Friday, December 31, 2010

365. The power of transformation

Success being 90% perspiration, and 10% inspiration is the sort of annoying aphorism that says if I want something hard enough, then I have to work my butt off, not just sit back and expect, or hope, it will fall in my lap. I know this in theory, but achieving the reality is another escarpment altogether.

I want to be able to write. Like Hemingway, I want to be able to write just one good sentence. Not write like Hemingway. Just achieve one good sentence. Or was that Fitzgerald who said that. Needless, how do I go about achieving that? How do I learn to write one good sentence?

To be able to write one good sentence, one must read other writers who write not only one good sentence, but can string good sentences together into one good paragraph.

I push into another year, exploring within my imagination for one good sentence.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

364. One person's end, is another's beginning

All her life, Valerie had been unable - or unwilling - to see beyond the obvious. To take that leap of faith that indicated that what she could not see, she could at least imagine. Her life was firmly rooted in the here and the now. Jobs needed to be done now; play would come later. And, this turned her into a Jill, with all work and no play.

To Val, the next corner heralded just more of the same. Over the next rise, would simply be more rises. And so it turned out to be. For her at any rate. They say that revolutions begin not with despair, but with hope. Had Valerie been able to conceive of a better life, or simply just a different life, she might have lived in hope. But she couldn’t, so she didn’t.

Not that she wallowed in despair either. It was worse than that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

363. Failure of the imagination

His knuckles were white as he gripped the railing. The reed-encrusted pond floated out in front of him, and the chatter of happy picnickers resounded behind him. All as in a vacuum. It was not like he was in pain. Not physical pain. And Norm had never been one for attributing any credence whatsoever to pain of the soul. So he was left in a quandary as to what was engulfing him.

He swayed, which is why he grasped the rail. There was an echo effect. Like both his eyes and his ears were doing a backflip. Telling him to stop. Stop right now. Take it in. Now. Smell the roses.

Like hell. What a load of balderdash. Roses are over-rated plants with thorns. The cut-type in the corner shop wilt after being in a vase for less than a day. And as for perfume. None. Been bred out of them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

362. Long time since

They haven’t sat there since the autumn, when the light was brighter, and their love just that less brittle. Not that their union is in danger. They are past that point, like realising when cleaning the house that you have less to go than you have already accomplished, and might as well push on. Not that they discuss it. Not with each other, at any rate. Not even with friends. Just with visiting relatives who have suffered the same ennui.

Interesting thing about who you discuss what with. Fran had long realised that she was fair game. Hardly anything was off-radar for frank and free discussions with her. Brush off the fallen leaves, remove the webs of long gone spiders, and the gloves come off. Just add a couple of flat whites, and a spare hour or three. Family laundry is fluttering in the breeze before the sugar is stirred.

Monday, December 27, 2010

361. Can't see a good thing when staring it in the face

For a switched on chick, Carol was often a connundrum. At times she had her head wedged so firmly in the past that her friends despaired. She looked out of time, with her bloomers flapping in the past. She had a penchant for the out-of-fashion, rather than the old-fashioned, dated clothing rather than vintage.

And this matched her social attitudes. Carol still thought it okay for a man to 'show her a good time' without there being the inevitable equal but opposite reaction. To some extent, she had a lot more take than give. Not that Carol is not a nice person, as nice people go. She was just out of time, inhabiting another era.

Take her approach to inheritance. Carol had this firmly entrenched view that her children would inherit her estate, and, as such, she wanted it to be worth-while. No matter that she would live out her old age in penury. Carol was asset rich but cash poor.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

360. One foot in the grave

It was not as though Imogen was squeamish, more that she did not want to cause offence. Every one had to die at some time,and many people recognised this. Well, recognised it in theory. Recognised it in others. However, when it came to their own death, most people turned a blind eye, or a deaf ear. However one looks at it, people simply could not recognise when their own demise was nigh.

Jack was close to death. He was dying. Actually, the other way around: close to death is closer than merely dying. Dying is still in the back straight, whereas close to death is within bull's roar of the finish line.

Jack was so close to death, his skin was sloughing, and his eyes full of eternal light, yet still he would deny it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

359. The power of the bottom line

Bums on seats is what is crucial. The thorny issue of how to get paying customers through the front door, is one that should be addressed - and solved - before any new venture is embarked upon.

And this is intricately involved with the substance of the venture itself. What is it that is on offer, are people likely to want it , and will people pay sufficiently to enable the business case to stack up in the real world? Take three brain-waves out the trillions that are conjured out of thin air each year: a computer networking consultancy; a child care establishment; and, a retail photography venture.

