Monday, 28 April 2014


John Ross ©

I am just about ready to give up on today and go to bed. I have a black eye, a sore shin, a suspected cracked rib and many other bruises and scrapes.
Yesterday at confession I admitted to the priest that I had told a few lies lately and as a penance he asked me to spend a whole day where I only told the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He said it would feel so good that I would continue to do it.
Well he was wrong it feels bloody awful.
First thing this morning when my boss asked me what I thought of our latest product line. I told him the truth. It was ill conceived, poorly engineered and marketed. Then he asked me if I thought his judgement was flawed. I told him that he would not recognise a good idea even if it bit him on the nose.
An hour later, unemployed, out on the street, I ran into the next door neighbour’s son on his way to school. He asked if I had enjoyed his innings at last Saturday’s under 12 cricket match. I gave him a truthful critique of his style and told him he should take up net ball with his sister. Continued on my way with a very sore shin.
Limped into a coffee shop only to be met by my mother-in-law who asked if I liked her new blue rinse? Boy has she got a strong right cross. I think my eye is not permanently damaged but it sure is sore.
Retreating from the streets into a quiet bar for a pick- me-up, the barman asks what I thought of the bloody referee’s decisions in the footy game on the weekend where his team lost by a large margin. Again I had to tell him the truth. They were a hopeless lot of sissies and deserved to lose. The ref was technically right in every decision. Straight scotch can sting when it hits you in the face; especially on your newly damaged right eye.
Escaped into the local park to sit alone on a bench; lost in thought. Suddenly find myself surrounded by a mother with a pram, her husband and three other women all ardently admiring the baby. Before I can escape, and believe me I tried, the father asks me if his daughter is not just the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. I should have known from his build that he was probably a professional boxer. I must get my ribs x-rayed as soon as possible.
Well I think you get the drift of how my day of telling the truth has gone so far.
In my pyjamas and trying to pretend to be asleep when my wife comes in dressed in her latest purchases. She asks that dreaded question. Yes you are right! ‘Does my bum look big in this?’
Weeelll I am going straight to hell when I die. The truth is not all that it is cracked up to be.
‘Yes darling those skin tight jeans look wonderful.’

Thursday, 3 April 2014


John Ross ©
‘Bwana. You want guide. I good guide. Very reliable. Very cheap. Please Bwana I have three wives and six children; all eat much; need money.’
Charles Goodbody was about to shrug off the man tugging at his sleeve but when he turned to face him he saw a reasonably well presented, tall man in his early thirties, dressed in clean khaki shorts and open necked shirt. He had been looking for a guide for a week and was tired of being accosted in the streets of this dusty outpost by would be guides who were unsuitable.
Charles had spent the last month in Africa putting together an expedition that was to travel into an unexplored section of the vast Sahara Desert. This expedition had been his burning ambition ever since as a very young child he had heard the stories about a lost Roman city deep in the Sahara Desert.  Its houses were said to be lined with gold and silver and its inhabitants dressed in fine linen adorned with precious stones. Raised in an aristocratic family that had fallen on hard times his dream was to find the city and restore the fortunes of his family. Graduating from university with honours in Ancient History his dream became closer to reality when he discovered a map in an old Roman scroll purporting to show the location of the city.
After a brief discussion Charles hired the guide whose name was Magnus. The expedition positions were now filled and the next morning they set out.
A week later they were well into the desert and Charles called a meeting because some of the porters were starting to complain about their pay and conditions. A promise, by Charles, of an extra bonus soon calmed everyone down.
However the next morning Charles awoke to find that during the night all except two of the porters had packed some supplies and water barrels onto three of the horses and absconded.  Magnus, the guide, assured Charles that they still had enough water and food to continue.
The going became increasingly hard. The temperature soared above 120 degrees during the day and below freezing at night. On the tenth day they came to high ridges of sand that stretched out into the distance. Climbing the ridges was exhausting work and a day’s travel was down to just a few miles.  On the fifteenth day one of the remaining horses lost its footing and rolled down a sand dune and broke its neck. Its pack consisted of four large water barrels that split and the water drained away into the hot sand.
Magnus was adamant that they must continue as they would run out of water if they tried to go back. Their only hope was to find the lost city. They struggled on with water severely rationed.
At dusk on the twentieth day, and with their water now completely gone, they crawled over a rocky crest that protruded from the endless sand and there before them was a large green valley dotted with clumps of palms and scattered settlements. In the distance a walled city glistened in the sunlight. Cattle grazed on the lush grass and large tracts of land supported many types of crops.
At the foot of the slope a group of men and women were waiting for them. As they neared some of them called out a greeting in Latin and a woman with a baby on her hip ran up to Magnus and hugged him.  A tall elderly white man walked forward and said, ‘Welcome Charles.’
Charles was dumbfounded. How did they know who he was and that he was coming?
The elderly man, whose name was Ignatius, insisted that Charles partake of water, food and a long bath before he would explain everything to him. Charles was escorted to one of the many low wooden houses in one of the settlements. It was richly adorned and contained beautifully carved furniture that was inlaid with silver. He bathed in a deep tub made from marble and was fed a sumptuous meal served on gold platters that were brought to the table by young women clothed in the finest silk. Refreshed and with his curiosity at bursting point Charles was eventually shown into another house which was even more ornately decorated and where Ignatius and Magnus were sitting side by side. Ignatius spoke for many minutes. Charles felt a wave of weariness creep over him and he slipped into a deep sleep.
He awoke with a start. He was lying in his bed, in the room, in the seedy hotel, in the town where he had set out from. It was all just a dream; but it had been so clear, so real.

