The “Black Cats” of the Double Sunrise Service and other flying stories

source National Library of Australia

source National Library of Australia

Some time back I posted about the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum. I am pleased to offer this follow up, with information courtesy of Jim Thurstan, retired Qantas engineer and a member of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) located at Albion Park, NSW.

Firstly, a link back to the original story.

Lake Boga was a secret inland base and repair station for aircraft that could otherwise be exposed to Japanese attack from the north or from offshore shelling. Rathmines (mentioned below) at Lake Macquarie near Newcastle was such a target.

After I wrote the Lake Boga post Marie & Patrick Dillon advised that the Wright engine pictured there is an 18 cylinder, with 3350 cubic inch displacement, which has been partly restored, and is on loan to the museum as it is privately owned. Jim tells me that that Wright engine series was very common in the late thirties through to the fifties,  and in fact the HARS aircraft collection includes a Lockheed Super Constellation and two Lockheed Neptune aircraft which still use much the same engine.

HARS also has a flying Catalina, which visited Lake Boga on a touch and go and a full stop landing. Scroll to the end of this post for fabulous photos of it, and there are plenty more where they came from! There are six Catalina’s in Australia: the display one at Lake Boga, non-flying ones in WA and Longreach in Queensland (the home of Qantas), one at Bankstown NSW hoping to fly again (and destined for Rathmines), one at Rathmines (under restoration), and one hanging up in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Wikipedia differs slightly from this information, coming up with a total of eight: (and who are we to argue with Wikipedia?) The Catalina on display at the Powerhouse Museum is named Frigate Bird 2. It was flown around the Pacific commercially by Sir P.G. Taylor*.

(note: the below photo is a random, not of the Frigate Bird 2 nor Sir P.G.Taylor)

Catalina National Library of Australia nla.pic_vn3723491_v

More fascinating insights in to the “Golden Age of Flying Boats in Australia”, and their war history, can be found here:

The Catalina at HARS in Albion Park has been painted black in memory of the famous “Black Cats” which operated out of Perth directly to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) during WW2. The Black Cats are referred to in the above article, and much more can be found on Google. The journey, formed in 1943 to re-establish the Australia–England air link that had been cut due to the fall of Singapore in 1942, became known as “The Double Sunrise”. These Catalinas were completely defenceless, carrying no weaponry, and with all armour plating removed so that the planes were sufficiently light to make the long crossing of more than 6480 km, 3600 nautical miles, at a cruising speed of 110 knots (127mph/204kph) an hour. This gave rise to a sector time between 28 and 32 hours. That was once they got in the air that is. At times the pay load, about 400kgs, made the aircraft so overweight that take-off was a very critical operation. The weight of fuel limited the Catalina’s load to only three passengers and 69kg of diplomatic and armed forces mail. In order to remain undetected by the Japanese, when flying at night they used celestial navigation, and they also avoided using the radio, except for a very brief midnight weather bulletin in Morse code. Because of the length and path of the journey, the crew and passengers saw the sun rise twice, hence the name ‘Double Sunrise’ service. The crew list reads like a Who’s Who of Qantas in the 50’s and 60’s, and the service holds the record for the longest non-stop commercial air route, and also the record for the longest ever non-stop commercial flight – 32 hours 9 minutes. The last Double Sunrise flight departed from Sri Lanka for Perth on 17 July 1945.

The role of Flying Boats in the Second World War, which from the Australian perspective includes the RAAF Catalina flying boats in action over the Pacific, and the above-mentioned secret wartime Double Sunrise service operated by Qantas, is far too detailed and interesting for me to do justice in one post. Here is a link to a very comprehensive article with great photos. Courtesy of the Australian Government:

Jim has provided the photos of the HARS Catalina which I am sure will delight. It recently flew to Point Cook in Victoria to celebrate 100 years of our RAAF. HARS also sent their Caribou aircraft. So astute readers will have now determined that HARS boasts a Catalina, Lockheed Constellation, Lockheed Neptunes, and Caribous, all in flying condition. One of the many HARS projects is the restoration to flight of a Fokker FV 11b / 3m, a replica of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s (Smithy) “Southern Cross”.

