It Walks by Night

Some folks do say… that just on midnight every night (though sometimes a little later) an eerie, grey-clad, hooded figure emerges from the steaming ablution block and walks unsteadily round the camp, leaning heavily on a walker, the wheels of which groan ominously in the misty moonlight. The grating of his arthritic knees crackles out louder than the complaining wheels.
Young short-term campers shiver in fear, and pull their sleeping bags over their heads. Everyone knows better than to look. No one, even those still out of bed, dare speak to the apparition. He passes by, swearing softly under his breath, and disappears into the night.

It’s just me.

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Just after they reopened the bar up the road – with social distancing of course – I noticed a man in his late fifties sitting alone in the beer garden, crying quietly into his beer.

I sat at a table nearby and asked if he was ok.

He told me he was grieving. I asked why.

He said that three months ago an uncle he barely knew had died of COVID and left him nearly a million dollars.

I offered my condolences, and pointed out that he could take comfort that his uncle had thought of him.

He agreed but added that two months ago his grandma died of COVID, and she too left him a large sum of money along with other family members. I asked how old she was. Ninety four. I consoled him that she’d had a long life. Again, he agreed.

“But”, he added, “Last month – nothing at all”.

The C Word

We talk about melanoma and avoid the C word. When I was first diagnosed, my GP advised me to let my family know that I have joined the 66% of Australians who have, or shall have, skin cancer. They are, he said, genetically predisposed to have it too. Hopefully not the ones with melanin. I do so hope that.

I’m a cancer patient. A few of my friends, but not one of my family except my Dad, have asked how I’m dealing with that. Well enough, I thought, thanks for asking.

Until now. I’m beginning to have reservations. The latest melanomas are deeper, and spreading faster. Therefore the cutting is deeper and wider. For the first time today I had internal stitches. My frigate bird lost half a wing. The two we biopsied on my back will be excised next Friday. The biopsy results were not good. They will be the biggest yet.

So far, Mehdi has done the cutting and stitching of two melanomas at a time in half an hour give or take. Today took longer. The next two will take at least an hour.

Considering this latest batch of seven were not even detectable three months ago, even by the sharp-eyed and very careful Mehdi, I have to consider the future implications.

I stayed with my friend Jeff for the last months of his life, because he did not want to go into a hospice, nor burden his mother with the supervision of his death. He had a cancer which metastasised and became terminal. I don’t want to go through what he went through, nor inflict it on anyone else, particularly anyone I love.

So I must use the C word.

Contingency plan.

In Case.

I need a plan.

I’m rambling. It’s the Jameson’s. And the Guinness. I’ll have a Dubliner in coffee to follow. Finishing off Alcoholic Leftovers from St Patrick’s Day.

Because my arm hurts. Because it’s there, and increases the effect of the meds. And I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow.

I have to have a plan. For when the outlook is dire.

Yeah. I’ll probably delete this post when I sober up. It is hard to keep the vow I made to tell it like it is.


To die

Is to forget.

To be forgotten

Is Death.

And that, simply put

Is the meaning of life.

A chance to do something

That won’t be forgotten


Some Bastard

Some bastard has stolen my bicycle away
So I on old Bribie no longer can play
I will wade round the beaches right up to my chest
To find out my bicycle, the one I love the best

And when I have found out my joy and delight
Whoever is riding it I’ll surely fight
For his ears shall be ringing and his head shall be thick
Once I give him a beating with my walking stick

Here’s a health to all riders that are loyal and just
Here’s confusion to the rider that lives in distrust
For I’m telling you now that when I catch that prick
I shall give him such a beating with my walking stick.

Trad Arr! ARF!

Yes. Some prick stole my bike.

Special Points to anyone who knows the tune for this song.

Return to Routine

Friday was a feel sorry for myself day. If you haven’t divined I have these, you’ve not been reading between the lines.

