Category Archives: Other Writing

Wally the Urban Wallaby

On kunanyi’s flanks, above the fence line where bush meets the fringe of suburbia, live the Moonah mob. They roam together, mostly away from human-people (who can be of danger at times), perfectly at one with their surrounds beneath the brooding ramparts of the mighty mountain. Within their number resides a very unique marsupial, the wily and wondrous Wally. Now Wally has urges not shared by other of his number, for on many days, most days, he decides to depart the communal safety of the Moonah mob – as well as for an occasional night.

Most nights see him largely content to forage and nibble on the bush grasses amidst the contented collective. He’ll check on and sweetly nuzzle his special mate, now and again, sniffing at her to gauge when she may be in season again. If the time is right, they’ll come come together to produce another offspring, a joey to perpetuate the wallaby species.

Some nights, though, the wandering urge takes control and when the moon is in a certain place in the sky, he’ll bound upward, into the forests; into the deep recesses. For up there, under the skyline, he’ll commune with the more furtive denizens of the mountain’s other world. He senses the places they’ll be, for Wally is an inquisitive soul. He’ll espy, through the moon-glow, orange-brown eyes burning in the night, hear the whisperings of a guttural language beyond his knowing. Thylas are afoot. He’ll catch a dash of stripes as the shadowy shape-shifting beasts move about in their nightly predations. Now Wally has entered the orb of these creatures and like him, they are beings that exist in, not one, but two worlds of their own.

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If his urges take him further, ever upwards, into the deepest and most sacred crevasses around which the great trees abound, he knows he may sense the most discreet and scarce of human-people, the spirits of times long past; the ghosts of what should still be. Their world; their presence is the most ephemerally fleeting of all, difficult to discern, but always there nonetheless. When Wally has ventured up there he perceives only the most fragile note of their existence on faintest whiff of wind.

But Wally has another stealthy existence as well. While the remainder of his Moonah mob rest in semi-slumber from their nightly replenishments, Wally heads downwards to that fence-line and Wally becomes the urban wallaby – a very rare breed indeed.

He knows well to be wary of human-people, but intuitively understands that most of their ilk do not wish him any harm. Wally has found and developed a symbiotic relation with one such human-person. It is in his company that he spends many days, most days. With Mr Walker around he feels there is nothing to fear in the whole world. For Mr Walker possesses a patch of sunny grass for him to snack on; to flake down and yawn on. Mr Walker, a noted bon vivant, a most sociable person, will often also scatter the leavings of his culinary delights for Wally to sample and if to his liking, consume – carrot scrapings, pear and apple peel, morsels of cabbage, celery and lettuce amongst them. Wally takes it all in his stride.

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His presence, in return, provides a talking point for the other human-persons who venture to his northern suburbs residence, for Mr Walker is a fine and considerate host with many friends. He has copious tales to tell and adores receiving them as well. Wally will often notice more than one head peering at him, on any given day, through the windows for he provides the fodder for some of Mr Walker’s best stories.

As dusk approaches Wally will take his leave of Mr Walker’s yard of dappled sun and return to kunanyi’s lower hills, pick up again with his crew, the Moonah mob, and he’ll prepare for nightfall. Then, perhaps, there will be more callings from his urges to take him adventuring. Wally, the urban wallaby, is a most singular furry delight.

I love seeing this beautiful animal on my own visits to Mr Walker’s abode and can only wish that all relations between humankind and the other creatures of our planet could be as benign as that between Rob and Wally.                                       

(for Tessa Tiger and RW)

 

Queen Bee

Author’s note – contains spicy writing. NSFW

She shimmered and sashayed down the steps towards him. Not a glance did she cast, though, toward the ageing photographer. Invisible. But he noticed her. How could he not? She was clad, loosely, in a vaguely metallic sheathe; full breasted, full-lipped, voluptuous, delicious – with her flowing, wiry hair all akimbo. Dusky-skinned, she was. Succulent was a word that seemed to him to be appropriate for her. He continued on his way, but she lingered in his mind. He was killing time, snapping the blooms, as you do. A sprinkler had been on earlier, the droplets remaining on the petals. Tiny bees were buzzing about. He clicked away, but it was a woman in full bloom he was thinking of.

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The gardens that spring day were glorious still, but it was all about to turn as the summer approached. He took the opportunity to point his camera around as he waited to meet his friend down at dockside. Through the lens he caught sight of her again. This time she was accompanied by two others, both on her left side. He could see that, in relation to her, they were dowdy. Dressed in dun colours, with short cropped hair for convenience, they looked as if they came from a completely different world. They resembled two female drones around their queen bee. They were nondescript, a bit like him, he supposed. It was as if, no matter how much effort they put in, they couldn’t outshine her, so why bother? Almost as if they dressed down to heighten the difference. He caught her walking away in the corner of the frame and captured her for his posterity. The other two, if they appeared, he’d crop out later. He liked figures in his photographs. He was always careful to click from a discreet distance. It added something – and, there, another. He could now keep the vision of her with both.

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He woke to gentle stroking, her head close to his. She was smiling broadly. He noticed she had reapplied her lipstick and she smelled of something sprayed on, something musky, almost earthy. It was the same scent as last night – a turn on in itself. The stroking had become more urgent. ‘More?’, she inquired. ‘Gee for a bloke getting on, Mr Business Man, you were quite something last night, weren’t you? Let’s see what we have left to work with this morning.’

He knew it was going to be expensive, but the visit to the city, from his provincial town, was another opportunity. He’d lash out this time though, treat himself to something special. He’d done it before on previous trips – frequented brothels or hired a call-girl for a couple of hours. But he’d never felt really satisfied. He knew they went into robotic mode – the deed was done and sometimes it was all over before it could present him with anything like the other relief he was desperately looking for. He needed, just for a time, to forget his soul-less life, his hectoring sexless wife, the big house she kept soul-less to impress her social circle. So soul-less it was as barren and as unwelcoming to him as his parched marriage. He wanted to forget his two sons who thought they owned the world, as long as they were well supplied with his money, as he slaved to earn their exorbitant private school fees. He disliked their sense of entitlement immensely. Well, this night he was going to be entitled for a change. He’d paid for a whole twelve hours. He booked her on-line. He knew much of it was spin. But she sure looked like that something special. He hoped beyond hope she would be worth it. That next morning he knew it was. He knew what it was to feel alive again.

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He answered the knock shortly after ten and she strutted in. He sensed by her demeanour that she’d done this many times before. She put her hand out without a word and he handed over the agreed amount. ‘Tell me what you want, Mr Business Man. Tell me what you like.’ He thought, then replied, ‘Just you around me for a whole night. It’s been a while.’

We’ll soon fix that, Mr Business Man.’ She took a packet of condoms out of her bag. ‘Guess we’ll need a few of these. What do you reckon?’ She didn’t wait for an answer before ordering him to dispense with his trousers and underwear. ‘Now, let’s have a look at you.’ After her examination she covered his penis. She was out of her dress and her own undergarments in a flash, pushing him down onto the bed. She roused him to erection with her hand, straddled him and as he suspected it would be, it was over before he could count to ten.

He started to apologise. ’Don’t worry about it. That’s normal in your situation. It’ll be the second one you remember. I’ll make sure of it.’ He would, as it turned out. He’d remember it forever.

Next morning she raised herself up and over him, rubbing herself against him. She tried, but it was to no avail. He’d felt a tingle, but essentially he was spent. He gave her a wan smile and a pat to indicate he wasn’t up to it and she lay back down beside him.

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As he relaxed beside her he cast his mind, happily, back to that promised second time. She knew how to treat a man, that was evident. She got his juices going again. Slowly, tenderly, almost lovingly their foreplay had continued for, it seemed, hours. She licked, his tongue explored – he breathing in her fragrant skin. And she made all the right noises at the end of it all, but he suspected they weren’t the real deal. But him? Well, he felt exultant in the aftermath. A weight had been lifted.

He was then drawn from his reverie by more tugging on his penis. There was some urgency to her action this time. He realised she was beside him pleasuring herself – and this time the orgasm was real. ‘Well, Mr Businessman, we’re both happy now. And thank you for last night, sir. It was yummy.’ She gifted him with a deep kiss and his organ one last squeeze. ‘There’s plenty of life in you yet, don’t you worry.’

She hopped out of bed, reached into her bag and placed a card on his chest. ‘For the next time you’re in these parts.’ Donning her clothes, including her green shiny dress, she then sat in front of his mirror to touch up her make-up. He enquired about what she was doing for the rest of the day. He was reluctant to let her go, thought maybe she might be interested in breakfasting with him. When he asked she responded, ‘Sorry sweetheart. That’d be just lovely. Maybe next time, but now I’m due to meet a couple of girlfriends coming in on the train from the ‘burbs. They’re both mums with young kiddies and I’ve known them both most of my life. We’re going across the road to the gardens. You can see them out your window. We’ll have a coffee in the cafe there and catch-up on the goss. They reckon I spice up their lives with my glamorous one. I don’t tell them everything though. Only the good bits. And you’re one of the good bits, don’t worry. If they only knew, Mr Businessman.’ With that she slipped on her shoes and was out the door.

He was soon on his way too. He felt a spring in his step that wasn’t there yesterday. Life, all of a sudden, didn’t seem that bad. He’d try to be more positive. Maybe he could make some changes at home – but he’d make sure he’d keep that card safely tucked away.

On his way back from snapping the flower beds the old guy spotted her again, this time holding court on a seat with her two friends. They were laughing as she smoked and regaled them with some obviously hilarious tale. He took another quick photo. Usually for him a woman smoking was a turn-off, but with her, even at a distance, he found it strangely alluring.

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It was almost the appointed time so he headed off, walking past the trio, still deep in conversation. Near a statue he turned to capture it, then realised he could, with the distance, include her for she was just in the corner of his view down through the lens. He did so. He wondered, as he trudged off, if what he did was akin to stalking. Glory be, he had nothing salacious in mind with the beauty – just beauty itself. He didn’t see himself as a pest being so distant from the subject – but who knows in this day and age? Besides, he was a deeply contented man. He had enough warm and wonderful memories of his own to last a lifetime. But that’s the best bit, he concluded. Just the conjuring.

Stevie

She did it in a rush. She was trembling, her fingers shaking as she undid various buttons and unhooked clips. Me? I was gobsmacked. Off came her clothes. All of them. She had barely followed me in the door of my hotel room and there she was, completely bare with arms spread wide. I’d hoped that something akin to what suddenly occurred may have happened down the track that night. For me there was no rush. She obviously noticed me looking at her like a stunned mullet. ‘Well,’ she ventured, ‘I am forty-two. This body has very much seen better days. Had I waited till later on, I might have lost my nerve and then where would I be? So, mister, here I am, warts and all. If you don’t like what you see, I’ll put them all back on and call a taxi for home. Just say the word.’

