Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Good Pair

I saw her again today. She is quite beautiful. She catches the same bus as me. You probably think me foolish to fall in love with a complete stranger, someone that doesn’t even see me. There is that special something about her. The gentle way she glances out of the window, the way she gets up to get off the bus, the way she walks away from the bus stop to work or college or even home as she might work at night…
I travel two more stops and get off myself. If I had any sense I would get of at her stop and walk the extra few metres and she might notice me then. We might even strike up a conversation, about the weather or work or how late the bus is. But I don’t. I don’t relish making a fool of myself. What if she laughed in my face? She might even say “Stop pestering me”. I couldn’t bear that. I am at the mercy of my timidity and the possible humiliation of stuttering some feeble excuse…
I rarely see her at night so I think she may be a student after all. I travel alone on the bus then. No, that is not true there are 40 or 50 others crammed on but I feel alone because she is not there. Well at least I like my job, they think well of me, well as much as they can think well of any data entry operator. In time I might become a senior data entry operator or even a data entry supervisor. No, I agree that is nothing to get excited about…
I am upset because she is not on the bus this morning. It’s not the end of the semester so she must have moved. That is what I have worked out. I don’t fancy having to make the journey without some interest. I’ll have to start doing a crosswords or something. I start digging in my briefcase…
“Excuse me” say a voice. “May I take that seat” I shuffle across to the sit by the window and then look up. “Oh, hello” says my beautiful girl. “I often see you on this bus don’t I?” I am dumbfounded but manage a weak smile. I nod and am about to say something when she carries on, “I’ve just moved house, I am batching with some other girls. Trouble is the bus is more crowded nearer the city”. I finally pluck up courage and blurt out, “I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you”. Her look was so beautiful I knew at once I had said the right thing…
“Sophie” she said.
“Steven” I responded.
We sound like a good pair, don’t we?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

No, not shining

“Rise and Shine”, who said that? Whoever did say that couldn’t seriously apply that to me. That was the Sun’s job, not mine. I have always been a creature of the night.
I find the darkness far more satisfying than the bright garish day. No, the Sun is that mean revealer, the teller of truth, that sneak that shows your pale self and all its secrets to the world.
My world is beautiful, it is mysterious, and it is full of untold stories, mysteries perhaps that are not meant to be solved. One of the worst things in life, about man that is that he is always anxious to solve mysteries. Why? Life’s mysteries are beautiful, so beautiful in fact they should be cherished, garnered, preserved and adored. What are the use of facts that when revealed show ugliness and deceit and cruelty and pain and loss and the absence of love.
Love is the most beautiful thing in the world, not money, not possessions, not winning. What do you love, you may ask? I love the night, I love the night creatures that watch me as I pass, I love the wind in the dark pine forest, I love the sound of the sea lapping at the shore in darkness not cognisant of time but everlasting, trustworthy in it’s steadfastness but angry and stormy in it’s rage. Have you stood by the shore and heard the sea’s growl on a stormy night it is as though all the beasts of hell are straining at their leashes? To me it is a comforting sound.
I do not like the Moon much either, what a spoiler of beauty is she. Vanity thy name is Moon. How much better it is to look at the night sky without the Moon’s interference. Go look at the skies on a clear night away from the city’s glare and there will be a wonderland, a cornucopia of delights. No wonder those tiny dots of light were ascribed names of gods and monsters that moved across their world, loving and fighting and hiding and transforming in a picture show of unearthly spectacle.
One day you may see me, pale faced, wandering the streets, the alleys, talking to the trees, nodding at the owls, and shushing the cats as they scrabble in the waste bins. Even if I am not there, I was once. And now you may ask where are you now? I will be in that rustle in the leaves, in the creak of a door, the sigh of the wind or even the pale twinkle of that star up there. No, not shining I leave that to others.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