As yet unseen, beside him, was a small silver box filled with large green emeralds. The lid was inscribed in Latin. ‘You dreamed of fabulous riches and dared to follow that dream. Use what you have been given wisely.’

Saturday, 22 March 2014


John Ross ©
I am, and always have been, an ideas man. My older brother Bertie, well just let us say he is ‘practical’. By that I mean he always poured cold water on my ideas and ambitions.
At school I loved science. I was never happy with the pathetic little experiments that the science master demonstrated during class. I always wanted bigger and better. My very first experiment was with the black powder that I had hoarded from the big ‘bungers’ that dad had bought for cracker night. My big brother prophesied danger and doom and perhaps he was right to a certain extent. No one was maimed or even hurt, but it did shatter the side window in our garage, shred mums whites on the clothes line and earn me double helpings of spinach for a week.
Probably my next most memorable experiment was to try to make my push bike rocket powered. I got the idea from a book that described how to build a real rocket. Bertie said I would probably end up in jail, either because I had nicked the book from the local library, or because I would end up killing someone. Well this time everything went smoothly, except, I started too close to the front fence of the old codger who lived next door. It was a brush fence and the exhaust from my rocket set fire to it. It didn’t take long for the fire brigade to put it out. Two weeks of spinach.
There were many more memorable and some best forgotten escapades as we were growing up in suburban Sydney. I will mention just a few. An attempt to dig an underground bunker in the back yard. A mortar constructed of a piece of gas pipe, a penny bunger and a large steel bolt. Stink bombs made from rolled up negatives from my mum’s old box brownie camera. I think you get the drift.
Ever practical Bertie went on to become an accountant and me, well I never could abide working for someone else and became an inventor of sorts. You may have heard of some of my successes. The push bike safety belt. The all in one raincoat and umbrella. Shoes with retractable roller skates, (saves energy going downhill). Double ended cutlery (fork on one end and spoon on the other, sadly this was superseded by the spork), and my most famous one, the edible school lunch box. Unfortunately none of these life changing inventions brought me much in the way of wealth or recognition.
I was rather at a loose end just after my thirtieth birthday when my brother offered me a part time job doing data entry in his accounting firm. On day one he gave me a list of instructions. They included. Do not change the settings on the computer. Do not interfere with the coffee machine, the electric kettle, the document shredder or the photocopier or for that matter anything electrical, mechanical or organic. He forgot to mention the phone system so I changed the ring tone to play God Save the Queen. Unfortunately the first time it rang he had a delegation from an important client in his office. The Australian Republican movement.
After six months of penance in the mail room, stuffing outgoing accounts into envelopes I had a brilliant idea. Instead of Bertie’s accounting firm just processing his clients accounts and income tax returns why not advise them of ways to minimise their costs, especially their tax liabilities. I spent the next two months working on the tax minimisation schemes before presenting it to Bertie. He, as usual, was very sceptical. Over and over he interrupted my spiel by asking, ‘But, is it legal?’ I really had no idea and was not bothered with the unimportant details.

