Matron Herries Cairns Lying-In Hospital for extremely expectant mothers-to-be

Matron Herries sure knew how to pick a location for her “lying-in” hospital:

Its hapless inmates must have gazed with morbid trepidation at the vista set before them by the McLeod St cemetery just across the road, speculating as to what lay in store for them both before and after their demise, and assisted in their deliberations by the formidable array of proto-industrial medical appliances all too conveniently on display or within earshot in this cramped facility.

For the less worthy or the less certain, the belching smoke stacks of the old Cairns Power Station adjacent to the cemetery offered a terrifying prospect of the eternal punishment awaiting them, perhaps driving them either to religion or to drink, whichever was the most convenient or tasted better.

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Commotion in a Cul de Sac

Exercise for 26th September 2014:

Write 500 words or less based on the following email received by David:
am witnessing a very odd situation unfolding at the moment out in our quiet little cul-de-sac – there are two police and two ambos and a dark-windowed Honda hatch with a small (?) child and dog inside – with the engine running. The mother is outside with the police and ambo officers pleading with the child to unlock the door so they can turn off the engine – saying that they don’t want to have to break the window.
They’ve been repeating this request for about ten minutes (!!) with no result so far.
Not sure why the ambos are there – maybe they can crack into doors without breaking windows?
I’m just wondering how the situation started – why did the mother leave the child in the car with the keys and engine running in the first place?
and WHY has she not got a spare set of car keys??

Wil’s Response:

My dear Mrs Nosworthy,

I regret that a fortnight has passed since your urgent email seeking reasons for an upsetting incident in your peaceful cul de sac.

Alas, I received your email far too late that day to be of any practical assistance, preferring instead to leave the matter in the capable hands of authorised officers already at the scene, as well as the mother, and hopefully the hapless and perplexed occupants of the entrapping vehicle.  However, I have meticulously checked the local news outlets, and found no mention of the incident, even with their predilection for sensationalising the banal and the trivial.  (My goodness, we already have enough to worry about these days haven’t we?)

I therefore surmised all had ended well, except perhaps for window repair bills, counselling for all concerned, a criminal charge of child neglect, and, to complete the smorgasbord, a summons from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A fine day’s work indeed, for all concerned, I must say!

Madam, I implore you not to succumb to the transient and self-indulgent pleasures of impotent spectatorship, nor to submit to suffering the everlasting ignominy of calumnious commentatorhood arising from dwelling upon the circumstances and motives of others with lives less ordered than that of your good self.  Endless embellished speculation, conjecture and rumour-mongering would become rife in your suburb, not to mention the decline in property values that always ensues from localised criminal activity involving wilfully-damaged vehicles, hysterical women running amok through the streets, neglected children, dogs in confined spaces without adequate conveniences, the wailing of sirens, as well as fearful yet inquisitive residents peering from behind carefully drawn curtains.

To set your mind at ease, Mrs Nosworthy, and to put an end to all this nonsense (which, I believe, has even drawn in members of a once sedate Writers’ Group), I have obtained the confidence of the local police sergeant in this matter….

He informs me that the dog has been charged with unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, obstructing the lawful owner in resuming possession of said vehicle, disturbing the peace, and wasting police time.

Penalty: one pound.


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Homework: Film Intro

This piece was supplied by one of our fine published authors, and valued member Kate Wright, and a topical piece indeed.




Film Intro

Pleasant Garden Setting with the gentle sound of water dancing in a fountain, the buzz of contented bees, and the creak of a child’s swing. A fat pompous man is sitting beside a small table with a half full glass of whisky on it, relaxed in comfortable garden chair surveying it all with a smile of smug satisfaction on his face.

Camera pans across the garden settling for a fleeting moment on points of interest i.e. the fountain, a butterfly, bees, the unoccupied child’s swing gently moving as if just deserted by its owner. Then focuses on the man in the distance gradually zooming in to get his full-face smugness.

Man – Well that is a good job done. No one can accuse me of unfairness, constructed to achieve the most from those who are unable to do anything about it. He chuckles No one noticed I didn’t hike cigarettes, tobacco or alcohol excise duty up. Takes out cigar and lights it. Not enough people smoke these days to make it worthwhile. He lifts the whiskey glass and toasts himself before savoring a large mouthful. I’ve earned it, probably loose my seat next election but doesn’t matter I’ve plenty stashed away. He leans back contentedly and closes his eyes.


