Wednesday, August 08, 2007


(This story is in response to the June assignment where we are asked to write a children's story.)

Once upon a time (all the best stories begin in this way, O best beloved) there lived a princess. She wasn’t really a princess, but her Daddy had made so much money in building hotels and investing the proceeds that she was one of the richest little girls in the whole wide world.

So, naturally, she thought that she was a princess. She was ever so pretty, with long hair that was blonde for most of the time and she wore the shortest dresses imaginable because (I’m sorry to say) she was rather vain about her legs, which really were rather nice.

The fact that she had about as many brains as the average frog didn’t matter so much because she was so very rich; and in any case she was always hoping one day to meet a real frog who might, just possibly, might turn into the artist formerly known as Prince.

In the same country there was also a real prince – handsome as all-get-out. (He has nothing to do with this story but I have to mention him otherwise I might be accused of being sexist). If you do not know what being sexist means, you will learn all about it when you grow up.

One day the beautiful princess was rather naughty!

She went to a party in her new car (she was allowed to drive the car because she was so rich) and she drank too much fizzy lemonade. And then she tried to drive her car home.

Of course, Mr Plod the Policeman saw her!

“You’re a bad girl!” he said, wagging his finger at her “to try and drive a car when your tummy is full of fizz.”

But – what do you think? – the next day she did it again! And the next day as well! Wasn’t she a naughty girl?

Mr Plod the Policeman was very cross.

“You must go to the lock-up” he said, “until you learn to behave better. And you must not drive a car again for at least a week.”

The beautiful princess was very cross. “No, I don’t want to go to the lock-up!” she said, stamping her little foot (and trying to make sure she showed as much leg as possible in the process) “My Daddy is very rich, and he won’t let me go to the lock-up!”

“Ho! Ho!” said Mr Plod the Policeman. “That’s what you think!” And he took her by the hand, and put her in a little dark room in the lock-up, and locked the door, and went away with the key.

It was awful! There was only a hard bed to lie on, and a hard chair to sit on, and only a very small television to watch, and the lavatory was in the same room! Wasn’t that cruel of Mr Plod the Policeman?

But that was what is called dem-oc-ra-cy, which is another thing you will learn about when you grow up.But the beautiful princess cried and made herself ill, so Mr Plod the Policeman had to let her out again, because he was a little bit afraid of what her Daddy might say if he heard about how the princess had been locked up in the lock-up.

And – would you believe it? – the very next day the beautiful princess went to another party, and drank too much fizzy lemonade, and tried to drive her car again.

This time Mr Plod the Policeman was very, very cross indeed!

“I told you not to drive!” he said. “And I told you not to drink too much fizz as well! This time you really must go to the lock-up, and stay there!”

And he took her away and put her back with the same-room lavatory.

Because Mr Plod the Policeman was more afraid of what Mr Joe Public might say than he was of what the princess’s Daddy might say.

So the princess stayed in the lock-up for two whole weeks!

When she came out, she was sorry.

“I promise not to drink too much fizzy lemonade again,” she said, “and not to try and drive a car until you tell me I can.”

And if you believe that, you might as well believe that a frog will come one day and turn into the artist formerly known as Prince!

Brian Hodgkinson ©


(The task set was to provide an explanation for the proliferation of microwave ovens used as letterboxes in the Clifton Municipality)

Damn!I suppose that I shall have to come clean, now that the interfering Writers’ Group has noticed the plan of mine in Clifton to do the public a service. But as I am now an ex-resident of the Municipality I don’t suppose that the ever-vigilant Clifton police officers will bother to try and search me out, especially at such a distance as I now am.

The microwaves were easy to come by – they deteriorate so rapidly that the public dumps are full of virtually serviceable machines, disposed of by people who either have come to realise the unhealthiness of food reheated in such appliances, or because of some minor fault or other.

