Having recently watched “World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys” I was transported back to our time in Switzerland. So, with memories of vivid green hills rolling with the backdrop of magnificent mountains, here’s an episode in the K-Team’s Swiss adventure.
Welcome with Alp horns
Sunday, August 17, the real fun began—and so did the early starts.
Up by 6am to race to Zurich Airport to meet the rest of the K-Team, Hubby’s family: his mother (Mum K) brother (P1), niece (Miss K), our son (Son 1) and his fiancé. Drove into the airport car park where Hubby became confused and drove out again and then in again. After finding a park we made our way to arrivals where an English man chatted to Hubby.
‘We’re from Australia,’ Hubby said.
The English man nodded. ‘I can tell.’
A young woman accompanied by a man dressed in Swiss costume who’d been standing next to us spoke to us. We soon established that we had been standing next to Hubby’s second cousins.
We then waited together for the K-Team fresh from Australia to roll through the arrival gate. Tired of waiting, Hubby wandered down the hallway and there near an alcove of shops, he found our weary travellers.
Must be the atmosphere in Zurich, or just jetlag as after greeting us, they stood around for at least an hour discussing what to do. Hubby and I took custody of their luggage and had a coffee while they lingered in the hall in suspended animation apparently organising the lease car and then debating how to change Australian dollars into Swiss Francs.
Just as I pulled my diary out to write, movement, and then we were on our way to the farm near Wattwil of Toggenburg in the Canton of St. Gallen.
There Alp horns, and cow bell ringers, and the stunning green hills and blue mountains of the Santis greeted us. Mum K shrieked and cried and hugged her relatives. Our niece exclaimed, ‘It’s all so beautiful!’
Willing members of the K-Team tested their muscles swinging the huge cowbells, or their lungs playing the Alphorn. Some had more success than others. I escaped the test by recording the event with my camera.
Then a banquet of kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) on a balcony with the view. Perfect…until Miss K said, ‘Ugh! I have a fly in my plate.’
‘Is it doing backstroke?’ I asked.
‘It’s on its back and struggling.’
‘Oh, you have a fly!’ Mum K stabbed the fly several times with a knife. ‘There.’
‘What did you do that for?’ Miss K asked.
‘I put it out of its misery,’ Mum K said.
‘You murdered it.’
After the insecticide incident, our hosts showed us our rooms and one of our cousins gave us instructions about the bathroom and how to place the fly wire in our windows to keep out the “fleas”. I think she meant flies.
Mum K went missing. Found her in the dairy—yes, we were on a dairy farm that is still owned by the family. I was amazed that Swiss farmers have as few as ten cows and yet they make a living! Wouldn’t happen in Australia. And our hostess promised us fresh milk, dare I say it, raw milk, straight from the cow the next morning. Ah, the advantages of living on a dairy farm in Switzerland!
‘Actually,’ Mr K stated, ‘the Swiss Brown milk is known for its high fat content, so the milk is used for making cheese.’
As the T-Team talked to their dairy-farmer cousins, in this barn for the cows, I held my nose and edged towards the door. The up-and-personal experience with the cows and their calves in their enclosures, proved too much for my senses, and I suggested, ‘Let’s go for a walk to the forest.’ I moved out of the barn, sure that my bovine-close-encounter would be used in some future story—maybe in the Lost World of the Wends.
From the barn, the K-Team took a ramble to Mum K’s beloved forest—a smaller forest than one she remembered from her youth.
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…
In this episode (4.2) After enjoying the wild Weber char-grilled salmon Letitia faces the prospect of another mission; one which she may not relish…]
‘Oh, no! How awful!’ Frieda sympathetically patted her shoulder.
Wilhelm leaned back on the bench seat and cynically remarked, ‘You fool! No one leaves their belongings on the beach. What were you thinking?’
‘But, but, this is Tasmania. 1967! I thought my stuff would be safe on a near deserted beach.’
‘Well, now you know. Not even Coles Bay is safe from thieves.’ Wilhelm shook his head in disgust. ‘After all, someone stole our illegal alien this morning from The Royal Hobart Hospital, no less.’
‘Or the alien escaped and stole the cleaner’s clothes…’ Frieda nodded slowly at Letitia.
‘I guess the thief got her just desserts,’ Letitia mumbled while raising her glass, studied the final quarter of wine in the bottom of the flute.
‘What do you mean?’ Frieda leaned forward to catch her errant friend’s every utterance.
‘She means that Miss Thief who stole her identity and everything, ended up crashing in the plane,’ Will said.
‘Oh! So that’s why you are here,’ Frieda said; the Riesling had gone straight to Frieda’s head addling her brain cells.
‘Yes!’ Wilhelm and Letitia replied in unison. Letitia congratulated herself for a story well executed and believed.
‘Oh, well, then, I guess your family are relieved,’ Frieda concluded. ‘We’ve been in contact with them and heard you may turn up here.’
‘Yes, Fritz sent a message with the flight from Mawson Station that you’d been found and were being transported to Hobart.’
