Category Archives: MAX BARRY WRITING

FEBRUARY 16 2011 : Day 47 : A Poem in the Small Hours.

flooding and boats 063



What: You take your laptop, order a coffee, and compose your masterpiece in public.

GEM COLLECTION TOPIC. Chosen from this poem by Meri Forest.

A Poem in the Small Hours

by Meri Forest

I think of the days when cubby houses and skipping ropes
full occupied all our hopes
I dream of days we climbed up trees
and slid down dunes on hand and knees
skirts tucked into bloomers, hair untied
we splashed through wavelets lacey wide
and shrieked like gulls in the breaker spray.


Once again, I am NOT at the Coffee Shop to do a day’s blogging and its one that I want to do. No matter. This is a week where few of the ordinary parameters apply for me. I WILL one day get to the coffee shop with computer and do some blogging. Today I did get to the TAVERN. The DIGGERS’ TAVERN in Bellingen for lunch. Bingo had just finished and we had been working on Kati B’s house move. Good Food. Really nice people including Courtney who used to work at GURU FOODS. We stayed several times at Diggers’ when we were visiting Bello before coming back to live. I didn’t do any blogging at the Tavern. Just had lunch and enjoyed the family.


Not only am I not in a coffee shop but its not the Small Hours either. Bummer really because I like both ideas. Maybe I will wake in the Small Hours and maybe I shall write something or simply read Meri Forrest’s poem.

FEBRUARY 15 2011 : Day No 46: So hot the hens are laying hard boiled eggs.




And setting the word limit at 250 words before looking online for some other gems like

So hot the hens are laying hard boiled eggs.

Its easy for me to go to the hyperbole. The MOST. The BIGGEST. The WORST. The BEST. I have learned not to do that as much. I am sitting here at my table in front of the big windows and the weather is moderate and the skies are softly clouded. I have one chook here. I have been told it’s a Rhode Island Red.  It’s the cheekiest chook “ I have ever met”. It survived the fox attacks which took another 5 hens. Now the cats and dogs are afraid of it. So are we. We close the screen doors and dash past her. She’s back in the coop now.

The little black lady in the picture above used to come visiting when we lived in the village of Ulmarra in the Clarence Valley. She was very dainty and liked to roam the street. I have noted recently that I have never seen a  chook as road kill despite often seeing them beside the Highway. I would not have thought a Chook to be so intelligent. We say “ as silly as a wet hen” but I don’t think avoiding foxes and large trucks on busy highways is a sign of silliness.

In Ulmarra, it was often so hot that to see a chook laying hard boiled eggs would not have surprised me – much.

It hasn’t been as hot as that here this year. Today its cold for me and my legs seem unable to hold me up.

It’s So Hot in Arizona That

  • the cows are giving evaporated milk.

It was so cold . . .
pickpockets were sticking their hands in strangers’ pockets just to keep them warm!


I was so poor
Santa gave me food
I was so poor
I could only afford used money


FEBRUARY 14 2011: Day 45 : Home is so sad.

Philip Larkin.   ‘Home is so Sad’.


Philip Larkin.   ‘Home is so Sad’.
Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft
And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery,
The music in the piano stool. That vase.



What: You don’t let yourself leave the keyboard each day until you’ve hit 2,000 words. (I am converting that to 500 words due to its being a blog not a novel.)

Hmm 500 words and its evening. That should keep me going. I am going to read that poem one more time and then not look at  it while I go for the 500 words.  Right then.

Home. Tonight I passed the home where my sister and her family and my father and mother lived for many years. My mother and father are gone now and the Poms sold the house a year or so back. During the last 12 months, the new people pulled out the gardens, hacked down the palm trees and exposed the bare underbelly of the house to passers by. I don’t feel sad about it tonight although I did when I first saw the hacking going on.

It simply makes me thoughtful at the moment. We had a pool there. An above ground pool. It was there for years and the children all learned to swim in it. Summertimes we all came home from the places we were living in and laughed a lot and swam a lot and are a lot. It’s a different shape now. The ashes of Winnie the Dog are in the yard and I think that some of my parents’ ashes might be in that yard as well. Wonder why they pulled out the garden.

My sister had planted magnolias and bamboos and all manner of exotic and beautiful plants.

I left another home today as well. A shorter term home in Bello where my granddaughter spent her first year. Today we took her for lunch at the Gelato Bar while the adults cleaned the house ready for inspection. They didn’t live there long but it has been the home of the Baby. Up the end of North Bank Road from my place.

I have been back to the house where I grew up only once as an adult. Not that long ago either. It still curved a little round my own shape after all this time despite the concrete front fence. The railway line still runs past it. my bedroom remains my bedroom. I could see the neighbourhood men chasing off the gang of kids that years back were trashing the letterboxes and cars. Men who normally didn’t socialise. They chased those lads round the corner and out of the street.