A quick inspection of those at the Clifton Dump easily provided me with any number of microwave ovens such as would suit my purpose, and these were easily obtained by a suitable bribe to the overseer of the institution.

It was, however, necessary that they be provided with full electric power. This proved to be a little more difficult to obtain, and necessitated several visits to the Electricity Supply Company before they could be satisfied that the proposed installation would not be a danger to the public.

In the end, I told one or two white lies, the most crucial being that a light inside an old microwave would be completely satisfactory as a garden path illumination for such times as when the householder inspects for mail delivery in hours of darkness. The only stipulation that they made was that the supply be made by means of a standard waterproof exterior fitting, and these could easily be obtained at Mitre five-and-a-half, as we jocularly named the esteemed hardware supplier in the town.

Once the ovens, freshly provided with a new lease of life, were ready for installation, came the part which I have now to confess.

I had, before supplying them to specially selected friends and acquaintances, made a unique and valuable modification to the wiring and sensing device inside the control panel. As it was obvious that the prime purpose of the ovens was to collect mail, and incidentally to give light along the garden path, the sensing apparatus had to be made suitable to discriminating between proper mail and items which could easily be destroyed in a flash. Literally, in a flash – caused by the high voltage of the microwave, directed along a pre-determined path.

The really tricky part, and that which I am proudest of, and can claim much credit for, was the incorporation of a miniaturised Optical Character Reader into the preliminary circuit of the oven. Such a device, as I am sure you are aware, would enable the machine to read anything printed and, linked to a small sub-circuit of memory, find out from whom any correspondence had been sent.

I therefore concocted a list of undesirable mail senders who might be likely to bulk mail my clients – beginning with the Clifton Municipality, and extending the list to such as the Electricity Supply Company, the Telephone Company, the Income Tax authorities, and other such dunning organisations. To these I added Readers’ Digest, and many more firms purporting to invite the addressee to participate in get-rich-quick schemes. All such correspondence was to be quickly and harmlessly incinerated, leaving my clients only with welcome and harmless letters, like invitations to weddings, news from elderly and rich uncles, and weekly newsletters from children away to college.But now – it has all been found out!As I said – Damn! And I though I was performing such a useful public service!

Brian Hodgkinson ©

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CATS! By Brian Hodgkinson

(The task set was to compose an original tale as it might have been told by an animal)

Grrrrr!! Cats!!! Don’t you just hate ‘em? Ever since I was a youngster, just with my eyes open and able to scramble for mother’s teat along with the rest of the litter – I never could abide cats.

It must have been something to do with heredity – I well remember mother telling us all that we should never trust a cat.

“Sly, crafty creatures they are”, she would say, “and never to be trusted. Never let one get near your food bowl, and never, ever, let one get behind you!”

Put me to some contortions at times, that has – but one does well to remember what one’s mother had said.

Father, too, on the rare occasions he deigned to visit us, was much of the same opinion.“Always skulking about, they are”, I recollect his saying once. “Can’t even get rid of their wastes in a healthy open manner – have to go digging holes and pretending they don’t have normal functions. And their language! Whoever can trust an animal that waves its tail and then lashes out at you? – it’s a contradiction in nature”.

So, being brought up the way I was, you can imagine that when I grew up and acquired a human family, I was very diligent in making sure that no hair or hide of a cat ever came anywhere near my house or garden. Even when I was exercising the male human in an extended trot along country lanes, I was always on the lookout for signs that a cat may have been in the area sometime.

Anyway – all that was perfectly satisfactory until one day a few months ago:-I was indulging in a post-lunch nap on the best corner of the sofa – having been busy all the morning burying bones at the bottom of the garden – and was really dozing off when I vaguely heard a knock on the door. I let the human answer it – after all they have to do some work for themselves sometimes.

Indistinctly I could hear voices, but I was busy enjoying my nap, and therefore didn’t stir when a young boy’s voice enquired:“I hear you’re looking for a kitten?”