Pause – then gunfire from off screen man topples onto grass, screaming and clutching his knees from which blood is streaming.

He struggles to reach his pockets being unable to spreads blood across cloths and face. Camera stays focused on his disbelieving face. Slowly he brings his hands up and looks at them sobbing.

Man – I haven’t got seven dollars on me.



Next Scene

Hospital emergency ward two doctors talking as man lies on bed.

First Doctor – Kneecapped, haven’t seen injury like it since I left Ireland.

Second Doctor – Never walk properly again, but I don’t suppose he’s learnt anything from it. Typical of his profession all talk, but he’s lucky, he won’t need to go on disability, he would have done if they’d been better marksmen and hit his tongue.

First Doctor – Well we’d better get him into surgery; after all he’ll expect us to do a proper job even if he can’t.


Word’s 375 © OBE Pensioner

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Never Trust a Stranger.

This short story was written by one of our valued writers group members Bob, so we thank him for this piece, and know that he would greatly appreciate some feedback.

So please feel free to post a comment.


“You’d be wasting your time there mate, she won’t go out with you,” Mick commented between slurps of beer.  “Oh I don’t know, she might,” replied Tim, turning to steal another glance at the gorgeous new barmaid.

He’d only just met Mick, his drinking companion who seemed certain that Pamela the new barmaid wouldn’t go out with him. Tim had been enjoying a quiet drink after finishing his nightly session as the hotel’s entertainer. He’d casually mentioned to Mick that Pamela looked a bit of all right, and he was thinking of asking her out.

“Tell you what,” Mick continued, “why don’t we make it interesting, I’ve got fifty dollars here that says she won’t go out with you, classy bird that.”

Tim thought the situation through; as a singer he could write a love song that would melt the hardest of female hearts, then he’d ring the hotel, tell Pamela what he’d done, offer to sing it to her and then ask her out. “Ok you’re on,” he heard himself say.

Tim devoted the next morning to writing his song; Pamela’s heart would melt when she heard it. She’d go out with him, he was sure of that. Now where was his phone?

After an hour’s frantic searching failed to produce his missing phone he came to the conclusion that he must have left it at the hotel the night before. How on earth was he going to ring Pamela? He didn’t want to lose fifty dollars, not to mention the prospect of a romantic stroll along the beach with her.

No matter, he’d include his new song with his repertoire that night, make it the last song of the evening, then ask her out. He could almost feel the fifty dollars burning a hole in his pocket.

The song was everything Tim wanted it to be, the applause made his heart sing. He only had eyes for Pamela though as she stood behind the bar clapping enthusiastically. She’d go out with him alright; he was almost doing her a favor by asking her.

“Go out with you!”  Pamela replied. “Oh I don’t think I could do that, my husband wouldn’t like it.”

“Your husband,” Tim gasped, wishing the floor would open up and swallow him; he was starting to feel very foolish.

“Yes that’s him over there,” Pam replied, pointing to where Mick was sitting, a gleeful expression on his face as he waved Tim’s missing phone at him.

“You miserable bastard,” Tim said as he walked over. “How come you’ve got my phone anyway?”  Hooked it off the table last night when you were ogling Pam,” Replied Mick. “You didn’t think I’d make it easy for you to phone my missus and pester her for a date did you?  Now there’s just a small matter of the fifty dollars you owe me.”

Bob Banner ©

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Cairns Wedding Notice


21st June 1896

Marriage –

One Aloysius Marmaduke “Bertie” Brown, recent arrival from Irvinebank in the Herberton Mining District was joined in Holy Matrimony to Miss Alice Smith, youngest daughter of Mr & Mrs William Smith of Spence Street in a ceremony conducted at St. John’s church, Cairns.

Poor Brown, who did not look at all well, was assisted into the church by the bride’s sturdy brothers, with Smith snr taking up the rear guard.

It was an otherwise quiet wedding, made noteworthy however by the vigorous participation of the elder Smith both during the service and at the reception which followed at the Gaiety Cafe in the aptly-named Sach’s Street. Old Smith in his self-appointed role of Master of Ceremonies ensured that all the contractual formalities of the occasion were completed to his satisfaction, barring the consummation itself, upon which point all were agreed that this condition had already been well and truly fulfilled.

