Effluvia of the Rivers (478 – 534) – one of the dregs of history

Oswyn and Beatrice of the Rivers were two status-oriented river traders who plied their wares on what are now the Trent and Humber Rivers. Being upwardly mobile and relatively wealthy, they spent much of their time working out how they could show their superiority over other villagers.

They spent their time trading silks from the orient and anything else they could get their hands on. This included a burgeoning business in antique Roman pottery that was becoming popular with the more wealthy members of the populace. They worked tirelessly trying to ingratiate themselves with such people. This led to an interest in all things Latin, and when they had their first child, they searched around for a suitable name. It was unfortunate that they spoke no Latin, for they settled on what sounded like a perfect name for their little girl – Effluvia; it had a ring to it that just rolled off the tongue.

Effluvia of the Rivers was christened by a jovial monk named Offa. He had a very good knowledge of Latin and went bright purple with the effort of keeping a straight face during the ceremony. He was seen to be sweating profusely and afterwards was heard to comment that he thought he was going to burst a blood vessel. He settled for retreating to a quiet spot by the river after the christening and laughing hysterically for twenty minutes before having a good lie down to compose himself.

Poor Effluvia grew up without any knowledge of what her name really meant, but it was ingrained in her, by her parents, that she was a cut above all the ‘common people’. She soon realised her parents were snobs and did everything she could to annoy them; she was the ultimate misbehaving rich girl who was never satisfied. After a rudimentary education she joined her parents in river trading. They thought this would keep her grounded, but the only thing that became grounded was one of their boats.

By the time she was a teenager, some loose words from the clergy meant that she had acquired the nickname Shit Creek. As she grew older and much to the growing unease of the parents, she discovered boys. It was then that she found ways of misbehaving even more. She used to take boys them out onto the river in one of her custom-made coracles and just drift down the river with the current getting up to no-good. Because of her apparent friendliness, there was a line of boys queuing up to see if they could have their way with her, and then they would brag about it afterwards. It is rumoured that the phrase ‘up Shit Creek without a paddle’ is a reference to that time spent with Effluvia drifting on the river.

As she matured Effluvia, took over the river-trading business from her deceased parents, and set about building an empire. She married one of the many suitors that found her (and her affluent business) attractive. She and Gawain (her husband) had three children – Offa, Osric and Oswyn, all boys. They were all big and brawny and, as they grew up, were used to settle disputes with unruly customers. These people were put on Effluvia’s blacklist, often called the shitlist, but only out of earshot.

Effluvia eventually controlled trade on the Trent, Penk, Sow, and Humber Rivers, and built up quite a fortune. At age 50 she passed the business on to her sons, who in the true tradition of such brawny offspring, proceeded to send it broke within two years. In their efforts to extract money out of unwilling customers they all ended up drifting face-down in the Trent.

This didn’t bother Effluvia or Gawain, as they had long since moved to the South Coast and settled at Fishbourne, an old Roman town. It was in her 54th year that she found out what her name really meant and it caused her quite a shock; however, true to form, she passed it off as a bad joke and made sure that anybody who laughed too loudly woke up the next morning to find a pile of steaming cow manure on their doorstep as a gift, with a bill for her services, of course. Ironically, this became quite a thriving business, and Effluvia the Manure Merchant was born. Unfortunately she died before she could expand her empire along the coast and the world was robbed of a colourful and feisty character.


This is an extract from The Complete Dregs of History Available here


(previously published in Decanto Nov 2013, and included in my book Silence…)

It came from nowhere,
roared up from the depths,
pushed into a strong easterly
growing two metres tall,
glistening in the morning sun,
drawing me closer, curling,
offering me its chilled embrace.
I declined, diving deep instead.
Enraged at my rejection
it hurled itself upon the shore,
bullying grains of sand, smashing seaweed,
before desperately tugging at me
as it slunk back to the depths,
promising to return soon.

Five from the Masters Apprentices

Another week where Australia lost a classic rocker – this time Jim Keays from the Masters Apprentices. Formed in the mid 60’s the ban recorded some absolute classic rock tunes. Here are my favourite 5.

