The Killing Season in Terror Australis… if it ain’t broke, break it.

Abbott in 20 – Artists Impression
It’s dawned quietly here in Sydney. I am up and at my keyboard, with only the familiar, individual calls of our local Butcher Birds echoing across our little valley to keep me company.

It’s a cool morning and the boys are down from the country for school holidays. They’re asleep upstairs. Being adolescents, they will continue to sleep until a crow bar is applied to their angelic, if pimply figures, or until they smell food… whichever comes first.

Oh well, such is life, and boys. At least now they can make their own toast. All they have to do now is learn to stack the dishwasher. Or empty it. Either would be progress.

Elsewhere in Sydney, other boys, “Teh Terrorists”, will also be stirring from their spartan cots in suburbs like Lakemba, Campbelltown and Lidcombe. There was even one in my own leafy suburb at one stage. I saw the helicopters myself as they hovered not far from my back deck. The helicopters were real enough, but alas the beheading sword was plastic, purchased at a flea market in downtown Auburn, if I remember correctly. They had to let the Threat To Our Way Of Life – and his mum – go.

I do wonder what the ISIS wannabees think as they transition from slumber to sentience? What wonderful thoughts must crowd their first waking moments! They could kill someone, or perhaps rape a virgin. Maybe they could separate a few heads from a few torsos. So much to do, and so little time to do it!

Abbott Fearless Leader 2

So little time because, while they have been sleeping, their Nemesis and our National Protector, Tony Abbott has been up and at it. While riding his bike he has been thinking of ways to deprive them of their citizenship, jail them, banish them, vilify them and in general carry out his sacred duty of wedging Labor… of keeping his country safe. A few kilometres on his bicycle, a session at his Vladimir Putin dart board, a couple of whirling dervish rounds with his Bill Shorten punching bag and Tony is ready for a day of fear mongering, division and general muckmenting.

The last two weeks have been the distillation of Abbottism. Gillian Triggs was bullied on live TV for being a politically partisan statutory office holder, a bullying all the more effective due to the bully being Bronwyn Bishop, the politically partisan holder of the highest statutory office in the land. Takes one to know one, I guess.

Ah, QandA, you have all the trouble makers on, don’t you?

Then we had the triumphant crowing in Parliament as Tony picked up on the utterly sensible, sober and perfectly researched bootstrap run by a section of the Fairfax organization, comprising ex-Murdoch scribblers and “investigative journalists” (who had first achieved fame for hacking into Labor party databases), attempting to make out Bill Shorten was an Enemy Of The Workers. Fairfax types know a lot about The Workers. They’ve sacked enough of them recently. “Killing Season”, indeed…

Murdoch Media Cycle 2

Their evidence? Bill scored even manual labourers $150,000 gigs digging holes, a guaranteed job for two years, kept all their RDOs (after a little reshuffling of half of them, glossed over of course by the bootstrappers, in their zeal), made the company $100,000,000 by bringing in the biggest construction project of its type in Victorian history 5 months early, kept the hated CFMEU out of the job altogether, and set-in-concrete the model for all such future contracts. All in return for a contribution to the AWU – not Bill, but the union – of $300,000.

Shorten did such a bad job of wrecking the mould of “rampant unionism” that Abbott’s mate, Tony Shepherd, tried to take the credit for it himself!

If ever there were questions that needed to be answered, answered again, and then answered at least a dozen times more, until more questions that needed answering came up, these questions were those questions. I know this, because a Sydney Morning Herald editorial (those Fairfax Lefties!) said so, while saying that it’d be better all round if Bill just threw in the towel and stepped down. It was the Killing Season, after all and the SMH had a bootstrap to run.

Married at first sight

The other Killing Season was the Reality TV show we were told was a “Must See” because it was “the most brilliant political documentary in Australian television history”. Reality TV promos always tell potential viewers that the show is “Must See”. They also spruik each episode as “The episode all Australia has been waiting for”. Usually these involve weddings or someone having a baby. Occasionally a key cast member falls off a cliff, because he asked for too much money at contract time, and got written out of the show.

But there are other reasons that Reality TV episodes are “Must see”. For example, there could be “a Reveal” during the program. In renovation Reality TV the “Reveal” consists of homeowners re-entering their houses, bursting into tears, putting their hands up to their faces, hugging each other in horror, and exclaiming “OH_MY_GOD!” when they see the new purple and orange tiles in the bathroom, with the grand vista windows at the front of the house that let them see out onto… the street they hate living in anyway, because its full of bogans like them.

