Friday 30 November 2007

Do you remember Geelong when…?

By Dennis Ogden

(This question was posed as a theme for the 2007 Geelong Seniors short story writing competition. My short story response was selected for publication, the second year in a row.)

Geelong? Yes of course I remember Geelong! When? What do you mean, when…all the time, well, I mean not every waking minute, I don’t go walking along the street with my head in the mystic clouds of Geelong data, why would I? Nor do I stroll along the beach ignoring the warmth of the sun, the gentle roll of the waves over the soft sand under feet to ponder all aspects of Victoria’s second largest city, though I must admit to the odd slumbering dream about Geelong. But, yeh, I remember it…I mean it’s not lost or anything, is it? No, I’m sure it’s not. I mean I’ve just read something recently about a big win…or maybe I’m wrong and it was really a dream. Then again, maybe it wasn’t Geelong at all but some other team called the Cats! No, only joking, I know they’re one and the same. But hang on, that happened after this question was raised, so I guess it doesn’t really count, right?

But maybe I’m taking this the wrong way? Maybe I’m reading too much into the question? Why not just take it as read “I remember Geelong when…” Yeh, okay, but when what? I’m sure there are more than one or two things that have happened to make Geelong memorable, I mean winning the Grand Final is worth remembering, right? But because it doesn’t count, when was the last time they won? Humm, was it…no, okay then was it…umm, no again. So it most be so far back it’s really testing my failing memory or there have been so many bad memories since the last big win there was nothing to remember. Oh well then, there most be something else. How about…ummm, no that’s something I want to forget too and not remember. Well then there’s the time when…no I want to forget that too. How come it’s easier to remember the things you want to forget, you know, like pain, losing your job, breaking a tooth, things like that, but when it come to remembering good things the mind goes into some sort of fuzzy clouded mush when seeing a clear picture of something you want to remember gets mixed up and you start having arguments about the timing, or whether it was raining or not, or what you were wearing, or did we meet here or there? So many arguments are started because this confused mess of things we want to remember befuddles the recollection process.

But, sitting here contemplating this tempting question under my nose, maybe it is lost! Nah, couldn’t be. I mean Geelong was a big place. Not something you’d lose overnight. Well, not without a natural disaster at least.

Then maybe it’s gone to live with its sister. You know, the one in Lianyungan, China or if not, the other sister in Izumiotsu, Japan, maybe that’s were it’s gone and why we must remember it, after all how many Australians have now chosen distant destinations to reside, plenty, so why not Geelong?

So were am I? The clearest memory I have of Geelong happened after the question was raised and doesn’t count. All other memories are either ones I want to forget, or if not, they are in the befuddled cloud of all memories I wish to keep.

I know, I’ll look through my photo albums, that usually helps to stir the memory bank. Won’t be a moment.


Sorry, that took a lot longer than I thought it would. It’s amazing how you get sidetracked going through photo albums. I found myself back in Bali way before Bali was Bali as we now know it. Then the time I camped with the cattlemen in the high country and just avoided being run over by a battered old ute chasing a doomed Dingo down a dirt track. Then I came across photos of my trip to New York and trying to avoid eye contact with everyone. But what really took me back to my long passed by youth and giving me heart palpitations, was coming across an old photo of a girl I had a crush on at school. That took a while to ponder over, first kiss and all. Yeh, photo albums certainly help the memory. Excuse me for a minute as I just want to have another quick glance at her photo again…I wonder what she’s doing now?

Sorry, I digress. What was the question again? Oh yeh, Geelong…wouldn’t it be funny if she now lives in Geelong…sorry, Geelong! Oh, yeh, no nothing in the albums helped there. Funny about that, not one photo of Geelong, though maybe I wouldn’t recognise it anyway if there were one! I mean I’m not denigrating Geelong, far from it. It’s just that I live on the peninsula. I mean how would I get here if I didn’t need to take that long, crossroad infested drive through Geelong on my regular trip to Melbourne and back. Whoops, sorry that was something I try to forget.

