Category Archives: Non-Fiction

the smell of his neck

The second he got to third gear you’d lean over and kiss his neck. He smelled of Old Spice. His neck could bring you undone. His grin was a child’s except for the twisted teeth, one discoloured even then. If you stopped he’d say More More. Child again. He drove his parents’ Morris Minor estate, sage green. You were still at school. On Sundays he’d drive you to the common where the elderberries were ready to pick or Weston-Super-Mare out of season. There was an old army blanket in the back.

This was the routine. Kiss, lick, nuzzle. Open glovebox. Look for evidence. He’d feign shock but love the audacity of it. Once you found the Mason’s handbook and read about Solomon’s Temple and he tells you he’s stolen it from his father’s leather envelope where the secrets are stored. You giggle together when you imagine your serious fathers with their badgery eyebrows, left breasts bared, trousers rolled up to the knee, noose somewhere, memorising the chant; Anglican Proddie Ooogie Boogie Mumbo Jumbo.

In the pub it’s Babycham for you, a beer for him, warm and flat. Later you will choose a ring from an antique shop, rose cut diamond with EL and GH engraved inside. Who were they and what happened to them?

In the city one Saturday there’s a Mcalls pattern that’s just right, Guinevere style with a stiff high collar, long sleeves, primrose voile with tiny white polkadots. He tells you what the house will be like. A stone cottage by a river. And that you will have one son. You realise you’ve never dreamed awake or asleep about such things. You dream about the woman who brings you leather bound books, sometimes the tide comes in too fast.

The vicar of the church by the river asks you why you are doing this. The men are doing all the talking while you find yourself floating somewhere above the altar and into the stained glass window, the richness of blue and the folds in the cloak spiriting you further and further away.

First published in Flash, UK. 2012

church

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glacial karma

glacierJumping out under the blade-slap, whop-whop rotors of the blue helicopter we did the blackest diamond run. Clicking tips, Rossignol red, we carved ghost tracks into the gentle face of Franz Josef, an ice age in retreat. In the cafe we kept our beanies on. Steam erupted from the gagging coffee machine. Cloud-breath evaporated. Slicks formed from boot-drip on the timber floor. In the air you could smell hot chips, someone in the chair opposite was eating a hot dog. I drank chocolate, melting to marshmallow at the thought of how we’d taunted that giant.

On the bus back down the wind screamed up in a white out. We sheltered behind pale blue panels of the rusting bus. Snow shagging off branches. Bodies with limbs like twigs could have been poking out of the snow. Marooned in the remote, we were black ice, white knuckles away from that. We listened to windows splintering under hundred mile an hour spleen, bus heaving its warning, plates shifting in glacial memoir, or was it humour?

Later at Happy Hour we drank Bourbon, ice clinking its thawing ways
against the sides of thick glass.

First appeared online in Penduline, (US)  New Zealand Issue, 2012

could you give a rat’s?

roo

 

Australia Day is a scorcher. Couldn’t I just go to the counter and get my certificate?  I’ve been in this country for decades, voting, using expressions like beaut and good on ya. When people ask how I am I don’t say Well, thank you, I say Good.

I want to go down the beach. That’s what it means to be an Aussie. But here I am, lining up with a hundred and forty others at Hawthorn Town Hall armed with a pledge, a badge and a tissue in case I wet myself or find something up my nose, travelling south. After thirty years I’m here to become Australian.

The foyer is like a holding pen at a shearers’ bash in Bourke. Hordes are milling, spruced like dogs’ dinners. The Indian women are splendid in saris of ochre, turquoise and peacock green, their piercings  are elegant and exotic. But the men look uncomfortable in cheap, dark suits that are too big. Their stiff collars ride up under their ears. Think Aziz in Passage to India. They wear ties. What are they?

This is unAustralian but secretly I hope it will take on. Something needs to replace tracky-dacks and tee-shirts and homage to stretch everything. Australians dress like their children. Tits, bums and balls bounce about like pumpkins on party drugs. It’s enough to put you off your rocket salad.

There’s a pair of white runners. One, mercifully. White runners have spread like a bad virus world wide with all generations infected, particularly older Australians and grey nomads in RSL clubs who can be spotted eating the Roast of the Day using a Seniors Card and spilling gravy on these ugly bunion concealers. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a pair. This pair is on a fellow Pommy which is typical and ironic since the British neither walk nor run. They drink and make a lot of noise. The British are responsible for introducing several bad practices to this country and bad dress is only one of them.  Whingeing and queueing are others.

As a Pom myself, I feel uncomfortable and faintly passé. I shouldn’t be here at all. Not any more. Not at my age. I should have stayed home in the cold, moaning about the Government, the weather, the price of petrol, resigned to my ugly regional accent that I still haven’t managed to disguise.

We’re given numbers and herded into the hall. It’s like lining up at Safeway for a roast chook on a Saturday morning. Aussies now accept queuing, so new citizens will have no trouble assimilating here. Australians are now so good at waiting in lines that they will camp out for days in the hope of getting a ticket to the cricket, a 60c stamp, fifty dollars of their own money, and for the chance to get to work over the Westgate Bridge.

Surrounded by these young hopefuls with smiling, distinctly non-Western faces, I think, What can I contribute to this country now; arthritis, early onset dementia, general irritation with everything?

Anyway, there’s not another country that would take me now. The US might, temporarily, but only if I came with a Latino accent, a toilet duck and a scrubbing brush. Sweden wouldn’t because I’m not a natural blond and I’ve so far resisted the temptations of IKEA.  France wouldn’t take me because I won’t eat brains and I don’t piss in the street. I shave my underarms and I think the parterre at Versailles has no charm.

At the end of the ceremony, (pronounced cereMONY, thanks America), it was time to sing the National Anthem. Our new citizens didn’t have a hope of getting through this in spite of the words on the screen but they tried very hard. In this way they were fully assimilated already. Not the trying hard bit. The Prime Minister is the only Australian who can sing our anthem. The rest ofAustralia, particularly footballers lined up before a match with vacant eyes and emptier heads couldn’t give a rat’s arse. And that’s another expression a New Arrival’s going to find handy.

Our land is ….WHAT??  Girt by sea. Yeah! Work that one out.

Our new citizens are younger than me. I have the whitest, wrinkliest skin, the shortest name and the widest arse, except for one obvious American in patterned Crimplene. She is girt by lard.

When presented as Australian, many cried, overcome with emotion. I felt embarrassed about being old, privileged and British and past my best-by date. But I would like to assure you that I would still chant Warnie, Warnie, if he appeared on our cricket pitch rubbing a red stain into his white pants. I even let my cynical self go and cried when Bindi got up and spoke about her dad, and continued to sniffle as I watched the  ute nose its way out of the Crocoseum.

It could be that I’m a true blue Aussie after all; a mongrel, like the rest a youse.