My grandfather loved books, and I think he loved me almost as much.
I know I loved him.
I can still remember the feeling of squashing down next to him in that comfortable ancient armchair.
No one sat in that chair except my grandfather. It wasn’t because we were scared of him or anything like that, it was just that it was his chair and to sit there without him in it, didn’t seem right.
I was working overseas when my grandparents died; one after the other with only days between them.
It wasn’t the kind of job that I could up and leave, so by the time I was back in the country, there wasn’t a physical sign that they had ever been here on this Earth. Their ashes had been scattered, and their house emptied and sold.
Indecent haste was how I phrased it.
“Where the fuck were you while all the work was being done?” was their reply. I guess I pissed my father off because he wouldn’t tell me what had happened to my grandparent’s furniture. It was the armchair that I was really interested in, but I guess it was landfill or in some op-shop warehouse somewhere. I hoped that it had been purchased by a house full of uni students. I could see a nineteen-year-old female English Literature student curled up with a tattered old copy of something by Somerset Maugham. Possibly, ‘The Razor’s Edge’. Yes, that would be good.
My grandfather introduced me to the delights of Enid Blyton and Robert Louis Stephenson in equal measure. He didn’t treat me like a little girl, he saw only a curious, young person who had fallen in love with the worlds that existed between the pages of a book.
He had the most wonderful husky voice, and sitting close to him was like sitting in an old dusty closet. He was warm even in winter, and I got the feeling that it was because of some kind of internal glow caused by his love of books.
He always read me books that were a bit above my understanding, and I think that was on purpose. He would smile when I asked him what a particular word meant, and he would sometimes get me to run my finger over the word as he explained its meaning.
I collect bookmarks because he did.
I give books as presents because he said it was a wise thing to do.
His heroes were authors, and mine are too.
He thought that reading was as important as writing, and so do I.
We will meet again someday, but for now, I have to be the person he wanted me to be, and I need to find a comfortable old armchair so I can sit and read and remember.
This story is now part of SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES.
I didn’t see the early 60s Volkswagen Beetle crash into the lamppost, but I certainly did hear it.
I was lost in my own little world while walking along Erin Street on one of those beautiful Spring days.
You know the sort of day I’m talking about; the air is the same temperature as your skin, the light is golden, and all is still.
I was walking and dreaming, and the bang was a rude awakening.
I walked over to the Beetle, which had hit the light pole head on.
The impact had compressed the front of the little car, and although it was not exactly wrapped around the tree, the front had a huge lamppost shaped dent.
The car was compressed up to the windscreen; it had apparently struck the pole at quite a speed.
I wondered why I had not noticed it zoom past me.
I opened the passenger side door and looked in, fully expecting to see a grisly scene.
Instead, I saw a young man lying on the floor without any visible signs of injury. My eyes scanned the interior and noticed that his seatbelt was undone.
I stared at the young man, and his eyes opened.
“Didn’t see any use for the seatbelt then?” I said.
The young man didn’t answer, but he did move to sit up.
It suddenly occurred to me that this model Volkswagen had the fuel tank in the front and it most assuredly had been crushed.
“The fuel tank is in the front of this thing, and I think it’s time we got out of here,” I said with some urgency.
Sure enough, I could see smoke and a small amount of flame coming from what was left of the front of the car.
As we walked away, the car quickly caught fire.
I remember feeling calm and relaxed but also realising that the accident had happened near to the front of the house that I grew up in.
When my mother died, more than a decade ago, we sold the house to a young couple.
I was walking down this street because it had been so long since I had done so but did not want the young couple to think that I was spying on them.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and it was the young man who now owns the house.
“Hi, how are you? Why didn’t you come in and say hello?”
He seemed to be more interested in me that the flaming wreck.
“Oh, it’s that ‘impossible hour of the day’, and I did not want to intrude.”
He seemed satisfied with my excuse and turned to walk back to his house or possibly to watch the fire.
Meanwhile, the young driver had gone back to the car to retrieve a book.
He returned to my side, and we walked off down the street.
We didn’t speak because it seemed unnecessary.
“So, while this was all going on, how did you feel?”
“Strangely calm and confident. I was a little bit embarrassed at being discovered by the house’s owner, but I felt like I’d talked my way out of it.”
