Uncle frightener

December 17, 2016 at 10:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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An uncle, to whom I was relatively close, drank himself to death.

Many years before this, we met at the Esplanade Hotel in Melbourne’s beachside suburb of
St Kilda.

We were celebrating the fact that he was 44 and I was 22.

I asked him why he drank so much, so often.

(This was three decades ago, so my memory may be flawed.)

He said that he’d been living with a beautiful and gentle girlfriend in New Zealand.

One day, they had a huge fight and he flew into a violent rage.

The girlfriend fled the second-storey dwelling and my uncle, still furious, spent considerable time throwing all her belongings through the window, to the ground.

These included a record player, which smashed to smithereens.

The girlfriend returned that evening, to find everything she owned strewn across the street.

Unable to climb the stairs to endure whatever further drama awaited, she disappeared into the night.

My uncle knowingly let her go.

That night, she was gang-raped by six men.

My memory fails here, but I’m pretty sure she committed suicide thereafter.

Who wouldn’t?

My uncle, not surprisingly, blamed himself.

He began his long road to ruin because he could neither forget that night, nor forgive himself.

The grog merely went some small way to dulling the pain in his head that never ceased.

As reasons for being an alcoholic went, I thought this one was pretty cogent.

This kind young woman used to collect and send me stamps for my childhood album.

I still have them.

After my uncle’s death, I helped pour his ashes into the sea, under the pier we’d looked at as he told his dreadful tale.

At the wake, his family and friends sat several tables from the plum bay window at which he and I had ‘celebrated’ in 1987.

It was his favourite.


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: https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pe0D49kOW3?play=true

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.
















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.

Dead letter

July 3, 2015 at 5:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The folk at Births Deaths and Marriages are thoughtful.

When their middle letter hits your box, there’s not much to alarm you – save the unfamiliar address and unusual envelope thickness.

When you open it, you find a second envelope.

It says in big red letters that it contains a death certificate.

And that you might like to have someone with you when you open it.

When you gird yourself to slit this envelope, there’s another gentle touch.

The certificate is folded shut.

And when you unfold that, you see the back page first – which contains only your address and a discreet reference number.

With BD&M having done all they can, the final truth now lies in your hands.

Only you can turn the page.

Down to the wire

May 9, 2015 at 10:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Today I woke to find my silver hair had turned to wire.

Gone the soft flax of youth.

The dank lanks of adolescence.

The mousey locks of adulthood.

This is different.

Distinguished banker?

Not quite.

Grizzled marine?


Snow-topped professor?

Alas, no.

All I have is grey wire.

Spools of the stuff.

They don’t even use it.

Something about colour-blind electricians, I think.

So why do I have a headful?

Is one strand from the pacemaker my dad refused?

Does another belong to the bodgy mike of the priest who buried him?

Has the universe deduced, from 18 months of gritted teeth, that I sorely need my jaw sewn shut?

Or has Fate taken one long fibre

and tempered it into Samurai steel?

I think so.


To craft the sharpest needle,

to draw all pain from my dear, dying doggie and

to plunge it in my


Dad’s eulogy

May 7, 2015 at 7:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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Thank you all so much for coming.

Fonnie and I are deeply grateful for your kindness and support.

Dad’s life had a pretty rough start.

And a pretty awful final phase.

But, by all accounts, his last moment was one of peace.

I think he’d thank God for that.

In between dad’s beginning and end, he packed a whole lot into life.

And that may be his greatest legacy.

To turn nothing into something.

And to grab life with both hands.

The big parties on King Island.

The endless summers in Doncaster.

The myriad world adventures on land, air and sea.

Friends by the dozen.

Books by the hundred.

Beers by the thousand.

Culture by the tonne.

Wall-to-wall music, singing, laughing, playing and dancing.

What a life!

Australia was kind to dad – as if to make up for the past.

An interesting and meaningful career.

And when that petered out, an early retirement.

With good health, great company and funds to enjoy life on his own terms for decades.

Who could ask for more?

This was no accident.

Mum and dad worked, scrimped, suffered and saved for many lean years.

But it all paid off.

Those of you familiar with my emails will know that dad drove me crazy in the ‘micro’ (day-to-day) stuff.

Thank you for enduring my rants and raves over the last 18 difficult months.

But in the ‘macro’ (meaningful) stuff dad was different.

When the chips were down, he was around.

Dad played Scrabble for keeps.

He gave me books to read that were just beyond my reach.

He rammed a rigorous work ethic into me that serves to this day.

So I’m very grateful.

I hope dad is in heaven, for his sake.

As a child, I thought he was flawless and immortal.

When he went to confession, I asked him why – given he was ‘perfect’.

He replied that he was ‘far from perfect’.

As the years passed, I saw him trying to work on his game.

He taught me critical thinking, and to be objective and scientific about things.

The more I learnt, the more my faith fell apart.

I asked how he, a man of science, could reconcile the gaping chasms of logic our religion contained.

He said that ‘he prayed’.

‘Prayed for what?’ I pursued.

‘I pray, to have the faith, to believe.’

Unlike me, dad kept this up to the end.

So I figure that, if God were listening, he’d have to be impressed.

Impressed by a man who, despite being torn between seen and unseen all his life, kept striving to meet his Maker. Perhaps halfway.

I therefore think (logically) that dad may be eligible for his ‘reward’.

And if you have a religious inclination, you may wish to join my hopes with your prayers.

That dad is finally.



Death on a tram

January 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Death on a tram

Ding! Ding!

Three years ago I saw Death on a tram.

True dinks.

I was waiting to turn right into Cotham Road, Kew.

She was taking the 109 to

the Box Hill


I was surprised by her gender; Death is invariably portrayed as male.

But, as a former Equal Employment Opportunity officer, I thought,

‘Why the hell not?!’

She was old, but well preserved.

She seemed quite … fit.

It looked like she’d just had her wispy halo of hair done.

She sat, looking ahead, on the left side of the tram.

Feeling my gaze, she turned and stared right through my windscreen.

Transfixed, I saw the sockets behind her eyes,

then the skull beneath her flesh.

It was Death alright.

For a second I thought she might be coming for me.

‘Don’t worry’, she spoke to my mind.

‘My client’s in Balwyn.’

‘I’ll see you later.’

Then she looked ahead again.

The lights changed.

The tram’s bell rang.

And away she went.

And that was the day I saw Death.


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