[Last week this time, I met my mum and son at a local bakery for coffee and chocolate éclair. We discussed our plans to travel to Central Australia. Next day, new cases of covid 19 were detected, and the following day, the state went into lockdown. Not sure if we will be able to travel to Central Australia now.
So, while we once again are confined to our homes, time to tackle the challenge of launching into the world of blogging…
Here’s part 2 of How to Blog (without reinventing the wheel)]
Part 2 — Connecting with Others
Right, Content — As with any publication, be respectful and avoid anything that might be offensive. A turn-off for some is offensive language. Too many words of the four-letter and “F” variety, and some people won’t read or follow that blog. The Oxford English dictionary has officially 171,476 words, so surely, a writer of substance can find more effective alternatives to vent their frustration. Just my opinion. Another turn-off is the eternally looo-ng post. 500 – 1000 words has worked for me, both ways.
Right, Networking — Think of your own life and how you live it. If you sit in your room and never go out and about, never go to parties or gatherings, never join clubs or interest groups, how is anyone going to know that you exist? I was out the other day with my mum and cousin. My cousin and I are both extroverts and have wide-ranging networks. At the restaurant, I bumped into a friend from art group. And at the bookshop across the road, my cousin met a friend. ‘I’m amazed,’ my mum said to my cousin and me, ‘everywhere we go, you meet people you know.’ It’s the same with blogging. It’s a worldwide community. But how is anyone going to know that your blog exists, if you don’t promote it? The simplest way to develop an online presence is to visit other bloggers’ websites and blog posts, like and comment. I have found that as I do this, Word Press (my platform of choice), sends the blogger a message to invite them to check out my blog post/website.
Right, Views — Photos, ones that grab attention and draw the reader in have worked in my experience, especially for my travel blogs. Readers love that virtual travel adventure, particularly at the moment with our nemesis Co-vid stifling travel. Well, for us Australians who can’t travel overseas and bans on travel into our fair land. However, keep the photo files down around 1 MB, if posting a number of them. Otherwise, the post can take forever to load. Which can put off some readers.
Right, Guest Posts — What about inviting other bloggers to be a guest author on your website? I haven’t done this personally on mine, except for a few re-blogs of posts from other bloggers. But I have been a guest author on other bloggers’ websites and it has worked for me to increase my readership. It works both ways, though. A guest author gives fresh content and attracts more readers to the website. One website that works well for this is a website belonging to Mohamed Al Karbi.
Right Links — Facebook and Twitter do this well. There’s buttons and tick boxes in settings to set this all up so it happens automatically. Instagram, meh, hasn’t worked for me as it won’t link to my WordPress posts. The main advice here is to stick to one platform and allow the links to feed into it. It all depends on your audience and how they manage their social networks. These days I regularly get views from readers through Facebook, but most of my readers still come from WordPress.
Finally, this whole WWW thing is constantly moving and changing. Rather than give up and crawl into the foetal position under your doona, get out there, connect with others online, face to face, and as the Japanese (since it’s the Tokyo Olympics) say, “Gambatte, kudasai” (persevere and do your best).
[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 (7.1) Letitia and Wilhelm board the Princess of Tasmania bound for Melbourne.]
The Princess of Tasmania towered over the tedious queue of cars. Cars and some trucks, flanked one side of the Mersey River, waiting patiently to be uploaded. Not one vehicle seemed to be moving, and the long line just seemed to be getting longer, stretching into the distant blur on the horizon. The faces of the unfortunate occupants were gridlocked into grim expressions of determination or abject resignation that the next few hours of their lives would be spent sitting in the car and waiting for the ferry to swallow them up. There were, some enterprising fellows who reclined against their Holden or Ford Utes and puffed on their cigarettes.
From the vantage point of the deck, Letitia and Wilhelm cast pitying glances down upon their fellow car-jammed passengers. Boarding was a simple affair in the company of Wilhelm. After disposing of his Aston Martin in the care of a steward who looked after cars belonging to the rich and privileged, Wilhelm and Letitia presented their tickets to the ticket officer, and then simply walked onto the boat via a firmly fixed wooden slatted plank. While the masses languished in the linear car park below, the few car-free passengers scattered themselves sparsely around the sunny edges of the ferry or sought their cabins for comfort.
