Monthly Archives: December 2013

Excerpt from “Destined Meeting” by Leslie Bell ~~Reunion~~

picture-DestinedMeeting-BellAs the spate of rumours increased, so did the piggishness of their captors. Then, in mid-August, came the most fantastic rumour of all – the atom bomb! Freddy got it first from the men working on the trenches beyond the wire. This was too big, too fantastic a rumour to accept! Yet, within a few days, the biggest rumour of all was confirmed by fact. For a while it was quite stunning – the realisation that it was all over, although anticipated for so long now, completely bowled people over.
It was true enough, and had to be accepted, even by the Japanese guards. How they accepted it was by an attitude that Freddy found particularly nauseating. The bullying and brutishness rapidly gave way to a slightly ingratiating manner, yet, oddly, they were not apologetic but seemed to have already convinced themselves when they suggested, individually at various times: “We always treated you well, didn’t we? At least, I did.”
The days of waiting after that were unbearable. There had been no order for general release, but this was due not so much to red tape but to the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers on the island, and as yet only a handful of Mountbatten’s men. It was necessary to keep to a minimum the risk of incidents that could flare into something really frightful.
That was the state of affairs when Freddy and Katherine decided that to wait any longer before being allowed to see their husbands would be quite intolerable. They at once acted on their decision. Together with Katherine’s nephew, John Dobie, they slipped under the wire fence and got on to the road. Here they soon saw a taxi driven by a Chinese and, jumping in, they excitedly ordered him to drive to Changi Gaol.
It was very strange, that walking in past the startled guard, and seeing the men in their G strings staring at them as if they just could not believe what they saw. It was stranger still, receiving directions as to where their husbands were, and splitting up.
Freddy, going on alone, was filled with a lilting excitement and yet now, also, a sudden shyness . . .
Philip never could afterwards remember who it was that ran to him, saying: “Your wife’s here!” In that staggering moment of communication he was aware of one thing only – the stupendous fact that Freddy herself was in the camp. Everything else was vague and confused – unreal.
“Freddy!”
“Philip!”
This was reality! . . . in the holding and in the kissing; in the tremored joy of brown eyes looking into grey and the years of separation falling away as though they had never been. This was the end of waiting, and the fruits of that waiting . . . their destined meeting.
Freddy had not meant to cry. They talked and, like the talk of their long-ago parting, it was of the heart and for the heart, and not the printed page.

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“Tar and Cement” released by Verdelle Smith

The town I came from was quiet and small
We played in the meadows where the grass grew so tall
In summer the lilacs would grow everywhere
The laughter of children would float in the air

As I grew older I had to roam
Far from my family, far from my home
Into the city, where lives can be spent
Lost in the shadows of tar and cement.

And every night I’d sit alone and learn
What loneliness meant
Up in my rented room above the world
Of tar and cement.

Each day I’d wake up and look at the sky
Think of the meadows where I used to lie
Then I’d remember all of that’s gone
You’re in the city, you better push on
Get what you came for, before it’s too late
Get what you came for, the meadows can wait.

And every night I’d sit alone and learn
What loneliness meant
Up in my rented room above the world
Of tar and cement.

Many years later, tired at last
I headed for home to look for my past
I looked for the meadows, there wasn’t a trace
Six lanes of highway had taken their place
Where were the lilacs and all that they meant
Nothing but acres of tar and cement.
Yet I can see it there so clearly now
Where has it gone?
Yes I can see it there so clearly now
Where has it gone?

Where are the meadows? (tar and cement)
Where are the lilacs? (tar and cement)
And where is the tall grass? (tar and cement)
The laughter of children? (tar and cement)
Nothing but acres (tar and cement)
Acres and acres

