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Deep Retreat

The Frangipani Path

At the top of the hill, twelve white-robed women filed into a clearing in the forest. In the centre grew a frangipani tree in full bloom, emanating elegant fragrance. On the other side, veiled by a pink thicket of quisqualum, a dark entrance was barely visible.

“Wait, my sisters, and anoint yourself with the sacred oil,” said Elysia, the group’s leader. “We have arrived for your ascension. You first, Arcolia. Your vibrational energy is exceptional.”

Through the hoop pines, the solstice sun flickered its morning rays across the clearing, illuminating the mouth of the cavern. Arcolia smiled serenely at the other women, knowing her journey to the photon band had succeeded. Finally, she was to be initiated into the Frangipani Sisterhood.

Grasping her carved quartz sound bowl, Arcolia followed Elysia to the secret sanctum of the High Priestess Frantia.

….

“Just smell these high frequency aromas, Wendy, absolutely spectacular,” Carol gushed and beamed.

I had to admit they were delicious.

Carol had always loved yoga classes. She stumbled across the Frangipani Path through a goat meditation yoga workshop at Byron Bay. On her return, she paid up eagerly for the introductory 12 week online Franginitiate course. A cool thousand seemed like a lot to me for a couple of zoom sessions a week with Mother Frantia. And the scented oils and lotions to complement the meditation exercises cost a mint too, as did the Frangipani chakra toning tapes.

After the sixth week, Carol was hooked.

“Mother Frantia tells me I have perfect potential to become one of their best teachers. During meditation, she introduced me to my Archangel guide Razeel from the Pleiades. He spoke to me and promised to reveal all my past lives and merge them into me. First I must achieve the ceremonial initiation into the Frangipani Sisterhood.”

“What do you mean he ‘spoke’ to you. Did you actually see him?” I struggled to conceal my mirth.

“I saw a golden cloud in the zoomroom and his voice came from the cloud. They call it sound alchemy.”

Sounded like a lot of hooey to me.

“Where does the money go, Carol?”

“The Frangipani Sisterhood has a wonderful network of retreats, oracles, sound healers and spiritual trainers. It’s really exclusive. They only take women who are truly suited for the holy tasks. Because of my potential, they’re giving me a really big discount.”

Four weeks of arcane ministrations and meditations at these retreats would still cost her $60,000.

“Nothing but the best, look at the gorgeous website, Wendy. The High Sisters can levitate. I’ve seen them in my net sessions.”

“Carol, anything can be faked over the internet. More likely they lift your bank account and leave you with a credit card burden.”

“No, my darling, these are holy women who have gained their knowledge at the best ashrams in India and Native American sweat lodges. Mother Frantia even met the Dalai Lama and stayed in a real ancient Egyptian temple of Isis near Cairo. The sisters have thousands of years of experience with only the best mystic guides and past lives from all over the world and time. And their Archangels visit from throughout the galaxy. We come from the stars and return to them eventually, you know. I’m longing to bathe in my Archangel’s divine energy.”

None of my sensible questions could divert her enthusiasm, not even when I told her if she could prove any of this, the Australian Skeptics Association would give her a cool million.

“It’s not about the money, don’t be so crass, Wendy. These are sweet, loving, enlightened women!”

In a month, Carol had finished her course and attained her Franginame, Arcolia. She received a plaque of commemoration recognising her candidature which she displayed proudly in her tasteful meditation room.

The retreat itinerary was frantic. First, some Maori chanting with taonga puoro communication with the deities, then chakra tonings, frangiopathy, a didg and drum circle, frangireiki and a variety of yoga styles, karanas and kahuna massage. Set in lush rural seclusion, the lodgings seemed very luxurious, clean and white on the web, with shining devotee faces grinning ecstatically at each other as they carried scented candles through aisles strewn with frangipanis. The food at least looked interesting – a panoply of exotic oriental menus, with frangipanis ever present in the food or as decorations.

Still, I was worried. What if they wanted even more of her hard-earned savings? I searched the net and located the company which owned the web site in Sydney. I rang the number, pretending to be an Ayurvedic artisanal frangipani oil maker.

“Oh, we’re just an accountancy firm,” a woman’s efficient voice replied. “You will want to speak with the company direct. They are based in the US. We just handle their local branch business. You can email them from their site.”

I was running in dwindling, swindling circles.

In case, I kept a careful record of the information and took screenshots of the Frangipani site.

Next week, I farewelled my friend as she flew down to Brisbane to begin her adventure.

“Email me, Carol, let me know how you go.”