The poem is called HOME SO SAD and I guess it is sad sometimes and for a time but all my homes are part of me now. All my homes and the homes I have stayed in and visited.

Out the back of no 16 Dowle Street, is a little owl and a rock garden. I left there in the mid 90s and I don’t intend to go back because, for me, there is a little owl and a rock garden.

I am not going back to 71/6 Wauchope Crescent in South Coogee either. The balcony on the 3rd floor is still there for me. And the schoolboys calling me “ Watch the Road Mrs Braithwaite !”

On the hill in Bilambil, my cottage sits. It looks out over the world. My little one said when she first saw it, “ You can see everything God can see from up here. “

Everything God can see. Now that’s Home.



tc from below IMGP7556

Bilambil Cottage




Red Hill, Brisbane.

Bilambil Cottage

floods ulmarra 017




FEBRUARY 13 2011 : Topic 43 : There is a huge gap in understanding between the nomads and the settlers of this world.





What: You abandon the story you’re working on, even though you know it’s brilliant and the idea is perfect but GODDAMN it is driving you insane for some reason.


Well, that finishes the first round of the Max Barry writing experiment.  At least it will when I do today’s. It’s a fine blog is Max Barry’s. I tripped over him when looking for some Aussie input. My 2011 blog per day activity has had a couple of restarts and that’s still happening. I thought the Gem Collection might work for me because I spent many hours gathering the proverbs, quotations and poetry for it and came close to getting the whole year lined up ready to be posted daily until WordPress reduced the number of posts allowed to 100.

What has happened is that even the Gem Collection topics aren’t quite hitting the spot for me. They are however, more enjoyable for me than the WordPress Plinky combo. I continue to refine what I am doing. That means going on with Gem Collection till the end of February and another round of Max Barry.

Right then, back to the Topic : There is a huge gap in understanding between the nomads and the settlers of this world.  The quote came from Gillian Bouras in Eureka Street.  It took my fancy because I have wondered over the last few years about my own life. I have spent my entire life on the East Coast of Australia, but I WANDER. I set up house, stay a while and then move. Sometimes only a small distance. Following some invisible calling which I can’t explain.

I rather expected that by this age I would be more ‘settled’ – but I’m not. Guess there’s a huge gap of understanding between various types of people. I know there is one between Gardeners and Non Gardeners, Cooks and NonCooks, Computer freaks and non computer freaks. I am usually the apparent NON. Its managed to keep my self esteem in the gutter for long periods.

SWAGThe Mail (Adelaide, SA  1912-1954), Saturday 11 November 1950 SWAGThe Mail (Adelaide, SA  1912-1954), Saturday 4 August 1951,

The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912-1954), Saturday 11 November 1950.
Original drawing by Brian Bolland (12)

The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912-1954), Saturday 4 August 1951,

OK. That gobbledegook is a good reason for the RESTART.  Lets mentally skid that whole muddle and go back to Topic : There is a huge gap in understanding between the nomads and the settlers of this world.  GILLIAN BOURAS

I lived in one home till I was 20 years old. A double brick house in a suburb of Sydney. Then I went bush to teach school and began the roaming. In the 40 years since then I have lived up and down the East Coast of Australia, mostly in NSW and for most of the time on the Northern Rivers or in Sydney. Time and again, I have thought I had come in for a landing and would stay put but every time, after a bit, I hear the siren call of the next place and I move along.

The Settlers don’t understand that. I know they don’t. I see it in their eyes. I see it in the same way that I see the inability to understand why I don’t cook or garden or sew and generally don’t form an enduring relationship with a partner. 

Some siren song line calls to me and I am off while the others stay. I have thought myself faulty to go on roaming. I have thought myself flawed to be unable to create and maintain a long term home. Just lately I have begun to accept it. Doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore.

I have had two dreams in years gone by which seemed to explain it to me – a little. In one I was cast out from a village someplace on the English moors and was a witch wandering in black cloak and wild haired. I had a little cottage and people came to me for healing and wisdom but I wasn’t truly one of them.

Second dream I was here in the rainforests of the Rivers. Wandering again. Cast out again. Naked and barefooted and in the same role on the edge of village life as in the first dream.

SUNDOWNERSINSERTSo now I live in a cottage on the edge of a village. I do OK so long as I don’t try to “fit” with the Settlers. I don’t envy them so much anymore as I once did because they have some pretty tough calls as well as the good things I envied. It would be clearer to me if I lived in caravans or tents, or boarding houses. I actually stop and make a home and live as if I intend staying there. Stayed in one place 5-6 years. Sometimes I simply move house to house in one town. One of the things I like about the Net and Facebook and blogs, is finding out that there are others like me. Rather a lot of us too. I don’t know what we are. I don’t quite know what the motivating factors for the Moving are. I do think there is a barely visible , barely poor class of Us. We don’t quite make it in today’s world. We don’t manage to BUY a place to live. We are caught short in the rent or the power and – we move along.