‘Fritz did?’ Letitia picked at her nails and glanced at Wilhelm.
‘He did,’ Wilhelm replied. ‘I was to make sure you stayed safe and undetected in the hospital. But you decided to take matters into your own hands and escape.’
‘Silly girl.’ Frieda patted Letitia’s hand. ‘And I had to go in search of you, before anyone else, undesirable found you.’
‘Like Boris,’ Wilhelm said.
The smug expression that Letitia had been inwardly harbouring drained from her face. She had not covered that little scenario. ‘Oh, beetle juice! You got me. I woke up in that hospital. I don’t know what I was thinking.’
‘Oh, you poor thing! Lettie!’ Frieda grinned before dashing into the house, and returning, armed with a solid black phone attached to the longest cord Letitia had ever seen in her life. She shoved it under her nose. ‘Here, you must ring them. They would be so worried. But, here’s the thing. You haven’t been sent here to enjoy the views and life of luxury. Your father has a mission for you. He wants you to help rescue a couple of children who have been abducted and something rather peculiar, take them back to their own time.’
‘First task,’ Wilhelm cleared his throat, ‘is to be some lady called Maggie. They say you knew of her on this Mirror World you have been going on about.’
Trembling, Letitia shook her head. ‘Me? Maggie? I look nothing like her.’
‘Of course, you’re not.’ Frieda chuckled. ‘But you only have to call their home and put on a voice like you are her.’
Heat flushed through Letitia from her scalp and cascaded down her neck, shoulders, body. Beads of sweat accumulated on her temples and coursed down her cheeks. ‘I’m not ready for this. I’m still fuzzy headed from the coma. I don’t want to stuff it up.’
Wilhelm leaned back on the table and sniffed. ‘You’ll be fine. You’ll make a great Maggie. Whoever she is.’
‘You reckon?’ Letitia twisted the cord in her hand. ‘What if Tails, that’s her husband and partner in crime, answers?’
‘Intelligence from Nathan is that Maggie’s husband has just driven down from Alice Springs.’ Wilhelm smiled. ‘Your dear friend Nathan has been tracking him. Tails has the boys, and Maggie according to our sources, is somewhere here on the island.’
Frieda nodded. ‘So, here’s your chance. Call Tails, put on your best Maggie voice and give him the good news.’
Letitia examined the contraption of a telephone with an inward sense of horror. Then in an even voice said, ‘Right!’ Staring at the angular black lines of the phone, calm flowed over her. Was this part of the plan? From above? Or at least the IGSF of the future? Was Fritz in on it? Was this plan Jemima’s doing? She was skilled at invisibility, but putting on voices? Impersonating Boris operatives?
Letitia took a deep breath. She decided to go with the proverbial flow and join Wilhelm and Frieda in their world’s script.
So, mustering up as much sincerity as possible with the view of taking on the role of Maggie, while at the same time figuring out how to sound like Maggie, she said, ‘There was this lady with red hair on the plane, she gave me a sick-bag.’ Then gushed, ‘But, there is one problem. What if they think – well actually, by this time they must believe I’m dead. I mean, Boris, he was there with his bomb. He blew up the plane over Mirror Antarctica…and – and what if Tails and the boys are on their way to Hobart? I should try by… what else can we use to communicate? Telegramme?’ She looked at the couple, both wide-eyed. Then, before they could answer, continued, ‘But I – don’t know the number.’ She had to think of some feeble excuse she can’t call the dreaded family.
‘You ring the exchange, dear. They’ll know.’ Frieda sighed. ‘Go on! At least try.’
‘But they might be using different names—aliases. Tails likes doing that. No one really knows what his real name is.’
‘All under control. Seems they go under the name Taylor. Nick and Maggie Taylor, as far as the IGSF intelligence can ascertain,’ Will said.
‘Okay.’ Letitia conceded and plucked the phone from Frieda. She did not want to admit that she had forgotten how to manage telephone exchanges in the 1960’s. The two hovered over her like hawks. ‘What do I dial for Adelaide?’
‘Here, let me.’ Frieda lifted the phone out of her hands, twirled the dial, and with efficiency, handled the exchange with the words, ‘Connect to Taylor, Nick Taylor of Somerton Park, please.’
Then, handed the receiver back to Letitia.
This will be interesting! Letitia thought while listening to the dial tone of antiquity.
A click sounded on the other side of the phone as a boy with a timid voice answered, ‘Hello, this is Liam. Who’s this that is calling?’
Letitia gaped, stunned by the randomness of her luck. Then, grounding herself that such coincidental events are rarely coincidental, she spoke in the voice she remembered of the women with red hair from the plane. ‘It’s your mother, here, Liam. I, er, survived the crash.’ She paused, unsure if her voice sounded convincing. The mosquitos hovered over her bare shoulders too, waiting to catch her unawares and sting her.
‘Mother? You don’t sound like her. Who are you?’ the boy said. ‘Are you a playing a joke on us?’
