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THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE... AND OTHER SHORT STORIES

The Great Gingerbread House Decorating Epiphany By Stuart McCullough I GOT carried away. Which is to say that my transition from bewildered detachment through to enraptured hysteria was such that I temporarily abandoned any notion of goodwill to others. Instead, I elected to mercilessly crush the opposition and do all things necessary to secure a glorious victory that, in my mind at least, would be celebrated through the ages. I speak, of course, of competitive gingerbread house decorating. I was a third wheel of sorts. Which is to say that I was attending a Christmas lunch with my sister in law who, in turn, was hosting her in laws. I’m not sure what an in law once removed is, but that’s what I was. (I’m not sure about the expression ‘third wheel’. When you think about it, a third wheel is, in actual fact, pretty useful. Try driving without a third wheel and see how far you get.) As a ‘plus one’, my job for the day was to refrain from any conduct that could be remotely described as embarrassing. This is more difficult than it sounds. Lunch was delightful. Both the food and the conversation were great. As the meal ended, I wondered what might come next. In our family, we defy the gravitational effects of a really large lunch by playing cricket in the back yard. This goes on until all the balls have been tonked into the long grass of the paddock next door and we decide to leave them to the snakes. For other families, Christmas lunch is followed by a screening of a movie – like A Very Brady Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life or, depending on your preference, Die Hard.

As it turns out, my in laws in law (if that’s a thing) are not ones for back yard cricket or yuletide viewings of Die Hard. No one was interested in a nap. As the plates were cleared, one family member emitted a battle cry declaring it was ‘game on’ and that the annual gingerbread house throwdown had commenced. At first I didn’t take it seriously. But it soon became clear that this annual competition involved picking teams, strategy sessions and, in the end, a winner and a loser. Determined not to make any waves, I resolved to do just enough to avoid ignominy whilst taking the first opportunity to slink away. To make me, as the relative newcomer, feel as welcome as possible, I was chosen dead last.

Clearly, despite the convivial atmosphere, everyone regarded me as something of a deadweight. I headed into the strategy session, where various ideas were floated. None of them seemed quite right. I’d earlier spotted a packet of gummy bears in the kitchen and was convinced that the only logical theme for our gingerbread house was ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’. My team members embraced the idea with gusto. Having quickly drawn up blueprints and gained local council approval, we set about decorating our gingerbread house. I started by hand-carving Goldilocks using a chocolate button, icing, half a Smartie and small pieces of licorice. With my Goldilocks setting in the fridge, I moved on to

creating lawn by pulverizing a mint crisp chocolate bar I stole from my wife’s handbag. In the midst of my feverish pounding, I looked up and noticed that the rest of my team were proceeding in a far more casual manner. It was then that I crossed over. Suddenly, I was barking orders. I had a vision for this gingerbread house and nothing was going to stand in my way. We made snow by grating white chocolate, a window for Goldilocks to look through and a pathway for the returning bears. Using a licorice strap, I carved a small shotgun for one of the bears. Whilst the idea of a fairytale character packing heat may seem odd, it’s worth remembering that Goldilocks, at its heart, is the story of a home invasion.

Those bears have a right to defend themselves and their porridge by any means necessary. Then I took things too far. When one of my teammates held up a car made of licorice allsorts (you didn’t expect Goldilocks to walk, did you?), I demanded to know how fuelefficient the engine was. Like Kurtz, I was heading further and further up the river into complete madness. Naturally, the end result was a masterpiece. Indeed, our gingerbread house was so awesome that I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if a tiny gingerbread Kevin McCloud had appeared and showered me with praise. That the other house was deemed to be the ultimate winner was a substantial miscarriage of justice. I haven’t given up hope - the results of the drug tests I insisted on are yet to come back. I’m pretty sure the other team will be disqualified. Christmas is a funny thing. Sometimes you’re with your immediate family, sometimes with a newer family. In a way, family is as elastic a concept as anything else and it’s these kinds of events that serve a reminder of how life moves and changers. For me, it’s always interesting to see what role ritual plays in these gatherings. Traditions give us comfort, make us feel safe. More than that, they make us feel as if we belong. As for me, I will spend the coming year working on my gingerbread house decorating skills so that I’m ready for Christmas when it next rolls around. Assuming, of course, that I’m invited back. stuart@stuartmccullough.com

ROY ORTUSO PRESENTS // Direct from the USA

ELVIS - AN AMERICAN TRILOGY The legendary Elvis Presley has been celebrated worldwide - he was one of the biggest and most important stars of the 20th Century pop culture.

Starring Vic Trevino Jnr, Gino Monopoli, Steve Michaels

FRIDAY 9 MARCH

FRANKSTON PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE TICKETS AVAILABLE AT ARTSCENTRE.FRANKSTON.VIC.GOV.AU abstractentertainment.net

A cultural Icon who was often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll” and now direct from the U.S comes the Ultimate return Australian Concert Tour 2018 of “ELVIS - AN AMERICAN TRILOGY” - the Complete Story that takes three of the World’s leading Elvis Tribute artists starring in one of the most spectacular live concert production that takes you on a journey through the music of the “The King” in the history of entertainment. The three stages in the success of “ELVIS - The King” stars VIC TREVINO JNR., who

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Frankston Times 29 January 2018

embodies the Rockabilly Sound of the young Elvis; GINO MONOPOLI recreates the sophisticated sound of the Elvis movie years with tracks from iconic films “GI Blues”, “Kid Gallahad”, “Speedway” and many more. He is magnificent as he recreates the 1968 comeback TV Special; and lastly, GREG MILLER channels Elvis in the famous White Eagle Jumpsuit. He recreates the Seventies with “An American Trilogy” featuring the Moves, the Songs and the Nuances that made Elvis the most recognisable figure in the History of World Music. “ELVIS - AN AMERICAN TRILOGY” is heading to Frankston Arts Centre on Friday 9th March, 2018. Tickets on (03) 9784 1060 or at thefac.com.au

29 January 2018  

Frankston Times 29 January 2018

29 January 2018  

Frankston Times 29 January 2018

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