Stevie looked at me defiantly. After I didn’t utter anything – I was speechless – she came across to where I was, put her arms around me, pressed herself against me and whispered, ‘I will go, you know, if you don’t want me.’

She had her answer soon enough. I may have been initially taken aback. But at forty two she still looked pretty darn good to me that surprising evening, all those years ago, in 2004. She still does, where we are now, in 2017. But Stevie and me, well we go way, way back – back to the mists of time. I first laid eyes on her in 1977 – aeons ago. It was at school – Camberwell High in Melbourne, to be exact. That’s forty years ago now. My Stevie, gifted back to me by a chance meeting on a tram and a mutual love of a song. I hope you’ll enjoy our story.

Of course Stevie isn’t my love’s real name. She’d kill me if she discovered I was blogging this. Well that’s my intention anyway. We’ll see how it turns out. Perhaps, like her fear that auspicious night, I’ll lose my nerve. It’s our story and I know I have to be careful with it, but I want to write it down. I’m not getting any younger. If I lose my marbles one day, well, I’ll have it at my fingertips to remind me of my remarkable Stevie, the woman I am now blessed to live with; to share my life with. So here is how we came to be.

Let’s return to that wonderful reconnecting we engaged in back in ’04, to that night of surprises. After the concert we headed to Hardware Street for some late night tucker. Most of the restaurants were still going and we just ordered some mains and a wine in the first likely establishment we came to. At some stage I was going to pop the question – something to the effect about whether she’d like to share a cab with me back to Southbank, where my room was, in one of the high rises there. In fact, we had barely started when she broached the subject with me, ‘Just let me get this clear. You are expecting me to come back to your room after this, aren’t you?’
‘Well yes, the thought did occur to me.’
‘Thank heavens. I didn’t want to start eating all nervous about your intentions. Now I can relax and enjoy the meal. And just for your information, mister, yes I would love for you to invite me back for a coffee. The sooner the better.’

The disrobing on her part, once back there, was brave, I later thought. I know it must have taken some doing given how nervous she was, although she was a tad lubricated by a tasty wine at our repast earlier, as I was. I was due to fly back to Sydney the following day and Stevie spent it all with me – more about that anon – until I was due to leave for Tullamarine. I promised to return to her as soon as I could see my way clear. She replied that she wasn’t going anywhere and she had my details to keep in touch. I was back down the following weekend.

We’re excited, Stevie and I. They’ve just announced when the tickets go on sale They’re touring. It may well be their last hurrah with the line-up that once took the world by storm. For old time’s sake we’ve decided to go to Melbourne to see them – and stay in the same hotel as that night. I wonder if we can get the same room? And, even better, there will be none of this on-line nonsense to get said tickets. I have my connections. Boy do I have my connections. And to think, without those guys, who will again be up on stage in 2018, I may never have reconnected with Stevie.

That following weekend, the one back last decade, rushed as it was, sealed the deal. That chance meeting the previous year, towards the end of ’03, caused us to make a pact to see the band when they toured in the new year. And then, and then, ….no, lets start where the story begins before we get to that. As I said, Stevie and I first encountered each other in our high school days.

Back in ’77 I was 17, she 15. I played guitar, lead guitar. She had a voice, a very fine voice. And for a brief six months or so our paths crossed for the first time – they weren’t to do so, if I have my maths right, for another twenty-six years.

Mr Shaw was my music teacher. He started teaching me the guitar when he discovered my infatuation with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. I took to it like a duck takes to water and for a while there it totally dominated my life. Every spare minute was given over to practice. Old Mr Shaw reckoned I was a natural, but a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears went into attaining that aptitude, let me tell you. The music teacher soon formed a band around my eventual prowess and we belted out covers for school socials and various student parties around Camberwell. By the time we were in Year 11 we were a fairly tight unit and making a little dosh around the local scene as well. Danny was on bass, Kev on rhythm with Charlie on drums. The latter doubled as our vocalist as he had the strongest set of pipes, but found keeping the beat going and screeching out the lyrics meant he sometimes got himself into a tangle, but generally it worked. He was fine when a song really rocked, but when something slower was called for he was pretty hopeless. Charlie was also making a bit of a name for himself around the traps for being wild. He was into booze and possibly drugs –I wasn’t into either, but as long as he turned up ready to play I didn’t care. He always did. Why am I telling you so much about Charlie? You’ll see soon enough. He, as it turned out, was the only one from the band who did make a bit of a name for himself musically down through the decades. He was regarded as being reliable and not too shabby behind the drum kit, being a go to man, for a while there, for people such as James Reyne, and Darryl Braithwaite whenever they went on tour. He still drums, off and on, around Melbourne these days even though he’s getting on a bit. Aren’t we all? To be fair, as well as with the utmost humility, I was the one most likely to make a real name for myself out of us group of Camberwell lads, but life took me in another direction.

When it became a hit, the song, so unlike what I usually gravitated towards, stuck – I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to add it to the band’s repertoire, but patently none of us had the voice to do it justice. We knew, though, it was the perfect song when it came time for something slower, when those on the floor required a little body on body with their dance partners. In short, we needed a female voice. And Mr Shaw came up trumps with this too once he knew of my rapture with the tune. And the song has lasted down the decades to become it’s author’s signature show-stopper, whenever she tours solo or with the group. By now I suspect you are putting two and two together given dates, the name I’ve allocated to she who should not be named and other clues. Yes, of course, it’s ‘Rhiannon ‘.

And the girl the music teacher found for us – yep, she became my Stevie. But back then, well let’s just say it took more than a while in coming. And if I was born to play guitar, the Year 9 girl was born to sing. Stevie Nicks had a celestial quality that her namesake lacked, but my Stevie had a powerful voice for more ballady stuff and, it turned out, loved backing up Charlie with the rockier tunes. It was evident that she was a good fit for us, although initially she could only perform at school events, being somewhat younger than the rest of the band. Despite this, it was fair to say I was smitten not only with her voice, but also by the girl herself, from the get-go.

As hard as it might seem for you now who know me, back then I was a quiet, reserved chap who only really felt alive when on stage. I had a long standing battle with acne that took until well into my twenties to get on top of. And it took until the same stage of my life to have any sort of girlfriend at all. Despite my high profile in the place, I wasn’t amongst the cool set at Camberwell – unlike Charlie. And guess what? The younger version of Stevie wasn’t backward in making her feelings known for Charlie. She seemed to relish the fact he was a bit of a lad – and pretty soon they were an item, one of the school’s golden couples. The only time I got to spend with her alone was when, on occasions, we caught the same tram trundling down the hill into the centre of Camberwell. Occasionally I’d invite her to have a coffee with me and occasionally she’d accept, allowing me to buy her a milkshake. But all she ever wanted to talk about was Charlie. So really I stood no chance – even more so with what my parents had in store for me.

And the relationship between Charlie and Stevie stood the test of time, as later I was to discover. Turns out they eventually married, but again I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the months that I knew her, in my dreams and even in my waking hours, I plotted and plotted, trying to figure out how I could convince Stevie I was the better catch. But like me with her, she was completely gone over him – and in his own way, it was reciprocated, even if at times I thought he treated her badly.

As for the song, well ‘Rhiannon’ soon became our most requested number, thanks to Stevie making it her own. We’d often perform it several times a night. Sometimes, just sometimes, it sounded almost as good as when the Mac did it. Couples out on the dance floor would entwine their bodies around each other to the tune – the teachers present having a hard time keeping a lid on it all so they didn’t become too heated. It saddened me we couldn’t perform it when we attained an engagement outside of school. I do look back on those times fondly, despite my lack of success wooing Stevie. But, at the end of the year, came the bombshell. My dear Dad received a promotion in the public service. He was being transferred to Canberra and I would complete my schooling in that city. My future lay, not with music, or so I thought, but with a law degree at ANU. So my farewell to the band was at the Year 12 leavers dinner – a gig without Stevie. I was not to see any more of her for decades.

Yes, it is starting to drag out, our saga, isn’t it? Well, to cut a long story short, a chance meeting in a pub with Michael Gudsinski caused me to throw in my dreary job in a Canberra legal practice and join him at Mushroom. He wanted someone with legal expertise on his team, so I was back with music in a way. For a time I was based down in Melbourne. I was still single so I did ask around my few remaining contacts from those school days as to what became of Stevie. I discovered that she and Charlie were hitched with a child – so that’s as far as I took it. By this stage my love life had improved, but nothing long-term came of any of my relationships. Perhaps I chose the wrong type of women – usually they were as career obsessed as I was and none were prepared to put me above their ambitions. It was very early on that Michael G offered me a position in his Sydney office, with an improved salary, so I could enjoy the harbour city’s lifestyle – which I did so in spades. I admit a few years up there saw me succumb to what I had disdained with Charlie all those years ago, but by the time Stevie and I re-discovered each other I had sorted myself out and despite my advancing years, I was rather a good catch, if I say so myself. Still, I couldn’t get a relationship to stick. On the other hand, business-wise, eventually I was confident enough and had enough connections to strike out on my own. I became a booking agent too, concentrating on tours to regional centres by domestic acts. Occasionally I’d come across Charlie and he seemed more settled. When ever I inquired after Stevie the refrain was always ‘She’s fine.’ As it turns out – she wasn’t.

But still, with me there was a hole to fill. I had friends a-plenty and my social life was hectic. I wanted to slow down, but coming home to an empty apartment night after night was getting to me. Try as I might, mostly I existed on a fodder of one night stands as mostly the women I was attracted to were married and unavailable. Those that consented to some fun and games with me never displayed any intention of choosing me for the long term over their hubbies. I’d left my run too late to ever attain for myself a life partner, or so I figured.

Business often took me to Melbourne and on that fateful day in 2003, at a loose end, just for the hell of it, I decided to take the No.72 out to my old stomping ground around Camberwell and Canterbury Hill. I had in mind a wander around my former school just to see how the years had treated it – but I never made it. I wasn’t very far into the journey – my conveyance was just starting to slowly lurch along Swan Street – when I noticed a woman, who looked familiar, hop on board, loaded up with shopping. She was accompanied by a younger lass. Then it dawned on me – I soon became sure it was her. She sported almost the same blonde bob, was a little fuller in the face and, as would be natural, carried a little more weight (which suited her) – but I needed to be closer to really tell. The eyes – her doe-like brown eyes would be the giveaway. I manoeuvred myself along the tram to a closer proximity just as she turned to look back down towards me. Our eyes met, but she displayed no signs of recognition, but I knew. I knew – and I also knew I couldn’t leave it at that. There was a spare seat in front of where they were. I moved myself to it. Then I turned and faced her.

