Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Anal Fish – Cautionary Camping Tales

Camping is unnatural. It’s a fraught state of affairs. It’s blighted and unnatural.

Here’s why - and every word is true.

1998 – Cromer (a bitterly cold pointless part of the UK)

There’s a man my age who most likely wakes up at night wondering if a nude photo of him is about to surface on the internet. 18 years ago he was in the shower the same campsite as me and by dint of the fact that he had the same trainers as me he ended up with a camera jammed under the stall door by 3 of my friends and a photo being taken from the floor up.

My friends then ran off cackling thinking they had just snapped a shot of me nude and proceeded to bump into me moments later by our tent. They did a double take and as they turned they saw a white faced guy dash from the stalls, dripping wet, head whipping every which way. He fled back to his tent and the next morning he was gone.

That night one of my friends ate a tea bag. The reason? He was 20 and someone had said “I dare you to.” During the night he threw it up in the middle of the tent.

1999 - Bournemouth (a bitterly cold pointless part of the UK)

There is a bag of white pills buried in a field. 

The pills found their way into my pocket while we were at a nightclub on way too much Red Bull and Vodka. We were on a Stag / Bucks weekend for two grooms and we were 21 and ridiculous. We danced topless until bouncers told us to put our shirts back on. We were all freshly tattooed, pierced and long haired. Damn but we were.......twats.

At some point during the evening I felt someone bump into me, then saw two bouncers chasing a chap with lank sweaty hair. Being drunk I thought nothing more of it and later we staggered back to our tents ready to pass out, safe in the knowledge that being 21 hangovers were cured by a cup of tea.

In the morning I woke up to find pills scattered all around the tent. I looked down and saw them spilling out of my back pocket. Each had a little bird logo in the middle. Loaded with red bull paranoia I gathered them together and ran out of my tent, convinced the polite English version of the DEA was about to appear.

I scraped a hole in the ground with bare fingers and buried the pills in their air tight bag and went and sat in my car, ready to tear out of the campsite at the sign of the first flashing blue light.

And the aftermath of the stag / bucks weekend? 

Of the 13 of us who went 3 returned home having made the leap from heterosexual to homosexual.

2003 - Nymboida River in NSW (a sun blasted alien landscape)

A little jut of land, trees, cask wine and no kids yet.

The first day there and I was shown a shovel for when I needed the toilet. Flies droned, the sun beat down, and my sister in laws dog snuffled around at everything. I delayed the moment where I would need the shovel for as long as I could until finally I marched off up the hill to find a secluded spot. Every secluded spot was draped in cobwebs or sparkling with potential snake scales.

Flies clustered on my face and t shirt, nudging at my lips for whatever moisture they could find. Finally deciding that one blighted dead spot of earth was as good as the next I dug a shallow hole and positioned myself uncomfortably.

Immediately the flies became Catholic Priests and started touching me inappropriately. The feeling of flies on your back side when you are trying to move a motion in bowel court is not one anyone should know.

Resolving to be done as swiftly as possible I sweated, focussed and wiped. I wondered if I could constipate myself through will alone for the next 5 days.

Finally I went to stand and being unused to this crouched fly blown posture I misjudged my balance – and fell backwards into my own pit toilet.

2004 - Barrington Tops NSW (a leafy place, almost seemed nice until…)

A lovely day reading. My wife lay on my blanket all day on the ground; I lay uncomfortably but tried to relax. My father in law lay unaware of rocks and stones and ants merrily reading and sipping wine.

Come tea time we needed a fire and my father in law went crashing into the bus singing to himself, snatching wood from everywhere and returning with a pile of the size of a shed. He called my wife over – Can you check my beard? I think there is a spider in it.

I went into the bush myself, hoping to find at least one piece of wood. I picked up a branch or two. A third one. I shook a spider off of a fourth one and then gave the branch back to the spider so as not to offend it. It watched me as I walked away and I watched it, so did not see the hole in the ground. I stumbled into it, seeing white paper and flies. I realised very quickly after stumbling that I had fallen into a previous campers pit toilet. So not content with falling into a pit toilet once, I had now done of for a second time but this time the shit was not my own.

Later we retired to bed. My wife gave me my blanket and she shrugged into her sleeping bag and commented – We’ll have to get you a sleeping bag one of these days – and promptly passed out. Drunk I passed out as well, and woke up shortly after shaking violently. I was freezing cold and incoherent. I sat up and pulled my knees to me, blowing my breath under the blanket to try and raise the temperature. My wife snored as I drew near death and I loathed her sleeping bag. I reached for the car keys, thinking that maybe it would be warmer in the car. I staggered out and went to the car, as I opened the door my wedding ring fell from my finger; I was so damn cold I was physically shrinking. I could feel my nipples starting to snap off. My teeth were shaking loose. I was an assortment of parts with the hinges breaking.

I sat in the car for ten minutes and started seeing wisps’ of light and hearing fairies giggling and grinding teeth at me. I went to my wife and woke her, stammering about dying and freezing and other such melodrama. She fetched her father - and indignity followed with him. He turned the car engine on, ran the heater and started packing me in his clothing. He put his shirts on my legs; he packed his trousers around my chest and then pulled two pairs of his boxers over my head. The shivering stopped as I warmed up, he clicked the engine off and I fell asleep, wrapped in everything my father in law owned and still wearing his boxer shorts on my head like a hat.

If anyone else has woken in the morning with their father in laws undies pulled down over their head and face please let me know so we can drink together.

2008 – Hell, NSW (Hell, hell, hell, hell)

We arrived at a place that I commented looked like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sun blasted earth, desiccated trees, dry river bed and mad horses foaming and a feeling of abandonment, as though reason left a long time ago and left only despair.

