LANCE CORPORAL MICHELLE NORRIS MC

The 11th of June 2006 changed British military history but for those that were there it was just about doing the job and taking care of their own.

Growing up in the midlands Pte Norris wanted to be a soldier. She applied to join Artillery but narrowly missed passing her fitness exam. A year of college later she aced the fitness exam but chose the Royal Army Medical Corps. 9 months of training followed before being posted to Germany where she put her hand up to go to Iraq.

She was attached to the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales Regiment, the only woman amongst 300 men. There she met Colour Sgt Ian Page who was having his birthday shortly after she got there. ” When he told me how old he was, I told him he was old enough to be my father, and he said don’t be cheeky, but after that, I always called him dad and he always called me daughter,” Pte Morris explains. During a night operation in Al-Amarah with Warrior vehicles the British forces were attacked. ” I heard a big bang up front and the driver said the commander [Page] had been hit. I asked if he was okay and nobody spoke. I told the other guys to let me out. I managed to climb up the outside of the vehicle and down through the turret. ” Pte Morris recalls. While she climbed up the side of the Warrior she was fired upon by snipers. One bullet hit her rucksack. ” I suppose I knew there were bullets, but I didn’t know how many and you don’t think, I need to be brave, you think, “I just need to get to him.‟.” explains Morris of her courage under fire.

She found Sgt Page who had been shot in the mouth, looking steadily upwards at her, trying to tell her what to do, staying calm as the shock of a gunshot wound to his face spread through his body. This 18 year old 5foot tall rookie was just eight weeks into her first deployment and had never treated anything more serious than an infected mosquito bite. ” I was worried that I would forget my training, but just looking at him lying there, it all fell into place and I knew I could do it.” says Morris. She administered first aid for three minutes with rounds landing all around her before other soldiers helped her drag Page inside the vehicle.

Following a medical evac by Lynx helicopter Sgt Page went on to make a full recovery. Her commanding officer recommended that she receive a medal for her bravery and she became the first woman ever to receive the Military Cross . The Military Cross is the third highest gallantry medal in the British armed forces equivalent to our Medal of Gallantry.

Lance Corporal Morris MC still serves in the British Army today.

-Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO KONDALILLA FALLS

 

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Baroon Lookout with the Lake in the background. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

My little brother got married in August 2013, my sister Nadia, a teacher working in England came out for the wedding with her long term partner Dave. It was the first time we all got to meet each other. Nadia’s trips to Australia are EVENTS, a tense trade off between family, friends and former colleagues all wanting to catch up with her and also not fatigue her with overscheduling. Since it was Canadian Dave’s first trip to Australia as well meant that naturally having shelled out money on such airfare they hoped to see a little bit of Australia while they were here. Oh yeah and there was a wedding going on too. They did a good job. There were trips to the Olgas, 4WD Beach driving, I was best man at my brother’s wedding which was a joyous occasion and Mum and Dad went to Hervey Bay with them to do whale watching where my mother discovered she was capable of becoming sea sick while out on the ocean. This was a couple who’d sailed along the Nile, been to a wedding in Gibraltar, taken in the beauty of Angkor Watt and half of Europe. Let alone their recent adventures in Oz. I wondered what we could do together that would be impressive and memorable. Who the hell is going to sit around and reminence about that time we went and saw Tron: Legacy? How many times will I get to spend with these people over the decades? Such moments will create ties that will bind us together. I decided the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk would be interesting enough, a sentiment that continues I guess after all why do you think the only blogs from my personal life relate to Hiking? Believe me I do not hike regularly for fun.

We set off to Kondalilla and parked one car there before hopping in my vehicle and going to Lake Baroon, the turn off to get there includes a spectacular elevated shot of the Lake before you drive down to its carpark. Nadia knew the local area well, many years earlier her championing of Maleny and Montville had led to me taking Karen there for our first holiday together. I had decided we would do the same track we did with Rosie and Sandro in 2012 only this time without the last bit to Flaxton Mill Road. Having recently struggled with a full pack at Mapleton I didn’t want to appear fatigued in front of Dave so I just took my webbing and camelback. We set off in good spirits and after Nadia noted Karen’s walking stick Nadia and Dave got their own walking sticks. The ascent to Lake Baroon lookout went painlessly and quickly and we all enjoyed the view.

We reached the valley next and I weighed up whether we should stop and eat by the creek. It was lunch time but my memory played tricks on me and I reasoned it wasn’t too far ahead until we would reach the rocks where we could also have lunch. A year on from last doing the track all I remembered was lantana before hitting deeper rainforest. We kept hiking, I’ve done this track four times and each time the pacing can change or your perception of time passing can alter. On that particular day it seemed we walked a long time through the centre of the trail. Last year I got us to eat at the creek and it scarcely seemed too long before we hit the rocks. There were no fungus on trees, no mud or lantana and I began to wonder where it all changed and how far we had to go. Part of the purpose of the hike was to give us some time together with no distractions to catch up and get to know each other, this was where Nadia who had been blogging a bit impressed on me that she thought I should start a blog perhaps reviewing films if I liked doing that. By the end of the year this blog started with a review of About Time and I have Nadia to thank for that.

