Friday, 28 September 2012

I know this to be true

Today was to be my return to the blog. After a recent bout of unwellness, which has laid me low and kept me from posting for much longer that I had hoped, I had wanted to come back with something lightly amusing and entertaining for you all to ease you into the weekend.

But, like many Melbournians today, I'm feeling quite deflated. For those of you who are interstate, or if you choose not to follow the news — and after today, I'm thinking more power to you — I'm talking about the tragic death of Jill Meagher.

I haven't known what to do today to channel my sadness. Then I was in the shower a little earlier and I thought: write it out, Aaron, just write it out.

So here I am.

Firstly, I talked with my Mum today, and that helped us both. Mum's a bit of a homebody, and so she's been following the case all week on TV. She needed to talk it out, too. Now I need to encourage her to step away from the TV and radio a bit to get some perspective.

You know — and I know this sounds a bit macabre, but go with me on this — Ma even got me to check the fenced-off alleyway, which runs down next to our house, early in the week. It hadn't even occurred to me, but we're not that very far from where Jill was abducted. Like me, Ma was worried for Jill, but realistic enough to know that there was little likelihood after several days that she would be found alive. She wanted closure for Jill's husband and family. It strikes me as incredibly sad that closure could come from something like checking an alleyway. But somewhere out there in Melbourne in recent days, a series of good, helpful people checked and re-checked things and places, and asked the right questions, and now Jill's family has closure, tragic as it is.

My partner's been busy at work today, and we won't get a chance to chat until tonight. When I do, I'll be saying to him the same thing that I said to my Mum earlier: I love you. Because that's all you can do; actually tell the people you love that you love them, and then hope for the best for them in life. I can only imagine what Jill's husband and family must be going through. The only consolation I can think of is that she knew she was loved, and that she loved them. They will always carry that love with them.

As I sat on the tram on the way to college today, it started raining. I thought that even Melbourne's weather has been affected by the sadness of Jill's death. I could feel it in the mood of people on the tram and at college.

I managed to chat with a couple of friends and a teacher at college today. That definitely helped. It was some consolation that other people are feeling like this; that vague sense that all really isn't right with the world today, and a great tragedy has occurred amongst us. Moreso, that the many people who knew Jill are now in unspeakable pain, which will take a long time to leave them. To those people, I send whatever good metaphysical thoughts and love that I can.

At the end of class today, my teacher made the excellent point that, in 2012, in a capital city, in Australia, any woman should be able to walk down the street at any time of day and feel safe. Hell: she could be naked, and she should still feel safe. To think that a woman isn't safe like that is part of the enduring tragedy of Jill's death. As a gay man, I know that it's not even necessarily safe for a man to walk down the street on their own in certain circumstances.

I don't have any easy answers for this. I wish I did. Instead, I encourage you to have a quiet word with your sisters and girlfriends and wives, your mums and aunts and grandmothers, and remind them to take that little bit more care when they venture out. Walk your friend to their tram stop or to the train station. Ask your friend to text you as soon as they get home safely. If they don't, then text them to check. For the rest of us — guys and gals — also remember that if you see anyone being hassled, or if you see something not quite right, be the one to step up and say something. You could help to save a life. It's like they say on the many motivational blogs that I follow: be the change that you want to effect.

We lost one of our own today. A bright, lively, intelligent, beautiful woman, who was loved by many, and whose memory is now known by many, many more. A vibrant, young Irish woman, come to Melbourne with her husband for a new life. I can only hope that she found great love and happiness in her life.

If you are as sad today as I am but you can't shake it, then talk to someone — talk it out — and soon. A friend, a colleague, a neighbour, a relative, your partner. Or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Don't ever be ashamed of reaching out for help.

Now go and tell your family that you love them. Do it: right now.

Vale Gillian Meagher.

Photo credit:

Friday, 21 September 2012

‘It’s My Birthday and I’ll Die (of Embarrassment) If I Want To’

As threatened — I mean, promised — here is a little story from yours truly.

Please to note that this is not memoir! Because it's written in a voice very much like mine own, quite a few fellow students in my course thought that it was a real occurrence! Yes, I did faint at one of my early birthday parties, but the rest is purely invention. Mostly.