We pulled up to a shack and climbed from the car, we had kids now and my son barrelled from the vehicle as I picked up my daughter. My father in law shouted cooee and the ranger came into sight. He had severe facial scaring and the Texas Chainsaw world lurched back at me.

My father in law commented that we’d like a spot by the water and before he could finish the faceless man snapped – I know what you want and you can’t have it. You camp near the river and those kids’ll die. I’ve seen it happen. They’ll die. You camp over there away from the water. If you don’t – there’ll be death.

He turned away and we camped where he had pointed. All night he played episodes of The Bill loudly from his shack of death, adding an additional scurrility to the scene as London Police sirens wailed and taunted me with urban murderous comfort.

Searching for firewood my then 3 year old son marched happily and assisted in dragging back tree trunks crawling with creatures the like of which Jules Verne could not have conceived. I carried small twigs and was complemented for finding kindling.

After that I largely withdrew from camping. My wife took the kids and I stayed home and wrote a book which was about living at a blighted sun scorched place previously owned by a man with no face and destroying it, burning it from the face of the planet. I charred away my horror and finished the book feeling purified.

The book almost got published, 5th out of 362 entries. The publishers told me though that they found the premise and the place slightly unbelievable. I tucked the manuscript away and hoped camping had been contained within it never to be seen again.

2011 – The Road, Victoria

It hadn’t.

My wife inflicted a road trip on me Christmas last year and we ended up at Wilsons Promontory. The part about our car dying on the 23rd December and the Ute I was forced to drive and such like I’ll leave out. Wilsons is stunning but I still managed to fall into a wombat hole in the pitch darkness. I was alone in the dark stuck in a hole hoping that the wombat wasn’t in it. I’d dropped the car keys as I fell, and my wallet, and had to find them by touch alone.

2012 – Scrap of dirt, NSW

I went camping a few months back without the wife. She was studying and there was a family meet up on a splint of land off a distant road by a river. I drove, got lost and finally found them and pitched the tent and lost all my tent pegs. Turns our they were under the tent I had just pitched but I wouldn’t know that until I took the tent down.  

The kids immediately settled in to camp life, stripping and splashing in the river. I saw the shovel and knew this would be a weekend of not only digging holes for me to use but also digging them for the kids and crouching as they went so they didn’t fall over.

Toes found it hilarious going to Daddy Toilet.

2012 – Bents Basin NSW

Last weekend I went camping again, sans wife. This time it was with work mates. Leaving, I apologised to the kids in advance.

Bear – We know Dad, you’ll get lost and shout.

Me – I will mate.

I did. But I found the site and being there first I picked a spot under a tree and in 42 degree heat I put up the tents on my own while the kids heckled me for swimming time. Both tents up – they weren’t beautiful but they were up – I took the kids to the lake. They both jumped in, I waded in, and the heat of the day leeched away and I sank down quite content. We splashed around for an hour before heading back and finding my colleagues setting up.

I lit a fire and I had the strange moment of experiencing someone less adept at camping than me and having to tell them how to put up a tent. Shortly afterwards  there was a cry of Yaahhhh ahhhhh oyyy shit as they saw the kind of spider I have become inured to.

I felt quite capable. I fed the kids, I had 2 tents standing, I had a beer and all was well.

The following day Bear burst into my tent at 5am with Angry Birds chortling on the iPad. I groaned but endured and was soon happily killing pigs with my Luke Skywalker Bird – the middle of no where with an iPad is easier.

The others woke up and one of my friends gave me bacon and a fried egg cooked in fried bread (considering I can barely cook beans when camping I found this remarkable) and I sipped tea and felt the day begin to sting heat wise.

We went to the lake and the kids threw themselves in and stayed there. I sat on the shore chatting and again thought maybe this isn’t so bad. We ate lunch, we smiled, we dwelt in a nice picturesque F Scott Fitzgerald like bubble of ‘just before’ – just before things went wrong.

Australia exists to bite you. Everything has teeth, I pointed out an ant to my less camping experienced then me friend and he shouted Wow oh bugger what the hell is that? The ant was about a centre metre long and had lengthy yellow teeth at the head end. If you listened closely you could hear its footsteps. Kookaburras sat in the trees with their meat shredding beaks. Spiders hung in the bushes with their teeth dripping.

All of it seemed less threatening to me though as for once there was someone there who was more intimidated than me. I even suggested we do a weekend camp at the place with no face so I could enjoy seeing someone more disturbed than I had been.

Post lunch we went back to the lake. The kids swam, I loosely watched my two from behind a book, and we chatted amiably about nothing much. In the water before us was something called a Bullrout fish. We didn’t know this, we didn’t know it had venomous spines on its back and its anus. What kind of creature needs anal spines?

My friend, who’d fed me bacon so who I liked even more than before, stepped into the water and the anus of the fish stabbed her.

A Bullrout sting – and she had three though we did not know what had stung her at that time – is spectacularly painful, with the patient being badly distressed, restless and often tearful. The pain worsened moment by moment and her distress grew. She said afterwards There was a point where I knew I was absolutely not OK and at that point I had to just give up and hope other people could take care of me. I hoped I could just pass out.

Her kids were frightened and asking if her foot would be amputated. The ambulance took an age to make its way to us. The rangers knew of nothing in the waters that could sting. The ambulance had no idea what it could be and the uncertainty added to the fear given a large percentage of Australia can kill you if you are within 1 metre of it.

