Battle stars

June 15, 2017 at 8:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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If I seem a tad maudlin, it’s because I’m recording unpleasant vignettes with a view to putting them in their place via EMDR treatment, which starts next week.

The ultimate object of this game is to ‘normalise’ childhood sexual abuse memories. But let’s start with something a little lighter …

I was so taken with Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield that I bought the 12-inch single.

On hearing me play it in the lounge room, dad informed me that:

  1. Love was not a battlefield (indeed, far from it).
  2. The lyrics were therefore stupid.
  3. The song thus had no merit.

I was disappointed at this assessment.

I had enthusiastically embraced his music collection.

From Bach, Oompah and Zorba to Nina Mouskouri, the Red Army Choir and Scottish Pipes, I thought I might have been a colleague. But I was merely an acolyte.

On reflection, dad’s perspective made sense.

When mum’s first husband died, dad rescued her (and her two boys) from a 1960s social and fiscal scrapheap.

She was thus forever in his debt.

He used to boast that, despite their long marriage, they’d never had an argument.

This was also likely true, as Mum never dared to say boo to him.

It took her ten years of faint, nuanced suggestion to replace our frayed carpet.

And almost as long to add a humble Vergola to our crumbling terrace.

Not really battlefield stuff.

In contrast, Mum said she quite liked Love Action by The Human League.

This was handy, as I played it until the groove nearly went through to the other side.

After her death, dad announced that he’d, ‘Loved mum but never been in love with her’.

I excused myself to punch out one of the five slatted window panes which, for almost half a century, had sat high in our toilet wall.

It was difficult to eat after that.



Bee spoke

December 19, 2016 at 11:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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When I was a kid, I sang Silent Night differently to most.

I thought the line was:

Sleep in, heavenly bees.

(Note the early regard for punctuation.)

Bees are a paragon of industry.

Naturally (I figured) there’d have to be at least one etherial species.

And after a year’s hard work, it seemed reasonable that they’d get to rest on xmas day.

Indeed, who needs honey with so much other food laid on by front-end loader?

My faux lyric made arguably more sense than ‘yon virgin mother’.

And so I rolled with it for several seasons.

The repeated line, especially, seemed positively soporific.

Sleee-eeep in, hea-ven-leeey, beeeeeesszzzzzz.

Try it next time you’re at carols by candlelight.

I promise no-one will notice.

You might just get a warm fuzzy.

Or even




Bench pressed

October 9, 2016 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I was very, very, very sad.

I bought some beer and resolved to reflect quietly on life, in a park of my youth, near the home of my family, who are now all dead.

It was twilight.

I approached the park carefully,  so as not to startle anyone else who might be reflecting.

I ended up startling two people.

The first was myself.

I wasn’t alone.

The second person was a young man doing severe-looking, crunch-type sit-ups on the park’s bench.

I immediately apologised, thinking his six-pack was as far from mine as one could possibly get.

The man – way less than half my age – said nothing.

I said, ‘Sorry, Mate; I was here 40 years ago. And I was just … coming back.’

As if that meant anything.

As if it would help.

He continued to say nothing, and gave no indication that my need for the bench transcended his.

I retreated (as is my way) and stumbled into the gloom – apologising all the while.

In the process, I dropped my glasses.

They say you can never go back.

I can tell you it’s true.

Metaphorically and physically.

The only way is


The trick is

to find the right


Further listening:

Pic by unknown but extremely keen to give credit.

If you found this post interesting or useful, you may wish to:

Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.

Killing time

September 26, 2016 at 10:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments
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Are you sitting comfortably?

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, child’s play was a serious matter.

At our disposal were instruments of death that required bravery and mastery.

Herewith a quick guide.

Pictured above is The Board: a device comprising a heavy wooden beam, bolted onto industrial piping, and covered in thick black grease.

For the uninitiated, it swung gently to and fro.

But for the seasoned practitioner, it could slice a careless cranium clean through.


Warming up. (Victim cropped from right to retain G rating.)

The trick was to build momentum. Then keep going.

With practice, The Board could be swung high enough to smash into the supporting crossbar such that the entire apparatus shook and bellowed in a terrifyingly satisfying manner.

But before mounting this Jagganatha, kids had to be progressively desensitised to its destructive force.


Farewell to arms.

Phase One comprised The Slide.

