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Alphonse de Ponce looks forward to another 10 years of John Howard

Malcolm B Duncan is a regular contributor to Webdiary. His most recent satirical excursions have had to do with one Yorrick, full of important and exclusive insights into early Australian history, and other matters. Today Malcolm gets back to Alphonse the astrologer. Readers may wish to review The view on the looming 'orizon and Old Alphonse's Almanack 2006 for background on this most prescient character.

by Malcolm B Duncan

Quietly sitting in my eyrie above Fleet Base ensconced at my computer, I heard a strange sound – part cough, part coo – followed by a frenzy of white lightning as Claude the diabetic cat launched himself from complete sleep onto the balcony in attack mode. By the time I levered myself out of the chair, Claude’s fangs were firmly clenched in the body of a plump, exhausted, wheezing, and now bleeding pigeon tuckered out from hauling the large parcel attached to its left leg up to the seventh floor.

I recognized the bird which was now, clearly, on its last mission in this world. With a well-practised movement, I deftly kicked the cat in the mandibular joint forcing it to drop the creature and removed the message. What does one do with a dying pigeon? To the disgust of Claude, now in homicidally playful mood, I wrung the poor creature’s neck. With a brief sniff at the corpse, the cat repaired to some place of somnolence with an injured air and a murderous glare – obviously, I could look forward to tears before bedtime, and I knew they would be mine.

I wrapped the corpse in a discarded sporting section of the Herald (the sporting section is always discarded in our household) with a story about Ian Thorpe, the Commonwealth Games and Bird Flu and opened the scrolled document.

Alphonse had finally managed to get a message out of his gated community. I hadn’t seen him since Clover Moore closed Bourke Street and had been increasingly concerned about him as the only way in now seems to be by parachute.

Apart from the usual pleasantries, the note enclosed Alphonse’s tribute to John Howard’s ten years in power and predictions for the next ten. I thought they should be shared.

Dear Bunty,

Things are tough at the moment. The pigeon has been very sick (been mixing with the chicken Mrs Tran next door brought back in her handbag from Thailand) and this might be its last trip. Clover has sent the bobcats in and I don’t know whether we will be able to get out at all by tomorrow. Any chance you could ask your friend Morris for food drops? We’re on the wrong side of the road for the Matthew Talbot and, as you know SCEGGS has closed the boarding school so St Vincent’s Hospital is the nearest public kitchen.

I was so happy this week that John Howard managed to clock up the ten years that I did a little horoscope and you’ll be amazed at what it showed. He’ll make Menzies look like a stop-gap leader (which I suppose he was in a way between Artie Fadden and Holt).

Mardi Gras was a complete bugger – the Little Britain float was a total washout. Clover’s eyes were just looking straight ahead – Gerald the mobile body-piercer was saying he thinks she’s had something done to them – they just don’t move from side to side any more. I don’t mind piercings but spare me the knife.

Anyway, if you could, could you get some food in and we’re running low on water – the bobcat cut the mains this morning and the Water Board can’t get through the street closures.

Toodles,

Love to Claude,

Alphonse

JOHN WINSTON HOWARD, Kirribilli House, Neutral Bay, Sydney, community worker and Prime Minister.

LEO. The Lion can be a cute little cub or sly and cunning. Sometimes a slow developer (and, if not leader of the pride, often a late developer sexually) he may take time to show his true colours. The lion likes to lie, sometimes in the full glare of the sun, sometimes in shade, saving his energy for short bursts of savagery and can often be malicious. Once he attains the leadership, all notions of loyalty are completely forgotten and his main purpose in life is to stay on top. Part of this is his aggressive sexual attitude to females. He is a rapacious hunter and will often invade the territory of others. His roar is the final roar until he is deposed by a younger challenger but that rival must be prepared to cope with the older lion’s years of skill, cunning and rule by dominance and treachery. Any lion has the potential to be a natural leader.

