Alex Njoo: “Puppy Love”

Give me the time of day
And I give you the hours
Of my life.
Give me the seasons of the year,
And I give you the buds
in May.
Give me the nights
of your dreams,
And I give you a
Galaxy of stars.

For you are, my love,
Like the ripples of ocean waves
and the rhythm of my heart,
Not even
The darkness of my life
Can dim the light
Of my love for you.

Lois Best: “Life is a Juggle”

‘Well, juggling chainsaws is obviously out,’ thought Flo as the colourful beanbags plopped at her feet.

‘For both of us, I reckon,’ chuckled the obviously novice juggler next to her. She was also awkwardly retrieving beanbags.

Flo realised she had, once again, voiced her thoughts. She’d been doing that ever since this pressure from her children. The three of them cheerfully bandied around suggestions like: you’re not getting any younger; downsize; the new retirement village looks lovely; at least have a look. Which is how she has allowed them to deposit her here at the Open Day, having “fun”.

‘Is it just an old age thing, or stress I wonder?’ Flo thought as she glumly returned the beanbags to the basket.

‘What, voicing your thoughts?’ Came the reply. ‘Stress, I reckon.’

Damn, another thought, aloud.

‘Now, and this is real speech by the way, I need you to explain why you think that …stress, I mean. Do you want to give this juggling lark away and go get a cuppa?’

‘Yes, most definitely. And I think tea’s the strongest stuff on offer, so that’ll have to do. I’m Meg, by the way.’

‘Nice to meet you.’ Flo really meant that. ‘I’m Flo.’

As they picked up their coats and bags they both spoke at once, ‘My children are saying…’

They looked at each other with surprise. ‘You first.’ Said Meg

‘They think it’s time I “downsize”…’ she shocked herself by using air quotes. ‘I know they mean well.’

‘Same’ giggled Meg, ‘but…’

‘I’m not ready,’ they chorused, laughing.

That felt so good. It was such a long time since Flo had laughed so easily. She knew her children were right to be concerned about her but maybe a good laugh is the tonic she needs.

Children become independent, grandchildren grow up and they all shift their focus. Partners and old friends pass on. Or they do this, downsize and move into a retirement village on the other side of town. You lose touch and aloneness turns into loneliness. This gradual, inevitable, change has left Flo weary. She despaired as her legs got heavy and her walk became more of a shuffle.

As they strolled to the dining hall, Flo and Meg remarked on the beautifully manicured garden. Not a leaf out of place.

‘Nice looking,’ observed Meg, ‘but too manicured. I love…’

‘…wild gardens,’ again they chorused the same idea.

As they neared the dining hall they heard it; ‘Clickety clicks – 66; Legs eleven…’ they looked at each other and read their mirrored horror.

‘Bingo?’ they whispered. ‘Not yet.’

‘Did you notice that Café outside the gates? Let’s go there instead.’ Meg suggested.

As they slowly walked along the pristine path they discussed their various ailments – Flo’s dodgy shoulder, Meg’s dodgy knee. Flo’s failing hearing, Meg’s failing eyesight. Their heart, their lungs, their hair – until breathless with laughter, they came to the conclusion that, together, they actually make up one very functional human being. That’s the answer. Let’s do something about this together, we don’t have to obey our children. They excitedly discussed possibilities in their newly discovered dual-thinking fashion.

Walking out the gate felt like freedom. And despite the wear and tear, Flo felt her steps become decidedly jaunty.


Award – Port Phillip Writes 2020

John Craven: “The God Gig”

Every now and again the Gods have a conference to review developments and kick up their heels in ungodly frivolity. A key part of the celestial fun is to review a component of the universe and, in 2021, the focus is on planet Earth.

