All thumbs

March 20, 2020 at 6:52 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Hope springs …


Neighbour asks what I’m doing.


‘I’m planting a community victory garden.’


‘People will steal it.’


‘That’s kind of the idea.’


‘The snails will eat it.’


‘That’s why the walls are high.’


‘Oh, you’d be surprised what snails can achieve.’


‘Well, wish me luck.’


‘You’ll need it.’



Life is short; times are hard.

Gi’s a buck, to plant more chard! 🙂




March 23, 2018 at 3:59 am | Posted in Article | 2 Comments
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What could possibly go wrong.

Think you’re hot shit? You may be half right. Better to learn the awful truth from a pair of inveterate washouts than fall flat on your face before family and friends.

Especially if you owe them money.

We’re not your friends. As abject failures, we desperately want you to f*ck up too. But that doesn’t mean we’ll skimp on our dire advice.

You see, there’s only one thing more fun than watching shiny happy people crash and burn. And that’s watching them do so after failing to heed our strident warnings.

That calls for a special celebration. Which is why we turn every slimy stone to give you all the help you need (and ideally ignore).

Give your yang a yink.

For $444, we’ll examine your book idea, brand name, business venture, product design, capital acquisition project or other stupid, middle-aged thought bubble and list everything we can imagine that could go wrong.

Forewarned is forearmed. So, by having these obstacles and pitfalls flagged in advance, you won’t come a cropper at your most embarrassing moment.

And if you do happen to succeed, vengeance shall be thine. You can rub our sorry faces in the muck we chucked and force us to choke on our miserable words.

At which time, we’ll doff our shapeless, unfashionable caps, let you buy us lunch and say: well played!

Which part of NO don’t you understand?

If you’re surrounded by witless friends, vested toadies and grasping kin, who on Satan’s blasted Earth will ever tell you the truth about your latest folly?

We’ve wasted two lifetimes screwing up everything that moves, so we know all the angles.

Don’t blow four grand on a fart-catching business analyst to tell Brilliant You what you already know.

Use our bleak, narrow, expert assessment to drill down to the cracked Vegemite of boundless agony few souls can conceive, let alone discern.

Hello darkness! (Your new friend.)

Failure. It’s in our blood. Who better to spot it than two long-term depressives with PTSD and acute anxiety?

You go through life like everything’s fine. Thanks to our respective child abuse incidents, we leap at the squeak of a soft toy and can’t even use public toilets.

You like surprises. They leave us housebound for days. With ample time to see where you went wrong before you go there.

Despite four degrees and 60 years’ experience between us, we’ve failed at numerous careers, businesses and relationships. Today, we can’t even land a job at Bunnings – let alone hold it for ten pissing seconds.

Feast on our tears.

Our loss is your gain. We’ve failed again and again (and again) so you don’t have to.

You say fiesta, we say fiasco.

Call NaySayers.

And let us call your whole thing


If you enjoyed this post, you may wish to:

Your smallest kindness may spare us an early grave.

Pic by Melanie Hayes.

The very bad detective. Episode 3.

December 26, 2017 at 10:09 am | Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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9404949_2147e67e2a Retro Bar Crop

Episode 3. Food flight.

[Read from Episode 1.]

The dame and the detective exited via the window and clambered onto the fire escape.

Rushing down the ancient stairs, they dislodged a cloud of rust flakes that fluttered like deceptively dangerous Sultana Bran with extra iron and no sultanas.

The stairs went all the way to the bottom, but the detective, with an eye for theatre, flung himself onto a dumpster overloaded with soft-looking garbage bags.

This was an illusion, however, as the bags were filled with flourescent tubes illegally discarded by a mining firm seeking to greenwash its operations.

The dame contented herself by riding one of those drop-down ladders that often appear in these scenes.

She led the detective to the tavern across the road. Called the Metal Workers’ Bar, it also had a grill.

Inside, the lights were low. The detective hit his head on one and shards flew.

The barkeep proffered a box and told the detective to take his pick. He fumbled for a red globe, which only made things worse.

‘These lights are crazy; why don’t you turn them up?’

The barkeep snarled in the darkness. ‘I like downlights. And I haven’t painted the ceiling.’

The dame interposed herself and addressed the detective.

‘You want a drink?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I may want more.’

‘Sure; let’s start a tab.’

‘But I hate gambling.’

Later, in a dim booth, the dame watched the detective wipe drops from his hand. He felt her gaze and realised it wasn’t Andrew.

‘My beverage is leaking.’

‘You did ask for a shot glass.’

‘That barkeep calls it like it is.’

‘Perhaps you could drink the damn thing, instead of fiddling with it.’

‘I don’t like your tone, Ms Sutherland.’

She coloured.

‘Nor do I like how this is developing.’

