Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I put my hand on the iron handrail and inhaled the deepest breath I could. A few tears dropped out of my eyes, like birds that unexpectedly drop out of the sky. I was expecting the tears when the Abbey came into full sight. Certainly, not at the foot of almost 200 hundred steps. I didn’t know what was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, it was to be a sight that up to this point had no equal. With each step I said a word. I started with colours and then flowers, books, movies and family. I thought about different constellations, but I realised I only knew Orion the Hunter and the Milky Way. Goddesses and gods, Greek and Roman, took me through steps 50 to 65, not too shabby if I do say so myself. When it came to the Norse, I could name only Thor, Odin, Freya, and that trickster Loki.

The steps were worn and narrow; I made sure I kept my eyes firmly on my feet. I didn’t want to trip and hurt myself before I reached the top. When step 199 was under my feet, I turned on the spot to witness the view. It was a miracle I didn’t faint and topple down to the bottom. Whitby village hugged the horseshoe shoreline and the North Sea glistened all the way to the horizon. It was a thrill that left my body shaking with adrenaline. And then I turned away from the sea, and honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A graveyard of tombstones that looked like wildflowers, swept down to the sea. St Mary’s Church stood complete in the background and just beyond I could see the top of the Abbey ruins. My trip so far had many extraordinarily beautiful moments, I honestly didn’t think anything would top Georgian Bath...I was wrong. I mean I knew the Abbey was going to be off the scale, but I hadn’t even reached the Abbey and I was trembling with emotions. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

bit by bit

 Marc de Ridder
 Day 13 - ‘Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

The skylight flap was wide open. It was a fresh breeze and the sound of a singing goldfinch that welcomed me into the day. Back home: a singing bird first thing would have given me the irrits. Everything changes when travelling. The irksome becomes the fascinating. I felt my inner snow white surface. I somehow managed to restrain myself from calling the goldfinch and its friends to my clothes scattered on the floor. I wouldn’t mind being dressed by birds! I grabbed my phone to check the time. I was surprised to see it was 8am; I was certain it was much earlier. There was no hesitation in my next action. I threw off the covers and loped to the bathroom, whistling.

Showering is one of life’s pleasures; especially when the water is hot and the flow hard.  From the womb of shower I stared at the view. A white painted window box frames the countryside: one could easily mistake the window for a Turner landscape.  ‘The sun is god’ Turner’s last words. Mine shall be: the earth is goddess; a perfect relationship in anyone’s world. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Every inch of my skin was wet. I pushed the duvet off and sat up shivering. I wasn’t worried that I was sick with a fever. I knew my age was the culprit. Nobody talks about the ‘change’. I’ve managed to glean this and that about menopause from corners, and TV. The moment I got out of bed my skin dried off. Ironically, I jumped straight into the shower. Nothing was going to dampen the morning of my next great adventure – pun intended! I half giggled and half gargled mouthfuls of shower water. I sat on the couch drying my hair and marvelling at the outside view. I tried to count the autumn leaves covering Sam’s shed; I gave up after 149. I made a cup of tea and sat back down and stared out the window. I didn’t think of making the train or where I was going. I didn’t continue counting leaves. I thought about nothing at all. It’s wonderfully strange to have a pocket of time when your head is clear. If I could bottle a clear head, I’m sure I’d make millions. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016


The white wall had tiny black letters, I couldn’t make out, without my glasses on. I mention the colour of the wall because it was starker than stark. It was the whitest white I’d ever seen. I thought about how I wanted to paint my flat white. Not this white, that’s for sure. It was blinding to the point, I needed to turn away. Alice read out the tiny black letters for me. Historic Fine Art - Modern and Contemporary Art - Textile Collection – Prints – Wallpaper – Sculpture. “Where to first, sweetie?” I answered wallpaper without weighing up each. Wallpaper had recently taken on a new excitement; it had been in Coventry for most of my life, but for some unexplainable reason, I was feeling a fondness for 70's patterns, secret gardens, wildlife, and textures on walls.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sweet Chestnut

Not sure who the photographer of this image is?
I've been thinking about associations and habits. By no means is this a radical thought. I've likely read about associations and habits, in one publication or another. Ideas stick in my head, unfortunately, not generally in a way I can retrieve them at whim. Obviously, during this non-alcohol period, I am prone to self-analysis. I say obviously, because, I've no doubt everyone that gives something up, analyses the bejesus out of it. Another habit? The mind is complex, but, my lordy the mind is predictable. Self-pepping is built into our DNA. It’s a survival mechanism. And at the bottom of it all, most of us want to survive.

I woke this morning thinking: I want to be.

I'm not sure what that means. I know I want my kids to be happy. I want Mum to live forever. I want to finish my travel memoir. I don’t want to ever stop writing. I want to read more. I want my mind to work better – to remember more. I want world peace!

Quote of the day – by Pants (Lance) – Narnie is friend of his.

I will try and spot Narnie today. I need to go to the bank this morning so will wander down towards the Nicotine plume that haloes her peroxide scorched tresses.

He’s a talented writer. A comic genius with a startling memory. Though, he's into shock value and comes across as bigoted and racist – though he’s not at his core.

Last thought: I need to listen to my body. Feed it when it’s hungry and not just because I want to stuff my face.
Drink a glass of wine (not going to for now – this is just forward thinking) when? I am not sure what to say about wine. Is it okay to want a little buzz every now and then? I don’t want to be buzzy all of the time, but, every now and then it’s like having a mouthful of sherbet – the only difference is, a glass of wine buzzes all over.

As for sleep: I’d hoped it would improve – sober. Sadly, there’s no difference, at least not yet. It is only day five!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


My Dancing Aunt by Clempage 
On my way home from work I sometimes stop at Pause, a bar in Balaclava. It's a warm and charming bar, with the right amount of light to read. I enjoy a couple of glasses of wine while reading whatever book I'm reading. I really do enjoy this little decadence. I don't want to give it up. I can tell you, I hope with all my heart that after a time without alcohol, I can continue this pause. I could try a glass of soft drink instead, but, it just feels terribly wrong. Time will tell.

This morning I feel mostly good. I've started day eleven of my travel memoir.

 Day 11 - “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today.” 

There were bagpipes in the air. The horse I sat on had blue hair. The leather bridle in its mouth was new. It was the pungent leather smell that gave its newness away. I made a deal with myself. If I let the dream go the blackbird will return. Slowly, and with a flicker, my eyes peeled open. The skylight was holding the sky up. I’d forced myself to wake, to see the blackbird, but, there was only sky. Oh well. It’s a hard knock life, this life. I pushed the doona off and stood on the mattress; poking my head into the new day’s sky. It was Thursday – Thor’s Day. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Dick Vincent
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

— Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

blackbird sitting in the morning light

artwork found on Pinterest
I opened my eyes and witnessed a spectacle. On the edge of the skylight sat a blackbird with something shiny in its beak. I swear. I felt my body drop deeper into the mattress. There was no way I was going to make any sudden moves and scare the bird away. On the other hand, the idea it was possible the bird might decide to land on me; had me considering waving my hands about like a mad woman. I opted to let my body drop deeper and deeper into the mattress, hoping the springs might magically open and close around me, forming a safe cage. My imagination had almost swallowed me whole when I heard a wing knock against the skylight window, and the blackbird was gone.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

“Think it over, think it under.” ~ Winnie-the-Pooh

Photo found on Pinterest

In the spectrum of blues; I fluctuate between periwinkle and the darkest of blues. Ink I think. There are days when my chest is as tight as a drum. Ping. Lately, I've been thinking old age will be my nirvana. Water courts land. I often daydream I am a heron in mid flight.

