Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Just a quick one

A little success story: my stories are among the top five sellers on Alfie Dog. If you haven’t bought one yet, apparently, they are quite enjoyable.

You can find me from the main page at the moment under the heading “Top Five Sellers”

Sorry, I’m quite excited by this.

New blog soon.


Death Watch – short story interlude.

NB: This is based on a podcast involving Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington. Karl invented a watch that would tell you when you would die (the how of this was never really explored). I loved the idea. This isn’t for publication, but I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this.

2nd NB: I promised that I would start writing a word count for Finding Damo – the novel. I am currently on 8,827 words. Next blog should take me over 9k!

The story:

It was with a certain understandable resignation that Gordon pulled himself out of bed on the morning of his death. It was, he decided, not a good day to die. His head throbbed (aneurism?), his teeth felt as though he’d brushed his teeth with a hamster (poisoning?) and his stomach was roiling uncomfortably (oh gods no, not botulism!). He swung his legs off the bed and sat with his elbows on his knees and his hands over his face, trying to raise the willpower to stand up.

Just under ten hours. He stared blearily at the Pilkington on his wrist. Numbers counted down merrily, mocking him with every cheerful flicker.

9:45.54… 53… 52…

‘Rmph,’ Gordon said. Just under ten hours, and he was wasting time feeling sorry for himself. He had places to be.

After showering and brushing his teeth, Gordon felt better about the day. Not good, but better. His Pilkington Deathwatch had been warning him for weeks that today was the day, so he’d had plenty of time to prepare. His affairs were in order. His lawyer had his will. He’d told everybody he loved that he loved them (it was a depressingly short list). He’d sold his house and with the proceeds, bought himself a first class flight to Sydney to spend the last hours of his life with a girl whose online dating profile said she ‘wanted to hold a man while he died in her arms’. It seemed as good a way to go as any, unless he really did have botulism. But it was unlikely. He felt fine.

Actually, physically, he felt fantastic. There was no dizziness. No more headache. No unexplained aches or twitches. His pulse was within normal parameters. He left his hotel room for the last time in fine form, hopped into the waiting taxi and stared at his life ticking away as the vehicle whipped through the traffic to the airport (horrible car crash? No, too early).

8:23.23… 22… 21…

The taxi driver glanced at him and grunted sympathetically.

‘Last day?’ he asked. Gordon nodded. ‘I always wanted one of those. You know, way I drive? They just too damn expensive. Have you got long? I slow down?’

‘Eight hours and change,’ Gordon said. ‘I assume that means we’re safe.’

‘True. Of course, you maybe only badly hurt, and die later on of complications.’ Gordon heartily wished the driver hadn’t brought up that possibility.

‘Maybe you should slow down a bit then,’ he said. The driver obliged, but soon was back up to his regular breakneck speed, dodging into gaps that really weren’t big enough to fit a cab.

They reached the airport in record time, arriving at the drop off area just as the Pilkington hit eight hours. Gordon’s pulse was definitely over the recommended limits by now and the tip he gave the driver was more thanks for getting him there alive than for the quality of the service.

He had two hours until his flight. With one hour in the air and one hour in the taxi at the other end, that left him four hours with which to spend with the compassionate Carol and her loving arms. He took his time going through security and was escorted to the First Class lounge where he was given a glass of wine and a bowl of peanuts (late onset anaphylaxis?). He picked up a magazine from the pile in front of him and settled back to wait.

Forty-five minutes later (7:02.43… 42…) there was a ping from the departures board and all of the numbers shuffled around. Gordon lowered his magazine and watched with growing dismay as large red letters appeared on the screen next to his flight number.


No need to stress, he thought. Delayed could be just half an hour. Maybe an hour. Even two would be ok, if Carol was less than worried about the niceties. There was no modified time of departure. He tried to get interested in the article in front of him – something about salt-mining – but his eye was repeatedly drawn to the departures board and that crimson statement:


Finally, realising he wasn’t going to be able to relax, he stood up and went over to an obliging host.

‘Do you have any idea what’s happening with the plane to Sydney?’ Gordon asked. The host smiled broadly, for no apparent reason.

‘Let me see what I can find out for you, sir!’ He tapped at a computer. His smile faltered somewhat. He picked up a radio, turned his back on me and mumbled into the receiver. I could see the tension forming in his neck as he talked. I almost sympathised. Airline passengers are a cranky lot at the best of times. Having to deal with First Class airline passengers when something goes wrong would be a challenging job in anyone’s view.

And then the Pilkington caught his eye.

6:46.34… 33… 32…

and all sympathy evaporated. He watched the host take a deep breath and turn around, smile fixed firmly on his face.

‘Well, sir…’ he began, but Gordon was having none of it. He shoved his watch in the host’s face.