The happy couple (Brown having recovered his spirits somewhat during the conviviality of the evening) then departed by dray for a short honeymoon in Room 38 of Mrs Doolan’s boarding house at Smith’s Creek.

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Ode to an Historian

Perch’d in yon bracken-bowered abode
The rustic muse compiles his weighty tome
Concatenating chronicles and photographs of old
To grace the mantel of each Bellthorpe home.

Oft would we meet him on his fervid quest
In lane and field from East Bellthorpe to West,
Or in some shaggy dell of weed-choked ground
Bearing strange tales from hoary pioneers
Or photocopied missives garnered from the town.

With raven mane and studded leathern belt
He roved from gate to gate through drought and wet.
The children huddled at their mother’s knee
If his gaunt form they did perchance to see.

He set about the task with tape and quill;
His notebooks did the general gossips fill.
Through quavering lip the past it did unfold
To twitching nib unloos’d upon the scroll.

At last with fact and fancy quite replete
Our sated hero lurches to his feet;
And trailing ravelled lists he doth repair
Unto his blu-tak postered hilltop lair.

Then would he there with scale and glass assess
The ancient feuds teased out from ‘broidered texts;
And he would weave each time-worn tale anew
Till across the hills the wonder ever grew
That one small head could hold all that he knew.

So let our village Hume in glory bask –
He hath but hied to his appointed task.
Those who scoffed – they shall remain to pay,
To purchase Kitchener’s “Bellthorpe Yesterday”.

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Synopsis of “The Boozerville Cavalcade”

Between the tidal estuaries of the Pumicestone Passage in southern Queensland, and the wild ranges to its west, lies the mythical village of Boozerville together with its adjacent provinces. Unmarked on most official maps, unseen and unimagined by those who drive quickly through it on their way to the popular tourist destinations, it is a region steeped in myth and history, where legends of fabled peoples and strange beings still hold sway over the lives of its inhabitants.

This story revolves around the Boozerville Cavalcade, a brave but ill-considered attempt by its Bush Fire Brigade to go to the aid of their colleagues in the Canberra fires of 2003, and its rapid descent into chaos and disgrace. The book consists mainly of transcripts of conversations by local observers.

Also included are current and historical tales of The Coochin Fens, settled 2000 years ago by sea-borne raiders from South East Asia, as well as anecdotes of the stately home of Langley Hall, and the less salubrious Blue Moose Bar and Grill in Maleny.

The book’s main character is the unassuming and sorely put upon Constable Ben, Chief Fire Officer and draught horse of the Brigade.

A comprehensive set of maps is included, as well as an index of significant places, and excerpts from local newspapers. These should provide valuable reference material for serious students of Australian history and folklore, and in particular, previously unpublished details of the The Lost City of Campbellville, discovered by Forestry workers in the 1990s.

One bizarre feature of this book is a cobbled-together attempt by the author to justify his claims of the existence of Boozerville.

The author acknowledges with respect the assistance and more than adequate conviviality provided by the descendants of the Traditional Invaders of the region, in particular “Captain” Jacko Wilson.

This book is not recommended for reading by Reality TV competitors and spelling contestants, and readers are strongly advised not to emulate the practices of members of the Boozerville Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade in either their official or unofficial capacities.


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The Lily

“Consider the lilies of the field:
They toil not, neither do they spin;
Yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”.

These memorable lines from the Sermon on the Mount proclaim the majestic and self-sufficient glory of the lily, which thrives in seeming independence of or indeed disdain for the attentions of humankind.

It will neither be pruned nor cultivated.
It seeks its own quiet corners and marshy verges to bring forth its beauty.

The lily does not evoke romance as does the rose,
Nor the gay frivolity of the cottage garden,
Nor the honeyed ambience of a hot afternoon in the Australian bush.

No, the glory of the lily is for itself alone, and that with fulsome vanity!
This is exemplified in the myth of the Greek youth Narcissus
Who, enamoured of his reflection in a pool, falls in, drowns,
And is transformed as the narcissus lily.

The lily is not flamboyant, nor does it clamour for our attention –
Yet it holds us in its thrall, and has done so for millennia.