Having ascended to a height exceeding that attainable around the home, a (usually male) candidate was required to write his will, then cast it to the four winds to show contempt for Fate.

He was then at liberty to brave the mud, puddles, gravel, baked earth, broken glass, dog poo, dust or nails – depending upon the season and the perversions of other park users.

Not for us the sanctuary of chip bark or the soft, reconstituted rubber landings of today’s helicoptered offspring.

Life was elemental. Its lessons elementary.


Descent to the unknown.

With caution spurned and Death scorned, the candidate embraced the road to ruin.

Those who survived their test progressed to Phase Two.


A tentative beginning …

Moving from a passive to an active device understandably startled many.

In one’s hands, rugged chains of iron.

At one’s feet, enough heavy metal to brain a bison.

These, combined with speed, left candidates in no doubt as to where they were headed.

Like The Board, The Swing had lethal potential.

Progressive goals were to:

  1. Swing.
  2. Swing and jump off.
  3. Swing higher and jump off.
  4. Swing to the apogee.
  5. Swing to the apogee and jump off.

The Swing also had an ultimate goal which, in hindsight, was inherently Sisyphean.

This goal was to swing so high that the pilot described a full circle and returned to Earth – with chains shortened by the circumference of the device’s crossbar.

Contemplating the dispatch of his first victim, the candidate’s demeanour hardens with devoted application.

I never achieved The Swing’s ultimate goal.

Nor did I see it done.

But at every park, someone knew someone who knew someone who’d done it.

And it was never achieved without multiple broken bones.

Happily, despite my incomplete preparation, I graduated to The Board.

Only to find that, a few years later, all Boards disappeared.

At first, their empty frames stood in mute protest at an approaching age of innocence.

Next, they were converted to wholly unsatisfying monkey bars – replete with safety mats.

Then they disappeared completely, along with heavy hardwood see-saws and the always-rare three-storey iron rocket ship (with its improbable steering wheel at the top).

Instead, brightly coloured rocking animals sprang from the ground.

And The Swing?

Replaced by aerated rubber seats, so soft they couldn’t crack an egg.

Or worse, inverted car tires.

Or even worse, bespoke baby seats – with safety belts.

It’s scant wonder to me that today’s coddled, aseptic parks attract few children.

They’re all at home – playing violent games in cyberspace and learning nothing of the real world just outside.

I suppose one could argue that they’re safer.

For now.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire and Imagine Day.

News FLASH! (Ah-ahhh, saviour of the universe.)

One of my oldest and dearest friends just submitted the following words and images:

Hi Paul. Reading your last post about children’s play equipment and your reference to a 3 storey rocket inspired me to share these pictures from Benalla that my two boys have had the joy to climb on a number of occasions.  Keep on writing. Very best regards, David.


The dream lives! And is that a steering wheel I spy?


On inspection, the rocket could be said to have four stages, not three. I shall consult Elon Musk.

Thank you, David, for your wonderful, colourful bookend. I think it’s bulk ace in the extreme!

Kindest regards, as always,


If you found this content useful or entertaining, you may wish to:

Even a buck or three will keep me in the hunt. With many thanks, Paul.
















Dollies wax

June 26, 2016 at 8:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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193709NN DAVY Barbara Playing with dolls

Once upon a


In 1937,

A young teen played with


And none of them were










Footy legend

May 2, 2016 at 7:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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That empty feeling.

In 1971, when I was six, my parents went on holiday to Fiji.

Apparently, our church had a network of families that looked after each other’s children (I assume, in time of crisis).

I was thus deposited for two weeks, in a strange house, with a clan I’d never met.

They were nice enough people, but I wasn’t a happy camper.

It was an Australian Rules Football family.

The boys were early teens – a chronic chasm between us.

They were interested in nothing but footy.

My research suggests they went on to do very large things in the code.

The intense irony, however, is that my father despised footy.

Each time a team took the field, he loudly articulated his fervent wish that all players would sustain excruciating injuries and die.

I’d had years of this indoctrination.

Now, on my dad’s whim, I was accompanying future AFL premier players to endless practice sessions on cold, windswept ovals.

As I’d been bookish from the start, this was not a great match.

Each morning, Mrs Footy would impress on me her cure-all: a large mug of boiling water.

Meanwhile, Radio 3XY played Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool over and over – fixing this tale in time.