There were several “Reveals” in The Killing Season. For instance, it was “Revealed” that Kevin Rudd ratted Julia Gillard out to Laurie Oakes so that she would lose the 2010 election. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that… OH_MY_GOD!

Then there was the excellent product of Sarah Ferguson’s relentlessly investigative mind when she teased the truth out of Julia that Mark Arbib was involved in the coup. Who’d a thunk that? OH_MY_GOD!

Bill Shorten

But the best “Reveals” were about Bill Shorten. Before the show even went to air, we’d already been told what the reaction to these would be by the Press Gallery: Bill would enter that dangerous state of becoming “beleaguered”.

And what “reveals” they were!

  • Bill wasn’t even on the show… OH_MY_GOD!
  • He knew about the coup on the night it was hatched, and spoke on the phone to his colleagues… OH_MY_GOD!
  • Someone said that someone said that Bill “couldn’t be trusted”… OH_MY_GOD!
  • Bill had a meeting with Kevin Rudd in 2013… OH_MY_GOD!

This last “reveal” was a beauty, because Bill had told some shock jock or other that he had not met with Rudd. And then he fessed up to it! This made for screaming headlines along the lines of “SHORTEN LIED TO SHOCK JOCK!!!… OH_MY_GOD!“.

Of course, all this lying took place 2 years ago, but in Abbott Dead-Buried-And-Cremated World, “2 years ago” is practically yesterday. Ask Julia Gillard. The witch hunt against her went back 10 times that. And some even say she still has questions to answer.

Unsurprisingly, the pundits’ predictions all came true. They have a gift for self-fulfilling prophecies, those hacks. From being a common or garden LOTO, with an election-winning poll lead extending out over the previous 14 months at the beginning of Killing Fortnight, Shorto did in fact become, as they told us he would, “beleaguered”… “embattled” even. That’s with Labor’s election-winning lead increasing by a percentage point or so. Imagine if their electoral ratings had gone down…

Group Think Thumbs Down

Amazingly, all the journos of the Press Gallery, at the ABC and on The Drum and Sky News came to this conclusion independently and simultaneously. The odds against the Press Gallery all saying the same thing at the same time must be billions to one. But Sportsbet didn’t even make a book on it!

So, Tony took up the baton and horse-whipped Bill in QT, much to the merriment of our esteemed 4th Estate. They might be impervious to facts, or sit po-faced when confronted with policy, but give the hacks a good stoush to write up and they spring into action… sound and fury signifying action, at any rate.

Finally they had a genuine “bad guy” to flog to death. Not the bloke who’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had, punched walls either side of women’s’ faces when he lost a student election to them, abandoned his pregnant girlfriend because “he wasn’t ready for fatherhood”, failed at the priesthood because (he told us) he couldn’t keep his tossle in his pants (nice “Macho Man” excuse, that), slagged off a man dying of mesothelioma a few days before he passed away, stood under a sign saying Julia Gillard was Bob Brown’s Bitch, bragged on national television that he lied all the time, proved it by concocting the greatest tissue of lies in the history of Australian politics, longer than a jumbo roll of Sorbent, gave Vladimir Putin a koalaing instead of a shirtfronting, changed policies more often than you or I change socks, admitted he lied on climate change policy, on pensioners, on education, on the ABC and just about every other policy crevice he ever cast his saurian eyes upon. No, they didn’t go after Tony Abbott. It was “Get Shorty” week. It said so in the script, and in the promos, written weeks, even months before.

Lib Policy Bike

First he was up before the Royal Commission. It’s one of the few occasions where a current political leader has hauled his opponent before such an inquisition, so that his murky past can be delved into. Throw a Royal Commission into the mix and the Group Thinkers went beserk. It didn’t matter to them that it was a witch hunt. Witch hunts are what they do all the time. Boy, would Bill have to answer questions that needed to be answered then! In the meantime there were the same questions needing to be answered now! Bill was in a perfect bind. No wonder there were calls for his resignation.

Abbott Nosferatu

So let’s recap… Royal Commission, dodgy deals, and –  there was no escaping it – Bill Shorten lied to a shock jock. He even admitted it. What a politically inept wanker, actually admitting to something. Such is not the stuff of Prime Ministership. If you can’t lie your way into office, how can you ever hope to lie to everyone as Prime Minister of Australia once you get there?

Shock Jock Cartoon

And he got a good deal for his union members and for the company on the Eastlink project. What’s a union leader for, if not to call strikes, embezzle money and send the employers broke? OH_MY_GOD!