Letitia leaned on the thick metal white rail and basked in the soft southerly breeze that took the sting out of the late afternoon summer sun. The cavernous mouth of the ferry had not opened yet and the queue of vehicles kept piling along the side of the river far, far into the distance.
Directly below her, sat a Kombi Volkswagon housing a hippie couple and a pair of feral children. Well, they certainly were acting feral. Letitia reckoned to Wilhelm that waiting in a traffic line for hours on end would do that to anyone, especially kids. One of the dirt-smeared youngsters had climbed on top of the van with the family’s pet dog, a Jack Russel, and was attempting to tan himself. The problem was that the boy could not lie still long enough for the sun’s rays to catch the patches of skin that weren’t dirt blocked. A small girl in little more than grubby shorts and a singlet joined her brother on the roof and a tussle on the hot tin roof ensued. The mum, head clad with a brightly coloured beanie risked creeping forward the van to sort out her charges. Letitia tried not to stare directly at them from the deck in case she embarrassed the family. But she just had to point at the van and laugh, ‘What has become of the dog, Wilhelm? I wonder if dogs are even allowed on the ferry. How do you reckon the Kombi crowd have advanced this far with the dog in tow?’
Then she spotted the dog a few car lengths closer to-the-yet-to-be-opened opening of the boat and peeing with much satisfaction on some unsuspecting victim’s car tyre. Letitia looked back to the van. The kids were off the roof and squirming discontentedly in the hot car with only natural air-conditioning (open windows) to keep them cool. An older emissary, flowing long brown hair adorned with a red and brown headband and John Lennon glasses, hopped out the olive-green Kombi, and then wended his way in and out of the car jam in search of the dog.
Letitia never did find out the end of the hippie family’s story. After Will had excused himself in search of a toilet, a blonde girl with more make-up than sense began sneering at her.
Letitia locked eyes with the girl and pointed at herself. ‘Me? What did I ever do to you?’
But, she knew. Her dark skin tones marked her. Alien.
A midget-sized freckle-faced boy had sided with the blonde girl and together they made a formidable team ganging up against Letitia. She had never heard so much colourful language in her life, except perhaps when Jemima was asked to grow her shaved head of hair in Year 7 when she was thirteen. By 2017, in Mirror, shaved heads were the norm. Oh, that’s right! It’s not 2017, apparently; the date is sometime in January 1967. Letitia sighed and murmured to anyone near who would listen, ‘I didn’t realize how rude children can be, even in 1967.’
The evil duo were doing their worst to get a reaction out of her. She was almost embarrassed for them as they began cavorting before her, for her exclusive benefit with suggestive, rude gestures. Letitia thought, Are they for real? I cannot repeat what foul words are coming from their mouths.
The girl proceeded to hold up her cheap plastic camera, aiming it in Letitia’s general direction. Then she screeched, ‘Get out of my way! You’re ruining my picture!’ Followed by a barrage of insults aimed at Letitia.
The boy then raised his voice above the profanities. ‘Nice dress, Miss Fahrer, did you get it at an Op shop?’
‘What?’ Letitia glared at this menacing midget. ‘How did you know…’
The tart of a teenage girl minced up to her, still holding up the camera, and spat out the threat, ‘My mum’s going to get you for failing me in Science, Miss Fahrer!’
‘What? You must have the wrong person—I mean, teacher,’ she said. Me, teach science? Now that’s a joke!Or, is this what this world’s Letitia did? Teach bratty kids?
‘You can’t get out of it that easily!’ the boy sneered fiercely. ‘There’s only one Miss. F ‘n that’s you! ‘n you know it.’
‘They should sack you, Miss F. My mum is going to get you sacked for – for – for—how come youse are so dark?’ The girl bared her buck teeth as she poked Letitia’s shoulder. ‘Too much baby oil and suntanning, eh?’
‘Yeah, right,’ Letitia replied. ‘The sun’s strong down south in Tasmania.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ she snorted. ‘What give’s you the right to give me a detention for my skirt being too short? Huh?’