I didn't ask for this. If I was unborn I’d be in a state of ignorance. Still, I doubt you can daydream in the never-ending silent abyss.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fear is the mother of foresight ~ Thomas Hardy

I've reached twenty six thousand words of my travel memoir. It’s by far the longest writing I've ever done. And I've only scratched the surface of my days abroad. In fact, I've just finished day six of twenty eight days. I was technically away for thirty two days but I've decided not to include flight days. Though, I did have adventures and met some interesting people on those days, too: I suspect they could be included. However, I am keen on twenty eight days – a cycle. The writing impetus is about being somewhere else and being someone else. The flight days are the vehicle to the destination. And I can tell you, I most assuredly arrived.

There’s another reason I'm writing this memoir. It’s fear. I realise we’re not supposed to give fear credence, let alone a voice. But I'm not sure I entirely agree with that premise. Fear can be a driver. It’s really about taking over the driver’s seat and putting fear in its right place, the back seat...fear can come along for the ride. But nobody really likes a back seat driver, unless of course the back seat driver saves you from smashing into a wall, or worse, hitting someone.
Found on laboiteverte.fr

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bath Daydream

Date: September 12th, 2015
Location: Bath, Georgian Garden - stone bench 

A daydream 

My hair is long, grey, and twisted into crude plait. I'm sitting on a stone bench in a citrus grove. Fanned by a light breeze is a blend of citron (fruit of the tree hadar), blood orange, and pomelo. I feel faint with the heady air. I try to stir onto my feet, but I can’t move. If I didn't know better, I’d think I was as stone as the bench beneath me. I make a second attempt pressing my feet firmly into the gravel. I'm on my feet. The weight of the plait curving across my breast pulls me deeper into the gravel. I lift my shoulders and head and force my sight skywards. I know by sheer will I can fly. I'm not sure how I know this, or why my hair is long and grey. But I don’t fly. I begin to walk without knowing where I’m going. It’s a slow process; the gravel feels more like deep snow. With each step I have to yank my foot up and forward. There’s an arch formed out of a manicured hedge, ahead. A voice in my head tells me to walk beneath the arch. I stop and tell myself to get a grip. You’re not living inside the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, there’s not going to be a Jamie on the other side of the arch. But I wanted there to be. I thought I’d found my own Jamie a few times. It turns out that Jamie doesn't live in this world. He lives in the other world. And my hair is long and grey! It occurs to me I'm no longer in Bath. I'm old and somewhere foreign and I'm still dreaming of the unattainable. I feel certain I must be in Italy where citrus trees grow in abundance and gardens are tended to with reverence. I can hear the sound of water coming from the other side of the arch. It dawns on me where and what is happening. I've always said that Italy is my soul home. I must be dying. My life passes before my eyes, as they say it will. Life reflection intensifies with ageing, and in death it is the boat between worlds. My mother, children, grandchildren, friends and travels are all present. In the moment I realise I'm ready to walk beneath the arch my feet free from the earth anchor. I almost gallop toward the arch. The grey plait is gone and my hair is mousy brown like it was when I was a child. I slow to a walk as I step beneath the arch. My heart slows to the rhythm of a beloved daydream and I am happy for the end.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 4 - “I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.”

Day 4 - “I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.”

What surprised me most about the morning was I woke up ready to leave. That’s the thing about making a decision; it frees you to get on with it. London hasn't seen the last of me by a long shot I swore. In a few hours I’ll be standing on the Bath Spa platform. That’s UNBELIEVABLE! There wasn't much for me to do. I'm not the messy type. My suitcase was neat, and ready to zip up. I made my way downstairs to the shower without seeing Julie and Niall. I looked for the cats but they too were nowhere to be seen. I wondered if I’d see any of them before I left. I took my time showering. Not because I wanted to wash London away. I wanted to be immersed in her waters. I kept my eyes closed and I sat down in the tub letting the water flow over me until there was only the sound of the murmurings in my head. After dressing in travel clothes – the only choice I had. I made up the room and left my zipped up suitcase by the door. My train wasn't leaving until noon and it was just after 8am. I threw my handbag over my shoulder, picked up the key that didn't quite work, and went to Vinyl for my final coffee.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Merry Merry

Image found on Instagram - haveeyeon
As each year passes I feel more alienated and outside of things. I want to be tucked up with a book, but life, and loves demand attention. I'm single and wouldn't want it any other way, but it has dawned on me that not having a significant other means I'm completely responsible. And I don’t spoil myself in the right ways, in the ways that feed the soul. I bang on about being a hedonist, when in reality I'm caught in a rut of indulgence that leaves me aching. I perpetuate an unhealthy state because at the bottom of it, I feel unworthy, and I feel guilty over certain choices I've made in my life.

It’s only me

It’s only me

I picked this image because it’s calm and clever- two characteristics I wish to discover within me.

postscript: I wish I could write like this.

          I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding -- joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? ~ Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”

It’s that time of the year at work to chuck and clean. I've several notebooks I used in meetings, all have very bad stick people, and all manner of hippogriff doodles jotted over them (work notes too, truly). I was most intrigued to find this list: Brothel creeper shoes, drainpipe trousers, slim Jim tie, brocade waistcoat, Cat’s Whisker and quiff. You probably guessed I was going through a Teddy Boy chapter! I LOVE ENGLAND!

Day One – “Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”

I wish I could remember her name - I think it was Adelaide. This is what I do remember. Heathrow airport wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. Border control and customs is never fun, but I breezed through and was soon making my way to the airport train station. The sign to the station forked - Heathrow Express or London Underground; I had no idea which way to go. A woman about forty noticed my confused face and asked me where I was going. I told her Hammersmith. She smiled at me with a glorious knowing smile and said I'm catching the Piccadilly line too, follow me. I was so relieved to be on the ground and so taken with all the new sights and sounds, that when she told me her name it didn't register. Though, I recall nodding to indicate that her telling me had stuck. I've a habit of doing that, nodding yes when in reality my head is in another land.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

stop all the clocks - not him but her...

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore! 
 ~ Edgar Allen Poe,  from The Raven

Lianne Schneider, my Dearest. Always and forever. XXX

Theme music from Somewhere in Time,  the movie Lianne and I talked about incessantly, being both romantic hearts...we concluded that love is strong enough to will a person through time and space. Lianne wrote me a note a week ago, in it she said she'll be with me on a breeze, in the lines of a poem, in all the things I love.

Please indulge me, a little. It's hard right now to believe.

How will I go on? Not that well to be honest.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” ~ Peter Pan

You might think I've not been writing and you'd be mostly right. For months no stories flowed. This happens to me from time to time and I guess it's writer's block of some sort. I've not long returned from a life changing trip. And it is this that I'm now writing about. I've been altered by other trips, but this one marks the first time I travelled mostly on my own. I felt a freedom I've never experienced before. England, London-Bath-Ruswarp like Northern Italy, Fieosle-Bergamo-Como and America, Graeagle-New Orleans-Savannah, are my soul homes.

