Dumbstruck by Noel Anderson

Dumbstruck by Noel AndersonWOW! I stood dumbstruck, surrounded by thousands of books and boxes of all shapes and sizes. For some strange reason, I’d wandered off track, found myself in darkness back-of-house at the State Library of Victoria, standing smack bang in the middle of the WG Alma Conjuring Collection. I twitched as if someone walked over my grave, and magically the lights switched on. Quickly my eyes adjusted to the white light. To my left, somewhat inconspicuously placed, a framed photo of a gentleman I thought I recognised from TV, a man of mystery, Will Alma. Above the picture of Mr Alma (holding a razor blade to his lips) a pair of white nylon gloves. How quaint I thought, slipping the gloves on, one finger at a time, wriggling them about under the fluorescent light.  My gloved hands miraculously took on a life of their own, ferreting through the collection, lingering lovingly over 2000 shelved books on magicians, tricks and the art of conjuring. My fingers stopped dead in front of a bound book titled, ‘Battling Demons’. I lifted the book off the shelf, pushing aside any evil thoughts I had. I turned to the first page and was immediately interrupted by a man’s booming theatrical voice.

“Don’t touch that! I think you’ll find ‘Deceptive Conceptions in Magic’ more to your personal taste.” Oh, I thought, closing the book out of respect for the gentleman’s authoritarian tone. “Let me introduce myself, dear friend. I am the Great Raymond…man of magic, illusion and disguise. You’ll find a book about my adventures somewhere on those shelves. Have you heard of me?” l shook my head, startled by the man standing before me in a bow tie, black top hat and tails. “Oh, well, some haven’t. My last gig was 1993 in fact! What brings you here, may I ask?”

“Looking for inspiration I suppose. You look familiar? Have you been on the ABC?” I enquired. The Great Raymond raised an eyebrow, dismissing my question. “Well, you’ve stumbled into the right place,” he assured me. “We’ve every trick in the book here. There’s one on conjuring up ‘inspiration’ somewhere, I’m sure. I’ll perform it, a private show. That’s why I’m the Great Raymond! I can conjure up anything, even a little ‘inspiration’. Now, ask me something else, while I hunt about for that book”.

I thought for a moment. “Okay. Have you ever guillotined a Librarian?”

“Anyone I’m in par-tic-ular?” the Great Raymond prompted, smiling wickedly.

“I’d rather not say.  But, have you performed the trick inside the State Library?”

“Of course. Hundreds of times. But, those librarians get my goat. I get on their goat. They hate my guillotine trick. But, occasionally,” he confided, “when I shout ‘off with their heads’ randomly at the top of my lungs in the Cowan Gallery, one brave little family historian has a damn good chuckle. Anything else? Ask me anything. I’m the Great Raymond!”

I pondered, then asked, “Raymond? Can you make problem patrons disappear?” The Great Raymond screamed with glee, unable to control his excitement. “That’s my specialty actually” he gloated, tipping his top hat. “Once, I made a group of grumpy old aged pensioners, retirees, vanish while on the Changing Face of Victoria tour. They were from Geelong. Poor things. Oh, it’s a marvelous trick. The security guard Bob, is still looking for that Probus club I believe. Oh, I found the book I was looking for…Inspirational Tricks for a Restless Soul”.

“But, I’m not a restless soul?” I said defensively.  The Great Raymond snapped his fingers and opened the book up on page thirteen.

alma“Dear friend,” he winked, “Don’t lie. I know everything. That’s why I’m the Great Raymond.” He did a twirl, the room went black, Raymond was gone. I stood in darkness, then suddenly twitched, the lights flickered on-off-on. The room was empty, except for the WG Alma Conjuring Collection, and me. Beside the picture of Will Alma, the book ‘Inspirational Tricks for a Restless Soul’. I took off the white gloves, and opened the book at page thirteen. At the top, written in bright red ink, the words, ‘magic for dummies’ – WG Alma. It was then, at that very moment, I felt a presence, someone’s breath, close to my ear. He whispered, “For your in-for-mation, old friend, I have been on ABC TV.” Then, before I could say, abracadabra, he was gone.

Will Alma, (Born Oswald George William Bishop;  4 November, 1904 – 6 May, 1993) was an Australian stage magician, illusionist, maker of conjuring apparatus and magic historian. He is best known for his donation of the ‘WG Alma Conjuring Collection’ to State Library Victoria.

Dumbstruck by Noel Anderson was first published on 14th December 2018 in The Goat Zine by the State Library of Victoria.