Her foot was packed in ice and pressure bandaged and we waited for the ambulance. A local kiosk offered us free ice creams as by now we were dripping in sweat. My camping inexperienced friend ran repeated distances to hook up with the rangers and ambulance while his wife and I managed the six kids. Once the ambulance arrived they were as worried about him as they were about my fish footed friend. When it left all our mobile phones died due to low batteries and we had no way of getting updates on her condition. After 5 hours of being away and us trying to calm the kids and feed them she returned – with pain killers I can drink on.  

So we drank.

The next morning I started packing while the kids still slept. Bear got up around 6am and I stripped his tent down. Toes slept on despite me removing the top sheet of her tent. She looked very cute with her bare bum sticking out, but I’m a dad therefore I am obliged to find those moments adorable.

I made sounds about packing up being in relation to a birthday party Bear had to get to but in reality I was fleeing. I wanted home; I wanted an indoor toilet and refrigerator. I wanted a shop round the corner that sold Vanilla Coke. We made our goodbyes and piled into the car.

Bear - Dad, how long until you are lost?

Me – I’m hoping not to get lost

Five minutes later

Bear – Dad?

Me – Yes mate?

Bear – You’re lost.

Me – I am mate.

Bear – You need the M5 Dad, to Sydney. Remember

Me – I do mate, I just don’t know which direction Sydney is in.

Bear – Dad, Mum doesn’t get lost, and she is good at parking the car.

Me – I know that Bear.

Toes – Yeah Dad, Mum is a better driver than you.

Me – Thank you darling.

Toes – And she has boobies too.

Both kids cackled about my wife’s boobies and I drove in circles for ages until finally I saw a sign for Sydney and floored it. Once I was pointed in the right direction I was home to the boobies within half an hour.


I love home

Monday, 26 November 2012

Oh the places you’ll go

Congratulations, today is your day, you're off to great places, you're off and away - Dr Suess

Parenthood takes you to ridiculous places. Kids parties where you talk real estate with other dads. Dr’s surgeries where you hope your kid doesn’t vomit. Road trips where your car dies in the middle of snake country. Other road trips where one of your kids does vomit and you have to scoop it out bare handed from the backseat while you make yawping sounds. Hospitals with no nappies. Other hospitals with nurses who try and crack jokes as your daughter is taken for heart surgery. Ballet concerts where kids walk and wave and forget to do any ballet. Christmas concerts with your son dressed as a brown dancing snail. Worst of all, social events where your kids befriend other kids and expect you to like their parents.

Oh the places you’ll go, all because you got drunk on cask wine and woke up with a pregnant wife. Twice.

So to a place I went.

I had a $45 ticket. Everyone around me seemed excited to be there while I felt hot and uncomfortable and slightly over weight. The bar was doing a swift trade in plastic champagne and water bottles and the theatre announcer was bing bing bonging updates on the show start time.

I showed my ticket to an usher and found my seat next to a very happy pair of grandparents whom I managed to avoid talking to. Somewhere behind the curtain was my 5 year old daughter. She’d already been there for 4 hours “rehearsing” and I was worried. I wanted to see her, to know she was ok, to check she’d been fed and watered, knew where to go for the toilet and had her tap shoes on. Instead I had to sit in the audience and wait for her to come on stage and dance.

The curtain came up and the show began. Other people’s kids came out in costumes kicking and dancing to badly broadcast music. The show swung from wee little kids stumbling ballet to late teenage girls in tight costumes reminding the audience they had vaginas by pointing to them. It jarred somewhat to go from a group of 6 year olds bumbling as butterflies to pseudo poll dancing without the pole but whoever planned the show didn’t seem to think so.

The opening bars of a tune I recognised came on and I sat up. I’d seen Toes rehearse to this music the week before; well I’d tried to before the teacher asked us to leave and told us we could watch through a tiny window. I saw older kids come out tappy-tapping with flashing teeth. Then younger kids tappy-stumbling with fierce concentration. And then there she was, without tap shoes. She hit her mark, paused, and then went for a little wander around stage. Then she remembered where she was, skipped back to her mark and hit the final pose and then left the stage with the other little kids.

She’d been on for 30 seconds. $45 for my ticket, $30 for her costume, weeks of tap class and rehearsals (the previous week she’d been there for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon and 2 hours earlier in the day).

30 seconds.

And still the show went on.

Gold lame jazz pants on uncoordinated females. They did some interpretive piece centring on caring for a young girl that involved running in circles and doing windmill arms for about 7 minutes before the girl seemed to pass out and they all gathered around her and fanned her by kicking their legs. Through all of this an ominous Booooooong sound was played with random bell noises. Then a boy band came and shouted their name at us and told us that they knew where they were. I was relieved for them but would have preferred they were somewhere else. I found myself worrying about how low slung their trousers were. More girls, more pelvises, more pointing to vaginas.

Finally the lights went dark and I knew I could grab my daughter and get out of here.

The intermission will be 20 minutes.

I’d been here for an hour and a half and the show was only half way done. They were forcing me to stay by holding my daughter hostage. I pictured her held in a room, surrounded by militant teens in leggings and headbands.

Keep the kids safe see - don’t let their parents take them see - until the shows over see.

I went and renewed my parking, bought a chocolate bar and returned to the audience. From my pocket I texted my wife the word HELL repeatedly. I wanted to storm the stage, rip open the curtains and howl my daughters’ name. I wanted to jump dramatically whilst shouting Just stay alive and I will find you.

African music was soullessly danced to by white kids with blazing teeth. Another boy band shouted at me, this time about their granddads having style with girls behind them pointing at their nipples and smiling as they did so. There was a dance tribute to the Olympics that ended with someone shouting SYDNEY and a large chunk of the dinky di audience cheering - best Olympics ever - Steve Irwin died that we might live.

