A Change of Pace

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a story.  For me it’s an opportunity to be creative and have a change of pace from my usual activities.

In this vein, I’ve also re-engaged with my love of music.  A few years ago I joined the Kelvin Grove Community choir and then, two years ago, I pulled out my trombone again after having left it in the cupboard for 20 years.

At the time, I had no idea whether I’d remember how to play but I joined the local Brisbane Symphonic Band and have not regretted it.  It’s been fantastic to be playing and singing again.

These experiences are part of a resolution I’ve made to take myself less seriously, be prepared to try things even if I could fail, and to find enjoyment in the pursuit of activities that I’m almost guaranteed not to be perfect at.  I’m never going to be a professional musician but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment I can still get out of it.

It’s also been really liberating to be part of two groups that approach their music with a balance between quality and having fun.  While the overall standard of the music in each group is quite different, both create a space where we can collectively enjoy playing together and accepting each other’s abilities and mistakes.

The choir in particular is unique in my (limited) experience.  It was started by Phil, a guy who was in a musical comedy act for a few years before becoming a school teacher.  He decided one day that he’d like to run a choir despite never having done that before.  After many months of two people patiently meeting fortnightly, the choir started to grow slowly.

Phil never purchased sheet music for the choir but instead did his own arrangement of songs he liked.  It worked.  It was fun and it provided an opportunity for amateurs to get together and sing.  He never turns anyone away – that’s not what it’s about.

So I think it was this spirit of generous musical fellowship that spurred me to take my first ever shot at arranging.  Inspired by a fantastic Finnish acappella group called Rajaton, I arranged “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen.

I remember apologizing a few times that year for how difficult it was for us to sing, but the group stuck with it and I think enjoyed the experience.  I certainly loved to sing it with them.  🙂

The musical bug has struck me.  I’ve arranged and even composed a few more songs since then and, not wanting to deluge those around me with requests to try them out, started recording them myself at home.

So instead of a story, tonight I’m sharing some of my arrangements and compositions.  Feel free to have a listen.


Sometimes There Are No Words

When the mind is fuzzy;
When thoughts congeal and stick,
And the body works on autopilot;
When the walk is aimless,
And directed to investigating new paths,
New locales and stimulus for a mind that is trapped,
Refusing to acknowledge it’s blessings, and
Bringing terrors in the night.

There are no words.

And yet there are!
Here on the page they exist,
And pour forth in unexpected verse;
Trying to convey the feelings that come,
Like a vampiric friend,
A leech,
A parasite that will bring about its own demise,
with that of its host.

There are no words.

There are images,
Sensations, instinctive impulses,
And an exhausted numbness that must be respected.

Expressed in words, perhaps;
But not align to Western linear logic,
Not crafted to instruct step-by-step,
Placing one thought block on another,
Creating a path to follow to a conclusion.
Instead it just impresses,
a sense of being, and vagueness
that does not respect a planned

We must plan!
We must curate the garden that is our mind.
To avoid the weeds and tares that we plant,
Unwittingly sown, how I don’t know, into our thoughts.
But, like a garden,
Our labours can take time to bear fruit.
Like an ascent on Everest,
Planning is essential but not all.
The weather is capricious and must be respected,
And as with the mind, will alone
does not
always carry the day,
and we must
wait, impatient
or patient, while the weather
runs its
course, unpredictable but finite.

And then returns the calm.

Sometimes it seems there are no words.
But we plant and trust,
And wait,
That in time there will be a harvest.
And while we wait,
for me, there is music.

Accompanied by words.
It soothes and permeates the miasma,
Integrating with emotion at a different level.
Sympathising, uplifting, challenging;
The immense beauty that can be encoded in sound.
It is both intensely personal and communal.

A gift for which I am immensely grateful;
That soothes my tension,
And reminds me of all the other blessings I actually have,
And the feelings they will rightfully invoke in me,
Once the weather has calmed.

Sometimes there are no words.

Sometimes there doesn’t have to be.

Under Pressure

James could feel the pressure building. The stage was set, the pieces in their place and the moment of decision was at hand. Would he have the courage to follow through and be the hero he was meant to be?

