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According to the proverb, fire is a good servant but a bad master. However, fire employed by a bad man, can be a bad servant.

Despite the often brilliant forensic analyses into the criminal use of fire, called arson, such cases are probably involved in the highest percentage of all unsolved crimes. It needs to be understood, though, that arson is not always the primary crime but may be used to conceal or camouflage another crime, such as robbery or murder.

At times when the national economy is experiencing a downturn, and businesses are in danger of bankruptcy, there tends to be a rash of suspicious insurance claims made after fires have damaged or destroyed property. Destruction of business records, to avoid audits or evade taxation, or even to eliminate a competitor by torching his business increase at such times. However, detective work into the financial status of affected businesses is given first priority and has a good rate of success in solving criminal cases.

Another category of criminal has a mental or emotional basis for committing arson and it has three branches. The first is revenge, and may be a disgruntled employee, or customer, or a spurned lover. Then there are the thrill seekers, usually a group of youths under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The third of these emotionally-motivated types is the pyromaniac, and is a particular danger to everyone in Tasmania.

There is, however, a potential firebug who is not considered to be a criminal, yet may prove just as disastrous. This is the ordinary person who thoughtlessly throws his lighted cigarette butt from the window of his car instead of using its ashtray. That ought to be treated as a crime and incur a substantial penalty!

Smouldering cigarette butts can unnecessarily disrupt services by triggering fire alarms and warning systems but have also been blamed for bushfires resulting in major property damage and deaths.

Gunns' pulp mill proposed for Northern Tasmania is a political football.
The Greenies have Gunns in their sights and say they can't seize the wood for the trees. Their global warning is that Gunns' assault of the Earth is typical of the effluent society.
Meanwhile, Gunns have made alternative suggestions on how to discharge effluent and waste products far out into Bass Strait. Their suggestions has fallen on dead ears.
"There are two no ways about it," argue the Greens. "Not much credibility, lots of gap."
"Bilge over troubled waters," say Gunns. "Though they see Bass Strait as a narrow divide, deep waters still run, so there is no problem, no problem. We should be left to our own vices."
"Gunns are as slippery as an oil," complain the Greens.
"To the whinger go the spoils," respond Gunns, "but every crowd has a silver lining." Apparently so, for the company's share price shot up 7.22%.
"This Government," says the Premier, "supports the development of value adding and environmentally sustainable projects."
At the end of the day, it will come down to the survival of the fattest, but at this point in time, it's all too close to call.

She is standing there at the rails looking at me. She is doing that often these days. She is saying goodbye. Goodbye to me and the property, as she is moving to town. A shame really, I liked it with her. She is looking at me ever so sad. I don't know why she is moving if she finds it so hard.

Next week the people come to look at me. It's a woman and her daughter, who will take me away. I will be alright, of course. Kids will ride me and there are another three horses and hundreds of acres of grass.

But saying goodbye is sad. I am sad for her. But it is better for her to move, living all alone so far from town is not good at her age.

I remember the day she came to the farm. She'd come to buy the saddle for her daughter. But then she saw me. She thought I was so beautiful, a horse fit for kings. That's when she bought me.

And, yes, I have a few tricks, like to step aside when she wanted to get in the saddle and to walk off before she sat. It makes life more interesting.

She won't be there when I go. She's arranged it not to be around that day. She thinks that will be easier. I know she'll be thinking of me, and even four years later she'll be devastatingly sad to have had to let me go, and she'll weep for me. But life isn't fun, sometimes.

She's getting a bit too old to ride. But when she dies, she tells me, she'll be riding in heaven, all day and every day, in the sun. And she'll have all these horses with her.

My nanny has all these funny ideas. Sometimes, I wonder if she isn't quite there. Like she thinks she can communicate with animals, through mental telepathy. Not just animals, like cats and dogs, but insects, too, and snakes. Anything really.

She had saved one of these thin little wasps from drowning. And she stood there for a while communicating with it, looking at its eyes. Eerie that was.

And the snake in the duck's pen; a large tiger snake only two feet away from her two bare feet. She said it didn't look aggressive. It had risen up some. She said it looked surprised, like, "Shall we be friends, you and I?"

But nanny is scared of snakes. She went gently backwards out of the narrow gate of the duck's pond, to get her gun. By the time she came back the snake was gone.

Thank heaven, as you wouldn't want to shoot a friendly snake .....