I don't know if I'll add much here while I'm writing a travel memoir- but I'll be sure to pop on and add a note from time to time.

“Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning. ”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


You have worn imaginary painted flowers on your cheeks, since forever. Today, you don’t notice the flowers when you look at yourself in the mirror, instead, all you see is your insides.

Whimsical, dreamy, off with the fairies – you’re plain odd, so say all of them! You embrace odd; it’s a description you've always taken pride in. You've mastered signals and dances with sensory experiences. Whenever an opportunity arises you listen at corners to the perceptions your family and friends think of you – it’s not all an illusion, but there’s no sign of what you really think. It’s all fairy tale stuff.

You no longer want to write of rosebud lips, honey-oatmeal drop scones, bergamot oil, sassafras bark and sugar coated swallows. And there’ll be no more writing of riding a bicycle to Sconset, to dig up the thousand-year box, that contains old associations and loose ends. But you know the moment you write this, it’s not true. You will write dreamscapes, again, and again, in time.

For today you want to write about the here and now. It won’t be easy but the very idea of writing live is freeing. You realise you’re sitting with a straight back, and your tummy is turned in, your shoulders are pulled back and your chest is stretched. You can hear Malcolm talking on the phone. Malcolm is almost 60 - he is always loud and irreverent. Malcolm talks about food the way an 18 year old boasts about sex. There’s no hello from Malcolm when you walk into the office, instead, there’s should we go out for lunch today? He just hung up the phone and now he’s thumping on his keyboard; typing doesn't come easy to Malcolm.

You lift your feet onto the base of your chair, and immediately you feel relief in your knees. With the tip of your tongue you poke at a lump at the base of a tooth that you know needs drilling and filling. You frown tightly and decide to get up and go to the toilet. The act of leaving the keyboard and doing something else, even if it’s going to the loo will take your mind off the lump-tooth-drill.

While in the bathroom you take a moment to look at yourself. The first thing you notice is the raccoon eyes. Sleep has not been your friend this year, and it’s showing. Instead of feeling bad about yourself you move your attention to the amber pendant you’re wearing. Gordon gave you a matching set of amber earrings and pendant when you were together. You try to remember if it was a birthday present, or a Christmas present or a present just for present sake. Gordon was generous. You wonder why you split up and quickly it comes back to you – Gordon wasn't great with children; you have three. The earrings are gone now, they were stolen. You’re glad that you still have the pendant and the Italian silver chain it hangs from. You tell yourself that nothing is always all bad, and you return to your desk.

It’s almost time to pack up and go home. You remind yourself that on the way home you need to stop at the supermarket and buy a bread roll and a bottle of coke zero. The roll is to go with the soup in the fridge. Yesterday, you made a pot of beef and vegetable soup with a ton of chilli. Bell says that soup isn't a meal, and you tend to agree so tonight you’re adding the roll to round out the meal.

You think about the yoga class you’re going to tonight – you hope it’s good, and when you’re walking home after it, you’re experiencing every part of you – including the painted flowers.

Friday, July 17, 2015

moment embrace

‘Enjoy today’

The plane curved its way along the tarmac until it pointed its nose down the straight. This wasn’t Irene’s first time on a plane, but it felt like it was. She yanked at her seatbelt half expecting it to be limp and unfastened, yet knowing full well she’d put it on the moment she sat down. She placed her feet firmly on the floor, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath in through her nostrils. The words of Sara flowed like magic into her mind. Imagine the plane seat is your yoga mat. The moment of take-off is your Savichara (mediation). Visualise your core - breathe into each part of your body, listen to your internal rhythm.

Yoga was the last thing Irene had counted on. Walking up the stairs to the yoga studio that first time, felt to Irene like an act of bravery and an act of stupidity; after all, she was an overweight atheist –hedonist. At least that’s what she told people she was. Sara’s greeting when Irene pushed the studio door open was warm and genuine, before Irene had a chance to salute the sun; she understood the act of walking through the door had changed her life. The class wasn’t easy, and there were moments she felt it was impossible, but by the end she cried tears of relief. The relief wasn’t because the class was over, the poses though difficult, felt great – it was the three words Sara spoke through Savichara. Be. Here. Now. The present was demanding her attention.

She left that first yoga class feeling elfish of step and clear of mind. That night while cosied up on the couch with a bowl of spicy noodles, she thought about her upcoming overseas adventure. She tried hard to focus on the good parts: Austen’s England and Livraria Lello & Irmão, the bookshop in Porto, and not the plane and flying. There was something else that worried her about the trip. It would be the first time she’d travelled (mostly) on her own. There was Holly and Sam to visit in Manchester, and Bell to share Portugal with, but there would be, flying, London, Bath, Whitby, and Hadrian’s Wall, alone.

The strangest thing happened; instead of inventing tragedy and worrying about the plane crashing, or getting lost in a foreign country, Irene found herself repeating. Be. Here. Now.

That night the couch felt perfectly designed to cradle her weight, and the bowl of spicy noodles was the best she’d ever eaten. She sat staring at nothing in particular and listening to the sounds of her heart beat. There is still seven weeks to go before the trip, she thought - there's no way I'm going to spend those seven weeks worrying about the what ifs, when the present is so new and wonderful.

When she closed her eyes to sleep that night, she felt sure that yesterday was waving goodbye, tomorrow was waiting in the prayer position, and she was fully present.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Lydia Davis and The Hanging Man

My Love,

My morning has been productive - I’ve vacuumed, washed the floors, put a load of washing on and been grocery shopping. I picked up a beginners yoga flyer, and spent ten minutes talking to a lovely lass about the classes, she assures me that I’ll be fine, and I believe her. I spent an hour at Readings and left with Can’t and Won’t ~ Lydia Davis. It’s wet and cold today, but I’m determined to get out again. I made a delicious egg salad roll and gobbled it down. I was thinking about Rhana and I remembered the Tarot cards she gave me. I decided to pull one card out of the deck and read its meaning. When I saw I’d pulled The Hanging Man, I thought this is going to be bad. I can’t believe what I read. I of course burst into tears and then I turned on my laptop so I could write to you.

This is an extract of the interpretation

“Life may seem to be in a period of suspension, but this offers the opportunity to look at matters from a different and fresh perspective, which will bring a possible solution through better understanding. This card can indicate self-sacrifice – sometimes we need to let go of something in the shorter term to gain something considered far more beneficial in the longer term.”


“The Hanging Man card, despite its appearance, is not to be feared; remember, the figure is in a voluntary position.”

I’m still in awe of this message. I bet you receive a message today, too. I know, I know, you're probably saying we receive messages every day. Am I right?

I’m feeling split right down the centre. One side is jumping for joy about making changes. The other side of me feels like a little scared girl. Funny, that the jumping side is little girl like too. Now there’s something to mull over.

I forgot to say, I started off my day by writing in my diary. I forgive me.

I can’t wait to hear how your day has gone. Did you buy something special from Savers?

Love you,
Lisa xxx

Friday, July 3, 2015

okay, okay?

“The important thing is to be able at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you could become.” ~ Charles Dubois


You generally arrive at a restart by way of putting a stop to, remorse, guilt, and deep unhappiness. It amazes you how long you can get about your life before the penny drops. You have to note straight up: there have been many pockets of joy, many. It’s funny how things can creep up on you. It’s not funny at all. In reality it’s a nightmare. You've known for a few years you've been living a part life.

