A good kicking on the way home from the pub, by the hobo chic quartet (excerpt from a novel – The exit line)
I’m being repeatedly kicked in the ribs by four pairs of feet. I can feel blood pouring out of my mouth. It’s pissing down with rain. I remember people telling me you stop feeling anything after a while when you’re being beaten up, and I thought they were talking shite. They’re right.
For some inexplicable reason, I have the song My Old Man’s a Dustman going through my head. I wonder when they’re going to stop. It feels like they’ve been kicking me for such a long time. I’m going to be a right mess in the end. Cindy’s being held back by two women. She’s screaming her head off. A good lass that one, probably the best woman I’ve ever met.
I really hope I live through this because I want to spend more time with her. Come on fuckheads, finish up and let me bleed on the pavement while Cindy holds my head up and tells me she loves me. That’s my cue to be all debonair and smile, then tell her that everything’s going to be alright. Deep down I’ve always been a gentleman.
Stuart’s final words to me as they finally stand back are, ‘That’s what you get when you mess with us’. What an idiot, he’s stolen lyrics from the chorus of Karma Police by Radiohead. The irony is mind-blowing. They walk down the street and I roll over onto my side and moan very loudly.
I’m really fucked up. Cindy’s immediately by my side holding my head up and kissing me on the cheek. The rain’s stopped. I don’t want the rain to stop; it feels more cinematic that way. Somebody’s shouting, ‘Fuck you, you Pommy cunt!’ I think every one of my ribs is broken. I haven’t lost any teeth, which is a total result because dentistry is expensive in Australia.
Cindy’s crying really loudly and swearing. I tell her everything’s going to be alright. My heart rate’s quickening, I can’t fucking breathe. Cindy’s stroking my head. I’m going to pass out.
Dark red vapour trails wandered across the after-work sky. The yard was dry for a change and the glasshouse looked like a gigantic Fox’s Glacier Mint, under the pale blue sky. We all left the factory together for a change, slagging each other off, as we traversed the yard to our caravans.
‘Hey Billy!’ said Pat, ‘Get a fucken spliff rolled now!’
‘Whoooaaaaaaaaaah!’ replied Billy, ‘We’re gonna get a ride tonight lads.’
‘In yer dreams’, said Ger as he jumped onto my shoulders, spilling cigarette ash on my hair.
‘Get off ya fat cunt ya’, I said, straining, as my knees buckled.
Even Shaine looked happy with himself, holding his head up, cigarette dangling by his left side. Jerry was chanting his ‘hey jiggy, jiggy’ mantra, high on the prospect of a long drink with Harry down at the Hookie Bar, surrounded by an abundance of young, unattainable women. Michael was silent as we walked, planning his weekend foray into the red-light district of Amsterdam.
Liam broke free from the pack and ran towards the football that lived in the gutter.
‘Come on lads!’ He said, ‘I’ll go, goalie.’
‘Not a chance, Liam’, replied Pat. ‘It’s spliff time. Isn’t that right Billy boy? Eh? A three-papery fucker, with three grams of Special Skunk and just a sprinkling of that Afghan.…Shit lads, look at those fuckin vapour trails. Fucken mad shite! Hey Lachlan, you get into all that nature crap. Have a look at the sky.’
‘I know’, I said, staring up at the sky. ‘I fucken love those things.’
Huge, ragged, bloody gashes lay across the sky. A fine blend of natural sunlight and good old-fashioned pollution. The rest of the lads looked up and passed the appropriate ‘isn’t the sky wonderful’ comments, before lowering their heads again and then directing their vision towards Ger, as he bounced out of his caravan with a pile of tell-tale glossy magazines.
‘Wha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha’, he said. ‘Look what I picked up at the Aldi last night, while ye were all buying bog roll and cans ah beans.’
Ger bounded over with a pile of Russian porno mags, showing women in various public service uniforms, looking bored and sultry. Cold war knock-offs from the 70s. Meanwhile, Billy plucked, as if by magic, a three papery spliff from the interior pocket of his company issue body warmer and toasted the correct end with a battered Hell’s Angels Zippo lighter. We stood in a circle, waiting for either a toke or a visual poke, while conversation and smart-arsed comments spiralled up into the sky and joined the aerodynamic works of art.
