo’ after all said and done.. gentlemen, this calls for a beer… ( they gather together, Ron points to the door) To the “Darwin” quick march, two three four (they march out in file). “
stage darkens for fifteen seconds, then lights up same scene the same two men in the same postures as before…the door flies open and Ron strides in again..
Ron : “ What’s this bastard trying to do, get me posted to Roper River?(throws newspaper on desk….pokes it with finger) quote : “Albert Namatjira buys town block in Alice springs dress-circle”….(reads mockingly) ” I want to build house and studio near my agent. and friend, Mr Batterbee”…There,.. he wants to be near-his-friend (shouts) I’ve had nearly every resident within half a mile of the proposed site on the blower to me this morning, threatening to have my balls if I give permission…and that’s the women!….the blokes are a little more lenient…they’ll just lynch me!…why oh why can’t he stay out in the desert like all the other Abo’s and leave me alone.. the southern “liberal” papers are having a field day!”
1st M: (reads paper)”Give Albert a fair go!”.
Ron: (snatches paper, throws it on desk) “Yeah, give him a fair go….that’s because they’re down there safely out of the way….let him build a house next door to those hacks and then see who screams the loudest…..what to do, what to do?”
Ist M (sits on edge of desk, swings one leg) ” Just refuse permission.”
Ron: “And have these jackels (stabs paper ) on my back?”
2nd M : “No, he’s right..refuse permission on the grounds that it is a federal law that is the problem…(strikes off points on finger) a: he is not a Australian citizen so he cannot buy land..b: he is an Aborigine so he must obey the curfew and not remain in the town limits after dark….see?. not your problem..you are only enforcing the law spreads hands pouts, raises eyebrows)
1st M :”Our arse is covered. the citizens are happy…the only one to miss out is Mr Namatjira, and after all ”
All three : “….He’s only an Abo’!”
Ron.: (smiles) ” That’s a very sound law too….but we musn’t be too churlish, offer him a block of land on the nearby reserve..as a sort of consolation. (smiles again)….Gentlemen, this calls for a beer…to the “Darwin”, quick march, two three four…”
Stage darkens again for fifteen seconds , lights to find the same three men pacing the floor , Ron is agitated and waving some papers in the air as he paces.
Ron : “What are these bastards trying to do to me.? I thought we’d got rid of the bastard and now these other bastards have gone and given him citizenship!…nigger-loving bastards!”
1st M : “Christ! Thar’s put the kybosh on the residential allotment scheme.”
R : ” I’ll fuckin’ say it has….now there’s no stopping him….thank fuck it only covers him and his bloody wife!”
2nd M : “What about his kids….there must be a mess of them?”
R : “Nah..they’re out of the picture ” ( he stops his striding and gesticulates excitedly) “Yes!…of course his children! Here we go, as a citizen, he doesn’t have to adhere to the curfew of all natives out of town limits by nightfall….but his children do “
1st M : ” Eureka! he can have his house but not his children….brilliant.”
R: “ Yeah , brilliant fuck him and fuck those nigger-lovers too!”
2ndM : “Bewdy!…our arse is covered, the good citizens are happy and the only one to lose out is Mr. Namatjira and after all….” (All Three ) : “He’s only an Abo’ to the Darwin three four!” exit scene
Stage is in darkness save for Albert sitting near a soft. glowing campfire, left. centre stage. he is alone..He lifts head and calls)
Mb : “Rubina Rubina where are you? Children? Friends? where is everybody?…. (he stands, turns slowly) Anybody? Am I all alone?..”
Elder: “Namitjira!” (almost a command The Elder remains unseen. his voice echos around the stage ….music sticks in background)
Mb : “Tjamu?….Tjamu? (Albert hunches his body, afraid) …is that you?….but you are gone .Tjamu. . gone these two years..”
Eld : “Namitjira!…You have crossed the boundaries of your country you are in white-man’s land now….you have no weapons, you have not the skills to hunt their game…beware Namitjira…they will hunt you now.”
Alb : ”Hunt me but why?…I am only an artist…I am only one man trying to live amongst them, as they would have me.”
Eld: “Fool!….they would have you dead!.. so they could put you in a museum and study you, piece by piece they don’t want your art….they want your soul!”
