Monthly Archives: April 2014

You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead – Marieke Hardy

‘She was topless on a bed reading the paper, Her breasts were truly magnificent. Oh dear I thought. This could be interesting.’

That’s Dan writing. Ms Hardy has given him the right of reply – as she does all her subjects in this collection of extended vignettes from her somewhat, in various phases, hedonistic life story to date. And that is very fair of her as she calls it as she sees it – no beg pardons with Marieke, no protecting the not so innocent with aliases – even though her dad (who scribed the forward) informs that he fully expected this forthrightness would land her in deep do-do. She would cop the flack in the name of authenticity – a brave lass our author

sorry when dead

Dan, having know her in a platonic mode for a while and having enough of couch surfing, was looking for somewhere to lay his head a little more permanently. Marieke was coming out of a shattered, shattering relationship and needed a diversion. Both had their reservations, especially when his proposed host’s breasts were publicly exposed without inhibition, as is this lady’s wont. Marieke writes honestly of her doubts about him as house mate too. Do they decide to take the plunge and if the answers in the affirmative, how will it turn out?

And, as for those breasts, I can only agree with Dan. Yes, they are tastefully still available to googling – I’ve done my research you see. The whole affair of her bosoms is a piss-take Marieke felt compelled to issue on Rennie Ellis’ iconic shot of the human headline, Derryn Hinch, in bed, perusing the local dailies, with a similarly unencumbered playmate. Naturally there is a bearded, simpering Hinch doppelganger sharing Marieke’s bed in the rejoinder.

In ‘You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead’ Marieke Hardy shares this, together with numerous other adventures, with us and she is certainly no shrinking violet. Her use of language and her libertarian values, as expressed and carried out in these pages, assure the reader of that. For her the execrable shock-jock Alan Jones is a ‘…sordid little cock stain.’ with no right to ‘…pass judgement on the behaviour of young women in burqas whilst simultaneously being arrested for indecency in public toilet blocks.’ Good call that.

I like Marieke Hardy. I like her very much and if I was mildly shocked by some of her antics, as revealed here, I am not put off. Watching her on ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’ – well it’s a bit like Nigella sucking on her chocolate dipped digits. It’s mildly titillating. Marieke is unafraid to push the envelope, unlike the majority of us. She gets high on the edginess of life, whether it be running with a pack of similarly charged damsels, engaging in a threesome with a prostitute, attending a party for swingers or sussing out a range of suitable bedfellows. I have seen her in the flesh and she is just as exquisite as she appears on the small screen.

marieke.

I initially came across her in her former guise as columnist for the Melbourne Age; then secondly, as I drove to work each morning, trading jibes with the Doctor on the JJJs breakfast show. Sadly she has long given up both these gigs to concentrate on her other claims to fame – writing for ‘Frankie’ magazine, blogging, editing, running the charitable ‘Women of Letters’ – a ‘performance’ of which your scribe attended in 2013 – and some television. She is a throwback when it comes to letter writing, crusading around the country single-handedly drumming up business for OzPost by attempting to rejuvenate that format of communication. Recently, Marieke and her partner in crime, Michaela McGuire, have taken their ‘WofL’ roadshow international. Seemingly people cannot get enough of letter writers of note reading their handiwork, always on a certain set topic, out to a like-minded audience. The print version is into its third volume. Our author adores scribing and receiving hand written missives. For her a letter is akin to ‘… a long and leisurely afternoon lying naked on a picnic rug eating a Flake.’ Her own writing, as represented in this tome, is engaging. Being the granddaughter of Frank and having Mary as an aunt, it is in her genes. A real gem is MH’s description of the mayhem resulting when her dog, Bob Ellis, meets its namesake, the rotund scribbler, one of Marieke’s obsessions. It is priceless humour.

Marieke’s exuberant book is sassy, spunky and feisty – just like the woman herself. Live a long life the divine Ms H.

A recent article on Women of Letters in the Age = http://m.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/michaela-mcguire-marieke-hardy-take-women-of-letters-to-the-world-20140425-379iq.html

Marieke’s website = http://mariekehardy.com/

Why Linda? Why Anyone?