For the first time in seven weeks, we stood together as a cohesive group without the threat of verbal violence. I hadn’t felt so good in years. It was like being back at school again with all my old mates. That empowering feeling of us against the world, before the world kicks you in the bollocks and laughs in your face. A faint glimpse of what things should be like between people, no bullshit, no lies, no hate, no promises, just a sense of need for one another, without the usual emotional VAT. I loved them all and cursed myself for slighting them in the past. A plane moved slowly above our heads, creating fresh vapour trails. For once I didn’t long to be on it, eating over-cooked broccoli from a rectangular plastic container and sipping gin from a ribbed plastic cup. Things were ok for a change and I was willing to go with the new flow, no matter where it ended up stagnating.
I thought about my girlfriend. She’d be home from work by now, feet up on the sofa, drinking coffee from one of our mugs. I needed to write to her more often and tell her what was going through my mind, tell her that I loved her even though the music hadn’t been obvious enough. The music had always been so important. She asleep, or pretending to be asleep, while I sat on the edge of the bed, half-pissed and passionate from the fingers up, my guitar wide awake on my right knee. I knew she’d be wondering what was going on, wondering why I hadn’t written every week like I’d promised that morning in the Stella Maris Hostel, the morning before I left to catch a bus to Holland from Innis. But we all promise to write every week at some point in our lives. It’s like some inevitable cliché that snatches the reason from our tongues when we can’t think of the right thing to say at the moment of departure. A stupid promise that ends up on the pile of promises that promises to sail us away to the easy way out of a difficult goodbye. Goodbye good intentions, hello spineless fucker, your time is up, row back in please, we’re all eagerly awaiting your next line of bullshit. But I couldn’t allow my shallow conscience to destroy this moment of clarity because the band, as it should always do, must play on.
When Laura answers the door I can’t believe how much better she looks. She’s still fucked on prescription drugs and red wine but she’s got dressed and bought a new grey knitted dress and a pair of white knee high leather boots. I’m impressed and I show it by raising my eyebrows and digging my hands deep into my pockets. I’ve never tired of looking at Laura, it’s the closest sensation to love for me. The house smells of grass. She tells me I look tired. I walk in.
The renovations are incomplete, giving the house that slightly fucked-up chic look, synonymous with inner city warehouse apartments. There’s something about broken plaster that gets my pulse racing. The lounge is set up exactly the same as it was in her, our, last place. The big red leather couch, the coffee table with the knife marks, the black and white portable TV, her progressive literature and a stereo that will only pump out British Indie anthems. The Stone Roses are on again. I’ve always thought it was ironic that the lead singer ended up in a cell with Doctor Shipman the Hippocratic serial killer.
She pours me a glass of wine and the next thing I know I’m kissing her bright red mouth and rubbing my crotch while thinking about The Stone Roses disappointing second album. I can never concentrate on sex because my mind is constantly questioning everything at once. I can’t relax and listen to a song without dissecting its influences and cultural relevance. Laura knows I’m not concentrating, so she withdraws and tells me she was released from hospital yesterday and that the ambulance cost $800. I take a sip from my wine and tell Laura that for that kind of price you’d at least expect a free bar.
The last time I was in an ambulance, it was snowing. I’d done a back flip off a couch and landed, left hand first, on a pint glass. There was blood pissing everywhere. Big Stu went mental because it was a new carpet. The ambulance took ages to get to me because Saturday nights always belong to the scalp hunters. By the time I got to accident and emergency, I’d lost so much blood that I abused some nurses then passed out. When I woke up Dr Phil was on the TV and I wanted to be asleep again.
Laura is what Sylphia Plath would have been as a marketing executive. She always jumps to the end. Nothing is straightforward for Laura. For example: she has this little white fluffy dog called Snuffy. Snuffy represents the centre of Laura’s universe; all she ever talks about is how she’ll fall apart the day Snuffy dies. She once spent $3,000 on vet bills after he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. When asked why, she replied ‘he’s my baby’.
