Bad luck, good luck, who knows . . .

To fly away suddenly seemed my fate this spring of 2016 but I have pulled through  for now and look like The Wreck of the Hesperus—as both our dear mothers might have said on vexed occasions!

I cannot dally here and tell you that my mother had movie-star good looks; or about the Longfellow poem, or the real corpse of the icy dead daughter of the captain they found lashed to the mast of the aforesaid doomed Hesperus, because, dear reader,

time is on the jog.

I must ‘stop going to the fridge on the way to the sink’, as a close friend and I joke about doing. Such  are we inveterate storytellers. I’ll write rough,  unedited,  Impasto as it were. Lumps of my life on this canvas:  The blood, the sweat, the phlegm, the virus, the bacteria,  the poo, the spew, the tears,  of which there  has been much since the eclipse in August.

As Jimmy Barnes told Anh Do  in his recent TV Show,  of his hard-as-nails father’s wretched death from emphysema:

“He died in 2007.  It was also very very sad. My dad was a boxer. He was calm,  afraid of nothing. To watch him, a calm guy, afraid of nothing; to die and I could see fear in his eyes for the first time was a very, very tough thing . . .”

After an eight to 10 week Exacerbation, as these horror shows are called, I was referred to palliative care.

Another milestone is passed. I can’t write much about it because great masters have  already being there, like Picasso said of painting said when he saw the Lascaux Cave drawings in France: there is nothing left to do.

Like  the late 32 year old librarian Elizabeth Caplice  whose final post from home to hospice is raw and heartbreaking.

“my anxiety, while waiting to find out where i am going, and when, has been completely unbearable. i spent two days feeling as though someone had a vice around my neck, and i was constantly choking when i breathed out, as though the pressure was compressing my ability to breathe.  it’s not cancer.  it is, entirely, my own intense anxiety at the waiting, the hospital room just hovering here and me in it, and no real idea of when or how i would ever leave it. —

Elizabeth again :  “it is hard. i cannot be inundated with people right now, because i need the quiet. i am often confused by the people who i feel drawn to spending time to, that i need to spend time with.  it is an interesting thing.”

Yes Elizabeth it is.

And I am now in that place.

Can I slingshot around it like in The Martian?

COPD! Millions of baby boomers have this in store for them. The 3rd biggest killer in the US. One in two Chinese men puffing away on Double Happiness. Still silent. The Death Merchants go unpunished. Getting richer.    With familial factors, I was  atypically young to have this disease, diagnosed as  very severe (FEV1 30%) at only 42 when I smoked my last cigarette.  Bad luck, good luck. . . .

But this last act is hell hard. There’s no describing the pins and needles in the hands and feet, the roiling guts, the fixed stare, the sweat in your hair that dries into salted tufts, the inability to shower,  and  the shock, delirium, and despair  that comes with wave after wave after wave of infection and breathlessness through every hour for weeks on end, night and day. Wasted, wheezy, exhausted. Losing a stone.  Losing my mind. Losing . . .

I can’t legally write about my doctors apparently. I was told that when I started this blog, otherwise I would write in awe of Dr xxxxx. (we can’t show you this man’s face because he’s a cardio thoracic physician . . . blah blah blah). He has kept me alive longer than my once poor prognosis of being in a box at 45 ! I’m 60 in February.

And now another Dr xxxxx has arrived in a surprise house call,  trailing a nurse from heaven. Enter the palliative team of angels.

time is on the jog.

I was in mismatched pyjamas  on the lounge hunched into a ball of sweaty panic when I felt like a beautiful  butterfly had alighted by my side. When  Dr xxxxx  spoke I trusted her. She “got” me and my babble.  I could not look into her eyes because I was so shambolic, the Big Shame, I call it,  and so ill and breathless and brain fogged.  My resting heartbeat was 130. She sounded like Margaret Atwood, only softer. Ahhhh.

A bit paranoid, with wonky blood gases causing achingly bad anxiety, I have always been affected by a person’s voice. That’s all I can say in case they boot me off the program and take away the morphia! Her voice reached my heart and ran through my parched lungs  like Lake Eyre in flood.

I have accepted that it’s getting darker, but I’m going to rage against the dying of the light, there, mixing two of my fave poets. A Welshman and a Canadian.   And now another Canadian is in my life. They have always been my sort of people. I love their art, film, singers like Joni Mitchell and Leonard . . .

but time is on the jog.

Maya Angelou and Adrienne Rich are my go to women poets, btw.   Plath on a black day.

And yes Maya,  I too know why the caged bird sings.

Do not speak to me of afterlife, for I hold sacred this life. But will I cleave; a word I love because it means its opposite. To leave or to stay.

For most journeys you pack, for this one I unpack.  I am shedding.
What is done is done, what is undone will remain so, such as it ever was.

I apologise for my failings. Please let them go through to the keeper. I need your kindness now. It is the thing the whole world most needs. Kindness.

As Sister B,  a dear old nun once told me,  ‘Barb you probably did the best you could with what you had, most people do.’ She was so kind and she said, ‘I know the Catholic Church hurt you, but I didn’t hurt you. I apologise for them; they were wrong, but they are not me. Now let’s get on with putting a bit of that old zippity doo dah back into our lives, shall we?

I would google the ad and sing along, but

time is on the jog.



Frances my loving partner of 23 years (here making a stonewall cushion) pulled me through because I went so far out there I never want to know again the fear of drowning over and over. It became like waterboarding is best I can say. I became delerious and panicked.

I could tell you about my hallucinations;  that I was in heavy seas in the hold of the doomed steamship Waratah with 6000 rabbit carcasees and loads of lead because I read such an amazing piece in the rugby press. Look it up on The Roar if you want.  It became part of my  panic.

but time is on the jog.

Stage 4 COPD.  End stage. How long do I have?   Exit stage left, stage!  No longer ‘Lady Lazarus’ as Nano called me.  Well how long is a piece of string?  I’ve had this disease for over 20, nearer 25,  years and, it’s getting darker.

And when the community nurse looks at your bum for bed sores and says I haven’t been 44 kilos since I was born, you know, as  Christopher Hitchens  says, you’re in Tumourtown. You have waved off the good folk of Wellness and Plumpness.

I would like to dally and talk about being a child of the Irish potato famine,  and how all I want to eat is potatoes; how Frances planted Tasmanian kipflers for me while I was wracked.

but time is on the jog.

How lucky am I? To live in a remote village on the south coast of NSW and have a team of beautiful people offer support to me and Frances. It reminds me this is still The Lucky Country, but still run by those second rate people  Donald Horne so despaired of.

Ban cigarettes not gay marriage, you fools in Canberra.

Australia has  been my home since 14 January, 1981, but wasn’t I lucky to have a Kiwi childhood as well.  My great grand-parents are buried at Katoomba, my maternal grandmother born at Penrith in NSW.



I dreamt  this week of the Corroboree frog, little beauty,  and I begin flying over the short grass.  First peoples in The Territory call us whitefellahs, the short grass people because we mow our lawns.  But  when I found the frog I was able to  keep inches above the mown grass  breathing in ozone and flying for miles. It was wonderful, like luging in Queenstown.

Of late I’ve been thinking of you all;  all the people important and incidental  in my life — family, friends, sisters, brothers,  lovers, enemies, bosses, comrades, critics,  and how lucky have I been to know such fine and varied souls.  And R souls too.  A few online friendships have been deep too. But family has come back vividly and we have such a big mob of brothers and sisters – 12 kids between us and their kids, our beloved nieces and nephews. Everyone a winner.

Emphysema is an isolating disease, no matter who you are.
But I have no energy to talk much anymore.

I should’ve told more childhood stories. Mine was a rare,  rural childhood; it is vanished that way of life.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven.

There is a time to be quiet.

Now what is undone, will probably stay undone.

Palliative care has made me comfortable. Put me back in touch with planet earth because I was way out beyond Neptune.