The Chief Engineer for the HARS Catalina is Jim Marshall, and he provides this information, drawn from their in-house publication: details of the HARS Catalina


* In an aside from the Catalina story – Sir P.G. Taylor was big in Australian history. Among many things was his feat when flying with Smithy (Sir Charles Kingsford Smith). To save crashing into the ocean on their way back in the Southern Cross from New Zealand, he climbed out under the wing in flight on a number of occasions to transfer engine oil from a failed engine to one that was running on the other wing but about to run out of oil.

And thanks to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, and Jim Thurstan for these fabulous photos of their restored Catalina.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Footnote, any inconsistencies of fact are Garrulous Gwendoline’s!

Liz Thurlow, Part Seven: Lovers

Liz had had other lovers before she was married. Several in fact, as well as two one-night stands – but she didn’t count them. They rested in her memory as sublime and secret experiences, the two delicious times she had abandoned herself in the arms of a man she would never meet again. But she never let on about it. Liz preferred to play the “seduced, then jilted” card. It sounded better in her morally upright world. And her last lover had jilted her. That is what had sent her into Bob’s embrace. Nice, safe, stable, conservative Bob would never throw her over for another woman. Certainly not once she had committed to marriage.

Twenty-five years of playing the perfect wife had left Liz nostalgic for her single days. Better to have your heart broken by a passionate man, than let it wither and shrivel for lack of emotion, that is how she thought now . . . Now that Tony Babic had awoken her dormant feelings of desire and abandon.

She loved everything about him, his deep gravelly voice with the guttural accent, his thick hair with the crinkly ends, his eyes twinkling into hers, and the smile that always played around the edge of his mouth. Most of all she loved his body, so firm and muscular, moulding around hers like a hand in a glove. She loved to trace a line from his chest to his thighs, her fingers following the dip from his hip across his pelvis. She liked to lie on her side facing him after sex, brushing her fingers across his body and stroking his thigh as he talked to her. Those thighs – so strong and defined, that was the first thing she had ever noticed. And she was still fixated on them, wrapping her legs around and pulling him in deeper as she reached her climax. He seemed to know exactly what she needed and when. It was as if their bodies could talk to each other. No fumbling or clumsy changes of position. Their love-making was a fluid melding together, just like they showed In the movies. And afterwards he held her and talked to her, weaving in strands of poetry as he told her how beautiful she was, how perfect, that she was a wonderful lover, the best he had ever known. Her affair was poetry in motion. Poetry and passion.

‘What was it about me that you saw that first day?’ Liz asked him.

‘Srce moy,’ Tony cradled her face in his hands, ‘My dear heart. Sometime encounter person, even perfect stranger, who begin interest us at first sight. Sudden, like that, all at once, before word is spoken.’

Liz nestled her face closer in to his hand, marvelled at the softness of his palm, embraced the intimacy of his touch. ‘That is so beautiful, Tony. You have a gift with words.’

‘Not me,’ Tony laughed, ‘Dostoevsky.’ He kissed the tip of her nose, ‘We studied him in school.’

‘In Russia?’

‘No Liz. In Serbia. I am Serbian.’

‘Ohhh . . . and how do you say I love you in Serbian?’

‘Volim te,’ Tony tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and cupped her chin, holding her face up towards his. Liz felt herself drowning in his eyes. ‘Volim te,’ she repeated, letting the sound of it wash over her.

‘Da. Dat’s good . . . but Liz. You don’t need to learn these words, ne? We just have good fun – good sex. It’s same for you, ne?’

Liz buried her head in his shoulder. ‘Yes. It’s Just good fun.’


This is the seventh part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read from part one, go here



The Writing Process Tour – Inside the Mind of a (Non) Writer

I have recently been asked by blogger friend Jolandi, Dreaming in Arabic if I would like to participate in the Writing Tour, which is currently doing the rounds amongst bloggers. I decided to participate, because it gives me an opportunity to stop and think, what am I doing (in respect of writing).

I recommend Jolandi’s blog to all, she combines photographs and words to take us on a lyrical journey through the mystical Middle East, and opens our eyes to the beauty in that world, a wonderful antidote to the nightly news.

As part of the Writing Tour I have to answer four questions: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its type/genre? Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work?