Well, my father, was known on occasion to dress in a frock. And he did give me my first wig. Let's just say that, in some ways, this apple did not fall very far from that particular tree ...

Oh, and this was published last semester in our NMIT limited-run student publication, 'INfusion 46'. We're soon to convert it into an ebook and release it on an unsuspecting public, so stay tuned.


‘It’s My Birthday
and I’ll Die (of Embarrassment)
If I Want To’

I fainted at my twelfth birthday party. Quite embarrassing, really. Strapping boys don’t faint. Fainting is for little old ladies in Miss Marple novels who have an ‘attack of the vapours’, as they used to call them. Men could faint in the olden days, but it was called ‘melancholy’ then.
I’m rather sure that my grandmother thought I was a melancholic child. She never said as much, but she never needed to. Old people can say a lot just by giving you the once over and narrowing their eyes. That’s why old people always say: ‘Come here, let’s have a look at you.’ They really only need to give you an x-ray stare for a moment and they have all the information they need. They don’t even have to ask you anything, and you certainly don’t need to speak. Old people have their ways. I know: my grandmother was one of seventeen children (well nineteen, if you count the two who died early), and so I grew up around many, many old people. Clever, old people.
The fainting thing: I remember that the cake had just come out — a fabulous iced rainbow confection. Rainbow: now there was an early irony. Ma had done a sterling job. It was a fresh sponge cake covered in mock cream; with not one, but two, layers of plum jam in the middle. Divine!
Does anyone make mock cream anymore? I’ve only come across it once or twice since I left my hometown. Ma got the ‘family’ recipe from Mr and Mrs Royal of ‘Royal’s Cakes’. Both of the Royals are now long gone, probably due in no small part to all of that mock cream. I remember Mr Royal well. He would go on to make my eighteenth birthday cake some years later, when Ma wanted something ‘fancy’. I remember him eying me up when I collected the cake. I was well on my way to the husky man that I am today — or a ‘man of heft’ as I like to call myself — but I still had some youthful muscle back then rather than just ‘pudge’ (as my boyfriend, Rupert, bitchily refers to it). Mr Royal took one look at me and I could tell he liked what he saw. I got a sizeable discount on the cake, I might add. I think I might have gotten a sizeable gift of other sorts, too, if his wife hadn’t been in the shop with him that day.
Back to the fainting: there were the requisite twelve candles on the cake. In the middle was this candle monstrosity playing ‘Happy Birthday’ in an off-key, Hammond organ tone. I was wedged at the dining room table, surrounded by scads of family. The air in the room was rather close, as I remember, and I was overly warm. Ma, in a Bex swoon — as she had been that day — had dressed me up. I wore a woollen skivvy, heavy flared denim pants and a knitted vest over the skivvy. I mean, this was the seventies, after all. There were too many people huddled around me, with too much alcohol in them and not enough fresh air. They’d turned the lights off minutes before the cake had begun its slow, stately procession down the hallway, so it was quite dark.
You know, I don’t think any photos of that birthday party survived. Good thing, really. My uncle Duncan, the family photographer, was lousy at chronicling our family affairs. He was always pissed (albeit in a good-natured way) and so the pictures from his Pocket Brownie were never really in focus. God, I remember my first Pocket Brownie. That was when the film cartridge could fall out of the camera; you would just pop it back in, and you wouldn’t lose a single photo. Not one. I’d had that happen plenty of times at the school Party Dances. All of my photos came out beautifully, though. Mind you, they say I had an eye for photography even back then. I was one of those ‘creative’ children, as my grandmother would say.
‘He doesn’t play sport. He doesn’t go on dates with the neighbourhood girls. But he can decorate the school Party Dance within an inch of its life, and he can whip you up a darling little diorama at the drop of hat.’ She was always narrowing her hooded eyes at my dioramas. Bitch.