I am humbled by the  reminder of the cruelty of anxiety and panic disorder,  and other mental illnesses like something my sister Patricia has lived with her whole adult life.

Here we  are,  six of us Farrelly kids  except for my beloved older brothers  Chris and Myles.


From left: Catherine, Michelle, Patricia, Barbara, and Rita holding baby John. Absent: Chris and Myles. ( A fire in 1974 destroyed our home, so photos are rare).

I may not blog anymore,   (the last post so to speak) or I may. I don’t want to spend time with “the black mirror” but with Frances, who is away today in Sydney, doing business. She has to manage everything now. Because I can’t walk she brings me back photos from around the village. These I would like to publish. Her eyes are my eyes and she brings me boronia and freesias.


Our elderly cat  Elfy, went blind during my recent illness and I could not support Fran in going to the vet for the last time to say goodbye,  or to come home and bury her with our adored Tiggy and Fluffy in our garden  to ‘moulder where once they played’. Can’t remember who wrote it. Would google it,

but time is on the jog.

I’m too tired to write anymore now.

“Goodbye and thanks for all the fish”.
This is for Frances,  (and for all the lovers who become carers), without whom I would not have caught that breath in the night when it was cold and you never slept either.

For my wife of 23 years,  Frances Maree Rand,  from your wife Barbara Helen Farrelly, with eternal love admiration and respect.

From  Red,  Hot & Blue, kd,  sings Cole Porter’s So in love


Please write to me here if you want, but I may not be able to reply. I will read  every word I can and listen to what I can’t read.












56 thoughts on “Bad luck, good luck, who knows . . .

  1. A lovely blog as usual Barbara. But so said to realise this wretched illness has now got you so ill. Like you I have had this emphysema for very many years. Since 1987. Yet somehow I manage to keep going. To fight against the infections. The breathlessness. Each winter I wonder. Will this be the year that final exacerbation gets me. Each spring I look in awe at the new life growing, glad that once again I have survived the long winter nights.
    I hope to see more of your blogs. And know how much of a fighter you are. Breathe Easy my friend. Derek. x

    Liked by 1 person

      • Derek Cummings, this post is for you. Inspired by you. Thank you kind man.

        The Big Shame

        What is the opposite of the world is your oyster?

        Shame. It crippled the Irish and the Aborigines. It hobbles strict Catholics and Jews, and homosexuals of a certain bygone generation. It kept Victorian women prisoners in their own clothes. Muslim gays and lesbians are likely still ashamed.

        Shame burns the cheeks and makes the heart race, the mouth dry and the eyes glassy. Like venom, shame must be drawn up and spat out by us with unfashionable lifestyle diseases like emphysema, AIDS, the pox, or leprosy. We Children of a Lesser God.

        Poverty, too, in childhood gives one’s a life a patina of shame. No matter how rich or fat the man or woman becomes, the thin and frightened child inside will tap at the window and try all the locks and enter swiftly your psyche if you are depressed or lost.

        The antidote to shame is resilience.

        Resilience is not a character trait. Adversity does not reveal it, nor good fortune sing its praises.
        Resilience is a by-product of the stories we tell ourselves.

        And like a tiny animals xxx trapped in amber, the drip, drip of memory will entomb your story.

        There are tricks to living successfully with frailness.

        A man has a car accident and is injured. He rings his family, tells his neighbour and calls in sick. Each time he rehearses the incident until it is set in amber in his mind.

        most people who struggle to breathe will encounter a slippery foe. As well as suffering from one of the world’s shameful diseases, caused by our own reckless smoking, the physiology of lung disease. The lowering of oxygen in the blood, lends itself to anxiety and depression. Panic attacks are not uncommon, and they are truly awful.

        Blood, unenlivened by oxygen, flowing sluggishly round as your poor old heart works overtime to compensate. Many of us will have heart failure. And odema. You do not want to find you ankles are swelled up. Your lips blue.

        The illness cascades and the bill for all those pills comes due. Osteoporosis for me and hip replacement in my early 50s was one price I paid.

        With COPD, you have a chronic illness with acute, life threatening phases. You never get well. You just have good days. There is a tipping point where the bad days swamp the good ones and the medication becomes less effective and more toxic. Diminishing returns on the pills puffers and potions that make up your day.

        Gaunt and weary and shell shocked as a frontline soldier, I’ve seen a once big man with COPD curl up in the corner of the hospital toilet. Beaten; his blue pallor and thin, bruised skin were as nothing to the rattling deep sigh that told of his utter exhaustion. They buried him a few months later.

        It were a kindness, old *Joyce said to me as she mounted her bike at the hospital gym. She was fat where I was thin with the same illness. They call her the blues bloater, me the pink puffer.

        Rehab pumps up your tyres but doesn’t fix the hole where the air leaks out. It’s a reprieve. And there’s not much else unless you get to change that tyre. (See blog transplant blues)
        One of the most experienced respiratory physios I’ve met, a very fine and disciplined woman, warns us that we can lose our fitness in just three days.

        I can lose my mind in three seconds, I think, remembering the panic from lack of oxygen.

        I’ve had to adopt the old grasshopper pose and take things quietly. I become leaden and saturnian and phlegmatic, where my true nature is mercurial. So I wrestle with acceptance and in my reading found THE SECRET OF SURVIVING ANYTHING


        It’s all about the story you tell yourself.


  2. You touch my heart, Barb. Your valiant battle against the terrible COPD is terrifying to hear about. I am so pleased you are getting palliative care. You should not have to battle on without the help that medical care can give you. I know you’ll seize every moment and ( as Robin Williams insisted in Dead Poets’ Society) you’ll suck the marrow out of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. while it’s still Oct 23, in Australia at least, your blog-day – not here, in Aotearoa, where it’s almost 2am – i wanted to write to you, Barb… but wordlessly (cos i ain’t gone none, words that is, not for the mo after listening to yours)… from this moment of the dark… only the words of the Aussie-gifted possum outside this window on the gencko tree, snickering – what have you got to snicker about, say i –
    and i will write soon, likely in light, but i wanted to simply let you know now that i have read your last / penultimate / pen-penultimate (et al) blog… deeply, it feels…. feels like listening… i often have lots of words, too many at times, but sometimes maybe it’s enough to let you know today i am privileged to listen, awed at your unpacking and showing.. thank you…
    grateful that that Dr’s voice could get through to you, amongst others, and be alongside you two, Frances and Barbara, Margaret Attwood’s soft voice reaching you..
    as do the memories of family (that photo!) and friends, and Elfy cat, and bright frog, and more…
    and your music, Barb! – this time kd with Cole Porter’s words…
    you listen, and echo, and tell, and hum-sing…
    and i listen to you…
    with love, and a tear in the dark…
    and ‘fess up to having two Aussie-born grandparents, as a way of reaching out to you xx

    bloody possum!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dearest Barb, I love you & want to thank you for your amazing generosity yet again in giving me time to say goodbye. Thank God your angels have arrived to ease your pain. Barb please forgive me for my infrequent responses to your wonderful blogs. I think of you so often I just hope to hell your ESP is switched on ? xox. You are in a special place in my heart ,you are truly selfless & because of you I still have the gift of my baby . Our very gentle hugs & kisses to you & Frances , Jules XOX

    On Sun, Oct 23, 2016 at 7:19 PM, The Departure Lounge wrote:

    > Barbara Farrelly posted: “To fly away suddenly seemed my fate this spring > of 2016 but I have pulled through for now and look like The Wreck of the > Hesperus—as both our dear mothers might have said on vexed occasions! I > cannot dally here and tell you that my mother had movie-star” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jules, thank you. The Shepherds are in my heart, all of you. And the sheep. Yesterday I ate Turkish Delight (good stuff) and thought of your beauty and grit, of your colossus of a family. Mothers . . . beautiful mothers. Missing mine achingly. We were so close . . .
      Your thingembob flowers every winter, whites and pinks. Baby birds hatched in one of the pots you gave us!
      You know I hold you all dear and hope our girl can find her smile.
      I love you dear Jules. xxx


