Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Ballad of Cruel Freddy Bellows

He was a malicious, twisted, cold-hearted fellow,
That evil, nasty, young Freddy Bellows,
In Riverside's gutters, grog shops, bordellos,
There's not a one alive; man, priest or whore,
Whose fruit hadn't been tainted by his rotting core,
And who wouldna 'spected that cruel Freddy Bellows,
Would earn his dues at the end of a gallows.

He was christened by his preacher father as Louis James Emmerson, but he wasn't to know that, having run away from the long, black-legged, drunken madman as he chased the three year old around the larder, his breaches open at the front with rigid, shameful intent.

By the time he'd stumbled through the freezing fog, into the frightening dark of Riverside, he was sobbing and sliding in the greasy, putrid gutters, his tears rolling down his left cheek - his right eye had swollen completely shut. His arm, which he would never straighten properly again, was on fire, and he longed for the only warmth he'd ever known, his mother's tender, protective embrace.

In his cold fright, he thought he'd found it again when he took the safe, comforting hand of his young mother, and was led down a dank alley, but when they reached a small, peeling door at the far end of a dingy cul de sac, her grip tightened painfully, and transformed into that of another. He squirmed with fright, but before he could struggle free, he was thrust through onto a cold floor, and was immediately set upon by an unseen figure who, in the impenetrable darkness, forced themself upon him, smothering his scream with a rough hand...

He was a malicious, twisted, cold-hearted fellow,
That evil, nasty, young Freddy Bellows,
His trick was to slap-on some of Old Jim Crowe's tallow,
And in the dark of an alley, stick it to Mad Mary Fellows,
He'd lure her there, vacant and trusting,
And bash her around, shouting and cussing,
He was lucky, I guess, that cruel Freddy Bellows,
That a hard life in Riverside had left poor Mary fallow.

The man who was no longer Louis James Emmerson had never loved anyone other than his darling, kind mother, but exactly where she was, he had never known. During the years of his tormenting enslavement, so much of his mind had decayed. He would never learn that his last memory of her, crumpled on the cold larder flagstones on that horrible night, had in fact been her own last memory. Nor would he ever learn that the bailiffs had found the bruised, beaten, swollen body of a sixteen year old girl washed up on Westbank the following morning, never to be identified as a young Mrs Emmerson, the preacher's wife.

When he grew old enough for his brawn to match his aggression, Freddy fled his depraved incarceration and set about searching Riverside for something – for what he did not know, but he longed for it ... ached for it, with his entire being. He tried to find it, first in the arms, and later in the soiled skirts of Riverside's diseased, loveless women. Initially he had been fascinated by the fine frocks they wore; the billowing skirts and lace collars reminded him of warmth, and something long-forgotten ... something magical. But these women had come from similar stock to Freddy, and had little of what he sought once the pennies had changed hands. He soon became bitter, and rage seethed just below, and frequently spilled over the surface.

Freddy Bellows had known only hatred, cruelty and depravity his entire life. His rejection and rage took hold of him, fuelling him both physically and emotionally in a way that the Seaman's Powder he used to buy for a swift one on the docks of Westbank no longer did. He became cruel and dangerous. He took whatever he could, not only money – in truth he had little need of it - what he really wanted was for people to feel the anguish that he did. He had learned that the only time he felt happy was when he looked into the eyes of another, and saw their pain and horror, deep within. In time, Freddy came to realise that the more helpless the victim, the more pain he could inflict, and the more exhilarated he became.

Soon everyone in Riverside knew about Freddy Bellows, the hard-tempered sadist. Few had escaped his harsh treatment, and while some boasted their intent to "do 'im in", most kept a wide berth. His prey became increasingly difficult to find, but there were always the odd favourites; the stragglers who were left behind. Mad Mary was always an easy one to fall back on if things were a bit slow...

He was a malicious, twisted, cold-hearted fellow,
That evil, nasty, young Freddy Bellows,
His appetites grew, and his soul the more shallow,
And in one what he saw, she was new to the scene,
He sensed something forgotten, her frock familiar and clean,
And dog her he did, to the bridge he did follow,
But 'pon reaching this morsel, even for greedy Freddy Bellows,
This meal would prove more 'n Freddy could swallow.