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An Imperfect Christmas by Noel Anderson

December 24th 2015 – It’s been 38 years since the full moon last appeared on Christmas Day, 1977 in fact.
The young waitress drops a fork, kicks it under a nearby table and totally breaks my train of thought. I look up from my cup and I think. The restaurant is full and the day warmish. I’m sipping coffee dressed in shorts and T-shirt, Melbourne colours of black and grey, while happy Queenslanders all around me dressed in flowery clothing, chat away over large serves of pancakes, bacon and eggs.
I flick through the Courier Mail, a terrorist arrested in Sydney, another mindless shooting in Melbourne, is it really Christmas Eve 2015 I wonder? I’m not sure judging by the headlines so I check the date on front of the paper, wishing the toothache that’s troubled me since arriving at Brisbane airport several days ago would just bugger off. But, the toothache is not going anywhere despite the antibiotics I swallowed an hour ago.
Back to my thoughts…
I bet everyone in this restaurant has their own idea of what makes ‘A Perfect Christmas’ I casually think to myself! Christmas – A time spent with loved ones, family, friends or whomever. I think a little bit more, stirring an extra sugar into my coffee as I run my tongue over my sore tooth. I’m not sure I ever really thought about Christmas in a perfect way before or any event for that matter, I mean what is perfect? I’ve always been attracted to things less than perfect I recall. I remember birthday parties I’ve had only because of what’s gone wrong during the night, dinners that I have totally burnt and ruined beyond salvation, and of course blind dates that I’ve had that have gone horribly pear-shaped.
In fact, thinking way too much once again, it’s these imperfect events and days have ruled my life, invaded my memories and (I swear I believe this) have made me a much better person, stronger man. I mean you can’t enjoy a perfect Christmas without first experiencing several imperfect ones, right?
Yes, it’s the imperfect days and events that rule us, teach us valuable life lessons, help us grow and that we talk endlessly about years later, and will continue to do so until the end of time probably, or the end of the last Christmas drink. Whatever comes first!
I shuffle in my chair, someone with bleached blonde hair orders a hot chocolate and I shift back to thoughts of ‘imperfection’ and Christmas.
One imperfect Christmas I clearly remember was when I was living in Docklands and I got a very bad gastric bug and spent almost three days sitting on the toilet, alone. I remember the only thing I wanted was Kentucky Fried Chicken while I squatted, God knows why but I had a mad craving for a juicy fried leg or thigh, I didn’t care really what piece of chicken I ate, I just wanted it. I sat in the bathroom for hours daydreaming about bloody fried chicken, and those eleven special herbs and spices. Once I was feeling better, I bolted from my flat, crossed the Yarra River and headed straight to the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop in Crown Casino and I ordered the biggest bucket of fried chicken I could buy. I found a nice place in the sun and I spent all Boxing Day by the Yarra snuggled up to my bucket of fried chicken, daydreaming.
It turned out to be the one Christmas I’d never forget! Why? Because it was imperfect and you just can’t plan Christmas days like that.
I close the newspaper and put it back on the magazine stand and make my way down the street to my sister’s house listening to the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on my iPhone. As I walk up the driveway I think to myself this will be the first full moon in 38 years, fancy that, and I open the front door…then I think really fast, I should go inside and write something.

About the author – Noel Anderson has worked in film and theatre and is currently adapting his play Sammy & Dave into a film. Noel has directed over 50 theatrical productions. Checkout Noel’s new Podcast ‘Email To My 17-Year-Old Self‘ on Podbean and on iTunes Channel ‘Noel Anderson’s 15 Minutes of Fame

Email To My 17-Year-Old Self

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-6zxxm-a09fb9

Is youth wasted on the young? Imagine, if you wrote an email and sent it to yourself as a 17-year-old teenager, what advice would you offer? Would you tell yourself to do things any differently? Would you warn of all the difficulties yet to be lived? More importantly, would teenage you listen to advice from your much-older self.  This is the dilemma in my new podcast Email to My 17-Year-Old SELF. I hope you enjoy it – Noel Anderson

Email To My 17-Year-Old Self – A Podcast

Guys, what if you found yourself having a conversation by email with yourself at the ripe old age of seventeen? What advice would you offer the much younger you? Would you warn of life’s turning points, caution against future problems to come? Would you tell teenage you, stories of how love goes horribly wrong? Maybe not, perhaps you’ll let 17 year-old-you alone without interference from older more experienced you?

This is the dilemma I found myself struggling with as I sat down to write and record my brand new podcast, Email To My 17-Year-Old Self. I hope you enjoy my dilemma.  Life was much easier when you were 17-years-old? Wasn’t it?