Hang on, hang on, that’s stirred something in my memory cloud. Yeh, something is coming through the mist. Is it? Yeh, I think so…a memory. Not sure what it is just yet, but it’s getting clearer. Yeh, I’m starting to see some detail now, it’s big, a big red brick building and it’s got a large sign out the front, hang on it’s nearly clear. Yeh, large blue and white sign, of course, there it is, I’ve got it, I’ve finally managed a memory of Geelong…it’s the Ford factory, there finally!

Whoops, hang, hang on it seems to be fading. No, wait, don’t go, don’t go! Damn it! Looks like it’s just become another fading memory of Geelong!

© Dennis Ogden 2007

Saturday 28 July 2007


No matter what spin you put on it, intentions are just that, intentions, until the intention is realised, done, completed, accomplished, you can talk about intentions all you like. It's just like a sign I spied in a bar in Durban, South Africa some years ago advertising "FREE BEER TOMORROW". Well of course tomorrow never comes, nor do the free beers and getting back to the topic, quite often, nor do intentions.

So my 2007 resolution (or should that read intention) to add a blog every month came to a shuddering halt after just two attempts. So, I thought I'd do something on a day that I'm looking for something to do out of the ordinary – post a blog!

So there you have it!

Monday 5 February 2007

The birds and the bees

Down in my neck of the woods, broadly speaking that is, I mean, I live on the coast and not in the woods. Anyway, as a result of the severe drought in Southern Australia all the flora and fauna are going through a readjustment of their seasonal clock. Some of the foreign species of trees are struggling to survive while the native plants have gone into overdrive and flowering early to get their species-spreading pollen out there before they shut down to reserve what fading energy they have.

Now I’m not being racial here, it’s just that the home-grown variety has experienced all this for thousands of year and knows what to do and what not to do and that’s how they’ve survived. So, maybe in a thousand or so years some of the introduced species will also survive and attain the status of ‘natives’…who knows?

But this forced change in the cycle of things survival for the flora has a flow-on effect to the fauna, right? Now, when I say fauna I include birds and insects, okay? So seeing that one relies on the other, when one changes its timetable, the rest must follow or they then are in danger of extinction, right?

Stay with me on this cuz I’m getting to the point.

So, when this gumnut tree living on my little patch decides to bloom early, I had the opportunity to sit and watch what in human terms would be classed as a loud, crass, disrespectful drunken orgy.

Birds, who may visit for a very brief moment later in the year, had lost their migratory way due to the weird weather pattern and clamped eyes on the sweet, inebriating nectar-laden, bright, fire engine red of the flowering nuts.

Local birds became jealous of this invasion into their favoured, local drinking hole and their still young infants, not fully educated in the ways of social behaviour, also made a bee-line to the tree to get what they can before the invaders.

And talking about bees, they too are part of the equation. They too are forced to bring forward their natural expertise of gathering the sweet ingredient for honey making.

So, here you have this one tree, isolated far from another of its kind, in early full bloom, a happy-hour crowd fluttering and tramping through its laden limbs, and in all its bright brilliance is a sign. A sign as bright and as welcoming as a neon light to a moth and in one swift flick of the switch the sign flashes BAR OPEN!

I’ve been in many bars in my life and I’ve seen the worst behaviour brought on by over-indulgence, but nothing, I repeat, nothing could match such free-wheeling, squeaking, squawking, screeching, flapping, buzzing, bustling behaviour I witnessed in my backyard tree.

I had invading parrots singing at the top of their voices making it impossible to hear anything coming out of the radio. The local honey-eaters, who so deftly and speedily fly with astonishing skill through dense trees, where crashing into branches and only just managing to hang on while swinging hopelessly upside-down. Their young adolescents trying comically to match the high pitched squawking of their parents while staggering up and down the fence-line running beside the tree. Then there’s the bees, looking for all the world like the Hulk as pollen continues to build on their legs making it hard for them to fly, but fly they persist until falling to the ground, dead drunk! And I do mean dead!