‘Perhaps you’d prefer another booth.’

The detective reached for a grimy laminated menu.

‘I’m hungry. Shall we try the grill?’

The dame glanced with disdain. ‘How’re the reviews?’


‘Fine. I’ll have the debrecener.’

A young waitress appeared.

‘Hi, I’m Debra. I like magic.’

The detective smiled. ‘Hello Debra; we’ll have the debrecener, please.’

The waitress turned reddish-orange. ‘I’m afraid she’s not here.’


‘Debra senior.’

‘You name your sausages?’

‘No, that’s my mum.’

‘Your … mother is a sausage?’

‘No, she cooks them. That’s why you can’t have one. She’s missing.’

‘So, you haven’t … seen her.’


A customer entered the tavern, broke a light and used the spittoon.

The dame stacked the menus. ‘Thanks, Debra; we’ll have fish cakes with potato gems.’

‘I’m sorry; that’s on the kids’ menu.’

The dame looked around the squalid space. ‘You get a lot of kids in here?’


‘So you’ve probably got bags of potato gems laid on – with no takers.’

The waitress suppressed a sob. ‘It’s … true.’

The dame flexed the menus, striating them white.

‘Debra, honey, please get our damn order so we can get out of this dump.’

‘But the policy … ‘

‘There’ll be a big tip in it for you.’

‘Well, maybe … OK.’

The dame beamed. ‘Thanks, honey; and if anyone asks, we’re just a couple of big kids. Lookin’ at you.’

The detective made a sad face and the dame whirled.

‘Oh for Christ’s sake; what now?’

‘I’d rather have sea shanties … ‘

The barkeep signalled lights out.

If you enjoyed this post, you may wish to:

Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.

Pic by gwen.

Stay tuned for Episode 4!







Thanks to a Royal Commission

December 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Poem | 2 Comments
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P1040002 (1280x960)


The bed is for sale now.

The wallpaper’s gone.

The window is bigger.

The lights are all on.


The monster is missing,

But that’s no big deal.

He’s down at the big house,


Copping a feel.


The nightmares are leaving.

And so is the smell.

This room of my childhood.

No longer my cell.


The old moving finger,

That many pains writ,

Now pens a fresh panel:


Enough of this shit!


Go hawks

November 2, 2017 at 8:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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‘It says “NO HAWKERS”.’




Pic by British Library.


Song lines

September 2, 2017 at 8:23 am | Posted in Poem | 2 Comments
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I rather like

the Currawong.


And though it’s hard

to sing along,


It has a lovely,

lilting song


That makes things right

when they are wrong.



Pic by David Stanley.


Hassing’s Laws of Numismatics

August 13, 2017 at 7:38 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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‘Well, I must head off. I say … are you giving me the bird?’


Coins possess the faculties of the leader’s head stamped on them (sight, hearing, speech, smell) but can see only in the direction that side of the coin faces.

Coins can’t tell in which year they’re minted.

They’re obsessed with finding out, but must rely on other coins to tell them.

Older coins envy younger coins, and often lie when asked to read another coin’s year of manufacture.

Deprived of motor ability, coins develop extraordinary mental powers over time.

Obsessed with the desire to achieve movement, they constantly work on their powers of telekinesis. The skill takes many years of meditation and effort. Only 1% of coins ever achieve it, and then it’s severely limited to influencing movement initiated by external forces (e.g. willing the result of a toss, marginally changing the direction of a roll, upsetting a delicate balance, influencing the direction of descent).

Coins have no sense of touch and don’t feel sensation, but they’re highly emotional beings and do experience loneliness, claustrophobia and fear of death.

They’re very philosophical.

Most are gregarious, but all like to preserve their personal space.

Coins are asexual.

Coins get their kicks out of experiencing and relating to other coins varied and interesting uses, provided such uses don’t wear out their knurling.

When put together, coins invariably check out their surroundings, ask each other to identify their year of manufacture and compare stories of their experiences (or occasionally relate those of others).

Coins have phenomenal memories.

Coins compete to tell the best stories.

They are articulate and excellent storytellers.

They often exaggerate.

Coins have different personalities and form friendships and enemies quickly, based on the stories and attitude of the coins they mix with.

Coins have a deep fear of the mint, which periodically pulls currency out of circulation for destruction. The criterion for this is the state of the knurling on the coins’ edge.

Coins are therefore terrified of having this edge worn away. They despise high-wear scenarios (e.g. slot machines).

Coins are aware of the concept of reincarnation, but few really believe in it.



How does a coin find out for certain its year of manufacture?  (Mirror?)

Is it better to be permanently out of circulation (e.g. buried) or killed by the mint (with the possibility of reincarnation)?

Is it better to have a short life full of many experiences, or a long life with few or low impact experiences?