On the surface all appears calm. You busy from day to day; there is work, and work friends to chat to in the office kitchen. Week nights consist of double portion dinners, TV or a book, and wine and wine. The weekend arrives quickly and with it your best friend, wonderful music and wine and wine. You've taken to a yearly trip overseas. The weeks in a foreign country are beyond your expectation, and some of your happiest moments. Spending time with your family is bliss, but with family comes great worry. You wish you could make everyone happy.

You have a layer that you don’t show to anybody – you know it exists but you've hidden it so well, you forget it’s there; until something happens that causes you to shift from your surface part to your lower part.

When you face your lower part you scramble to press restart. You lift your shoulders, straighten your spine, wash your hair in wisteria water, buy a new dress, and tell yourself you deserve to be fully happy. And for a time you feel motivated and on the right path, but you still avoid the mirror and window reflections.

When you wake up in the middle of the night the first thing you do (these days) is reach for your phone and open Facebook. It’s 4am. You go from sleepy eyed to full blown alert when you see a photo. You always do your best to stay out of photos; you tell your friends just don’t take a photo of me PLEASE. Don’t they understand you avoid mirrors and window reflections? But there you are for the entire FB world to see. You panic and demand its removal.

After sobbing and swearing to starve yourself, you realise that this type of restart has been tried before – failed, once, twice, thrice.

A scene from Sex and the City starts to repeat in your head. The main character, Carrie Bradshaw cheats on her boyfriend Aidan. They decide to give it another go. But Aidan is distant and passive aggressive. After a series of punishments directed at Carrie, she tells Aidan he has to forgive her. She says the words over and over, starting off calming saying them, and builds into a heart wrenching sob...you have to forgive me. You don’t buy it, and find yourself screaming at the TV screen. You have to forgive yourself.

You live with a damaged heart. You've told yourself the weight gain and heavy drinking (part life) is the key to warn off any potential suitors.

But what if that’s wrong – what if your part life living is all you think you deserve? Because deep down you can’t forgive yourself for having an unspeakable layer.

You wonder whose voice is in your head saying these things. You keep seeing the image in the photo you asked to have pulled down. You see beyond your size and straight into your hidden layer.

Next moment you are standing in front of your bedroom mirror. You glance up at the mirror and quickly turn away, as you always have done, and then you hear it. The sound of a snap and then you feel a strangling pain from your stomach. It hurts. It hurts. You keep repeating. It hurts. It hurts. And just as suddenly, the pain stops, and you realise you are speaking to the mirror.

Your words are imbued with conviction and a resonating tenor.

This is not a restart, this is I forgive me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

shadows and sorrow

I'm gutted. It feels exactly like a breakup. The type of breakup you don’t see coming and certainly don’t want. The type you’ll always be wondering who is responsible for.

I knew the moment I walked through the door that someone had been in my space and taken from me.

It’s thirty-plus years of memory, rubbed into blood stone, white opal, sapphires, rubies, pearls and every other earth stone. It’s silver, and white, rose, and yellow gold. It’s the earrings from my daughter, my grandfather’s ring, and grandmother’s brooch; it’s the pendant I bought with my best friend in Brussels. It’s the ring with the inscription, forever girl…It’s my ring of independence with the sacred seven rubies. It’s the Spanish moss tourmaline ring I bought in Savannah. It’s much more.

Not mere trinkets and material items - evidence and talisman of my life.

And so I grieve.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Door de mand vallen - To fall through the basket

Rembrandt van Rijn, Leiden, Netherlands, (1606-1669). "A woman sleeping" (c. 1655).
You need to cross the road but you can’t step off the curb. Nausea creeps up from your stomach, marking your skin ashen. You think of Marit Kloet, the Dutch girl and her sad story. Your mother told you the story of Marit Kloet on your eighth birthday. Over the years you come up with many ideas about Marit Kloet. The traffic screeching past you becomes unbearably loud. Fear uses your chest like a percussion instrument. You turn your back on the world in front of you, and run home as fast as you can. Jon is sitting on the end of the bed in his y-fronts.

You're happy to see him out of bed. Jon is your know-it-all but bone lazy boyfriend. He rolls his eyes in that condescending way that some people can, and asks why you're back. At first you don't know what to say, and then something bizarre happens. Words written on ticker tape spew out of your mouth. You realise quickly you're having a break and reluctantly you pull yourself back. There’s no way you want to tell him the truth. What’s the truth anyway you ask yourself. You tell Jon to wait a second, you need time to think. Jon isn't fazed by your strangeness. After ten years together he’s well and truly used to your particular class of crazy. He yells after you - this better not be about Marit Kloet - knowing full well it will be.

Every day you tell Jon the story of Marit Kloet. It’s a compulsion like checking the doors are locked and the stove is off. Your mother marched you to a number of doctors but none are able to cure you. Medication is prescribed. For a number of years you swallow the pills without question. You’ve no memory of your teen years. After meeting Jon at group therapy you stop taking the pills. Jon also has a compulsion. He refuses to say what it is. You spend every day together and after six months of travelling back and forth between homes, you agree to move into Jon’s flat. Jon’s flat is in Fitzroy. Jon wants to die in Fitzroy, or so he repeats often. You don’t think about death, much.

Today is not the same as yesterday. You've never had a problem crossing the road before. You normally return home from class at 5pm, just in time to make dinner. But you didn't make it to the other side today, and it’s only 9.30am. You normally tell Jon the story of Marit Kloet after dinner. It can’t hurt to tell the story early, you tell yourself. Jon grumbles when you ask him to sit down, as you’ve a story to tell him. You know it’s not the first time you've told the story but you pretend it is. You pretend so hard, that you forget all the other times.

You shuffle in the seat, clear your throat and begin:

Marit Kloet was born in the small town of Sneek, Friesland, in the year 1914. Marit has silky blonde hair that falls to her small waist. Every morning since she was a little girl, she unravels a red ribbon from her iron bed, and ties her hair into a loose ponytail. She clicks her tongue after securing the ribbon. Marit’s parents had worked at Tonnema, enn pepermuntfabriek. The red ribbon that Marit uses in her hair was once wrapped around a box of peppermints. The only birthday present Marit remembers receiving from her parents. Ironically, Marit dislikes peppermint, but she loves the colour red. She is only six when her parents drown. The newspaper article printed: Couple jumped from Sneek Waterpoort never had a chance. Apparently, their pockets were weighed down with rocks.

You pause and gulp air so quickly it feels like a sharp blade is piercing your chest. Tears form in the corners of your eyes; you try to hold them in but it’s useless. The tears leave salty stains that look like snail trails down your cheeks. Jon coughs. You shake off the moment and continue on with Marit Kloet’s story.

Marit’s only living relative is a Sister of the Holy Order of St. Augustine. Sister Beatrice lives with the Nuns of Vught, and is an English teacher at Regina Coeli School. After the death of Marit’s parents, Anki, a family friend steps in to take care of Marit. A few weeks after the death, Anki is packing up Marit’s parents’ bedroom. She discovers a letter addressed to Jan, Marit’s mother. It’s not something she’d normally do, she’s not the snooping type, but before she realises what she is doing, she has read the letter. It’s a shock to learn that not only does Jan have a sister but this sister is a Nun. Anki doesn't pause to think, she immediately writes to Sister Beatrice. She starts the letter off saying how tragic the deaths are and how sad that Marit is now an orphan – or is she? She ends off with saying she is happy to take Marit on as her own, after all what can a nun do?

