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Of course, I did try to get some writing done this week.

I started early on Tuesday morning, turned on my computer - at least that's what I intended - only to discover the power was off. Won't be long I said and started scribbling a few notes. Well nothing had returned a couple of hours later. And then the phone rang! Bad news. My sister-in-law somewhat distraught, sobbing into the phone that my brother was really sick and might even die and wanted to see me. Soon. Like NOW! That was all very well and I needed to go but he lives in South Australia. So the rest of the day was absorbed booking an airfare for Wednesday. Expensive at short notice, of course, but direct to Adelaide. And packing a bag for a few days - or longer, perhaps.

The flight on Wednesday morning arrived in Adelaide about
1 pm. But Pete doesn't live in Adelaide. He's in Port Augusta another 300 km north. Well actually he's not even in Port Augusta, he lives outback near Quorn another 30 odd km. Next task: car hire, luckily from the airport. By the time I got to Pete's place it was 6pm, time for dinner.
"He's hanging on," said a tearful Sally. "He'll be pleased you've come."

Next day, Thursday, Pete was barely conscious. Sally said, "Look Col hope you don't mind but we're going to need a priest quite soon and his wife says he's out of town and she can't raise him but thinks he's in Hawker doing his pastoral duties. Would you mind going up and tracking him down. Oh and if it's not too much trouble we need some shopping as you come back." She gave me a list.

So I got into the car again and set off for Hawker about 60 km to the north. It should not have taken long but things happen don't they? About ten km along the track, a bushy part of the Flinders Ranges, a huge roo comes bolting out of the scrub, no stopping, straight into the car. Panic! Emergency braking. Bang! I slithered off the track and into the bushes. Have you ever been hit by a kangaroo? The damage was significant: smashed front wing and wheel looking very dodgy. I stood disconsolately by the side of the road. No one in sight and not for another hour. The lift into Hawker was a slow truck ride. So by lunch time I started the search for the vicar and eventually found him. He was staying overnight but would give me a lift back on Friday. I booked into the hotel.

I woke early on Friday to the smell of smoke. From the window I could see that a bush fire was circling the area. The few locals were already organising hoses and pumps. The pub was in imminent danger.
I had to help. That's a long story in itself but it took us all day to save the pub and the houses nearby. I was pretty whacked by sunset as we watched smoke still drifting in the distance. Another night in the pub.

On Saturday, discovered the vicar had left on Friday evening so I hitched a ride back to Quorn arriving mid-morning. A tearful Sally met me at the door. Pete had died on Friday afternoon and she'd arranged the funeral for two p.m. The vicar was back in town but couldn't do it on Monday. So you know what I was doing on Saturday afternoon. It was all very sad and I felt I hadn't been there when I wanted to be.

Come Sunday morning I had to ring the car hire firm and explain why I'd left their damaged vehicle on the side of a country road 350 km from where I'd hired it. I decided it would be safer and quicker to take a bus back to Adelaide. Needless to say I missed the only direct flight to Hobart and had to go via Melbourne arriving in time for the last Virgin flight which got in last evening at 9.15. So by the time I got home tired, sad and a bit dishevelled it was working towards 11 pm.

I still haven't done any writing but I've got enough ideas for a raft of short stories.

I wake from slumbers: dreamscapes, warmth.
It is silent.
Almost.

Darkness absorbs me with soft gentleness;
I feel its surrounding blackness:
it is near, but distant;
warm, yet cold;
strong, but weak;
strange, but familiar.

The Silence whispers, uncertainly;
soft breaths beside me;
quiet hums from the kitchen.

I wait, listening
and then, stealthily, as a cat in the blackness, comes the Rain
pattering softly,
tapping loudly,
strumming insistently
as the giant sweeps in from the sea
brutally beating the weatherboards,
hammering the house;
fierce, frightening and furious;
torrents of water descend;
a deafening deluge,
gurgling in gutters,
echoing in downpipes,
overflowing the eaves.

The darkness continues
but Silence hurriedly disappears.

The snake slithers gracefully downhill, its sinuous tail curling through countless hairpin bends; its increasing speed exhilarating the freewheeling, braking, pedalling riders.