‘Do you see this? This is my life, slowly ticking away. I have spent an absolute fortune to ensure that I am in the lap of luxury in well under three hours. Her name is Carol. What’s going on?’

‘I am sorry, sir. Honestly I am. There is a fault with the plane. There is no way we will be able to get you to Sydney before. Well, you know.’

‘Are there any other flights? This isn’t an optional experience here. I have been planning this for weeks!’

‘I’m afraid not, sir. The football finals mean that all flights from Melbourne to Sydney are completely booked out. However,’ he added, rustling beneath the desk, ‘given the timely nature of your, er, imminent passing, this might interest you.’ He handed Gordon a brochure, blushing slightly as he did so. Gordon took the brochure, curious in spite of himself.

Join the MILE HIGH club.

‘Die up High,’ Gordon read. ‘This better have something to do with drugs, because if you’re suggesting I spend the last moments of my life in a damn aeroplane, I shall slap you with this brochure.’

‘Some people think it’s a novel experience,’ protested the host, backing away from the counter slightly.

‘You certainly can only do it once,’ Gordon said. ‘So you’re telling me, there’s absolutely no way that I can get to Sydney this afternoon?’

‘I’m afraid not,’ said the host.

‘And I don’t suppose you’ll refund my ticket?’

‘I, ah, well, it says quite specifically in the Terms and Conditions…’ The man was perspiring now. He was dealing with a man with nothing to lose, and Gordon was sure he was cursing whoever added the ‘foreknowledge of death’ clause to the standard terms of the flight booking.

‘Of course it does. Oh settle down. I have no intention of leaping the counter and making you eat this brochure,’ Gordon snapped.

6:43.12… 11… 10…

Yet, he thought.

What to do, he wondered, going back to his seat. He looked up at the host, who was now dealing with another irate would-be-flyer. He could, he supposed, go on a rampage and take as many people with him as he could (death by police shooting while force-feeding pamphlets to a sweating airport worker? Implausible at best). He could take up the airline on their Mile High experience, dying above the clouds in first class. Or he could just go home and die alone, to be found – oh no, wait. He had no home. He didn’t even have a hotel room any more. He looked at the watch with sudden fury.

‘It’s all your fault!’ he hissed at the inanimate object. ‘I didn’t need to know when I would die! Without you, I would be at work, massaging random strangers, and I’d just drop dead of – well, whatever, when the time came. Face-plant into a warm nest of sweaty, pliant, naked rich person. What a way to go.’ Given that alternative, he was happier to be in a First Class lounge at a top notch airport, even if he was going to miss out on Carol. He turned to pick up his glass of wine and almost eskimo-kissed the red-faced man whose face was only millimetres away from his own and who was now staring into his eyes with an expression that could best be described as ‘frantic’.

‘Are you dying today?’ asked the man. His breath was more alcohol than carbon dioxide, and Gordon placed a hand firmly on his chest and pushed him away. Unfortunately, this was Gordon’s watch arm, and the man grabbed his wrist and squinted at the Pilkington. ‘Aha!’

‘What? Why? Let go!’ Gordon said, pulling his hand back. ‘Everybody is more than unusually interested in my death today!’

‘Ah, but it’s not jusht yourrr death, y’see?’ the man said in a drunken slur. ‘Look’t this.’ He held out his arm, displaying his own Pilkington. Gordon read the screen on the device, somewhat unwillingly.

6:42.33… 32… 31.

Surprised, he brought his own Pilkington up beside his accoster’s.



The drunken man’s:


‘Well, that’s a coincidence!’ Gordon said with forced brightness. To be honest, the whole concept of dying was starting to be more trouble than it was worth.

‘Co-IN-shidensh?’ the man shouted, drawing looks from around the lounge. ‘Thish is no co-IN-shidensh!’ He was waving his arms around and overbalanced, falling into Gordon and knocking both of their glasses onto the ground. Gordon jumped to his feet.

‘Right. I’m getting out of here!’ he said, and walked up to the counter. ‘If I can’t die in the arms of poor sweet Carol, I may as well try and find someone closer to home.’ A hand clutched his arm. Not again, he thought. The woman next to him was deathly pale, her breathing shallow.

‘Did you say die?’ she said in a high, frightened voice. Sighing, Gordon held up his Pilkington. The woman glanced at it, looked back at his face, and then shrieked and grabbed his wrist. She held up her own. Another Pilkington, of course.





Gordon frowned. He gestured at the by now very flustered host.

‘Exactly when are we expected to fly into Sydney?’ Gordon asked, pretty sure he knew the answer.

‘Um,’ said the man, looking at the big company-logo clock on the wall. ‘I would say, if the new schedule is correct, you would land in just under seven hours.’ (fiery explosion due to malfunctioning plane. Ding!) The woman who would share his fate slumped to the floor, her eyes rolled back. The drunk man, listening in from behind, vomited into his wine glass. Gordon sighed once more and turned to the people waiting in the airport lounge.

