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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

315 .Give me your answer do

Ricardo and Saul were having a lot of difficulty letting go. Letting go of their friendship. It’s not what you think. Not yet, and probably not ever. But it is something they both know they have to address.

They were born two weeks apart, and they grew up in adjoining houses. It’s not as if their mothers were even friends, or anything. But well before the boys went to school, their fathers had to build a gate in the fence. The boys just ‘clicked’. They liked sport. They liked cartoons. They like woodwork. And they liked the same style of girl.

It is since they went on to study architecture that they realise they have to do ‘things’ separately, without each other. They are discovering that double-dating is not an attractive proposition for young women. They are also realising that THEY want to ease back. And they find that sad.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

314. Trapped

Isabelle was trapped in a web of her own deceit. Over the last two months, she had constructed a parallel life and now it was unravelling, she was losing control of the fiction, and it was coming tumbling down around her. There was nothing she could do about it – except bleed. And bleed she would, metaphorically speaking, although literal blood was not out of the question either.

Isabelle was in a relationship with two people, one a man and the other a woman. As with many things in life, she did not enter this excruciating situation deliberately. She entered it knowingly, she wasn’t exactly stupid. She knew what was happening, but not what she was doing. Certainly, she had no idea how tortuous it would be for all concerned. But there are some things that have happened in a split second and you turn around, and the earth has moved.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

313. To each his own 2

People read from different dictionaries. As Lexie was growing up, she wondered where people found their definition of ‘ambition’. It seemed to be so different from the definition that guided her choices. And they all seemed to be so different from each other.

Rosalie was keen to have a big house and four gorgeous children who were all good at sport. Norman was desperate to make his mark in life and to leave achievements that carved his name into posterity. Ross was desperate to travel the world and experience other cultures.

Lexie had wanted nothing more than to be involved with animals, caring for them, being with them, learning from them. Not for her the tedium of a 9 to 5 job in an office in a skyscraper. She was always happy with very little money and very few possessions. Yet to Lexie, this was ambitious, and she was content.

Monday, November 8, 2010

312.To each his own

There was nothing Uncle Jim loved more than a bike ride, to get his bike running smoothly, and to trundle off down south in the wee hours of a Sunday morning for a 90km ride, uphill and down dale, rail, hail or shine. But Jim was turning into a grumpy old man. It wasn’t enough that he had found a hobby he enjoyed. He now found it necessary to criticise the life-choices of others, both significant others, and random others.

This all started when Jim came to the conclusion that other bike riders were spending way too much money on their equipment. Then he broadened his critique and decried those who chose to ride motor bikes through pine plantations during the weekend.

Whereas Aunty Beryl was content to have her cat scratch its jaw on her outdoor furniture, if she could continue to scratch her back with a dry towel.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

311. Life's tough

The sun’s shining. A light nor-easter is wafting. The boat is clean, the engine smooth. All blocks and tackles are stowed. All sails furled. What else is a bloke to do?

A box of fish’n’chips goes down apace at the fisherman’s wharf early in Spring. Peter thought it was the best location in the world, with the best weather in the world. Not that he was an expert on other places in the world. Some perhaps, but not many. He was just giving a ball-park statement. He was a man content with his lot.

He had heard all the dire warnings from well-meaning aunts. But not from his mother, he was pleased to note. Not directly from his mother. Although he suspects she felt his bachelorhood keenly, him being an only child.

He had no idea a whirlwind of the female variety was striding down the pier as he munched.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

310.Restraining the urge

When visiting his grand-father, it was all Jordan could do to restrain himself. It had taken a while, but eventually he could recognise situations where it was better to leave well-enough alone. He would rock back on his heels, to avoid an automatic response. He would stick his hands in his pockets, or under his armpits. Anything, rather than remove that last vestige of human dignity.