Admittedly it had been hard to get the “Shorten beleaguered” story up. There were, for a time, a few distractions. Take Joe Hockey’s enlightening observation that all hopelessly under-cashed home buyer hopefuls had to do was “get a good job, preferably in the private sector”. That meant “Bye-bye home ownership” for nurses, fireys, ambos, teachers, university professors, pen pushers everywhere and even Commonwealth Public Service departmental heads.

But there was a glimmer of hope for the hopeless. It arose from Joe’s history of canny real estate buys. If they came from a rich family, were prepared to misrepresent their credentials as lawyers and real estate agents to a man suffering from the delusion that lawyers and real estate agents were the kind of creeps he did not want to sell his house to, so that they could buy his house for a fraction of its market value, transfer majority ownership to their wives and then spend the next umpteen years claiming taxpayer money to bunk down in it as “living away from home allowance”, then they might have a chance. I mean… FACE!/PALM!… OH_MY_GOD!

Jolly Joe Hockey

These people would be just the kind of good citizens Joe has been banging on about for years. Deceiving their way into a house purchase, bragging about it in their book that no-one ever read, and then paying off the mortgage on the public tit. LIFTERS ALL! If Joe’s tale of property propitiousness didn’t inspire a nation to try harder, what would?

Actually, it sank lower than Joe’s stapled belly. So, abandoning Shorty for a while, Tony came up with stripping citizenship away from anyone he (or more accurately the Potato-Headed Dutton) did not like. It was unconstitutional, but those pesky judges always get in the way. What did Shorty think of it? When Bill hesitated for a moment, wanting to actually see the legislation, this proved that he was soft on terrorism. The head kicking could begin again.

What legislation it was! Not only terrorists, but even graffiti artists were in the firing line, if they held dual citizenship. Putting aside Tony’s very own brush with Anglo-Australian status for a moment, this “dual citizenship” thing was clever. It gave Australians the idea that terrorists and graffiti artists had a certain lack of loyalty to their new country by not renouncing their original allegiance to the home country.

Dutton Justice

It would be almost natural justice (except that natural justice is so “yesterday”, and was specifically excluded from the bill) for them to lose their halal-eating, dole-bludging privileges and be turfed out of Terror Australis. As to natural citizens – those born here, and hence with sole citizenship – there were “no plans” to strip them of any rights… until there were.

That’s right, just a few days later, Tony used the occasion of a speech on the hallowed propositions of Magna Carta to call for its abolition. “Citizenship” was “out” and “Banishment” was “in”.

In one step we had sat in the time machine, and gone down through the ages. As the years clicked away in reverse the time dial rotated ever faster. Reprising the late Rod Taylor, Tony sat at the controls and wound back the clock: 2014, 2010, 1994, 1950, 1879, 1750… on and on the dials whirred and the lights flashed… only towards the end did they start to slow down…. 1300, 1290, 1280, 1265. 1255 and finally came to rest at 1254, a full year before Magna Carta was put in front of King John by a bunch of pissed-off barons, to sign and seal. We had made it to the middle of the 13th century alive, intact and ready to start banishing citizens again… OH_MY_GOD!

Right on cue, the ABC had chimed in with a real, live terrorist asking a Lib parliamentary secretary, one Ciobo, a curly question. The wash-up of this incident has all the trappings of an ABC shit fight. First, a de rigeur grovelling apology from Tony Jones. Then, next morning, the ABC logo on an ISIS flag, care of the Courier-Mail Photoshop Dept. Billy Shorten somehow got entangled into all this. Already he been asked “ARE YOU SYRIAS BILL?” by the Tele (oooooh… how cutting!), and now he copped it for being a traitor to Australia, and even for “rolling out the red carpet for terrorists”, because he – unaccountably – thought that bringing them back here to Australia, giving them a fair trial (with evidence and stuff) and then, if they were found guilty, locking them up for a long, long time was the way to do it.

Well, it wasn’t actually Bill Shorten who said this. It was Mark Dreyfus Doofus, a Jew, who came in for some gentle ribbing in the Tele (again) by a clever bit of pictorial juxtaposition, showing his photo next to one of Goebbels… OH_MY_GOD! THAT'S SO BEAUTIFUL!

Heydrich Abbott 2

Photoshop IS fun, isn’t it?

