Monthly Archives: April 2019

Short story: Coming Up Roses

Posted on 22/04/2019 by

SHE hears him outside the bedroom window -the sound of the spade like a hacking cough as he digs, slicing into soil.

He grunts as he leans into the job. She hears the crack of branches breaking, the thud as he throws them aside. He’s demolishing the rose garden.

There’s one remaining rose in a jar on the dresser; he promised not to dig up the bushes before this year’s bloom was over, and at least he’s kept his word.

She savours the deep burgundy of this lone survivor, its image reflected in the mirror behind it as though it would reproduce itself in defiance.

Worth 1000 words: Margaret Leggatt’s winning short story Coming Up Roses was inspired by Max Mason-Hubers’s photo of a man and his dog resting in the shade.

He’s right, of course, this time. Roses weren’t the best option for that bed, shaded as it was until mid-afternoon. It produced few blossoms, but the colour and fragrance when they appeared took her breath away.

She never picked them, but left them there, outside the bedroom window, so the aroma would drift in when the breeze was right, filling the room with sweetness.

Miriam rouses herself and moves the jar away from the mirror. Defiance never helps.

“Ah, you’re awake,” he calls, spotting her. “Enjoy your nap? Thought I’d get started before you changed your mind.”

She watches him from the window, his back and shoulders straining, his face glistening with sweat, red with exertion. He isn’t a young man anymore.

Miriam was drawn to Graeme when they met by the way he tilted his head to one side and hesitated, considering before he spoke; because of his seriousness. She was tired, at the time, of flatterers, of men too quick with the right thing to say. She’d been hurt of course, and recently, by such a one. His brooding quietness answered some need in Miriam. He had depths to plumb. She was intrigued.

They started out like most young families of their generation: a rented flat, three kids before they could really afford them, the slow haul up the ladder to a degree of security.

Miriam goes through to the back of the house, to the kitchen they’ve recently renovated. He comes in through the back door, wipes his face on his sleeve and moves beside her to pour a glass of water.

They’re cramped, there by the sink. “I knew we shouldn’t have put in so many cupboards, Miriam. I knew we’d have no space to move. I wish we’d thought about it longer. I should have known it wouldn’t work.”

Miriam smiles and nods. It is small, but she loves it. She loves having the room to store things, and the broad marble bench with space to spread out when she’s cooking. She knows not to disagree. No point.

Graeme sits at the table, takes a long drink and sighs. “That’s that, then. Those roses were wrong for that spot. I should have known. Thorny, unproductive things; a waste of space.”

Miriam smiles and joins him at the table.

This kitchen setting was their first purchase when they bought the house. Thirty years ago it was perfect – sturdy, and big enough for the five of them.

Now, of course, it dominates their diminished kitchen space. Miriam knows every dent and scratch in its surface. She remembers every set of birthday candles that have marked the years. She has pushed it against a wall and removed the extra chairs, but still, it leaves little room for movement. Graeme says nothing as she squeezes in across from him, but she reads his face.

It isn’t clear to Miriam exactly when discontent became the theme of their life together, when Graeme’s youthful introspection and self-analysis, the qualities that attracted her in the beginning,revealed their true colours, and Graeme became lost in regrets.

It isn’t clear when the effort of arguing for the positives became too hard.

“We could have put on an extension,” he says now. “I should never have settled for that second-rate job offer. I should have held out for more pay. I would have got it. If only I’d waited. We wouldn’t be here now, in a house that’s too small, and the boys never coming to stay because there’s no room. We’d have been on easy street.”

Miriam casts her eyes down and gathers her wits. What has made him remember that, at this moment?

The words are out before she can catch them, and she knows it’s too late. “You did what you thought best at the time. No-one can tell the future. You were a new graduate, and the company’s been good to us, really. We’ve been all right. The boys are just busy with their own lives, that’s all.”

“Easy for you to say,” he snaps. “You don’t know how hard it’s been, with my brothers all sailing through life, while I’m stuck in a dead-end job with a wife who always thinks everything’s rosy. Why can’t you face reality sometimes? We’re going nowhere. Every move we make is cursed.”

Miriam stands. She’s seen this coming for days now – Graeme’s burst of enthusiasm and energy, the rose-bush removal campaign, his exertion to dig them out today, to have them gone and replaced with something better. She’s been there before. She knows the signs. But it doesn’t get any easier.

