Saturday, November 26, 2011


The dust has now well and truly settled from the August 21 climax of World Youth Day in Madrid - a Mass celebrated by the Pope attended by some 2 million pilgrims. As one of them I can say it was awesome. It was also exhausting given I lost my bed after heading off to find water etc and spent the wee hours of my 60th birthday roaming around in the dark, trying to avoid falling over fellow pilgrims.

This article gives an idea of some of the adventures in Spain..

(Pictured above) The happy Aussie wanderer at Toledo is found and claimed by a group of Brazilian  pilgrims

At least one poem had to emerge from all this, and it did. So here we go:

Spanish soil/Spanish soul

(El corazón de España)

España - mesmeric matador!!
Swirl your cape of colours
swirl red and orange,
launch ambushes of colour from
bus stops, billboards, anywhere
down these drowsy Aussie streets.

Hail God-burnt country -
now burning in the heart
still blazing in the mind;
ecstatic envoy, hail:
fevered and fervoured,
fantastic, yet focused as
El Greco the great at Toledo.

Slumbering Aussie, me,
awake, alive at last
wandering, wondering
this time-allotted grace
glimpsing traces of your
spirit-south: Cordoba,
Pedro Abad and Montoro.

Sensing your soul
flagging but immortal yet -
fading/flaring into view,
battered yet bounding bull,
searing orange supernova,
white hot even, in afternoon sun -
sizzling synapses to Madrid…

Fitful pulse throb beneath
scar tissue carved and
flapping loose – like the
scorched remaining arm of the
Homeless’ Christ, glass-encased,
redeemed in 800-year-old
Civil War-sacked Church.

Holy Toledo!!
Roaming with Brazilian pilgrims
who’ve adopted me
lone Aussie wanderer:
quixotic quintessence.
Tilting towards insanely
immaculate heights

I walk the cobblestones
where once El Greco walked,
till lost and all alone once more
I wander crazed in heat,
plummeting above chasms
portraying water above which
wheel wordless birds -

Ecstatic mutes
like St Teresa, St John of the Cross -
creation’s highest flyers
touching down on castle walls
at mighty Ávila this very day -
Teresa’s gaze dissolving earthly chains
John’s heart-hand bearing eloquence…

Recalling living love
aboard a bus from Pedro Abad
where Pura my host will always fare me well
from ancient laneway far below -
eyes locking mine, hand held to heart
my own forever held alive and burning
on Spanish soil long as life persists.

Monday, July 4, 2011

From Brisbane to World Youth Day Madrid

Pilgrims - who isn't one when it comes down to it? Me? I'm going on a structured pilgrimage to report at World Youth Day Madrid 2011 It will start somewhere around August 12 in the little town of Pedro Abad south of Cordoba and thence move onto Madrid where I'll share my 60th birthday with some 2 million souls on an airfield at an open air Mass celebrated by the Pope. Below is the introduction to an article I wrote on the impending adventure.

IN my 60th year "towards heaven" - to appropriate part of a phrase from one of Dylan Thomas' most famous poems - I'm about to embark on a pilgrimage.
It's the most major of my intentional pilgrimages - the only others I can recall being an all-night prayer vigil in honour of Our Lady at Three Springs about 300km north of Perth in 1975, and a solo journey from Lismore, NSW, to Western Australia in a then 31-year-old "shovel nose" Toyota Corona in 1995.
A couple of years back, when I announced my intention to become a World Youth Day pilgrim to Madrid in 2011 to a fellow train passenger, he seemed baffled.
Quickly perceiving he felt my somewhat august years had removed me from the "youthful" category, I set him straight.
"In the eyes of eternity, my years are but a blink," I explained. What could he do but purse his lips, ponder and nod?

To read more just follow this link:

And so another exploration of what will no doubt be an intriguing detour. Hopes are for refreshment of vision and all the other goals of an intentional pilgrimage (as opposed to 'normal' life journey).

  • Right - me with some of the other Brisbane World Youth Day pilgrims on a trial walk testing out shoes etc on the way to Slaughter Falls at Mount Coot-tha (I'm the youngest one there.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Swooshing through Jan/Feb

Inevitably for a Brisbanite life went a bit crazy for the start of 2011 what with floods through here and Ipswich and a whopping great cyclone (Yasi) in the north to focus the mind. And there was more, sadly close to home, as you'll see...

Two parts to this. First a quick flick through the mad month of January, then a preview of an early section of one of the chapters from my 22-chapter novel "A Dirty Rainbow".

