More Newstead Photos
March 24th, 2018 | Festivals, Music, Photos, Poems for children, Songs, Stories for children
Many thanks to Geoffrey Graham for these photos of Maggie Somerville and me performing for children at Newstead Live! this year.
Many thanks to Geoffrey Graham for these photos of Maggie Somerville and me performing for children at Newstead Live! this year.
Finally (I think!), here are some photos of the 2017 Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival from poet (and award winner) Will Moody.
Here is a great shot of C. J. Dennis Society Patron Ted Egan with Will Hagon…
…and here is a great group shot, taken just before the Awards Ceremony.
A couple of nice lunch table shots:
The view of the Awards Ceremony from the stage:
Finally, another shot of the Glugs:
Thanks, Will, for these great photos!
By the way, my website informs me that this is the 100th posting in my blog. Feels like an achievement in itself!
Photos! Photos! Photos!
Since I sent my plea out to members for photos of the performance of “The Glugs of Gosh” at this year’s Toolangi Festival, the photos have been pouring in!
First, thanks to Bruce Argyle for this photo of Sym (Stephen Whiteside – that’s me!).
Here is an ensemble shot with Sym, a narrator (Maggie Somerville), King Splosh (Jim Brown), Queen Tush (Ruth Aldridge) and Joi (Daan Spijer).
Thanks to Shelley Hansen for this great shot of Joi.
Finally, thanks to Linda Wannan for these shots of Maggie Somerville; first as the ‘practical aunt’ (“The Growth of Sym”)…
…and looking marginally more subdued in her ‘narrator’ outfit.
Daan Spijer has also posted some excellent photos, including a three-shot composite, at DropBox, here:
I was starting to worry that we had no photographic record of the performance of “The Glugs of Gosh” at the 2017 Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival, held to celebrate the centenary of its publication. Fortunately, C. J. Dennis Society member Will Hagon has come to the rescue!
Here we see, from left to right, Sir Stodge (David Campbell), a narrator (Maggie Somerville), King Splosh (Jim Brown), and another narrator (Ruth Aldridge), in “The Swanks of Gosh”.
Now we move on to “The Seer”, with narrators Jim Brown and Ruth Aldridge, and the Mayor of Quog (Daan Spijer).
The climax is reached in “Ogs”, with the “Og” audience throwing stones at the Glugs!
Here are Sir Stodge (David Campbell), a narrator (Maggie Somerville), Sym (Stephen Whiteside), King Splosh (Jim Brown), Queen Tush (Ruth Aldridge), and a Glug with a mole on his chin (Daan Spijer).
Alas, Sir Stodge has been stricken in the chest by a stone!
(Note the blurring of the faces due to movement – evasive action, or simply hilarity?)
And here are the stones that caused all the damage!
Thanks again to Will Hagon for saving the day!
The Toolangi C.J. Dennis Poetry Festival is over for another year, and what a festival it was this time!
It was undoubtedly the biggest and the best we have had yet, as indeed it should have been celebrating, as it was, the centenary of the publication in 1915 of “The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke”.
The festival got a great boost about a week out with the news that The C.J. Dennis Society’s Patron, Ted Egan, would be in attendance. Ted lives in Alice Springs, so it is a long journey for him to come to Victoria. Ted has only been to the festival once before, and that was back in 2013.
The weather was kind to us – as it always seems to be – and Ted opened the festival for us in fine style. What is more, he sang his tribute to Australia’s pioneering women to the assembled throng, as an added bonus. He had to get by without his famed beer carton, but a small book served almost as well to tap the rhythm out to.
David Hill from the Bendigo Community Bank (Healesville Branch) was also in attendance. The Bendigo Bank has been our chief sponsor over the years, and this year they agreed to double their commitment. Rather than present the prizes for “Adults Writing for Children” himself, David placed a small toy under one of the chairs, with the person who first found the toy to present the prizes. This led to the somewhat unexpected outcome of Jemima Hosking presenting a prize to her mother, Jackie! (Jackie’s father, John, also performed a poem later in the day, so we had three generations of the Hosking family involved in the festival!)
