Chapters

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Today I sat in a cemetery for two hours and heard a beautiful story.  A love story. Coronavirus is currently first most on everyone’s mind today, and was yesterday and will be again tomorrow but for my friend Judy, there was also an anniversary to feel and acknowledge today on this 25th day of March, 2020.  Ten years missed, forever loved.  A husband, father, son, brother – a man of standing, integrity, wise, funny, and imperfect like all of us, but just perfect for Judy as she was for him.

I was honoured to be invited to join her and as we sat under grey skies and green trees, the world around us continued on with local government voting at the church across the road, several other pairs and solo visitors to this quiet resting ground of dear ones and cars passing – most likely filled with drivers anxious to make preparations for the next round of government instructions.  Today was not about Corona.  Today was about Ross.

The sharing of a story is a gift to me – a precious joy.  This one is about yellow corollas, Queensland number plates, touch rugby and a delicate bouquet of mixed flowers.  They were young.  Beautiful of course.  He was a country lad who had joined the army as an apprentice and she was a city girl with an adventurous spirit and a sassy attitude.

Judy has a mentor.  A charming lady of wisdom and talent who speaks to her of the chapters in her life.  The large ones and those which will be smaller.  As a writer, I view all of our lives as a story hence chapters sit logically – rolling on with a rhythm which may refuse to be compliant.

She spotted his car first – arriving into the carpark with its bright yellow paint and distinctive Queensland registration in the Sydney enclave which was the location of her own military posting.  My heart warmed when Judy shared this part as she was smiling and her eyes had all the spark of a teenager.  As she told me more, I was thinking about Ross, oblivious as he parked his little corolla that he was about to collide head on with the unfathomable force of love.

Later there would be enquiries made by this young, pretty blonde girl.  Who was he? Where was he from and what is he doing here?  She was away from home and all that was familiar and here was this new boy – a Queenslander.  Judy does not know – shy! Outgoing and friendly, that very night at the ‘boozer’ over friendly beers and mixed games of darts they exchanged tender flirts and enjoyed the commonality of being superior Queenslanders in this southern state.

Soon enough there was afternoon sport and fitness and a friendly touch game which gave him the chance to impress her.  I could hear in the telling that it was not by chance that he was close to her each time she intercepted or had possession.  Judy shares this chapter of her life – soon to be their life with elegance and humour.  We are comfortable during the telling that he is not here, and yet he is here.

That afternoon and the obvious chemistry, mutual fun and banter must have given Ross the confidence to ask Judy for a date.  A dinner date it would be.  She laughed at something then – a private memory.  The day after their first formal date, flowers arrived for her.  She knew then.  Their love story had begun.

There would be a tiny Sydney one-bedder and a small cottage further west which brings her only joyful memories.  Boozy camping with friends and all the while planning a future – commitment.  This was the best love story of all – the real kind.

We are back in the cemetery and it is sad to have to miss Ross.  Judy looks and acts strong.  She has honored their life and family together whilst carving out a new chapter just as Ross wanted.  Now that wish from Ross is a true love story and it does not have an ending.

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Fiction

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Rolling Times

“Masie, just let me come in and help you?” said Arthur from the other side of the closed door.

“No!  Just go and check for the truck.  It must be here by now.”

“You know I’ll hear it Mase.  I’ll hear it on Scartree and I’ve still got five minutes to get down there,” replied Arthur.  She was quiet and that was not usual at all for his wife.  “Mase?”

“I’m so tired of this Arthur.  No privacy.  Please, I’m ok.  Can you just leave me be and get the truck.”

Arthur lingered a moment but knew well enough that once Masie had made up her mind, that was it – end of discussion.  You learn a bit over fifty odd married years.  He’d need Mase to remind him exactly how many.  Still he worried and would be glad when he could help her out of there.

He may as well do as she asked and head out to the end of their driveway.  Arthur stopped at his mailbox although junk mail had all but stopped.  Nothing much to advertise anymore.  At last Arthur heard the familiar distinctive drone of the council truck.  Finally.  His hearing was pretty much as good as it had always been and he was grateful for that at least.

Arthur waved to Paddy two doors up who was already waiting at the end of his drive. They were the last two ‘originals’.  Both families had built their modest post war homes back when there were paddocks, single lane dirt roads and milk and bread delivery. Masie had grown most of the greens and vegetables that they needed and kept chooks, her girls she used to call them.  The coup was long gone.  Their ‘kids’ deciding it attracted rats and snakes.

Arthur could see others coming out.  They too had heard the truck.  No one dared not to have someone at hand.  There were plenty of faces he didn’t know.  Sure, some of them waved in passing but mostly people pretended not to see you or turned back and got busy just to avoid talking.  Guess they thought an old bloke like him might hold them up for too long.  In his day that was called being rude or up yourself – now it’s called social something, oh social distancing.

