Winnifred (2)
Winnifred, aged 75, still performing.

There is no way that this classy, elegant lady would ever, should ever work as a shop assistant.  She was born to sing.  In fact her whole life was spent ‘on stage’ as she played the role she had created for herself as Winnifred.  In stage productions of light operas and musicals, she always stole the show, as her unique voice rippled through the halls sending shivers through the audiences.

Her elegance came naturally to her.  Her style was assured, her clothes expensive – full-skirted, wide-collared or cowl-necked dresses of exotic colours – the greens brilliant emerald, the blues glowing sapphires, the yellows burnished gold.  She was gold – rich, warm, with a lustre that shone in the little country town where she taught at the Primary School.

The facade of her hauteur, her regal carriage – standing, sitting, walking – masked a need to be liked, respected.  From a family of nine children, whose mother had died at the ninth birth, she and two brothers were condemned to three years of hell in a children’s home, only returning to their family when their mother had been replaced.  Winnifred needed to be different, to stand out, to be loved.   Known locally as ‘the little girl who sang’, her voice gave her the means to that end.  It was majestic, dramatic, like rolling hills of lush pasture, and crescendos of waves against the cliffs.

A thirst for knowledge led her to continue her education as a mature-age student, through matriculation, teaching diploma and on to Bachelor of Arts. As Demonstration teacher, then as Head of English at her High School, she became one of the first Student Counsellors, finally rounding it off  with a research trip overseas.  She dazzled within this educational arena, as she dazzled on stage – articulate, musical, her laughter ringing out to fill a room, enveloping all within.

In public she was sunshine.  At home she was like a cloudy day.  If things ran smoothly, as she wanted them to go, the sky was clear.  But if she were thwarted, her well laid plans disturbed, modified by the plans of others, the sky would cloud over.  Although she didn’t hold grudges or seek revenge, she (not surprisingly) harboured resentments for unfair treatment, imagined and real.  And voiced these resentments passionately, building them into immense injustices.  This dented the hard-won respect of those around her, at home and in her musical society.

If only she’d had the breaks at the Conservatorium of Music.  If only they hadn’t seen that she had three young children, and consequently given the Aria Scholarship to a single girl.

She was born to sing – she was born for the stage.

* * *

(C) Copyright jud House April 1997 & 30/09/2011

* * * * *


As soon as she opened the shop door, the organic smell of multiple vegetation enveloped her.  Confined overnight the individual aromas of the carnations, dahlias, chrysanthemums, and asters mixed with the rich oily fumes of the native foliage and cypress leaves that were used to enhance their floral beauty in arrangements.  She knew that when she opened the fridge door she would be overwhelmed by the rose fragrance as it rushed out of its prison into the relative freedom of the closed shop.

Methodically, the florist went through the motions of emptying and refilling the buckets of water, with just a dash of bleach, for the bunches of mixed flowers, for the stands inside and outside the shop.  They caught the attention of potential customers, often bringing them into the shop.  With each splash of bleach the strength of the organic smell lessened, attacked and neutralized by the ammonia fumes.

Gradually the pot-pourri fragrance, from the small decorative containers that were for sale on the shelves between the silk flower arrangements, crept into her nostrils.  Hiding beneath the heavy confined organic smells, it rose to follow them as they fled through the open shop door to accost passers-by.

Drying her wet hands on the terry towel, she arranged the float in the till – the crisp notes sliding under the spring-clips, and the cold coins jingling into the trays.  Between serving customers, she prepared paper-ribbon bows, deftly folding the stiff strips into loops then twisting thin wire around them to form an impression of softness.

When the delivery man arrived with bunches of fresh flowers, she moved to the back room, nervously keeping an eye on the shop through the door-way.  Quickly she snipped the rubber-bands that held the bunches, then stripped the foliage from the lower stems, so that they would not contaminate the water in the buckets.  Fortunately some came already clean, so that saved her some time.  Besides they were wrapped in pretty cellophane sleeves, which assisted in their sale – she didn’t like to disturb those.

