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The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Autumn 2011 Results




Hello Again From the Grumbles clan

Copyright © Dean Briggs 2011


Sorry folks but it’s me again for the annual newsletter. You must get sick of the sound of my font, but my hubby Warren (Woz) reckons I should keep doing it because he said I have it away with words. Boy, another year has just flown by, faster than a chook on steroids, I can’t believe that it was twelve months ago I wrote the last one of these. Ha, ha, I just checked, and I only did it in April because I forgot to do one at Christmas. Anyway, I will try and get this posted next week so you are all up the date with our comings and goings.

Our eldest boy Tyrone has had a good year, and recently was honoured with a Silver Castor award for community service. If you ever spend any time getting lost in the Maze Market Shopping Town car park, you will probably have seen him and heard his big blue tractor dragging a road train of shopping trolleys. He loves his job. He adores driving, petrol fumes and having a lark, just ask some of the small dogs and pensioners that walk through there. He is a wag and a dag with a heart of gold. His girlfriend Cilia has just started a hairdressing course at the TAFE, specialising in dreds (she has offered to do me for free). They are thinking seriously of starting a family because Cilly found out she is 6 months pregnant, by accident. Tye has lots of pipe dreams, and recently put his name down for a position in the deli but his real passion is wheels, because I know he is secretly hanging out for a spot in Auto. Just last week, the supervisor asked him to fill in for the head trolley man, while he is in traction. So that‘s a lucky break for him, but not for his boss, I suppose.

Our middle girl, Chinook (Windy for short), is always joking and complaining about being barefoot and pregnant, so we bought her a whole lot of cheap shoes at the ‘Feetal Solutions’ closing down sale last January. She and her three daughters (Chantelle, Charmaine and Cherie) seem happy and well adjusted though, and the Housing Commission said they are cautiously optimistic of finding a vacation soon. They said she could have her own place before the kids finish school. I asked if they meant three o’clock, but she said, "More like eighteen." Each of the three dads keep in touch and send along a bit of money and funny little bags of dried herbs, when they can, so it could be worse. She has kept up her interest in music and has scored a spot in the chorus of ‘Hairspray‘ (Cilia is really jealous), so that has inspired her to keep singing in the shower and in the car. She is very good at going in quizzes and competitions and recently won a weekend for two in Mudgee but couldn’t go because of chicken pox. She has started seeing a fellow called Bogan who has three delinquent boys from three different partners, so when they all get together it's pretty full on. We are thinking about getting her a credit card to help out with next Christmas.

Our youngest fellow (Bradley) is still into sport, sport ,sport and he’s proving to be motley talented; a bit like the Hughes bothers, back in the eighties; they played first class cricket in the summer and first grade rugby league in the winter. His under 13 F-division team won their first game last year as the only other team in the competition had to forfeit because the road was cut by a burst water main. The Mighty Numbats under 14 Rugby League team recorded a tight victory in a warm up game, when they beat St Hymens Catholic School 1-0. Some of the other parents claimed it was a hollow victory over an under 12 girls team but, a win’s a win and it’s a good building stone for the future. Unfortunately, the young fellow had to sit (stand) out most of the season with a recurrence of the haemorrhoid problem which has dagged him of late. He is a very keen autograph hound and at a recent pre-season game, between the local ’Stormtirds’ (a mistake at the screen printers) and the Manly Sea Eagles, Brad scouted around for the whole squad to sign his shirt. Unfortunately the silly todger got the teams confused and ended up with the signatures of builders and labourers from ’The Tirds’. But then I mistakenly soaked the top in with my indelicates and bleached all the names off anyway.

Since we got cable television, Warren has not had the time or money or been able to lift a finger to scratch himself or my itchy feet (sorry, that was a joke). There is so much choice, that sometimes, if there is no good sport on, we will flick over to the comedy channel. He has become a bit of a pot stirrer in his meddle age, a sort of armchair actionist. He is always threatening to write a letter to the Daily Weakly, ring the local member, or get along to a council meeting and put in his ‘two bobs worth‘, but the TV scheduling always seems to get in the way. He did get off his bum a couple of times to go to the greyhounds and nearly pulled off an amazing trifecta a few weeks ago, he got 2nd, 3rd and last. Recently while he was out proletariat shopping, he found four litres of paint and a set of bookshelves from a council pickup pile, and he is keen to get them installed in the sunroom. When they are finished he plans to call in at the ‘Sallies’ to get some National Geographics and comics to put in them. Every time he makes something now he writes ‘Woz was here‘ on it so that people from posterity will know who made it.

Uncle Keiff (that’s how he pronounces it) stayed with us for a few weeks during winter, after he got back from overseas. He set up camp in the ceiling space because he reckoned he didn’t want to be in the way, and he had a bit of stuff he wanted to store. The poor bloke said he has swinophobia, (a morbid fear of coppers) so we‘ve been helping him with that. At first I thought he meant the old boilers like mum had in her laundry years ago but he said it was the law enforcement kind. He apprehended the problem when he was a delinquent, staying at the adolescent correctional centre. The local police did call in the other day and said they were making enquiries, because their suspicions were aroused by the all green washing on my hills hoist. I said it was just tops for the local netball team. Keiff arrived with nearly all green clothes; he says it's his favourite colour and it's part of his illness. The Federal police turned up too and asked if I knew of Keiff’s current ‘whereabouts‘. I thought they were talking about his green underwear, so I got a bit shirty with them and just said I had no idea. Keiff told me later that they were probably just checking up about a visa application for his job. He works at night as a ‘fence’ for a local importer, so I asked him if he could put one up, along the side of the house to keep the bloody dog in. One night he just vanished, and I’m worried about him, because he took a lot of our stuff by mistake (television, electric tools, cash and jewellery). The poor man seems really confused, I hope he’s okay. I reported him to missing persons people and was relieved to hear that they already regarded him as a person of interest, so they are looking out for him too.

