Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

Slide Night…Dumped in Paris.

Wafting.

Dreaming.

Absent friends.

Screaming.

Waves that thrash.

Skies that roar.

Your corpse still dangling

at my door.

 

Fingers swing,

dangle,

drop.

Hard-hearing hands…

tick-tock,

tick-tock.

 

Illusions,

screens,

all my dreams…

crack and drop.

Drop with each

tick-tock, tick-tock.

Plip-plop, plip-plop,

Dangle.

Drop.

 

The bell has finally tolled.

Our love is dead.

There’s nothing’s left.

Even the vultures have gone.

 

Alone,

lights pirouette

across the Seine.

It’s murky depths

absorb my pain

‘til I am stone.

My heart is numb.

 

Soon,

swooping gargoyles

kiss my lips.

Hold me tight.

Sing me off to sleep.

Mon ami,

I’m no longer afraid

of the dark!

 

Yet, tick-tock time

is moving on.

My train’s just left

Gare de l’est.

Au revoir, mon ami!

You’re now nothing to me,

but a postcard from Paris.

 

Yet, one day,

I know I’ll be

flicking through

the touched up slides of memory…

Le Tour Eiefel,

Le Musée du Louvre,

les Jardins de Luxembourg,

Cafe de Buci…

 

Moi?

Non,

je ne regrette rien.

Rowena Curtin 24/7/1992 and 6/12/2016.


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My feet in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, 1992.

Twenty four years ago, I wrote this original version of this poem sitting beside the River Seine near Pont Neuf sometime after midnight. I was completely alone, aside from a couple of Africans across the river listening to their ghetto blaster and dancing. If I could write a letter to this 23 year old self, I’d be telling her to get her butt back to the hotel. That no one is worth dying for. Nothing is. Tomorrow is another day and the sun will keep on rising, even if you choose to ignore it.

Paris is called the “City of Lights”, the “City of Love”. However, where there is light, there is darkness. Where there is love, there is also heartbreak, rejection and terrible anguish. Surely, we’ve all been there, even if it wasn’t in Paris.

In many ways, this is a fictional poem. I didn’t actually have a romance in Paris and wasn’t actually dumped in Paris either. However, the heartbreak was real and that is what I lived with in Paris.

I don’t know whether some of the greatest heart ache is caused my semi-requited love. Or, when that precarious balance between friendship and lover goes out of whack and feelings go haywire.

For better or worse, the usual “dance” intensifies when you travel.

In 1992, I spent much of the year theoretically backpacking through Europe, although I spent 6 weeks in Paris and lived in Heidelberg much of the time. Be in the one place, provided the opportunity to get to know people and naturally, certain people better than others.

I met an older guy at Church and we never even touched each other romantically. Yet, the fallout for me was catastrophic. I wonder if it’s easier to move on when such relationships run their course, rather than getting chopped off before they even start.

So, rather than a physical relationship, we ended up with an emotional, mental connection and added to that the vulnerability of travel and being on the other side of the world (I come from Sydney, Australia), the fallout was horrific. I really do remember walking round Paris with no idea where I was in an absolute wiped out daze.

Twenty-four years later, I can be quite philosophical about all of this. Married with children,  two dogs and we’ve been living in the same house for 15 years, I am well and truly loved and grounded, giving me the ability to go back and really ramp up the horror in the original poem. I couldn’t resist adding those dreaded gargoyles, which you see poised on the roof top of Notre Dame. They’re a horror movie in their own right!

What’s your view on flirting with the dark side in your writing? I’m a pretty upbeat person most of the time but there’s a part of me, which really thrives on it. It’s also a great form of catharsis. Letting the pain out in a more constructive way than so many of the alternatives.

After all of this, I need a good, strong cup of tea!

xx Rowena

PS After returning to Sydney, I stumbled across a great band ironically called: Paris Dumper with lead singer Dominic Halpin. Here’s a link: https://dominichalpin.bandcamp.com/album/paris-dumper

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Rowena sea steps

Weekend Coffee Share December 4, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?

Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.

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Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.

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I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.

So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose.  Even better, I can feel it all coming together.

That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.

You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:

Poem: Amnesia Paris 92.

Writing Memoir: Paris Encore.

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

I am continuing to read  Tim Harford’s:  Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.

I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.

The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

How was your week? Good, I hope.

This has been another contribution to Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

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Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

“The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.”

-Oscar Hammerstein II

If a mighty caffeine hit is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I’m inviting you to join me on an almighty cafe crawl through Paris’s left bank, as I desperately try to find the cafe where I used to hang out back in the Summer of 1992.

By the way, I apologise if our tour darts and criss-crosses all over the place. This is a virtual tour and you’ll find me curled up in my ink-stained writer’s chair inconveniently parked in Australia.  So, the dots could well be scattered all over the map.

“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.”

-Allen Ginsberg

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m desperately trying to find the cafe I hung out at with my friends in Paris.

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Our cafe located somewhere near St Michel.

So, after much preambling, you’re invited to join me on a cafe crawl through the Left Bank. By the way, I can’t help wondering whether we’re being joined by the ghosts of creatives past…Hemingway, Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and Jim Morrison. Who knows?