Before long, Mad Mary had received a visit from a desperate Freddy every other night, as did a half-dozen other frightened Marys amongst the alleys and grottos of Riverside, each suffering increasingly horrific treatment as his appetites grew more and more urgent and depraved. In the space of a fortnight, three young women had sustained severe facial injuries at the hands of his unforgiving rage, while another had been so badly beaten that she had frozen to death on the cold stones where he'd left her bleeding.

The Riverside girls soon refused to work at night, and before long there were brawls and stabbings every evening in the filthy taverns along the entire length of the docks. Freddy was amongst them, too, and did more than his fair share of damage, always with a maniacal laugh and a lunatic's strength, but despite their best efforts, few were able to get within a dagger's reach of Freddy Bellows.

Late one night, Freddy woke abruptly from his bed of urine and vomit to find himself in the cold gutter outside the all-night tavern. He'd been dreaming about his beloved Mamma, and as he attempted to sit up, his groggy vision focused on the very woman who only moments before had been embracing him and rubbing his back. He shook his head, assuming that he was still asleep or drunk, but when she remained in his line of sight, gliding across the cobbles on the far side of the street in her regal dress, he staggered to his feet with a shout.

The woman turned towards the slurred bark, her perfect complexion changing instantly from question to fear as she saw the huge, pathetic oaf lumbar towards her. She shrieked and darted down the nearest alley, and Freddy jerked and staggered after her, knocking over boxes and tins as he called, "Mamma! Mamma!"

The frightened damsel was quick on her feet, but Freddy was a desperate pursuer. Before long he had halved the distance between them, but his anger had been sparked by her refusal to stop, and he had begun to curse and rave between his hacking wheezes. Just as he was nearly upon her, she shot sideways down the stairs by the Queen's Bridge, sending Freddy sliding along the slippery cobbles into the railing. He roared with pain and anger and raced after her, down the stairs and onto the shingled river bank. As he followed her around the closest of the great pylons, he suddenly fell to the ground with a great flash of light and an almighty pain in his forehead.

He shook his head with an anguished, piercing howl, sending droplets of blood and gore fanning out around him. As his vision cleared, he was confused to see his dear Mamma standing off to his right with her arm hooked into that of a slender, smirking, top-hatted gentleman. Realisation finally dawned on him that she was too young to have been his mother, and he flushed with embarrassment ... or was it rage? Freddy didn't have time to ponder what was going on, as a gang of familiar ruffians, all scars, sneers and glinting eyes surrounded him and closed-in.

He was a malicious, twisted, cold-hearted fellow,
That evil, nasty, young Freddy Bellows,
And while all wouldda 'spected that cruel Freddy Bellows,
Would earn his dues at the end of a gallows,
T'was not by a rope that Riverside choose'd,
But by cold steel and clubs of those wronged and abused,
As always the bailiffs, dredging the shallows,
Discovered his body, yellow and sallow,
And with the blood round his head, a grizzly red halo,
There was nought who would mourn him, that cruel Freddy Bellows.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Did you hear the one about the Racist, the Anti-Semite and the Suburban Australian Family?

This is a bit of a lame post, really, but rest assured I’m working on something a bit more worthwhile and more likely to make a contribution to society, which I’ll post in the next day or so. This post, on the other hand, is a bit of an interactive jobbie ‘cause I need some opinions.

Y’see, I’ve been a bit emotionally sore and sorry for myself these last few weeks, owing to the fact that I am still in transit on my way to Tibet, and my enforced exile in Melbourne, which should be making me feel great, is, apart from the SPECTACULAR coffee, making me feel lonely, alienated and arrogantly uppity.

It all stems from my catching-up with friends and loved ones over the last few weeks, many of whom live reasonably affluent lifestyles in the outer suburbs, and all of whom seem to be pretty free with their opinions. Me? I tend to cower a bit with my opinions, but lately, having reached the limit of what I will let through to the keeper, I have been sticking up for myself and my beliefs, which has certainly resulted in a degree of ill feeling between myself and certain parties … the consequences of which, unfortunately, are me feeling lonely, alienated and arrogantly uppity.

So I have been questioning my recent actions, and had been coming to a decision that I was just going to have to shut up and hope that it will all go away, however this week I have read a couple of blogs of people who it would seem have similar views to my own, and it gives me a little bit of hope that I am not alone in this world, and that in some places, and amongst some people, there are still intelligent people with informed views and opinions.