‘You’re just a perve!’ the cheeky boy added.
‘Yeah! Perve!’ the girl repeated. ‘And, what’s with the French accent? Why are you putting on a French accent? You sound so stupid!’
‘Er, I think you’ve mixed me up with someone else. I’ve never taught in my life.’ Letitia began to back away from this troublesome pair, searching for an escape.
A woman’s sharp voice stabbed Letitia verbally in the back. ‘That much is obvious.’
‘Yeah, I was just, just telling them, that they, that they have the wrong…’ Letitia turned and stammered to a grown up and more weathered version of the teenage vixen.
A cigarette hung precipitously from the stale yellow fingers, and the rotting plaque covered teeth ground angrily at her. ‘No, we have the right ‘un. My daughter worked bleeding ‘ard and what did you do? But fail ‘er!’ The woman with straw hair dark roots showing, jabbed the air with the cigarette butt and ash fell onto Letitia’s dress.
‘I’m very sorry for your daughter’s misfortune – but, but I – I mean – you’ve got the wrong person. I’m not a teacher. I never have been. I’ve been living in France.’
‘I’m goin’ to get you sacked! You’ll never teach again.’ The mother aged beyond her years to even be a mother of this teenage girl, hammered her fist at Letitia.
‘Fine. Go ahead. See if I care!’ Letitia replied and then darted past the wheezing woman. Before they could again accost her, she ducked through the nearest door, climbed several sets of stairs and raced along the narrow maze of cabin passages.
Finally, Letitia had found her cabin. After several nervous jabs at the hole with her key, she unlocked the door and bolted into her room. There she sat on the edge of the bunk in an effort to regroup her thoughts. She trembled. A rising sense of nausea overwhelmed her.
She rifled through her purse and popped a couple of travel-sickness pills Will had bought her at the local chemist in Devonport. Then she lay on the bed. The heat of the sun through the salt encrusted porthole made her stuffy and ill. She closed her eyes to ward off the urge for the complimentary paper bag.
Right Worldview — I like to think of the blogging community as a group; a world-wide group. Think of the local writers’ group you attend if you’re a writer. Then imagine that group spanning the globe comprising of every imaginable country and culture. That’s the breadth and beauty of blogging. But remember, each one of your potential followers are people, real people.
Right Mindset — Gathering those real people, followers takes time. Marketing likes to depersonalise the whole experience and calls those visits from readers “traffic”. They are not traffic, they are individuals who have searched for your particular topic of interest and taken the time to read it. When I first began blogging 6 years ago, one of my first international visitors was from the Bahamas. I imagined that person sitting on the beach sipping their mint julep, reading from their jewel-studded iPad, and dreaming of the Central Australian adventure I had written. Just one person but imagining that person made all the difference to me, that they had connected with my story.
Right Attitude — My first like (besides my faithful friends and mother) was a well-known Romanian blogger. He has written many posts on how to blog, so I feel, I don’t need to repeat his good advice in this article. The following is a link to Christian Mihai’s website, The Art of Blogging. My main takeaway from one article I read from there, was that if we don’t have the right attitude to blogging, if we are amateurish in our approach, we may spread our web of information wide, but we won’t touch many in a way that is meaningful or truly influential. And the reality about developing authentic relationships that change and grow us and others, is that they take time.
Right Timing — I think there’s enough on the internet about how to set up a blog and post, so, I won’t go into detail about that. Check out Wiki how for setting up a blog, or website. But what you need to do is be regular. Followers, once you get them, are creatures of habit and if you post once a week on a Tuesday, for instance, they will look for your post, once a week on a Tuesday. One of the frustrating things I found when I first entered the blogging community, was finding those bloggers who I liked. Some would seem to vanish into the vortex of the world wide web, never to be seen again. It took me a while to figure out that if I “followed” these bloggers, they would turn up in my “Reader Feed”. Other bloggers have mentioned that this is the reason they “like” posts. They then look at their “likes” to find their favourite bloggers again. Regular posting, I found, helped raise my profile in the plethora of websites and posts and make those blessed algorithms work for me. I knew that my blogs were rising like cream when I observed a reader emerging out of “Search Engine” in the stats of my post. When starting up my blog, though, I invited as many friends and family to follow my blog through email, and Facebook.