One year later I was back living and inventing in my parents’ garage and poor Bertie still had four years and six months to serve. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014


THE  WIND                            ©JOHN ROSS

Darkness had long since settled over the city. The night was dark, humid and the sky was full of the threat of a summer storm. Now, however, the wind was so gentle that it made no noise as it ever so softly meandered through the back yard of the large house. The leaves on the tall gum tree near the back fence hardly moved, apart from those on the very tallest branches. Even here one would have had to watch very closely to detect any movement. Two large white towels on the clothesline hung perfectly still; in the darkness they appeared like two dim windows into another dimension. A large spider had strung its web between two pot plants on the back porch and now it carefully investigated a leaf that had fallen and become entangled in the web. The leaf was slowly swinging back and forth in the gentle breeze.  

Inside a man sat watching a football replay on the television, a half empty bottle of beer beside him. In the kitchen a women was washing dishes in the sink and listening to classical music on a radio. The man turned towards the kitchen and said, “You coming to watch the telly and don’t forget my coffee?” The women replied that she would be in as soon as she had finished.

Minutes passed and now the wind had become stronger. It made a rustling noise as it pushed its way through the yard. The leaves on the gum tree had started to dance to its tune and those at the very top were carried back and forth as the smaller branches moved under the influence of the breeze. The white towels on the line now swayed in unison like twins performing at some macabre ceremony. The spider had realised that the leaf was not its  hoped for evening meal but now crouched at the centre of its web believing that the breeze might bring it an unsuspecting insect. A small lady beetle flies dangerously close to his web.

The man, starting to get annoyed that the woman had not come out of the kitchen, yelled in her direction, “What on earth are you doing there woman and where is that bloody cup of coffee that you promised me ages ago.” He then settled back and opened another bottle of beer. The woman visibly jumped at the sound of his voice and in her haste dropped the bottle of coffee on the floor.

Even stronger now the wind made a loud whistling sound as it forced its way through and around the objects in the back yard. The gum tree had now become a living thing as its branches yielded to the force of the wind and the occasional leaf gave up its grip and swirled away into the darkness. The towels now gyrated wildly, giving up any semblance of unison as they strained against the pegs that held them attached to the line. The spider clung grimly to the centre of its web. He was now in danger of being blown away but still had the strength to try to move over to the lady beetle that had been blown into his web. He knew that this might be his only chance of a meal that night.

Finishing another bottle of beer the man was now constantly yelling at the woman to bring him his cup of coffee. When she did not reply he got up and went to the kitchen door and said, “I want my coffee now and if I have to ask again you will be bloody sorry.” Seeing the woman still trying to clean up the spilt coffee he kicked the dustpan out of her hands and when she cringed back dropped the empty beer bottle on the floor and said, “Clean that up. That’s all you ever do clean, bloody clean. Now get up and get me my coffee.”

Outside the wind was now a brutal force as it howled through the yard threatening to smash and dismantle anything in its path. The gum tree was now bent over by the winds power and its branches thrashed madly as leaves and even small branches were blasted away and sent crashing into the back fence. The towels unable to break free were being torn and shredded by the wind’s fury. The spider still concentrating on getting to the lady beetle in its web did not notice as the leaf in its web was torn away and sent spiralling into the darkness. It did not see the large piece of debris that smashed into its web and carried it away into oblivion.

The man, his anger now in full flow, was cursing at the woman and trying to drag her to her feet. When she resisted he slapped her hard across the face. At first she shrank back trying to protect herself but when he continued to hit her she picked up the empty beer bottle from the floor and hit him with it as hard as she could. The bottle smashed as it crashed into his skull.

Suddenly the wind died away to just a whisper. The gum tree quickly returned to normal; standing tall and majestic in the bright starlight that now washed over the yard. The two white towels, although tattered and torn, had survived all that the wind could throw at them and now shone like two welcoming beacons in the yard. The spider would never see the small lady beetle as it broke free of the last strands of the shattered web and flew away.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014


