Category Archives: Fixing Antarctica

Chapter two part three

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Young man on the streetSo far in Embraceable You. Josefine Hanrahan, the  daughter of mining tycoon St John Hanrahan, has escaped from her boarding school to play her saxophone in the mist garden beside the National Art Gallery. There she will connect spiritually with her mother Liv, who died when Josefine was six years old. Unfortunately, she has just been located by her collage principal, Miss O’Mara.

“Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you. Embrace me, you irreplaceable you,” the sound of Liv singing played in Josefine’s head. She opened her eyes and saw that the rusty sculpture, the bones of a becalmed ship, was enveloped, embraced, by a salty ocean of greying smoke. Standing quite close by, looking down on her with an odd mixture of emotions on her face, was Miss O’Mara, her college principal.

“I thought I’d find you here.”

“Miss,” Josefine acknowledged her teacher’s words with cool politeness.

“You were playing beautifully.”

“Embraceable you.”

“I know. Gershwin.”

“Are you angry?”

“I’m disappointed.”

“Sorry.”

The spell of the saxophone’s haunting voice was broken. The tourists, who had been tip-toeing around quietly, respectfully leaving the girl and her saxophone in privacy, now stood and openly listened in. Liv was gone and Josefine was just another moody teenage girl.

“You need to come with me now.”

“No.”

“Josefine, there are always security issues surrounding your whereabouts, issues you are well aware of, that make it imperative that we know, at all times, where you are.”

“If I’d asked, you would have said no.”

“Or yes.”

“But then, you’d have insisted on coming with me.”

“For your own safety.”

“I wanted to be alone.”

“We don’t want a public scene, do we?”

“We don’t want everyone knowing that Josefine Hanrahan went AWOL from her school. Or rather, that Our Lady of Dolores college lost their prize fish for a while,” Josefine snapped in a peevishly childish whine that carried much more clearly than she intended.

Somewhere in the depths of her heart, Josefine caught a fleeting image of Liv’s face shadowed by sadness.

The middle-aged woman leant in closer as she whispered: “Josefine, you know perfectly well why we don’t make public announcements like that.”

The Hanrahan heiress was always a kidnap risk. The board of Our Lady of Dolores had held a special meeting when St John chose their school to send his returned daughter. They had even discussed the feasibility of accepting her there under a false name. In the end they decided it was much too likely that the uncooperative eight year old would undo their work by telling everyone who she was. That scheme was dropped. They had extra security and extra rules that applied just to her. She made a habit of ignoring them both.

Josefine knew she was behaving childishly. She liked Miss O’Mara and knew that it wasn’t her fault that she had to come to fetch her back. She’d probably been standing there for a long time, letting the miscreant have some privacy in the garden, and that was kind. But Josefine was eighteen, for heaven’s sake, and it wasn’t as though she’d been out dancing at a disco. She was just having a quiet session jamming with her mother in the mist garden, bothering no-one.

“Fine,” she sulked. She pulled the saxophone apart and packed it into its case. “I’m finished anyway.”

“Good,” replied Miss O’Mara crisply.

She extended a hand to help the girl to her feet. The hand was ignored and the uncoordinated teenager stumbled as she rose and turned her back on her teacher.

“Let’s go,” Josefine spat over her shoulder as she gathered her coat into shape and slouched off moodily, leaving the saxophone case on the ground behind her. This forced Miss O’Mara to pick it up to avoid another public outburst.

The tall, skinny girl cast a belligerent eye over the faces of the small number of curious spectators witnessing the public spat. A ferocious scowl locked her eyebrows together and her blue eyes were hidden under semi-closed lids lined by long, thick dark lashes. She looked off to the edges of the crowd and couldn’t see the security guards who shadowed her moves, even though she’d become quite adept at spotting the ever changing personnel of her security team amidst the faces of crowds. None of the men and women in the garden looked away in the telltale manner when she scanned their face.

Josefine did notice someone unusual. Just at the entrance to the mist garden, not blending in any way despite the drifting thick curtains of ambient mist, was an extraordinarily tall, hunky boy, well… a man really, standing like a mountain of muscle. He was watching her with a look of intense fascination on his face.

Perhaps it was going to be a good birthday after all, thought Josefine, as a smile began to wriggle all over the top of her teenage scowl, like a puppy begging to be allowed into the kitchen.

 

 

e has just been located by her school principal, Miss

Chapter two – part two

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Singing woman on grey backgroundSo far in Embraceable You. Josefine Hanrahan, the neglected daughter of mining tycoon St John Hanrahan, has escaped from her boarding school to play her saxophone in the mist garden beside the National Art Gallery. There she will connect spiritually with her mother Liv, who died when Josefine was six years old.