  5. Dearest Barb and dear dear friends of Barb. I am one of the “brothers”, not in the photo. As the eldest of our amazing family of eight, I have known Barb the longest of any other living person living. When Barb was born, I had just started school, and I remember with excitement our Dad picking me up from school in our Ford Model A and taking me to the maternity hospital to see my new little sister for the first time, and it was then that I fell in love with Barb and have remained in love with her for all of the almost 60 years since. In the early days I couldn’t wait to get home from school tand carry her and push her around in “my truck” ,–the pram. And then as life progressed, it was Barb who carried me around and even pushed me around in the nicest possible way of course. Brothers and sisters have their issues from time to time and also the odd spat. But there has never been an unkind word, thought, or action between Barb and I, just love, kindness, an understanding beyond words, some shared black humour, and a shared view of injustice in the world. I have seen Barb through the highs and lows of her life, and even in the lowest of times. as we see now, she has been able to demonstrate great courage and an ability to see beauty around her. I am reminded of the quote from French philosopher, Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer” Barb has not only found that “invincible summer”, she shares it with us, and we are the richer. Barb’s friends and family are a source of great pride and strength for her, and as Barb has so beautifully articulated, it is her wife Frances who is her greatest friend, and whom I am privileged to know and love too. Barb, be lifted and blessed this day by all of us who have been gifted by you and love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As always, I am so touched by your words dear Chris. And wasn’t I lucky to meet you before Myles :)!
    You have always been the most kind and funny and wonderful brother. Your storytelling is unsurpassed, especially after a suitably good wine or two. So raise a glass to me, to us Farrelly kids. The hour is late, I’ll give you that, but even as the doctors toil, they tell me I’m not yet “circling the drain”.

    We shared beautiful parents, and brothers and sisters, and ups and downs, and we have shared countries and shared values. Our bonds are forever; our lives truly enriched by each other’s presence. What a blessing to be able to say that and to mean it. How lucky was I when Christopher Patrick Thomas Farrelly was born in 1951 and could someone throw up a picture of you and Myles if they have one. Nothing too current, we’re all old buns now.
    Love to you and gorgeous Sue.
    And here’s to Ford and my first ride in a Model A! WOW.
    Arahanui, Love always Barb

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wrote this for my nieces – and for nieces everywhere

      Akathist for a niece

      He appears like a cliché,
      —a thief in the night, a snake in the grass—
      slips in with her unremarked.
      She’s pale and carries her baggage of despair
      with thin arms and blue-ringed eyes
      but fashionable too,
      a jaunty headscarf, orange sunglasses,
      seventeen going on a hundred.
      He’s sitting on her shoulder looking at me.
      I light a candle in my soul: an old foe has come to visit.
      He once clung to me as he clings to her. He never ages.
      She swallows “Susie-Q”, Quetiapine,
      a newer anti-psychotic than the fluphenazine
      that eased my nights at seventeen.
      My chemical straightjacket in a jar.
      She does not tell the doctor
      who drops prozac onto sorry souls—
      their open mouths like clowns’ heads at the circus—
      she does not tell the doctor that she takes E’s,
      smokes H,
      drinks shots of absinthe,
      smoked four or five cones a day from the age of fourteen.
      She holds a cigarette in her long lovely fingers
      that will one day shake.
      Fourteen. The year he first recruits.
      A wretched year for those of us marked out for early harvest.
      Fourteen. The year she tried to take her life chroming flyspray,
      and running a blade back and forth across her young skin.
      These cuts are his footprints, his scat,
      often found on young girls after he first comes to visit.
      He comes in legal and illegal guises.
      He can sweep in the front door dressed up as ritilin to vanquish ADD,
      or as an anti-depressant,
      or he can slip in the back door as a bud, a slurp of alcopops, a little pill, a rock.
      Written on my body is the warning
      that these substances cause severe inner restlessness, irritability and discontent.
      Doctors call it Akathisia.
      I know it as spiritual malady.
      It is a hymn to the Lower Power. It draws him near.
      Always beginning with the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel,
      the other Akathist Hymn to the Holy Virgin was written in 556.
      To us who follow the Goddess,
      Akathisia means “not sitting” as we rejoice in Her.
      To the doctor it is dysphoria.
      To the Priestess it is euphoria.
      The kids watch their pissed parents.
      They learn to swill in their young mouths the syllables of hypo-crit.
      These parents who are hyper critical:
      Mired in their own pain they emit a vibration like a silent dog whistle and soon the man with the pills
      and the blow
      and the foils
      appears at the door
      singing the same old song from long before when I heard him
      — oh rock of ages, rock of crack cocaine who will heal a young girl’s pain?
      Swapping one Akathisia for another.
      I have found my serenity now
      in the Temple where She lives—the Holy Mother who knows him
      as the snake from that ancient garden
      when a young girl first yielded to temptation
      and was filled with gnawing restlessness, anxiety and discontent.
      I know him as Her absence,
      not existing in his own right.
      He is like cold, an absence of heat,
      or darkness—an absence of light.
      He is within and without.
      He slides down her damp skin as a drop of acrid sweat.
      She takes him inside her on a hot Sydney night
      when he piggybacks on the sweet smell of frangipani and marijuana.
      He does not like the water so she does not swim,
      he likes the midday sun burning him
      until she becomes thirsty for beer and careless of her blisters as the band plays on.
      Ah, the sense of ease and comfort he brings time and time again
      before he hammers on the bar
      demanding payment in flesh and blood and spirit.
      Another heavy-lidded awakening to a new day already old and dead in her young head
      as she rises to the taste of last night’s vomit.
      “Rejoice oh bride unwedded, there is another way.”

      – Barbara Farrelly.


    • Case of You

      Just before our love got lost you said
      “I am as constant as a northern star”
      And I said “Constantly in the darkness
      Where’s that at?
      If you want me I’ll be in the bar”

      On the back of a cartoon coaster
      In the blue TV screen light
      I drew a map of Canada
      Oh Canada
      With your face sketched on it twice
      Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine
      You taste so bitter and so sweet

      Oh I could drink a case of you darling
      Still I’d be on my feet
      oh I would still be on my feet

      Oh I am a lonely painter
      I live in a box of paints
      I’m frightened by the devil
      And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid

      I remember that time you told me you said
      “Love is touching souls”
      Surely you touched mine
      ‘Cause part of you pours out of me
      In these lines from time to time
      Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
      You taste so bitter and so sweet

      Oh I could drink a case of you darling
      And I would still be on my feet
      I would still be on my feet

      I met a woman
      She had a mouth like yours
      She knew your life
      She knew your devils and your deeds
      And she said
      “Go to him, stay with him if you can
      But be prepared to bleed”

      Oh but you are in my blood
      You’re my holy wine
      You’re so bitter, bitter and so sweet

      Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
      Still I’d be on my feet
      I would still be on my feet

      © 1970; Joni Mitchell


  7. Our dear Barb. I feel so blessed to have known you – you are an inspiration. I have always enjoyed listening to your stories and have thoroughly enjoyed your company when we have had our family gatherings. I wish we could have all spent more time together – you will always be very dear to us all. You are truly a beautiful soul. We are all here with you tonight – you are in our thoughts and prayers and we send you lots of love and strength and courage – we love you our dear Barb. Our beautiful Barb. Love from Toni and Paul, Michael, Matthew and Emily. xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • The blessings have been all mine.
      Dear Toni, the Rands have been my family for nearly 25 years and the warmth and love and welcome I have received is beyond repaying. What a gift.

      It has been a sorrow to sicken as the children are growing into adults because I wanted so much to be a more involved aunty. I’ve had to watch from afar more than I would have wanted. But watch I have.