1. Because I Love You – who can forget ‘Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah’ An immortal line of ever there was one. his song never fails to hit where it should hit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxCneDlLANM

2. Turn Up Your Radio – a change of pace here. So turn up your radio and blast your ears. Great guitar work, great riff, great voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apX_ikzc5CE

3. Undecided – another great upbeat song. A little of Beatles influence perhaps, but great guitar riff (again). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnMytzzcRGI&index=3&list=RD852wTT42aDQ

4. Our Friend Owsley Stanley III – this is great example of early 70s rock. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiSK0xTDA0U&list=RD852wTT42aDQ&index=5

5. 5.10 Man – a bit of bluesy rock from the late 60s. The Masters Apprentices never fail to deliver on the guitar riff, rock track. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX6hFKGyed0



Some Days

Some days you just want to crawl into a corner and cry
Some days sleep can’t come soon enough as the hours tick by

Some days your best friends can’t lift your despair
Some days you wonder if there’s anyone that cares

Some days even the brightest sun can’t light up your day
Some days the weight of your worries just won’t go away

Some days you can’t run enough to de-stress
Some days you feel that your life is a mess

Some days you just feel adrift and alone
Some days you wonder, and wander alone

Some days you stare down the throat of the storm
And roar your defiance, though battered and torn

Changing Planes in Beijing

A journey back into the archives from 2007

On my way to Mongolia I had to change planes – it was an experience…I believe the airport has been upgraded since then

On our way to Mongolia we had to change planes at Beijing, as well as changing airlines. Now this may seem, at first glance, a fairly simple procedure. That is certainly what we thought as we left our Singapore Airlines flight secure in the knowledge that our luggage had already been booked right through to Ulaan Bataar. All we had to do was find the transfer desk. The transfer at Beijing was to take under two hours and I considered that this was a good thing considering that I have experienced the boredom of a five or six hour period of transit on numerous occasions. Just remember that, less than two hours was a good thing. After all, the last thing we wanted to do was spend hours hanging around a departure lounge.

After disembarking from our flight and finding the transfer desk, we encountered our first problem. We were politely told that this desk was only for those people transferring onto Air China flights and that we had to go further down the hall. We were given very vague directions and ended up at a point where we were clearly heading towards the exit from what we thought was the ‘arrivals’ area. Realising that we could not possibly be exiting the airport without a visa, we asked a meandering member of staff where we should go, and were summarily directed back towards the international transfers counter. We presented out tickets once again, and again there was much shaking of heads and consternation before we were once more told that we needed to go ‘down to the end of the hall’. Once more we were pointed in the direction of the exit from the ‘arrivals’ area. Our explanation that we had no visa was brushed aside as this apparently did not matter.

So off we went on our way down to the desks marked ‘Arrivals’. On our way we passed a counter where we noticed that we could, if we wished, purchase a visa for China. Was this perhaps a good idea? We gave it serious thought before deciding that it was probably unnecessary. We were, however, still nervous as we approached the counters that marked the way out towards immigration. We showed our passports and air-tickets to a man who showed no real interest in them, barely even glancing at them, before waving us through. That was easy! What now? I can say that at this point I felt a wave of relief. Perhaps this wouldn’t be too bad!

We found ourselves standing in another hall that had counters where people were queuing, but they all appeared to be for Chinese nationals. We walked all the way up to the end and back again before we saw a counter that had ‘d/p’ above it. We took a punt that this meant departures and went up to the bored-looking policewoman sitting there. She politely told us that we needed to fill in an Arriving Passengers form before we could come through. We retreated and filled out the little blue form (one that we had declined when the cabin crew had handed them around on our last flight as we were not stopping in China), hurriedly checking our flight and passport numbers. Our passports were then scrutinised and our blue forms taken as we went past her. All this time the clock kept inching towards our departure time.

Confusion then returned as we went the only way possible, which led us down to the baggage claim area. Once down there we searched in vain for a transfer desk. There was none. Two circuits of the area re-affirmed this. There could be no option other than to go through customs and into China. But surely this was not an option without a visa?

The lack of visa turned out not to be a problem (they appeared to have a liberal approach to visas and other bureaucratic paperwork – was this really China?), but before we could go through we had to fill out another form to declare that we had nothing to declare. We waited in a queue for what seemed like an eternity, constantly glancing at our watches as the time ticked by. Once we had handed in our forms and shown our passports yet again, we went through into China. Then we had to work out where to go to check in to our Mongolian International Airlines flight.

The main hall of the airport was full of people meandering or hurrying in various directions, and it was not immediately obvious where we had to go to find the check-in area. By now it was almost an hour since we had disembarked from our inbound flight and we were keen to check in as soon as we could for our next flight. Perhaps two hours had not been enough? I was beginning to think that we might be in danger of missing our flight. I could hear the clock ticking away in my mind and I must confess to feeling the merest hint of mild panic. I tried to ignore it.