The performance criteria are, basically, related to matters that affect the longevity of the planet and, to simplify the review, this is defined as a place where the apex predator maintains a viable breeding population. On Earth, Homo sapiens is the focus of the study. The key performance indicators include:

  • Harmony within the human species
  • Sharing of wealth
  • Food adequacy and distribution
  • Health
  • Environmental stewardship

The chair of the enquiry opened proceedings by reminding the Gods that planet Earth had been set up as an experiment to see if it was possible to establish a mix of plants, animals, insects and micro- organisms and have it evolve into a stable, self-sustaining biological community. They had started modestly with a few micro-organisms and then steadily added other bits to the mix. There had been some spectacular periods such as the time when the giant reptiles and dinosaurs ruled the earth. It had not always worked, and the Gods were reminded that they had already had to implement five mass extinction events to get the ecosystem back on track. They were also reminded that at the 100,000 BC conference they had decided that the whole thing was a bit of a mess and that the answer might be development of a species with a large brain capable of advanced analysis. They postulated that such a being would be able to consider complex questions of survival and evolve strategies to optimise a harmonious, self-perpetuating rhythm of life on Earth. They popped a few hominids down in Africa and, in due course, they wandered all over the planet. The swarming masses seemed to be going OK, but the onset of intergroup rivalry was sufficiently worrying that at the 10,000 BC conference they had divvied the population up into religious groups and given each God a portfolio more or less aligned to geographic regions. This really had not worked well as the different religions kept dividing into smaller groups and using their religious alignment as an excuse to fight each other. The review systematically discussed their terms of reference and concluded:

  • The harmony of different bits of the human race was not going well and, despite some serious learning modules during world-wide wars and pandemics, they had not made much progress. Indeed, the big brain that had been given to the humanoids had been used to develop horrendous weapons that could wipe out whole countries. The rapporteur was at pains to point out that the vast majority of the human race lived at peace with their fellow citizens and the problem was that a nasty class of people had got into leadership positions and were out of control. There was, however, no way that the review panel could mark Harmony as anything better than an F.
  • Sharing wealth had never had much of a run and in every society, there were people scheming to get more than their fair share. Marked F.
  • Food production has been an enormous success as the humans had innovated new ways to grow food and, despite some poor performance in distribution and sharing, the report was a B.
  • Health was also an area where extraordinary innovation had achieved huge improvements in treating and preventing diseases. The weakness noted in the report was that the advances in health care had not been shared very well across the nations of the Earth. Marked C.
  • Looking after the environment had been reasonably successful until the last 100 years when the human race had started to clear the land to grow more food with little regard for the sustainability of their bit of the ecosystem. They had also discovered the joys of using fossil fuels for heating, power and transport. This had transformed life on earth but, unfortunately, generated the production of gasses that became trapped in the upper atmosphere and were steadily causing temperatures to rise. The smarter humans knew all about this and devised means to halt the heating. However, the fossil fuel barons had undue influence on governments and, globally, it is touch and go whether the human population takes action or elects to self-destruct. The mark for environmental stewardship was F minus.

After a fun-filled night the gods reconvened. There was no doubt that introducing a human species into the planet earth experiment was not going well but there was still time to prevent immolation if smarter people managed to get control. If all else fails and the human race is unable to save itself then the gods concluded that they would need to have a sixth mass extinction and start again. They were disappointed but agreed to defer a decision until their next meeting in 2050.

John Craven: “Covid Coffee Underbelly”

Over many years, people have remarked that my integrity is beyond reproach. But, dear friends, I feel that I need to tell you an almost unbelievable tale about how I stumbled on a conspiracy and had no choice other than to blow the whistle and take the consequences.

It started with a paper in the Journal of Delusional Science claiming a link between holding a coffee cup and immunity from COVID. It caught the attention of a prominent, not very bright, ‘Shock Jock’ desperate for TV ratings. He saw a golden opportunity to spread the word to his followers and to reap a bonanza from coffee companies and coffee shops. The biggest risk was from the medical and scientific classes who would, in all probability, insist on properly designed experiments published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The saving grace was that no one in the scientific community listened to the Shock Jock and, as an added precaution, he told his paltry audience they must keep the story to themselves and only share it with trusted families and friends.