      I have always had a deep connection also with your mother Judy that has enriched me beyond words at times. You are alike.
      She comforted me like a mother once when I needed it. What a legend. What a survivor.

      I love our big family on both sides of the Ditch. Thank you for being my sister.

      We had a lots of fun but not enough. Hold my Frances close when I am gone, though I have no plans to skip the joint in a hurry.

      Best to have no plans sometimes . . .

      Love to you all, big hug to Paul, Michael, Mattie and Emily. Your visit meant the world to me. It was perfect.


  8. Oh Barb my heart broke reading this and I loved it too; your word magic is with you and with us forever. You were the best boss I ever had for all sorts of reasons but right now what stands out is how much I have learnt from you. I’m not sure how much time we have left with you. I’m panicked about it but I know you’re always with me, in the narrative of my sentences and in my need to omit unnecessary words and keep to the power of the story. I thank you for giving me opportunities to express myself and for believing in me. I hope you’ll be around for a lot longer. I will watch this space. Love you so much xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kath, you are as vivid to me today as when I first met you at 2ser in the 80s.

      Kath, I have been sick for so long I’ve turned into a sort of emphysemic gollum – 40 kilos of heavy breathing! My precious . . .

      But, Because of emphysema, I retired early to the bush, went clear (as in famous blue raincoat) and stayed where I have been seduced by Australia. A rare plant grows only on our cliffs, Draco, can you believe? I believe I live comfortably with the spirits and ancestors of the local Jerringa people who have showed me sacred places that I cannot mention here.
      Kooris seem to ‘get’ us irish souls.

      Kath your spirit and optimism have been among the greatest Ive ever seen. You are Kurt Fearnely before there even was KF.

      I kept a copy of that picture of you Mum. You have her eyes. And a lot more! What a honey.

      Didn’t we laugh – didn’t we dolca vita our way around Glebe.

      I never forget your dear friend; his tortured spine, especilly now as my bones crumble from severe osteo and I get just a taste of what that man endured.

      I have spent the last 10 years reading the classics, reviewing for the local paper, becoming a gourmet vego cook (I say I cook in 7 languages), gardening, cat fancying, bush walking just everywhere I could, kayaking, streaming TV, gaming (Lara Croft),gongoozling, loving frances, helping some lost souls, and I have, until now, not been cursed by the anxiety this disease finishes you off with, as well as panic attacks from low blood gases.

      I think the first duty of a writer (to paraphase some english actor) is to turn 40.

      You have a lot to say, I hope you keep writing and not let social media fragmatize your work. Margy told me this could be the lost century of information due to hardware becoming obsolete.

      Keep your reel to reels and your journals too.

      Kath if I saw you this minute we could pick up as if those years apart never happened.
      That’s a friendship, isn’t it.

      I love you Kath Duncan. And I loved Malcom too. Even Lillycrap, see how far I’ve come in being Buddah-like!

      Bye for now gorgeous.

      I’m glad I got this chance to say a few things.

      Kia Kaha,


  9. Dear Barb, I read this early in the morning in Hell’s Kitchen NYC where I now live. I’m crying quietly because I don’t want to wake Susan who still sleeps. (Susan is my love – a librarian and a wonderful soul. You would like her. I also have a Yorkshire Terrier named Tiny who you would like also. She’s very cat-like.) Your bravery and tenderness in the face of the hardship you describe is heartbreaking and overwhelming to read. Your writing is beautiful. I would love to be able to write like you.
    At the weekend I was upstate NY looking at the fall colors and I was reminded of you. Why? I think I was telling Susan about you. Maybe it was about how Jules and I would sit at your feet all those years ago in Adelaide and you’d deliver feminism 101, installment whatever. Your talks were so smart and funny and we knew we were lucky. I know I’ve told Susan this story before, whether it was this weekend I’m not sure. Barb, you are never far from my thoughts, even when I’m half way across the world. I know you know Jules and I were in your thrall and your period of influence remains one of my most formative. Both times – the later period in Darwin was such an interesting addition to our friendship. I’m so grateful for everything you did for me during my periods of darkness. I love you Barb. Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jarv!
      Having enjoyed Lifelong friendships with librarians, one in particular, you are very lucky. So is Susan. What a profesion!
      Yes, I have read about Tiny and everything you post cause I lurk on F’s FB page.

      Thank you for your memories but I would like to write to you privately and wonder if you could send me an email address.

      I’m still at galah etc. I have many conversations with you because of our shared road/s.
      I loved you the minute I saw you all haughty beautful youth dressed up to go skiing! And Jules. Honey. I was having a beer for breakfast!

      Yeah, Tiny’s cute but Garfield will always be top dog.

      Me, Im a vego for years and love all animals. Fran works for wildlife rescue.
      Animal Lib is my last great passion.
      I read through my blog and see there is a thread of Aboriginal meaning coming through.
      I have been lucky to live in this sacred place, this women’s place, Currarong: The Home of the Wind Spirits!
      Over 15 years it has infused me with something green and red and ochre.
      I know you know.
      Black cockatoos, my favourite, just flew over calling.

      More soon when I can.


      Watched holding the man (play debuted when I was Star Editor) and remembered how many more years I have been given than the Lost Boys.

      All my love and hello to Susan. She should meet MEB if in Canberra, 2IC at NLA.


      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for telling your story Barb – sorry it’s so tough. We think of you and Frances often and hope there are moments of joy still in life. I re-found your opening speech from my show in the Kiosk all those years ago and it made me laugh – happy times – here’s a reminder of your summing up:

    “You’ve got the warmly welcoming coffee pot and the pills—something hard to swallow. You’ve got the sexy, powerful man meat, the fecund figs, the naughty tan horse. You’ve got the tea pot pumping the blood and the castrating scissors – no surprise then you need the kitchen sink, as a cleansing may be necessary . . .”

    I still giggle at Richard being referred to as ‘the man meat’. Best intro EVER.

    Wishing you and Frances well in wherever the road takes you.
    Love from us both.
    Alison & Richard,

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for sharing this tough stuff Barb and sorry that things are so so difficult.
    We think of you and Frances and hope that there are still moments of joy in life for you both.

    I re-found the opening speech you made at the Kiosk for my show all those years ago – happy times – and it still makes me laugh.
    I’ll remind you of your ‘summing up’…

    ‘You’ve got the warmly welcoming coffee pot and the pills—something hard to swallow. You’ve got the sexy, powerful man meat, the fecund figs, the naughty tan horse. You’ve got the tea pot pumping the blood and the castrating scissors – no surprise then you need the kitchen sink, as a cleansing may be necessary . . .’

    I still giggle at Richard being referred to as ‘the man meat’. Best intro EVER.
    Wishing you and Frances well, wherever the road takes you.
    Love from us both.
    Alison & Richard

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ali! In 2011 I broke my hip after a bike accident and was lying in pain and without help for some hours . . . only to be rescued by a deaf cop who beat up dykes and poofs at the first Mardi Gras would you believe! But that’s another story.

      Unable to move, the chooks pecking round me, it was hot and and for some reason I remembered how you’d broken your back and I just thought you so gutsy. I thought of how I must lie still and think of strong women and not lose it. And you came to mind.
      Then Amelia Earhart, my heroine moved in and the goddess Kali told me to suck it up! Medusa hissed and grinned.
      We women can be like for each other.
      Love to Richard. also a beautiful artist, and to you; our times together such a pleasure.
      Yes! Your exhibition. What a night!
      Keep creating. X Barb


  12. Like a ship in the harbor,
    like a mother and child,
    like a light in the darkness,
    I’ll hold you awhile.”

    “We’ll rock on the water.
    I’ll cradle you deep
    and hold you while angels
    sing you to sleep.”

    Chris, Lindy
    & Matilda xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lindy, So beautiful and we are listening to a lot of ancient Gaelic music as well.
      (I note you got a green avatar and as always am impressed with the sort of brilliant willpower and focus that has brought your dreams into reality up the North Coast).

