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When the weather is wet and wild and wintry, it's winds we worry about. Cyclones and hurricanes have caused such terrible tragedies that we can never be sure whether or not the next wild, lashing storm will uproot a tree, unroof the house, or defeather our chickens.

Winds have such a bad reputation that the second circle of Hell is a violent storm; a whirlwind, where the souls of those who yielded to lust are blown endlessly to and fro, without hope of rest, for all eternity.

But winds also have much kinder moods. Who, on a roasting summer day, has not blessed seeing a leaf stir or a flower nod and then felt the soothing pleasure of that first breeze brushing one's skin?

Winds can also be beautiful. Flute and horn sound melodious as does that finest of all musical instruments to control the air of the wind, the human voice.

And when we see a cotton thread quiver near the mouth of a sleeping babe we realise that this, too, is a wind but the very gentlest it can ever possibly be.

"Good morning. Can I help you? From the newspaper? What we thought of the race? Which one? Ah, the Tuesday one. Bit of a picnic, wasn't it?

"Well, some of us here at Randy Wick are not at all sure what the fuss is all about. The Tuesday race isn't much different from the others really. We always go out there and run along the best we can. The oats in the bucket's always the same at the end. So what's so special about the three o'clock?

"Anyway, now you're here I'll walk you along to meet the fillies and the nags. This is Freddie. He had Mister Excitable on his back on Tuesday, the guy with the orange and red quarters, the one who always expects to win.

"This here is Shirley."

"Hallo, call me Shirl. Oh yes, I had Tight Knees, him in the candy pink stripes. Lovely boy. I think we went wonderfully well, don't you?"

"G'day, I'm Max. I carried Aggressive Idiot; he's a shocker. Wears all black with the white skull in the front. He just didn't want to stay on so I bucked him off in the end."

"This is Bert. He flew in from Ireland specially for the race."

"Yes, well, Heavy Cursor, as his name suggests, swears all the way round. The black and red stars would have told you that. Not much of a rider really."

"I'm Bobby. Of course if you get Gentle Hands - he wears the soft pastel green with white sleeves - you know you're in for a good ride, but I think he kept us too close to the rails. I need lots of space. How about you?"

"Good day, my man. The race? Well, I don't think the track here's as good as our English ones. And I really have to say that it's a bit unfortunate if you get landed with Bottoms Up in the blue and purple halves although I thought he held up well really. He's a bit heavier than some I've carried."

"And the last one who's still here today is Jill."

"I think I went terrifically well considering I had Weighs Heavy - he wears all scarlet. I would've done better without him."

"Now before you go. They don't seem to realise that as horses we run better without weights on our backs. We're faster on our own and much more cooperative. If we'd been allowed we could easily have arranged between ourselves to all cross the finish line together. We'd all win and we'd all get a prize. Seems obvious to most of us. Actually, at a recent stable meeting we discussed a plan for all of us to stop running half way down the final straight and just WALK the last 100 metres or so. A sort of egalitarian equine equality union thing, y'know. Thanks for coming."

I have left the Roaring Forties
am now in the Sensible Sixties.
I have left the turbulent tropics
live now in a temperate clime
but wherever I go it seems
the wind thinks I am one of its own.

The Tasman wind can be a pest
blowing the blossoms off the trees
snatching petals, papers and plastic bags
knocking over bins, banging doors
with gusts and noisy trees swaying
all night, keeping you awake.

Like a too hot day, or frosts at night,
the wind can be a nuisance. But why
is it so unsettling, and why so to me?

The wind of a cyclone does not gust, it roars
like a freight train. We hear it pass over
from the safety of the double bed,
under the bed with a toddler on each side.
We hope the roof won’t go – that is the fear
that is still deep within.
That is why I hate the wind.

Still, there are no cyclones in Tasmania.
Nobody told me about the hurricanes!

© fmcFrances Coll 8-10-2008

There is fear in forests old and new
“We will lose our old forests quite soon.
A hundred years to grow, minutes to fell
They must be chained up, and us too.”

Some others plant forests that are new
Buying land where saplings grow well
“That is prime land, not just for trees
Cows, sheep and cabbages here dwell.”