It was an album of music of its time. The scribbler of the article that caused me to attempt this piece, Peter Vincent, described it as being one of ‘…classic, cheesy 1980’s power pop ballads…’ even if he felt the duetists ‘…share a tremendous empathetic quality in their voices that is irresistible…’ Seems to me he’s having it a bit both ways. Still, at the place I was at then, it just seemed perfectly to reflect my state in 1989 – as well as the years till the watershed event in my life. Back then the world had lost its normal routines for me and for this punter, a life in transition was more than just a little bit scary. I was floundering and I knew it. Eventually, as clichéd as it sounds, but nonetheless remarkably, redemption came in the form of the most special woman in the world. The result of this occurrence being that the album has rarely emerged out of its case since. Would I purchase it now? Not likely – Nick Cave is warbling away on my music machine as I compose this. Circumstances change; tastes change.

cry rainstorm

Previous to her collaboration with Aaron Neville on ‘Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind’ (even its title is so passé ), Linda was already a favourite. A purveyor of Laurel Canyon country rock, her clear, faultless voice on 33⅓ revolutions per minute was often emanating from my speakers – ‘You’re No Good’, ‘When Will I Be Loved’, ‘Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me’, ‘Distant Drum’. These, and others, were amongst the litany of hits from the doe eyed lover of then (and now) Governor of California, Jerry Brown, ruling the MOR airwaves of the world back in the day. I purchased later albums too on the new CD format – collections of songs where she teamed up with such diverse luminaries as sweet Emmylou, Dolly and Nelson Riddle. She also recorded in Spanish, due to her part-Hispanic background. In her pomp she won ten Grammys, but now Mother Time has caught up with her more than most. She has Parkinsons has Linda Ronstadt. It has taken her voice – her incredible voice.

linda then

Linda Then

Vincent, in his interview with her for ‘The Silent Songbird’ article, seemed to harp on about her affliction, wanting her to answer in depth about it. He describes her as responding testily at times. If I was the proto-diva I would be thoroughly pissed off too, particularly as she was on the promotions treadmill trying to talk up the recent release of a collection of past collaborations with other noteworthy trillers. Wouldn’t you be peeved too if you knew exactly that what afflicts can only get worse and ultimately cause one’s demise? In a way it already has. But she does pass on this lovely quote – that Australia is ‘…the dream that was promised by Southern California, but never delivered….it’s like delivering pizza. They delivered it to the wrong place.’ I like that.

linda today

Linda Today

When our interviewer quizzes her on how, in light of that quote, she would regard our present leader and his treatment of asylum seekers, her response was a pithy one stating that ‘immigrants’ ‘…are the best people because they’ve come the furtherest and they’ve come through the most adversity. That’s what adds to society. They’re going to be the hardest working, best people.’ That’s her family background in the US – so she has some affinity with those suffering under the Abbott/Morrison regime of callous cruelty.

The new collection features the Aaron Neville duets plus numerous others. Same question – will I buy it? I picked it up in JBs, then put it back. It just didn’t seem to be the time any more – even if tracks like ‘Don’t Know Much’ would remind me of how far I’ve come – how lucky I’ve been.

Thank you Linda.

Peter Vincent’s article = http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/linda-ronstadt-the-silent-songbird-20140410-36e7g.html

Linda and Aaron – ‘Don’t Know Much’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VD6TfEWtIYI

Hotel

January, 1977 and the northern winter was harsh, compared to the experience of that season back on my home island where snow usually only caressed the mountain tops. For days I’d experienced cold like I’d never known. That night, my train pulling into a darkened station, I wondered what on earth I was doing on the other side of the globe at that time of year! Sleet was in the air as I decamped my carriage, making me think about and miss my loved ones back in sunny southern climes. In those days instant communication to anywhere in the world was only a small flicker in the eyes of the future-seers. It was my first time out of Oz and to date the European sojourn had been an eye-opener and for the most part, enjoyable – the great art galleries of London and Paris, the amazing tucker, the wine – all good. It was all up to expectation, but short days and unremitting dun skies were getting to me. It was the dead of night, after a day of travelling to get to my destination, the last part on a SNCF branch line seemingly to nowhere – in fact, to an obscure town slap in the centre of the Central Massif. I was well and truly off the beaten track. A friend had recommended this place, stating it was not to be missed. He insisted it was added to my itinerary. On that freezing, deserted platform in the middle of France, I thought very possibly he may be crazy. I could see only one lighted building across the street from the station and I made my way towards it. As it turned out, I do not recall too many other hostelries from that, or my later ’81/’82 Continental/Old Blighty excursion, but for a reason that will soon become clear, I recall Le Hotel de la Gare, Le Puy – its cafe the source of the illumination.