‘Apparently,’ he said, ‘the flight to Sydney will be met by some calamity involving the death of myself, this gentlemen behind me and the reclining woman below.’ He held up his Pilkington. ‘I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I fully intend to find another way to spend my last hours. I recommend you do the same.’

The first class lounge host was on the phone, yelling into the receiver for security. Gordon picked up his bag and left the first class lounge, dodging panicked rich people as they stampeded for the exit. He looked at his Pilkington. It now read:

21y, 2m, 21d 18:23.12… 11… 10…

(heart attack? Oh, who cares?)

‘Interesting,’ he mused, as the security guards rushed past him and into the lounge. ‘Very interesting.’ He slipped the watch off his wrist and into his pocket and then pulled out his mobile phone. He texted Carol, letting her know he wouldn’t make their date this afternoon, but that if she ever made it to Melbourne, he’d love to catch up. He really didn’t expect a response.

Go for Gold

wooo ahhhhh!And the Olympics are over for another four years. Eric Idle sang “Life’s a piece of shit” in front of the world and Wonderwall was sung by the most bored-looking bunch of musicians I’ve ever seen, and Posh Spice rode, terrified, around the arena on the top of a cab, and then we’re done.

And in another way the games have just started up again. In the paper this morning, the Melbourne headlines roared “Massive push for 2024 games!” With the immediate response being: “Sorry, no way. We’re not interested.” by the Australian Olympic Committee.

Oh, I don’t care! In 12 years, my stepdaughter will be at uni and my actual son/daughter could be starting high school and nothing is less important to me than whether we host another money-sucking, elitist sporting competition.

I’m being subjective, instead of objective. I should just report, and let you make up your own minds.

On a completely different topic, I took my students to a debate last week (they won – in the finals, woo!). The topic was that London 2012 should be the last Olympic Games.

Sorry, this is less than subtle.

The main points, completely uncontested by my boys, were these:

1. More money was spent on the Olympics than the Mars landing. In a quick glance at Google (my version of research), I see costings of 10 billion pounds, 15 billion pounds, or more, depending on whether you’re talking to a politician or a media personality. Just think what you could do with 15 billions pounds in a world where whole countries are starving!

the real Olympics2. The vision of the Olympics has been corrupted by sponsorship and greed. Olympic athletes are now more interested in personal glory than the glory of their country. This is evidenced (the debaters said) by the number of competitors who live and train and compete for one of the larger countries, even though they were born in another, less prosperous country. They go where their win is. Right down to the American Dressage competitor riding the winner of the 2008 games – a German horse.

And sponsorship! The two main sponsors of the Olympic Games: McDonalds and Coca Cola. How did this happen? In the room next door, my Year 8 debaters were debating whether the government should add tax to high fat foods. Does nobody see the conflict of interest here?

3. The Olympic Games have lost all sense of tradition. When was the last time you saw a naked Greek man running in the marathon at the Olympics? See what I mean? No tradition. Wait. Did I say “I”? I meant, see what the students meant? I was just illustrating the point. Even here, my debaters didn’t contest the argument.

At no stage were they debating that the Olympics as they are should be continued. Their argument was that they should not be discontinued. They put forward the idea that the Olympics should return to the simple concepts and traditions that made them such a good idea in the first place. Instead of dividing nations and causing competition, separating rich countries from poor, the Olympics should purely be about the sport. Have the flame of competition without the golden arches plastered to the side of the torch. Compete for the glory of the win rather than the future sponsorship deals a win will garner.

First stop in that path? Kill sponsorship. Cap spending at what is necessary to provide accommodation for the athletes – no new stadiums, no massive opening ceremonies, no Gallaghers at all. I think the world will thank me. Our opposition screamed “But then nobody will watch the games! Nobody will televise it! What’s the point?” The point is, I think, that we will have single-handedly removed the tempation to do drugs, cheat, spend thousands on super hero costumes masquerading as uniforms and restored the concept of competition to the forefront of the Olympic ideal. Who cares if nobody is watching? You know what? Who watches the Paralympics? These are people with FAR more Olympic spirit, competing for the glory of achieving something great, and nobody will show them on television.

My team argued that the games should definitely continue, but that the Olympic spirit would die if we continued with the bloated, parasitic monster of a model that is the current Olympics.

Sidenote: I thought that here would be a great place to put a picture of the “Olympic Monster” so I did a quick Google search. Instead, I came up with this article, about a sea monster, terrorising Olympic athletes…

olympic spiritAgain, bloated, parasitic monster that is the Olympics as it has become. In my head, the Olympics is the lean, muscled, Greek Adonis, wearing the laurel wreath and carrying a bright torch of competition and comeraderie. And if we take away the sponsorship and the shiny stadiums, and the Olympics disappear, we at least know that they haven’t died. That happened decades ago. Rather, they were on life-support, trapped inside their head, looking at that fine body wasting away to fat and rot, unable to die because nobody would let them.

