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.

 

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Moreish

January 28, 2017 at 11:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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cook-and-more

Swipe right?

One of my least satisfying copywriting clients was my father.

He craved female beauty, company and utility.

Especially after my mother’s death.

In his mid-70s, he asked me to write a personal ad for the local rag.

I wasn’t keen, as I knew that the brief, product, market and customer would be difficult – if not impossible.

Then again, as he’d refused to read any of my fiction, I was curious to see what it would look like.

He wanted a woman who was much slimmer, younger, better dressed and more attractive than he.

She had to be sufficiently educated to appreciate and applaud (but neither exceed nor challenge) his gargantuan knowledge and wit.

She also needed a specific sense of humour.

His.

To convey this mandatory criterion, he insisted the ad include the line:

‘Must love Cook and Moore.’

By this he meant the comedy duo of which he was a fan.

I tried to explain that such a rigorous standard could severely curtail replies, but he was adamant.

And so the ad ran.

On my next visit, I asked how he’d fared.

He said that only one female – ‘of limited intellect and heavy Eastern European extraction’ – had phoned with a riposte:

‘I am cook.

What is “more”?’


This blog runs on (instant) coffee.

Any sum appertaining thereto would be much appreciated and long recalled.


Brown widow

January 20, 2017 at 9:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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743px-agapanthus_praecox_mhnt-bot-2009-7-4

What we do in life …

It is dusk.

I chat on the warm footpath with the widow next door.

She don spik Englis so good.

I no spik Greek at all.

So she’s ahead on points.

We usually get there in the end.

She ask how am I.

I say I’m OK, but dizzy (gestures) from the hospital pills.

She ask why I am in the hospital.

I pause, realising this topic will be even tougher than our council’s three-bin waste cycle.

I point to my head and say it is sick.

I point to the church hall down our street.

I talk about a man who did bad things to me (and lots of other kids) a long time ago.

I glance at her face, to see if my words are small enough.

Unexpectedly, we lock eyes.

Through these wet, brown, Mediterranean portals, I see.

Her grief, her loneliness, her inability to keep up with everything.

And her children’s thirst to flog her home of 40 years.

I wait for her reply.

She nods slowly,

turns,

points to a riot of Agapanthus and says,

‘I think this is too much for the bin.

I don kno if the man – he will take.’

For some seconds, I plan an entirely different response.

Then, I assure her all will be well.

And that if the man – he no take,

I will call the council.

Personally.

Epilogue

He take.

Pic by Roger Culos.


If you found this interesting or entertaining you may like to:

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


Kebub

January 15, 2017 at 7:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This is my first memory (so far) so feel free to skip it.

I’m lying on my back in a small bedroom in suburban Melbourne.

Beneath me the white, relatively rough toweling of a many-times-washed nappy.

Not one of today’s supermarket disposables.

An old, analogue version.

The type that began square and was somehow folded to approximate an infant’s pelvis.

With wrapping done, there remained the task of fastening.

For this there were enormous (to me) ‘safety’ pins – likely made in England.

Long, strong and sharp: to penetrate the many folds.

The ‘safety’ bit was a (baby blue) metal cap that slid over the workings once each pin was in place.

I don’t recall this device malfunctioning, but I feared it doing so.

I do recall strong fingers simultaneously holding a stacked fabric corner and striving to penetrate all layers without ‘overshooting’.

I remember worrying that it may be tricky to arrest a pin’s progress into my flesh should it pass through warp and weft with unexpected alacrity or ease.

I also recall two types of strong fingers wielding these fasteners.

This may be a manufactured memory.

Nor, of course, did I possess any descriptors.

The first type of strength was my mother’s.

Skilled. Determined. Busy. Efficient.

The second type was my father’s.

Coarse. Hurried. Annoyed. Not to be bested.

I feared both kinds of force – lest I be pinned to the bed.

But the first kind, less so.

I was thus much relieved when the ultimate pin withdrew,

freeing me for new

(though not always exciting)

experiences.

Much adieu

January 14, 2017 at 9:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Poor soundproofing, my nearness to the ward’s security portal  and my lack of headphones give me little option but to overhear all manner of farewells.

Here’s a particularly poignant one – modified to respect the parties, but intact in essence.

‘Goodbye, Darl.’

‘Do you really have to go?’

‘Yes; I’ve been here for ages.’

‘Can’t you stay a bit longer?’

‘I really can’t.’

‘Please?’

‘Visiting hours are over, Darl.’

‘But can’t we go back to my room, just for a minute?’

‘No, Darl; we really can’t.’

‘But what about my slippers? Are you sure you brought them?’

‘I did, Darl; they’re in your case.’

‘Should we go back and check? Just to be sure?’

‘No, Darl; I definitely packed them. I know they’re in there.’

‘Are you certain?’

‘Yes, Darl.’

‘Do you really have to go?’

‘Darl; yes. I really do. You … you really have to let me go, Darl.’

‘Do we love each other?’

‘Of course, Darl!’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, Darl; I’m sure. And now I really must go. Goodbye; Darl.’

‘I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?’

‘OK, Darl; goodbye. I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow. OK?’

The man exits and the portal reseals.

The woman remains.

Frozen in silence.

She’s there for so long that I fall asleep before

her footfalls

retrace the

hall.

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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acd8f5bf5f5fa2b13618aee40f4fb26d

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

forward.

The trick is

to find the right

path.

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.


Dog gone

September 18, 2016 at 9:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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slide-001-young-paul-with-basil-dog-by-alder-tree

In harm’s way.

 

In remembering my dead father, one incident continues to trouble me daily.

I hope that writing it down will free me from it.

Note that I use the lower-case ‘dad’ to try to take the sting out.

Basil was our first (and last) dog.

dad described Basil as a ‘Heinz’ (i.e. a mongrel comprising 57 varieties).

I seem to recall Basil was a stray who simply hung around long enough to be admitted to our yard.

I have few memories of Basil other than this:

dad was proud of his garden and lawn.

He didn’t want holes in either.

Basil, being a dog, had other ideas.

But no idea of Dutch discipline.

When Basil dug his third hole, dad became suddenly apoplectic.

He strode to the tool shed and returned with a three-foot (90 cm) length of two-inch (52 mm) orange plastic pipe.

It was so thick, it barely bent.

dad then grabbed Basil by the ears, hoisted him aloft and beat the shit out of him.

I sat aghast near the Alder tree (pictured in the slide).

Basil’s screams still resound, half a century on.

The scene, dark against the summer sun, burnt into my brain.

I felt terror, then.

As did Basil.

I believe he left us soon after.

Hopefully of his own volition.

And under his own steam.

Henceforth, dad had only to look at me to strike fear and avert wrongdoing.

Mum summed up his behaviour several times over the decades as,

‘He gets wild sometimes … ‘

Being passive aggressive myself, I know about bottling things till they explode.

But I used to vent on ‘inanimates’.

Or myself.

And I’ve sought a lot of help.

Sometimes, I find myself praying to no-one in particular

that mum’s blood flows stronger

and I am not

my father’s

son.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire and Imagine Day.

 

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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

time,

In 1937,

A young teen played with

dolls.

And none of them were

bratz.

 

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Footy legend

May 2, 2016 at 7:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Footy002

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.

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