Geez, Donkey, will you wipe the rabid foam from your mouth and just get on with it? OK, so this is some of the stuff I’ve heard over the last few weeks, and I just wanna know if you think the following comments and opinions are OK, right and proper for a modern, learned, informed society. So, here we go;

- In reference to a neighbour: “The squinty-eyes next door…”

- As a joke, in front of his children, in response to his wife’s nagging: “I’m sorry, did I fall into a bucket of black paint? I must look like a nigger the way you keep telling me what to do tonight…”

- Regarding local governance: “The council is run by Jews and they all look after each other. If you wanted to open a childcare facility, you’d never get it through council, but if it was for Jewish kids, it’d be approved tomorrow”

- In regards to seeing the Indian foreign minister on TV saying that his government will not stand for the continued incarceration of Dr Haneef in Queensland: “But I bet it’d be OK if you wanted to send a bit of money his way”.

- In regards to Muslim women in Australia not being prepared to remove burquas or headscarves, “When they’re in our country they have to adopt our customs … this is a Christian country after all”.

- Regarding government-funded, public education versus (increasingly) government-funded private education: “People who say they haven’t got enough money to send their kids to private schools are probably the ones who don’t really value education as important for their kids”.

- In regards to public shower cleanliness: “In our country, they should have to adopt our customs, or not be allowed to use the showers”.

For this roving Donkey, it has been a difficult process to return home recently to a government who has finally noticed something wrong with the health and social systems in indigenous Australia, and thinks that the best way to prevent further child abuse and improve indigenous health is to send in armed soldiers; accordingly I have been increasingly dismayed at the rising tide of hatred and xenophobia that seems to have infiltrated the suburbs.

It almost feels to me like some of these enclaves of white Australia have become like those Biospheres; y’know the ones, where nothing (such as good ideas and reality) gets in, and nothing gets out (at least we can be thankful about the latter, although I am fearing that their ideas seem to be leaking through some undetected crack in the dome!).

So, tell me, am I wrong to feel down and outraged about this? Is it just a case of the times moving along, and me being slow to catch up? - it wouldn't be the first time Donkey had been caught napping while the world flew-on by, as evidenced by my pink side-winders and bright orange pair of pants. Has the re-emergence of global terrorism changed society so much that it's now acceptable and normal to opine hatred and intolerance of cultures and beliefs which don't mirror our own? It's possible that this is the case, but I still can't help but think it's a tad irresponsible to bring up children with a sense of what is right and wrong, and then just throw it all out the window when it suits and say that all those immigrants, Muslims, Jews, protestants (Geez, don't get me started on what I've been hearing about those guys!) and everyone else are fair game for mistrust and abuse.

I suspect this prototype for outer suburban planning could be good for both sides of the political spectrum; it locks the racists inside and keeps out any of those disgusting, drug-smoking, free-loving lefties with their ideas about equality and racial tolerance. A win-win situation, if ever there was one. Pic: www.ec.gc.ca

Friday, July 20, 2007

The re-emergence of the angry, young ... Donkey

I bet you never knew that there was a punk band from the 1970s called Thrush and the Cunts! Nah, me neither, and I nearly pissed myself with mirth and fell off my seat on the train this evening when I read about it. Apparently they were a seminal punk band in Melbourne's avant garde music scene in the late 1970s, and almost certainly the southern hemisphere's first all-female line-up of the genre. They obviously didn't do much other than snarl and bang a few pots and pans on stage, 'cause no one seems to have heard of them, but it got me to thinking about how much, after all these years, I still don't know about punk ... and I suspect I'm not alone.

I can remember my first punks. It was a wet Sunday afternoon in about 1982, and I was in the city with my family. Things are a bit different nowadays, but back then, there didn't seem to ever be much cause for families from the suburbs to go to the city, and certainly not on a Sunday, when everything was closed. Looking back, I'm sure it might have been only my second or third time in the city, and it was all quite overwhelming – lots of huge buildings and unfamiliar streets. I remember feeling completely swamped by the number of people around the main railway station, and I was scared I was gonna let go of my mother and be swept away in the throng. But most of all, I remember being shit-scared of all the punks that were hanging around.