Our first stop is La Palette at 43 Rue Seine on the corner of Rue Jacques Callot in St Germain. It has a large terrace overlooking Rue Jacques- Callot. The restaurant’s façade and the interior of the second salon, are registered as historic monuments. The second salon has a larger back room with dining tables, and is stylishly decorated with ceramics from the 1930s-40s. Meanwhile, the bistro is traditionally a gathering place for Fine Arts students, nearby gallery owners and artists. La Pallete was frequented by Cézanne, Picasso,  Braque and later by Ernest Hemingway and Jim Morrison. Today’s celebrities include Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Our second Stop is Les Deux Magots. Its outdoor terrace is apparently a great spot to soak up the atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From there, you can also see the historic Saint Germain des Pres Church and Abbey. The nave and bell tower date back to 1014 AD, while its foundations date back to 543 AD. So, definitely worth checking out.

Les Deux Magots was founded in 1812 at 23 Rue de Buci and in 1873, it moved to Place St-Germain-des-Prés. In 1885, the shop gave way to an alcohol-serving café, which took on the name.

The Café started playing an important role in Parisian cultural life and Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, to name a few, were regulars at the café. In 1933, the cafe launched its Prix des Deux Magots award. This is a major french litarary award presented to new works, which are generally more off-beat and less conventional than the more mainstream Prix Goncourt.

Les Deux Magots has also been frequented by numerous famous artists including: Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway and others, the café hosted Surrealists under the aegis of André Breton, and Existentialists around Sartre and Beauvoir.

Our next stops are going to be a lot quicker…

3) Cafe Dauphine 17 Rue Dauphine

4) The Luxenbourg  4, Place Edmond Rostand

5) Cafe Le Depart 1, Place Saint-Michel 75005, Paris

6) Cafe de Flore  172, Boulevard Saint-Germain

7) Cafe Le Buci  52, rue Dauphine 75006 PARIS

Finally, I stumbled across Cafe Conti at 1 Rue de Buci. Finally, this could be it. I have emailed the details to a friend, hoping he can see or remember something I can not. 

By this stage, Geoff is also home from work and I’m handing him the photo album and the laptop to help playing spot the difference. Did my photo match the image? We couldn’t be sure and in the end, all we had was eye-strain.

In a way, I hope it is. However, because it closed this year, I’d rather it was somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to go back and enjoy another cheap cafe au lait watching the crowds pass by. I’m sure my friends are still sitting there, looking exactly as they did 24 years ago.  After all, haven’t you ever noticed how memory does that. It freezes moments in time for eternity.

By the  way, speaking of Cafe Conti, it’s recent claim to fame is its dog. Or, perhaps I should be saying that the dog is famous. His name is Orson and he’s an exceptionally cute Cairn Terrier. You can read about his travels here: Orson Paris dog and there’s also an exceptionally cute video.

So, that ends our rather exhilarating yet exhausting cafe crawl of Paris’s Left Bank. I hope none of you objected to me appropriating Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum and transporting it from Arles to Paris. For me, it’s the ultimate French cafe scene. I had to use it.

Do you have a favourite cafe in Paris? Please share. I love a good story served up with a coffee and a French pastry is an extra special bonus.

Thank you for joining me!

xx Rowena

 

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The Virgin Campers…Friday Fictioneers.

Blood-curdling screams echoed through the night and the dog was going psycho.

Half-awake, Jack saw that young bloke grabbing his missus by the throat.

“I’ll get the bastard. Ring 000!” Jack yelled, putting on his pants.

“Jack? Stay out of it. You’re too old to play the hero. Leave it to the cops.”

“That couple camping at the creek… He’s killed ‘er.”

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

Margaret was so afraid, her teeth almost leaped out of her mouth and into the bush.

“P…p..p.lease h…h..h..help. The…the…there’s a h..h…h..huge ssssspiiiider in our t..t.t.ttent.”

“Struth! Thought you’d been murdered.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week the photo prompt comes from © Jan Wayne Fields

Dropbear

Drop Bear

To give a bit of background, I’m Australian and to be perfectly honest, I’ve never seen anyone go camping with a power generator thingy here. I was rather stuck on this prompt and showed my husband. He grew up in NE Tasmania and did a lot of real camping growing up, which included hiking up Cradle Mountain. His immediate response was: “You call that camping!!” They definitely struck both of us as virgin campers and they were just begging for some Australian wildlife to enter their tent. There is so much to choose from…the dingo, possums which are known to tear open tents to steal your food, snakes, spiders…even drop bears! My husband suggested writing about all forms of wildlife converging on the tent at once.

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Huntsman Spider. Photo Jon.

However, then I remembered a hilarious situation I heard on the radio where screams were heard from a flat in Sydney. When the Police turned up convinced there’d been a murder. They found a guy standing on a chair with a spider on the wall…a huntsman. Not poisonous but it can give a nasty bite. There story makes for an excellent read! http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-27/police-respond-to-domestic-after-man-screams-over-spider/6979724

Our daughter was terrified by a huntsman only the other night so even though it’s not poisonous, it’s still up there with Nightmare on Elm Street.

xx Rowena

 

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Writing Memoir…Paris Encore!