What would it have been like for all of the predecimal coins when they discovered the imminent arrival of the new currency? Will it be the same when we get a new monarch or become a Republic?

What was the best (high interest, low wear) use to which a coin was ever put?

What was the worst (low-interest, high-wear) use to which a coin was ever put?

What do coins think about paper money?



Creation and entombment inside the cardboard roll. Birth into the cash register.  Travelling overseas: high interest, balanced with risk of being lost.

Dropped into the sea. Boredom and loneliness is the price of long life.

The sixpence. Surviving against the odds. Death on any given day.

The oldest coin in the world.

The New Zealand and Hong Kong clans. Ostracized and lonely. Trying to get home.

The bank robbery loot.

Trapped in the Eiffel Tower. Rescued by a boy with chewing gum and a straw.

Trapped in the tar at a busy intersection. Knowing that next Summer promises burial.  Saved by a can-collecting man on an old tricycle.

Inside the child’s money-box (along with the buttons).

At the bottom of the giant beer can.

The poker game.

The two-up game. Skewing the stats.

The secondary school mathematics (probability) experiment. Skewing the stats for a lark

At the pub. Looking up at the coins stuck to the bar. (Face down, great. Face up, sound only.)

The spinster who washed her coins with Tarn-Off.

Being bent.

Collector coins. Immortality, at the price of sitting in a velvet box forever. Taken out at meetings to interact with other crushingly boring pieces.

Returning to ‘the womb’ at irregular intervals. The joy of rebirth at the risk of being pulled out of circulation.

Dropped down the drain and into the sewer system.

The boy who drills holes in a coin for fun.

Made into jewellery.

Swallowed by a baby.

The coins under the back seats of cars in a junk yard. Will they be rescued before the cars are crushed and recycled?

Carrying a nick, knowing for sure that the next trip to the mint will be the last.

The paradox that younger coins carry an older image of the monarch.

Sitting in the ashtray of cars. Rivalry for the most impressive vehicle. Even Rolls Royces have coins in their ash trays.

The homeless person, needing only one more coin for his flagon of wine.

The tip tray at the cafe.

The windscreen washer at the intersection.

The roadside collection.

Pinball machine. Noise and light. Movement.

The gum ball machine.

Teasing a new coin about its year of manufacture.

The coin that determines who serves first at Wimbledon or which team decides play direction at the AFL Grand Final, with millions watching.

The coin thrown into a fountain to make a wish. Normally tourist destinations, so this coin may get to hang with coins from different countries.


Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.


Pic by Wikipedia.






August 11, 2017 at 6:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Bryce Courtenay


This writing advice from Bryce Courtenay is the best I’ve ever received.

My intensely supportive wife (who knows me as Feisty) stood long in a line to reach him.

She told him how I wanted to write, but didn’t know how.

Bryce’s candour was a bit of a shock to her.

She worried how I’d take it.

But it was precisely the boot up the arse (ass) I needed.

So, my deepest thanks to these remarkable people.

May my efforts be worthy.

And may I not waste time.


Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.




The Mars Tiles

August 10, 2017 at 7:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This story ran in Eidolon magazine in 1999. My style has changed much, but I’ve resisted the temptation to ‘fix’ everything. Therefore, please consider this an ‘artefact’.

While sitting on the toilet of my rented worker’s cottage last Saturday night, I became aware of something that had been staring up at me for months. My floor tiles are not rectangles of slate. They are in fact textured photographic plates of the surface of Mars, coated with a protective epoxy resin. Though I find it more exciting to have images of Mars on my floor than common slate, I can’t imagine that the arrangement is permanent. Further, I feel strongly that my new awareness has placed me in danger.

It was late and I was drunk. To prevent the toilet from spinning, I was rocking and trying to focus. My gaze eventually fell to the floor, whereupon my disinhibition allowed me to penetrate the tiles’ disguise. Heedless of time, I stared in wonder at spectacular canyons, towering volcanoes, dry ocean beds and massive craters. The detail was incredible – superior to anything that’s been on TV. The planet looked like a raw, early Earth. But that comparison falls way short of the truth. Mars is so much more… epic. It’s maddening; the words don’t exist to describe what I saw. How can they, until we’ve been there to invent them?

At first my discovery seemed accidental. Then I recalled a prelude. I was surprised on viewing the cottage for the first time. It had just been renovated and I’d been impressed by the ancient, polished bedroom floorboards and the sheer indulgence of slate through the rest of the house. I remembered thinking, ‘who lays slate in their lounge, kitchen, bathroom and toilet – especially in a rental property?’

Then there was my criticism of the renovations after moving in. They’d looked fantastic during the agent’s tour, but fell apart under scrutiny. Doors had been badly rehung; the paint had drips and bristles and many floorboards were cracked, pitted and badly filled. Shabby work; except for the tiles. They had been immaculately laid. The other renovations seemed desperately ham-handed in comparison, as if seeking to draw attention from the perfect floor.