“No phones on this trip, darling, the G vibrations interfer with the cosmic floral light codes and disrupt my DNA transformation, but there’s net access at the retreats. Can you make sure you cuddle Pussums every day for me?”

Every few days I received another happy note from her and my fears began to subside.

At the end of the four weeks a longer message arrived.

“We’re at our final retreat now, somewhere near Bellingen, darling. It’s so gorgeous here, and the guru, Swami Bababaa, he’s a dream boat. He stands in the temple of the Goddess and sees women as they truly are. His Arcturan tantric techniques are out of this world. I’ve never experienced anything like it. After my ascension to immortality tomorrow, he says I can stay on and teach. He is sure I have the gift. Please look after my cat till I can pick her up. Sunshine and celestial moonbeams to you.”

Sadly I stared at Pussums. The grey cat blinked back at me. Though I trusted she was well, I missed my friend.

After that, I received short emails sporadically about her wonderful new life embedded in the Frangipani Path community, the glories of psychometric angelic instruction with new initiates and the sublime wisdom of Bababaa. Yet Carol never asked about Pussums and didn’t respond to my questions about her exact location. One of the emails hinted she was considering a mission post at a new floral ashram in Bali.

Months passed. Then one year. My curious concerns transmuted to unease and I began considering a jaunt to the covid-ridden Northern NSW wilds to search for my friend.

Then, out of the blue the phone rang. It was a mutual acquaintance, Lucy, another yoga enthusiast on whose husband Carol once practised her new tantric skills. Whether Lucy knew or cared, I’d kept my mouth shut.

“Quick, turn on the news, they’ve found Carol!”

At the bottom of a mineshaft around two hundred women’s bodies had been discovered by bushwalkers, who’d smelt something strange above and beyond the sweetness of a frangipani grove.

Immediately I checked the Frangipani Sisters website. It had vanished along with all associated social media.

I collected my saved information, copied it to a USB stick and headed to the police station. Though I may not be able to bring Carol back, I could pursue justice for her and the others.

Yet it turned out the Australian retreats had been sold and they never found the Frangipani grifters who’d completely emptied their victims’ accounts as well. FBI corporate searches hit a dead end since the parent structures had dematerialised along with their fraudulent progenitors. Perhaps they’d ascended to some far flung tax haven in the West Indies, or had set up another sting for gullible fools elsewhere. Like their floral namesake, also the emblem of Palermo in Sicily, the scammers were great survivors even under extreme heat.

Today I can’t look at or smell a frangipani blossom without feeling nauseous.

Jinjirrie
December 2021

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Mr Speaker Stand Up

Scummo

Cando Bullshit

A lot of people from down south jibe and sneer at Queensland and us banana benders, especially those of us who don’t live in the city. You live 50 years in the past, they reckon. Well i’m here to tell you we in the Noosa hinterland are as erudite and edumacated as any of those Antarcticans. And if Queensland wasn’t so great, why have they been moving up here from down south in droves since the Covid hit? why do so many of them holiday in Noosa? why are they buying up all our houses?

So I decided to prove how in touch we are round here, by interviewing people in the local Cooran shop and asking them about our one and only prime monster, Scummo. Yeah, so Queensland gave Canberra the ghoulish Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts, George Christenson, Matt Canavan, Potatohead and a couple of Mad Katters, but look what we got in return? and now he’s reckoning we can’t go to coffee shops in Briso? bollocks mate, we’ve barely noticed lockdowns. It’s him with his vaccine strollout who hasn’t noticed, the way he never notices how many times he says “Mr Speaker” in Question Time. But we notice.

Here’s a good one Laurie from round the corner told me.

A liar, a dogwhistling opportunist and an incompetent leader walk into a bar.
The bartender says “What can I get you, Mr Morrison?”

So you didn’t get it? wake the fuck up, Scummo relies on you mob being half asleep to pull the wool right over yer eyes.

Scummo doesn’t hold a hose to folks round these parts. As long time local Carol told me, the only hose he actually holds is his own and even then he doesn’t know what to do with it.

Then there’s Annie, who’s worked from home as an artist for years before covid. Here’s her sparkling wit.

This bloke went to a job interview and they asked about his work ethic.

He said, “I don’t give a fuck about my work colleagues getting death threats or raped or sexually harassed, just as long as someone takes lots of photos when I get a haircut instead of working.”

And they said …

Congratulations Prime Minister, when can you start?

Yeah, people round here are woke to Scummo’s foibles, we don’t put up with the prick. Terry reckoned he heard he could walk on water, but the real miracle is Scummo swims with the sharks down the Goldy and they line up on either side of him – it’s professional courtesy.

