Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Archie and Tana

Archie and Tana

It is a family tradition now

And it’s been this way for years

After school Archie and Montana, take a walk

Archie, he just listens, Tana, she just talks

She tells him ‘bout her troubles

And says what makes her laugh

A lead hangs loosely from his neck

And loops back around her arm

He paces close beside her

He’s keeping her from harm

Walkers stop to greet them,

And Archie loves a pat

They talk about each other’s day,

Well, you know our Tana loves a chat

And while they are out walking,

In her head she sings a song

Around the corner and up the street,

Her troubles, quickly gone

Archie stops to sniff another dog,

He lifts his leg and smiles

Tana tugs his lead and walks

And Archie moves along.

He hears about her friends at school

What they like to say, and do

He hears about her teachers

And about the bullies too,

How their words and actions cruel

Her feelings are quite often hurt

And sometimes there’s bruise

Archie seems to understand her plight

His brown eyes stare up at her

And seem to question why


She sees her own reflection

Deep in his soft brown eyes

Our Tana’s getting smarter

Every day, she grows more wise

A growing girl with pretty looks

She is nobody’s fool

Archie, he just looks at her

As his lips, they fill with drool


She stops to buy an icecream

From a hot pink vending van

She buys one too, for Archie,

On the insistence of the man

Tana’s sitting on a park bench

An icecream in each hand

Both looking at the sunset

Clouds of red and crimson

Reflected in their view

An image of the houses

Floating on the lake

She nods to people walking by

And wonders about them too


This girl her dog and evening

Eating icecream by the lake

Across the water wafts

The smell of barbeque

Of chops, and sausages

Of onions mixed with mushroom

There’s bacon in there too


Tana’s thoughts are miles away

Archie lifts his paw to touch her arm

She lets him lick her icecream

And then she drops the cone

She gave it to him willingly

Two gulps, and it was gone


She hears someone singing

To the strains of their guitar

And in the corner of the park

She sees him strumming

He leans back against his car.

His song is one of love and loss

And aching of the heart

She smiles, and cuddles Archie

Back home, they have to start.


She drops a coin into his upturned hat

The music man, he nods and smiles

Never losing his rhythm or his beat

And there in that fleeting moment

Tana imagines dancing to his tune

Playing tambourine and singing

Or banging on a drum

A magpie warbles overhead

Drowning out the city’s hum


All the bullies in the world

Are now so far from her mind

All she wants to do is sing

To be with people who are kind.

Archie’s picking up the pace now

And he’s straining at his lead

Leading her down the street

To the butcher and a bone

This is a daily ritual

As Archie makes for home

Tom the butcher likes them both

And with Tana likes to chat

Archie doesn’t care about the talk

He is all about the bone


Soon back at home and

Archie’s lead is dropped

Mum growls about muddy prints

On a floor she’s freshly mopped

‘How was you walk?’ she asks

‘Yeah it was good, just tops.’

‘Better hit the homework then

before tea’ Mum says

‘You know, how your time flies’


Mum gives Archie’s back a rub,

And a scratch behind his ears

She lets her mind wander

To days of schoolyard bullies

And she hears their pain filled taunts

Feels the constant push and punch

She remembers lost and lonely thoughts

She remembers fending off the tease

But knew her vitality was shrinking

Under the bully’s constant jibes


Andy knows how much you need a friend

In a daughter’s ever changing world

And how close a friend this dog can be,

To her loving, growing girl

Again her mind drifts back

To those testing days of growing up,

Her old dog sat there by her side

His ears, all pricked and keen

For hours she told him all about

Her hopes, her fears. and all of her dreams

The memory lives within her still

It makes her strong and warm

As it has done for years.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Looking for Les Gillespie's Gold

Spent today in the Orroroo area seeking the location of Les Gillespie's lost gold reef, I thought it may have been somewhere in the ranges of hills between Hammond and Carrieton. A further drive through the Oladdie Gorge and I am no closer to finding it. More work required. I did take some photos to help me with time and place. Take a look at Joe Gillespie's country in winter.