Part 1
  • New Year's Eve, big black dog attacks "Little O" the papillion; slows down plans to head to Mt Morgan (already on hold after having to turn back due to flooding on Bruce Highway north of Maryborough the day after Boxing Day)
  • January 3, finally on road, get through OK to Mt Larcom, huge downpour and tales of doom from Hollywood-style old timer in local hotel about getting washed away
  • Three days in the mount, beautiful weather then third night nearly four inch (95mm) downpour in an hour; also word of big rain for Moreton Bay area to south; leave a day early, just as well because highway through Gympie cut for three days - we're lucky to get through to Brisbane
  • Starting around January 11 a series of disasters - inland tsunami devastates Grantham, Ipswich goes under a day or so later and by the 12th Brisbane suburbs near river Oxley, Jindalee, St Lucia etc getting swamped (photo above shows Brisbane River shortly after its January 13 peak surging through the lower reaches of city buildings)
  • Then just as this getting cleaned up, on mother's 88th birthday January 25 she's found dead mid morning, sitting fully dressed in her favourite chair ready to go out for lunch with her sister - shock, sadness...
  • Days after this the drama continues with all eyes glued to Bureau of Meterology maps as  Cyclone Yasi equal in size to Hurricane Katrina approaches Queensland's north...
  • And so the year swooshes on with more flooding in Australia; a devastating earthquake in Christchurch (which we only visited last March) and of course the mind boggling tsunami in Japan.

Part 2

Chapter 14 – ROLLING ON THE DOWNS (extract from "A Dirty Rainbow")

“Well there’s two trains a-runnin’…”

The black-silver Transit van soared to a hilltop above bold splashes of golden sunflowers, waves of some throbbing purple crop, underlined by roadside wild flowers striped red and white.

“Yeah one runs at midnight/Other’s just for today…”

Wearing its new winter coat – a deep lustrous black with a flash of silver – the van was flying towards the yellow caterpillar goods train chomping its way through lush green plains, emptied of its cargo of wheat or whatever and heading back west for another bellyfull.

Digging the Butterfield Blues Band’s supercharged take on the old traditional number covered by Muddy Waters, Dylan, the Grateful Dead and godknows who else, Dirk was flying high and even faster.

“Yes, I wish I was a catfish/Swimming in the deep blue sea/ I’d have all you pretty women/fishing after me…”

Butterfield’s vocals smooth as butter riding above the joyful clamour, then a pause, nothing but thumping drums before Bloomfield’s whiplash guitar cut in, then the interplay with keyboards funking with a gutsy prettiness that sounded like, probably was, Al Kooper.

Dirk’d caught up to the train now…thinking of gritty Chicago blues, trains and blues, leaving woman blues, moving on blues…

Flocks of brilliant pink galahs, white sulphur-crested cockatoos and small yellow birds feeding off spilt roadside grain exploded in clouds as the Transit tore through. The van’s tyres caught a recent rain puddle, water splashing and spinning from the wheels, kaleidoscoping in the early morning sun.

Dirk looked at the speedo – 140 ks. The old 4.2 litre six could really haul, breathing easier than ever, sucking in the misty early morning air. And the new paint job. Shit…that must be good for another 10 ks an hour, sliding the beast more smoothly through the air! He eased back, the better to think as Butterfield’s harp wailed orgiastically towards some sort of resolution.

Another flock of birds – another multicoloured eruption. He thought of his stay on a relly’s wheat farm as a lad and of the birds – everywhere around the harvester - diving in all directions. “They’re not after the grain,” his stepfather’s normally silent brother had told him. “Nope, it’s sure not the wheat. It’s the meat. All the insects and mice that are getting stirred up by the harvest. The birds are having a right old feast. All part of the big food chain. Lucky we’re on top.”

Dirk had shivered then, as he did now thinking about it all. He wasn’t so sure where he fitted in the great chain - normally didn’t even bother to think about it. These bloody tripping mushies certainly did things to the head…moved you into thought spaces you didn’t want to be.

He didn’t have a crystal ball – thankfully - in this thrilling, flashing, buzzing blue/ green/ yellow/ purple/ pink/ white and red sphere to foresee that, one day, not too far down the track, it’d be moments like this – just the hope of these sparkling days returning - that would sustain him through the long grey stretches. He couldn’t know then either that a drought was just around the corner – one that would ravage and suck the life from this paradise for two decades.

And there were other dark forces afoot. Those not nature-born. Fact, if he’d strained his ears past the joyous blast he might have picked up a monotonous droning, getting closer. A faint, but ever increasing monotonous hum. It was the drone of ever proliferating ‘servers’ that would find ways to stop random movements of these gentlemen of the road and their kinfolk. Dirk didn’t realize of course that he was one of a dying breed. Powers that be were working on ways to ensure that the lower ranks would never again enjoy such freedom.