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A perfect place to have lunch. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

As time wore on I worried about dragging everybody through the bush with no clear idea of when we would reach the rocks to have lunch. In mid-afternoon I called it that we would sit down on the path and eat. I think Karen was the first to point out that it was very possible just a little further on out of sight was the rocks and we all heartily agreed it was a very real possibility. Nadia and Dave had picked lovely treats from a local deli and thanks to them we enjoyed pumpkin scones with delicious chutneys amongst other things. Near the end of our meal we noted a thin worm like leech climbing over my pants and got to our feet. Thorough checking that night by both couples revealed this was the closest encounter we had with a parasite.

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At the rocks just after lunch. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Karen’s words became prophetic as we literally walked no more than 100 metres down the path to come to the rocks and creek. Happily have just sat we all sat again and took it in. I was mindful of our pace and the steep uphill conclusion to our hike but there was time.

 

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Nadia and Dave with their walking sticks in the rainforest. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We now entered the thick rainforest where the temperature drops and spirits were high as we reached the bottom of Kondalilla Falls and explored the pools below. In the times I have been back to Kondalilla Falls this part has been closed off due to land slides but I hope once again it will be open to the public as it is really quite beautiful.

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The famous stairs near the Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

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Along the creek near the bottom of the falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

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Kondalilla Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Last time we hiked up the Falls, Karen had felt it and this time Nadia grew fatigued much like I had when climbing with my pack at Baxter Creek a month earlier. While not enjoying her distress I was happy to see that Dave knew how to deal with it in the way that partners always do. I had just met the man but he had been part of my sister’s life for 3 years. As always when we reached the top and the hike ended we all felt relief. It’s nice to get out there and do it but at the 10km mark it’s done and you’re ready to chill out.

 

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At the end of our hike. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We got in their car and drove to Mapleton Falls and arrived at sunset. Dave has a habit of sitting down at such places, almost like his body is making a declaration that he will take in this moment, I remained on my feet but appreciated the spirit of such a gesture. I had hoped they would enjoy the sights and not find them lacking after all the wonderful things they have seen around this beautiful world of our’s and such gestures suggested I had nothing to fear. Others came up the walkway to enjoy the sunset too. They were foreigners taking in the view and struck up a conversation with Nadia and Dave. All of them were citizens of other countries, living and working far from home ironically maybe even in the countries their ancestors had left to chase a better life. Is it really ironic though? There have always been travellers and I in my 20s always had plans to see the world too. I’m glad that my sister has gone one step further even if I do miss her.

When I stayed at Maleny with Karen in 2008 I saw across the road a brick building with a pizza sign and fairy lights. We went there for dinner, there was a beautiful mural across the entire wall of an Italian coastline. Out the back was a fountain and lights. Karen and I sat at a small table and a young kind waitress looked after us all night remaining polite and friendly throughout. We had pizza and cheap cocktails with frilly decorations. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a perfect night like that again at Capriccios but it was a moment for us and the pizza is good and so we like to share this special place with our friends. That night we shared it with Nadia and Dave and I felt for a little bit like I got to know them and their lives a bit and vice versa. Sometimes I worry that will sadly prove to be a one-off but I will treasure that day hiking for a long time. The ties that bind.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. If you enjoyed this hiking blog check out the awesome Cindy Bruchmann’s blog for her Five Shots series.

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Nadia and Dave at Mapleton Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

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Mapleton Falls Lookout with Karen at sunset. Copyright Lloyd Marken

SOUTH VIETNAMESE GENERAL NGO QUANG TRUONG’S WAR

General Ngo Quang Truong was born to a well to do family in the Mekong Delta in 1929 and after attending college he went to officer school and received his commission in 1954 serving the next 12 years in the elite airborne brigade which he would come to command. He first saw combat in 1955 to eliminate river pirates from the surrounding area of Saigon.

In the 1960s the war with north would heat up and Colonel Truong as he was then scored a series of victories against the communists. This included a period of time when a US advisor was assigned to the Airborne by the name of Major Schwarzkopf who would later as General Schwarzkopf command forces in the Persian Gulf War. He observed that Truong was the most brilliant tactical commander I‘d ever known. – Simply by visualizing the terrain and drawing on his experience fighting the enemy for 15 years, Truong showed an uncanny ability to predict what they were going to do,” Schwarzkopf wrote. He recalled a battler where Truong clearly anticipated the enemy‘s movements throughout the day. At the end of it they had captured large stockpiles of weapons, killed many of the enemy for few losses of their own. It was a great victory and Schwarzkopf was happy but Truong sat to the side emotionless smoking his cigarettes. He had been fighting the communists a long time.