Having my oldest friend of fifty five years visit for a week had been a tonic, despite being marred by weather and these bloody legs not cooperating. There’s nothing we can’t talk about and nothing he can’t offer a sound insight for. I saw him off on Wednesday. Sadly.

Thursday I rested, only venturing out after my morning nap on the bike to do a little shopping at the local butcher and the bottle store. No pedalling, legs dangling, back straight. The rest did me good. I used the walker to get to the shower before bedtime, and didn’t need it at all for the early trip next morning.

I am rethinking my use of the walking stick. I suspect that leaning heavily to one side on it as I do may actually be causing, or at least exacerbating, the pain generated by my back. I suspect it is really necessary to keep it straight. The problem is to steady myself when my knees want to wobble me, without generating another problem by bending my spine sideways. . I have decided to try doing without it. Exercise more.

Following the advice of my mentor and guru, I next addressed, as best I could, a matter that has been preying much on my mind. That’s what led to the fsfm day. But I’ve now done what I can. There’s no more to be done. Move on.

This morning I had the excitement of the rakali encounter, followed by the pleasant discovery that a couple of days rest and comparative inaction had resulted in greatly improved mobility. That is to say much less pain. I climbed into the cruiser in an almost sprightly manner and went for my swim.

Dave hates that word. Sprightly. So I’ll take it on. I’m going to own it.

The return to gravity after ninety minutes of weightlessness was, as usual, a bugger. I wished after all I hadn’t left the walking stick in the car. But I managed the trip to the shower and changing room without stopping or leaning on anything. Small victory. I just need more resolve, and not give in too easily. And rest when I need it. No shame in resting when necessary. My yet immature eighteen year old brain must accept it has been mysteriously transplanted into some fat old codger’s sixty eight year old body. One that has not been properly maintained. One of my regrets.


Regrets. I’ve had a few

And there are some I’d like to mention

I didn’t always think things through

I didn’t always pay attention

I never joined the rodeo

Even though I was invited

I never ran away to sea

Though ships get me excited

I loved and lost, and did not learn

I never could forget

Then, at last, I started running

And I am running yet.

It has been said – I know it’s true

We regret most what we didn’t do

© 2020 ARF

Not with a Bang, Nor with a Whimper

Not with a bang, nor with a whimper

But a sneeze, Mr Eliot

Or gushing bowels, or vomit

Or blood from every aperture

With our children asking “Why?”

That changes the day’s mood somewhat.

The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz-he dead
            A penny for the Old Guy


    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
    Remember us-if at all-not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.


    Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
    In death’s dream kingdom
    These do not appear:
    There, the eyes are
    Sunlight on a broken column
    There, is a tree swinging
    And voices are
    In the wind’s singing
    More distant and more solemn
    Than a fading star.

    Let me be no nearer
    In death’s dream kingdom
    Let me also wear
    Such deliberate disguises
    Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
    In a field
    Behaving as the wind behaves
    No nearer-

    Not that final meeting
    In the twilight kingdom


    This is the dead land
    This is cactus land
    Here the stone images
    Are raised, here they receive
    The supplication of a dead man’s hand
    Under the twinkle of a fading star.

    Is it like this
    In death’s other kingdom
    Waking alone
    At the hour when we are
    Trembling with tenderness
    Lips that would kiss
    Form prayers to broken stone.


    The eyes are not here
    There are no eyes here
    In this valley of dying stars
    In this hollow valley
    This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

    In this last of meeting places
    We grope together
    And avoid speech
    Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

    Sightless, unless
    The eyes reappear
    As the perpetual star
    Multifoliate rose
    Of death’s twilight kingdom
    The hope only
    Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.





Verse: Bad and Worse

No One Likes My Poems.