Farmers grow angry and try to prevent
Selling land to tree farmers who then say:
“We want to protect old timber, grow new!”
Yes, there is fear in new forests as well.

Some build a house where the forest is near
Or set-up in the middle of a coup
They come to know a forest to fear
Bushfires burn old timber too!

Standing on the Airwalk in Tahune
Trees stretch for miles, even taller when near
Wonder and reverence are the emotions we feel
A patchwork of green, but no fear.

Somehow we must break these chains of fear
With compromise on both sides and not violence
Less greed and more green from the industry giants
More commonsense, return forests to silence.

David sat on a soft-cushioned chair, across the narrow table from the fortune-teller. A decorative candle in the shape of a pear was placed in a shallow bowl between them. She wasn't a real fortune-teller, but that was her task tonight at the annual charity get-together sponsored by David's firm.

"What a beauty she is, done up in that gypsy gear," thought David.

"The candle burns bright for your future," murmured the attractive secretary from the purchasing department. "Lean closer and look into the candle flame. It's very bright, and it reflects your thoughts from the lens in your eyes."

"A real beauty and yes, it's in the eyes." David suddenly realised that he had spoken his thought out loud and blushed visibly.

She smiled a little and leaned forward. "Now you must inhale the aroma of the candle's incense. It will make your mind clear, and let you share my vision of your future."

As David lent forward, eyes fixed on hers, he inhaled deeply and set fire to the hairs in his nose.

"Yeow!" screeched David as he leapt backward, upsetting the table and sending candle wax flying.

"What's happened, is everything all right?" called out a colleague standing nearby.

"I'm covered with hot wax," moaned the fortune-teller.

"I'm dreadfully sorry," said David, as he picked up the fallen candle and set it back in its place on the table, at the same time rubbing furiously at his scorched nostrils.

"Darling, what has this stupid buffoon done to you?" demanded a large man in a clown suit. "If you have hurt my fiancé I'll break you in half."

David recognized the production manager behind his large red nose and paste-on ears. He had a reputation for being a bully in the manufacturing operation, was both disliked and feared, and David was no match for him physically.

"Oh, stop it with the hero act! I'm NOT your fiancé. Get over it!"

David was both surprised and delighted at her response to the clown's words. "Look, it was simply an accident, entirely my fault, and I'll gladly pay for any damage I've done to your clothing."

The clowns stomped off, obviously unhappy with the rebuff.

"Oh, I'm all right, but what about you? You burned yourself and that was all my fault. What can I do to make up for the pain I've caused?"

"Just be the most important part of my future," said David, as she reached out for her hand.

© reserved Fredric C 'Mickey' Benefiel

Rising on wings polished by the morning sun,
The harrier, with long bronzed feathers, glides lazily,
Circles, soars, floats; its downcast eyes riveted,
Searching for stray movements among swaying reeds
In the watery fingers of wetland below;
Betrayed by the wind, a bandicoot scurries;
And the harrier drops!

Six tiny ducklings are mothered and safe;
Fluffy brown balls, bobbing quietly along;
But the water is dropping, the rain's not come;
The harrier's watching and hovers above;
There's a dog on the path only metres away.
Will they learn to survive and grow to be strong?
Are they destined to die?

Three long-legged herons, tall flying brooms;
Slowly, the trio flop down with a splash,
Stand, and reflect in this watery grave;
Ankle-deep shallows are not deep enough;
Crumbling brown banks lie broken and cracked;
Heavenly once, but the future's not here
If the water dries up.

The rain doesn't fall, the creek's nearly dry;
Bones on the bank lie bleached and disjointed;
The herons have gone and frogs stopped croaking;
The ducklings have flown - the two that survived;
The wetland's not wet, just earthy and bare;
The sun and the summer drag oppressively on;
But the harrier's still there!

- a love sonnet -

September 4th 2006

Daisy! How beautiful in the morning:
You awoke, shone and opened up to greet
Us in the early hours, before dawning;
A miracle for everyone to meet.
With love we welcome you, bundle of joy,
And laughing, happy smiles, thoughts from the heart;
The happiest words we've tried to employ.
Waking from cosy slumbers - now apart -
Your searching eyes are watching our faces
Quietly wondering who we are and why
So many cuddles and embraces;
But you respond with murmurs soft - and sigh.
How great the joy you've brought for us to share;
Your life will flower, Daisy, everywhere.