The truck was coming into the circuit now and seemed a little slower than usual.  Most of the houses were double storeys and very modern.  The small wooden two bedders with a sleep out were getting razed to the ground as each year more and more of the neighbors sold up and went off to units or retirement villages.  The same sort of kids who took away chooks – took away parents.  Masie and Arthur were only a few streets from the beach and the once village centre.  It was now a mix of high rise holiday apartments and a few of the old family businesses still clinging on with the next generation in charge just waiting for a developer’s offer.

“Come on,” Arthur muttered impatiently because he wanted to get back inside to Mase.  Now he could see the fancy automated council rubbish truck with its round belly and massive logo – that blow in Mayor wasted money on anything and everything just to get his face or name plastered any where he could.  Arthur recalled when the bin boys would turn up and run into their yard, jump the fence to grab their round tin bin – just to run it out to the truck and empty the contents before replacing the bin and lid to its place in the yard beside the house.  The ‘boys’ as they were called were mostly agile, impossibly fit men often in their thirties and forties.  Wirey, they were called.  A lot of blokes were like that back then.  The sort of blokes who could do their own building, concreting and knock up a fence in a day.  Not an inch of fat on them.  Not like now.  Mase got a painter to the house who refused to move a bed because he had a bad back.  He stood there and watched him and Mase coax it out of the way.  Tosser.

The truck was at the end of their drive with the mechanical arm pulling the plastic bin up to sink its contents into the fat metal belly.  That was not of interest to Arthur. He was waiting for the drop from the attached trailer.  The driver pulled the next lever and for No 22, the two occupant home of Arthur and Mase out would drop the precious weekly four pack of rolls.

“Don’t worry Mase.  I’m on my way now,” chatted Arthur as he started back up their driveway.

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Fiction

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Push Back

It is beyond vile, what just happened.  In an empty site, ugly ground, foulest words.  It’s pushing at my back and I am trying not to vomit.  Bile burns my throat and disgustingly I swallow.  Somehow the dog holds me up.  I must not let go of the little dog or it will run off and get lost.  A car will hit it.  Walk and hold.  I don’t know the way.  Nothing looks familiar.  There is no familiar here.  The little dog – does it know the way?  How can there be this much pain in my chest without a heart attack?  If I fall, the dog won’t stay. It will run.  I know it.  It’s hard to breathe. Step, one step, one more – stay up, keep moving and clench on to the leash, hold on to the little dog. It’s behind me.  It did not happen.  I did not hear it.  I did not see it.  Push it back.  Keep going, it doesn’t matter where.

I’m on the last flight.  I’ve closed my eyes because I have not slept much in the last day or night, or whatever time has passed.  The noise of the cabin crew as their feet clomp on the isle is reassuring.  It keeps me present.  Mum and Dad, I can’t talk to you now.  I have to hold it together.  I’m on a plane.  The noises remind me.  Don’t think about them now.  Later when I finally get home, I can think about you.  I can be under the quilt and in the dark, I can think about you then.  I am shamed.  I think you saw and you know and I am shamed.  I have to listen to the crew sounds. I must keep it together.  Do push back, you know how to do push back.

It’s deep night.  I’m startled but there is no noise.  The panic in my chest makes it hard to suck in air.  I have to make a big noise to get it out which helps get some back in.  It’s sore but it’s the type I’m used to.  That means it will pass.  The empty lot comes back in my mind. I see the tuft of grass somehow sprouting from dry, cracked clay.  Ugly comes back. Push back, don’t think.  I can see white daisies in a glass jar.  Sprigs of rosemary in white china cups – all the way down a long table.  What next? I can talk to Mum now – it’s dark and no-one can see.

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On Saying No

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Why is my heart still pounding,

Because I said no.

Your tears, they leave my throat aching,

Because I said no.

My eyes feel hard and heavy,

Because I said no.

The anxiety in my belly won’t leave,

Because I said no.

Why am I so scared,

Because I said no.

When will I know if I am right,

Because I said no?

 

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Life Line

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I waited for you to show up,

You waited for me to arrive then you just took my hand.

I waited for you at Frankston station on a Friday night,

You waited for me in empty classrooms in deserted schools.

I waited for you in delivery.

You waited for me in arrivals.

I waited for you to come home over and over again,

You waited for me to lay down my wounds.

I waited for you to open your eyes,

You waited for me to recover.

I’m waiting for you.

You’re waiting for me.

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Adios 2019

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Legacy – the purpose of these writings so a quiet farewell to the year after a wonderful family Christmas, beautifully and generously hosted by Alexandria and Greg. We were missing some family members but those gathered around their elegant and welcoming table were treated to a magnificent home cooked feast and were most importantly made to feel – at home.

We all sat together and although we missed Annie with her partner Jake, and Harry’s fiancé Heidi (home to the USA) and Paul and Sarah (from the Hutt family and also in the USA) and always dear Julie, Greg’s loving Mum – gone from us physically but always in the hearts of her boys – indeed all of us.