The famous Birthday Fainting (unsurprisingly, they always capitalised it when they spoke of it years later). There were flickering shadows on the hallway wall as the cake began its stately progress to the dining room. I hadn’t eaten much all that day, not even at the party. Particularly not at the party. As the family fat boy, I didn’t want to confirm everyone’s long-held belief that I ate everything in sight. They were right, of course, but I refused to give them the satisfaction of confirming it.
So, recapping: too warm, too many people, not enough air, and nothing to eat. And half a glass of my grandfather’s Tawny Port and dry ginger ale, which I’d secretly sculled while he was fixing his hearing aid. It was a recipe for disaster. A recipe with lashings and lashings and lashings of frosting, it turned out.
Then suddenly there he was. The Main Event. My Father. All the ingredients for the scene were about to be mixed in.
Entrance: kitchen door.
State: inebriated.
Height: six foot nine, resplendent in six-inch stiletto heals. (Gorgeous they were: black patent leather, with a cunning little ankle strap, and diamanté clasp.)
Dress: well, a dress, of course. It was the colour of the old song, ‘Midnight Blue’. With ruffles from here to eternity, Deborah Kerr.
Face: heavily made-up. His close ‘companion’, Leslie, had done a marvellous job on his make-up. Clearly though, that had been several hours earlier, before Father had started on the margaritas (his favourite drink). Now his Max Factor was a little worse for wear. It reminded me of the hoary old line, that drag queens are like classic works of art: best enjoyed from a distance.
Gift: a medium-sized box, covered in white satin wrapping paper, festooned with ribbons that had been hand-curled with a pair of scissors. (My father, a former carpet salesman, who’d left the family home two years earlier, was then a ‘performer’ in his own ‘cabaret’ show and had always been handy with a pair of scissors. So, it turned out later, was my mother; a former florist.)
Apparently I took one, long, mortified look at my father and his maniacal smile (my cousin, Melinda, says she fully counted to five during this moment). Then in the best tradition of the theatre, I’m pleased to say my eyes rolled back, I started to tip, and I went down for the count. Right onto my grandmother.
And so it began. The rest I heard — in excruciating detail — from my many, many cousins in the following months.
I collapsed on Nana Patrice, who started shrieking for (a not unreasonable) fear of being crushed. Father’s smile started to slide, along with his make-up. Ma looked at the cake, looked back at my father, and took aim. The cake exited stage left — most of it onto my father’s plunging décolletage. Ma shrieked and took up the scissors. (She’d rather foolishly left them on the bureau earlier in the day when she finished trimming the flowers for the table decorations: once a florist, always a florist. She was very Mrs Dalloway.)
And she went after him.
Father, to his credit, made it into the back garden, but his gorgeous high heels were his undoing on the moist grass. Down he went, a bedazzled sack of potatoes. He managed to turn himself over just in time to see my mother, now with her own maniacal grin, bearing down on him. The shriek she uttered will apparently haunt certain members of my family — Sharelle, I’m looking at you, dear — to the grave.
The casualties?
Father — amazingly — only needed four stitches. Ma had only caught him high on the right cheek as she, too, went down on the grass, martyr to her own stiletto frou-frou slippers. I ended that day with a fair-sized grapefruit on the side of my head from where I’d hit my grandmother’s wheelchair frame. Nana displayed the bruising on her forearms for some weeks afterwards as her battle wounds, accompanied by an awful lot of her patented eye-narrowing, of course. The cake was the unluckiest of all, though. The family dog, Macleod, finished off the last of it from the front of my father’s dress.
And that is the story of the famous Birthday Fainting episode, starring Yours Truly.