Girls were thrown through the air and caught by boys. Microphones crackled and died as late teens tried to sing about being there for each other while pointing at their vaginas. 12 kids ran amuck on the stage completely out of synch with the music and threw clothing everywhere to rapturous applause…and the show seemed to end.

People started bowing and the entire cast of confusion flooded the stage line by line still dancing and I thought about They Shoot Horses Don’t They….I wondered if these kids had to dance, if there was some dire consequence if they stopped toe tapping and glad clapping and pointing at their genitals every 6 beats.

And there was my daughter lined up, smiling, and taking a bow.

And I teared up.

And she looked beautiful.

And I applauded and cheered and hoped she could see me.

After I’d found her and kissed her and told her how much I’d really enjoyed the show I asked - Do you want to do tap again?

NO, I hate tap

I was delighted

But I like shows. I want to do shows. So I’ll do tap.

I was crushed.

And still going to the places I go - Bear see’s an Occupational Therapist once a week to work on speech and reading issues. I took him on Saturday and Toes came too. I read her The Little Mermaid and played games with her while Bear was in his session with her. Toes went to the bathroom and shouted about how funny it was that she’d done a green poo. Unfortunately I could remember the last time I’d done a green poo myself, which is something I never did before I had kids.

At the end of Bears session the therapist was explaining Silent E’s in spelling and speech that we needed to work on with him. How we need to emphasises the silent letters so we catch them when we spell them.

Words like Tongue, and Come. Come, Tongue – can you see? Come, Tongue, Tongue, Tongue, Come, Come.

I left the building deeply suspicious. My wife called me an idiot when I relayed this too her.

I drank the pain away.

So...be your name Bauxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day
Your mountain is waiting
So - get on your way - or drink the pain away.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Opposite

The Opposite


Interior of a busy bus, Dad is sat at the back trying to read. His greying beard sparkles in the sunlight. He looks slightly angst ridden, almost as though he is HYPOGLYCAEMIC and his blood sugar is plummeting which would be leading to his thoughts becoming scatter logical and paranoid. He looks out the window and sees a leaf spiralling across the road. It’s torn on one side.

What tore the leaf? Was it a kid? A ladybird? Man that must have been one hungry ladybird. Maybe a bird? Maybe a bird chasing a ladybird, the bird swoops as the ladybirds snacking and pecks at the leaf, misses the ladybird. Maybe he didn’t miss; maybe the leaf is a death site. Bits of broken dead ladybird smeared onto it, the rest of the ladybird digesting through bird guts and soon to be shat onto a windscreen.

My foot hurts. Why does my foot hurt? It really hurts now I am thinking about it. It's these shoes, they have a hole in. I’ve needed new shoes for months now. Damn trophy wife drinking too much coffee and stopping me buying shoes. It’s like walking on peeled linoleum.

Maybe something crawled in through the hole and laid and egg in my foot. Or eggs. Foot eggs.

Dad goes slightly red in the face. He stares out of the window for a moment and bends his fingers back several times. A mother and new born baby get on the bus. The baby looks 3 or 4 days old only. The baby starts whipping its head around to find something to suckle from, its mouth open and eyes unfocussed.

IM - I remember Bear doing the same thing the minute he woke, the minute he was picked up, the minute he was put down. He piled on weight so quickly. He was like a sack of sweet potatoes in no time.

Potatoes, wait was I hungry? Am I hungry?

I remember how Toes used to squawk like a pterodactyl when she was born. It was brutal sound. She never cried, just squawked. The other night she said in her sleep that The Goat was coming, she said she could see The Goat. What the fuck is The Goat?

The mother is unconsciously and repeatedly kissing the babies forehead. A large man in a too tight t-shirt is staring at the baby. He's stood just behind the driver, he seems to scowl, his lips pursed and his eyes too close together, eyebrows meeting in the middle.

IM - He reminds me of a line from A Company of Wolves - women should beware a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle. He looks angry. His forehead is folding like a tea towel; his teeth keep nipping at his bottom lip. Is he flexing his fists?

I wonder if he eats boiled sweets. One of my first teachers ate loads of boiled sweets; she stank of cough candy and cigarettes. She was either cracking a cough candy between her teeth or lighting up in class, blowing smoke on us as we read our Reading Scheme books.

White vans and grey cars flicker past outside.

IM - I’m sure that this chap is one of the thousands of random psychopaths that my wife mocks me for believing roam the streets. I think he might be related to Mrs McAndrews. He has the same scowl though he is a lot fatter. She was just straight lines, snapping arms and legs, head hung low on her neck like a spiders egg on a web thread.

Shit why do I keep thinking of eggs. Are there eggs in my feet?

I hated Mrs McAndrews. She was only happy if a kid cried in class. I hate this man. He hates the baby.

Why does he hate the baby?

He’s going to do something. I know it. He’s going to dash the child from the woman’s arms and run from the bus cackling and spitting

A crisp packet blows past on the path

IM - I am about to see something horrendous from the back of the bus. I know it. I should do something, I should -

The man steps forward and - suddenly and hands the woman a blanket that had slipped from the child’s back. He smiles a broad smile and says something we don’t hear. The mother laughs

IM - Where did the psycho go? Did he see me watching him? Did he swap personas?

The bus slews to the path and he steps off.

IM - Did he just scowl at me as he walked past? Will I bump into him in Woolworths? Is he the guy who stole underpants of the washing line years back? He was a similar build. I’ve always thought I’d bump into him in Woolworths. Maybe I’ll bump into both of them, the panty thief and the baby dasher. Though the baby dasher did not dash the baby. .