Scummo says it’s the Australian way, but what’s that? witch-burning? He’s taking us back to medieval times with this religious ‘freedom’ bill so nasty people can be racists and bigots again.

We’re not silly here, we all know religion’s just another blokey con job to keep us preggers in the kitchen and bringing the bloke his beer. Though it was a miracle Scummo got elected. That’s the last real truth I remember him telling us. My mate Jacky who works for the local rag, her journo mate down south asked him:

“Mr Morrison, what’s your favourite lie you’ve told the public?”
“I’ve never told a lie in public,” Scummo says.
“That’s my favourite too!” she replied.

Now he’s hawking hollow gibberish about climate change mitigation. We know he’s up to his eyeballs in coal, his precious. You can’t trust the bugger as far as you can throw him. The planet will fry, we’re all going to hell on earth, never mind the afterlife.

What’s the difference between Australia and hell?
Scott Morrison hasn’t managed to fuck up hell yet.

So what is a Morrison promise worth?
Net zero. Just ask the French.

Do you know what the mummy sardine said to the baby sardine when they saw the nuclear sub?

“Hey sonny, there goes a tin of scared Aussies.”

Now that’s critical technology, forty years late. When Scummo rants on about critical technology it reminds me of a joke at Tourism Australia when he was CEO, before he got the arse as he always does after his lies catch up with him. If his PA was off sick or on leave it was pointless expecting an answer to any emails. She wasn’t there to log him on to the system.

Scummo’s election pitch about government interferring in people’s lives is another joke. His same sex marriage bigotry, Indue card, Robodebt, alleged rape and FOI cover ups and religious discrimination laws all interfer in peoples’ lives. He talks from both sides of his mouth. Who else is sick of his coddling of neo-nazis? Just like his roll-out stroll-out … his call-out of the far right was a crawl-out. Ben at the shop told me this one.

What’s the difference between Neil Erikson and Scummo?
Neil is an honest self-proclaimed neo-Nazi.

Have I thrown you lot into enough of a spin yet?

Rightyo, folks, now I’m not going for a Scummo break – leaving in the middle of a crisis – I’m off to meet up with my mate from Melbourne who’s double vaxxed and tested clear so he can visit Queensland and not infect us the way Scummo wants us to be so he can claim a Labor state failed to do its job. Have a good one and remember to put the LNP crime family last on the ballot, the way they put our future last with their lies, dirty kick backs, net zero cred promises and pickled pork for their mates.

Jinjirrie
November 2021

(This is a standup exercise, to be performed in a broad Queensland accent.)

Addendum

Q. What’s the difference between #Omicron and #Scomicron?
A. One lays you out straight in bed, the other can’t lie straight in bed.

Photocopied evidence not admissible? Sobhraj irony

Richard Neville and Julie Clarke’s book “The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj” gripped us decades ago – hard to believe he still remains awaiting trial in a Nepalese prison for passport forgery, with the prosecution stalling for lack of the old case file.

Earlier this month, the prosecution hedged the trial, saying they had not received the case file from the attorney-general’s office.

The trial that Sobhraj’s lawyers are eager to rush through and the state is stalling is over the crime charge Nepal police used in 2003 to arrest Sobhraj from a casino in the capital.

Police say he came to Nepal in 1975, using the passport of a Dutch tourist, Henricus Bintanja. Sobhraj has rejected the claim, saying he never came to Nepal before 2003, when he used a bonafide passport issued to him by the French embassy in Paris.

The fake passport case became important when the police further charged Sobhraj with the murder of American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975.

Shattered

MotherLeaves from the past swirl about my shattered country

Phoenician glass cuts deep
within the wall to end all walls
My heart is occupied with grief of ages

Living when there is no hope
too hard to bear
the purple calling in my body is despair
my womanhood, logic and future denied

Oppressor and oppressed bound
and bloodied by hate

Like a beautiful, fragile tea set, the elegant device she’d made lay upon the table. Amirah scooped it up peremptorily, for it was deceptively sturdy, fastening the webbed belt about her body beneath her loose cotton blouse.

Plenty of time. Into her pocket she placed her folded poem, hoping to finish it on the bus during the interminable hot, angry checkpoint waits. The guards knew her well, they would smile lewdly at her and joke about her flashing dark eyes.

‘Amirah, princess of the territories, give us a kiss’, they would laugh, swaggering with their Utzis.