(A short story written to include the names (red) of all the horses in the Melbourne Cup)

The Associate Professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge was on summer vacation. Most years he returned to his boyhood hunting ground - Galleons Reach, just south of Cork in southern Ireland where the fishing was still good and the colleens always pretty and engaging. Seamus O'Reilly, now in his early forties, was enjoying the quiet and solitary life after yet another hectic college year. This year he'd been elevated to Master and the students now deferentially called him Master O'Reilly. The phone rang. "Sufferin' serpents, can't they leave a man when he's on holiday. Hallo. O'Reilly speaking."
"Excuse me, Sir. Hope you're enjoying your holiday." It was the cheery voice of his secretary, Daf. (Her parents had misguidedly named her Daffodil.) "Sorry to bother you but there's a message just come in from Abu Dhabi. Seems the French "dig" out there has come across something very unusual. They wondered if you'd like to go out and help the investigation."
"Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't. I am on holiday you know and the fishing's good. OK, give me the details."

The jumbo landed smoothly; a fierce hot wind surrounded O'Reilly as he walked from the plane. He'd met the leader of the French expedition before. He was waiting for him. Henri Zavite was a short avuncular man; a jovial, middle-aged character. O'Reilly observed that despite the heat he was still wearing his favourite Harris Tweed jacket patched at the elbows. He'd never seen him in anything else. Reminds me of Hercule Poirot he mused.

"Ah, Henri. How are you? Thanks for meeting me."
" 'Allo, 'allo, Seamus. I 'ave lots to do. Zis dig is taking all my time, n'est pas." They walked to the car. "You see we 'ave found some bodies. It is very unusual you know."
They drove to the hotel, enjoyed dinner, then settled in the lounge. O'Reilly was feeling more relaxed after the long flight. He checked the wine list. "Ah, they've got some Fiumicino. It's a new port wine from Italy. It's been on the shelf at home for a while now. Fiumicino's in Italy,
did you know. Means "little river". Good name for a wine, eh? It's very good. You should try some. Much better than this alcopop rubbish the kids are into."
Henri Zavite continued his story. "We 'ave been digging 'ere for five summers now. It's a palace site: Late Bronze and last week we came across zis burial chamber, long and narrow. It seems no one knew about it."

Next morning they drove across the burning yellow desert sand to the site. The dig was scattered over a large area. Zavite said, "It is a very strange thing. It looks like a massacre occurred 'ere. My assistant, Maurice, called me, 'Hurry Henri. Allez! Wonder! What's 'ere?' I just spin around so quickly and I am so astonished. It was 'orrible. C'est la guerre, I say. What 'as 'appened 'ere? It is like nothing I 'ave ever seen. So quickly I pull out my trusty little Leica camera for the pictures and Leica, ding! Ding! Ding! It is like a crime scene; the bodies 'ave been ritually dismembered and they are all women. You see these two with legs and arms in strange positions. Maybe they were princesses or harem girls and they appear to 'ave been named. We 'ave found these small steles nearby with names: Ista Kareem, Munsef: royal-sounding names and there's another one over there. It's not very clear but could be Mourilyan. You are the expert Seamus. What do you think?"
O'Reilly bent over the skeletons, then turned to one of the local Arabs and said: "Please, lend me your cape. Cover the bones. I'll need to examine them again." Standing up he said, "An Arabian sheikh lived in this area somewhere about 1750 BCE. The best translation of his name would be Basaltico. He was a big wig. Very sadistic by all accounts and held life pretty cheap. Rather like Claudius, you remember, the Roman Emperor. Derek Jacobi played him in the movie.
"What I see here Henri is exactly what I would have expected. Gruesome, shocking yes, but not when viewedfrom the perspective of the times they lived in. I'm a bit surprised there aren't more. Perhaps you'll find some. And by the way let me know if you find the remains of any horses. This fellow was well known for his chariot racing. I'll be away now Henri. Promised my sister in Australia I'd come on over to her since I'm already half way round the world."
"Where does she live?" asked Zavite.
"Oh, a little place near Sydney. Warringah. She says it's a little kibbutz. Her husband's Jewish. Should add another dimension to my Middle Eastern studies. Enjoy your discoveries Henri."

Come, let me arm you with a kiss
as you step into your business face
tighten the tie that gags your words
to fit the corporate image
adjust your rimless glasses to better see
legal and insurance tangles
tuck in your shirt to deny your gender
it has no place in the office
slip your feet into sensible shoes
the flash of an ankle does not help
pick up your mobile office and
walk through the door but first
come, let me arm you with a kiss.