I was surprised to discover that I am actually working on five different writing projects, more or less simultaneously. This is odd, because I do not consider myself a writer as such. I think of myself as a retired corporate executive looking for a new string to her bow. And in the male-dominated shipping and logistics industry which I made my career, running off at the mouth was not admired. I sent many colleagues mad with detail, when I felt all I was giving was essential background information. So, I didn’t get much writing practice in the workplace. However, I am one of those annoying people who send a letter with the Christmas card, and sometimes it can reach seven or eight pages. I tried to give it up, but many recipients said they missed it – go figure. So that has been my writing practice up to now. In a similar vein, this will be a long post  . . . many apologies  . . . maybe it should be read in instalments.

One other thing before I do “run off at the mouth”. The idea of this challenge is to pay it forward. Theoretically, it should be three bloggers, who should have agreed in advance. Isobel, from Travels with My Son ( has agreed to come on board. Isobel blogs about ‘J’, her adopted son, and their experiences of love, life, and learning to be a family. I think there will be many fascinated with what she has to say. I know I am!

Well, here goes my list:

Blog, I now call it the Reluctant Retiree, by Garrulous Gwendoline. I already did a post called “My Ten Good Reasons for Blogging” so I won’t repeat that content here. As for how it is different – I think many bloggers have one core theme and stick to it. Which is probably good marketing. Mine is broader, more of a reinvention of self in retirement. It started when I was travelling Europe for several months, so it was clearly a travel blog at that time. But when I returned home I looked to the world around me for inspiration for a weekly post. I don’t work and re-work it. I simply sit at the laptop and bang out a story straight into the WordPress platform, like an extension of the Christmas letter-writing style (then I check the spelling etc). Most of the posts about going on road trips around NSW are drawn from journal entries I wrote at the end of each travelling day. When I wrote the journal entries, I imagined I was writing a letter to my travel-loving friend in Sweden who, sadly, passed away last month without ever having visited Australia in person.

Liz Thurlow. Liz is a sub-set of the blog. She was born accidentally last month after I attended a one-day workshop on Story Planning. She is an invented character who I am taking out for an adventure. This is the first time I have tried to invent a character, and I have not contrived a plot for her. I have set myself four parameters: write for thirty minutes, limit to 500/600 words, don’t plan ahead, and try to make each episode coherent. The story goes out in ‘as-is’ condition. I don’t refashion what has taken place, and I don’t know what is going to happen when I start, except that it flows on from the previous episode. Of course, I can theorise, but ultimately Liz decides. It is like doing your homework in public. Why these parameters? New writers are often recommended to write for fifteen minutes or more each day. I can’t bear writing gibberish, although it did work for the Jaberwocky in Alice in Wonderland, hence the restriction to write a coherent story. I am not sure it is working; that blessed detail is probably getting in the way of pacing. So last episode I did push her into bed with another man, she was going to get there anyway, although a few readers did feel the timing was sudden. So! It is a great exercise to get such instant feedback. I know many others who are blogging flash fiction – but I think they edit their stories before posting. In my case, I put the oven timer on for thirty minutes, open WordPress, bang out a story, do a quick spell check and then press post. Why no plot planning? Because I want to see what happens when you leave the story in the character’s hands. Of course, I am scared the answer will be “nothing much”. So then another exercise would be to turn it around and make the character conform to a predetermined plot. I might try that next.

I Belong to No One is a full length memoir, 95000 words. For years people used to tell me I should write the story of my life, and I believed them (mistake?). Turning fifty was the trigger. So, when I was still working, I set aside a Saturday once a month. I started from my earliest memories and worked on. Sometimes I used the photo album as a trigger. Sometimes it was characters around me, or unusual or special events. I wanted it to be a tribute to the women who had supported me because my mother suffered mental illness and there was no Dad. I spent far too long trying to make the early chapters perfect, before I got a grip and wrote to the end. I was 50,000 words in and still didn’t know its direction. Once I got to the end, and understood what was unfolding, I was able to go back and take out all the parts that did not relate to that story, including most of those laborious early chapters. I thought I was finished then. Little did I know I would write seventeen versions! I was still revising it up to this June just gone. By the time it was finished, it was a story of mental illness in part, but its major point is relinquishing a child to adoption. It seems my creative style is to sit down and write in a linear fashion without having a story outline. I hear of people planning what they will write in each chapter. I did the story planning workshop in the hope of picking up such a good habit, but I haven’t grasped it yet. Perhaps it’s a backlash to the organisational skills required in my work-life. It’s not as if you can load a ship in such a haphazard, unplanned, hope-for-the-best manner.

