Halloween in Oz

I may have posted this before. It is old. And not very good.

But with everyone else jumping on the Halloween bandwagon I felt left out. Even though it is not (as will become clear) a festival that I properly understand.

Anyway …. quite some time ago I was challenged to write about Halloween from a different perspective. This is the result.



An Australian attempt at American culture goes horribly wrong.


I was a very willing participant when our little community embraced the concept of Halloween in October of the year 2000. The school was to be involved with the “G’day USA” student exchange program in the following year and Mrs Davis, the headmistress, thought that this might be a fun way to give those of us who might have the opportunity to take part an introduction to American culture.

Such is the notion of ‘foreign culture’ in our small corner of the world.

Heartfelt but misguided.

To be sure, there was some mention of Celtic history and ancient pagan rituals in class, but the real meaning of the holiday, as far as we could tell, and were certainly not about to dispute, revolved, essentially, around the concept of extortion.

By October 20 or so reports were flooding in about whose parents had acquired which lollies and in what quantities. Mrs Farmer, it was said, had purchased seven commercial size boxes of Smarties and Karen’s grandmother had apparently cornered the market in Mars Bars. Even weird Old Gladys Parker had been spotted leaving the supermarket stuffing bags of green frogs in with her shopping.

Despite the protestations of her children Mrs Anglesee had expressed an intention to bake scones for the big night and was, therefore, struck off most people’s visitation list.

In America, I suppose, it is easy to purchase all manner of outfits specifically designed to be worn on the night. One is expected to take to the dark in the guise of a zombie, ghoul or witch, I believe. No such supply is available in West Wyalong, however, so we were encouraged to make do with anything we could lay our hands on that might provide some visual separation from those not participating. When nightfall arrived the streets of town, as a result, were awash with Spidermen, Zorros and Phantoms.

A smattering of our less financially secure neighbours were out and about with nothing more than paper bags over their heads and holes cut out for the eyes. They were, as a result, the most terrifying of all of those at large.

My friend Tom and I opted for the Blues Brothers outfits we had put together for a birthday party earlier in the year and took to the streets at about 6:30PM

The whole process was ridiculously easy. By 8 o’clock we had stuffed our backpacks with more than enough sugar to ensure the early onset of diabetes and were considering calling it a night. It was only when passing the Parker house and seeing the porch light on that, on a whim, we thought to have one more go. Old Gladys and I had had a troubled relationship since the cricket ball incident of 1998, but I was confident that we had both, by now, put things in perspective, or were at least willing to put them aside for this night of American goodwill.

I knocked on her door and applied the technique that had proved so successful all evening. “Trick or treat?” I enquired when she answered.

“Oh, it’s you.” She replied, and immediately slammed the door in my face.

Neither our limited classroom training or our recent experience had properly equipped us for this sort of response. It seemed clear enough, nevertheless, that Gladys had made the unusual decision to enact the ‘trick’ option of the procedure. Just to be sure, however, I knocked a second time and when, a little stunned, she opened the door again I made our position clear.

“Hand over the Green Frogs or we burn the house down.” I said.

This time she let out a little yelp before slamming the door with what seemed greater conviction.

Having our bluff called a second time was certainly not something that we had bargained for and we were actually on our way down her front path in the early stages of a tactical withdrawal when we heard the window on the second floor of the house open behind us. We saw a flailing of old arms above as we turned and suddenly it was raining little bags of carefully packed green frogs.


The police car was already parked outside my house when I got home. The significance of this was not immediately obvious until I opened the front door and heard my father in the early stages of preparing a defence from within the lounge room. “What sort of proof do you have that our son was actually involved in all of this?” he was asking, as I approached.

“The perpetrators,” the sergeant explained, looking up from his note book at the very moment that Elwood Blues entered the room, “were described as wearing black suits, black sunglasses, black ties and black hats.”