Troung a Buddhist was put in charge of quelling demonstrations by Buddhists protesting military control of the government. He was not comfortable with his job but he carried it out professionally and was permanently given command of 1st Infantry Division. A poor unit before his command of it other noted American generals of the Vietnam war referred to his division as equal to any American unit.

Unlike some South Vietnamese generals who had grown rich as they ascended the ranks, Truong was impeccably honest and, according to a close friend, led a “spartan and ascetic” life. Lieutenant General Cushman recalled that the general didn’t own a suit, and that his wife kept pigs behind his modest quarters in the military compound in Can Tho. As Cushman further described Truong, “He was imaginative and always looked for ways to improve his troops’ living conditions and family life.”

A humble man, Truong was an unselfish individual devoted to his profession. He was fiercely loyal to his subordinates, and was known for taking care of his soldiers, often flying through heavy fire to stand with them in the rain and mud during enemy attacks. He treated everyone the same and did not play favorites. There is a story that he refused to respond to a request to give his nephew a noncombat assignment, only to have the nephew later die in battle.

During the Tet Offensive of 1968, General Truong commanded the 1st Division during some of the war’s bloodiest fighting in Hue. Two nights before the offensive began, Truong, at his head-quarters in the old Imperial capital, sensed something amiss and put his troops on alert. When the night passed uneventfully, he dismissed his advisers but kept his troops ready.

His Hac Bao reaction company managed to hold his division headquarters compound and from there he directed the battle calling for reinforcements and directing them where to strike. Together, the U.S Marines and South Vietnamese soldiers and marines fought house to house to force the enemy out of the area. As usual, Truong had performed magnificently, directing his troops in a calm but charismatic fashion. Lieutenant General Cushman, who became his close friend after working with him, described Truong’s performance during the battle: “He survived with the enemy all around him. They never took his command post, but they took the rest of the Citadel.”

His greatest achievement ultimately occurred in 1972 during the Easter Offensive. The North Vietnamese launched an attacking force of 14 infantry divisions, 26 separate regiments, 1,200 troops and more than 120,000 troops. They succeeded in taking their goal of Quang Tri the first provincial capital to fall and pushed farther south.

Realising what was at stake General Truong was ordered to take command of I Corps by President Nguyen Van Thieu. Arriving in the area his mere presence gave new hope to the South Vietnamese troops. He devised a comprehensive defence in depth to halt the North Vietnamese Army‘s advance which would buy him time as he retrained South Vietnamese units that had been battered during the retreat and re-equipped them with new American gear using an accelerated training pro-gram. Launching a counter offensive in May with 3 divisions and US airpower and naval shelling Troung defended South Vietnam from invasion. It was a deliberate and slow process, but Truong’s forces routed six NVA divisions to retake Quang Tri on September 16.

Sadly it was not to be so again three years later. The North Vietnamese returned and defences in the Central Highlands collapsed. Truong was ordered to defend Hue and set about doing it but then a week followed of debate and accusations conflicting orders followed. Truong was ordered to abandon Hue until at the last minute this was countermanded. Because of conflicting orders, lack of preparation and collapse of morale the withdrawal from Hue became a disaster. Reaching Da Nang Truong tried to direct an evacuation by sea but panic had set in.

As Da Nang fell, he and his corps staff swam through the surf to the rescuing fleet of South Vietnamese boats. Truong was devastated by the loss of his forces, particularly his beloved ARVN 1st Division. Upon arriving in Saigon, he was reportedly hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. A U.S. Army officer who had worked closely with Truong heard what happened, tracked him down and arranged for his family to leave on an American ship as Saigon fell to the Communists. The family was split for some time before being all tracked down in America and reunited. After reuniting, Truong and his family moved to Falls Church, Va.

Many Australian and American troops came from the war in Vietnam which was known as the first war our countries had lost. Not necessarily accurate but it was hard thing to deal with for some of our troops. The one thing we did not have to deal with that Truong like so many of his fellow South Vietnamese soldiers had to was that they could not go home. They had not just been on the losing side of a war that they had fought for so long and given up so much for but they had also lost their countries, their homes. True to his character though Truong got on with living a good life in his adopted country. Once settled there, he wrote several historical studies on the Vietnam War for the U.S. Army Centre of Military History. In 1983, the same year that he became a U.S. citizen, he moved to Springfield, Va. He worked as a computer analyst for the Association of American Railroads for 10 years until he retired in 1994. He died due to cancer in 2007. Shortly after his death, the Virginia Legislature passed a Joint Resolution “Celebrating the Life of Ngo Quang Truong.”