But in Tony’s mind, what was a mere life sentence compared to stripping away rights to eat halal food and bludge on the disability pension, while living in Syria all the time, so they could more easily cut heads off? Ray Hadley agreed, so Tony must have been on the right track.

Sure, Mark Scott made some noises in defence of the organization which he heads, but it was water off a duck’s back for Tony (and a bit too late for Mark, after years of pandering to the Liberal loons, both when they were in Opposition and in government). In true Death Cult style, Tony demanded that “heads should roll” at the “nest of Lefties” in Ultimo, proving once again, the old adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em”, in the nicest possible way, naturally.

Goons

As if on cue (but it couldn’t have been that), our very own Neo Nazis appeared at the front door of the ABC, forcing ABC employees to scamper out the back. Not a word of condemnation from Tony for that (and I’ll bet you there won’t be a word from any of Tony’s Trustees at the ABC either). The ABC is not on Australia’s side, and the Nazis are. You can tell by the flags. As for the vilifying phone calls and the threatening messages Tony’s fans left… well… “sticks and stones…”.The ABC should nut-up, or (preferably) shut-up.

About the only person who wasn’t accused of being a squawking chick in the nest of Lefties was the QandA host, Tony Jones. Obviously an oversight on someone’s part. And I don’t recall seeing Chris Uhlmann mentioned either, come to think of it, nor “hard hitting” Leigh Sales. Liberals still go on her show. It’s true! Mr Smooth, Mark Simkin has, of course, already left the building. We wish him well in his new career… whatever that is. I’m sure Mark’s smiling…

Mark Simkin

Strangely, Ultimo was not on the map of terrorist strongholds in suburban Sydney and Melbourne provided by ASIO when Tony went to their offices to be briefed by “X” (their Director) – in a totally unscripted and spontaneous way – on the progress of the War On Terror. It must have been an oversight, rather like the one that saw Man Monis practically offer to give himself up to Bookcase Brandis SC, DH, by intimating, in a formal letter to the Attorney-General, that he wanted to join ISIS, and could Bookcase kindly provide Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s address and phone number? Of course, Mr Monis was ignored. He was a crank anyway, wasn’t he? It wasn’t as if he was ever going to do anything about his delusional obsession with narcissistic self-aggrandizement. That was plain for all to see… oops … OH_MY_GOD!

Abbott – MH370

Anyway, the visit to ASIO showed Reality TV viewers the throbbing heart of the Battle Of The Death Cults as Tony sat there sombrely perusing a Very Important Map of caliphating cadres from Lakemba to Camberwell, while up on the wall The Big Picture showed ISIS’s vicious grip on the Middle East – from 2014, over a year ago. Well, the map was one lifted from the Washington Post (ASIO has Photoshoppers too, I suppose). I bet they haven’t heard of Ultimo over there in the US either, what with all their attention being focused on the abomination that is Gay Marriage (OK, sorry, I promised myself not to talk about Gay Marriage).

Abbott Fear

Aye, the Force has been strong in Tony this last fortnight. The Gallery’s saying it’s his “best ever fortnight”. He’s managed to upset just about everyone. He’s turned Australia upside down. He’s proved that left is right, except for the ABC, which is always left. We now know where the Death Cults are, and who belongs to them: Khaled Sharrouf (deceased), Zaky Mallah, Bill Shorten and Mark Doofus… the latter trio being very much alive, still dangerous and still beleaguered. Mark Scott comes in for a special mention, with a sort of “Reverse Walkley”, awarded for being the Facilitator In Chief of the Ultimo branch of Terror Australis. What’s to complain about? The columns and stories just about write themselves: “That’s Our Tony!”

Banishments will be carried out. Dole bludging Muzzies will be punished by being told to leave a country they’ve already left. Chits with “4 MY MORTGAGE” will still be signed and submitted by Jolly Joe Hockey. Photoshoppers will continue to ply their trade in truth, justice and the Murdoch Way. Pensioners will be rewarded for voting “Tony” by having their pensions cut. Windmills will grind to a halt, their deafening infrasonic decibels silenced forever. Coal mines will continue to spew pollution over a pleasant land, because Coal Is Good For Humanity. Bronwyn Bishop will go on wagging her finger at other politicised statutory office holders, telling them to get a real job if they want to play politics as well as she does. Maybe then they can pay their mortgages off too? Tradies will buy lots of tools they can’t use because there isn’t any work. Gerry Harvey will continue to tell us it’s Christmas. Young couples still won’t be able to afford a house. Or a flat. Or even a parking space dressed up as “a renovator’s delight”.