      We will talk soon. Love to you and Chris and Tilly. We are lucky to have family like you guys.


  13. Oh Buzzy, if only we could share a few more laughs, family stories (my favourite when you woke up the house as a baby thereby saving the family from a flood!), regional journalism, Pixie jokes and you could yet again run your finely sharpened editor’s pencil over my stories!
    You and Franny looked after me in the “big smoke” when I came down wide-eyed and bushy-tailed from the Sunshine State. Staying with you at Surrey Street, meeting Fluffy and Tiggy when they were babies and, occasionally, some other local Darlo wildlife remain some of my happiest memories.
    You taught me many things – but your love for Frances and your wonderful relationship, how you have always cared for and supported each other have left a beautiful, indelible Remington-like watermark on me.
    you are an amazing writer and editor (keeping in mind i’ve worked with a few Walkley award winners, but also Chris Mitchell) and ”Hey, Hey, It’s a Lesbian” and “Roll a fag and go free” would still have to be in my top 3 favourite headlines ever!
    We have just been to Canada and yes they are your kind of people. i thought of you and Frances often and how much you would like it over there.
    Thanks again for looking after and looking out for the Queensland kitty (and yes, the less said about that 2003 AFL grand final the better!). But thank you the most for making me a better person.

    eecummings comes to mind “I carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)”

    i love you, Buzzy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Kitty, meow, meow.
      Thank you for your words; so beautiful. A watermark . . . You are a lovely writer. Those happy days at Darlo came flooding back.

      I see you are thriving; in love, travelling and working and I know a little bit about how far back you started. You are a star baby.

      Didn’t we have some fun? Thanks for the nod to my journalism. It means a lot from you. Was wondering about your 3rd fave headline!

      I read this sub say that all double decker heads could be sang to the tune of Camptown races: So like

      ‘Man in wheelchair,
      hit by car . . .’ doo da doo da

      So funny when you try it.

      Be in touch. Ring Frannie.

      And do buy Bill Calder’s new book called Pink Ink, the golden era of gay and lesbian magazines. Tell me what you think.

      I love you kitty. Brrrrp. xxx Hello to L and P


  14. Dear Barb,

    I read this a few days ago – didn’t know what to say then, don’t know what to say now.

    So I thought I’d let one of NZ’s best and my favourites say it for me (for now).


    We prepare for departure,
    no see-you-later;
    we make our goodbyes.
    It’s a quiet time, quieter
    by hour, by day,
    by day, by hour:
    not a lot left to say.

    I was moving the cattle earlier,
    told them We’re in this together,
    we’re headed for the Works,
    no one pumping the brakes:
    no one, I told them,
    is giving a damn –
    the stock-truck’s on its way.

    And later found myself talking
    to nodding tops of totara:
    told them I’d no idea
    how all of this started, or how
    (when it does) it stops.
    The trees agreed.
    And it just got quieter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pakeha self is very strong at the moment. Thank you for Sam. Baxter a great fave of mine, too.
      T&T what a pleasure to have shared Currarong with you; the NZ Embasay it shall always be.

      Thank you both for your long, quiet respectful and deeply authentic friendship.

      I know you have your own grief; I see yours in the eyes of my brothers and sisters. Love to Emma. And you Mum.

      It is easier to go than to bide, for sure.

      love Barb


  15. Dear Barb
    Having been trumped (small t) to the Hunt by Tim..
    I remember your first words to us, over the back of the fence.. “tenakoe, Me too” – a friendship forged over cups of tea, chats over the back fence, moments of community outreach – remember the day Sheldon nearly drove off with our front porch? – book lending and borrowing, baking (pretty much all one way in our direction), updates on the track gate, baseballs in your backyard, fresh chook eggs (again all one way), kayaks borrowed, gardening discourse, the odd snake in the compost..and of course rugby & rugby tipping…
    You & Frances helped make Currarong such a special place for us – & we will always think of you both when we remember Currarong.
    And our friendship has continued beyond that, I make your cheese scones on Waiheke now. And your letter to the NZ Herald editor about the NZ embassy is framed and hangs on the wall of my office (alongside the libelous story that provoked it).

    Much love to both you & Frances, we think of you often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I note you drew a veil across Hamilton 🙂

      Everything you said right back at you, Tessa. Couldnt have been luckier in the neighbour stakes. Friendship a rare bonus.
      And now comes love . . .
      Currraong and the village stalwarts have wrapped their arms round us in that nice stand offish Currarong way. (BTW, the chaser boys have a house here). Anything we need, but not intrusive.

      In early August I walked on the beach without oxygen for the first time in 2 years and met up with the Meals on Wheels Girls having their Friday wine at Bosoms Beach, like clockwork for 25 years. (I was client coordinator for 5 years when Fran joined the Fire Brigade).

      We talked about the oldies who has passed and they said how well I looked; a big fraud. We hugged and I knew I loved this village, its salt of the earth crust of people, its overlay of posh tourism more and more noticeable. solid underneath.

      They ordained us as locals, saying we had lived here a long time. Phew. Just took 15 years.

      Reg Mombassa just published a book and they asked him why he chose the landscapes he did and why he loved dogs.

      He said he chose landscapes that looked like New Zealand and he actually loved cats!

      I love Kiwis.

      But still barrack for the Wallabies, ah dear.

      Please keep in touch with Chris if you can – he is our ongoing link. If you could get him to Waiheke one time . . . there is such a synergy there.

      Arahanui and congrats on time out.

      Your friend always, Barb.


  16. Ahhhhhh…I do not want to read this, and yet your words hug my heart, my tears can’t stop but then they never have ..with you…but tonight without the laughter and joy that they normally do, We are entwined with Goddesses, Spirits and ANGELS and laughter, and light and LOVE,
    Memories are too many to share my love, if only I could have that Damm special coffee now …We both know how blessed we are , in the awakening, and the knowing, spiritual beings having a human experience, one we chose eons ago, you MUST have had a double shot of that brew to make your body go through this much when we planned this journey on Gaia. Your compassion is my truth Barb, and our energies our higher selves will never be too far away from each other, as I pull a card for you ..TWO fall from my deck , my beautiful friend KALI, and the BUTTERFLY MAIDEN, Pretty sodden from these tears, but how the Devine embodies you.
    I LOVE you with all my being, and when I shared that “brew” with you at the beginning of time to have this time on this planet with you I hit the jackpot, I am so honoured to be your sister, to have the opportunity to love you and always will, xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I chose the Mermaid Deck you gave me; I brewed a special tea and pulled 2 cards for you:
      Waves of Prosperity: “New abundance & exciting opportunities wash over you now”.

      2. DIVINE MAGIC: “Extra magical energy surrounds your situation right now. Expect miracles”.

      I need a nap. Love xxxx


    • Cath, a story I wrote for your husband, my dear brother in law Aaron.

      The Surrey Street Cats

      The tide of Yuppiedom was beginning to rise in Surrey Street, Darlinghurst, in the 1980s when we rented a terrace at number 73, opposite Eric, and the cat lady we came to know simply as Mary.

      Minutes from Kings Cross and just around the corner from the legendary cafes Bar Coluzzi and Tropicana, the Surrey Street of today is ‘chic’ and ‘quaint’ as the once run-down terraces have been turned from sows’ ears into silk purses commanding fancy prices on the eastern suburbs property market.

      A nuggetty old man, Eric was a former jockey and he carried in his wallet a greasy newspaper clipping recounting a win at Randwick many moons ago.
      The pair was old when we moved in but still worked a 12-hour day fishing in Sydney Harbour. The windows of their powder blue Toyota wagon were blacked out as they offloaded blackmarket fish to local clubs and restaurants off the books.
      In a narrow street like ours a parking space could be swapped for a right arm yet the old dears always found a spot for their truck and station wagon right outside their peeling front door. And woe betide anyone who parked in “their” space.