Schwarzkopf wrote of him “He did not look like my idea of a military genius: only five feet seven…very skinny, with hunched shoulders and a head that seemed too big for his body….His face was pinched and intense…and there was always a cigarette hanging from his lips. Yet he was revered by his officers and troops—and feared by those North Vietnamese commanders who knew of his ability.”

-Lloyd Marken

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR IS MORE OF THE SAME WHICH IS AWESOMENESS

Marvel Studios can do no wrong or at least have not so far. Their slow world building towards their team up movie The Avengers has changed the landscape of blockbuster entertainment. Studios no longer want a trilogy they want a franchise. Why lock yourself into one star with one character when you can have various ones all part of the same franchise allowing you to release not one hit film every two years but at the bare minimum two films every year. As comic book adaptations continue to reign supreme they have a sizeable chunk of the market with their line-up of characters. Cynicism aside like Pixar before them part of the success comes down to the reliability of their brand. The studio is run by comic book people who love comic books and their characters. Whatever changes they’ve made in adapting to the big screen they’ve always strived to service what was likeable about a character or storyline. If you think about it, the spin offs before Avengers didn’t make as much money as their sequels, it’s easy to forget how much of a gamble this all was way back in 2008 but if you’re worst film is Thor: The Dark World you’re batting average is likely to be game winning. So the question becomes how long can this success last? If Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t quite deliver on high expectations Captain America: Civil War suffers no shortage of anticipation. Last November when trailers for this summer’s blockbusters debuted Civil War stood out for its more polished editing. The closing shot Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) looking emotionally pained as he slammed his shield down on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) stood out to me. That close up communicated instantly what is at the heart of this story and also the success of the Marvel brand. They bring it back to the characters and what they are feeling rather than just straight spectacle.

Captain America: Civil War delivers on every front we’ve come to expect; there is a spectacular joyful smack down in an airport that has already become an instant classic. civil war trailer captain america civil warThere are multiple characters with their own motivations, story and stand out moments juggled effortlessly. Amidst all the special effects are some effective practical stunts, witty dialogue and heart. Heart first and foremost always in the telling of the story. If any of these films have flaws it is not for lack of heart which is an even grander achievement when you consider the assembly line production of them. There are pay offs here that are built on history that has been developed over 8 years and 12 films.

The film opens with the latest line-up of Avengers Africa to take down Cross Bones (Frank Grillo) but in the ensuing melee there is collateral damage and this raises the possibility of whether the Avengers do more harm than good. Enter the Sokovia Accords which would effectively mean only the governments of the world could approve the use of the Avengers unilaterally and could effectively lead to the misuse of the Avengers for those countries own ends. Captain America does not trust oversight given Hydra’s recent infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Man can no longer stomach not taking some responsibility for their actions in a similar vein to when he ceased arms productions at Stark Industries. The rest of the team for various reasons fall down along these lines, neither is particularly wrong or right but as a fellow blogger pointed out there are more fascinating avenues this line of thought could have been developed beyond just collateral damage. In the end the film while being a powerful parable about the cost and cycle of violence is ultimately an elaborate excuse to see various heroes fight each other. Which is fine because the film is not really about the Sokovia Accords, it is about Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and what lengths Steve Rogers will go to protect his friend and fellow veteran while at the same time Tony Stark is trying to protect the Avengers as best he can. Stark and Rogers have always been at odds with their contrasting personalities and world view points. There is an extra layer there in the sense that Rogers is partially a creation of Howard Stark’s and a friend of Tony’s Dad. He’s perversely both father figure and rival son for Stark Senior’s approval. The ground work for this had been laid previously and in this film finally gets paid off.

With that in mind it is remarkable how two major new characters are introduced and immediately feel right at home in this universe and have their own storyline. Spider-Man is introduced with hot Aunt May Maries Tomei and features only in two scenes. One his introduction is a remarkable feat of economic storytelling in setting up his character and the second an unadulterated celebration of what we love best about that character in the airport scene. We know everything we need to know about this Peter Parker (Tom Holland) from those two scenes and we’re hungry for more. Featured more prominently is Black Panther who has his back story partially told and is set on a path for vengeance against The Winter Soldier which brings him into direct conflict with Captain America. He is not the only one and it says something about this franchise in where they are prepared to go with their lead characters. Certain characters may not get much to do, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have certain moments that hark back to the comic books, Falcon gets a lot to do but is still mostly defined by his friendship to Rogers, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) looks great and is cool but doesn’t have a lot going on and the same goes for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Black Widow though is this solid link throughout the story. Rogers and she have been through a lot, she may not be on his side but she looks out for him as best she can. Performances are all uniformly excellent.

If the film has a flaw it maybe that it kinda lacks a strong ending, the villain has been cited as weak even by Marvel standards but to me it fits given that in this film the enemy is within. Daniel Bruhl’s performance is effective at showing that character’s pain and it is an interesting idea for a villain.