Email To My 17-Year-Old Self on YouTube

Email To My 17 -Year-Old Self on Podbean

About the author – Noel Anderson has worked in film and theatre and is currently adapting his play Sammy and Dave into a film, about two bisexual-married men who rendezvous for a one night stand. Based on a true story.

Flying Solo by Noel Anderson

If you could change the choices you’ve made, would you want to keep them or upgrade them for something else?

I am on my way to London, in transit at Abu Dhabi airport. It’s a long flight and I’m flying solo. So, I’ve got time to mull over things, stuff like my life choices mostly. I shuffle, sip coffee, think back and stare out the window, waiting for the 380 airbus and my final leg. As I wait, my mind begins to revisit ‘turning points’ from my past. “What if I didn’t make that decision, then? What if I ‘did this’ instead of ‘doing that?’ Would I still be flying solo?

‘Believin’ is the answer to all your fears’

It’s been several decades since I studied directing and lived in London. This is my first trip back, not sure why I took so long to return to the UK. I guess shit happens.

On the way to Melbourne airport, I listened to Lisa Stansfield’s song ‘Change‘ on the tram. Lisa sings, if I could change the way I live my life today, I wouldn’t change a single thing. It might be the 3 sleeping pills I knocked back on the first leg of my plane trip, but thinking about Lisa’s words over coffee, I’m not sure I feel the same way.

They say change is as good as a holiday. But, is it? I’ve had a lot of change forced upon me. There’s been breakups, several deaths and missed opportunities, like most people I guess. Of course, a lot ‘choices’ I’ve made have worked out spectacularly well, while other ‘changes’ have been hopeless. But, what if I could take all my mistakes, the lemons of my life, and miraculously turn them into jugs of fresh lemonade, would I be happier than I am now? Would I still be flying solo to London? Would my life be more rewarding?

I’ll always be there and I’ll always care’

The truth is my spectacular failures made me the person I am, they’re ‘original’ and all mine. No one else in the world has them as back catalogue, except me. I guess that’s okay, then?

I finish my coffee, check my boarding time and switch on my iPhone. I open my Facebook app and reread the entry I posted 14 hours earlier in Melbourne.

Lisa and I have been through a lot over the years including breakups, bad hair and no hair. And, more recently a shocking bout of ‘high anxiety’ just before I left for London, alone. A glass of wine at the airport, Lisa singing about ‘Change’ on my iPhone, and I’m now feelin’ funky and ready for the next big chapter? Change? Bring it on!

About the author – Noel Anderson has worked in film and theatre and is currently adapting his play Sammy & Dave into a film, about two bisexual-married men who rendezvous for a one night stand. Based on a true story.

Breaking the Code – A Writer’s Life

‘I let my imagination carry me’ – Noel Anderson

I can’t remember when I started writing exactly. I recall sitting on the floor at home watching TV and bashing away on an old typewriter that I loved. Writing always felt like an adventure. A trek into my subconscious mind. Once inside, the mission should I decide to take it, is often dreaming up things unobtainable in real life. As a boy, these dreams consisted of movie terrors from outer space.  Black and white monsters from the 1950’s were on high rotation most afternoons. On a secret mission, breaking the code to life itself, I imagined I worked tirelessly with a group of American scientists at an isolated outpost. In my imagination, I discover, ‘monsters that time forgot,’ frozen in a clump under the Arctic ice. Naturally I save the day, destroy the creatures and the world is safer place, thanks to my fertile imagination. In my backyard-fantasies, I let my imagination carry me. I play with wooden pegs, turning them into astronauts, painting on space helmets. Surrounded by washing drying on a Hills Hoist, I stir up a storm in a tea cup… and I write. This habit of putting down words day and night, is going to be a lifetime problem, I decide.

But, puberty changes things, and the years fly by. Friends once thought precious have gone, family passed over. Values held dear to my heart as a younger man, feel wasted, like second hand clothes, so I wash them away. Writing feeds me when I am lost in the dark.

“Hey you. Your a writer aren’t you?” I look at the timetable, pretending not to hear. “Hey, you. I know your work. I read your story online about the death your father.”

“Do I know you?” I ask, waiting for the tram.

“Brave. I wish I could be like that. Put stuff out there, my feelings, to the universe. Just say fuck it! Seriously I want that. I do…You know, if I had time to be a writer, like you…I’d be better than you. I’d be something else, I know.” He leaves. I don’t remember his face.