John Ross ©

                The caravan is parked very close to the beach, and the sound of the waves as they pursue their relentless assault on the land ensured that I had a restful sleep. I am awake as the first faint light on the horizon starts its daily ritual of pushing back the darkness of the night.
                I dress quietly, as to not awaken my still sleeping wife. Breakfast can wait, as I am keen to get onto the beach. My fishing rod is already rigged and all I need to do is retrieve the bait from the refrigerator, pick up my creel and I am on my way.
                Outside the morning is already warm with the promise of a hot, sunny, summer’s day to come. The grass is soft and wet with dew beneath my bare feet as I climb the small tree covered bank on the edge of the beach. I pause at the top to take in the view. The curving sweep of the sand is just visible in the soft light and is outlined by the darkness of the tree clad hills on one side and the long lines of almost luminous white of the breaking waves on the other.
                It is low tide, and as I walk across the sand I marvel at the work of the small crabs that have once again cleared out their burrows, and rolled the small balls of sand out into a pattern around the entrance. The beach resembles a large yellow table laid with intricate lace doilies of every shape and size.
                I am quickly ready for my first cast and as I walk down to the water’s edge I glance behind me. There are no lights, no buildings visible, just lush vegetation reaching down to the edge of the sand: my footsteps, the only foreign marks on nature’s pristine canvas. For a few moments I am the first man, back in a time when the world was new and its beauty untouched.
                My line snakes out, far and true, out to the deep water beyond the breakers where the beautifully streamlined tailor and jewfish live and hunt.
                I stand just back from the water, but am totally connected to and immersed in it. The unceasing sound, the tangy salt smell, the ever changing shape of the waves, my finger on the line feeling the vibrations and pull and push of the swell. The anticipation, expectation of that first tug on the line that is just that little bit different from the normal feel of the water’s movement. Again my mind takes me back to a time when man had to fight nature and the elements to feed himself and survive.
                This is a time to be patient, alert, at one with the line, instinctive, ready to strike: too soon or hesitate and the opportunity is lost.
                A small arc of brilliant light appears on the horizon and a wide path of liquid gold leaps from it to end on the wet sand at my feet. Slowly the huge orb of the sun pushes itself up from its watery grave until its full fury is revealed. I will soon have to retreat to the cool shade of the caravan park.
                The beach starts to come alive. First a lone jogger runs towards me; head bowed, wired for sound, oblivious to the sounds and beauty of the morning. Next an older couple walk hand in hand down to the water’s edge, stand silently and gaze out towards the horizon; they see me watching and we exchange a smile; they are kindred spirits.
                I am thinking of packing up, as breakfast and a hot shower is calling, when I feel that tell tale pull on the line. I wait and count to three and then strike. The jewfish fights strongly, leaping and twisting, sometimes totally clear of the water, its body shiny, silver in the sunlight. It is a battle that lasts for many minutes and a small crowd gathers to watch. Finally the fish is clear of the water, struggling and flapping on the sand. One of the onlookers asks if I am going to have it for breakfast, and for a moment I relish the idea.
                It has been such a magical, renewing morning that has cleared my mind and refreshed my soul that it would be wrong for it to end like that. So with the fish safely returned to the ocean, even though the deep seated hunting instinct within me said that I had earned it, and it was mine, I trudge back up the beach.  I fight my way through the oncoming tide of determined beach goers with their umbrellas, buckets, spades, balls, surfboards, towels and music machines. They will leave footprints, build sandcastles, carve intertwined love hearts on the sand but the next high tide will wash it all away. Tomorrow, at dawn a new day, a new beginning.    
                It is cereal for breakfast and from my wife, ‘What! No fish, again?   


Friday, 10 January 2014



                The door to the room must be kept closed at all times.
 Visitors are strictly limited. No more than two at any time. Their identity virtually hidden behind all enveloping plastic gowns, face masks, hair nets and gloves. Definitely no children. All must pass through a screening process.
Food is tightly controlled and specially prepared. Everything entering the room is checked. No fresh food. No organic material at all that has not been previously agreed to. Definitely no flowers.
Every four hours a fully gowned attendant enters the room and checks on the occupant.
There is no defined duration of one’s stay here. The length of time depends entirely on the say so of four men who control the area from remote offices. You will only leave when they deem you fit to again enter the outside world.
This is the reality of what I have ahead of me beginning tomorrow afternoon.
During my time in “solitary confinement” I will undergo full body radiation, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. I really have no choice in the matter if I wish to be around in the near future.
I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in July of 2010 and since then have lived by a very simple philosophy.
There are really only three periods in our lives. Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today.
Yesterday. I cannot change what has happened in the past. I can only learn from it and apply that knowledge to Today.
Tomorrow. Well tomorrow is only a possibility and will be greatly influenced by what I do Today.
Today. This is all we really have. I will enjoy it and cherish it.
If we live in the past we miss out on all that Today has to offer. If we are overly concerned with Tomorrow the same applies.