Saturday, May 29, 2010

Zorro of the North West

You know, I get it, I really do. Having been a Melbournian for twenty years, I understand the need to make haste for the pool whenever the sun peers out from behind a cloud. After all, that cheeky golden grin may only last five minutes. And there are three more seasons yet to expect in that day. Maybe four times over. And maybe including snow.

But when you live in the desert, somewhere like the north west of Western Oz in my home of seven years, oh how quickly you come to expect the heat. In summer our temperatures remain at about forty degrees celcius or so. I don't get in the pool now until it hits at least 37 degrees. Thus, when winter comes and the days (although still lurid blue and ceaselessly sunshiney) crawl below thirty degrees, the idea of swimming is simply ludicrous. Unless, that is, you're on holiday here. Unless, perchance, you're just visiting. Unless, oh yes, you're from Melbourne.

This poem is for my beloved Melbourne, for friends who visit and provide us a winter laugh by diving in deep. And for anyone else on our planet who would eagerly jump into the pool, in the Pilbara, in winter. I'll be in to join you soon! Try...November. 

Of course, by then we have cyclones. And they're another story entirely.

North West Superhero

The plane was right on time,
the heels were quite refined,
the general Savour Faire was ripper mate.
No one had drunk too much rum
with ties ad infinitum
arrived from chilly Melbourne to our state.

And out they stepped this pair
with faces worn by fear
of dodging trams and tumbling black umbrellas
in freezy winter breezes,
frapp├ęd with chunky sneezes
and pale, these two were salty white, I tell yas.

She was, from head to toe,
dressed inn black, uh huh, you know
just how it is when you forget the sun.
Forget you ever could
go out without your hood,
without your bits snapped frozen - that’s the one!

He though, let’s call him Paul,
escaped the eastern squall
deciding that he’d try to match the trend.
A walking suit in I.T.,
today he’d donned a flannie,
a metrosexual sin, let’s not pretend.

So Paul and his dear wife
(so as not to cause strife,
let’s call her Flower, a floral pseudonym)
were here for seven days
the heady heat to praise
and had on their agenda just one thing.

And with their little boy,
the cutest cuddly toy,
Paul wanted but to live the tropic dream.
He stripped off instantly
for all the world to see
which caused a royal shock and some to scream.

(Now, just a small aside,
a turning of the tide
to put this keen display into perspective -
Flower: pragmatic, British
refined and never skittish
and Paul: stuck long indoors a corporate captive.)

But there he stood, defiant
and rather uncompliant,
gazing through the gates and not quite nude.
Not nood as one might say, but
Nyuuuude, called Flower, ‘Hooray!’
‘We’re here to swim!’ cheered Paul, ‘So let’s go dude!’

For them, the height of heat,
a temperature to beat
of thirty three, or two, or one, at dawn.
For them, insanely hot,
for Pilbara folks, quite…not
with me there in a jacket on this morn.

Too brrrrrrr for me by far
but Flower’s pool wear, it starred,
‘twas elegant with brimmed hat, sunnies, cream
and I shivered inside out
as I watched them swim about
living what we call the ‘Pilbara Dream.’

It’s the dream of bright hot days
of gold, that Yabu* haze,
of singing, dancing sunlight under trees
of floating through the water
and dressing as you oughter
in nearly next to nothing in the breeze.

And when they were all done,
their time out in the sun,
Paul joined his lovely Flower sipping tea,
‘My darling Paul, you’re burnt;
I thought you might have learnt
your skin can’t take this; you’re more pale than me!’

‘I know, but I’m the man!’
Paul took his darling’s hand
and then she burst out laughing through the air.
‘Oh Paul, you missed a tad
of sunscreen, my dear lad!’
‘So what?’ replied young Paul scratching his hair.

The feat, remarkable,
now irreversible,
a lightning bolt burnt right across his face.
‘My love, you look like Zorro
and probably will tomorrow,
a streak scorched Pilbara superhero. Ace!'

Well, Paul, now marked, was chuffed,
burnt beautifully, enough,
their lightning trip now took on greater meaning.
And my bones chilled as they'd swum
but God, did they have fun
and ZORRO! of the north west flew home gleaming.


© Elise Batchelor 2010
* 'Yabu' means 'gold' in aboriginal Wongatha language

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fill your bucket before you kick it!