Hereford Cow took an interest in us as I tried to get her picture. House in the background was abandoned in the sixties

Oladdie staging house between Johnburgh and Carrierton.

The small outbuilding in the is built on the same line as the main building, this would have functioned as a hotel, ticket office and homestead in the early days.

Coal gas exploration threatens Joe and Laura's way of life, these are test holes similar to those drilled by RAYDOR Exploration on the properties of Joe's  neighbours.

With plenty of good information tucked into notebooks and the computer I need to get down to writing and help Joe find this reef before Charles Winkler does.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Fisherman's Bay Memory

I went to her again this morning. What should I do I asked? Her back was to me, and she neither saw, nor heard. Even if she had, she would remain quiet; it has always been this way. Dew seeped through what remained of the yellow dress that covered her. Rainbow drops glistened on her exposed ribs, and she rested silent among the leaf litter. As always, she waited and I let my mind wander.
I close my eyes and conjure the same feelings that I experienced the first time I saw her. Palpitations only an adolescent boy could know, my mouth was dry, and blood pumped through me like I’d never felt before. She teased me, exposing a little nakedness as she appeared before our art class. We sat there holding our breath, tantalised by her form. Even the new chalk sounded delighted, and it squeaked under Mr Howland’s right hand. He took his time, and this lesson we savoured. First he traced her outline, and almost to a boy we were agog as he drew the detail.
This has never left me. We were drafting a kayak/canoe.
Over a few days, sketches morphed from patterns on the blackboard to bulkhead outlines on marine ply. My father and I would build her at home. He hoped the canoe would strengthen a bond between brothers competing for parental attention. A canoe, that has watched without complaint as I have gone brotherless, from boy to grandfather. Would it be easier for me now if we had given her a name? We didn’t, she always was, the canoe.

