Peter Rudge was born in Tasmania in 1927. He was educated in that state at primary and senior school levels and eventually at the University of Tasmania where by 1948 he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and a Diploma of Public Administration,
A few years later he trained for the ministry of the Anglican Church at St Michael's House in Adelaide from which he was ordained priest in 1953.
There was a further educational opportunity when he went to Leeds University in England where he completed his PhD in the field of the church management with his thesis being published in a pioneering book in 1968 as Ministry and Management.
In his professional life that followed, he always had to use his imagination but in a very restrained and disciplined way:
So his imagination was strictly controlled through all those occupations and years, but there were times when he let it range free. Hence the short stories in this book. They all deal with real and serious situations; and, if other people take them up in a disciplined way, they may find solutions to many issues of infrastructure and human concerns.
OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Ministry and Management
Management in the Church
The Human Sciences in Croquet
Croquet and Other Ball Sports
Body Language in the Laws of Croquet
Croquet: Fun and Games
Croquet: Variations on a Theme
The Basics of Competitions in Croquet
The Basics of Refereeing in Croquet
From Plato to the Present
The Formula To Say… To Do… To Be…
EXPERIMENTS IN WRITING
In my early days, the nearest thing to writing short stories was an exercise in English lessons called compositions, but I was not very good at producing them.
That form of writing soon gave way to more serious matters
such as essays at university and then a 250-page dissertation at a college in
Its publication led to a career as a management consultant in churches where I had to learn yet another style of writing. Most reports of consultations begin with a list of recommendations – usually a long list and with little indication of their relative importance. My style was to begin a report with about two pages of the best prose possible, setting out my assessment of the client’s situation, the major issue to be faced, and the proposed way forward. Then in the body of the report were succinct sentences and paragraphs clearly set out under the headings of chapters, divisions, sections, and sub-sections.
For these reports I learnt to use a microphone attached to a dictating machine, with the script produced by a professional typist. I used the same method in later scholarly works such as Order and Disorder in Organisations. The script in them was much more fluent.
Then there were opportunities for other styles of writing. I learned how to write book reviews for The Canberra Times. Some 80 of them are reproduced in my book Reviewing the Times for The Canberra Times, together with an appendix on this distinctive style of producing a script for a specific purpose.
Another part of my professional life was in the ministry of the church where I was called upon to preach the gospel. In these I learnt the particular art form required for this kind of public speaking, though some of it was in places other than in a church. I learnt this skill from none other than the famous radio broadcaster Alistair Cooke who spoke of “writing for speaking” as distinct from “writing for reading”. I developed my own form of blank verse quite distinguishable from the blank verse that I was accustomed to in the writings of Shakespeare. The rationale of it as well as examples were set out in a recent book entitled Preaching the Gospel.
Yet another style of writing was required for the presentation of material in a technical or specialised area – in my case, the field of garden design and the sport of croquet. The format that I devised is the double-spread way: at the opening of the book, all that needed to be said on a particular subject was contained within its confines. As to the nature of the text, it was a matter of producing a series of succinct paragraphs that were interesting and readable and still communicated all that needed to be seen to on each subject – with the topic encapsulated in one opening sentence.
Then, well on into a long life, I have turned to writing short stories and – as may be guessed – they are in a style different from the short stories of Somerset Maugham and Guy de Maupassant, which I enjoyed greatly and which were primarily in prose. My style of writing short stories is a chatty and conversational style. Again this was largely due to a technical innovation whereby, in speaking into a microphone of a computerised gadget, the script is produced on the computer screen. In social life I am not very good as a conversationalist; and so I was surprised at the speed with which the stories just tippled out as fast as the typing could appear on screen. All that I had to do on the keyboard while speaking was to press the key “Enter” which provided a fresh line in the script for the next contribution in the conversation. Later I would go back to insert the inverted commas and a few other bits of punctuation. It was an exciting and rewarding exercise with each story taking no more than a couple of hours.
A distinctive feature of most short stories is the way that they end. For years I have listened to the short stories on the ABC Sunday program on Radio National. I have concentrated particularly on the way in which the writer produced an imaginative and intriguing ending, perhaps all the more evident in these radio stories in that they were spoken. I have tried to follow the example that was set when concluding these stories of mine.
Then there is the question of the topics for my sort of
short stories. All of them are bright – or not so bright – ideas that have
occurred to me during my lifetime. While they are matters of imagination, they
all relate to specific situations in the real world especially of geography,
engineering, and technology. The question remains of how relevant they are to
modern circumstances or in the future: to explain that, there are a few lines
appended at the end of each to assess the issue. One in particular about Hong
Kong is of the past and can never come to fruition, but in the others there
still remains a possibility of making an impact on the real world. All but one
of the stories are about situations within Australia which readers could readily
envisage. Only the one about the
So there has been a personal history of experimentation in writing behind this new venture of producing short stories and the imagination which gave rise to their content. Maybe the innovative capacities of readers will be aroused by tracing the conversations presented here.
The Gold Coast
PS: I am probably too old to start thinking of writing a novel.