There is certainly a demand for child care places, but parents are loathe to pay the economic cost, thinking it to be little more than baby-sitting, and besides they can do it themselves. There is certainly a market for photography, but most people contend they can do just as well themselves, and portraiture is so very subjective.

Which leaves us with networking computers.

Friday, December 24, 2010

358 Cecile's folly

Some ideas just don't have legs. But it is very hard to persuade certain people of this once their heart is set upon something. Cecile was one such person.

Cecile had worked her entire life in a factory in Marrickville as a machinist. Then when she was 57 she won some money in lotto. That was how she expressed it in public, but the reality of the situation was that Cecile won some few million dollars, just slightly less than ten. She and Henry had never known such wealth, and had no idea what to do with it. They did not talk about it with friends, because they might think they had tickets on themselves. They did not talk about it with a financial adviser, because he might suggest the stock market or government bonds.

Cecile and Henry wanted to invest in bricks an mortar. Something to take them away from the industrial wasteland that had been their lot in life until now.

So, they invested in a Bed & Breakfast. As a hobby. To keep them in their old age.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

357. Every so often life surprises

Elise was peeved because her pink gloves had perished and she had to do the dishes by hand. Would that she had a brand-spanking machine like Nerida next door.

Nerida was a puzzlement really. You could swear she was all show with nothing on the inside. What with her navy blue immaculate French-cut nails and her hair always immaculately coiffed. Elise would never dream of wearing a linen skirt, as the creases would just emphasise her pudgey backside. Nothing like this would sway Nerida; linen skirts would never dream of creasing on her. They wouldn't dare. It was easy to judge this book by its cover.

Until her Rodney died.
Until her Rodney died, Elise had no need to look to Nerida's interior.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

356. There is a blue hill far away beyond the city wall

Evelyn leant on her veranda and looked into the purple haze. Her coffee mug was balanced on the ledge, her chin propped up by her elbows.

Her gaze lifted over the first ridge of indigo hills, then the second, her imagination realizing they stretched on ad infinitum, could her eyes but discern them. Lucky life is not a straight line, she mused. The destination would be achieved all too soon. Evelyn thanked her lucky stars for not flying like a crow. Instead she cogitated on up hill and down dale, and the peregrinations of both bush-walking and life. How some people spent all their life following the stream, never venturing to clamber up the more difficult inclines.

Then she saw the ridge of blue stretched across the expanse of the sky, and wondered where the trudging ended and the flying commenced.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

355. Growth rings

Ron had always been attracted to wood. Attracted is not strong enough; mesmerised is more accurate.

He liked the smell of it, even when it was being hewn, with the sap seeping, and the tree creaking in agony. He liked the smell of it being milled, as the shower of wood-dust filled the air and weeped into a heap beneath the sawn lumber. He liked the feel of it, running the pads of his fingers gently over the whorls and knots and growth rings.

But especially, Ron liked to work timber, to mould it, and shape it, and make it into something attractive to the eye. He could put his skill to the building of a house, or a slip and rail fence, or an ornate fruit bowl. But one of Ron's life long passions was using his lathe to create the smooth shape of the female body from wood.

Monday, December 20, 2010

354. To each his own

There is no accounting for taste – whether in garden ornaments, or lovers. One should never criticise the person that attracts a friend. Attraction is a conundrum. Some people are attracted to the clothes people wear, the car they may drive, or the company they keep. Other people may be attracted by smell. I read in scientific articles that this is based on fact. I struggle with this as an attractant.

I am attracted by things that cannot be seen – like smell, I guess. Maybe it is the way he walks, or shuffles, or drags his wooden leg. Maybe, it is the spark of wit in the corner of an eye. They say opposites attract, but I fail to see the logic in this. What would opposites have in common? Maybe it is that complementaries.attract .

Suffice to say, I am not attracted to this type of garden ornament.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

353.Other times, other manners

This is what she said, but in another language altogether. Which no doubt carried other connotations. But, I understood her meaning, and did not chastise her cliché. For what is a cliché if not a vehicle for truth over time. Things were done differently in the past, is what she wanted to say, and which I understood, from the cliché. Others may have chastised, if they felt awkward, if it limited their understanding, if they felt inadequate. Perhaps, for some, a cliché carries too much of the minutae of past learnings.