‘No, I’m – your…’ she was about to say “rescuer”, but realised that such a concept may sound ridiculous to the boy. ‘I’m alive, I didn’t go down with the plane. I wasn’t on…People sound different so far away in Tasmania,’ she rambled.
‘Your three minutes has expired, would you like to reconnect?’ an officious sounding voice cut in.
With a clunk, the other end of the phone went silent.
She glanced from Frieda to Wilhelm, then waved the phone receiver in the air. ‘It cut out on me.’
Frieda snatched the handset. ‘They only give you three minutes for interstate calls. Don’t you know that?’
‘On Mirror, there’s no time limit on calls,’ Letitia replied wistfully.
Will sighed, ‘Mirror? What sort of world is that?’
‘Told you, the future.’ Letitia handed the rest of the phone and the tangled cord to Frieda. ‘That’s where I’ve been. That’s why you couldn’t find me. Till now.’
‘Oh,’ Wilhelm said.
‘Time travel?’ Frieda bundled the phone and cord in her arms. ‘How’s that possible?’
With a shrug, Letitia stared out over the river, the glimmering lights bouncing off the inky water. Night had finally fallen. ‘Liam, the younger boy answered. So what’s the plan? Any more intel on what happens next?’
Apologies for the week of the lost blog post. Been one of those weeks in one of those months (in our family the horror month filled with birthdays). Plus, I have spent the last week editing the MAG newsletter. Check out Marion Art Group’s website if you like.
Anyway, here’s a revisit to an old favourite of mine, Mount Liebig in Central Australia.
The Quart Can
[While Mr. B and his son, Matt stayed back at camp,
three of the T-Team faced the challenge of climbing Mt. Liebig.
Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.]
Dad parked the Rover at the foot of Mount Liebig. ‘This will be our reference point,’ he said pointing to a rocky outcrop.
I took a photo of the mountain slopes bathed in deep orange reflecting the sunrise.
Dad hoisted the pack on his back and studied the peaks. ‘Now which one is the highest?’ He squinted. ‘I think it’s the one on the right, I’ll just check.’ He took out his binoculars and adjusted the focus. ‘Hmm, I think I see the trig.’ He lowered the binoculars. ‘Oh, yeah, you can see it without them.’
‘Where? Where?’ I grabbed the binoculars, and before I even lifted them to my eyes, I spotted the thin line on top of one of the peaks. I pointed. ‘Yeah, there it is.’ I gave the binoculars to Rick to look through.
‘I can’t find them,’ Rick said.
‘Come on, we must get a wriggle on, or we’ll be hiking back in the dark,’ Dad said.
Dad’s dream to climb this mountain was to be fulfilled. Ever since he had lived and taught in Hermannsburg in the 1950’s, he had wanted to venture way out west, to conquer this mount which is 1274 metres (about 4179 feet) above sea level.
We commenced scaling the hills filled with prickly spinifex and scrambling down the valleys of loose rocks. We reached the gully leading to the peak in no time.
‘Hey, Dad, this is easy!’ I said. ‘We’ll be up and back to camp in no time.’
‘Oh, no!’ Dad moaned.
‘But, Dad, I thought you’d be pleased.’
Dad turned around and peered at the ridges we had traversed. ‘I’ve lost my quart can.’ He tottered down the slope, his gaze darting at every rock and tree. ‘I put it down to get something out of my back pack…now where did it go?’
Rick rolled his eyes and then raced up the gully like a rock wallaby. Nothing was going to stop him reaching the summit for morning tea.
I called out to Dad. ‘Let’s climb to the top. Maybe we’ll find the quart can on the way back.’
‘Very well, then,’ Dad said as he paced back to me.
While Dad mourned his loss, we continued to march up the steep gorge that we hoped would lead to the summit.
Halfway up, we rested under the shade of a ghost gum.
‘The other side of the slope is a two-thousand-foot drop,’ Dad remarked.
Rick and I contemplated this fact as we sucked slices of thirst-quenching lemon and gazed on the foothills sloping up to Mt. Liebig. These hills shaped like shark’s teeth, were a miniature replica of the mountain’s formation; slope on one side, and treacherous cliffs on the other. Lemons, though sour, actually tasted sweet.
Refreshed, we continued our plodding upwards. My shins ached from hiking up this steep incline. My ankles itched from spinifex needles lodged in them. And the growing number of boulders around which we had to manoeuvre, proved to be a challenge. But we pushed on.
We reached the top of the gorge.
Dad peered up at the eight-foot high rock wall. ‘Hmmm.’ He looked stumped.
‘Now what?’ I asked.
Each side of us was a wall of rock blocking our way. One side, lower than the others, led to the precipice Dad mentioned before.
After studying the walls, Rick grasped a few nooks, and then mounted the rocky barrier. He wriggled up a hollow cranny.
Dad and I waited.
The wind whistled through the gap.
‘I hope he’s alright,’ I said.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Dad replied.
‘I hope he doesn’t fall off the cliff.’
‘No, he’ll be fine. Stop worrying.’