Week before last, I watched Sundowners with my Sister.











KOALASWAGThe Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.  1933-1954), Wednesday 6 April 1938, kookaMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. 1878-1954), Friday 23 August 1935
The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954), Wednesday 6 April 1938,

7 little aust The Australian Women's Weekly (1932-1982), Wednesday 19 September 1973 2


Farewelling the family as it heads for Yarrahapannini. My early relatives lived there in Unkya and abouts.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA 1931-1954), Saturday 14 July 1934,

This article sounds like the most logical explanation of my Rovings and Roamings.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931-1954), Saturday 14 July 1934,

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA 1931-1954), Saturday 14 July 1934,2


FEBRUARY 12 2011 : Topic 42 : The Swamp.


Swamp poems

Thought moves over the surface
of a windless reach
like the birth of a breath





What: You start writing with no real idea of where you’ll wind up.

This one looks promising. The technique sounds like me and the Topic is well suited to starting out with no idea of where I will end up. It’s a hot summery day here in Northern New South Wales and I’m taking a drive up the back road, North Bank, to Bello to pick up a mattress from Kati B’s and a desk and maybe go to Growers’ Markets and the Freemarket. I shall have my eyes out for swamps on the way through the rainforest and hills and farmlands and my my mind roaming through remembered swampy places.

We have a few good swamps hereabouts esp in a wet year like we have been having. “Windless reaches”. Down in Urunga is what they call the lagoon but its rather swampy. Once when I was teaching little children at Urunga Public School, one of them wrote that I had eyes the colour of Urunga Lagoon. I would feel better about that if the Sewage Treatment works didn’t feed into it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed that description. 

“The birth of a breath” is there in a swamp. And brolgas that stand near as high as me.

I found these snippets of poetry by Andrew Taylor, an Australian poet I’ve not heard of before and as an Estuarine Woman they breathe life into my World.

Rivers are full of old men

the stumps of their jetties stick obstinate

and disfiguring from the shore

their sunk boats snag lines

slopes of lantana and looping couch

proclaim their delight in felling trees


That day escaped me.  Barely a swamp in sight. House moving for the Kati B and IMM instead. I certainly had no idea of where I would end up and did the day using the M,AX BARRY TECHNIQUE NO 14. Didn’t write in that manner despite its being my accustomed way. Just headed through the day with the two swamp poems echoing behind my conscious thoughts. Met some of the lads I knew when they were kids. Now all in their 30s. Fathers themselves. Tradesmen. Partners.  I lived way back in 1995 in a cottage on South Arm and the kids used to row across the river to Brierfield. One of those boys was there. Moving furniture.  That was swampy up there on South Arm.

I liked to get up pre dawn and take the dog out in the canoe. At first I went fishing out there early in the day but one day as I floated along the surface, I swear a big silver bream DAD SUE LYNNE 1950Slooked at me and I have not been able to fish since. Been a bummer that, because I have been a fisherwoman since I was very little. probably have a picture here someplace from the 1060s. This picture doesn’t have a fish in it but I have one from about this time which does. I shall find it one day soon.

It hasn’t stopped me loving the rivers and swamps.




PS. DON’T FORGET THE COW BLOG. Its is a little ripper.

I live where I do actually see a cow every day. More than one most days and last week when we went to stay at a resort in Port Mac, right in the middle of town, we woke to 2 cows grazing just out the window on the left overs of a farm.


FEBRUARY 11 2011 : Topic 41 : I left my shoes on warm concrete and stood in the rain. Gabrielle Nankivell.




What: You sketch out plot, characters, and turning points before you start writing.

Drat. Adapting that one to blogging doesn’t look so easy. This exercise is turning out to be more difficult than I had thought it would be. The Topic is something to do with standing out in the rain when it would make more sense to come in. One of the secrets of youthfulness, I should think.

The technique has me off balance. Causes my eyes to turn to the cobwebs in the window and the furniture still to be moved. I shall use it for my LETTERS IN THE SAND stories instead of this Blog because that’s my fictional exercise for 2011’s early months.

The characters there so far are 1. Nell the Elderwoman.  2. Magura the Elder. 3. Young Doctor. 4. Young couple. 5. Smedley the Politico.

Setting. Bellinger Heads. Small North Coast Village.

Era – 1911 with possibilities of time travel.

Problems – Do I make it detective story a la genre with which I am most familiar or take a flight out into fantasy a la Australiana ?

That’s all I am up to at the moment.

But when it comes to the standing on warm concrete barefooted in the rain – then things is sweet. I am going out for now. Help my daughter to move some belongings to her new shack. I shall think about staying out in the rain while I’m out. Of drives down Martell’s Road and lounges on front porches.