Tuesday, 30 July 2013



There were many famous bushrangers in Australia in the 1800’s. Most of them have found their way into Australian folklore and many of them have become associated with a certain town or area. If I list just a few I am sure that you will recognise their names.
Glenrowan in Victoria has, of course, become linked to the most famous of all; Ned Kelly. Culcairn in NSW was part of the area terrorised by Mad Dan Morgan. Ben Hall carried out many robberies around Forbes. Wagga Wagga was the stamping ground for the famous bushranger Captain Moonlight. Northern NSW and, especially the New England Tablelands, were a rich hunting area for another bushranger with an exotic name; Thunderbolt.
There were many more that were not as famous and some even that very few people have heard of. One of the least known, and certainly not famous, was William (Bill) Claud of the small town of Boiling Billy. I can hear you say, “Boiling Billy, never heard of it.” Well it was a thriving small town out beyond the black stump in the 1860’s. Sadly today it is totally deserted; no road goes there and it does not appear on any map.
William Claud, or as he was to become known as, Bumbling Bill of Boiling Billy, started his life as a criminal early. At just six years of age he stole four eggs from a neighbour’s hen house. However, whilst running home, he fell and later had to explain to his mother why he had two omelets in his trouser pockets. Many attempts at petty larceny followed, all of which either ended in tears or disaster. Just one example will suffice. While attempting to raid another neighbour’s apple tree he was bailed up by their dog, spent a terrified four hours stuck up the tree and then trying to escape tore his pants entirely off on a branch; on the way home, unfortunately, he ran into the vicar’ wife.

In his later teens he made three attempts to hold up the Cobb and Co. Coach on the main road. The first attempt failed because just as the coach approached his mother’s prune juice created an urgent need to dash into the bush. On the second attempt he managed to stop the coach but as he pulled his father’s old pistol out of his belt it caught on his shirt, discharged, and the ball took the top of his right big toe cleanly off. The third attempt was nearly successful until he attempted to fire a warning shot into the air from his newly acquired six shot colt pistol. He had forgotten to load it.

In his twenties he tried to rob the hotel in the nearby town. As a disguise he dressed as a woman in his mother’s clothes. He walked into the bar brandishing his now loaded pistol, but had to retreat in embarrassment when all the patrons fell about laughing. He had not shaved off his bushy black beard.
Later that same year he decided to hold up the local bank. He knew that this would be a dangerous enterprise and so spent months planning his strategy and building up his courage for the attempt. On the fateful day he galloped into town, dismounted with a flourish in front of the bank, only to find it locked up and the steel shutters closed. It was Saturday afternoon!
I could regale you with many tales of the daring deeds of Bumbling Bill of Boiling Billy but suffice to say that in a life spent bushranging his total gains from a life of attempted crime amounted to just one shilling and six pence halfpenny. Killed on his twenty ninth birthday, accidently shot whilst cleaning his pistol, he is buried in the local cemetery and if you can find his grave amongst the long grass and wattle bushes you will note that the only inscription is by his mother which reads, “A typical clumsy Claud just like his father!”

Thursday, 25 July 2013


                                                                 THE CAVE
                                                                                                                                                                                                      John Ross ©

