Category Archives: Melbourne

Lost and Found 2: Changeling

Lost and found 2 changelingOn Australia Day I went to the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens to see The Sapphires (courtesy of the Northern Territory tourism commission). What should I spy on the way in but this spangly sign that surely faeries have passed nearby, up to no good of course?

Bloody treacherous faeries.

Faeries, you see, get fancies. They see things they like and just take ’em. Pretty, shiny, sparkly things. And also babies. Faeries have an unfortunate tradition of taking a shine to some chubby little darling and whisking it away to the Land of Faerie to feed it little cakes and sips of flower nectar and generally spoil it rotten.

They’re not stupid, though, faeries. Even they have noticed that vanishing infants and toddlers create an awkward kerfuffle amongst those slow-witted and reality-bound humans, and some of those humans are annoyingly attached to their offspring, as well as irritatingly persistent in trying to get them back.

So faeries leave a substitute. A little changeling, very much like the child it’s replacing, but quieter. The changeling cries less, fusses less, is more placid and obedient and docile. With this sly bit of subterfuge, the faeries hope that the humans will just be grateful that their infant is suddenly much more pliable and easy to manage and not pursue the matter.

It’s not going to work this time though. Do you see that sparkly little jacket? That pink and spangly thing with flowers in it? That belongs to a bright and lively little girl who is always chattering and giggling and, well, yes, also screaming sometimes. She’s a kid. She doesn’t know all the words yet for what she wants and needs, let alone has oratory skills to help sway her audience to her way of thinking. When she’s a teenager, she’s going to be absolute hell, in the best possible way. In the meantime she chatters and giggles and screams as occasion demands.

Right now, she is making the Faerie Queen wish heartily she never saw the kid. Right now, she is expressing her opinions rather forcefully, even with her limited vocabulary, about the taste of bleeding flower nectar and the use of cobwebs – GODDAMN COBWEBS – as a blanket.

Have these faeries never noticed what kind of spiders live in the Real Plane that is called Australia, that this little girl quite rightly views with concern? It’s hard to feel cosy and relaxed sleeping under a little blankie made of the butt-silk of venomous things. Okay so maybe the kid has a problem and if she just thought about it she’d work it through and think the cobweb blankets were neat, but on the other hand, she’s thinking, you are not my real parents, who would never make me sleep under poisonous spider butt-silk sheets and wouldn’t make me drink bloody flower water and where the absolute hell is my bunny and my ninja My Little Pony and MY MUUUUUUUUUM?

For their part, her parents are not impressed with the obvious substitute they found in the stroller. This whey-faced, doughy, dull little baby with all the personality of an undercooked bread roll. Okay, so humans are not of themselves magic, but they’re not stupid, and they are, as explained, attached to their children. So these parents are going back to the gardens with this dull little changeling and they’re going to stand under the tree where they last saw their own child and they are going demand the return of their daughter. Loudly. Repeatedly. Insistently. With many, many swear words and very little in the way of attempts to bargain with the magic folk. Screw diplomacy. Give us back our daughter you creepy little winged freaks before we find a way to burn down your fairy fucking halls.

And frankly, the Faerie Queen is going to be much too relieved to be rid of this bold, brave, uncompromising, strong-willed and vocally enhanced human child to worry overmuch about the lack of courtesy.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at

Lost and Found 1: Bootless

Walking around any town, any village, any city, I’m always aware of the idea of the unknown history of a place. Who has walked this way before me? What worker, thousands of years ago, paused at the foot of this same pyramid? What Roman soldier took a breath as he stood by this wall back when this was Londinium?

Hidden histories aren’t just separated from me by time. People walk past every day, and I sometimes find myself wondering who they are and what their story is. That woman who is smiling as she talks to someone one the phone; that teenage boy who looks so sad: what dramas or everyday histories are unfolding for them? As a writer, and therefore a student of human nature, I can’t help but wonder.

And sometimes, the world at large leaves unexplained artefacts behind. Signs of some other story of which I can only see a single line. A sort of punctuation mark in what could be a comedy, or a tragedy, or some bizarre adventure.

I’m always fascinated by the discovery of random articles of clothing. Over the years I have seen shirts, single shoes (sometimes broken, sometimes not), pairs of shoes, baby’s bibs, single socks, underwear for both women and men, once a pair of good quality black dress trousers, and most recently, boots. I always wonder how these items were separated from their owners, and whether the separation was amicable.

Some things seem obvious (or at least likely) and often the implied story is, let’s face it, a bit sordid, probably involving too much drink and fumbling liaisons between horny friends and lovers.

Still, my brain being what it is, I sometimes think of other stories to attach to this random paraphernalia I see in the streets. Being a writer of fantasy and horror, my brain sometimes supplies fantastical options.

Take this pair of boots, found placed neatly by the bin next to the bookshop at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets one Saturday morning.

My first thought was that some wicked witches clearly don’t feel terribly comfortable in ruby red slippers, so well-worn walking boots seemed like a fair option. An opinion perhaps not shared by any gingham-clad poppets who may have accidentally crushed said witches to death. I would have thought a sturdy pair of walking boots would have been a better choice to wear while tramping off to find the Emerald City, but maybe they clashed with the dress.

Otherwise, I like to think of these boots as belonging to a rare creature who visited this fair city from some other-wordly realm. Having arrived and adopted a more suitable physical form for this environment, this charming and curious creatue (in the guise of a young Frenchman, perhaps – there are a lot of French visitors in Melbourne these days) spent a few days exploring a human city. Perhaps saw the art gallery. Perhaps lobbed into the Toff in Town to discover this thing called blues music.

And when it was time to leave again, our psuedo-French wraith discarded his disguise, allowing the clothes he’d spun from smoke and cobwebs to blow away. Only the boots, which were real human boots and had been required to protect his delicate feet from the strangely hard and unforgiving surfaces of this city, were left. So he put them to one side and, regaining his true form, wafted down the grates to rejoin the creek that once ran where Elizabeth Street cuts through the city (and still runs its secret way below the asphalt, and thence into the Yarra). Perhaps he’s out at sea now, in some peculiar watery world, failing to convince anyone he knows that there is such a thing as a tram.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at