Perhaps my memory of this day has been distorted a little (blind terror has a habit of doing that, I've noticed), but I remember groups of three or four guys and girls milling around – the girls all with thick eye-liner and matted hair, and the guys – man, the guys – they were, in retrospect, friggin' immaculate! Mohawks sticking up into the sky in huge, coloured pillars of gel, press studs in their eye brows, massive crucifixes dangling from their ears, leather jackets with all kinds of studs and metal hanging off them, and they were all sitting around looking angry and menacing ... well, actually, if I am to be really honest about it, thirty-year old Donkey has to admit that they may just have been hanging around talking, laughing and generally minding their own business. But still, at the time, I was pretty certain I was gonna get knifed and my family brutally killed if I so much as looked at one of these animals.

So what is it that makes a seven year old Donkey scared of punks? It's a tough question. How could I have known what they were? I can recall having seen a Knight Rider episode in which KIT and a leather-daked Hoff took on a gang of mohawked bikies who were terrorising a US mid-west town (yeah right, like there would have ever been any real punks in the American mid-west!). And perhaps the leather-clad, violent villains of the Mad Max film which my older siblings had forced me sit through would have seemed pretty frightening to a six year old Donkey foal, so it's possible that I was influenced by these, but the truth is, I can't really identify how I would have known to be frightened of these people.

By my reckoning, that Sunday in 1982 must have been almost the end of the punk era, and these studded, mascara-ed, follicularly sculpted beings were probably the last of their tribe in Melbourne. I was too young to have been exposed to their behaviours, and never really learned what they'd been about. Later, when I was old enough to understand a few things about the world, the punk waters got muddied a bit with the rise of the Nazi skins, who were violently terrorising the Vietnamese immigrants in Melbourne's west. These leather-clad, jack-booted skin heads received the mantle of 'punks' by those of us in the comfortable, ignorant, leafy east, and so cemented in me the fear of punks that my early trip to the city had engendered, and I remained mistrustful and fearful of punks for many, many years afterwards.

Back to Thrush and the Cunts (there was no real need to slip that in there again, but I think you'll agree, it's both priceless and fun). Tonight I have been reading a history of one of my greatest, non animate loves of this world, the community radio station, Three Triple R (for the uninitiated, cast your eyes over yonder to the link in "Stuff I Dig" and enjoy the fun). I found Triple R in about 1990, when, for reasons not entirely clear to me, I began rejecting the music, clothes and attitudes that I was being force-fed by my friends, TV and anyone of influence, and I found in this rather odd radio station, with its occasional dead-air and potty-mouthed announcers, not only an extraordinary range of fantastic music, but a critical, and seemingly informed view of society, literature, the media and in particular, politics and social issues, which had definitely not been a feature on my landscape up until that point. Most importantly of all, I somehow felt both welcomed and valued by the Triple R family, in a way that I certainly hadn't been by the supposed trend-setters of my peers and the wider, mainstream media.

Triple R was born in the mid 70s, and much of its early content was punk and new wave, which was screaming its way out of the UK and finding a receptive audience right here in extremely conservative Melbourne. What I have discovered in my reading, and through listening to the Rs over the last decade or so, is that punk was not about white supremacy and radical right wing views – quite the opposite, in fact. Punk was about a bunch of people who rejected the conservative music, literature and especially politics, of 1970s Britain, the US and even lil’ old Australia. These talented, and occasionally informed individuals, far from being the racist red necks I later mistook them for, were actually the next generation of peace-loving hippies, admittedly with a little confusion over their post-free love identity, washed-up onto the shores of 1970s conservative, Cold War politics. Like their older brothers and sisters of the 60s, and like me making the switch to Triple R in the 1990s, they were simply rejecting the conservative politics and social attitudes of the day, albeit with a little more angst and irritability, a bucket of hair gel and a much sharper wardrobe.

As the punks grew up, got their hair cut and became teachers and lawyers, the radio station that they had managed also grew up, but Triple R maintained that healthy cynicism and critical comment which had grown out of its punk roots. It was this quality which drew me to it, and I too developed into the socially-minded, critical, witty, attractive and upstanding citizen you see today. In a way, you could say that I too appraised what I was being exposed to by way of music, media, social ideals and politics, and decided to adopt what I liked, and reject what I didn't. In that way, despite having been born about fifteen years too late, I too grew to be that which I once feared above all else; I too became a punk, albeit a ridiculously exaggerated, mule-like one with questionable bodily hygiene.