At first, people in the know just bought their coffee as usual and drank it in a way that attracted no attention. It worked like a charm. None of them caught COVID and their belief in the power of coffee was reinforced. Inevitably, the word spread to less reliable people and they made the leap in logic that just walking with a coffee cup rendered them immune and, in some perverted way, this validated their belief that masks were an over-kill. The pandemic rolled on and ever- increasing numbers of people were carrying coffee cups on their daily walk and dispensing with face masks or, at best, using them to warm their chins.

Respectable people were becoming steadily less tolerant with this wanton behaviour and, not knowing the coffee cup/COVID immunity theory, were beginning to challenge individuals that were in flagrant breach of the COVID laws. This, of course, led to some pretty ugly scenes and, as emergency wards began to overflow with beaten bodies, the authorities were directed to get to the bottom of this apparent outbreak of civil disobedience.

Lockdown followed lockdown and, quite by accident, I stumbled on this coffee cup underground movement. What was the honourable path forward? My timid nature prompted a retreat into doing nothing, but after a particularly harrowing news item about the COVID-induced death of a teenager, I could no longer remain silent. It was thought that the deceased teen had become infected when traversing a street full of maskless hoons who were, it was reported, all carrying coffee cups.

My disclosure of the coffee cup COVID immunity theory was sensational and, as the media blitz flourished, I was also subjected to threats allegedly prompted by the self- important Shock Jock, aided and abetted by the coffee companies. The baying chorus pointed to proof of their mad crusade in the form of more articles in the Journal of Delusional Science. It did not take long for the genuine scientific community to expose the articles as fraudulent. Not surprisingly, the dopey Shock Jock and the less reputable parts of the coffee industry thundered about the lack of real evidence and carried on as before. The science-driven COVID suppression elite thundered back, and, in time, the unmasked coffee cup mob was reduced to a nasty little rump of faux freedom fighters.

Transmission of COVID plummeted.

I am sure that you are imagining that, at least, I would be bestowed with an Order of Australia but, sad to say, I am still in hiding from the thugs that have seen their ill-gotten gains go south. Whistle blowing is, unfortunately, not on the list of Australian achievements worthy of celebration.

Brenda Richards: “Moon Beams”

Maggie was tidying up. It was a never-ending job with a four-year-old. She straightened the blankets on the little bed, picked the teddy bear off the floor and placed it neatly on the pillow.

She sighed as she looked out the window and watched Millie and the old dog cuddling up on the front veranda. Looks like Millie had found her own teddy bear. Maggie watched as the little girl ran her fingers through the tattered ruff around Max’s neck as he snuggled up against her. Then she heard Millie’s soft voice.

‘He’s up there Max. That’s where he is. He liked me singing to him. What if he doesn’t have anyone to sing to him? If we sing loudly, maybe he’ll hear us.’

Max snuggled close and thumped his tail. The little girl’s gentle voice filled the air.

‘I see the moon and the moon sees me
The moon sees somebody I want to see.’

Maggie remembered singing that to Millie when she was a baby. Then the sound changed. Maggie went to the door and looked out. A strange duet was in progress. Max was making a high-pitched yowling noise. The girl and the dog were synchronising in some strange way, as they sat with their faces raised up to the full moon.

It was getting late. Maggie sighed – it had been a long day. She was mesmerised by the strange caterwauling chorus that Max and Millie continued to send skyward. She hated to interrupt.

‘OK you two. It’s bed time’

The girl reluctantly came in, with the old dog padding along beside her.

‘Make sure you fill up Max’s water bowl – he gets thirsty now that he’s getting old – and as there’s no school tomorrow, you can sleep in.’

Maggie was used to getting up early. That happens when you have a new baby. The pattern still continued. She wandered out to the kitchen and switched on the electric jug, then spooned some Nescafe and a shake of sugar into a mug, followed by a splash of milk. She held the handle of the jug as she gazed out the window. She didn’t wait for the automatic timer to work, flicking it off when the water started to bubble. The early sun was just starting to shine on the ever-cheerful geraniums next to the window.

Maggie sipped the coffee slowly, her hands comforted by the warmth of the mug. The house was quiet. Too quiet. It was like a big blanket had descended on it and muted all sound. She picked up the tin of dog food to refill Max’s bowl and went into the laundry where he slept on an old blanket. He was usually sitting up looking for his breakfast by now. The poor old fellow must have been tired out. She gave him a nudge.