She returns to the bedroom. There’s nothing she can say. He’ll finish his drink, go outside and brood for a time.

She remembers reading something about two dogs, a black one and a white one, fighting for dominance in each human soul. Graeme knows the black one well. He feeds it.

She imagines a large, gentle, pale dog, its tail wagging, watchful eyes turned towards Graeme. She imagines it leaning in so close that he could reach out and touch it, if only he would.

Outside her window the shadows lengthen, this last afternoon of summer. She lifts the rose from its water and drops it in the waste bin.

Fears of terrorist merger from ‘poison’ in south-east Asia

Posted on 22/04/2019 by

A video reportedly showing an Islamic State training camp in the Philippines. Photo: YouTube Videos posted online claim to show Philippines-based Islamic State militants training. Photo: YouTube

An Islamic State militant holds the group’s flag as he stands on a tank they captured from Syrian government forces in the town of Qaryatain, south-west of Palmyra, in August. Photo: via AP

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is seen behind bars before his hearing verdict at the South Jakarta District Court in 2011. Photo: Dimas Ardian

Jakarta/Bangkok: A merger of terrorist groups pledging allegiance to Islamic State in the Philippines could signal a new threat to the region should radicals from Indonesia also join forces, according to an expert on violent extremism.

A new video from the strife-torn southern Philippines island of Mindanao suggests four Islamic terrorist groups in the long-running insurgency have joined to declare allegiance to IS.

The video purports to show militants carrying IS flags and the heavily armed commanders of the groups that had declared their allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said was “concerned about the growing influence” of Islamic State in the region and increased co-operation between security agencies was under way in response to the threat posed by these and other extremists.

The groups, including the brutal Abu Sayyaf​, have for years justified using violence for extreme Islamist causes, but analysts say they have presented an ideological facade to cover criminal acts, including lucrative kidnappings for ransom.

“This could set a precedent in the region of disparate groups coming together and declaring bayah (pledging allegiance),” said Professor Anne Azza Aly, an expert on violent extremism, from Edith Cowan University.

“I think the level of transnational co-ordination that could come out of that between a group in Indonesia and a group in the Philippines would signal a heightened threat for Indonesia as well as for the region.”

The southern Philippines groups are already known to have recruited several notorious Indonesian terrorists, including militants from Jemaah Islamiyah, the group responsible for the Bali bombings and other attacks in south-east Asia over a decade.

In late November Philippine soldiers said they had killed Indonesian Ibrahim Alih, also known as Abdul Fatah, who was linked to the bombing of the n embassy in Jakarta in 2004.

Former n Federal Police expert and counter terrorism specialist Mark Briskey said the Mindanao conflict “poisons the entire region”.

“We’ve seen connections from the region over to Malaysia and certainly to Indonesia. It’s been an ongoing sore,” Dr Briskey said.

Indonesian police reacted cautiously to the apparent merger in Mindanao and any regional implications.

Indonesian National Police spokesman Agus Rianto said the threat to Indonesia depended on whether extremist groups in the two countries “communicate and make a synergy”.

“Many in Indonesia have claimed they supported ISIS but so far, thank God, no big problems have occurred,” he said.

He said Indonesia was co-operating with neighbouring countries, including police in the Philippines.

Malaysia radicals believed to be in Philippines

Radicals from Malaysia are also believed to have fled to the Philippines to train and recruit IS fighters, and although the Filipino groups began displaying black flags symbolising support for al-Qaeda as early as 2011, the the latest video suggests they might have agreed to consolidate their forces.

The video was posted on January 4, according to the online news webite Rappler, and showed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon​ marching with other extremist leaders who operate from bases on nearby islands. The video has since being removed.

Indonesia specialist Greg Fealy, from the n National University, said it was unclear whether the central leadership of ISIS in Syria and Iraq was  interested in spawning a formal organisation in south-east Asia.

Associate Professor Fealy said ISIS has been willing to accept recruits from the region as well as any funds raised, but despite its large Muslim population, fighters from south-east Asia only played a peripheral role.

Indonesia was on the highest possible alert for a terror attack over the holiday period, with 11 alleged terrorists – suspected to be planning an attack in December – arrested in the lead-up to Christmas.

21 Indonesia groups state IS support

Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at Centre for Radicalism and De-radicalisation Studies in Jakarta, said there were 21 groups in Indonesia that had stated they supported IS.

But he said these groups were fragmented.