When we finish the bottle of wine I ask her why she tried to kill herself. She tells me that she’s in love with me and couldn’t bear to see me in bed with another woman. I tell her that Valium doesn’t kill you but it does make you less anxious. She concurs rotating the hospital nametag on her right wrist. There’s something sexy about white wine and sleeping pills, the way they make you think of fallen Hollywood starlets, and the sound of static in the background. Laura should have been a child star instead of a marketing guru. I should have been less of a cunt but I can’t help myself these days. Snuffy jumps up on my lap and licks my nose. He’s a WWF wrestler trapped in Zsa Zsa Gabor’s body. Laura smiles and sighs, like Snuffy’s our baby, and I’ve been away on business.
I’ve not been away on business but I have been rather active of late. As well as being a copywriter for a Public Relations firm I also abuse people’s trust with alarming regularity. Some people have called me a sociopath but that’s a bit too dramatic and panders to their own sense of drama and tragedy. I’ve always wanted to fuck Lady Macbeth, she’s everything a woman should be; violent, calculating, supportive, and barren.
I abuse trust in a way that can only be described as emotional abandonment no. I wasn’t beaten or bullied as a child and my parents were nearly as good as the parents from Family Ties. My Mum even looks a bit like Meredith Baxter, only shorter with crooked teeth and irritable bowel syndrome. I didn’t mean to let Laura down, in fact, deep down I’m madly in love with her but too narcissistic to acknowledge such a strong emotional connection to somebody who’s not me or looks like me. I instantly admire and respect people who look a bit like me. It’s a problem.
I was lured away from Laura by a portly blonde chick with a penchant for firearms and Christianity. One minute we were meeting each other for the first time at a party, the next I was licking her out in a broom cupboard with a trapped cat. Her name is Alice and she’s convinced that Dustin Hoffman is her Dad. Laura caught Alice and I in bed together at my place yesterday morning. Laura staged a dawn raid based on information received from my flatmate who’s in love with Laura and wants to take her and Snuffy to Krufts one year. Alice and I were asleep when Laura walked into my bedroom. We were definitely awake by the time the police were called. Laura was cautioned by a detached policewoman and told to ‘fuck off home’. She went home via the doctor’s.
Alice thinks Laura’s a walking cliché. They know each other from some women’s group they’re both in, some shit to do with wolves. When I read Iron John I went out to the forest with some friends to commune with nature but I was attacked by some wasps and vowed never to return. You should always fuck strangers. I put my hand on Laura’s lap and tell her I’m here for her and Snuffy. She laughs in my face, then suggests we go to the pub for vodka shots. She also wants to pick up some amyl nitrate from the sex shop. I tell her that amyl is bad for her. She attaches Snuffy’s lead and we leave arm in arm.
* * *
Club X is brilliant. Laura smiles more when we’re around pornography. I go straight to the S&M section because I have a very low threshold of pain. Laura hovers around the Lesbian section stealing glances at me, as I read the back cover of a DVD called In Booty Bound. It’s about a young cheerleader’s voyage of discovery through the dark world of bondage, where she discovers a talent for domination and humiliation. Her teacher, an older woman from Zimbabwe, shows her the ropes and in doing so opens the young girl’s eyes to a new world of possibilities. Fuck, it sounds like the bondage version of Sophie’s World.
Laura buys her amyl and takes a sniff of it, before falling down and knocking over an impressive display of butt plugs from around the world. I help her up and we head for the door. As we’re leaving the shop, an assistant asks us not to come back. I nod politely and help Laura navigate her way through the large rectangular hole in the wall. Outside it’s home time for normal people. The trams are packed and the traffic is slowed to a standstill. Across the road some school kids are smoking and trying to look cool in red school uniforms. If Sydney Road were an actor it would be a mixture between Bob Hoskins and Sophia Loren.
We stumble down to a pub, which is known, like almost every pub in Melbourne, for its excellent Chicken Parmas. I’m not a fan of the Parma. For a few dollars more you can enjoy a porterhouse steak with mushroom sauce. However, the Parma does come with a free pot, which invariably makes decision making problematic. As it’s a rather dull day, I decide to go for the all day breakfast. I guide Laura into the bar and on to a stool. I order two vodka shots and two pots of draught. It’s at this point that I realise I’ve made a serious error of judgement. Alice is the barmaid. Blondes always pull the indignant face better than brunettes. Laura hands Alice the amyl and we leave. I expect a scene but am sadly disappointed when Alice changes the channel on the TV and opens a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. Maybe I read too much into the situation.