The symbolism of the lily has varied through time:
In the days of the Scythians, the Minoans and the ancient Greeks it was offered up as appeasement to the gods;
In the Christian era it came to represent chastity and virtue in thought and action;
In medieval Europe it also acquired powerful political significance.
As the stylised fleur-de-lys, it featured prominently in heraldry, as well as in art and architecture.

It remains an identifying icon for things French,
And surprisingly, of the Scouting movement
As well as the perimeter fence of the retirement compound
Just up the road from your local supermarket.

Even today in our increasingly secular world,
The lily, with its elegant yet sombre dignity
And its hint of a connection between this world and the next,
Seems the fitting accompaniment for the farewelling of departed souls.

The lily bears witness to our funereal acts of obeisance,
And foretells the journey that awaits us all.



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Save The Last Dance For Me

The prison doctor had declared him fit enough to die; the chaplain had trotted out the last of his futile tracts; and the psychologist had neatly and effortlessly categorised him as a textbook example of the criminal classes.

However none of these could be said to have obtained much job satisfaction in their appointed roles. That honour was reserved for the hangman, who would play his part in the grim drama on the following morning. The condemned man would also, in mortal duet with the hangman, achieve his own inescapable form of closure.

The hangman’s duty was of course only occasional in these enlightened times. He was a permanent employee of the Penal Service, although having no direct contact with the prisoners. Conscientious and diligent in his regular duties, he was consummate in his dedication to the hangman’s craft; had studied the notes from previous executions dating well back into the previous century; and took pride in determining the optimum settings of the gallows for each execution, such as the rope length and the weight adjustments. Not a “one size fits all” man. He drew much praise from organisers and spectators for the manner of his executions. Never once had he decapitated a client, and all succumbed after a respectably short period of terror and agony. On the whole, his audiences enjoyed a comparatively untroubled experience of the ritually-masked obsceneness that shrouds a judicial killing.

For the condemned man, his ordeal was shaping up as a new and unenviable experience. He could not sleep. The hourly tolling of the town clock counted down for him the certainty of his diminishing life span. Especially, the midnight bell signalled to him the arrival of his final day. Dread descended to despair, and occasionally he dozed off through exhaustion.

At dawn, the warders frogmarched him from his cell and prepared him for his farewell act. Shortly before eight o’clock, with hands tied and head bagged, he mounted the gallows and waited faceless upon Death’s threshold. The required witnesses, as well as invited guests, observed the noose being set studiously around his neck. The hangman pulled the lever, and a dull thump was followed by a brief interlude of gasping and kicking as he danced upon the air. After twenty minutes, the doctor pronounced him sufficiently dead; the necessary forms were signed; and the spectacle now being concluded, the body was duly wheelbarrowed to the gaping pit in the prison yard.

The hangman was congratulated by one and all for executing yet again another capital performance.

Meanwhile a small group huddled outside in the cold shadow of the prison wall. They heard the clock strike eight; and in their shared impotence they crumpled together, remaining motionless for several minutes. Then, wordless, they shuffled their separate ways, and the world continued as before. But a mother and her children wept hidden tears for their lost boy.


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Whatever It Takes

His fingers paused over the keyboard. The mindless cursor taunted him with its pulsating blankness that consumed the screen in that endless throbbing heartache of nothingness. How did it come to this? 20 years of marriage, no physical contact in the past year, a lack of communication in the last ten and a home environment that can only be described as a void.

     Where did all the love go, the gentle touch of her hand, the tender kisses, the laughter? Things changed when the kids arrived. One by one they came into the world and enriched his life, their lives. It became hectic after that, demanding. He slammed his fist on the desk and abruptly pushed himself away from the computer. I gave my all to support her and the kids! I gave up my passion, my love of racing and for what – a cold shoulder of indifference?

He stormed out of his office and into the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee. The aroma of the freshly ground beans permeated his senses sending him back to the time to when he first met his wife.

She was sitting alone in a coffee shop, reading a romance novel. There was nothing special about the place. It was the same as any other except for one important thing, she was there. Grace Sinclair, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She wore a black and white polka dot dress that showed a little too much of her legs, her hair was pulled back in a pony tail and she wore a black choker necklace. The perfect image of elegance.

It was love at first sight. He walked straight up to her table and sat opposite her. “You don’t mind, do you? There’s no other seats available.”