 

picture-TarAndCement-Smith

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Excerpt from “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë ~~Window~~

picture-WutheringHeights-Bronte_WindowThis time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. ‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand!
The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!’ ‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. ‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton); ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’
As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear. ‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’
The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on!
‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’ ‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’
Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could not stir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright. To my confusion, I discovered the yell was not ideal: hasty footsteps approached my chamber door; somebody pushed it open, with a vigorous hand, and a light glimmered through the squares at the top of the bed. I sat shuddering yet, and wiping the perspiration from my forehead: the intruder appeared to hesitate, and muttered to himself.
At last, he said, in a half-whisper, plainly not expecting an answer, ‘Is any one here?’ I considered it best to confess my presence; for I knew Heathcliff’s accents, and feared he might search further, if I kept quiet. With this intention, I turned and opened the panels. I shall not soon forget the effect my action produced.
Heathcliff stood near the entrance, in his shirt and trousers; with a candle dripping over his fingers, and his face as white as the wall behind him. The first creak of the oak startled him like an electric shock: the light leaped from his hold to a distance of some feet, and his agitation was so extreme, that he could hardly pick it up.
‘It is only your guest, sir,’ I called out, desirous to spare him the humiliation of exposing his cowardice further. ‘I had the misfortune to scream in my sleep, owing to a frightful nightmare. I’m sorry I disturbed you.’
‘Oh, God confound you, Mr. Lockwood! I wish you were at the—’ commenced my host, setting the candle on a chair, because he found it impossible to hold it steady. ‘And who showed you up to this room?’ he continued, crushing his nails into his palms, and grinding his teeth to subdue the maxillary convulsions. ‘Who was it? I’ve a good mind to turn them out of the house this moment?’
‘It was your servant Zillah,’ I replied, flinging myself on to the floor, and rapidly resuming my garments. ‘I should not care if you did, Mr. Heathcliff; she richly deserves it. I suppose that she wanted to get another proof that the place was haunted, at my expense. Well, it is—swarming with ghosts and goblins! You have reason in shutting it up, I assure you. No one will thank you for a doze in such a den!’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Heathcliff, ‘and what are you doing? Lie down and finish out the night, since you are here; but, for Heaven’s sake! don’t repeat that horrid noise: nothing could excuse it, unless you were having your throat cut!

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Excerpt from “They Have Their Exits” by Airey Neave ~~Escape~~