Outside on the pavement, Laura can’t believe I took her to Alice’s pub and slaps my face in front of the school kids, who laugh loudly and light up more cigarettes. I shrug and tell Laura I have a memory like a sieve but I can’t work out if I did it intentionally or not. She tells me I’m stupidly insensitive. I think I genuinely forgot Alice had started working there but it’s so hard to tell these days. Laura doesn’t believe me. I’m not even sure if I believe me anymore. Laura screams something crass into my face and staggers off down the road. Two minutes later, I see her being thrown out of the sex shop. I hail a taxi. One of the school kids calls me a faggot. There should be rain during moments like this. The taxi pulls into the kerb. I watch as Snuffy bites the man from the sex shop, then Alice comes out to tell me the Simpson’s are on.
I’ve always had a bad track record with relationships. I don’t know where it started or how it got so bad but it’s always been that way. Or so it seemed to be. There’s a moment in everybody’s life when something decisive happens, and it changes us forever. Whether the change is for better, or for worse, it’s a turning point that we take to the grave.
I was talking to a friend of mine about relationships and he said he’d only ever had one relationship in his life, and I got the impression that this made him feel less experienced than me. I looked at him and envied his inexperience because if relationships have taught me anything, it’s that people turn into toxic beasts during a difficult break-up. My soul would be stronger without those memories.
When love transmogrifies into repulsion, you lose a part of yourself. I lost a part of myself a few years ago when I took my eye off the ball and made a terrible mistake. Some people call it the ‘Magpie Syndrome’, that shallow pull towards shiny objects. And the problem with shiny objects is that they often lack depth, so once you’ve rolled them in your hand and seen yourself reflected in them, you’re faced with a difficult decision. I made the wrong decision, and the shiny object wormed its way into my soul.
She was a shallow, soulless person with no internal fortitude. An emotional leech obsessed with consumerism, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and she truly believed that mascara is a god given right. Add a dash of designer goods and you had the perfect recipe for mindless narcissism. Needless to say, I learned a lesson in true beauty and saw that a coy smile and cutesy shoulders that shrug on cue, hide nothing but a brittle husk.
So what the fuck does that say about me? Nothing good. And that’s because I’m the bad guy in this story, not the so-called narcissist, she’s just a foil for my villainous shite. If I met me in the street now, I’d break my nose for being a moron, and tell me to be out of town by noon.
But it’s what I left behind that’s the greatest tragedy in this story and makes me a despicable villain. She’s the opposite of the leech and me. She’s the most beautiful and caring person I’ve ever met in my life and I hurt her to the very core because I saw a shiny object, and was hypnotised by my own reflection. I remember walking down the street and she called me and told me she’d had to clear all of my stuff out of her flat because she found it physically painful to think about what had happened. I’ve never experienced that kind of pain and I can only imagine how awful it must feel.
So, this is my apology to you. The words of a fool who’s led a frivolous life and is willing to sacrifice everything, to let you know I’ve changed and I regret everything.
Our Creative Director, Jesse Kingsley, used to be a pool attendant in the 90s. He talks fondly of the position; halcyon days, simpler times, all sprayed with chlorinated water and discount confectionary from the pool kiosk.
The other day, I was having lunch at my desk, when Jesse came up to me and said: “Gary Sweet was my swimming teacher”. I lifted my head up from an exquisitely baked chicken pie and told him that I once had a parking altercation with the lead singer of Dexys Midnight Runners. A weird stalemate developed where neither of us knew which story was better. That’s when our Head of Business Development chimed in with a story about dating Sting’s cousin’s daughter.
Later that day, Jesse wondered if Gary would remember him if they ever met on the street. I asked Jesse if he’d done anything out of the ordinary during the swimming lessons, and he said no, he hadn’t. But then he smiled and said: “Yes he would remember me! Because back then, my last name was Beaver!”
Brian Cho sits behind me at work, and calls himself The Brian. He’s the kind of person who strolls into meetings he’s not invited to and contributes like he’s organised the meeting, while everyone else sits there, too polite to say anything.
The other day, I was having lunch at my desk, when The Brian swivelled around on his chair and said: “Callum, I got your email about looking at your friend’s website and I wanted to know more about your relationship with her. What does she mean to you?” I told him she’s one of my closest friends on the planet. To this, The Brian replied: “Then I will make sure I give it my complete attention”.