I was so unhappy, I couldn’t sleep.

I stood in the hall, which featured garish green arboreal wallpaper.

I wept for my absent parents, home, possessions and bed.

After some time, Mrs Footy heard me and rose to see what was wrong.

We were not confidantes.

And my behaviour was as un-footy as one could get.

So despite her efforts, I remained upset in the gloom.

The fortnight dragged. The house, to my best recollection, was book free.

Fourteen hot waters and 56 Eagle Rocks later, my parents collected me.

On arriving home, my mother gave me a Fiji T-shirt and a horse of woven straw.

She also gave me a book.

Even better, it was part of the Enid Blyton series I’d been avidly collecting.

The Folk of the Faraway Tree.

I was stunned. Books were BIG gifts, reserved for very special occasions.

Why then, already in receipt of Pacific largesse, would I also be given a book?

It turned out that my dear mother, foreseeing a poor degree of fit with the host family, had given Mrs Footy not one book, but two – replete with maternal messages of love and support.

These were intended to comfort me at trying times – such as crying at night, among strangers, in a distant, forest-themed scene.

Mrs Footy, in the immense excitement of footy, hot water and Eagle Rock, had forgotten all about these precious (possibly unfamiliar) items until my parents returned.

I got the second book, Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, on my next very special occasion.

(My crisis over, Mum reverted to her customary thrift.)

The Footy family’s name echoes in our media to this day.

And while I’m not completely sure that’s who I stayed with,

the stats back me up.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire and Imagine Day.

Blood brother

April 25, 2016 at 4:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Andy Birth

I had two half brothers – the children of my mother and her first husband, Len.

Apparently, Mum had been deeply in love and extraordinarily happy with Len.

Photo albums, which have only just come to light, attest to this.

Way too early, Len got cancer of the everything and died, leaving Mum bereft and in dire financial straits.

When Mum remarried, Len was almost never mentioned – for fear of offending her second husband, Wim.

So this account is not reliable.

I used to tell people that, ‘two half brothers make a whole one’.

I don’t know why; I was probably trying to sound clever.

Brother David was a troubled and terrifying figure.

Brother Andrew, the elder, less so.

I idolised them both and would sneak into their bedroom at night and lie on the thin floor rug.

Just to occupy the same space.

When Andrew was old enough to be in a band, he had a bass guitar.

I recall this due to the fat strings and four large tuning keys – one of which I was soon to be intimately acquainted with.

One Saturday morning, Andrew had spent much time tuning the guitar.

Wishing to  have a shower, he warned me in explicit terms not to touch the instrument in his absence.

As soon as I heard the water running, I ran my hands over the glossy red surface and plucked at the strings.

Then I experimented with the effect of the tuning keys upon them.

By the time I was finished, I had no hope of returning the guitar to its former state.

At this moment, Andrew re-entered the room.

He was so enraged at my disobedience that he picked up the guitar and hit me on the head with it – tuning keys first.

The result surprised us both. One of the keys must have severed a particularly vascular part of my scalp, as blood began gushing freely.

Against my snow-white hair, the effect was dramatic to say the least.

I didn’t feel much pain, but I do remember Andrew’s blind panic.

Our mother and my father were due to return to the family home soon.

As I was something of a ‘golden child’, Andrew knew that Wim’s wrath would be swift and complete.

So he tried to cut a deal with me.

First, he stemmed the blood with Bandaids.

Next he ‘dinked’ me on his bike around the block.

Then he gave me 20 cents. A week’s pocket money in those days.

Finally, he implored me at length not to ‘dob’ on him.

I agreed.

Yet when my parents arrived home, the very first thing I said was, ‘Andrew hit me with his guitar’.

45 years later, I still don’t know why I dropped him in the shit.

I think, perhaps, that I was a little shit.

The guitar went on to a varied yet tepid career at my primary school.

Andrew spent four years dying agonisingly of motor neurone disease before reaching 60.

This is the first time I’ve written about him.

As it’s currently 4:35 am, I don’t think it’ll be the last.

If you found this content useful or entertaining, you may wish to:

Even a buck or three will keep me in the hunt. With many thanks, Paul.

Paper cut

March 26, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Cut to the quick.

In ‘Prep’ (the entry level primary school class before Year 1) we were introduced to scissors.

