Tuesday, 22 March 2011

My Mona Lisa - Magpie 59

Magpie 59 - For more Writers click here

I love a room that's big and blank

calm and clean and


Freshly painted with

light pouring in

reflecting from the off white walls.

A place to meditate on nothingness

absorbing a zen moment

breathing ......space

but then .....

I love a home with character

full of personality and

a lifetime of stories

Walls filled with paintings

and hangings and collectables

each with their history

Surfaces crammed with photos

and objects from childhood

and reminders of exotic destinations

And one of which I never tire

a spirit painting beguiling me every day

with its unfathomable meaning

Beyond my understanding

from a country I can never inhabit

my Mona Lisa.

Spirit Wife

Wandjina Spirit ............................ Enigmatic Spirit

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Saint Patrick's Colonoscopy

It's Saint Patrick's Day. I'm overwhelmed. I'm sitting in the waiting room of the day procedures area of the Mater Misericordia Hospital. I'm feeling green, but not with Irish joy. Someone has played a joke on me and scheduled my ten yearly colonoscopy for this holy day.

I've spent the previous night forcing down three litres of Colonlytely, a liquid specially designed to take all pleasure away from the act of drinking. I can remember vile medicines from my childhood but they rarely required more than the intake of a tablespoonful. This is in a league of its own. It's CIA water torture. The first glass is bearable; the second, I think, yes I can do this; the third and I begin to realise how long the night will be. It's taken me an hour and i still have nine glasses to come.

I resort to various methods to bypass my tastebuds. I tip a mouthful as far back in my mouth as possible, minimising contact with the sides and gulp it down in one swallow. It kind of works. I hold my nose believing, falsely, in the story that our sense of smell is integral to our sense of taste. I still taste it. I search in vain through all the kitchen cupboards for a straw which I hope might deliver this stuff directly to my guts. I put it in the freezer to chill it to a temperature which will only register as extremely cold and disguise the taste. I open a bottle of soda water and sip between each mouthful. I'm still only at glass five.

And then the evil desired effect begins. I don't get much warning before the explosion hits and I regret that I am wearing button up shorts which don't exactly fling themselves to the floor. My family is not familiar with my Abbott and Costello funny walk but they're going to get to see reruns of it for the next few hours. I sit on the pedestal and wonder why anyone would choose to design a medication which induces diarrohea. It's bad enough when it arrives without planning and here I am filling up one end only to have it all reappear at the other as if my bowels were a drive through.

The nurse at the desk calls my name. She's wearing her green ribbon and engages me in mock Irish banter. She's well and truly claimed her Irish heritage and tells me her life story and genealogical bloodline. Meanwhile I'm more concerned about the possibility of Murphy's Law imposing itself on my day. I have an irrational fear of this simple procedure. My last words to my wife as I stepped from the car were instructions as to my fate should I emerge from the anaesthetic in a permanent vegetative state.

Robyn, hardly an Irish name, puts me through my paces; asks me a lot of silly questions about my past life; dresses me in a back to front gown to make me look like a character from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest then saves the day by adding a Hugh Hefner fluffy white dressing gown as my top layer. She makes a point of telling everyone that she and I are the same age. I'm not sure if this is to boost my ego, her ego, or is simply her daily way of coping with the reality of the ageing process - finding someone the same age who may be about to have their last day on the planet. It's just another day for her.

And then I'm sure Murphy has arrived. The anaethetist, a lovely woman, the wife of the doctor doing my procedure can't get the needle into the first vein she tries, or the second. It's starting to feel like I back drinking my three litres of poison. Then, on the third try, with my panic slowly rising, she succeeds and I ask what I should expect but don't hear the answer. Next thing I'm woken and told it's all over and I'm in the recovery ward. I say no I just got here. The anaethetist was just putting the needle in I say. The nurse explains that the anaesthetic they use results in a complete inability to recall anything while under, even though you can still follow instructions. Was that invented by the CIA I ask or by the medical system to minimise litigation

I survived. I doubt if Saint Patrick ever had such an experience, though being enslaved by the Celts for years on end may have rated. He died of old age it seems. Well before the advent of modern medicine or the triumph of the Irish Catholics in evangalising the world with their papist nuns and other religious orders. Famously Irish priests have always had a fondness for a drink so perhaps we can thank them for bringing Guinness across the waves to the new world as well as for saving our souls.

More Magpie Tales here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Country Funeral