She looked at me blankly. It was definitely her, but she turned back to her younger friend and continued conversing with her. Rude, I know, but I continued staring. She revolved around and asked, ‘Is there a problem?’ I just smiled and said, ‘I think we know each other.’ She looked at me – and then she smiled. ‘Bill. Well I never.’

It was stilted at first, partially due to another person being present as the tram rattled along. But I soon discovered that the younger one was her daughter – the daughter of Stevie and Charlie. Now it would have been magic if her name had of been Rhiannon. It wasn’t, but we’ll call her that.

All too soon we were at her stop and Stevie started to gather up her shopping gear. She said her farewells to Rhiannon who was obviously continuing on – I later discovered she lived further out along the line. Then she turned to me and asked ‘Are you coming? Have you time for a coffee?’ I didn’t need much convincing, I knew it was now or never. I was up like a flash following her off the No.72.

We found a cafe nearby and took a table. There was the question I was dying to ask so I got it out of the way early. No they weren’t. She and Charlie were no longer married; hadn’t been for a while. Seemed the drummer was on the road as often as he was home – and we all know about the temptations of that road. He had grown up a lot, she said, being off the booze and the drugs. But she came to suspect, after a while, that all wasn’t well with their relationship. He was restless. Then, by accident, she found out about a mysterious woman in Sydney and when push came to shove, he wanted to start anew with her. She grimaced as she told me that woman later moved south and it is all very amicable – but I sensed it wasn’t that simple. The next question – was there anyone else in her life? She shook her head to that, with a quizzical smile on her lips. We chatted away for an hour or more before she informed me that she should make a move. I asked if we could keep in touch. Then my insider knowledge kicked in. The Mac were coming early in the new year. Would she like to accompany me if I could arrange tickets. I thought they wouldn’t be a problem. I was owed a few favours. We agreed to meet in Melbourne on the day of the event.

Over the time I spent with her that day and subsequent emails and telephone calls I was able to fill in some of her back story. She obviously still lived in Camberwell, she hadn’t strayed far from her roots. Her singing, like my guitaring, had floundered, but she had her other charms so it seemed. She was outgoing, attractive and never left you wondering – as I was to find out. Soon, after leaving school, she realised she had a talent for selling. First she was in real estate, then she got into car dealership.. Back then she was floor manager for one of those fancy outlets for expensive European cars you see at the city end of Swan Street. She still saw a bit of Charlie in the interests of Rhiannon, but increasingly less so as their daughter formed a life of her own. He was contentedly married to his Sydney lady, semi-retired from the drum kit.

Fast forward to the following year and I jetted down to Melbourne the day before the concert and Stevie cooked a meal for me in her home that night. With a few reds imbibed it started to feel as if we were clicking. On entry she had pecked me on the cheek. On departure, the lips. That was progress, I thought.

It was a hybrid Mac we saw that next night. They were missing Christine McVie and it showed on a few songs. ‘Rhiannon’ featured quite early on and as the real Stevie’s ethereal voice rang out, my Stevie reached for my hand. She held it throughout the rest of the performance. In the back of the taxi from our Hardware Street meal to my hotel we again kissed, but this time she wasn’t so chaste. I had a feeling I was in for a lovely night. And then once in my room, with the skyline of the city shining in…well, you know what happened.

We kept the curtains open so her body was bathed in a diffused glow as we made love for the first time. We petted and caressed until it was time for her to guide me into another site that made me glow in turn. I felt I had found a place I wanted to be forever. I was soon to discover it was reciprocated. After check out time the following morning we taxied back to her place and spent most of the day in bed, getting to know each other intimately, until all too soon it was flight time. For the first time I thought I had someone in my arms who wouldn’t place me second to a career – and so it has turned out.

We commuted between the two cities for another twelve months or so until Stevie made the decision to move permanently up to Sydney. These days I’ve wound down the business and she’s no longer involved with flashy cars. We enjoy the lifestyle a city that never sleeps has to offer and Rhiannon is a frequent guest. And next year, in 2018, Stevie N will sing that song one more time in Oz, in Melbourne. We will feel, no doubt sitting there, that she’ll be singing it just for us.

Author’s note – the nub of this story came to me on a recent trip to Melbourne. On late night commercial radio the host asked his audience to ring in with any unusual tales about how they came to be with their partners. One guy told the story of how he and his wife had been friends at school, but drifted apart afterwards, wedded and raised children before each one’s marriage went sour. They reconnected on a tram taking them both into the city to see Fleetwood Mac. I took it from there.

The Three Lives of Ingoushka

Will you indulge in a little game of ‘Who Am I’ with me? Some of you may remember her. She had an impact on this old fella once upon a time. Perhaps she may have had an impact on you too, way back in the mists.

Here we go. I was born Ingoushka Petrov in Warsaw in 1937 – not a good time to come into the world, particularly with a Jewish mother. My Polish accent in later life would, to some ears, make me sound incredibly sexy and exotic. In the early sixties I became an actress in Berlin, later having roles alongside such luminaries as Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton, after making my English-speaking debut in ‘Doctor Zhivago’. I played Queen Galleia to John Pertwee’s Dr Who in several appearances in that icon of the small screen. I was married three times, with the first being to my hero. But as for what may have bought me into your orbit once upon a time? Well, I was famous for two reasons. One – yes one – was because of my breasts, which I rather exposed quite a lot of on screen. The second were my fangs. They really didn’t appear all that often in my movies, only in titles such as ‘The Vampire Lovers’, ‘Countess Dracula’ and ‘The House That Dripped Blood’. But maybe you remember them too. The press at the time were quite enamoured of me for both reasons. They dubbed me ‘The Queen of Scream’. Well then, who am I? Do you know? If you do or don’t, I think you’ll find my whole story more that just a tad interesting.

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By the early seventies your scribbler was studying at UTAS in Hobs, living at at hall of residence, sadly for males only. My love of movies had been triggered by the greater selection of offerings available in the big smoke compared to my former provincial town. And I was very much aware of Ingoushka. She seemed to only appear at the old Elwick Drive-in, so often I would take my jalopy out there, usually in the company of like-minded mates who also were not adverse to the good lady being presented unadorned, along with her blood-sucking mandibles. Those were the early years after the strictures of censorship were loosened. For some time we had been governed by god-fearing old men in darkened rooms having the say over what we could and couldn’t view. Ingoushka, unlike many who simply teased back then in that brave new age, delivered on what she promised. Of course she was a member of the Hammer film studios stable of voluptuous beauties. In fact, when she first auditioned, she fronted the head honcho of Hammer, James Carreras, sporting the most revealing of her assets type dress she could squeeze herself into. She reported in her autobiography, ‘I turned up at Jimmy’s office in a maxi-coat, a mane of hair, lots of make-up and high leather boots. I walked up to him and opened my coat like a flasher. I was wearing the tiniest and lowest cut dress you can imagine. He took me darling, but not in the way film moguls are said to!’ He offered her a choice, horror or porn – the latter most likely akin to offerings popular at the time like ‘What the Milkman Saw’ or ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’. They were more innocent days. But she chose the former. Ingoushka, by this stage Pitt, as a name, though, wouldn’t cut it up there in the credits – so she became Ingrid, Ingrid Pitt.

Her trajectory upwards was immediate, although her stay at the top was brief. The early seventies just about saw her out. She made guest appearances sporadically in the following decades till her death in 2010, but she was never one to let the grass grow under her. She simply re-invented herself when the popularity of vampire movies waned. She turned to writing to earn a living. She made up for quality with volume – she just wrote and wrote and wrote some more. She’d have a go at anything. She started off describing the conditions the first Americans were forced to endure after a stint living with a tribe of them in Colorado. Then she turned her hand to fiction, usually, to capitalise on her name, in the horror genre. She wrote columns for magazines and later on-line. She even penned scripts, submitting some to ‘Dr Who’ – never successfully, but she came close with a few.

When the popularity of a Hammer revival, at the turn of the millennium, bought with it screenings of her retro-fangwork all over the UK, she cashed in writing titles such as ‘The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers’ and ‘The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity’. As well there were her memoirs she, fangs in cheek, called ‘Life’s a Scream’.

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But as fabulous as her lives on screen and as quite the wordsmith were, her third life – the one she led prior to her notoriety in the movie industry – was perhaps even more hair raising than anything she acted out for the camera or wrote about.

Of course, to be of Jewish heritage in Poland during the war years was a dire situation to be in and in 1942 her family was picked up by the Nazis. She and her mother were separated from her father and elder sister and the pair were transported to the Stutthoff concentration camp. She witnessed her mother’s best friend summarily hung and one of her own little companions raped and beaten to death by guards. Come the Russians the pair were released and commenced to trudge between the various holding camps for survivors to try and find father and sister. The family were remarkably reunited, but such were the privations her dad had undergone at the hands of his captors he died a short time later.

After that life obviously improved and the young Ingoushka started to dream of a future and the shape it may take. Acting caught her imagination. We know from later events that she was a force of nature and it was not long till she moved to East Berlin to pursue her dream as the Iron Curtain was coming down. She became associated with Helene Wiegel, second wife of Bertolt Brecht, acting in his works in Helene’s theatre company. Unfortunately the redoubtable Wiegel was a strident critic of the communist regime and soon the Stasi came calling. Miss Petrov was about to take the stage for an opening night performance of Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage and her Children’ when some uniformed goons turned up to shut it all down and take in those responsible. Ingoushka did a runner. Hot on her heels were the thugs and as a last resort, she took a flying leap into the River Spee. The current took her, fully costumed, across the city to the American zone where she was spotted by GI Laud Roland Pitt Jr who, without hesitation, jumped in and bought her to shore in his his arms. Her hero. Sometimes life truly does resemble the movies. They fell in love and married.

It didn’t last for nothing could get in the way of her dream. The unstoppable Ingoushka Pitt continued on her drive to stardom. Of course, in the end, she made it to the delight of young men far away at a drive-in in Hobart.

Despite horror giving her that pathway to success, in an interview for a New Zealand newspaper four years before her death, she admitted she rarely watched or read anything to do with the genre, stating ‘I think it’s very amazing that I do horror films when I had this awful childhood. But maybe that’s why I was so good at it.’

And she was. Of course, in the digital age Ingoushka is only a mouse-click away on YouTube in all her fanged glory, bosoms heaving. Make that click and you’ll see what I mean. We were all so innocent and unworldly back then and she was ripe for our desires. Sometimes I think we were far better off in that era then when what she did was about was about the extent of it.