Right, Don’t Give Up — It’s three months into you’re blogging venture, and nothing; not a hump, nor a bump raising those statistics. ‘I don’t know,’ my mother said, ‘no one has visited my posts in ages. I think I’ll give up.’ And yeah, it seemed as though the WWW “gods” were doing everything in their power to squash my mother’s enthusiasm to continue. As they tried to do some years before with my blog. As they have done with a number of writer friends of mine who have set up blog sites or websites and then with a failure to thrive, they have silently let them slide into obscurity. Again, it takes time for your website or blog site to gain traction. Just be patient.
[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 (6.2.2) while lunching in Launceston’s Cataract Gorge, Wilhelm and Letitia witness the harassment of peacocks.
Note: I have changed the character’s name from Will to Wilhelm to add an extra layer to this character’s personality and how in 1967, he had taken on all the airs and graces of a pseudo psychiatrist.
Just another indication that this reworked novel draft that had been marinating in the “drawer” for more than 10 years, is a rework in progress.]
Call Me Wilhelm
Wilhelm guided the steering wheel with one index finger. With his other, he conducted the orchestra playing Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, playing on the classical ABC Radio Station, thus masking the tape of his recent performance in his head.
While Frieda slept the previous night, Wilhelm had sidled up to the computer, switched it on, connected it to the IGSF satellite and then linked it to IGSF’s Admiral August Fahrer with face-to-face television-visual mode.
The Admiral reclined on a kangaroo-skin rug, eating a sausage in bread. In the background of the screen, Jemima, his granddaughter hunched over the flames of a modest fire.
‘You took your time there, Al,’ August said through a mouthful of bread.
‘It’s way past my bedtime, Wilhelm,’ Jemima grumbled. ‘Ten-o’clock! I hope you’ve been behaving yourself.’
Wilhelm rolled his eyes. ‘I have her. Your mum. You didn’t tell me she was such a whizz on the computer.’
Jemima laughed, ‘You didn’t ask. Better the less you know the better.’
‘Oh, and another thing,’ Wilhelm said, ‘My name’s Wil-helm, sir. Not…’
August smiled. ‘You’ll always be Al to me. Remember how we met?’
‘What? You mean your wife? Or me?’
‘No, you as Al. Remember I came home from war? And there you were, in my house. Everyone else had gone. Including my wife.’
‘What happened to your first wife, Grandpapa?’ Jemima asked.
‘Don’t ask,’ Wilhelm murmured.
‘She vanished into a parallel universe. Like our socks do, dear.’
Will rubbed his pounding temples. The snow of interference descended on August’s and Jemima’s images. Their voices distorted and muted. Wilhelm hammered the “enter” key, but the screen continued to fade.
Screaming added to the hammering in his brain. Wilhelm cradled his head in both hands and begged it to stop.
A small voice behind his ear wailed, ‘I’m right here!’
‘Go away! Leave me alone!’ he cried. Then rummaged in the medicine cabinet for the bottle of Valium.
Been a busy week. I’m on holidays and the last week has been busier than ever.
So, capturing the memories of this find: The discovery of this “bushbaby” a baby possum that had survived the 1983 bush fires in the Adelaide Hills.
More on this story later…
“Bushbaby Survivor” painted in pastel, may be, in the next couple of weeks, exhibited at the Brews and Views cafe in the Marino Community Hall where my art group (Marion Art Group) meets for studio sessions every Monday morning.
Check out my art work page inTru-Kling Creations’Art Gallery.
Also you may like to view more of my art on Gallery247.
(c) Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Or, if you miss the stories of Travel and Adventure in Central Australia…
Click on the link and download your kindle copy of my travel memoir,
[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 (6.2.1) while lunching in Launceston’s Cataract Gorge, Will and Letitia witness the harassment of peacocks.]