John Howard is a lion in every sense of the word. His achievements are legion: the virtual eradication of unemployment by redefining it out of existence; the reconstitution of Ministerial responsibility under the Axminster system; the invasion of just about anywhere his friends want to go; the cementing of the alliance with the US under the “hey boy come hyeah” (HBCH) doctrine; his close friendship with very short leaders around the world; his careful policy positioning ensuring the Government is never more than half a step behind an opinion poll; his fondness for children (at least those who are shorter than he); his compassion for Australian citizens overseas many of whom have had their death sentences reduced to mere life imprisonment; his unfailing charity to nature’s victims in South East Asia, the sub-continent, Darling Point, Mosman and Toorak; tax reform including the eradication of the black economy and so on – the list is practically endless. His greatest capacity and the mark of a true leader, is his ability not to be weighted down by detail: he knows what he knows and he only knows what he only knows.

The stars for this colossus of democracy are even brighter for the next ten years. Here is what they show:

2006

August. Treasurer announces the 11th Howard Budget delivering tax cuts to all: tax free threshold raised $10 and top marginal rate reduced to 5% for incomes over a backbencher’s base salary. Childcare subsidy introduced for parents with children still living at home after 30.

October. Snap election delivers landslide win for John Howard.

December. Special advisers deployed to Iran.

2007

February. Peter Costello resigns “for health reasons” allowing John Howard to reshuffle Cabinet. Jacki Kelly appointed Treasurer and it’s steady as she goes until the end of the year.

October. Lucrative wheat deal signed with Somalia. Somali Government pays Australia to stockpile wheat in return for “management fees” negotiated by a staffer in Alexander Downer’s Office.

December. Neon Santa illuminated above Kiribilli House.

2008

Australia Day 26 January John Howard commemorates 200th Anniversary of the triumph of free trade in Australia.

February. Back to work for an invigorated John Howard.

April. Coalition disintegrates with resignation of remaining two Nationals “for health reasons”. In a diplomatic coup, John Howard appoints Mark Vaile Ambassador to Iraq and Barnaby Joyce special envoy to Somalia.

June. Alexander Downer retires and is appointed Ambassador to Patagonia. “Where?” he says.

September. Melanie Howard has first child. Happy grandfather announces Kirribilli House will now be needed to send his granddaughter to Shore in order not to interrupt her education.

November. Education Minister Philip Ruddock announces special Commonwealth grants for GPS schools to take one female student each – “It’s an equity issue” he says.

December. Telstra declares dividend. John Howard announces that business is going so well, all employees will be “re-deployed” although share price is not yet high enough to sell the Government’s remaining share.

2009

January. Telstra share price soars.

February. John Howard announces that the Government will sell off its remaining share in Telstra.

March. Liberal Party re-named John Howard Party.

April. John Howard gives eulogy at Bob Brown’s funeral following tragic greenhouse gas explosion.

July. John Howard wins historic 6th election. Giant thanksgiving service celebrated by Hillsong Church at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

August. John Howard announces Australian Defence Force will be privatised “When the time is right.” Nick Minchin appointed Defence Minister. Brendan Nelson moves to DFAT.

August. Budget allocates interest free development grants for Pentecostal churches. Cardinal Pell announces Catholic Pentecostal Movement in seven languages.

September. John Howard unveils John Howard statue at Bradman museum at Bowral.

November. Parliamentary Labor [sic] Party crosses floor – permanently. Kim Beazley appointed Assistant Defence Minister. John Howard appoints Julia Gillard resident chef at ABC.

2010–2011

It’s steady as she goes. Unemployed eliminated. DSS sold to Salvation Army. Brett Whiteley appointed Health Minister posthumously. In a dramatic announcement, John Howard gives heroin retailing licence to Uniting Church. “The level playing field has finally been achieved,” he says.

2012

January. ABC sold by tender to Bananas in Pyjamas Media Enterprises Inc. Gillard loses cooking show.

12 April. John Howard passes Menzies record as longest-serving Prime Minister. “Ah, but that was only his second go” he says at celebration in the Great Hall at Parliament House attended by Queen Elizabeth II. In welcoming Her Majesty, John Howard says “Ma’am we will decide who comes to this country and when.”

May. Tony Abbott resigns and is appointed Ambassador to the Holy See. “No-one could be better qualified,” says John Howard “he’s been working for them for years.” Privately, Abbott confides in an old friend (he has no current ones) “I’m Jack of this – the bastard will never go.”