The Prime Ministirrer will go on stirring, foisting his amateur ideas on a cowering population more afraid of a score of disaffected youfs at their keyboards, than of the hundreds of husbands, fathers and sons, who this year will bash and in some cases, murder their spouses, with the odd one or two doing-in the whole family. Rosie Batty, Australian of the Year, will continue to despair, her funding cut from under her as she pleads her case for the killings and bashings to stop (Really, she should have known, shouldn’t she? Tony promised to increase the funding… silly woman).

Press Gallery

As always, the Press Gallery will continue to try to make sense of this. That’s their job, after all, to take a peasant and turn him into a Prince (or should that be a “Sir Prince”?).

They will trot out their memes, bestow the title of “Beleaguered” as they wish, believe that a Reality TV show was a good enough excuse for them to try to force reality (I love it when Reality becomes reality, it’s turned the full circle). From their privileged position looking down on the sandpit, they will continue to entertain the idea that Question Time is important, just because it’s put on specially for their entertainment. They will keep on interviewing each other, conducting “Group Think As It Happens” workshops on the national airwaves.

Jockstraps disguised as bootstraps will abound. More-in-sorrow-than-in-anger calls for resignations will permeate the editorials, because the editors of failing businesses, dependent on old technology, losing their customer base faster than Tony can say “Death Cult”, and disappointing those few readers that remain, will persist with the delusion that they alone have the inside running on how to run a business (or a party, or a nation).

Peter Hartcher will still be in love (with someone), but it will be – as always – unrequited. Kath Murphy will continue to lecture her readers on the nobility of journalism, just before she giggles at the latest gotcha. Barrie Cassidy will persist with his naive trust in the Sunday papers, and Lenore Taylor will sadly, but inevitably, find the True Group Think at last.

Whingeing Australian2

We are so far away from where we should be as a nation. We have gone from an aspirational society – multi-cultural, broadminded, relaxed, confident – to a cringing, cowering mess of terrified neurotics, afraid of Muslims, afraid of unions who have done so much for us, hating politicians, shouting, screaming, threatening national institutions, banishing citizens in a reversion to Medieval days, judgemental, wowserish and mean.

And that’s just how Tony Abbott likes it. “In confusion is profit” is his guiding motto. Everywhere he has ever been has ended up the same, from school, through university, to his stint in a concrete factory, at the seminary, to the media, into politics and now as Prime Minister with close as dammit to untrammelled power to corrupt, pollute and devalue . Throughout his life, as soon as he had some power, he has abused it, buggered it up and wrecked whatever and whomever gave him responsibility. He has both the penchant to destroy, and the charm to keep on getting his patrons to give him licence to do so.

Gangster

To paraphrase another thug… “Nice little country you got here. Shame if somethin’ were to happen to it.”

Yes, Tony Abbott now has himself a whole country to pull apart, but not so as he can put it back together. In this, the Killing Season (and indeed in any season at all), he wants us divided, squabbling, accusing and intimidating each other, because when we are on the mat and he is still on his feet, only then can this little man make believe he is standing tall.

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Festive Midwinter Friday

A very friendly dragon (stop blushing, Puffy) suggested a midwinter festival theme for this week’s Friday post. What else could I do but tremble and obey?

(Image Credit: Stuart Wilde)

A Canadian-Chinese take on the winter solstice:

(Image Credit: Red Moon Musings)

With the druids at Stonehenge:

(Image Credit: BBC)

In olden days:

(Image Credit: Living Language)

and last but not least, a traditional English Christmas lunch:

(Image Credit: Mirror)

So, let’s settle down by the fire

with – oh whatever – mulled wine?

champers?

vintage port? (from the Secret Cellar, bien entendu)

(Image Credit: Getty Images)

and listen to some of the most joyous music ever written:

Finally, The Pub is pleased to announce that this evening’s raffle will be directed from the harpsichord by Maestro CK Watt.

“Set aside fear and banish lamentation;
Swell full with joy and merriment!”

Sounds okay to me.

The Resurrection of Herbert Griegs

Today’s guest author is Jaycee, with an exquisite reflection. Thank you for sharing this story, Jaycee.