      Their grubby little grey two-storey terrace had convict markings on the sandstone bricks and the front door opened onto the street. A terrible stink would sometimes ooze from their basement as Eric melted down lead for his homemade sinkers. Upstairs the shabby curtain would part an inch or two as Mary kept her beady eyes on the drunks and junkies who were part of everyday life and death on Surrey Street.

      Mary and Eric believed in mistrusting everyone – it saved them time.
      She had lank, iron-grey hair, parted in the middle, apple red cheeks and the body of a German Frau fattened on pork and strudel.
      She had eyes like a stingray, flat and grey and it would be years before I saw the soft light that glowed within turning them a twinkly hazel when she talked about her favourite long dead dog, Nigger!

      They patrolled the street like the Berlin Wall.
      “Get outta here ya mongrel. What the fuck do ya think you’re doing!” she’d scream at a junkie robbing cars at 3am. Did she never sleep? She’d hang out the top window cursing the thief while Eric backed her up with a handgun.

      When I went to America in ‘88 he kindly offered me a loan of his piece and when our Herald was being pinched every day Eric lay in wait for the newspaper thief and from the branches of the old peach tree in our front yard threatened to shoot him dead.
      Problem solved.
      Like clockwork, at dawn and dusk, Mary would lovingly place plates of fish under the truck’s axle and step back and watch as a cloud of wild cats materialized to share the food. Her face softened as her red, chapped and work-worn hands hovered ever closer to Jody, her favourite. They all had names but at this stage of our acquaintance we were only on nodding terms and Mary’s world was still off-limits.

      I knew only she’d once worked at the old Violet Crumble factory. “We’d cut it up with chainsaws,” she once told me, running a red raw hand down her shapeless blue frock. “Bits of honeycomb would stick to me legs and as I walked home from work in summer the bloody flies’d be stuck all over me.” Then she’d laugh, a tinkly young girl’s laugh, and it would transform her face. I rightly guessed she was originally a plain but good-humoured girl from country New South Wales come to the city for work during the Depression.

      The illegal fishing caper wound up about the same time my brother Chris settled into a sprawling old home in the inner west of Sydney. No longer the residence of the Station Master it nevertheless boasted a disused tunnel believed to have gone from their backyard under the road to the Newtown Railway Station. It was to be a house of studies for young religious only one of whom dared venture past the cobwebby mouth of the old ruined tunnel where two unlikely creatures cohabited. One was a magnificent green-eyed silver tabby tomcat, lithe and powerful with four snowy paws. The other was a large white rabbit. Yoani, the young man who alone dared set foot inside the gloomy tunnel, is today a Priest in Fiji where his courage is discussed over copious cups of kava.
      The cage arrived at Surrey Street with a huge angry tomcat scowling and spitting after my brother and the trainee priests quit their Newtown digs. Afraid for the creature’s welfare after they left they had trapped it and delivered it to our door. The green kohl-ringed eyes flashed with hatred and I knew this marvellous wild creature would never sit on my lap purring in front of the cosy gas fire.

      In fact Oscar Wilde, as we called the silver tabby, was incarcerated for only a few hours before escaping through the open window and disappearing into the Frangipani-scented Darlinghurst night.
      Some months later our neighbours, a houseful of party poofs and dykes, locked themselves out after a particularly ecstatic Friday night.
      “Could I just come through your yard and into ours?” asked the Scottish lass ever so sweetly.
      Of course she could.
      She was the size of an ink bottle, a little black and white ball of fluff, one eye gummed up with the infection that was rattling in her chest. Near death she nevertheless opened a tiny pink mouth and hissed at everyone who came near, everyone except Frances who scooped up the poor wee mite. Still wary of us, Mary denied knowing anything about the little wild kitten so we rushed her to Janet, a vet we knew in Newtown. Next day another two little kittens were found abandoned in the neighbour’s backyard.
      One of them was a scrap of a thing, a silver tabby. Janet was doubtful they’d pull through. Just a couple of weeks old they’d been out in icy rainstorms. They were wormy, scouring, terrified and maybe even suffering from deadly cat flu. Unable to care for them herself, the young mother cat had given them to us as a last resort.
      Hand fed day and night they survived for a week when we brought two of them home and into our lives.
      Fluffy and Tiggy, Frances called them. Her first kittens!
      Mary melted when she saw them and decided we were good people after all. From time to time she waved, not smiling, waving. Then one day she pulled me aside for a chat and remarked how much Tigs looked like her father, a big silver tabby Mary had christened Darcy Duggan: “Never touched by human hand,” Mary said admiringly and I realized ‘our’ Oscar Wilde had become ‘her’ Darcy Duggan, the notorious bank robber and escape artist of legend.
      Mary could tell you the pedigree of all the wild cats of Surrey Street. The calico mother, ‘Miss Kitty Kat’, was dumped aged about three months. She had a second litter after Tiggy, Fluffy and Bindi and Mary was raising them in her nursery under Eric’s truck. There was Tiny, Jody and Cheeky. She was also looking after the cats in the nearby old men’s boarding house and keeping an eye on the elderly ‘Grandad’ – an old tabby warhorse with torn ears, a limping gait and cracked pads.
      The cats would daily dodge the cold-hearted, the cruel, the council, cars and dogs to bask in the sunlight atop walls in creeper vines or squeeze themselves through holes in the sandstone foundations and watch the world go by safe under the terrace houses.
      When the truck was sold and the family had nowhere to eat we offered Mary the use of our front porch. Despite her bad hips and dicky heart she would climb the steep stairs morning and night and with a small sigh of satisfaction place the dinners down and watch her little brood appear like magic.
      Ours was a rented terrace and a transient life and the day came when we decided to move to our own place down the south coast. Leaving Sydney was easy enough. Leaving Mary and the ferals was going to be tough. How would she manage?
      Before we said our goodbyes we were fortunate enough to have a visit from my brother-in-law. Aaron was a strapping Kiwi farm boy who soon set about trapping cats by day and drinking in the Cross at night. The Cat Defence van would whisk away the cage and return the indignant ferals one by one. Each was de-sexed and checked by a vet for the first and last time in their lives before being released. Kitty-Kat had had her last litter and Surrey Street had a nice little family of speyed cats to keep down the vermin and add the soul that wild cats bestow on cities everywhere.
      With a twinkle in his eye Aaron always reckoned he couldn’t catch Cheeky, the only male cat, but we reckoned it was a bloke thing and he wanted the big brown tabby to continue his line.
      Years have passed and Fluffy and Tiggy settled into their coastal idyll without a backwards glance. One day we called in to see Mary with free range eggs. Fluffy and Tiggy were 11 years old. Elf, a rescue cat had come into our lives.
      Mary was frail and for the first time ever invited us inside her terrace. Eric was crook too. We had a cuppa upstairs and Mary told us how first Tiny then Jody had disappeared. Kitty Kat was trapped and killed by a yuppie. Put out with the rubbish. Mary was stoic until it came to Cheeky. Just a few months before he’d become skin and bone and so sick he had let them take him inside for the night. He died next day. Cancer.
      Hers is the only unrenovated terrace left in swishy Surrey Street, rotten on the outside, but on the inside lives an old lady whose kindness has nurtured dozens and dozens of little furry street urchins over the decades. She never missed a morning or a night putting out a feast paid for out of a meagre aged pension.
      Eric went soon after Cheeky. Cancer.
      Another few years have gone and I remembered Mary when Fluffy and Tiggy celebrated their 15th birthday in October. Was she still alive?
      Then came a Christmas card written in a shaky hand: “To Frances, Barbara and 3 children. Mary xxx.”

      We have since received a lovely note from Mary’s family, telling us of her peaceful death in an old folk’s home.