Kick da Baby. Huh. I am Cornholio, I preferred Cornholio to South Park. Tee pee.

What. Where was that leaf?

Am I hungry? Man my foot hurts

A mobile phone chirps Under my Umberella – ella – ella

IM - I like thinking found my kids. I wonder if all the random psychos I’ve seen in my where actually benefactors rather than beasts. Maybe I am the psycho.

The sunlight shone on that chap as he left – shone is a funny word. It’s like past past tense. It makes me think of Kim Cattrall in Porkys. She was shiny, she shone. And in Police Academy too, she had legs like cooking sausages, I like sausages.

Am I hungry?

Shit, I haven’t pressed the button to stop at Bears school

The bell dings on the bus

IM - Who pressed that? No one else is moving. No one else is standing up to get off the bus. I can see Bear in the playground. We’re stopping. Who pressed it? I didn’t.

Did God press it?

Wow where did that thought come from?

Was it God? Is this a lesson? Is this my road to Damascus? First the psycho who turns out to be a nice man, then God stops the bus for me?

Wow. Shit. What if I’ve been wrong about all of this? Man that would be nuts. Wow.

Well if no one else gets off the bus then I guess there is a God. Fuck that would be just –

The bus pulls up. Fade to black


School Playground. Bear runs over and shouts.

BEAR - If I beat you to the school bags can I have an ice cream?

DAD - Ice cream? What? Wait, yes I am hungry, I need to eat something


Dad runs after him, slightly unsteady on his feet. He goes to hook left to the school bags and Bear cackles, turning right

BEAR - The bags have been moved today

Bear dives for his bag and lifts it up


They walked home making fart noises and eating ice cream and Dad’s blood sugar swings back again. They chatter.

Bear clambers onto a wall and leaps at Dad.


DAD catches him and winces.

DAD - Jesus you’re heavy

BEAR - Dad?

DAD - What mate?

BEAR - You said there wasn’t a Jesus.

DAD - I did mate

BEAR - Well why did you just say Jesus was heavy?

DAD - Because – because – well because faith is a heavy thing Bear, it’s a crazy heavy thing.

BEAR - Dad?

DAD - Yes mate?


Bear runs, Dad, hefting Bears school bag onto his shoulder, sprints after him


The bus pulls up and the doors open. Blinking, Dad steps out onto the path and looks to the bus. No one else is getting off.

Dad looks to the sky, confused.

The bus doors close and the bus pulls to the road - and then stops suddenly.

The doors re-open. A woman with a cask of wine in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other staggers from the bus.

WOMAN - YAAH FUCKER FUCKING WAIT FOR A PERSON WOULD YOUS. Fuck sake I mean Jesus fucking Christ I pressed the fucking button least yous could do is let me get the fucking fuck off the fucking bus.

Discarded lottery tickets blow past the kerb stone and a car coughs oily smoke as it passes. Dad looks to Bear who’s waving from the school fence. He smiles.

WOMAN - What the fuck you grinning at? Found fucking God have you?

DAD - The opposite.

WOMAN - What the fucks that mean?

DAD - I think it means I am hungry

Pull back.

Camera panes to the right and shows the ocean in the distance. Two men can be seen swimming on a make shift raft of yellow barrels. They reach the shore as seagulls wheel overhead.

Music rises and there is a sense that all is well.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Comin' right up

My son was taking a poo. I was standing outside the toilet block leaning on my bike enjoying the sun and the serenity (I'm getting more Australian every day).


Yes mate?

Is this a joke?


This – is it a joke?

I had no idea what he was talking about but I know he is of the opinion that I somehow know everything.

Is what a joke mate?

This – this writing on the toilet door?

I walked into the toilet block and into his cubicle and read the words he was pointing to.

Are you a fun young man? Do you want fun times? E mail me to meet - The Hairy Humungous.

What does it say Dad?

I told him it was grown up stuff and that he needn't worry about it. He begged to know what it said, so I read it to him and he burst out laughing.

That's great. We're fun. Hairy Humungous is a funny name.

I didn't go into any more detail. I read the scrawl on the door one way, he took it completely differently. His way was a little less sweaty and shocking (to Daily Mail readers).

Driving back, listening to the diabolical music that he has insisted I put on the iPod, I had a crushing flashback to English class when I was 11. When the pub conversation comes up along the lines of What was the first album you ever bought with you own money? I tend to win hands down on the terrible choice. Mine was Bruce Willis – The Return of Bruno. When I was 11 I was a huge Moonlighting fan and a huge Bruce Willis fan. As far as I was concerned he was cooler than Knight Rider and I had no other ambitions at the time beyond owning black t shirts and jeans and playing the harmonica with a smirk. When his album came out I caught the bus to the nearest record store and paid with my own money and raced home, desperate to become cool through beats and lyrics. I learnt every song by heart and when a week later my English teacher – who was starting to become fascinating with the way she would bend over the desk to see what we were doing – asked us to bring in the lyrics to our favourite song I knew instantly I would bring in a Bruce Willis song.

Like my son translating the back of the toilet door, I had no idea what the lryics I was writing down really meant. The song was called Coming Right Up and was about a barman who was chatting to a female customer. I transcribed it reading a happy song about a helpful man serving a pretty lady drinks. I thought there was nothing at all embarassing as I wrote -

All alone? Don't be nervous, Bruno's here baby, I'm at
Your service - Tending your cup, sit down, belly up.

Nothing at all wrong with -

We toasted everything, that's worth imagining, she told
Me stories that would melt a stone
I managed to just keep a hold of myself

Bruce, being so damn charming, gets invited back to her apartment for another drink. He rides the elevator up and chuckles as he counts floor sixty nine. I eagerly wrote it all down for my homework. As Bruce arrives at her apartment she greets him in heels and stockings and he tells her -

don't forget that little cherry on top!
Comin' right, comin' right up.