Josefine had been told fragments of her parents’ story, partial explanations for what made a soulful Danish beauty marry an empty vessel like her father, but it never made complete sense to her. Liv Axelsen was an air hostess on an international flight which had ferried her father to a business meeting and the busy tycoon had been so enchanted that he bought a ticket and got straight back on the plane, missing all his connections as he followed her home. Morfar, her grandfather, never joined in with the story but Mormor Axelsen told it as though it was a great romance, that the great and powerful St John Hanrahan was so overwhelmed with love that he couldn’t help himself. She told it as if Liv’s signature song had come true for her.

Just one look at you,” the lyrics explained, “and my heart grew tipsy in me.”

Mormor blended real life with Gershwin, as if she actually believed St John was capable of feeling any sort of emotion for another human being.

You and you alone, you bring out the gypsy in me.”

Maybe Liv briefly believed in the fairy tale too, because she was raised with love but Josefine recognized that St John pursued with an acquisitive impulse, not for love. He saw something he wanted, paid the price to acquire it and then lost interest once Liv was his, as he had done with possessions all his life.

Josefine noticed that when Liv sang, her thoughts were a long way away.  Not wanting to break the spell, she never once asked who her mother was thinking about, but she hoped with all her heart, that the wistful expression wasn’t anything at all to do with her father.  Josefine never saw her father touch her mother, not once. She’d never intercepted a tender look between her parents. In fact, she could barely recall seeing the two of them together except in photographs in newspapers and magazines as the smartly dressed couple posed with fixed smiles, framed by luminaries at important social functions.

Even as she played the role of society hostess, always being supportive and smiling in public, Liv Hanrahan constantly defied her husband’s wishes about their child. St John wanted his daughter despatched to the care of nannies as soon as she was born and to a boarding school as soon as she turned five, but Liv kept Josefine close. There was love in spadefuls in the Hanrahan home, but it was all locked up in the bond between the woman and her child.

Through business magazines in the school library, Josefine followed her father’s ventures.  Like a hunter, she tracked his company acquisitions and hostile corporate raids; she probably knew more about St John Hanrahan than most of the men who sat on his boards. In neat notepads, she kept extensive records of the patterns that made him swoop down and swallow up companies that seemed irrelevant to his vast empire.

“Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you. Embrace me, you irreplaceable you,” the sound of Liv singing played in Josefine’s head. She opened her eyes and saw that the rusty sculpture, the bones of a becalmed ship, was enveloped, embraced, by a salty ocean of greying smoke. Standing quite close by, looking down on her with an odd mixture of emotions on her face, was Miss O’Mara, her college principal.

“I thought I’d find you here.”

 

Chapter two – part one

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So far in Embraceable You. Josefine Hanrahan, the neglected daughter of mining tycoon St John Hanrahan, has escaped from her boarding school to play her saxophone in the mist garden beside the National Art Gallery. There she will connect spiritually with her mother Liv, who died when Josefine was six years old.

 

the three of them cropped

 

 

Chapter Two

The sound filled the mist laden space inside the Canberra garden with a smooth, mellow, honey-wine moan. With her eyes closed she imagined herself back in on the Jutland Peninsula in the blue sitting room of her grandparents’ small white house, with a frozen waterway just outside, glittering and brittle in the thin light. Her mother was reclining on the sofa just across the white shag pile carpet and every now and then the soft scuffing at the door indicated that Mormor Axelsen had crept stealthily past, looking in at the two of them, as they blended together into a precious memory wrapped in the cadence of Embraceable You.

“I’ll be hugging you whenever you play it. Wherever you are, you’ll know I’m watching you and loving embraceable you.”

Josefine was not drawn out of her memory by the occasional scuffing sounds, as tourists, visiting the lovely misted space, made the round white pebbles tinkle in sharp vibrations. There was an agreed quietness whenever she played there and she was grateful for the thoughtfulness of strangers. It was kind of them to hush, to let the girl play. Their unseen presence, outside the pink-veined membrane of her closed eyelids, somehow added to her sense of spiritual reconnection with Liv.

“Love’s the only thing that matters,” she whispered to herself.

“That’s it, Princess. Don’t you ever forget. My sweet Embraceable You.”