Alb: “My soul, Tjamu?….but how can they take my soul unless I give it to them?”
Eld : “You already have, Namatjira…in colour and form…and now they will play as pets with you and yours…”
Alb : “What am I to do , Tjamu? I am alone.”
Eld : “I cannot help you any more….as you said, I am now gone, you, Namitjira are now the Elder seek your own wisdom.”
Alb :” Tjamu? Where, Tjamu (silence)…Where do I go for wisdom? Tjamu!..(he cries aloud) Tjamu, Tjamu! (stage darkens)
Scene….The aft-deck of Jack Davies yacht ..”Sea Mist”.. there is an awning and deck chairs about. there are several fishing rods leaning against the bulkhead….a door in this bulkhead is open. Enter ebullient Jack Davey followed by a smiling Albert and his son Keith..
Jack: “Well…that’s the story of all fishermen, Albert..ha ha!…(places rod with others) the one that got away..just drop those rods over with the others..”
Albert: “Anyhow, its closer than we get to them in Hermansberg, (both laugh heartily) though we do get fish in the desert you know.”
Jack : “In the desert!..really..How big?”
A : (Albert holds hands apart about one foot, with thumbs pointing inwards) “About this big.”
J : (looks extremely surprised) ”Really?”
A : (winks to Keith) “Yeah between the thumbs.” ( the old joke is sprung on Jack….he throws his head back. and laughs).
Jack Davies twists back in his chair and calls into the cabin.
J : ” Bill!…bring us out some drinks if you will…” He then turns to Albert and gestures conciliatory…”I’m sorry for not being able to offer you any alcoholic beverages but, well, it’s the law….dumb as it is I hope you’re not offended?”
A : ” I’m not sure if I’d be more offended if you presumed I wanted alcohol.” he laughs.
J : “Well….the law is an ass….and the trouble is also I am watched whatever I do”.
A “You, Jack….I would have thought you’d be free to do as you pleased “
J : “Ahh (tch) you see Albert, and this is something that will concern you too…I am what is called a “performing artist”….that is I get up on a stage, be it radio or theatre or wherever and “perform” to an audience…the public. You , likewise in a different way are hoisted onto a stage of a kind and “perform”….or at least through your paintings….and more so in your case with the novelty of being an aboriginal artist and we get paid to “perform” so in effect we are “owned” by the public and believe me, they want their pound of flesh!”
A “What do you mean : “owned by the public” and “pound of flesh?”
J : “Well…they don’t “Own” you by possession, rather by expectation….the public expect us to perform to their expectation and if you don’t ( he makes a gesture with his hand across his throat).
A : ” Yes , well, I suppose you’d get cut up in the papers, but I’d just be forgotten”.
J : ” Don’t kid yourself, Albert, You’re much more vulnerable than me”.
A : ” How?”
J : “Well…look at me, Jack Davies ; raconteur, comedian, congenial man-about-town….I tell dirty jokes, they love me….l wash their dirty linen….when they get tired of my jokes they’ll say “Piss off Jack, we’re sick of you”…an’ I’ll piss off ..but you Albert Namatjira….with their eyes they soak in your beautiful landscapes and it washes their souls….I suppose a painter is a washer of souls.. you have a deeper talent than me” (he holds his hand up to block Alberts protests)” when they tire of me they will cut me in the press and the cuts will be shallow…but the universal rule is ; ” greater the talent deeper the cut!”….(he pauses and considers if he has said too much) there are people in this country whose souls need an awful lot of washing.. just watch out you don’t become their Black Christ ” he suddenly stands and reaches for a fishing rod. ” Alright, enough of the maudlin conversation, let’s catch some fish.”
Albert Namatjita stands centre-stage…lighted by single spotlight…he stands head bowed, listening to a gravitas voice intoning sentence of imprisonment on him…;
“ . . . and for this reason, yourself and yourself only, being the supplier of alcoholic drinks to your people at the location of “Morris Soak”, where a young woman did lose her life…You, Albert Namatjira, are sentenced to three months imprisonment as convicted on this day . . . “
Rex Batterbee and Albert on stage. Albert sits in the dirt in front of a ramshackle shelter.. but he is dejected, morose. Rex is standing before him, arms outstretched. appealing to him to cheer up.
