Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Soon. Surely.

I'm just gonna haveta start writing up here again. Not writing is stopping me from writing.

Not tonight though, I have a bastard behind the eyes.

Siderses blott up and a sort trote.


Watch this spot.


And that one.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

That In Aleppo Once or Twice...

E@L's father was a damn good cricketer. E@L's No1 son is a damn good cricketer when his back and his knee don't take him down. E@L was a damned cricketer, and a laughing stock on occasion (wrong shoes for turf, slipped over when delivering the first ball, etc...).

For the 1952-53 season, E@L's dad won the batting averages for the PMG (Post-Master General, now split into Australia Post and Telecom) cricket team in a town in country Victoria. No doubt a social level competition. But hey. E@L's son has more information on his cricketing prowess. On one particularly splendid day he bowled out the other team almost single-handedly, and then won the match with his batting - 106 not out!

They gave a him book, called Dust On My Shoes, by Peter Pinney. It was published in 1948 by the great Australian house of Angus and Robertson (still going on) and purchased at a salubrious bookstore named Cowans Newsagent in the lakeside town of Colac. (Where E@L was born.) The story is of a young Australian man, something of a rake E@L gathers, making his way, single-handed, across the Middle East and South Asia, from Greece to Burma just after the end of WWII. E@L hasn't read the book, though as a child he always wondered at in his mother's small library (the remnants of his father's, he presumes, plus some childhood books for E@L's sister) and was particularly entranced by the photos. His late father-in-law had read it, and given it the thumbs up. How it got to his place is unknown. No1 son?)

Opposite the title page of his dad's prize copy is a photograph of Pinney looking from a window in the Great Citadel of Aleppo, in Syria, a view that show a minaret, the large dome of a mosque, five smaller domes on the structure next to it, and the city in the distance. It looks dusty, and E@L bets it was.


Interestingly, the photograph of Pinney in the window has been reversed, presumably for symmetry's sake. The actual view from a vantage similar to that window is this:


Aleppo is having the crap bombed out of it during the current Syrian civil[sic] war. E@L thought the view might be different now, for obvious reasons so he did the G thing,(search "Aleppo bombing" - there's no need for E@L to show them here). He saw photos of destroyed houses, dead babies, men screaming, rubble on the streets from smashed houses, terrified children running, massive bursts of earth, fire, and stone from bombs caught at the instant of exploding, grieving fathers holding their dead children on their laps, blood-stained cobbled streets, burnt-out vehicles, exhausted refugees squatting with stacks of their belongings at the side of the road. Humans in the midst of a modern tragedy, the weapons of mass and individual destruction built and supplied by our countries of course. Horrifying, heart-breaking, unnecessary, and completely avoidable. We are a fucked species.


Anyway, he found this:

Wondering if this is indeed the same mosque - those smaller domes smashed, the minaret luckily intact - and thinking he should read that book is



I used to love sitting here, settled in my comfy home-office-chair, banging away, letting the words flow as my ideas, like the soft inflated things they are, bounced off walls and down along strange dark pathways I might once have had the wisdom to not take. Before blogging.

Now, there never seems to be the time to blog. Hours have evaporated as I've distracted myself with FB and disgraced myself with porn and ended up lost in a labyrinth of click-on and click-backs, and I am eye-fuzzy and brain-glazed, yet fighting valiantly/foolishly against the call of the sleep faeries and a very very comfortable bed. And a very quiet CPAP machine.

Has the therapeutic catharsis which maybe fuelled them, departed from those confessions and musings? Let's see.


When I am back in Australia, I try to follow my regime of, every other day at least, taking my cardiologist's strong recommendation for a one hour, or longer, walk. I go in the morning there (everyone else is still asleep, even if I set off at 9). Despite listening to podcasts or music, my mind looks for observations and reflections that might make me feel like I am not brain dead, that might sound good in, say, a blog. Walserian note-taking: of the way roses on a bush wilt here, yet bloom there, the way a large black dog tugs on the leash and pulls its small female walker to one side of the path and her scarf billows up.

I question myself, but on trivial things these days. Where will I end up? Where will I retire, should I live that long? The brooding navel-gazing of the man who nearly died three years ago has lightened somewhat - the soundtrack of my blog would no longer be Bjork's Anchor Song. Or would it?