Rick poked his head through the hole in the wall above us. ‘I’ve found a way to the top.’
He then helped Dad and me up through the hole and led us through the labyrinth of a path between the boulders to the spinifex-covered mountaintop. A cairn of stones adorned with a rusty pole and barrel marked the summit.
‘Look at that,’ Dad said, ‘It’s only eleven thirty. Let’s stay here an hour and enjoy the view. We can have an early lunch.’
So, while enjoying our cheese and gherkin sandwiches, we sat on the cairn and feasted our eyes on the aerial view of the landscape below. The MacDonnell Ranges and Haasts Bluff far in the east were painted in hues of pink and mauve. And closer, south of the Liebig Range, Mt Palmer and her friends were clothed in shades of ochre. North, on the other side of Liebig, the land stretched out in waves of red sandy desert.
Rick decided to explore the summit. I watched him like a hawk, especially when he approached the edge of the cliff.
‘Don’t get too close, it’s a long way down,’ I said tottering after him.
‘What do you think I’ll do? Jump?’ Rick replied, with his usual hint of sarcasm.
He disappeared behind a bush.
In a panic, I followed him, making sure I stayed a good distance from the cliff edge. ‘Rick? Are you alright?’ I peered down at the land below, the shrubs and trees seemed like dots. The sheer drop gave me the creeps. ‘Rick, are you still with us?’
Rick emerged from the other side of the bush. ‘Can’t you leave me to do my business in peace, Lee-Anne?’
‘Hoy!’ Dad called.
We looked to see Dad waving at us.
‘Get back from the edge!’ Dad said. ‘We better get going. See if we can make it back to camp by two.’
We picked our way through the maze of boulders and climbed down into the gully. Rick, eager to reach the rover first, raced ahead. Dad stuck with me, offering his help as I negotiated my way down the gully.
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…
In this episode (4.1) Letitia enjoys wild Weber char-grilled salmon and must explain her inexplicable reappearance having been MiA for several years …]
The late evening light spread endlessly over the listless blue water. A warm breeze wafted periodically, ever so gently rustling the jasmine creeping up the balustrade. Salmon sizzled in the large black bowl stranded on three legs. After little Johnny with golden curls had peddled his energy out with red tricycle around the lawn area, Frieda, bathed him and put him to bed. Then she decorated the outdoor table, with left-over festive mats and coasters. Letitia now recognised the table as made of Huon pine. A spotlight beamed on their pending dinner and a lonely Tupperware bowl full of chips. Frieda then retreated to the open kitchen window that presided over the deck, where she tossed green salad that would eventually accompany the salmon and chips.
‘Help yourself to chips. They are warm. I was keeping them warm in the oven.’ Frieda offered from the open window. ‘Sorry about the fish we bought earlier. While you were in the shower, the dog got to the rest of them. Lucky, we had some salmon in the freezer. Will caught it on one of his boating exploits down the south-west coast, Macquarie Harbour. Wild salmon, it’s the best.’
‘Where’s the dog?’ Letitia asked.
Frieda rolled her eyes and snorted, ‘In the Dog House; locked up behind the shed; no chances taken. Don’t want him getting the salmon too.’
Letitia stared doubtfully at the pink plastic bowl laden with crisp wedges of fried fat and potato. She visualised Sister Salome, Gunter’s sister, egging her on. She may have been starving, but oil dipped fried chips spelt dangerous levels of cholesterol, thickening of the arteries and the waistline.
‘Come on, Lets! Have a few! You look like you need a bit of fattening up. Remember when we were kids. You would eat almost anything and everything and you never put on weight,’ Frieda urged.
‘At least you are honest. I remember my mother would just shove the bowl under my nose, strategically, and then be offended if I did not lick the bowl clean.’ The crisp golden slices of potato were enticing, and her empty stomach grumbled in yearning for them. Meanwhile Wilhelm, lean and fit, resisted temptation by casually reading The Canberra Times. He had a conference to attend in Australia’s national capital and was keen to be in the know about what was going on there.
‘Your mother! I remember her!’ Frieda snorted, ‘Why did I bother getting chips?’ She shovelled a few sticks of fried potato into her mouth. ‘Gawd! Am I going to be the only one who eats them?’ Her words muffled by the mouthful of mash.
Letitia selected a strip of carrot from the salad bowl that Frieda had brought out with her and chomped on it. The headlines on the front page of the newspaper, concerned her. “Late News Over Hanging” was plastered over the front page. The issue relating to capital punishment sent chills down her spine and she trembled.
Wilhelm peeked over the paper. ‘What’s the matter, Letitia? You’ve gone all pale.’
‘Huh? It’s that thing about capital punishment.’ Letitia shivered. ‘It’s like someone’s walked over my grave. I don’t know, I can’t explain.’
‘Hmm, there’s a push against it.’ Wilhelm flipped the paper closed and looked directly at her. ‘In my opinion, there are some people who deserve it.’
‘But what if they get the conviction wrong? And sentence an innocent person…?’
