I’ve always preferred the in-betweeners to the milestones, until now.

I’ve always preferred the birthdays in-between to the milestones — the 37s and 43s that just require a drink and no reflection on one’s progress. The last milestone I celebrated was my 21st, a slap-up meal with some favourites at Swami’s Uninflated, a cheap, long-gone Indian in Newtown.

There’s not a lot to prove at 21, not much progress or reflection required. Though even off a low bar I expect I was underperforming. I’d pulled a lot of beers, trudged around Europe and acquired an obnoxious German boyfriend, but I hadn’t exactly set myself on a Direction in Life.


‘Moscow’ Mike Brunker got the nickname that would stick for life as an 18-year-old apprentice diesel fitter, when he was selected to go to the 1985 World Youth Festival in Russia.

“It was a fantastic trip and an eye opener,” he says. “Russia was just going into perestroika. There were thousands of people representing all walks of life, I was representing young workers.

“For a young kid to come out of Collinsville and go to Moscow, it was a big thing for me. When I got back I became Moscow Mike.”

Flying from Central Queensland to the USSR seems an…

I hated people telling me to ‘enjoy every moment’ with my baby, now I want to shriek it at strangers

When my son was born 18 years ago, it was compulsory for every single well-wisher to say: ‘Enjoy every moment! It goes so fast!’ I hated them.

At the start, it wasn’t that easy to enjoy any moments and their words were a constant reminder of that.

Fit, healthy me had assumed I’d be terrific at giving birth. I was an efficient and capable young woman. I was good at lots of things, goddammit. But no. Pushing out babies was not one of them. …

Not all heroes wear capes :-)

I thought I’d write something in our birthday week.
We’re two years and a few June days apart,
Gemini twins.
It would be quirky and funny and sad.
Sad, but uplifting in the end.

I thought I’d write something
about growing up with a heroin addict brother.
It would be brutal of course. It would shock you.
But we are either side of 50 now, me and him.
I’d write something gracious about the long arc of time
— time to heal, resolve, rebuild,

I thought I’d write how certain you are the horror can’t last,
how a person in…

I was 14, he was 31. He told me it was love and who was I to argue?

I wonder if he watches the news and thinks his time might come. Men have gone to jail for much less than what he did. I wouldn’t seek that, but I don’t mind the idea of him worrying about it. I don’t mind that at all.

Some years ago, he contacted me on Facebook: “Look at you all grown up, with babies.” He sent me a friend request but said he understood if I didn’t want it. I didn’t.

It rattled me to hear from him out of the blue. I told him that perhaps it hadn’t been his intention…

Having my kids stand on the rim of an active volcano had been my idea, but I was rapidly losing confidence it was a good one. After a magical solo visit to East Java’s famous Mt Bromo a few years ago, I’d had it in mind I’d love to bring them. The chance came up, and here we were. But things weren’t as I remembered.

The thrilling but unthreatening white smoke plume of my last visit was replaced by a thick, stinking sulphurous cloud. The mountain itself — silent before — was roaring like a jet plane. There were so…

Thousand-year-old Buddhist enclave perched on a mountain-top. Temples. Shrines. Steep cable-car. Living tradition. I was hooked as soon as I saw Koyasan in the Japan tour guide. How could it not be on the itinerary for our family holiday?

There were a few things I was worried about after booking a self-guided walking tour along Japan’s Nakasendo Way.

Getting rained out, comfort (or rather, discomfort) levels at the traditional accommodation along the way, but mostly the prospect of Miserable Children and manifestations thereof – whinging, scowling, bickering etc.

Four days of rain would be disappointing, four days of complaining would surely break me.

I needn’t have worried. The rain waited until after we were well-fed and tucked up in our cosy futons each night and disgruntlement stayed away completely.

So when I told my friends I was going to climb a volcano, it turns out I was overstating the ‘climb’ part.

After all, Gunung (Mount) Bromo is a Javanese tourist destination and recreational exercise isn’t really a big thing here. Whether shopping or volcano hopping, the aim is generally to get the vehicle as close to the intended destination as possible. Why anyone would walk for fun is a mystery.

The driver of our jeep – the only cars fit for the mountainous, lava-scarred landscape in the Bromo Tengger Semuru National Park — explains apologetically that after he parks…

My mother had a complicated relationship with relaxation. She yearned for it, but didn’t really have the constitution.

I remember walking into her dark bedroom, aged seven or eight, to a screech from the dim far side of the bed: “Fuck off! I’m meditating!”

I didn’t really know what meditating was but I figured pretty quickly it wasn’t to be disturbed. And I’d blown it. As a child I filed the exchange in the deep internal folder marked: “Oh my god, I’ve upset my mother. Is it bad? I think it’s bad.”

I’ve revisited that moment over the years. Giggled…

Jackie Woods

Sometimes writer, Sydneysider.

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