My belief that the only god is nature itself was in question. Such sensible creatures have survived a thousand times longer than us humans but if the drought continues, climate change interferes with natural weather patterns and they carry on with such human-like behaviour, then maybe, and I never thought I’d ever say this, but just maybe humans will outlive them!

This was too much to bear. I took one last look at the vibrant activity shaking the life out of my gumnut tree, turned my back on the debauched behaviour and walked away, into the house, into the kitchen, opened the fridge and with a cold beer in hand went out to join the party!

The (hic) end

Wednesday 10 January 2007

House on a Hill

By Dennis Ogden

(This short story was a chosen to be published in "Streets of me Childhood" as part of the Victorian Seniors Festival Short Story Competition 2006)

Isn’t it strange that with age, except for the inappropriate and disrespectful effect of gravity on flesh and body parts, everything seems to go up – the cost of living, petrol, newspapers, bread and milk, blood pressure and cholesterol! Not only that, but the older you get, the steeper seems the rise. We can do naught but pay, pare back or put up with it. But, when up is really up, I mean as in height, elevation, nose-bleed stuff, then age reveals just how ill-prepared one is to strive to these greater heights. I’m not talking about ‘heaven’ just yet, but if you live on a hill like I do, some days the ascent takes on a similar outer earth experience.

About a year ago I, in my na├»ve wisdom, decided to follow the sea-change trend and move permanently into my coastal holiday house on the Bellarine Peninsula. But, oh no, not a beachfront, step-directly-onto-the-sand (hope there’s no Tsunami tomorrow) type of beach house, but one cut into the side of a hill!

Nice view, I thought. A short stroll to the beach, I thought. Private, I thought. The irony of thirty-nine steps, reminding me of the iconic 1935 Hitchcock film of John Buchan’s novel, not a problem, I thought. The car living at ground level, not a problem, I thought. But that was twenty years ago.

Now, I’m not an ancient ‘senior’ but a relatively recent recipient of my ‘senior’s card’, so when the removalist van arrived with my city furniture and the tonnage of books, I thought I’d cut down the cost by assisting – after all, the heavy stuff can be carried up the stairway to my ‘heaven’ by the two sumo wrestler guys in the truck. Well only one sumo type actually, as the other guy was rather wiry but obviously strong, apart from the fact that a calf muscle had been removed from one leg in an industrial accident. Unable to work any more in that industry, all he can do now is tote heavy furniture around – strange, I thought.

Well, if I ever had a head for numbers like add, subtract and multiply, I would not have tendered my help, but since trading in my mental arithmetic for a calculator many generations ago, I’m still trying to figure out how many steps I went up and down that day. I can but brag that I did about the same number of trips as did the two professionals, but I must confess they were carrying sofas, a fridge, washing machine, mattress, etc. But hey, there has to be some sort of handicap in this calculation!

Anyway the outcome was that I had settled in to my coastal address on the hill. The recently extended decking offered a sweeping view all the way to Queenscliff and the distant mountains of the Mornington Peninsula. A great vista over a local mellow vino.

But one has to eat, shop, visit and do the odd bit of external work and I still had thirty-nine steps to put up (and down) with. This is how I found the true value of my move – I became fitter. Together with the ocean-fresh air cleansing the big city grime from my lungs, I was forced to exercise simply to survive. Not that I actually noticed it initially, mind you. Fitness seems to creep up on you if you do exercise regularly and the only thing you notice is that, on reflection of the day’s activities, you realise you’ve done much more than you thought. But the true realisation of my growing fitness was in its comparison. Friends who visited, salespeople, religious spruikers, tradesmen and the postman who needed a signature on a piece of registered mail, all gasped for breath after just one climb up my thirty-nine steps.

Now, as the evening sun sets and I sit on my decking, vino in hand, listening to the surf crashing onto nearby sand and the home-coming gossip of the multitude of birds who share this elevation, I think to myself, nice view, only a short stroll to the beach, the car comfortable at ground level, but best of all, my thirty-nine steps have deterred any unwelcome callers and ensured my treasured privacy.

Now all I need to do is to find out how to stop the ever-increasing number of unwelcome marketing phone calls!

© Dennis Ogden 2006