The flight had started so pleasantly. For the first time in his life he’d been upgraded to Business class. His wife and he had been almost skipping through the security line in anticipation, joking about the luxury in store for them.

“I’ll be asking for scented bubbles in my spa”, James said with a knowing wink to his wife.

“Don’t be silly”, she responded. “You can’t have a scented bubble bath on a plane, the champagne they fill the tub with is already carbonated”.

With that they dissolved into sniggers of laughter at the stupidity of the idea, but in the back of their minds, images of luxury continued to ferment.

The wait in the terminal lounge seemed an eternity for them as they imagined their up-coming flight. When they finally arrived in the cabin, the beckoning leather sofas that counted for seats welcomed them gloriously into their soft supportive embrace like the arms of a lover. James melted into the luxury and finally relaxed.

He didn’t feel so relaxed now though. It was a little difficult with a maniacal hijacker waving a gun around demanding the flight be re-routed to Fiji. The guy was deranged, the manic glint in his eyes betraying a grip on reality that was about as firm as jelly. The universe his mind inhabited only tangentially related to the physical one around him, and in James opinion, probably only touching in some fairly unhelpful places. For one thing, the guy kept raving about Red Dwarf and preventing the apostasy of Ourobouros.

James was trying to relax, but the pressure kept building. Internally and externally things were building to a critical juncture. He could see the Air Marshal a couple of rows ahead of him steeling himself to take action. There would soon be a breaking point and, one way or another, something significant was about to happen.

It was now or never. The scene was set, the fuse primed, the pressure building to a peak level and, almost in slow motion, the action started. It began as a low rumble. From there it quickly built to a level that caused the seats to start vibrating. That got the maniac’s attention. His head swivelled towards James in astonishment as his bowel released a good hour’s worth of pent-up anxiety. And still the emission grew.

Afterwards, James would swear that he even saw the plane’s wing tips quiver from the force of the gale he was expelling as it reached the climax. A fart so powerful it would register on the Richter scale had it been performed at ground level. A fart that could not be denied. A fart that gave provided the moment of opportunity to save the flight because it was at that point the Air Marshall saw his window to act.

With the hijacker distracted, almost incapacitated by shock, the Marshall tackled him, wresting the gun from his unresponsive fingers and immobilising the offender in one swift and practised move. Never had an opponent been so unprepared for an assault. It was graceful. It was flawless. It was team-work in action.

As the shock subsided, the passengers and crew began a round of applause. Sporadic at first, but building to a dull roar of approval as each person regained their senses. They were saved.

A stewardess approached James coyly, and with admiration in her eyes. “Well done sir”, she said, “is there anything I can get for you”.

“I believe I would like a Martini”, James replied as he gave her a charming smile.

“It would be my pleasure sir”, the attendant nodded, and as she turned to walk away James called out. “And I believe you won’t need to stir it, things should have already been well and truely shaken by now”.

With that, he sank back into his chair, turned to his wife and said, “So Mrs Bond, where shall we ski first when we arrive?”. The smile she gave him back was indescribable.

Generations (Part 4)

The next installment of Generations.  (Part 1Part 2, Part 3).


Inch by agonising inch the door swung open as the orderly moved into the room.

Panic caused Jessica’s vision to swim, a blackness encroaching from the edge of her sight. Just as the moment came for her to be revealed, time stopped. Pin pricks of light blossomed to punctuate the rolling fog that engulfed her. She froze. Everything froze. Then suddenly, the pin pricks erupted in a rush of light, eclipsing the sterile surrounds of the pharmacy store and dumping her into a different scene entirely. She collapsed onto a bed of mouldering leaf litter.



A bird’s call woke Jessica. Fatigued and spent from her ordeal, she struggled to bring her mind back from her dreams. Slowly rolling onto her back, she heard a twig snap under her. “What had she been up to last night?”, she wondered distantly. That twig was doing nothing to enhance the comfort of her mattress, and judging from other protesting body parts, it wasn’t the only one she’d brought home with her too.

Well she’d get to that in her own sweet time, right now she was knackered she decided. In her professional opinion, another couple of hours of sleep was just what she needed to face whatever mess confronted her this morning. As she wriggled trying to get comfortable, the bird called again … which was weird right?