“They are just small local groups like in Central Java or in South Sulawesi. Also, there is no emir or leader to unite them. Most importantly the government is monitoring their movement very closely,” he said.

Indonesian terrorism analyst Noor Huda Ismail said links between Indonesia and the Philippines were nothing new.

“There is a network of Indonesians fighting in Mindanao now,” he said.

In 2012, an Indonesian counter-terrorism squad killed Farhan, a suspected militant who had returned from the south Philippines in 2010.

Farhan was the stepson of convicted terrorist Abu Omar and attended the school radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir co-founded.

‘He did not know what ISIS was’

Meanwhile, Bashir will apply for a judicial review of his 15-year jail sentence in a court in Central Java on Tuesday.

Bashir was acquitted over charges relating to the Bali bombings but convicted in 2011 of supporting a terror training camp in Aceh.

He pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 while behind bars in a prison on Nusakambangan, the penal island where ns Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed last year.

But his lawyer, Achmad Michdan, said Bashir no longer supported IS.

“He did in the past because he did not know what ISIS was. Now after he knows what ISIS is he does not support it anymore. He only supports anyone or any organisation that supports the upholding of the Koran and Hadith.”

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Brumbies chase big names as Waratahs sign Wycliff Palu on a $50,000 bargain

Posted on 22/04/2019 by

Negotiations continue: The Brumbies hope to re-sign Christian Lealiifano. Photo: Jeffrey ChanBrumbies’ touching tribute to grieving teammate

The ACT Brumbies are being touted as championship contenders, but the NSW Waratahs fired a reminder of their rugby power when they landed one of the best bargain buys in Super Rugby history on Monday.

As the Brumbies target David Pocock and Christian Lealiifano as marquee re-signing targets, arch rivals the Waratahs managed to recruit 57-Test Wallaby Wycliff Palu on a $50,000 deal.

The significantly down-sized contract raised eyebrows in rugby circles just months after Palu was part of the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign.

The 33-year-old will be a force in Super Rugby this season if he can overcome the injury problems that have plagued his career, and he has set his sights on adding to his Test tally.

The Brumbies are putting together big-money offers for Lealiifano and Pocock as they compete with huge deals available abroad.

It is hoped Lealiifano is edging closer to a new deal in Canberra, while Pocock has started talks with the Brumbies after returning from his off-season break.

Palu has signed an extended player squad contract. EPS deals are usually reserved for players on the fringe, giving them a chance to train full-time on a minimum wage.

But after injury ruled Palu out of his season in Japan, he took an opportunity to rejoin the Waratahs.

“It’s not like I’m coming back to prove anything, I’m trying to be here to help out the side,” Palu said.

“I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. It’s not by bad luck or chance that I’m here again.”

The Brumbies have a squad full of international talent, including Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore, Pocock, Matt Toomua and Argentinian scrum-half Tomas Cubelli.

But lock Sam Carter said the Brumbies were refusing to look too far ahead and rely on a star-studded roster to get them wins.

“I know we’ve got a good squad on paper, but that doesn’t get the results. We have to tick all of the boxes and if we do that, we know results will fall our way,” Carter said.

Tennis stars line-up to praise Nick Kyrgios, but Andy Murray says top 15 is the goal

Posted on 22/04/2019 by

Andy Murray has challenged Nick Kyrgios to target the top 15 this year. Photo: Paul KaneWorld tennis stars are lining up to back Nick Kyrgios for a 2016 redemption mission, with Andy Murray challenging the Canberra junior to break into the top 15 by the end of the year.

Kyrgios is set to be seeded No. 29 for the first grand slam of the season when the n Open begins on Monday in Melbourne.

The two biggest n hopes have enjoyed strong starts to the year, with Bernard Tomic making the semi-finals at the Brisbane International and Kyrgios joining Daria Gavrilova to win the Hopman Cup.

But Murray, who was beaten by Kyrgios at the Hopman Cup, says hard work is the only secret to the 20-year-old rising to career-high rankings.

“He’s obliviously an incredibly talented guy and he’s very exciting to watch,” Murray said on Monday.

“He has a big game and can cause a lot of players a lot of problems.

“Thirty in the world last year – a good goal for him would be to halve his ranking again this year.

“He played very well in some of the major events. He just needs to improve his consistency through the year and if he does that, he’ll be right up at the top of the game.”

Murray was joined by grand slam great Roger Federer in backing Kyrgios to make amends this season after a controversial year on the professional circuit in 2015.

