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Chapter two – part two


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 one – part four.


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.

Bit of a culture shock!!!


Last year we were trekking through Antarctica with the scientists at Mawson base in 1956. This year I’m beginning a new project as a fiction writer of romantic comedy. The novel I’m publishing twice a week is called Embraceable You. It’s the story of a highly successful businesswoman, supermodel Karla, who is accidentally trapped in the jungle for three weeks with her old enemy Obie Hurst. While she gets herself out of that tangle, her tycoon father seizes the moment to destroy her business empire, ruin her reputation and bankrupt her. Why not? He is a psychopath, after all.

Now I know this will all be a bit of a shock for people who followed the blogs last year so I’ll understand if you give a polite little cough and head for the hills.

Have a great year everyone, and if you’re still around after this, please enjoy the first chapter of Embraceable You.Romantic couple in the tropical jungle


Still waiting

Doug Leckie at the Beaver controls

Doug Leckie at the Beaver controls

Throughout October the team at Mawson Base celebrated the return of the sun with higher spirits and more exploratory forays with the dogs and the weasels out onto the plateau. Still, for Syd it was a time of waiting, for Phil had still not approved the Southern Journey.

On Thursday, 27 October, an exploratory flight in the Auster, this time viewing the terrain of the Edward VIIIth Gulf to the WSW of Mawson, found ‘new bays and a couple of new mountains inland. The main interest though was the last thirty or so miles home with cloud down to the deck’.

On the return trip the plane flew into a blizzard. Heavy cloud, drifting snow and strong winds forced the pilot down, keeping visual contact with the ground. Above the clouds, any descent could be straight into a mountain. Without maps or previous visual sightings, a pilot has absolutely no idea when solid rock might suddenly reach into the sky.

The pilot Doug leckie was pushed so far down that they were flying amongst mountain tops and before the ordeal was over, he was flying below the ice cliff height, over the sea-ice in drifting snow, flying on instruments.

Looking out the right hand side of the aeroplane, trying to remember the coastline from the last time they were down there, Syd was calling to Doug, ‘turn left, turn right’, ensuring they kept contact with the coast.

Losing sight of the cliffs brought the double danger of hitting an iceberg and not being able to re-establish contact with the land. The trip lasted twelve hours and Syd went to bed that night ‘on doses of amphetamine and … a couple of Ronicols’.

1956 Obituary  photo

The rays on the horizon.


The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 11 September

Syd and the Mawson winterers looked eagerly at the crepuscular rays which were beaming weakly from below the horizon, a little higher each morning, staying a little longer each day.

Back in Australia Phil Law was assembling and training the teams for Macquarie Island and Mawson.

Phil was also busy assembling the team for a pioneer settlement in Prydz Bay for Australia’s second mainland base, Davis Station. The incoming relief team would spent ten days finding the site, behind a pebbly beach fronting the Vestfold Hills, off-loading and building a sleeping hut, community hut, engine hut, store hut, balloon-filling shed, and auroral observatory hut and raising the flag. A party of four men would be left there for the winter while the Kista pressed on to Mawson.

Thinking about a team preparing to replace them gave Syd a severe pain in the stomach for they were still confined to base, waiting for the sun to provide more daylight hours to allow plane reconnaissance and, much more importantly, waiting for Phil to approve their major exploration into the inland. The Southern Journey would be Syd’s great exploratory foray into the unknown in Antarctica but through September he had little success in assembling the team to come with him and Antarctic Division had still not approved it.

800px-Antarctic_Region copy

The Theodolites froze

Photo by Richard Ruker. Syd Kirkby using a theodolite in Enderby Land 1960

Photo by Richard Ruker.
Syd Kirkby using a theodolite in Enderby Land 1960

Previously: In the middle of August, Mawson’s OiC (Officer in charge) gave Syd permission to do another short reconnaissance trip out onto sea ice, this time heading west.  Six men were going, this time taking two weasels.

They set off on Thursday 9th August, 1956, and we didn’t hear from Syd again, until Saturday, three days into the journey. He sounded happy enough, but this was sea level surveying. He was to head onto the plateau and up many mountains to carry out his surveying work in Antarctica, but even here, on the sea ice, the problem of frozen equipment and batteries was substantial and slowed his work while he stood in the below freezing winds.

Saturday 11th August

On Saturday we got away by about ten (in the morning) and set sail happily. All went well till we got about twenty miles up and then our troubles started.

We could see … ahead of us … a terrible jumble of pressure ice. .. Decided it was better to push on rather than turn back so we crept gingerly into the midst of it.

It was heart-breaking and weasel-wrecking progress though we were slowly getting nearer to a firm camp. We had a nerve-wracking mile or so while we crept along an open pressure crack as it was the only travellable route.

However dark saw us on the island and getting a brew going so life did not appear too bad despite the rapidly dropping temperature.

By night though, I would have told a very different story.

The temperature had dropped to -67°f   [-55° c]   so work was not a very happy business. I have reduced the observations and they look really nice, I don’t quite know what to do about this business, the results are good but I have to crucify myself to get them.

I had a good deal of strife with the jigger {theodolite] and lighting; one theodolite freezing solid and refusing to move at all. However the other, despite being very stiff, behaved well.

I eventually defeated the cold killing the batteries by getting two lengths of the aerial wire and making long leads so that the batteries could stay in the weasel where they had a cooker going. In bed by twelve and poured a hot milk and honey into myself plus a couple of Ronicobs and slept like a log.