I was too tired to look for anywhere else, despite the hotel’s not too promising looks. The bar was full of yokel types, with the barman taciturn when I asked, in stilted French, if a room was available. He took my particulars and handed me a key. I lugged my backpack up a narrow staircase and along a worn carpet to my allotted vestibule. On opening the door I was confronted by a barely furnished gimcrack room as chilly as a Siberian steppe. Fully clothed, I took refuge under the covers of a lumpen bed, complete with greasy bolster, rather than the wished for downy pillows, to rest my weary head. Thankfully sleep took me quickly.

I awoke much later than at my usual time and initially I thought I must still be in the land of nod dreaming – the room was transformed. Shafts of sunlight were streaming in through the only half closed shutters and the spare room appeared almost cosy. Raising the blinds to the full force of the soleil I espied perfectly blue skies over the red terracotta roofs of the surrounding buildings. Maybe the place wouldn’t be so bad after all. The ablutions were down the corridor, so already fully dressed, I headed for them with a change of clothing and the threadbare provided towel. I didn’t make it to my destination for a while. At the end of the corridor was a glass-panelled door leading out to a second floor terrace. The door was unlocked so I took the opportunity to have a sunny squiz at the town from a different angle. What I saw stopped me in my tracks, leaving me open mouthed in wonder – gobsmacked. From this veranda there were more pottery-roofed buildings descending gently down towards a ravine. But what caused my reaction was what protruded above this fairly nondescript sight. Astoundingly, there were two mighty, natural pinnacles arising from the earth, reaching for the heavens, dwarfing their surrounds. These were the puys, hence the town’s appellation. I later deduced, they were volcanic plugs. Atop of one was perched an ancient looking church. On the other, even more strikingly, was a maroon hued statue of the Virgin, arms holding the infant Jesus. I forgot all about my bursting bladder and my cloying skin. I couldn’t drag my eyes away from the scene that befell me.

.Le_Puy_en_Velay.

Turns out, although not well known outside France, Le Puy, the place was a significant spot on a pilgrimage trail and as I came to know it better, was quite delightful. One the best meals in my memory was scoffed down in a seen-better-days restaurant on the main avenue leading down to the chasm. I was also proud of myself for successfully making the hard climb up to more closely examine the church – or was it the statue? It was so long ago now – my brain fails me yet again. After a few days there I headed south to the Riviera and the winter sun remained glorious for my time by the plages there as well. It all didn’t seem so bad after Le Hotel de la Gare, Le Puy.

le puy

Back around century’s change I was lucky enough to win a luxury trip to Bali. That remains my only experience of five-star accommodation in all its extravagance. The room I shared with my darling, loving partner was as plush as plush can be, but in truth I never felt truly comfortable in staying there at the Sanur Hyatt – far too patrician for a pleb like me. I like hotels with character perhaps somewhat more salubrious than that one in Le Puy – perhaps just with a little more in the way of amenities than it. My hotels of choice have probably seen better days, perhaps just like me, but there’s something about them. There were some Victorian/Edwardian piles I stayed at in places like York and Edinburgh in the UK. I remember a breakfast of kippers in a B&B in the Lake District and a room I shared chastely with a woman I barely knew in a hostel run by nuns overlooking Lake Lausanne. There was an establishment of nursery rhyme décor that I slumbered in for an overnighter in London. Back in Oz there was a room with a view in Brisbane that stands out, but the purest example of what I like is the Crossley, China Town in Yarra City – faded, faded charm.

And that is as good a segue as any to the most recent movie I’ve viewed back home in the little city on the Derwent – Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’.

Featuring a veritable who’s who of tinsel town luminaries – blink and you’d miss some of them – this watchable tip-of-the-hat to to those imposing iconic hotels of between the wars travel has a marvellous verve and features vibrant palette of colour, in all senses of that word. It was a movie where the look of the thing was the attraction, rather than what I felt was the rather hackneyed heist-centred narrative. It was a visual feast of sublime cinematography, featuring some animation to enhance the feel. The transformation of some of Hollywood’s elite to fit into the skin of their roles was another plus – none more so than that of Tilda Swinton to play the dowager Madame D, whose demise is pivotal to the plot, such as it was. Ralph Fienes, in the lead, rightly steals the show as the concierge, never disinclined to become the lover of the wealthy old dears who flock to his carnal ministrations when the Budapest was in its pomp. When we initially meet the hotel, in more recent times, it is a mere shadow of past glories, but soon we are back in a golden age. Newcomer Tony Revolori, as Lobby Boy, is also impressive, with the characters inhabited by Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe having the most eye-catching of the minor roles. The candy pink hotel, with its twin funiculars, was probably the real star of the piece. Overshadowing proceedings, revolving around a famous picture bestowed to the concierge by the dowager, is the shadow of the forthcoming war and all the dire consequences for Mitteleuropa it portends. The post-war impost of mass tourism meant the grand hotels had to reinvent themselves or be consigned to history’s dustbins, as we see has happened to the fictional Budapest.