My father looked at me and then at the floor – accepting, a little too easily I thought, my guilt. I was not to be so quickly defeated. “And who makes such an accusation?” I demanded.

The officer stared at me. “Don’t try to be smart-arse now, son. You’re in serious trouble. You threatened to kill Mrs Parker. She is under sedation and God knows if she will ever be the same.”

I won’t deny that at this point I was feeling a certain degree of remorse. But I had certainly not threatened to kill anybody. There had been a misunderstanding. To any sane jury, clearly, it would all be seen as a well-meaning prank with the full support of the school authorities that had gone terribly wrong. It was not the time, however, to over play my hand and rely too heavily on that support.

Fortunately I had already had a fair dose of American culture. I had watched television. I knew my rights. I knew how to deal with the police.

“Listen, officer,” I continued, “this is clearly a trumped up charge possibly stemming from some previous misunderstanding between myself and my accuser, but you’ll never make it stick. Look at the facts. It was a fancy dress night. There may have been a hundred Blues Brothers out there and all manner of crime occurring on the streets. Why pick on me? Just five minutes ago I saw Superman pissing on the Simpson’s rose garden. Why don’t you arrest him?”

Not for the first time in my life, and certainly not for the last, I heard my mother weeping in the kitchen.

But I was right. The officer did not press charges. Nor did he search my back-pack. The seventeen bags of green frogs within may have been more difficult to explain.


Old Gladys made a full recovery and I wrote her, after some less than subtle encouragement, an impassioned letter of apology ‘on behalf of the school community’.

I was not selected to travel as part of the program to the USA. An annotation on my application suggested that I was “a potential disruptive influence, with limited respect for authority.”

In the September of 2001, the citizens of the USA were given even more reason than before to be suspicious of anyone masquerading as something other than what they appeared to be. Perhaps it would not have been the place for me, anyway.

Everything is going to plan. Nano starts next week.


I have no idea why I inserted the picture above. The ridiculous nature of it appeals to me, to be sure (I wonder what body parts they may be thinking of ….. I wonder what body parts you are thinking of) but I stumbled upon it whilst searching for ideas. I am supposed to write 50,000 words next month. Ideas would be nice, about now. I’m desperate for ideas, actually, and the picture neatly illustrates that desperation.

So I could abbreviate (edit?) the opening line of this post. I have no idea why I inserted the picture above. I just have no idea.

But abbreviation is the furthest thing from my mind.

I want more words, not less.

So this is (another) appeal for spare ideas. Simple ones. Ideas that an old man tumbling head first into senility might still comprehend.

There’s no hurry. It doesn’t kick off until next week.

So anytime in the next hour or so would be fine.

A night at the Opera

I was challenged to write a conclusion to a story started by The Haunted Wordsmith and continued by The Bag Lady

Actually, Im not really sure if it was supposed to be a conclusion or just a continuation. So I have left it a bit open ended. There are, to be sure, a couple of logical inconsistencies within the combined work…. I hope that doesn’t matter too much


Rudolph. Rudolph the rude she secretly named him two years ago. She first met Rudolph during intermission in the lobby of this same opera house. He came on strong and the champagne cocktail encouraged her to flirt probably a little too much. She was instantly enamored by his boyish charm and definite interest. They joined each other after the performance and went to a cafe for a late dinner and live music.

Possibly it was all of it at once, or the way he held her close as they danced that made her fall so quickly. They spent the next two weeks barely able to leave each other for a few minutes, but then her vacation ended and she was immersed in her job once again.

Lana put her whole self into any endeavor, but as she sat reading manuscripts, her mind wandered to the vision of Rudolph. Lana was wondering if she would ever see him again. They promised of course, as passionate lovers always do, but she had been home for a week with no word. Her attempts to contact him came back unanswered.


So this was awkward.

She could not help but stare at him, of course. But nor could anyone else. He took centre stage and was, in more ways than one, magnificent. She felt more than a pang of guilt when Joshua tapped her gently on the shoulder and whispered in her ear, “this guy is great.”