After much confusion we found out that the departure lounge and check-in area was on the floor above us. So we made our way up the escalators to another big hall where we once again had to fill out a form, this time to declare that we were not taking anything out of the country. On top of this there was another form for departing passengers, but by now my passport and flight numbers were indelibly imprinted on my brain so there was no need for opening the passport yet again. Yet more queuing had to be done at this point, each minute seeming like an eternity. This was the time when someone in front of us decided that they didn’t understand, or simply didn’t like, what they were being told by an official, leaving me looking on in an agonised state of half-panic mixed with a desire not to look angry and upset myself, while the argument ensued; all the time watching as my departure time moved ever nearer. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours, an official, who looked like a military officer, decided that we were looking stressed enough and called us over to check our forms. They were in order, and we were waved through. Another hurdle overcome.

We wiped the sweat from our brows and carried on, soon finding ourselves at the check-in area. Thankfully it did not take too long to find the appropriate desk for our flight. To our initial relief there was still a substantial line of people waiting to check in, but it soon became apparent that the line was barely moving. Unfortunately the clock was still moving and I once more began to wonder whether we would get to our flight or whether we would end up watching it soaring gracefully into the sky. Thankfully this also occurred to staff members, who made sorties from their positions to tag the baggage before it got to the desk, significantly increasing the speed of the process. This worked and we were soon checked in, although there was some consternation that we didn’t have baggage with us. However we managed to convince them it was checked through from Perth and would be already on the plane. At least we hoped it would.

It was getting tight with time, about fifteen minutes until departure, so we hurried through the departure lounge, only to be met with the passport control area. Of course there was a passport control area, there’s one at every airport, but in our haste we saw it as just one more obstacle put in our way in an attempt to stop us catching our flight. There wasn’t another flight until the next day, and we didn’t fancy trying to catch up with our guide who might be half-way into the Gobi Desert by then! There was yet another form to be filled in and a nervous wait in a queue, waiting to be ‘checked’, as we watched the minutes tick by for yet another agonising period of time. Common sense told us that we were among lots of people waiting for the flight and that it wouldn’t leave without us…but you never know.

We needn’t have worried, as once we found the appropriate gate with about three minutes to spare, we were left to wait for another 25 minutes before boarding. Of course we had to the same in reverse when we came back through Beijing on our way home, but being ‘experienced’ in the process we managed to get through in about half an hour. We were able to look at nervous transit passengers with an air of superior knowledge and comfort, and patiently explain the process to those panicky and worried faces that hung on our every word like it was gold. Five forms and a few queues later we were on our flight to Singapore, with, I must add, our luggage, which apparently had no dramas at all on its round trip from Perth to Mongolia and back.

Five from The Angels

‘Doc’ Neeson died this week. He was the front man for The Angels, a classic Australian rock band that formed in the 70’s. This is an opportune time to put up five of their best. They were a bit of a cross between blues and rock. I last saw them back in 1993 when they rocked the Metro in Fremantle and Doc was in top form playing the crowd.

No Secrets – this is my favourite Angels song. Great melody, great lyrics, all round greatness! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwBe7PLXFFk

Am I ever Gonna See Your Face Again – this was their classic live track and in response the title line, the crowd would yell No way, get fucked, fuck off – well I suppose you had to be there – and I was, and I loved it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLZl6vgT7HM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_py6WbMV1k

Marseilles – good old-fashioned rock music that would be just at home in a stadium or a pub. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4v-pyDfM2w&index=2&list=RDHwBe7PLXFFk

Fashion and Fame – Good solid rock song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g49Jd1LR2vI

We Gotta Get Out of This Place – a cover, and a good one. This suits Doc Neeson’s voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAt00jX2VSc

RIP Doc.

First swim of winter

It’s officially winter, but did that stop going for a swim today? Absolutely not! Do I need my head looked at? Possibly. Was it cold? You bet it was, but not cold enough to my wife and I off entering the heaving grey Indian Ocean.

So here is a poem about swimming in the Southern Ocean – which is a bloody lot colder than today, although not as cold as the lake in the Cirque de Troumouse in the Pyrenees – that was real spanner water – tightened my nuts in an instant. Anyhow, enough about my attempts to reverse puberty through injudicious swimming in icy water. Here’s the poem.

Swimming in the Southern Ocean

The metronomic waves massaged the beach sands
providing rhythm to thoughts
reminding at regular intervals,
don’t drift to far away,
insistent sometimes,
but every now and then I missed a beat.

The southerly droned on, and on,
just static on which to build
swell dreams.

Do those Antarctic gulls ever wonder
what might be?
Calling out to me, mocking,
hooting with laughter, before floating away.
Why swim in that icy water?

This constant assault, this ridicule
is rather stimulating,
soothing at the same time.
Laugh if you really want to birdbrain,
I’m going back to a comfortable fire
and a silky Lake House merlot.

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