‘Wake up Maxie.’

There was no response. Something wasn’t right. She gently wrapped his blanket around him. She heard Millie’s voice behind her.

‘What’s wrong with Max?’

‘He’s sick. I’ll have to take him to the vet.’

‘Wait for me. I’m coming too,’ said Millie as she darted back into her room and put a jacket over her pyjamas. She picked up the teddy bear on her way out. ‘I can sit with him while you drive.’

The vet looked at the little girl in the waiting room. While she was patting the old dog, her tears fell on his raggedy head. She was singing softly to him. The teddy bear was between his paws. This was the hardest part of the vet’s job. He gently picked up the dog.

‘Max was old, Millie, and he had a lot of pain. He’s peaceful now. We’ll look after him. He knows you love him.’

Mother and daughter drove home in silence.

That evening, Maggie again heard the young voice soaring up to the sky. She came out to join Millie on the veranda.

‘I see the moon and the moon sees me
The moon sees somebody I want to see.’

Millie stopped as she heard her mother behind her. She turned around.

‘Baby James isn’t on his own any more, Mum. Now Maxie is up there to look after him.’

‘You’re right darling,’ said Maggie as she hugged her little daughter. With faces raised, they sang the next two lines together.

‘Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the ones I love’ *

And the moon beamed.

*‘I see the Moon.’ Old children’s lullaby. Possibly Irish. There are a number of different versions. Author unknown.

Sheila Quairney: “Sharing”

One seed, two lives. But very different stories. It happened on a long, sticky langorous summer’s evening. When the setting sun painted its colours of crimson and gold across the darkening sky and the birds sang themselves to sleep. The seed was planted.

It lay quietly undetected, buried deep in the dark and the warm, safe, secure and sheltered from harm. Free to grow, and develop, and mature. Or so it thought. Time passed. Then something strange started happening to the seed. A minute shifting of cells, a sensation of schism. One seed became two. Two tiny clumps of cells fighting for survival, and sharing the nourishment.

But they were not equal. The split had created two seeds of different sizes. Let’s call them Alpha and Beta. And Seed Alpha was determined to keep it that way. As the months passed, the seeds started to develop at different rates. Seed Alpha was greedy for nutrients and got bigger and bigger. While Seed Beta was smaller and unable to fight for what he needed. He just didn’t grow. In any respect. Seed Alpha didn’t care. He didn’t want to share. He wanted to be the biggest and best.

The day came for the seeds to leave the darkness of the familiar womb and to make their way out into the light. As waves of movement propelled them forward, Seed Alpha seized his moment and pushed his way out first. A healthy and robust baby. There were cries of exhausted delight. Many minutes later, little Seed Beta followed. There was silence. Two babies. A shared past. But a very different future awaited.

Seed Alpha stayed at home with his mother and got bigger and stronger. Seed Beta stayed in hospital and battled to survive. He got weaker and weaker. Eventually he gave up. Now Seed Alpha was the only baby, much loved and cosseted and worried over. He would lie in his cot and watch the patterns of light dancing over the ceiling and the curtains fluttering in the summer breeze. He was picked up and cuddled, over and over.

The parents loved their living baby and they rejoiced in his size and strength. But strangely, he wasn’t happy. There was something missing, a part of him that should have been there but wasn’t. And never would be. And it was his own fault. For taking, not sharing. As the years went by, he came to realise what he had lost. He sought out other twins to befriend and his sense of loss became more acute.

Now he is married. It’s a beautiful spring evening, their birthday. He sits under the cherry tree planted in memory of Seed Beta and toasts his tiny, missing brother. He makes a vow. Then he seeks out his new wife. And the cycle of life begins again.

Sheila Quairney: “Just Relax”

“Just relax” murmurs the doctor soothingly as she attempts to probe tender bits of my anatomy with something alien, cold and rather unpleasant. Relax? Seriously? I think to myself, trying and failing to unclench my jaw, and other bodily parts.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we, rigid with fear and tension, willing ourselves into a sense of detachment and pretending that this invasive procedure is happening to someone else and not to us.