That lady who gave a talk at the home had the right idea when she suggested we imagine we were applying for a job. She even gave us a list of ideas of work she thought would interest us. I am trying to make up my mind now.

One job I would definitely never do and that should be obvious. I will never be a model. Well, look at me! I am far too old and the dread 90 is sneaking up on me, but even when I was younger it was not suitable to parade myself in front of people. I am quite sure my Quaker parents would not approve at all. Of course, if I could turn the clock back a long way it could be a different story.

I have not made much progress with this homework as I have spent hours hunting through old family photographs to see how I looked when I was younger. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw, even though at 16 I looked more like a 12-year-old. Not at all resembling the teenage models of today.

Then there was the swagger as they strut down the runway. I am sure I could do that with a bit of practice. I took off my slippers and tried on a pair of my best shoes but they didn't give the right effect. Where are those high-heeled ones I have hung onto for the grandchildren to play with? Once I found them I progressed quite well until I landed most inelegantly on the carpet.

I rested on the floor for 10 minutes until the arthritic pain eased, before wriggling over to the sofa. I chose the one with a nice solid arms, and levered myself into a sitting position then up onto the seat. I decided I had better not worry about my new career for another day.

But I wasn't finished. Another day arrived and I was sure some models only did head and shoulders work. I made my way to the bathroom, with help from my walking stick, and dug out my meagre collection of cosmetics and began my transformation. A heavy application of foundation covered some wrinkles, as did the addition of a few coats of powder. A blank face stared back at me from the mirror and I realised that what was missing were eyelashes and brows. A hunt produced some very solidly dry mascara that, by the addition of a little spit, became usable so I proceeded to apply it.

My arms were getting tired by then so I am afraid my brows were looking slightly cockeyed and the eyelashes on one eye were running with tears because, inadvertently, I had stuck the mascara brush into it. That, I think has convinced me I will never get or pursue the dream of the job as a model.

In 1956, I and my friend went on a tour of Australia and New Zealand from the U.K. We travelled through the Panama, stopping at different places along the way. We had visited Bilboa, Acapalco with a side trip to Mexico and other places.
Life on board had been entertaining and all that one could wish for. We elected to go to the second sitting for lunch and dinner because this gave us time to enjoy all the activities that were provided on board. We joined in most activities, cricket, quoits and the mile walk around the ship. Of an evening we would dress for dinner and would go dancing if there was any or else go into the taverns where live music could be heard. We would sit talking to other young people who gathered there every night expounding the rights and wrongs of the world. It was a trip of a life-time with many exciting things to do.

Our table companions disembarked at Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand. On the return journey to the U.K. we again elected to go to the second sitting for our meals, We were placed at the Ship-Surgeon's table. There were eight of us at the table, the surgeon, a middle-aged couple and their two sons, my friend and I and a Mrs Zonaben. As I am not a good sailor I spent most of the first week on deck. It's a good way to lose weight without trying. So I never met my table companions until the second week out, although my friend had kept me informed about what was going on.

When finally showing my face in the dining room for meals, it took no time at all to become acquainted with everyone. I couldn't make out why everyone was watching me so closely when our dinner arrived. Initially I thought they were worried I would be sea sick, but it wasn't that at all. They were waiting for my reaction to the antics of Mrs Zonaben. Once our meal arrived and the bread rolls were placed on the table Mrs Zonaben's arm shot out in front of me. I obviously reacted as the rest of the table had when they had experienced the same thing for the first time. Looking at the rest of the table without saying anything, I could see they were all trying not to laugh. Once Mrs Zonaben had left the table everyone started to talk at once. Mrs Zonaben, in some respects, was isolated at the table.

Mrs Zonaben never looked a happy person and we named her Mrs Sunshine. Not even rude comments, one or other of us made, would deter Mrs Zonaben from taking the bread rolls first. She was able to take all the barbs that were directed at her without a flicker of distress. It was only later, that by chance, I was walking by Mrs Zonaben's cabin and saw her sitting there. I asked her if she was going ashore when we reached port. She replied that she wasn't getting off the ship until she reached England. I asked why not and she responded that she didn't feel safe. Looking at her I said, "But you have travelled half way around the world." "Yes," she said. "But have not been on any of the tours."