“How long has it been now?”
“A little over three years.”
“You know that it wasn’t your fault. don’t you?”
“So everyone keeps telling me.”
“You sound angry.”
“I am a bit. I feel like I should be doing better.”
“I know I am, but it’s all too slow.”
“You told me that the nightmares have stopped.”
“Only to be replaced by these strange little adventures. Admittedly, this one was not without its upside. It left me feeling dreamy and calm, and instead of drifting away, it stayed with me for the rest of the day. Do you have any idea what it all meant?”
“None at all, but even if I did, your impressions are way more important than mine.”
“So why are they paying you all that money?”
“You’re just trying to wind me up, aren’t you?”
“Just a little bit. I must have some fun. It’s incredibly annoying listening to people talking all day long. I need to shake things up a bit. Otherwise, I drift off.”
“Bloody hell! I’m suffering, and you’re bored? If I were paying the bills, I’d sack you.”
“Ah yes, but you aren’t paying the bills, are you? And besides, you have made some progress, and they are unlikely to take me off your case because I’m the lowest bidder for these contracts, and the lowest bidder always wins.”
“You are honest; I’ll give you that. Honest and annoying.”
“You forgot handsome.”
“Now I feel sick.”
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to feel sick on your own time because our time is up.”
“Not even a single comment on my ‘flaming Volkswagen’ dream?”
“I’m sorry, our time is up.”
“I have to take a bus and a tram to get here. I have to wake up at an ungodly hour because your brain-dead secretary seems incapable of getting me an appointment any later than 8 am. I negotiate the morning peak-hour traffic to cross Collins Street, arm wrestle the one-hundred-year-old elevator and sit in your delightful wood-paneled outer office while your recently deceased secretary files her nails. Every time, I ask her why my appointment does not start on time, and she tells me, every time, that I will have to wait because you have a very important client in session. What am I, chopped liver? Pickled herring? Why am I forced to wait every week?”
“Because you are one of my contract clients and he is a private, fee-paying client. It would take four of you to equal one of him. So you wait.”
“Again with the honesty. Couldn’t you lie to me just once? A small lie designed to make me feel better?”
“If you started feeling better, there would be no need for me, and I would have to fill your 8 am appointment time on a Tuesday. That would be not only annoying but also inconvenient. You wouldn’t wish to intentionally inconvenience me, would you Mr Volkswagen?”
“The name’s Wilson, not Volkswagen.”
“Sorry, that just slipped out. A bit of a Freudian slip, no doubt. There you go. A bit of high-class therapy via a Freudian slip. Value for money that. Not that you generate that much money.”
“Why do you accept patients from them if we are so annoying?”
“I need the money, of course. I have overheads. My children go to private school. My wife likes beautiful things. I have a mistress who likes beautiful things.”
“Aren’t you worried that I’ll use your honesty against you. I could blackmail you because of your mistress. Your wife wouldn’t like it. I could tell her what you said.”
“What do I care. You’re nuts. No one is going to believe you.”
“Fair point. 8 am next Tuesday?”
“Yes. And this time, try not to be late.”
Monsieur Lazar…… this is NOT A Film Review.
This was my first movie of the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2012.
My wife had been away and was due back at 9pm that night.
I’m not too happy when she is away so I was just holding it together.
Parking was complicated because there was a game of Aussie Rules Footy going on that day and these games draw huge crowds. I had to drive around a bit but eventually got a spot, but with a bit of a walk.
I rang my son who had been too late for his morning movie and he was sitting in the park chillin’.
My dogs got a walk before I left which was extra important because they would be on their own until late that night.
After meeting up, my son and I walked to Collins Street which has the BEST chocolate shop, Haigs [from Adelaide South Australia]. Normally they are closed when I’m in the city but this day we were early enough and Matt made the most of it by stocking up on enough chocolate to last the slightly more than two weeks of MIFF.
I bought a ten pack of dark chocolate frogs…..delicious. It was hard to ration them out over 14 days!
MIFF is one of the only places that I will queue up [it’s unavoidable] but on this occasion I got there as the line was going in… bonus!
Matt is a member and they go in first but then I had to find him. It took a while as he failed to notice me! He can be a bit dreamy at times!