This far into the city, the only real bird life was pigeons. She’d never heard one of those airborne rats sing like this before. And for that matter, she’d brought a hell of a lot of other stuff home with her apart from just sticks by the feel of it.

She opened her eyes and then sat up with a start. She was lying on a bed of mouldering leaf litter. Above her, trees sheltered her from the open sky. She lay in a wood, all she could see in all directions were trees and undergrowth. It disconcerted her. She was used to the sharp lines and defined boundaries of her urban environment, but the unplanned growth of the wood felt confusing and alien.

Where was she? The panicked thought made her jump to her feet. Had the gang found out about her? Had they found out she was preparing to run? Why would they bring her here and just leave her? She turned around quickly, searching for a sign of her abductors. Scanning the area she saw nothing. Surely she couldn’t be alone.

“OK guys, where are you?”, she called. In her confusion she wasn’t sure what she feared most – them being there or not? Picking a random direction, she stumbled forward. It was hard going through the undergrowth. Thick brush clawed at her clothes, scratching her arms, her face, any exposed skin. Deciding she’d rather trust her street cred than her survival skills, she hoped that the gang was behind this.

“Look guys, I can explain”, she called. There was no response. Were they going to toy with her before… The thought trailed off. No, they had a good supply line going with her, this was just to teach her a lesson. “I’ve got leverage on another of the pharmacy staff”, she lied. “Luckily for us he’s got a dirty little side habit that he’d much rather his family didn’t know about.”

She stopped trying to listen for a response, but her heart hammered in her ears. Damn, how was she supposed to hear anything like this. They could be anywhere. Altering her direction slightly she pushed on, the effort doing nothing to reduce her heart rate. The bird called again, funny how she could hear that.

“Just remember that you’re onto a good thing with me”, she tried for the final time. Now she’d shut up. The ball was in their court and sounding like a panicked school girl wasn’t going to help, no matter that it was the truth. She noticed an urgency in the bird’s voice that she hadn’t before. Was that new, or was she more perceptive now? No she decided, something definitely had it spooked. Someone hopefully.

Finally she heard a new noise, a scuffling coming from the bush ahead. A sound of someone moving through the undergrowth, reasonably close. Nothing about it suggested that they were trying to hide their progress and she wondered if she might have heard it sooner if she’d been a little calmer. No matter, she had a direction now.

Moving purposefully towards the sound, she noticed the bird’s song intensify. It matched the cadence of her heart, their rhythms increasing as she wondered who they had sent for her. Most of the gang would be OK. She could handle herself against them – all except Tony. He was definitely a thug like the rest of them, but he also seemed to be able to do a little thinking for himself. Added to that, his instinctive ability to smell a lie was uncanny and was why he was the gang’s top enforcer. It worried her, like training a pack of dogs and finding out that one of them was actually training you in return. She was obviously above them, but then there was Tony. Damn, it would definitely be him.

Suddenly the bird’s song stopped. She wondered for a second if that meant her heart had too, but the pounding in her ears put that thought to bed. The scuffling ahead stopped too. Silence blossomed for a few seconds until a loud roar brought Jessica up short. She stood rooted to the spot as she heard a loud snorting intake of breath that preceded a second louder roar. Then it charged. A black bear barrelled into view through the undergrowth taking a big swing at Jessica, catching her on her arm and opening a deep gash near her shoulder.

The shock hit her quickly, darkness enveloping her vision as she vaguely noticed an almost familiar pattern of pin prick lights form. It consumed her, first the foggy blackness which was then eclipsed by the expanding rush of light.

She appeared on the lawn outside the hospital, collapsing onto the manicured grass. The first bystander to notice her shouted his surprise, and soon she was surrounded by medical professionals who shuttled her rapidly into the Emergency Department.

By the time she regained consciousness, she found herself in a ward, stitches in her shoulder and assorted cuts cleaned with antiseptic. Only this time around nothing intruded on her thoughts as she dropped back into sleep.