A few months before, our small yacht had capsized. My young brother, trapped beneath the sail, panicked and struggled for air. He was unwilling to sail again. I told my craft teacher of Dad’s plan to build a canoe for Christmas. Swept along by my enthusiasm, he agreed to make it a design project for our class.
‘You will help me build it.’ Dad said. ‘Not a word to your brother now. We’ll make it a surprise.’ Forty two years on, I still feel the pride those words gave me, yet they conjure sadness too. David never did work with Dad like this.
The kitchen of our old home became a boathouse.Bulkheads lay beside maple spars on the work bench. The scent of wood shavings filled the room. Sharpened chisels, planes and spoke-shaves rested on a shelf above the bench. Wrapped in yesterday’s news, copper tacks, marine nails and screws waited for their place in the frame. Clamps held the keel to sawhorses we made from old packing crates.
Our only power tool was a drill Dad bought after the war, and now he let me use it. I’d earned his trust. Over the next two weeks we shaped, nailed, screwed and tacked everything into place.
Two coats of blue marine undercoat picked out the frame. She glistened, the colour matched Dad’s eyes and the shape of her spars followed the crease of his smile. I can still hear him now, telling me to work with the grain. I see wood shavings curl, break, and drift to the floor. I smell the perfume of maple again, and it takes me back to a simpler time.
I stood at the stern, and with Dad at the bow we draped canvas over the keel. Together we tacked it into place, working from the centre, taking care to eliminate creases. Folding and stretching it, smooth canvas cloaked her. Battalions of copper tacks shone against the green of the fabric. The canvas gave her form, and she giggled as her timbers tensioned as the first coat of yellow paint dried.
Dad flicked it with his finger. ‘A-flat’ he said. ‘Better try it again after another coat.’ A couple of coats, and the dry paint had tensioned everything. Her frame no longer twisted and we achieved Dad’s A-sharp.
‘You did well son’ he said and I felt his arm close on my shoulders. ‘Now, David will have something to keep him out of your hair these holidays.’
‘Ta’ I said. ‘But, I didn’t do it for David, I did it for me.’ Sure, the canoe was his and I could use it too, but I’d had three great weeks working with my father. I learnt from his experience, I discovered new methods, and I had spent time doing something for my kid brother. I felt good.
Today I feel different emotions tearing at me. After a few years we began to get along, gone was the jealousy we had of each other. Unfortunately we lost David in a car accident before we could exorcise all of our demons. A heart attack snatched Dad ten years later.
I flick at a piece of curling paint from a spar, and run my hand along her gunnels. I gaze at the curve of her bow, and my mind is back to that first year, and a soft January evening. I feel salt water drying on my face and lick my lips to taste it. My mate, Trevor sits in front of me and his paddle dips with mine. A put-put fishing boat motors ahead of us, her white hull mixes with reflections of sunset. We are heading east. A cormorant wheels inches above the water between us. White water churns and boils behind the fishing boat. We make a race of it now. If we stay to the starboard side, and get onto the boat’s bow wave, we can surf in to shore. The fishermen urge us on, even though they are unwilling to slow. Three kilometres from shore now and the tide ebbs, eddies swirl around each dip of our paddles.
Seagulls dive for fish scraps in front of us as the fishermen clean their catch. They laugh, bombarding us with fish guts, we laugh too, but maintain our beat, and we are gaining on them. Their boat follows the channel; our shallow draft lets us cut across cockle flats. A blue swimmer crab rears at our shadow. Drenched from paddling, we level with them now. More cormorants streak from the other side of the bay, across our bow and to their nests on Shag Island. I am squinting and imagine their reflections, saltwater burns my eyes, but their calls tell me they’re there. Trevor is singing a shanty now, it helps keep our rhythm. I start singing faster, I see his back bend, and his paddle digs deeper.
‘We are on top of the wave now.’ Trevor yells. ‘Let’s surf it for a while.’
We slow our paddling and glide along, allowing gravity to hold our speed. I drag my blade and steer the canoe up on the stern wave’s curl. Closer to the boat now, the wave is higher and the canoe surges.
‘Get away out of it, you, crazy buggers’ One of the fishermen yells and a fish head bounces off our bow. A gull dives and clips Trevor, he grabs at his glasses sliding off his nose. We wobble and lose momentum.
‘Snooze, you lose.’ The fisherman calls. ‘Race you to shore.’
Trevor starts the shanty again, and they join in too. Our paddles slash faster now and we draw ahead, we set our sights on another boat one hundred metres ahead.
‘This one too?’ I pant between the bars of: Drunken Sailor.
Trevor nods, ramps up the rhythm, and we devour the glassy surface. Dodging between moored boats we power toward shore, the canoe bumps on the sand as waves from the ski-boats carry us through the shallows.
We slump on our paddles, not moving, waiting to get our breath back. We had raced several fishing boats home that night, and our legs wobbled as we carried our craft up the beach. We collapsed on a bank of seaweed and laughed. Friends joined us, and ribbed our singing.
Tonight I touch her again and flinch. The prick of a splinter stings my finger. Is it her way of telling me she needs care? Should I be angry? No, how can I be angry with this piece of my past. She holds many fond memories.
The canoe always brought people to David, Dad and me. She introduced us to people from all over the state. Many paddled her, but no one mastered her like David or me, her round bottomed hull made sure of that.
Stay a little longer old girl. I’ll spruce you up nice, and one day you will play with our grandchildren too.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Happy Birthday Isabella

Twenty one years ago today you burst into the world and made your presence known. I have to say it was one of the best days of my life and way back then I made up this rhyme for you.

Isabella, Isabella, Isabella Rose,
Tiny little fingers
Tiny little nose.
Big brown eyes
and a little button nose
Isabella, Isabella, Isabella Rose.

Happy Birthday from Ruth and I, just thinking about you makes us smile.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Toby Farrier Excerpt

This is one of the pieces in Toby Farrier I enjoyed writing, it is about halfway into the story and Tracy is confronting her guilt about sending Toby away.

