BUSH TELEGRAPH XPRESS

Stories. Photojournals. Books.

Liezl Shnookal photo

Welcome to Bush Telegraph XPress

"My name is Liezl Shnookal and I'm an Australian writer who lives in the bush. I've created an online "bush telegraph" so that I can share my work with you. Here you will discover short stories to read, visual stories to explore and a couple of books to check out. Each one has been an enormous labour of love and is ready to make its own way in the world. So I'm now sending them all out to you, in the hope that you will enjoy them."

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Enjoy (possibly through gritted teeth) a political satire about Australian politics and climate change, which I wrote in 2014 but hasn't dated 🙁

Fiddling while Rome Burns

As the sun rises over Powertown, Tony Nero strides purposefully to his desk. The federal election has just been called and he is a man in waiting no longer. He locates his laptop, scans the headlines on screen, and groans. There are floods or bushfires in several key marginal seats, again. Why the hell, he wonders, can’t natural disasters be confined to safe Red Party electorates? Nero calls for coffee, then remembers that it’s too early for the girl to be at work. He sighs and begins a two-hour exercise program in the private gymnasium annexed to his office. It’s going to be a marathon race to the finish line and the seasoned veteran knows he needs to be in tip-top shape.

Meanwhile, north of Powertown, a family is already on task. It’s the second time in a year their home has been flooded, so they know exactly what to do. The oldest child gathers up sodden household items, while the younger ones wield mops. Fortunately there hadn’t been time to replace the carpet and so the parents roll the trolleys easily over the concrete slab as they move the furniture into two piles in the backyard – the salvageable and the completely ruined. They stop momentarily to commiserate with neighbours, but are soon back at work. Experience has taught them that there is no time to waste.

West of Powertown, Lord Corbulo is addressing a breakfast convention of thirty top business tycoons in his colonial castle. ‘Extreme weather events? Bah, humbug!’ he mocks. ‘We all know there’s no such thing as climate change.’ The tycoons tuck into dishes of caviar and pig-in-a-blanket, with much clinking of silver spoons on gold fillings. Corbulo finishes his speech and winks at Gina Stoneheart, his patron, who then lumbers to her feet to bellow, ‘The Blue Party will put a stop to this nonsense when they’re elected!’ She gestures towards the bank tellers who have appeared in the room, as if by magic, urging her fellow plutocrats to give generously to the campaign – she expects donations of no less than six figures apiece. ‘After all,’ Stoneheart reasons, ‘it’s an investment in your future.’ The industrialists willingly oblige, united in their desire to get rid of the wicked witch of the south-east and her despicable tax on carbon.

Back in Powertown, but on another day, Julia Caesar is rallying the troops in a meeting room. She has important news to impart. With the imminent departure of a few trusted generals, she wants to announce the Red Party’s fresh line-up to the rest, before the media hears about it. Naturally, the unions have already been informed. Everyone seems pleased with the reshuffle and Caesar returns to her office to continue strategising. She summons her chief adviser to ask how she is faring in the latest opinion poll. The adviser gives her the thumbs down, but says that her new glasses are receiving a lot of positive media attention.

A long distance away from politics, across a considerable breadth of sea, Aleki comes out of his beachfront shack into the glorious Polynesian sunshine. Hand in hand with a couple of small grandchildren, he walks to the water’s edge and examines the shoreline anxiously. It’s his daily ritual, now. One child asks if today is the day they will have to leave, and with a shake of his head, Aleki quickly reassures the little boy. Yet he is aware that the ocean is advancing up the beach towards his home and eventually he will have no choice but to shift his family off the island to safety. It is simply a question of when. Aleki stands for a minute more, gazing over the turquoise sea, before heading back indoors with his grandchildren.

Come on a journey with me around the Galapagos Islands and meet some spectacular wildlife

Embark on another journey with me, which unfortunately turned into . . .

A Travel Nightmare

For those of you about to travel, I recommend that you don’t read this story.

After a month in Morocco, it was time for me to start heading homewards. I placed my luggage on the conveyer belt at the airport, and smiled at the woman behind Royal Air Maroc’s check-in counter. Although it was 3.30am in the morning and I’d had no sleep the previous night, I was happy to be leaving Marrakech. However the woman looked at her computer screen, shook her head and handed me a piece of paper with a phone number written on it.  “Cancelled” was all she said and then waved me dismissively aside.

Somewhat alarmed, I rang the number, to learn that indeed my 6.05am Royal Air Maroc flight had been cancelled. For almost two hours, I argued and pleaded with the person on the other end of the phone, until finally I managed to secure a seat on the 6.20am flight from Marrakech to Casablanca. I was extremely relieved. I was going to make my Casablanca to Abu Dhabi connection with Etihad, after all. Hurray! As I returned to the check-in counter, I smiled again, happily anticipating that wonderful moment at the end of my day and journey, when I fell into bed at Abu Dhabi’s swank airport hotel.

