Sunday, February 17, 2008


I pretend I’m not here. I don’t look into the eyes of the men who watch me. Leering, lustful eyes – almost the raincoat brigade. Sometimes they touch the girls, making the excuse of poking money into their bra or g-string. I stay back far enough from the edge of the stage so they can’t put their paws on me.

I’ve learnt to gyrate in a way to rouse passion. I take off enough of my costume for their jaws to fall open. I touch my own body. I hate every move I make and every face watching me.

The place is seedy – you should see it in the day light hours – ugly and dirty, but at night with the lights and the mirrors it looks glamorous enough. Most of the other girls earn themselves a bit of extra money on the side – easy to do – just let them slip their fingers into your bra or g-string and accept their invitation. There’s a room at the back, with a constant flow of traffic all night long.

I won’t do it. The raw sex that is on display and on sale here has put me off for ever I think. Its all empty – the sliding up and down the poles, the flaunting of the body. The sex I think would be soul destroying.

Because I appear to be a bit stand off-ish the ‘musical director’ decided I could have a special spot. Sort of sex cloaked in innocence. I wear pink tulle, a skirt like a ballerina would wear. They slide the mirrors in a bit closer and angle them around me and my pole. The music is tinny and repetitive. I’m supposed to look like a little girl.

I rise and go on my toes – all that ballet training finally coming in useful – I hold my arms up and pirouette around and around. I can see myself reflected in the glass. I go away into the image as I shed my costume and my innocence – I’m a music box dancer, so pretty, so young. Tinkling, tinkling music. I see my music box, my white music box with pink flowers painted on the lid, and I remember lifting the lid and the dancer – so young, so innocent – rising up and turning round and round. Her face was blank when you looked closely and she turned and turned on demand.

I am the music box dancer.

Nelma Ward
December 2007 ©


You’d like to know my favourite place – I can’t tell you one. For me, its places. And times. They are linked somehow, to make a place a favourite. Some of them are geographically impossible to locate. I could not take you to them and say ‘This is it’ – all I could do is say ‘Somewhere around here, on a special day, at a particular moment, when I was feeling this certain way, this was a favourite place of mine’. The ones I could take you too are fragile things too – who said they can’t be burned down or collapse? But all are very real, very precious to me. I’ll tell you about them.

Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, England. I stood in that soaring, beautiful, ethereal place, overcome by the history, by the light, by the fact that I was there. Pale stonework, impossibly light and floating.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. I stood in front of the rose window, a page from my high school art book come to life. Stillness, hush, candles burning in a row. Tears running down my face. And I have not got one religious bone in my body.

Red Fox Inn, countryside, Ireland. Mist, light drizzling rain. Wet landscape, peat smoke, cocoa coloured whippets laying by a fireplace, a cup of rich coffee, well laced with whiskey in my cold hands, all of Ireland before me to explore.

The Globe Theatre, London, England. Standing for two and half hours, feet numb in the cold, the actors almost within hands reach, Shakespeare’s words, the sense of history overwhelming. The best, the most unforgettable, theatrical experience of my life.

Cable Beach Resort, Broome, West Australia. A real Kimberly moon reflected in to the black sea. Sitting on cushions on a wide expanse of lawn, a glass of red wine in my hand, the air warm and soft. The beautiful Latin music of Jane Rutter’s flute and Slava Giorgorian’s guitar enveloping me.

A hillside, Tamborine Mountain, Queensland. A freezing cold night, just having had a beautiful meal in a cosy restaurant, sharing a bottle of champagne whilst standing in the dark beside our friend’s luxurious Mercedes Benz, the car sound system playing an operatic tape. The whole of the Gold Coast stretched out before us, golden twinkling lights weaving a glorious lacy tracery, and the moon, full and pale, making the true postcard perfect path across the sea. Good, good friends to share this with.

French ‘palace’, hillside, Chau Doc, Vietnam. Late afternoon, standing with my son, who I had not seen for a year before this trip, and our lovely young Vietnamese guide, on the terrace of a ‘palace’, on a hillside outside the Mekong Delta township of Chau Doc. A red disk of sun, vivid wild red, through the grey clouds, and haze from the burning rice fields. As the sun fell like a stone to the horizon the sky was infused with a mystical golden light, turning to a luminous pink, which reflected onto the canals crisscrossing the lush green landscape. There are tigers in the hills here.

Outside Boulia, Queensland. Late afternoon, rushing to make Boulia which is almost on the Northern Territory border, before dark. Stopping at the top of a hill, standing in the soft gold light, the sun sending its last rays horizontally across the miles of miles of red and gold landscape stretched in front of us. Silvery grey low vegetation, absolute quietness, grey-mauve dry fluffy wildflowers at our feet. Unlimitless space.

The sky, Massey, Darling Downs, Queensland. Gliding in a thermal, round and round in the blue intoxicating air, surrounded by circling ibises – flying with the birds.

A certain spot on the road between Greenmount and Nobby, Darling Downs, Queensland. Every different time of the day, every different season, the colours of this magnificent valley are transformed. Every time it takes my breath away.

I could go on and on. I won’t. These are just a few of the places that I hold in my heart.

© Nelma Ward


The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged. I’d been waiting for this for a long time. Now at last I was old enough to join the rest of the devotees, for that’s how I think of us – devoted to a cause.

Of course every young man in this community thinks that one day they’ll be invited to join the others. They check you out first of course. Find out whether your like-minded. I am. Always have been.

I know there’s a lot of bad press about us. Scathing pieces in the newspapers and so on. I don’t think they realise that we have lots of influential people in our group. Pillars of the community – doctors, lawyers and so on, as well as the ordinary folk, the truck drivers, the labourers. Doesn’t matter what you do, if you feel strongly about this matter you’ll be accepted into the group.

So I went along. A few of the older guys came up and shook my hand. They looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was up for it. Up for it! I was trembling with anticipation, wondering what it would feel like, how it would be to finally do something about this problem. To make my mark.

I hoped our efforts today would have a result. We had our target picked – that much I knew. It was a short walk, all of us together, feet and hearts beating as one. I liked the idea of a uniform too. All white, pristine – clean looking, somehow. I’m not too worried about the anonymity aspect really – but the older, wiser heads say that it’s a good thing. I don’t know … some part of me wanted to be recognised. It would have been great to have people who aren’t in these hallowed ranks come up and say ‘good on ya – I’ve wanted to do that for a long time’.

So, now here I was – amongst my heroes, in a long white robe. I’m the one fifth back from the burning cross in the photo which was in the local paper. When the trial started – murder was the charge – that photo went all over the world.
Odd, isn’t it – my first Saturday afternoon meeting, and unlucky enough to be caught in what they say was ‘the most brutal attack this Southern state has seen in many years’. I can still hear the older men, my heroes, my role models, cheering me on, and I can still feel that excitement as I went at the enemy. But that’s the trouble, isn’t it – most people don’t seem to understand about the enemy. I’ve known about it ever since my daddy told me. He’s in the photo too.

You can see that I’m not used to the tall pointed white hood as I’ve put my hand up to steady it. And my hand is slightly covering the three initials emblazoned on it. The three important initials – in my mind the three most important initials in the world. The next hood I’ll wear, so they tell me, wont be a white one, and no initials this time – just something to hide my face as I’m sent to my Maker.

© Nelma Ward