Month: September 2019

short story: White Noise by Brenda Proudfoot

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 28, 2017. Picture: Simone De Peak
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Read the other finalists’ storiesWHEN Shane was arrested, the bush telegraph went into overdrive. Women squalling and squawking like a flock of corellas flung into hot air.

The day after the news broke, Carol and I were having a coffee in the bakery during my lunch break.

Carol was pleased the police had caught him.

She needed someone to blame. Now, her boiling anger had an outlet, a spout of vengeance to ease the raw ache of grief.

She’d never liked the way Shane had hung around with my Matt and her Lisa. It wasn’t anything she could put her finger on, but he’d been brought up differently, hadn’t he? Wasn’t a good influence on our kids.

Carol and I have been friends since the kids were little. All through primary school, Matt and Lisa were inseparable. At high school Shane was in Matt’s footy team, and the three of them became good mates.

Matt left school last year and became a brickie’s apprentice. For the first time in his life, he’d found something he was good at. Shane got a job as a farm labourer, looking after the Reillys’ cattle.

At the weekends the boys went spotlighting together. Matt had a new shotgun and Shane owned a beat-up ute. Shane had the knack of spotting animals. Often, he’d let Matt drive the ute. Sometimes they came home with nothing, but most times they’d get a couple of rabbits or a fox. Occasionally they killed a wild dog but Shane wouldn’t let Matt shoot any roos.

The bush was like Shane’s backyard. He took Matt to a muddy dam where they caught yabbies and down the creek to catch eels.

Once they went way up into the hills where Shane showed Matt a cave with a blackened roof and red handprints on the walls. Lisa wanted to see it but Shane said that it was a secret place where women weren’t allowed to go.

They found Shane’s burnt-out ute in Sawyers Gully. They say Lisa was still in the passenger seat. Matt was thrown clear when the ute rolled. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. He was in hospital for a week then spent two months on crutches but now he’s well enough to go back to work.

The doctors say, apart from his memory loss, Matt’s made a full recovery, but I find that hard to believe. It’s like the accident drained the life out of him. His eyes are dull, his mouth is sullen.

When I told Matt about Shane’s arrest, he threw down his knife and fork and stormed off to his room. I left him for a while to calm down, then went to ask if he was OK. When I put my head around his door, he swore and told me to go away.

Shane hasn’t been seen round town since the night of the accident. Some people say he headed up north to hide amongst his mob. He didn’t even tell Pat Reilly he was leaving. Once a reliable worker, now he’s reverted to type.

A group of locals saw the three of them at the pub on the night of the accident. They all said Shane and Matt had an argument, but no-one knew what it was about. They reckon Shane got drunk and shouldn’t have been driving. He was tried in the court of popular opinion and found guilty. He had to be punished for taking a life.

I never told Carol I knew Shane and Lisa were dating. It was enough she’d lost her daughter. There was no point in making her disappointed in her girl. I’d seen them hanging out together on the main street. Shane would slip his arm around her and pull her towards him. Lisa would look up at him and smile.

After Carol and I had coffee that day, I went straight back to work. I always close the post office during my lunch break and that day, I was runninga few minutes late. Several people were waiting for me to re-open. I was busy weighing parcels and paying bills when I saw Matt cross the road and disappear into the police station on the opposite side of the street.What on earth was he doing? Why wasn’t he at work?I wanted to head straight over to the police station but, after the way Matt had reacted to the news about Shane’s arrest, I was afraid of making him angry again.That afternoon, I found it hard to concentrate. Was there something Matt wasn’t telling me? Something preying on his mind?

I remembered the way he’d spoken about Lisa at the funeral. It was almost as if he’d been her lover rather than her friend.

The afternoon dragged on and eventually it was time to head home. Matt was sitting in the lounge room. He had the TV remote in his hand but he hadn’t switched it on.

“Hi, Mum,”he said, and my spirits lifted. He hadn’t bothered to greet me for days.“I’ve been to the police and told them I was driving.”

“You can’t do that,”I cried. “Look, I know life’s tough for people like Shane.But you can’t lie – even if he is your best mate.“Listen, Mum,”he said. “It’s the truth. Shane wasn’t even there.”

It turns out Shane and Matt were arguing about Lisa. She’d snatched Shane’s keys off the table and ran out to the ute. Matt chased after her and persuaded her to let him drive. They’d take the ute out for a spin to wind Shane up. Serve him right for being such a dick.