Production values are great across the board; the directors Anthony and Joe Russo continue their impressive staging of action even if an early chase does employ some disconcerting shaky cam. While most scenes seem to be set in technology parks or airport hangars perhaps reflecting the need to maybe switch up the locations more in these films these really only are nit-picks. This studio has delivered for us again and again, that at this point a superior production in every way to their rivals is not enough for some fans. There is a hint of franchise fatigue with this entry, a little bit too much familiarity even if the quality remains high-people inevitably seek out something new and fresh. Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man delivered on those fronts and even Iron Man 3 because it remained steadfastly a Marvel and Shane Black film. Getting more strong auteurs in there may not be a bad idea but for now the future looks bright with a focus on new characters with Dr. Strange and Black Panther coming next. For now this is arguably as good as anything Marvel has done, check it out.

-Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN

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The view from Mapleton Falls Lookout. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

In July 2013 another need to get fit reared its head and I found myself driving up to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk with Karen to do another hike. This time I had recently gotten fairly fit training for a Half Marathon and decided I needed to take a full pack of 23kgs approx. We set off rather late in the day to cover 14.2 or 15.8kilometres approximately, about a kilometre in my pack became heavy.

 

Wanting to try something new that would still equate to roughly 15kms I had looked up a path that began at the Great Walks Entrance on Flaxton Mill Road where we had finished on our last hike which looked to have an interesting amount of the various things you look for on a hike. Changing vegetation, scenic views and perhaps a waterfall. When we arrived it was fairly sunny and we set off. Starting off from where we parked we travelled 2kms to Flaxton Walkers Camp where the path at times becomes a road. The second section of Sunshine Coast Great Walks begins here. Past the camp you start on a narrow path as you descend into a gully. 1556

Setting off down the gully. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

Already getting fatigued I could only look forward to how much fun it was going to be when I had to ascend the other side. By the time we reached the bottom it had started raining and the path became muddy. Karen slipped once or twice but thankfully was not worse for wear. We were both wearing boots as well which was good. I did this path with my siblings last year and for any Australian readers, note the path then was not muddy but rocky and uneven, make sure you have good comfortable shoes.

 

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Karen at Baxter Creek Falls. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

 

1572Karen Crossing the Baxter Creek Suspension Bridge. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

At the bottom we came a bridge where only one person is allowed on at a time. We went to the side as well to get a closer look at Baxter Creek Falls. Not as spectacular as Mapleton Falls or Kondalilla Falls it is often deserted and can be a calm pretty place to relax. Unfortunately we didn’t stay long this day as I was mindful of time and excited to show Karen where we were headed. The hike up was really where the mud got slippery and of course it was our first serious up hill part of the day. Pushing through this we got out to more open ground and while remaining overcast it stopped raining as we lost the canopy of the rain forest. The trek eventually moved into wider roads and big houses on hills that seemed to be eroding precariously.

1576I loved the red of these trees against the blueish-gray sky that I had to get a picture. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

We reached the open road of Obi Obi Road and even walked on footpaths as traffic whizzed past. Turning off and walking along Mapleton Falls Road we knew we were close to being halfway. While everything was wet and overcast rain was still minimal. My shirt more wet from all the sweating I was doing, I have to admit nothing really beats how great your shoulders feel after you’ve hiked with a full pack. I mean they feel shit but it feels good to have done something that pushed you. Along Mapleton Falls Road are horses and barns and then as you get close there’s bus parking spot for tourists to be dropped off. We’ve driven up to the Mapleton Falls several times since to show friends, one time I drove Karen’s grandfather up there and we sat out there with him on his walker eating brie cheese and drinking tea out of a thermos. He was 92 years old but he made it all the way from the car park to the look out without a problem. About 7 months later he passed, sometime later we took him for a drive around town for an hour. When he went to Mapleton Falls we were probably right on the edge of the last few days he could make such a journey. I’m glad we did.

1590The view from Mapleton Falls Lookout. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

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Mapleton Waterfalls © Copyright Lloyd Marken

There is something to be said though about hiking up to a spot that most people drive too and that was how we first saw Mapleton Falls, probably the most spectacular look out on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. I took my pack off at this point and enjoyed the view but was mindful of the time. Soon enough we were back off again but as my phone started to run out of battery power on Mapleton Falls Road we came across an echidna in the wild. This was a special treat and one of our best hiking memories.