Maybe for some, this stairway from the road to a park, is dangerous and should be replaced. But I find it charming. A reminder that, in the past, we were not so hung up with public liability. We expected citizens to look out for themselves, to take due care. Now we live in a nanny state, with apron strings.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

352. Attraction in the eye of the beholder

She could have been walking Rue Soufflot in the autumn, but she wasn't. She saw it by chance, from across the busy Sydney street in the early summer after a sudden shower.

It was not the brioche that attracted. Well, it was and, then again, it wasn't. It attracted her taste-buds, but turned her stomach. Her stomach reacted to the settling of fats. Before, she would purchase in haste, and repent at leisure. But, no longer. Now she appreciates from a distance. She finds other aspects more tempting.

Like the printing. The shape like the ooze of the custard filling. Like the skill that went into the formation of each letter. Once completed by quill, but now likely by fine-point. She appreciates the complexity of the printing. Its ability to link both the similar and the disparate. Like the window links a street in Paris to a street in Paddington.

Friday, December 17, 2010

351. Wishful thinking

She knew the ivy to be counter-productive, that its beauty would be overwhelmed by its destructiveness. But, the destruction would be then, whereas the beauty is now. She often erred on the side of the present. She never knew what the future may hold; nor whether she would be part of it. Death may intervene. So, the ivy stayed.

Until long after her marriage, which was destructive in the here and now. Interesting how a partnership can be destructive, without either participant wanting it to be, or being so in themselves. It is in the coming together that the capacity for such evil is born. But, a house is not a home, nor does the presence of beauty make it so. With other partners, this house could have become a home, a place of joy, and even contentment.

But not in this marriage, under this roof, surrounded by her ivy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

350. Behind closed doors

Through the years, Michelle had come to regard the Beaudan’s as her family. Not that she was related to any of them. Indeed, not that she had even been introduced, neither she to them, nor they to her. It was an intense sense of ownership, rather than a personal knowledge that informed Michelle’s affection. She was much too reticent to be so forward.

She had watched them with a fond regard, as she trudged up Ormond Street each morning, and wearily down again later that same afternoon. She admired their sense of beauty and design, acknowledging their apparent innate ability to match colour with line, shape with texture. She envied their restraint when youth and vitality toppled over into age and decay; their ability to see the beauty within manifest externally.

Next time she passed one of them in the garden tying up the sasanquas, Michelle determined to nod good-day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

349. The road is long

Valerie’s head spun. It seemed filled with the softest of down. Her path became obscured, but she trusted her sense of direction. On either side of her, the way was blocked, and impediments of all colour and size shaped her progress. Knowing not whether to watch where she trod or where she was going, she became confused and lost heart.

She paused a moment. She reflected upon her purpose. Did she want to get somewhere by a specific hour? Was this a necessary pathway for getting from one point to another across the hillside? Or was there time to simply smell the roses?

She turned from the way ahead to the flowers tumbling over the brick wall to her left. She reached out her hand, turning the delicate white petals to face her. She took a deep draught of their heady aroma.

Then she turned, and continued down the laneway.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

348. She claims a right

Barbara has lived beside Olive Lane for over forty years now. She has expectations; she has rights; she has a voice. There are ways of behaving that are considerate, and nice. Building a new retirement home on the other side of Olive Lane is not playing the game according to the rules. To Barbara’s rules – the ones she wishes constrained the world.

Think of the huge number of trees that will have to be removed and the amount of carbon dioxide left to rot the atmosphere. Think of the increase in the number of vehicles each day that will clog the narrow local streets. And then, there are the increased movements of delivery and service vehicles. And there will be ambulances at all hours of the day and night taking away the bodies of the deceased. The height of the building will block the sun.

It will just not do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

347. Dirty pretty things

Her blood singing within her veins, Nicolette flutters around her shop, checking that all is in readiness. Not that she expects a flood of customers on her opening day, but she likes things to be just so. This is a big week for her. Three years out of CoFA and opening her own shop-front, with two rooms out the back, one for design and the other for sewing.

Nicolette stands on the front steps and surveys her new world. She thinks she has chosen her site well. What is it they say? Position, position, position? This intersection says it all for her. It is away from the hurly-burly of the food precinct, yet nestled nicely up against galleries and home-furnishing establishments.

She turns to check her window display yet again, and chuckles, remembering her mother’s bewilderment over signage. Nicolette enjoys the tension within the name: it speaks her street language.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

346. The dawn’s early light

Frank never tired of the early rises that living on a dairy farm entailed. He felt privileged to be able to share in such beauty; a beauty available to most people if only they had the ability to appreciate it.

