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Furious Fiction 16 – October 2020

My, my the year goes quickly when you punctuate it with monthly Furious Fiction entries! This month I am pleased to say, I was able to use the prompts to progress my story about Frankie the Flamboyant dresser. It’s getting a bit darker than I had originally anticipated and I hate to say, without meaning to, that I am beginning to appropriate the plot line from the Handmaids Tale! Oh dear!!

Furious Fiction Prompts for October

This month’s Furious Fiction prompts were:

  • something had to get caught
  • use the words object, wound, band and elaborate
  • the last two words must be ‘the moon’

This story was written in less than 2 hours on Sunday night. I got back from my Broken Hill road trip late Friday night and had heaps to catch up on Saturday. I was not going to enter but the prompts were an easy target this month.

Stats for Furious Fiction for October 2020: 487 words, started 8:10 PM Sunday, submitted 10:05 PM Sunday.

Chapter 6: Jeremy’s Friend

Justice O’Mallory hung his wig and silk gown on the coat stand as he surveyed the drab congregation gathered in his wood-panelled office.  Normally a loquacious host, O’Mallory was wound up and on edge because Jeremy, his clerk, had brought along an unvetted guest, Thomas Ball. No one had ever seen him before, but it was clear he was not one of them.

The presence of this Ball fellow was problematic. Firstly, it meant the gathering was now twenty-one and not twenty people. O’Mallory could imagine tomorrow’s headline – JUDGE BREAKS GATHERING LIMITS!  Secondly, it meant they needed to be exponentially more careful about what they said.

This particular band of silks, once considered a little left of centre, were now bold subversives. Ever since the Ultra Conservative Party had come into power, the “Silk Pyjamas” as they called their troupe, were fastidious about who they let into their weekly soirees. After all their whole object was to find a way to overturn the Government.

While there was no need for an elaborate cover story to explain their being in Chambers late at night (what was more normal than a group of red-nosed legal eagles getting smashed on a Friday?), there was a need to ensure no-one was around to rat them out. Who knew where Thomas Ball fitted in? For all O’Mallory knew, Ball could be a UCP spy!  

———-

The UCP had burst onto the scene during the Pandemic with their promises of a return to the “Old Normal”. The changes they made to the laws were incremental. Under the guise of a widely lauded pro-environmental, anti-consumerist platform, their first Parliamentary Bills were to enact a strict monochromatic dress code (The Fashion Laws). Next, other civil liberties like freedom of movement, and freedom of association, sensible to stop the spread of the Pandemic, remained in force long after any community transfer of the virus had ended.

The leaders of the UCP had been very clever. Trading on the simultaneous moods of hysteria and complacency within the general populous, they had essentially locked down democracy without it even being debated.

———

O’Mallory sat in his Chesterfield swirling his whiskey, and reviewing his day. He’d sent yet another poor sod to gaol for wearing brightly coloured clothes. He sighed, it was unjust. He knew for a fact that the UCP hacks secretly wore red boxer shorts. It was their hypocritical trademark, reminiscent of a Masons’ apron.

Caught up in his thoughts, O’Mallory’s reverie was broken when Jeremy and Ball approached.

“Your Honour, I know I was out of line bringing Tom, but I knew you’d want to meet him”.

“And why’s that?”

As Tom sat down next to O’Mallory, his pink socks flashed from under his grey trousers, he didn’t try to hide them.

“Tom is that investigative journalist we’ve been looking for. The one with the whistle in his pocket… the one who’ll blow the UCP to the moon!”


The next step is to get Justice O’Mallory and Frankie in the same room together with Tom Ball. This might be a bit tricky since Frankie is in gaol. After that, several of the high ranking politicians will be found en flagrante in coloured dress ups and the Fashion Laws will be quickly repealed to prevent them being gaoled. I am thinking there’s three more chapters at the most in Frankie’s story. After that I’ll link them altogether and publish it as one long story. That’s a job for 2021! I might not be writing a winner but I am having fun.

Is it just me or is everyone in a COVID funk??

I published this on September 16th but it turned up in my drafts folder… not sure what happened there….

Am I suffering (post)-COVID funk? Last week I talked about the idea of mini habits suggested by Stephen Guise and the strategies used by Michele Bridges in her 12WBT Challenge (12 Week Body Transformation) as ways of getting myself off the couch, or more correctly out of bed and into action.