Little Town, Big Hearts

Today my son married.

Sitting here in his town; just sitting in reflective quietude with the juice of the peat in hand, I know that what had just occurred had made for the best of days.

There were doubts it would be thus at day’s dawning. This little place, fastened on the western shore of Anderson Bay, was holding its collective breath for all knew of the couple’s plan. It was an audacious plan – but the rain was then tumbling down in scuds. All comprehended if it continued to do so the plan would have to be scuttled, to use an apt nautical term; the desire to create an occasion, that would linger long in the mind’s eye, would be undeniably somewhat spoilt, but certainly not irredeemably tarnished. How could it be?

The ‘Bulldog’ was central. It was intended that later this day the sturdy snub-nosed barge would carry its first substantial cargo, a human one, on arguably its most important journey. For on board there would be a bridal arch at the prow and a beautiful bride aft, waiting for her moment. With a red carpet stretched down its main (and only) deck and weighed down tables for succulent seafood treats, convivial signs had been strategically placed to urge all to ‘Eat, drink and be married’. If the rain moderated, that would doubtless occur around the main event. What would be celebrated was the culmination of two separate journeys, not always calm sailing, coming together in the ether at first. Then my son moved to the little town to commence building a relationship and a vocational life. The place he now calls home has become a sort of second abode for this relaxed old fella as our couple caught the travel bug. They saw me only to happy to attend to their two beloved canines, not to mention one defiantly independent cat. To me the little town is a place the sun always seems to shine. Would it also shine on their day of days – this day?

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The tides had been figured out long before and the decision on the date was fixed accordingly. The vessel, named in memory of a treasured workmate, taken well before his time, had been sweated on by my son with a posse of other workmates for long hours to make her ship-shape for the day. As this day in question proceeded, the scuds diminished in frequency and power. Then, just before the appointed hour, out came the sun. The blue-hulled barge looked splendid as family and friends gathered dockside, ready for her departure. As the Bulldog escaped the confines of the river, fine samples of local product from the briny were served from the tiny galley and a piper took his place, playing Hebridean airs. Our vessel faced into the swells of the open sea, turned and headed along the coast to a sheltered spot abutting the old pier. It laid anchor, the drawbridge forward was lowered and my son took his place, to wait, against background of sunlight dazzling off Anderson Bay.

Back aft the bridal party assembled. At their head, for the procession down the red carpet, a little girl made ready for her role. At times, in the lead up, she had felt overwhelmed by the awesomeness of her responsibility. Who would hold her hand? Where were Mummy and Daddy if there was a problem. But, one thing was for sure, in a gown sewn with love, she looked exquisite. The appointed time came. Hands were offered to help her on her way to spread rose petals afore her Auntie Shan and her gorgeous bridesmaids. Although her small valkyrian heart was beating so loud, she knew exactly what was required. She garnered together all the courage an almost four year old could muster, politely refused the hands and strode out amongst all those people she did not know. She did her task to perfection as her Poppy became misty eyed with pride and love.

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My son took a deep breath, turned and faced his bride as she approached. He flushed a little as he noted the beauty of this woman to whom he would attach his future, as she would to him.

Two venerable grandparents, one from each side, watched the procession and taking of vows, also with swelled hearts. They had seen many a wedding during their long years, but none surely so unique and so carefully executed as this. Out in the element that helped sustain the little town, the Bulldog gently rocked as a mint new married couple made their way back along the carpet to begin their mingling and to receive the congratulations that were their due.

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The Bulldog, successfully discharging its duty, raised anchor and sailed back to port, being gazed on by townspeople who lined the shore. Proceedings continued at the home of this family who have taken in my son, valued him for his many attributes, but at the same time ensuring he was firmly grounded in the culture of their calling and of the town. It is an amazing family he is now son-in-law, brother-in-law and husband to. My son made a speech – and he made a fine fist of that too. Looking on, his Dad couldn’t possibly be happier for him. So happy, in fact, that after some libation, his father took to the dance floor later this evening with his oldest mate and did some very fine moves and sprightly gyrations as the band pounded out a hip version of ‘Ring of Fire’.

just married

Sipping now on my Glenfiddich, I can reflect how perfect this day has been. At the festivities this evening I was seated with aforementioned mate on one side, the woman I adore on the other, with my daughter and that brave little flower-girl opposite. Now I am content with the wonder of it all. I know that She up there beyond the silver lining will smile on this union, as Bulldog will do likewise from his spot in the constellations. Best of all, I have a daughter-in-law to cherish.

Yes, today my son married.

2015 – Twelve Months in the Year of Wonder Weeks

1. Early spring. Glorious day. At Sheffield, under Roland. It was that mini-wonder Little Ford Man’s third birthday celebration at the Newling abode. It’s an abode forever on the march to the beat of renovation and improvement. Each time it’s visited, there’s a new project on the go – LFM’s parents are marvels and my, what they’ve achieved! And the little people were having a ball on this day – running themselves into the ground with the excitement of it all. For most of the day Tessa Tiger was in the thick of it. There was a lull and she took time out. She wandered across the lawn, lost in a reverie of imagination such that only a three year (and some) old can conjure up. I sauntered across to join her, she took my hand and guided me to the fence-line, pointing to her favourites of the very fetching, to her sensibilities, blooms to be found there. Then quietly, almost imperceptibly, came the song. I listened hard to hear what it was. Quietly, breathily she was singing the chorus to Josh Ritter’s paean to the banishment of winter, ‘Snow is Gone’ –
Hello blackbird, hello starling
Winter’s over, be my darling
It’s been a long time coming
But now the snow is gone –
she trilled. It was small picture – but perfect small picture. Not earth-shattering, but in my dotage, if I remember nothing else at all from all the magic moments that little girl has given me in 2015, I’d be completely content just recalling that single episode and dwelling on it. It would be enough. The perfect moment in the perfect place. Her small hand in mine. Just love.

sunshune girl

2. And then, not long after – the best of 2015’s big pictures. Suddenly he was gone – and now, if he’d only shut up and disappear completely. He was ridded by his own ilk – his own party. Even they eventually came to the conclusion most of us had figured out from the get-go of his unfortunate prime ministership. All the nonsense about Team Australia and captain’s calls, shirt-fronting and onion eating. the man was an embarrassment. Supposedly a man of faith, there was little that was Christian in many of his policies and those of his like-minded yesterday’s men – only men – he surrounded himself with. There was one divisive exception and she wasn’t even elected. He was an abomination, leading our country away from the welcoming decency that had once been our by-word for the decades after we banished White Australia. If Turnbull can prise himself away from his commitments to get the job, I have some hopes for him, although those yesterday’s men are still lingering there on his side of politics. But now, with some gifted women in cabinet, it all seems somehow softer – hopefully it will turn out to be a far cry from the mean-spirited reign of a man who should never have been let loose on our country.

3. It has been a tough twelve months for my beautiful lady since the tendon in her wrist snapped on Boxing Day last year. In discomfort always and often there’s a layer of pain as well on top to cope with. Despite medications and procedures culminating in an operation yet to prove successful, she continues to battle through, as positive and as good humoured – her hallmarks – as it is possible to be. I love her dearly – and now admire her even more, if that’s possible.

4. My home away from home these days seems to be Bridport. Although the missing of Leigh is palpable each moment, I’m content there in the sunny big house overlooking Anderson Bay, with its quietude and birdsong. It is so welcoming. I am only too happy to decamp anytime as Rich and his wonderful intended have adventures in the other hemisphere, on the big island or more locally. Oscar and Memphis fill my days with their unconditional canine devotion. Leopold controls my nights with his very conditional feline condescension. Such a fine place to be is Briddy – people who nod, smile and wish a good morning as I perambulate down the hill for my papers, the sparkling sea and a winter warmth emanating from the firebox. The only other place I could see myself permanently.

5. First came the three-peat and as we turn the corner into ’16, the aim’ll be a fourthorn. These are great days for the brown and gold – and with all that’s gone awry in the last twelve months in the world, at least we still have the salve that is sport to celebrate. I continue to avoid the stress my team playing confers, but there’s still the pride.

6. I have little truck with horse-racing or James Bond movies. That a female jockey can win the former and a fifty something woman, older than the hero, can play a love interest of 007 is something of significance, isn’t it?

7. I didn’t know him. Not really, I didn’t. I worked with him for years but I couldn’t get close to him. Closeness wasn’t for work colleagues. And now he’s gone. I’ll always thank him for what he did for my writerly and gorgeous daughter. Kate regards him as her best teacher, the one who had the greatest impact in steering her towards her calling. And he knew this, both from Kate and myself – and it chuffed him. I’m pleased about that. And another went this year whom I felt I really knew, although we never met. You see, he was a columnist for my favoured daily. He examined himself in print, brought us into his world and all the vicissitudes he was experiencing with a life that hadn’t gone perfectly. In the last months, before his leaving, I’d thought he’d lost his mojo as far as his weekly epistles were concerned. It was almost as if he was erecting a barrier between us, the reader and himself. The openness had gone. Then that last Sunday he was back on song, riffing away with his musings, telling something of the bliss of fatherhood, be it unshared with his former partner. Then, suddenly, Sam de Brito was no more. The Sunday Age isn’t the same.

8. My enduring mother is still as kind and caring as ever. She gives so much with her generosity of spirit.

9. She up there beyond the silver lining is still looking out for Jimmy Bx2, Willie N, Archie R, John P, Neil Y and Eric C, amongst other aging luminaries. Hopefully She’ll continue to see them remain ‘forever young’ throughout 2016.

10. The kindest of men came visiting from across the Strait and spent some time gracing us with his presence. Brynner, aka LFM, came calling too and owned all he surveyed.

11. The State Cinema, JBs, Fullers, the smiling blonde princess developing my images at city Harvey Norman, a bright sparkly new Myer, the welcoming of Tiger at Nicolatte, the cheap cards at the Hobart Book Shop – all give me cause to bless my luck in living so close to this vibrant little city.

12. No journeys off the island this year, but plans are afoot for ’16. There were a few journeys to within, but all in all, considering I have a life with a woman I adore and with people I love around, close and not so close, it all gives lustre to my world. Being alive is such joy.

Honey Brown and Hobart

‘It was the green dress that did it,’ I responded. ‘The green dress, plus you were just too lovely and vivacious that night to pass up. As well, I think I was ready. Ready, I guess, for more life in my life. I can’t in all honesty say there was much wrong with the life I was living – just that spending that evening in your company I figured, for the first time, I could have more, sweetheart. You turned my world upside down back then – and repeated doing so again more recently. I’ll thank you forever for that – and thank you forever for taking me up to your room that night.’