Pride and peacocks
The ensuing half hour whizzed past in a blur and soon they slowed and crawled through the weatherboard suburbs of Launceston. After travelling at the speed of Wilhelm’s light, they seemed to be standing still in the city. A massive rock wall loomed up beside the Aston Martin with only a thin strip of oncoming traffic between them and its rocky surface glistening with escaping subterranean water.
Wilhelm turned abruptly into a narrow road that squeezed through a gap in the rock and followed a creek embedded with lush eucalyptus green foliage to the concrete expanse that served as the park for cars. For all the recent minutes of agonising slowness, Wilhelm still managed to bring the car to a jerking halt. A stately structure towered before them.
Letitia carefully opened the door, mindful not to hit the gleaming chassis of a brown HR Holden Premier to her left. Wilhelm stood, key poised, waiting as she prised her body through the narrow gap left to get out of the car. Once she had nudged the door shut, Wilhelm twisted the key in the lock in the driver’s side door and all the doors locked with a satisfying click.
Letitia and Wilhelm watched the peacocks strut over the rolling green slopes as they supped on Wilhelm’s recommended Steak and chips. They admired the serene scenery and botanical beauty of the gorge and Letitia wished that she had time to traverse the suspension bridge. Wilhelm scorned the bus loads of tourists who littered the lawns, chased the peacocks with their Instamatic cameras, and swamped the gorge.
Wilhelm pointed at a pair of primary-school aged boys in Batman and Robin costumes. ‘Some parents have no control over their children.’
Letitia registered the avid foul harassment by a couple of cheeky boys clothed in red and armed with sticks. The cock darted to and fro and away from them, but the children remained in hot pursuit. The bird lurched in attack and fanned its magnificent plumage.
‘I wouldn’t get too close if I was them,’ Letitia muttered dryly. ‘You wouldn’t allow Johnny to get up to such mischief, would you, now, Dr. Thumm?’
Wilhelm pouted. ‘Of course not. I’ve never allowed my children to do such things.’
‘Children? Dr. Thumm?’
‘Pff! My patients, I mean.’ Wilhelm again blushed and then dismissed the naughty boy antics with a royal wave of his psychiatrist’s hand. ‘That’s nothing! I’ve had poo thrown at me by mad men, urinated upon by loonies, and exploded upon with blood and guts by constipated patients. This,’ he indicated with his pale doctor’s finger to the boys on the expanse of lawn, ‘is nothing! Why only the other day we had an illegal immigrant stowaway to Antarctica, escape from my very own hospital. Have you any idea how embarrassing that was for the management?’ Wilhelm’s knee bobbed up and down with agitation. ‘Parents have it easy, don’t they, Letitia?’
‘I suppose,’ Letitia replied, but kept wondering what Wilhelm must be hiding from his past.
‘I mean, you said you had a grown-up daughter. I’m sure, you didn’t allow her to chase after peacocks, did you, Letitia.’ Wilhelm swallowed the last dregs of coffee and wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand.
‘No,’ Letitia said, though remembering the time Jemima was abducted after answering an online dating ad. In an instant, boys poking a peacock seemed to pale into insignificance. How wrong I’ve been in my naivety of this time and universe. But Wilhelm what’s your story? I must ask my father when I catch up with him.
Lunch done, Wilhelm was desperate for Davenport. They had barely sucked down their concluding cup of tea, than this blonde lord of a doctor was eagerly paying the bill and hustling Letitia from the restaurant and herding her into the Aston Martin. Literally minutes later, before the steak and chips had digested, they were once again on the open road bouncing around in the cabin between fresh green hills as Wilhelm flew the car Davenport-wards.
‘Slow down, you are making me sick,’ Letitia cried.
But Wilhelm did not slow down. ‘We have a boat to catch,’ he said.
If Letitia had any idea what awaited her in Adelaide, she would have happily alighted, escaped to obscurity in the Southwestern wilderness and continued the pretence that she had expired in the South Pole. However, as the Aston Martin spirited them north-westwards, she was lulled into blissful complacency. After all, she missed Nathan. Missed her mother and father. Missed the challenge of another mission. Most of all, she missed her tranquil and complete life in Adelaide. And soon, out of time, she would miss out on the mystery surrounding Dr. Wilhelm Thumm.
