Category Archives: memoir

Psalter Hymnal

Treble clefs: round and round and
up and down and flourish.

Those curly ears- listening, listening
for the black dot birds, perched
on the five wires.

And the bass clefs: well, they were
round wombat bottoms, depositing
seriously deep stuff.

Kids amid the thronging worshippers:
we enjoyed the thronging most
when we could see many little birds,
quavering. And least,
when we had to unearth smooth white circles of
perfect theology, minim by semibreve.

The best things about the psalter?
A Mighty Fortress- we begin with three lovely C’s.
That hymn alone, need sing no other.

Also, the worship tide gently
foaming back towards us at the end.
That final flow of all blessing, praise God for it.

Anything else?  Yes, but it’s not actually in the psalter.
Hearing my friend playing organ during the collection.
It was Lovesong by The Cure,
and nobody knowing what they were dropping coins to.
Well- we did.

Danielle Terceiro

This poem was shortlisted for the 2014 Adrien Abbott prize for poetry

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Keeping your white-collared shirt crime-free

It seems as if at least one regulator always has the opportunity, in the run up to  Christmas, to  grab some HEADLINE about WHITE COLLAR CRIME.  To lob a nice little media release out there about (alleged) corporate  misconduct, just in time for the weekend papers and just in time for the corporate lawyers, in-house and out-of -house, to cancel their European skiing trips.

Last December, the Australian competition regulator filed a court action that alleged a criminal cartel between a big Australian retailer and  some multinationals. It alleged that these  companies  had a secret “Project Mastermind”.  Company reps met (allegedly) to discuss ways to fix the prices of laundry products, and worked together to introduce standardised “ultra concentrate” laundry products.

It’s a shame that the ultra concentrate laundry powder did not do more to keep all the white-collared shirts looking clean.

I have worked as a competition lawyer, and before that, as an investigator for the Australian competition regulator. I am still, always, intrigued by white collar crime.  My YA novel paddled a little in these waters.

 It really seems that people should know better than to get together with competitors to mastermind a market.  In Australia, market sharing and price fixing are criminal offences.  Most big company people, whether in sales or product development or whatever, have had some level of compliance training.  Many of these people would have a technical or legal person sitting in an office down the corridor who is always happy to have a “Can we do this / Why not? / Can we do this other thing? / Why not?” type of discussion with them.

At a law firm I worked at a special t-shirt was made up for our competition law retreat.  The front of the t-shirt had a picture of Adam Smith and this quote:

“people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”.

I think, perhaps, that regulators are *especially* suspicious where reps of competing firms meet outside company premises to engage in “merriment and diversion”.  This is where my own suspicious imagination runs:

Time to leave for that competitor gathering.  There is some official stuff on the agenda, but other merry and diverting discussions are sure to pop up.  Let’s get  changed out of this suit and slide down the dress code to “business casual.” These chinos and polo shirts and [insert female quivalent here: I was never sure] are so… freeing.  After a couple of drinks the legal and technical guy/dame who lives down the corridor (and who is not invited to this event)  is SUCH fun to joke about.  He/she is always so slow to get with the new product.  So slow that he/she hasn’t worked out that the phrase “Thanks, friend”, is used by the whole team as code for “Can’t you ever give advice that is tailored to the real world?!”  And yes, it’s so fun keeping the “Real World” share drive far, far away from his/her computer…

Perhaps the Adam Smith t-shirt could be compulsory to wear under business suits?  So that his words would always be there, written across the corporate heart. And if the suit was discarded in preparation for a competitor gathering, his eyes would be watching over all the merriment and diversion.

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Peppermint theology

When I was little, peppermints belonged to Sunday mornings, and to Sunday mornings only. Peppermint rolls were tucked inside many black patent bags before church, and distributed discreetly during the sermon. Mum and Tante Janny were the official peppermint dispensers at each end of our pew. They could divine when a peppermint moment had arrived. Their timing was usually very good. It was rare that their peppermint moments coincided and we ended up with two rolls of Allens’ Steamrollers travelling up and down the pew in opposite directions.

When you sucked a peppermint you got a nice jolt of steam up your nostrils.  But peppermints also served many practical purposes. If the minister unfolded more than a three-point sermon, you had enough peppermint-fuelled energy to absorb the fourth, fifth or sixth points. You had the energy to sing the closing hymn with vigour, even when the minister chose a slow Genevan hymn, and others around chopped the notes with disrespectful haste. You could Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow, and sing out praise to the whole Trinity, including the Holy Ghost, without flagging. And you had the strength to ride all the way up and down the last Amen in the Three Fold Amen.

Ah-men, Ah-men, Ah – Ah –Ah – Ah-men. 

When I was six I began to swallow these peppermints whole. A few blinks, a gulp, and the peppermint went down without a proper chew or suck.

Why did I begin to do this?  Mum had said to me: You are not allowed to crunch your peppermints. I knew this meant that you should suck them, not chew them. Sucking was silent and solemn. It gave you thoughtful, concave cheeks. I imagined the minister looking down from the pulpit, happy at the many thoughtful and concave cheeks. He would find pleasure in seeing this reaction to his well-crafted, doctrinally sound sermon.

Then, my next hollow-cheeked thought: How could you suck peppermints down to nothing? It must be bad to linger over peppermint goodness for too long. You should really have your mind on other things during a well-crafted sermon.  Once you were suitably refreshed, you had to take the Gulp. A big, scary, sanctifying Gulp. The timing of the Gulp could never be perfect- I knew this. Sometimes I was tempted to suck too long on the peppermint before it went down-this was greedy. Sometimes I swallowed too soon- this was harsh. The unsucked peppermint would scrape my insides angrily.

I knew that I had constructed a strange peppermint theology. I wanted a way out. I said to my mum: When you told me not to crunch peppermints, I thought that meant I had to swallow them whole. She laughed and said: I only meant that you should suck them quietly; you don’t have to swallow them whole.

My mum and my aunties laughed together over the pepermuntje story. My older cousins laughed too. I didn’t laugh, but I was glad that my peppermint gulping could stop. It was a family joke, as well as a strange niece, a weird cousin.

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