That first morning away I had woken up to another hotel room – but as usual waking up next to Judy meant turning to see her already with her nose in a book. That was okay – we were in no hurry to get out and about on our first morning in Hobart. At our ages helter-skeltering wasn’t our scene any more. Once we’d come in from the airport last evening and settled in to our accommodation on the IXL side of the city’s waterfront, we’d chatted what we might do today. In the end we decided we’d take the grey-camouflaged river-cat up-stream to MONA. I’d been before, when it first opened and knew it was a must-see. It had turned tourism on its head to the island of both our births and I was keen to show her it. Judy hadn’t been to the state’s southern capital in decades. Both being North West Coasters in our youth, it was far easier hopping on a plane across to Melbourne than making the torturous road trip to Hobs. At least that wasn’t so bad these days, but back in the day it seemed to take forever – and someone always became car-sick. The Casino had livened the small city on the Derwent up for a while, but mostly back then Hobart seemed as sleepy as Burnie.

Judy was a bookaholic. Every chance she’d get she was turning pages. The daily paper and a good whodunit, now and again, did me. I’d also read sporting biographies of AFL stars and cricketers – but no more than a couple a year. Jude would devour a dozen or so books a month. She reckoned they kept her going when her kids were younger, stuck down the Mornington Peninsula for most of her married life. Reading, so she said, was now ingrained in her.

AFL had a fair amount to do with us being together in the first place. I met her by chance on a footy trip across the Strait with the lads. Then I used it, or the cricket, as an excuse for scuttling off to Melbourne several times a year to catch up with her. For my sake she was always discreet and knew where to meet away from the usual tourist traps. In this way I concealed the affair for so long. But, coming back to her books – one aspect of her obsession is that she loved talking about them to me. And I enjoyed listening. It had only been a year or so now since I made the decision to up and leave my Burnie existence and Raissa to strike out on a new life with my Melbourne love, now that she was free. In those months she always kept me appraised of her latest novel – for it was fiction she usually read. I could see that one in Hobart that morning was something entitled ‘Honey Brown’, or so I thought.

When I enquired as to what ‘Honey Brown’ was about she laughed. ‘No Jim, that’s the author’s name. The book itself is called ‘Six Degrees’. As to what it’s about…Well, how should I put this? It’s about sex, my love – first time sex with someone. It’s short stories. Let me give you their titles – that’ll give you the idea. Here, I’ll flip back through – I’m almost finished. There’s ‘Threesome’, ‘Two Women’, ‘Older’, ‘Younger’, ‘Two Men’ – you’d love that one Jim. Not. And the one still to go is ‘First Time’. And they’re pretty erotic tales too, let me tell you, my love. Almost too much for this good Christian girl. They get me all hot and bothered.’

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She gave a slightly embarrassed laugh, but I asked her to tell me about those she’d already read. She put the book to one side and asked if I was sure I wanted to know. When I nodded she snuggled down beside me into the crook of my arm and placed a hand strategically on my upper thigh. ‘Sure you’re up for this old fella? It might get you a bit worked up too. Anyway, it might be all about the act, but it’s still well written, I reckon. She does sex well, does Honey Brown. All the stories have a kind of link to tie them together and they all end with the two involved making love. Actually, with the first episode there’s three in the mix. It’s Valentines Day and a café owner receives a bouquet of flowers from the love of her life who’s a famous cook. But they have never really taken action on their mutual affection – each reckoning the other is not interested in turning friendship into something more. Anyway, the chef turns up at the woman’s flat above the café, only to catch her just after being in said act with one of her wait staff. One thing leads to another and in the end a threesome changes her life and brings the two together, the renowned chef and the object of his yearnings. It all seems unlikely, I know, but in Honey’s capable hands it makes sense – sort of. The lesbian story starts off in a Kalgoorlie skimpy bar – you know what that is Jim?’

‘Thought so. I didn’t before this book. I’ve led a sheltered life you see. Anyway she’s not really one of the skimpies – but still dances for the men and manages to get their appreciation without actually taking any of her clothes off. But in a mining town there’s not really much action for someone of her persuasion, until there’s a night she eventually realises that one the punters she’s serving is actually a woman. From the time she passes across her frothy their eyes meet continuously across the crowded room and you can probably guess the rest sweetheart. The story I liked best, well so far anyway, was of the older man and a young twenty something, set in the high country somewhere. He was fifty, Jim, hardly past it. How old are you again? Sorry, don’t look at me like that. Anyway, she’s a fishing guide, being the one who was initially attracted and made all the running. The older bloke’s a real gentleman and she can tell he has issues that he’s perhaps taking a break from. What they are become clearer as we progress. She just finds him so different to the younger guys, who seem to her just to have one thing on their minds. This mature male seems cut from a different cloth to those of around her age she’d been associating with in recent times. He does his best to resist her flirting during the hours they spend together by brook and stream – but of course in the end he succumbs. But it’s all very lovely and I really think you can tell it’s a woman writing this. She doesn’t pull back when it comes to descriptions of the lovemaking part, but I imagine it’s softer than if a man wrote it. That being said – it’s all a hell of a lot better than that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ stuff. I’m still trying to work out why I just had to read all three. Might be a bit more to me than you figured, Jim. Watch out, I say. You getting sick of this? You want to me to carry on?’

I replied in the affirmative and she laughed. She asked if it was making me feel any awakening down below. I told her that maybe that could be the case. ‘Well, I’d better continue then. The next tale is the reverse of the previous. Seems this young fellow has always had a crush on the older woman next door. While hubby is no longer a factor he seizes the opportunity and finds his desired MILF is just as eager as he is. The story is told from her point of view and sort of gives the woman the kick start to get on with the rest of her life. She has a fair idea the youngster needs to be just a one off for she’s no cougar – and she has a fair idea too who a more suitable candidate could be. The next not-so-sexy one is about this woman’s estranged hubby. Seems he’s moved over to the gay side, meets a certain someone at a writers’ retreat. Being two guys it was the one I related to the least. You’d hate it Jim. I know you are all for their rights, but you’re still very much the old fashioned heterosexual, aren’t you, my darling?’

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By this time Jude’s hand had moved to another position and we ended up making love – the first time in quite a while. ‘Must be being back in Hobs,’ Judy quipped. ‘I can’t imagine what else may have bought that on. You could almost be fifty again.’

Despite it being a return visit, MONA was still an eye-opener. Stuff I remembered from my first time was no longer on exhibition and there was plenty that I hadn’t seen to keep me fascinated. Last time was after my enforced stay down here following my turn in the main street of Burnie, so I didn’t get to see it all in any case. I conked out about half-way and had to have a spell. It was during that period of time that I confessed to Raissa what had been going on all those years with Jude. For a while she seemed to take it well and I resolved to try and make it up to her. But once we were back in Burnie it was obvious the dynamics of our marriage had changed and I was finding myself still hankering for Judy, even though, by this time, it wasn’t the passionate affair it had once been. Going to Melbourne meant I’d have great company with somebody I was very quickly coming to adore. The great sex, if it happened, was a bonus..

Judy kept emailing me and that didn’t help me trying to wean myself off her. For a while I refrained from answering, but she was persistent and eventually my promise to myself crumbled. For a while we just communicated about our daily doings – but even so it soon became apparent she wasn’t the same old Judy. Something was going on in her world too. I certainly wasn’t the same Franksy my mates would recognise either. They’d reckoned I had changed – and I didn’t need my pals telling me to buck up, so for a while I distanced myself from them. I knew exactly what was needed to get me out of my funk. Judy had long given up her other ‘regulars’ when she travelled to the city. I knew that, but I was nonetheless surprised when she let me know that now, perhaps following my lead, she and hubby Tom had had a heart to heart as well. It turns out he’d found someone else too – and he had also been seeing her for some time unbeknown to Jude. Seems when she also confessed he already had a fair idea what was going on with her. He was happy to move to Portsea where his lady lived, leaving her with their abode. Looking back over it all, it’s hard to imagine that these days I contentedly reside here with Judy. It all seemed to happen so quickly. It so did the trick, though. These days I’m more than happy with my lot in life.

Of course I knew nothing of her confession until Judy emailed me with the details of her conversation with her spouse. The final line of her account read, ‘No pressure, Jim. I am here if you want me.’ Simple as that – and I couldn’t wait to get to her. I still have the guilts about up and leaving as suddenly as I did after that. But then I knew Raissa was not in a good place. I had betrayed her and she resented me for it. Perfectly understandable. I thought it was in our best interests to part. I told her face to face, my Raissa. She said she’d been expecting it. All in all I just figured life’s too short to be miserable. For as much as my wife once meant to me there was now someone else who meant more – and she was available. I would have to take it easy, I knew that. Any physical exertion, even love making, still takes it out of me, so I take life very slowly these days. Judy is all go, go, go and she has plenty to be on the go with in her community – and she has her overnighters in Melbourne. I know these days her only interest is in the shopping. Occasionally, on my better days, I go up with her on the train – but frankly, I’m just as happy pottering around the house. Hobart is a sort of tester as we’d both like to do a bit more travel – maybe a cruise or an island resort up north. I should be up for that, shouldn’t I?

It helps too that I’ve recently been made aware that Raissa has someone in her life too now – a younger man she calls ‘Lad’. I suppose it’s a tad like the MILF story Jude was describing to me. I’ve no idea who this guy is, but Kylie tells me she’s happy as all get out. Good on her I reckon – I wouldn’t want her otherwise.

Showing my lovely lady around MONA just re-enforced my view about what a special place it is. It is justifiably deserving of all the glowing reports written about it, but still I was a little wary. Despite her facility for giving and receiving a good time in the bedroom, my Jude can be a bit prudish about overt displays of sex and nudity – but I needn’t of worried. She loved it. She reckoned it left the NGV for dead. Nothing on offer at MONA fazed her – and there’s still plenty of weird in-your-face-stuff there.

That afternoon we pottered around, caught the tail end of Salamanca Market and then headed up to the restaurant strip in North Hobart. We had a fine repast at a place called Capital and decided to walk back to the hotel, being such a mild night. By a couple of blocks, however, I was done in and we took a cab the remainder of the way.