She remembered her sister. Doris. Did she miss Doris? She didn’t miss the competition, that’s for sure. She murmured, ‘Doris, I wonder what became of Doris?’
Wilhelm chuckled, ‘Doris? Your sister is busy around the place tidying up your mess.’
‘My mess? What do you mean? I didn’t…’
‘Oh, you’re right. I guess, at the end of the day, your disappearance is down to Frieda.’ Wilhelm sniffed. ‘And you are aware that Gunter absconded? Straight into the arms of Boris, we believe.’
Letitia shook her head. ‘Now, there’s a surprise. Not.’
[Last week safety in South Australia was threatened by that all too familiar nemesis Co-vid, and again restrictions were put in place. Many activities were “verboten”, including singing. Having weathered the latest threat, I recalled forty years ago in the remote centre of Australia where trespassing on the “verboten” could spell disaster…]
[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
The Consequences of Changing One’s Mind
Back at in Hermannsburg, Mrs. R presided over the kitchen bench.
‘How did the ice-cream-making go?’ I asked.
She flitted to the fridge and opened the freezer section. ‘C1 and that nice girl, J have both gone, but not together.’ She sounded far-away in the land of the fairies.
As if I wanted to know what my older cousin, C1 was up to. ‘Did it work out,’ I asked.
‘Hmm, maybe.’ She remained distant, still in fantasy land. ‘Possibly, give it time.’
‘I mean, the ice-cream, are we going to have fried ice-cream for dessert?’ I rose, walked over to the fridge and peered over her shoulder. ‘Is there fried ice-cream in there?’
‘Oh, no,’ she spoke with a dead-pan expression. ‘We ate all that. Just ice-cream for you folks, I’m afraid.’
I believed her and assumed we’d have plain old ice-cream for dessert. J returned unannounced. ‘Oh!’ She put her hand to her mouth. ‘Just stay there, don’t go away.’ She vanished out the door.
Lamenting the loss of the fried ice-cream experience, I comforted myself with a cup of tea. Dad buzzed around the kitchen, chopping vegetables, boiling rice, deep frying shrimp crackers and splattering oil all over the walls. I knew I should help but I just sat, sipping tea and wishing I had stayed behind. Now I’ll never have fried ice-cream. Anyway, Indonesian fried rice is Dad’s domain, his glory, and heaven help anyone who offers to help. Our job was to taste its wonders and compliment him. I could do that.
J reappeared with a small postcard-sized paper in hand. ‘It’s a photo of you.’ She handed me the image of me looking shocked by the camera flash at the sing-sing. ‘I think it’s a rather nice one of you. Don’t you think?’
Not particularly. I accepted the picture of me appearing ghost-like on a bad-hair day. Never did like pictures of me. The camera picks out all my faults. ‘Yes, thank you.’ I rose and then headed for the room holding my luggage. ‘I’ll put it in my diary straight away.’
While Mrs. R departed for business with J, and Dad slaved over a hot stove of many fry pans and saucepans creating his Indonesian meal, I wrote my diary and then retreated into the world of Wuthering Heights.
‘Dinner is ready!’ Dad rang the brass hand-held bell. ‘Come and get it.’
I left my Heathcliff to brood on the moors, and drifted into the kitchen-dining area for the auspicious Indonesian meal. Seven o’clock and three young ladies, two pretty blondes and a stunning brunette, accompanied C1 and C2 to the round white table decorated with knives, forks and plates. The atmosphere bubbled with excited chatter and introductions. In one corner, the fellers, my brother, C2 and C1 fidgeted and grinned, and the girls giggled and squealed as they stood in the other corner and checked out the talent. I sat in the middle like the referee at the table. I clutched my knife and fork upright in each hand and glared at Dad bustling at the sink.
‘Okay, I’m here.’ I glanced from one corner to the other. ‘Where’s the dinner?’
‘Don’t be so impatient.’ Mrs. R hurried past me carrying a tray of glasses. ‘Go and talk to the girls.’