picture-TheyHaveTheirExits-NeaveOn the morning of 5th January 1942, Luteyn and I were ready to escape. We held a conference with Pat Reid and Hank Wardle and decided to try immediately after the nine o’clock Appell that evening. Our compasses, maps, and a small bundle of notes were ready for hiding inside our bodies. The uniforms were now intact beneath the stage and our civilian clothes had so far escaped detection in their ‘hide’. In a moment of supreme confidence I collected the addresses of relatives of my companions. Then, flushed and excited, I lay down to sleep throughout the afternoon and early evening.
A few minutes before nine I went down to the courtyard, when the snow was falling lightly. The turrets cast long shadows in the light of the moon and the steep walls enfolded me for what I believed to be the last time. There was once more the eternal sound of hundreds of men taking their meagre exercise in their clogs. I stood waiting for the Appell, eyeing the Dutch contingent where Luteyn was waiting ready to join me. We wore cardboard leggings painted with black polish. I wore my usual combination of battle-dress and sweater, and my Army boots, being brown, were also darkened with black polish. Underneath I had my civilian clothes with a pair of R.A.F. trousers. I had an overpowering sense that this was my last evening in the castle. The certainty grew with every minute, making me composed and determined.
There was a sharp order of dismissal, and mingling with the dispersing prisoners Pat Reid, Hank Wardle, Luteyn, and I hurried quickly into the senior officers’ quarters. In the darkness of the theatre, we felt our way beneath the stage, then carefully prised up the loose floorboards. Pat Reid lifted the trap called ‘Shovewood’, which, on its under-side, was whitewashed, disguising the hole in the ceiling of the passage below. I could see the strong, determined lines on his face as he worked in the glow of a cigarette-lighter. The trap removed, the mattress-cover rope was let down through the hole in the ceiling. Cautiously we climbed down, holding the boxes of uniforms, and landed with soft bumps on the floor of the passage.
The bright lights from the courtyard shone through the cobwebbed windows in the outer wall of the passage. Treading softly in our socks, we reached the door of the gate-bridge. Pat Reid, shining his lighter on the lock, swiftly picked it. It opened without a sound, for he had oiled the hinges earlier in the week. We were in the half-light of a narrow corridor. We walked quietly across it and stopped at the door that led to the guard-house.
The German uniform overcoats were unpacked in silence and we put them over our workmen’s clothes, leaving our battle-dress in the boxes. As we pulled on our boots there was no sound except the grating of Pat Reid’s wire searching in the lock. A minute passed, and suddenly came fear and exasperation. The door would not open. Beneath our feet we could hear the creaking of the gates and the voices of sentries changing guard. We stood motionless, fully dressed as German officers, and waited with pounding hearts.
Pat Reid spoke in a hoarse whisper: “I’m afraid I can’t get it open!”
He continued turning the wire in the lock. I could hear the wire rasping against the rusty metal as he tried again and again to open it. Ten minutes passed in terrible suspense. Through the cobwebbed window I could see the snow falling. I folded my arms and waited. Suddenly there was the noise of old hinges creaking. A quick snap and the door swung open, showing us the dim interior of the attic.
“Good luck,” said Pat Reid, and shook hands.
We waited till the door was locked behind us and we could no longer hear his muffled steps. Then we crept carefully to the top of stone spiral stairs at an open door on the other side of the attic. A wireless in the guard-room on the ground floor was playing organ music. It was the moment to go down the first flight of stairs, past the door of the officers’ mess on the first floor, where a light showed beneath. We waited, then stepped confidently down through darkness into the passage beside the guard-room. The guard-room door was half-open, and I caught a glimpse of German uniforms inside, as we marched smartly into the blinding whiteness of the snow under the arc lights.
The testing time had come. I strode through the snow trying to look like a Prussian. There stood the sentry, the fallen snow covering his cap and shoulders, stamping his feet, just as I had pictured him. He saluted promptly, but he stared at us, and as our backs were turned I felt him watching. We walked on beneath the first archway and passed the second sentry without incident. Then, between the first and second archways, two under-officers talking loudly came from the Kommandantur. They began to march behind us. I felt Luteyn grow tense beside me. I clasped my hands behind my back with an air of unconcern. I might have been casually pacing an English parade-ground. In a moment of excitement I had forgotten my part. “March with your hands at your sides, you bloody fool,” came a fierce, sharp whisper from my companion.
Again I saw the bicycles near the clock-tower. Could they be ridden fast in this thick snow? We passed beneath the tower, saluted by the sentry, and came to the fateful wicket-gate. As Luteyn opened it I watched the under-officers, their heads bowed to the driving snow, march on across the moat-bridge. Down we went into the moat, stumbling and slipping, until we reached its bed. A soldier came towards us from the married quarters. He reached us, stopped and stared deliberately. I hesitated for a moment, ready to run, but Luteyn turned on him quickly and in faultless German said crossly, “Why do you not salute?”
The soldier gaped. He saluted, still looking doubtful, and began to walk up the side of the moat towards the wicket-gate. We did not look back but hastened up to the path on the far side, and, passing the married quarters, came to the high oak paling which bordered the pathway above the Park. We were still within the faint glare of searchlights. Every moment that we stayed on the pathway was dangerous. Lifting ourselves quickly over the paling, we landed in thick snow among the tangle of trees. My cardboard belt was torn and broken and with it into the darkness vanished the holster.
Groping among the trees, we struggled through frozen leaves down the steep bank and made for the outer stone wall. It was five minutes before we were at the bottom of the slope. Helped by Luteyn, I found a foothold in the stones of the wall and sat astride the coping. The wall, descending steeply with the tree-covered slope, was shrouded in snow and ice. Each time that I tried to pull Luteyn on top, I lost my foothold and slid backwards through the steep angle of the wall. Then with numbed hands I caught him beneath the armpits and, after great efforts, hoisted him up beside me. For a minute we sat breathless in the cold air clinging to the coping, and then jumped a distance of twelve feet. We fell heavily on the hard ground in the woods outside the castle grounds. I was bruised and shaken and frightened. I stood leaning against a tree looking at Luteyn. Another minute passed in the falling snow.
“Let’s go,” I said, and we began to climb towards the east, seeking the direction of Leisnig, a small town six miles away.