He would wander out of the wash shed wiping the last drops of his morning splash from around his neck, looking up at the line of pine trees stretched along the Aberdeen Road. As he strode over to his old tractor he would whistle the dogs, and then three great lungs-full of the morning crispness. Then off they would go down to the milking sheds.

The cows were on their way up the slope as soon as they heard the tractor roar into life. Some set to bellowing, others to trotting, all with their udders swinging this way and that. They liked this ritual as much as did the dogs.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

345. Down the creek skimming

Kevin can see the creek in his mind’s eye to this day, although he had not even visited the farm since 1964. That would make it over 46 years, nearly half a century. And yet it was like yesterday. Memory plays tricks, that is for sure.

He can see Jimmy Wicks with the leather pouch that his old man gave him tied around his waist, walking along the creek bed choosing stones. Not just any old stone, mind you. They had to be chosen carefully for size, for weight and for shape. Jimmy made better choices than did he, Kevin freely acknowledged now. Kevin chose for colour. He liked the bright stones, and the mottled stones. And he wondered why Jimmy always won.

Jimmy, however, was motivated by the beauty of the trail of splash that the perfect stone left in its wake as it skidded across the still surface.

Friday, December 10, 2010

344. Home is where the hearth is

As Jill crested the rise, she felt an sadness engulf her. Tears stung her eyes. She could step no further.

She stood beneath the shade of the Camphor-Laurel tree from which her swing had dangled during her childhood. Down there, beyond the gate, was where the kelpie had her kennel.

And that chimney, all disrobed, with no house to call a home, was where they sat after dinner, Mum to the right, Dad to the left, the kids in the middle sprawled on the rug. Sat and listened to John Deece put another raft of contestants through the wringer. Sat and listened on a Sunday to Police Files, where they always got their man. Or to Bob and Dolly encourage people to take the money or pick a box.

So many memories, to cry tears over, and yet she had hated living here and could not wait to be gone.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

343. Domestic disputations

There is a tug-of-war over which animal is Man’s-Better-Friend, the dog or the cat.

A dog is faithful and loving; a dog is full of enthusiasm and wants to play; a dog is loyal. When its human says ‘Stop’, a dog will stop. When its human says ‘Fetch’ a dog will fetch. Dogs are known to be outgoing, enthusiastic, and adaptable, and to be happy wherever their human is.

I have lived with cats nearly all my life. I like dogs, but I prefer cats. Cats are emotionally mature, whereas dogs rely on the love of a human for their emotional stability. Both my cats show affection and give affection. They work with me in the garden and watch television with me.

Moving from house to house has not overly upset them. They seem to be happy, to be able to adapt, provided I live there too – and feed them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Sammy has been fishing from this same pier for the last fifteen years. He has seen ships come and go – large ships, small ships and all in between. He wonders where these ships go and what sort of people travel on them.

Why do some people go on journeys, yet Sammy is content to fish from the same pier for fifteen years? He could fish from another pier, but who’s to guarantee that the catch would be better ? There is more to fishing than just the catch.

Sammy likes to feel the wind on his face as he waits for that tug on his line. He likes to see the storms brewing down in the bay. Sammy enjoys the spray from the large waves as they smash on the rocks below.

And he likes to watch the big ships sail past.

Then he goes home and fries his catch.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

341. Nature will out

As Philip had feared all his life, the truth does out.

He had tried to keep a lid on things, to keep his true character under wraps, but to no avail. Seeing how life treated his parents, especially his mother, he was desperate not to go down the same road. Life is what you make of it, how you carve it. And Philip wanted to pick his life up by the ears and give it a darned good shake. He refused to accept whatever chance happened to throw his way.

However, to achieve this Philip knew he had to change his essential character, because it was his character, his traits which he had inherited from his parents. And look what had happened to them. They got nowhere. They scrimped and saved, they argued and fought, they lied and cheated, and finally they bashed and murdered.

Well, one of them did.

Monday, December 6, 2010

340. Before the rains came

Under this massive camphor-laurel is Greg’s favourite spot for lunch. He chugs the old Massey-Ferguson around the track past the top dam, parks her in the shade, clambers down for a well earned rest and a feed. Invariably, Molly has packed his favourite, his current favourite for, although some may doubt it, Greg does occasionally change. His favourite of the moment consists of four slices of Helga’s Pumpkin Seed loaf, spread with pure butter. He does choose ‘Low Salt’ in a concession to the health-nazis. This comes wrapped in cling-wrap. Beside it in the plastic lunch box, is a deep red truss-tomato and a handful of the latest designer green, baby spinach.