© Aaron Hughes 2012

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Constant Reader ...

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

It is the end of term three in my course, and I have — by necessity — been drawn to complete many, many items of assessment.

Verily, pity my teachers. Yesterday afternoon, I submitted the pieces for my 'Novel' subject. Total: 14,000 words. Egad. Today, I submitted the pieces for my 'Symbolism, Poetry and Myth' (together at last, I hear you say?) subject. Total: 10,000 words. Yikes.

Needless to say, I have also organised delivery of vast quantities of caffeine for my teachers; the lovely Louise, and the virtuous Carole. Ladies: God bless you, and all those who sail in you.

Oh, and I have a cold. Which my partner gave me. Rest assured, I have dispatched the fly monkeys to his current location. They don't wish him any specific harm. But they'll probably mess up his hair. Which he'll hate. He spends quite a little bit of time on it, you see. It is all part of my evil plan. Heh heh heh. But I'll make it up to him. I have a lovely first anniversary gift for him this week. I'm a very, very good boyfriend, doncha know.  ;  )

Aaron Hughes will return in the short story: 'It's My Birthday and I'll Die (of Embarrassment) if I Want To'.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Coming soon: The Addams Family

'Da da da da' <click> <click>, 'da da da da' <click click> ...

Look who's coming to dinner ...

'The Addams Family' musical ran for nearly two years on Broadway, from 2010–2011. With a current tour across North America, and another one proposed, it's pleasing to see Australia beat London to the punch for the next major production. (Surprisingly, there's also a Brazillian production currently running.) The Australian staging — which may incorporate revised elements brought into the show during its American tour — opens in Sydney, March 2013.

It's nice to see another show having its out of town try-out in in NSW. But we all know that the heart of musical theatre in Australia is Melbourne, don't we, people?

'The Addams Family' is another in a line of family-friendly shows that are doing brisk business around the world. Based upon the cartoons of artist Charles Addams, and made famous in the 1960s TV series of the same name, the Addams family has also featured in a series of movies over the last decade. This stage  production, however, features an all-new story, and some additional new characters.

The book is by Oscar-winning Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice of the musical 'Jersey Boys' fame. Music and lyrics are by Broadway wunderkind, Andrew Lippa, who is most well-known for his scores of 'The Wild Party' and 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown'. I've not listened to the cast recording of this show in depth, but it does have some lovely tunes. (Memo to self: Catch up backlog of Broadway and West End cast recordings. Yikes.)

The Australian cast of 'The Addams Family' was presented to the media for the first time just last month. This production will be headlined by John Waters and Chloë Dallimore; respectively, as the debonair Gomez Addams, and the frostily beautiful Morticia Addams. A legend of Australian television, film and stage, Waters will no doubt lend his gravitas to this production. High-kicking Dallimore is well-known to Melbourne audiences from her turn as the sultry 'Ula' in 'The Producers', and more recently as 'Lily St Regis', one of the villains in 'Annie'.

Melbourne performers Ben Hudson and Teagan Wouters respectively appear as the towering 'Lurch' and the Addams' daughter, 'Wednesday'. Indeed, the plot revolves around Wednesday's love for a 'normal' boy and the ensuing shenanigans and badly-kept secrets, followed by a dinner party involving both families. With echoes of the plot of 'La Cage Aux Folles', this should provide fodder for many hilarious moments.

I'm very much looking forward to see how they manage to animate the disembodied hand character, 'Thing', for this production. 'The Addams Family' musical looks like it will be a hoot; think 'Thriller' meets 'The Birdcage'.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Reading # 2

Back in August, I wrote a short post about reading what you enjoy. Click on the following link to quickly read it. Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back.  ;  )  'Reading'.

I don't subscribe to elitism around reading. Ignore the haters. Don't give them the time of day. If someone hassles you on the bus, train or tram (or ferry, for my Brisbane correspondents! Hello!) for reading that Danielle Steel romance, or that James Patterson thriller, try the following.

- Mark your place in your book. They've already hassled you, so don't let them allow you to lose your page.

- Smile sweetly. This will disarm them.

- Reply along the lines of: 'Well, you know, at least I'm reading. So many people never read, don't you find? It's so sad, and terrible for literacy levels. I'm really enjoying escaping into this book. It's well-written and plotted. This is the [insert impressive-sounding number – no-one will mind if you fudge it] book I've read this year.'

- Then, if the mood takes you:

- 'What are you reading?'

- This will force them to defend their own reading. You can then choose to look down your nose at their choice of reading matter. But I hope you'll be encouraging of their reading.  :  )  And you might just make a friend.

Oh, and just for the record, Danielle Steel is the fourth best-selling writer of all time, having sold a lazy 800 million books. And James Patterson holds a 'Guinness World Record' for the most bestselling hardcover fiction titles by a single author; a total of 63. That's hardcover, by the way, not paperback. Surely this means that they are producing interesting, intriguing and well-written books?

Read what you want, I say. More power to you. And never, ever apologise for what you're reading.