The local member of Parliament, Cindy McLeish MP (Member for Eildon), also kindly offered to attend the festival and award prizes. Cindy’s support of the festival is longstanding, and very much appreciated.
The number of entries was down a little on last year, which is a bit concerning, but everybody agreed nonetheless that the standard was very high. Not all the poems that received awards were heard this year, but all the winning poets who were in attendance performed their poems, and First Prize in each category was read out whether the poet was present or not.
Here is Ted Egan opening the festival. (Thank you to Nerys Evans for the photo.)
After a break for afternoon tea, we commenced an “Open Mike” session which proved extremely popular. Indeed, not all the poets who wished to perform were able to do so, as it would have left insufficient time for the showcase concert of C.J. Dennis poems and songs that was scheduled to follow. This also needed to be shortened a little because of time constraints.
The concert kicked off with actor John Flaus from Castlemaine. The other performers were Maggie Somerville, Jim Haynes, Jim Brown, Ruth Aldridge, David Campbell and Geoffrey W. Graham.
Here is Maggie Somerville singing a C.J. Dennis poem that she has put to music.
Towards the end of the afternoon, the sun went down and a chill crept over the proceedings. The original plan had been to hold the evening’s entertainment in the marquee also, but it was generally agreed that it made much more sense to retire to the tea rooms, where a lavish buffet dinner was now waiting.
The evening meal was truly delicious, with a large range of choices on offer.
We then commenced our special presentation of “The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke”, featuring Geoffrey Graham as performer of the poems, Jim Haynes as “slang interpreter”, and myself as narrator. I suddenly found my voice failing me, and Geoffrey was looking very much the worse for wear having been badly dumped by a wave while body surfing in Hawaii two days earlier, but the show went on nonetheless, and was very well received. (About half the audience gave us a standing ovation; Geoffrey assured me the other half would have done so also, if they had not been so tired!)
Here we are – from left to right, Jim, Geoffrey and me – looking relieved but happy after the show! (Thanks to Maggie Somerville for the photo.)
The Poets’ Breakfast kicked off right on schedule the following morning at 9.30.
Here is Ruth Aldridge reciting “Caravanning Bliss” by Bob Magor.
Shelley and Rod Hansen provided a great double act.
Jan Williams gave us a poem, but unfortunately I cannot show you a photo because my computer refuses to upload it!
The audience was large and appreciative.
We then moved back down to the marquee for the launch at 11am of the CD Maggie and I had put together, “The Two Bees”.
We were joined by three musicians – Hugh McDonald (ex-Redgum), who had recorded and produced the album for us, and Trevor Voake (mandolin) and Dieter Imberger (harmonica), friends from the Victorian Folk Music Club. (Trevor’s wife Margaret kindly acted as photographer for us.)
We performed “The Two Bees” in its entirety – eight songs and four poems, words by C.J. Dennis, music by Maggie. We did make lots of mistakes, but they were mostly small, and we all had great fun. The audience seemed to enjoy it all, too.
Here is the band line-up – from left to right, Trevor, Dieter, Maggie, me and Hugh.
Here is Maggie demonstrating the title of the poem “How to Hold a Husband”.
Hugh seemed to enjoy himself.
Then it was time for lunch. Jim Brown and David Campbell did a great job entertaining patrons in the tea rooms over the lunch break.
The traditional “moving theatre” followed, with some new faces this year – Geoffrey W. Graham as Banjo Paterson, Jim Haynes as Henry Lawson, and John Derum as the “one and only” C.J. Dennis.
A recent tradition during the moving theatre has been for some of the local children to perform a ballet to music inspired by the poetry of C.J. Dennis. (Local parent and retired dancer Cathy Phelan designs the costumes and choreographs the dancing.)