Greg assembles all this, leans back against the trunk of the tree, and takes a massive munch. As he chews, he lets his gaze ramble the beautiful countryside spread out before him.

It is good to be alive.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

339.Shattered shards of memory

His life lay before him, a shattered wasteland. He juggled the pieces in his cupped hands, lacking the ability to put them together again. Not that they would fit. Unbeknownst to Lew, pieces were missing, pilfered by the light-fingered in our society.

He sat disconsolately on the bench, in the sun, his head cradled in his hands. Singular, soft tears of despair dripped from his craggy cheek, to fall, unremarked, onto the pavers beneath.

He looked up, with unseeing eyes, into the canopy of the Camphour-Laurel tree, wherein wheeled majestic Currawongs, burbling their song of joy to the tumbling white of the banking cloud.

Overwhelmed by such immensity, and such unrestrained freedom, Lew concentrated on the quick projecting from the nail of his right thumb. If he could but snip that lone piece of skin, all would be restored to right. He would be in control of his own destiny.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

338.The green, green grass of home

Robert looks around guiltily, endeavouring to disguise his smug sense of pleasure, as though he were about to be sprung for a crime against humanity. He continues along the footpath with that jaunty air of a man satisfied with his lot. His brolly swings enthusiastically beside his side, whilst his brief-case speaks volumes about the substance of its owner. Robert nears his house, after a demanding day at the office.

The journey for Robert, although short, has been steep. He has not always resided here, among the leafy terraced laneways of Paddington. His earliest memories centre upon a ramshackle barn of a building rented by his parents on the sheep property at Wybong, where his father was a share-farmer. For Robert it was an early start, with the school bus picking him up from the distant front gate just before 6:30.

For Robert, regression was not to be countenanced. Ever.

Friday, December 3, 2010

337. The fruit of the vine

Julie enjoys connecting with her wider family, indeed wonders why she had not done so years earlier than now. She is humbled that they welcome her into their homes, yet at the same time, she is mortified that her own branch of the family is so distant and cold. Cousins all, descendents of two brothers who could not be more dissimilar if they tried. Which, Julie was just now starting to realise, maybe they had.

Just the previous evening, her own daughter had sent Julie an article entitled ‘Siblings share genes, but rarely personalities’, and this covered the gamut of differences that she could discern between her father and his elder brother. Gordon was jovial and outgoing, a networker with a big personality. Laurie was sullen and withdrawn, a loner with a mean and stubborn streak.

They say, the fruit of the vine does not fall far from the tree.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

336. The best of both worlds

Running her hand down the glistening fur, Nerida reflected on the eternal conflict between freedom and security.

‘I don’t blame you, puddy-tat. I am not keen to venture out into that weather either’.

She pulled her jacket closer around her and took another sip of her coffee. The day was young, the light poor, and the weather lamentable, but a deadline is a deadline. She doodled the mouse across its pad. It occured to Nerida that this was, indeed, a nice little cocoon, for her as much as for the cat.

‘I am free to walk out that door, but I simply don’t have the guts to do it’.

She dragged the still soggy underwear from the front-loading washer and tossed them into the dryer.

‘How free am I then? I wonder if freedom is more a state of mind than a reality.’

She stood, staring out into the rain.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

335. A fish out of water

Gaston guns his scooter to the max. The sun is shining. There is a light breeze wafting.

‘I could not ask for better, so why do I feel like throwing it all in?’

He checks the rear mirror to ensure he knows the dynamics at play. Judging distances and speed carefully, he executes a gentle swan dive behind the oncoming Lexus. He returns to the vertical and heads off down Merlin Street.

‘I like my job. I like my apartment. There is enough interest from the chicks to keep my hand in.’

He checks the road surface, before going up and over the culvert, the only entry into Gaussman Lane, avoiding the hole gouged out by the recent heavy downpour.


He brings the scooter to an easy stop and eases the helmet off his head. He shakes his head, and gives his hair a ruffle.

‘Not enough irrational chaos’.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The art of flirting had escaped Patricia during her entire life. It always came as a surprise to her when the penny dropped that this chap or that chap was hitting on her. It did not occur to her, to bat her eyelids, and feign interest just to capture a possible suitor. She was introduced to fascinating men, to beige men, and to dull and boring men. However, her reaction rarely varied. She would listen to their conversation, ask questions, exhaust the topic, and then move on. It did not phase her.

