Creative Nonfiction Funny Inspirational


7pm August 13th 2022

Mission Beach State School

Have I forgotten anything I ask myself, for the umpteenth time? Umpteenth, how many is that? Does it really matter? I just wish I could stop shaking.

“Poachie, time to get the night started. You are on!”

 I hear Penny’s voice coming from up on the stage. If I have forgotten something, it is too late.

I already regret being here. I could not have a sound check done before tonight. A compere’s worst nightmare is sound breakdown.

I climb the short stairs to the stage. Why do I recall there were only five? Another ‘does it really matter’ question. Same answer. No, not at all. I am still shaking.

A polite round of applause greets me as I reach the stage. I don’t know why. Most of these people have never met me. A sea of unrecognised faces fills the auditorium. Earlier I had watched the crowd of people grow exponentially with each opening of the doors. Not for the first time I ask myself how I got into this situation? Answer ‘because your ego wouldn’t allow you to say no’. I always liked the 1975 hit by Skyhooks, ‘Ego is not a Dirty word’.

Sure! I’ll do it, be happy to. After all it is for a worthwhile cause, the local school fund raising night. A night of Trivia, how hard can compering for about three hours be? The other benefit is it is a nice little earner to add to my pension. Perhaps my wife Rachel will be able to afford that lettuce she has always wanted. Ha ha. I might be able to use that bit on the night.

Will I ever learn? Probably not. As I am in my eighty fourth year the adage concerning the difficulty teaching an old dog new tricks is apt. Ask my wife. Rachel doesn’t believe in gilding the lily, she just tells everyone I am pig headed or stubborn as a mule. Thankfully those two animals are the only ones in her ‘put Poachie down’ repertoire when I take on something like this. I always get embarrassed asking about money so when I did get around to asking Penny how much I was getting, she pointed to the word volunteer, opened her dictionary at page 487 and suggested I acquaint myself with the meaning of ‘volunteer’. No, I will never learn, Rachel is correct.

I realise the auditorium has gone quiet. The audience are waiting, I must say something. All my clever openings are forgotten Mr Hippocampus has gone into meltdown. Thankfully a single thought stumbles forward then forces itself to the forefront of my consciousness. I have to go with it, there is no option. Suddenly I realise this is the way I always intended to begin.

 ‘I will begin tonight by recognising the Djiru people, traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting tonight.’

I am on a roll, the audience are respectful of this acknowledgement of the local Djiru people. They have gone quiet giving the appearance they are listening.

I continue, ‘I wish to pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islanders who are with us tonight’.

The audience remain silent as I pause and almost whisper ‘Thank You’ into the microphone. At least the nerves are slowing down their attempt to play be- bop- a- lula in my stomach. The shaking is now minimal, almost under control. Operative word ‘almost’ As if by magic it all starts flooding back, all the clever lines, all the put downs for the interrupters, the running order. My Hippocampus has kicked in and is up and running big time. All I need to go well is my introduction and the dormant chrysalis, me, will emerge into a butterfly. I cannot help smiling thinking of myself as the Ulysses butterfly. Putting a butterfly and me in the same sentence will be a perfect example of an anachronism.

Oh, it’s gone quiet again. Do your introduction I tell myself.

‘Welcome, welcome, welcome Ladies and Gentlemen. (Stephen Fry used that all the time on QI, it worked for him) If you are not comfortable with either of those categories, you are still welcome’, I say while smiling. (Slight ripple of subdued laughter is less than I hoped for.) Obviously I am no Stephen Fry.

I have to continue. I answer to the name Poachie, a name I was given when I worked on Dunk Island back in the eighties. Anything you can make up about how it came about will be far more interesting than the real story.(No interest, this is not working. Should I play the age card? If I am going to die on stage, that might do it. I could forget it all and go straight to Trivia questions, the Trivia card might be my way back.)

(Live by the sword, die by the sword. Perhaps that should be by the word.)

I say, ‘Tonight we are here to play Trivia’. This works a treat. Once I take on the role of Master of the Class dissecting the word TRIVIA into two sections TRI and VIA I have their attention.

The mention of me first going to school 80 years ago and suggesting that was not quite in the Jurassic period works. Many laugh. The majority of the audience are on side as they relax into the night. Maybe the drink service is doing a fine job. More important, I am in total control of my emotions, and the audience.

If I were asked to describe the rest of the evening I would have to modestly admit it was a resounding success. Resounding? Even I would have to question that assessment considering the sound system was without doubt the worst I have ever worked with. However I still I got a lot of laughs, OK a few laughs. The audience particularly liked the navy story. I still laugh each time I tell that story. The Fashion Parade for the Best Theme Dressed group was a success. Nominating myself as the best dressed male was not a master stroke. It went over well, is what I mean, calling it a master stroke would have been too much of a stretch. A considerable amount of money was raised. I was congratulated on my compering by the organizing committee President and several guests, although I did have trouble translating from their slurred words. Maybe the bar service is doing too good a job.

It is only after I stop compering on stage I realise how tired I am. Drained really, drained but a with a feeling of comfort, and it is well past my bedtime. Being a recently released butterfly is not easy. Becoming a sought after compere at nearly 84 indicates age is not a deterrent to a later than usual emergence of a latent talent. This must also indicate there is a market for some enterprising young person to tap into. There are older persons than me in our village, but not many.

Six, or is it seven, years ago, Rachel and I moved to South Mission Beach? We had retired several years earlier, 2009 actually. A delightful relaxed lifestyle we tell everyone who will listen.

Let me take you on a journey of what this relaxed lifestyle has encompassed since our arrival, a journey following retirement.

For the past six years we both have volunteered at the Visitor Information Centre. Following some research (200 pages of research) into the local history I was asked to take on the mantle of History Tour Guide. I am almost positive this is a cunning marketing plan. The thinking being, as I am the oldest person volunteering at the Visitor’s Centre the people on the History Tour already feel they are in touch with the past before we even set off. (I do accept the term ‘most senior’ far more readily). In 2017 I was voted Volunteer of the year. In 2018 I put a successful programe together to bring the iconic Melbourne Cup to Mission Beach which raised money for the local school and the Surf Life-Saving Club. As a result I was awarded Event of the Year at the 2019 Cassowary Coast Australia Day ceremony. December the same year Rachel and I eloped to Vanuatu to get married after twenty - seven years together. Rachel was 75 I was then 80. We decide not to have children, we realise it is a selfish decision depriving ourselves of the joys of young children however it was a considered decision.

My limited writing talents came to the fore and, as well as winning a non-fiction writing competition, I wrote a series of articles on ‘Successful Women of the Cassowary Coast’ for the local newspaper.

Covid has slowed us down a little. Rachel only plays tennis one morning a week and goes to the Gym twice weekly in addition to her shift at the Visitor’s Centre. Me, well Visitor’s Centre shifts, Tour Guide and writing the fifth of my full length novels keeps me off the streets. Rachel will tell you I wasn’t making any money out there anyway.

What does this prove? Well the best way I can explain is to take the George Bernard Shaw quote, “Youth is the most precious thing we have in life, it is a shame it is wasted on young people’, then in my opinion what is a real shame is he did not continue and say,’ “Emergence has no such time frame. It can come at any time of life”.

 A comforting realisation that despite popular opinion the really happy days are the days when I get out of bed and can remain vertical.

August 29, 2022 03:58

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Tori Routsong
03:32 Sep 08, 2022

This story is very nice! I really like how you set the atmosphere!


Brian Bywater
20:58 Sep 08, 2022

Thank you Tori for taking the time to read my missive on a true story, or on how i actually felt at the time.


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