In past years, the children have danced to recorded music. This year was different. Maggie Somerville had written music to C.J. Dennis’ poem “The Satin Bower Bird” (from “The Singing Garden”), and recorded it on CD for the children to rehearse to.
Here is the audience enjoying Maggie and the children’s performance.
We next moved to the top of the gardens, where the poets were joined by Dorothea Mackellar (Ruth Aldridge).
It was then back down to the marquee to finish the show.
Afternoon tea was held in the tea rooms, then back again to the marquee for one last time to watch the festival end in the traditional way – with Jim Brown’s rendition of C.J. Dennis’ magical poem, “Dusk”.
Some festival attendees missed Jim’s performance, so he agreed to perform it a second time.
I made a video of Jim’s second performance, which can be found here:
So ended what had been a wonderful festival.
There are too many people to thank properly, but special gratitude and appreciation must be given to the Bendigo Community Bank (Healesville Branch) for their continued generous sponsorship, to Vic and Jan Williams, owners of “The Singing Gardens” (and their family), for their tireless work maintaining the gardens and helping to organise the festival, and to our illustrious Secretary Jim Brown for all his hard work.
We hope to see you at next year’s festival, when we will be celebrating the centenary of the publication in 1916 of “The Moods of Ginger Mick”!
I will add one last photo – C.J. Dennis (John Derum) addressing the throng, with the famed copper beech tree in the background and cloudless blue skies above. Could anything be better?
The Toolangi C.J. Dennis Poetry Festival written poetry competition has a category for “Adults Writing for Children”. For several years now, we have also asked children to judge the poems, and published the results of their judging separately. I have been a little disappointed in recent years that I have not scored better with the children – after all, I do rather fancy myself as a children’s writer.
Last year I made a special effort to win this award, but it did not prove possible to have children acting as judges.
However, this year reciter and C.J. Dennis Society member Ruth Aldridge stepped up to the plate by agreeing to arrange for the children of her local school to judge the award, so I had another crack at it.
And what do you know?
This year, the children judged my poem, “The Sticky Fart”, as their favourite!
Yay! I’ve broken through at last!
Here it is…
The Sticky Fart
I did a big fart – not right off the chart, but it stuck to the end of my bum.
I wriggled and jiggled and joggled and squiggled and gave it a poke with my thumb.
It wouldn’t come loose, and I felt like a goose, so I sat very hard on the grass,
And I slided and slid, but I couldn’t get rid, and it stayed there, attached to my bottom.
I stood on each hand. My planning was grand. Perhaps it would flop back inside.
I walked round the yard. It was terribly hard, and didn’t do much for my pride.
Exhausted, I fell, and I gave out a yell, “Look out!”, for I felt it come loose.
It ran down my pants like a scurry of ants, along with a trickle of juice.
I was filled with relief, but alas, to my grief, I felt it beneath me go “Squelch!”
(If I’d been really smart, instead of a fart, I’d have simply pushed out a big belch!)
I’ve been badly misused, and I’m very confused. I don’t know what now I should do.
I am gloomy and glum. It is gone from my bum, but I can’t get the fart off my shoe!
© Stephen Whiteside 24.03.2015
The Port Fairy Folk Festival this year was without a doubt, for me personally, the most demanding and most rewarding I have ever attended.
The key was, of course, that 2015 marks the centenary of C. J. Dennis’ classic verse novel, “The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke” and, as President of the C. J. Dennis Society, I felt I needed to step up to the plate to help celebrate the occasion!
It was both a pleasure and a challenge to do so.
Jim Haynes has been doing a wonderful job of running the Spoken Word programme at Port Fairy for many years now. While recent festivals have chosen ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Henry Lawson as their themes, it was felt inevitable that the focus would eventually turn to Dennis, and this was obviously the year to do it.
It was a fairly simply task for me to adapt the script from the show about the Bloke that I first developed with Mac Craig for the Sunnyside Festival, and then performed so successfully with Geoffrey Graham at the VBPMA Bush Poetry Muster in 2013, to add a further narrative, explaining the slang in the book, for Jim.