            It was a beautiful morning. There was not a cloud in the sky. The air was still cold but the sun was warm on my face as I set out along the trail. Even though it was heavy, my pack felt comfortable on my back. I had brought enough provisions for three days, a feather down sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothes, as it can get very cold in the mountains in autumn. The whole trek down to the cave and back should only take me two days, but I had learned to be careful and to always prepare for the worst.
            There was no well-trodden track, just a cleft in the rocks that led down to a narrow platform. One had to inch along this for about two hundred meters to the remains of a rock fall. This was a rather steep slope strewn with man-sized boulders and loose scree. About two thirds of the way to the bottom between two larger boulders there was a small round opening into the cave.
            I had no recollection of the track at all as I started along the cliff face to find the cleft in the rocks. The last time that I had made this trek I had been found just outside the opening to the cave. I was unconscious and had a large wound on the back of my head. Bush walkers on the top of the cliff face had spotted me lying on the rocks below. At first it was thought that I had fallen from the cliff and was surely dead. However when the rescue team from the local police station reached me they found that I was still alive. It had taken them many hours to bring me back to the top and then by ambulance to the nearest hospital. The doctors did not give me much of a chance of surviving but, against all odds, I slowly got better and after four weeks I was ready to be discharged.
            There was, however, one major problem. I could not remember anything before waking up in hospital. Not only did I not have any recollection of walking down to the cave but also I did not even know my own name or where I had come from.
            Initially the police tried to help me but as the weeks wore on they gradually lost interest. There were only a few clues as to who I was. I could speak English, albeit with a strange accent that I was told was closest to an Irish one.  I also had no words for all the modern conveniences of life such as television, mobile phones, computers etc. It was assumed I must have come from a remote rural area. The doctors told me I was about twenty years old. The clothes that I had been wearing when I was rescued did not have any maker’s tags and appeared to have been home made. They were however of good quality. They had not found any pack, provisions or other clothing.
            When I left hospital I had initially stayed with one of the male patients that I had become friendly with. He had been discharged a few days before me and owned a small flat in the city. I had to attend a clinic three days a week for the next year. They helped people like me who had lost their memory or who had become mentally restricted because of an accident. At first it was hard as everything was strange and new to me. Little by little I adapted and after the year was up I was able to gain employment and to save up and rent my own place.
            The years had rolled by and now I was forty years old, married with two children and a mortgage. Lately I had become more and more curious about my past and, with my wife’s support, had sought out one of the police officers who had been in the rescue party. He was now retired and living in the mountains. He told me about how they had climbed down to where I was and described the route that they had taken. He could not help me with any other information except to describe a scrap of paper that I had grasped tightly in my hand. He did not know what had happened to the paper and could only remember that it had part of a painting of a bird on it. The bird had a brilliant red head and a silver flash on its wings.
            After discussing it with my wife we decided that it might be helpful if I was to go back to where I had been found. There was just the possibility that it might make me remember something about my past.
            All these thoughts were swirling around in my mind as I found the cleft in the cliff face and headed down. I found the going surprisingly easy and was soon approaching the area where the cave should be. I rounded a large boulder and there it was, just as the policeman had described.
            I stood staring at the opening for many minutes and at the area where I must have lain all those years ago. Nothing! The past was still just a blank wall.
            Crushingly disappointed I sat on a small rock and tried to gather my thoughts. I must have sat there for at least an hour and then feeling both hungry and thirsty I opened my pack and had something to eat and drink.
            After the meal I was still hungry so I took a biscuit from my pack. As I was about to eat it a male King Parrot landed near the opening to the cave. I threw it a piece of my biscuit and then it struck me. The male King Parrot has a bright red head and a silver flash on its green wings.
            The bird took the piece of biscuit and flew into the cave. It disappeared into the darkness. For a moment I was too stunned to move but then grabbing my torch from my pack I followed it into the cave.
            The opening was narrow but not far inside it opened out into a large chamber and from this numerous tunnels led off in different directions. I was just in time to see the bird disappear down one of these. Again I hurried after it. The tunnel twisted and turned and then came to an end in a large cave. The floor of the cave was littered with rubble that had fallen from the roof and many stalagmites and stalactites almost obscured the view through to the back wall. Then I saw it.
            In the middle of the cave was a skeleton. I approached cautiously.

            One side of the skull was cracked open. Beside the skeleton was a rucksack that had nearly rotted away. It was full of books. Tied to the bottom of it was a bag of what must have been provisions and a water bottle.
            I pulled back the flap of the rucksack and amongst the books was a sheet of newspaper with an article on the wildlife of the mountains of the Colony of New South Wales. It was dated 1867.
            Something made me glance back at the skeleton. The bird was sitting near its right hand.
            Grasped in the bony fingers of that hand was a scrap of paper with a painting of a bird with a bright red head.