My Masseur

For a few years now I have made regular visits to a masseur on my doctor’s recommendation. Slow deterioration of fitness, age and aches had got me into this situation so I agreed a little TLC would be appropriate. This could not have been further from the truth of course. It is one thing to have your body soothed into a relaxed state quite another to have those aches and pains identified and kneaded into submission by a skilled practitioner. Parting with a few dollars to satisfy the sadistic pleasure of a torturer was a bitter pill to swallow except that for the rest of the day after that first treatment I felt really well. My body was cleansed of a myriad ills, albeit temporarily, but it did give me hope that my old bones were not going to crumble around me.
My return visits were not regular at first but with the well being achieved it encouraged me to attend on a monthly basis. Soon the manipulation, the music in the background and the two way conversations about everything under the sun soon made the visit quite a pleasure.
I say two way conversations; this is not quite true. While the masseur a woman, half my age spoke of many things, my utterances were few. A response when appropriate, an admonition at her finding a recalcitrant tendon or the idle chit-chat about families, pets and holidays, were interspaced by a dreamy state of semi-consciousness as I melted under her care.
This of course was my undoing. In receiving treatment I was stripped down to my jocks and not a stitch more. Can you imagine my chagrin when on completion of the treatment one day, the massage table lowered and a tap on the shoulder to say you can get up now, I found I had my socks on! Mumbling “I forgot to take my socks off” she replied with a laugh. “No, you were fast asleep so I put them back on for you!”
It is one thing to have a masseur, quite another to have a dresser as well!

Sunday, 17 April 2011


My wife and I were great designers. I was trained to be so and drew up plans for houses and shops and pubs and other things. She on the other hand was a great designer of babies. OK, so I was involved in that too. I would have a squiggle of an idea and give it to her and she would fashion really beautiful children from it. Sometimes it didn’t work out. This might happen just a little while after giving her one idea and she would say “Come on I need you to try again”. So I had to keep on coming up with ideas until she was satisfied.
When we first got married I had firm ideas about how many babies we would have. We will have five girls I said. My wife said nothing. She knew that I had been brought up with a dominating elder brother, and a host of boy cousins so I needed to find out what the other side of the street was like. She was therefore wife and sister and confidant and lover and friend and mentor and everything I needed her to be. She was jealous too of one and all of my past girlfriends. Some of these had long gone from my life and others I might nod at in the street as they just flicked their eyes in my direction as they swung on the arm of their husband, boyfriend, lover, whatever and glanced at my wife in curiosity.
Our babies were beautiful from the moment they were born; so much so that I spent a lot of time on the floor at their level getting to know them. Our first was a boy and clearly my wife had ticked that box ahead of me. However to satisfy me the next two were girls. So she had two boys and two girls to love and to mother. This was an excellent arrangement. While I scrabbled about on the floor with the children with the cars and the trains and the dolls and the toy animals she did the washing and ironing and cooking and making the beds and all those other little jobs. At bedtime there would be bath time for the children and reading by me for the little ones who were tucked in bed for a final kiss.
Now so many years later, as I look at my own children grown up and now even older than I was back then, I see their children too looking so much like our babies still playing with the Lego and the toy cars and the dolls and the furry animals, still wanting stories from their favourite books still wanting me to make things or to draw things with them and even to wonder at the birds and insects and lizards in the garden.
In them I see you my beautiful wife. Every time a daughter or son, granddaughter or grandson gives me a hug I am getting a hug from you. Every time one of them speaks to me I hear your voice. You were able to do this in your creativity. I called myself a designer but you were one.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Sunny Boy and Honey Bun