The only problem was knowing the time it would take to perform the whole show. We had 90 minutes to perform nine poems, together with explanatory narrative. Would we make it? Would we have to drop a poem? How do you factor in the time taken for audience applause? Should I develop a Plan B to drop one poem if necessary?
I couldn’t really see how to institute a Plan B, so I decided to keep the faith with my original script, and simply run with it. It was all a little nerve-wracking, but the show came in at about 88 minutes – a couple of minutes under time! How’s that for brilliant timing?
Geoffrey was absolutely superb as the “Bloke” (no surprises there), and the 200-strong crowd gave us a standing ovation, which was extremely gratifying.
I was also involved in two other C. J. Dennis related shows during the course of the weekend, all held at St. Pat’s Church.
The first, at midday on the Saturday, comprised a 90 minute concert of poems and songs by C. J. Dennis. Maggie Somerville and I had prepared a number of items, some of which we performed together, others individually. (These were a mix of poems and songs. For the songs, I chose the poems, and Maggie wrote tunes for them.) Jim Haynes also had a number of poems, as did Laurie McDonald, visiting poet from Canberra, and Geoffrey.
We didn’t make any major stuff-ups, and it was all very well received.
Following this, I gave a ‘workshop’ on the life and times of C. J. Dennis. This essentially consisted of me sitting on a chair with a microphone and talking for about an hour. About 50 hardy souls stayed to hear what I had to say, bless them, and almost all of them stayed the distance, which I appreciated very much. I was assisted by Maggie, who read “Laura Days”, a poem Dennis wrote in the twilight of his life recalling his childhood in that small town in South Australia. Jim read an excerpt from “Haggling in Filth”, an account of Dennis’ journey with Frank Roberts, oldest son of Gary and Roberta, from “Sunnyside” in the Dandenong Ranges to the Victoria Market to sell berries. Lastly, Geoffrey read excerpts from Dennis’ account of his (successful) efforts to save his property from bush fire in 1926.
The other event I was involved in over the festival – and my final show for the weekend – was my launch of my collection of poetry for children, “‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse”. This was held on Sunday afternoon in the children’s marquee.
It was a somewhat daunting sight to see the Mik Maks in full flight on stage, and knowing that I, as a humble poet, would be required to follow them!
Here they are…
Maggie joined me, providing some moral as well as entertainment support. I set off in a fairly low key way, but the crowd seemed to be with me, and it went well. Maggie read my poem “Flies”, her own poem, “Mozzed”, inspired by “Flies”, and sang “The Sash”, the song she has written from my poem of the same name, about a young Ned Kelly’s rescue of an even younger boy, Richard Shelton, from the flooded waters of Hughes Creek in Avenel in 1865. I sold some books and received plenty of positive feedback, so the show can be fairly judged a success, I think.
After that, we hotfooted it over to the primary school to catch what we could of Geoffrey Graham’s show about the First World War. Geoffrey must have been utterly exhausted following his performance of “The Sentimental Bloke” earlier in the afternoon, but he did a great job, as always.
With the formal part of the weekend over, Maggie and I decided to summon the energy to go to the Surf Club in the evening. There we were treated to fine brackets of music by two up-and-coming young bands, “The Stray Hens” and “Oh Pep!”
Here are “The Stray Hens”.
I should not finish this report without a mention of the famous Poets’ Breakfasts that Jim led magnificently throughout the course of the weekend. The feature poets for this year were Laurie McDonald from Canberra (who I mentioned earlier in relation to the C. J. Dennis concert of poems and songs), and the redoubtable Geoffrey Graham, who barely had a chance to put his feet on the ground during the course of the festival. (It is Laurie, by the way, who puts together the Spoken Word programme for the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter.) It was also a great pleasure to have the opportunity to become better acquainted over the course of the weekend with Laurie’s lovely wife Denise.
What more can I say? Port Fairy Folk Festival 2015 was undoubtedly my best ever!