It was around seven the following Sunday that I emerged from the land of nod to find my wonderful partner-for-the-rest-of-my-life immersed in a book. I tapped her shoulder and said I thought it was a different one to yesterday. ‘No good mornings then?’ she chided.
‘Sorry, sorry – all that with bells on. Only I’m keen to find out what happened with ‘First Time’. That’s what you were reading when we went to bed, wasn’t it?’
‘It was my treasure. Good memory love. You’re not losing it after all. And all that snoring you did overnight. We had a big day yesterday, didn’t we? I enjoyed it. Bet I snored a bit too. Let me just finish this little bit and I’ll cosy up and tell you about it.’

I needed the loo, but when I tried to hop out of bed the old bod wasn’t so keen to follow instructions. I realised then that on that second day I’d have to take it quietly in what I planned. I also knew I was having trouble with my short term memory and that was concerning me. Judy had obviously picked up on it too. I tried to tell her yesterday the new/old name for Mt Wellington – what the first Tasmanians called it back before colonisation. But think I could recall it? I had only read about it in one of the guides shortly before we left the hotel and made a mental note, or so I’d thought. It wasn’t as if it was a difficult word either. Still I could recall the previous day’s activity under the sheets all right – so that was something. With that and all the walking – no wonder a bloke was stuffed.

On my return Jude was waiting for me and snuggled in, placing her hand in its welcome position on my upper leg. She proceeded to give me an account of the final instalment. ‘Jim, it’s about young girl losing her cherry at a rural eighteenth birthday shindig. The guy involved was also a virgin, a former neighbour. She had witnessed a horrific accident he was involved in outside his front gate, causing him to lose his father. He disappeared after that, so it was a chance reconnection at the party, in more ways than one. I was a bit ho-hum in truth, my love, compared to some of the others. Bit it did link up nicely to the other tales and rounded the whole book off .’

When she finished she took her hand away, placing it on my chest instead. She knew I’d be overdoing it if we had a repeat performance. In doing so, though, she asked that initial question, ‘How much do you remember of our first time, my love?’

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I told her then the impact the green dress had on me – it was something she was not unaware of. I’d repeated my love of her in it so often over the years. Jude and I had known each other in our early days in Burnie. Our paths had crossed in the months before Raissa entered my world. Had she not – well, let’s just say for a while there I liked what I saw in Judy, although she was a bit on the young side for me at that stage. Once my wife-to-be came along I lost all interest though. We’d see each other out and about – Burnie was too small a place not to. We’d say hello or wave and that was just about that. Then she too disappeared. I learnt later that she’d met a fellow in Victoria. Then, back in the early nineties, I was on one of my footy trips and wandering around Brunswick Street when she passed me. I knew it was her as soon as I saw her so I called out. She turned and was nonplussed till I shouted my name. She came running back and gave me a glorious hug. I took in her perfume, her eyes – still with the twinkle I remembered from our tender years – and, I must admit, her breasts pressed up against me, if only ever so briefly. We had coffee and bought ourselves up to date with each other’s journey in the mean time. Then she explained her reason for being in the city – retail therapy – and asked if I would enjoy dining with her that evening.

That night I escaped my mates and headed for the diner date she had arranged near the Crown Casino. I knew as soon as I spotted her waiting for me in that dress what else would be on offer that evening if I should choose to take her up on it. I had few qualms in doing so.

I told Judy all of what I remembered of that first evening by the Yarra on our last morning in Hobart as she moved her hand back and forwards across my chest. I told her how magnificent I thought her breasts were, obviously unencumbered by any bra, the material so silken, almost sheer. ‘Too bad the boobs are so far gone to be such a hussy these days.’ was her response.

I placed a hand on one of her still appetising globes and reassured her that they’re the only breasts in the world for me – that I still found something quite remarkable in their beauty. She laughed and moved in a little closer, calling me an old devil and that it was just as well as I was too pooped to do anything about it.’But maybe we could play around a bit in other ways. What do you reckon?’

It did occur to me, that night, to wonder why she would need such a beguiling outfit on a shopping trip to the CBD. When I enquired, a little further down the track, she wasn’t reticent in coming forward with the news that there were other men-friends she met up with, on occasion, in the city. She quickly ruled out the fleeting notion I had that she might do a bit of high-end escort work on the side. ‘No,’ she explained. ‘They are just random men I’ve met in my Melbourne stays that I like and want to see more of. Sometimes sex is involved – but more often than not they also just want some discreet company when they are in town. And I often like somebody to spend a few hours with after being on my tod all day in the shops.’

I remembered when I asked about her hubby she guffawed, ‘Tom! He’d have conniptions if he knew the half of what I got up to when not in his presence, the good Christian fella he is. His mind’s just on making the money I spend. We do all right down the Peninsula, but life’s a tad on the dull side with all his church mates. I refuse to get involved these days. I’ve seen the light. Ha! I’m sure he’d kill me if he knew. Not really. He’d find an explanation for it in God’s will and want me to pray with him for my eternal soul.’ Turns out she was wrong about that, but I can’t complain when I am so much the beneficiary.

Judy drifted off back to sleep that Hobart morning so I continued to lie there, thinking back to that first night. After being a one woman man all my adult life, being with another was a revelation. Raissa had, no doubt about it, been a great wife and mother. And she was still a marvellously attractive woman. But the passion had long since gone – not a bad thing in itself, but I guess I was then vulnerable if somebody else came along and displayed a little interest. Jude certainly did that. Footy trips became a break from routine, but I always demurred when some of the others trooped off to the King Street fleshpots. I wasn’t interested in that sort of thing – so when that stunning vision in Fitzroy caught my eye and I realised who she was, a whole new world opened up to me.

That first date Jude and I did imbibe a fair bit with our meal – me for Dutch courage as I knew what was coming. Then she took me, hand in hand, to her room up in the Casino’s tower. Once inside she shimmied out of her green dress, pressed up against me with those glorious breasts and gave me a lingering kiss. That decided it. In a flash we both were completely disrobed and under the sheets. What followed was a night I’ll never forget. As we prepared to go our separate ways the next morning she whispered in my my ear, ‘Come to Melbourne often, Jim?’ I knew an invitation when I heard it, especially when she slipped a card with her phone number into my hand.

So that began our decade long relationship. I kept the footy trips going, most times slipping away and meeting up with Jude. Then they became just a cover for spending as much time as we could together. I am sure Raissa never twigged and I figured it kept me happy so what was the problem? Judy and I both knew its boundaries and were careful to be discreet, turning to the inner suburbs for our meetings rather than in the centre of town where there was more chance we could be spotted. As time went on it became more Judy’s company I craved, as much as her body – and then the latter became almost secondary. She, at some stage, dispensed with her other gentleman, reckoning she was getting too old for all that nonsense, as she called it. She confided I was the special one, that we rubbed along pretty well and she was never obliged to do anything she didn’t feel like with me. That was a real ego boost – silly man that I am. Then came my heart turn and its associated attack of the guilts, leading me to this point in time, spending my autumn years with the lovely Jude.

I was smiling, Judy’s beautiful head was on my chest and I realised she must be worn out too from the previous day’s Hobartian exertions. When she did stir she asked what I had arranged for the last day. She knew I had something planned, but I wanted it to be a surprise. We rose, toileted and dressed, after which she found I had organised for a hire car to be delivered to the hotel. I drove her out along the Cambridge Road to Richmond, stopping at the wineries and other attractions en route. We dined al fresco at the Richmond Wine Centre, under the branches of a tree, for lunch – thoroughly recommended, before heading west up the Coal Valley. By the time we finished Judy had arranged for a couple of dozen crates of lovely cool climate drops to be sent to our home – as well as a bag of cheeses and other assorted produce to take back with us on the plane that evening. The eponymous new Coal River Farm was a highlight, and we noted Zoodoo for our next trip when we’d make sure we had a bit more time. Judy had done well out of her newly minted divorce and continued her love affair with treating herself, as well as yours truly, to all that was good in life. It was a magnificent day. The spring weather was sublime, the sky a flawless blue and Judy was radiantly happy as we toured about. That afternoon life didn’t get much better. I was with a woman I cherished and now they knew her, my Kylie and Shane thoroughly approved. That Raissa was in a good place too helped.

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Late that evening, on our Virgin flight back to Tullamarine, I leant over to my love and inquired, ‘You’ve packed that book, haven’t you?’
‘What? You mean the Honey Brown?’
‘Sure do. Seems to me she helped make our Hobart jaunt truly memorable. The least I can do to repay her is read her book.’
‘Jim, you never cease to amaze me. Are you sure the old ticker of yours will stand it?’
And just to prove I wasn’t completely past it, I had another word for her too. ‘That’s it. I’ve remembered – kunyani.’
‘What on earth are you on about?’
‘The mountain. Mount Wellington. I’ve been trying to recall it’s Aboriginal name. It’s only just come to me – kunyani, with a little k.’
Judy shook her head, gave my hand a squeeze and turned to look out over the lights of Melbourne as we came into land.

Florence and the Odious, Odious Man

It was a small gallery – pictures of women from long ago. Some were clothed, most were not. But it was a portrait that caught the eye most – a portrait in close-up that was the first I clicked on to enlarge. Above the set of images was the name Robert Wilson Shufeldt. I bookmarked it, as I do anything I discover in the ether that may have the potential of a bit of a yarn to it. In theory the plan is always to return later. When I eventually did so, with this image, just recently and dug a little deeper, I was quite amazed at what I discovered.

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More often than not I find dead-ends, but this small beginning produced a gothic tale worthy of Hollywood – although it did take a little finding. There is, though, sadly no proof, one way or the other, as to whether the portrait was her. Perhaps the ‘colouring’ is right, but maybe this was of a younger woman? But, by the end, I had it fixed in my mind that it was of the heroine of the piece – that it was Florence.

There are quite despicable excuses for humanity in our own digital age, mostly male of course, who think it is fine to place private photographs on-line of former partners/wives/girl-friends/one night stands/whoever naked, or in compromising positions, for others to gawk at – predominantly male too. But if you think this is a thoroughly modern phenomena – think again. Robert Wilson Shufeldt was at it too – but obviously not in the same way. Here’s his story – and that of his victim – the remarkable Florence.

Google Robert Wilson Shufeldt and most references are for this fellow’s father. He has the same appellation (of course) – and was more historically famous than his son. He was an admiral on the Union side in the war that tore the nation apart. But Robert junior is there if one looks carefully. Delve deeper and his whole miserable existence can be exposed.

He was a bright lad, was Robert. He grew to become a Renaissance man of sorts – but with none if the enlightenment usually associated with that accolade. He was an ornithologist and it was his study of the avian species that led him to Florence. It has even been reported that he was the man who dissected the very last specimen of passenger pigeon on the planet – and what a sorrowful story that poor creature’s demise is. As well, this fellow was a renowned osteologist (expert on bones), myologist (of muscular systems), museologist (of museums and their systems) and ethnographist (of people and cultures). And he dabbled in the photography of the nude – purely for scientific purposes, you understand.