(To be continued…)


Well I’m finally back in a position to do a little writing again, so here goes.  This is the first part of a multi-part story.  I’m not 100% convinced that posting it piecemeal like this as I write it is a good idea because I think it will be complicated.  I’m running the risk that I will need to re-order stuff that’s already be posted, but let’s give it a shot hey …  🙂

John walked along the path to the market square.  Around him the signs of spring were emerging.  A touch of green growth dusting the trees just as the first snows had done so many months ago.  A lone bird, singing its song, eager for a mate and the bounty of seeds that the season would bring, fluttered within a nearby perennial hedge.  The sun was definitely stronger that a week ago.  Peering through the thin cloud, he actually felt warmth from its rays on his skin.

His heart was light this morning.  Jessica was with child; his child, his first.  The thought buoyed his spirit, raising his hopes above the cloying mud that stuck to his boots and in which he seemed to spend so much of his life.  Jessica, who had made such a change to his life was now bringing him another gift.

She was the ray of sunshine that had illuminated his life.  Arriving two summers ago, she had walked into the village square one morning.  A lone woman traveler.  Not completely unheard of, but rare enough to provoke comment.  A ripple of murmurs among the gathered traders, was a foretaste of things to come.

“Who is she?”, they asked.  “A runaway slave?”, proffered one pundit.  “No, look at her complexion, her teeth”, said another, “that’s no slave.”  “OK then, a runaway consort.”  “That makes her even more dangerous”, was the reply.

She’d certainly not acted like a runaway.  A supreme confidence marked her bearing, calm and deliberate in the way she’d mixed with the crowd.  She made no attempt to hide.  And time bore out that truth as day on day, week after week no-one came looking for their property.  With the safety of that truth slowly growing, fear of retribution through association had abated and she’d begun to be accepted locally.  Yet local she definitely was not.

John had never met anyone with such an inquiring spirit before.  Questions tumbled from her mouth constantly.  “What are you doing?”  “Why is that necessary?”  “How long will that last you?”  It was as if she were driven by a pathological need to fit in.  A need to be part of the community and life that he wore with practiced ease.

It was impossible that she had grown up locally, she knew nothing of their way of life.  In fact it surprised him how little she knew in some areas.  It was almost beyond his comprehension how she could have survived so long without knowing how to butcher a carcass.  How to properly roast over a fire.  How to start a fire for that matter.  Even the high ladies of the lord’s court knew of these things, regardless of whether they were much practiced.  Yet she knew none.

Where could she possibly have grown up and survived to such an age without them?  For all her questions of others, on this point she was resolutely silent.  Nothing he tried could tempt her to give him a hint.  It intrigued him, drew him to her and in return he’d become the primary focus of her questioning.

He enjoyed the times they spent together.  Mostly he’d be continuing about his normal business, but she’d make it hers to join him and use the chance to keep learning.  Admittedly some days he thought he might be smothered under the torrent of her questions.  It was like a bubbling brook, at times stronger and at others weaker, always running.  But like a brook, he found it cleansing.

Pausing in his stride, he sighed and looked down at his boots.  A thick layer of mud had built up again; enough to make walking laborious.  As he cleaned the sticky muck, he reflected that this was what life had been like before Jessica’s arrival.  The community, the traditions and life in which he was embedded had been ubiquitous, all that he’d known.  They had sucked at his thoughts like a mud pit, hampering his desire to move or explore.  But like thrusting filthy feet into a stream, her questions and presence had cleaned away the inertia and caused him to reflect on how things might be.  On why things were as they were.

That was the enigma of their relationship.  Jess, incessantly driving inwards to understand what was inside his world.  John relishing the glimpse of what might be outside.  So different, and yet, perhaps the same.  The difference simply being that the inside of his world was the outside of hers.  Regardless, within a year John’s mind had been made up, he had asked Jessica to be his wife.

Rounding the corner, he came within sight of the tavern and his friend Willheim waiting at the gate.

“Ho, John”, he called, raising an arm into the clearing morning air.

“Ho, Willheim”, John responded.  “Today is such a fine day, I think that after the market, you’ll be joining me for a pint at the Tavern.”