It was then that she began to explain her reasons for not getting off the ship. She had been in Buchenwald concentration camp and had seen her parents and sister shot before her eyes. At the end the war, had seen all the empty suitcases stacked in sheds. At that stage, Mrs Zonaben rolled up her sleeve to show me the stamp which she was given as she arrived at the camp. Mrs Zonaben went on to say that she was aware of everyone making comments about her wanting the bread rolls as soon as they arrived at the table. She said it was something she couldn't stop herself doing. I commented, "Is that why you break your cigarettes in half and place them in the tin you aways carry? "Yes," she said. "The tin is the only thing I have left of my father. It was his tobacco tin."

Mrs Zonaben and I finished up talking for several hours. Then my friend came looking for me and joined in the conversation. When we finally left Mrs Zonaben we both apologised for not understanding her situation. We met up with the others at our table and told them where we had been. We also told them about Mrs Zonaben's circumstances which made us all feel ashamed and embarrassed. From that day on, one or other of us would gladly hand the bread rolls to Mrs Zonaben. There were plenty of them, and if we had gone short we could have asked for more.

I often wondered whether Mrs Zonaben returned to Australia or finally went to live in Israel where she had a cousin, whom she use to live close by in Germany prior to World War Two. Her cousin was the only living relative she had and whom she was meeting in England.

Whilst I have forgotten the name of the ship I have never ever forgotten Mrs Zonaben or the stamp that was imprinted on her left arm with her number on it; or the way she used to break her cigarettes in half, and grab the rolls out of the bread-basket. Perhaps, had I been in Buchenwald and had been deprived of the basic human rights and the necessities of life and virtually starved out of existence, then I may have reacted in a like manner and grabbed the food. For they say it is the survival of the fittest.

The road was straight, flat and smooth. The bus was big, cool and quiet. We passengers had been exposed to a remarkable range of vistas in the previous few hours. Hills, forests, gorges, grassland, mountains. Now we were traversing the Mojave Desert. It was not that the place was uninteresting, but the unvaried picture of sand and scrub meant one could close the eyes for a while, or chat quietly and not be afraid of missing the "never to be repeated sight". You could sense the relaxed atmosphere. The excitement level was well down.

In the seat immediately behind the driver, I could see the Tour Director, Bob, leafing through a collection of CD’s. It took no great mental effort to deduce he was going to play us some music while we cruised toward the horizon along the unbending, unending highway. Bob was a part-time Director. For most of the year he was a tutor at a university, running courses on biology and environmental studies. This was his summer job. I assumed that as a highly educated man who associated with many intellectuals, his preference would be for classical music. However, he had shown an outstanding ability to deliver information in non-technical language that was a model of clarity and not in the least condescending. He was a good mixer, a good communicator and knew his charge’s characteristics pretty well by now. We were a pretty ordinary bunch. No "arty" types, nor any "loud mouth" types. Just a group of middle class, middle aged, middle income people on a tour. So I guessed his choice of music would most likely be something in the light classical area. Something that most would have heard if not actually able to identify. I tried to predict his choice.

My first thought was Dvořák’s New World Symphony. It is a happy piece of music and suited the occasion as far as I was concerned. Then I discarded the notion — The Czech’s music was a bit too brusque for the present atmosphere. Ferde Grofé's The Grand Canyon Suite would be more appropriate the day we reached that phenomenon. The next thought was Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia. Perfect, thought I. The almost imperceptible opening refrain that introduces the piece, depicting a caravan appearing in the distance. The caravan nears and the music swells, the caravan passes and the music fades. A haunting, undemanding melody. What we got was Willy Nelson.

Now, it is not that I dislike Willy or his music. He has quite a peasant tone and I bet he is glad he never got his adenoids fixed. But I do think Bob could have picked something better, more appropriate. However, Bob’s experience proved the wisdom of his selection. Within a couple of minutes you could hear the low murmuring of co-crooners. Oh well, can’t beat them. Altogether now,

♫Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.♫

F. Brown. ©