“I had to tell them. I knew the cops wouldn’t believe him.”

I nodded. The white noise flying around town had trashed Shane’s reputation.

I put my arm around my boy and we sat there in silence, as our burden of guilt settled like a brick in my heart.


Hunter Hero: Jacquelyn Poke chops off her long hair to help cancer patientsPHOTOS

A good hair deed for people battling cancer TweetFacebookJacquelyn PokeFundraiserJACQUELYN Poke is a little girl with a big head of hair and an enormous heart.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

The nine year old recently lopped off 40 centimetres of her glorious hair to help make wigs for cancer patients.

She set out to raise $1000 for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation too, but her efforts ended up raising more than $2500.

“I just wanted to help sick people feel more happy and normal,” Jacquelynsaid.

She was inspired to cut her hair and raise money by personal events.

Both of her great grandmothers had been affected by cancer. One had passed away from breast cancer, and the other had died of lung cancer before she was born.

But then her uncle was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, and she saw the effect the treatment had on him.

Jacquelyn’s father, Douglas, said she had watched her “fun loving” uncle become bid ridden, struggling to speak.

“I always loved playing games with my uncle Mark and he always spent time with us making sure we were having a good time,” she said.

“Now with his cancer, he can’t get out of bed, and can’t enjoy the games like we used to.

“His cancer is now too aggressive and can’tbe treated. This makes me very sad for someone who I love so much.”

Surrounded by family and friends, as well as a representative from the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation, Jacquelyn recently cut off her hair in the hope it would help others going through cancer treatment.

It was the first time she had ever had a “proper” haircut, she said.

“I’ve pretty much been growing it since I was born. I’ve only ever really had a bit of a trim before this,” Jacquelyn said.

“It feels a little bit strange. I can’t stop swishingit around, it’s so much lighter,” she laughed.

Her uncle Mark had shaved his head in support on the same day. A wig maker based on the Central Coast now has the task of turning Jacquelyn’s hair into a wig, possibly several.

“I want to keep doing things for people who are sick, and helping them wherever I can.”

Her familyprovides presents for under-privileged children each Christmas, and Jacquelynoftendonates toys to the oncology ward at the John Hunter Hospital.

“Hopefully we will find a cure for cancer one day, but I have decided to help by raising funds to help those who are suffering,” she said.

Jacquelyn has begun growing her hair out again, and plans to cut it off for charity again in four year’s time.

To donate, visit give.everydayhero苏州夜总会招聘/au/jackie-s-hair-donation.


Begin year with power of gratitude

Confession: Over the last week or so I have been in full chillax. At times I have found myself some what mindlessly drifting through the beautiful summerdays, enjoying that magic time between Christmas and New Year.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

For me, it’s a way of recharging the batteries. In preparation for getting back to reality,I have been taking some time to be more mindful.

A practice recommended by many is mindfulness – which is basically being more aware or conscious of something. It is often about paying attention or being more present in the moment.

I strongly believe that our lives are better when we are more aware of those things that we should be grateful for. In a busy, sometimes stressful world, a great way to do this is simple mindfulness exercise where we list the positives in our lives followed by a short “why”.

There are no hard and fast rules, but here is a format that works for me and the people I work with.

Take a clean sheet of paper (or screen), write in the middle in a circle “what I am grateful for”. Simply fill the page in other circles with the things that you appreciate in your life. For example:

My family. Why? They love me and I love them.

My partner/wife/husband. Why? If we are lucky, they are our best friendand someone to share our life with.

My health. Why? Without it I can’t be there for my family and live a full life.

My work. Why? It allows me to fulfillmy life’s purpose.

My friends. Why? They add value to my life and I add value to theirs.

Where I live. Why? It allows me to live the life I want to live.

The ability to make decisions about what kind of a life I have.

By the way, the exercise isn’t over until you have done two more things. Expressthanks for each of the things that you are grateful for. For example, tell your family you love them. And identifywhat you need to change to have a better situation in some areas of your life.

You could then make a list of actions that you will take to express your thanks, and another list focused on those areas that you have identified that you need to change or improve. This time of the year is a great time to reflect and take an hour to complete the exercise.

For example, if the exercise highlighted that you are very happy and thankful more most areas of your life but you identified that you want to improve your health, the next step is to set some goals and take some action in that area. You may have identified that you are spending too much time with negative people, so you might commit to a new hobby or activity where you will meet new people.

Why not start 2017 by asking yourself, “what am I grateful for?”