I am revelling in reading one of my favourite authors at the moment, Dean Koontz. Not counting several textbooks, which I'm still working my way through, I've finished reading my novels for college for the year. So, I'm catching up on some of Dean's recent titles. Actually, I feel quite smug. In the same way that I did an assignment on Stephen King last semester, I'm doing an assignment on Dean for college. So I get to read an author I love, then speak and write about him. Better still, I then get to use some of his themes in my creative writing for a piece to submit as part of the project.

Oh, and my man Dean? He's the world's sixth most highly paid author. I'm sorry, but you don't get to the top without having at least some skill as a writer. Take that, haters!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Coming soon — Ghost: The Musical

Another musical coming in 2013.

Ghost: The Musical

Following its current season in London's West End, and recent season on Broadway, 'Ghost' has been announced to come to Melbourne in August 2013. This stage production is, of course, based on the 1990 super-weepie film, starring the late Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore (when she still looked like Demi Moore) and the redoubtable Whoopi Goldberg. Apparently, like most big musicals of the last decade, it has dazzling special effects to spare. These will no doubt be used to good effect for the supernatural activities of the lead male character, 'Sam'.

'Ghost' features songs and lyrics by well-respected English muso, Dave Stewart. For those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90's, you would be familiar with his extensive body of work in the 'Eurythmics' with the charismatic Annie Lennox. The other creative forces on this show include legendary songwriter and musical producer, Glen Ballard, and Bruce Joel Rubin, who has adapted the screenplay which won him an Oscar. (The other Oscar for the film went to Whoopi for 'Best Supporting Actress', for her memorable turn as a psychic.)

I haven't given the London cast recording a thorough listening yet (my bad, people; I know, my bad) so I can't yet recommend any songs from this show. I've heard snippets from the score, though, and it is indeed promising. The über-ballad 'Unchained Melody' — the revived 'The Righteous Brothers' hit from the movie, featured to great effect during the notoriously romantic 'clay' scene — has been interpolated into the new score, so there's your hook song straight up.

Sadly, 'Ghost' has recently posted October closing notices for its London production. The New York production, despite being nominated for three Tony awards earlier in the year, closed scant weeks ago. The West End version will have run for a respectable sixteen months, with the apparently re-tooled Broadway production barely managing a five-month run. That said, the show is touted for a North American national tour in the new year, so it looks like this show may yet have some longevity to it. No definite word, though, as to whether the forthcoming Australian production will be affected by the shuttering of the original and American remounts, although rumours of deferment persist.

According to chatter on the boards, a number of non-English speaking productions of 'Ghost' are also planned worldwide. I would think that, amongst a number of other locales being bandied about, Germany would be ripe for the picking there. For those who aren't aware, many of the larger British and American musicals have enjoyed great success in translation there over the last decade.

Stayed tuned for casting details for 'Ghost'. Hopefully, we'll have an even balance of some new theatrical blood and some industry stalwarts. And I'm suggesting that we should all bring some tissues to this production. Actually, you may want those tissues handy now. The show to succeed 'Ghost' in its current London theatre is a new musical helmed by the talented Jennifer Saunders of 'French and Saunders': a 'Spice Girls' musical called 'Viva Forever' ...

Monday, 10 September 2012

I will follow him!

A big shout out of 'thanks! to all of you who have recently started following my blog! And 'thanks!' to those who have been with me from the beginning when I started here earlier this year! I really appreciate all of your support.

For those of you who are still considering follow my blog, here's a very short video that shows you how.

You may need to create a Google log-in to follow me — if you don't have one of the main email addresses they suggest — but it's really easy and a quick process. You'll also find the Google log-in helpful for myriad other sites and applications, given how numerous Google's products are.

I'm up to twenty-three followers! Whoo and hoo! This might be a drop in the ocean for the bigger blogs, but for me it's huge!

This whole blogging 'thang' is a learning curve, but I'm really enjoying it. I hope you have a chuckle here and there and find out one or two interesting things along the way.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Short stories

Okay, fair warning, people: I'm going to start uploading some of my short stories to this blog in coming weeks!

I've written more than a dozen short stories this year. They range from around eight hundred words, though to some whoppers at several thousand words. There's even  one that clocks in at over five thousand words. Whoa. My teacher cried a little when I submitted that one.