First of all, I am indebted to my publishers Zeus Publications for their readiness to publish these short stories, particularly as they are so different from the scholarly work that has been the main focus of their publishing of my writings.
I am very grateful to Anna Bligh for consenting to write the Foreword for this book and also allowing her name to be used in the story about the floods in Brisbane.
I thank my niece Trixie for providing photos, especially those of the disposition of the ashes of my parents. I thank also her husband John Duncan who provided the engineering skills in writing the story about Bass Strait and for allowing his name to be used in the narrative.
I thank my cousin Marion who has provided photos as well as contributing her skills in geography in several of the stories. I thank also her husband Graham Jones for checking the mathematics involved in one of the stories. My thanks are also due to Brian Becconsall, a friend of Marion and Graham, who provided much information about power stations and cooling towers.
I am indebted to the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in Queensland, the holders of the copyright of Anna Bligh’s speech, for their permission to use it at considerable length in one of the stories.
In that story about the Brisbane floods, I have quoted the opening page and a few small paragraphs of the Report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry. The passages remain unaltered. My thanks for allowing me to use these passages.
In the same story, I have used quotations from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which is covered by the 70-year rule.
The opening lines to the disposition of my parents’ ashes were composed by the Revd Louise Priest for use in the services. My thanks are due to her for her care and attention in finding the appropriate details and wording.
The pictorial insertions into the stories are of two kinds:
First, the maps. I am indebted to Bernie of B.G. Plans, of Banora Point, NSW, who gave a professional touch and finish to the rough scribbled sketches I gave him. He has fulfilled my hope that the maps tell the stories.
Then there are many photos, the acknowledgement of which is in two parts:
First, there are the photos provided by relatives and friends. The name of the photographer is not shown and in some cases not even the title of the photo.
The remainder of the photos require a more technical handling as follows:
Each photo is given a title.
For each photo, the name of the photographer is shown in brackets.
No changes have been made to any photograph.
Licence information for all photos is available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/
I am indebted to my computer man Peter Kukums for his assistance throughout and especially for negotiating the arrangements above for photos.
Stories hold our memories and shape our dreams. For centuries the short story has been a vehicle to capture an idea, a fragment, a moment; shorter than a novel but long enough to explore and describe and paint a picture. In this collection of stories the reader will find dreams and memories, the real and the imagined brought to life through lively conversations.
In seeking to change the world, Peter Rudge literally reimagines the shape of our world and explores how grand-scale engineering feats can bring us closer together, keep us safer or drive our economy further. Whether it’s the chance to drive to Tasmania or bring iron ore across the country from Western Australia to Gladstone, here is a future Australia not often contemplated. Peter takes an equally grand scale lens to reimagining our past and redesigning what might have been, say if the British colony of Hong Kong had been relocated fifty years ago to Islands off Darwin.
These are big ideas and in every story Peter has brought them to life through a style that is new to him as an author – through the questions and answers, reminiscence and reflection of conversations.
Behind the chatty presentation is a serious purpose. In a growing Australia and a world with many emerging economies, the challenge of infrastructure is constant and the decisions we make will define us and how we live. In these stories, we are challenged to think differently, to think new, to think beyond our own horizon. My own words find their way into Peter’s story about saving the city of Brisbane from future floods. Peter draws on some of my words during the terrible floods of January 2011 to capture the fear and devastation of that terrible summer – an experience we would all hope never to see again. Set in a future Brisbane, Peter’s story conjures a city protected by a series of engineered channels which effectively change the shape of the river. It’s a thought-provoking read.
If you enjoy chatter and conversations, read these short stories but be prepared for a challenge to conventional thinking! Enjoy your reading.
Former Premier of Queensland
CEO, YWCA NSW
1. Bridging Bass Strait
A trip by car from Tasmania to Victoria, island hopping where possible and otherwise using a series of suspension bridges. Explained by an engineering expert. With observations about geography and natural history.
2. The New Hong Kong
About 60 years ago and long before its repatriation to mainland China was on the political horizon, Hong Kong was relocated to the Melville and Bathurst Islands offshore from Darwin. How it happened and what it would look like.
3. Straight Across the Bering Strait
Four Australians on the inaugural train journey from Moscow to New York, made possible by the filling in of the Bering Strait to provide road and rail connections between Siberia and Alaska. Their experiences on the way and the lessons in geography learnt. How this man-made construction is the first in oceanographic history whereby the course of ocean currents has been changed.
4. Trans-Continental Coal and Iron Ore
The establishment of a railway shuttle service between Gladstone in the east and Karratha in the west, carrying coal to the west and iron ore to the east. The basis for an enormous development of steel-mill industries on both sides of the country.
5. Saving Brisbane from Floods
The grand opening of a canal to carry floodwaters from west
6. Intervention in the Northern Territory
A conversation with a leading basketballer soon after he gave up being captain of the Boomers. How he might have led the inauguration of sporting facilities and leaders in all Aboriginal communities.
7. Reticulated Hot Water
A visitor to a new suburb west of Brisbane gains first-hand experience and knowledge of how hot water from a new power station is being reticulated to all of the houses in the suburb.
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