With the roses she removed most of their leaves, to ensure that the water and the Chrysal nutrients would reach and nourish the blooms rather than be wasted on their foliage.  As a bonus for her customers, she nipped the sharp thorns off the rose stems, some by hand, some with secateurs.  The roses were then returned to the glass-fronted fridge until sold.

She made a stunning bouquet with roses, gypsophella (Baby’s Breath), and spikes of clear cellophane held by a twist of wire.  Making them was another job she did when things were quiet.  She would grab a square of cellophane in the centre, flick it so it fluted, then twist a length of wire around its base, creating a long spiky piece to place between the rose stems.  The red Mercedes rose or the apricot-pink Sonia rose looked spectacular in this bouquet, which was very popular with her customers, especially on Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Because she sold a lot of silk arrangements – which, due to their durability, were popular with the Mediterranean-born customers – she made up several a day.  They were enjoyable to work with, there were a huge variety of shapes and colours available, and their plastic stems slid easily into the dry oasis foam.  She could manipulate the curve of these stems, their positions, and the overall shape of the arrangement.  And the textures of the various silks were interesting – from spiky satin-wrapped floppy-petalled Oriental blooms, to velvet-leaved satin roses – a tactile feast.  Besides, they didn’t require the wiring and wrapping with tape that fresh flowers did.  The latter were used mostly in floral wreaths for funerals, while the silks tended to sell for the birth of babies.

She also created a unique orchid basket with Singaporean orchids in whites, mauves and purples, which was frequently ordered from the maternity hospital.  With soft Asparagus-fern around the edge, the basket was a mass of orchid flowers, cut short and placed into the oasis water-soaked foam in the basket.  Finished with mauve ribbons, it was an inexpensive yet delicate lovely gift for the mother of either a boy or girl baby.

All day she was surrounded by the wetness of flowers, foliage and saturated paper.  As she shut the shop at night, pulling the wheeled stands into the shop, putting the vases of exotics and orchids into the fridge with the roses, she knew with certainty that their cocktail of overnight expirations would greet her next morning.

* * *

(C) Copyright  Jud House April 1997 & 30/09/2011

* * * * *

Scripts – IN THE LIFT – Response to ELIZABETH JOLLEY



2.  SUSAN   What happened?  Why have we stopped?

3.  JAMES   The lift’s stuck.  There’s a phone here somewhere.

4.  JILL        Over by the door.  SCUFFLING SOUNDS  Be careful.  That’s me!


6.  JILL        Thank goodness for that.  At least we can see, now.

7.  SUSAN   That was dreadful – so black.  I could see nothing – not even my hand. Ugh!

8. JAMES     RATTLING PHONE  Hello?  Hello?  Damn!  It’s not working.

9. SUSAN   PANICKING  How will they know we’re here?  They will know we’re here, won’t they?

10. JILL]      TOGETHER    Of course!
JAMES]                              How the hell would I know?

11. SUSAN    Bang on the doors!  YELLS  Help!  We’re stuck in here!  Somebody – help!

12. JAMES    That’s no good.  No-one will hear you.

13. JILL         Well, what do you suggest then?  We can’t climb out through the ceiling like in the movies.

14. SUSAN   Can’t we?  Oh, no.  It’s too high.  PANTS  Is it getting airless in here?

15. JAMES   Of course not.  Well not yet, anyway.

16. SUSAN   I get claustrophobia.  How long will they be?  Oh hurry and find us, please.

17. JILL        Well, I’m going to sit down and rest.  We could be here for quite a while.

18. SUSAN   WAILS.   Oh, don’t say that!

19. JAMES   For God’s sake, shut up!


21. SUSAN   Thank God!  That was awful!

22. JAMES    DISGUSTED  You can say that again!

* * *

(C) copyright Jud House May 1997 & 28/09/2011

* * * * *


In the background the highway traffic continues with the swish of tyres, and the growls and farts of the double semis as they change gears for the slow descent ahead.  In the forest the birds carol, trill, squawk, chime, and laugh as the kangaroos feed and the walkers pass quietly along the firebreak between the highway and the deep bush of the National Park.