‘I think the salmon is ready.’ Frieda chirped. ‘I can smell that it is cooked.’
Wilhelm rose, laid down the paper on the table, and retreated to the Weber. With a moment’s reprieve, Letitia adjusted her position on the sassafras timber bench and leaned over to gain a view of the material that Wilhelm had been reading. However, Frieda barged in claiming the newspaper for herself. ‘Look at this! Pilots escape a plane crash! Landed on its fuselage.’
Letitia sank back into the dimness of twilight, knowing her minutes of being simply lost-now-found Letitia were numbered. Unsure of how the situation and her place in it, stood in this out-of-date world, she cleared her throat ready to recite her hastily constructed story for the ensuing discussion and IGSF debriefing while eating salmon.
‘That name sounds familiar,’ Frieda pointed at the paper.
Letitia’s heart sank with the acid of nervousness. She opened her mouth ready to defend her presence in this time which was her survival. However, Wilhelm, bearing the oven tray of Weber-grilled salmon, interjected. ‘That reminds me. Did we have a queer case today!’ He snatched the paper from Frieda and served the fish.
Without complaining or further comment for the moment, Frieda proceeded to serve the meal of fish and chips with salad. Wilhelm briskly and with finesse poured the white wine into crystal flutes. With Wilhelm’s pronouncement of “enjoy”, they silently dug into their late-evening meal.
Letitia savoured a mouthful of succulent salmon hoping in vain that her mysterious re-entry into this world at this particular time would slide into acceptance and then into obscurity. Unfortunately, that dream was not to be.
Wilhelm calmly and deliberately placed his fork and knife on his half-eaten plate of fish and continued sharing his day. ‘We had this illegal immigrant escape. Pity, the case sounded interesting. Apparently, they found her in Antarctica.’ He took a sip of chardonnay and chuckled to himself. ‘That matron, Sister Cross, you know, the one I’ve told you about, Frieda? Well, the immigrant apparently disappeared on her watch. Imagine that! Hawk-eye, herself! Tell you what, the boss wasn’t too pleased. If it wasn’t for the fact that the patient was meant to be in a coma, I guess Cross would have been suspended.’
Frieda sang some eerie “Doo-doo-do-do” tune and remarked, ‘Sounds like something from Deadly Earnest.’
Although vaguely unfamiliar with the supernatural implications, Letitia kept her head down and steadily shovelled in the salmon and salad and tried her best to remain inconspicuous. She was fortunate that her fingers were not frost-bitten and that apart from the initial lime green cleaner’s uniform, she had appeared sane and incontrovertibly Australian to Frieda.
‘Say, how has your day been, Letitia? What brings you to the clement climes of Tasmania?’ Wilhelm piped up attempting to make pleasant conversation.
As Letitia’s mind had become more unfrozen and nimbler, she knew that she had to factor in an aborted journey to Antarctica, as well as head off their suspicions as to her presence in this Apple Isle. She took a deep breath and made the tale fly by the seat of its breeches. ‘Well may you ask.’ She took a sip of Barossa wine and savoured its dry wooded vintage. ‘I had travelled to Tasmania to visit my relatives…’ She paused knowing that she had fudged the finer details of flight or sea, but sure that Jemima might be somewhere on the Island, ‘and – and was planning to fly over Antarctica – lifelong dream, and all of that.’
‘I didn’t know you had relatives here,’ Frieda interjected. ‘Last time I checked, your dad and mum were in Adelaide. The rest of them, cousins, I mean, are in Germany, aren’t they?’
Almost immediately Wilhelm flicked a hand in front of her wine glass, ‘Well what am I, dear?’ He royally waved a hand and with a knowing smirk, bid, ‘Continue.’
Letitia looked up and at Frieda’s husband. Him? Related? How? But said, ‘I meant, I mean, my mother’s family were Australian. Been in Australia for a hundred years.’ Then softly, ‘Don’t you remember how my father met my mother, Gertrude?’
‘Gertrude?’ Wilhelm laughed. ‘How many times have we heard that story?’
Letitia recalled the recent conversation with Jemima on the fated plane and decided to incorporate that piece of information. ‘Um, well, actually, yes, of course. But you see I was meeting my mum here in Tassie to go on the flight to Antarctica. It was her life-long ambition too.’ She paused, remembering that both Frieda and Wilhelm had expressed surprise at her reappearance after several years of being MiA (missing in action). She dismissed the calm demeanour they displayed when finding her as one of shock or not wanting to seem foolish for not keeping up with IGSF news. So, she added, ‘And a celebration, of course, for escaping Boris’ clutches on Mirror World and returning to Earth.’
The couple glanced at each other and then Letitia.
‘Fair enough,’ Wilhelm said. ‘But I don’t understand. There’s no tourist flights to Antarctica.’
Letitia lowered her voice. ‘Well, not officially, Mr. Thumm.’ She locked eyes with Frieda. ‘No parties at the LaGrange Point, either. Officially.’
Wilhelm crossed his legs. Frieda looked away.