“Well, yes,” replied my human.“I’ve got one here.”

“Oh, it’s so tiny – it’s eyes aren’t even open! You can’t take a kitten so small away from it’s mother!”

“No, it’s mother was killed by a truck in the lane this morning.”

“Well,” said my human, “I’ll try. I’ll give it some honey and milk through an eyedropper, and try and find it somewhere warm.”

I heard various noises going on, but really was so exhausted from the morning’s labours that I couldn’t be bothered to go and investigate. So – imagine my shock and horror when I felt my human sit beside me and place a weight as light as a feather on my side.

“There you are, Tiger,” he said, “you have to look after this tiny scrap of life. I am counting on you to do your best.”

Well – faced with such a request – nay, such a command – what could I do? After all, we dogs are renowned for keeping our word.

So, for the best part of a month, I lay on that sofa keeping that “scrap of life: alive. When it piddled on me (or did worse things) I heroically cleaned it up (after a sigh, I must say!); when it tried to find a nipple to suck on I even allowed it to chomp on a few hairs on my chest.

And then of course, it’s eyes opened after a few days, and as I was the first creature that it ever saw – horror to relate – it thought that I was it’s mother! Me, a self-respecting greyish-black male poodle with a pedigree going back to Bonaparte – being a mother to an inky black little creature which already showed signs of growing into a cat!

But – as I said – what could I do? A promise is a promise, after all.And that was four or five months ago. And now – look at us, the pair of us!

We share the sofa, we share the meal dish, we go for walks together with the human, we even share a bed at night.

And, believe it or not, I like him! And I think he likes me – at least if that funny growling noise is anything to go by as he rubs his chin against mine.

But – sorry, can’t stop now – I see a real cat in the garden! WOW! I must get rid of that – I’ll catch up with you later!

Brian Hodgkinson © 2007

THE VILLAGE ART SHOW by Brian Hodgkinson

A noisy, friendly, exuberant day.

A noisy, friendly, exuberant crowd.

The sun streamed down from a glorious sky on to a scene of tumultuous enjoyment in which every person from the entire little town seemed to have gathered.

Among the tumblers, the clowns, the side-shows, and the entertainers moved the villagers, their families, and their friends.

Between the displays, the tables and trestles the pigs and cows, the cocks and hens, the horses and goats all snuffled, lowed, cackled and crowed as they were driven into their allotted places.

Housewives clattered by with baskets of eggs; elders dozed on a bench outside the hostelry; children shrieked and ran amok everywhere, and the randy youths pawed and fondled the teen-aged girls in corners ands behind barns.

Serving girls, run off their feet, carried refreshments hither and thither; serious citizens studied displays of produce and of confectionery; and farmers considered the finer points of their beasts with rarefied deliberation.

The priest himself moved among his flock, beaming with good-will; and scattering benedictions together with alms on this wonderful day.

Mine host, at the door of his public house, and with his face as rosy as the apples tumbling in the fruit bowl, surveyed the scene with beaming satisfaction; and a few of his patrons, already a little the worse for wear, sprawled in the shade beneath the row of trees which sheltered the street.

A better-dressed gentleman, accompanied by his fashionable wife, was studying a small number of paintings which had been set up in a comparatively quiet corner. The hopeful artists looked at him with awe and reverence – a great man from the nearby city had condescended to view their efforts and to make a judgement on their results.

He moved from canvas to canvas, noting the crudely daubed and overcoloured vases of flowers, the badly-illuminated interiors, the sketchy landscapes. He passed over the distorted perspectives of some of the etchings. He sighed and looked at his wife, whose glance betrayed no inkling of her inner feelings.

And then he came to almost the last of the canvases. The shy face of a young teenage painter looked up at him from beside his offering.

The great man looked – and looked – and looked again. Here, on this canvas, was an almost exact representation of the scene before him.