When I gave my friend The Brian’s feedback, I told her what he’d said, and she teared up and said: “What a lovely man, he must be great to work with”. I nodded, took a sip of my drink and ordered a tin of sardines.
was bat shit crazy
his wife was a jehovah’s witness
loud, white haired: thief beater
me one question:
‘what’s in the bag?’
and his wife,
at night the cabin boy hid in the shadows
they told me
was going to a school for
where there were
sat on the edge
of single figures
no chocolate biscuits?
no fizzy drinks?
this was my first deal breaker
put down the
went to bed.
I had captain pugwash wallpaper to look at
hill primary blues
as the bad Andrew
in the other class
bad person/boy/pestiferous fumarole
spit on another boy’s back
he grew up to be
with good taste
Good eLearning is about as rare as good poetry. We’re led to believe that if it’s interactive and gamified, then it’s both contemporary and cutting edge. But what happened to substance? It’s all very well having a stylish looking module, equipped with all the bells and whistles money can buy but does it adequately communicate a message? Basically, is anybody actually learning anything?
Substance comes from knowledge and knowledge comes from thorough research. A good eLearning module is not unlike an essay that conveys a central contention. Every central contention is built upon a solid research platform that endeavours to build an argument.
So, what’s the difference between an argument and an opinion? Well, an argument is based on research, and an opinion is not. Simple as that. Good eLearning modules should never be regarded as opinions, otherwise, the learner will, and shouldn’t, have any faith in the product.
Substance is easy to spot. It’s the sentence that’s packed with watertight ideas, garnished with a modest sense of confidence.
I think that these sentences have been lost in the drive to make eLearning modules look ‘pretty’. Now, I’m not against bells and whistles, in fact, I extol their shiny virtues. However, they’re often used to mask the fact that the central contention of the module has no soul, and is devoid of any research.
It’s a bit like the story about the Emperor’s New Clothes, a tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a couple of cowboy weavers who promise the Emperor a new suit of invisible clothes but who are incompetent and bestow upon him an invisible suit. They assure him that it’s the height of fashion and he’s so vain that he believes them and parades through the town completely naked. This is what we call a logical fallacy; faulty reasoning in the construction of an argument.
We’re told that these bells and whistles in a module are ‘state of the art’, the way forward in eLearning but more often than not they mask the fact that the soul of the module, the argument, is missing, or incomplete.
Education is regarded as one of the pinnacles of so-called civilization. However, it’s merely become another product we take to market, and so many of these modules we churn out are actually naked, logical fallacies walking down the main street like the vain Emperor, unaware of the mocking crowd.
Ps. We don’t build modules like that…
If you’d like to learn more about what I do at BSI Learning, check out our website:
They buried John yesterday. He was my first friend and not the last. In my memories, he was the man with the wooden spoon, dancing into his own fresh oblivion.
You only meet one or two great people in your life; fighters for decency, advocates of morality and people who don’t care what you think of them because they believe in themselves. Now, that’s a rarity.
John loved music and music loved John. He was my first friend. I remember the time that my mother told me that John wasn’t like the rest of us. That John was different, an unusual man with a heart of a lion but the brain of a child.
John had Down’s Syndrome. When I was a kid I didn’t see the syndrome, I just saw my brilliant Uncle and his vivid imagination. He was the inventor of games, the keeper of strange yet brilliant insights into a world I’ll never understand.
I loved and continue to love John. When I heard that he had Alzheimer’s Disease I thought there must be no God. And I’m right. What decent Prime Mover could do that to such a decent man? The word ‘fair’ means nothing to me now. I believe in people and people have nothing to do with God, or the conception of such an entity. We are flesh and blood and what we do is paramount to our sense of fulfillment.
John loved being John. Who the fuck can match that? Nobody. Why? Because we’re all wrapped up in our perception of ourselves. John didn’t care about that. John heard the music, picked up his wooden spoon and danced, immersed in the music of his body. He was the maker of music and the DJ that gladdens the ears.
I can see his face now. He’s up on a dance floor beyond our ken, dancing, not caring and bewildered by the reactions to his death.
He lived a good life. A righteous life. The kind of life that I can’t match.