‘You know nothing will stop my mother from doing what she wants to do, don’t we?’
‘No, I mean yes,’ Wilhelm muttered. ‘Strong-willed that woman.’
Frieda pursed her trembling lips. ‘So, typical! Treks all the way down to Tasmania. Hobart to boot. And doesn’t even give us the time of day.’
Letitia smiled. ‘That’s my mum.’
Wilhelm tapped pouting Frieda on her arm. ‘Say, I heard there was a plane crash in Antarctica. Unofficially.’
Frieda pounced on the newspaper and after a brief tug of war with Wilhelm, scrutinized it. Letitia braced herself. Frieda’s index finger paused, and her eyes raised up to her full of pity. ‘Oh, my God, I am so sorry!’
For a few furtive moments Wilhelm’s brow remained furrowed as he searched the paper. ‘Where is it? Where is it? I don’t see it. You’re joking.’ As he did this, Letitia steeled her muscles for the next instalment for her survival. She sensed an oddness about Wilhelm Thumm that made her uncomfortable and yet curious about him.
Once the mission to find this fake news had been accomplished, and not found, Wilhelm sternly and accusingly pointed a finger at her. ‘Well, Letitia, what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be dead? From the plane crash?’
‘You see, that’s the interesting thing.’ She nodded. ‘I was in Coles Bay.’ She didn’t know why she chose Coles Bay. She recalled that there was a beach there. ‘I was in Coles Bay, on the beach having a swim.’ She checked Frieda’s and Wilhelm’s responses, so far so good, so continued her “slight” diversion from the truth. They didn’t look like the sort of people that could handle time travel or parallel universes at this stage. After all, she figured that Frieda may have imagined Mirror World to be a planet, like the Pilgrim Planet. Will perhaps, he had hinted at it. But not Frieda. Definitely, not Frieda. Then again, with her limited knowledge about physics, Letitia didn’t know if she understood inexplicable intricacies of time-travel. ‘Anyway, I had a nice cool, actually, the water was freezing cold, swim, and I came out of the surf to find everything – my bag, my towel, my clothes, money, tickets, everything gone.’
After a busy week of birthday celebrations and Mother’s Day, I found this little pond of thoughts from a post way back in my past when my blogging life first began…
We’ve all heard of the unfortunate person who’s gone for a loan, only to discover their application has been rejected—not because they have a poor credit rating—no, previously, their rating has been perfect—but because some creep has stolen their identity, spent all their credit, and accrued a bad credit-rating.
Identity theft—not nice, and it can take years for the victim to clear their name and regain a good credit-rating.
However, I’ve come across a more subtle, more disturbing, more widespread form identity theft. In fact, with this sort of theft, the victim is a passive participant in the whole deal, and willingly hands over their identity to the perpetrator.
How do you convince another person of who you really are? This is a question I have heard people ask. I have asked this question and struggled with the insidious theft of my identity since…I became self-aware.
As if a character in a novel or a play, from birth, we are cast in our roles. These roles are set by another’s attitudes and world view. In reality a great many people go through life playing a role as someone else’s character in that someone else’s book of life, without ever discovering who they really are, their true identity.
And it’s fair to say, all of us, at one time or another, have scripted others into our drama without ever seeing that person for who they really are.
I must admit, as a victim of this form of identity theft, which for the most part, I cannot control as I cannot control another’s attitudes and way they see the world, I enjoy the freedom of writing. When writing fiction, I get in touch with my real self through my characters. Also in non-fiction, such as my memoirs, I redeem my true identity from those who have stolen it for their own particular narratives. Most of the time. I have to admit, though I struggle with attitudes and judging others that get in the way of seeing another person for who they really are.
So, in answer to the question, how do you reveal who you really are to another and thus change their view of you—even when you are yourself?
The key is listening to another with empathy and non-judgementally. As in most lessons of life, we need to lead by example. We also need to be aware of our own narratives and attitudes that get in the way of being open to seeing another for who they really are. We need listen and be open to entering another’s world that will be different from ours. As we do this and listen to another and engage in their world, they will feel safe and trust you enough to open themselves up to listen and see who you really are.
Being seen for who you really are, jumping off the stage and ripping up the script, even with the tool of listening is not a quick fix. Changing our culture, attitudes and habits takes time. Maybe like the recovery from a stolen credit identity, it takes time, maybe years to restore. But isn’t it preferable to be proactive in being the person we truly are, rather than passively being someone else’s perception of us? And isn’t it a good thing to listen and see another for who they really are?
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…
In this episode (3.2) Letitia delves into her friend’s past and makes some intriguing discoveries…]
Frieda led Letitia into her room and rifled through a room-sized walk-in robe packed-full of clothing. From what Letitia could discern from the king-sized bed which faced a wall-sized window view of the Derwent, there were at least three decades worth of fashions represented. 1940’s to mid- ‘60’s, she surmised. A bold red and green floral print dress flew through the air and gracefully landed on the bed next to her. As she picked up the polyester-cotton dress, she remarked casually, ‘Blood and bone? Isn’t that something you do to roses in springtime?’