June. John Howard wins astonishing 7th election. Constitutional Referendum abolishes Senate.

July. John Howard unveils John Howard statue at Kirribilli House.

November. John Howard announces CSIRO will concentrate on experiments with cats after dramatic research showing that cat hair may be a cure for cancer. In a very minor Cabinet reshuffle, John Howard appoints Malcolm Turnbull Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Science on the CSIRO. Philip Ruddock appointed to new position as Parliamentary Lickspittle.

2013

John Howard celebrates the international year of the deaf bastard.

It’s steady as she goes. CSIRO discovers cure for amnesia. CSIRO sold to Alan Bond (Online Gambling) UK PLC. John Howard says: “The public sector has no business running research and development – it’s not deductible.”

2014

Approval given for Medicare to merge with Foxtel.

John Howard invited to be best man at Rupert Murdoch’s wedding.

Queen Elizabeth II opens Commonwealth Games in North Sydney.

Redistribution abolishes electorates of Wentworth, Higgins, Hindmarsh and Brand. New Western Suburbs electorates of Downer created in all capital cities. Fishermen flock to electorate of Downer in Perth.

12 August. John Howard overtakes Menzies overall record to become longest serving Prime Minister ever.

Australian War Graves Commission sold to Moran Group for redevelopment.

Department of Veterans Affairs given responsibility for administering politicians’ superannuation.

2015

March. John Howard wins 8th consecutive election. Constitutional Referendum abolishes High Court.

25 April. Grateful populace erect John Howard statues throughout the country. John Howard Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Gallipoli. “My grandfather was here” says Howard in a moving speech, “but the parking is much better now.”

June. Sir John Howard gives principal eulogy at funeral of Prince Charles following unfortunate car accident in Paris.

July-November. Sir John Howard personally supervises renovations to Kirribilli House “For Melanie’s growing family.”

2016

February. Sir John Howard says he will stay in the position “As long as the John Howard Party want me to continue.”

March. Sir John Howard gives eulogy at funeral of former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Alan Ramsey. “We might have had our differences over the years,” he says, “but now he’s dead.”

XO

Alphonse.

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The gentle art of self-control, or, how a true lady behaves

Alphonse de Ponce: “Anyone else would have had a hissy fit. … I tell you, girl, it’s bloody lucky for you I don’t do hissy fits.”

You relieve my mind immeasurably. Else, I would have feared that I had incurred your displeasure to such an extent that your unwarranted spleen had overmastered your judgment.

As to the peripheral involvement of Mr Murdoch, I never suspected him of being a denizen of San Francisco (after all, there are bath houses in other places). Au contraire, as the bishop said to the cardinal, the temperature that I had envisaged for him and his play pals was somewhat in the opposite direction. Given that the martini would have contained absolut vodka, surely my meaning was equally obvious – or is Kelvin not one of your preferred names?

However, I’d be more inclined to see Hillsong (and the Jensens, and Pell) as all rather steamy. Thus it would appear to me that a trek to the north would be far more appropriate. Innisfail comes to mind as a spot sadly in need of revival.

Frankly, the notion of Clover’s laying a paver or two makes the mind boggle. As does the idea of a light at the end of the tunnel – pray tell, precisely how would you expect to be able to see it?

And don’t toots me, dear. My antecedents and employment are entirely my own affair, and my culottes have never concerned me (or others). Neither may you toy with my hair – that is a pastime reserved for the select few. It has never ever been cut with a Victa, although last time a razor was used to some effect. I still have it – the razor, that is. Perhaps we could examine it together and consider its potential for other occupation?

I must decline – albeit with passing regret – your offer to do a casting. The only image that conjures for me is what Claude may have done following his brief encounter with your late lamented feathered friend. To be perfectly honest, I do not see myself as a pigeon – or pheasant – for your plucking, and would be much surprised if you had any bent in that direction.

(But I’m dying to know – how did you persuade Anthony to let you use his letterbox?)

Education

You can be assured, Malcolm , that I take your tuition very seriously. I'll follow the course you set, however long and winding the road may appear to someone as untravelled as myself.