I pointed from the boy group to the girl group. ‘You couldn’t find a partner for me, could you?’
‘Lee-Anne!’ Mrs. R said. ‘This is Hermannsburg, not Alice Springs!’
‘No stockman or lonely explorer, then?’
‘No, this is as good as it gets.’ She placed the glasses on the table. Besides, the blokes up here, I don’t think they’d be your type.’
Then I’m destined to be an old maid then. I sighed.
The young people gathered and selected seats at the table. Dad presented his massive bowl of Indonesian fried rice to a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. The girls’ eyes widened at the sheer enormity of the rice project. The boys licked their lips and breathed in the aroma of cumin, cardamom, turmeric and chilli. Dad had excelled himself. He puffed up his chest, and strutted around the kitchen.
C1 charmed the ladies with his dry humour and subtle flirting. Stuck in their own shyness, MB and C2 remained spectators, while C1 did all the entertaining with the girls. I sat back in my chair observing the interactions, piling my plate full of rice, and shovelling the stuff down like I hadn’t eaten in weeks. The ladies opposite me, picked at miniscule portions of the fair. So what! I can make a pig of myself! No one for me to impress. Not like I had to diet. Someone’s got to show Dad his food is good, not just tell him with platitudes. Besides, got to make the most of it, only boring old ice-cream for dessert. The young lassies each passed up offerings of seconds while I was on my thirds. I bet they were full from eating all the fried ice-cream. Well, serves them right. Polishing off the plate, I felt full and bloated. There was a lull in the conversation. C1 had run out of things to joke about.
Mrs. R moved to the fridge. ‘Dessert, anyone?’
All at the table put up their hands except me.
‘Lee-Anne?’ Mrs. R pulled the ice-cream container from the freezer. ‘Sure you don’t want any?’
‘Nup, I’m full.’ Boy, they are a sad lot wanting plain boring vanilla ice-cream.
‘You’re quite sure?’
‘Yep.’ Why is she making such a big deal about it?
Mrs. R opened the lid and spooned out frittered balls of ice-cream into bowls.
Hey, just wait a minute. I raised my hand. I’ve changed my mind.
‘Changing your mind is verboten,’ Mrs. R announced.
‘Oh, but—she, Mrs. R lied.’
‘Now, Lee-Anne, stop grizzling,’ Dad hammered his index finger at me, ‘you said you didn’t want dessert, those are the rules.’
Everyone at the table looked at me. Heat, burning more than curry rose to my face. ‘Mrs. R said there was none.’
The boys joined Dad in dumping brick-tonnes of scalding and jesting at my expense. C1 played the condescending parent and elicited a laugh from the girls. ‘Now, there’s no need to make a drama out of it.’
‘You should see her when she plays games like ‘Chook-Chook’, almost breaks down the house with door-slamming,’ my brother chuckled, followed by more roars of laughter.
‘She did nothing the whole trip, just eats all the food in the camp,’ C2 snorted. More roars of mirth. As if on a roll, he added, ‘And she’s always changing her mind.’
‘A woman’s prerogative,’ I muttered.
‘Not in this household,’ Mrs. R pointed at me. ‘My three-year-old behaves better than her.’
As they all scored points at my expense, I went off in my mind to Austria and The Sound of Music and the trouble with Maria. Perhaps one day I’ll go off into the Alps with my Count von Trapp. For the moment I was trapped, demonised by the perpetuation of false perception of my image. I felt like no one knew who I really was. Glad there weren’t any eligible males for me to witness my humiliation. I held my tongue and my position at the table. Anything I said would be held and used against me.
Mrs. R served up the fried ice-cream. A bowl appeared before me.
‘Thank you,’ I whispered. I kept my head down and eyes fixed on the ball of fritter. I waited for further remarks and comments about how undeserving I was of this peace-offering, but they had moved on.
[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 (6.1), Wilhelm and Letitia begin their journey to Launceston in Will’s Aston Martin.]