William Richard Forsythe was 13. His parents called him Sunny which he hated. The family was making their first cruise. His Dad drank a lot. His Mother played Bingo and the Pokies. Sunny was told to make friends and enjoy himself as they were.
Susan Penelope Wallace was 12 going on thirteen; in fact her birthday was to be on board. Her parents called her Honey Bun which she hated. The family were taking their fourth cruise. Her parents played bridge all day long. Susan had become a seasoned seafarer and this was evident with her charge card ID swinging around her neck and her expertise in navigation of the whole ship. She was especially skilled in avoiding the places that her parents were, such as playing bridge, sipping coffee in the patisserie or drinking cocktails in the forward bar.
It wasn’t long before Sonny had worked his strategy out too. So he avoided the bars and his Dad and the Bingo lounges and his Mum. It was starting to be a great trip.
At first both families had decided that they should dine together but soon both Sunny and Honey broke free and insisted that they dine with friends (which neither had) at the Buffet on the Lido deck.
The Buffet was full one day at lunch and Honey had to ask to join a table already occupied by a boy, Sunny.
“Is this seat taken?”
“Help yourself”
After what seemed an awkward silence, Sunny said “I’m Bill” and Honey in her turn said “I’m Sue” Thereafter the conversation developed and each confessed their nicknames and their frustration with their parents. Soon they met up everyday and were less surly with their parents and shattered the illusion that they were unhappy on board. This pleased both parents as they could concentrate on their own pleasures.
For Honey and Sunny they did everything together from the pool to the Pizza bar even to the teens nightclub named “The Dragons Lair” where older people were not allowed. They found out that Sue lived in Queensland and Bill lived in Victoria. They both said together “That’s like living on a different planet!” and laughed themselves silly.
On her birthday Honey was given a Pandora bracelet with six beads on. Sonny noticed it and said “My Mum has one of those, is it new?” and Honey confessed to it being her birthday. Later that day Sunny presented Honey with a box of chocolates and a card. Honey was delighted, gave Sunny a peck on the cheek and said “I’ll take them back to our room; I’ll meet you at the pool.”
The worst days were when there were day excursions when in port. They had to go with their parents to the shops in the boring towns or visit caves full of bats or ride on cable cars to see their cruise ship so far off in the distance. At Christchurch in New Zealand they were lucky as Sunny's parents didn’t want to go on the punts on the Avon River and he managed to get to the boathouse just as Honey and her parents arrived. Sonny waved and Honey insisted that she go on the next punt with him and her parents agreed, probably fed up with Honey’s long face.
Sunny was now in love. He attached himself like glue to Honey and even ventured to hold her hand when they were together, which she didn’t mind at all. At the “Dragon’s Lair” they would jig around to the music and with the flashing lights would see each other in a completely different way. Honey felt safe with Sunny and didn’t want the cruise to end. While they sat out one dance at the “Lair” Sonny held her hand and “Honey” turned and let him kiss her on the lips. It was but a short tentative awkward kiss but for them it meant everything. Honey cried with pleasure that night she was in love too.
The liner docked in Sydney on a Tuesday. In the disembarkation Honey lost her ID tag, not that that mattered now. She didn’t need it anymore. Sunny left the ship a little later and picked up Honey’s tag in the corridor. He stuffed it in his carry on bag and tried to see if she was just ahead of them. She wasn’t.
Although they had exchanged addresses he felt that like Romeo and Juliet their love would end tragically and he would never see his Honey again as they lived so far apart. Almost as though they were on different planets!

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Have you noticed that even on the darkest night you can still see something in all the blackness? You know, vague shadows, deeper tones of grey contrasting with the black, or is it just my mind?
I was dead tired. What an appropriate phrase to use. However despite my need to have my eyes closed there was also that need to have them open too. I like to know what’s going on. I am always aware, on the look out in the darkness. I am not your usual old fogey, all befuddled with age. Why can’t I give in, let go, throw in the towel?
No, I am always alert; waiting. In all those unfathomable shadows near to pitch black as one could imagine, I feel as if I am being watched. Now I am an old man, I have seen everything, certainly everything I need to see. Well almost everything and what I haven’t seen I can imagine. As I did just then.
“I know you are there. You don’t frighten me.” Was that really me saying that or was that bravado on my part in the likely face of an intruder, after God knows what. What have I got to steal, except my memories perhaps? And what of those, who would want them? I haven’t made up my mind whether they are valuable or not. Can you sell a heap of rubbish?
There was a slight chuckle in the darkest corner of the room, or where I thought the corner was. “I was told you would be difficult”. A voice whispered. “Don’t worry I haven’t come for you, I am just sizing you up”.
“I thought that is what undertakers do.” I replied. “So you are the advance party are you?” I tried to discern a shape, a movement in the Stygian gloom.
This time he laughed outright.
“Have you thought that your life was better than you thought it was?" Did he say that or did I? If he said it I would have to agree with him. But if I said it I would argue with myself and say I hated every time that I made a mistake; every opportunity I missed; every time I never said I love you to whoever I loved at that time and was too vain to bare my soul, to show my true self.
“No, you can stay a little while longer” he said, "You still have a lot of work to do."
And so I had.
Yes, the room was certainly empty now, except for me that is. I didn’t need eyes to know that.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Whatever happened to Megan?