The blackened trunks, some quite hollow, stretch upwards to the healthy wood and leaves far above.  How can they still stand, with all that weight above, supported by such slender half-trunks?

At their feet are native bushes, some beginning to flower at such an odd time of the year.  Kangaroo paws, not flowering, abound.  Aged grasstrees and native cycad palms stand buoyantly amidst the low-lying bushes and the tall stands of gums, jarrahs, and parrot-bushes.  What a shame the parrot-bush is such an encroaching weed – it has such pretty flowers, yellow, delicate, and spiky.

But worst of all, is the rubbish everywhere.  Plastic bags spilling KFC boxes, Coke cans, paper napkins, and plastic bottles.  Rubbish spread through the bush, choking the fragile native plants, marring the beauty.  And just off the track four large wheels – tyres and rims – dumped as if waiting for collection.  Maybe they’re stolen.  Maybe they won’t be there next time the walkers pass by.

Further along the rubbish begins again.  But this time there is a reason.  The ice-cream van parks in the parking bay, and there are not enough rubbish bins.  So, when people cram their rubbish into the overflowing bins, it blows out, across into the bush, to spread out like a rag-rug over the undergrowth.  Even the trees aren’t safe.  Plastic bags hang snagged in their high branches, billowing and flopping in the breeze.

How depressing!  The Shire should get the prisoners from the Hills Prison Farm to come and pick up all the rubbish, to clean up this National Park.  Knowing that the ice-cream van parks there, they should supply the parking bay with extra bins, with narrow tops.

The walk home again is a retracing of the steps, past the ice-cream van rubbish, the burnt trees, the dumped tyres, the KFC boxes, the palms and grasstrees, the fallen logs and the tiny lizards, to the highway and its traffic.

Overhead the avian commentary continues, following the walkers home.

* * *

(C)  Copyright  Jud House  May 1997 & 27/09/2011

* * * * *


"Out of our way!"
Armed soldiers penetrate milling masses 
     crowds part like the Red Sea  
stranding islands of confusion.

"Move along!  Break it up!"
Ruthless hands grab 
     stunned individuals.  
Clinging couples wrenched apart 
     shoved aside.

"Come on, come on!  Out of the way!"
Fence-building production line 
     thrusts posts into earth 
          unrolls massive wire
               hammering the divide.

"My child!  My child!" 
     Desperate struggles
          mother in soldier's hands 
     flung down  away from the fence.

"Mother!  Mother!"  
     Trembling  crying 
          little boy stands alone, 
     on the wrong side.

"Hold those posts steady.  Mind my hands!"
     In the soldiers' wake 
          construction team sails on

"Willem!  Willem!  Go with Uncle Karl."  
     Distraught mother 
          espaliered on wire
     calling  reassuring.
"I'll be with you soon.  
          Can you hear me, Willem?"
"Get away from the fence.  
     Go home.  
          There's nothing you can do."
Returning soldier siezes 
          casts down again

"Willem!  Go with Uncle Karl!"
     "Mother!  Mother!"

Turning along the fence
     rushing  rushing 
             to pass fence builders
             to out-strip soldiers
             to reach wave's crest
     prior to breaking. 
Thrusting into panicked herd  
     pushing  pushing 
             through to the other side
                     to the right side 
     bursting into a clear space 
     plunging down a side street. 
             Laughing  crying 
back  back along an alley
             to reach the street 
             to lead to her son.

"Mother!  Mother!"
     Gripping Karl dragging Willem 
across the square 
     towards side-street safety  
Emerging blocks away
     she struggles towards 
          the sound of his voice.

        "Willem!  Willem!"
        "Mother!  Mother!"
They clutch  They cling  They weep

Across the square the confused  the sundered
     the lucky  the unlucky 
          comfort each other 
                 and gaze at the wall.