Real-estate at Richmond
Letitia’s influence over the computer did not even last the night. The morning greeted her with barely four hours sleep, a hung-over and grumpy Wilhelm, his yacht bathed in an orange hue, and a computer in mutiny. The dream performance of yester-noon, was replaced by abject refusal to work. Clarke, the computer had downed tools, gone on strike, and short of blowing up in a puff of smoke, plainly refused to go.
After conceding that moronic model was a “lemon”, Wilhelm made a hasty trip home to settle a seedy and rather irate Frieda. Then, by mid-morning Wilhelm and Letitia could be seen, at speed in the Aston Martin, clipping across the vast dry plains of Eastern Tasmania, heading northwards to Devonport. Plans had been hastily altered and tickets for the ferry purchased through a very obliging travel agent friend of Wilhelm’s. For some reason, Wilhelm had been reluctant to sail the vessel without a functioning computer. And then, for some unexplained reason for which Letitia was most grateful, Wilhelm preferred to drive to Devonport rather than fly. Even though, he risked the ire of his wife who currently accused him of neglect while she was so poorly. Letitia asked no questions. After her not so distant altercation in such a craft, she had had enough of aeroplanes.
Morning tea and the pair who appeared as mother and son, picnicked on the banks of a river that accommodated the oldest bridge in Tasmania, if not Australia. Letitia admired the family of ducks that possessed this sloped grassy land, while Wilhelm wandered off to investigate some prospective investment property.
‘Real estate, that’s where it’s at.’ Wilhelm upon his return from wandering remarked. He unscrewed the lid from the thermos in the picnic basket and poured steaming coffee into two waiting metal cups. He then held up a tube of condensed milk. ‘Milk?’
Letitia nodded and Wilhelm squeezed a dose into her cup.
Chuckling Letitia remarked, ‘The ducks look as though they already own the bridge from the dawn of Tasmanian history.’
Wilhelm plonked himself down on the tartan blanket placed on the grassy slope and briskly shuffled through the recent acquisition of colourful real estate flyers. He admired his property prospects while Letitia silently sipped her morning coffee. Every so often he would mutter, ‘Hmm! Richmond. Now there’s a good investment.’
The ducks had waddled under the shadow of the bridge and disappeared. The coffee also vanished slowly consumed in the comfort of the mid-morning Richmond sun. Letitia was being lulled into a false sense of forgetfulness. Perhaps, she reasoned, nothing else mattered but basking in the sun on a grassy slope admiring an old stone bridge.
‘Where did you say your house was, Letitia?’ Wilhelm interrupted her dreaming.
Letitia looked up and frowned. ‘On Mirror? Or before? When I lived with Mum and Dad.’
Wilhelm blinked. ‘Before, I suppose. Before you went missing on us.’
‘Sydney, near Bondi,’ she said, ‘the house was walking distance to a park where the lion statues were.’
‘Sydney, ah, yes, of course.’
‘Your father came from a village in the Black Forest, though.’
‘Hmm, yes, I know. A long time ago. But my mother, Gertrude, came from Adelaide. He met her there in the Botanical Gardens, after the war.’
Wilhelm turned from his coffee drinking and studied Letitia. ‘Are you that old? I mean, you look older than I remember you, but…’
‘No, yes, actually, I was born 1935, technically…But I lived on Mirror twenty-six years. I have a daughter who is all grown up…’
Wilhelm sniffed and nodded. ‘Oh, yes, that makes sense, now. And then you travelled back in…’
‘Time.’ Letitia concluded. ‘It seems, unless this is an alternate…’ then as if to steer the direction of the conversation, she asked, ‘Did you know my father? August?’
Wilhelm blushed and mumbled, ‘Hmmm, yes, quite well, actually.’
Letitia noted the reaction. Her eyes widened. ‘Really? So what’s your story, Doctor Thumm?’
Wilhelm rose and stretched. ‘Well, must be getting on. Must be in Launceston for lunch. There’s a lovely little café in Cataract Gorge I want you to try.’
That was awkward, Letitia thought. With the picnic basket hooked over her elbow she followed him. His avoidance on the subject intrigued her.
As they left the picnic place, the ducks emerged from under the sheltered darkness of the bridge to possess the river reeds and banks of lawn.