I can see you John. You’re dancing in Newton Villa, wooden spoon in hand and wondering why the rest of us can’t be as happy as you are. Now, that must be confusing. Being happy in the face of a so-called disability must be awe inspiring.
John. You’re loved. You’re the DJ of decency. You’re in my heart forever brother.
Dance on my friend. Be happy.
I don’t hate Christmas because I’m a miserable bastard, I hate it because it’s surplus to requirement. It’s an opportunity to max out your credit card, fight with family, eat unhealthy food, guzzle alcohol and pretend to like the crap presents people give you because they have no fucking idea who you are.
Some people even embrace Christmas as the perfect time to commit suicide. However, I’d like to reflect on all the disastrous Christmases I’ve had over the years. And there have been many. Let me tell you about some of the times I’ve been accused of ruining Christmas.
My first Christmas memory is of being around five years old and standing about two metres away from the Christmas tree scratching my balls. My old man came into the room, saw that my hands were down the front of my Magic Roundabout jim jams and said, “Don’t ruin Christmas Callum”. I have no idea what I got/learned that Christmas but I still enjoy scratching my balls.
With the introduction of alcohol to Christmas, the prospect of ruining the day increased exponentially. One year my old man and my wee brother helped me to ruin Christmas. We all got so drunk before Christmas lunch that all three of us passed out at the dining table. The next year alcohol was banned and we had a merry, yet boring Christmas.
I spent Christmas 1999 in Marrakech, where I got so drunk on the roof of the hotel that I had to be assisted to my room by strangers. I spent most of the day passed out on the bed farting, while my girlfriend sat on a rickety chair crying and gagging on the methane. The next morning over a lamb tagine, she announced that I had ruined Christmas.
Moving swiftly beyond the Millennium, ruining Christmas became a certainty. However, Christmas 2001 was spent in Brighton with the same methane suffering GF of Marrakesh fame. That year we hosted an orphans’ Christmas and we had a ball. My wee brother was staying with us and I invited loads of mates from around the traps. We all took hash cookies. It was a truly great Christmas. My wee brother passed out on the couch and the rest of us crumbled Jaffa Cakes into his bum crack. He was rather embarrassed by this but conceded that I had not ruined Christmas.
Jumping five years and a continent, I ended up spending Christmas with another girlfriend at her parents’ house. On this occasion, I really did ruin Christmas and to this day I feel guilty about my behaviour. Life wasn’t going well for me down under and I was a couple of hot dinners away from flying home to the mess I’d left there.
Christmas morning started with champagne and moved swiftly onto red wine (my Achilles heel). By around 8pm I was wild eyed and scary drunk. For those of you who know me, this is an unpleasant experience. A good friend of mine once described it as like being trapped in a broom cupboard with a high functioning zombie. Needless to say, when I stripped off my shirt and threw an antique stool against the wall, I had officially ruined Christmas and any chance of being invited back. That was not only a low point in my life but a low point in ruining Christmas.
After that I got on the straight and narrow and decided that I should devote my life to making Christmas better. It was a failed experiment but at least I stopped ruining Christmas. A few Christmases passed by uneventfully and I thought I was moving away from my Christmas shenanigans. However, I hit the festive wall by getting drunk by the coast one Christmas and I guzzled all of Christmas dinner, leaving nothing for my girlfriend. She loves scallops. I ate all 75 in one sitting and then passed out on the couch. When I rose from my slumber she accused me of ruining Christmas but revoked the accusation after we found naked photos of her Dad’s girlfriend doing unsavoury things to herself.
There have been a few more bumps along the yuletide highway, like last year when I started drinking whisky at 6am and cooked a dry shepherd’s pie for my guests, followed by a tearful monologue about how successful my year had been. But to be perfectly honest, I could do without it.
Christmas, like New Year’s Eve, is an example of forced fun. It’s not a time of reflection, it’s a consumerist hell hole that makes absolutely no sense to me at all. Why max out the credit card for one day? Why pour so much into one day, when the other 364 should be equally as important?
I’ve ruined my fair share of Christmases, so I’m officially retiring from non-secular holidays. They’re obviously not for me and vice versa. I should have done this years ago but people love to guilt trip you about not liking Christmas, like you’re some kind of negative vibe merchant.
So, this year I’m locking the door of the Treehouse and turning off my phone.
If you need me, wait ‘til Boxing Day. It’s better this way.