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omars’ regrets

Verse 70

Sydney bookshops were awash with copies of the Rubaiyat in the 40’s. A small book, hardcover and soft. Cheap both new and second-hand.

You’re a woman wishing to buy a gift for a man. Would you sift through the bookshop’s second-hand bin looking to buy one with an existing inscription?

What are the chances that would it would fit the relationship that exists between you and the man you are intending to give the book to?



Why not write your own?

Jessica Harkness and Alfred Boxall met in the Clifton Gardens hotel. They shared a table for two. Drinks for two. A meeting they both remembered. Then there was her gift. When Alf opened the Rubaiyat she gave him and saw the inscription there was one question Stuart Littlemore didn’t think to ask him all those years later in his filmed interview.

‘Did you ask Jessica if she wrote it?’

Alf and Jessica were never lovers, when Littlemore alluded to such a relationship Alf almost recoiled. But there was a relationship, and Verse 70 is the only clue we have as to what was its basis because years later, when interviewed again by Gerry Feltus she’d said she’d forgotten all about it.

What were Omars’ regrets?

How do they define the Tamam Shud Mystery?

Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore – but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.



16 Comments Post a comment
  1. ellen #

    I think he was her handler and there was some cock up so upsetting that she quit spying and dropped out of nursing school. Now she wants back into the spy game. Their meeting took place about the time of the Japanese atomic bomb drops in August.

    March 11, 2017
  2. Alf worked just down the road at the Army Water base, Jessica may have been stationed at the Georges Head recuperative hospital – somebody would have seen them, somebody would have known them.
    Agents and their handlers preferred secrecy when they met, given the times and with CIS sparrows on every corner.

    March 11, 2017
  3. ellen #

    “But was I sober when I swore.” Maybe she was mind controlled.

    March 12, 2017
  4. ellen #

    Gave her allegiance as a spy. She might have been desperate. People have been coerced into spying.

    March 13, 2017
    • Gave her allegiance to who?

      March 13, 2017
      • ellen #

        I think you overestimate the skill of the spies involved. She was very young and in over her head. Ostensibly, she wanted to rejoin Al in the Aussie cause but she was a double agent. Russia (British Israel) …..Roger Hollis in the wings…wouldn’t let her off the hook.
        It is interesting that you see Al as being a squeamish lover….perhaps only in the affair’s being made public. He was married after all.

        March 14, 2017
  5. Why would any intelligence agency hire a young inexperienced woman to work undercover, let alone engage her as a double agent? And of course Hollis was in the wings, his job was to refashion the Australian security apparatus into something the Americans wanted, a secure apparatus. External Affairs was overpopulated with communists and leaks were commonplace.

    March 14, 2017
  6. ellen #

    Why would an intelligence agency hire a young inexperienced woman or man? They did what they had to. It was a war, life and death unscripted.

    March 15, 2017
  7. ellen #

    Why would a seasoned, experienced war hardened officer do such a sentimental thing as holding on to an inscribed book of poetry from a much younger nurse?

    March 15, 2017
    • Nobody has an answer to that question …

      March 15, 2017
  8. ellen #


    March 16, 2017
  9. And he leaves the book in his bookshelf, in his living room where the good wife can pick it up and read it anytime she likes?
    Is that likely?

    March 16, 2017
  10. ellen #

    I am having a cocktail at my favorite bar. While sipping a manhattan, a handsome man sidles up beside me and says that he has noticed me before and would like to give me a book of poetry and inscribes his favorite verse. I pick up the book, peruse it, I realize that I am happily married to the love of my life. As I leave the bar, I pitch the book of poetry in a rubbish bin.

    Perhaps, that is what happened to the second book of poetry. Jessica tries to offer Somerton Man a book of poetry while sitting on the steps of the Crippled Children’s Home sharing a pasty and a hit from her hip flask. He is a famous ballet star and used to fan’s efforts to ingratiate themselves. After she has left the scene, he sashays over to a parked car and tosses the book into a parked car. He secretly has an unrequited crush on Vladimir the stage hand and her offer is out of the question.

    Meanwhile, Al, the loving husband and stalwart mechanic, remembers the days when he was a secret spy and envy of the other soldiers in the barracks. Young pretty nurses flirting outrageously as he guides them through sedition. He has only to look at the book of poetry on his credenza and feel a perverse flush of derring do, marveling that his wife has never asked him of its origin.

    March 17, 2017
  11. Break that up into 45 chapters and there’s a book.

    March 17, 2017
  12. Clive #

    Margaret Mitchell would seem to have a rival?

    March 17, 2017

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