Rex : ”Listen , Albert…You’ve got to bounce back from all this….
Alb : You don’t understand. Rex…l was the Elder there, it was MY camp. there should not have been drink there.. the girl..she shouldn’t have died.”
Rex : ”But they were grown people there, you can’t be responsible for the actions….”
Mb : (raising his head and voice) “I was the Elder..I was responsible….that is the trouble. Rex. I was thinking as a white-man would… I neglected my part in the tribe..I was responsible to my people, not for my people, but TO!”
Rex: (turning and welsh combing his hair) “Well, Albert., Maybe you know better in that matter…but surely what’s done is done…you’ve had other setbacks like..like when Mr Lindsay of the Melbourne Gallery knocked back those paintings a couple of years ago….that was very disappointing.”
Alb : (looks up, puzzled) “You know, I can’t understand why he did refuse those paintings…they were good ones…and they got them cheap because Mr Lindsay asked me when I was in Melbourne if I could give him a painting (Albert glances right then left , then in an exaggerated whisper) ”A little bit cheap”….Tell me, Rex , does Mr Dobell give paintings ..a little bit cheap?” (a laugh)
Rex : “Well…( makes a shrugging gesture)but listen Albert) You remember that time they refused you permission to build a house in the town….That upset you then..eh.?…but you remember we went out bush to Glen Helen gorge and set up camp out there in that beautiful country and we forgot about it, eh?”
Alb : “Did we?”
Rex: “ Yes we did….and it was so hot, you remember, and , and you made that joke about how some people ask why there is always a gum tree on the side of your paintings…and you said it was there to give you shade as you painted….(a laugh from Rex, a guffaw from Alb.) I remember it was so hot for two days, then that cool change came through with that rain (Rex plays a pantomime with his hands wiping over his lace…Albert stands up , looking at him silently) Ahh!…it was so beautiful…so cooling…I remember us standing there with the rain just running down our faces (Rex has his eyes closed reminiscing) ..”
Alb : (He gazes steadily at Rex) “Yes …. I remember…The two of us were there standing in the rain…. but one of us was weeping.”
Rex takes his hands from his face. opens his eyes, blinks a couple of times. turns slowly to face Albert who stands staring at him. Both remain motionless…fade out.
Return to set of act #1/ scene :1 .. Albert now lies in a dishevelled state, he sits propped against a boulder..a small fire smoulders nearby…he is dying..he drifts in and out of consciousness..
Albert : Tjamu!..TJAMU!..come…I call you as an equal to come speak with me.”
Tjamu: I am here, Namatjira…I never go away….What is it you want?
A : No advice…THAT.. I have had plenty…No…now I want you to listen..for I have come to my last days…and I want to reason my situation.
Tj : Your situation, Namatjira?
A : Yes..my situation, for as you can see, I am back to where I started…a hovel for a home, myself deserted, left alone and the shame of jail time hanging over my name.
Tj : Yes…as I warned..once you ventured into white-man’s territory, you were a marked man.
A : I can see that now…but I keep asking myself..: “What did I do that so enraged them?”…for I was but an artist…many lauded my works and paid a lot of money for them..I was told that I was so very clever…a genius among my people..some would exclaim!…I raised no alarm for radical change, no call to protest or arms to our peoples…I was no trouble to their administration…why the hatred?
Tj : Yes, Namatjira…you were all those clever things to them…except…except..you brought your talent from inside of you…you brought the colours of the land from deep in your soul…you needed only little training, you needed NO coaching, for the world of your paintings was already captured within you…..and THAT is why they hated you…you made look easy what THEIRS had to struggle and torment themselves over…
A : But they have their great painters, their adored artists…I was no threat to that.
Tj : Oh..but you WERE, Namatjira…you were!…your use of their ochres as a wash of colour threw their world into disarray…while they wrestled with a creation of brutal realism, just like they wrestle with their brutal God, you swept your landscapes with the soft reflections of the sky and the desired hunger of the earth…your paintings live and breathe the faith of your people…they leap out of the painting to any who gaze upon them..you didn’t need their God or their instructions..You didn’t need them, but they needed you…they fed from you..and like the Son of their God they crucified to save their souls, so you have been crucified to save their culture.