Kyrgios played at the Fast4 event in Sydney on Monday night but will move to Melbourne for the Kooyong Classic to finalise his n Open preparations.

The former Daramalan College student’s previous n Open build ups have been hampered by injuries, forcing him to withdraw from the Brisbane International in 2014 and the Hopman Cup last year.

Murray beat Kyrgios in the quarter finals in Melbourne last year, but Kyrgios turned the tables to get his first win over the world No. 2.

The Scot was not keen to get out his crystal ball and forecast what Kyrgios’ future holds.

“It’s really impossible to say. I’m not with him on a daily basis. I don’t know what his work ethic is like.

“His game, he’s capable of beating almost all of the players.

“To get to number one you have to do it through the whole year, it’s no use doing it six or seven days through the year.

“Novak (Djokovic) last year made the final of every tournament he played except one and to get to number one you have to match that sort of consistency.”

Tomic jumped to No. 17 in the rankings on Monday after his efforts in Brisbane and is poised to earn a top-16 grand slam seeding for the first time when Tennis officials finalise the draw.

It means Tomic will avoid a clash with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic until at least the fourth round while Kyrgios, ranked No. 30, will face a tougher road through the earlier stages.

Kyron “The Hitman” Dryden found guilty of assaulting ex-girlfriend

Posted on 22/04/2019 by

GUILTY: Kyron Dryden was found guilty by a magistrate of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on Monday. He will be sentenced in March. NEWCASTLE World Champion boxer Kyron“The Hitman” Dryden has been found guilty of grabbing his ex-girlfriend by the throat, pushing her head into a mirror and slamming her onto the floor after he discoveredher at another man’s house in September.

The 22-year-old Mayfield boxer, who won theInternational Boxing Organisation world youth (under-26) welterweight title in Newcastle in November, faced a hearing in Newcastle Local Court on Monday into allegations ofassault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault andentering a building with intent to commit an indictable offence.

The court was played a video, filmed byDrydenon the day of the assaultand posted to“Snapchat”, a messaging app that records short videos or pictures that are then deleted from the recipients phone.

The video, entitled“ex-missus”,shows Dryden outside a man’s house in Mayfield where he says he has discovered“my missusis cheating on me”.

“She’s been lying to me the whole time,” Dryden says on the 10-second video clip.

“Here is her car in front of his house.”

The video clip then cuts to Dryden inside the house after hehad found his ex-girlfriend.

#BREAKING Newcastle boxer Kyron Dryden found guilty of assaulting former girlfriend. @newcastleherald

— Sam Rigney (@SamRigney) January 11, 2016

She lies on the floor covering her face.

“Here’s my missus cheating on me in the bedroom,” the video continues.

Dryden gave evidence that he was headed to the gym when he spotted his former girlfriend’s car outside a friend’shouse in Mayfield.

He called his twin brother, Darkon, and the victim’s brother before filming the “Snapchat” video.

Dryden told the court the victim’s brother didn’t believe his sister could be cheating on him and wanted proof.

Dryden said he went into the house to confirm his suspicions and denied ever touching his ex-girlfriend.

“I train every day, if I had taken hold of her throat there would be a lot more damage,” Dryden said.

The victim and the man at the house told the court Dryden and his brother barged their way into the home and when Dryden found the victim hiding behind the door he grabbed her by the throat,pushed her head into a mirror and “choke-slammed” her onto the floor, leaving her bruised and concussed.

Magistrate Alan Railton found Dryden guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, citing the injuries suffered to the victim and the discharge report from the Mater Hospital.

The charge of entering a building with intent to commit an indictable offence was dismissed and the back-up charge of common assault was withdrawn.

After he was found guilty, Dryden pleaded guilty tofour counts of contravening an apprehended violence order, which related to contacting his ex-girlfriend in the months after the assault.

He will be sentenced in March.

Dryden took to Facebook on Monday to thankhis fans for their support and sayhe was “Unfazed and carefree about the situation so far”.

“Well it’s no secret what goes on in my life anymore,” the post read.

“When you start doing well or standing out, it becomes of (sic)purpose for all national & international media outlets or people to write or comment on anything brought to attention.

“I also would like to Thank everyone for the countless messages flooding in of support.

“I urge everyone not to worry about me as I am Unfazed and carefree about the situation so far, i have bigger things on my mind.”