And as for tarting herself up to win favour with a member of the other side, she would prefer to walk over glowing coals. She had a massive fear of appearing as mutton dressed as lamb and, if truth be told, she dreaded failure and rejection. This latter was recognised by her friends, but not by Patricia herself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

333. To thine own self be true

Standing apart from the heaving masses had often fallen to Athol. He failed to see how the majority of people made the decisions they did, took the actions they did, lived the lives they did. It was not simply in the big issues like religion and politics, but in all those more simple issues round which day to day living revolved. It took Athol years to realise that the majority of people in society based their decisions upon self-interest. However, Athol marched by the beat of a different drum.

And it gave him great grief. Athol was a thinker in preference to a talker.

The power of persuasion was not visited upon him. He knew he did not have a sparkling personality that swayed others to his way of thinking. That was of little interest to him, anyway. He was neither a leader nor a follower. Athol was an individual.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

332. The ties that bind

Meredith met her match down at the wharf that fateful Saturday afternoon in late winter. Until disaster struck, she had been having a delightful time, as the saying goes, ‘simply mucking about in boats’. She had done this most weekends since leaving the family home in Haberfield and moving to a compact apartment in Elizabeth Bay. No-one in her family had much to do with the water prior to this, certainly none has ever considered sailing as a chosen past-time. This all changed when Meredith bought her place overlooking the marina. At the time, it was the right apartment in the right location. It was a wise investment.

She could see the giant masts. The voices of the sailors floated on the breeze. The ropes flapped. The hooks clanged. Sea-gulls wheeled overhead. Everything conspired against her.

Then, as she struggled down the gangplank with her victuals, Meredith collided with Pierre.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

331.The landscape beneath

Living in a city, it is often easy to forget that there is soil beneath our feet, that the land we tread is undulating and criss-crossed with ancient streams. Too often the streams are bull-dozed and filled in with the tops of hills. Too often the hills are bull-dozed and used to even out old streams. Frequently, the soil and the vegetation is papered over with concrete, with bitumen and with intricately laid bricks. Humans have a compulsion to keep the jungle at bay.

But the jungle is persistent. Roots of trees crack the concrete. Wind blows soil into cracks. Birds drop seeds into cracks. Small trees grow. The jungle returns. With a vengeance.

Beneath many cities, bubbles the molten core of planet Earth, alert and restive, patiently biding its time. In many cities across the globe, the populace has received grim reminders of the power of the natural world.

Friday, November 26, 2010

330. Shades of grey

Robbie had been a competitive bastard since childhood, and he was not going to change at the age of thirty-five. He pushed himself and those around him as far as he could, as often as he could. Sure, it lost him friends, but it frequently gained him new friends.

People respected his grit and determination. They respected his energy. His ethics were important to him. This earned him much respect. But he suffered fools poorly. He often took no prisoners. Beige people received short shrift.

Living in an inner city housing development, cheek to jowl with other like-minded people, cocooned Robbie from the ravages of living alone. Grit and determination and energy do not buy one much love. They are the very characteristics that preclude love, as they can indicate a hard-headed person without the ability to appreciate shades of grey. Robbie is only now appreciating this weakness in himself.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

329. Is a city a colour?

As her bus trundles toward the city, battling the morning peak traffic, Irene wonders whether a city can be thought of as having a colour. Up until this moment, if challenged, she would have been tempted to respond that the colour of Sydney was twofold – both blue and gold. The blue, for her, would represent the ever present water, whereas the gold would indicate the importance of the sun.

Sydney is dominated by its harbour. The people are dominated by the sun. The people of Sydney are hedonists. They live for the moment. They live in the now. They are not cerebral creatures. They are not intellectuals. Their body dominates their response to their environment.

Although the Jacaranda tree is dotted profusely across the city, the colour mauve is too elegant and understated for the citizens of this city. Mauve is self-contained and cerebral. It is the colour of politeness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

328. Life in The Old Girl yet

Francine feels her spirits rise the instant she steps upon the pontoon and sees ‘The Old Girl’ up ahead. She cringes, even now, at the name bestowed upon the boat by her irascible father. However, it was not an issue for her long suffering mother, who was adamant that none of her girls should challenge their father on the name. Somehow, it lends an air of olde world charm to what is essentially a most inelegant water craft.

It is stolid. It is weather-beaten. Rust is eating the metal. The ropes are frayed. They are rough. But it is distinctive. It is unmistakably the property of the McKenzie clan.