In the time when I used to set off from my mother's house, I would take part of the route that brought me home from my primary school (imagine letting an 8 year old walk 2 miles home by themselves these days). And I walk up past the town's main cemetery and the stone-masons, and look for name I recognise in their windows. The past, in those paddocks (now low-rent housing estates - Commission Homes) where a friend saw a stallion with an erection and wouldn't stop talking about it for weeks. The past, in these houses nearer to school which are weatherboard, tiny, with knee-height steel bar and mesh fences, houses that never will be worthy of gentrification, house where school-friends, enemies, and bullies, liars, cheats and other genuinely bad people - both children and adults - once lived, perhaps still do, tragically trapped in small minds and small rooms. The past, now at the war-memorial in the middle of the roundabout, where up float thoughts of my father, a soldier in WWII, who served in Borneo, who died 58 years ago, allegedly from war-related malarial heart damage. I follow my shadow to the breakfast cafe, shut on Sundays, and enjoy toast and coffee when I can. That was a more sentimental journey.


Instead, now that mum's house has been sold, she and I stay in my sister's house in slightly a more rural environment (still there are paddocks of massive penises in nearby agistment properties), and my walks have no memories attached - I avoid the street where an ex-girlfriend lived. I pluck at one or two stiff leaves from various types of native trees that loom over the footpaths and snap them horizontally at small intervals. I smell them absently. I order a flat white from the cafe near the Coles supermarket, where two pleasant ladies serve me and we joke a bit, or from the McDonalds McCafe, where I am just a number to the busy, underpaid young girls who don't know that a Medium flat white is the same size as a Venti (and does not contain 20oz), if the other is closed.

I walk past the fading white fences of the horse farms and past the For Sale sign on a fire engine, mysteriously in an otherwise empty paddock, sipping away. Others are out walking. Many are overweight, some as big as me. They might have "heart conditions", too. They might be walking their dogs. They might be wearing annotated jerseys and be on bikes. I wonder at how many paces distant will the other morning walkers lift their head and greet me - a nod, a grimace-like smile, a barely audible "'Ning", or "'Day". FYI, it measures out fairly consistently at ten paces. Twelve paces seems like you're looking at them too observantly for comfort. Eight paces, and it's like you were thinking of ignoring them, or vice versa, with a sudden decision to recognise their humanity at the last minute.

Many other thoughts. Many other observations. Wind, clouds, trees, dogs, bitumen snakes that writhe in repaired cracks of the asphalt walking path that is the old Queenscliff railway cutting. Life, death, and other minor distractions. I buy the newspaper at the Chinese-run small supermarket - I'm almost back home now. We all read different papers - local, right-wing, left-wing. 谢谢, I try to say, but the owner never seems to hear or understand.

Eighteen years living in Chinese-speaking Asian countries and I can't even say "thank you."



Tuesday, February 09, 2016


From the Dept of The Self-Evident:

I haven't posted anything for ages!

My mind is a blank.

But only when I sit to write.

What is the cure?

What is the disease?


Thursday, December 10, 2015


I picked this book up recently in Kinokuniya, the second book about war refugees I bought that day.

I just tried to start reading it tonight but I haven't been able able to get past the cover without sobbing like a, well I would say child, but here is this seven year old Japanese girl, separated from her family during the American storming of Okinawa...

From what I gather from the cover blurb, she had to survive alone on the island, to hide out from the battling troops during the invasion, and here she is on the cover, having made such a momentous decision on her own - my god what thoughts were in her head - to make and carry a white flag of surrender over her shoulder... Don't shoot me just because I am Japanese. I'm just a child.

She makes a mockery of our privileged lives.

Oh the things we warring adults do to children, the resilience of these children, the growing up they do in the heart-beats between bombs and bullets...

What's is going on in Syria, Africa, everywhere?


I'm still crying. I don't think I can stop until wars stop.

I have no idea if the book is any good, or indeed if it justifies these emotions, but does it matter?


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I wasn't sure what to do, or whether I was hungry or thirsty, sad or happy. I was tired from walking the streets of Lisbon on a warm, unpleasantly sunny day, for I had lost my hat in the train from Sintra and the fragile skin on my bare skull was broiling steadily. The crowd in the Museu de Cerveja looked to be straight off that floating city in port. I looked at the empty chairs in the place next door, older, hardly gentrified yet. Perfectly indicative of the struggle of Portugal to move slowly forward. So I finally settled on a table and chair that were the least unattractive to me, except that the table was unsteady after all, and I looked down at the restaurant menu, by the corner of the square. I turned the meagre menu (fish, more fish, fish) this way and that, but the food seemed to offer nothing but nausea and a repulsive end-product. I glanced at a sign on the wall. It was a line drawing of a thin-faced man with a moustache and those round glasses of old Europeans, and below this paltry representation were a few lines of self-deprecrating poetry. How he must feel on the wall. Like a fly, only unable to crawl, or indeed, to fly. Fernando Pessoa.