The 7th Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival, held last weekend (October 18th and 19th) was a great success, and very enjoyable.
As always, the weekend kicked off with the Awards Ceremony for the written poetry competition, held in the lead-up to the festival. Congratulations to all the winners, especially to David Campbell, who once again won the Adult Open category. (I will post a list of the winners separately on my blog.) Thanks again to the Bendigo Bank (Healesville Branch) for continuing to act as a festival sponsor.
Following the presentations, I was very excited to be able to pass around images of a new C. J. Dennis poem unearthed by a talkback caller during an interview I gave on ABC Radio 774 recently. The poem, “The Gentle Kangaroomour”, had been written especially for Eilie Ford, a young girl living in Toolangi at the time C. J. Dennis was there. The exact date of the poem remains a little uncertain, but it would appear to have most definitely been written prior to 1920.
The “open mic” session which followed was very enjoyable. Maggie Somerville and I finished the session with a duet we had put together based on the poem “The Two Bees” that Dennis had written for the Herald. It had subsequently been published posthumously by his wife, Margaret Herron, in the book “Random Verse”. The poem uses the strange weather effects prevailing at the time – frosty nights and bright sunny days – which impeded the blossoming of flowers and frustrated the usual feeding habits of bees as a metaphor for the unemployment and hunger of the Great Depression. We were commanded to perform it again on the following day, so it must have been well received!
The weather gods smiled on us once again for the whole weekend, and Jan and Vic’s new marquee proved a great success.
After a break for afternoon tea, our guest star for the festival, John Derum, then performed “The Singing Garden”, a show based on Dennis’ last book of the same name. The book primarily consists of a large number of poems, each devoted to a particular species of bird that frequently visited the gardens surrounding Dennis’ Toolangi home. Of course, it is this book that also inspired the current name of Dennis’ former home – “The Singing Gardens”.
John has done an enormous amount to popularise C. J. Dennis amongst contemporary readers. In 1976 he developed a one-man show, “More Than A Sentimental Bloke”, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Dennis. It proved extremely popular, and many other performances have followed. (On a personal note, it was a recording based on this show, an LP published by Pumphandle Records, that first introduced me to the magic of C. J. Dennis.)
In what proved to be an inspired move, John moved the chairs out of the marquee and turned them around so that they were facing the gardens. The audience soon found themselves surrounded by the very birds – king parrots, kookaburras, etc. – upon which the poems are based. The show was pure magic.
As darkness fell, we retired into the tea rooms for dinner and the main show of the festival, “More Than A Sentimental Bloke”, by John Derum. John treated us to a fabulous exposition of the life and works of C. J. Dennis. What shone through, apart from John’s brilliant talent, was his great passion for the work.
Sunday morning began well with the “Poets’ Breakfast” (strictly speaking, a morning tea!). We held the first hour in the tea rooms, then moved back down to the marquee for another session.
It was wonderful to be able to welcome veteran reciter Jim Smith to Toolangi for the first time. Jim scored a bit hit with his performance of a classic poem by Rob Charlton, “Bloody Sheilas”.
After lunch, Banjo Paterson (aka Jim Brown), Henry Lawson (aka David Campbell) and C. J. Dennis (aka myself) took the guests once more on a tour (both geographic and historic) of the gardens.
We were once again treated to a ballet from the local school children, based on a C. J. Dennis poem. This year, it was the Firetail Finches from “The Singing Garden”.
For the second time during the history of the festival, we were treated to a surprise visit from Dorothea Mackellar (aka Maggie Somerville), who was keen to know whether her newly written poem “My Country” was good enough to submit to a publisher. (Henry suggested that the second verse would never catch on…)
We once again retired to the marquee for sponge cake, fruit juice, and more poetry and song, finally drawing the festival to a close at about 5pm.
There are so many people to thank for making the festival once again a great success. All of the performers and poets must be thanked, especially our wonderful guest star for this year, John Derum. Above all, however, our gratitude is greatest for Jan Williams and her family, together with her army of helpers, who provide vast quantities of delicious food throughout the weekend, and keep everybody relaxed and happy. (Also, of course, for maintaining the beautiful gardens throughout the year.)