The McKenzies come from a long line of sea-farers, stretching well back before their father, Hamish. However, he was the family member most closely identified with the water, so it is ironic that he met his maker when he fell overboard.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

327. Dogs don’t answer back

Leslie had always had problems establishing a relationship with other people. It could be that he is set in his ways, but that was not the case when he was in his twenties. It could be that he was the apple of his parents’ eyes and learnt that he could do no wrong. Whatever the cause, establishing even friendship is a challenge to him, that alone anything deeper.

A dog is your friend, if you feed it. A dog likes to have his ears rubbed. Scratching her back, will earn you respect from a dog. Yes, three dogs are a challenge, unless you set boundaries.

Even one human is a challenge to Leslie, regardless of whether it be male or female. Regardless of whether it be a friend or a lover. Other people challenge Leslie’s thinking patterns. They challenge his routine, which operates according to a precise and ordered schedule.

Monday, November 22, 2010

326. Facing one's demons

It was a glorious day in the middle of spring. The city, from this distance, was majestic, yet silent. The waters of the bay were that intense shade of blue that stunned visitors to this city when they saw it for the first time. Bobbing on the swaying water, the masts of the boats signified a prosperous populace with an outward looking view. Looking across this bay, on this day, tears welled in Clive’s eyes.

This was his vantage point. His and Celia’s. And she was now gone. Departed. No more would they sit here on this bench. No more would they watch the sun descend, together. That was all over. In the past. Finished.

Rising to his full height, Clive took a deep breath, and determined to find a glass half full, if at all possible. He held immense affection for this small pocket of gardens, and would return.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

325. The world is his oyster

*** I am trying to teach myself to write in the present tense, so please bear with me ***

Pigeons live a precarious existence in a modern city. Perhaps it was always thus. Young Henry is off on the race of his life! No matter which way his quarry twists and turns, Henry follows suit. Across the forecourt of the opera house he charges, oblivious to the iconic stature of his surrounds. All Henry has eyes for is a little blob of grey, with splayed feet, and a red beak. Not that Henry is at all interested in the pigeon. Not really. Henry is engrossed with his own ability.

He can run. He can swerve. He can jump. He can turnaround. And he can do much of this without even falling over. Oops ... sometimes he can do all these things without falling over. But ... when he does fall, watch Henry roll, watch Henry giggle, watch Henry tangle himself up in his own arms and legs.

Henry lives!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

324. Young at heart

*** I am trying to teach myself to write in the present tense, so please bear with me ***

It is true that Norm has a competitive spirit, and is a virile man who blossoms in the great outdoors. His two sons follow in Norm’s footsteps, as one might appreciate. He is blessed with manly boys, though. I would quake for a metro-sexual living under Norm’s roof. And heaven help a homosexual.

Twice a week, since his boys could swim, Norm takes his boys down to the harbour to swim in one of the protected bathing pools. Nowadays, it is more the boys taking Norm. Norm struggles a bit when walking and has used a stick for a long time. It will not be long before he uses a frame. However, Norm is like a fish in water. His weight, his cares, his infirmities are lightened and he is, once again, the master of all he surveys. His boys, as usual, are close by in case he needs help.

Friday, November 19, 2010

323. What little girls are made of

Ava, Millie and Charlotte have been learning ballet together since the beginning of this year. Their mothers first met not long after the girls were born, and the friendship has lasted – both between the mothers and between the daughters. The girls are the ones who pushed to learn ballet. Early on they loved to twirl and sway, to skip and to hop. They loved the feel of fine fabric against their legs. Then, Charlotte saw part of a ballet on ‘Play School’ and the bug bit.

Today, they are waiting for their first performance at the Opera House. When I say performance, that is true and yet also false. The ‘Babies Ballet’ is having an interactive session in one of the studios, and the girls have been chosen to demonstrate steps to show other children that it is possible for them to do just what the ballet artistes are demonstrating.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

322. The world in shades of grey

Nev and Polly have compromised. When he travels, Neville likes to ‘do’ things, whereas Polly likes to ‘see’ things. Nev likes to want to climb the Harbour Bridge, walk from Bronte to Bondi, or take a ferry ride to Manly. . Polly, on the other hand, likes to walk through an Art Gallery, or experience the stained glass windows in St Marys Cathedral or walk through the plants in the Botanic Gardens.