  17. Here’s a story I wrote about Myles:


    Last night my brother Myles rang me from New Zealand to say goodbye.
    It was crunch time. He was heading down the Waitotara Valley Road at Taranaki and then hiking into the rugged wilderness for ‘however long it takes’.
    ‘Check it out on Google Maps’, he says. ‘Satellite’s best. Those ravines are hell steep and in the rain you’ve got to watch for flash flooding. Debra Crump calls it a c… of a place. And cold too.’
    Thin as a pipe and just as hard, Myles is going to be killing some of the 30-odd million possums in New Zealand, using cyanide and harvesting their fur for socks and jocks. He knows his vegetarian Animal Libber sister hates the idea of “possuming” but he tells me DOC (The Department of Conservation) wants to drop 1080 poison in the remote pristine forest.
    He hates that stuff. It’ll take out everything, he reckons. Deer, birds like Fantails; insects, worms.
    ‘Bastards’, he growls down the phone to Australia, where possums are protected.
    He reckons New Zealand is the biggest user of 1080 in the world.
    ‘Stick that on your fucking Hobbit billboard in LA and see how the eco tourists like it.’
    He’s warmed up now.
    ‘That’s the problem with Greenpeace. What’s the use of protests and waving round placards? As I said to some dickhead rattling a can at me the other day, why don’t you go out and just shoot somebody!?’
    Back to 1080 and some common ground: I agree it should be banned. They use it here on the south coast of New South Wales and I’ve seen a fox leaping in the air and twisting and yelping with pain as her guts were burnt out. Possums diehard too. Between 6 and 18 hours to get the job done.
    He tells me those plying the fur trade don’t skin possums anymore. They pluck them, but some hunters don’t wait for the possums to die because it’s easier to pull out the fur when they’re warm.
    ‘You won’t do that will you,’ I say plaintively.
    ‘Nah’, he says. ‘I actually like the little fellers, not like some . . .’ he trails off. He has regrets about using gin traps in the past and says there are some bad movies playing in his head sometimes.
    So he’s off to a place of Jurassically thick bush and green steep and slippery ravines to sleep under beautiful cold skies and grind out a living not out of place in the Middle Ages. Why? Because he has to pay his 21st century mortgage and the chips are down. He’s done muscle jobs for years but the body’s getting creaky and he wonders if the tendons will hold out. His shoulder’s wrecked from years of shepherding—just another working class boy who mucked up at school and has paid the price for it ever since.
    ‘I’d love to take some feral young blokes in there with me – some fuckups from the city. It’d straighten them out. Be good for them. But who’d give me a cent to do that,’ he sighs.
    If Myles ever read a book I reckon he’d like Joe Bageant’s ‘Deer Hunting for Jesus’. And I reckon Joe’d like Myles. As Joe says, “In all likelihood, there is no solution for environmental destruction that does not first require a healing of the damage done to the human community. And most of that damage…has been done through work, our jobs, and the world of money. Acknowledging such things about our destructive system requires honesty about what is all around us, and an intellectual conscience. And asking ourselves, ‘Who are we as a people?’
    Joe Bageant died recently. He smoked too much.
    Under my questioning I elicit that Myles is going bush with just a plastic sheet, a hammock and not even a Billy and some tea. ‘What about Milo then?’ I ask. He laughs at the absurdity of that suggestion. He loves Milo.
    ‘Nah I’ll eat beans and rice—and possum’.
    People like my brother wear out. They can’t get a foothold on the slippery pole that sees some Kiwis doing it tough in far less visible but no less painful ways than when a slumbering fault line opens up and swallows your dreams in a terrible earthquake.
    ‘Gotta go, see you at Kirk’s Bush,’ he says in his customary breezy sign off.
    ‘Be careful won’t you?’ I say.
    ‘Not a bad place to die,’ he says, ‘but a helluva place to get stuck with an injury.’


      • I don’t usually use aliases but this one was installed by WordPress – I am Malcolm Kukura – another former Table Talker.

        Glad you’re still writing replies. Positive vibes go out galore for you to enjoy as much divine nectar as you’re able. – and thanks for posting Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat” album cover and song – I have my favourites including the bird but they’re all good – including Jane and the lock.

        They were all, or most, were Leonard’s.

        Jennifer Warnes first charmed me with her 1979 album “Shot Through the Heart” featuring many song writers including the singer herself – it sure takes a fool to know one she tells me in “I’m Restless”


        Liked by 1 person

      • Malcolm Kukura. Yes!
        Thank you for the Jennifer Warnes song, Unforgettble Mal. I hadn’t heard it and I LOVE it. And her voice, yes.

        First we take Manhattan . . .

        Table talk: I loved your, cleverness, and your mischief, and your Zen, and although I refuse to re-visit old injuries, certain parties might reflect that the last six months or so of Bob’s blog life was soured by personal abuse and self obsession. The best advice I heard was from my beloved Lightning Lady, or was it that genius All Thumbs, who begged people “to soften their gaze”. Dali is gone as a puff of smoke.
        He was so encourging to me – the damaged writer.

        As I am dying I don’t want any cruelty. Or nastiness. or bullshit thinking. Or ruts.

        Such lovely people on TT.

        My photo/avatar came up by accident when I started this blog, and I was mortified. So much for my plan to hang out with men in the men’s shed. Bob rang true as a bloke.

        Bob had a way of explaining white male privilege that he was completely blind too. Like telling Adam Goodes what is racist; but he was a metronone and measured out the filthy liberals every day. I miss him. His voice/s.

        I couldnt live with that much gunpowder in my guts.

        Mal, the palliative team are lovely and I realise how alone and suffering I been for so long. Bob’s blog was the first time I went on line and stuck to it. Lucky I came from a big family and could handle the egos. But poor form, as you so often pointed out. Shame, as BE would say.

        I’m pretty mad now, with my lungs stuffed and my brainn running on carbon dioxide, but I can still tell a good one from a damaged one.

        May you use your powers for good Mal Kukura.

        I’m one of those women who loves science and maths and cyrptics and believe superstition and conspiracy are bringing out the Pitchfork in people.

        Record levels of inquality. That’s the problem.

        The guillotine will be back.

        I was too shy to talk to you and worried you might be too esoteric for me. I hated the fighting. Life’s to shot. At least mine is.

        After a lifetime of listening to women’s voices I went to Bobs Blog because he reminds me of manly men I’ve known; some of them kin. Hunters.

        I just wanted to listen to the boys from the Left, like Fedallah and Chris Hunter, hom I loved. Others to. I forget now.

        Otherwise were are all just all universal soldiers.

        BTW I am gratfied by the huge change/s in my lifetime.

        I wish Id been braver and talked to you. I love science. My family has both great learning and poor learning and the outcomes are stark.

        Please dont diss your posh education. I was out of school at 15 with the first dirty old man’s hand (my editor) up my dress at 16.

        Those of us who studied have better lives and their children are doing so well.

        I want that for all kids, not just the ones I’m related to.

        And we both lov Lao Tzu. I spent five years being a quiet non scholar until the aboriginal nature of this place started to infuse me.

        I think you will understand my blog “meetin venus”. Thats a compliment.

        PS I saw Leonard Cohen in Adelaide and he played and played till they turned off the power!

        Mal, there is a crack, a crack everything . . .

        Love Barb (Agent 99)

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Words cannot express my sadness at reading your post, but if there is a richness to be found in the tenuous links of cyberspace, then I have found it in abundance, in my link with you.

    Barbara, your journey and mine: linked by moments of such pleasure and wit, the shared love of poetry, of Joni, and of the deliriously magnificent scent of boronia – such an unprepossessing little flower, but packing such a punch! My favourite perfume.

    Take care. You are loved. We are loved. And we have the privilege of loving.

    Liked by 1 person


      Waitomo: Right near where I was born and where I wandered as a child. Wasn’t I lucky? To live on wild steep limestone country, near a wide green river in a place still fortified with Maori Pas and filled with ancient trees. Rimu was my favourite.