Sorry. I edited this slightly and "Blogger" won't accept my formatting. I am pretty good at paragraphs generally. Maybe read it as a james Joyce stream of consciousness. My Ulysses. START HERE................................................................. We haven’t seen Terry here much over the years said the Catholic priest as he welcomed an overflowing church to Terry’s funeral service. He was a salt of the earth bloke, a plumber who solved problems and did good in the community the priest went on and, unable to resist the temptation, told the story of how no one else could figure out how to fix the drainage problem which was threatening to swallow the classroom beside the presbytery until he called Terry. You stick to being a god expert and I’ll look after the plumbing and we’ll get along fine was Terry’s direct advice to the padre. Paul and I had almost missed the service. We’d travelled from Brisbane over the border into New South Wales the night before and it was only that we thought we were early that we realized that we were in fact late. At Paul’s insistence we had booked into the Murwillumbah Youth Hostel and had been told that there was an excursion on into Greenmount for a jazz night leaving at six forty five. The key would be under the witch’s hat if we were running late. The hostel sits high on the northern bank of the Tweed River overlooking one of god’s great waterways. Paul and his son had done an open water marathon ‘river’ swim here the year before and fallen in love with the place. I understood why. Now two men dressed in shorts and wearing sandals, looking every bit the couple, pulled up outside the blue facade and followed a painted red line leading through the gate to a courtyard and then to the office. Every surface was decorated in primary colours, We were greeted by Tassie who was in a bit of a rush, having already placed the key in the secret location known by half the backpacking population on the eastern seaboard. He directed us along another blue line which led up the stairs of the old colonial house and to the dorms. We were in hippy country. Perhaps the lines were a remnant of the days when everyone was so stoned they needed a simple system to guide them home. Turns out Tassie was as old as us, having arrived as a refugee from the cold of Tasmania thirty years earlier and never left. He was still wearing his original wrap around cotton trousers by the look of their ageing faded state. It was at this check-in point that we discovered we were now on New South Wales daylight saving time and we’d lost an hour. We declined the jazz excursion and headed into town for a meal. Twenty years ago it would have been take away Chinese or burgers served at the local Greek Cafe, ironically named the Australia Cafe or the Majestic but tonight there was a choice of two Thai restaurants both of which were packed on this Wednesday evening. Eating out in a country town invariably means an early night so after a bottle of wine and a Red Curry we headed back to our bunk beds in the men’s dorm. The next morning we left two young European backpackers snoring in their borrowed sheets and headed for Mullumbimby and the unexpected funeral of the father of our close work colleague. Mullumbimby is off the highway and is the gateway to the wild hills behind a lush coastal plain. The hills are home to large numbers of alternative lifestylers who arrived her in the 60s, the Age of Aquarius. The village of Nimbin sits further west in the foothills of the ranges and is their spiritual home. It’s every bit as iconic in Australia as is Woodstock in the States. Mullum is a sleepy town with one main street and a number of cross streets which house a series of pubs, one on each corner, and one of every type of essential store – hardware, newsagency, drapery, livestock and produce, a couple of banks, second hand clothing store and a smattering of cafes. It’s hard to get lost. We followed our noses across the bridge and as we rounded the first bend we were confronted with what looked like the crowd for the grand final of the local footy derby. There were cars everywhere. The church was worse. Ten minutes before the service was to begin it was standing room only and already three of four deep around the perimeter of this not inconsequential building. Terry had pulling power. What struck me were the men. Rarely had I seen such a gathering of tattoos, beards, crew cuts, and open-necked shirts. The place was crawling with country boys. There were women there, and they were country women, but the men and their work boots dominated. If you want a big funeral die young. Terry was only fifty seven, his wife looked like a young girl and the average age of the congregation was well below fifty. There was a bit of god stuff, the priest couldn’t help himself, but the most moving tribute was a short piece written by his Frances, his widow. It was a simple piece, the type you’d hope you might hear at your own funeral. ‘I remember the first time I saw you’ she said. She’d written it, not about, but to Terry. She talked about his eyes and his cheeky grin. We were all there, looking through her eyes. Nearly forty years ago. Two teenagers in love. Still. Terry was a footy player in his youth, then a coach. He took on and mentored dozens of apprentice plumbers, many of whom now competed for business with him. They were all there. The mates, the kids now grown up, and his grandchildren. At the Mullum Football Clubhouse the crowd who followed to drink and eat to his memory had packed the place. It was a district event. Every village and small town for thirty miles was represented – Byron Bay, Ocean Shores, Bangalow, Brunswick Heads. Terry had obviously plumbed or coached much of the north coast. And every bakery had been enlisted to fill the tables with a colourful array of traditional country tucker. I haven’t seen as many custard slices, coconut delicacies, corned beef and pickle sandwiches and party pies since I was a kid at the engagement party of my Aunty Ella in 1956. I almost expected to see a platter of multi coloured hundreds and thousands (fairy bread) emerge from the kitchen. There was a slide show of Terry as a young man, a family man and then as a grandfather. His ruddy complexion glowed from the screen. I’m sure it didn’t do him justice. The mourners drank on. Therese introduced us to her mother and sister and nephew. It was the nephew who may have got closest to Terrys direct relationship with the world. We were introduced to him as Theresa’s mates from Brisbane. He looked at us quizzically, Theresa added, as if to help him make sense of us, ‘I worked with them.’ He paused and said ‘before they gave you the sack.’ The honest voice of the 12 year old country boy. We all laughed at his audacity. I never met Terry but felt his presence that day, right there, in that moment. There, also, was the voice of our colleague. Theresa, direct and to the point. I’d never quite got used to that part of her. Now I understood where it was coming from.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

International Women's Day

Andrea has been nominated to attend an International Women's Day lunch today. Ironically the dress code at the Brisbane Club specifies that women must wear jackets. So there she is at 7am dragging out a jacket to iron to comply with the requirements. It's a lovely red 'power' jacket but it seemed a bit odd that a woman couldn't choose to make the judgement herself. A skirt and blouse was not good enough.

On the reverse side of things. I have a painter working at my place at the moment. His International Women's Day story (though he didn't label it as such) concerned his wife of 28 years leaving him recently. In his words 'she left me for a horse' It turns out she has developed a deep affection for this animal and declined to move to the city from the country after a ten year stint and has chosen to live in a stable with her true love. 'Fancy being cuckoled by a horse' he said. He has returned to Brisbane to be near the water and his boat.

As Andrea pointed out the other side of the story may be that he left his wife for a boat.
Life is funny!