Monday, 22 July 2013



                We had never really had problems in our neighbourhood with magpies.
                For those of you who are maybe not from Australia, or if you live in the inner suburbs of one of our major cities, Magpies are a largish black and white bird. Around nesting time they have the habit of “dive bombing” anyone who ventures near their nests. They have been known to cause some rather nasty injuries to people’s scalps and necks. They normally attack from behind and so the first warning you usually get is when they hit you, or swoop past in a near miss.
                Anyway. I was recently setting off down the backyard, garden spade in hand, to transplant some small bushes that were in the way of a path that I was constructing, when, without warning, something heavy and sharp hit me in the back of my head.
                As I dropped the spade, fell to the ground grasping my head, the first thing that I thought of was that I had been hit by a falling branch from a tree. Then I saw it, turning and swooping back for a second attack. It was just a blur of black and white as it hurtled past mere inches from my head. It only missed because I had ducked and covered my head with my arms.
                I am not a coward. I had even stood up to Billy the Basher years ago at school when he had tried to steal my lunch money. But, I have to admit that as the bird turned for another attack I took the opportunity to run like hell to the protection of the back veranda.
                Safely back inside, my wife administered first aid, but only after she had recovered from her fit of laughter at my description of what I thought of as a vicious attack.
                Standing at the back sliding door, a large plaster on the back of my head over what my wife described as, “a tiny scratch”, cup of coffee in hand, which I had had to make myself, I watched the magpie as it preened itself on a branch near the rotary clothes line. My wife walked past and said, “You had better not go out again or that big mean bird will get you.” After which she fell about laughing again.
                Well that did it. I was not about to let a bird get the better of me. So armed with a large sun hat, borrowed from my wife’s wardrobe, and my wife’s tennis racquet I walked boldly out into the yard. The bird was nowhere to be seen. I walked around for a few minutes feeling like a right goose until my neighbour spotted me and called over the fence, “My mother is looking for a doubles partner for the ladies day next Wednesday.” I considered trying to explain but thought better of it and again fled back inside.
                The next morning, completely forgetting about the bird, I wandered out before breakfast to retrieve the Sunday paper from the front lawn. I had only taken about a dozen steps when I caught sight of the magpie out of the corner of my eye. He was heading straight for me at full speed. I ducked and retreated inside.
                During that day I tried all the remedies that I had heard off. Wearing your sunglasses on the back of your head to confuse the bird, making loud noises to scare it off, trying to chase it with the hose. I even considered borrowing a gun to shoot it. Nothing at all worked. I resorted to the tennis racquet again, but the damn bird must be psychic as every time I went out with the racquet it was nowhere to be seen.
                The most galling moment came late in the afternoon when my wife went out to hang some clothes on the line. The bird just sat on its branch and watched her. It made no attempt at all to scare her off. Well after that I had to retire to my den, as she was full off advice as to why the bird just hated me and not her and, wanted to know what had I done to make it mad at me.
                Next morning as I was backing the car out of the garage I saw the magpie in the rear vision mirror it was laying on the road. As I watched it tried to fly away but there was obviously something wrong. One wing was dragging on the ground and appeared to be broken. My first reaction was one of triumph. Someone had hit it with a car and it would not bother me any more. Then as I drove out onto the road beside it my feelings changed to one of sadness as I watched it trying to fly. I stopped the car and watched. After a few more futile attempts the magpie gave up and just sat on the road looking at me.
                We must have stared at each other for some time as my wife came out to see why I was stopped in the middle of the road. She saw the bird and ran back inside to get a towel so she could pick it up off the road.
                Well! To cut a long story short the magpie spent some time recovering in our garage being nursed by my wife. This was after an exorbitant bill from the vet who set its wing and gave it some medicine that cost more than my blood pressure pills.
                I was not allowed to put the car in the garage as I might let the bird out. I reluctantly went along with this until one night when I came home in pouring rain. The only reaction from my wife when I complained bitterly was to tell me to take off my wet clothes in the entry hall so I would not drip water on the carpet.
                Eventually the bird was well again and able to fly. I thought that at last we would be rid of it.
 Well! Foolish me!
It knew when it was on a good thing and took up permanent residence in our back yard. At night it would roost on the back of my favourite chair on the back patio and each morning would leave me a little present on the seat.
I can hear you asking, “Did it attack me again?”
The answer is no. As they say peace was never declared but a shaky truce was worked out. Even though it would eat out of my wife’s hand and all the neighbourhood children’s I could not approach it and it always gave me a wide berth when flying around the yard. 