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Echidna in the wild. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

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Echidna in the wild up close. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

Those were the last photos I took of the hike but it was more of the same. As we headed down the gully due to the rain, the late hour or our quietness I can’t say but birds uncharacteristically fluttered about more freely and undisturbed by our presence. We got to see a few more up close and in detail then we ever have. Another treat to boost our spirits. Once crossing the rope bridge I began to find it particularly tough hiking up hill with full pack. I shudder to think how I would go now in my current fitness. I’ve hiked steeper and longer but maybe only once further and over such trying terrain. I definitely struggled to maintain a pace but I just kept pushing forward. We soon enough went past Flaxton Walkers Camp as the sun set. This let me know there wasn’t far to go but even so as we reached the last part we were back on a narrow path in thick rainforest and eventually it was dark, sounds of wildlife buzzed around us but I was very fatigued and did not want to bother taking off my pack to get a torch if it was a handful of metres left. Our pace quickened and at the point where I may have looked for the torch to ease Karen’s mind a single lamppost appeared in a clearing near us. We had made it. I don’t think we managed Capriccios that day but it had been a terribly rewarding hike. Maybe one of my favourites.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. This series of posts was inspired by Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots. Check out this fantastic post of autumn leaves in Arizona canyons. Just beautiful!

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A View from Mapleton Falls. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often.:-) I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken

BIRTH DAYS

Trying something a little different today with the publication of a short story I wrote for university last year. The resulting grade of Distinction has given me the confidence to put it on the world wide web. I suspect the high mark was less for my writing and more for how I effectively displayed the power of narrative techniques. I hope though that some of you may enjoy it or see certain things in it, feel free to comment. Despite the first person narration I must point out this is a work of fiction reflecting none of my own or people that I dearly love’s experiences. It is meant to be universal in it’s appeal and themes.

Birthday

My birthday. I hate my life. It’s cold, it’s loud, it’s bright. Soft cloth envelops me tightly and I start to feel warmer. There is a clucking sound nearby that I like. The brightness flickers away and I am in darkness and warmth. That’s better I think and I sleep.

My 1st birthday

The candle glows bright at the centre of the cake. I reach out to touch it but it’s too far and Mum won’t let me lean forward. I look up at the bright fluorescent night and down at my family. Everybody is staring at me and chanting something. I want to touch the flame at the centre of the cake. It looks pretty and even from here I can feel its warmth. With all of my strength I rail against my mother’s hand and smash my fists into the cake’s edge. I never get close to the candle.

My 2nd Birthday

I am sat down in a big leather sofa on the lap of a very old man. He has a walker in the corner of the room. I’ve only been walking for about a year so I can sympathise with him if he can’t quite master it but he doesn’t seem bothered by it. He’s smiling a very big smile and after a few seconds I realise he’s smiling at me. I don’t know this guy. There’s Dad and Mum nearby and also Pa and Nanna but this guy is getting called Dad by Nanna. I point to Dad and tell Nanna that’s Dad. Everybody starts laughing but I’m not making a joke, I’m trying to help. The old guy gives me a kiss and laughs too. I don’t know why but this makes me feel good. I look up and see he has the eyes I see every time I look in the mirror…maybe that’s why. In the years to come I will never remember any of this moment. I will ask Mum all the time did “Great Grandpa like me?” The answer is right here in this moment that I will forget.

My 5th Birthday

My fifth birthday and Trevor Maybury is coming right at me with a box wrapped in cellophane. He looks a bit embarrassed because everybody is watching him. He threw a rock at me last week and now he’s here at my birthday. He hasn’t thrown a rock at me so far today and it’s already dark now. Maybe he likes me, looking at him give me the present does not fill me with confidence. Trevor’s Mum calls out to him to say happy birthday. Trevor dutifully complies and then my mother tells me to say “Thank you.” What a scam I think and Trevor seems to think so too. We share a smile.

My 8th Birthday

The night sky is awfully beautiful as I look up at the moon. I wonder if Nanna is closer to the moon now that she has died. I mean you rise up in the air like Jesus did to go to Heaven so she must be up there somewhere. Mr Thomas tells us in class that beyond the moon and stars are more stars and more stars that stretch on forever. I wonder when do you get to heaven, is it right at the end? Mr Thomas doesn’t think there is an end. Mum has been calling me and Dad comes out to get me. I don’t want to push my luck but I ask him is Nanna on the moon watching us or further away. Dad looks at me puzzled and then looks up at moon. He stares just a little too long at it in silence that I become uncomfortable. He doesn’t move and then suddenly he pats my chest, “She’s watching right here.” He tells me then lifts me over his shoulder and brings me inside.

My 14th Birthday

My head is full of Carolina, sweet Carolina with auburn hair and freckles. I’ve seen her in science class across the room. Sometimes when she turns I catch a glimpse of her bra between two buttons of her shirt. I’m a library monitor and she’s come in to grab her book. She’s looking for something in particular and has taken me to the back stack. I can smell her hair as she leans into me. My heart is beating so fast. BANG! BANG! Her ass brushes up against my groin and I can barely breath. Time stops. All that matters is the smell of that hair, the feel of her body against mine. BANG! BANG!