A week later a letter with a Vught post stamp arrives. Anki is surprised the nun has written back so quickly. Before she opens the letter she checks to see where Marit is. Marit is sitting on the swing chair on the back veranda, humming. Since the death of her parents she hasn't said a word but she hums all the time. Anki runs her long painted nail under the flap of the envelope, opening it in one swift action. She is impressed with the thickness of the paper. She wonders if the nuns make their own paper. She unfolds the letter and notices that there’s only a short paragraph on the page. Surely, the death of a sister and an orphaned niece deserves more than a paragraph.

(Dear Anki,

Thank you for your letter. Mother Superior did inform me of the deaths of my sister Jan and her husband Skylar. I am shocked as it was suicide, they will not ascend into heaven. I will pray for their souls. I am making arrangements for Marit to come here. Regina Coeli is a very good school, and I will be able to watch over Marit, and make sure she is raised in the knowledge of God. If you could pack Marit’s clothes I will be there to collect her Tuesday of next week. Thank you for your offer to take care of Marit, but I believe this is for the best.


Sister Beatrice)

Jon scratches his scalp and his shoulders drop.

Sister Beatrice is true to her word and comes to collect Marit as stated in her letter. Marit hasn't seen a nun before and is visibly scared of Sister Beatrice’s habit. She cries when Anki says she must go with her aunt the sister, but she does as she’s told. Anki watches the car pull away and grips her chest with a dreaded thought. What if Marit never hums again?

You can tell that Jon is invested in Marit’s story; he nervously picks at his cuticles. You can see a small spot of blood on his nail. You don’t stop.

The journey to Vught takes a few hours. Sister Beatrice doesn't say one word the whole trip. Marit wonders if the nun is not talking because she knows that she’ll not respond, or if she simply doesn't like talking. Marit overheard the conversation between Anki and Sister Beatrice and there were only a few words exchanged, and most of the words were from Anki. She doesn't think that nuns in general do much talking; though she isn't certain why she thinks that. Marit wonders if all nuns look clean and lovely but smell like pungent marigolds, the way Sister Beatrice does.

The car door opens. Marit goes to step out and finds she can’t move her legs. Sister Beatrice says come on now, I know the Covent looks cold and scary but you’ll find it’s warm inside. Marit tries again to step out of the car, lunging forward and bending at the waist; she wiggles her bottom right to the opening of the door – and falls out of the car. The driver gasps in shock and moves quickly to help Marit to her feet. To Marit’s relief her feet hold her weight, but when she attempts a step forward, in the direction of the Convent, she collapses onto the gravel driveway. The driver, visibly alarmed, rushes to her side and helps Marit to her feet. Marit looks behind at the car, the door is still open. She looks into the car, beyond the leather seats, door frames and windows, and she knows without even attempting, that if she tries to step toward the car she will not fall, but there’s no way forward, not for her.

This is as far as you ever get in the story. Jon doesn't know if your refusal to finish the story is because you don’t know the ending, or the end is too painful for you.

You tell Jon the end of the story doesn't matter, but you know you’re lying.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Based on The Steadfast Tin Soldier ~ Hans Christian Anderson

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Her name echoes in her ears. It’s not like mum, to scream, there must be something wrong – panic coats her tongue. Sarah feels the neurons in her brain flick from side to side; frantically, she begs her mind to reach her grandmother’s mantra, but her internal dialogue won't let up. She twists her hands, and starts playing - here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and see all the people with her fingers. She remains fixed in the doorway, watching the shifting shadows crawl along the driveway.

It isn't anything dire, her mother shouting her name. Nobody is hurt; it is another attempt to coax her outside. There are many attempts, spanning many years. Nothing works. Sarah hasn't left the house since she was six, and nobody knows for sure why.

Time is nasty because it steals memories and leaves behind only fragments. Sarah can’t rely on her mother to remember her memories, even if her mother played witness to them. Sarah reminds her mother of this. Her mother means well when she quotes Hans Christian Anderson “Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower” but she doesn't remember what sunshine feels like, well not fully, or what a flower smells like when it’s still planted in the ground. Then there mixed in with the internal noise is her grandmother’s mantra - you don’t miss what you don’t know. And like the shadows moving across the driveway, slowly calm shifts over her. Sarah reaches into the pocket of her dress and pulls out Eucalyptus leaves. Her mother taught her how to scrunch the leaves just right so that the eucalyptus oil is released, and when it is, it fills up all her empty spots.

On the day her mother called her name in vain. Sarah watched a family move into the house across the road. There are many kids, mostly boys she thought. One boy, who appears different to the others, stands on the lawn holding a large box, and is staring at her. He doesn't wave or smile or gesture in any way. It has to have been ten minutes, before another boy comes over and gives the boy holding the large box a shove. It is only then that the boy turns away.

The next morning Sarah is standing in the open doorway (Sarah stands in the doorway at least once every day). On a warm day when the sun is tilted south-east and above the Oaks and Eucalyptus’ she can feel the sun in the air. A swallow hops across the driveway. It stops and lifts its head. They share a moment, this swallow and Sarah. The swallow flies off and it’s then she notices the boy. He is no longer holding a large box, but he is watching her.

Sam is the odd one out. His brothers are blonde, blue eyed and athletic. Sam is dark, green eyed, and has a noticeable limp. He doesn't know why he has the limp. His mother told him that that was the way he was born, and nothing more. Sam isn't sure if it’s his limp that makes his brothers hate him, or if it is because he never gets upset. His brothers are merciless; they taunt him about the limp, and his shyness. Sam never shows signs of being hurt or offended, or any other emotion.

Something changes in Sam on the day of the move. It’s as though someone or something reaches inside of him and flicks on his feelings. He goes to sleep thinking about the girl in the doorway. The next morning after breakfast, he finds himself at the front door. He knows it’s unlikely she’ll still be standing in the doorway, but it doesn't stop him from hoping that she will be. A brother walks by and shoves him in the back, causing him to reach out toward the door. He doesn't respond, or turn back and look to see which brother it is. His hand finds the doorknob and he gives it a hard yank. He feels anger toward his brother, and he feels excitement at the prospective of seeing her again. These feelings, he thinks, are foreign and exciting.

She is standing in the exact same spot. It’s as though she’s hasn't moved since yesterday, the only difference is the colour of her dress. He waves, and to his amazement, she waves back. He decides in that moment, no matter how unlikely, he loves her.

‘SAM’ someone yells so loudly that Sarah hears. She whispers Sam, Sam, Sam. She looks up and he is gone.

Sam goes into the kitchen as his name is being called again. He finds Jack sitting at the kitchen table. Jack tells Sam to sit down. Sam expects Jack will tell him to clean the bedroom, and not to forget to clean his shoes. Jack is the meanest of all of Sam’s brothers. Sam’s not prepared for what comes next. Jack doesn't order Sam to clean, he orders Sam to stop looking at the girl across the road. It’s too late, Sam is changed - he would normally comply, but not now. The next morning over breakfast Sam decides exactly what he’s going to do. I’ll march across the road and tell the girl in the doorway I love her. Jack is shocked when Sam doesn't respond with a yes to his demand, so before he goes to bed he speaks to their mother. An uncle is in need of help on his farm; it’s harvest time. Jack tells his mother that the next morning he and Sam will go to their uncles and help for the summer.