Liv’s reply seemed so real it was hard to believe she wasn’t there. Her mother would have been sad, but unsurprised, that her daughter made no friends at school. She would have understood and been lovingly reassuring as her awkward girl grew into a mismatch of features that had not blended. It had been the same way for her, Liv insisted. It was hard to believe that her mother had been an ugly duckling as a teenager but even smiling Mormor Axelsen had nodded and agreed that it was so.

“Your mother’s mouth and legs grew like topsy but then, when she was seventeen or eighteen, it all stopped and the rest of her caught up and look what a beauty she is now. My lovely swan emerged in all her glory.”

She’d always be looking at the portrait of Liv on the wall when she said it for the pale sick version of Liv was not the swan she was talking about.

Chapter one – part four.

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So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a  lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

Play Saxophon

“I want you to remember that love’s the only thing that matters. Will you do that for me, Baby?”

So blue, her mother’s eyes were, even when the rest of her faded.

“I’ll remember Mummy.”

“Say it for me, baby girl.”

After Liv died, taking longer than St John had budgeted for, her father made the trip himself to fetch his daughter back. She must have made a sad little bundle with Mormor’s small cardboard suitcase and a battered leather saxophone case – all arms and legs and bewilderment. As she’d been expecting an envoy, Josefine briefly thought that his arrival was a sign of love for his only child. It was a fleeting delusion. She read in the in-flight newspaper that it was the only way that the Danish authorities would agree to her leaving the country. Liv Axelsen’s daughter had dual citizenship and her maternal grandparents had contested their son-in-law’s demand that they return his off-spring, so he had to come to collect her himself. How annoyed he must have been to be forced to take his eyes off managing every little thing in the conglomerate that was Hanrahan Iron!

A couple of years later, she checked the business pages for December that year and found an article which confirmed that the company’s share price dropped one percent during the week that St John was fetching back the inconvenient child. Extrapolating from the information, she calculated that JosefineKarla Hanrahan was worth over five hundred million dollars a week when she was just eight and a half years old. She wondered if, like a good wine, her market value might even improve with age.

“Happy birthday Josefine,” the senior year school girl murmured to herself as she bundled up her golden saxophone and set out from Our Lady’s gated grounds.

The bodyguards her father paid to protect her should have known she would creep out through this path, but she’d scanned with an expert eye and she couldn’t see them. The walk along the lake from the school was cold and crisp and she could feel the frosted grass snapping under her feet.

In the sculpture garden, the automatic timers had not yet turned on the misters, so the central sculpture was just rusty metal strips, evoking the impression of a ship hull sallying forth amidst waves of soft fern tendrils. Josefine nestled into the pebbles on the ground. They were cold under the thick fabric of her heavy overcoat and her saxophone was icy to touch as she slipped the pieces together. She closed her eyes as she placed the mouthpiece between her lips. It was only because her torso she was so elongated that she could sit on the ground and play without the saxophone bumping onto the pebbles. There was one advantage to being freakishly tall.

“Happy birthday Josefine,’ she whispered to herself as she began to play.

Chapter one – part three

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Singing woman on grey background

So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a  lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

For the ten years that she’d been a boarder at Our Lady, Josefine had the largest room in the building, much bigger than the college tutor’s apartment down on the ground floor. She had defied the convention of moving rooms when she graduated to middle school and then to the high school and stayed in her renovated double quarters. For a decade, Josefine had been able to gaze at the ducks on the lake in either of two stained glass windows, if she wanted to.

On that particular frosty mid-May morning, however, that was not what she wanted to do. As soon as she finished her hot chocolate, what she planned to do was pack up her tenor saxophone and make her way, sans permission, to the Japanese mist sculpture garden beside the National Art Gallery. There, she would play her mother’s favourite song “Embraceable You” until her mouth bled and, through every rendition, she would imagine that Liv was right there behind her with her cool hand on her shoulder, preparing to sing in her surprisingly clear confident Ella Fitzgerald, bluesy voice. Her long black lashes would line her eyelids like a pair of little dark smiles and the sound of love and longing would rise up through the mist like it used to when she was alive.

As a little girl, Josefine had Liv with her for six wonderful years, followed by two more not-so-wonderful years while her beautiful Danish mother suffered through a slow, wasting death in her home town. In the pretty fjord town of Vejle, Liv was weak, thin and pale all the time. Trying to pack so much into too short a time, she would hold her daughter’s face in her hands, smile into her eyes and tell her that she was loved. Then she would sing until she had to stop for the coughing.

Why do you have to leave me?”  How she ached to voice her anguish but Mormor made her promise that she’d never ask Liv that question.