Thursday, 18 July 2013



                Lady Sarah Compton-Smyth was burying her fourth husband within the last ten years. Poor old James Smyth had been a business partner in our firm of lawyers, so I felt it my duty to attend his funeral. I had only met Lady Sarah a few times but had heard plenty of gossip about her. Three of her husbands, including James, had died of heart attacks and one of a burst blood vessel in his brain. The police had recently investigated, but all deaths had been attributed to over exertion in the marital bedroom. It was said that she never spent much time in mourning her losses but was on the hunt for her next victim, err, husband, almost straight away.
                The funeral was being held early in the morning, on what was a dreary day, made even worse by drizzling rain. Lady Sarah had arrived in a limousine driven by a young chauffeur who now held a large umbrella over her. I noted that he was standing very close. Lady Sarah was dressed, well almost, in a very small clingy outfit that, let’s just say, was very revealing. Oh! It was black though! My morning had started out badly when I could not get my car started and so had to call a taxi. I had also forgotten my umbrella and was trying to shelter under a large gravestone that was leaning over at a dangerous angle. During the minister’s address Lady Sarah noticed me and gave a little wave and a smile.
 I could not help thinking about some of the jokes that had circulated in the office. My favourite was, “She meets em, marries em, then plants em.” Just then another member of our office came over and said, “Just as well she does not have them cremated as she would be running out of room on her mantelpiece with all those funeral urns.” I tried very hard not to laugh as it was not seemly. An elderly lady standing nearby must have thought that I was moaning in grief as my attempts at covering my laugh had come out as a sort of splutter that had brought tears to my eyes. She smiled sadly and said, “He was a very nice man taken before his time.” She must have been joking. Old James at seventy six was still chasing anything in a skirt till Lady Sarah had come along.
The service came to an end and we were all to file past the grave and throw in the usual handful of soil. Lady Sarah went first and the chauffeur handed her a little silver garden spade, she was obviously worried about getting her black kid leather gloves dirty. When she bent over to throw the soil in the grave every male eye was on her, well a certain part of her anyway. The old guy in front of me was so entranced that he missed his step and fell in to join poor old James. The minister got his nice white cassock all dirty trying to pull him out.
Finally, to most peoples’ relief it was all over. Poor old James was at last to be left in peace.
I was walking back to the main road to hail a taxi when the limousine pulled up next to me and Lady Sarah opened the door, revealing way too much of those long, shapely legs, leaned over and said, “Would you like to ride with me?”            