Let me set a few things straight, it’s not that I am NOT exercising or eating OK it’s just that I know I can do better.  A lot better. I know that once it’s done I feel GOOD after I have exercised first thing in the morning. That smug sense of self-satisfaction gives me a real boost for the rest of the day. My problem has been maintaining or re-establishing my preferred routine.

There have been two factors that have led to my routine crashing around my feet, one novel and one that happens every year. Firstly, the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 and the second, winter.

Been here, done that, sort of.

I can see from my Facebook memories that this time last year and the year before and most likely the year before that, I was in a similar space. On top of that, we have COVID.

Speaking with friends, reading social media posts and a quick search of “post COVID funk” on Google shows that I am definitely not alone.  There are a plethora of articles already published claiming   we’re all feeling like this. That is, unmotivated and not liking it.

Articles published by the Sydney Morning Herald right through to a blog post about getting back into your bass guitar practice are offering support and advice.

The advice is consistent. Get off social media and get outside (after you finish reading this post of course). Stop watching the news. Eat well, sleep better, connect with friends.

The bass guitar blog even agrees with me on the benefits of mini habits

It is common to hope for motivation to show up to make us want to practice. But a more useful strategy is for us to show up for a small, doable task – regardless of motivation being involved or not – and then celebrate the fact that we did the task.

Motivation is overrated.

Regular short practice bits (and feeling better about ourselves for having done them!) are underrated.

Focus on a short task – one scale, one verse of a song, one technique exercise. Then high five yourself for having done them. The good feeling the high five creates will have you coming back tomorrow. (If you want to know more about this, check out this book).

More serious concerns

My personal situation is not a dramatic problem and I anticipate my laziness will begin to evaporate once we head towards spring and the mornings are brighter and warmer. I have a secure “essential job”, I have a house where I can retreat to if needed. I really have very little to worry about.

There are real concerns that some people will develop more serious health issues and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the months of uncertainty and stress. For many Australians, particularly those on the east coast, COVID hit when we weren’t yet over the devastating fires of summer. Just as families were getting back on their feet, we were locked inside. Health care workers and other “front line” people haven’t had a chance to catch their breath. They have lurched from one crisis to another.

According to a report from The Black Dog Institute (one of Australia’s peak mental health bodies) people who have had  positive diagnosis of COVID-19 are also at a specially high risk.

“In past pandemics, patients who experienced severe and life-threatening illnesses were at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, months to years following their illness [12, 13]. Appropriate systems and supports need to be put in place to screen patients, especially hospitalised patients who have survived COVID-19, to screen for common mental health problems and to provide appropriate psychological supports.”

Problem solved.

I have spent enough time wallowing and when I look at the hardship some others are experiencing, I am embarrassed. I need to recognise the privilege I have and stop whingeing! I’m going to use the idea of mini habits and JFDI to drag myself up by the shoelaces and get out there and exercise.

Next month, I  am going to look more closely at mini habits or more specifically Tiny Habits. I will post a review and executive summary of  the Tiny Habits book by BJ Fogg. (Similar idea to Guise’s mini Habits)

In the meantime,  I am off for a run.


If you are suffering from severe anxiety and are seeking more useful help than I am talking about here please reach out to people who can help.  There are some great resources here at the Black Dog Institute’s website.

Australian readers can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for mental health support.

Broken Hill Road Trip Part 2

This is the second post about my road trip to Broken Hill and covers part of the trek back east.


For much of the time as we drove through the Aussie Outback, I had the song by James Blundell and James Reyne looping through my head.

“way out west where the rain don’t fall, working for the company drilling for oil….”

The catch was that it was raining! The week before we headed out, the township of Broken Hill had actually flooded! (a flash flood!) Some of the unsealed roads remained closed and there was water lying in ditches by the roadside. As a result, things looked green and relatively lush. 

The wildflowers had bloomed and there were flashes of colour everywhere. Many of these “wild” flowers are in fact escaped garden flowers and technically feral weeds.  Nonetheless, there were fields of purple Paterson’s’ Curse, yellow daisies and mauve sweet asylum. The perfume and the buzz of bees made a heady mix for the senses. 