Each one determined and passionate, their faces etched with excitement; then agony, sinews strained, dripping sweat; aching muscles, bodies pained, hour upon hour; up,up, up; down and down again, to the limits of man and machine.
A maze of passing colour: multicoloured flashes; blues, reds, oranges, whites and blacks; one yellow.
Endurance: rain soaking, wind beating, clouds descending, visibility poor, slippery surfaces.
Sidelined body of humankind: yelling, encouraging, running, verging too close, partisan, irritating, annoying.
Errors of judgement: collision; accident; disaster; jumble of bikes, bodies, hard road, broken spokes, blood, agony and curses; anger, frustration, delay; end of a dream; new bike, up, supporting push, away.
Time, distance: How long? How far? How fast?
Panoply of drama: mayhem, mystery, magic, excitement, amazement.
Race to the finish: utter exhaustion.
Arrival.
Triumph.
Le Tour est finis.

My name is Flavia Holmes, the local police officer. You reported a theft and I'm here to investigate it. What happened?

I am John Smith and I live in Sydney. To escape the madness of that city I've come to Richmond and this B&B. Early today, I went to explore a hidden cave on Brown Mountain. As I didn't need money on that hike I left a $100 note and three or four coins on the dressing-table. I forgot to put them away but it didn't matter because I had the room key. When I returned, I found that the money had vanished. That cash was vital as I have only one small travellers cheque and still a month before I return home. I told the proprietor of the theft. I never expected him to get angry but perhaps he thought I was implying someone on the staff, using a master-key, had entered my room and pinched the money.

Thank you, Mr Smith. I see that the window is open a few centimeters.

Yes, but I found that it can't be opened more than that. My money was too far from the window for the thief to get it.

I don't know about that. The thief got my money.

What do you mean, the thief got your money?

When I got here, I walked around the house to your window. I found no footprints. As the window was cracked open, I threw a coin onto your dressing-table. That coin has disappeared.

So, the thief is someone on the staff!

I don't know about that. As I already have a suspect, I will take you to where I think he has hidden his stash. By the way, if you have a rope for your caving, bring it - it might come in handy.

Why?

We used to exercise about once a year. Now I don't mean a session of P.T., I mean an event where a bunch would go to a caving area and put into practice rescue techniques in an actual cave. The people involved were from two groups. There were the cavers, of course, and members of the Police search and rescue squad. We would spend all day crawling, climbing in a suitable hole in the rock, hauling gear and bodies and getting darn cold and very thirsty. The best cure for thirst is, would you believe, beer. Some might argue, but with this mob, the evening was devoted to relieving dehydration at the local hostelry. So after a feed at the camp we would all head for the pub. The Police had a small bus whose driver was a non-drinker and prepared to cart us to the watering hole and pick us up a few hours later. I never did find out what he did in the intervening hours.

Normally the party congregate in the lounge bar, and the locals would normally stay in the front bar. The bars were arranged so that one could see from one drinking area into the other, and the antics of the cops and cavers provided the evening entertainment for the locals. Dress was generally the immensely popular New Zealand wool shirt but the cops tended to wear blue in while the cavers wore every other colour. The other difference was the cops tended to be about a foot taller than the average caver. There were the usual games played and some novel ones. The fireplace had a brick face up to the ceiling, and there were small corners of the bricks emerging at one corner. These provided miniscule finger and toe holds. The challenge was to climb this obstacle and touch the ceiling with your head. Few did, many fell, but nobody seemed to get injured. One time my prized bush hat got "stolen". One young constable put his training to work and interviewed me and every member of the groups, taking copious notes and reporting progress. And the beer flowed, and the locals watched.

One time a couple of the cavers put on an act. The left the lounge and went to the front bar. They evidently wanted to have a quiet chat and smoke. This was in the days when you could smoke in the bar:-, in fact it was almost a requirement. These two blokes were both bearded and long haired. Hippy types. They fronted the bar, ordered a couple of beers and one started to roll a fag. Now this was very common practice and normally nobody would have taken much notice. What was a bit different was the size of the fag. It was fat. Not one of the skinny little efforts, the normal roll-your-own the thickness of a pencil. No, this was like your thumb. The paper barely reached. A triumph of the smoking art! A couple of the locals were a bit suspicious and eased down the bar away from the pair. The monster was lit and the maker took a drag, held it and then slowly exhaled. Then came the cruncher. He passed it to his mate who repeated the process. All the locals retreated to the far end of the bar. Without being too obvious, a few of the cavers and coppers were observing the antics of the "hippies" and the reactions of the locals. The word spread and with no diminishing of the noise in the lounge, the boys moved back and forth, taking turns to grab a view of the front bar. You could see the locals anxiously glancing from the "hippies" to the partying cops, and exchanging whispered comments like "Don't the daft buggers know the place is stiff with cops?" The playlet went on for about ten minutes until one of the police leaned across and called to the pair of puffers. "You two finished playing silly sods? Your turn to try the chimney". They rose, extinguished the "joint", and strolled out of the bar, nodding to the locals while a bunch of us stood grinning in full view. One by one the locals woke up to the joke. You could almost hear them saying "Sucked in" and "Smart bastards!"