Tuesday, 16 July 2013




“I’m going to start a vegie garden,” She suddenly announced one Sunday morning last spring.
]I was in the middle of the cryptic crossword. I always attempt the one from the weekend papers and this one was proving to be very vexing. So, without looking up, I said, “Yes dear. That would be nice.”
 I was still struggling with 9 across, ‘A consumer of workers, 8 letters,’ when I became aware of a furious banging on the back sliding glass door. She was waving Her arms about and looking excited and so reluctantly I put the paper aside and went out.
“I have found the perfect spot,” She announced. “You won’t have to move many plants at all, and I have worked out how to build the beds around the trees.”
Three hours, and three cups of tea later I had managed, with my usual skill in such matters, to persuade Her that mature azaleas do not transplant very well and that terracing a vegie garden down a steep slope was not such a good idea.
I was in the car on the way to the hardware store before I started to have the feeling that I had somehow been outmanoeuvred again. The position and structure of the vegie garden was now all my idea. Or was it?
I arrived back home, very late for lunch, with a rather large visa card bill and an order form for timber, galvanised nails, two tonne of garden soil and all the pieces needed for a drip irrigation system.
Enquiring as to what was for lunch I was told, “You know I don’t do lunches.” So after a snack of unappetising sweet corn eaten straight out of the tin I was just getting into the crossword again when the doorbell rang. Yes you guessed it. It was the delivery from the hardware store.
Having supervised the unloading I again retired to the lounge and my crossword.
“There are still three hours of light left so why don’t you start on my vegie garden,” She said as She went off to put a colour in Her hair.
Three days later the garden beds were finished and two tonne of soil wheelbarrowed from the front lawn and put in place. I had just finished my shower and was looking at 9 across again when She announced, “If we hurry we can get to the nursery before they close and choose my vegies.”
It was very dark and rather cold by the time I had unloaded the last of the tubs of ten different types of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and endives from the car. Does anyone know what an endive is?
It took me a whole day to do the planting to Her satisfaction. I only had to rearrange the Cos lettuce plants three times. She could not actually help, as it was Her book club that night and it is, ‘so hard to get your nails clean after digging in the soil’.
Water restrictions were introduced a week later so we could not use the watering system, and as the watering can was too heavy for Her I found myself with a new afternoon chore.
Three weeks later, I was again settling down with the weekend crossword when there was a scream from down near the vegie garden. Snails had attacked in force. Of course they had good taste and had laid waste Her Cos lettuce.
Straight up to the hardware for yours truly, for the latest in anti snail warfare.
One week later it was the attack of the birds. It appears that they love green cherry tomatoes. 
Up to the hardware again for more timber and wire netting. This time She insisted on coming with me, and spent nearly an hour choosing miniature garden implements. The type with little decorative wooden handles and a plaque where you can engrave your name. They hang in the garage, undisturbed, where I was instructed to put them, beside Her new gardening gloves, and above the decorative watering can.
Exactly one week later, yes you are right again, Sunday morning, a rather large thunderstorm passed over. No it did not rain. It was hail, only small but lots of it. I thought She was going to make Herself sick with worry about how Her vegies were faring. So down with the crossword, up with the umbrella. When I returned with the good news that her vegies were OK I was told to stop whinging as I was only wet from the waist down.
This time the hardware salesman greeted me by name and gratefully accepted my visa card in payment for more timber and ten meters of hail proof shade cloth.
Then came the big day. Friends came up from Sydney for Sunday lunch and the first of the produce from the veggie garden was presented as the centrepiece on the table. A tossed salad of ten types of lettuce, endives and cherry tomatoes.
“They are all from my vegie garden,” She said as we all helped ourselves.
She graciously accepted their praise and murmured, “It was no trouble really. I am actually going to try carrots and spinach as well next year. You know you can save so much money by growing your own vegetables.”
I tried the endives. They were as bitter as hell!!



Sunday, 14 July 2013


                                           THE LITTLE THINGS

            It was not until I had poured the Corn Flakes into the bowl and opened the refrigerator door and reached in for the milk that I remembered that I had forgotten to pick up the milk and bread on my way home from work last night.
“Damn” I said as I changed direction and went for the eggs instead. The carton was there but it was empty.
What now! The local takeaway.
It was about three kilometres away in the opposite direction to the way I needed to go to get to my first appointment. If I hurried I could just make it. Shower, dress, get over there, order a double latte and a bacon and egg burger to go, eat it on my way in the car and still get to the client on time.
The hot water tap in the shower that I had taped together with about six band aids the last time it had fallen off lay on the floor in two pieces.
Cold shower? Out of the question it was the middle of winter. What to do now? Just one band aid left in the box.
 Aha! The nail scissors. Yes the nail scissors. Grip that little toggle thing and twist it and “Viola”. Hot water.
Brilliant, except that the scissors slipped and I managed to stab myself in the other hand. Thank God for that last band aid.
Shower finally over but about five minutes behind schedule. Just about dressed. Where is that damn blouse? Double damn. It is in the pile of clothes waiting to be ironed. Pick up the iron to plug it in and forget about my sore hand. In my reaction to the pain I drop the iron and, of course, it lands on my foot. I waste another precious minute jumping around like a lunatic and swearing rather loudly. Forget the damn iron. The rumpled look is in anyway. Isn’t it?
Finally in my car and on my way, hand hurting and foot throbbing. Lucky I drive an automatic so can use just one hand and one foot. I even slip the shoe off my damaged foot.
Egg and bacon burger and latte ready in near record time. Things are looking up. I might still make the appointment on time.
Back in the car and off. Coffee and roll on the seat beside me.
Coffee first I think. Very, very carefully I lift the cup in my sore hand and take a sip. No problems. I tell myself that if I am careful I can do this. Without taking my eyes off the road ahead I slowly put the cup back on the centre console.
The band aid has come loose and part of the sticky end adheres to the cup and as I pull my hand away it tips over into my lap.
Coffee splashes out of the cap and onto my bare leg.
I jump with fright. Look down and try to pick the cup up with my sore hand. Bad idea. The hot coffee burns my hand.
It is about now I remember that I am driving in heavy traffic and look up.
Red lights everywhere, especially the brake lights on the car immediately in front.
Forget the coffee. Jump on the brakes. The damn shoe I had slipped off has fallen down behind the brake pedal.

