The wisdom of weeds

December 31, 2017 at 8:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Battlefield earth

Battlefield earth.

I’m in the garden.

And the garden is in me.

Clay in my nails. Dirt in my heels. Barbs in my fingers. Good [?] bacteria in my blood.

I sweat – as if to change the earth’s pH.

What weeds are these?!

Astonished at their powers of surface regeneration, I dig an inspection trench.

It soon turns archaeological.

Under the mulch, communication lines link camouflaged outposts.

Hook a finger under one and you take out a redoubt.


I work at this, thinking I have the weeds’ measure.

But at the fifth skirmish, a deeper network briefly appears under refilling soil.

Thicker cables; taking two hands.

The first yields easily in loose aggregate. A flank surrenders!

A shot of dopamine for my pains. Better than a computer game.

But the second line resists in difficult ground. Fighting, fighting … until the engagement suddenly breaks off.

The third fibre parts instantly. It’s darker than the others. Rotting. An abandoned line.

I scrabble at the deepening mystery.

Clods, stones, lesser roots; nothing exciting.

Until I hit pay dirt.

A nexus! With branch lines crossing. Think Hurt locker IED with multiple shells.

Loosened, they tear down crazy tangents – each a new rabbit hole to explore.

I check progress.

I’m doing four inches per hour on a three-foot front.

I need these old measures. I’m dealing with the archaic.

My mother was in this place.

Can she feel my touch across the divide?

Do these weeds note her half-strength scent on my laboured breath?

Before us, the Germans. Planting lemon groves. Building their church from local stone. Did they join battle too?

Before them, the first people. Who doubtless knew these plants as intimate relations.

Perhaps a broth of the damn things could ease my dreams.

The sinews thicken as I descend. Like a Soviet metro if they really put their backs into it. Tunnels without end.

Now I’m led to strange, pale nodes – like crushed balsa. Are these the weeds’ archives? Their intelligence? Their command and control?

I stop.

What right have I to evict this network for my piffling planting?

To undo eons of effort.

Who am I to pry?

But then, I stare at the long row I’m yet to hoe.

And realise

these weeds will be here

long beyond

the Anthropocene.

To keep me in potting mix, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll down a bulb in your honour.





Rank outsider

December 29, 2017 at 7:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was so crap at this …

I was hurtling along Melbourne’s Nepean Highway with a family of four in my hideous taxi.

I’d picked them up from the international airport.

With a four-hour window in their global sojourn, they’d organised to meet long-lost relatives in a bayside suburb.

Time was precious.

‘Leave it to me!’ I said, flooring the accelerator.

Having read most of Wilbur Smith in the endless cab queue, I was elated to escape with such a massive fare.

It was a glorious Sunday – fine weather, light winds, little traffic.

For once, the tires and engine sang.

Smiling, I watched the meter tally my burgeoning wealth.

Even the smashed gas cylinder indicator seemed to wink.

The family chattered excitedly about their impending reunion.

Lovely day for the seaside, I thought, as the sun stroked my face.

Brighton …

… Chelsea …

Funny how we inherited so many names from England …

… I wonder if they’re both by the sea … like they are here …

After 40 minutes, the wife asked how much longer we’d be.

‘Not long now!’ I replied cheerily.

To be on the safe side, I glanced at my map. Yep. Chelsea was just ten more lucrative clicks south.

‘I didn’t think it’d be this far’, she said. ‘Are you sure this is the way to Brighton?’


(We’d passed it 20 minutes ago.)

‘Yes. We said Brighton.’

With beet face and white heart, I threw a screaming 180 and backpedalled furiously.

My sunny reverie had slashed this family’s face time (in a time before FaceTime).

I switched off the meter and apologised ALL the way back.

The wife was chillingly silent.

The teen kids vocally hostile.

Only the husband, sitting next to me, responded to my vomitous mea culpa.

When we finally got to the restaurant, surly kin shot my tyres with daggers.

(This was before we all had mobile phones, you see.)

Completely overwrought, I refused payment and tried to make a getaway.

But the husband pressed notes into my hand and said, ‘These things happen’.

He even …

tipped me!

Despite his kindness, my massive service fail haunts me to this day.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.


When Dutch grandmothers attack

December 1, 2017 at 7:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


I have just one memory of my father’s mother.

A looming, powerful presence in our lounge room – booming words I didn’t know.

‘Oma’ gave me small, red-striped candy canes.

Perhaps it was xmas.

She was on a world trip.

And, after single-handedly bringing 12 out of 13 kids through World War II, who could blame her?

My dad called it her ‘Glory Tour’.

He expected her to show off to neighbours upon her return.

As she left us, she souvenired some photos.


I may be wrong, but I feel the way she did this is a poignant, silent testament

to a forceful character

forged in adversity.

To keep me in coffee, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll toast your health.

Battle stars

June 15, 2017 at 8:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.



January 28, 2017 at 11:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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,


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.



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.


January 15, 2017 at 7:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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)


Much adieu

January 14, 2017 at 9:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.’


‘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


Uncle frightener

December 17, 2016 at 10:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.