At first she ignored them, yet later, as her plan evolved, she would smile shyly in return, to build their trust. After months, they would not search her, even when all others were pried and poked when the enemy rampaged in revenge.

For three years following her degree’s completion, she had settled for a menial maid’s job in Tel Aviv, studying for her PhD in physics at night and weekends, her ticket to freedom – perhaps even to America. Then her mistress’s husband began to seek her out. One afternoon while the mistress was out with her rich, gossiping socialite friends, he had forced her to the bed and taken her. She had to trash the sheets and endure a scolding after she told her mistress she had burnt them whilst ironing.

And then, her uncle was captured, implicated in a tunnel building project to smuggle in food and medicine to the sanctioned, beleaguered city. The enemy had arrived at her parents’ home and bulldozed it whilst she scrubbed the enemy’s pots in the pretty modern villa by the glistening sea. Gone were her thesis notes and her computer, buried in the pitiful rubble of their lives. Her wise grandmother was nearly killed by the cruel, inexorable blades, hounded and taunted by the soldiers as she fled, hobbling down the street. The oppressors had everything except peace. Amirah wondered if they had ever really wanted it.

At university, Amirah had spoken against violence.

‘We are bound by violence, we are chained by it to them and we must break the cycle,’ she argued. ‘Resistance is legitimate under international law, yet violence will not work. They use it against us. Don’t you see?’

She had not despaired, although her brother still walked with crutches from the blows he received from the enemy when five years old. A stone he’d thrown at a tank missed and hit a soldier. With an education, she would be able to pay for him to walk again.

Nearly everyone had lost a relative, or knew of a house that had been crushed, sometimes with people still inside. The collective punishment was a brutal, never-ending scourge. What else was there to do but fight, to wear the enemy down with a despairing reaction to the oppression, to never let them know security whilst they denied it to others. Responsibility was never taken by the powerful and the weak were blamed for objecting to their punishment, justifying more delays for peace settlements, more land thievery for more enemy settlements and their hideous ghetto wall.

Amirah did not know whether the wall was to keep the horror in, or to keep it out. After her parents’ house was demolished and her future along with it, she too saw horror everywhere.

Amirah left her flat and caught the bus. The guards winked at her at the checkpoint.

‘How are your studies, Amirah?’ ‘When are you going to America, Amirah?’

Amirah smiled at them, her tears held captive by resolve. Today at the final checkpoint, it was a short wait, a miracle.

Palestinian women protestThe ancient bus lurched its winding way to the leafy, well-to-do suburb by the sea. She walked to the plaza and sat on a bench. Amirah pretended to examine something in her satchel as she set the timer.

Within, she could feel the enemy’s baby move, and she gasped. From her pocket, she took the half-finished poem, scrutinising it carefully before screwing it into a ball and tossing it behind the bench. Tears threatened to erupt, and Amirah clenched her fists. Not long to wait now.

‘You dropped something’, a kindly voice spoke in the enemy’s guttural tongue.

‘It’s nothing,’ she replied, ;just a poem’.

‘May I read it?’ The interloper was a young pregnant woman in her late twenties or early thirties, with a guitar strung across one shoulder. She flattened the sheet and began to read.

‘It isn’t finished’.

‘I know,’ said Amirah. ‘I can’t think of an ending. It makes me too sad.’

‘It is very good, perhaps we can finish it together?’

‘But you are the enemy,’ Amirah whispered. Two minutes and there would be no more broken promises, no more fear and hurt.

‘I’m Danish, here to study archaeology.’ The woman smiled.

Amirah looked at her, saw unexpected warm eyes and her heart leapt.

Then she thought of her unfinished poem and in a blazing torrent, unannounced, the final words came.

Even in the silence of the desert
my soul knows no peace
it must walk this land forever,
free, yet within your reach
where you are not my enemy
and revenge is washed away
by joy.

A Fair Day’s Pay

Vanstone Tombstone(Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person live or dead is probably deliberate.)

Let’s face it, we moved north because, despite the excruciating lack of Culture with a capital C, it was cheaper to live in the sunshine without those crippling heating bills and astronomical inner city rents. Jim was offered a better job and the kids loved going to the beach more often than once a year when we stayed with grandma at Bondi.

Pretty soon we put a deposit on an attractive house and land package at Bribie Island and settled into coastal suburban mortaged bliss. Then one day our average aussie lifestyle lost the plot. As we careened into the unknown, we had no idea that things would get so out of hand.

I’d always been a dreamer, and my friends, who I could count on one hand, thought I was weird … she’s the odd one who reads books and mutters to herself, I heard them saying.