“They have their exits” is a phrase from a scene in “As You Like It” by Shakespeare, which begins with the line “All the world’s a stage.”

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Excerpt from “A Soldier of the Great War” by Mark Helprin ~~Beauty~~

picture-SoldieroftheGreatWar-HelprinThe train passed great and small cities and pushed on toward the mountains. The harvest, the sun, and the October light had made Italy a chain mail of fields, their richness, and tranquillity shattered only by the railway, and even then, after the trains had passed through, contentment would close-in the way cold blue water fills the trough made by an oar.
The Italian conductor would be replaced in Bolzano by an Austrian Schlafwagenmeister. He therefore felt keenly his vanishing prestige, and he eyed Alessandro and Janet with eyes that could not have been shiftier or more wary had they been given to a weasel. His peaked hat and waxed mustache exaggerated the effect. Here were a man and woman of sexual age, together in connubial quarters, unmarried, and perhaps even unacquainted.
“Does anyone wish to exercise the right of complaint?” he asked.
They stared at him blankly.
“It is within my competence to adjust malfeasance and to see to the comfort and dignity of the passengers, for example, while the train is in the field of maneuver at Bolzano.”
When they made no requests, he punched their tickets, made a nervous bow, and backed out the door, knocking a fat Austrian woman against the windows.
“What do you do when you’re not selling toothbrushes or making geography mistakes?” Janet asked as they knifed through a village where bells were ringing and the birds flying around the steeples to wait them out.
“I will have been delayed by military service, but I was about to take a position at the university in Bologna. I’m supposed to explain to undergraduates, while in the process of discovery myself, what is beautiful and why. Of course, neither I nor anyone else can do it, but I can try, and to do so I have to know the theories of beauty from Aristotle’s forward, and before I die I’m supposed to come up with one of my own.”
“Well,” she said, “It’s a nice toothbrush.”
“Thank you. I could cite one of the many laws of contexts and contrasts. For example, associated with a cavalryman’s saddle, rifle, bayonet, and curry combs, let us say, pictured in brown and golden tones hanging haphazardly on a worn stable door, with the smooth lines of the horse itself vanishing off the canvas, and the cavalryman, in his bright colors, standing to the center, it might in fact be beautiful, but if in association with, for example, your masses of red hair, your white teeth, your extraordinarily beautiful mouth, and your bare shoulders, it would, of course, be ugly.”
“That’s all in reference to me or to you. It might have a better chance if seen in another eye. An octopus is a hideous, baggy, slimy, thoroughly disgusting creature. Which is worse, its sharp beak hidden within folds of soft flesh, its pod-like eyes, its flaccid sack, or its bumpy tentacles? Some have cited it as proof that God did not create the universe, but, at a distance, swimming smoothly through the water, it’s as graceful as a prima ballerina. Sectioned under a microscope, it presents patterns of inexhaustible brilliance. And to an octopus of the opposite sex, or even to an adolescent squid who needs someone after whom to model himself, it can be handsome or beautiful, as the case may be.
“Throw in some Latin and Greek; magnify, enlarge, draw back now and then to get your bearings; and show that, despite context, position, and point of apprehension, nothing, in fact, is relative, and all beauty is absolute; and you have the basis for a lecture.
“That’s what I do.”
“It’s totally unnecessary,” she said.
“No one knows better than I that it’s all here, and need not be explained or interpreted – just seized. What we see from the window of the train as it slowly alters our perspective and speeds across different registers of color and form; the light in this bottle of water; the rhythm of the engines; the way the clouds are pushed on waves of wind; you yourself, Nurse Janet, your entire body, apprehended in toto, part by part, in the light, in the dark; your smile, the way you move your eyes and lean upon your arm; the coincidence of colors in your dress and in your hair; the very angles of your teeth; that they glisten with moisture; your long fingers as they rest in your palms; like the radians of a nautilus; the pace of your breathing; the sweetness, I presume, of your breath, and the taste of your mouth. Such things, and I have only brushed the surface, render my profession totally unnecessary, and I know it.”
“Lock the door,” she said.
He leaned over and flipped the lock.

