Read a sample of the book:
whilst on a holiday in England to see his daughter, suffered a stroke and spent
six weeks in hospitals in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On his return to Australia, he
spent a further four weeks in hospital.
He lives with his wife in a high rise at Burleigh Heads, Queensland. Previously he lived in Melbourne, where he was chief executive of a major construction company, having earlier graduated in engineering and commerce. This is his first book.
Well here goes, starting with something short, about the Christmas when I spent the day prior to the main festivities, Christmas Eve as you correctly point out, attending a function with work mates. Before my trouble of over twelve months ago.
Helen had doubts about it. She thought Christmas drinks needed an eye kept on them. A careful eye. For others work and play were interwoven – but that was not for me, she decided. There were too many liberated women for her liking. We drove to Brisbane in the late morning and whilst I was at the meeting, she did the Christmas shopping. At four we met outside the hotel, and standing on the footpath I checked the cash in my wallet. After a fruitful time by Helen, I glumly saw that it held few banknotes.
hotel was in George Street, opposite the Casino, diagonal to the Treasury
Gardens, and central to the shopping precinct. The University is at the southern
end of the street, and students walk past the hotel to catch the buses at
Adelaide and Ann Streets. Or rather, they called in at the bar on their way to
catch the buses.
The Law Courts were close by, and the younger members of the legal fraternity are well able to enjoy themselves. Hence, students needing solace, lawyers seeking pleasure, shoppers wanting respite, and office workers having Christmas break-ups all caused the hotel to overflow. Newcomers pushed in at the main door. The raucous occupants were forced to the back and ultimately fell out of the rear side door to finish their drinks on the footpath, and upon doing so, pushed in again at the main door. It was a circulating crowd.
The skill was to get a drink whilst in the middle of the tide of humanity
flowing past the central bar. All the champion revellers of Brisbane must have
been there. They were mainly young
and male and in good form – showing the camaraderie that made girls
unnecessary. The young lasses could have turned up topless, and some were close
to it, but they were wasting their time. The boys didn’t look at them. Like
the euphoria seen in an Irish pub, the lads were singing, standing on the
tables, and removing their shirts. I
found myself jammed between a lawyer celebrating a court victory and a student
who had just passed her final examinations, whereas Helen located every female
and left them in no doubt, none whatever, that I was happily cared for by her.
Christmas morning, feeling poorly, I went to my home office.
I didn’t want to disturb Helen, who became sullen if awoken at an hour
deemed by her to be too early. I
drew the curtains and looked down from the twenty-third floor.
Already people were walking along the sand, and along the pathways on the
lawns overlooking the beach. It was
the usual assortment of walkers, joggers, yoga exponents, cyclists, and dogs. I
decided to join them. I took the lift down to the foyer, passed through the
front doors, crossed the road, and then strode north along the pathway to the
Life Saving Club. I went down a ramp to the waters edge and went southwards
along the sand. The tide was low, and the sand was hard.
Walking was easy under these conditions.
I walked along the water’s edge to the Burleigh headland.
The cafes, located there to give patrons shelter from southerly winds,
were closed. Denied the pleasure of an early coffee I aimlessly went home along
in my office I was still the only one awake in the apartment. I decided to have
breakfast, and so I went to the bench dividing the living room and the kitchen.
On the bench were the cereal, spoon, and bowl laid out by Helen on the
previous night. I got the glass of orange juice from the refrigerator, also put
there by Helen. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, looking through the windows out
to the ocean. Then I went back to my office. I typed an email, and sent it to a cobber. Having done that,
what was I to do?
looked around the walls, covered with various items arranged in vertical lines.
There was my photograph as a infant in a knitted suit, a graduation photograph
as an engineer, a childhood photograph of Helen clutching a toy dog, a silver
plate in a frame from University, certificates of membership in professional
bodies, some small oil paintings by my mother and a black-and-white sketch, a
football trophy, and a photograph of grandmother as a young girl shortly after
her arrival in Australia.
one side of the office was a long desk and on it were the computer, the printer,
the fax machine, a CD stack, and a tray of drawers for correspondence and
papers. Placed upon the bookcase were items such as my keys, wallet, and mobile
phone. Everything was orderly.
books couldn’t all fit in the bookcase. The excess was kept in a storage unit
in the apartment entry. I was forever re-arranging them. At the time, those on
display were those bought for show; sets of gold embossed hardbacks covering all
the classics of literature. They were all the same height and sometimes I kept
the red books together, separate from the blue books, and the brown books, and
the green books. Sometimes I mixed
the colours to make a tapestry effect. There
were the Australian novels that had been read once or twice, the Russian novels
that had been enjoyed once but unlikely to be read again, French novels read
once and maybe would be read again, and the English novels still to be read.
looked at this display and said to myself,
‘This is all a bit twee, pretentious you might say, a bit of a pose,
and it makes me look silly.’
the storage unit, hidden from sight, were the tatty paperbacks, the reference
books, the bird books, computer manuals, book prizes from school days, and books
of popular interest on topics such as how to get rich.
