Interlude

Paul entered the living room. He was angry and embarrassed. There was this woman in the other room who seemed obsessed with him. He had to escape from her. He liked her, there was no doubt about it. But he did not expect a friendly interlude to blossom into something more permanent.

She probably did not understand his strange behaviour. They had a good time together in this strange, the twentieth century dominating city. They were two people thrown by fate into a new environment and they explored the city together after a chance encounter on the Underground. Now that he had stormed out of the room she considered her options.

She decided – and followed him.

Paul had no time to think. When the woman, he could not  remember having ever  even heard her name reached him he said to her on impulse,

“I can’t stay in this city and have to return home. I live in a far away country.” He knew it must have sounded silly.

“Let me guess, you are from Vietnam?”, the woman asked – smiling. Her head, framed by a mass of blond curls, was slightly shaking. She was unsure why he would try to make excuses. Her sparkling blues eyes were fixed on him and she smiled, expecting something. Paul was afraid he could not deny this woman anything. He raked his brain for a way to escape.

There was a way. Paul woke up! The dream, forgotten in a flash, went back into the ocean of subconsciousness, where it had come from.

The sun was up already throwing a pattern, through a gap in the curtain, on the wall. He looked at the alarm clock and decided that it was time to get up too. He got ready quickly and went for breakfast. The reason for him being in Melbourne was an appointment with his solicitor to finalise his divorce. The appointment was early so he could get back to Sydney in the early evening. No use staying in the city that brought him so much unhappiness. He actually liked Melbourne more than Sydney but felt spurned by the Victorian city.

His appointment went smoothly and he was soon on the street again.

As he had some time to kill, before he would take the shuttle bus to the airport, he decided to go to Young & Jackson to say ‘Hello” to Chloe and to have a cool beer. He liked the traditional pub in the heart of the city. He took a seat beside a window to observe the activities on the steps to Flinders Street Station.

Chloe, as usual, in her naked and graceful pose looked out onto an Arcadian landscape probably wondering what life had in store for her. Not much, as it turned out for the model who posed for the painting.

An ambulance had arrived in front of the famous steps to the station and the medics were attending to a homeless person who had collapsed. Some people had gathered observing of what was being done to the luckless man. Others hurried on. They had seen it all before.

By the time Paul had finished his beer and walked across the road past the steps of the station all had taken on an air of normality. People who were there now were unaware of the human drama that went on only minutes before. Police officers were checking the identities of some young men. A new scene in the never ending kaleidoscope of the city.

Paul kept walking over the bridge across the Yarra where he saw the MCG to his left, another Melbourne landmark. He soon reached the steps down to the South Gate precinct. Paul liked it here as he could observe the hype the people created by just being themselves. River cruise boats were plying the river. The cityscape on the other side just looked spectacular.

At a Swiss café he ordered an espresso and sat down. Besides the café an escalator took people to the next level. Before his coffee had arrived he saw a woman getting on the escalator. Somehow she looked familiar and then he was struck by her likeness to the woman in his dream of last night, which he now remembered.. Not only that, he thought it was this woman!

He jumped up. His espresso was forgotten instantly. He rushed onto the escalator and with a few steps he reached the top. The women turned a corner into one of the side corridors purposeful striding to her destination.

For a moment Paul was wondering about what he was doing. A middle aged man, probably going through a mid-life crisis, was chasing after a strange, mysterious woman like a teenager on the prowl. Hasn’t he enough women trouble already?

When he reached the corridor she had disappeared behind one of the many doors. It seemed to him he was having another bad dream. He lifted his arms and slapped his sides in resignation. Slowly he returned to the café and found his espresso waiting for him on the table.

Later, on the plane, he was still thinking of this strange incidents. Wasn’t life a series of unlikely incidents that often made no sense at all. Very much like a dream.

The Race to the Bottom of the Pit

There are two problems on my mind which bother me very much. Their outcomes  are not clear.

Firstly, Egypt.

The situation there is out of control. People die by the hundreds in clashes between the Muslim Brothers and the military. As Egypt sinks deeper into chaos we, here in Australia, can expect  more asylum seekers arriving at our shores, even from that unfortunate country.

And here I’m at the other problem that bothers me a lot.

Our two major parties, in Australia, are racing to the bottom of a pit where a “final solution” is waiting.  It was absolutely disgusting seeing the “defender of our shores”, Tony Abbott, leaning, like the great Führer of the past, together with Campbell Newman, and pouring  over the map of Queensland in search for the “second front” (Abbott’s words).

Two “Black Fellas” from Somalia had entered our fine country “illegally” coming via Papua-New-Guinea. You could see on their faces how serious and dangerous the situation has become under the Rudd Government who, they say, has lost control of our borders.

What we have lost is our senses and our humanity. People flee their home countries because life there had become intolerable. They all have heard of the so called “best country” of the world where people sing that they want to share the bounty of their land with all comers. What they haven’t heard is, that this country is run by heartless people.

But, they are seemingly not cruel enough for the people and  so this government of heartless people will be replaced soon by a group of people who are even crueller than the present lot.

Australia will become the only country in the world  which does not want to accept any asylum seekers. Any person who arrives on our border and asks for asylum will be sent to  Manus Island or to the “quite pleasant” island of Nauru. Nauru only exists, because some sea birds decided to “shit” ( sorry the language, but I’m angry) on a rock in the ocean. It is that pleasant!  Perhaps we should send our retired politicians there.

We actually need people here in Australia and we have an active immigration program. It can’t be the extra people that come this way  from over the water. It must be something else?  Why we make such a fuss? The asylum seekers are made into a political foot ball to win seats in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. That is where the xenophobic people live and where the swinging seats are.