I opened my Kindle in a mood of resignation, for although I was unsatisfied with everything, I also felt the need to make a gesture, hopefully one that would take me away from my gloomy thoughts. Let me run my retinae over this array of pixels. Let someone else put the vibrations in my brain. I tossed the menu aside made the waiter (who had been hovering, and then had eventually moved away after observing my sour uncertainty and inability to commit) bring me a maio de liete and a quejada de villa francecso de campo, for that perfect cake would ruin my mood even further when I considered that it would not only not be fresh (flown in from the Azores who knows when) but my last one ever.

I read several pages of my book...

I had forgotten - it was uncanny, yet coincidences rarely excites me. I was reading The Book of Disquiet at that time. Short pieces, almost epigrams, paragraphs, a few pages. Everyone one of them ironic, bitter and dissatisfied, yet it was amazing - uplifting at the same time. It is so sad and negative, it is immensely enjoyable. The phrases are poems, not a cliche touches the paper for him.

And so my poor (transcribed above) blackness of the world lifted from my shoulders and a much BETTER blackness of the world settled instead. A black joy. Pessoa's perennial mood. I was elated at his contrariness and the refusal to enjoy life in evidence. Fernando Pessoa told me exactly and with unparalleled clarity how I felt, at that exact time. The word for my mood was "disquiet".

In short, with The Book Of Disquiet is perfect for those times when you are sitting in the restaurant where Pessoa himself used to sit and write (as he got drunk), and you feel happy to be feeling grumpy, which is 90% of the time for me, so I'm rating it 5 stars!

And I gave the waiter a 50c tip for his surly service!


Goodreads Review. No-one has liked it yet. I am expecting a lot of crap to be brought down on me.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Very Meta, as in Physical

As E@L is wont to do after an evening of imbibing (beers, sake), he sits on the Toto arse-washing toilet seat in his tiny hotel room with a certain type of book (or his Kindle) on his bare lap.

Poetry. And he reads it out loud.

As a young man, a teenager even, E@L did not "get" poetry the way he did as a ten year old - when Sr Mary Brega praised his verses on cats and dogs being "cuddly and wuddly," and awarded them a gold star. No, sad to say, nothing had progressed much, until Year 12, when, not "allowed" to do Chemistry (but begrudgingly permitted to continue Physics), he chose English Literature as his fifth subject. He was told to buy a book by some Metaphysical Poets. John Donne, Andrew Marvell, etc... You know the crowd.

E@L didn't understand a word of the complicated rhyming and obscure references and awkward syntax - more truthfully, he didn't even try - but he passed EngLit somehow, perhaps on the strength of an essay on Crime And Punishment in which Raskolnikov was, he suggested, a precursor to Albert Camus's Stranger: cliches, that was all it took.

There is a short set of Poetic Best Ofs on his Kindle, and this includes some poems of Donne's. So, being in a declaiming mood, needing to blow off yakitori steam, E@L unfolds his Kindle's new book-like protective cover (Y2000 in BIC Camera, Shinjuku) and finds "Elegy 19: To His Mistress Going To Bed" awaiting.

He declaims to the limits of his plastic one-piece toilet/bath cubicle's acoustics:

Whoever LOVES [he over-emphasised], if he do not propose
The right TRUE end of love, he's one that goes
To sea for NOTHing but to make him sick

Hang on. Does that mean what E@L thinks it means? That if you are going to start, you should make a concerted effort to finish, when it comes to wooing the ladies? An effort, close associates know, E@L cannot always lay (ho ho) claim to.

Soon enough E@L gets back to declaiming, but now with an ear more open to not only the sing-song sound of the words (he wants to be able to read like Tom Hiddleston), but also the rather rude connotations, the dooble ontondurs, and the copious and amusing naughty bits. This is getting sticky, this poem, he feels. This Donne is quite the rake.

E@L wonders, after 30 lines or so, if he ought not have brought some more traditionally (i.e. modern) risque material into the dunny (ho ho) with him, instead of works by this outrageously crude, famous, hence charming and sophisticated, poet - E@L means, you don't want to read dirty poetry, do you? Or do you? E@L will have to look it up.

Perhaps he feels a bit guilty for finding such stuff in his toilet-based situation, for expecting seriousness and elegance and chuffy ruffled-collared wit whilst taking a dump, rather than enjoying (and he was enjoying it now) 300 year old fun and frankness and nudge-nudge honesty, from back before sex was invented, a guilt he might not have felt with internet access to a local (Japanese - E@L is in Tokyo for a week more) pron site or other, probably involving tentacles, and/or enemas, etc... (You've seen the pics, you know how weird this country gets...)