The memoir has secured a fabulous agent and is currently under consideration by a mainstream publisher. It is up to the costing stage. I have my fingers crossed that it will see the light of day, something I never dreamed of that first Saturday when I typed the first sentence (which did survive, but moved to a different place). NB: the story is not exactly funny, but it is not a misery memoir – – – I hope.

The Reluctant Retiree – Fifty-Five Days in the Balkans is a work-in-progress, first draft, travel memoir based on the trip which I blogged about last year. I am 35,000 words in, and only up to Day 18, so again, it will be grossly over-written. But this time, I don’t dwell on what I have already written, nor try to perfect it. I simply have a quick look at what I wrote the day before, and then push on with the next section. Again, it’s ultimate theme is yet to emerge. I get cranky with myself for writing in this style, however, I take comfort in thinking of the first draft as a humongous story outline. I have enough experience from the first memoir to know the final outcome may look nothing like it does now. Whether it will have any commercial appeal, I don’t know. I think one of the major differences in this, and all my writing, is that I do not have scribbled notes and phrases lying all around the place. I don’t do thought balloons, or mind maps. I can’t stimulate myself to write from those joggers, I just feel clumsy. I wish I could hand-write sitting in the sun, or somewhere dreamy, as I imagine that heightens creativity, but I can type faster than I can write, so I always end up back at the laptop, I wish I could write unconnected paragraphs or sections which I could meld or move around, but I always seem to think chronologically. I might know I am going to write about something that happened later, but I find I can’t pay attention to it until it’s time arrives. So – I just type in a logical stream, with the idea that I can tizz it up later. For better or worse. (nb: and so far, this memoir is mostly funny).

Un-named, un-commenced Novel. At the end of last year, I signed up to do a memoir writing course in Paris (the French one), this October-November. Perhaps starving in an attic, living on absinthe, might stimulate creativity? When I enrolled, I imagined my memoir would need further work, whereas it is now out of my hands. So, I need a new project. Why Paris? Why not? Actually, the real reason is that my Mum died (aged 93) and left just enough to finance the course, accommodation and airfare. So, in the spirit of seize the day I decided to do something I would never dare if the money came from consolidated revenue. It’s a kind of thank you to my Mum, to allow myself this indulgence. What she couldn’t do for me in life, and all that stuff.

What to write is the conundrum. In ‘I Belong to No One’ I mention that I have to go back to 1854 to find a legitimate birth on my maternal line. So I am going to Bradford, England, in search of that woman. The last one before it all went pear-shaped. I want to try to re-imagine her life and journey to Australia as a single woman. It’s a stretch to match it to a memoir course, but maybe I really will get inside her head.

It calls for a lot of research, beyond Googling to check a random fact. Not something I have done before. I have contacted a number of historical societies in Bradford and had one reply, which I am following through with. I expect to be buried in the Local Studies library for at least a number of days in Bradford. I know I will be reading a lot of newspapers and history books. I have come across something called the Female Middle-Class Emigration Society, and I’ll be digging into that further. Thanks to a tip-off from fellow blogger Sandra Danby, I have read Kate Grenville’s novel, ‘Secret River’, and am reading the back-story, ‘Searching for Secret River‘. The first is a novel based on a convict Australian pioneer, who was a London Thames lighterman. The second is her search for her real London waterman/convict ancestor Solomon Wiseman, and how that formed the basis for her novel. Perhaps I can emulate her experience. As to whether I can emulate such worthy novel writing is another story.

I will be in England from 10th September (that’s the week after next! – Ouch!) and France from 11th October, so am happy to meet up with fellow bloggers there. And if by some miracle this blog is read by anyone who is knowledgeable about Victoria Bradford, feel free to shout out!

If you have read this far, congratulations, and many thanks from Garrulous! And to all my followers, thank you so much for your support! I truly appreciate it.



Liz Thurlow, Part Six: Tony Unblocks her Pipes

As soon as Bob was out of sight Liz pelted next door to Jan’s house. She was standing in the front yard, making a show of watering the garden, when she spied Tony’s Ute turning into her street. He pulled into the driveway and jumped out, those shorts riding up again and flashing his thigh. She felt her heart tip-tilt. Her stomach clenched.

Tony sauntered towards her. ‘So! Liz. We meet again.’ he smiled that mischievous grin. She grinned back, the wave of adrenalin rushing through her body making her feel giddy, like a schoolgirl with a crush on teacher.