Aunty Derek has been quite ill this year and we haven‘t seen much of her, she said she has been feeling androgynous for quite a while. I suggested Valium but she had to go away to have something called a ‘reassignment procedure’ done in a special hospital in Wodonga. She popped in to borrow one of Warren’s suits, for some reason, and said she would return it when she makes a surprise visit in the new year with some new equipment. She moved into a house in Newtown with her good friend Amari (the one with the deep voice and hairy legs) so she could save up some money for the trip. We got a huge surprise when we saw her on a news clip of the Gay Mardi Gras, wearing Warren’s suit and holding up a sign that said…

‘Equal Rights for the Gender Compromised’.

She has a lot of unusual friends, and Warren reckons one of her Dutch acquaintances from ‘Dykes on Bikes’ probably put her up to it, trying to get more unicycle paths in the city or something like that.

Warren’s Mum and dad (Ninny and Poop) finally sold their little caravan behind the petrol station and moved in to a slightly smaller one in the grounds of the Indian Summer Retirement Village, which is only a short iron to the Rough and Bunker Golden Golf Club and a long putt to Ernie Ashflinger’s Crematorium. But unfortunately the nearest shop is miles away. It was an upsettling time for them because they were downsizing and had to have their milking goats, laying chooks, barking dogs, and folding chairs put down. Ninny doesn’t see too well these days with her Macular regeneration and Poop is not much better, so they also had to part company with their ‘Sandman Shaggin’ Wagon’ and toe balls. It takes just on three hours for Poop to fetch some bread and milk from the general store. He has to walk because Zimmer frames and surfboards aren’t allowed on the bus. He says the walk is really simulating and has only gotten lost four times so far, which is pretty good. Ninny doesn‘t usually notice when he‘s gone, which is a blessing.

My mum (Mavis) is still playing Croquet three times a week and hooky every couple of days, so we often receive phone calls from her boyfriends asking if she’s turned up at our place. She has an amazing social life for someone her age and is still very fisty. Last week an elderly gentleman patted her on the grass lawn and called her a spry old duck, so she clocked him with her mallet. The game was held up for half an hour while the ambulance men knelt on him and sutured the wound. She is a keen cook, and last time we visited her she knocked up some mushy veggies with bullet hard eggs and a singed curtain salad. She never misses ‘Master Kitchen’ and kept ringing up Channel no. 5 to see if she could go on the show with her friend Hettie. They want to call themselves the ‘Soux Chiefs‘, and represent the senior cooking fraternity. Finally, the poor receptionist at the station relented, and asked her to provide them with a recent video, so Mavis sent in ‘Casablanca’ (which is her favourite) but hasn‘t heard back, as yet.

Surprise, surprise, Warren’s older brother Darren from Warren has a new fiancée. She’s called Lauren and is foreign. He met her up at Lightning Ridge (same as last time) and says he’s love struck again (zap, zap). Woz claims she is a gold digger but I set him straight on that, because I know the area is almost exclusively used for opal mining. They popped in one day and she talks real posh, like someone off the Bill, and was wearing lots of fangled bangles, bracelets and rings. Daz follows her around like a drovers dog and he’s as skinny as one too. He told us…"I spend half me time building Lauren a warren in Warren and the other half spending what I dig out of the warren in Lightning Ridge." I must admit I got a bit confused by that, but I laughed anyway. They seem happy enough though and apparently she gets on all right with Darren’s estrange kids, Aaron and Sharon. My Warren reckons it’ll all be over as soon as the well runs dry but I set him straight on that too, because I know for a fact that they’re on town water.

What with shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing and stuff I have a busy productive life. Finally, after 13 attempts, I got my P plates, even though I locked the keys in the car, knocked over a wheelie bin and drove over the instructor's new hat. I now spend countless hours ferrying, taxi driving and shunting kids and grandchildren around, so it a real double ledged sword. There are some fantastic household engineering products on the market now, and with a new dishwasher and state of the ark microwave, I can devote my spare time to Tupperware and Nutrimetics. In fact, if I manage to hold just two more parties I will get a tomato squarer and a set of Teflon ovenwear (probably an apron). I would love to travel and there has been more than one occasion when I have left supple newspaper articles or pamphlets about the Wellington Caves, Parkes telescope or the Warrumbungles just sort of casually stuck under a fridge magnet or draped over the toilet seat. One day, when it gets a bit much, I can see me just dropping everything and heading to Dubbo or Batlow for an excluded mini-break. You know what I‘m like, remember that time I just dropped off the planet one Sunday arvo and put my feet up at the pool, the picture theatre and the club. Yep, I’m still mad!

Crikey, as Crocodile Dundee used to say. This little note has changed from a letter into an epistle. It’s been nice to catch up. My love to all of you out there in Circular Land, and I hope to hear from you soon. Please call in if you are up this way, or even if you’re not.

We’ll be able to put you up easily soon because there has been some talk amongst the family about us getting an extension. It’s a grand design, although Warren piped up with a joke about ‘not needing to be any longer‘. Darren agreed with him and they laughed about it for ages. I don‘t know why, because neither of them are overly tall. Sorry I’m getting off the beaten sidetrack again. I should go and get dinner started, and you probably should too. I hope I didn’t interrupt when you had something on the stove. I’m such a gasbag.