And then he promises her he'll be coming right up.

I handed my homework in, certain my teacher - who this week was in yellow tights and a loose blouse and a lot of lipstick - would see the genius of Mr Willis. The following week she said she was going to call on members of the class to read out there songs. She called on Colin and he read out Chubby Checker & The Fat Boys Doing the Twist. She called on Sarah and she read out a Madonna song. The she covered her mouth with one hand and called out my name. I opened my book and started reading. Some of the class giggled at my declaring the song was by Bruce Willis but for the most part the double meanings in the song passed them by. It didn't pass my teacher by. She giggled, she kept her hand over her mouth and as I reached the cherry on top and the promise that I'd be coming right up she excused herself for a moment and left the class.

Driving home to Michael Jackson telling us how utterly Bad he was I remembered sitting there reading out the lyrics, but now with a 38 year old brain instead of an 11 year old one I couldn't pass the references to 69, copious references to coming, and to cherries, without blushing. It seemed ridiculous to be blushing 27 years later (man I'm getting old) but blush I did.

Once we got home my son asked me if jokes have to make sense. I tried explaining the basics of a joke – e.g. What's brown and sticky? A stick. He nodded and told me he understood.


Yes mate?

What's brown and sticky?

Go on then, what is brown and sticky?

A potato is a cat.

He curled up in fits of laughter.

Mate that makes no sense.

He carried on laughing and we went home.


Yes mate?

What's green and sticky?

Go on?

A cat is a potato.

I laughed with him. Somewhere The Hairy Humungous is having fun with fun young men, somewhere else Bruce Willis is charmingly telling girls that their drinks will be coming right up but where I am a cat is a potato and a potato is a cat and it is the funiest thing in the world.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Making money from buttocks

In 2004 we had no money. On Saturdays we would have enough for maybe one café coffee shared between us. We’d walk slowly, scanning the pavement for gold coins. There’s a high back packer population where we life and during the start of the warm weather they would arrive in their thousands (pre GFC)…and get blind drunk. Saturday and Sunday mornings there were gold coins scattered on the pavement and beachfront so we would make like Dick Whittington and gather gold for the priorities in life – coffee.

I was yet to get Australian residancy and was on a bridging visa. This meant I was limited in the work I was allowed to do so I worked terrible jobs – packing boxes, cold calling, data loading and, finally, I worked in an Australian Bank. I worked in Accounts, opening, scanning and logging invoices.

Come Friday I had my time sheet ready, 37 hours that had each passed agonisingly slowly. There was no internet, no e mail, and very limited conversation.

My manager picked up her pen, clicked it and stood up sighing heavily.

Yeah, you’ve done a good job this week.


The job wasn’t hard.

No thank you, nice to have someone with a bit of a brain.

I tried not to look around at my co workers, one of whom was eating butter with her fingers. She opened her arms and wrapped me in a hug

Thanks for your help

She was speaking directly into my ear now. Her hand travelled down my back and patted my left buttock. Her other hand joined it. She squeezed. She signed the time sheet after adding 5 hours on to the total and initialling the change.

See you next week.

I told me wife that night. I'd told her about the woman who leaked as she ran screaming for the toilet with a trail of urine following her. About the women who sold her used Channel lipsticks to raise the money to have a 3rd leg amputated from her cancerous dog. About the woman who insisted any man she slept with loved Harry Potter and how she’d sob when, post infrequent sex, men would admit they hated Harry. The Filipino lady in a micro dress and top painting her toe nails awkwardly while flashing her underwear and speculating about how she could quickie divorce her husband but keep his cash. The elderly man who sucked on his lower lip and shouted What What What? if anyone said his name before rushing away, declaring he had to be somewhere, returning with yet another chocolate milk. My manager, a large woman with a packet of cigarettes jammed into her bra and a desk scattered with toffee wrappers who, upon finding out the bank was starting an Employee of the Month for our department bullied her team into nominating her. She shed tears of joy as they placed a tiara on her head and gave answers on leading a good team. I told her about all of these people and I told her about hours being added to my time sheet.

She squeezed your backside?

She did.

And she gave you more hours?

She did.

My wife frowned, thought, and said (and denied ever since) - Well, we could do with the money.

The following week it happened again. And every week thereafter. One week I placed her hands directly on my backside and she added 10 hours to my timesheet. She’d gurgle breath in my ear and squeeze my cheeks. She’d go for a cigarette almost immediately afterwards.

My back side was pretty average, or averagely pretty if I am being glass half full about it. It’s still moderately hairy and soft but for 9 months it made us mo’ money.

Currently my wife is on a placement at a local school while she trains to be a teacher. For this placement she is not being paid so we are living off of one salary. Though we are not back at the scanning the streets for gold state but a $5 bill on the path is always handy.

We are 10 years since my rear bought home the bacon. I’ve assessed it in the mirror in the mornings and wondered if anyone would pay for a squeeze but sadly, if I am honest, its money making days are past.

Boobs on the other hand, there is always money in boobs. A neighbour and my wife were drunkenly talking and the idea came up of a website featuring film clips of just their chests with various liquid or foodstuffs poured on them. People would pay to see treacle, gravy, vegetable soup, paint, jelly, even beans to be tipped on their chests. This is a fabulous idea! A guaranteed money maker. Sober my wife has distanced herself from the prospect and, just as she assures me she never said Well, we could do with the money she assures me she never said this website was a good idea.