“If you don’t come out of the bathroom right now we’re cutting the cake without you and you’re not getting a piece.” I hear my mother on the other side of the door. Carolina and the library are gone. It’s just me in my parents’ house getting yelled at. I scream back that I don’t want the cake. Mum spent all day making it, she made the icing using butter just how I like it. She bangs the door again “How dare you speak to me like that?” I know she’s right. I can hear Dad coming. I put my pants back on and flush the toilet. I’m not going to eat the cake tonight. If I’m lucky I might get some tomorrow. I feel sorry for Mum after all the trouble she went to but thoughts drift back to Carolina. I know I’ll never get to touch her breast but I seriously wonder if I’ll ever get to touch any.

My 19th Birthday

“Stand fast.” I yell and we all jump to our feet at attention. The Corporal seems pleased as he walks into our room. Nobody was gobbing off, our gear is squared away, Tommy was ironing, Mick was polishing brass and Carl was reading the pam going over his IA Drills. The Corporal looks straight at me with that mean grin of his. I realise I’m the weak chain. I was writing a letter home to Pa. Nothing wrong with that but just not as productive to learning as the others. “What are you doing?” he asks walking over to the desk. “I was writing Corporal.”

“Writing what?”

“A letter.”

“A letter to a girlfriend? Can I read? I might be able to help you; I’m quite the Casanova you know.”

“Yes I do Corporal but I don’t have a girlfriend. It’s a letter to my Pa.”

“Your Parr. Is he back on de ranch waitin for you to help with dis ere’s crop?”

“No Corporal.”

“Are u going to tell him how your birthday here went?”

Carl inhales in surprise giving it away. I hadn’t told anybody. I wanted to be a gray man and given we’d made it to 7:02pm I figured I was safe.

The Corporal smiles even wider.

“You look nervous? Are you afraid of something?”

“No Corporal.”

He stares at me letting the silence hang.

I tilt my head towards him to meet his eyes. “Should I be Corporal?” and I muster the slightest of grins. He smiles back and walks to the doorframe.

“Make sure you tell your Pa in your letter how you did on the high ropes course. You never gave up. He’ll be proud to hear that and you better be writing to your mother too!”

“I am Corporal.”

“Happy birthday kid.”

My 20th Birthday

I see the muzzle flash in the dark and the tracer round go off. I can’t tell where the bullet lands but I’m still unhurt and I fire my rifle in response. Out of the corner of my eye Stewart has dropped to the ground and is firing. I leap up and charge forward and muzzle flashes appear all over the jungle. I fire a few rounds from the hip and land in line with Stewy. He goes to get up and I send rounds downrange straight at where I see a shadow moving. It seems to shake and go down. Did I get one?

My 23rd Birthday

I’m sitting in the test looking at the questions wondering if I have the right answer. The question seems to be asked in a way that can be interpreted both ways. I know what our readings said but the question confuses me. I studied so hard for this test. Dad says his department hires guys with this qualification all the time. I look up at the front row where Kimberley sits. I think about that time we smoked after class before my Dad picked me up. I wonder if that is why she didn’t talk to me again since I don’t have my own car. I’m going to be 23 today and I still don’t have my own license. Still live at home with my parents. I’m looking forward to the cake though with the butter icing Mum still makes for me. “Time’s up.” The tutor calls at the front. I tick the box.

My 26th Birthday

Dad and I are looking up at the moon in the backyard. I’m smoking a cigarette since Mum doesn’t like me to smoke them inside their house. Kimberley of course doesn’t mind at our place. She’s helping Mum apply the butter icing.

“You’re really selling?” I ask him as we stand outside in the backyard.

“What do you care? Aren’t you and Kimbo looking to buy your first house? Can’t raise a baby in an apartment?” he smacks me on the back. I haven’t told him what the Doctor said. It’s still uncertain anyway and he’s right, we are looking for a house.

“We are looking but sometimes… I tell Kim about Saigon sometimes and we think about. I mean she’s always wanted to go to Antarctica.”

“Antarctica.” He repeats but there’s no hint of emotion.

“It’s like when I went to Nam I saw a bit of this big interesting world out there and now I’m filling out forms in a basement and uh I think about how I could have died and… Did you ever want to go anywhere?”

“Your mother wanted to go Paris. We talked about it when your Pa died but we’re too old son. Your mum with the arthritis, it would be too tough. But you go, you go to Antarctica.” He tells me and there is a bit of wistfulness in the expression on his face.

My 28th Birthday

Kimberley is riding me, her hips slightly rocking mine as my hands reach up and squeeze her breasts. Her skin glistens with sweat in the moonlight seeping in from the balcony. I reach one thumb down to her clit and rub. Her body starts to tense and her breathing become erratic. She’s holding my wrist guiding me while I rub with my thumb blindly. The tension builds and then releases. She collapses on top of me and smiles. “I thought it was your birthday not mine.”