.TheGrandBudapestHotelStill

This was my first real viewing of an Anderson offering and although my praise is somewhat more muted than that of many critics, it was nonetheless a treat for the senses, if not the intellect. It didn’t raise a laugh from me, although other members of the audience I shared it with obviously found more enjoyment in its humour. Despite my reservations, though, there would be worse ways to spend one hundred minutes of your leisure time.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The movie’s website = http://www.grandbudapesthotel.com/

A Burnie Tale – Lad

‘Good for you Dad. Go for it and don’t care what anybody else thinks. It’s your life and she’s cool. She’s sorta like a second gran to me anyway. Who cares that she’s older than you? It’s none of their beeswax. Mr Fank’s gone, hasn’t he? There’s nothing stoppin’ ya now. After Mum and all that, you deserve some happiness. That’s what I say.’

That his daughter Shayla was okay about it meant the world to him. He had no notion what he’d have done had it been otherwise. And his own Mum – well she couldn’t be happier for him, even if she was more than a bit bemused by the fact that her only son was ‘doing it’ with her best mate. She thought it was all terrific, considering what they’d both been through. She told him that – told him he had her blessing. She reckoned her friend was coping so much better in recent weeks. She’d innocently put that down to the husband’s sudden departure, she had informed him with a raised eyebrow and a silly grin. He owed her for so much, his old dear. He knew his mum was the same age as his new love, but he tried not to dwell too much on that. He felt like it was all a fresh start, particularly after that game-breaking letter in the mail informing him that Bunnings, about to open up shop in his battered community, was prepared to take him on as a mature-aged nurseryman’s assistant. This was under some government scheme to get employment going again in Burnie. The town had taken so many hits in recent times. He hadn’t had a sniff of work since the richest man in the district had laid him off, as well as dozens of others, a couple of Christmases ago. He was feeling very frisky these days, making love at the drop of a hat – something that had also been missing in his life – not that it had been all that earth shattering during those years he was with Firecracker. With this vibrant lady he felt warm and fuzzy – to be having sex again – real loving, gentle, mutually satisfying sex – what a beautiful thing that was. He hadn’t felt like a proper man for so long – now he was fit to burst with the wonder of it all. When he thought back to where he was only eighteen months ago to now – well maybe he could even move out from his mum’s, not that living with her was all that bad. He sort of thought that his wonderful woman might invite him to come live with her down the track, but he wasn’t about to rush it. It was all still fairly tentative – they were still getting used to each other. It seemed he spent half his life nowadays around at hers in any case. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to ‘officially’ move in, but he had time – plenty of time. And to think, he had known her since he was knee high.

It didn’t last beyond that Christmas Day back in ’12 – his marriage, that is. A couple of mornings beforehand he’d found out that he’d lost his job. It was always at the back of his mind that he would, such was the economy in his part of the world. It was always his default position – that his luck couldn’t last forever. After all, that’d been the pattern of his life to date. Even though, in his more optimistic moments, he thought things had turned for the better, he could never really rid himself of the dread of another failure being just up ahead. He knew what was coming, that morning, when the ‘suits’ called the workforce together on the last working day of the year. They were duly and perfunctorily informed that a sizeable number would not becoming back in the new year. He knew he’d be tapped on the shoulder – and sure enough, he was told to clear out his locker at the end of the day. He foolishly stayed on for break-up drinks. He wished he hadn’t. He’d been off the grog for a while trying to tidy up his act for Shayla. He stayed because the worst bit was still to come – facing her with the news. Not Shayla – but his wife. A sick dread enveloped him back then. The telling still haunted him, in light of what happened afterwards, to this day. He never wanted that feeling again. Now, though, he could finally put all of it behind him.

