Tag Archives: The Paradigm Shuffle

The destination of a successful man

Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
MJ Edmunds

An early days excerpt from a novel  in progress.


The boys were restless all through class. Maybe it was the rocket launch they’d planned down in Tommy Jones’s back paddock. Maybe it was a combination of raging hormones and the moon being in Jupiter.
Adam felt just like them. He had to keep dragging his mind back to the classroom, away from the thought of seeing Shelly tonight. There were only a couple of hours to go before he’d be driving down to the airport. Shelly’s secondment in Sydney had ended up being much longer than they thought, and for three months Sydney had been replaced by Singapore. But they’d got through. There were on the home run now. We’re going to make it.
There was a lot of fidgeting going on at the desk in the back corner. Perhaps it was time to rearrange the class seating plan. “Dylan, you need to think about this revision I’ve set out. If you can work your way through this it will give most of what you need for the examination.”
“Come on Mr Hammo, it’ll be cool.”
“So Mr Hamilton, are you saying that the answers to the exams are all in this latest revision?” said Melissa Broad with raven hair and chocolate brown eyes, framed with long lashes, and seemingly oblivious of her own burgeoning power to break hearts.
“If you can work your way through that you’ll make it through the exam Melissa,” said Adam.
“Gee thanks Brain-box Broad. That’s all right then sir. I’ll just brush up on that the night before,” said Dylan slamming his book down on the desk.
“I’m serious Dylan, you do need to prepare for the exam in advance.”
“C’mon Sir, you’re just trying to make it easy on yourself so you don’t have to teach us.”
“He’s got other things on his mind,” said Dylan. The boys down the back tittered.
“Mr Hammo’s going to the seaside. He’s going to see his shell-leee.
“He’s going to have sex on the sand. He’s going to have a …
“Stop that now, Dylan Miller. Get out of this classroom now and go and wait by the principal’s office.” Dylan stood up and clomped out to the classroom raising his hand to wave to classmates.
“Ooh,” called a voice from the back. Perhaps it was Craig Brennan or Ryan Sharp. Adam was past caring.
“Look how pink Hammo’s face is,” whispered Narelle Flick to Melissa so loudly almost everyone could hear.
Adam knew she was right. And that now his face was turning brilliant red.

“I am going to miss you lot in the holidays,” said Adam, “particularly your humour.”
“No, you won’t sir. You’ll have your lay…..deeeeee.”
“Craig Brennan, would you like to visit the principal too?”
“No Sir, I’ll skip it today.”
“Now over the vacation, if you want to increase your chances at the exams you should be reading…..
The bell rang. Sweet relief. Lunchtime. Almost through. Adam had arranged an early cut to miss the last lesson. He was to drive to the airport, a journey of two hours, and take the afternoon flight to Brisbane.
But first he had to deal with Dylan Miller. Adam thought he might have bunked off, and to be honest on this day if he had. Adam might have let it go, and saved a stiff reminder for his first day of term. But Dylan was waiting, leaning by the wall outside Bill Cosgrove’s office.
“OK Dylan, I am just going in to see when Mr Cosgrove will be free, so just wait here please?”
“Mr Hammo, I mean Sir, do you have to?” said Dylan.
“Dylan, if it was the first time you’d misbehaved but you know as well as I do that you’ve been out of order a lot.
“Please don’t sir. I don’t want there to be trouble at home.”
“Well you should have thought about that before. Just wait here Dylan.”
Dylan slumped into a chair in the waiting room.
“But sir my mother’s really sick. My gran’ll skin me alive if I get into trouble.”
“What about your parents?”
“Mum’s sick, really sick,” he said.
“I’m living with me Gran,” he said.
“And your Dad?”
“Dead.”
“What’s your Gran like?”
“She’s alright I guess.”
“Don’t give her grief Dylan,” said Adam.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean don’t make life any harder for your Gran than it already is.”
Dylan pulled a face. This was Hammo was in new territory.
“All right I won’t sir.”
The voices coming out of Mr Cosgroves office were clearly in a heated discussion.
“Dylan, go to your next class then go home,” said Adam. “And I’ll see you after holidays. And think about how you are going to behave next term.”
“Ok sir. Thanks sir. Have a good time at the coast sir,” said Dylan making for the door in case Adam changed his mind. Dylan would return home to Acacia Street that afternoon where his mother would be sitting in her shorts and t-shirt on the verandah with a cigarette on the go.
“Don’t tell me it’s the bloody holidays,” she’d say. “Always on bloody holidays, you kids, why don’t you go and get a job?”

If Adam took a cab from the airport, he’d just have time to get to the jewellery store. He liked the sound of the destination as he said it to the cabby. The best jeweller in the city. It sounded like the destination of a successful man.

MJ Edmunds

Perfect Day

Perfect Day, Mountsfield cover version

Perfect Day has been on automatic replay in my head this past day since the news Lou Reed had passed away. The cover of this tune that stands out in my memory was played on a clear blue June Saturday in Mountsfield Park, London. People’s Day.  A jobbing muso of whiskered jaw in black uniform playing guitar under trees to weekend flower children, jigging toddlers, people yearning  something or someone never reached, remembering things that never quite were. Remembering flashes of fun. We sing along. Together. Weekenders on our own. 

Was it the 444,000th cover of Perfect Day ever made? 