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The younger Shufeldt was born in 1850 and spent the Civil War serving on one of his father’s vessels. In 1872 he enrolled at Cornell University, studying medicine. On graduation he joined the army and RWS went on to serve as a surgeon in the Indian Wars. It was at this time he commenced collecting. From that point on and throughout the remainder of his life he put together a vast trove of biological specimens, but eventually started to specialise in denizens of the air. Human anatomy also became his forte. Over the course of his career he published over a thousand books, articles and papers on a widely diverse range of subjects. One such was entitled ‘America’s Greatest Problem – the Negro’. He was, not unusually for the time, in the firm belief of the racial supremacy of whiter peoples. Determined to assist in proving that notion he took to exhuming the skeletons of North American Indians – something that we know from our own island’s bleak history wasn’t so unusual for the time either. For all these fine works, or so they were considered, RWS was appointed to the august post of Honorary Curator of the Smithsonian Institute.

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But it was with his private life that Shufeldt, inadvertently, made his greatest contribution to society. His outrageous behaviour so shocked the powers to be at the time that it changed the way the American legal system viewed the rights of women and increased the move away from them being regarded as mere chattels of their husbands. Agonisingly slowly, the march for equality in the eyes of the law was starting to commence around that time – Shufeldt assisting it to get traction.

The scientist was wedded three times, firstly to one Catherine Badcock. Back in that period, when divorce was frowned on, many unscrupulous men, on finding their married situation holding them back in any way, would conspire to have their unwanted appendage certified as insane on the flimsiest of excuses. The next step would see these unfortunate souls installed in a lunatic asylum. That was Catherine’s fate. She had no means of fighting back so she took an also not uncommon path – she committed suicide. Why Catherine displeased her hubby I was not able to discern – but there seems no doubt she was very much the wronged party.

While all this was occurring Shufeldt continued his writing, with his ornithological work bringing him into contact with Maria Audubon. Now any twitcher worth his/her salt would recognise that surname. John James Audubon, Maria’s grandfather, is god to American bird-lovers. Shufeldt was a member of the Audubon Ornithologists’ Union (AOU). He and Maria published papers together in its journal. She was a spinster – thank heavens that term is disappearing from our language. Her sister, forty-two year old Florence, was also a reluctant member of the spinsterhood.

And so Maria bought sister Florence and RWS together. Being the type of self-aggrandising person he allegedly was, it would be quite a feather in his cap, excuse the pun, to be wedded to an Aubudon. He wasn’t really serious about her for, as soon as the nuptials were over, he was having it off with the home help, Scandinavian Alfhild Dagny Cowum. He wasn’t at all subtle about it, assuming he’d sort Florence out later if she presented any problems. He obviously didn’t know his new wife at all well. Two months into the marriage she was suing for divorce on the grounds of adultery – an unusual and brave step for a woman to take back then. Initially Robert thought all this mattered little. Being a man (of sorts) of his times, he took it as gospel the notion that the male of the species was entitled to affairs on the side. It was only to be expected of a fellow as virile as he. And normally this would be the case – but Florence was not as much a woman of her times as he took for granted. She would not be subjected by him. She was persistent and she never gave up. It was a long, tedious, demeaning and convoluted process she had to endure to see justice – but she fought bitterly to attain it. She was bold enough to convince court after court to see it her way. This, despite all the mud that her husband could throw at her; despite the despicable act he perpetrated when the mud didn’t stick. In the midst of all of it he did find time to take his mistress as his third wife. Florence gave him the wherewithal to do that – not that in any way is he deserving of any form of sympathy. She was also vital in his fall from grace.

What was shocking were the lengths Shufeldt went to to get his own back on Florence, once his wife was granted a divorce by the Maryland courts. It shocked him to the core that it was ruled he also was required to pay alimony. In the usual manner of men back then, with a rare adverse decision going against them, he simply took the common step and filed for bankruptcy. The thinking was that would put paid to any financial call she could have on him. He hadn’t figured, though, with his former wife’s determination to prove that this ploy was patently unfair. After all, he was still receiving a perfectly fine pension from the US army – surely she had a right to that, if indeed he was in dire monetary straits. She very much doubted this to be the true. She took her case all the way to the US Supreme Court – and in doing so took on the US Army as well. Compounding her problems there were the boffins at the AOU who were concerned what the impending scandal would do to their organisation’s standing. They took legal means to try and get her to desist. She refused. All this caused great publicity but again, with the bit between her teeth, she was unswerving in her campaign for her rights – and she ultimately prevailed. The loophole of bankruptcy was closed and the precedent had been set to apply that judgement to all future women in similar circumstances.

Now, what of the link to the abhorrent practice of placing intimate images on-line of women who have had the effrontery to displease their men folk in some way? Well, it was what Shufeldt published during these proceedings that caused him to lose all sympathy from those in positions of judgement. It was considered that he had well and truly crossed the line – even for that misogynist era.

It was not unknown for him to publish nude photos of women in his various scientific writings. His book, ‘Studies of the Human Form for Artists, Sculptors and Scientists’, was full of them. But when ‘On Female Impotency’ came out and it transpired that the nudes enclosed within were of his wife Florence, all hell broke loose for the slime-ball that was RWS. Supposedly a piece in the guise of being ‘scientific’, he wrote of a woman who had left a physician, who shall remain nameless, describing this anonymous wife as ‘…immoral, hysterical and not a virgin when she married.’ He also submitted that, shockingly, said woman also possessed the blood of a mulatto – a clear reference to the great bird-painter’s own mother. This outraged the AOU and the Smithsonian – they disowned him immediately. This only caused a fit of pique from Robert S who promptly marched up to their doors demanding all his specimens back. What a cheek they had not taking his side!

So what do we take out of all this? Probably that there is nothing new under the sun in this world. That it rebounded and the odious man received his just desserts is a plus. Hopefully that can happen to most of Shufeldt’s present day equivalents. All of this unseemly carry-on took it’s toll on the poor possum’s health. Most of his final years he was to be found brooding and wheezing in various sanatoriums before he did the planet a favour by dying in 1934.

It took years and years for Florence to obtain her legal win with, as a spin off, ever so slowly she assisted in setting in motion the creaky wheels of justice to make life more tolerable for the women of her time. She is worthy of greater recognition for this – and I still cannot help but wonder if that portrait that so intrigued me is indeed of her.

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I’ll leave the final word to one of her supporters during her lengthy ordeal, Elliott Coves, who wrote – ‘Dr Shufeldt is morally a cancer – the most vilest and most depraved wretch I ever met. His former wife had committed suicide in an insane asylum to which his brutalities had consigned her. The horrors of poor Florence Audubon’s situation I never saw surpassed.’

Molly Fink

It is a glorious name, Molly Fink, isn’t it? And a pretty special name too, given that its owner had an incredible time on this planet. And she had a connection to this island – her mother being one Elizabeth Fink, nee Watt, from Tassie. She married Wolfe – Wolfe Fink – a Channel Islander who practised law in Victoria and was a noted Shakespearean authority.

Molly was born, to the above, in Melbourne back in 1894. They named her Esme Mary Sorrett Fink – but she was always Molly. She went on to have an even grander appellation attached to her. She became the rani of Padukota. Later in Molly’s life she became a habitué of the French Riviera where, on certain occasions, she could be spotted, dressed to the nines in Chanel, walking her pet tortoise along the seafront. With its shell encrusted in diamonds, whenever the little creature would flag on its excursion, from her handbag, Molly would produce the most delectable of asparagus tips with which to revive it. In between her growing up on the Yarra and the tortoise towards the end she had quite a story to tell, did Molly. Let me present you with it.

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Now some of us are familiar with another Australian abroad in the wide world at the same time as Molly. I refer to Sheila Chisholm – that amazing woman from Oz who outraged Buckingham Palace by taking young Bertie Windsor in hand and teaching him a thing or two about the delights of the fairer gender. He fell head over heels in love with her, but caused such consternation to the Firm that they quickly found unsullied, so they thought, eighteen year old Elizabeth Bowers-Lyon for him to woo and wed for the good of the country. We’ll hear more about young Lizzy anon. Maybe she wasn’t so pure – with a Tasmanian to blame. I do wonder, though, how the course of history could have been changed if Bertie had stuck to his guns, as with his elder brother? It was reading an article on SC that I encountered the name Molly Fink as another Down Under sheila who became embroiled with a royal around the same time, but with a more satisfactory, for a while, outcome. And this girl’s journey was no less fascinating than that of Sheila C’s with the capital S. A name like Molly Fink just yelled out for further investigation.

Molly grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne and, on attaining her ‘coming out’ in local society, quickly became the talk of the town for her beauty. Golden-haired with dazzling blue eyes, she had an ‘…oval, ivory-skinned face…’ and ‘…pouting pomegranate lips.’

Her life commenced its uniquely curious journey when, in 1915, she journeyed north to Harbour City. Up in the Blue Mountains – at the Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath to be exact – the nineteen year old found a glorious male specimen also taking the air at that resort for the well-to-do. He was the dashing, cricket-mad Marthandra Bhairava Tondiman, who also happened to be Indian royalty. He was the rajah of the southern sub-continental principality that was to later become part of Molly’s official title. That was in April – soon, as with Sheila and Bertie, they were totally enamoured of one another. But their out come was far more romantic if none-the-less fraught. Nobody stopped them and by August in that year of war they were married in a Sydney registry office.

After the unadulterated bliss of an American honeymoon, the real world started to hit back at the besotted couple – the real world back then not quite so ready for a ‘mixed marriage’ of such import as in more enlightened times. This soon became obvious when the rajah took his rani home.

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There are mixed reports about how the inhabitants of Pudukota reacted to their nominal ruler bringing home an Aussie missus – and a Catholic to boot. The ordinary people were bewitched by her, so it has been said, but the palace movers and shakers were mortified. They began plotting. With their diabolical scheming they found an ally in the British authorities. The latter assumed, being an antipodean, she could only be a gold-digger. There was no evidence at all this was fact, but that didn’t stop them. It was decided poisoning was a good option and the now pregnant Molly was fed doses of oleander. The rajah was a wake up to this and spirited her to a safe haven away from court. His wife duly produced the wished for heir. But, because of his mixed heritage, it was proclaimed that young Martanda Sydney would never sit on an Indian throne.

The rajah was not about to desert his Aussie belle on news of this. He figured the best way to deal with it was to escort her back to Oz. He’d determined to seek restitution from King George and he would state his case from Sydney. Having had issues with unsuitable matches for his own sons, George was not inclined to give this minor Indian prince much of a hearing. That was seemingly the sealer and Molly never set foot in her hubby’s homeland again.