And armed with those angsty desires to do it my own way (I reference Sic Vicious and Nancy here, not Frank), I forged a life for myself which has taken me out of the suburbs, and into the big, wide world, where those views and ideals have been further shaped by my experiences. It's fair to say that there is nothing more likely to instil nationalistic pride in an individual than sending them away to live in another country, and it's true that this post-punk era expatriate Australian Donkey punk still, despite the odds, is proud to be Australian, and to live his life according to a set of values he deems to be uniquely Australian. The only problem, unfortunately, is that Australians at home seem to be rejecting those very ideals of social justice, inclusion and compassion which I believe makes us great. In returning to my beloved country this month, I have been shocked to discover just how deeply ingrained the xenophobia has become; from the political elite right down to the average Joe in the suburbs, Australians are becoming more and more conservative, less and less concerned with the plight of their fellow man and moving closer and closer to the right … and it's heart-breaking.

Every time I sit and listen to a loved-one spouting off about this foreigner or that aborigine, the bile starts to rise, and I increasingly find myself looking around for alternative conversations and alternative media to give me a metaphorical back-rub. Obviously I turn to Triple R, which never disappoints, and I also seek counsel in other, like-minded punks. People like me who are becoming increasingly horrified at the attitudes and beliefs of our leaders and neighbours, and people who, like me, have a developed social conscience and an ability to recognise what they believe in, and what makes them happy, and to offer informed criticism where behaviours and attitudes threaten these values and beliefs, even if it means going against the norm. Like me, these people don't wear ripped jeans, sport green mohawks or clink under multiple piercings, they are regular, everyday people - teachers, lawyers, plumbers and health professionals. They almost certainly wouldn't identify as punks, but in their admirable way, they are doing exactly what those menacing, leather-clad young people did some thirty years ago.

"Punk's not dead, it's just gone to bed", so the pop song goes, but bloody hell, it's time to wake up and get active again. It's time to stick a metaphorical pin through John Howard's nose, flash the forks to commercial media and spit at the camera of shoddy journalism. It's time to start being critical about who we are, and what we can do to become who we want to be, even if that means playing it a bit dangerously, and rejecting "what everyone else thinks".

I guess this could easily be conceived as frightening to a young Donkey, but you've got to hand it to 'em, imagine how long it would take to get that together each day. Pic: Google images

Don't worry about this pic - it's functional and has nothin' to do with the story - Donkey

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Horror, The Horror

As much as I try to avoid them in an effort to preserve my sanity, I'm still a sucker for a scary movie. I should clarify here; I'm not talking about those over-done teen flicks with the wacky, stereo-typical, drug-smoking Jamaican guy, the big-boobed, dumb blond cheer leader who 'puts out' and the nerdy girl who takes off her glasses and her blouse in the last scene, nor am I talking about those crappy, B-grade shockers which actually feature creeping vampires wearing black capes and turning into bats, disfigured, drooling monks and ware wolves which howl in silhouette before a full moon. I'm talking about REALLY scary movies, like the ones with faceless little girls who walk slowly, unstoppably, towards you, or the ones with large, high ceilinged rooms, completely bare apart from a lace-lined basinet – man, it took me two years of therapy after seeing those films before I could go to the bathroom at night in our old house without turning on every single light – and THAT'S what I mean by a scary movie.

Of course, there's also the other type of scary movie, in which the ghouls are not so much mythical creatures from the underworld, but rather a nasty, more sinister kind of evil which, as we grow up and learn more about our surroundings, we know actually exists in our real, everyday world. And it's this type of scary movie that I wanna dwell upon here.

In these types of films, you don't necessarily know that what you're watching is supposed to be scary; the story usually starts slowly, and plods along as it introduces us to everyday characters like ourselves. Just like in real life, we are introduced to these people through a glimpse of their often hum-drum, normal daily routines; shopping, paying the electricity bill, picking the kids up from school, taking them to the park, catching the bus, watching celebrities on TV ... just the routine, normal stuff that we all do everyday.

