Chatswood: Ruth Nash Speaks.
mong those attending Ken and Ruth Nash's New Year's Eve Party were Ken's work colleagues Gib Bogle and Geoffrey Chandler, and Chandler's wife Margaret. On the morning of January 1 Gib and Margaret were found dead, poisoned, beside the Lane Cove River. Poison and poisoner were never identified.
.and we are, in best sellers or movies, near press-ganged to pretend
how simple, bland beginnings might prologue a ludicrous end,
so there's Gib on arrival lightfooting it down our hall,
and there's Gib a day later lightfooting bugger all.
We think we know the limits? We're merely to follow this text:
Lives unfold lives fold, here's one hour here's the next.
And where in a plot place 'the heavens', their ever-expanding no?
Well you barely ask such questions of the CSIRO,
for (lab coats, leather patches, pipes and British cars)
my other half worked with boffins who rarely trusted the stars.
Though let's say alignments were ordered, and on his last night alive,
always that hub of attention Gib is first to arrive.
Might the knocker he raps signal start not end? Alarm? What alarm?
Take no offence give no offence, that is Gib and his charm.
Look at the time before Christmas when innocence was rife,
and bemused by possibilities he first met Chandler's wife:
we were there for that fol-de-rol, we saw how he'd basked
in this shy young housewife's sweet warm blaze. 'Invite 'em both?' Gib asked.
So half an hour on came the couple: her small-frame floral skirt;
his beard we might accommodate- but sandals? Hawaiian shirt?
'Jacket and tie were requested.' my spouse was tingeing red.
As his mutters entered their threshold 'Oh lighten up Ken,' I said.
(But wanting my man a serious man, if times like this it showed,
let him mix and pour the drinks, make mine the etiquette load.)
Then, offering merest shadows to what he might be about,
dismissing himself from 12 Waratah Street, Chandler strolled out.
Where'd we place such affectation, what side of ridgey-didge?
Off to buy cigarettes some place.over the Harbour Bridge?
But with our 'at home' assembling and a new year arriving,
us Nashes gave little regard to Chandler out there, driving.
on our night to not-quite-remember when, gentility set to prevail
we headed three, four, five, six, up quite a low key scale:
Ken running the bar till midnight, not even a conga line,
we crossed arms as our parents might for the days of auld lang syne.
With the hour for tradition over, shelving the coy and discreet
I urged Gib to the dance floor (our party to its feet).
How could you (this much into a year) ever package and carry regrets?
So we stamped out a quasi flamenco as I jiggled castanets.
And who is that proving he'd like to.but can't quite.why it's.
Dr Bogle, as hipster, cutting a rug with The Twist!
Then, our evening remodulating back to its chatty tone,
there he is seeking out Margaret. Well both it seems were alone.
With his wife at home nursing might he be given the chance
to indulge in a harmless night of lightweight suburban romance?
Wide-eyed for what's still possible, getting a grip on each fad,
so he was playing the lad? Well Gib was always the lad!
And where was her need to simper, serenely self efface?
It was New Year's in Chatswood, Chatswood's a grown up place.
Till cashing in those dividends absence feels it has earned,
after his half the night elsewhere Chandler returned.
And here at my home a transaction (making what passes for sense
to the North Shore/ Sydney/ Australia's genteel prurience):
two men were discussing softly the where, the when and the who
and if you'd give more than a passing shrug well I say woopy doo:
we'd soon know again those limits to whatever wasn't and was;
how in all explanations you would finish each sentence 'Because.'
Gib would drive home Margaret; and having her bestowed,
our party was over for Chandler, he went back to the road.
And glancing away such arrangements that, I gathered, was that.
(Who were you Mrs Chandler? we never got round to a chat.)
For this might be the second (the last) time Gib and Margaret met,
but wouldn't you think by 4AM the details were ours to forget?
Instead they kept piling higher to their inconclusive amen
(such as we'd be informing Mr Loomes SM)
when only trusting to trivia, trivia stayed in the dock:
a grubby, green Ford Prefect sedan? an SSW frock?
And it still feels odd to consider some malevolent star had planned,
for early 1963, this most famous event in the land,
informing that crew of gatecrashers Messrs Malice/ Accident/ Fate:
'The fun starts around a quarter to nine, oh and ladies, please bring a plate.'
And we might shut the door on reporters, might firmly lower the sash,
but the whole town now had opinions on those seven hours Chez Nash.
In that best time for dying, hour for being born,
with the milkman and the milkman's horse treading out of the dawn,
whilst Ken and I stay busy farewelling our twenty guests
(this hour gives no time to anticipate fortune's idiot jests)
Gib and the Ford are waiting, Margaret walks to our gate
(who'll ever understand there is no early now or late?)
she's only to follow instructions a final star might give:
just turn left into Waratah Street, and a few more hours to live.