Double damn!

Next time remember to pick up the Damn milk and bread on the way home.

Saturday, 13 July 2013


My first memories of the table are intertwined with those of my grandparent’s old house. They lived in the country, many miles away from our house in the city. We visited them every Christmas holidays and sometimes at Easter if my father could get a few extra days off. Then during the school holidays in winter my Grandad would drive down to the city in his old Standard Vanguard car, pick up my sister and myself and take us out to the property for a week or two.
Their house was at the end of a winding, dusty, dirt track. They owned a property of some two thousand acres and ran sheep and my Grandmother’s small flock of prize goats. A wide veranda ran all the way around the house. The front door opened into a hall that ran straight through to the back door. All the rooms opened off this hall, including the kitchen which was towards the back of the house.
My two most favourite places at my Grandparents were the kitchen and the machinery shed. The kitchen was where my Grandma made us children wonderful treats such as cakes, biscuits and freshly baked bread with butter made from the milk from the cow and covered with thick candied honey from their hives.
The shed was a place of adventure and discovery. There was the shiny new tractor, the ploughs, and many other pieces of equipment. When we had tired of playing on these there were dozens of old cupboards full of amazing things. The walls were covered with objects hanging on large nails that had been driven into the posts. There were even saddles that sat on large logs on the floor that we used to sit on and pretend to be cowboys or Indians.
However the kitchen was the place that I have the fondest memories of. Nearly one whole wall was taken up with the wood stove and large cupboards that were beside it. In the centre of the room was the largest table that I had ever seen. There was room around it for at least ten chairs but one end of it was where my Grandma prepared our meals and where my Grandad would whip the cream to make the butter. The other end was where we ate our meals and, at night, after he had lit the kerosene lamp, where Grandad would entertain us with his stories of the early days on the land. How he and Grandma had lived in a tent when they had taken up the land just after the First World War. How he had built this very house himself, the many trips it had taken by bullock dray to bring the materials to the site they had chosen. Grandma never said much but you could see that she was so very proud of Grandad.
During our visits in winter we would sit around the table and play dominoes and Grandma would open the front of the wood stove so it would warm the room.
 My sister would sometimes help with the preparation of the meals and it was always my job to set the table and keep the wood box full.
They were wondrous times and even today I like to let my mind drift back to those days. Time, however, moves on. When the property had become too much for my Grandparents to manage they had sold up and moved into a house in the nearest town. My Grandad had never adjusted to life away from the property and just seemed to slowly wither away. He died just one year after moving into town. We visited quite often but it was not the same without Grandad. They had moved all their furniture into the new house but it was much smaller. We still ate our meals at the large table but it had to be pushed up against a wall so it would fit into the room.
When Grandma passed away my father arranged for the house to be sold along with all the furniture except the table. It was brought down to our house in the city. The only place where it could fit in was in the rumpus room. My father made a net to stretch across the centre and we used it to play table tennis.
Now both my parents are also gone and the auctioneer is moving through the house with a crowd of strangers. My sister and her second husband had insisted that everything be sold. My parents had left me a large sum of money but had left the house and all its contents to my sister.
At last the auctioneer moves out to the rumpus room at the back of the house. He points to the table and reads from his notes, “Item 124. A large old oak table. No chairs and as you can see it has had a hard life but with a bit of work it could be restored. What am I bid?”
I look over at my sister’s husband and he is watching me with an amused look on his face. I had asked them if I could purchase the table before the auction but he had refused, saying, “It is an antique and we want to get as much for it as possible, so it will be auctioned.”
The auctioneer looks around expectantly but the crowd is silent. He waits patiently and eventually an older woman puts in a bid of one hundred dollars.
I raise her bid to two hundred and the bidding goes back and forth and the table is eventually mine for five hundred dollars. I would have paid any amount to ensure that the table remained in our family but am secretly happy that my sister’s husband’s dream of it being an antique worth many thousands was not realised.
The table now sits in the family room of our new house. My wife, my two children and I eat our meals on it. My children do their homework there and my wife likes to use one end to do her cross stitch work. I never had it restored as every mark on it has its own story to tell.
Many times, as we eat our evening meal I look up and can see the old kerosene lamp, my Grandad in the midst of one of his fantastic stories and my Grandma smiling at him with love in her eyes.