A noisy, friendly and exuberant crowd were celebrating their holiday. Animals were driven along the street, lowing and cackling; small children were running amok between benches and trestles loaded with food and wine; drunkards sprawled on benches outside the inn, and lecherous youths were trying their luck with amorous girls behind the trees.

The gentleman looked at the young artist.

“I have to award you the prize,” he said. “You are sure that this is all your own work?”

The painter nodded shyly.

“If you carry on like this,” pontificated the great man “you have a wonderful future ahead of you. What did you say your name was?”

“Breugel, your honour. Pieter van Breugel.”

Brian Hodgkinson 2006 ©

Monday, December 04, 2006

AURORA by Brian Hodgkinson

(Note: This is the September Assignment. Our members had a choice of a number of topics. We were to choose an unfamiliar topic and perhaps research it and produce poetry or prose. Brian chose Aurora.)

It had been a magical evening. The six of us, replete after a wonderful meal at one of Hobart’s best restaurants, had come out into the clear air of the late evening.

“Let’s go up the mountain” someone had said.

And so we all agreed to take the winding mountain road, up and through the tree-line, to come out on the very summit, wrapping our arms around the girls to shield them from the chill air.

The city lay below us, sparkling in the clear atmosphere – with, as my poet wife said, “cars sliding like jewels, necklacing the streets”.

And then we turned, and there, towards the south, the sky was hung with curtains of light. Shimmering and silently moving, as the proscenium of some heavenly theatre, with colours so subtly evanescent, revealing the brightness of the southern stars through finest watered silk, the sky danced and sang above us.

We all held our breath in awe. For what seemed like an aeon, the display showed from horizon to horizon, until slowly it faded, leaving us bereft, to slowly turn and return to the more mundane workaday world.

Of course, scientists hold a more prosaic view.

“The belief has been that auroral displays are caused by high-speed charged particles such as protons and electrons issuing from active regions of the sun and penetrating into the auroral zones by the action of the earth’s geomagnetic field.

This belief was first proposed by Eugene Goldstein as early as 1881, and received strong support from laboratory experiments carried out by Kristian Birkeland. The full mathematical formulation of the problem was given by Carl Störmer, and is known as the Birkeland-Störmer theory.

Of recent years a new theory has been proposed by a few workers, taking into account the newest research into magnetohydrodynamics, which assumes the penetration of plasma gas from the sun into the earth’s magnetic field, travelling to an altitude of some 100 km in the auroral zones and forming dense cores of ionization along geomagnetic lines, thus causing auroral emissions due to reactions with oxygen and nitrogen, the main constituents of the upper atmosphere.

But there remain many questions regarding these theories and the detailed mechanisms involved. The Van Allen radiation belt may play an important part, and the varied colours observable in auroral displays may be due to chemical constituents in different parts of the atmosphere – this latter having been deduced from spectroscopic analysis by Anders Ångstrom as long ago as 1867.”

Of course, both of these approaches differ from that of the transport enthusiast. For him, the RSV “Aurora Australis” is a specialised scientific research vessel designed for research into many aspects of the Antarctic continent, and to supply the three Australian bases on the Antarctic mainland and on Macquarie Island.

She can carry a full complement of 135 persons, including up to 70 scientists together with their necessary equipment. She is also designed as an icebreaker, with a strengthened hull capable of breaking through ice up to 1.2 metres thick. She is based on the port of Hobart, and made her maiden voyage in the southern winter of 1991, calling at Mawson Base on 12th November, at Casey Base on 22nd December, at Macquarie Island on 17th of January, and at Davis Base on 9th February.

Brian Hodgkinson ©

Monday, October 23, 2006

ILIUM RENOVATUM by Brian Hodgkinson

The scene below him from this hilltop was busy and varied.

How rich and beautiful was the city’s architecture! How stately the mansions, the wide tree-lined street and avenues, how imposing the markets and temples!