So I didn’t tell them about my dreams, which unlike theirs, about which they chattered drearily, weren’t about new washing machines, trendy clothes and toffee nose private schools for the kids.

When Jim brusquely informed me he would be working weekends from now on, I asked him how the hell he’d bargained away his time with the children.

‘It was go for an individual AWA or retrenchment. They didn’t so much as say it but everyone knew what they meant. If I don’t cop it sweet, I’ll lose my job for sure. But the pay is better’. He winced and glanced at me hopefully.

The company needed that production line running full tilt all weekend or its economic viability would be threatened by overseas competitors – like China, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and all the other sweatshop nations. I couldn’t understand it, those mind-bogglingly expensive TV ads the government ran for months on good old Aunty ABC said it was against the law for employers to sack their workers for objecting to AWAs so I belaboured Jim till my jaw hurt.

What the hell was he thinking? To help pay the mortgage, I worked three days a week part-time while Billy and Megan were at the local state school. So why did we want any more money? I nearly hit the roof when I worked out after tax we’d end up with only $10 more a week under the new weekend work arrangements.

And I’d be lumbered with parental duties seven days a week.

Jim wouldn’t change his mind. I reckon he’d lost that ability years ago after he was offered and accepted a supervisory role on the factory floor. Yet this was the guy who’d gone out on strike a couple of years before to protect all the shift workers’ holiday pay.

After a few months, our marriage teetered, wobbled and then fell off the brink. Jim took to going to the pub after work. Some drink to remember, some drink to obliterate.

Jim was the latter. I had to do something. I took to the internet and found other mums, wrote long nasty diatribes on blogs, newsgroups, chatrooms and guestbooks to vent my fury. The kids would come home from school and find me tapping away, tapping away. I wrote letters to the editor, the federal member, the state member, senators, the ombudsman, anyone I thought might annoy the unfeeling ghouls I felt were responsible for my family’s predicament.

One evening when he finally reeled in, Jim told me about his affair with the slim blonde in the next workshop. I remembered what my mum had said. Don’t have kids unless you can support them yourself, without a man.’ I’d made my bed and would have to lie in it, with all four tons of bullshit.

So after the kids were in bed, there I’d be, writing stories about my life, imaginary lives, escapist tales of passion and adventure, with slim brunettes, redheads AND blondes, swept off their tiny feet by handsome mysterious rich men. A chance meeting with a woman who had a publisher mate turned up trumps. When my first book was accepted, I celebrated alone. After my fifth book won a major prize, people started to take notice of me, the pissed off single suburban mum from Bribie Island.

Billy and Megan were installed in a ‘good’ private school while I revelled in sumptous book tours arranged and paid for by my publishers.

With my do-it-yourself personal success guide I hit the mother lode and was presented with a top Queensland Rotary award for my contribution to Australian small business by none other than the Prime Minister’s wife.

I’m not surprised she ignored me afterwards. In my caustic speech I thanked her little Johnny and his frantic feudalisations for my success.

As I chuckled with snide, self-congratulatory glee at my hard won awards and comforts, I felt a rough hand shake my shoulder.

Amanda‘Wake up Amanda, wake up!’

‘Jim, Jim …. I’m making enough for all of us now,’ I mumbled, then froze.

Heavens to betsy, it was Costello.

‘Get on the floor and present your speech supporting the IR bill before the Speaker notices your daydreaming! The opposition are already sniggering,’ he hissed. He looked like death warmed up after a week in a septic trench, all slime and pudge.

‘Huh …guh… ughh’, I spluttered. Cunningly I feigned correction of a few stray stiff tendrils bristling out of the steel net that was my perm, or rather, I should say, my wig. My habits of late catching up with me, I was too over-enthusiastic in my cover-up … and horrors, it fell off! Was this the real dream?

‘The members will resume their seats!’ the speaker snarled at the left bench who it now seemed, were guffawing helplessly at none other than me. This was better than Fraser dropping his dacks.

Why had things gone so wrong?

‘The Pacific solution has been an outstanding success …. ‘

‘Wrong speech, you silly fat cow’, a backbencher cackled. I girded up my considerable, intimidating loins and lambasted onwards.

‘Urr, while Labor pretends to be the party of the workers, the unemployed and the poor, it’s time for a reality check.’ Yes, that was the speech. The poor, desperate sods on the left were already settling back into their crosswords.

‘But you can look at the real things that affect real people. Can they afford their mortgage? Can their kids get a job? Now we don’t believe in sound economic management just to please some ideologies or to please academics or commentators, we believe in it because of the real difference it makes to real people.’