      My dear friend Glow, yesterday was like The Parson’s Egg. That reference would go over the heads of most young people. Chin Chin.

      Hilary will win. She will grow into her presidency. Put bubbles on ice. Get BB his favourite thing!!

      Just seeing the lovely people at my chest doctor’s practice yesterday look down when I came in on Oxygen, weighing now just 40 kilos. Not looking good.

      They have been my cheer squad for 9 years. The practice manager says I’m their most exciting patient (due to medical mishaps you wouldn’t believe!).

      I’m too tired to make a joke. A 90 year old helps me with the door!
      I’ve had to learn humility in spades with this disease.

      I have an epiphany:
      I realise I went from being young to being old. My whole middle age was lost to emphysema.

      You can see it in their eyes – but there’s something about the bottom Glow, the rag and bone shop, somewhere there is a ladder . . . A ladder going somewhere

      Glow, I love god perfume. I always wanted to smell Shalimar (Guerlain 1925) and in among my sackful of medicines my dear Frances had procured the iconic blue bottle.

      I’m a vintage No. 5 Channel fan, and the ingredients are similar.

      They are like exquisite friendships – blending well or not, I suppose: bergamot, lemon, jasmine, rose, iris, incense, opopanax, tonka bean and vanilla. Some say ambergris too. I agree.

      I have heightened smell due to lung disease, it’s a side effect. Can be horrible. But smelling Shalimar and playing music . . .

      I love Van Morrison’s Madam George (a favouite album is astral weeks) . . . and that sweet perfume comes drifting through the cool night air like Shalimar . . .

      Finding you Glow Worm, was like finding Shalimar.

      As for Frances, she shares her birthday with the launch of Channel 5: May 5.

      I’m too rooted to edit a thing and I’m a bit ashamed of my typos; no revision, no guile, just from the heart, Kristina.

      I don’t know how Bob blogged so close to dying. What a machine!!! Respect.

      Love always, Barbara


  19. Not looking good? Stuff and nonsense! You look magnificent, my dear. In my mind’s eye you are straight and strong – with a wicked look in your eye and that enigmatic smile, just edging through. Laughter cannot be far behind.

    I am wearing Shalimar now – such a mysterious, dusky, treacherous scent. Just when you think you have nailed the thread of one flower, it morphs into something else entirely and rises, like smoke, into the sky. I started wearing grown-up perfume when I was nineteen – a little late perhaps, but I did start with Joy because I loved the name and it was a gift from an admirer. One dab transports me back to a more innocent time.

    So fill the hours with music and smell, and the memories of limestone caves filled with mysterious, glinting lights.

    Yes, Hilary will win, and banish that overblown jackass blowhard with his little ‘o’ mouth and little ‘o’ short-fingered gestures, to oblivion. But the most important job for her will be to start the gigantic process of winding back privilege and inequality, and correcting the equilibrium so that most people can share a decent life again. When I was living in the US many years ago, I found myself, in error, in a neighbourhood on the South Side of Chicago. It looked like a war zone, which it was. I swear I saw bomb craters. Utterly derelict, in the middle of the richest nation on earth. This cannot continue, and I hope Hilary knows it. BB is restless, and will not settle down until Trump is done.

    Yes, my dear. Love always.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Such a blow. The buffoon little ‘o’ has prevailed, with the help of enraged ignorance and James Comey. Comey’s well-timed announcement was all it took. Such a blow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I wrote to my devastated sister-in-law today:

      I wear the Celtic triple goddess (triskele) to remind me that long before The Don there was Brigit. Long before the patriarchy was the matriarchy.

      I expected the lash of the tail to be dangerous and ugly. But the beast is dying.

      Hilary was not the one to drive a lance through his heart. That may have caused riots and deaths. Paranoia about the system being rigged. Trust Mother knows best.

      The second Trump ascended he begins his end. Tick tock. And it will be ugly. The seeds of misfortune are always sewn into the seeds of fortune, hence Lao Tzu’s bad luck/good luck etc. . .

      I have deep sympathy and personal connections with the so called “basket of deplorables” Hilary called those lost hurting, and yes angry, people. One of her only missteps. Read Joe Bageants Deer Hunting With Jesus to find out where they came from, those 9 million white men who never voted before.

      They are in our families, women too, because sexism damages all of us. Inequality is at record levels. 52 percent of women voted for him, and Latinos too. Rust bucket states. Poverty states.

      I wept seeing the young girls so crushed. But this will put steel in their spines and resolve in their hearts. God help the next man that grabs their pussy!

      It’s out in the open. Where once there was only silence about violence against women. In our day . . .

      NO Trumps always beats Trumps and I love 500.

      Like our own onion eater, Tony Whatisname, I can’t wait to see the people realise not only does the Emperor have no clothes, he has no cojones.

      Bye or now dear glow.

      Chin Chin,


  21. Barb, your post of November 6, 2016 at 12:48 am was such a rich and inspiring gift that even now eleven days later I’m still feeling almost but not quite ready to adequately respond in full lest I not be equal to the task of doing justice with words. Yet I feel compelled to at least make this start.

    In the mean time just two days after you posted, the latest mockery of true democracy in American hit the net and the tv screens of the world so there’s so much coming at us all at once right now. That and loosing Leonard.

    Here goes. One small step for humanity!! Your welcome recollections of so many positive facets of the times we all shared on Table Talk took me down memory lane – like you I feel much gratitude for the privilege of collaborating there. Like you I wonder what the real person who appeared as Dali is up to and if there is any chance of ever being in contact again.

    I know of no other site on the internet where it was possible to interact with so many talented writers – all of us attracted by the skills of the master – Bob.

    None of us were more worthy of recognition as sublime literati than the person writing under the alias Dali.

    Here is another volley of good vibrations reverberating out over the Nullabor from Perth on the edge of the Indian Ocean across cyberspace towards your Pacific shores.

    Thank you Agent 99

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read on Twitter that before he died Leornard Cohen told a close friend he didn’t worry about ‘fuck ups’ anymore.

      Me either Mal. It’s cool for someone who has battled anxiety.

      Namaste brother and thank you for your kind words.

      Also, Dali, if you’re by chance reading this, please CALL HOME.


  22. Dear Barbara, I read now, this lovely Friday morn, the words you’ve set before me and I’m struggling to find those commensurate.
    I’ve just mown the lawn and the grass a near carpet, a little prickly under my toes.
    The smell Barb, the smell; fuck cliché….I am traveled back to a boy and the heady perfume of petrol and cut grass…my mother’s skirt playing in the breeze.
    I look up into the sun, my eyes water.
    It is a wonder.
    I can hear the finches and the screeching minah’s.
    The distant sounds of traffic.
    The cooing of some bird.
    I watch the bee picking over the basil flowers.
    I look down at your words: “What is done is done, what is undone will remain so, such as it ever was” and marvel at their courageous accedence.
    Could only be uttered by one at the cusp.

    I remember your words still.
    Nearly 3 years ago now: I had written on the passing of my champion B.
    and concluded with the words,

    “And the day will pass.
    And another will begin…”

    At the time you saw fit to return them to me by way of compliment.
    I give them back to you now,
    in love,
    and sadness,
    in the hope that their simplicity will offer
    some small portion, however small,
    of serenity.

    your friend, N.

    (If it is at all possible, could word be left, perhaps by Frances,
    so that we may be kept abreast).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Fedallah, you remain unmasked. I known neither your name, nor your countenance, yet I know you.
      My wingman.

      You will always be my Fedallah of the Pink Avatar. A storyteller. Harpooner of the bloated right. A good sort to have beside you in a swordfight.

      Thank you Nick, for freely, generously democratically, providing us less schooled with amazing discourses on Shakespeare, or Greece or Death in the Family.

      Can’t paste the skinnybone tree photo under which I had an epiphany. Word Press fail.

      My love and admiration. Agent 99/Barbara


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