Two evenings with Calexico

Calexico at Hamer Hall 2 March 2016 Image copyright bandAnna photography 2016

Follow this link to my review of the U.S. band Calexico from Tucson, Arizona, who are currently on tour in Australia and New Zealand. I was lucky enough to see them twice, at Hamer Hall in Melbourne and Meeniyan Town Hall in South Gippsland, Vic.

Additionally, a slightly shorter version appeared on:

I can probably help

photo of Urquhart's bluff and beach victoria

A yellow rescue helicopter hovers menacingly just beyond the break. Its downdraft carves a white-fringed crater on the sea’s surface. A rescuer descends on a rope. Soon after a body rises, limp and curved over the sling of the rope. The chopper swings toward the beach, depositing them onto the sand. An ambulance arrives in the carpark. I watch the paramedics run to the body.

I start walking. I’m conscious of being in my swimsuit.

The paramedics are performing CPR. Someone asks me to move aside.

‘I’m an emergency doctor, I can probably help,’ I say.

A paramedic looks up. ‘Are you a doctor? Can you try tubing her?’ He waves the tube and motions for me to join them.

I’m on my knees in the wet sand, leaning over a woman younger than me. She’s clothed in jeans and a t-shirt that’s pulled down exposing her chest. She is cold and grey. Her eyes stare, pupils huge and cloudy. My impression is she’s dead.

I insert the airway tube and frothy pink water gushes out of her windpipe. She has no pulse. We strip off her wet clothes trying to let the sun warm her.

She was dragged out by the rip. The guy next to me saw it happen. He is a surfer and a nurse. He saw her jump off the rock platform after her son. He tried to rescue them, but she was unconscious. Her son was floundering. The nurse chose to rescue the son first because he was still conscious.

We try, but we can’t revive her.

A retrieval helicopter descends to land on the beach. Its downdraft sandblasts us. Two paramedics in navy jumpsuits emerge. I give them a brief run down. I have my doubts she’ll survive; it’s been too long and I think she had drowned before she was pulled from the water.

The paramedics continue CPR as she is carried to the helicopter. The engine powers up and in a moment the helicopter is airborne and away.

When I look up, I realise the beach is empty. No one approaches me. I go to the water’s edge to wash my hands in the sea.

It’s the lead story on the news that night. She didn’t survive. My heart bleeds for her young boy.

I return to the beach a week later. It’s been deserted, labelled treacherous. The people who know what happened feel the need to swim between the flags for a while.

I walk along the expanse of sand and imagine I see her face reflected in the sheen of water left by each wave. Although this is still my favourite place to run my dog and dig mermaid pools with my daughter, it has changed for me forever. I pay my respects both to her and the sea, leaving flowers on the sand.


This piece was published in the book ‘Emergency: Real Stories from Australia’s ED doctors’, edited by Simon Judkins, Penguin 2015


Thanks to Spineless Wonders for this beautiful video reading of my story.

This microfiction piece was published in the 2015 Spineless Wonders Anthology ‘Out of Place’



Evie lies on her back. The noise-cancelling headphones squeeze her skull. Her surging thoughts press from the inside. Everyone reminds her she has to sleep. The relaxation CD plays but the bewitching voice and tinkling new-age music heighten her frustration.

It isn’t the baby. She’s pretty good, doing what’s expected.

Everything is amplified. At night, through closed doors, she can still hear the dog breathing in the hallway. Drifting doof music competes with her heartbeat. A skateboarder sounds like a freight train on the footpath. Fruit bats arguing in the fig tree sound like pterodactyls.

He brings the baby in for a feed.

Afterwards father and daughter sleep again. Evie doesn’t.

The first train triggers the boom gate’s bells at 04.52 and every twenty minutes thereafter. It heralds the morning cacophony: wattlebirds choking, lorikeets shrieking, magpies gargling.

Every sound shoots an arrow of adrenaline through her body. Her vision is in pixels. Kaleidoscopic windmills twirl under her eyelids. Her chest may explode with her trapped breath.

Oh, to drop off that knife-edge into sleep.

She’s made a mistake.

The baby is hers, but she wants to give it back.

Or run away.

He won’t be happy either way.

The Eagle

Wedgetailed eagle flying 
She finds an eagle on a highway verge—a wedge-tailed eagle. It lies with its eyes open next to a stinking kangaroo carcass. It has been struck by a vehicle; must have been recent as every other predator and scavenger, including its own kind, haven’t yet discovered it. Such is life in the outback—cannibalism is an accepted form of survival.

Continue reading The Eagle