A : You saw this happening, Tjamu…and you warned me..but I could not stop it happening…and yet it did happen…and now I am lost…I am homeless here in a misery of a camp…
Tj : Yes, Namatjira…it did happen..as it was always going to happen..as it will happen for a long time yet to come…we will rise and be beaten down, to rise again and again till we tear away the bonds that hold us down..and then we will never be beaten down again…But stay, Namatjira…you are not lost, for you are ‘on country’ ..YOUR country..you are under our own sky, within reach of our own water..all you need to do now is arise from your slumber and walk your country.
A : MY country, Tjamu?…
Tj : Why yes, Namatjira…your country..the dreams you have painted…your visions of your dreams..it awaits you Albert…time to leave all this rubbish behind…come..walk with me into your dream world …
A : Yes, Tjamu…yes..I come now…
(The back of the whole stage lights up with a Namatjira landscape…I envision a projected picture is used on a backdrop..and as Albert starts to walk with Tjamu, smoke raises and the projected picture is formed on the smoke and Albert walks into the ‘picture’ and disappears off the stage to end the play)..
An incident borne out of an innocent remark can inflame old resentments among a confined people. ‘Folk will have their ways’, goes the old saying. Such was the occasion of the spread of the accusation in the little parish of Saint Paul’s in our little mallee town of Sandleton a long while ago and it … Continue reading
They come “home” to track and camp,
They come home to the Mallee forest.
They come with their swag of detritus,
They come to seek anonymous.
Weakened with loss of fortune’s favour,
Vulnerable to each and every slander,
They seek the quiet and secret ways,
Far from gossip’s intrusive meander.
From a time when life was wholesome and pure,
When prospects were rich and expected to endure,
From a time of life in search of “the divine”.
From a time able to proclaim; “what’s here is mine”.
“I saw it happen an’ that’s how I knows it…and I know why it happened..an’ I’m sorry it didn’t happen a long time ago, back when they could’ve made something with it.” Swertzy took a drag on his cigarette again and settled into the chair outside the Sedan Post Office and reflected on times … Continue reading
Once upon a time, out in the deep Mallee forest near the Murray River there lived three sisters, aged sixteen, fourteen and thirteen…for as was common in those days, children came in quick succession. Their names being..from the eldest : Tess, Maggie and Rose. It was the years of post-Great Depression and the second … Continue reading
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:
A stinker of a day in the middle of winter…rain, rain, rain…from the moment I started out on the delivery run to Swan Reach and beyond till I came toward home. One of those steady, drenching rains that every farmer dreams about and every delivery driver hates!…Standing with the sack-truck at the door of a … Continue reading
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, out here in the mallee country as you drive along the main roads … Continue reading
If you turn off the main ‘Halfway House Road” there about seven mile out of the town, there onto a dirt, bush track ; “The Bulldog Run” and go a few mile down that track, you’ll see away there off the side in the mallee scrub; Rhidoni’s old place…a small cottage built in that old … Continue reading
I can remember exactly when that feeling came over me that here was one of those moments when, through some “native intuition”, you can feel that it is the ending of an era…a passing of a moment in time when something important is being lost… I was at my aged mother’s house doing some regular … Continue reading
A respectable tradesman I have known for many years told me of when he was a young blade, he and some friends rented a flat above a funeral director’s office and “workshop”. If they were busy and short-handed, they would call on him for some work. He didn’t mind as it helped pay the … Continue reading
“Joyce Hartingdale .. Secretary” the writing on the triangular wedge of wood prominent at the front of her desk was written in bright, gold paint. It was there the first day she came to the job at the office situated at the front of the “Shoebridge Furniture Factory”. A job she had come all the … Continue reading
The large, plate-glass window of the lounge area of the “River View” aged care home overlooked the willow-lined banks of the Murray River in the centre of that regional city that had been home for him and his family for these many years…known for its fruit and wine industry…Mr. Daniel Flannigan lay quiet in a … Continue reading
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 … he told me the basic rudiments of the story .. as one does when relating a matter of interest, 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 as it happens .. perhaps even to the early 1950’s in some villages, an apprentice was not hired like we do here and now, rather, he was offered to a master craftsman to train 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 money, but given board 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 manner.