I looked at this assorted collection of motley-looking books and thought,
‘this is an interesting lot… they indicate I have a fascinating past, and
guests will see I have a modern outlook, and keep up with current ideas.’
started to re-organise them. The
motley collection would be placed in the bookcase. The books bought for show
would end up out of sight in the storage unit.
I set to it and soon the office floor was covered with stacks of books
– as you know, books have to be removed from the shelves before others can be
put there. Books covered the desk and the walking machine.
machine was in the office not because it was the best place for it; rather it
was the only spot Helen would permit it in the apartment. I used it (but only
rarely unfortunately), in preference to another mode of exercise, walking down
the fire stairs to the tenth floor and walking back up again to our apartment.
It was a private way of exercising, but there was no view, so I got the
emerged from the bedroom and came to the office like a homing pigeon.
She could always sense when I was shifting things.
this again,” she said. She left
me to it and went back to bed. At
least I was not reorganising the dining suite, or the sofas in front of the
television. I would do this to even the wear on the seats like someone else
would rotate the four tyres of a car. Helen always said it left marks on the
noon I had finished sorting the books. It looked less pretentious and that
pleased me. I dressed for lunch.
Helen had made a booking at one of the better restaurants, one providing
a special Christmas lunch. There
was little point in her preparing a meal just for two. After showering,
dressing, and doing the other things that complete a man’s grooming, I went to
the bookcase to collect my car keys, phone and wallet.
I put the first two into my pocket. I didn’t see my wallet.
my wallet?” I yelled.
often put it in her bag to stop it stretching my trousers, she claimed.
haven’t got it.”
checked her jewellery. It was still there, so a cat-thief could not have pinched
I’ve been done over by a pick-pocket.”
that pub – how crowded it was, and just think who was there…”
gamblers, lawyers and skint shoppers.”
that girl had her hands all over you.”
worry about that, my wallet has gone.”
least I’d spent the money,” she said, seeing the silver lining.
the credit cards I was concerned about. I had visions of that girl having a
great time at the Casino at my expense. What
a start to Christmas! In a flash, I
decided to ring the hotel in case the wallet had been handed in, or was lying on
the bar floor. I rang Directory Service to get the number of the hotel, and
having got it, dialled. I waited
for a long time for the other end to answer. I concluded the hotel was closed
for Christmas Day, and was about to hang up when a disinterested voice said,
“Damm you, let me do my cleaning.”
was at your hotel yesterday.”
a good time?”
lost my wallet. Anyone handed it in?”
was the swift reply.
you look for it please?”
cleaner hung up. I quickly rang again. He didn’t answer this time – no doubt
delighted that foolish me had told him about a lost wallet, and he was cleaning
with a thoroughness not shown for some time, and looking forward to going to the
Casino. I waited until my mobile phone got hot, then hung up.
response, or rather lack of response of the cleaner convinced me to cancel the
rang one bank. No one answered. I rang again and this time there was
connection, but no one spoke. I heard voices in the background, as if a party
was going on. Eventually a youth came to the phone and one card was cancelled.
For the other bank a recorded message said I would get attention from the next
available customer service officer, who I concluded, having waited patiently for
twenty minutes, had not yet reported for work.
leaving the apartment the prospect of a carefree lunch had disappeared. At the
restaurant we paid in advance for the meal using the sole means of payment
available to us, the one un-cancelled card held by Helen.
was ten in the evening before the remaining credit card was cancelled. I
prepared for bed. Whisky in hand I went to the office to switch off the
The subdued light made the bookcase look different, compared to the full light of daytime, and I noticed the bulge in the books. The wallet was behind them. In the shambles of shifting, it had been pushed to the back of the bookcase. The credit cards were there in the wallet – unused by the frequenters of the hotel, safe from its cleaners and alas, useless to me.
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