Another truck was trundling up the street. Tony turned towards the sound.

‘Ah! my workers. Good timing.’

Liz’s heart plummeted. ‘Oh . . .  I imagined you worked alone.’

‘Yeh. I work alone Liz,’ he grinned again, ‘these guys just scaffolders. This job. I mus’ work high.’ he glanced at her watering. ‘Don’ water around the back – okay? Better if ground is dry for put up scaffolding.’

The next morning Liz was back watering Jan’s garden when Tony pulled into the driveway. This time he was alone. He made small talk with her before unloading he Ute. She watched him drag out his tools and take them around the rear of the house. Back and forward, from the Ute to the backyard. She tried to look discreet, but she was fixated on his athletic body.

It was the same every morning for the rest of the week. The garden was getting a good soaking. And each morning their conversation went a little longer.

By the following Monday morning Liz was in a state as she waited for him to pull in. She had been agitated all weekend, impatient with Bob’s habits and imagining how Tony Babic might compare. She kept smoothing her hair, straightening her clothes, her stomach doing cartwheels, until he arrived, a little later than usual, but looking as relaxed as ever.

‘Liz,’ he said, ‘I been thinking. How come you water the garden by hand?’ his eyes were twinkling as if he knew a private joke. ‘There is irrigation, ne?’ He pointed at the black plastic poles sticking out of the soil.

‘Um, they’re blocked,’ Liz stammered.

‘Well, tell you what Liz. You ask me in for morning smoko, and I fix irrigation. Hows zat? So you don’ have to spend so much time watering. Pretty lady like you, got better things to do with her time, ne?’

Liz’s heart was pounding. Her throat felt so constricted, it took a moment to answer.

‘Deal?’ he prodded.

‘Deal,’ she nodded.

And it was that easy. Every morning he came in for coffee and chat, staying a little longer each time. And by the next Monday, he was in her bed. Liz had dreamt of it all weekend. A new start to a new week. It seems this pretty lady had certainly found something better to do with her time.


This is the sixth part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read from part one, go here



Liz Thurlow, Part Five: The Anticipation of Tony Babic

Bob’s habits irritated Liz, but not so much that she would ever leave him. It is not as if he was violent or abusive. He was just, well, boring. Besides, Liz was fifty now. She didn’t want to start over again, leave her house and her comfortable life. She’d never be able to afford to live in Killara as a single woman, and God forbid she would have to look for work. No, Liz craved an adventure, but not one that took her too far out of her comfort zone.

Liz would have been surprised if anyone pointed it out – but she had become a creature of habit herself. One morning a week at the local tennis club, three at the gym. Washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, housework on Wednesday and groceries on Friday. She was a lousy gardener, so she had a ‘man’ who came once a fortnight, but he insisted on her watering regularly. In the early morning, he stipulated, before the sun gets too hot. So she had added that to her regular routine, until she realised an irrigation system and timer could do the job just as well. But now there was Jan’s to look to.

Her day started at 6am. While Bob showered and shaved, she laid out his clothes and packed his lunch. When she heard him cleaning out his shaver, she put his two weet-bix with prunes and yoghurt in a bowl, and waited to greet him in the kitchen. She had given up asking if he wanted a cooked breakfast. Bob kept those for his weekend treat. At 6.45am he would put his bowl in the sink, give her a peck on the lips – so fleeting it was almost as if he was a teenager begrudging his mother a speck of affection – grab his briefcase from the kitchen bench and stride out the front door. It was a fifteen minute march to the railway station. Bob commuted, even though his position entitled him to a city parking space. Bob fancied this brisk fifteen minute burst of energy morning and evening was all he needed to stay in shape. Liz didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t working.

Liz drummed her fingers on the kitchen bench. His shave seemed to be taking longer than usual. Hurry up. Her foot jiggled on the tiled floor. Get a move on. She checked her watch against the digital clock on the microwave. 6.25.

When Bob appeared a few minutes later, he stopped in the doorway and stared at her.


‘Oh nothing. Just I don’t often see you so glammed up on washing day. And aren’t you going to the gym?’

Damn. He’d noticed. She hadn’t counted on that. She’d gone for the Jackie Onassis smart casual look. A slim fit short-sleeved top over figure-hugging white Capri pants and ballet flats which showed off her long narrow feet.