But when E@L gets to the end of the pome, reading in more hushed tones now in case someone beyond the cardboards walls complains about the metaphysical language, it quickly becomes very un-meta in its physicality:...

Rich Nature in women wisely made
TWO purses, and their mouths aversely laid.
They then which to the LOWER tribute owe,
That way which that exchequer looks must go
; [Huh?]
He which doth NOT, his error is great,
As who by CLYSTER gives the stomach
[pause] meat.

So that means, E@L translates prosaically (literally), that if the gent is only going to kiss his lady's upper "purse", he may as well have a clyster (look it up) instead of dinner and expect hearty sustenance...

And that's when E@L realises that he IS reading enema porn.


Saturday, August 08, 2015



6 Sentences Per Day: Day 3 and still nothing...


Writing Rules: It pays to have a BOOM opening sentence...


Why is it that now I like living in Singapore, whereas my first few years were traumatic and irritating? Have I become a more forgiving person, or is it Singapore that has lifted its game?

I admit that the medication I have been taking for chronic neuropathy (off-label), is in fact a "mood stabiliser", so perhaps I am less grumpy, less irascible, less irritable, less easily pissed off. But people in Singaporeans stand aside at the train doors now (mostly); they don't run you over with their shopping trolleys (as often); they don't spit at your feet or squat on the toilet seat; they move to the back of... OK, I'll stop stretching it: they don't move to the back of the bus, but in my international experience (I used to catch the school-bus in Australia), no-one does.

One might get the feeling that Singaporean are more polite than they used to be. Or is that there are heroes out there...?


I bring this up because I was approached in the street by two high-school-aged kids, a boy and a girl. The boy held his arms bent up, palms out towards me at chest height, and moved them slightly as the two walked in my direction. I was a bit taken aback, as you would be, but realised that he was just asking me to slow down, to stop, indeed, for they wanted to chat with me. It reminded me of the time in Beijing that a young Chinese person, innocently enough, asked me if they could practice their English by talking to me - it used to happen to tourists in Tienanmen Square all the time.

These kids had no clipboards or badges with IDs, but they wore tee-shirts which had an illustration of a giraffe's heads on the front. The girl was quiet and said nothing, but smiled brightly. The boy took the lead.

First of all he told me that they were not selling anything, nor asking anything special of me, but one thing.

He began to explain what the giraffe's head meant. I saw that a web address,, was printed underneath.

As you would as well, I expected this to be a wildlife, endangered species, don't shoot lions, or giraffes for that matter doorstopper. The sort of faux-interview and the hit-up for funding support thing.

How gentle, wrong reader, was I.


"", he said, "is a sort of movement. You how, like, for a giraffe, it's stick your neck out for things? To do things?"

I nodded "Mm-hmm."

"We are looking for stories. Of people who you have seen stick their necks out to help other people. You know, like random acts of help and good things. Kindness, like that."

Impressed that he hadn't mentioned religion so far (he never did), I raised my eyebrows (in a good way).

He continued: "So if you have recently seen, or even heard of, normal people helping people they didn't need to help, you know like someone was in trouble. Good people..."

"You shouldn't ask me that," I said, smiling. "I am as close to evil as you've ever come." (Thinking of Pete Cook's Mephistopheles in "Bedazzled". Cheeky and mischievous, rather than actual evil, while still being The Devil.)

The girl continued her cheery smile and the boy gave a chuckle. "I don't think so, sir. We are always trying to show to the public the helpful people, like they are heroes to others, small heroes in everyday things. If you can think of any incident, or anyone you know like that..."


* Indy bought me a beer the other day... nah, we're probably even by now.
* Bruce took me to new club in the 4FoWs and offered to shout a round of tequilas to the six girls who were hanging off me... but that was the year before last, hardly "recently". (Tempus fugit like the fuck!)
* My maid took my suit to the laundry to be dry-cleaned... Nah, that's her job.

Well, maybe I should branch out and think of what I have seen people do for people other than myself... But no, nothing comes.

"Sorry," I said. "I can't think of anything right now. But I do like your programme, it sounds... nice."

The boy pulled his a face into a resigned-but-not-yet-exhausted-by-rejection smile and the girl's smile started to wilt, but I gave them one of my patented Chin UP! smiles and they brightened again (or made an effort to).

"Thank you, sir," they said.

"You are entirely welcome." What a nice cause, what polite children, thought


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