Frank Brown©

We are faced with a thousand rules
To guide wise men, be obeyed by fools.
But I’ve a secret and I’ll expound it
“Where there’s a rule, there’s a way round it.”

Problems come in great profusion
Needing some sort of solution
So solve the problems, really nobble ’em
But “Each solution has a problem.”

Telescope, microscope help you perceive
Things big and small that are hard to believe
These wondrous tool revealed to me
“The harder you look, the more you will see.”

Impossible dreams are ten a penny
I know because I’ve had so many
Dreams that helped me to decide
“Nowt’s impossible till it’s tried”

"All aboard," the Station Master called,
"There's room for all in need."

So young and old they climbed aboard,
Their tickets in their hand,
Each one tired and weary
They looked a sorry band.

The seats filled up, the whistle blew,
The train it gathered speed.
This journey was a special one
For those passengers in need.

The Ticket Master came around,
His puncher at the ready.
"Now everyone please keep your seats,
The train's a bit unsteady.

Some of you know where you're going,
You've been this way before!
But until you've learned your lesson
You'll be stuck in a revolving door.

"Now everyone with the colour red
You'll be the last to leave the carriage.
You knew the rules; You broke the rules;
Now you're carrying too much baggage.

The amber tickets they come next,
You know you've gone astray,
The Amber flashed a warning
That you choose to disobey.

Will you never learn the lesson
That stares you in the face?
That the Brain's a well-oiled organ,
Boss of the human race!

But unless you treat it nicely
With care and due respect,
You'll be back on board the Brain Train,
The one we call Break-down Express.

Now, I'm talking to you travellers
With green tickets in your hand,
You'll be wondering what you're doing here? –
That, I can understand.

We have to keep you up to date,
And supply you with the data
To make sure you follow all the rules
And do all the things that matter.

So please heed all the warnings,
All the little signs
And maybe take some action
To protect your precious minds.

For we only get one chance you know
So let every moment count,
Or you will be back; I know you will
Of that there is no doubt.

The lesson you will learn my friends,
Before your journey's end,
Is to recognise the symptoms
Before they send you round the bend.

So sit back and take it easy,
Your welfare's in our hands
The Brain Train's on a joumey
To Good Mental Health Island."

The lights were low.
The scene was laid.
Frankie with singing serenade;
The pillows were fluffed,
To cradle her head,
And she stretched the seriously luxuriously,
In her comfy bed:
When the time was right,
And always quiet.
She crept downstairs
Like a thief in the night;
She opened the door
Praying 'don't let its squeak,
Young Sonny's in bed fast asleep.'
Her torch shone bright;
Its beams showing all,
As it found its target against the wall;
The object stood out,
Like a beam or lighthouse.
As you crept toward it just like a mouse.
Insiders confines tucked safely away,
Was green plastic box
With a label to say:
"Broccoli and cabbage for tomorrow's tea;"
Knowing Sonny would ignore it
And never see.
The secret stash of chocolate;
Then she climbed the stairs
To a little nest:
And snuggle down for her night times rest;
She opened the box with her senses on edge:
No chocolate in sight!
Just a note that read
"Sorry grandma, you should have known,
You can't hide chocolate from an eight-year-old."

© Catherine Fair 2 July 2011

"We Will Fight Them on the Beaches………"
Winston Churchill
(British WWII PM)

