Lag

May 23, 2018 at 7:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Going deep …

I sit opposite the jury, giving my evidence.

I don’t know whether to look at my peers or not.

If I do, will I appear defiant?

If I don’t, will I appear aloof?

I have trouble communing with one good friend, let alone 12 strangers.

They’re just out of focus, so my glasses go on and off. (Too often?)

The lawyer (our side) guides me through my testimony with questions I can grasp and answer.

Eventually, we conclude the first episode of my sexual assault.

As my second narrative begins, I sense something in the jury box.

Nervously, I look up from the microphone, tissues, coaster and water glass.

There’s faint movement and murmuring from most of the jurors.

The 12th (back right) is clearly asleep in her leather chair.

The jurors look at her, each other, the legal teams and the judge.

The court staff do likewise.

No-one looks at me.

I look at the judge, waiting for him to twig.

He’s looking at his notes, so it takes longer than you might think.

I pass the time wondering if my childhood abuse story is really that boring.

At last, realisation dawns.

The judge confers with the tipstaff and the jury’s foreperson.

Other jurors helpfully add that the sleeping woman has flown from overseas and is jet lagged.

The judge addresses her as ‘Madam’ at three ascending volumes.

Madam groggily comes to and, on being briefed, offers that she is jet lagged.

The judge orders an early lunch; but I’m far from hungry.

Outside the courtroom, my team assures me it’s not my fault.

I can hardly ‘sex up’ my testimony.

On our return, the judge explains that, since Madam hasn’t heard the same evidence as her colleagues, she must leave the jury.

This seems to suit her well, and I picture her tumbling into pillows and doonas.

The judge then explains that we can proceed with 11 jurors – if the accused agrees.

The defence lawyer consults her thrice-convicted paedophile.

I can hear him breathing and creaking behind the screen that was offered to me before the case and which I accepted.

The former scoutmaster swiftly rejects the 11-juror option.

Thus committing us to a second trial, months hence.

In the darkness of that not-very-good night, I conclude that my attacker hopes I’ll die before our next round.

Silently, I commend his tactic.

As I feel

I may.


Still awake?

I could use a coffee …


 

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Gun handling

May 12, 2018 at 6:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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jesus-gun

And this is the safety …

For years I wondered how christians got around ‘thou shalt not kill’.

To me, this seemed pretty clear cut – with little to no wiggle room.

Then dad set me straight on his terrace one fine autumn day.

‘Bloody druggies!’

‘Pardon, dad?’

‘I’d line them up against the wall and shoot them.’

‘Drug addicts?

‘Yes. And the dealers.’

‘But, what if they had a reason for their addiction?’

‘Not interested.’

‘What if they’d suffered terribly and were trying to mask the pain.’

‘No excuses.’

‘So, you’d execute them?’

‘Yes. Grab a handful. Line them up against the wall. And shoot them. The rest would soon get the message.’

‘I see. But dad … ‘

‘Yes?’

‘What do you reckon … Jesus would make of that approach? You know: “thou shalt not kill” and all that.’

He consults the sky, as one might a flight schedule.

‘He’d understand.’

‘He would?’

‘Yes. He’d consider it … justified.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

‘You sound so … sure.’

‘I am.’

‘Geez, dad … ‘

‘I’ll get you to cut the tops out of the jacarandas.’

‘No worries.’

I sip my beer and glance sidelong at his jutting countenance.

‘dad?’

‘Yes?’

‘Do you think it’d be fair to say your religion is somewhat … convenient?’

A pause, during which the jacarandas tremble in his thick-framed spectacles.

‘Yes. I suppose you could say it is.’


Evil’s root.

Can you dig it?


 

Through the wire

May 9, 2018 at 9:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Room 20 C View Fly wire

View with a room.

It’s 2015 and dad has days to live.

I visit his nursing home room with the garden view.

dad reports that while he didn’t sleep well, he was comforted by the spectacle of a wedge-tailed eagle.

‘Oh, I watched it for hours and hours. It was over there; way up high. Soaring, soaring … tremendous!’

I follow his pale, tremulous finger to the quadrant of sky, but see naught.

‘Look! There it is again!’

Again, nothing.

dad can’t believe me, so I crouch by the deathbed to gain his line of sight.

‘Do you see it?’

‘No, dad … I’m afraid I still can’t.’

‘But it’s just over there … ‘

I try every focus, then finally glimpse a tiny blob

in the window’s insect screen.

I rise to examine

a dead, desiccated mosquito – with wings spread.

I return to the bed and view the sky anew.

‘Can you see it now? Do you see it?’

‘Yes, dad.

I can.’


Death and taxes.

Let’s light you a candle.


 

The wisdom of weeds

December 31, 2017 at 8:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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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.

Satisfying.

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.


 

 

 

When Dutch grandmothers attack

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

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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.


Big drama

December 27, 2016 at 8:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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My catholic high school (secondary college) had an approach to teaching drama that modern parents could consider … questionable.

In Year 7 (Form 1), I experienced this method at age 12.

It was 1977. Only now do I appreciate how odd it all was.

The classes were held in a bricked basement, with no view in or out.