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!..is it any different here?) … It wasn’t long ago that I heard and witnessed a “Evil Eye” consultation 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 street-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 ha! 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. Wafting 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 so fine, that when you take the promenade on the Sabbath, people will stop and stare and say :”Ah! .. There goes Signor 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 as .. as only a young man can be …. and oh! .. 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 .. er .. given 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 cuts in a deep sauce in the middle of the table.
“Are you asleep, boy? … ah! … I see …. more of a mind for the meal than your work eh? … I didn’t bring you here for a feast outside with you! out! out!”
“Ah .. truly, Master Tailor .. ?” began the peasant..
“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 .. ” (then 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 apprenticed youth’s shoulder …
“Look. it was a terrible thing for you to be left out of the meal last night … 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 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 gets a bit crazy, you know”
The peasant raised his eyebrows.
” How do you mean … he doesn’t seem …. ?”
” A bit unbalanced .. is what I mean … oh! not badly, mind …. he just flys off the handle sometimes .. it 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 .. I can tell.” the youth leant a little closer “That incident last year in San Angelo ?”
“Oh, it was hushed up nicely .. cost Master Tailor a pretty penny .. ” with a low whistle and 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 pregnant mother was threatened in the war by a sword wielding soldier”.
“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 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 dazed state, I must consider his “face” in the community and his pride … what man needs his pride dragged through common 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 … ” and the youth acted out the gesture while the peasant, now wide eyed also, obediently watched …. “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 which I just described … 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”.
“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 say the same and all will be well … you’ll see … this isn’t the first time, you know..I’d do the deed myself but you see how close he watches me and demands my presence … and after all, you’ll be protecting your family AND his honour.”
That night in the kitchen of Gemano Alfonsi’s …
It was a very nervous family that gathered behind the 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 in the air 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 straighted 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 at the little scene …. The tailor, head slightly turned on one side, his right eye close to his markings on the cloth, his left hand held the cloth off the table, his right was ready to cut the cloth then with an expression of utmost concentration on his face, he slipped his tongue (as he was want to always do from habit) out between his lips and bit down on it gently, his eyes widening in a glaring stare of 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 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!
Proverbs, Parables, Stories and Verse….An E-Book …By Joe Carli.
We cast our nets at eventide,
We draw them in at dawn,
And in the darkened hours between,
Are trapped the dream we spawn.
Proverb : ” Bread and cheese at home is better than roast meat elsewhere”.
Parable. ; Nicole 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…er..my 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.
God I was feeling good..you know those days when you set out with a heavy work-load of appointments and things to do so you think you’ll never have time to do them all..and then suddenly this one and that one falls off the list through no fault of anyone’s and suddenly you have half … Continue reading
This story has two connections..The first is the idea for the setting which came from a contribution in a WW2. official government publication ; “As You Were”..one of many such publications put out during and after the second world war from the Australian military..The writer was T.G.Hungerford..the article was ; “Last Entry in Red” (As … Continue reading
Proverb: “Those who need a good ambassador should send themselves.”
Parable: Daniel was adopted out at six weeks old to a childless couple who loved him dearly and raised him as best they could. His natural mother and father were separated several months before he was born so that he knew neither true parent. Years later, when he was in his late twenties, he felt the need to contact his natural parents. He could not find his mother, but through one of the special agencies that help adopted people, he obtained the address of his father.
“Well”, the father said as he sat down at the table, “this is a surprise!” and he dropped a spoonful of sugar into his cup of tea, “sugar?…Daniel, … Daniel isn’t it?”the father asked.
“Yes to both questions” Daniel replied.
“Well.. then .. it’s good to see you all growed up and healthy … even without my guidance”. The man nervously laughed.
“I’ve had good …care”. Daniel said as he put the cup to his lips.
“Well then … “the father rubbed his left hand on his thigh uneasily. “Well then … er … tell me; how’s your mother?”
“My mother? Daniel looked puzzled, “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her”.
“What … what do you mean – haven’t seen her”, the father, puzzled too now, queried.
“No” Daniel went on “Not for as long as I can remember … I was adopted out at six weeks old!” Daniel blinked at his father.