Thanksgiving...

M. de Ponce, apologies for my tardiness while reading your predictions in up close and slow (my preferred modus operandi) detail.

And yet – there are some matters that undoubtedly need a little time to reveal their full significance.

Take, for example, the proposed giant thanksgiving service scheduled for July 2009 (surely not on Bastille Day, M. de Ponce? Please, at the very least, spare me that!) . Pray tell me why it must be at the MCG – and with Hillsong?

Remember: Our Fearless Leader is quintessentially a Man of New South Wales. And Hillsong is indisputably a Phenomenon of Truly New South Welsh proportions.

As such, and with my blessing, you are welcome to both. After all, I understand that the Millennium Stadium is somewhat underused.

With all best wishes for your present afflictions, dear sir.

Finally a chance to talk on my own thread

Ye gods and little fishes, a fella is just surrounded by incompetence.   I’ve been trying to get to log on in my own bloody thread in my own bloody name for bloody ages. Anyone else would have had a hissy fit.

Now look, Fiona Reynolds, whoever you may be (Fiona – bloody Ascham or Girls Grammar or, gawd knows, maybe one of those toffee-nosed schools from Adelaide for all I know), don’t you dear me toots. I may be bisexual with the best of them but I thought we’d cleared all you lot out to Newtown or Bronte or Kingston or wherever it might be in Melbourne (and let’s face it it’s practically the whole of Adelaide). I suppose you work for ABC radio as a producer or something. The last time you went to the hairdresser you probably had it done with a Victa.    But I tell you, girl, it’s bloody lucky for you I don’t do hissy fits.

To deal with your small-minded comments, Rupert does not fit into the prognostication for the lovely John Howard (leader of men) except peripherally. He doesn’t even live in San Francisco so you can keep your grubby little mind to yourself dear.

And isn’t Hillsong obvious? With the Jensens and Pell in Sydney, the only area for expansion is Melbourne. I don’t care where they do it sweetie but Oxford Street just isn’t wide enough no matter which way Clover lays the pavers. The Mardi Gras must go on and it’s not nearly ready for light rail yet (although at night, a light at the end of the tunnel might be interesting.)

So what’s the problem with 14 July, worried about your culottes?

I mean really, if you want to send your details in, I’ll do a casting just for you.   You can fill in the form at anthonygreen.predictions@godknowswhosgoingtobuytheabc.com.

Cryonics - the next best thing?

Mon cher M. de Ponce (I don’t, of course, presume to be on first name terms),

I need to know (with some urgency) – is the small but perfectly formed Rupert M also into this hot (sorry, chilly) little number? And – if so – which stocks should I select (or not, depending on whether I'm a contrarian)?

My dears (I’m addressing all of youse now), can’t you just imagine it? Little Johnnie, Dubya, and the Dirty Digger all gently clinking together in some celestial martini glass? One can only be enchanted by the prospect…

By the by, who is the lucky femme this time around? And what happened to Wendi?

English literature

That is, if I get that far. I don't know about you but my journey through English literature has been torturous, in a way that Russian or American literature has not.

English Literature in English

That, dear boy, is because English literature is written in English.

Ye Olde English

Unfortunately much of it seems to be written in ye olde English. Why did it always take so long to say anything in the 1700's? It's almost like reading the common law.

Ye somewhat older olde English

Solomon, look upon it as a challenge, lad, as training for your researches into a statelier, more spacious past. Besides, think of the glories that await you in the 17th century – think of Samuel Pepys’ Diary (the unabridged, unexpurgated version, of course), think of John Evelyn, John Aubrey, Izaac Walton… After perusing these wondrous writers, may I then commend to your attention by way of bon bouche, Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy for a little light bedside reading.

And I will not entertain any complaints about length.

Après post-modernism

And you could then compare that to Richard Burton's The Melancholy of Anatomy, the unpublished biography of Elizabeth Taylor, or Tolkien's classical work Lines Written above Tintagel Abbey: Lectures on the "Owl and the Nightingale".

Stately?