He remembered looking out the window later that same morning, watching her depart, Shayla being dragged in her wake, howling. She hadn’t yet finished screaming and shouting at him in that foul language she used when matters didn’t go her way. His mates had labelled her a firecracker because of her vicious temper. Many of them had witnessed her volcanic eruptions first hand. She had browbeaten him for most of his time with her – she emasculated him. He loved that word – emasculated. Had to look it up in the dictionary when he’d first come across it after the split. It was the perfect word for what she’d done to him. Her tirade was going on, he knew, even as she opened the car door, even though he couldn’t really hear her now. He saw some bearded guy at the house opposite turn and stare as he was about to knock on the door. He didn’t know him, nor the couple that lived there in his Shorewell street. He’d watched the latter, seen the consideration towards each other in the way that they lived – knew that what they experienced was nothing like the relationship he shared with Firecracker. He envied them. He saw the guy shake his head, turn, ring the doorbell and be let in. He looked back to see his wife roar off down the street. He couldn’t really give a hoot about her – but Shayla? That was another matter. He spent the rest of the afternoon on mowing and tidying up around the garden to take his mind off it.

He didn’t hear from Merryl for a few days, so by late on the afternoon of Christmas Eve he knew he had to make the first move. That was something else he’d learnt. Give her a few days to calm down, she’d return and it would be a little better for a while. It wasn’t the first time she’d skedaddled off to her mum’s – so he knew where to ring. She answered and he asked if she was planning a visit the next day so Shayla could receive her pressies. He did actually think, when she arrived that Christmas Day, that there was some hope. Unusually he was kissed when she came in. Together they watched as their daughter discovered that her dreams had come true – he’d been able to afford, this year, the bike Shayla’d coveted. Merryl had taken his hand as they watched her ride it up and down the street for most of the afternoon. They had an evening meal of roast chook and vegies, spending the evening in front of the tele, sharing a bottle of cheap sparkly. That night they made love for the first time in aeons. He was half pissed and he was glad. He felt quite pleased these days with how he had trimmed down as a result of his gym work. In a sober state he would have found the way she had let herself go a difficulty he may have succumbed to. Still, it felt okay after so long. Was it possible, he thought, as he drifted off into the land of nod that, just maybe, it’d all get better?

He quickly had his answer. The next day it all changed. She was back! She arrived early. They’d just emerged from under the blankets and already she was ringing the doorbell. The same routine followed. He’d had years of it. In her mother marched, plonked herself down at the table and pulled out her fags. Firecracker couldn’t get to her usual chair opposite quick enough. She took the offered cigarette, lit up and away they went at their bitchin’, as he called it. He took himself out of it, headed off with Shayla and her bike down to the park where they stayed till tea time. On their return he found her mother still there, a cask of cheap plonk between them, together with several ashtrays of butts. Both were tanked. Merryl ordered him off to get fish ‘n’ chips for the evening meal. When the mother eventually left, staggering through the front door, he knew he had to have it out with Merryl, even if he was heading for dangerous territory. He couldn’t continue to live like this any more. He politely asked if she could take the bitchin’ – although he didn’t use that word – around to her mother’s house and do their drinking and fagging there. As he half expected, she let him have it, all guns blazing. He didn’t stay to listen, didn’t want to row with her yet again. He left. He had a mother too.

And he’d been with his mum ever since. Early on Merryl would ring every few days, asking him to return for his daughter’s sake. He’d simply put to her his original proposition. She wouldn’t budge and nor would he. Despite missing his girl, he was determined to see it through. Eventually his mother brokered some weekend visits from Shayla. This, in truth, made him happy enough. He kept himself active at the gym; watched his daughter’s weekend sports; took long walks around the town. Try as his might, there were just no jobs about for someone of his limited skills. He tried to keep positive. Drink-wise, he remained off the plonk – relegating himself to only a couple of beers when the footy was on. Often his mum’s oldest friend would join them to watch whatever was the match of the day.

He’d known this person since his days as a toddler, visiting his mum at her workplace, a Greek milk bar/take away down in the town. His mother had been employed by the lovely couple that ran it from the day she left Year 10 at fifteen. She quickly became very pally with the owner’s daughter who worked there, as well, after school. They were soon melded at the hip, as his mum always reminisced; that is, until her mate met Mr Frank. The couple later wed, with his mum as chief bridesmaid – a situation that was reversed when his his own father came on the scene. His dad was now long deceased. After he and his sister were born, his mother worked with her friend in the various shops the latter managed around the place, after the demise of the family business. When Mr Frank was at the footy or away, she was a constant visitor. He had always liked her. She was bright and lively, always giving him a hug when she saw him. Without fail, she always called him Lad.