He had held me a seat and I quickly settled in. This particular cinema is steeply tiered so I did not have to slouch [I sit high in the saddle] and the ladies behind me could see all the screen which was important because the film was sub titled.
I really had my hopes up for this movie and I was not disappointed. Matt was obviously impressed and as we gathered ourselves I asked the three ladies sitting behind us what they thought. They loved it. I asked if they were teachers; one was and one addmitted to be an ‘ex’ after I said that I was.
They wanted to know why I was an ‘ex teacher’ and I quickly said that it was a long answer requiring at least three red wines!
I got the feeling that the conversation could have finished elsewhere, or maybe I was just having a good day after feeling pretty bad for the previous few days.
I walked with Matt to his next venue and found an excellent Italian cafe, SPIGA*. I don’t spend a lot of time in that part of town so I had not come across it before. They had a wine list which I took advantage of and they make a good pizza.
On the way back to the car I was looking for a good cup of coffee [Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world]. I wanted somewhere to sit and write.
I had not brought a note book so I hit a series of 7Elevens where I found a note book but no pencils…. I wrote this with an emergency pencil I carry in my pocket which is actually just a stub…. your hand starts to ache after a while!
The coffee was good and it was fun listening to the conversations going on around me.
It was then time to go and collect my good lady from the airport.
*[shop 2 Menzies Alley Melbourne Central]
A few years ago my eldest son and his wife rented a house in an outer suburb of Adelaide. It was made of brick and had one of those closed in back verandahs that showed the house had become too small for a growing family at one point in its history.
I loved to sit on that back verandah and gaze out of the open back door while sitting in an old, very comfortable armchair.
The photo above shows a TeeShirt on the clothesline with the usual arachnid who believes that clotheslines were put there to help them feed their family.
My son and his wife eventually decided to buy their own house and my favourite chair was discarded in the move.
I was not happy!
I loved that chair but this was not my house and not my decision to make. Such is the lot of a parent of a grown-up son.
I miss that house and that chair even though the new house is excellent. With history repeating itself, this new house is now bursting at the seams with the addition of a daughter and a son.
I love this photo as it takes me back to that house and the excitement of wedding preparations, early morning cups of coffee gazing out the door into the backyard teaming with life as all backyards usually are.
I miss sitting on that chair with a small dog on my lap thinking of what may come.
I’m not the only one who loved that chair.
Have you ever wondered how they got there?
People, I mean.
People who flash into your life and leave just as abruptly.
They leave their mark. If we never see them again, we are forever changed, if only in a small way.
A wise man once said, “The more I see of people, the more I like my dog.” There are times when this is hard to argue with.
We almost didn’t get to meet Jessy. She was coming out of the BP service station on Burwood Highway in Tecoma, and I nearly missed seeing her weave through the busy traffic.
My attention was taken by an old lady who was also taking her life in her hands trying to cross this busy highway. She was trying to get to the bus stop on the other side, and Jessy was trying to cross from the bus stop to get to our side.
The difference between these two ‘old ladies’ was that one of them was human, and should have known better, and the other was canine and was in the hands of the traffic gods as she continued her quest to find her way home.
Honey, Zed and I were out for a walk when I noticed this daredevil old lady who looked like she wanted to cross the highway at a particularly dangerous spot.
It crossed my mind that I should offer to help her, but it also occurred to me that we were going to make quite a sight. Most probably Zed would want to give the old lady a good telling off for getting too close and I could see myself with two flailing dogs and an old lady in tow trying not to get us all killed!
It was at this point of pondering what to do that I noticed the dog coming towards us. It crossed my mind that the crazy old lady and the crazy old dog might be connected.
The old dog had her head down and was moving resolutely in our direction, and I judged that there was no chance of her making it as a large four wheel drive headed her way. I looked at the driver and could see that she had not seen the dog so there was nothing to do but wait for the bang.
There we all were, the old lady, my two dogs and me all waiting for life’s drama to play out. In a split second available to me I thought about calling out, but I knew that this was likely to have the opposite effect as dogs tend to come when you call to them so I just held my breath.
At the last moment, the old dog stopped just as the four-wheel drive whizzed past her nose.