‘I’m on a mercy mission. One of the tennis ladies is having a scan today. Breast scan. She got a call back. Wanted a buddy along . . .  doesn’t want to be alone in case its bad news.

‘Anyone I know?’

‘No, no.’ hurry up. She watched him swallow a mouthful of cereal.

‘Not Dot? Her husband would be gutted if she got cancer.’

‘No. Look, it’s no one you know. A new woman. I’m just helping out, that’s all. She doesn’t know her way around here yet.’ It was all Liz could do to stop her foot tapping. Hurry up.

‘What time will be you be leaving?’ Bob was crossing to the sink with his bowl. Finally.

‘Oh . . . soonish. I’ll just get a load on first.’

‘Well,’ he leant over to give her his mummy kiss, ‘don’t forget that builder chap is starting today. I told Jan you’d keep an eye on him.’

‘Thanks for the reminder,’ Liz feigned surprise, ‘I’d forgotten him. Had this appointment on my mind.’

‘Well. You might just check he’s under way before you take off. He should be along any tick of the clock now.’

‘Mmmmm . . . okay, well. So long as he gets here soon,’ she strived to keep her voice casual, disinterested. ‘And if you don’t get a wriggle on, you’ll miss your train.’

‘I could wait and get the next one. If you think you won’t be here for the builder, that is.’


‘No, no. Didn’t you say you had an early meeting too? You get off. Builders start early. He’s probably just around the corner.’ she was at the front door with Bob now, practically pushing him out.

‘As you command, madam,’ Bob gave a little laugh and an exaggerated bow and set off down the street – whistling.

If Liz had not been so distracted, she might have thought his behaviour a little odd. But Liz was too busy craning out for any sign of Tony Babic. She breathed a sigh of relief when Bob was finally out of sight.


This is the fifth part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read from part one, go here



Liz Thurlow, Part Four: Liz Keeps a Note

Tony was standing there with his hand outstretched. Liz could hardly snub him, could she? His grip was firm – Liz liked that. She hated those insipid handshakes of women who just rested their fingers, like a limp dead fish. The only thing she hated more was the air kisses of the ladies at the tennis club. ‘Daaaahling, you’re looking so well!‘ . . . mwaahh, mwaahh, blowing one towards each cheek, as if they were European socialites. Liz was tempted to kiss them three times, Arabic style, muttering ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost‘ under her breath. That would rock them. And she knew damn well that ‘looking well,’ was their code for ‘have you put on weight?’ She was sick of the whole damned scene.

‘. . .  and . . . you?’

Oh my God – she was still holding his hand. His eyes were dancing, teasing her. He was waiting for her to introduce herself.

‘Missus . . . uh . . . Liz . . .  Liz Thurlow.’

‘Well, I am pleased meet you, Missus Liz Thurlow. Maybe we see some more of each other, ne? If Jan, she like my quote.’

He was still staring at her with those teasing eyes, his mouth curling in a smile. ‘Uh . . . okay. Yes . . .  maybe . . .  if Jan likes your quote,’ she was standing there awkwardly, flustered for no good reason, ‘well . . . okay . . . uh . . . well, things to do, you know. So! . . . well, perhaps we will meet again . . .’

As she walked away down the side of the house, she could feel his eyes following her. Damn me if she didn’t wiggle her hips a little.

She paused at the rear of his ute, memorising his mobile number which was painted on tailgate. ‘Just in case‘, she told herself. Back in her house, she added the number to the note with his vehicle details.

 – – – – – – – – -

Bob was home on the dot of 6.30pm, the same as always. He greeted her with a peck on the cheek and poured them each a drink. ‘Did a builder come to Jan’s today?’

Liz took a gulp of her drink. ‘Yeeeessss.’

‘Oh good! She wants to get some work done while she is away. Hope his quote is good. Did he look professional?’

‘Yeeessss . . . How do you know about it?’

‘Jan emailed me at work.’

‘Why you? How come she didn’t email me? I’m the one who’s home.’

‘Beats me. S’pose she could be sure I saw the email. You wouldn’t always have the computer on.’

‘Well why didn’t she text me? it would’ve been helpful to know he was coming.’

‘You’re asking me how a woman’s mind works? How would I know? She just did, that’s all. I’ll let her know tomorrow.’ Bob had already turned away, was switching the TV on for the seven o’clock news. ‘Dinner on time?’