Greg Mowbray is a leadership speaker, author, mentor and consultant. Email him at at [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘Greg Mowbray

NEXT STEPS: Leadership expert Greg Mowbray says taking time to seriously ask yourself “what am I grateful for?” is an empowering way to start a new year.


New Year’s Eve is here – no party poopers allowed

Light Show: Fireworks above Nobbys on New Year’s Eve in 2011. Picture: Dean Osland.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

The Urban Dictionary describes a party pooper as “a person who ruins a party by either stopping the fun or not participating in a certain activity”.

It gives this example: “Jeff is a party pooper because he won’t play Spin The Bottle”.

The dictionary gives a secondary meaning for party pooper, as “a person whoruins a festive moment with their attitude”.

The example is: “Jan is such a party pooper, but we went on without her”.

Listen to Mr Bean. He knows what he’s talking about.

The third meaning is too disgusting, so we won’t mention it.

The fourth meaning is: “A person who goes to parties, but kills the mood by not having a good time and sitting in a corner texting on their phone. And they end up leaving earlier than anyone else”.

It gives another meaningwhich we hadn’t heard before: “Portable toilets used at a public party, concertor event”.

The example is: “There’s a long line at the party poopers”.

Anyhow, the point is tonight is New Year’s Eve. So don’t be a party pooper.

Quiet FireworksFireworks have been around for a long time. Apparently they originated in China about 2000 years ago.

Legend has it that a Chinese cook discovered fireworkswhen hemixed charcoal, sulphur and potassium nitrate. Hecompressedit in a bamboo tube and burnt it.

Chinese believe firecrackers have a mythical power to fend off evil spirits and ghosts with loud bangs.

This being the case, they probably wouldn’t appreciate the council in Italy that introduced new laws forcing citizens to use quiet fireworks.

Lawmakers in Collecchio in the province of Parma did so to reduce the distress that the noise from fireworks causes to animals, children and old folks.

Pretty PollutantsWriting about fireworks before last New Year’s Eve, a story aboutfireworks said they were our “prettiest pollutant” and “terrific but toxic”.

“Fireworks are great fun. We all enjoy guessing the colours of the rockets before they ignite in the sky, hearing the explosions echo off nearby buildings, or writing our names in light with hand sparklers. But there is an environmental price to pay. Firework smoke is rich in tiny metal particles,” wrote Gary Fuller,a senior lecturer in air quality atKing’s College London.

“Fireworks can lead to substantial air pollution problems.Fireworks that fall to the ground contain residues of unburnt propellants and colourants, while particle pollution in the air eventually deposits on the ground or gets washed out by rain. Some of this finds its way intolakes and rivers.”

This problem has been linked to thyroid problems, causing limits to be set for drinking waterin some US states. “This is a major concern forlakeside resortsand attractions that have frequent fireworkdisplays,” Gary wrote.

This information definitely qualifies for party-pooper status. Not to worry, the BBC reported “clean and green fireworks” have been invented. Now, we suppose, it’s just a matter of people actually using them.

ResolutionsQuit smoking, go on a diet, exercise more, be a better person, travel more, work less, have more fun, eat more vegies, spend less time on social media, be more sociable, face your fears, become a romantic, learn a language, get better at your own language, save more, spend more, take more risks, take less risks, make more money, make less money, be nicer, be less nice, sleep more, sleep less, watch less TV, watch more TV,read more, read less, get a new partner, dump your partner.They’re all worthy in certain circumstances.

Our New Year’s resolution is to be less prefect.

Hangover TipsHere’s some tips to avoid a hangover from theesteemed magazine Cosmopolitan.

Double up on multivitamins, order a burger instead of a salad, rest up, skip champagne, make your roadie a Powerade, stick with clear liquor, choose juice over soda mixers, dance your ass off,drink a glass of water or two before bed, wear a sleeping mask,take an ibuprofen pill, forget hair of the dog, eat eggs the next morning.

We admit, some of this sounds a bit party-pooperish. But, hey, hangovers suck.


Year in Review 2016, in my little neighbourhood

WE knew it was going to be one of those years when the vote was tallied and a narcissistic megalomaniac came out on top.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

“Well,buggerme,” said Frank from two doors up when I told him. “We didn’t see that coming.”

That’s what 2016 has been like where I live.