Next year, we will be celebrating the centenary of the publication of “The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke”, and it promises to be the biggest and best Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival ever!
(I must add a word of apology here. My phone is playing up at the moment, and I am very limited in the photos I can put up here. No photos of John Derum, the star of the show! Aarrgh!)
I had a wonderful time at Port Fairy Folk Festival this year, as I always do.
Once again, however, I saw little music, spending most of my time instead soaking up the Spoken Work Programme at The Shebeen, St Pat’s Hall, the Lecture Hall, and the Surf Club.
Storyteller Jackie Kerin, three-time winner of the “Pat Glover Storytelling Award”, and now head of the judging panel, was on the programme herself this year. I really enjoyed her storytelling show at the Lecture Hall on the Saturday.
Jackie, assisted by fellow Newport Fiddle & Folk Club member and musician, Greg Jenkins, put on a great show.
Jackie is an extremely entertaining and professional performer, and is constantly refining her craft.
Two shows at St. Pat’s Hall on the Sunday were also excellent. The first was the launch of Jim Haynes’ new book, “The Best Australian Yarns”, published by Allen & Unwin. The second was the “True Blue”, where Jim (singer), Bill Kearns (poet) and Jackie (storyteller) argued which was the best way to tell a story – as a song, as a poem, or simply as a story.
I was roped in at the last minute to act as “Moderator”, though my shouted comment from the audience – pointing, as I saw it, to a weakness in one of Jim’s arguments – probably branded me as a highly ‘immoderate’ Moderator!
Carole Reffold and Jill Meehan also did a fine job presenting poetry and song at The Surf Club on the Saturday night.
I was thrilled to have an advance copy of my new book, “‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’, and Other Australian Verse”, to take to the festival. I lost no opportunities to show it around, and was very pleased with the universally positive feedback I received.
The frantic last minute trading in Port Fairy Festival tickets continues, as this photo attests.
Of course, the great shadow hanging over the festival this year was the illness of Dennis O’Keeffe. I was very sad to hear of his passing, and offer my very best wishes and condolences to his family and friends.
Here is a story for children.
On the way back from our holiday, we got a puncture. While dad was changing the tyre by the side of the road, he was hit by a passing truck. Talk about a mess! Bits of him were scattered all over the place. Eventually we retrieved them all and pushed them back together again – more or less. There was blood everywhere. Dad would have loved it. He loves blood and guts – especially his own.
He started to groan when we pushed the last bit back into place. He wasn’t up to driving us home, though, so mum took the driver’s seat, and we propped him up in mum’s seat.
He’s a pretty tough guy, dad. We figure’d he’d be OK after a couple of good nights’ sleep – or bad nights’ sleep. He’s a bit of an insomniac, actually. He looked pretty pale, though. He’d lost a lot of blood. We scooped a fair bit up and poured it back into him, but we had to leave a lot by the side of the road. Mum wants to come back for it next week, but I don’t reckon it’ll be much good by then. It’ll be all dry and dusty, and I’ve noticed it turns black after it’s been out of the body for too long, which is discouraging. I know it’s good to be an optimist, but sometimes mum’s just ridiculous! She feels it’s such a waste to leave it there. I suppose it is, too, but sometimes you just have to let these things go.
He’ll be OK once he gets his fangs into some red meat. I mean his teeth. He hasn’t got fangs. It’s not like he’s a vampire or anything – though you would wonder to look at him at the moment. He does look pale!
You know, I half suspect he threw himself in front of the truck, just for the thrill if it. He’s a bit like that, dad. You can’t always trust him. And none of us exactly saw what happened. We were all sitting along the edge of the road, on the other side of the car. Suddenly, Splat! Blood everywhere!