Later on, when he’d grown and had become aware of such matters, he thought, for an old dame, she was pretty sexy compared to his own mum – a thought he very much kept to himself. She was at his marriage to Firecracker, but he’d seen little of her as his years of wedded unbliss stuttered along. Once he’d moved back into his old room all that changed. His mum worked as a carer these days – a job she loved, helping the elderly and disabled around the North West Coast. Several evenings a week she and her friend would get together around a few drinks and yak away. Neither smoked and it was ‘happy talk’, in the main, whilst he was around – so different to the ‘bitchin’ of the life he’d left behind. The women were both of the ‘half full’ nature.

Shayla started spending more and more time with him as well. Most days she’d hop off the bus down the road and visit for an hour or so to debrief before heading for home. She reckoned ‘Moanin Annie’, as she called her grandmother, was getting worse – taking her mother with her down into the pits of self-pity and aggrievement. Soon Shayla started staying on for meals as all they ate at home were takeaways from the local shop. He shared cooking duties with his mother – he enjoyed giving his daughter nourishing meals. Shayla had always been health conscious and knew a diet of grease was of little benefit, let alone the fug of cigarette smoke that pervaded where she and her mother resided. By now it was Shayla’s first year at high school – the same one he’d attended, up on the hill, all those years ago. At the recent sports day she was under-13 track champion. His girl was also travelling very sweetly in class, according to her teachers at the parents’ meeting he’d attended alone. He was so proud of her, his Shayla. She would never be like her mother and she, as well, inspired him to improve on his new found fitness too. As for running, she outrun the wind and it was beyond him where she attained that ability from. He loved pounding the pavements with her; he loved being with her, full stop.

Six months or so into his boarding with his mother he realised that Raissa has ceased her visiting – that he and her mother hadn’t seen her for weeks. When he asked about this, he was informed by his mum of Mr Frank’s heart troubles – of how he’d collapsed down in the town and had to go to Hobart for an operation. She and her hubby were back in Burnie now, with Raissa having to spend most of her time caring for him, having given up work to do so. When she eventually turned up, he was shocked by the change in her. She was noticeably thinner but, even more worrying, seemed to have lost all her bounce – that zest for life he so admired. For the first couple of visits she spent much of her time sobbing in his mother’s bedroom. On one occasion, when he opened the door to her, Raissa had grabbed him in a bear hug and stated, ‘I know now how you felt, Lad.’

After she left his mother confided that Mr Frank had told Raissa about his affair with a woman in Melbourne, just before he went under the knife. Mr F was evidently scared he wouldn’t come out the other side and wanted to come clean about his relationship with a woman called Judy. Raissa, he was told, thought the trips were all about the footy. It seems Mr Frank had been having his liaison for a decade or more.

As the following weeks rolled on by, Raissa spent more and more time in their home – as much of the downtime she could spare from her role as her husband’s carer – even coming around when his own mum was at work. He’d make her tea and they’d chat away – about Collingwood’s progress, Shayla and her own kids – whatever entered their minds. Slowly at first, but increasingly, it seemed she was recovering her vivacity. He remembers the day she said to him, ‘You’re good for me Lad. You take my mind off it.’ She never talked about Mr Frank, but from his mother he knew that all wasn’t well on that score. He had recovered okay from his health scare, but according to what Raissa had told his source, he was a morose shell of his former self. Raissa, his mum reported, had tried to forgive him for his fling across the Strait, but she also reckoned her hubby was pining for whoever it was over there. Raissa, in her heart, knew Mr Frank just couldn’t let the other woman go.

Sophia Loren 6

He wasn’t sure of how it happened, or why, but one day he found himself opening up to her about how, as a teenager, he had thought that, for an older woman, he found her just so sexy – like that Sophia Loren he’d see in the magazines of the time. ‘Do you still think that now, after all these years?’ she had queried him. Well that threw him! He didn’t know what to say – she was his mother’s best friend and all that. It had never occurred to him to examine his feelings for her these days. ‘I can see that I’ve embarrassed you, Lad. Don’t worry about it. I’m just a silly old woman. I mean no harm and don’t concern yourself, I’ll never try to cotton on you. I know your mum’s told you I’ve been having a bit of a hard time of it lately. With my hubby the way he is, I guess I’m just in need of a little TLC. We get on so well – please don’t let this change anything! Okay?’ When he nodded, she carried on, ‘Now Lad, how do you reckon those Magpies are going to perform at the weekend? Can we do those Roo boys?’

