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Helen’s poems

Helen with statue in Rome

Helen with a statue in Rome

My return to Old Blighty is on the horizon and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again.  One friend, who I desperately miss, has creatively expressed her feelings about my homecoming.  With her boss on annual leave she productively used those five precious days to compose poetry.  Each morning this week I’ve woken up to a lovely little ditty and, in recognition of her recognition of me, I’ve decided to post them.  So here they are ….


Her hair so glossy like an Afghan Hound

Her bum so peachy, so squashy and round

Her eyes they pierce you through your soul

She’s a full-grown frog, she’s no tadpole

Her laugh so sweet, like an amusing ass

Her humour so dark, so filthy, so crass

She is my Angel, my Princess Simone

When she reads this crap she’s bound to groan

Lone Wolf

The lone wolf prowls through the night

Her strength, her power, her force, her might

She captures men with her mighty chest

They can’t resist, they give it their best

But her tender heart betrays her tale

Would she like to partner with an alpha male?

Her Skilled Prowess

Helen eating cake

Helen eating cake

The panther strikes at 8pm

That’s when Step class begins for them

Her fluid moves, her skilled prowess

Is she real? They wonder, they guess

Their envy shows, they can’t hide it now

“She’s so damn good, that effing cow”

But she cares not, she’s in the zone

Those insecurities, they have flown

She’s with the music, they are at one

The rest all vanish, set with the sun

But the class must end, it goes too fast

The panther grins, she’s had a blast

Queen of Step

She loved to step

She loved its groove

She had the gift

With nothing to prove

She laughed at those with two left feet

Who tried so hard but missed the beat

Helen boarding the Orient Express to Brighton

Helen boarding the Orient Express to Brighton

She’s the Queen of Step

She wears the crown

She’s so damn good

It makes others frown

Their Shared Moon

The glow of the moon in the sky above

Draws their gaze, they think of their love

Friends apart, their bond can’t be broken

Their shared moon, their friendship token

It’s their connection when they feel low

Distance will make this friendship grow

But not long now, just a few weeks left

The English one will be no more bereft

Her Aussie friend will return to this land

And once again they’ll be a merry band


“Hello Simone!!!  Oh so good to hear your voice!  I’m sorry I’ve never been at home to take any of your calls.  I was in Kyabram for a funeral, and then I was in Brisbane for a netball tournament; the kids I’m coaching are undefeated.  Undefeated, Simone!  It’s marvelous!  And then I had to head to Eumundi Market on the weekend to set up Heidi’s stall because she’s sprained her ankle.  I’ll tell you what – I’m looking forward to getting old so I can slow down”!

Portrait of Jillian's children in 1984

Jillian’s seven children in 1984
Back row (left to right): Erina, Madeline, Jacqui, Stephen, Belinda
Front row: Justin, Heidi

Jillian’s 75 and this is my first phone conversation with her in 27 years.  From babyhood to starting school, my mother dropped me at Jillian’s house each morning.  There I would spend each day until my father finished work.  At 4:30pm he would turn up to take me home, balancing me on the handlebars of his bike; me without a child-seat and neither of us wearing helmets (the wonderful seventies).  As I grew up I would still go to Jillian’s when I was sick.

Jillian has seven children (five girls and two boys), all older than me, who she raised on her own.  My days with her were idyllically peaceful; we went to Mass every day (yes, every day), and then I’d play on my own each afternoon, helping with chores as much as children can.  The tranquility came to an abrupt halt when school finished and her children came home.

I was an extremely shy and reserved child so at 4pm each day (which by my clock was just after Kimba the White Lion finished) I was bewildered as the house transformed into carnival of noise and activity.  It was like being pulled onto stage at a Cirque du Soleil performance and I was stunned by the show.

Erina, loud and boisterous, would pick me up and spin me around until I felt dizzy.  Madeline would stand in front of me and dance (probably unsuccessfully trying to get me to join in), and Justin would play his guitar, serenading me with “Wild Thing.  Balls were thrown, bikes were ridden, and music blared (to this day the song “Let’s hear it for the boy” reminds me of Erina; she played it non- stop when it was first released).

Me (baby) with Madeline, Heidi, Erina & Justin

Me (the baby) being held by Madeline, Heidi standing, Erina holding her hand out to me & the back of Justin’s head. It’s 1977.

Jillian now lives in the State of Queensland, far north from me, and I’m going to catch up with her next week.  Her children all live in the same city with her and I remember them fondly.

JillianRight, so when are you thinking of visiting?

Me (slightly bowled over by Jillian’s energetic address and feeling that same bewildered sensation I had as a child):  I was thinking I fly out on Thursday and depart on Sunday?

Jillian:  But Simone, by the time you arrive on Thursday and then depart on Sunday, you’ll only be here for two full days and there’s no way that’s long enough.  Everyone wants to see you.  You’ll have to arrive sooner.

Me (laughing):  Okay, I’ll come on Tuesday?

Jillian:  Yes, that’s more like it.  Oh I can’t wait! Little Simone’s coming!! (Hmm, Little Simone, isn’t quite so little anymore …)

I hang up, smiling at my unquestioned change of flight times; disobeying Jillian simply isn’t in my programming, even after decades.