“Oh, yes,” she whispered back, but more to herself than to Joshua.

But it was utter foolishness. She was a happily married woman. Well … fairly happily, anyway. And if her marriage was lacking that certain spark of romance then that was the nature of marriage. Perhaps it was the nature of romance. For romance would always be transient.

And tonight, at least, Joshua was really trying. In the car lay a bunch of flowers and the book that she had long lusted for. She could still feel the lightheadedness of the wine they had shared at dinner. He was, after all, her childhood sweetheart. What could be more romantic?

So she resolved, then and there, to put it behind her, to lock forever that window into the past. And look to a future that had been mapped out for her. Mapped out for Joshua, anyway. In the family furniture business. What future was there for the tenor? What would become of him when his good looks and his sweet voice deserted him?

But still she was transfixed. And not once, not twice, but three times she thought he made eye contact with her. Which was impossible. The stage lights were directed towards him and, looking out into the audience, he must have seen only a sea of grey faces in the shadows. Perhaps every woman in the audience imagined such eye contact. How many of them, she wondered, had slept with him?

She had little memory of the performance itself. She remembered to applaud only when Joshua nudged her.

And then, as they stood to leave, an attendant pressed a note into her hand. It was a back stage pass for the following evening’s performance. She recognised the handwriting. ‘Bring a toothbrush’ the note said.

Lana knew immediately what she would do.

My mother and Wayside.

Many of you may have heard me mention Graham Long at the Wayside Chapel. I hold him in high regard. He has recently retired. But I was reminded of him yesterday by Kate, my estranged daughter, who confused him with his predecessor, Ted Noffs, the founder of Wayside. This, in turn, reminded me of my mother who once had a cup of tea with Ted. So this is for Kate.


My parents, in their twilight years, established a tradition of dining at the local RSL every Wednesday evening . In earlier times they had travelled the world together and dined in restaurants overlooking the Mediterranean and Hong Kong harbour. They had travelled in the first class cabins of jumbo jets. But, by now, they were slowing down. Their tastes had become more modest. They were old. My father was convinced (incorrectly) that they were going broke. And my mother was in the early stages of the dementia that was soon enough going to kill her.

An RSL is, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a club established for the benefit of service men or women whether currently serving or otherwise. My father, as a WW II veteran was such a person. Meals and booze are subsidised, at the club, by a stream of income mainly generated by gambling and whilst my parents were not poor (despite my father’s fears) they liked to be ‘careful’. The fact that, as Presbyterians (allegedly), they were profiting from the proceeds of gambling never bothered them at all.

One of the events on a Wednesday evening is the ‘Badge Draw’. The ‘Badge Draw’ is not a difficult or unusual idea to comprehend, and not entirely out of keeping with the club’s focus on gambling. Here’s how it works….. Every week a set amount of cash is put aside and put in a ‘pot’. On a Wednesday evening one membership number is chosen randomly and, if that member is in the club at the time, then the cash is ceremoniously presented to them. If not then the ‘jackpot’ accumulates for the next week. And so on.

On this particular Wednesday evening a number was read out over the PA system whilst my parents were midway through their meal. They didn’t recognise the number. They weren’t even listening. But you don’t have to recognise your own number to win the Badge Draw. When you sign in to the club the system registers your arrival and the system knows that you are there.

So, before long, club officials were at my parents table and directly addressing my mother.

“Congratulations,” they told her, “you have won the Badge Draw.”

She had absolutely no idea of what they were talking about. “Oh,” she responded politely, “that’s nice.”

“Yes,” they said, “Isn’t it just? Can we present you with your prize?”


“What? I’m sorry? I don’t think you understand. You’ve won some money. We’d like to give it to you.”

By this time my mother was growing a little annoyed. “Look,” she explained, “this is all very nice, I’m sure, but I’m eating fish and chips with my husband. I don’t want any money.”