From that point on, though, he did give his feelings for her some of his attention. What she said had shocked him, it’s true – but the more he examined it, the more he realised it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant shock. She was quieter now when visiting, always making sure that his mother was in residence. Sadly, he felt the dynamics between them had changed. Now, even if he had wanted to do something about what she had put into his mind, it seemed the moment had passed. A couple of times, in her presence, he took the time to look at her – really look at her. This made him realise that, by his reaction to her question, he had missed an opportunity for something. What that something was, he wasn’t quite sure.

So it was a surprise when she turned up on the doorstep on a day when his old dear wasn’t at home. She stood there, red eyed and reported to him, ‘He’s gone. Gone to her,’ and promptly burst into tears. Then, perplexingly, her sobs turned into chortles of laughter. ‘Silly old bugger. He’ll find out the grass isn’t greener over there and if he wants to come back, with his tail between his legs – if he thinks I’ll have him back then, he’s got another bloody thing coming! That strumpet over there – she’s welcome to him. She’ll find he’s pretty clapped out anyway. Ah, that feels better, getting that off my chest. Now, how the hell are you Lad?’ He gestured for her to come inside and she accepted, heading off to the kitchen to put the kettle on.

Once they settled down at the table with their cuppas, she continued on, ‘Well I guess I can get on with my own life now, see what’s around the corner. I haven’t got to pander to him any more. By the way, Lad, I am sorry about being so forward the other week. I don’t know what came over me. It was the loneliness talking, I guess.’

Lad wasn’t going to let this moment pass. He confessed to her that he had indeed been thinking about it all too and that, yes, he stated with a nervous laugh, he did still find her sexy. He told her it was perhaps in a different way – not as fervently as in his youth, but yep, to him she was still a gorgeous woman. He reached out his hand and she took it, then his mum’s bestie leaned forward to give him a gentle kiss on the lips. Speak of the devil, just as he was thinking about his next move, he heard the key in the door – his mother had returned.

The next day she was at his door again, – but this time it was a different Raissa waiting to be let in. There were no red eyes. She had obviously spent a great deal of time on her appearance – tasteful make-up, accentuating her eyes; a smart dress, accentuating an ample amount of cleavage. She was definitely sexy now. He felt all that teenage fervour return. He knew this time how this encounter was going to end. He’d make sure of that. ‘Not bad for an old bird,’ she giggled as he took her hand and led her to his bedroom.

After she’d departed he felt a combination of elation and guilt – not guilt for the act itself, but because of the relationship Raissa had with his mother. Later on, he put that to one side and took to cyberspace, googling Sophia Loren. ‘Yes’, he thought, ‘Raissa stacks up pretty well against the older version of Sophia. And gee, it felt so good with her!’

Sophia-Loren.

They both agreed it would be safer to conduct their tryst at her place and he took to visiting her most days. When Raissa did show up and his mother was in residence, he could see that nothing had changed as far as that relationship was concerned. But he knew keeping stum couldn’t last, so one day he took the bit between his teeth, sat his mother down and confessed. His mother was a tad stunned at first, but then said that she’d figured something was afoot – that he had a spring in his step for the first time in ages. His mum then went to the blower to ring Raissa. She stayed on the phone for quite a while – a long chat with plenty of laughter. Lad uncrossed his fingers behind his back. It’d gone well.

The job coming up was the icing on the cake. With it and Raissa, maybe, just maybe, his life would turn out okay after all. Perhaps this time it wasn’t a false dawn. He wouldn’t have his cherished daughter forever. She’d go out and make a name for herself – of that he was certain. He suspected that eventually Raissa would move on too. She kept going on about how she was too old for him – but when she wrapped her body around his – so voluptuous, caramel coloured and warm – it certainly didn’t feel that way to him. She’d put the weight back on she’d lost around the time of her husband’s illness and looked all the better, to him, for doing so. She, though, complained about becoming a contented old cow. He knew she would never let herself get to the size of his now officially former wife. Raissa was too proud for that!

And then there was the tucker – the glorious Greek food she virtually force-fed him with. He was working doubly hard at the gym so as not to go back to what he was like before – and each weekend he’d be out pounding the bitumen with Shayla. Together they’d often enter fun runs, as well as, of course, the annual Burnie Ten.

More and more he was spending nights at Raissa’s place. He loved it. After he had had his fill of her stupendous cooking and they’d shared a glass or two – no more – of red, Raissa would excuse herself, go to her bedroom and put on something satiny and slinky. They’d settle down to some tele or snuggle up to some music. When the time came she would take his hand and guide him into the bedroom and undress him. Invariably she would whisper into his ear, ‘Now Lad, tell me once again about Sophia Loren. Tell me how like her I am. Tell me how sexy I am, just one more time.’