©fmcFrances Coll 24-5-02

I am walking barefoot on the ceramic tiled floor of my house in the Tropics. The coolness of the surface is in pleasant contrast to the warmth given off by the other soft furnishings. It feels squeaky clean beneath my bare toes.

We had laid tiles in our apartment when we moved back to Sydney. We still loved the cleanliness under our feet. In winter, we needed mats. When trying to rent our apartment before our move to Tasmania, we were told that people found tiles to be cold. We lay down some Turkish rugs and left in disgust.

Here, we are blessed with the soft "giving" of Tasmanian oak beneath our feet. In an ordinary 50’s home, there are boards over 4 metres long, not a single knot to be seen. Warmed by central heating in winter, they are never cold underfoot. In some spots a slight creak is made by a soft footfall, a dead giveaway when my grandchildren play "hide and seek." In Japan, these "whispering" floors were especially built into wooden houses as a burglar alarm feature. We stayed in an ancient "ryokan", (Naraya at Hakone near Mt. Fuji), that had a number of these. There, the floors were of tatami (woven straw) which also gave a soft, more textured "givingness" beneath the bare feet.

While different climates lead to a number of solutions to the pleasure of walking on floor surfaces, I have been most fortunate to have been able to choose the most pleasing "barefoot" satisfaction wherever I have lived.

©fmcFrances Coll 8-11-09

White wave tops crashing;
incessantly powerful;
attacking the beach.

Outside my window
magpies warble all day long;
black and white humour.

Fluffy cumulus
riding a heavenly sky;
white woolly bundles.

Flowers in vases,
pretty, scented and bunch-like
but better unpicked.

To travel they say is to journey,
To travel they say is to roam,
But distance and place is a slap in the face
When the traveller leaves his home.

Our journey to England was freezing,
Our journey to Spain was a bore.
Thinking us British, the French were malicious
When Aussies they chose to ignore.

The Germans, God help us, were nasty,
The Russians were colder than ice,
And ignoring our pleas for permission to leave
The Swiss chose not to be nice.

In Greece the locals were cautious
Of intruders polluting their shore,
The Italians were wary but also contrary,
Pinching bottoms galore.

The Chinese burned red with anger,
The Finns in the cold turned blue,
The Irish danced in a deathlike trance
As the bombs and the bullets flew.

The Scots they tried to be pleasant
But their speech was remarkably broad,
And the wind blew a gale right up to their tail
Causing more than a delicate roar.

In Japan the locals ignored us,
It was as if we didn’t exist.
Koreans were burdened by nuclear weapons
So we prudently gave them a miss.

The Kiwis were antagonistic,
Their rivalry far from a game,
Into the mud with more than a thud
They’d pitch us with no hint of shame.

The African nations were hungry,
The Indians even more so,
In Fiji the soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder
Cautioning us to go.

The Yanks at first were friendly,
To their allies they’d be true,
But the rednecks found us, they bullied and bound us,
So much for the red, white and blue.

The world is a mix of nations,
Of people with differing views,
Some are content, while others are bent
But their outlook, it’s nothing new.

A boiling, bubbling cauldron
Of fears, of hates and woes,
Of wars and attacks, striking our backs,
As into the future we go.

Our trip ‘round the world was a journey,
Our trip ‘round the world was to roam,
And it served to remind us that all that is precious
Was waiting for us back home.

By Beverley Thomson

I washed the windows in the morning: it rained in the afternoon: it usually does!

But this time the rain did not stop. It pattered down, drumming on tin roofs, became heavier as evening darkened into night; hammered against old brick walls, streaming away in gleaming rivulets across asphalt drives, quickly pouring into already overflowing gutters; swirlingly is carried into overfull creeks where it cascades in silver ribbons onto nearby waterlogged paddocks. Slowly, by imperceptible degrees, the water rises and spreads in broad swathes across the flatness.

For days, the rain continues to fall from grey leaden skies: sometimes drizzle, occasionally showers, more often torrents: long straight lines of teeming rain. Everything lies saturated; pools become ponds, the ponds lakes; the lakes, rivers. Brown banjo frogs bongo with delight; mallards rampantly water ski; black swans drop in and glide nostalgically; gumboots and waders shake off the dust of long hibernation. There will be new freshness, growth . . . and more rain!