Before we kick the bucket, we all want to fill it. What's on your bucket list? Mine's actually blutacked to my study wall on large pieces of butcher's paper to prevent me forgetting any of it. In fact, the thing is so busy with 'to dos' scratched all over it, it keeps falling off the wall and flopping onto the carpet. (Or maybe I just need to be a bit less scungy with the Blutack). Mine includes stuff I've ticked (have a poem published, run naked in the Simpson Desert), plenty I haven't (be an extra in a film, write a book) and some which are, quite frankly, ridiculous or impossible (become Cate Blanchett, appear on Enough Rope.) So, here's a poem about a lady named Kirstyn's bucket list. It's surprisingly so choccas with everything she's done already, I have no idea how she's going to continue filling it for the next 70 years! Maybe some inspiration in there for yours...

My Bucket

If only my wonderful parents had known
that when I was just aged four,
my little beach bucket then full of sand
would soon fill up with much more.

For, whilst then the shy and retiring type,
I sort of, well, went, KABOOM!
Decided to suck out the marrow of life,
announced, ‘Now then sand, make some room!’

And off I did trot with my bucket and spade
and my gumption and gizzards and guts,
proceeding to fill it with crazy adventures,
not heeding the voices, ‘She’s nuts!’

I bungee jumped out in Zimbabwe;
it bounced in my bucket aboing!
I danced on some tables, Croatia,
‘twas that, or get sleep, flipped a coin.

Shoved an elephant in, rode in Thailand
and a leopard in Africa patted.
Risky, perhaps, but a baby, and that’s
quite sublime, as if nothing else mattered.

There’s pelicans in there, Kalbarri,
and wine bottles from South of France.
They’re empty mind you, for what else can one do
but keep chucking them in. Take the chance!

My bucket went with me to Queensland
and scuba dived out on the reef.
It skydived Namibia (no broken tibia)
and sunbaked in Broome for relief.

I threw in some lions on safari,
giraffa and zebra tossed too
and ripper strong curry, don’t be in a hurry
mzungu to find you a loo!

My poor thankless bucket on that one…
and also a few other places.
Try, all of Nepal, thank you bucket, quite brimming
with mountains…and spew, oh good gracious!

You could say my bucket has fortitude,
for long far and wide did we ‘Rome’.
Indeed there, the grand Colosseum
(was tough work to ship that one home).

But my bucket said, ‘bring it on!’ daily,
so why not live life to the max.
Done the ‘Undies 500’, Kalgoorlie
and paid my respects in Auschwitz.

My bucket reflected in stillness;
we both knew how lucky we were
and onwards we journeyed together
as a whisper of breeze it did stir.

We’ve driven through Spain (wrong side of the road),
drove a header, four wheeler, a van.
Oh memories, my bucket, of tootling along
with a gorgeous South African man.

And then there’s the bee that once bit me
(I’m not going to tell you all where)
but I nearly died and only survived
in a one man run hospital, yeah!

And soon, with old Esperance quite buried down deep,
Karratha was tossed in the mix:
gorges, Karijini and camping, bikinis
and thousands of great Facebook pix.

But that was way back in the noughties.
Let’s fast forward eighty years on,
my memory now straining, my bladder now raining,
my bucket, not quite had the gong.

And I’d filled it to bursting point every year -
I’d married, had kids (hair all curly),
learnt to surf like that Slater, run a pub out of Africa,
stayed up late with my mates, got up early.

Taught English in Taiwan with girlfriends,
done TV, wrote books, travelled more
and worked at the Antarctic base camp
(my poor bucket got frostbite galore!)

And chucked every bit in my bucket
and heaved it on buses and trains.
In Kombis it thumped, doing bombies, it jumped
and I held its hand tight on big planes.

Then yesterday came. It was different.
Worn out by its weight, I felt sick
and in but a split second moment of ire
I gave my loyal bucket
                                       …a kick.

So here now we are up in heaven.
‘Watch out!’ they called, seeing us come.
‘She crammed full her bucket on earth ‘fore she kicked it
and I reckon they’ve both just begun!’