Sam finishes his breakfast in record time, he’s in a hurry to open the door and see if she is there. The last thing he remembers is standing in front of the door with his feelings in his throat, and then everything goes black.

Sarah picks her favourite daisy dress and a pale blue ribbon for her hair. She daydreams about walking out the door and into Sam’s arms. It’s impossible to feel this way, we've not even spoken she reminds herself. She flings open the door, he’s not there. He doesn't appear that day, or the next day. A week goes by then a month, and there’s no sign of Sam. It doesn't sit right. What if he’s lying in his bed with a fever, what if something worse, how can she find out when she can’t leave the house? She considers asking her mother to go across the road and ask the new neighbours about the boy with black hair. But she worries her mother will think she’s had a turn, and will make her take blue pills.

Sam wakes up in a strange room, he can hear voices coming from behind the door. He tries to get up but his head spins and a sharp pain hits his eyes. He falls back on the pillow. The door opens and Jack walks into the room. Over the next few hours, Jack tells Sam that their mother have sent them to their uncles to help with the farm. Each time Sam protests and says he must go home; Jack stops him and reminds him that all the older brothers must help to pay the rent, and put food on the table for their younger brothers. Their uncle Robert pays well and their accommodation and food are part of the agreement. Sam knows it’s useless to argue. It’s only a month. She’ll wait, he tells himself.

The month goes by slowly. Every night after a full day of labour, Sam falls asleep and dreams of the girl in the doorway. The day Sam expects to go home doesn't happen. Uncle Robert tells Jack and Sam they owe him an extra week of work, for board and rent. Jack knows this extra time is not enough time apart to change Sam’s feelings for her. The nights that Sam dreams of the doorway girl, Jack is off gambling at Shark Den. It’s here Jack meets Laurent, a Bellini & Zamboni Circus hypnotist. When Laurent loses big at the table one night; Jack offers to pay his debt in return for his services. Laurent has no scruples, so he doesn't hesitate when Jack tells him what he wants.

The extra week goes exactly the same way the month did, slowly. On the morning of their departure, there’s a knock at that door. Jack asks Sam to go see who it is. Nothing can upset Sam today. He’s going home and he’s going to march across the road and finally tell her. He goes to the door and opens it. There’s a man standing on the doorstep, he has a gold watch in his hand a glint in his eye. That’s the last thing Sam remembers. When Sam wakes up he is a clown’s outfit. There’s cheers and laughter coming from outside. He’s in a covered wagon, there’s a clown sitting on a stool. He asks the clown sitting on the stool where is he, and why is he dressed like a clown. The clown raises an eyebrow, slaps his leg and starts laughing so hard it sounds more like a goose honking.

Sam has no memory. He doesn't even know his name. The clown, who he soon learns is called Crazy Donkleberry - Don to his friends, doesn't seem surprised by Sam’s lack of memory. Don tells Sam he’s been a clown since he was kid, and his name is Klutz Badfoot. According to Don, when Klutz was eighteen he had a bad fall and every now and then it affects his memory, and not to worry. About a year goes by. During this time Klutz performs his clown role, and doesn't talk to anybody, unless required to. In the last couple of months Klutz starts to dream about a beautiful ballerina. He’s standing on the lawn of a house, and in the doorway of the house across the road is a girl. At first in the dream she just stands in the doorway, but over time, the girl starts to pirouette, her arms raised above her head.

Sarah doesn't give up hope that Sam will reappear. She watches the activity going on at the house across the road. She cranes her neck as far as she can out the door. It doesn't matter that a year or more has gone by, her faith only strengthens. Sarah’s mother comes up with the ultimate plan to coax her daughter out of the house – a street party with a circus theme. The last thing Sarah did before refusing to go outside, was go to the circus. It’s the cause of her agoraphobia her mother said, but the doctors were never convinced. And now her mother is beginning to wonder if she was wrong.

It’s a hot and windy summer’s day. Sarah has eagerly been keeping an eye on the street party preparations. Over a week the street is dressed in bright colours, vans serving hot dogs, tacos, and ice-cream pull into position. At one end of the street a huge marquee is erected. There are clowns, white horses carrying pretty ladies, and even an elephant. Jack opens the door to the sound of horns tooting, guns popping and neighing horses. It didn't occur to him until he sees the clown standing on the lawn, and staring at the house across the street. Sam.

It all happens in a blur. There is no way Sam is going to get the girl.

The wind picks up. Sarah feels the wind circle around her, it presses up against her, forcing her to take a single step outside. She sees the clown standing on the lawn, even in makeup, and a costume, she knows it is Sam. She lets the wind take her. The wind blows Klutz’s fake nose to the ground. Klutz looks at the nose sitting on the grass; he then looks up and sees the girl moving toward him. Everything comes back to him. He hears the girl calling out SAM. She is calling his name. She has not forgotten him.

Jack is furious, he keeps ranting to himself. Sam will not get the girl. It happens in a blur. Under the bed that’s where Jack finds a solution. Sarah doesn't realise she is outside, and that she’s crossed a line. Sam rips at the clown costume, and throws the red floppy shoes into the garden bed. He stretches his arms out and when he closes them they are not empty. She whispers into his ear, Sam my name is Sarah and I love you. He pulls back and looks at her deep in the eyes and says I love you.

The bullet hits Sam first. It goes through Sam’s back, through his heart, into Sarah’s heart and out of her back. It comes to rest in a willow tree. The bullet leaves a heart shaped scar, and once a year, the ground around the tree is sticky with red sap. If anybody comes along and misses the sap on the ground, they may tread in it, and if they do. They will be stuck looking at the heart shaped scar - that is, until the wind changes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

a letter

I don’t know what came over me; I guess I needed to know. I googled you! Does that surprise you? I suppose it must. After all, I did try the high moral ground on for size, with my googling someone is crass declarations. Watermelon Snaps? What happened to Lilac Dreamtime? I’ve not forgotten our talks under your parents lilac bush. I still pull my shoes and socks off and scrunch grass between my toes, and of course you’re always there.

I spent the day reading your posts. I see you’re still spinning reality into dreams, or was it the other way around, and I just misunderstood?

When you left, I didn't fall apart, well not entirely. Nobody can fall apart in Italy; besides John wouldn't tolerate a broken down wife. So I've been faking me. Today, I followed John around Piazza del Duomo (Florence). He sees the sights the same way he drives a car - fast. I've taken to saying, I've a sore foot, a sore back, a sore stomach, a sore head, so we can stop, look and listen. I shall never tire of hearing the bells of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore; under my breath I sing “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's.” The bells annoy John. Someone once said it’s the little things that become the hardest to bear. I really don’t think so, though, the little things add up.

We’re staying at a hotel in Fiesole. I want to stay right here, forever, but John insists we drive to Rome. He points out all of Rome’s charms, so I nod, and acquiesce. Of course Rome is going to be spectacular. What am I thinking in wanting to stay in Fiesole, with its charming Piazzale, Roman theatre, Monastery of San Francesco, and the panna cotta with wild berries from La Reggia degli Etruschi. It obviously has no charm! It’s our last day in Fiesole. I tell John I'm going to buy souvenirs; I know he won’t want to come as he hates shopping. I need this time on my own to say goodbye. You never know when a place is going to haunt so thoroughly that you’ll spend time daydreaming about a past life with it.