Following the Darling

After four days in Broken Hill and environs, our next stop was Cobar. Thankfully the roads were open and we were able to do some dirt driving. I bought my Suby just for this purpose! We took the scenic route, turning north-east at Wilcannia passing through Tilpa, Louth and Bourke before heading almost directly south into Cobar. A mere 677 km, 220 of it dirt.

Our route more or less hugged the Darling River. You could see it was well below its banks and the river red gums still desperate for a flooding to kick start their reproductive cycle. It’s very hard to imagine that towns like Menindee, Bourke, and Wilcannia had ‘ports’ with active paddle steamers moving wool, minerals and wheat to the South Australian coast in the 1880’s.

It was a  seasonal route even back then before wide-scale theft of water by large corporations in Queensland. (Yes! I’m talking about you, Cubbie Station!).  The river height obviously varies greatly with new bridges built very high and looking more like sky platforms than bridges. 

The terrain was flat and still dominated by saltbush and spinifex. There were emus but strangely, I didn’t see any live kangaroos. There were, however, large wedge tail eagles in abundance, both on the ground eating road kill, and soaring high above us. 

Wilcannia

Wilcannia is a small, but once grand town. The heritage-listed civic buildings indicate that it was a thriving place. Now it has a small, declining population of around 550, seventy five percent of which are indigenous Australians. The town’s welcome sign was not very welcoming. Since Aboriginal people are in a high-risk category for COVID19, the potential for a tragedy is high if visitors share their germs. One of the underlying themes of our road trip was to spend a little bit of money in each place we visited to help out, even in a small way, the local economy. Given we were not symptomatic, we decided that use of the public toilets, a cup of tea and cake were essential! 

Towns like Wilcannia have gotten a bad rap over the years as being unsafe, but I certainly felt welcomed and sitting by the river on a glorious spring day was well worth the stop. The locals were friendly and chatty. As I was lining up the shot of the Post Office, a fellow who was sitting in his ute waiting for his friend to post a letter. moved forward for me so I could get a clear shot! He reversed back when I was done and we exchanged a raised hand and a friendly smile.

Tilpa and Louth. 

These small villages fit into the “blink and you’ll miss it’ category. Tilpa, unless we missed the main part of town, had a tennis court and a pub. That’s it. The pub was very busy with many well-used 4WDs parked out the front and two large tables full of people ignoring social distancing rules. 

Friendly (?) locals at Louth

Bourke. 

We nearly didn’t go to Bourke. Taking the scenic route added 220 km of dirt road and 3 hours to the trip. The road had been closed and initially off the itinerary, but I’m glad we did. The town was bustling. Again filled with attractive heritage buildings from yesteryear. We had a very good pizza at the Port of Bourke Pub washed down with a (non-alcoholic) beer! In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised that most of these Western pubs had non-alcoholic beer available, you can’t always get it in Wollongong. (See my post about why I am avoiding alcohol for a year)

We walked down to the “port” on the river and watched some kids jumping into the water, enjoying their school holidays in an old fashioned style without a digital device in sight! An elegant old building being used as a guest house was up for sale. I could do that. For a while. Another adventure to add to the “after I win the lottery” list. 

Cobar

The last stretch of road from Bourke to Cobar was sealed all the way. The desert was replaced by woodland with eucalypts and small shrubs.   It was getting late, the sun was low and the spectre of bounding kangaroos crashing through the windscreen was a concern. Sadly, the only critters we saw were feral goats. I gave up counting. So many, too many.  

Cobar like Broken Hill is a mining town. It is also a haven for those who like old architecture. We stayed in a cabin at the caravan park, which was very good. Spacious and well set out with a good amenities block. We didn’t have time to see much as we arrived late. 

There was a dull but persistent humming in the background wherever you went in the town. At first, I thought it was the rumbling of trucks passing, but I think it may have been a ventilation fan or some other mining machinery. 

On to Orange.

The next morning the final destination for our road trip was Orange, the self-proclaimed foodie capital of NSW, and the topic of my next post. Once again taking the scenic route (read: the longest way around!) via Nyngan and the geographical centre of NSW. 


I acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land we travelled through and thank them for allowing us to enjoy their beautiful places.