“The Hell you say!!” The man leapt to his feet upsetting things on the table, “the hell you say!” he cried again as he turned away and raked his fingers through his hair. He turned then and brought his great fist down.. crash!! onto the kitchen table. “Your mother had me paying maintenance for you for sixteen years!” and he stood back from the table and welsh-combed his hair again.
“Well … you could’ve gone around there and you would’ve seen for yourself” said Daniel. The man flicked his hand away angrily.
“Ahh! … me and your old lady didn’t get on, so we “talked”, as you might say, through a mate of mine who … who went … over … oh bloody hell …” The father stopped suddenly and stared as though in a trance. He sat down on the chair slowly.
The most common insults and abuse that are given , are done in an atmosphere of intimate coercion, where the dominant party can take advantage of their position and the moment to exercise without criticism or reproach their quiet act of oppression. My first job when I arrived in Darwin in the early seventies was … Continue reading
Three blows on the church bell meant a child, twice three a woman and thrice three a man. After a pause the years were counted out at approximately half-minute intervals. The word teller in some dialects becomes tailor, hence the old saying “Nine tailors maketh a man”.
There is innocence in childhood that has the capacity to reduce a complex situation to the simplest of solutions. It has it’s own shining beauty in that it need not be corrected, nor adjudicated upon…just to be sure that such innocence will be perhaps, irretrievably lost once past the “coming of age”. But then, … Continue reading
You may have read my bits about “Ron the brickie”..He was sponsored to Australia as a young lad a few years after the 2ndWW. He left behind his mother and siblings when he came to Australia…a difficult situation not of his making. He went to school for a couple of years here, then worked … Continue reading
Proverb: “The dog runs a little, the hare runs a little.”
Parable: Angelo Pescari “had a woman on the sly”. His wife knew that, but he didn’t know she knew. Till one evening she sent the kids over to her sisters and sat down with her husband for a “talk”.
“A what!!” Angelo jumped up in mock surprise.
“Sit down and stop the theatrics,” she spoke calmly.
“Who told you that?” he continued to bluff “The things you think”. he continued in vain seeking to regain his ground. But she knew and now he was sprung.
“Settle down…I’m not going to leave or divorce you or go into hysterics over it, see, I’m perfectly calm.. all I’m asking is that you finish the affair and we go back to normal,…husband and wife…agreed?”
After some more talking and seeing the futility of trying to proclaim his innocence, Angelo Pescari sighingly agreed to his wifes request;…
“Yes”, he said, he would terminate the affair immediately.
But he didn’t! He continued seeing the woman after work sometimes and of course his wife found out again.
He arrived home from “work” one evening as his wife was setting the dinner. She glanced wickedly at him.
“So,..a hard day at work..eh?” She smiled.
“Why…yes…yes.” he hesitatingly answered.
“And a hard night on the mistress?” She smiled wickedly again, he just stood there in dumbness.
“Well” she continued “You can have your little coquette…but then so will I have mine…but the difference is…I don’t even have to leave the house!”
Angelo stood there dumbfounded. His wife served the dinner.
Nine months later she gave birth to a lovely, healthy boy…they did not separate, but grew closer and raised the child as their own.
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…
Australian Aboriginal Woomera ( spear launcher). Ahh!…yes..I can see that you are all a tad jaded and tuckered out with the political shenanigans. I tell you what..I’ll tell you a story. It is constructed from two events..one, when a friend told me of finding a very old woomera in the cleft of a very … Continue reading
Proverb: “A bitter heart will sour the sweetest soul.”
Parable: Milan’s first wife left him and her baby very early in their marriage. She became ill with a rather common debilitating mental illness, and as the medical treatment in those days in Australia was hopelessly inadequate, she was left to carry on by her own . She couldn’t cope and simply left home, left the baby girl, left her husband and finally left the country and went back to Europe where she disappeared from Milan’s life.
In due course after several years, Milan met another woman, a single woman who helped him raise the child. She lived with him for ten years and then they married and she had a baby also, a son. The girl had grown up and was cared for (if maybe a bit too sternly) as the new wife’s own daughter.
Now, every birthday from seven years on, the girl would receive a letter and a parcel from France, from her estranged mother. Sometimes there would be a few notes of currency enclosed. Janice, Milan’s second wife was at first not perturbed at these little gifts. But over the years, and particularly when the girl reached teenage years, she seemed to become a little offended at the daughter’s glee upon receiving these gifts.