And then he turned and looked out towards the port. A score of large vessels were either moored alongside, or were waiting their turn at the quay. On the quayside itself, a crowd of carts and drays created an image of almost indescribable confusion, as goods of so many differing kinds, from so many differing lands, all were transferred from the ships to be taken to the many shops and emporiums which spread all over this prosperous land. The busy hordes of porters, the pompous customs officers, the certifying clerks, the taxation representatives and the port police – all created a buzz of sound which could clearly be heard from where he sat. Several of the ships were flying the colours of the Greek confederation, and the brogue of the Greek tongue rose clearly in the morning air.

He smiled inwardly.

What a difference from the scene ten years ago!

He remembered vividly sitting here, on this very hill with the words of his father Priam echoing in his ears - It’s all your cursed fault! You and that damned Greek whore you stole!

And, as a result, all the Greek city-states had rallied round the dispossessed husband and sailed across the narrow sea, to encamp along the shore and surround his city. It really had looked as if they meant war in those days.

But then one or two of their leaders had called for a parley - he remembered Achilles and Odysseus, Ajax and Menelaus, with some others - and had advanced across the narrow coastal plain, preceded by heralds and translators. And his father, with Hector and himself, had donned their whitest robes rather than the battle-armour which had seemed so necessary, and gone out from the city gates to meet these terrifying men.

Again the flicker of a remembering smile. Was it really only ten years ago when they had hidden their city behind those massive walls? So much stone, so much labour. All to be taken down a few years ago, to construct the new trading centres which were the envy of the whole civilised world.

But back in those days, he recollected how uneasy he had felt on the outside of those protecting walls.

Their leader had spoken - a petty-kinglet named Menelaus. We wish for a truce, he had said through the interpreters. We have heard of your new markets and trading places, and desire to bargain for trinkets and luxuries to send back to Greece for our wives and mistresses.

And so they had let them in. And the sudden, unthought-of, friendships and fellowships had blossomed and flourished between the two hitherto rival nations.

Paris stood, and strolled down the hill towards his own luxurious house.

There, outside the gate, was his dearly beloved Helen - she who had almost caused a war back in those old days. But she whose business acumen and foresight had instead been the cause of the incredible prosperity of his country, even to the extent of petty foreigners from Roma and Carthage pleading for trading rights.

Troy was set, it seemed, on a voyage of business richness which would last for ever! And all due to his Helen - the woman whose force had launched a thousand shops.

Brian Hodgkinson 2006 ©

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PERSIAN VIOLETS by Brian Hodgkinson

This short story is the result of a writing task at our July meeting. We were given the title "Persian Violets" and asked to write whatever the title inspired within us.

By the flickering embers of the dying fire, the old man sat huddled in his armchair, rugged up against the insidious draughts that crept round the corners of the room.

His mind travelled back across the years, to the times he had known this room when a boy, when a young man, a father, a widower.

Was this really the same room?

Was it here he had sat beside her, hands clasped tightly, the scent of her hair filling his mind?

Was it here that he had asked her, all those years ago, to marry him and to share their lives together?

And surely they had seen their families come, grow, and leave from this very same room.

He remembered the scent she had so often used – ‘Persian Violets”’ she had called it.

He sighed, a long unutterable, lonely sigh. Surely she would come sometime? And he slowly fell asleep.

In the cold grey light of morning the housekeeper let herself into the house.

“It’s me, Mr. Collins.” she called.

But there was no reply.

Puzzled, she opened the door of the living room, and opened the curtains. He was there, huddled in the old chair he loved so much.

Quickly she went to him, anxious for his frailty – but he was dead.

And gently releasing his hand, she crossed to close the curtains again. Half way there, she stopped, puzzled.
What was that unfamiliar scent in the air?

And then she remembered – a very old perfume – what did one call it – ah yes, she remembered – Persian Violets!