In the Emerald City the couple cut a swathe through the high end of town. The rajah was heavily into the sport of kings. One of his steeds won the Grand National to entrench them as darlings of the turf. Molly became bosom buddies with Ada Holman, the Premier’s wife and an interesting woman in her own right – stay tuned. But the rajah was getting antsy for what was rightfully his. By 1919 he had deduced he’d do better stating his case from London, so Molly agreed to pack up and head for Old Blighty.

As the twenties wore on, though, it was obvious that their cause was dead in the water, but in recompense the British government did award the couple a healthy stipend. 1922 saw them quite taken with the French Riviera so they moved to Cannes. Here friendships were formed with such notables as Cecil Beaton and Anita Loos. Sadly the exiled rajah died in 1928. His Molly, at the time described as a ‘…very generous woman, madly extravagant.’ decamped back to London where, bejewelled and glittering, she attended all the right parties and performances. She also became a frequent visitor to the US and across the Channel.

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Her story continued on with more twists and turns as the world again plunged into conflict. This saw her stranded in NYC with, oh dear, no access to her fortune on the other side of the Atlantic. And, quelle horreur, she was obliged to take a job. It was in an up-market fashion house so it wasn’t too much of a strain. She also involved herself in raising money for the war effort. This caused the FBI to come calling – they had proof she was embezzling much of what she inveigled out of the society types she consorted with. Eventually it turned out they couldn’t make the charges stick, so as soon as VE Day was celebrated, back to London she scampered. Tellingly, her son, the would-be rajah, later served time in Sing-Sing for stealing jewellery.

With her looks fading, the fifties witnessed her becoming reclusive, surrounded by her pekingese dogs and a certain tortoise. She became estranged from her son due to his criminal activities and sought solace in the bottle. In 1967 she donated all her worldly goods to the British public and in November of that year she was claimed by cancer.

Molly Fink – such a ‘common’ name. But, even with that handicap, she escaped the snooze of Melburnian suburban torpor to live a life large, mainly on the opposite side of the planet, Even with that name, she should not be forgotten. Hopefully a better wordsmith than I will bring her out of the shadows and place her in the same light as her contemporary, Sheila Chisholm, has been in recent times. I wonder if they ever met? I wonder what they would have made of each other?

Son and Father

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She’s as keen as mustard, is Janet Carding. That was the tone of a feature article on her in our local daily recently. What was once a fusty and in places, woebegone collection of bits and pieces, bibs and bobs, has now been transformed into a happening hub. It’s not quite up there with its newer, flashier, brassier, edgier colleague further up river (MONA), but it’s also not too shabby in comparison, thank you very much. The last time your scribe visited, on a mid-winter morning, TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) was pumping with people. Ms Carding is newly in the top job. Considering funding restraints – current governments tend to hold such meccas of culture and community activity low on their priority lists – she has a task ahead of her. But she is very determined to maintain standards and patronage. There are plans as big as kunanyi, our city’s stolid overseer, to further expand TMAG, but for the present, it’s a holding process for her until purse strings loosen.

Janet Carding has the view that our local museum is here ‘…to tell Tasmanian stories,…’ and that these will be ‘…forever shifting’. She wants it to be not only the go-to location for tourists to discover much about the island they’re visiting, but somewhere for Hobartians to return to over and over again. She eschews the notion that it be a ‘Night at the Museum’ clone, a ‘…big, stuffy, boring institution full of dusty showcases and uniformed guards saying ‘Shhh…’ That was the old TMAG, not the vibrant new face it displays to its public today – and will continue to do so under her watch.

The first exhibition that came on-line after she took up her tenure, back in April, was ‘The Suspense is Awful – Tasmania and the Great War’. That was what I perambulated down Argyle Street to its site between city and docks that morning to see. By the end of my viewing I was impressed. During the hour or so I spent perusing I had been moved to tears several times. And that is also where I discovered a letter from a father to his son, both personages being intimately involved with another museum. It was a missive, together with its accompanying few words of explanation, that piqued my interest and left me dewy-eyed. It also caused me to take to the ether and to do a little imagining as well.

Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) has had a similar make-over to its southern cousin. It was there that the two men in question spent a very large part of their working lives.

Herbert Henry Scott died on March 1st, 1938. I have no idea whether his son, Eric Oswald made it back for his funeral. He had just commenced some travels in the other hemisphere. I suspect not, given the state of international transport back then – the flying boat service to and from Britain only commenced later that year – see, I’ve done my research. So this is where the imagining comes in. I imagined that somehow he was there to say farewell to his father. What follows is perhaps something akin the eulogy he would have given from a pulpit somewhere in the city on the Tamar, before his father was taken away and laid to rest in Carr Villa Cemetery.

My dear family, my dear friends and friends of my father – I am standing before you, on this sombre occasion, to tell you something of my father – of the man I respected and loved. I will tell you a little of his life and deeds, as well as how a letter from him to me changed the course of my life. You all know his character, you all know how admired he was in this community, particularly in the scope of his preoccupation with the surrounds of this beautiful island that has added so much knowledge of it to the scientific world. You all know the immense contribution he made to our local museum, a place that has afforded most of us assembled here hours of wonder through the many exhibitions he curated. You all know the tireless hours he willingly gave up to enhance that city asset. We also all know, that as I speak, war clouds are again gathering over Europe and that gives me such a heavy heart due to the knowing of what he, my mother and my sister went through during the years of the Great War. Many of you before me also were sorely tested during that period. I will relate to you my own testing time during the last year of that war and how my father was able to prevail on me to take, or rather not take, a certain course of action.

My father was London born, grew up in the United States of America, returning to the UK at age eleven to be apprenticed to a cabinet maker – a trade that would hold him in good stead in later life, building display cases. He was a sickly young man and he was advised to migrate to a climate possessing cleaner air. That turned out first to be New Zealand, but eventually Launceston. After various occupations he was invited to take up the position for which he has become well known and even revered in our city – that of curator of our museum, the Queen Victoria. It was two years after that I came into the world.

Before he took up this position he had been noted by the powers to be as a fine chronicler of the natural environment of Northern Tasmania and he was keen for the Queen Victoria to reflect that. At the onset he found the place, on close inspection, to be in a state of neglect and disarray. He took wholeheartedly to the task of transforming it into the pride of the city it is today. In fact, it would be fair to say he became obsessed by the never-ending tasks he found necessary to complete single-handedly there. My father could be equally seen dusting its various collections as he could be pouring over the books, trying to balance the meagre budget, in his broom-closet of an office. The museum also became a home for his teaching; the passing on of his knowledge of the natural world to students of all ages. He was particularly sort after for his intimate awareness of the native marvels of his beloved adopted island.

The museum expanded during his tenure, adding new galleries and acquiring another building in which to exhibit what previously could not see the light of day due to lack of space. Every new showing he would have to set up himself. He was also busy publishing learned accounts of the natural history of our environs. To my mind, he was a great man; a great man that all who are gathered here will retain positive memories of. He will sorely be missed for his contribution to our community. Of course, as family, we will miss a loving husband and father.

As you are all aware, since 1930 I have worked alongside my father at the Queen Victoria. I am with heavy heart, but nonetheless excited, to be taking over in his role a curator after I complete my travelling scholarship.

In conclusion, I wish to relate to you some of the contents of a letter my dear father wrote to me on the 16th of May, 1918. It was the last year of the conflict and we had discussed the previous evening my desire to do my bit for my country now that I was finally old enough. I informed him that I would be shortly leaving for the front. He was a persuasive letter writer and found it easier to formulate his feelings and arguments in that format rather than verbally. He knew of my mother’s would be reaction to this news and was well aware of the fact that I may not return. Friends of ours had lost loved ones and he determined that I should not be among them. Without that letter there is every possibility I would not be standing here, sending him off, this hour. In part, these are the words he put to paper to me:-

‘Dear Eric
Apropos of our talk last night respecting your keen desire to go to the great war, I wish to pen you a line or two. I have to ask you a very hard thing, namely to put your love for your mother in front of your fixed idea of your duty to State. The decision on your part to serve at the front would end her life with worry so I ask you to spare that life for you and your sister, and also for myself. The law of love for a mother overrules all but the deepest call of state or country.
Always your friend and best chum
Dad’

In the circumstances, back then, he well knew that he was asking me to make the hardest of calls, given the pressure at the time for all men of my age, who were reasonably of sound health, to sign up. He was well aware of how many in the community would brand me with cowardice and I know it was not a plead he took lightly in the making. Such was my respect I acceded to his wishes.

Thank you for bearing with me for these few words. I will continue to dearly lament the passing of my father for some time.

Now as a father myself I have, since that sojourn to TMAG, often thought what a thing it was for that other father, long ago, to make such a request of a son. How much it must of taken out of him to dissuade him from going – and how relieved he would have been that he was successful in that argument. I would imagine there would be some Muslim fathers around the country at the moment suffering in the same way, anxious that their sons not be tempted by the zealots of IS. In those years, though, the anguish of such a great number of parents, fearing a son joining up and facing the likelihood of death in a foreign land, must have taken a terrible toll. I thought on all that after I read that letter in the TMAG that morning.

No doubt Eric used the occasion, to a degree, to set the record straight – and all too soon another war would again sorely test him. He had already been appalled by what he had seen in earlier travels immediately after the first war, especially how the rest of the world treated the German people who were innocent pawns in the games their leaders had played in the years pre-1914. That and the letter would possibly prove instrumental in Eric deciding to become a conscientious objector, on religious grounds, during the next war. For that he lost his position at the Queen Victoria and was imprisoned.

Before he joined his father, Eric was a teacher, plying his calling at such places as Epping Forest, Devonport and Ulverstone. At the latter he met and married fellow chalkie, Freda Lloyd. After the Second World War Eric returned to his teaching career.

In his later years he became, to his own admittance, quite eccentric and reclusive, dedicating himself to a study of sea-life. He co-authored ‘Fishes of Tasmania’, published in 1983. He wrote over eleven thousand quatorzains, a form of verse – one every day. He was fatally hit by a car in 1987. Eric Scott was survived by a son, as well as two daughters, no doubt giving him also a great understanding of the import of that father’s letter he treasured to his dying day – a letter that may have saved a life. But at what cost to son and father?

queen vic

Website for the Queen Victoria Museum (above) = http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/qvmag/

Website for the ‘The Suspense is Awful – Tasmania and the Great War’, TMAG = ‘The Suspense is Awful – Tasmania and the Great War’.