Well I've already ploughed my way through War and Peace and Ulysses , so you can't scare me with length. What bothers me is the loquaciousness of it all. I'm also doubtful that there is anything stately about either Fielding or Sterne. They strike me as burlesque.

Al Dante

Dr Reynolds, I think our young gentleman may have discovered a tenth circle of hell.

Why, though, does he think it has anything to do with agriculture?

As the Warden once said to me, young Solomon Wakeling: "Malcolm, you have no soul." Seemed fair to me but he was talking about the Romantic poets. We'll get you onto them once you've finished Middle English.

Gosh, I wish I'd had tutors this concerned about my intellectual development in my undergraduate years. My thesis may have topped the year instead of only coming in third.

Re: satire


Malcolm
& co...has anyone found the soap yet? Methinks Johnny might have purloined it, were it not for the fact that his media-enhanced teflon coating requires no such aids...

So sorry Alphonse

Alphonse, please accept my apologies for referring to another seer. Malcolm said you weren't getting out much due to road closures but I shouldn't have doubted your abilities to transcend such trivial obstacles to communication. I'll try in future to "rely" only on the in-house services you have so generously provided.

Howard's next 10

Seriously Malcolm, is abolishing the Senate or High Court by constitutional referendum actually possible even for someone of Howard's calibre? I imagine he would do it at a pinch if it were. At any rate he doesn't need to do it since he has a majority in the one and a stacked bench in the other.

Here's to the proving wrong of your dire but funny predictions, though I agree with the underlying assumption that Howard wishes to outlast Menzies.

Seriously?

In my view from a constitutional legal point of view, no. That is also why I do not think we can abolish Her Majesty, her successors and assigns (and for those who think I am a monarchist, I'm not - if we can't have the Stuarts back what's the point? And as I've pointed out earlier, the current Pretender is the Duke of Bavaria so, whatever happens you get a Kraut).

Those who disagree with me  on the latter would no doubt agree on the former. My view, on current High Court authority and general constitutional principle, is that the system of Government we have, Queen in a bi-cameral Parliament and the States are entrenched. Since this is satire I don't want to start a constitutional argument here.

Another 10 years, Alphonse?

I don't think so. I've always said Howard and crew will go down in a screaming heap but I think the end days are closer than we think. The madness is becoming more apparent by the day as we see the PM claiming the state Labor victories over the weekend were due to his policies.

How the press kept their collective straight face is beyond me. I can only reason that they were frothing at the mouth to get back to the real news – how many medals we picked up at those games in Melbourne. It will, of course, get much, much uglier towards the end.

A reply from the real author

Look, Michael de Angelos, I've been doing this for decades and the stars don't lie, they may dim a bit with distance but they don't lie.

As far as the Commonwealth Games goes, here in East Sydney, now the telephone lines are working again,  we don't care about medals we just like the cozzies. So sad our Thorpie got the 'flu thing'. We didn't know he liked birds.

Then, in addition to you and your doubting Thomas attitude, the bloody proprietors of this rag go advertising that Nostradamus fraud all afternoon. Predicted Hitler - I mean really, can't the wooz spell? And there were no plaudits for predicting Kennedy's assassination, assassins always go for Roman Catholics - look at the Popes.

So just keep your shirt on and wait out the next ten with our glorious Johnnie - he's such a nice man, I ran into him at Brett's Boys one night and has he got taste - I mean darrrling. No wonder that sour bitch he's married to keeps him on such a short lead and he's just the right height for sooo much, and anyway, I've got this thing for deaf people - we just adored Billy McMahon.

Love,

Alphonse de Ponce

Howard to be frozen

Only ten more years? Haven't you heard that Howard and Bush are deeply interested in cryonics. It's reported that when they die they will share a freezing chamber so that today's toddlers may one day enjoy everything that's happening to us guinea pigs at present.

The heart of the matter

I thought Howard had already been frozen, Christopher Muir. At the very least, surely his heart has been?

As for cryonics, this mutual interest of Top and Deppity Dawg is fascinating on several grounds. One, of course, is the climate of the Inferno’s nineth circle…

Ninnies?

"Nineth" and you want to reserve a right to correct my spelling.

A pleasure shared...