Before they flew to Sydney, they sat down at their dining room table and worked up a spread-sheet of all the specific things they wanted to do while on holiday. Some items were no-brainers – anything on both lists was in. Then they listed their choices in order and allocated then to days, ensuring that they each had a choice each day, sometimes morning, sometimes afternoon. Then all they had to do was reschedule if the weather went pear-shaped.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

321. Pleasures of the flesh

Is there anything more pleasurable than a vigorous swim in the sea, thought James, towelling the salty water from his torso. Well possibly, but this enterprise he enjoins with eyes wide open.

James swims every morning. He takes a brisk run from his ground floor apartment up the Vaucluse hill and warms his body up before tackling the more chilly waters of the harbour. The water at this time of the year is still mighty cold and it takes quite a few minutes for the heart to get used to the attack on its muscle. But this is an activity that gets James’ day off to a brilliant start.

Tossing his towel onto the damp sand, he dives head first into the deeper water just off the edge. He rises to the surface and executes a gentle form of crawl through the sparkling blue waters, out to the protective netting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

320. For whose best?

Marion and Bruce are in a quandary. They have lived in the same house for nearly fifty years, since 1964 precisely. Now their children are angling for a change, and Marion and Bruce are not sure they like it. To be precise, they are implacably opposed to any change whatsoever. But this couple have ever been thus.

They grew to maturity in an earlier age, a more gentile, private age, where people lived in the privacy of their front parlour.

They regret agreeing to have the old house painted, but could see the preservation value and it did return the old girl to the condition that they fell in love with. But no! They are not going to move. Marion stamps her delicately shoed foot. Bruce furrows his brow and pouts his lower lip. And they both dig in their heels. No. Not now. Not ever, except in a box.

Monday, November 15, 2010

319. The beauties of the deep

Martin concedes that he has one of the best jobs in the world. He works for the National Parks & Wildlife and is a Ranger at Neilsen Park on Sydney Harbour. He has a team of horticulturists who work each day to maintain the park and keep the encroaching exotic species at bay.

However much Martin adores the smell of a rich loam, and delights in seeing new growth on old wood, he gets extreme pleasure from an unexpected quarter. Twice a year, the netting has to be cleaned. The netting is to protect the beach from the predations of creatures of the deep, specifically, sharks. With the net in place the small beach is a haven for swimmers who like the surface a bit tamer than the open ocean.

As the nets are cleaned, the rangers remove hundreds of very small seahorses and return them to the harbour waters.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

318. Singing with style

Since he was a small boy, Nigel has dreamed of being a singer, to be more exact, a crooner. He lived in a small apartment with his mother who worked at a health insurance company in the local shopping mall. Most afternoons, after he ran home from school, after he fixed himself a nutella sandwich, Nigel would practice. He would practice being a crooner.

Sneaking into his mother’s closet, he would borrow one of her jackets, and a hat, any old hat would do, but he particularly liked the feel of her cloche hat. As he skidded past the kitchen on his way back to the living room, Nigel would tug the broom from its niche beside the fridge. He was nearly ready, all he needed was the full-length mirror from his mother’s dresser.

Adjusting all his dress-ups, Nigel set up a CD of Sinatra, and another of Bennett. Bliss!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

317. Moulding the clay

Janie’s mother is a potter. She takes a lump of dun-coloured earth and creates something out of nothing. She uses her entire body in this production: her hands, her knees, her feet and the strength of her shoulders. She transforms a lump of nothing much into a thing of beauty. As the wheel turns, the hands caress, tiny flexes of finger muscles are transformed into form and utility.

Her foot pounds the pedal. She hunches her shoulders to the wheel, as her hands hover over the spinning formless clay. Small drops of water fly off at high speed. Fine corrugations encircle the clay. Her brain coordinates both hand and eye, keeps them on the straight and narrow. Her brain transforms a pattern of its own devising.

How ironical that even though Janie’s mother creates beautiful pots, she has a black thumb. She is not a gardener. She is a potter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

316. Lots of fun

Evan adored bath time, when his daddy clambered into the big bath and reached out and took Evan from his mother’s arms. Evan loved to feel the water slosh around his body. Eventually, he learnt to move his feet and slosh the water himself.

When he could sit up by himself, and after his mummy and his daddy overcame their fear of him toppling and disappearing under the water forever, Evan would sit at the round end of the bath with his toys. Some toys were soft and could be squeezed full of water. When they were full, Evan’s daddy would then squeeze the water out of the soft toys right onto Evan’s tummy.

Other toys were made of hard plastic and would simply bob around on the surface of the bath water, hoping that Evan’ imagination would bring them to life so that they could enjoy bath time, too.