Willheim turned his face to the sky and look dubiously at the lightening sky.  “I’d say the day’s definitely better than it’s been, but I wouldn’t have thought it good enough to extract the cost of a pint from you”, he observed, “still, if you’re shouting, I won’t say no.”

John grinned, “No my friend, you’ve got it wrong.  It’s you who will be shouting me.”

Acting out an exaggerated shock, Willheim scoffed, “And what makes you think that?”

“Because of the great news I have today”, John explained, the grin on his face increasing.

Willheim looked unimpressed but tilted his head back slightly inviting an explanation good enough for him to part with his coin.  Between them silence stretched, the grin on John’s face turning mischievous as he milked the moment for all he could get until finally Willheim broke.

“Come on, spit it out.  You’re grinning like a madman.”

“Jessica’s pregnant”, he relented in a flood of excitement.

Willheim’s face broke into a smile as broad as his friend’s, and ran over to congratulate him, slapping his back and lifting him in a bear-hug.  “That might just be good enough”, he said, “but it’s you who can explain to my Sarah where we’ve been come tomorrow morning.”

Arms draped over each other’s shoulders they turned to continue on from the tavern towards the market square.

“And what makes you think I won’t be stopping at one?”, asked John, mock hurt in his voice.

“History”, said Willheim simply and burst out laughing as they disappeared around the corner.

(to be continued …)

Sauron’s Metallurgist

Can you imagine what it would like to have been Sauron’s metallurgist? Probably not an easy task I’d say. I can imagine it now, he gets called to Sauron’s chamber of evil one day.

Sauron: “Ah Thor Hammerthumb, so good of you to drop by.”

Thor: “You did summon me master.”

Sauron: “Of course, of course. But still … you know … it’s good.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord”

Sauron: “Sooo … those latest swords for the Orcs … pretty good from what I hear.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord. They do complain that the alloy is still too refined, not rough enough to be befitting of an Orc.”

Sauron: “It’s a burden we must all bear when we choose to work with the darker side of things.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord.”

Sauron: “I mean you should see the kind of mess they leave behind when I call them in here to order them to chase down some recalcitrant Elf.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord.”

Awkward pause…

Sauron: “I suppose you must find it trying having to dumb down your genius simply making the type of blunt weaponry they desire?”

Thor: “I serve as I must my Lord.”

Sauron: “Ah yes, of course, of course. And a fantastic job you do too!”

Thor: “Thank-you my Lord.”

Sauron: “I mean who can argue with the evil genius of crude brutality?”

Thor: “Not I my Lord.”

Sauron: “Undoubtedly. And yet …”

Awkward silence…

Sauron: “Thor, I was thinking of making some rings.”

Thor: “My Lord?”

Sauron: “You know, this whole send out the mass of Orcs and beat the crap out of everything … well it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but you know … sometimes I can’t help thinking that there might be more to life.”

Thor: “My Lord? You’re getting married?”

Sauron: “Married? What the hell are you talking about. No, it just came to me the other night. I’m going to make a bunch of awesome beautiful rings to give out to my enemies.”

Thor: “Well certainly Lord that would be a welcome change for my skills …”

Sauron: “You know, I thought I could give them out to each of the races that are my enemies.”

Thor: “Wouldn’t they be a little suspicious my Lord?”

Sauron: “I’ve got it all worked out. Even had my personal poet in to work out the marketing.”

Thor: “Yes but why would they …”

Sauron: (a faraway look in his eye) “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,”

Thor: “… be a little suspicious?”

Sauron: “Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,”

Thor: “Wait, wait, you’re going too fast, I need to know some details …”

Sauron: “Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,”

Thor: “… yes but what sort of setting do you want …”

Sauron: “One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne”

Thor: “… diamonds, amethyst …”

Sauron: “In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

Thor: “… I suppose for you it might be 24 carat, but you know how rough you are on your armour, make it too pure and it’ll get marks on it …”

Sauron: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,”

Thor: “?”

Sauron: “One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

(Silence descends on the hall and Sauron stands in majesty before his master metallurgist. After a pause …)

Thor: (clears his throat) “Well my Lord, that might be just a smidgeon outside my skill set.”

Sauron: (breaking out of his reverie) “What? Really? It sounded like a good idea to me.”