(Image Credit: The Saturday Paper)

I have a war story . . .well, not actually about war itself, but about how it broke and remade a life. It is a true story and was told to me by Darcy C., an old farmer who lived on the farm next to us (in my first marriage) in the hills. He was one of those generations of farmers whose family had been in the district since its inception. A dry old stick who knew everything that went on in the district, he was taken to telling a yarn or two when he had nothing else to do or it was raining. I was always a keen listener.
Of course, Darcy told me the main parts of the incident and I picked up bits and pieces elsewhere in the district. You have to be a bit canny when making inquiries of this nature – the locals don’t like giving anything away. It’s a bit like fly-fishing for trout – you have to know how to search the shadows.

It went like this.

Pray for me my sweet,
Lest I forget to pray myself,
For God is a distant star . . .”

The small casement window of the dining room of the old house lay slightly ajar so that the gentle afternoon breeze just lifted the cotton lace edged curtain and it brushed against the glass fronted china cabinet next to the window. A crystal-glass wind chime tinkled sweetly as the breeze chinked its pieces together, making little pin-pricks of sound. On top of the cabinet stood three objects, two of which were framed photographs and one ceramic figurine of a young lady with a basket of flowers over her left arm. One of the photos in a gilt-edged frame showed a young snapshot of the just recently deceased Herbert Griegs with his new bride, Mary-Ann. Herbert is dressed in his army uniform. They both appear very, very happy. The other photo is of a young family, about the same age as Herbert and Mary-Ann. There is also a small child in the photograph. The man is also in a uniform, but it is the uniform of the Fascist army of Italy. The young family, too, appear very happy. All these people, with the exception, perhaps, of the child are now deceased. Herbert and the wife of the Italian soldier died of old age. Mary-Ann and the Italian soldier died in the Second World War.

Here is their story.

Herbert Griegs and Mary-Ann were married in the local church at the small country town where they were raised and intended to live after the war. They did not doubt that Herbert would return from the war: it just seemed impossible that he would not. There was so much life ahead, the promise of a fine full life on the farm.

Herbert was already in the army when they married. He had joined up some months before so he had finished his basic training and was on leave. He expected to be posted to barracks in the eastern states awaiting orders to go overseas to active service. They had been married a week and three days when Herbert’s orders came through. He kissed his new wife goodbye reluctantly and travelled with a large number of soldiers away to New South Wales.

In the days of the Second World War, in many country places in Australia, soldiers were billeted on farms in the countryside. If there was a shearing shed on the property, the army would staff it with a cook and kitchen helpers and put a hundred or so soldiers there under canvas. Such an event happened at Mary-Ann and Herbert’s farm, two or three months after Herbert had been shipped off to New South Wales. Soldiers from all parts of the state were camped there.

This was a very unsettling time for Mary-Ann, for she missed her husband terribly, and in the course of fate, whether it was similarity in looks, sympathy toward their fate or simply the uniform, Mary-Ann one day was seduced by one of the soldiers. Why? Well, who knows? It could have been for a number of reasons or desires but for whatever reason she did, Mary-Ann was the most shocked, and fell to despair when she found she was pregnant to the soldier who had by now long gone away.

Mary-Ann became so desperate that she somehow, some way, found the address of a place in the city that would, for a price, do abortions. Mary-Ann paid the money and was attended by the anonymous people. But the operation was a failure. She hemorrhaged badly and it couldn’t be stopped. She died in the room of a house in the back-street of the inner-city. During the night her body was removed and left propped against a tree in one of the parklands that surround the city.

Herbert received the news with horror and disbelief. Impossible! How could she be dead? She was alive and healthy six months ago, she was smiling still in his memory, she was laughing just out of reach on the slopes of the field-daisy covered hills behind their farm-house when he chased her up the slopes and laughing, pulled her down on the yellow and green carpet and there amongst the miles and miles of open countryside under a soft sky they made love.

“No! It couldn’t be so, No!”

The letter from his brother didn’t tell of the circumstances of Mary-Ann’s death, and he didn’t find out till he returned home for the funeral on compassionate leave. But still he was so shocked that even the sordid details didn’t seem to sink in. How? How? he kept asking himself and he would sit for hours at his brother’s kitchen table and sometimes look as if he were about to ask a question but then would close his mouth in silence and look deeply into his cup of tea. He mechanically went through the ritual of the funeral and stumbled from the graveside in silence. It was in silence also that he returned to the barracks in the East to be shipped off overseas to the war in Africa.

On the crossing to the front he searched again and again through all the details in his mind that he knew of the tragedy. He started to hate Mary-Ann. He stood her before him in daydreams and called her “whore”, “slut”, “betrayer”, and any other names that he thought he could hurt her memory with, but at the end of it all he called her “love” and wept for the sadness of it.