The spherical, late-middle-aged man who controlled the (unsupervised) proceedings was known (modified for legal reasons) as ‘Prof’.

Prof never got out of his chair, but seemed forever rotating in it.

We were a gaggle of prepubescent boys – a world away from today’s knowing, sexualised offspring.

The only naked woman most of us had seen was in our black-and-white biology textbook. (And we had to draw straws for that one … but that’s another story.)

In light of our extreme callowness, Prof decided we needed ‘warming up’ before we could stride the stage in earnest.

He therefore announced that each of us would take several minutes to devise a ‘television commercial’

for our own underpants.

And perform it

in them.

This would occur on the dais in front of Prof’s desk.

Reactions in the group were mixed.

A few extroverts relished the chance and fled to corners to rehearse.

Others seemed bemused, but compliant.

I honestly can’t recall my response – possibly because I was fixated on that of one student.

He was low and slight, with a wig of jet hair shockingly matched to alabaster skin. He had buck teeth, red-rimmed eyes and thin limbs that seemed they’d snap in a breeze.

Let’s call him Damon.

Damon was bullied. Cripplingly shy. And at that instant, he looked like the last soul of a wrecked ship on a reef of pain.

By the time Damon scraped enough courage to ask if he could be excused from this ‘exercise’ Prof was already judging performances.

As boy after boy stripped and spruiked his goods, Damon writhed, wrung his hands and became ever more wretched.

Again he begged Prof’s indulgence, this time in tears, but was brushed off.

At last, Damon’s turn came.

Most of the undies so far had been of the jockette style – bought in multi-hued packs at the supermarket.

Damon’s ‘bog catchers’ were altogether different.

They were so white, they gave his skin colour.

They were so big, they shrank him by a third.

They were so ill-fitted, they looked like they could storm off the stage in protest.

All I recall of Damon’s maiden performance was that it was excruciating, and brief.

The mocking laughter that engulfed him from script to stage door lasted much, much longer.

Possibly to this day.

I’m pretty sure Prof marked Damon very low for lack of ‘presence’.

Other boys got glowing reviews.

And

money.

Yes. Prof produced a handful of currency that drew us like filings to his iron desk.

His fat fingers dispensed largesse to those who’d pleased him most.

We later learned this was Prof’s known modus operandi.

One senior teacher even extolled Prof for ‘generously motivating students out of his own pocket’.

I find this astonishing now.

But at the time, I was so in ‘need’ of funds for my next kit model that I got with the program.

Indeed, I once embraced the role of Female Nurse with such ardour that I rode the school bus sporting my mother’s nail polish – to my father’s chagrin and my future bullies’ delight.

Rumours persisted about certain students who pleased Prof beyond fiscal measure and were treated to private coaching sessions – in his home.

In hindsight, I’m extremely glad my best ‘review’ was $1.60.

I’ll say just one more thing about this unusual episode.

When Bing Crosby died, Prof assigned us to write a journalistic article about his life.

Now this was something to which I could turn my hand.

I spent days researching and crafting the perfect piece.

Prof marked it ‘C++-‘.

I asked where my real mark had gone.

He retorted that, while the article was extremely well written and presented (++) it was too good to have been produced by such a young auteur (C-).

In short, I must have plagiarised the whole thing from a source even loftier than The Sun.

You can imagine

my

disgust.

Further reading.


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Psycheling

December 20, 2016 at 9:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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It was with a small measure of rare pride that I entered the psychiatrist’s room.

Not nearly enough to brim over, but sufficient to coat the floor of a 250 ml lab flask if you swirled it.

It felt so different to have something positive to report.

For once.

Two things, in fact.

The first was that my wife and I had downsized to one car.

Apart from cutting costs, I felt this was better for the environment.

I also felt that with my wife needing the car to commute, I’d be forced to walk and cycle much more often.

My old bike had been chained to the house for years – gathering dust, rust and spiders.

I was going to get it fixed, then decided to do something unprecedented.

I bought a new bike, with a rechargeable battery, to help me over the hills that dotted my usual journeys.

The purchase was a success.

I began riding around town at an average speed of 24.1 km/h, with a record downhill sprint of 52.8 km/h.

The website had promised this bike would make me smile.

And you know what? It actually did.

So I considered this sequence of events my second ‘good thing’.

I proudly told the psychiatrist that I’d overcome decades of self-hate to buy myself a gift.

In so doing, I’d also trounced 4000 tonnes of inertia to get my fat, sclerotic body outside and moving again.

The psychiatrist quizzed me about the bike’s battery assistance (which is modest, optional and variable).

I happily filled him in.

Then he said:

‘Why didn’t you get fit and buy a real bike?’

I found this

unhelpful.


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 Just a buck or two will keep me going strong. 🙂

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

catch

a

buzz.

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.


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Killing time

September 26, 2016 at 10:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments
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park-of-death_0001

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.

park-of-death_0002

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.

park-of-death_0005

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.

park-of-death_0006

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.

park-of-death_0003

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.

benalla-rocket-20130410-00111

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

benalla-rocket-tom

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,

P.


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