One minute the local residents’ action group was plodding along writing outraged letters to the editor about potholes and a lack of police, and then came the coup. Alan the retired accountant was ousted as president and Ralph the realestate agent/developer/formertelevangelist was in, all fired up with plans for a casino in the school of arts hall.

It’s been a big year globally and nationally –the European migration crisis, no end to the tragedy in Syria, Brexit, terrorist attacks, Donald Trump’s victory, Malcolm Turnbull’s near defeat, theearly deaths of so many celebrities, and growing alarm about climate change and the politics of climate change.

But in Upper Wombatville where I live–community motto,“Leafblowers and chainsaws rule”-it’sbeen a REALLY big year, starting with the Farraghers’New Year’s Eve party to end 2015.

Everyone was there. The Farraghers, of course, although we raised a glass for young Justin, doing time for his coming-of-agemalicious damage, graffiti, vandalism and letterbox-smashingspree.

Marge Farragher wastearful as she downed her fifth bubbly.

“He’s only got three months to go. It’s been so quiet, and of course I’m loving my new sewing room. Maybe we can do up a bedroom in the garage when he comes back,” she blubbered.

A few of us noticedthe Farraghers’youngest, Tiffany, lookinga bitpeaky, although Ethel from number 42 thought she’d beefed up since we’d last seen her.

Trust a retirednurse and NSWCWAvice president to get it in one.

When the countdown for 2016 started young Tiff stood on the tank stand, andbefore you could say“Watch out for the hippeastrums”, she blurted out her news.

“Mum, Dad, congrats, you’re going to be grandparents.Dwayne hasto move inbecause his olds have thrown him out,” she said as we cheered in the new year, Marge fainted, and Bazza launched himself at Dwayne, the best halfback Bazza hasever coachedand, apparently, the father of his future grandchild.

As wewanderedhome later we heard Bazza smashing through Gladys McMahon’shydrangeas. As some of the old hands knew, it wasDwayne’s favourite hiding spotas a little tacker when he didn’t want to go to training.

There was the fire at number 57 in April. While most of us were sleeping, Darrell and Beryl Brown decided it was a good time to burn off the garbage pile in their backyard that’s been accumulating since Don Lane won a Gold Logie.

Maybe it was the home brew they’d been drinking. Maybe it was the warm westerly that had been blowing for most of the day. Or maybe it was the mower fuel Darrell decided to throw on the pile to, as he put it, “give it a bit of a rev up”. But the backyard burn was out of hand quicker than Darrell can down a cold one.

It only took a few minutes for Gary and Graeme -the nice gay couple who moved into number 55 with high hopes of a quiet life, and then they met Darrell and Beryl –to wake up to choking smoke and flames licking their pagoda’s west wall, and the whole street was alive to the sounds of fire trucks and Beryl shrieking for the cat.

The police were nice. The ambos did a good job with the oxygen after Beryl made a dash for the dining room to rescue her best china and was beaten back by thick smoke from the plastic lounge covers. And we all learnt a valuable lesson:if you’re going to light an illegal backyard fire in the middle of the night, don’t wear a see-through short nightie and undies with dodgy elastic.

There were departures this year. Justin, as mentioned. The Taylors,who movedto Queenslandunder the mistaken impression Pauline Hanson had been voted Premier. The Barrett triplets, who left for Europe on a Monday and whose parents, Steph and Bill, sold the house the next day and moved to New Zealand without leaving a forwarding address. And Gladys McMahon, who’d had enoughof Bazza smashing her hydrangeas and left fora nursing home.

But the big news, of course, was Ralph’s coup. There was excitement when he moved into the big house on the corner and added a third floor, tennis court and 8-car garage. We’d all seen him on TV spruiking land releases and praising his personal saviour.

But no one thought he’d topple Alan.

There were the debates, where Alan championed kerb and guttering for the whole neighbourhood, keeping kids from cluttering up the local park, mandatory lawn mowing days and a residents’ veto on newcomers to the area.

But Ralph went one further. He was going to make Upper Wombatville great again by seceding from ,erecting a wall and producing a new currency to use at the casino he planned in the old school of arts hall.

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich,” said Ralph when Alan supporters opposed the casino and heckled him over his years as a televangelist.

“I’m going to build a big wall because I’m very rich, and you’re going to be on the other side of it,” he told them.

Ralph’s term starts in January. We’re holding our breath.

And as the sun sets at Upper Wombatville on Saturday and we count down to 2017, one thing we know for certain –when the world seems crazy and getting crazier, there’s comfort in knowing the grass will just keep growing.