Often in these films, through the course of these everyday events, we are introduced to various, seemingly external characters, usually men, who play a minor, although significant role in a single daily episode. It might be the kindly guy who works behind the photo-processing counter at the mall, or the old, friendly bloke who turns up in the outback to help fix your broken-down car, or perhaps the quiet man on the bus who moves over to give you a seat, and who mentions how beautiful your young daughter's hair is. Simple interactions which seem like everyday occurrences (which is exactly what they are), and definitely nothing to be scared of.

Invariably, as these movies progress, the passenger on the bus happens to turn up again, this time at the main character's local corner store, and next time outside their home. Or perhaps it's the photo guy who finds an extra print and brings it to their house, even though they'd never given him their address. Or maybe it's the insistence of their rescuer to spend the evening at his camp because the nearest town is too far away. These scary movies are excellent, 'cause each of these somewhat odd happenings still appear a bit normal, but for the viewer who, through the series of initial, everyday events, has developed some affinity for the central characters (and perhaps, who has started to become one of these characters) it starts to get a little eerie.

By the time we begin feeling uncomfortable about what's happening on the screen in front of us, it's too late. Just as if this was actually happening to us; just as if it was the guy from our own photo processing place, or the guy from our own bus trip, by the time we realise something is amiss, he has already infiltrated our privacy. Like the helpless characters, we too are helpless to stop watching. The plot has been constructed very slowly, and very methodically, and now we're implicated.

And the best part in these films, and by "best" I mean the "totally shit-scary" part, is when the penny finally drops and we discover just how whacked-out this guy is, and if you'll indulge me, that is usually when, as the central character, you have just sent little Lilly off to the park to walk the dog with kindly old Harry from next door. Just as you have every afternoon for the past three months, you kiss Lilly and wave with a smile as she walks away with her little hand in his, and with the old blood-hound, Rex, straining on the leash in front of them.

An hour or so later, and you notice you have been hovering around the front window, waiting for them to return. A few hours after that, you have been to the park twice to see if they are there, but no sign, and you are getting frantic. Again you go next door and bang on the door, calling for Lilly and Harry. No answer. Desperate, you climb over the fence and peer through the only window in the house. The rapidly-fading light makes it difficult to see inside, but soon your eyes adjust and you see a large room, completely devoid of furniture or floor coverings. The space is bare and cold looking, and then the walls catch your attention.

What you had absently assumed was dark, patterned wall paper, you now notice to be a floor-to-ceiling collage of photographs - every inch of the wall is covered, and on each one, someone's face has been blacked-out with a permanent marker. With a start, you fumble with your torch and peer more closely at the closest wall, and right there and then, the wind rushes out of you. Gripping the windowsill with horror, you notice that in each photograph, immediately beneath each scribbled, black marker mess, is the body of a little girl dressed in a summer dress or winter overalls, holding Rex's leash.

Now if you're anything like me, it's at this moment in the movie that your blood runs absolutely cold. Up until then, there had been some suggestion that all was not well, but at this point, the danger has reared its head, and the real horror of the helplessness of the situation has been revealed. To me, this real, easily identifiable, and genuinely imaginable horror is what is the scariest thing to watch. It's scary because it really happens – we see it on the news and read it in the papers ever week. Investigations later reveal a lonely individual with severe depression or mental illness, often manifesting with a degree of obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

As I said, at that point of the movie, when we see the photos on the wall, or the hoard of scrap-books full of newspaper clippings, or the collection of victims' cars, the thousands of candles, the names scrawled all over a wall, the collection of knives ... whatever it is, it makes my blood run cold. Much like what happened to me on the bus only a couple of days ago.

But first, just like in these very scary films, I need to introduce you to the hum-drum, drone-like daily existence that my life has become since, while en-route to Tibet, the Chinese authorities have put the stall on my visa application. Basically, rather than just spending a couple of days of fine dining and catching up with friends in Melbourne, I am now faced with five weeks of getting up in the cold, dark mornings, and struggling to the office on the crowded train, tram and bus, sitting in a dimly-lit, miserable office all day, and leaving in the cold, wet, depressing dusk to retrace my steps towards the cold, dark, miserable and, as you will soon discover, sinister outer suburbs.