Now there’s a woman in the US who hasn’t bought groceries in 2 years, she has a website where folk pay her to eat things and buy her the food. She films herself eating and they send her more food. Would anyone pay to watch a film of custard running across my buttocks? Melted chocolate? Engine oil? I am guessing not.

But boobs covered in food? There be gold in them there hills. So I’ll get the wife drunk and break out the beans and the web cam (I think that may be the greatest sentence I have ever written). www.beansonboobs.com pay per view could be coming soon - Well, we could do with the money

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Meaning of Life

1996 - a Bon Jovi concert that I didn’t want to attend. Jon Bon Jovi swaggered in tight trousers. He smiled at the crowd and they waved and whooped. He gave a sigh and wiped sweat from his Botox brow. His smile flashed from screens either side of the stage. Thank you. It’s great to be here. Thank you. Yeah. Alright. And now – he chuckled – here’s one that you should know.

I was baffled, as I had been for most of the concert. My girlfriend had wanted to go and it became apparent that there no way out of it. Two hours into Bon Jovi I was wondering when it would end. I’d been confused and hoping no one spotted me as a fraud even though I had bought a book with me. The crowd fell silent as Jon stepped forward and took a breath. I leant over to my girlfriend and said, louder than I intended - What is this song?

I looked around and saw 30 pairs of eyes staring and scowling at me. Fortunately before anyone could think to hairspray me to death Jon started wailing about his steel horse and I managed to shrink into the back ground. The folk in the crowd adored him, screamed for him, applauded him. One girl, draped in black and smelling of patchouli oil, screamed out – This is the meaning of my life.

2 hours plus of poodle pop was the pinnacle of her week, possibly even life. Others seemed to agree, lighters were waved, lips were kissed, couples embraced, pendulous breasts exposed with badly drawn tattoos smudged onto them. An overwhelming scent of sweat and flatulence filled the air - this was the girl’s moment, her “meaning of my life.”

And that meaning, that purity, she found in Milton Keynes of all places.

Being atheist means I don’t care for a meaning of life. From my view there is no meaning, nor is there a higher purpose. You’re born, you grow, drink and eat and sleep, get older, make jokes, and see your hair turn grey. Along the way you try not to offend more than a few and come the long dark cup of camomile you try and expire before it gets cold. But I've realised that there is a meaning to life beyond my anti death penalty and ethical atheist views.

It began in 2004 with an argument with my wife. We were well into our white wines, a Killers album and a pack of Marlboro Lights. We were arguing about Prince Harry painting aboriginal art and for one of the few times in my married life I won the argument. Drunk and joyous and joyously drunk the night faded away and I passed out. The next morning I woke up unaware that my wife was now pregnant.

A week or so later she met me in a café near work and the following transpired (this is not word for word - the jokes have been changed to make me seem funnier.)

I’m pregnant. I did the test this morning.

Pregnant? Uhm - do we get you a doctors appointment? Get your uterus scanned?

I know my body, I know I’m pregnant. Do you even know what a uterus is?

I know your body; I didn’t know you were pregnant. And of course I know what a uterus is.

Do you have anything to say?

I love you?

About me being pregnant. Since when is I love you a question?

You’re really pregnant? This isn’t a joke? Of course it isn’t, you never tell jokes.

I am really pregnant.

Why do you never tell jokes?

OK – joke - what happened to the couple who decided that life was going to fast and they should have a baby?

They drank lots of cask wine. Cask wine arguments and a cask wine baby making. This baby will be born hung over.

They got pregnant. With a baby.

Pregnant. With a baby - pregnant. That’s not very funny.



What do you think a uterus does?

Uhm – sucks up all the stuff, uhm? Kinda like the Alien Queen laying eggs, but backwards?

And we were pregnant - there was now a clock and it was counting down from 9 months to Birth. That night, as she slept with cells dividing and growing I lay wide awake in panic. Outside the window 2 girls were peeing -



I need a widdle.

I listened to the sound of water.

Gross, it’s on your shoes.

We lived on a short cut between the pubs and hostels. Some nights we’d be serenaded by vomiting, others by fighting or copulating, tonight it was urinating.

                                                                         GIRL – (farts wetly)
That’s better.

There were so many things we needed; things that I figured you couldn’t be a parent without. Like a car. How were we going to get to the hospital without a car? We couldn’t catch the bus to delivery ward.

We needed clothes. The last 3 pairs of jeans I’d had came from a gay friend in London who worked in fashion. They were nice but not really made for my kebab friendly physique.

We needed a bigger flat. The place we had was a cockroach nest. At night the floor was seething with six legged egg carrying insects. In the morning roaches were in our air tight muesli containers. Several times that year I chomped down on roach eggs and roach legs.

Somehow with all of this stress my wife could sleep. I churned and turned over issue after issue. Beyond anything else what were we going to call it? At the time I liked Daschell.

WIFE (in her sleep)
That’s a stupid name

But Daschell was a stupid name. Who would we tell? Where would we have it? Was there a hospital nearby? I realised there must be a hospital nearby. Of course there was. We weren’t the first people to be pregnant. But what would I do if my kids bullied? I have always been crap at fighting, how was I going to beat up the scaffolding father of the kid that bullies my kid.

Parenting was going to be a nightmare. I’m speculated on karate. Something I could learn quickly. Wax on and off, paint some fences. I realised that if we had a car I could skip the karate and just drive away. Really fast. My tyres would spin and I’d race away. Hopefully without forgetting my wife and baby as the last of the V8 Interceptors headed out to the horizon.

Shortly after the long long night of the Dad to Be I got in trouble for complaining that I wasn’t threatening. We had a trainee midwife who followed us through the pregnancy, and the first time we met -

Thank you for doing this.