My 32nd Birthday

Mum falls back into the car seat with a huff. I place her walking stick down on the ground next to the seat and lean in to do up her seatbelt. I’ve got it she protests but she loses her grip. I tell her its okay and buckle her up. I kiss Kimberley and she waves as we drive out.

“She’s really good for you.” She says staring out the window. “Like your father was for me? I hope I don’t make it too difficult.”

“You don’t make it difficult Mum.” I tell her. It’s a beautiful clear night as the wind runs through the windows and cools us down.

My 33rd Birthday

Jack sits on my lap as Kimberley lights the candles on my cake. Mum is reaching out and tickling his cheek. He laughs and my heart melts. I have a son, a wife, a family, a house, a home. The wall behind Kimberley is still not painted. Too many nights working late and too many weekends drinking beers and sleeping in. Kimberley is not impressed but she smiles now. It’s my birthday and it’s a good one.

My 37th Birthday

The phone is ringing yet again and I know I can’t afford to ignore it again. I pick it up and my wife is on the other end.

“When are you coming home now?”

“I told you I got to get this done tonight. It’s just bad timing it fell on my desk this morning.”

“It’s a quarter to seven…it’s 7:02pm. They can’t make you work that late unpaid. C’mon I think I got your mother’s recipe for the icing perfect this time.” I can hear Jack in the background.

“They can make me work back. If we want to get the loan for the extension I need this promotion and that means I got to stay back!”

“We both know you’re the only one who cares about the extension. I want you home with your family. You’ve been spending too much time at work.”

“Please don’t nag me now. I will be home soon but I got to get this done.”

Kimberley hangs up and I look around the office and wonder why it is that I was happier when I was in a jungle getting shot at on my birthday?

My 40th Birthday

As soon as I open the door Jack comes racing up to me with a piece of paper. I pick him up and lift him in the air. He’s made me a birthday card in class which he is very proud of. Kimberley smiles as I enter the kitchen. “Thought you weren’t going to make it?” and I give her a kiss. She asks me if I’ve been smoking again and I shrug and say a couple.

“We can’t all be quitters like you.” I mock tease her but I know she’s right. Lately I’ve been feeling out of breath way too much when painting the gazebo.

My 46th Birthday

I rock up to the school hall and Jack is there in his Karate outfit with the head instructor talking to him and a few of the other kids. I must be a little late but not too much. I walk up the steps confused whether it’s easier since I’ve stopped smoking or harder since I put on 5kgs after I quit smoking.

“Sensei Dan my Dad was in Vietnam too.” Jack tells him and Sensei Dan sizes me up with his eyes.

“Oh yeah which battalion?”

“3RAR.” I answer.

“I was with 6RAR. Much harder tour.”

“You were with 6 huh?”

“Yeah.”

“God you must be so old.”

One of the kids can’t help himself and snorts but my son, my loyal loving son looks mortified.

Sensei Dan just smiles and shakes my hand.

“Anytime you want to join us in class let me know Mr Cordwell. Lose some of that Christmas pudding.” He tells me and the same kids snorts again. I turn around to leave and Jack is already half way to the car.

 My 50th Birthday

“Do you think Jack is having any girls around to the house while we’re away?” Kim asks me and I shrug my shoulders reaching for my glass of wine.

“I don’t care if my son is getting lucky tonight; all I care about is whether I’m going to get lucky tonight.” I tease.

“Well put another log on the fire and let’s see where this night takes us.” She replies so I get up and go over to the fireplace. I hear her coughing behind me. It’s getting worse.

“Why don’t we go to Antarctica?”

“It’s off season now. I’ll be right in the thick of treatments when it starts up again. Besides c’mon along with the medical bills, the mortgage still has a couple of years to go and Jack is in uni.”

“You always wanted to go?”

“And I will.”

My 51st Birthday

“How’s Europe son?” I ask him and his voice comes all the way down the telephone from Europe.

“Paris is awesome Dad. I’m going to celebrate your birthday when I get back next week.”

“Don’t worry about that.”

“Nah c’mon Dad. Did you go out with the boys?”

“No but they had cake for me at work. Fuckin cream icing shit. How about you? What did you and the guys get up to?”

“Actually I’ve met this girl on the tour and she comes from Brisbane too.”

“What’s her name?”

My 52nd Birthday

Minnie is a beautiful young girl and is practically glowing with her pregnancy. Jack comes barging through the door after her with a cake in one hand, loosening the tie from his work shirt in the other. He’s made the cake with butter icing just like he said he would. We walk into the kitchen past the photographs of my family. My grandparents, my parents, my wife. I miss them and I have no doubt I will see them soon. But I love my life. My life is good.

© Copyright Lloyd Marken.