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Now, about those horses.

Was Green Moon really a dark horse or did I just back the wrong horse when I put my shirt on the favourite which came, well . . . it didn't really, did it? After all, I got my advice straight from the horse's mouth - yours - and it's all very well to complain about locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. It's too late. I've lost my money, haven't I? So it's no good you flogging your dead horse about how good he was supposed to be. And stop whinging about "horses for courses" just because the rain made the track so wet. I could just as well say to you: 'Now, hold your horses'. I mean I was up there in the grandstand yelling: 'Home James, don't spare the horse'. You can get on your high horse as much as you like telling me how the grey mare was the better horse. It still didn't win! I might have done just as well backing a hobby horse or the wooden horse of Troy. lt was not Maluckyday. Hobson's choice would probably have given me a better result - the one nearest the rail! Or Pegasus, he would probably have flown in. I guess he would have had some horsepower. Pity he wasn't running. Gee - next year I'll back Phar Lap. At the very least I'll be able to say the horse was a winner!

The Grand South Road, a narrow band
Winds round hills
Of Gippsland, lush
With green spring growth.

The inner curve,
Our car will hug.
But still there is -
A danger!

Milk trucks,
Big tankers of steel,
Stray cows and motor bikes,
Also think they own the road.

Poowong East,
the sign announces,
But where's the town?
Its homes, its shops, its school?

Around a bend,
We sight a hall,
Modern, brick-clad.
A wall of plaques, curtained.

And inside, we see
Walls lined with photographs.
Tables groaning, boiling urns.
Country hospitality abounds.

Tables are grouped,
descendents talk,
The families of those
lost in war.

Cups of tea and
Chocolate cakes,
Sausage rolls and sandwiches.
School photos, army photos

The plaques uncurtained,
By the Rotary man.
Four lads from,
Poowong East School.

The last post sounded,
Heads bowed,
For those boys.
Like their school, no longer here

I woke in the morning.
The red sky a warning -

It's an old wives' tale.
Or is it real?

Oh, we can rant and rale,
But it's wet and cold we feel.

If that's the way the day goes,
We'll wrap from head to toes.

Shod in furry boots,
Our "Uggies".

Fashion gives way
To comfort and warmth.

Tonight, the frost lies on the lawn like snow,
So bright and white within the full moon's glow.

The frozen fountains still as statues stand
And not a leaf stirs o'er the ice-bound land.

The stars above shine from a cloudless sky,
Each twinkling brightly like a friendly eye.

The beauty of the scene enthralls my sight;
My heart, indeed, is warmed this chilly night.

Conservation: retaining Earth's assets as they are now - the forests, the sea, rivers, mountains and agricultural land.

People: preserving the rights of present and future generations to feed, clothe and shelter themselves.

These two "terms" have been on a collision course, traditionally since the Industrial Revolution, but going much further back in history to Anglo Saxon times, when the Celts were driven off their land by invading Germanic tribes seeking more farm land. Already in Germany and later in Scandinavia, there were more people wanting food and shelter than there was available land.

Today's world is much the same – agricultural land is being taken over by urbanisation or mining or natural gas interest. Forests are being cut down or locked up, yet people still require timber for building and home construction. People still burn wood in fires, although it is always said to be scrap wood. You do wonder when you see the wedges of firewood - it looks as if it has come from quite large trees, whether old forest or new. There is little new agricultural land left in the world, although some still try to create more by rapid deforestation as in Brazil and Malaysia. The petro-chemical industry has answered the need for clothing as the population grows but at what cost? Wool is a natural product but sheep have caused massive erosion in Australia alone. Cotton resulted in long term slavery in earlier times and over fertilisation has led to toxic run-off into the waterways.

Is there any hope that the conservation/people dichotomy will improve in the future? Certainly, now, there is more awareness and monitoring of agricultural practices that degrade rivers and the sea. But the fish stocks are in rapid decline all over the world from over fishing. Rampant consumerism seems to be on the decline and recycling becoming common place. There are a lot of other hopeful signs. Will it be enough and in time? Do we ever learn the lessons of history?

