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A long, long time ago in a place far away from here was a world that had never heard of video recorders, car registration or venereal disease. It was a pleasant world that was only occasionally ruffled by bloodthirsty massacres and unspeakable crimes against decency. Fortunately for the good folk of this world, the perpetrators of these unspeakable crimes against decency usually died of venereal disease. (It was true that they'd never heard of it, but it ran rife in this world. They just didn't know what it was.) This world, however, never suffered from sweaty underwear or tight lids on bottles so, all in all, it was a pretty good place.

It was a world with trees, sky, water and stuff like that but it also contained animals. Don't be put off - this is not a collection of Lassie stories. I'm dealing with heavy legends here. There are no do-good doggies in these pages, thank you very much. Well, to tell the truth there might be one but it's not called Lassie.

This is a world of heroes whom time has forgotten, but whom I have luckily discovered, both for your sakes and mine. The stories were told to me by an ancient woman in a remote mountain hut near Manangatang.

Geography students may know there are no mountains near Manangatang. I mentioned this only for dramatic effect.

We spent many hours as she recited these lost legends and drank bottle after bottle of Fosters. She was fat, smelly and had terminal bad breath (a common complaint amongst legend tellers) but she had a charming daughter. If you don't like these stories, write to me, I'll give you her address and you can go up there and throw Listerine bottles on her roof. Watch out because she's got a shotgun and she's very protective of her daughter. Any correspondence to me should be directed to the Alfred Hospital. I should be out by the time this is published.

Those of you with weak bladders or bad hearts would be well advised to stop reading now. The GROTESQUE and HORRIFYING contents of these tales would test any reader, and I don't want to be held responsible for puddles and corpses all over the country.

Now that you've read four paragraphs, you may be still standing by the bookshelf wondering whether to put this book back or not.

­ D O N ' T ­

Not many books can change your life, but this one will. It's not very thick so you can tell everyone how you've actually read a book. Each page is individually numbered and there are handy spaces here and there for you to jot down telephone numbers (if the telephone numbers happen to be of young ladies, please send copies to me c/o the Alfred Hospital) or recipes.

Several tasty penguin recipes are to be found in chapter 5.

This is in fact a book for EVERYONE. It contains FEW RUDE WORDS or references to disgusting bodily functions. Fishermen, fisherwomen and fisherchildren will find it invaluable for removing hooks from redfin. Housewives and househusbands (see? it's not a sexist book either so you can buy a set for your Women's collective's bookshelf) will find a thousand uses for it around the home.

So, go on. Find a place to sit down. Don't worry if people are staring. What do you care? You're an individual. Tell them to mind their own rotten business. There, settle down and loosen your girdle. Take off your shoes. So what if your feet could kill at fifty paces? Your feet deserve the best. Do you realise that hundreds of nerve endings are in your feet? You can't be comfy with twisted toes.

Now we're getting somewhere. You've finished nearly two pages already. Fair enough, you still don't know much more about the Brand New Australian Myths and Legends, but you can't afford to be too impatient. It's bad for the blood pressure and you've got a few good years left, so why hurry everything? A book isn't a main course, it's a dessert. It's to be sipped and tasted and enjoyed. Get out your spoon and find a comfortable place to flop. This is one book that you won't have to wrestle to the ground and beat to a thematic pulp. As a matter of fact, the less you think about it the better.

So, relax. Take a sip of another world.

Notice how the annoying people in your life can just fade away.

Your work and worries are sealed in a wooden box floating far out in the cold, angry sea.

You begin to hear the whistling of sea wind in the bush. The sky is crowded with grey clouds, hanging low, dipping their fluffy toes in the water.

The slate-grey sea takes breaths between each attack on the cool white sand on the beach far below you.

You're standing in the tugging cool breeze on the top of a tall cliff, looking out to sea.

You hug your arms around yourself and turn your back to the wind.

The salty wind pushes you, urges you onwards.

You walk into the bush and into the first legend.

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Brand New Australian Myths and Legends is copyright (C) 1998 
All rights reserved.  Pinch it and I'll get Elfa to bite your primary sexual organs.