Brian Hodgkinson July, 2006 ©

Thursday, August 10, 2006

GIN SLING by Brian Hodgkinson

For a period of five years, quite a long time ago, I lived in the Pacific Kingdom of Tonga. This could almost count as a traveller’s tale in itself - but there were several incidents which I could count as being especially memorable - this being one of them:-

There were plenty of tattletale spies among the expatriate community of the island who would have loved to believe that virtually every Australian, British or New Zealand male living in Tonga was unfaithful to his wife. And they exaggerated every event into some tales of almost mythological grandeur! Mind you, on some occasions there was a basis of fact in the rumour - my first boss, the Director of Works, made no secret of the fact that he kept a very pretty young Tongan girl as a mistress, and furthermore had at least one child by her. His English wife, herself quite an attractive woman, bore it all with amazing stoicism, until, one day, she decided to take a cruise around the northern islands with a bronzed Australian yachtie who called into Nuku’alofa quite by chance. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, my wife said.

One occasion, which still makes me smile to remember, occurred on one evening when there was a reception at the New Zealand High Commission for some event or other, and which was to be followed (for me, at any rate) by a rehearsal at the local drama club, of which I was at the time a fairly active member.

My wife and I were doing the rounds of our friends and acquaintances when I noticed, among the guests, Andrea, who was to be my opposite number at the rehearsal later, where we were going to put the finishing touches to Chekhov's one-acter "The Bear", prior to public performances some time the following week.

Andrea was an attractive red-headed New Zealand girl, and a very talentend actress. When we saw her at the reception she seemed to the rather the worse for wear, and I learnt that some idiot (in vain hopes of trying to get into bed with her) had been spiking her gin-and-tonic with every increasing amounts of gin. But at about 7:30 I said to my wife -

"Are you still OK to get a lift home later - because I have to go to rehearsal?" "Fine," said she, "See you later."

So I sought out Andrea. "Are you sure you are OK to come to rehearsal? We can go together in my car." I asked. Somewhat tipsily she said "Lead on - I'm fine".

I managed to get her out and into the car, and we set off, although I had to stop twice because she had to be dreadfully ill twice out of the car window en route to the rehearsal hall. When we eventually got there, the producer took one look at her - and said "Go home - you're in no state to rehearse."

So I put her back in the car and started to take her back to her little house on the outskirts of town. The gin seemed to take more and more of a hold with every passing minute. She was sick twice more.

When we got to her house I said "Give me your key, and I'll help you across the garden to the door." (Her house was surrounded by a very marshy area, on the edge of an inland lagoon).

"Go 'way!" she shrieked. "You're just tryin' to have your evil way with me!"

"Nonsense," I replied, and managed to get her house key as she fell out of the car. I almost had to carry her across her garden, and prop her against the house wall while I unlocked the door.

When I got her inside she said "I'm gunna have a coffee" and fell across the kitchen table. Poor Andrea! - what could I do?

In the end I carried her into her bedroom, despite her feeble protests, semi-undressed her and tucked her up warmly, before leaving, locking the house behind me and dropping the key through the letterbox, and driving home.

My wife was very amused when I told her - and even more amused by the several different versions she heard going round the town the following day. Andrea was shamefaced and apologetic when we saw her the next evening.

"Don't apologize," we said, "the one who should apologize is the toad who was feeding you all that gin." But he never did, of course.

Brian Hodgkinson ©

AGING by Brian Hodgkinson

Devouring Time - so sang the Bard of yore -
But greybeards now no longer think that way!
They shave their hair, wear jeans, tattoos, and more;
And take Viagra - keeping Time at bay.

No more their dames in rocking chair
Or chimney corner sit to tell their woes:
They smooth their necks and eyebrows dye their hair,
Have nips and tucks - eyes, bosom, thighs, and toes.

No more content to sit at home and pray
The rude forefathers of the hamlet talk
Around the bar of travels far away
And how they towed the van from back of Bourke.

And young folk round the bar raise eyebrows, sigh,
And wish they'd all just go away and die!

Brian Hodgkinson, ©