Whether it’s swabs up noses or needles in jaws, it’s not exactly pleasant, is it?

We try desperately and without much success to imagine we’re on a desert island, or floating down a river, or up on a cloud, when the reality is that we’re imprisoned on a chair, or a couch, at the mercy of a determined medical practitioner. The hitherto unobserved ceiling becomes an object of great interest to us, as we watch with impotent and horrified fascination an abseiling spider drawing ever closer. At least it takes our mind off whatever procedure is happening to us. Maybe there’ll be a fire alarm, or a very minor earth tremor will hit Bay Street, and we will be reprieved, from both the spider and the treatment. We can but hope.

Whatever part of the body it is, subjecting ourselves to possible pain or discomfort at the hands of dedicated and very capable doctors, nurses and dentists brings out the latent coward in most of us.

Our inner five year old wants to wail “Mummy, don’t let that nasty woman hurt me!” while we grit our teeth (dental equipment permitting), try to breathe out slowly and put into practice all those relaxation techniques that seem so effortless in Yoga classes.

We know it’s for our own good (we may even be voluntarily paying for it), we know it will soon be over, but we don’t like it. We’re embarrassed at being so pathetic and tell ourselves sternly that this is NOTHING compared with what people who are really ill are going through, that we should be ASHAMED of ourselves for making such a fuss and it’s for our OWN GOOD.

But it doesn’t make it any easier….

Time to ‘fess up – I was for many years one of those Yoga teachers who played soothing music and talked in a low monotone to lull my classes into a semi-dormant state of relaxation. It’s easy, isn’t it, when you’re lying on your mat in that dark room with nothing to disturb your peace of mind. I’d mentally transport my class to warm sandy beaches, or cool mountain forests, or favourite places and we’d all think beautiful thoughts. But put me on that doctor’s couch or dentist’s chair, and all my years of practice and training go out the window as I frantically wriggle my toes (as advised by a long-ago dentist) and try – and fail – to let go.

I’m a real wimp when it comes to medical stuff. I’m the sort who faints giving blood, and never ever wanted to play Doctors and Nurses. I close my eyes during the gory bits in movies and would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to watch a hospital reality show.

Aziza Khamlichi: “Acquaintance”

It was one of those sunny days with blue sky in Albert Park.

Layla decided to take a trip to the city.

On her way to the No 1 tram, she saw people happily walking, all wearing cheerful clothes. Smiles and greetings were shared and acknowledged.

This was shortly before the outbreak of COVID-19. As soon as she stepped on board the tram, she looked around for a seat. A gentleman shot her a smile revealing his brown teeth. He patted the seat next to him with slender beautiful hands and long dirty nails.

“Come lady sit down,” he invited her. He was well spoken but very smelly.

She hesitated for a few seconds. The passengers’ eyes were on her. Embarrassed, and not wanting to offend him, she took up his offer.

“Thank you.” She said avoiding his gaze.

Trying to hide, she took her book from her bag and buried her head in it. She started reading, to avoid a conversation.

“What are you reading lady?” He got closer to look at the title.

She couldn’t hold her breath for long. His pungent smell was overwhelming.

“Ah, The Power! I read it. It is a page turner. Naomi Alderman?”

He gave her a concise summary in an articulate manner.

“It is about gender imbalance. Women with a flick of their finger, they could kill. I don’t want to

spoil the ending for you,” he continued.

This took her by surprise and got her attention. This man was clearly well educated. She looked a him properly for the first time. Despite his greasy blond hair and unshaven face, she saw a handsome man with intelligent eyes.

He offered a sticky hand for an introductory handshake. Reluctantly, she took it. Making sure the contact did not linger. Out of respect, she hesitated to wipe her hand on her dress.

“You look Lebanese.”

“Middle Eastern” she replied.

He switched into an almost perfect Arabic conversation.

Astonished, she found her self responding to his open-ended questions. He did it tactfully and in a respectful way.