It’s always the same daydream. It’s not the breathtaking place so much as it’s simple. I count the time I've been gone with each inhaled breath. John will be waiting and wondering. He’ll ask me why I took so long, but he won’t wait for an answer, he’ll start talking in quick bursts about the time when he was nineteen and spent a month in Rome. He never talks poetically, there’s never mention of say, the zing of lemon gelato as it hits the tongue, or the feel of the earth underfoot at the Colosseum, or playing ring a rosy around the Trevi Fountain. It is information, and directions, and it’s distracting. My mind wonders to the Hymn to the Sea, and the poor people of the Titanic. I think about drowning, dying – death. John's a good man. He has issues but who doesn’t? I know I have a multitude, and he tells me he loves me.

When we returned from Italy I started writing. I joined an online artistic community, and I found the courage to post my myth based poetry. John, discovered photography and within less than a month he's an expert. I follow him on photography excursions, and in the evenings when he's processing his photos, I write poetry and hit post. We made new friends, and spend a lot of time with them. I met a woman. I love her from the moment I see her standing tall in a long red coat. Nervously at first, and then frantically, as though there is little time, this woman and I smash all the walls in front of us.

John loves to start a new project, he learns every nuance and rule there is to it, and then abandons it. It's no different with photography. He now wants to move to Malta, the country of much pain and joy for him. He’s decided it’s time he learnt sailing. We’re going to live on a Luzzu, with nothing but each other and fish. He tells me how important this is to him, that I need to be supportive and not selfish.

So I nod and acquiesce.

Malta is pretty, but there's no room on the boat for anything but John and fishing nets. I miss writing with every bounce and curve of a wave, and I miss her in the way Rachmaninoff intended Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini be played.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

‘You’re spoilt’ – so say your brothers. You’re the last born and the only girl. This afforded you much more than your brothers ever got, and they never let you forget it. They poke and needle you with brat jibes. Your mother has an uncanny way of knowing when there’s trouble. She swoops in all avian like and carries you safely back to the nest. It’s warm. Over time one by one your brothers leave home.  At the time it doesn't impact you. But time is fluid and so are feelings. It is mother’s day 2015. You’re sitting on the lounge room floor at your mother’s staring at two of your brothers (your third brother is sorely absent).You watch and listen to your brother’s talk - yet, you miss them terribly and for a brief moment you long for the pokes and stirring of your childhood.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

the truth is lost between worlds

Virginia at 15 months
“Will that light come again,
As now these tears come...falling hot and real!”
― Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese

ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day have consistently rendered you a shaking, blubbering mess. You've never fully understood why, until just recently. It’s not that both days wouldn't generally leave you pondering and salty. But it’s always felt like there’s something more – more to your story.

You never meet your grandfather, your mother's father. You know he was a pilot during WW2. Growing up you thread together a story from snippets of overheard conversations, and from the incessant questions you throw at your mother.

Your grandfather, Reginald Sprague, is tall and Mr Darcy - dashing. He falls passionately in love with the eldest Johnson girl, Shelagh. He courts her with wildflowers, walks, and an invitation to the movies.  After seeing 'The Prince and the Pauper', Shelagh declares to Patricia and Moya, her two sisters, 'Reginald is more handsome than that Errol Flynn.' It wasn't long before there’s a marriage proposal. The Great Depression is indiscriminate. The Johnson’s like most families learn to make do with almost nothing. Recycling during this time is born out of necessity. Shelagh’s wedding dress is created using her mother’s wedding dress - cream silk, cut on the bias, sleeveless, and full length - very Jean Harlow in “Dinner at Eight.”  Virginia is born two years later.  It’s 1939 and war has been declared. Reginald enlists with the Royal Australian Air Force, and within a month is shipped to a flight training base in Canada. There are many, many tears. Shelagh writes to Reginald every day, and before sealing the envelope she adds a photo of Virginia.

Reginald returns from war changed and to a changed world.

You don’t know why – the real why, that is. You've read transcripts from your grandparents divorce. You look closely at the dates mentioned. Nothing adds up. You never got to ask your grandmother about your grandfather. Something you regret profoundly.  You have no doubt that her story is very different to the charge you read about in the transcripts.

You wish that you could speak to the dead. You wish that the movie "Somewhere in Time" was real. If willing is all it takes to travel through time and space, your will is as strong as Richard Colliers. You’re not sure if you want to travel to 1945 and see for yourself, or travel to 1985, a time when you know you could ask your grandmother, and still meet your grandfather. You know this will never happen, so you look to the living for answers, and where there are none to be told.

You make up the rest.  After all, aren't all our stories a product of dreams, reality, perception and deception?

Message on the back of  the photo

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

All clear

You carefully snap the spine open and press your nose against the page. It smells of thunderstorms and your grandmother's perfume – a heady mix of wildflowers and blood orange rind. There’s a burning feeling in the pit of your stomach; you know it’s the anticipation of what’s to come. If you didn't have to work you’d be deep into Rachel Cusk’s Outline.  ‘A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer.'  It’s on your desk – its spine cracked and story ready to unfold. You can see a work colleague approaching. You've just enough time to close Outline run a wanting hand across the cover and slip it back into your bag. Wayne is a senior Project Manager, he is the dispirited type. He left his wife and two children a year ago and took up with a younger woman. It’s a typical office story. Divorce and alcoholism is rife in most organisations. You run several reports once a week for him - he’s come to ask you to run them twice a week until the end of the financial year. He turns and walks back in the direction he came. You want to shout at him but you don’t think he’ll be interested in knowing that all you want to do is – read.  It’s almost lunch time. You know exactly what you are going to do with your lunch break. You look at your bag, for a second you think – what if an invisible person has come and stolen Outline. Even though you know there’s no such thing as invisible people, you reach over and open the flap of your bag.  Outline’s bright orange cover stares you straight in the face. You feel a surge of relief, and quickly check left and right to make sure nobody is watching.  All clear!  

Friday, April 10, 2015

“Look at me, look at me”, said the little boy with the pale blue bow tie. He stands tall and points his index finger at his tie, but instead of giving it a twirl, his finger violently presses into his trachea, causing him to cough and splutter. He recovers quickly and repeats, "look at me - I'm here." The little boy’s mother Louise doesn't miss a step. She’s tired of John’s greedy behaviour, and refuses to pander to him any longer. His mother’s meanness (for John so believes his mother has turned mean) causes him to stomp his foot and shout “LOOK AT ME”

"John will either grow out of his narcissistic ways or his narcissistic ways will grow into him" warns John’s Grandfather Edgar. Louise treats her father-in-law the same way she treats John – she doesn't miss a step.

"I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone." Louise nods in agreement with the Robin Williams quote. She prints the quote at the end of every day, in her diary. Is it possible Robin Williams killed himself because he was surrounded by people that made him feel alone? The idea makes her shiver.  She rubs her hands up and down her arms coaxing and willing a feeling of normal. John zigzags in front, behind and back in front of her. He times his footsteps and in the brief moment when he’s perfectly aligned with her, as the sun eclipses the moon, he shouts “LOOK AT ME.”  