Me with Madeline

Me with Madeline

So I head to Queensland, not Shy Little Simone, but Grown-up Simone.  My emotions are a mixture of nerves and excitement, but more than anything I’m eager to see her again.  And I hope she makes me some of her jelly slice – man I love her jelly slice (I make it myself about once a month).


I’ve since been north and had a wonderful visit.  The connection with Jillian is still present and I was able to catch up with Jacqui, Justin, Maddie and Heidi.

After 27 years my relationship with Jillian has grown into a friendship between two adults, but I was reminded of our initial guardian-to-child link in an incident which delighted me.  As I descended the stairs approaching the living room I called out loudly to her.  She replied, “Now Simone, you’ve forgotten that I don’t have conversations from room-to-room.  If you want me to respond you’ll have to speak to me in the same room”.  I apologised and smiled to myself.  Being told off by Jillian was a heartwarming pleasure; I’m still her Simone and she’ll always be my Jillian.

Music and nostalgia

A bright and crisp July afternoon, Canberra.  I board a bus and as I plonk myself on a seat my iPhone accidentally comes on and blasts Daryl Braithwaite’s “One Summer”.  Not a fashionably retro song, but something intrinsically ‘dorky’.  I see a man of about forty a few rows ahead of me smile, tap his foot and mouth the words to the lyrics “… I’ll find a waaay”!  He looks back at me and grins knowingly at the shame of this song.  In the nineties my portable CD player used to unintentionally reveal my music taste and, though the technology may have changed, the results are the same – I’ve been publicly outed as musically uncool.  But I am not alone, I am never alone. 

My previous post may have suggested my music is limited to bubblegum pop or modern-country (god bless Taylor Swift).  It isn’t, but it is consistently unfashionable.  The Cure get as much airtime as Eminem, Whitesnake and the Beastie Boys; names that ensure my unpopularity and indicate nostalgia creeping into my playlists.  On Saturday I went to an Eighties Tribute concert and I’m counting the days until the movie Rock of Ages is released.  I loudly exclaim “Oh yeah! Remember this?!  I love this song!” and look around at my fellow thirty-somethings whenever one of “our songs” (hits from the eighties and nineties) is heard.  Thankfully, they’re often doing the same.

My date of birth and my country of birth are influencing my music selection.  Last week at a small pub in Lane Cove, Sydney, I was entertained by “Gav” the guitarist singing some Australian classics.  The sentimentality resulted in me dedicating an entire playlist to songs by The Screaming Jets, Boom Crash Opera, 1927, Hunters and Collectors, Hoodoo Gurus and You Am I.  I’ve even added “Bop Girl” (which has a very young Nicole Kidman in the video).

Young Talent Time” is an Australian TV programme that features performing teenagers.  One of the boys in the current series is fourteen-year-old Tyler.  He quotes Steven Tyler and Brian Johnson as being his inspiration and Axl Rose as his idol.  With sinking compassion, I realised that this poor boy doesn’t get to hear (as “new music”) the likes of Aerosmith, AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses.  If he’d been born twenty years earlier he’d be in music heaven, and have spent hours putting together perfect mixed tapes.  Instead, he must be wasting his precious youth …

Two decades of listening to extremely loud music from Bananarama to Red Hot Chili Peppers has resulted in mild early deafness.  My extortionate, but blissful, Bose headphones are glued to my head for about three hours a day.  It was a dark period when I put my Ipod through the washing machine and was briefly forced into experiencing the quiet, and frequently annoying, external world.

Nothing makes me happier than music (or a Step class), and that includes food and sex (ex-boyfriends will testify that I won’t sacrifice a Step class for hanky-panky, no sirree – there’s no competition between those two activities).  Though admittedly music has helped me meet boys which theoretically could lead to hanky-panky.

In keeping with my inherent geekiness, and like the characters from American Pie, I was an attendee on annual Band Camps. I played the saxophone and boys used to try their luck (always unsuccessfully, I’ll have it noted!) playing with me.  I did like one boy (Stephen) until he wrote me a note referring to his “pearents” …. I couldn’t bring myself to respond to a boy who thought his parents were pears.

Smell is supposed to be the strongest sensory trigger of memories, but sound must rate a close second.  Memories and emotions come flooding back from an array of songs, beats and melodies and I welcome them all.  I like to think my fellow commuter, tapping away to Daryl Braithwaite, may have felt the same.

A frog or a prince?

Once upon a time there was a little princess called Simone.  She wasn’t a traditional fairytale maiden with flowing blonde locks, refined features and a delicate slender frame; but a dark-haired girl with an average face and a sturdy hourglass body.  Still, as flawed as she was, she dreamed of one day standing before her empire as Queen Simone, her mighty King firmly by her side.  And that meant finding a prince.

As a young girl she searched her own land in the New World for a royal suitor, but the Land of Oz is vast and its population limited: her prince was nowhere to be found.  She knew she had to get in her carriage and journey on the yellow-brick road to other kingdoms; so, when she finished university, she voyaged to the Old World to continue her search.