While he barely disclosed anything about himself.

“I am a philologist.” he said proudly.

“What is that?” Layla asked, ashamed of her ignorance.

“I study the history of languages and enjoy looking closely at literature.”

Engrossed in conversation, she missed her stop.

“Good to meet you. I have to get off.” She said in haste.

“Have a nice day.” His melodic voice and bad smell followed her as she made her exit. He could easily have been a radio presenter or done voice-overs, she thought to herself in amazement!

Two weeks later, after their brief encounter, a book under her arm, she proceeded towards Station Pier.

The same gentleman was sitting on the sand. He was bending over paper. Crayons spread out in front of him. He was sketching the docked Spirit of Tasmania.

“Hi“. She waved with a friendly smile.

“Hello” he said in his mesmerising voice.

She sat next to him admiring his work. He looked different and smelled of aftershave.

“Fancy meeting you here.” she said cheerfully.

“I was hoping to see you. You told me you come here often” He looked at the book under her arm.

“Still reading The Power?”

“No.” she replied, “I lost the book on the tram on my way home the day I met you.”

“Shame. I wanted to debate the position of women with you as the novel unfolded.”

He stretched his hand to take her book. She noticed clean and beautifully manicured nails.

“Ah you are reading French this time – Albert Camus. I remember reading this book years ago.”

In perfect French he summarised the book and discussed the author’s philosophy in depth. Eventually she made her excuses and started to walk away.

“Hope to see you again” he said getting back to his drawing.

She felt a strong connection to this person. They didn’t make any plans to meet again. But they did the following week in the same place.

He greeted her warmly.

“Well look at you! Beautiful teeth!” she remarked.

“Just came from the dentist.” he answered with a thumbs up.

“Good hair cut! Your beard is gone!” She looked at him from head to toe.

“It was free.” he boasted.

“I love your shirt.”

“Yep. The lady in the Op Shop was very kind. She gave me things. She said it was designer stuff – I told her I know.”

“You are looking so well.” She complemented him.

“I am not homeless. I have a room in a hostel.

The people there are noisy. They fight a lot. I would rather roam the streets and sleep in St Vincent’s park or the beach.”

Suddenly COVID-19 hit. She didn’t see the gentleman during the lockdown. At the end of the lockdown, she saw him, sitting on a bench in Clarendon Street. All dishevelled, in a tattered track suit, dirty, and wet. Eyes closed, head bent and nose running.

“Three dollars please.” he begged with a sniff and a croaky voice.

Brenda Richards “Dave and his Dog”

Buskers: we walk past buskers every day.  Sometimes we step around them as if they are a nuisance in our busy lives.  Other times we pretend they are not there.  Occasionally we put a coin in a hat or a guitar case.  And sometimes we enjoy their music or whatever other entertainment they are offering us.

Unfortunately, we rarely see the person behind the performer.  This is our loss.

Dave & his Dog

A Busker with his dog

Rosie lay beside the open guitar case, pretending not to notice the people passing by, but the flicker in her eyes notifies that she never misses a trick.  Dave, with his mop of unruly dark hair under a battered bushman’s hat, sings his songs with meaning, his soft blue eyes also watching.  Just another busker?  His voice and guitar skills hint of more.

Dave was born in Maffra, near the Dargo High Plains.  One of five boys, he taught himself to play the guitar when he was young.  At 15, Dave was working in the saw mills.  No easy job for a youngster, but he is a survivor and it was not long before an adventurous spirit saw him on the move.

He arrived in the city, working in factories in Fishermans Bend.  From there he graduated to working as a Flyman/Mechanist, which is a highly skilled job carried out in the wings behind the scenes in theatre productions.  It’s not by accident that complicated scene changes occur precisely and silently.

In the theatre world, Dave met a wider slice of humanity than had rubbed shoulders with him in the mountains.  He worked on such varied workds as the “Holiday on Ice” show and a selection of operas, as well as some complicated ancient Japanese productions, involving the Noh and Kabuki traditional works.  Some of the masks used here are up to 800 years old.  Handle with care.