                                   * * *

(C) Copyright   Jud House   23/09/2011

                                 * * * * *


“Out of our way!”
Soldiers pushed roughly through.  The crowd parted like the Red Sea.  Islands of the confused froze.
“Move along!  Break it up!”
Ruthless hands grabbed stunned individuals.  Clinging couples were wrenched apart, shoved aside.
“Come on, come on!  Out of the way!”
Behind them, like a production line, fence-builders thrust posts into earth, unrolled massive wire, lay it against then fixed it to them.
“My child!”  A desperate mother struggled in the hands of a soldier, who flung her down and away from the fence.  “My child!”
“Mother!  Mother!”  Trembling, crying, the little boy stood alone, on the other side of the construction.
“Hold those posts steady.  I don’t want to hurt my hands!”
In the wake of the soldiers, the construction team moved purposefully on.
“Willem!  Willem!  Go with Uncle Karl.  I’ll be with you soon.  Can you hear me, Willem?”
Clinging to the wire, the distraught mother called to her child.  Returning along the fence, the soldier siezed her then again cast her down and away.
“Get away from the fence.  Go home.  There’s nothing you can do.”
“Willem!  Go with Uncle Karl!”
“Mother!  Mother!”
She turned along the fence, rushing, rushing to pass the fence builders, to out-strip the soldiers, to get ahead of the point of parting.  She thrust herself into the mass of milling bodies.  Pushing, pushing through to the other side, she burst into a clear space, then plunged down a side street.  Laughing and crying, she staggered back along an alley to reach the street that would lead to her son.
“Mother!  Mother!”
Gripped by Karl, Willem was being dragged across the square towards the safety of the side-streets.  As they reached the corner, she emerged a block away, then ran towards the sound of his voice.
“Willem!  Willem!”
“Mother!  Mother!”
They clutched.  The clung.  They wept.
Across the square the confused, the sundered, the lucky and the unlucky, comforted each other and gazed at the wall.

* * *

(C) Copyright  Jud House  April 1997 & 23/09/2011

* * * * *


In August, 1961, at the age of 13, I remember watching the black-and-white television news footage of armed soldiers pushing through a crowd of people, thrusting them aside to the left and right.  Ignoring the cries and pleas from those around them, other soldiers unrolled fencing wire and began erecting a tall fence.  When a mother tried to push past them to the other side, they grabbed her roughly and flung her back behind them.  She picked herself up and clung to the wire, on the other side of which stood her little boy, crying and shocked.  I was very angry and deeply upset.

For days after this broadcast, the television news showed people crossing the border, from West to East in a steady stream in an effort to reunite with their families.  But no-one was allowed to cross the other way.  The wire was not strong enough to stop the rebellious ones, so masons moved in and erected a concrete wall.  Those who tried to cross that wall, were shot.  I could not believe that people could be so unfeeling, and could treat people as items.  It was the first of many lessons about the iniquities of oppressors at all levels, worldwide, that I was to learn as I grew.

By the time the wall came down in 1990, the people of Berlin were not the only ones to rejoice – the world, involved via the global television broadcasts, rejoiced with them.  they saw families reunited, as holes were sledge-hammered through the grafittied panels, and people clambered over the rubble in their haste to reach FREEDOM!

After many days the escapees from the East began to make their way home again.  With the wall gone it was not necessary to live on the West side to have freedom.  With the wall gone Berlin was once again a united city, socially at least.  By the time the wall came down the younger people were East Berliners –  only the older people and those dispossessed of family and home remembered how it had been.

Pieces of wall were sold as souvenirs.  A rock concert by Pink Floyd called The Wall was held over Hitler’s Bunker, where the wall was built and knocked down amidst a spectacular light and sound show.  The wall had been placed into History as an EVENT.  How many, I wonder, will only remember the rock concert in years to come.

(C) Copyright  Jud House  April 1997

* * * * *