A reggae beat rolls up the hill to warn it will be in charge from sunset.
I rarely carried a cameras in the 1990s.  It is clear in the big screen inside my head. I wish there was a kind of camera that could take the image in my mind and show it to you.  It would show you the plant stall on the left as you came in, the crumbling outbuildings, the craft stalls, and the cakes liquefying even in the shade, flowered icing smearing. It would show you young love. Problems all left alone.  It would show you the children in spangly costumes, it’s such fun.  It would show you  buggies laden with goodies and babies, smiling, sleeping and squirming. It would show you the cream of London apiarists, who for five minutes would make you think of keeping bees. It would show you the tiny stream train and driver, a portly Gulliver. It would show you the tables of ezy cleaning products, and dolls in crinolines with  toilet paper petticoats that will do another twirl at a boot fair soon.  It would show you old love. It would show you  chutneys and pickles with floral covers, and it would show you the donkeys and falcons. Just a perfect day feed animals in the zoo. 

Just a perfect day you made me forget myself.

One perfect day. Luckily, it’s not the only one.

MJ Edmunds

Italics are  from Perfect Day by Lou Reed.

The impressive sands of St Ives, June 1985 - Marian Edmunds

The St Ives etiquette book for reading in cafes

MJ Edmunds

I headed to a favourite café the other day, book under my arm. There is time enough to digest a short story at one sitting. As I entered the café an acquaintance greeted me warmly. Wrapped in a bright shawl, she sat alone at a kitchen table. I smiled and greeted her and made a note to self that if I sat there I could forget my intention to read.  I was writing well that day and wanted to oil the wheels with some good reading.

The remaining small table in the café was taken and the other big table was almost full with a couple chatting quietly and three others eating and reading newspapers. I found a place, set down my book and scarf, hoping my acquaintance would not feel slighted. Then I thought to myself, it’s a free country and I am entitled to read.

I ordered, sat, poured some water, and opened the book choosing a short story because of it’s title, Green Bus to St Ives by Salley Vickers. I once took a train to St Ives, and somewhere  is a diary that records who I met that day and my visit to the Barbara Hepworth home and studio oblivious that not so many years later I would live amid a garden of smooth carved stones. Greedily I lapped up the spectacle, smell and sounds of the beaches that were alike yet far different from home.

As I slipped away with the story characters on a bus to the Tate and rediscovered Barbara Hepworth’s garden, I heard the voice of my acquaintance. “Where do you live?”

The impressive sands of St Ives, June 1985 - Marian Edmunds
St Ives Panorama, June 1985

A male voice replied, “We live up the coast but I would like to live here.”

“I wouldn’t like to live here as everyone knows your business,” said my acquaintance. I glanced around to see a man and his wife sitting at a small table, a walking frame parked in front of the table.  My acquaintance sat at the far end of a big table.

For the next few minutes as I tried to keep reading I learned where the man, and my acquaintance were born and had lived and why each had moved. I learned that my acquaintance had left an affluent city area and  was “not like” those people she had left. In a few short minutes I had learned a great deal about my acquaintance’s life. I learned nothing  about the man’s wife. She appeared frail and said little. The man seemed glad of the conversation so I thought that was a good thing.

Their talk turned to the economy. I determinedly kept on reading about the unexpected alliance of the characters in the story. Why  hadn’t my acquaintance moved closer to her new friends instead of broadcasting across the café?

“My kind of business is not affected by the downturn,” said my acquaintance.          “Everything is affected by the downturn,” said the man. For a moment I was tempted to weigh in to agree with him and I suspect they wouldn’t have minded a bit.

“What are your names?” said my acquaintance to the couple. And so it went on.

As I finished my tart, a warm tumble of cheese and vegetables, I checked the pages of my book and saw I still had a number of pages to read.

My acquaintance stood up and issued a fond farewell to her new friends and it was quiet again. I ordered coffee, and made my way back to St Ives.

Today is the 30th birthday my father did not reach

A painting of my father by his Aunt Augusta ©
A painting of my father by his Aunt Augusta ©

Today is the 30th birthday my father did not reach.
I can’t recall the other 29 clearly. They are shadows of an anniversary that given the preference, I’d rather not discuss. I’d rather just think of him quietly.
My father’s only grandson sleeps. If they’d met, they’d have had a quiet bet together, and agreed between themselves not to tell me. They are so alike – not in love with academia, liking a bet, loving to collect what others see as junk, sensitive to others, and with a wicked sense of humour.
My father’s only granddaughter plays, making, chatting, imagining, devising, her giggles impervious to the coldness of day and a long ago loss. She loves birthdays. If only they’d met.

What would he have made of the person I became? What would he have thought of me with my volatile writing life and my weight lifting under the supervision of a personal trainer for goodness sakes? What would he have thought about us never voting the same way?

He had this scheme or dream of travelling the countryside collecting antiques for a shop on Sydney’s North Shore and me running the shop. He was about to start on his side of the plan. He and Mum had the caravan ready but then he became ill. Now I see the antique shop was quite a good plan. I would have found good stories there.
In the southern tablelands town where my father spent his childhood, one of his oldest friends was interred yesterday. He was 92 when he died last week. I make no comparison. He too was a good man. Both of them now gone. My father would be 77 today, were he here. I will bake a birthday cake.