The poor truck driver got a hell of a fright. He pulled up down the road and ran back to see if he could help. We assured him everything was OK. This had happened to dad before,
￼￼￼and he’d been fine. The driver looked at us a bit oddly, but I think he was just too upset to argue. He walked back to his truck muttering and shaking his head.
I don’t know why everybody has to make such a BIG DEAL about everything. God, you’d think it was a matter of life and death sometimes, the way people carry on.
We had been planning to stop for an ice cream, but mum thought that, under the circumstances, we should press on and get dad into bed as soon as possible. I had to admit he was starting to develop a rather lop-sided grin. I bound his face up tightly with a tea towel, and he looked a lot better. He stopped dribbling, too.
An hour or so later I noticed he seemed to have wet his pants. Mum reckoned this was a good sign. It showed his vital organs were starting to function again. By the time we pulled into our driveway he even had a feeble pulse. He was still unconscious, though, so we had to carry him into the house. Unfortunately, this attracted the attention of our pesky neighbour, Mrs Johnson. She’s always interfering.
“Has your dad been run over again?”
We just ignored her. I reckon she’s a witch. The last time she tried to help she nearly killed poor dad. Mrs Johnson kept coming closer, muttering in some strange language. I got such a fright I dropped my bit of dad on the front verandah. Eventually, we bundled him inside the house, and slammed the door on crazy Mrs Johnson.
You know, sometimes I get quite annoyed with dad. Most dads are just happy to go the footy or go fishing for relaxation, but not ours. If he doesn’t jump in front of a truck every now and then and get himself smashed into a thousand pieces, he’s not happy. It’s a bit selfish, really. I mean, does he even think of us? It’s not that much fun to scrape pieces of your dad off the road, and then have to fend off busybody neighbours. To say nothing of the extra driving mum had to do!
I mean, maybe mum would like to throw herself in front of a truck, too, sometimes, but she knows somebody has to hold the fort together. It’d be a lot easier if he could just do it while we were driving to the shops or something, but no, he always has to do it when we’re on family holidays, and a million miles from home!
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Maybe that’s the point. Maybe he has to relax a bit before he can ‘let himself go’, so to speak. Still, it’s tiring for us. I wouldn’t say it ruins our holiday, but it certainly does take the edge off things.
I mean, once we’d got dad inside, we still had to carry in all the suitcases and everything. Normally dad would have done most of that. And then he would have got us some take- away. Fish and chips, or something like that. Instead he just lay in bed, pale as a ghost. Mum didn’t have the energy to go out again, so we ended up having tomato soup and hot buttered toast – not terribly exciting.
We weren’t sure what to do with dad during the night. Mum didn’t really want to get into bed with him, because he was still oozing a fair bit. Sometimes if he gets too warm when he’s been like this he starts bleeding again wherever he’s been pushed back together, so it’s often better to keep him a bit cooler. Eventually we decided to put him out on the back verandah. It wasn’t a very cold night, and we figured he’d be fine with a light blanket over him.
The next morning, though, I was worried. Normally by now he’d be sitting up smiling and sipping a cup of tea. Instead, he was still unconscious. His breathing was shallow, his pulse thready. He was covered in a light sweat.
“Maybe he’s got an infection,” I said to mum. “That stretch of road didn’t look very clean.”
“We’d better call Mrs Johnson,” said mum.
I rolled my eyes. “That old witch! What is she going to do? Last time she only made things worse!”
“I’m not so sure about that,” said mum. “Let’s get her anyway.”
It wasn’t hard to find her. I could see her yellow eye peeking through a knot-hole in the fence.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t hear us, you old bag!” I shouted out.
Mum frowned and shook her head, urging me not to provoke her unnecessarily.
The eye quickly disappeared from the knot-hole, and soon we could hear the distinctive shuffling limp of Mrs Johnson coming up our path. She stopped briefly at the foot of the verandah before limping up the steps, peering over dad, and starting to mutter again.
“I can’t stand this!” I shouted, and stormed inside, slamming the door behind me.
© Stephen Whiteside 06.01.11