Tracy put a finger to his lips. ‘You know John Evans came to see me and Darren tonight and he let me in on what happened just before I dumped all this on you at the hospital. Only then, did I learn how much stuff you’ve had going on, and I think I’ve been a bit unfair. For too long Darren and I have tried to put what we did to one side, not think of how we failed you and we didn’t know how much we need your forgiveness.’ Tracy felt her tears stream down her cheeks. ‘Everyone sees me as this hardnosed business woman without feelings, yet every day the little girl inside me wants to hide until a good fairy comes along and makes everything right.’ She dug around in her bag and produced a tattered long haul driver’s log book. ‘This is your dad’s. From the day you left he folded the pages a different way. Most truckies fold forward but your dad folded them back. You might wonder why, but I think you’ll find the answer in there somewhere. I know I did.’ She passed it to him. ‘You know, Sarah, John’s sister, your Mum Shellie, and me we were all mates, right through school. When Michelle contracted breast cancer that was the just the pits and we all cried for days. When we found out she was having you, she was over the moon until they told her the therapy would harm your chance of survival. Our friend told them she would go full term and then have the treatment. She was so brave, Toby and so strong willed, we couldn’t talk her out of it. Maybe you remember the perfume because she wore it too, we all did. She gave it to us for being her bridesmaids.’

Toby picked up a box of tissues and passed them to his stepmother.

‘You should hate us for what we did and yet here you are passing me bloody tissues.’

‘Pop taught me that holding a grudge is hard work and I reckon he’s right.’ Toby turned away, he didn’t need tears and if he looked at Tracy he knew they would have the box empty in a minute. ‘I was angry, and my moods made me quite a handful for a long time, but he never pressured me. Sure I had to go to a new school, but nobody there knew how bad I was and some of the kids who were there, were worse. I soon saw that I was lucky to have someone who loved me unconditionally. I couldn’t say it like this at the time, but I knew what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t make out the words. When I looked at what the teachers wrote on the boards to me it looked like alphabet soup, letters everywhere. Old Charlie got me sorted. He told Pop he’d heard someone talking about ADHD and disruptive kids on the radio. One appointment, a couple of hours of watching Shrek and we walked out with a prescription for new glasses and in a few days I could see how the letters formed words and even numbers made sense.’

‘Clever old you, eh?’ Tracy tried to hide her guilt by attempting to laugh. ‘There was so much bitterness between Darren and his Dad, what could we do?’


Les Gillespies Gold: Exerpt - Chapter 15

I'm back to writing Les Gillespies Gold again and thought I would share this exerpt, which I had a lot of fun writing. As with everything, it may not make it into the final draft of the story, but it felt good to write such an exchange. Let me know what you think.