She looked around the empty tables, and then glared at him. “I see,” she said almost disinterestedly. “You can stay here for a little while, but I’m expecting company.”

“A boyfriend?”

Smirking, she averted her eyes back to her book. “Does it matter?”

“Well, a beautiful young lady such as yourself, sitting here all alone. It’s quite dangerous you know. I fear for your safety. If you’re meeting a girlfriend I will insist on keeping you both company.” He leaned over the table to whisper in her ear, “There’s some shady looking characters lurking around. You ought to be careful.”

What followed was two hours of laughter and interesting conversation. Before they knew it they were living together, married, kids and now this. How am I going to get back into the dating scene at my age? 

He sipped his coffee and allowed his shoulders to relax. Leaning back on the kitchen bench he wondered for the umpteenth time, Where did it go wrong? Originally she blamed it on finance. The single most common reason for divorce they say.

          As if it was my fault. I had no control over what happened. Can I control the economic environment? No. Could I help it when the company I was contracted to folded and caused a chain reaction throughout the business? No.

          He could feel the tension rising again and decided to think about something else. No point in dwelling on these matters his farther would always say.

          It’s the kids I feel sorry for. Well at least we’re doing the right thing by them. One more try before we call it quits. He quietly shuffled down the hallway to check up on them before going back to his adieus task he’d been contemplating over the past weeks.

Michael the oldest lay silently. A little too quietly he thought. Holding his breath, he placed his hand on his chest and waited patiently for the rise and fall to reassure him he was still breathing. Satisfied, he exhaled.

Even after all these years, he still panics. As a toddler, Michael used to go blue while sitting on their laps. He’d just forget to breath and they would have to shake him to get him breathing again. Not hard mind you. A rough horse ride on the knee did the trick. One night David couldn’t sleep and did the rounds like he was doing now. That night however, Michael wasn’t breathing. A gentle nudge, became a shake which turned into a horrifying dread and frantic hugs with hard pats on the back. Tears welted as he remembered the long night in his wife’s rocking chair nursing his son back to sleep, too terrified to let him go, too fearful to sleep.

          I guess that’s what it means to be a parent. You never stop loving them, protecting them, fearing for their safety. Who will watch over them if I leave? Certainly not Grace. The house could be on fire and she wouldn’t wake to save them.

          He suddenly needed something stronger than coffee. Going back to his office, he withdrew a half empty bottle of rum from the filing cabinet. Turning the bottle in his hand he couldn’t help but wonder if Grace’s concerns about his drinking had anything to do with their marital difficulties. A man has a right to have a drink or two after work. I don’t see what the problem is.

It wasn’t the drink so much that troubled Grace, but how it affected him.  He’d get melancholy and sulk around the place getting in the road and she felt obligated to keep him company. She did a lot of that over the last five years. If only he’d stop the drinking and feeling sorry for himself, maybe she’d see the man she fell in love with all those years ago.

It was around that time she had had enough of being someone’s wife or mother so she decided to go and do a photography course, more of an excuse to get away and start doing something for herself than anything else. No need for him to get all huffy and drink more. It was then their relationship took a nose dive. The business went to the wall, he was stressed and drank more, she was stressed and went out with her photography group and spent big on new cameras and equipment.

David didn’t see it that way. He saw himself losing control over his life, her slipping away from him and he was powerless to do anything about any of it. If only I knew what was wrong so I could fix it. She blamed the finances. I got three jobs. She blamed my drinking. I stopped. She went to the doctors. Has depression and fatigue. So I started helping out more. I bought the children extra uniforms so she only had to do the washing once a week. I started cooking the meals once and then twice a week.  I bought her a self cleaning oven so she didn’t have to deal with all those toxic fumes. I even organised a cleaner to come in twice fortnightly to take the pressure off her. I took her and the kids out on a holiday. She never smiled. Not once. I organised Mum to look after the kids so we could go away together – alone. She got a job and I had to cancel. Then she complained about the sex. We hadn’t had any in a while so I tried to do the right thing by her and got rejected. Now it’s my sexual appetite she finds offensive.  So if that’s what she wants. I’ll do it. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it just so we can get back to the way it was.

He viewed the computer screen with cold uncertainty. If that’s what she wants…


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