© Frances Coll   17-8-2012

The wind blew quite strongly but the sun shone red hot on his skin. The sky was its usual deep blue. He sat on the wooden seat in his garden, holding a mug of hot coffee and thinking of nothing. How had he come to be so alone? The wind strengthened and broke through to his consciousness. He had never liked wind, it always made him feel unsettled and a little anxious when it blew. He knew it was the memory of past cyclones which made him feel like this, but knowing this did not help, as it was not a logical fear, not every time there was a strong wind. It had become an instinctive reaction over which he had no control.

In a few moments he was back in his memories, lying under the bed in his small brick house in Townsville, with his two toddler sons beside him. Mary was away in Sydney on a business trip and he had been left in charge of the house and the boys. The wind blew hard, swirling around the house, then slamming against the walls and the windows. He hoped that the roof would hold, but it was a new house built to Cyclone 2 regulations. Still, he would need to take no chances. The boys had giggled sleepily when he had lifted them from their bunks and lay them under the wooden double bed on the side away from the window.

Now they were grown up and living on the other side of the continent. He was lucky if he saw them once a year. Mary had been seduced by the hard-edged glitter of Sydney and lived there now. His eyes started to water so he wiped them with a handkerchief and blew his nose. The memories and the loneliness got to him at times. He picked up his mug and walked back to his solid little brick house. I will have to get out of this blue mood he thought. Walking into the living room, he picked up his saxophone, his best friend, and blew out a harmonious tune.

(Homophone: blue and blew)

© Frances Coll   15-7-12

Nancy and John were both nearing retirement. Like most retiring couples, instead of having a steady plan coming to fruition over a number of years, imminent retirement had crept up on them unexpectedly.

Like most, they had a good super plan in place, but how they were going to spend their retirement years had not had much airing. Nancy had always kept an immaculate house, and had always dreamt of a Bed and Breakfast place. John had always kept an extremely neat garden, so she could not see any problem in carrying out her half-formed plan.

John did wonder why Nancy would always suggest "Richmond Village" when he asked her where she would like to go. So, it came as a surprise to John, when she asked him to stop at Hollyhock cottage in Percy St. It had a 'For Sale' notice on it.

He suddenly realised that Nancy had a different idea of spending retirement than he did. Though vaguely formed, he had always wished to find a hidden cave in a foreign country. He wanted to escape the madness of the city, even Richmond with its swarming tourists seemed far from his dream of an escape.

Over a meat pie and coffee lunch in the Richmond bakery, John and Nancy had their first heart-to-heart talk in a long while. Nancy had not realised that John had a dream, too.

"Well, John, we could go to an island in the Pacific, where there are caves you can explore, and then come back and decide what we are going to do for the rest of our retirement."

In Samoa, they stayed in a little fale that was on the beach. It had an undersea cave that you could swim through and exit behind the fale. The fale was comfortable and clean, with banana leaf woven slats, bed mats on the stone floor, but with modern conveniences in bathroom and kitchen.

Nancy could see that this could be a perfect compromise, if only it was for sale. She suggested it to John. Overjoyed at the thought that his dream could come true, he talked to the chief who owned the fale.

Although Samoa was a member of the Commonwealth, an Australian could not own property there unless he was married to a Samoan. When John heard this, he was so disappointed at his dream disappearing, that he said to Nancy "Let's go to the market and have a nice coffee and snack, I need cheering up."

As they made their way back to the fale, John realised that he did not have his wallet. Returning to the market, no-one had seen his wallet. He was to learn when he got back to the fale that this was commonplace in the market.

Nancy had one travellers cheque left. Luckily it was enough to pay the departure tax, but she had to endure a very angry husband on the way back. His dream had had a double blow.

© Maureen Davoren   April 2012