Then he started to hate the soldier who had seduced her. He looked around at the noisy men about him and tried in his heart to pick the types that would seduce “a lonely sympathetic woman”. Several times he fought fights with braggarts who told lurid tales of their “conquests” before they left home. He had to be dragged off one fight before he killed the man. Fortunately none of these fights reached the ears of the high ranking officers; it was just the “locking of horns” amongst the men, the release of tension before the approaching theatre of war.

The first action Herbert’s battalion was to see was the assault on Bardia in Libya. By now Herbert’s hatred was directed toward the enemy out front and there was no more eager soul for battle in the battalion. He was in a state of silent desperation. He silently nurtured the philosophy of “kill or be killed”; it didn’t matter to him at all. What was there home now? What was there here? Who was he fighting for? It just didn’t seem to matter anymore. He just wanted to throw himself into the teeth of war with a seething vengeance. He wanted to kill, if only himself, he wanted to kill! At zero hour the artillery barrage began. Herbert was humming and whistling nervously. Then the barrage lifted and the first wave of infantry attacked behind the engineers who blew the wire with Bangalore torpedoes. Herbert was rushing, running into the acrid fumes amid the fires and shooting. He shot at a few fast moving shadowy figures near a guard post. The horizon jumped and jerked with the flashes from the Italian artillery. He ran past a truck destroyed by their own barrage – wild orange flames swept around the cabin of the truck from the burning tyres, the flames lashed and licked at the metal like the wet tongue of a huge animal. His temper was almost uncontrollable as he rounded the corner of supply building of the post. An Italian soldier suddenly stepped out of a doorway just ahead of him with his hands on the verge of raising in surrender. He didn’t get the chance. Herbert shot at point blank range and the soldier fell in front of him. He rushed up and plunged his bayoneted rifle into the man’s chest. The soldier gasped. “Ah Dio Boia!, Dio Boia!” he cried and Herbert too yelled out amid the wild weird racket of battle all around him. It seemed as if a demon had escaped from the depths of his soul and he cried out for the release of it all while the filthy smoke from the burning machinery engulfed the entire battle scene and he fell to his knees beside the body of the dying soldier. Herbert felt his chest constricted and his breath laboured in short gasps as he knelt there with his hand on the Italian soldier’s chest.

He became aware of some words spoken near his ear. It was the dying soldier. At first Herbert was shocked, open mouthed, he lifted his rifle to strike the soldier again till he realized the man was no threat and that he was saying over and over again, “Non e colpa tua, non e colpa tua.” The soldier’s hand moved slowly, falteringly up to his chest pocket, then quivering fell to his side. He was dead.

Herbert jumped to his feet and stood staring down at the first man he had killed. He was about to rush off when he was drawn, compulsively to reach into the dead soldier’s breast pocket. He did this quickly as if repulsed at the thought that he could be looting a dead body. He quickly put his hand in and pulled out a leather folder. He thrust it quickly into his own pocket and scrambled off to the battle further ahead in the mist of dawn and fire.

Herbert did survive the war and he did go back to the farm amongst the gently sloping hills of the hinterland. But he did not go to the grave of his wife in the grounds of the little church on the edge of the town. He could not face her name on a tombstone and he could not say her name for a long, long time.

His farm was suffering from lack of care and he himself moved about under an oppressive cloud of lethargy and listlessness till his friends and neighbours all felt it was only a matter of time till he broke down or cracked up. Herbert could feel himself being slowly drowned by his despair and was aware that he would have to do something to get his life back on track soon or he would go under. A friend of his from the district who had gone to the African war with him had returned and gone into a ministry with the church. Herbert drove to the city one day to speak with him of a certain matter that was troubling him. He was shown to the minister’s room and left to knock on the door.

“Come in,” a voice called from inside. “Why, hello Herb!” The minister smiled and rose from his chair.

“Here, come over here and sit down. Cup of tea? Good, good,” – he poured a cup from a pot. “Just had one myself – I’m afraid this isn’t the army now, nothing stronger,” and he laughed.

“Ta, thanks, Brian – no, it’ll do fine.” Herbert spoke quietly.

After the cup of tea was placed in front of him Herbert started to sugar and stir the drink with slow solemnity. The minister settled back into his chair and gazed quizzically at his old friend.

“You don’t look too cheerful, Herb,” he spoke.

“Well, no, no, I’m not much fun to be with these days.”

“Is it the memories of the war?” the minister asked.

“That . . . and Mary-Ann,” Herb answered.