He was amazed the old fella was still living by himself, and how come his mother tolerated it. Until he watched her. With him. Observed how they interacted. That unspoken respect that glowed from their eyes. That is where he learned the need for dignity. Where he learned its value. Where it dawned upon him that, given another twenty years, it would be him interacting with his mother. And, presumably, another twenty years after that, he would be the recipient of some whippersnapper’s condescension.

Friday, November 5, 2010

309. Treading the boards

Paddy and O’Shea first played together in the late ‘60s at the Folk Music Club in the Tighes Hill Technical College, and had been carousing noisily together ever since. Not that they earned a living at it, mind. Well, not a full living. Sure, they earned a few bob – enough to keep the wolf from the door, but insufficient to service a mortgage. So for both of them, it was a case of not giving up the day job.

So Paddy went on to gainful employment as an accountant, chartered no less, much to O’Shea’s eternal mirth. Not that he was much better, but at least he gained street-cred by becoming a motor mechanic. They had kids, married, divorced and re-partnered. But the two of them remained as solid as the day they first fronted a microphone together. Their love affair with performing was a blessing shared with their audiences

Thursday, November 4, 2010

308. A nose for memories

After he had finished his day’s work, Johnny would rummage in the cooler in his shed, take out a cold-one and sit on the porch in his rocker. He started early and ended early, a hangover from his youth where he had to be on building sites by 5am. It was a hard habit to shake after a life-time of menial jobs. Now that he was retired, he enjoyed the hours.

He loved the solitude of the early mornings, the chill to the air. More especially, he enjoyed these solitary times out on the porch after a day’s work pottering in his yard. He loved the smell of the eucalypts in his adopted land, the angle of the sun, the warmth in the air.

He had come a long way from the docks in Bermondsey, locked in the holds of cargo vessels bound for the other side of the world.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

307. A different direction

Being primarily responsible for the day-to-day care of his three children, was not something Terry had envisaged. In fact, Terry had not envisaged having children at all. He had spent the first thirty-four years of his life looking after Terry, and not doing that particularly successfully. He was good at gallivanting the world. He was good at earning money, but even better at spending it. As for making a commitment – forget it!

That was until he met Meredith. Just the name should have been enough to bring him up short. Until he caught sight of Meredith across a bar, he had always ended up with leggy blondes like Amber or Jasmine. Until he met Meredith, relationships were good for a couple of nights, a week at the outside.

But, then he met Meredith, and it was like a brain transplant. Now he is the house-husband and Meredith is the bread-winner.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

306. Where only mad dogs and Englishmen go

Although the season was in its infancy, Nerida had memory of seasons passed, of trials endured, unnecessary risks miscalculated. Her eyes scanned the ragged cliff line towering over the valley, noting the bubble of cumulo that would thunder up into the atmosphere as the afternoon wore on. With that level of cloud already at mid-morning, by mid-afternoon nimbus would be painted on the nether regions of the cumulo, as it broke and buffeted on the crags and clefts of granite and eucalypt.

Stick to the dry schlerophyll today, she cautioned; l leave dry creek beds for more fortuitous times. Well she recalled that early summer nine seasons ago, where she and Robert had feebly attempted to navigate their way through the tortuously, impenetrable bush via the boulder ridden water-course, only to be swept into a beaver-dam of debris, spending a damp and uncomfortable night.

The bush only forgives the cautious.

Monday, November 1, 2010

305. Vive la difference

As he waddled down the hallway, Harry’s cloth nappy slid down his stumpy legs until he was tripped up. He fell flat on his face and the predictable wail erupted as he went down. However, his pudgy hands never let go of his new trike. Jessie was so pleased she bought it for him. Others said it was too old for him, but mothers generally head in the right direction, at about the right time.

Into her head flashed the look on his face the moment he caught sight of the gleaming blue and yellow trike. Then, with his hands on the saddle, he pushed the trike into the nearest wall. The flash of electrical excitement that pulsed through his being captivated her on more than one level. However, the next moment nonplussed her.

He turned it upside-down and, swear to God, he tried to determine how the trike worked.