Thor: “You see Lord, mostly rings are kind of … you know … decorative.”

Sauron: “Hmmm …”

Thor: “I’m really good at decorative … can make all sorts of really pretty things that will make your loved one swoon.”

(Sauron just stares at him)

Thor: “But you know … when you think of like gathering, finding, binding and other -ing style words … it’s not really your normal ring territory. Loving yes … ruling well …”

(Sauron’s stare turns more icy)

Thor: (really quickly) “But maybe if I thought about it a bit more …”

(The stare softens a little)

Thor: (obviously thinking on his feet) “… yeah so, there’s finding … so we could put GPS into there somewhere.”

(A quizzical look appears on Sauron’s face)

Thor: “And, and, and there’s control … sooooo there must be some comms right … Bluetooth … no Wifi or maybe even some models with 3G … yeah 3G … how better to control someone than be able to get data on exactly where they are all the time?”

(Thor was starting to get on a roll at this point)

Thor: “OK cool, so maybe we’re not talking rings then. Maybe right … and you know, I’m just brain-storming here … but maybe we’re talking phones. Yeah phones.

(Sauron steps back and just watches in fascination as the inspiration unfolds)

Thor: “And you don’t just want control, do you, you want to bind them? So we need some sort of centralised mechanism that forces them to keep coming back for more.”

Thor: “A way to hook them and force them to bend to your will. Like … like … like … an App Store. Yeah an App Store! Somewhere that’s the only place they can go to get more features for this ‘phone’.”

Thor: “Which means it’ll obviously have to have a fully featured screen to make the apps addictive … and yes!”

(Thor thrusts his hand into the air almost startling Sauron as he observes the madness unfold)

Thor: “With an app store and good screen, we can get other people to do all the hard work of actually writing the apps that make the phone good for us! We can even charge them for the privileged of ‘selling’ their apps for them.”

(An evil grin spreads over Sauron’s face as he strolls towards Thor and places his arm around his shoulders)

Sauron: “Thor, Thor … while I could be angry that you have ignored my idea of a ring, at this time I’m disposed to be gracious. Please, come into my office, let’s chat more over coffee.”

And that’s how Sauron invented the iPhone.

Alternate Lyrics to Electric Blue by IceHouse

ElectricBlueWhenever I used to hear this song on the radio I’d hear it incorrectly.  Instead of the lyrics ‘Electric Blue’ followed by a backing singer intro to the next verse, I would rather hear it as Electrical Toaster.  Made me wonder what the song would be like if it were actually about an Electrical Toaster.  Enjoy – listen to the youtube version while reading my lyrics.  🙂


If I open the grill, and put my bread in too,
Is it gonna burn my toast, when I walk to the loo,
Is it waiting until I turn away?
I realize everytime I don’t use you,
That it’s all up to you, Electrical Toaster.
On my knees, help me toasting,
What else would I do, Electrical …

Oh I had a dream, for a moment I believed it was true,
Oh I’d have given anything, just to toast without you,
Are you hiding somewhere behind my deep fry?
I realize everytime I don’t use you,
That it’s all up to you, Electrical Toaster.
In too deep, standing here waiting,
for my bread crisp true, Electrical Toaster.
I can see, can see that it maybe,
needs some heating from you, Electrical Toaster.
On my knees, help me baby,
Tell me what can I do, Electrical ..

(mandatory saxaphone solo)

Are you hiding somewhere behind my deep fry?
I just freeze, every time I can’t find you,
And I’m looking for you, Electrical Toaster.
In too deep, down in my cupboards,
As I’m searching for you, Electrical Toaster.
I can see, can see that it maybe,
Needs some heating from you, Electical Toaster.
On my knees, help me toasting,
Tell me what can i do, Electrical …
I just freeze, all my bread and I want you,
To defrost it as new, Electrical Toaster.
In too deep, down in my cupboards,
As I’m searching for you, Electrical Toaster.
I can see, can see that it maybe,
Needs some heating from you, Electical Toaster.
On my knees, help me toasting,
Tell me what else can I do, Electrical …
Electrical …
Electrical …
Electrical …