She kissed many frogs:   In fact she had dinner with frogs, watched movies with frogs and even saw a few frogs naked.  On two occasions in fifteen years her heart filled with hope when she met first one prince and then another, but they each chose princesses from other realms.  The Australian prince selected a beautiful olive-skinned princess from Italy, and the English prince went with a plain, but intelligent, blue-eyed princess from New Zealand.

Princess Simone never gave up hope, but she carried on her search less fervently; enjoying her life filled with the constant distractions of daily activities.  Work and socialising kept her busy and happy.  In time, she figured, her prince would show his face.  Then in 2012 she met a man in a Melbourne café and her spirits soared.  He looked like a prince, he sounded like a prince, he smelled like a prince … could he actually be a prince?

The week they met was a wondrous whirlwind of courtship.  Each evening, after Mark had fulfilled his princely duties at the café, they went out.  They saw a theatrical performance, heard the great musicians for which Melbourne was renowned, and laughed at the jesters the city’s comedy circuit provided.  Princess Simone saw Mark’s castle which was tremendously stylish, even in comparison to her beautiful temporary palace of residence at the Four-Trees Apartments.

On the night before she was due to return to her mother’s abode, she met Mark for dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant in Hardware Lane.  They chatted over a glass of wine and ordered their food.  Mark spoke excessively harshly to the waitress for making a tiny error, humiliating her and contributing to her nervously spilling some water.  “Is this how he treats his own service staff?” Simone wondered, troubled and embarrassed by his behaviour.

As Mark filled her in on his day, a strange thing happened.  His words started to blur and her eyes glazed over.  Soon, all she could hear was, “Ribbit …. ribbit … ribbit”.  “His words have no substance”, she thought.  “And, we have nothing in common.  It’s just not there between us – he’s not my prince”.  Simone realised that in the week’s carnival of activity and mead drinking, they hadn’t really talked to each other; they’d been so busy being entertained that they hadn’t established if they entertained each other.  They didn’t.

After a dinner that dragged, they finished their coffees and left the restaurant.  Princess Simone kissed Mark farewell, boarded her tram and watched him hop away.  He wasn’t an entirely bad frog (waitress incident aside) and he might be someone else’s prince but for her this fairytale didn’t end with a “happily ever after”.  Her search continues.

Fire alarm

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  The high-pitched smoke detector screeches loudly and I rush from the bathroom to the kitchenette of my hotel room.  The building will be evacuated if I don’t quickly stop the cause of the noise and I simply cannot have that happen.  Urgently I switch the toaster off, grab a chair and stand on it to reach the alarm.  With a towel wrapped around me I stretch up and press the silent button.  With my arms extended to the ceiling my towel falls to the floor.  At that exact moment the door to my room opens. 

Me:  Jesus! Shit!  (I drop to a crouch on the chair, in a sort of naked Terminator pose).

The hotel manager:  Christ, I’m sorry!  (He pauses for a moment, clearly searching for the words to justify his intrusion).  I’m just here to investigate a fire.

I look at him over my bare shoulder in a room now so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  His eyes are bolted steadfastly on my face as he slowly processes the situation.     

It’s Tuesday morning at the Four-Trees Apartments in St Kilda Road, Melbourne.  Minutes earlier I’d showered and carved a piece of the delicious fruit loaf I’d purchased at Prahran Market the previous day.  I’d popped the toaster down and returned to the bathroom to comb my wet hair; I was really looking forward to a thick piece of buttery toast with apricots and dates coated in sesame seeds.  Now I’m frozen to the chair as cold water from my hair trickles down my back:  a plump and self-conscious drenched albino rat.

The young hotel manager finally overcomes his stunned embarrassment and looks away.  I unsuccessfully try to break the uneasy silence by desperately babbling.

Me:  It’s okay, it was just some toast.  It didn’t even burn.  The smoke detector must be overly sensitive.  I’ve stopped it now.  There’s no fire.

The hotel manager:  Oh good.  Okay.  Um, I still need to check the area and re-set the alarm …. Sorry.  I just can’t leave the area without making sure.

Jesus Christ, seriously?

The awkward atmosphere continues as he turns and faces the door to give me much overdue privacy.  I get off the chair with as much self-assurance as I can muster, pick up the towel and wrap it back around me.  In a weak attempt to reduce the discomfort I switch the TV on, purely for some noise, and head to the bathroom to dress.

I hear him bustle around the room making the necessary checks and he leaves with an excessively loud, “Okay that’s all sorted!  Let me know if you need anything else”!  I call out thanks, knowing that I’ll be avoiding him for the remainder of my stay.  The air conditioning doesn’t work, the safe doesn’t lock and the Wifi keeps cutting out, all unacceptable in a five-star hotel, but I’ll put up with the flaws for the next two days.  Certain he’ll tell his staff about this incident, I’ll do my best to keep a low profile until I check-out.  Sigh.  Causing an evacuation would have been less embarrassing.  Admittedly, supervising the toasting bread in the first instance would have been the best approach … well my lesson has been sharply learnt through good old-fashioned humiliation.