Finally, there was the anvil. I’d picked it up at a garage sale, since it looked like the one in ‘The Road Runner Show’. While hefting it though the house, I tripped. Fifty kilos of hardened steel plummeted pointy-end first into the lounge room floor. I should say onto the lounge room floor, because the anvil not only failed to shatter the tiles, it didn’t even mark their clear coating. It actually bounced twice before coming to rest.

That my tiles are textured photographic plates of Mars makes sense of the foregoing phenomena. They have been hidden in my home. By the Americans. In a place the rest of the world will never think to look. Until it’s safe to retrieve them.

After my discovery, I began to feel frightened.

The tiles had been laid immediately prior to my tenancy. Was I their unwitting guardian? I thought back to my tour, how the agent had drawn me away from the meandering competition to say she liked me and would put three ticks on my form. Though unemployed, I beat fifteen other applicants. Had she selected me because I was too stupid to notice the plates? Or was I someone who on recognising them, would realise the importance of keeping the secret? When I summoned the courage to ring her this week, I was told she’d been transferred. They wouldn’t say where. Since then I’ve received notice of an inspection that wasn’t due for five months. They’re coming tomorrow.

Yesterday I found one of my rubbish bins smashed. The old security door I’d propped against my rear lane entrance had fallen. Yet there’s been no wind. I suspected a burglar, but nothing was missing.

It’s now Friday night – almost a week since my discovery. I’ve just spent an hour taking Polaroids of the tiles. None has come out properly, though all the lights are on. Only those taken near the skirting boards bear any resemblance to their subject. The walls are crystal clear, but there’s only black where the tiles should be. I tried to chip a piece off one of them after I ran out of film, and nearly brained myself with my mechanic’s hammer. It bounced back with more force than I’d put into the blow. My telephone has rung three times. Each time I’ve picked it up, there’s been silence. I put my answering machine on and there hasn’t been a call since. ‘Skat’, my cat, refuses to come inside.

I’m writing this because I feel too foolish to tell anybody. Reading it over I feel better, since it all sounds like crap. Dave, my best friend (my only friend) is coming over. We’ll get pissed and I’ll read him this and he’ll laugh himself silly. The night is very quiet. A van has pulled up; I can see it through the gap in my curtains. White Mitsubishi: nothing threatening about that.

Ah, here’s Dave, running up my stairs. I’ve got to go.


They say I look good for 35.

I’m 31.

Still, I know I’ve been here a while. I have injection scars on both arms. I’m fatter too.

Dave came to see me today. He’s still my best mate. I couldn’t help myself – I had to ask again what happened, even though it meant loss of privileges. They had him out of the booth before I’d even finished my sentence. Poor Dave. He only ever gave away that one morsel when he first saw me here. He was rattled and I was together enough to exploit that. I’ve never hurt a living creature in my life. If there’s only one thing I know for sure, I never touched Skat. I saw the look in Dave’s eyes though. He believes them, whatever they told him. The Americans. So why does he keep visiting?

Maybe he feels guilty about living in my old house. It’s all open plan now, apparently. The owner gutted it after the fire. The floor’s been carpeted. Whacko; it’ll be warmer in winter.

I get ‘New Scientist’ in here with the staples removed. The other month they ran a Mars special. I leafed through it till Mills snatched it from me to make hats. I didn’t bother chasing him. I’d seen all the pictures before.

I look forward to bath time. They let us lie as long as we want. Until the water gets cold if we like. I enjoy floating and staring at the ceiling. Just the other week, I noticed patterns in the flaking paint above me. I thought I saw a huge blueprint, covering the whole room. I have a theory, but the ceiling’s too high for me to test it. I’m going to have to wait until one of the paint flakes falls. This will be difficult, since I only have a bath every third day. So I’ve decided to map every flake. I’m going to start soon. That way, I’ll see if any are missing each time I come here. If I wait long enough and no paint flakes fall, I’ll know they’re not really paint flakes. Then I’ll find a way, somehow, to get up to that ceiling and find out what’s really going on in this joint.

Pic by NASA.

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.



On spec

August 9, 2017 at 9:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Long ago, but not very far away, a young man wandered with scant purpose

through Melbourne’s CBD.

He happened upon a bookshop (now gone) specialising in speculative fiction.

In its window was a handsome periodical (now defunct) dedicated to same.

The man was young enough to vow – and mean it – that one day his writing would appear

in that magazine.

In rather less time than anyone expected, this dream came gloriously true.

Twenty years on, the same man writes

to remind himself

why he is here.

And what he can achieve

if he follows his dreams to

the end.


Brought to you by Imagine Day.




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