Bob liked to watch the news while they ate, and he didn’t like chit-chat, especially not during the sports report. Then he would switch to the living room television while she cleaned up and he drank a few beers. Tonight was just the same as always. It wasn’t long before Liz heard him snoring. He’d start with the snuffling and snorting, and work up to the chain saw rattling. Usually she sat with him in the living room with the television sound full up, but somehow she felt that tonight she couldn’t bear it. Everything was just the same as always, except that Liz felt different, unsettled somehow. She couldn’t put her finger on it.

She’d go to bed with a good book. The women at the tennis club joked that was better than sex. Liz didn’t have much to compare it with. Hadn’t been much sex in their house for months – she couldn’t rightly remember the last time.

Her handbag was on the kitchen bench. As she reached for it, her eye fell on the note with Tony Babic’s details. ‘So much for neighbourhood watch,’ she thought, ‘Jan could have saved me the bother.’ She screwed it into a ball and threw it towards the bin. She missed.

In the next room, Bob’s snoring was like an out of tune orchestra. She felt a rush of irritation. Every night the same routine.

My bloody crap boring life. My bloody, bloody, oh so crap life.

The note was lying on the floor. She stepped over to pick it up and throw it in the bin. But she didn’t. She picked it up all right. But then she lay it on the kitchen bench, smoothed it, folded it, and put it in her purse. She didn’t know why. She just did, that’s all.


This is thefourth part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read part one, go here, part two, go here, part three, go here







Liz Thurlow Meets Tony Babic

Liz was back at her front window just in time to catch a glimpse of Tony Babic as he strolled around to the rear of Jan’s house. Already she was thinking of him by name, when in reality she had no idea who he was. Or why he was casing out her neighbour’s house.

Liz hesitated, not knowing what to do. Should she confront him? It was secluded around the back of the house, out of sight of other neighbours. What if he turned on her, hit her, or stabbed her? She could be lying there for hours waiting for help and no one would know. Liz had agreed to water Jan’s garden, not fight off intruders. Best just stay in the house and keep an eye on what he was up to. Surely it would be enough that she could give police a description and the vehicle details.

But something about Tony Babic had stirred Liz’s curiosity. When asked about it later, she couldn’t explain it. She couldn’t even explain it to herself. Call it boredom. Her bloody life was so damn ordinary. Repetitive. Predictable. She was sick of playing it safe.

She pocketed her keys and eased her front door closed. That’s silly, she thought, why am I creeping around? Best to look assertive. She squared her shoulders, strode across her lawn and marched down the side of Jan’s house. Look assertive, look assertive.

‘Are you looking for someone?’ she spoke at his back. She meant to sound imperious, but her voice wobbled, squeaked on the ‘someone’.

He swung around, and she took a step backwards. ‘Shit!’ Then he recovered himself. ‘Oh . . . sorry lady, you surprise me.’ Liz couldn’t quite place his guttural accent. Russian, maybe.

‘I said – are you looking for someone?’

‘Me? No, no. I here to look at house for lady.’

‘You mean the owner.’

‘Thas right. She call me come take a look for some changes she wans. Fix it up a little.’

Liz was about to say that Jan was away for three months. Then she thought better of that.

‘She is not home today.’

‘Oh yeah. She tell me. Gone for a few months. Wan some things fixed up. She tell me just a little job. But it look to me like she wanna fix a lot.’ A smile was playing around the corners of his mouth as he spoke, and Liz had the feeling that he was appraising her. From the top of her long blonde hair, pulled back into a neat pony tail, all the way down to her long tanned legs, shown off to their best in her short tennis skirt.

Liz stared him full in the face, trying to look as if she could intimidate him, but it was if their eyes were locked. His were so dark brown, and framed in thick lashes. She didn’t think she’d ever seen such expressive eyes on a man. These were the eyes of a poet, like Khalil Gibran, or perhaps an actor, like Omar Sharif. These were not the eyes of a builder, at least, no builder she had ever met.

But those thighs, well they were another thing. They were the muscular thighs of a man who worked out, or maybe, a man who worked outside. She broke off her stare, shifted her gaze into the distance as if she had lost interest in the conversation, and all the time she held those thighs there in her peripheral vision.

He broke the spell, outstretching his hand to shake hers, ‘Tony Babich . . .builder.‘  His grin had a cheeky edge, as if he had read her thoughts.

This is the third part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read part one, go here

To read part two, go here.