We had a wonderful day starting with an early mass and an outrageously funny and larger than life priest who could not have been taller than 5 feet (imperial measure).  He was relevant, compassionate and personified Christmas.  An airport pick up could not have been smoother – a feat for a Christmas day arrival – Harry, from Melbourne.

There are only a few photographs as the day was being lived as it should – in the real.

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Having moved into their beautiful new home just in time for Christmas, of course there were many jobs to be completed before the day of gathering.  That is when Dad comes in handy.

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He cleaned the site, groomed the soil, top dressed then laid the turf.  Tool mishap meant that Shane and Greg cut most pieces by hand with clippers intended for anything but hardy turf but the finished courtyard is stunning.  Alex and Greg have the challenging job of keeping it saturated in Australia’s devastating 2019 fire and heatwave events happening in multiple parts of most states.  We pray and hope dearly for those who have lost loved ones and for those missing.  Australians will not forget the summer and Christmas of 2019.

The ham has its own little story.  Sourced as an end of year staff gift to Sarah from her exclusive Sydney private school – it made its way to Dave in Bomaderry to arrive in Googong for Alexandria’s spectacular glazing and baking.  Finally, a Dad to slice it as Dave was already busy shelling and sorting the prawns with help from lovely Vicki.

shane the ham

Everyone pitched in – that’s the best part of family gatherings!  Beautiful Vicki and Alexandria even found a quiet few moments when all the Caughey and Hutt boys were busy with tasks!

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No doubt the same family banter happens globally – give the boys a little something to do and they will claim ownership of the ensuing banquet.

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It was a delightful family Christmas held in Greg and Alexandria’s promising new home. Dreams and plans for the year to come are alive and hopeful in this spanking gorgeous house with a striking new lawn!

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Dave was relaxed and enjoying time with his boys and kindly putting up with my humor.  They are an impressive unit, the Hutt men.  When they can be together – boxing day is KFC and the cricket.  Aussie boys, all of them.

Speaking of cricket – Alex and Greg gave Harry and Shane tickets to the test in Melbourne.  It was a great chance for all of us to catch up with our ‘adopted’ Wainer family.

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In Australia – the Boxing Day test is another great aspect of Christmas and the summer holidays.

This year is closing. This evening we spent time at the beach for the live music and the festive atmosphere of New Year’s eve.  The first round of fire-works from the local tavern have started and there will be more on the beach at 9.30pm for families and midnight for the young of body and those young at heart.  Many regional areas in proximity to fires have cancelled fire-works for safety and in a show of respect for those impacted by our bushfires.

Soon, we shall join our neighbors to ‘ring’ in the New Year.  It is a balmy night here on the Sunshine Coast.  The cricket (Big Bash) is being broadcast live. We hope for good health and well being for all those whom we cherish.  We are thankful for another year to share with family and friends.

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Sweet Peas In A Pod?

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These are gentle women.  Mother and daughter, Sue and Kirsty.  My only niece although one of three girls in our family line, the other two being my girls, Alexandria and Annie.

Sue and Kirsty are besties and could not be more alike or different!  Both soft spoken, creative and with calm traits.  They sew beautifully, make their surroundings lovely and personify dignity and grace.  My sister Susan was always painfully tidy, immaculate actually and remains so.  Kirsty was naturally untidy as a teenager (more like her aunt) but has her Mama’s traits now.

Animal lovers – particularly dogs, a few rescued girl pups have joined the family and have been well loved and cared for throughout their dog lives.  Gardens have been created and nurtured with hardworking hands.  Kirsten grew up a dancer and teaches yoga with elegance and deep knowledge.

Professional women with varied and interesting careers – Sue leaving law behind for the final few years of working life in the busy but walk in/walk out routine of Australia Post whilst Kirsten, a qualified cardiac scientist has traded her regional hospital for opportunities here on the coast.  I do have a sweet niece and sister.

They also ride motorbikes and have done so since either was age ready for the license! Kirsty hauled her dirt bike around in the back of her ute and could out ride the boys. Susan was one of the fastest skaters on four wheels and had no fear when it came to speed.  They are capable and free spirited women who can pitch a tent, set up a campsite, dig a drain, and fix just about anything that busts around a house.  Sue might knit soft bears but she also mows, paints, strips walls and floors, nails and drills and has a zest for challenge.  Independent and principled, the ladies are as comfortable on the power tools at the community shed as enjoying a glass of wine at a charity event to supply women and girls with dignity bags.

They can be ying and yang!  Kirsty enjoys cooking and creates wonders in my kitchen. Sue happily opens the canned salmon…lunch done!  My sister is a dreamer. Her head is renovating and changing whilst Kirsten is practical and focussed.  Sue calls her daughter, “The voice of reason!”  They balance beautifully and wonderfully enjoy each other’s company.  It’s fun and delightful to share time with them.  I am blessed.

They live near me now, after so many years of military “wife” life during which I’d be calling another state, another country or one of nineteen houses, home – my sister and her gorgeous daughter literally live around the corner.  Did I say I am blessed? Oh yes.

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