Frieda’s voice floated out from the depths of the clothes cupboard along with a pair of knickers still in the original plastic wrapping. ‘Yeah, don’t remind me! You know Will. He’s always gunna do, but then he’s on call, then there’s a golf tournament, and then Christmas, and then the bothersome yacht race! And in the end the job never gets done. Then before you know it, the damn dog’s got into it. Poor roses!’ More rustling could be heard from the vacuous hole of the cupboard, punctuated by Frieda’s verbal explosions, that spanned several European languages. ‘Now where are those dumkopf shoes? Merde! Can’t find anything in this hole!’
Standing by the bed like a dummy awaiting further instructions, Letitia chuckled, ‘You’d fit well into Mirror World.’
‘What? What the blazes is Mirror World?’
Realising that this Frieda may have never experienced such a world, Letitia shrugged. ‘Never mind.’
After a few more crashes and angry expletives, Frieda popped her head through the door. ‘Oh, er, Letitia, you can use the en suite shower and get changed. Just throw the dirty clothes outside the door. I’ll get them and put them in the wash. They won’t take long to dry in this weather.’ Then, almost as an after-thought, ‘Oh, er, Johnny’s coming home with his nanny soon.’
Letitia raised an eyebrow. ‘Johnny? Is that…?’
But Frieda had already flown out of hearing-range.
Letitia spied the adjoining door to the closet and assumed that this led to the en suite. It did. After peeling off the offensive manure laden garb, and depositing it just out the door, she turned on the shower revelling in the warm water flowing over her parched and soiled body.
For a couple of minutes, she enjoyed the refreshing and steamy streams run over her tired skin and aching muscles. Her mind wandered over postcards of lush fertile temperate forests of the West Coast of Tasmania (Mirror, of course, and East Coast there). She had not been there yet but remembered the pristine photographs from Geographic calendars and books that Jemima had sent in years gone by (or in future years as the case seemed to be in this out-of-time world). At Christmas, a tradition was established: she would send Switzerland, and Jemima would send the Tasmanian wilderness.
Hot spicy drops of water seared Letitia’s skin, jarring her out of her Tasmanian wilderness daydreams. She leapt to the far corner of the bevelled glass shower cubicle to escape the stings of boiling hot water. Through the steam, she noticed a knob marked with a blue ‘C’. She had forgotten that even showers were not computer-adjusted in 1967. With a sigh and with careful manoeuvring, she twisted the cold tap handle until the water simmered down to a more ambient temperature. How the soft water lathered the speck of shampoo to froth into a huge volume, she marvelled. Adelaide’s desalinated water of 2018 on Mirror World, never did that. It was a good day if you managed to conjure up a few stray bubbles from that water from drought-stricken Adelaide of the 2010’s on Mirror. Since global warming had taken a firm hold, the mainland of Mirror-Australia had been in perpetual general drought for more than twenty years.
Conscious of impending future water restrictions that might even extend to Hobart, even on this world, she terminated her shower after a few minutes of bliss, and dried with a towel compliments of Frieda. Actually, the white fluffy Dickies towel had “Frieda” embossed in dark pink across one corner. She did not feel comfortable using the one marked “Wilhelm”. Carefully, she dried her long dark locks and donned the blue patterned loose-fitting dress, and underclothes Frieda had provided.
‘A bit of a tent,’ Letitia said admiring her slim figure in the mirror, ‘but cool all the same. The white floral design I like.’
Finally, she began to thaw from the freezer of the South Pole.
Her limbs felt like rubber after the warmth of the shower and for once she could move them freely without the stiffness of cold, threatening frostbite and muscle-cramp. She wandered out into the bedroom of Wilhelm and Frieda. Was that the same Wilhelm Frieda had begun dating back before the Boris disaster of the Lagrange Point? she pondered. The Derwent was bathed in the first flushes of sunset, reflecting pleasant pinks and glowing orange on the hills beyond, the flickering lights of the city shimmering against the warm dark grey blue of river and evening. She read the analogue clock that sat in its own foldable leather case on the cluttered bedside table.
‘Nine o’clock!’ she muttered. ‘I was only in the shower for a few brief minutes. Who’s been messing with my time? I was sure it was only two or three in the afternoon, surely…’
She noticed a family history book that was stacked on top of a pile of neglected receipts and used airline tickets. ‘I wonder if I’m in this family history in this particular world and time?’ She flipped distractedly through the stiff A4 sized pages. Caught a glimpse of Frieda’s brother. Their mother remained a mystery. ‘I wonder who she was? What happened to her?’ She flicked back in search of the page and elusive image. She found John, Minna’s brother. Born 1963. ‘You didn’t waste any time, Frieda,’ she muttered. Then she gulped in momentary, reflection, ‘Neither did I, I mean, we. Wow, Jemima and John are the same age, technically…’ Distracted, Letitia turned page after page, hoping to uncover her or her counterpart’s existence.