I breathe freely and miss my tram. I wait. In those minutes, nothing mattered. Time stopped. Gradually my mind turns white, like a blank sheet of paper. Then, holding my imagination tightly, I write… if only I was a real person, like him. But, I’m not. Oh, well…fuck it!

About the author – Noel Anderson has worked in film and theatre and is featured in Breaking the Code a two day symposium for writers/authors, 6-7th Oct 2018. Noel is currently adapting his play Sammy & Dave into a film, about two bisexual-married men who rendezvous for a one night stand. Based on a true story.

Sammy and Dave – Promo Trailer

The Best Pub in London by Noel Anderson

‘Good people drink good beer’

There are some things we’ve done away with that won’t ever come back, that’s good to let go of… like having to hand wash your clothes, like we did before washing machines were invented. Then there are things we’ve forgotten we need, like human connection beyond our iPhone and our laptops. A conundrum of modern life in most large cities. Recently on a trip to old London Town I was reminded of this. In a world gone mad with the possibility to connect or reconnect with more people than ever before, we appear to be isolating ourselves, going in reverse-cycle. Can we tune into each other again and put our iPhone away?

I’m in a pub in Holborn in central London on a warm night, and believe it or not there is no music playing inside the bar. The punters, mixed in age, are being forced to communicate in a music free venue. The pub is busy, everyone is talking, no one is yelling over loud ‘thump-thump’ music pumped out of cheap sound systems, like you’d find on a stroll down Chapel Street in Melbourne on any given night. At first, to be honest, I didn’t notice the lack of music, I just order a pure brewed organic lager, as you do, and found comfortable a seat. But, gradually as I sipped my beer, my mind started to search around for sound and the thump-thump-thump. But, there was none.

“I come here all the time,” a woman in her 40’s propped up at the bar told me. “I love it. This is one of the best pubs in London. Honest!”

“But, there’s no music being played. Is that normal?” I ask.

“That’s right. No they don’t play it at all. You can go to any of their pubs, they’re all over London you know, and there’s no music in any of them. They’re all like this. Everyone’s chattin’. I luv’em. Look around,” she smiled and finished drinking her fruit lager.

‘There’s no music playing’

A pub with no music, who thought of that? I ordered another pure organic pint and snuggled up close to the bar. It did indeed appear to be working, everyone was talking, even me, a total stranger in town, talking to the people around me in the pub. “I am just going to take some photos, if you don’t mind,” I tell the barman who is wearing a T-shirt stating ‘good people drink good beer’.

“Are you a famous writer or something?” he asked.

“No I’m just one of those annoying people who just keep at it, because I can’t think of anything else to do,” and I pull out my iPhone.

“Here, take one of me. Go on then.” He stands close to the bar pretending to pour a brewed beer and smiles. I snap a picture. Too easy. I look around the ornate pub and think, ‘this is probably the best pub in the West End… or the world. Lucky me’.

“It’s good here ain’t it” a young bloke across from me calls out, slightly pissed. “I just popped in for a few on’me way home. I live with’me sister, she’s cooked dinner. I best go after this one.”

“I’m from Australia” I announce unexpectedly.

“I can tell. How long are you here for?” he asked, sipping his organic pint of pure beer.

“Three weeks. I use to live here. A long time ago. I’ve a few days in Paris this weekend, then back to London. Just here on hols”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Hols. Short for holiday. Australians shorten everything, all of us do,” I smile.

As I drank, I chatted. I chatted with the barman, then the barmaid. We talked about Europe and organic beer, naturally. I finished my pint and I left. In the two hours I sat in the pub, I can’t recall anyone taking out their phone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they did, but I didn’t notice because I was too busy talking absolute rubbish to total strangers. Just passing the time of day or what we use to call, shooting the breeze.

I walked back to the hotel and started to sing Slim Dusty’s classic Aussie song A Pub With No Beer.

It’s lonesome away, from your kindred and all

By the campfire at night, where the wild dingoes call

But there’s nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear

Than to stand in a bar, of a pub with no beer

I took the lift to the 7th floor, brushed my teeth, stripped naked and tucked myself into bed. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear tomorrow calling me. I turned over, pulling the sheet up over my head. I must wash my clothes first thing in the morning before I head to Paris for the weekend, I thought. Then, I gently sang myself to sleep.

About the author – Noel Anderson has worked in film and theatre and is featured in Breaking the Code a two day symposium for writers/authors, 6-7th Oct 2018. Noel is currently adapting his play Sammy & Dave into a film, about two bisexual-married men who rendezvous for a one night stand. Based on a true story.