Wednesday, March 21, 2007


This little piece evolved from a subject raised by one of the Clifton Writers Group members - she wondered why this strange phenonomen occurred.

The mystery of microwave letterboxes? No, there is no mystery. We are Australians – we do things like that. Why, I’ve seen letterboxes made from cream cans, petrol cans, ice cream containers, and in the shape of goats, sheep, crocodiles, frogs, birds and various motor vehicles. Not to mention the one made of an old bicycle, where the poor put upon postie had to insert the letter in the little tool pouch that hung under the saddle.
We love doing things like that, and if you’ve got a perfectly good – although apparently non-working – microwave, your mind may just cast about for a good use – it closes, its waterproof, its, well, its not good taste, but then who’s worrying about that. The damn thing cost you several hundred dollars, lasted for the requisite amount of time microwave makers allow these days – say, six months, nine at max – and you want to feel you’ve had some use out of it.
We can’t live without microwaves, and where do all the blown up ones go? Well, not all to become mailboxes, but for those inclined to recycling, what a jolly good idea.
You probably have to be a certain sort of Australian to use your defunct microwave as your receptacle for your mail – a resourceful type, a bit of a larrikin, someone who wants passers by to look and remark on it, and therefore on you. You’re probably lurking out behind the bottlebrush waiting to hear the comments. People travelling past probably come to a screeching halt and leap out and take a photograph before zooming off again. They probably show their friends – look what this funny old bugger had as his mail box.
No, when you think about it, there’s a certain amount of panache to be had, having a microwave mailbox. I’d draw the line at a fridge mailbox in suburbia, but I have seen them beside the road in the outback. Another clever and sensible idea. Lots of room inside, things protected from the weather, and quite durable in the heat and dust.
My own mail box is a very tasteful brass slot in a very tasteful cream brick wall, but now that I think of it, my microwave (one of the very early ones, hence its longevity) must be about due to blow up. I wonder whether I should have waited for the inevitable day when smoke issued from the microwave and my husband said, ‘Now, what the hell are we going to do with this thing?’

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, March 07, 2007



Animals are animals. They’re not cute, or cuddly or safe.

Have you seen the photograph in the press of the man with his head in the crocodile’s jaws – his ‘friend’, the one hes raised, the one who loves him? Oh yeah, lets all wait till the piece appears entitled ‘Man Decapitated By Pet’.

Animals are different to us. They’re not human. They don’t possess human qualities. Sure, monkeys use tools, and murder each other – very human characteristics – but they’re not human. They turn on you in a flash.

Haven’t you even been raked by sharp, malicious claws by the quiet, wouldn’t hurt a fly, family pet, the cat? You only tried to take his bowl off him and he attacked. Has you beloved pet dog, little lap dog – wouldn’t hurt a fly pet – turned on you with snarling teeth, ready to fly at your throat because you took a stuffed toy – his, yes – but he was ripping it to shreds – off him?

They are animals – ‘farmer gored by house cow’ – no matter how much we domesticate them, and give them human attributes. ‘He knows everything I say’ – well, yes, until you say ‘stop!’ and make a grab.

I like animals – because they are animals. My favourite animal is the tiger – he’s majestic, he prowls, he looks at you with a blank, but all seeing, stare. He has a lovely pattern. I like giraffes, they have long blue tongues, and I’ve been licked by one. Lovely! But both would kill you in an instance. Yes, even the giraffe. He would kick you to death, or swing that amazing big head, on that amazing big neck, and kill you with a blow.

Lets be real. You child is not Steve Irwin, with years of experience about how to keep his eye on the dangerous bit – bill, teeth, horn, fangs – your child is a risk with any animal.

You are the little old lady in her unit with her four Pomeranians, her companions, indulged with chicken while she eats baked beans.
She dies, alone, and guess what – when they find her she’s been eaten by the little fluffy dogs. Oh dear. Well, guess why? They’re animals. They’re different to us.

Thank God for the difference. Animals are essential, are wonderful, are photogenic, are suppliers of many good things, including meat and glue.

When we describe the rapist as an animal, we’re being real for once. Animals don’t think too much about what they’re doing or the repercussions – they act. They are brutal. They have to be. They have to survive. Why eat your young if its not for survival of the fittest?

Animals attack – that’s what they do. Even a pet bunny would turn on you and scratch you, kick you or butt you. Have you ever heard a koala growl? It’s frightening!

Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. Animal are wonderful, magnificent, brilliant – but they’re dangerous. Lets treat them as something different to us. Lets not have penguins dancing – sure, that helps our children identify with them, and to want to save them, and to want to protect them – but, Goddamnit, they’re animals. Each and every one of them.

© Nelma Ward



Not the cartoon character, no – this Charlie Brown was a guinea pig.
We always had pets when the kids were small, always a dog and a cat, and sometimes a budgie. Then there were the ones Grandad arrived with – a turtle he’d seen on the road, an echidna, rescued from a pile of burning logs at the golf course, a frilled lizard, and a huge spider in a jar with holes punched in the lid. Each of the animals, except the spider, escaped the very night they arrived to live at our house. Hours had been spent constructing runs or cages, and in each case in the morning the animal was gone. The spider met his demise in the probably almost airless jar, and nothing, nothing, can smell like a large dead spider that’s been enclosed in an airtight jar. He didn’t escape, he was chucked into the bin.
So when Grandad’s neighbours moved, after frantic searching by their four kids for their lost guinea pig, and Grandad was watering his vegetables, he found the guinea pig, and caught it. He arrived at our house, with a cardboard box containing a small golden brown guinea pig, about the size of two cupped hands.
He became Charlie Brown, being brown, and Charlie Brown being the flavour of the month as far as comics were concerned. A makeshift hutch, bottomless, was quickly made for him, and he was put out on the lawn to graze. The kids ran around and got lettuce leaves, and thistles, and sliced up carrots, and quartered apples – he would eat anything.
That night we decided he should be brought in from any predators – but where would be the best spot? Finally it was decided that we’d tip the hutch up so the opening was at the top, cover it, in case he could leap out. He didn’t look as if he was made for leaping, but after our track record with escapee animals, we thought it best to be prudent about the chances. We put it out of cats and dogs way – where? Why on top of the washing machine of course.
Great, fine. He survived the night. I raised the washing machine’s lid to put a load in – to be confronted by two inches of guinea pig wee! Charming!
Charlie Brown lived with us for quite a while. He survived the loving ministrations of the kids, until one day he was given all the white rind from a watermelon. Charlie Brown, who up to then could eat anything, ate it all, and promptly died!
You can’t chuck a dead guinea pig in the bin, so he had a typical pet funeral, but the story of our pet funerals will have to wait till another time.
© Nelma Ward