“Hmm, I think I can sense that . . . but what precisely is the trouble with Mary-Ann?” The minister queried.

“I haven’t been able to go to her grave since I’ve been back,” Herbert spoke softly. A silence fell between them.

“You remember Bardia?”

“Do I?” the minister replied. “Scared the pants off me.” He snorted “Glad it’s gone. Why?”

“Brian,” began Herbert, “Brian . . . I killed a man there . . .”

The minister squinted his eyes a little. There was something more in this, he felt. He replied with a stock answer:

“Well . . . we all killed there. Many of our side were killed also.”

“No,” Herbert spoke slowly and carefully. “I murdered a man there . . . an Italian soldier. He was about to surrender, I see that now, but . . . but I was full of hate, full of Mary-Ann . . . I didn’t give him a chance. I killed him out of my own hatred – I killed a man.” Herbert dropped his head in shame.

The minister raised his eyebrows at the problem he saw before him, but then, he was thinking, who didn’t kill in hate of some kind, did people kill for love? We were all full of hatred when we went there, otherwise we’d have stayed home and raised families! The minister spoke these thoughts and moved to quieten his friend’s fears, and because he spoke with the sincerity and honesty of friend to friend, he could see it sinking in. An inspiration came upon him:

“Have you told this to Mary-Ann?”

“What? But it’s too late now – she’s dead, Brian, dead and gone.”

“Dead maybe, Herbert . . . but not gone, surely.”

Herbert raised his head to gaze steadily upon his friend.

“Why don’t you go down there Herb, go down and visit the grave? It won’t hurt, and who knows, you may feel some sort of response to your worries. It certainly couldn’t really do any harm.”

It seemed a strange thing to do, to go down and consult the dead. He was a little apprehensive and also a little scared, so clutching a small bouquet of field daisies that he and Mary-Ann had lain in those days so long ago, Herbert walked through the whitened cemetery gates on a grey-clouded, winters day. He stopped before the white marble gravestone that read:

Mary-Ann Griegs
Loved wife of Herbert Greigs
Died Oct. 4. 1940
A Tragedy

Herbert stood before the grave, feeling lonely, not knowing what to think, what to say. So he just stood with his hands clasped in front with the small bouquet held upside down in his fingers. He thought over the happy days, the early days, the sad days in numbness and the war days in pain. The picture of the dying soldier came into his memory, the man’s life fading from the brutal attack of the bayonet.

“Dio Boia, Dio Boia!” the man had cried, the words now clear in Herbert’s mind. And then the final fatalistic sighing of the dying soldier:

“Non e colpa tua . . . Non e colpa tua.”

Herbert never could understand what the soldier meant by those words, even when he heard them translated, surely it was HIS fault the soldier died. HE was the one doing the killing! He repeated the words now to himself and the repetitive tone seemed to bring clarity to his thoughts till suddenly, as if illuminated by light, he understood the juxtaposition of their lives – Mary-Ann, the soldier’s, his own – and he suddenly realized why Mary-Ann had risked her life and destroyed the unborn child, her child, for whoever the father, it was still her child. But she destroyed her child and lost her life, not out of self-protection, but rather for a greater prize to her – Herbert’s love. She died for love of him . . .

“Oh God,” he cried at the realisation, “Oh God! oh God! oh God!” and he fell to his knees in front of the grave and the meaning of the soldier’s last words fell into place and he sobbed the same words to his wife:

“It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault! It’s not your fault!” he wept, falling down on his knees with his face clasped in his hands, he wept, and so as his tears were falling to the earth, so was his soul descending down, down, till he felt he could ‘touch’ the soul of his beloved. And now he understood – the unborn child she sacrificed to Herbert to save her love, and the Italian soldier he sacrificed to Mary-Ann to show his love. “Pity the killed, pity the killers, pity us all, God pity us all !” he wept to her. A light rain misted over the small graveyard, beside the church on the edge of the town. The bouquet of daisies had slipped from his hands and lay softly on the flat polished gravestone, its yellow and green glowing brightly against the wet, white marble.

Herbert Griegs came back from that time of despair and started farming again. He never married again and spent his years in service to the local community and the church. The wallet he took from the dead soldier that night contained, beside other things, a photograph of a young family – the soldier, his wife and a young child. This photograph he put in a gilded frame matching the one of his own marriage and stood them side by side on top of the china cabinet in the dining room of the farm house. These people are now all gone and soon, but for this, I feel, will be forgotten.

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)