“Can we present it to you after the meal?”

“No, thank you.”

“But it’s money.”

My mother sighed. “Take a look at me,” she suggested, “I’m almost dead. I don’t need any money. And I don’t want it.”

“It’s a lot of money.”

“Keep it.”

This situation, understandably, was not something that the staff had encountered previously. They had no clear direction. And by now, of course, my father was in something of a state. The notion of giving up what had been described as ‘a lot of money’ did not sit well with him. He reached his hand over to gently touch hers. “Listen, darling,” he suggested, “perhaps it would be easier ….”

The staff leapt to his support. “Madam,” they assured her, “we’re not allowed to keep it. I think your husband is right. It would be best if ….”

“Then give it to someone else.”

“We can’t do that either.”

The situation was at a stalemate. Everybody was looking at each other. My father shrugged his shoulders. The staff shrugged their shoulders. My mother resumed her meal with gusto.

The manager was called. He arrived with a broad smile on his face and shook everybody’s hands. “Well. Firstly may I offer my hearty congratulations on your good fortune. I have been advised of your feelings. But the money is yours. And it is yours to do with as you please. If you wish to give it to someone else then that is entirely your business.”

My father couldn’t help himself. He had to ask. “Just how much money are we talking about here?”

The manager smiled again. “Just short of thirty-seven thousand dollars, Sir.”


So my parents returned from their cheap night at the club with just short of thirty-seven thousand dollars in their pocket.

My father urged a reconsideration of generosity. But my mother could not be dissuaded. First thing the following morning she was on the phone to the Wayside Chapel. “I want to speak to Rev Ted Noffs,” she declared, “ I’d like to make a donation.” Wayside receives a lot of small donations from kind people. Frequently it is just loose change. But everything is appreciated. My mother made no mention of the size of her donation.

Rev Noffs was a busy man back then. He couldn’t take every call personally. So he had one of his staff deputise for him. “Well, that is very kind of you,” the lady said to my mother, “and we would be more than happy to accept it. We rely on the support of kind people like …”

My mother cut her off. “How do I do it?”

“Well, you could drop it in here or you could post a cheque if you like…”

“What’s the address?”

The address was supplied and that was that. She hung up the phone and turned to my father, who was still in a state of shock. “Get me an envelope and write out a cheque for thirty-seven thousand dollars,” she instructed.


It was the following Monday when the phone rang at my parent’s house. My mother answered. The caller was the Rev Fred Noffs.

“I was wondering,” he said, “if you’d like to drop by for a cup of tea.”


50,000 words in November

Inspired by Marquesa (I will, no doubt, learn to despise her as a result) I thought that I would put my name in the hat for this month of torture.

It will, at least, have the positive symptom of keeping me too busy to bore you people with inane and essentially meaningless posts on here.

But here’s the problem. I think I need some sort of pre-prepared basic plot in my head before putting the first word on the page. I have no such plot.

So I am fishing around for ideas.

Does anyone have any plots in their heads that they have been meaning to act upon but have never got around to? And would you like to witness your beautiful project being ruined? If so, I’m your man.

Any ideas more than welcome ….

Two – for the price of one (but for less than the value)

3 things challenge …. affair, share, after hours

SoCS …. flowers

OK. This is just plain lazy. Sitting here this morning and waiting for the sun and trying to contribute something. Was tickled a little bit by 2 Challenges (above) but too slack to give either of them the attention that they deserve.

Don’t bring me flowers

And expect


After hours

Bring respect

That we can share

Man and wife

Until then

It is my life

And not your affair

It’s a desert out there. And I was parched.

I’ve created such a mess

I am here to confess

There’s no way for me to justify my actions

Though I’m taking all the blame

I cannot supply her name

But I offer you my unreserved retractions

I’ve been missing you so much

You know I pine for your touch

I was parched for your love and for your kindness

I really wasn’t thinking

After she and I’d been drinking

Please forgive me for my temporary blindness