Safety was everything.

The plastic handles were colourful.

The blades so short and rounded, you couldn’t find (let alone sever) a vein to save your life.

Along with these scissors came craft paper.

You may recall: sheets about 25 cm square. (Ten inches in the old money.)

One side was glossily coloured.

The other, muted and matt.

The object of the game was to cut the sheets with the scissors and do various arty things with the result.

We were four and five.

So it should’ve come as no huge surprise when Linda (not her real name) on encountering scissors for the first time, tried them on her hair.

Her brown locks fell to the floor before Miss Whiting could intervene.

A parental conference followed.

For the rest of the year, Linda was banned from scissors.

She had to tear her way through Prep.

And given things weren’t heavily academic at this stage,

she did a lot of tearing.

As is the way with children, Linda was marked by the pack.

Like the boy who peed his pants, she was damaged goods.

The sad irony is that these days, Linda’s crude, hand-rendered artistic creations would very likely be considered greatly superior to the norm.

And possibly go viral in their infantile genius.

I observed Linda during the ensuing years.

A slight child to begin with, she seemed to shrink ever further into herself.

Today, I daren’t hunt for her on LinkedIn.

Lest she isn’t there.


Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Rain Rabbit.


Spewin’ chips

March 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Sawn and unseen.

I recall the dust man had another role.

A role so awful it may explain why he spent so much time with his incinerator.

Our primary school wasn’t air-conditioned.

And the roof was made of tin.

We had none of today’s namby-pamby, go-home, get-out-of-jail-free temperature thresholds.

We sat and worked and ate and played and laughed and fought in the true-blue, dinky-di Australian heat.

At least, most of us did.

Some of us were of a relatively delicate disposition.

Lily skinned, slender limbed, carrot hued and/or freckle flung.

For these students, summer was a time for spewing.

I don’t know if it was the heat, the lack of glad-wrap on home-made jam sandwiches, or the highly processed tuck-shop fare.

Perhaps a combination of all three.

What I do know is that there was an awful lot of spew about.

The corridor floors were shiny with patina and polish.

When sick hit – often with considerable force – it splattered comprehensively.

Compounding the situation after the fact was the dust man.

His response to spew was to strew it with sawdust.

Appropriate, one might think.

But then,

he left it.

As the hot day wore on, the barf bouquet breached every nook of the school.

And, like so many mouse-trap-taped ping-pong balls, one emetic event could spring kindred reactions from sensitive souls.

By mid-afternoon, the halls could be decked with hazards.

Nor did it end there.

We always yearned to be out of class.

And played ferociously at every chance.

When the bell knelled a return to travail, we lingered as long as we dared, then raced back to class at the last instant.

The sad confluence of this was that one poor, speeding pupil invariably fell foul of dusty chuck.

I can hear it now …

Pounding footsteps down the hall.

The shriek of recognition on turning a blind corner.

The screech of protesting Bata Scouts.

The awkward thump and endless, hideous slither.

The scream of anguish.

The clatter of heels.

The raucous Schadenfreude.

And the wail of the victim who, tarred and feathered, had stinking hot hours to endure.

Why the dust man did it, I’ll never know.

I suppose, these days, we’d call it poor cultural fit.

The chunder down under was always gone by morning.

The scene set for another fool

to fret the stage.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Maja Dumat.


Blood ties

November 24, 2015 at 8:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Parents like to regale guests with early tales of their offspring.

The one I heard most about me involved alcohol.

Apparently, I was around three.

Certainly not tall enough to see over the table on which a very cheap and nasty flagon stood.

This story was told so often that I don’t actually know if I remember the event or am merely parroting it.

But I seem to recall my parents and their friends debating whether I could stomach the rough claret they were ingesting.

Most thought not.

But my father felt I had potential.

And so a test was agreed.

Dad handed down a small beaker to me.

I tasted the red, gritty fluid, drank it down, paused, then proffered the vessel with the mortal imprecation, ‘More craret!’

There ensued much adult mirth – which echoed for decades.

Like ‘lellow’, ‘Megimite’ and ‘gagrass’, I was far from getting every word correct.

Today (amazingly, in retrospect) I’ve become rather good at it.

Claret is archaic for blood.

It certainly gets under your skin.

And if there’s drinking in your family (blood again)

there’s every chance

you’ll act


Further reading:



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