After this moment of hesitation, the old dog continued her perilous journey. Her chances had improved but only marginally. Somehow she managed to avoid cars coming in both directions. Then, Jessy just sailed past both of us and continued her search. It wasn’t hard to work out that she was lost. Her grand adventure had now turned into an anxious search for familiar ground. She walked up the driveway of the nearest house, and I hoped that she had found home. But it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t her home.
I looked up because a young man was coming towards us and I hoped that he might be the owner, but sadly I was wrong. He had seen Jessy dicing with the traffic and had come across to help.
I asked him to grab her (if I had tried, Zed would have made a big fuss). We located her tag hoping that it would reveal a phone number. The young man asked if I had a mobile phone as his didn’t have any credit.
There was a sense of panic in his voice, and I was yet again amazed at the various things that worry people. The number on the tag came up as disconnected. I dialled again as I’m famous for having poor dialling skills.
“What are you going to do?” the young man asked. He wasn’t the only one who was wondering.
In the end, I connected both my dogs to the one lead (they were less than impressed) and connected Jessy to the other lead, and off we headed towards my house, some ten minutes away.
Jessy seemed quite happy to be on a lead, but Zed had had enough by this time. Being closely attached to Honey and with this large dog (Jessy is a Border collie cross) so close he decided it was time to bite someone. I kept him away from her as best I could, but Jessy wasn’t at all bothered by the noise, so off we went.
As we walked away, I told the young man that I would take Jessy to the Belgrave South Vet, and if anyone was looking for her, that is where she would be.
I looked back and noticed that the old lady had managed to cross the road unscathed and was sitting waiting for the bus to arrive.
Along the way, we ran into a neighbour and her little girl. Up until then, Jessy had been happy to walk along on the lead, but the lure of a little girl holding a half eaten cup cake made it difficult to convince her that we had to keep moving.
When we arrived home, I had to work out how to get everyone into my car. I corralled Jessy on the front verandah while I got my keys from inside and put my two dogs into the car. By the time I got back to her she had bowled over the barricade, I had set up and was galloping towards me across the verandah.
Getting her into the car proved to be interesting.
Zed obviously thought that the whole ’big dog incident’ was over and here I was trying to get this same big dog into the back of ‘his’ car. It was more than he could stand. In his enthusiasm to make his feelings clear he jumped up onto the rear parcel shelf and slammed his head into the rear window. He went quiet for a few seconds, and I thought that he had knocked himself out. Pretty soon he regained his composure and resumed his protest.
I opened the back door and suggested to Jessy that she get in. She quite wisely decided to wait until I had this furious fluff-ball under some kind of control.
After I had forcefully moved said crazed fluff-ball to the front of the car Jessy was happy to get in. She sat on the back seat in a way that suggested she was used to this form of transport.
A few minutes later we arrived at the vet and Jessy seemed quite interested in the place. The receptionist quickly gave the impression that she thought I was unloading an unwanted dog.
To put it mildly, after all, that I had been through, this made me somewhat annoyed. I’ve got muddy paw prints all over my leather seats, and this ‘person’ thinks that I’m dumping this beautiful, friendly old dog!
“You can ring in a few days, if you are interested, and see if she has been picked up.”
“Screw you lady, and yes I am interested to see if she is picked up as I’ve got the feeling that Jessy has indeed been dumped”. No Council tag and a phone number that has been disconnected along with her advanced age, and it didn’t look good for Jessy. My two dogs were very happy to see that I had returned to the car without the ‘big dog’.
We all went home where I made up a couple of posters. I put one up on a lamppost near where we had found Jessy, and one at the local general store.
If she was micro chipped, she had a chance.
Maybe someone would see the “FOUND” poster and ring the vet. I wasn’t going to wait for ‘a couple of days’.
I needed to know.
I rang the vet the next afternoon. The much friendlier woman who answered the phone needed a few minutes to search out Jessy’s fate.
“Someone came and collected her”. Those few words brought this story to a close.
Best sentence I’ve heard in a long time.
(Just to let you know; we never saw Jessie again, and we never heard from her owner which I thought was a bit rude. This was our third ‘rescue’ spread over a couple of years. One person, who was obviously sick and tired of their ‘Houdini’ dog, kept us waiting for an hour before they came and collected their dog which we had rescued from traffic in the main street of Belgrave. They lived about five minutes away! The other two owners just collected their dogs from the local vet and said nothing. A small thank you would have been nice.)