If we won’t let the true spirit of the Olympics live again, at least let it die with dignity.

a political statement

The Three Muses

The Three Muses by ShagThere’s an artist called Shag who creates these visually brilliant works, one series based on ancient Greek mythology interacting in modern/fifties society. My favourite work of his is a triptych called The Muses. In it three muses inspire three different artists – a writer, a photographer and a musician.

My sister Elise was the first person to point out that this very aptly represented us: Elise, my brother Justin and myself. Since then, I’ve been trying to match a time frame where I have the money to buy them and the prints are available. One for me the writer, one for Justin the musician, one for Elise the photographer.

You know about me. I never shut up about me. But I think it’s well worth talking briefly about my siblings, blessed of the muses.

Justin is two years younger than me. We were extremely close as children, often decked out in the same clothing and doing everything together. I was very excited when I heard he was born: “Guess what! I have a new brother AND a new dishwasher!”

As a child he was a crazy thing. The number of times he would end up in hospital with stitches… Well, it probably wasn’t that many times, but it seemed like a LOT. And I only caused a few of them. Off the top of my head: the time I pulled him off the top bunk, and the time I stuck a dinosaur in his head. Did he get stitches when I almost chopped his thumb off with the hatchet? At least that homemade bomb didn’t work.

Justin was the one who jumped off the High diving board first, climbed the highest up every tree, discovered that you could jump off the garage roof, onto the trampoline and then somersault into a pile of cushions we dragged from the caravan.

He hated reading. He even wrote a book about it: The Bird that read too much.

the Bird who Read Too Much!

Once we were in high school, we grew apart. We argued, we fought. He was sporty, I seriously wasn’t. Apparently I ignored him and he was resentful of that. I just remember that my friends and me were extremely uncool and so had to be shunned. Both of these are probably correct.

And he was right into the piano.

Both of us had lessons. I think I started earlier, and had very traditional lessons. Justin had a teacher that taught him to listen to music, taught him chords and how to belt out a tune that just sounded cool. I pretty much gave up on the piano then.

The three of us stayed away from the others’ areas of expertise. We can all draw well, play one instrument or another and write. I’ve even taught photography. But I’d never say I was a photographer or a musician.

We started spending time together again when we found out Dad had cancer. Our first Christmas together after this involved us going to the Juice nightclub and drinking way too much. So much so that we were still drunk the next day at Christmas dinner.

By this stage, Justin was playing the guitar, the piano and the drums. He basically just picks up n instrument, fiddles with it for awhile and then has a pretty good grasp of it for the purposes of ‘jamming’. He’s the musician, and he’s damned good at it.

Strewth!Now, he’s married with two kids and is incredibly successful at what he does. He worked as a park ranger for years, and the stories that came out of that job could easily fuel their own blog. He is saving the environment in a thousand different ways without the exposure of Steve Irwin. Although he has been on TV.

Elise’s muse leads her to a deep well of photographic creativity. She has an incredible eye for what is happening around her. Her sons are going to grow up absolutely hating the lens, but Elise is making the most of their cute years.

Elise is seven years younger than me. We’ve always been close, to the point where we lived together for a time at university. She did photography at university while I was completing my teaching degree. And then she did a teaching degree, which is where she met Daniel, her husband and father to their two wonderful boys. And a fellow pop culture aficionado.

I missed most of Elise’s high-schooling. I know that she was in a TISM music video, being taught by one of the singers. I know that she drank too much coffee when she was going to school at Ringwood SC. But that might be just because I was a country boy and didn’t know what coffee was until I was at university. Even then, Double Jolt was my caffeinated beverage of choice.

At uni, she was a major band head, right into her music. Then I started to see how good at drawing she is. She has a number of guitars with sketches on them, and was a regular photographer for a number of bands. Her eye for an image is spot on.

A few major images I have of Elise:

Elise the gumnut baby1. As a cute, pig-tailed pre-schooler dressed as a gumnut, which won her… I want to say Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t know why that picture and that image of Elise are linked together. It’s a weird prize, if that’s the case.

2. Lying on her back squealing with laughter after we’d held up a finger in front of her. Her face red with laughter and her eyes streaming, we could keep her going for half an hour, with mentions of E-Kidneys.

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball – 2002

3. In her graduation gown, with me in mine, both entering the grown-up world (me for the second time). The food that night was horrendous.

4. Dressed in red, standing in the sweltering heat, freshly married to Daniel and directing the photography. I never saw her happier.
Elise is a published artist. Together with Daniel, she’s been published in a book called: Co.lab Words and Art. That makes all three of us published now!

I honestly feel blessed by the family I ended up with. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Someone chose me a pretty good one.

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