© Elise Batchelor 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to kill off a bougainvillea and other gardening tips

That I am no green thumb goes without saying. That I've just said it means, in some way, I'm feeling I must defend myself against the tragedy that is my horticultural prowess. I've killed off the indestructable, including a north west, hot pink bougainvillea. It died after several weeks of me tending to it with food scraps and water. I know, I know, the gardening gurus of you out there are probably wincing at the thought of such blashphemy. In addition, early on in our courtship, my husband procured for me two plants he believed it would be impossible for me to destroy: a polyanthus and a marjoram. I called them 'Polyunsaturated Marj' and killed them off with lightning dexterity.

I have a malady known as 'The herbivorous touch of death'. And although I've managed to grow four sunflowers (for my child's kindergarten project no less), they're now hanging by a six foot thread. I fear that once they've fully drooped to the ground, they will possibly mark the terminus of my green endeavours for all eternity.

So, no, I would not even call myself a 'budding' gardener. I'm the sort of green thumb even a garden gnome would abandon...

A Gnome's Tale

When I first stood, with bow in hair
and wat’ring can in hand,
a four year old in wonderment
in mummy’s garden grand,
I loved to stand beside her and just
watch as she sprayed water
and see her little plants grow big
just like her little daughter.

When I grew up and ventured out
to find myself a home,
I took my little wat’ring can
and bought myself a gnome.
When I moved in the grass was green,
the flowerbeds were bursting;
I knew I should just water them
in case they were a-thirsting.

I loved to watch the water spray
out of the plastic spout.
My gnome would watch o’er all my plants
and use his gnomish clout
to warn away all bugs and snails
as gnomes are wont to do
and urge my flowers up to the air
into the looming blue.

I watered them at dawn, oh yes,
and I watered them at night, with my
watering can in overtime
in watering delight and
I watered purple irises
and sunflowers as they arched
towards the glorious sun above
not wanting to be parched.

But two weeks after I moved in
I walked into my garden
and from beneath me heard a voice
so small, ‘I beg your pardon,
Miss Leesie, something’s going wrong’,
my gnome spoke, head a’tilting,
‘Your lawn is browning by the day,
Your garden, it is wilting!’

The horror oh the horror!
He was right and started crying,
my sunflowers drooped like little boys,
my irises were dying,
my daisies hung like limp balloons,
my gerb’ras were like mush.
I grabbed my trusty watering can,
declaring, ‘You’ll be lush!’

In feverish pursuit of life
I ran from plant to flower.
I watered like a crazy woman
hour ‘pon hour ‘pon hour.
My little gnome sat helpless
as he watched me go berserk,
I thought of mummy’s garden
and I knew this had to work.

But two days on and all worn out
I saw it come to nought,
for even though I’d watered long
and truly ruly fought,
my garden had all withered
like a mushed up painter’s palette;
it looked as if I’d taken to it
with a hefty mallet.

I tried to make it grow again
and watered it twice daily
and added sheep, horse, cow manure
and songs, I sang them gaily.
By now my gnome, nose deep in poo,
he stank to highest heaven,
so we moved out of number eight…
and moved to number seven.

Again, the pattern did repeat:
I watered, then things carked it.
My gnome would weep, expletives beep,
I didn’t understand it.
It seemed I saw a pattern then,
as we tried different pastures,
from town to suburb, beach to hills,
I’d cause the same disasters.

So we moved to a hot place where I
planted twenty cacti.
I was so sure I’d have success
But you know that in fact I…
couldn’t grow a bl**dy cactus,
even in the desert,
and then my gnome abandoned me,
unfaithful bonsai squirt!

It seems that when I breathe upon
a lawn or flowers blooming
or when I smile upon a plant
its final days are looming.
My gnome he walks upon the earth
to tell his tale of woe,
he begs for shelter and conveys
what everyone should know -

the more I stare ebullient
upon your leaves all waxy
the faster you’ll be calling me
the quickest passing taxi.
The greater is my wonderment,
the wider is my smile,
the faster will your garden wilt -
you’ll make me run a mile.

My gnome he goes to jungles lush
and warns the natives there.
He traipses into florists
and they stand wide-eyed and stare.
And when my gnome he visits you
to warn you in one breath,
I must admit, he’s right, I have
the herbivorous touch of death.

© Elise Batchelor  2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Welcome to the Shopping Trolley of Life!