It was while stewing in my own, depressive juices on the bus a couple of mornings ago, that I experienced real, blood-chilling horror. In my semi-comatose, commuter state, I boarded the bus, checked my ticket through the machine, and momentarily moved up one level of consciousness as I scanned for a place to park my substantial Donkey ass. I avoided sitting next to the loud-mouthed school kids 'cause I wanted to read, and I bypassed the business man reading his broadsheet newspaper as I didn't fancy a smack in the face with every turn of the page. I avoided the fat guy ('cause two fatties on one seat just isn't practical) and I selected a vacant spot next to a respectable-looking, middle-aged woman. She was well-dressed, with elegant, not-too-much face make-up, excellent posture and she was, I assumed, reading a novel. All in all, the most benign choice for a seat on the bus that morning.

I sat down and busied myself with getting my book open, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, and as I settled into page 542, I noticed in my peripheral vision that my well-dressed neighbour was not reading, but writing, very quickly. I didn't pay too much attention, however, as I was slowly drifting back into a coma, but I did notice that she would periodically stop writing and look up to the very upper corner of the window, before resuming her correspondence.

Melbourne traffic being the ridiculous joke that it is, I came-to about ten pages and only 200 metres later, and realised that the lady beside me had been writing frantically the entire journey, except during her periodical scrutiny of the upper window. I stole a glance at the writing in the open, lined exercise book in front of her; she had just turned the page, and was completing the first three lines, not with words, as I had expected, but with an identical, continuous, curling line from left to right. "A bit strange", I mused, and returned to my book, but rather than take up my (by comparison) less interesting novel, I noticed only moments later that this prolific woman had completed the page with a further, identical thirty-odd lines, at which time, true to form, she looked up and stared at the upper window, before returning her gaze to her book in order to turn the page.

And as she did, my blood drained cold. As she attempted to turn the page, she fumbled, and in doing so, revealed an entire exercise book, perhaps sixty-four pages, each one filled with thirty-odd lines, and each line featuring the identical, scrawling script. I started visibly out of my mediative state, and tried to look at her face beside me, as I did, she met my gaze with a cold stare, devoid of any warmth or companionship, but with a challenging menace that left me with only limited control over my bladder. Unintentionally, I had shuffled away along the seat, and with relief I noticed my stop approaching. I rushed off the bus, and stood leaning against a pole as I sucked in lung-fulls of cold, fresh air. After a time, when my shaking had slowed enough to walk, I shuffled off to the office feeling frightened and alone. What an unfamiliar, unforgiving and sinister world this is.


"I can't remain here any longer. I am an outcast; a freak to these people. All I want is to get by without hurting myself. All I want is to be able to mind my own business, and to live, work and be myself. It is not my fault that I was born this way, and yet, to all of them, I am a monster."

"If they only knew the agony I must go through; the years of therapy, just to get me out the door. What I have gone through, just to spend a few hours each day amongst them. They told me I am allowed to go outside. They told me that I am a person too, with all the rights of other people. They told me that I was equal ... but it's not true."

"Sure, I might dress like them; put on make-up and look like them. But I will never be one of them. Not while the danger remains ... the danger of me flipping-out. I couldn't handle that again – the horror in those people's faces. The women shielding their children's eyes from the sight of me, as they would some hideous monster. The screams of panic – I couldn't bare that again, being the object of everyone's fear and hatred."

"I thought I'd come so far. How bloody stupid I was to believe that I could hide my repugnance from the world. I should never have tried. Oh, how I have enjoyed my wanderings these past months. How I have loved being amongst them, feeling the cold wind and rain on my face. I genuinely believed that I was going to be OK. Just doing those little, secret things – those simple, silly routines ... it was never ever going to make it all alright."

"But I was a gullible fool. Because those stupid games - those coping mechanisms – they weren't invisible at all. They were there for all to see, and today, on the bus, I saw a man looking at me with that familiar terror, that same fear and distaste as I had seen in those faces before, all those years ago. I hate them ... and I hate myself. I'm staying in here now. Staying until I ... until it all goes away. That's what should happen. Monsters must be locked away where they can't do anyone any harm."

OK, so I said they didn' t scare me, but this portrayal of Dracula, in the early, German silent movie, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, still freaks me out whenever I see it. Pic: Wikipedia