Liv took Josefine to Denmark to be out of St John’s reach, to thwart his intention to send their daughter to send her to boarding school. The Jutland Peninsular was not really beyond the reach of Australia’s Richest, of course, but they were sufficiently out of his thoughts for Liv to be permitted to fade with Josefine close to her, cramming all the mothering she could, into the dying years. Most mornings they would retreat somewhere, just the young woman and her daughter.

Without musical accompaniment, Liv would sing. In their second year in Vejle, Mormor had brought out an old saxophone and presented it to Josefine for Christmas. When the girl took to the instrument as if born to play, Morfar gave her proper lessons and then she realized the saxophone was his and she noticed that Liv’s passion for jazz was something she shared with her father. With or without the saxophone, Liv would let her long, dark hair fall forward over one shoulder, close her blue-as-the-sky eyes and let her voice soar.

Embraceable You.

Chapter one, part 2

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So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

 

It was Saturday. The girls were free to do whatever they wanted on Saturdays except leave the school campus without letting the staff know where they were going.

Most of the other girls in her wing would already be out on Lake Burley Griffin, rowing. That was a team sport and Josefine wasn’t a team player, so she wasn’t invited into any of the crews. Some of the girls would play tennis after breakfast.

Josefine had two left feet, two large left feet, and no hand-eye co-ordination so the ball was never in the spot where her racquet floundered ineffectually. As usual, there were no tennis invitations for her which was just fine as far as she was concerned; she didn’t like sport.

“Call me JK,” she once suggested hopefully, to the girls in her class.

It wasn’t much to ask of a cohort whose cosy nicknames, allocated by loving families, were destined to follow them into adulthood. The rare moment of exposing her insecurity had harvested only a snide campaign against her. She heard giggling whispers as she cowered in the bathroom cubicle and knew then that Bundle Haig was encouraging her friends to call Josefine something else entirely.

“We should call her Too Hanrahan,” she heard the melodious voice, which carried with such clarity, explaining to a coterie of admiring boarders.

She was a trendsetter, was Bundle, a ringleader whose every opinion, every fashion innovation was slavishly copied.

“She’s too tall, too skinny, her chest is too flat, her jaw is too square and her mouth is too wide,” someone else chimed in.

They probably knew she was in the bathroom with them but still, the whispering was audible and so she heard Sharna Petherbridge-Wedderburn add: “…and she’s too clumsy.”

Too rich, they probably said that as well, for her father was the richest man in Australia. The Business Review Monthly listed St John Hanrahan at the top of the ‘ten richest’ for so long that their readers had probably stopped bothering to look there. There was a chasm between first and second place that meant her father had long been unassailable at the top of the pile.

Luckily for Too Hanrahan, this meant that when she was dispatched to Our Lady of Dolores College as an inconvenient parcel, at least her father could afford to pay for a very nice room and he saw it as a matter of social standing that his daughter had the best. In fact, she’d ratcheted up her privileged place in the best room with the nicest view, by demanding that they combine two rooms into one. St John had delegated the request to a junior secretary (not Happy Birthday Josephine but some other member of the shifting sands in the secretarial pool) and it was done.

The Southern Journey

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We have been lying here gazing back at the men of old. They stand like beacons to show us the way, to give us inspiration and patience and hope. I find myself wondering 45if I am worthy to carry the frayed banner they have passed to us. Theirs is the past, ours is the future, how will we show in a hundred—or even fifty or twenty years—one thing is sure those giants of old shall never be eclipsed.

—Syd Kirkby, Personal Journal, 30 October 1956

 

The expeditioners left with the sun in their faces. Some were walking; others were driving the languorous weasels as they headed towards the steep ascent onto the plateau. The dogs’ plume tails waved like cheerleaders’ pompoms, and the curling white wisps of their breath danced ahead like spectral apparitions. The whole party was excited—this was the major endeavour of their year in Antarctica. The ebullient surveyor had irritated and charmed, been a moody bugger and a cheerful brat; he had been respectfully awestruck and disrespectfully rude, but he was their uncouth youth. He was diligent, talented, and committed, and this was Australia’s most important expedition since Mawson Station was established.

Their destination was the Prince Charles Mountains (now the Northern Prince Charles Mountains), first sighted and photographed by the US Air Force during Operation Highjump in 1947. In 1954, Bob Dovers almost became the first man to reach the range overland. He gazed across a physical divide of treacherous crevassing at the pavilions of soaring peaks, observed an astrofix, and turned back at Peak 7, leaving Weasel Three to become a poignant ellipsis in the ice.