The stories are spread across a range of genres, from humorous to sci-fi to vampire to gay to thriller: you name it. There's even romance. I'm hoping that there's something for everyone. I've had a ball trying out new themes and styles and ideas. I've really been flexing my creative muscles. It's been bringing me a lot of joy.

I've even been editing some stories up and submitting them to anthologies and competitions. I had two stories accepted for our printed NMIT course anthology, INfusion 46. We're looking at putting that up on the web as an ebook. Stay tuned. And I've got two stories accepted for our next course anthology, INfusion 47. That's due out in coming months. Again, we're looking to put that up on the web as an ebook in addition to the printed version. I'll let you know when I have a link for it.

I also had had a story accepted for the 'Time To Write' anthology to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of NMIT. It was run the Bachelor of Writing and Publishing course at the NMIT Fairfield campus. I even got an 'Honourable Mention'. Don't worry: I won't start thinking I'm people. I've included the link to 'Time To Write', below, if you'd like to read my story.

I've got half a dozen other stories under submission for various online and printed anthologies, too. Fingers crossed that some of them get legs and get published!

Saturday, 8 September 2012


It's great to kill people ... in fiction.

For my Novel subject this year, I'm writing a young adult book. The subject? Why, zombies, of course! But this is an Australian take on zombie lore. And my story is set on the number 112 tram in Melbourne.

Chapter one. Late one rainy Monday evening, Ash and his friend, Dunc, are coming home from school after staying back to study. The tram they're on is involved in a bingle with a car. Then out of the darkness comes — you guessed it — a zombie, who attacks a driver. They fend off the walking dead and the tram sets off. As they leave, the streetlights start going out.

Chapter two. They are travelling on the tram, on their way to the terminus in Preston. A zombie attacks the passengers. Two of them die. They resume their journey, and all of the lights in the surrounding area go out.

Chapter three, part one. The tram arrives at the ambulance station near the end of the line, but there's no-one there to help them. They continue on to the terminus, where Ash and Dunk disembark to go to Ash's house. The boys are menaced by a zombie but manage to make it to Ash's place.

I had to break the third chapter as it this point as it was starting to get really long. That, and I ran out of time to complete the rest of it for class. Did I mention that it's also waaaay over the word limit? We need to complete around 8,000 words of the novel this year. I'm currently sitting at 15,000, and I still have to produce a piece for next term to workshop. Yikes. Oh well, better to have too much than too little, I say.

So, that's where I'm up to with my novel project. The rest of the chapter — and indeed the whole novel — is completely plotted out and ready to be written. This was one of the assessments for the class, to help us understand where our story is going. It's been great to me to have that structure to work with. It also gave me a much better understanding of my characters. Now, all I need to do it continue writing!

Producing a chapter each term is in itself a bit daunting. As I've mentioned, setting out to write a novel requires planning, plotting and a goodly amount of dedication to the work. This was all entirely new to me. We then take the chapter to class, where the group workshops it. It was a bit nerve-racking for me at first. I mean, I've had feedback on my business writing in my working life, but creative writing is a whole different kettle of fish.

I think it could become really possessive of your work, even defensive. I'm lucky, though, that I have a great group of fellow students, who are encouraging and supportive. They praise what works and suggest changes to what doesn't. After workshopping, we take in the suggested changes, and we submit the piece for assessment each term.

Our teacher, Louise Le Nay, is fantastic. She is helpful and patient and an endless source of knowledge on writing. It's no surprise that our Novel class is widely considered to be the favourite subject in our course. Louise is a novelist herself, having had The Hero published by Allen and Unwin in 1996. Unfortunately, it's currently out of print, but we've suggested to her to reissue it as an ebook. Stay tuned.

Louise is also something of a legend in Australian television, having appeared in the original cast of Prisoner. She then went on to be a script writer and editor for numerous Australian TV shows. Her experience has been invaluable to us in the course. Many of us have a cinematic eye when it comes to writing, and Louise's in sharply honed.

Next term will see me continuing writing the rest of chapter three of my novel. Who knows: maybe it will even get legs? Maybe I'll finish it, then edit the hell out it, and try for a publisher. Watch this space ...