I shouldn’t really tell you this. I am quite ashamed of what happened to Megan. She was one of those girls that wanted to join the gang! She was adamant that she would fit in. What was she thinking about? We weren’t a gang but a real shambles of a group. We wasted our time waiting for something to happen. And it always did. I supposed we looked so assured, so cocky, so confident. Any outsider would have thought we were going places. Well we did petty thieving mainly.
We would take a few bits from the corner shops, while one of us did actually buy something quite cheap. A can of beans was the tease whilst the bottles of Coke came free. A pack of gum for a few cents was accompanied by a stash of other goodies in our pockets. We never left the shop in a rush. Red was good he would ask about the buses after he had paid while the others would listen intently to what the shopkeeper had to say. We would even stay talking outside the shop for a few minutes, all innocent like.
The peculiar thing about Megan was that she was quite cute, but dumb; thick as a plank. She just wanted to be one of the boys if you know what I mean. I think that Rich was the one that wanted her in. Don’t know what her saw in her. She was a skinny little wench. She had that peculiar look of a puppy, fawning up to you, wanting to please; so she got in on Rich’s say so. None of us really cared. We were all that stupid.
We should get some gear she said to me one day. I was in the Market eating an apple. No, I didn’t pay for it must have fallen from a fruit stall. She had sidled up looking quite cute I must admit. She nodded in the direction of the clothing stall with all the designer named jeans and tops bootlegged in some sweatshops in Indonesia or Sri Lanka or somewhere but would do for us if only for the thrill of pulling a snatch off. So I was the foil, the genuine customer to distract to stallholder. There were just the four of us that day, Megan and the others would pick up a few pieces while I tried on some jeans grabbing the guy’s attention.
Of course it didn’t work. I was not even a suspect, but Megan and the other two got caught while I was still struggling out of the “Levi’s”. They all went to Juvenile Court. It wasn’t reported of course, them being under age. But Gerry and Red had their movements severely restricted. It was the break up of the gang. Megan just disappeared. She may have been in need of care as they say. The peculiar thing is that the others said she didn’t even show up in court. I guessed it was her age and left it at that, she may have come from a foster home or something so got different treatment.
Well those days have long gone. I still think about her and how we should have said she wasn’t up to it. I suppose we blamed her for stuffing it up, but that is not how it was. I know that now. Just as well I have moved well away. I’ve grown up and so has Megan. Yes, I have met her again. She is a real charmer. What we didn’t know was that her Dad was in the police. All he said to her was “let me know if you hear of anything” and so she became our nemesis. I admire her for that. The trouble is I really fancy her for being so game. I wonder whether she could forget the past?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The messenger of the gods

My very first paid job as a teenager was as a fifteen year old still at school. Being a responsible teenager I was invited together with a few other boys to work for the Post Office in England for the few weeks up to Christmas.
Surprising few boys took up the offer, clearly relishing their freedom more than the filthy lucre that would be pouring my way. Once indoctrinated into the complex post office system, chiefly concerning where to make a cup of tea, I found myself assigned to a parcels delivery on board a truck delivering goodies for the people of our town. It was December 1951 and my task together with the two or three others on board was to lug the packets and boxes of goodness know what to the homes of the fortunate.
Britain was only just recovering from the privations of the wartime economy and luxury items were a rarity. We were generally greeted with much delight by families who by some good chance had relatives who were willing to send food and other gifts by post from far afield even some from the United States.
We were not only bearers of gifts like the wise men from the east but harbingers of good fortune in yet another winter of discontent for the impoverished. This largess was by no means one way. Being Christmas, recipients would somehow feel magnanimous to us little elves of Santa and bestow gifts probably intended for their regular postie. I pocketed the sixpences and shillings as my right as a messenger of the god of plenty.
Parcels were often badly packed and there seemed no restriction at that time about sending meat through the post. Most of the food parcels came from Ireland where clearly by not being involved in the War the inhabitants there could spread a little largesse on their cousins across the North Sea, even though it ponged a bit on delivery!
The following year after another year at school, I was again invited to work for the GPO. With experience from the previous year and of good character I was promoted to delivering letters on a post office bicycle. Waiting patiently for the sorting to be completed, I would check the bike before attaching my sack of letters to my carrier. Luckily I had the same route every day but this was less fun that the previous year as I had to work by myself and somehow determine which houses with similar numbers on intersecting streets should get the letters. I am sure that few for 14 Smith Street found their way into 14 Brown Street round the corner but they could correct that themselves later, I hoped.
I wasn’t troubled with snarling dogs, enticed by nubile maidens or roughed up by the local hoons but I did eat a lot of mince pies in the course of my work. I don’t know what I did with the money I earned but I certainly got the message that work was worth its weight in gold.