Has anybody noticed that refugees are mainly from countries where the Western nations have interfered? In the past when people tried to flee from Communist countries we were willing to help and take the refugees. Not any more. At one stage, when the demand to “let the people go” became too much for the Chinese they said, they would allow 25 million people to leave the country. That shut the West up for good.

In three weeks time I have to go to my local polling booth to vote.  I was always sure whom to vote for – not any more. The Labor Party (socialist, my foot) has gone so far to the Right that the Liberals (liberal, my foot) are really hitting the wall behind which there is only fascist territory. There will be forty parties vying for my vote, mostly are crack pot parties and I now think the two main parties are crackers too.

Chance Meeting across Time and History

The 9:27am Intercity Express from Central to Kiama was due to depart.

 

At the last moment a young Corporal from the Australian Army jumped on the train. The carriage door closed shut behind him, almost catching his gear.

 

Saved again,” he thought. He walked up a couple of steps to the upper level of the double decker carriage, threw his pack on a single seat and slumped down with a sigh on the other single seat in front of it. The “Oscar” train slowly moved out of the platform.

 

At first he sat with the back to the front of the train but after a moment of deliberation, he got up, turned the back of the seat around and and sat down, facing the front of the carriage.

 

Across the aisle was an old couple sitting on a three seater bench and as the old man looked up to him the soldier said with a smile, “Force of habit. One can’t be too careful.”

 

You think you are in a war zone?” the old man asked.

 

Can’t shake the habit – must look where I’m going. Hyper alertness we call it,” the soldier answered.

 

Good habit to have as a soldier,” the old man said and went back to the book he was reading. The train was picking up speed as it was heading through the southern suburbs of Sydney to Hurstville.

 

A hot day was forecast and the morning heat made the soldier sweat from the combined effect of the heat and carrying his heavy pack. He hoped the air-conditioned train would cool him down soon. But the old women didn’t like the air-conditioning and cuddled up to her husband searching for warmth. She had put on an extra jumper. She shut her eyes and was soon asleep. Her husband kept reading his book.

 

Soon after Sutherland the train travelled through open, bush like country. The soil was poor and only small shrubs could be seen.

 

Good place for the Taliban to hide,” the soldier was thinking. But he dismissed the thought and was thinking of his parents’ place down at Bombo where he had grown up. Bombo has a beautiful beach at a bay opposite the town of Kiama. The beach was often visited by dolphins. He fondly remembered how he had been surfing with the dolphins side by side. That seemed to have been in another life time: Those were the days.

 

After Waterfall the train line was snaking through the more forest like bush, part of the National Park, with tall trees and other thick vegetation. Sometimes, and when one looked hard enough, one could see Rock Wallabies. But today was not the day.

 

As the soldier looked across through the opposite window he noticed the old man seemed to be somehow distressed., grabbing his forehead and then getting a handkerchief out of his pocket with which he wiped his nose and eyes.

 

Are you okay, Old-timer?” he asked the old man.

 

I’m getting a bit emotional reading this book,” he said and turned the cover of the book to the soldier forgetting it was printed in German. The soldier looked and squinted a bit as he was not able to read what he saw. But he could make out an aero plane and bombs falling on a city.

 

It must be a good read if it grabs you that much.”

 

No. no,” The old man said, “it is a collection of stories by eyewitnesses and reminds me of a time, nearly seventy years ago, when I was a child in Berlin during the war and had similar experiences.”

 

What, World War II?”

 

Yes, it was a bad time for us civilians too. But, I was not afraid then, even so it was sometimes horrific with the building shaking from the explosions nearby. But reading the accounts in this book brings it all back with a whammy. I’m more afraid now realising what happened to us then.”

 

It is like flash backs, isn’t it? Some of my mates get that after some action.”

 

You have been to Afghanistan?” the old man asked.

 

Yes, I’m just back from Uruzgan Province. It is bitter cold up there now. But during the heat of summer the bloody Taliban add to our discomfort.” After a moments thought he added, “ Sorry, the Poms gave you a hard time during the war.”

 

Not only the Poms, Australians were manning those Lancasters for Bomber Command too. During the night the RAF came and during the day the Americans bombed the hell out of us. I can still hear the drone of the bombers, B 17, high up in the sky.”

 

The train was approaching Otford now, a settlement in a beautiful valley. On one side horses were grazing peacefully. The slopes of the valley were covered with tall Eucalyptus trees.

 

Its good to come home to such a green environment after the dry desert of Afghanistan.,” said the soldier and waved his hand towards the green scenery that passed by the train window. After a couple of tunnels the vista opened towards the sea and a waterfall tumbled, after a recent rain, under them from the escarpment to their right. After another bend they could see the small beach at Stanwell Park.

 

Look, Soldier.” the old German said and his wife woke up to have a look too.

This is absolutely beautiful and we both enjoyed this view every time we passed here during the last sixty years or so.”

 

Sixty years? You are a fair dinkum Aussies then! I’m only twenty eight and not much happened to me yet. Except that the Taliban have taken some pot shots at me.”

 

I’m happy you survived, and Germans are not shooting at Australians any more. In fact they are in Afghanistan too.”

 

My Granddad was on Crete during the war, fighting the Germans.”

 

And my Dad was there too, probably fighting your Pop.”

 

There you are,” the soldier said and they were both laughing.

 

After Thirroul the train picked up speed and was fast approaching Wollongong.

 

The old couple prepared to get off there. When the train stopped the soldier jumped up and gave the old man his hand.

 

It was nice to have met you, Mate,” he said

 

Thanks soldier, look after yourself.”

 

When he and his wife were on the platform he said to her: “A nice young man and a good soldier. Australia can be proud to have people like him.”