It was a pleasure. Cask wi -

Will you stop calling this a cask wine baby?

Well, what can I call it?

You could call HIM by HIS name

You know the gender? And you’ve named Baby already?

Boy baby. Named it after my dog.

Your dog?

Beautiful dog. Bassett hound.

I don’t think I have met anyone who named their child after their dog

I’ve never met a trainee midwife before.

How are you finding it all so far? The appointments going as you expected?

Midwives are mad.

They are not.

They all have these thousand yard stares. Like mannequins with rubber gloves.

They do not.

They only notice women. A man walks past, not a flicker, show them a women and they light up like arcade machines.

You think this should be about you?

Well I’d like a little more inclusion; make the occasional bit of eye contact. I am Dad Man Walking.

So you want them to talk to you? Even though you hate people?

You hate people?

I don’t hate all people. Midwives are just weird, that one we saw today had Alien Queen hair.

                                                                         TRAINEE MIDWIFE
                                                              That sounds like Jess, she’s lovely.

What the hell is Alien Queen hair? I don’t even know what that means. You said my uterus was like an Alien Queen.

Your uterus?

Ignore her, she has placenta brain.

I do not

She can’t remember the word for window.

That’s not unusual during pregnancy.

It’s great; I’m winning arguments ‘cause she can’t remember half her vocabulary.

This may not be the best time to be arguing.

But I’m winning.

So what is this about the midwives ignoring you?

Ignoring may be too strong a word, but they seem way more woman focussed then me.

He’s upset. When they asked me in the early meeting if he ever hit me I laughed.


That’s not a bad thing. That’s lovely.

Pregnancy is neutering enough as it is. Can’t I have a bit of threat about me?

Pregnancy is neutering? Surely it’s anything but?

Nope. Obviously it shows I was virile but that’s all past tense now.

Past tense?

Now I make tea and massage feet.

When do you do that?

I fluff pillows and watch romantic comedies.

You like romantic comedies. You get fuzzy over Sandra Bullock

I do anti-man things.

Anti-man? Being a father to be is anti man?

I haven’t killed anything since you announced you were pregnant. No bears, no rhinos

What did you kill before I was pregnant?

It’s not what I killed; it’s that I could kill.

Why am I having your child?

Cask wine, candles and The Lost Boys soundtrack.

So to get over this lack of killing you want people to think you beat your pregnant wife?

At least a slight concern that I may beat my pregnant wife? I have tattoos. Facial hair. Testosterone.

To be seen as a wife beater, let alone a pregnant wife beater, is not a good look.

I was a Goth once, now I’m white jumpers and home furnishings

We do not own any white jumpers. And what home furnishings?

We just bought a washing machine

You hate going to the laundrette, we’re having a baby, we need to do laundry.

When I was a Goth I never did laundry.

No, your mum did it for you. You were the softest Goth I have ever heard of.

I’ve saw Def Leppard in concert.

(Laughs) That’s not heavy metal. Or Goth. Actually that’s quite sad.

See, even the trainee midwife thinks I’m harmless.

No, I just don’t think Def Leppard are heavy metal.

With the next baby I want to be so threatening that the midwives don’t even ask, they just place a big tick in the Potential Wife Beating Bastard box

Time contracted and me wife became huge. We stock piled nappies, we did classes on knitted uteruses and got to know other people who must have argued about Prince Harry. When my wife hit the 9 month mark we had The Chat. The tabletop was covered in tin foil containers. My wife was ploughing into her food, not batting an eyelid at the strength of the curry she was eating to try and scare the baby into birth. I swigged a beer in a manly style.

I don’t think you should drink any more.

You don’t think me what now?

I might go into labour any time.

You’re never going into labour. You’re just going to get bigger and bigger and I’m going to have to learn to cook curry to save us on take away.

She started crying. I looked from my beer to my wife to my beer to my wife and I realised, possibly for the first time, that she was really pregnant.

And then we were there, in labour. And the cervix wasn’t ripe.

The cervix isn’t quite ripe

Told you so

I – I – I - can’t.

D’you need more gas?

Not working

Breathe through it, come on.

You can do this.

She’s been awake for 2 days solid now. Do you want the epidural?

You can do without it .


OK, I need you to understand the risks and give consent for this procedure.

I do, I read up on this during the pregnancy. You don’t need to explain anything.

You read up on Epidurals?
Nope. She’s been awake for 2 days, she’s exhausted and I wanted things to move a little quicker then your man looked like he was going to move.

I have no idea what to say to that.

Me neither. I’m fucking terrified.

You’re doing fine.

I’d be doing better if I wasn’t hung over.

You’re not are you?

Nah. But I can feel that hangover I am going to have when this is over.

And then he was born – well that’s 27 hours of labour condensed into a few paragraphs but you get the idea.

Our son was born.

For 6 months after his birth time slowed. Every day was so detailed, so exact. He grew fat and chewy. He pee’d on the carpet. He gurgled and loved lights being turned on and off and at some point I thought of the patchouli smelling girl at Bon Jovi and hoped she had a baby, even if she called him Jon and bought him Botox for his birthday.

The closest thing to a meaning of life that I have found is parenting. I know in about 4 or 5 years my son will stop letting me hug him, stop curling up on the sofa with me to watch The Iron Giant but for now he curls into me while his sister curls into the other side and for a few blissful moments they don’t fight.

They are the warm centre to everything we do. We’ve taught them to swim, to ride bikes, to read and write and chew their food and wipe their behinds and laugh at farts.

They’re everything.

They're beautiful.

They're ours.

If they're not the meaning of life they certainly give life meaning.