Early on in my poetic radio ramblings, when I was writing for a 6.30am Saturday brekky audience (indeed!), I introduced an adventure with a shopping trolley to listeners. This was significant for a couple of key reasons: It glorified an object of daily life greatly taken for granted and it rejuvenated the spirit of creativity in gift giving. But most importantly, it documented, unequivocally, the fact that whilst a shopping trolley was indeed once stolen, it was also, most lovingly, returned to the supermarket from whence it came. And thus, we begin. Hop on board your shopping trolley and come for the ride!

True Love, Socks and Shopping Trolleys

‘Twas a dark and stinky night as hot as things can get in summer,
the Christmas tinsel glittering just making me feel glummer,
with PMT and sweaty thighs like you would not believe,
I dragged my sorry self out on that bloated Christmas Eve.

A camel primed for desert expedition, I arrived.
The party was a’swinging, but I could not have survived.
I thought I’d say my hellos and then nick off right back home,
my duty done, the tv on, the choccy icecream zone.

Across the crowded room I scanned for faces from afar,
but then I thought, Oh, bugger that! and headed for the bar.
One ‘G ‘n T’ for woe is me and suddenly I spied
the socks to launch a thousand hearts - I thought that I had died!

He stood, his back towards me, with a white t-shirt and vest,
a drink in hand and chatting to some mates, but I confess,
the thing which told me instantly that I had found The One
was that he was a god with purple socks with sandals on.

That night he took me rollerblading down along the beach
and when the Christmas morning sun came right within our reach
we parted, lovesick, heading home, our socks now really smelly
and as for little woe is me, well, I’d just turned to jelly.

I made a big announcement to my parents in a flurry,
‘Mum, Dad, I’ve met the man that one day I am going to marry.’
My mum she laughed (I saw it coming) like a mother hen.
My Dad he simply rolled his eyes and said one word, ‘Again?’

But this time it was different, I just knew it in my bones -
we both loved purple and we shared the same strong pheromones.
He’d bring me flowers from his neighbours’ yards, oh what romance,
and when we went to nightclubs in his purple socks he’d dance.

I had my wisdom teeth out and he stayed right by my bed
and when I woke the morning next he’d left a note which read,
‘Dear nurse I would like chops for breakfast’, isn’t that so sweet?
Despite the fact my face was blown up and I couldn’t eat.

Then came the day of Valentines, and love, I was in heaven.
He had something in store for me, he’d come by around seven.
I couldn’t eat my dinner and I bit my nails right down.
I dressed up with my strappy shoes and favourite purple gown.

Seven came and quickly went, then eight and nine passed by,
at ten I had the jitters and I soon began to cry.
How dare he say he’d come around then crush my heart like this!
I planned my ‘You’re sOOO dumped’ tirade and sealed it with a kiss.

The neighbourhood was dreaming when charging up the street
his rally car screeched to a stop and woke us all from sleep.
I dragged myself out to the car, my speech fired up to go
and he stood there, just beaming, like there’s something I should know.

From his Galant’s small boot a large, white sheet billowed up high.
It stuck out, hiding something jutting up towards the sky.
My heart just melted as he said, ‘I’ve got a present for you’
and ushered me towards it with the words, ‘I just adore you.’

What on earth it was I did not know and he just grinned.
‘I’m sorry I’m so late’ he said, ‘I’ve sort of, well, I’ve sinned.
‘I’ve brought you something that you’ve always wanted for you room
from which to hang your scarves and things,’ and I felt my heart swoon.

‘My goodness, oh you haven’t!’ I sang out and grabbed the sheet.
I pulled it off the car and shrieked aloud, ‘Oh holy BEEP!’
‘Yes, my love,’ he laughed, ‘Oh will you please excuse my folly
and accept, with all my love, your very own… shopping trolley.’

I gazed into his eyes lovesick and looked upon his smile
and knew that with this craziness we’d live our love in style
I peered down to his feet and thought, if our love hits the rocks,
I’ll just remind myself that he wears sandals with his socks.

…As the story goes I did not get to keep my present.
My Dad was horrified so back to Coles the trolley went.
But now when my dear husband makes me so mad that I’m hopping
he calms me down by taking me to the supermarket - shopping.

© Elise Batchelor 2010
Photo courtesy Jodi Elston