A smattering of French comes out now and again in his conversation, hinting at adventures further afield.  I get a strong suspicion that there is a learned man underneath the rough exterior.  And not surprisingly,  find there is a lost love somewhere in the mix.

When the “Holiday on Ice” show moved on, Dave followed his dreams with a one way ticket to Paris, via Tokyo, where one of the top ice skaters in a show had danced into his life, and into his heart.  His eyes light up with memories as he recalls the unique Scottish border accent of his skating ballerina.  The boy was now a man.

But there was no happy ending.  The show moved on.  Dave discovered that dreams can be elusive.  Sometimes they dance out of our lives when we need them the most.  But the memory of the dream is never erased.  Nor should it be.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said it in 1850, referring to the death of his beloved friend, Arthur Henry Hallam:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’

When I first met Dave, he was singing “Me and Bobbie McGee”, as I trudged up the ramp from the Safeway car park.  I stopped for a chat.  We exchanged itinerant stories.  After his dream died, some of his jobs were picking fruit in France.  I told him of my fruit picking days and other itinerant work further afield.  As my friend Barbara and I hitch hiked around the country moving from job to job, we were known by our nicknames, ‘Bobbie’ and ‘Billie’.  And in between we danced.  Yes there were hard times, but we survived, and the good times provided a balance.

Acland St, St Kilda

Eventually we grew up and settled down, but we carried the spirit of ‘Bobbie’ and ‘Billie’ with us into adult land.  We both started families, which saw us living in different states.

Then one day, Bobbie didn’t survive.  She disappeared, believed murdered.  How and where has never been solved.  Where she lies is believed unknown.  But somebody must know.  There is no closure in these cases, but the wonderful memories remain, mixed with grief.

Somehow, “Me and Bobbie McGee” is ointment on the wound.  As I told Dave my story, his expressive eyes filled with tears.  He told me his story and we cried together.  Whenever he sees me coming, he sings our song – and he calls be ‘Billie’.  Through our tears, the world becomes a brighter place.

People walk past buskers, sometimes noticing an unkempt appearance and clothes that have seen better days.  Most have no understanding of the paths that these entertainers may have trod, the despair they may have known, or how easily someone can fall off the rails.  But that is their loss.  Hiding under the ragged clothes you might find a gem like Dave if you stop to look.

Rosie understands.  She has also known sadness.  Rosie is a rescue dog.  Just like a child that has been abused, Rosie is wary of strangers who rush towards her, not sure of their intentions.  Dave finds a sunny spot for her to sit.  Wherever he is, she is home.

As Dave sings, Rosie’s terrors fade, and the world is a better place.  For all of us.

Busking in Acland St, St Kilda

Written by Brenda for ‘Port Phillip Writes’ 2015

Julie Butcher: “Sardines on Toast”


Spreading her toast with butter, sardines, lemon juice and black pepper, Julie recognised it was Saturday lunchtime.

She was one of four-children-born-within-six-years that on Saturday afternoons ate sardines on toast. Then they watched the B-grade movie while Mum, close by, tackled the ironing. Fifty years later, in lockdown with her husband, and sardine-toast crumbs spilling off onto the Saturday newspaper, Julie text-messaged a snapshot of her almost-empty plate to her brother Richard. She watched, and waited, for his response.

Ever the tease, two days later, his reply pinged in. “Looxury!”

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  • Complete the paper Enrolment Form and submit it to the Office.

The start date for acceptance of paper Enrolment Forms for first semester is published on the U3APP website and in the e-Bulletin. Enrolment Forms received before this date are treated as though they had been received on the start date (ie there is no advantage to be gained by submitting early). On the start date and thereafter, paper Enrolment Forms are numbered in order of receipt.  Paper Enrolment forms are processed by U3APP volunteers on the same day as on-line bookings.

If your enrolment is successful, you will receive a confirmation email.  Please check your Junk/Spam folders as these automatically-generated emails often finish up there.

If your enrolment is unsuccessful,  you will receive an email telling you that you have been waitlisted.

Via the Office: after bookings have opened

  • Contact the office in person, or by email or phone.