gnome sweet gnome

On a back road to the old family home the sight was guaranteed to gladden any heart.

Nearing the crest of the hill the road curves slightly around a rocky outcrop.

Now look up and … there, atop a big granite boulder, a greeting party of half a dozen gnomes straddles the gateway to the Shire of Mt Alexander.

They never cease to put a smile on my face. Each time I returned home the wee concrete folk were steadfast in their welcome.

Who cemented them there in a spot so precise they could be seen only on entering the shire, not leaving, and then visible only for a split second before the road dropped away to the valley below.

Many people who travelled that road never spied them. Some we Shire folk told to look out for them thought we were mad.

Then one day I wound up the hill and the gnomes were not just gone, but massacred. The bloody red stumps of trousers identifiable as belonging to the two largest ones and a little disembodied head were all that remained.

I let out an involuntary cry. It was shocking, as much for the malice aforethought as the effort it must have taken to get up there just to tear a little whimsy from the world.

For some weeks after I took an alternate route. Eventually, commonsense put me back on track and I’d near gnome man’s land wishing hard to find they’d been replaced.

Today their concrete stumps are barely distinguishable from the granite.

And I wonder that they were ever there at all.


so frenchy, not so chic


What is it with these people? Are they so short of dinner party conversation that three months alone at sea will improve their company?

Oh, do please seat me next to Thierry. I nodded off after Day 32 last time … He’d just logged his 900,000th wave.

They are mainly French, these lost round-the-world yachtsmen and women, with the notable exception of the bothersome Tony Bullimore

This is because the French started the madness that is the Vendee Globe, the single-handed, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race.

Between 1995 and 1997 it cost Australian taxpayers $21 million to rescue just four of them: Isabelle Austissier, Thierry Dubois, Raphael Dinelli and Bullimore – all plucked from the briny like human truffles.

Now Alain Delord has joined their ranks, hijacking the holidays of an entire cruise ship of passengers to save his scrawny, uninsured neck.

A miracle he called it. Sacre bleu monsieur, get real!

Why do we tolerate this flotilla of bored old salts bobbing about in bespoke boats worth more than the combined exports of the republic of Burundi when we so revile asylum seekers driven to the water in genuine desperation to reach our shores?

Why rush to buy books about the yachties’ futile flounderings, yet insist on locking up people who’ve real stories to tell?

Circumnavigating the globe? Correct me if it hasn’t already been done … There was that Spanish bloke Magellan for starters and recently even a 15-year-old Australian girl.

But six months non-stop, single-handed in a bathtub full of burgundy and broken baguettes back home in Bordeaux?

Now that – my intrepid French friends – that has not been done.



rockabilly poodle

Being the childless mother of a small dog, I’m aware some people might think me a little tragic.

Just how so was brought home in a conversation with my brother which went like this.

Bro, I’ve ordered a dress for the niece. Can you collect it up for me as I can’t get across town this week.

Sure,” obliging brother replies.

They should have put it aside, but just in case it’s a rockabilly number with pink flowers and pink petticoats size one.

He calmly listened as I gave him the name and address of the shop and told him he was the best.

I was just about to hang up when he said gently:

So let me see if I have this right.

You have ordered a pink and white rockabilly dress size one for the dog which I’m to pick up from Faster Pussycat in Gertrude St, Fitzroy?”

So help me I howled, laughed so hard I had to put the phone down.

No, you big ninny I sputtered through tears.

My niece – my husband’s brother’s daughter who has an adorable poppet called Lucie.

My niece … not yours.

Well, I did wonder,” he said, “you’ve never really struck me as the type to dress dogs, but I thought maybe there’s something special on.”

Now, I’ve never regretted not having children.

But in that moment I was dazzled by a vision of pretty grey poodle in a rockabilly frock with pink flowers and puffy petticoats.

Surely, I said to the dog, you’re not going to the park in that!

kernels of truth

The new year began with a blast from the past when a girlfriend ran into the ex. “He asked after you, hoped all was well,” she relayed of the husband 18-years-past.

It was really nice to hear after so long. We hadn’t parted on the greatest of terms, but who does without a Hollywood agent to write the press release?

He’s actually been on my mind a bit lately. We share not only the same profession – which is in some turmoil – but the same birthday.

He, being a year older to the day, has just turned 50 – and approaching my own golden jubilee, it has me thinking about the lessons of the past half century.

Being a slow learner I still make many of the same mistakes, only by now – being pretty self aware – I’d have to say they were deliberate.

There is no else to blame.

Too many people live in a world sadly distorted by the splinters in their eyes, their view skewed by always looking backwards through the prism of the past.

They hang onto unhappy and hurtful experience like they were gems, and just as time threatens to dull them, they’re whipped out and polished furiously until they shine anew.

All of us will be bruised and battered to some degree by life.

What, I’ve learned is that it’s what we take from these experiences that determine the quality of our futures.

That, and there’s no dish on earth that cannot be improved by the addition of toasted almonds.