No one likes my poems at all.
That didn’t worry McGonagall
Nor should it me, though I’ll aver
I know whose I more prefer
Although he always found a rhyme
I do not bother much of the time
But whether rhymed, or blank, my verse
Compared to his, is not the worse


Even so, I have to say
I love his ode to the bridge of Tay
I once aspired to write that way
It’s harder than it looks, and may
Tax even great poets all the day

And then when I fell deep in love with a miss
I finally managed to come up with this:

Ode to the Missus

Beautiful woman! Beside whom I lay
I love you in every possible way
To list all your virtues would take me all day
But I’ll make an attempt at it, anyway

Your hair is so fragrant, and curly dark brown
I like very much the way it hangs down
Your eyes, too, I love. And they too, are brown
I love when they laugh, and fear when they frown

And then there’s your smile, that gives me delight
With inviting soft lips, and teeth shining white
When you smile at me, well. I know all is right
My heart skips a beat and I hold your hand tight
I just want to frolic with you all the night

Your legs are not long, but they get you around
They start at your buttocks and reach to the ground
Your neck is as graceful as that of a swan
Though not quite as feathery and not quite as long
And perhaps this is where I should finish this song.
For I won’t share my thoughts here for others to see
On those particular charms that endear you to me.

That poem brought me joy, you know it. I knew at last I was a poet.
Crying in the Wilderness.


I can’t stand the pain
Pinching back vertebrae
I can’t stand the pain
Knee arthritis
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be
Hey bloody knees
Tell me, do you remember
How sweet it used to be
When I could walk for miles
Everything was groovy
Now my joints are grating
And that’s one sound
That I just can’t stand
I can’t stand the pain
Of spondylosis
Aching thighs, aching knees
I can’t stand the pain
Of gravity on me
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be
When I was a young man
Everything was so grand
Now that I’ve grown old
There’s just one thing
That I just can’t stand
Can’t stand the pain
I can’t stand the pain
Of my leg muscles
Taunting me with memories
Of when I could walk free
I can’t stand the pain
And I can’t walk far
Unless my walking stick’s with with me
When we are together
I can make it round the shops
Like Woolworths. Oh sweet memories
But it’s just so wrong
That I just can’t stand
I can’t walk alone
Without a trolley to lean on
I can’t stand the pain
The spondylitic pain
That just keeps on haunting me
Hey hey pain
Get off of my back, please
‘Cause I can’t stand the pain
I’ll jump out a window
‘Cause I can’t stand the pain.

On This Day

Today is the anniversary of the second of the two most important days of my life. Two events that both completely changed my view of the world and my place in it.

This is the anniversary of when I fell completely, and utterly, in love. Once again.

The first thing I learned when my second daughter was born was that there is always room in the heart for one more. I loved my first daughter, now a cute and precocious two year old, so much that sometimes during the time of expectancy I had been genuinely concerned I might not be able to love this newcomer as well. It was a fear that vanished without trace on her arrival.

That arrival was just as fraught with difficulty as was her sister’s before. Distressed foetal syndrome and a caesarean. But this time I was allowed to be present. Watching a caesarean is fascinating and frightening. I concentrated on holding June’s hand and being reassuring.

The surgeon jokingly warned me that if I fainted, he would just stand on me and carry on with his work. June was conscious. She’d had an epidural. The previous time she had been under general anaesthetic, so this must have been even more frightening for her than for me.

When the hospital staff held up the still and silent chocolate-blue child my heart stopped. I’ve never, ever, been more frightened. In fact I realised at that moment, I had never really been frightened before at all. I cannot express the dread I felt just then.

Suddenly she let out a cry and miraculously turned pink right then and there in front of me. I treasure that memory as I do the one where I was introduced to her sister, so tiny in an incubator, tubes up her nose, two years before.

I shall never stop loving June for what she went through to bring those two into the world. If ever frustration or resentment arises when I think of how things eventually turned out, I remind myself of this.

I shall never stop loving those two girls, for the meaning they brought into my existence. Flawed as it must have been, parenthood is the one thing that really gave my life any significance.

These wonderful young women that June and I made.

And that’s all I have to say about that.