This phrase conjures up survival strategies of a different, non-military nature in our family. It exists in the simple act of our two sons, aged 14 and 12, setting off to go prawning on the beach in front of our house at Saunders Beach, north of Townsville.
"Have you got your reef shoes on?" I ask.
"Yes, Mum, we are going to drag for prawns up near the little creek. I know that that is a favourite spot for stonefish," said Eamon the eldest.
"O.K., but keep an eye on Joe. He is always dropping things and losing things. He lost his new sunglasses the last time he went up the beach with his friend."
"Yes, he's hopeless, but he is just as scared of stonefish as I am. One of his other friends was in a coma for days and nearly died. I think he will keep his shoes on!"
"Speaking of sunglasses. Eamon, make sure that you keep yours on all the time. The doctor said you already have a pterygian, a sun spot, in your eye."
Yes Mum, even though you have always made us wear shady hats. Dr. Agnew said that that if you are spending a lot of time on the water, the reflected glare actually can affect the surface of the white of the eye."
"Well, the only alternative in this climate is to stay inside in the air-conditioning watching TV, which is not too good for your health either", I mused. "I would much rather that you were outside being active on the beach and sailing your catamaran. Neither of you have an ounce of fat on you."
"O.K. Mum. We'll get going now. Let's see - we've got our hats, sunglasses, white overalls for skin cancer and also for protection against marine stingers. We put on our sun block. Will you spray me all over with Aerogard as the sandflies are really biting at the moment."
"Yes, I will. Here's some iced water and do keep an eye on the time so that you won't get sunstroke. Now what else? Oh yes! Dad and I saw some sea snakes when we were out on the catamaran yesterday, so they are around now also. How far are you going?"
"Only about 100 metres up the beach, Mum, said Joe. "We should all have a feast of prawn scampi tonight!"
A normal morning's outing. These are some of the many creatures and elements that:
"We will fight (them) on the beaches……….

© FrancesColl 9 July 2011

Everyone has known at least one character larger than life, and I have meet a few, but Hubert Kimberly-Jones was most memorable. (That wasn't his real name, but he used it because it was more impressive than Robert Jones.)

He was one of the foremost adherents of Fad and Fashion. lt was his belief that to be socially popular you had to be in fashion. For him that could translate into what you wore, where you went, how you got there and who you were associated with, and most importantly, what you did for a living. Where you resided probably mattered, but it wasn't something that he could do much about as his means were always quite limited. He made pretty good money, when he was employed. Employment certainly mattered.

"One has an obligation to avoid occupations which could be construed as unsociable. Better off between career opportunities than engaged in something crude or dull." He gave an example once when I questioned him about this attitude. "A financial analyst is currently acceptable, while a common accountant is not. No one wants to know a podiatrist, but orthopaedic surgeons are top of the A list."

To be accepted in society  was important for him to be de jour. He used a lot of French words, frequently out of context with what he was discussing. French terms were always in fashion. Some times Italian was acceptable.

I watched him, from a safe distance, go from Hippie to Share Market Lion to Sloan Square adherent, to artist colony groupie. For awhile he became highly enthusiastic about symphony orchestras, followed shortly after by a fascination with Hip Hop artistry. He topped that off with modern jazz dance lessons.

A classic example was the evening he burst into my modest flat and asked to borrow my world atlas. This was a huge coffee table edition that had belonged to my departed great aunt. I got it because no one else wanted it and it resided behind the bookstand. lt didn't fit on a shelf.

"l'm having a soire at my place tonite and need a conversation starter."

"How's that going to work", I enquired; "And why are you dressed that way?" "Gay is the new fashion." That supposedly explained the ridiculous attire which was an obvious attempt to look like the lead from 'The Boy from Aus'.

He retrieved the metre square tome from it's hiding place and dropped it on the table. This had been done with some difficulty as the very tight pants he had picked up at an opportunity shop didn't lend themselves to much bending.

Waving a limp wrist it the direction of the atlas he outlined the plot. "The book will be open to a map of a remote and suitably exotic locale along with a pad of paper and pencil. On the pad will be jottings about possible departure dates and a travel brochure will be open to the place of interest. Can't fail. Once you get this mob talking they can't be shut up. lt will be a sensational night."

"l didn't know you were sexually oriented in this direction. Gave up on the fashion models did you?"

"As a matter of fact, this has opened doors that were previous locked and barred. I have connected with an absolutely wonderful woman who has a heavenly body and photographic models face. She asked me to her place for dinner when we met at a horrifically gay bar. Said she liked gay men's company because they were sensitive and safe from becoming encumbrances. Her usual companions were lesbians."

"So how does this open doors?"

"l walked in with a bottle of wine, we drank that in about 5 minutes and next thing you know we're in the sack hammering away like deranged teenagers."

"Whatever works for you I suppose. Do you really like these people."

"God NO!, but I have to put up with it for a little while longer. Just until the Judicial Clerks position is secured. Law and courts, legal processes; all of that and criminal justice. lt is the next big thing."

With that he grabbed the atlas and left, not bothering to close the door.

I always wondered if his party goers noticed that the atlas was printed in 1928 and no longer resembled the countries of the world we now live in.

© Mickey Benefiel 2011