Clutching my precious boarding pass, I headed out onto the tarmac in the blistering heat with only a few other passengers. We hesitated. Which was our plane? Finally someone came to our rescue and pointed to one particular plane, an old one with propellers. Boarding, we were surprised to see a plane almost full of passengers, from Agadir. We took our seats. The lights went off, and then came back on. Three times. The engine started up, revved, and died. I began to feel nauseous. There were several more attempts to fire up the engine. It was clear that we were going nowhere in that plane and frankly, when they ordered us off, I was more than happy to oblige.

We were herded into a gate lounge and abandoned. No information, or assistance, was provided. Occasionally, a Royal Air Maroc staff person would become visible in the area and our self-appointed leaders would rush him to hurl questions, but to no avail. As time progressed, it became clear that there was to be no replacement plane and that all of us were going to miss our connecting international flights. Finally, after a particularly heated exchange with a staff member, my fellow “passengers” suddenly were on the move. I followed in hot pursuit. We passed some toilets and although I really needed to use one, I didn’t want to risk becoming separated from my stampeding mob. We were led through security, presumably to check that we hadn’t picked up a bomb on our stationary aircraft, and we dutifully but resentfully filled in our arrival forms as we queued at immigration counters to re-enter Morocco. We were then taken into an area where we were re-united with our bags. As we were waiting to go through more security, I managed to find another “passenger” who spoke some English. He informed me that there was a bus to take us to Casablanca. Really? A bus? Surely this was a joke!

After six hours of waiting to board a plane, I finally boarded a bus. For almost four hours I sat on this bus with a very full bladder, wishing that I hadn’t drunk the entire contents of my water bottle in order to clear immigration, many hours earlier. When we finally arrived at Casablanca’s airport, my need for a toilet was desperate, far more so than for any boarding pass. At least that problem I could easily rectify.

Head back in time to archive footage and an account of family holidays at the beach

Be transported into a dystopian world of rampant consumerism - but don't get too attached to Charlotte!

The Tide Turns

Resplendent in her turquoise Armani neck-to-ankle swimsuit, Charlotte splashed out of the sea, removed her Gucci goggles and furtively scanned the beach. There was no sign of a Recreational Health and Safety Officer so the young woman quickly rolled up the sleeves and legs of her swimsuit, shook out her luxurious Louis Vuitton towel over the sand and with a sigh, delicately positioned herself face down upon it. She knew what she was doing was illegal and that she should be using her St Tropez self-tanning spray, but sometimes she found the urge to sunbake simply irresistible. Charlotte mentally selected ambient music on her Apple Me-pod as she hollowed a diminutive nest for her chin, revelling in the warmth of the sun on her exposed skin.

Further up the beach, there was a long queue of women patiently waiting their turn to get inside the Beauty Bubble. The gymnasium area was full to capacity, every piece of equipment in motion. The master on-line shopper classes too were doing good business, with the merchandise scrutinised on 3D Me-max screens and personal trainers at the ready for the novices. Even the makeover workshops were jam-packed, including the special sessions on surgery options and make-up techniques to minimise the appearance of post-operative scars. The power station was humming, generating enough electricity for all, as well as for the mini desalination plant that was needed for the showers and spas. Everywhere was a hive of healthy activity.

Charlotte languorously turned over on her towel and promised herself that she would bake for only another five minutes before driving to the gym.

Readers' Reviews

"I loved reading all of the stories in the Ebook collection. Just wish there were more. Best individual line: 'vegetarian unhappily adrift in the meat market.' Laughed aloud at that!"
Michele Feinberg, Annerley
"The novel OFF TRACK is an Australian version of The Catcher in the Rye. Everybody should read this book!"
Ros Addison, St Andrews
"I highly recommend all of Liezl Shnookal's short stories. My personal favourite is Lost and Found. I thought the parallel thread between the lost dog and the 'lost' little boy terrific!"
Jeff Nicholls, Brunswick
"Liezl Shnookal is a very skilled and imaginative writer."
Spencer Field, Healesville
"I was really moved by the novel OFF TRACK. It has a gentle and unpretentious tone; it was compassionate and quietly insightful."
Ann Birrell, St Kilda West
"One of my favourite authors is Liezl Shnookal and I'm really looking forward to reading her next book!
Julie Gillespie, Seaford
Bush Telegraph XPress acknowledges the traditional owners of this country and their continuing connection to land, waters and community. Bush Telegraph XPress pays its deepest respect to elders both past and present.