Emily had squeezed between him and the table cuddling into him for warmth.
         ‘Good morning little one, why are you out of bed?’ Tilly had asked if she could stay with Joe and Laura overnight.
         ‘Couldn’t sleep.’
         Emily shook her head and stared at the changing sky. ‘Pop, you know how Mum and Jeff are getting married.’
          ‘Yep.’ Joe said. ‘Why, don’t you want them too?’
          ‘It’s not that. I like Jeff, but do I have to call him Dad?’
          ‘Not if you don’t you want too?’Joe wondered how Emily would take the changes. He would sooner have Tilly and Jeff answer these questions, but he loved that his granddaughter could come to him for counsel. ‘What do you want to call him?’
         ‘Jeff, it will seem funny to call him, Dad now, but he’ll be like a dad, won’t he? I just want to call him, Jeff, like before, that’s all.’
         ‘I think he’ll be fine with that too.’
         ‘And do you think Mum will love him more than me?’
         ‘Hmm, what do you think?’
         ‘Well, I don’t think she will stop loving me, maybe she will love us the same, but different. You know, she will love him grown up ways.’
         ‘Yep, that’s what I would have said. You are one smart young lady.’
         ‘I heard Mum tell Jeff, that if you said he couldn’t marry her, to tell you, it’s a shottie. What does that mean?’ Emily screwed her face around, trying to squeeze the same inflection her mother put into the word she didn’t understand.
        Joe struggled to hold his composure, Emily was serious and these were questions, he’d rather not answer. What would she ask next?
       ‘How about some pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup?’ Joe said.
       ‘I don’t think so, not yet anyway.’ She snuggled in, shivered, and dragged his flannel shirt around her. ‘If mum has a baby, then it will be theirs won’t it, hers and Jeff’s. Do you think they will love it more than me?’
       ‘How could anybody love anyone, more than your Mum loves you? You should have seen her the day you came into the world, a little wrinkled up red bundle of arms and legs. She had a bit of trouble and was in a lot of pain, but the moment you arrived she was complete. Her world was right again, but you, Emily Beatrice Gillespie, you screamed the hospital down.’
       ‘Did I, did I cry a lot?’
       ‘Cry... I think they heard you in the next town. You were louder than that old rooster over there. The hospital told us you had the strongest set of lungs they’d ever heard.’ He placed a hand on her tummy and tickled her. She writhed and giggled in time to his touch. ‘You settled down once you had a feed, but boy that day was special. And well, you let everyone know you had arrived.’
       She loved his storytelling, and he knew a flood of questions would burst from inside her. ‘Was I quiet from then on?’
      ‘Only until you started to talk and we haven’t been able to shut you up since. Just like now questions, questions, questions.’ He turned away. ‘Look, if they do decide to have a baby, and who’s to say they will. I reckon there will be more love in your house, than in any other place in town, in the State, or even the whole of Australia maybe. Things’ll be fine. Do you reckon you can love Jeff too? What do you think?’
      ‘Yep, if he doesn’t make Mum sad.’
      ‘Do you think he will?’
      ‘Sometimes she’s cross with him.’
      ‘Sometimes she’s cross with you too, and sometimes Granny’s cross with me. In the end though, it’s only a little thing and the love is bigger than that. You’ll see, we’ll all be fine.’
     ‘You sure?’
     ‘Yep, as sure as I am that I make better pancakes than Jeff Rankin.’ Joe cuddled her; his big arms covered her tiny frame. ‘Let’s eat. You can get the butter and syrup out of the fridge.’
     ‘Pop?’ Emily put the margarine on the table.
     ‘What’s Chanel No5?’
     ‘Before we left the pub, they were whispering, and I heard Mum ask Jeff what pyjamas she should wear. And he said Chanel No5.’
     ‘Come on, I’ll need some help with the batter.’ Joe said. ‘That’s a question for your grandmother.’

Friday, 20 June 2014

JENNY: First draft of a song lyric.

Jenny’ staring at the pavement

Of the Grand Paradise Hotel

Where police tape flickers

before the morning breeze

And she’s lost in the bloodstain

Left where the victim fell


Second night of a two week honeymoon

They spent the day in bed

And food came to their room

Making love all through the morning

She thrilled with his inner movements

And glowed there in his spoon


Dinner at the restaurant

of the Grand Paradise Hotel

Then dancing in the ballroom

With the man she knew so well

The music pumped the pulsing light

And the world could go to hell.


Now she’s staring at the pavement

Of the Grand Paradise Hotel

And wondering about the pill

Wondered why he thought he needed it

Was it just another thrill


The dealer was the devil

And he pushed a little hard

Toby palmed two hundred

You can’t put that on card


They danced until the small hours

They made it quite a night

Then in the elevator

He held her really tight

She kissed him in the lift

He caressed her in the hall


And when he laid her on their bed

She offered him her all

Them somewhere between

The darkness and the light

He swallowed what the dealer sold him

And believed he could take flight.


Now Jenny’s staring at the pavement

Outside the Grand Paradise Hotel

She’s staring at the bloodstain

Where her Toby fell

The dealer was the devil

And he pushed a little hard

Toby palmed two hundred

You can’t put that on card

Now Jenny’s staring at the pavement