‘Wise guy! Jolly joker! Who may I ask are you?’ A man’s voice echoed through the room while a golf club nudged Letitia in the back.
With a shriek, Letitia tossed the genealogical document into the air causing it to splat inelegantly onto the homemade patchwork quilt.
‘Who are you in my bedroom, wearing my wife’s clothes, and reading my family history?’ the man accused half in jest.
Letitia replied, ‘Just seeing if…I hope you don’t mind.’
The man she assumed was Wilhelm Thumm interrupted her. ‘Well, of course! Go ahead. Have a look. You helped Frieda with the research. Letitia! How good to see you, after, after…’ He paused thoughtfully, ‘after all these months! Or is it years?’ And gave her an obligatory hug. ‘Frieda informed me of your auspicious discovery. So, this is where you escaped to! What a surprise! You know, to be honest, we all thought you were, you know,’ he cleared his throat, ‘um, gone…dead. Although, we never did find a body, so, of course certain members of the IGSF, you know the likely characters, never gave up. After all, with what happened to me…’ Wilhelm’s voice trailed off into the realm of uncertainty.
What a bonus! Letitia mused. She recalled a few discussions with Frieda as they sun-baked on the sands at Bondi but didn’t think she had done that much to help write the family history. ‘I ended up in another dimension, Mirror World, and was busy helping the IGSF there. Anyway,’ she smiled, ‘It’s good to see you too, Will. You don’t mind if I have a look through the book, you know check for, check for typos, inconsistencies and, and there’s these distant relatives from Switzerland that I want to check up on, see if they were put in here,’ she rambled. Figuring that she had to get her facts straight if she was going to appear convincing in this time frame and realm.
‘Sure!’ Wilhelm nodded. ‘Come on down to the deck. We are having a nice glass of Riesling from the Barossa, and Frieda’s grilling up some salmon on the Weber. The latest thing from America, you know. Tasmanian salmon, it’s the best!’ he sucked in the twilight air between his gritted teeth and lead the way out to the deck.
After relishing the sweet crunch of cornflakes for breakfast, the T-Team drove back to Ormiston Gorge. We hiked through the gorge admiring the red cliffs, ghost gums and mirror reflections in the waterholes, and took less than an hour to reach the end with the view of Mt. Giles, lumpy and sapphire blue.
Settling near a waterhole framed by reeds, Dad built up a fire on the coarse sand while our family friend, TR rolled up his trousers and dipped his toes in the pool. ‘Hey!’ He pointed and did a little dance. ‘A fish! I see a fish!’
Our cousins, C1 and C2 raced over to TR. ‘Where?’ They peered into the pond. I trailed after them, hunting for fish through the plumes of muddied water near TR’s white calves.
‘There!’ TR waved his finger at the middle of the waterhole.
C1 squinted. ‘Oh, yeah.’
C2 waded into the water and peered. ‘I don’t see anything.’
Richard hunted and fossicked through the cooking equipment Dad had scattered around the campfire. ‘You got a sieve? A net? Anything?’
‘What for?’ Dad asked.
‘Ah, you know, those fish can lay dormant in the dry creek bed for years and when the rain comes, they spawn.’ Dad just had to tell us.
‘Well, this little fishy is going to be our lunch.’ Richard snapped his fat fingers together like crab claws. ‘I’ll catch it with my hands if I have to.’ He strode into the pool with such force the waters parted like the Red Sea. ‘Now where’s that fish?’ he said as he sank up to his waist.
‘There it is!’ TR gestured. ‘To your right.’
Richard glanced, his smile faded. ‘Oh, is that all? It’s just a piddley little thing. Not enough for lunch.’ He was neck deep in the water and prepared to swim. He shot up. ‘Ouch! Something bit me!’
‘Better watch out, might be Jaws,’ I said.
‘You didn’t tell me there were yabbies.’ Richard bobbed up and down, then reached down to catch his feet. ‘Ouch! It bit me again!’
‘Why not yabbies?’ C1 said.
‘Now that’s an idea,’ Richard replied.
‘Ah! Shrimp!’ C2 waded towards his cousin. ‘I love the taste of shrimp.’
‘Hmm, yabbies,’ Richard said. ‘We used to catch yabbies all the time when we were young.’ With an explosive splash, he submerged in search of the yabby that had bitten him.
Dad, TR and I waited for the damper scones to cook and watched Richard and C1 turn bottoms up like ducks in the water in their quest for yabbies. C2 waded in the shallows of the pond, a roughly sharpened stick in hand ready to skewer any hapless water-creature.
Soon we breathed in the sweet aroma of baked scones. Dad flipped the foil wrapped balls out of the coals. ‘Lunch is ready!’ He clustered the silver spheres together using a small branch as if they were balls on a snooker table. Empty-handed the lads dragged their soaked bodies from the waterhole and schlepped to the fire place to collect their consolation prize of damper scone.
Richard held his stubby index finger and thumb in the form of the letter “C”. ‘I was this close to getting a yabby.’