Friday, 12 July 2013


                                    THE DANGERS OF DATING DORIS                John Ross ©

                Bluey, Snowy and Mad Mick were sitting in the front bar of the Royal Hotel. There was nothing unusual about this as it was where they were every Saturday afternoon at this time. What was unusual was the subdued atmosphere that pervaded the whole bar. There was very little conversation; even the barman, Angus Applethwaite Bertwistle, known to his friends as ‘Angry’, was sitting quietly polishing glasses with a not very clean tea towel.
                The reason for this sombre atmosphere was that most of the bar patrons had just come from watching their local footy team, the Royal Rabbits, sponsored by the hotel and otherwise known as ‘The Randy Rabbits’,  get beaten in the Grand Final by the Sandy Flat Bull Frogs; 26 to 25. The bar was still festooned with banners that read, ‘Rabbits for premiers in 1949’. Not one person mentioned that it had been 30 years since their last premiership win in 1919. Then they had only won because their opposition had forfeited.
                Mad Mick looked up from his deep concentration on his half empty schooner and said to the bar in general, ‘Bloody ref’. There was a murmur of consent from the other patrons. ‘I’m going to send the bastard a white cane and black glasses.’ Mick went back to the contemplation of his beer.
                Silence hung heavy over the bar like a funeral on a rainy day.
                Trying to change the mood the bar tender said to Bluey, ‘You disappeared pretty quick after yer dinner here last night. Who was that good lookin sheila you was with?’
                Looking rather sheepish Bluey replied, ‘Yeah we were supposed to go to the pictures.’
                This exchange immediately grabbed the attention of Snowy and Mad Mick. Snowy got in first and said, ‘Two questions mate. Who was she and where did you go if you didn’t get to the flicks?’
                Looking even more flustered Bluey went a bright shade of pink and muttered, ‘The bank manager’s secretary Doris.'
                Mad Mick gasped and said, ‘The blond with the big....’
                Snowy, grinning from ear to ear cut in, ‘Now now Mick a bit of decorum please. I’m sure you were going to say that she has big brown eyes. But I do seem to remember that she won ‘Miss Dairy Cow’ in last year’s festival. Isn’t she a bit too posh for the likes of you? Her old man owns that big place out on the Sandy Creek road.’
                Before Bluey could respond Angry chimed in, ‘You blokes should have seen her performance at dinner last night. No beer or gin and tonic for her with the meal. She wanted to see ‘The Wine List’. When I told her we only had Penfolds Claret or Sweet Sherry she wanted to know if we had any ‘Bubbly’. When I told her I didn’t know what she meant she told me it was some French stuff called Çhampspain. Anyway she polished off four glasses of sweet sherry and finished up drinking two beers after all.’
                Bluey said angrily, ‘You sure know how to charge Angry, you bloody robber, the bloody meal cost me over two bloody quid. I coulda bought the new tyres I need for me ute for less than that.’
                Mad Mick who had been busting to get into the conversation said, ‘Well I hope it was bloody worth it mate. You must have it bad to spend that much on a sheila; dinner and the pictures, next thing you will be buying her bloody flowers. Hang on; you didn’t get to the pictures. Did you take her down to ‘Snogger’s Park’ you randy bastard?’
                Bluey replied in a subdued voice, ‘It was her bloody idea and all she wanted to do was talk. How bubbly wine is bliss, how she misses the culture in the big smoke, the last bloody opera she and her father went to. Yak, Yak ,Yak.  It fair put me to sleep but I soon woke up when she started to feel sick. On the bloody way home she threw up all over me. Last bloody time I take out a posh sheila like her.’