How could I deny anyone – let alone a like-minded soul – enjoyment of a pleasure in which I take such deep delight? Touché, Sir! I concede the point.

(Neither, Malcolm, will I be so unkind as to publish one of your comments unamended, next time that I am editing... tempting though ‘twill undoubtedly be…)

Hail and farewell!

On another thread I had just been lamenting Alphonse's absence.

Now – now – I read his latest predictions and am devastated. What a nasty surprise to spring on a gal on such a glorious autumnal morning. How could you do it, Alphonse? Please, please reassure me – tell me that you were hallucinating. The lack of food and water – and perhaps an excess of other less mentionable substances – must be creating havoc with your delicate perceptions…

In despair, I realise that the only possible move is to engineer an unfortunate accident involving greenhouse gas, a motor vehicle, and a Parisian road tunnel. Malcolm, do you have a spare sporting section? It would do nicely for my shroud.

(On the other hand, if Julia Gillard is to lose her cooking show, maybe Angela Ryan and I could join forces...)

Splish, splash

A sporting section, Fiona? You're pretty sporting yourself. I suggest you and Malcolm team up together for a piece, since you're such good pals.

Fencibles

Young Mr Wakeling might be right.

How about you do épées and I'll do post-hole digging?

Fiona: What a masterly reading of our respective talents, Malcolm! Much better than my initial thoughts about synchronised diving.

Ooh la la

Well, you can't go diving in a kilt. What would the community think?

Bathing attire

Solomon, I doubt that Malcolm, being a gentleman of considerable modesty (as all we on Webdiary are aware), would dream of doing anything so indelicate as to dive while wearing a kilt.

On the contrary: I am persuaded that Mr Duncan has suitable bathing attire, probably striped blue and gold. But here, let me assure you, I merely hazard a guess... Moreover, I would never be so bold as to venture into such territory as wondering whether the garment might be a demure neck-to-knee number, or something a little more dashing...

Nothing ventured..

I don't see why not. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Perhaps instead of stripes, our dear old Malcolm could wear a bathing suit adorned with a British flag, given how fond he is of the monarchy and our heritage.

Nothing gained indeed!

Solomon, much as it goes against my (occasionally) protective instincts, I must perforce leave you to Malcolm's tender mercies. There are several reasons why not; however, he himself may, if he so chooses, explicate.

And (must I warn you yet again?), be careful about your choice of adjectives. I am precisely one year older than Malcolm. It is about my only advantage over him (though let’s not tell him that). Yet – if you call him “old” – what do you thereby call me?

Cosie cossies

This is getting so incestuous that Alphonse might just jump in and join the "fun" at any moment. Don't anyone  drop the soap.

I remind you milady, that I was 53 when I was born so I think that lets you and the Young would-be Boswell off the hook.

The never-ending story

Ack, now I'll have to put Boswell on my reading list, somewhere between Henry James and Thomas Hardy. Rumour has it he was a lawyer and a libertine, which makes me wonder what on earth you think I've been getting up to. I plead innocence.

Reading list

I suggest you start with Boswell in Holland and progress to Boswell for the Defence.

Reading list

I think it will be difficult to scrounge up anything beyond his biography of Samuel Johnson, but I'll try. You'll be happy to know I'm exploring Fielding; I bought Joseph Andrews and Shamela today.

Yet more reading

You have to read Richardson's Pamela before you read Shamela.

Online books

Heavens above, my room is already peppered with books I haven't read. Pamela (but not Shamela) is available online, through the online books page search, if anyone is masochistic enough to want to join me.

The Never-ending Story

That, of course, will lead you into Sir Charles Grandison.

Well-a bless my soul, what's wrong with me?

Why, I'll call you anything you want me to, sweetheart. I apologise prodigiously for any offence caused. I meant none. I shall be more circumspect in future. In my defence, I'll point out that Malcolm referred to me as "young", which, depending on your point of view, could be seen as equally offensive. I forgive his trespasses against me and expect that he will forgive my trespasses against him. I don't think there is any other way to get along with him, unless, as in your case, you're blessed with an excess of charm and tact.

Caber-tossing

What's the difference?

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