John is now in his 50s and Louise is in her 70s Edgar is long dead. John has stopped saying look at me, and now talks to Louise about how brilliant he is at his job, his model looking wife, and his two perfect children, Louise pulls her shawl tighter around her arms; still desperate for a feeling of normal.

And she says:

I always hoped John, if you ever looked at me, you would ask what I am looking at. And I would tell you. Like right now, I'm looking at the china horse that has sat proudly as a bookend on the shelf for 30 years. I bought it from the market at Castlemaine, do you remember? It reminds me of summer sunshine, plump raspberries and your smile. Everything in this house reminds me of you, the sound of the floorboards in winter, when they stretch and creak. The stain from your raspberries fingers at the bottom of the lounge room curtain; that I could never get out. I've always been looking at you John. 

Do you understand, John? 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

a cry to the randomness

Five jet-fighters flying in precision just flew overhead and I burst into tears. Last weekend I walked into St Vincent gardens, a landscaped square with houses planted around its border, and I burst into tears. I keep telling myself don’t worry, it is menopause, and then my period comes. After watching the planes do their thing, I dried my tears and went to Readings Bookstore. A new book is to me what a new pair of shoes is to Imelda Marcos. I stood in front of the new release section and studied the carefully handwritten cards, critiquing each book. I picked up books and read a first sentence or a paragraph. I was taken by the title (always a good sign), and when I read the first page of ‘Things I don’t want to know’ I practically ran to the counter and chucked my money at the sales assistant. Deborah Levy tells me in the first paragraph that she bursts into tears when travelling up escalators. It was such piercing relief to read. It’s not that I think I'm unique, well actually, don’t we all feel special, odd, out of step, and behind and ahead of everyone else?  I already know I'm going to love this book.  I relish the feeling of knowing there’s something extraordinary to come. First, I have to finish the book I am currently reading and enjoying immensely - a novel by Alice Robinson, Anchor Point. I used to think about writing a book, and now I'm working on my very own novel wedge. Honestly, I don’t think I can write that many words in one continual go (so to speak) but who knows. Self-doubt can be a way to not even try. Time to go read. 
image found on pinterest -  npr.org

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Snap goes the heart

I believe Ronald understood what really mattered, and Ruby was a bitch.

Voices' carried from the lounge room, screeching like a cockfest of cockatoos YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD. Ronald sat on the kitchen floor next to the wood fire oven, where his mother normally would be. He pulled his knees up under his chin and swayed back and forth, chanting – wha id dard?

Ruby trotted into the kitchen. She stopped in front of her brother, and bent from the waist while teetering on impossibly high stilettos; brushed a finger across his cheek and whispered there-there -Ron-Ron. He flinched and then continued his rocking action. Ruby turned on her spikey heels, walked out of the kitchen and never brushed his cheek again.

The decision was made on the day of the burial. Why wait Ruby roared at her husband. John wasn't known for his action. Behind John’s back most referred to him as pansy, and at times to his face. A feeling ebbed to and fro inside him until it broke the banks of his lips - we can take care of him. It was only a few words. Ruby waved a hand in his face, a way to stop him from saying anything further. Nothing came of John’s words that day, but I like to think that somehow he knew that in years to come – someone would be listening.

The 3rd of August 1956 marked more than a death, and words that would never be actioned or erased. It was the start of a chain reaction that wouldn't become open air knowledge until the 11th of March 2015.  

There are some sounds that haunt so thoroughly that one can be lost for good. Ronald covered his ears with his hands and closed his eyes so tightly the muscles caused a sharp pain in his head. He cried out starp id Rub-ee. Ruby pressed hard on the suitcase locks, they snapped shut - happy now Ron-Ron. She knew the reason why the snap of the locks upset him so much.  

It happened every Easter. Ronald’s mother Harriet would brush his hair on the part using lick to keep it in place. She gave him a pack of cards and asked him to sit on the end of the bed. Into a well-used suitcase she folded underwear, shirts, socks and a warm pair of pyjamas. The snap of the suitcase locks announced it was time. Ronald didn't know how to count or how to read but he understood the snap of suitcase locks. It meant he was going away.  

Noooooo mammy...

The next door neighbours came out of their house and pretended to pick apples from the tree that hugged the back fence. Noooooo mammy pitched over the fence dark as a cloaked wraith, knocking the Lyne's back on their heels. Mrs Lyne looked ghostly as she pushed the back door open and disappeared inside. She didn't turn to see if her husband was following. Mrs Lyne scrubbed potatoes until the skins resembled ash at the bottom of the sink. She rolled handsome pieces of trout in ginger flakes and lemon myrtle bark. And picked hundreds of peas from their pods. She spent the afternoon with her head down, cooking and praying the rosary. But every time she looked up she heard noooooo mammy, as though the words were alive in the air.

Mr Lyne came in and spent a long time washing his hands. He sat at the Queen Anne table and waited. There was no talking at the dinner table. There was no talking between Mr and Mrs Lyne. They didn't know it over that unspoken meal that noooooooooo mammy would explode over the fence, once a year, hitting them whether they were picking pretend apples or sitting inside on their matching wingback chairs for the next twenty years.

It’s not that Harriet wanted to send her son away. The doctors insisted. There are tests to do and assessments to make.  You want to know if there’s been progress, don’t you?  Can’t I stay too she’d always ask. The answer never changed. That’s impossible Mrs Jewell. Reluctantly, she agreed but with the stipulation that he would not be detained for longer than 2 weeks.  She knew it didn't matter if it was 2 hours or 2 years.  Ronald didn't understand time. He lived by her side every waking hour.  It was a comfort they were both used to.  There wasn't a day that went by that she didn't blame herself for the accident. If I’d not left him alone on the veranda he would never have to go away. My boy would be normal.  At this point of thinking - tears would stain her face and the bodice of her dress.

Nothing changed but everything did. Ronald would continue to grow physically but never mentally. He would need Harriet, always, and it was always the same for her. Harriet needed her baby. 

She couldn't have known what would happen after the 3rd of August 1956. She was dead.  If people do roll around in their graves, I imagine she was trying to tear the earth away from hers. Ruby opened and snapped the locks closed one last time. Ronald sat on the end of the bed. It was not his bed or his mother’s bed. It was a dormitory bed at Kew Cottages (known at that time as: The Kew Idiots Asylum).  He held a pack of cards in his hand and cried out Noooooooooo Rub-ee. Every day he lived there, he was found by one of the nursing staff, sitting on the wooden floor of the asylum kitchen - rocking back and forth in front of the oven, and softly chanting mammy.

Ron died 10 years after being left at Kew, at the age of 48. It says cause unknown on his death certificate. Ruby never saw Ron again. And despite being verbally abused by Ruby each time he went to Kew - John visited Ron every last Sunday of the month. Just before John died, he told his son Mervyn the story of Ron, and what most people called him. He said, they called me pansy thinking it was an insult but I never thought of it that way. That’s the beauty of an etymology degree; I know the origin of words, and, pansy is from the French pensée and literally means - thought, remembrance. Never forget, who you are, Son, and where you've come from. Mervyn wasn't much of a talker, but over time he quietly told his wife Virginia, Ron's story. I'm very grateful that Virginia is my mother and she loves to talk, and I'm like my great-grandfather John, I'm a pansy.