The prequel to this tale = http://blueroomriversidedrive.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/a-fairy-tale-not-of-new-york.html

Leaving Suzie Pye – John Dale

Suzie Pye is like many who leave it till later in life to produce progeny. Presumably spending the prime childbearing years shoring up a career in the professional world, she, at just past the fifty mark, finds herself time poor to the max. On top of the demands of coping with the vagaries of teenagerdom, she still aspires to promotion in the workplace. To top it off, she is the carer for her ex-hubby. He’s has lost the plot and retreated to his man-cave. If all this wasn’t enough, her lover is a doofus.

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She picks up those to share her bed and body where she can – in the halls of academia or, as in the case of her latest, wielding the tongs at a Bunnings car park sausage sizzle. At first it all goes swimmingly. He is just what the doctor ordered in the sack and they’ve agreed it’s no strings. But it doesn’t go to plan – Sausage Man falls in love as well as lust with her. That’s not on Suzie’s agenda, especially as he is seemingly at a frantic pace to get his end in on every conceivable occasion. It’s all too much and SM is given his marching orders. This only results in an increase on his part of plaintive appeals for more sex, so our university professor, Ms Pye, goes off and finds herself another option. Even this fails to put SM off completely, although he gradually withdraws from her immediate orb.

It is at this point, about a third of the way through Dale’s novel, that we largely take our leave of Suzie Pye as the narrative is not really about this interesting female protagonist. It’s about Joe, aka Sausage Man. It is a pity. I liked her.

In his mind our hero does have a great deal of trouble moving on from Suzie. You see she provided a steady supply of sex for Joe – where was he to get that from now? Like his unwilling goddess, he is also not in the first bloom of youth, approaching his half century. And sadly, he lives for sex. He cannot do without it – it’s the deliciousness of expectation and the exquisiteness of consummation that so overridingly appeals to him. You may say, particularly if you are of the female persuasion, that this is what drives most men. For the average bloke, though, you’d be wrong. There’s grog, tucker, the footy, cars and maybe even the job to consider as well. Most of us, here in the realm of the weaker gender, are capable of taking our minds off sex for at least some of the time, but not Joe. Sex is the be all and end all – especially as his future is taken care of as soon as his old man carks it. Then he’ll receive a share of the old guy’s tidy fortune. Ah, if only life was that simple!

As it dawns on him that it’s all over between Suzie and his penis, despite the fact he loves her, Joe starts to look elsewhere. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem any other available candidates to service his needs. With the inheritance there would be a termination to his dead end job. With it still a necessity he wallows through his days handing out digital equipment to undergraduates in a university tower. He alleviates the monotony by casting his eye over the nubile young things that approach his counter – in his favour he’s not sleazy enough to do anything more than appraise – and composing erotic missives to Ms Pye on his work computer. Once he’s ‘in the money’, of course, he’ll be free to chase skirt to his heart’s content. Then he discovers it is also not as clear cut with his cancer stricken father as he initially thought. And those emails to his former lover come back to haunt him big time, landing him in deep do-do.

This publication has some of the same verve as the recently read ‘Animal Children’ by Charlotte Wood – although even Joe isn’t quite as hopeless in life as the hapless Steve in that story. ‘Leaving Suzie Pye’ also has a wider scope in both time and place. Joe’s journey to bed a woman and appease his father takes him from a Sydney Muslim virgin to the mysterious Athena, whom he meets en route to Gallipoli. Chasing her he ends up in some very tricky confrontations with the underbelly low-life of Istanbul where Dale’s main calling, as a crime writer of some note, kicks in to a degree.

This, though, is essentially a love story and is quite adroitly handled by Dale. Despite Joe’s constant yearnings to satisfy his carnal inclinations, the actual act itself doesn’t figure prominently and we do see some growth in him as his journey proceeds. He still teaches English to the Muslim refugee, even when it becomes obvious he’s not about to have his way with her. And at last he reconnects with his father, even if it’s after the latter’s death. This is an eminently readable take on the fluctuations of relationships and of not knowing what may lay just around the corner, that is, if your mind is open enough to take a chance. The writing flows even if the story line stretches the boundaries of credibility on occasions. But then, as the adage goes – ‘shit happens’. One factor that just doesn’t change is the allure of Suzie Pye ‘…, the touch of her hand, the warmth of her thighs, the eagerness of her lips.’ Suzie Pye takes a bit of getting over.

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John Dale’s website = http://www.john-dale.net/