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Dialogue from Film – “Jack and the Beanstalk” ~~Magic Beans~~

Jack Strong: Lou Costello
Mr Dinkelpuss: Bud Abbott

Jack emerges from the cottage in the morning walking across the yard to grab a bucket. He walks past a giant beanstalk without noticing, but on the return he glances to his left and looks briefly with his eyes climbing skyward. He turns continuing to the cottage, but halts mid-step, wheels about and this time, stares in awe.
Jack begins to hoarsely, barely audibly, call, “Mother! Mother!” Gaining his voice and loudly calling, his mother comes running.

Mother:
Jack, what do you want?

Jack:
Will you please get my mother?

Mother:
I am your mother.

Jack:
Mother! Look, look the beanstalk!

The villagers hear the commotion and seeing the giant beanstalk, all come running over.

Jack:
It goes straight up to the sky!
I grew this beanstalk last night with five beans I planted. Five magic beans!

Mother:
Jack, dear, please stop repeating that nonsense.

Jack:
Mother, this isn’t nonsense, this is the truth.

Mr Dinkelpuss:
Hey, are those the beans that I gave you for the cow that disappeared?

Jack:
You mean Henry ran away?

Mr Dinkelpuss:
Yes, and I want my beans back.

Jack:
Don’t you dare disturb that beanstalk. It might lead up to the giant’s castle.

Mr Dinkelpuss:
So what?

Jack:
‘So what’ – maybe a brave boy will climb that beanstalk and kill the giant and save the princess and live happily ever after.

Mother:
Oh no, Jack. The giant will kill you, like he did your poor father.

Jack:
Have no fear, mother. I’m going to climb that beanstalk and I’m gonna kill the giant and avenge my father, and then I’m gonna save the princess, and when I’m up there I’ll look for our little Nelly.

Mr Dinkelpuss:
You mean this boy had a sister? You poor unfortunate woman.

Mother:
Oh no, Nelly was our hen who laid the golden egg.

Mr Dinkelpuss:
A hen that lays the golden egg!

Jack:
Fourteen carat.

Mr Dinkelpuss:
Up there?

Jack:
Oh, sure.

Mr Dinkelpuss:
Well, let me help you my boy!

Jack:
Goodbye, mother!

Jack begins to climb the beanstalk, accompanied by Mr Dinkelpuss.

Village woman:
Don’t worry, Mrs Strong, he won’t be back.

Mother:
You don’t understand; He wasn’t much, but he was all I had.

 

picture-JackBeanstalk-Beans

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“A Pub With No Beer” released by Slim Dusty

Oh it’s-a lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night we’ll hear the wild dingoes call
But there’s-a nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear
Than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer

Now the publican’s anxious for the quota to come
And there’s a far away look on the face of the bum
The maid’s gone all cranky and the cook’s acting queer
Oh what a terrible place is a pub with no beer

Then the stockman rides up with his dry dusty throat
He breasts up to the bar and pulls a wad from his coat
But the smile on his face quickly turns to a sneer
As the barman says sadly the pub’s got no beer

Then the swaggie comes in smothered in dust and flies
He throws down his roll and rubs the sweat from his eyes
But when he is told, he says what’s this I hear
I’ve trudged fifty flamin’ miles to a pub with no beer

Now there’s a dog on the v’randa, for his master he waits
But the boss is inside drinking wine with his mates
He hurries for cover and he cringes in fear
It’s no place for a dog ’round a pub with no beer

And old Billy the blacksmith, the first time in his life
Why he’s gone home cold sober to his darling wife
He walks in the kitchen, she says you’re early Bill dear
But then he breaks down and tells her the pub’s got no beer

Oh it’s hard to believe that there’s customers still
But the money’s still tinkling in the old ancient till
The wine buffs are happy and I know they’re sincere
When they say they don’t care if the pub’s got no beer

So it’s-a lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night we’ll hear the wild dingoes call
But there’s-a nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear-a.
Than to stand in the bar of that pub with no beer.

 

picture-PubWithNoBeer-Dusty

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