“Oh”, the girl would exclaim in happiness, “My mother has sent me something!” and she would take the parcel off to her room to open it.
Janice would look scornful and sorrowful at the same time and would complain to Milan.
“See, see, off to her room with the precious gift, ha! and it wasn’t that woman who raised her, no … it was me who worried when she was sick! So what does she care for me? … no … (and here she would sometimes have tears come to her eyes) not for me the respect she saves for her mother that deserted her” Milan would drop the corners of his mouth and sigh.
One day a letter arrived saying that Milan’s first wife was coming out to Australia for a visit, to see her daughter. Janice was caught between her love of the daughter and the bitter-ness of a feeling of betrayal of the girl’s love for her mother.
Not long after the visit by the mother, one evening, they were visiting a friend, and as they sat in the darkened lounge lit only by the open fire, Janice talked off-handedly of the mother’s recent visit.
“Oh yes, she came over one night last week … humph! the way she talked, humph! as if I was an interloper, as if I was the one who broke up her family … I soon put her in her place!”
“Well, she didn’t really infer that you …” Milan spoke up.
“Oh no! not to you, no you wouldn’t see, you’re not a woman … but I know that tone of voice … you men are blind … and … and she brought over a dress for Corina (the daughter) .. ha! what a dress … it was terrible eh Corina? eh? … the colour ugh! the cut, the style … what a laugh … har har” and she laughed a forced bitter laugh without looking at the daughter sitting there alone, slump shouldered in the corner, her tear-filled eyes shining sadly and looking to the floor. “Obviously she doesn’t know her own daughter” Janice finished huffily.
All the stories here are based on true events I have witnessed or have been told by friends and relatives…I have tried to portray, through men’s and women’s eyes the courage and overcoming against particular conflicts and problems, big and small.
These people I hold to be the true grit of society, be they right or wrong, at least they try..and sometimes succeed..may they never be discouraged or defeated even though they may well be forgotten..
The story below is from an age of a kind of fading feudalism…an age when position and religion ruled the small villages dotted amongst the Dolomites of Northern Italy. It was told by my father to my mother and then to me. It is from around the turn of the 20th century, when the church … Continue reading
The farmhand held the burly sheep tightly by its head and rump. The farmer lay his two hands flat, side by side on the sheep’s back and pressing, spread the dusty coloured fleece to reveal the glowing, creamy fibres beneath. The thick, smooth fleece seemed to glow with health. You could smell the lanolin. The … Continue reading
I’ll tell you a story..A story of two people who became lovers when of an age where one would never expect such a event to ever again enter one’s life…Two people from that older generation that we had come to think of as staid, conservative and settled.. emotions suppressed under an obligation and habit of … Continue reading
“One must forgive the young their foolishness, for without them, there would not seem so much wisdom in old age.”…Socrates. Ah!..Friday nights, didn’t we look forward to them. But we were young and carefree in those days. A group of us young bucks would meet after work at the Seacliff Hotel on Fridays and imbibe … Continue reading
Here’s a light-hearted little yarn for a Saturdee arvo. A Melbourne story. It is true in every way, myself witnessing some of it. A Trivial Inquiry. Peter Haffney took his latch-key from the deadlock and closed the front door behind him. He paused inside the entrance as one is want to do when first coming … Continue reading
“For the farmer sows his fields Of barley, oats or wheat. While the lawyer reaps fortune From fields of deceit.” Brian Pascoe leant forward in the soft leather chair with one arm on the lawyer’s desk and the other hand on his knee. His brow was knitted and he felt his anger raising as … Continue reading
The plight of the “escaping from warfare refugee” has figured large over the last few years with much sympathy, while the “economic refugee”has been somewhat scorned as an “opportunist”…I can assure many that it is far from true..the desperation and need can be felt equally by the “starving stayers” as by the fleeing desperates..and it … Continue reading
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.
I have a war story..well, not actually about war itself, but about how it broke and remade a life…It is a true story and was told to me by Darcy C. an old farmer who lived on the farm next to us ( in my first marriage) in the hills. He was one of those … Continue reading