A few days ago, I started getting stuck back into writing a memoir about my time as an Australian in Paris in the Summer of ’92.  I spent 6 weeks in Paris during a rogue backpacking trip after graduating from university.

The memoir revolves around a solo poetry reading I gave at the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop and spins out from there. It was a time of particularly deep thought and soul searching, not only for me but also most of the recent graduates we met. I’ll add that that there was also falling in love, being dumped and all the usual things that come with scraping up the entrails of your heart off the tarmac after taking a direct hit.

Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris.

At the moment, I’m only at the early planning and dare I say research stage, although I’ve handwritten a few pages a day of actual text. (I usually find handwriting my work helps gets me into the flow).

I had been making great progress on “Paris” about a year ago, until a hail storm peppered holes through the office roof and brutally destroyed my flow. The entire office had to be evacuated and the mess wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, at the moment I’m seriously trying to immerse myself back into my Paris. Kick start all those near-dead neurons and getting the party started.

Unfortunately, I’ve hit a frustrating hitch. I can’t remember the name of the cafe we used to hang out and it is rather central to the plot. So, yesterday I started hitting the problem with every tool at my disposal…from the sledgehammer through to the magnifying glass, but I’m still not convinced that I’ve found it.

Finding the cafe isn’t only hampered by a lot of water under the bridge. I also have no sense of direction and struggle to find my feet, let alone retrace my steps from 24 years ago. Indeed, after all my meanderings yesterday, I was lucky to make it out of the labyrinth alive and am pleased to report that the Minotaur didn’t get me either.

My first step was to dig out my Paris photos for clues.

Immediately, I hit another hitch. The album was missing. I was pretty sure it was readily accessible but with so many photo albums, books, book cases, nooks and crannies, it was looking like mission impossible.  Don’t you hate it when this happens!! As if the frustration isn’t bad enough, there’s also that self-righteous voice in your head saying you should be more organised. Declutter! (That’s where a fly swat comes in handy. Whack! That should do the job!)

Humph!

I try to wing it online and try various Google searches.

Nothing!

Nothing!

Nothing!

Finally, I find the photo album but there’s only one shot of us sitting outside at the cafe. Even after scrutinizing the photo, I can’t find a name anywhere. What I do remember is cheap coffee, not having to pay extra to sit outside and a broad area of outdoor seating. Also, it was on a sweeping corner with plenty of space.

Yet, this physical description fits many cafes.

Fortunately, despite my abysmal sense of direction, I’ve been able to limit the search zone. The cafe is on the Left Bank in Quartier Latin somewhere near Rue Dauphine, the Luxembourg Gardens and St Michel. In retrospect, I’m thinking that was something of a “pedestrian passenger” blindly following my friends to the cafe  without gouging the route into my neuropathways.

Yet, through the fog, there is a glimmer of light.I cross over Pont Neuf into Rue Dauphine in my head. I have a general direction but then the vision suddenly goes dead with no cafe in sight.I simply don’t remember. So, that leaves me playing detective trying to piece together foggy memories, Google searches, walking through the streets on Google maps. I even emailed a friend.

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My feet in the Luxembourg Gardens. Aren’t those flowers spectacular!!

I must’ve been in one of my doggedly persistent moods because I wasn’t going to let it go until I found it. I Googled cafes and boulangeries around St Michel. I consulted Google maps and walked at street view round and around and around the streets of the Left Bank and crossed one by one off my list. Indeed, I was trawling through Google like a crazed stalker and I wasn’t giving up.

By this stage, I was starting to think writing memoir was seriously over-rated and that I should turn this thing into a novel and be done with it. Then, I can simply make everything up without all this arduous digging.

But I’m NOT GIVING UP!!

Instead, I’m off to Paris. Well, I’m off to Paris via Google maps.  As much as I would sort of love to be in Paris and retracing my steps in reality, it doesn’t matter if I get lost in Google maps. Eventually, I’ll make it back to Pont Neuf without being exhausted.

Well, to read about my virtual cafe crawl through Paris, you’ll have to wait for the next installment.

Hey, if you have any idea where the cafe might be, please put me out of my misery!!

PLEASE!!!

Have you spent much time writing memoir or non-fiction? How did it compare to writing fiction?

I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

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Amnesia…Paris ‘92

I’m digging around

at the back of my head,

but all neuro pathways

are hopelessly dead.

 

I can’t resurrect them.

Their heartbeats have stopped.

Help can’t get through.

All roads have been blocked.

 

I fumble around for a sign,

For some clues.

Return to the scene,

where I hope to find you.

writing in Paris

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

 

But almost a lifetime’s

flowed along down the Seine,

although ancient Pont Neuf

still looks much the same.

 

I return to the cafe

where you broke my heart.

Still bearing the scars,

you said weren’t your fault.

 

The City of Love,

Was my city of pain

where romance turned to heartbreak,

and sun turned to rain.

 

And now I am back there,

with my husband and kids

not saying a word

about that Summer we kissed.

 

Rowena Curtin

30th November, 2016.

 

A fictional poem, although the heartache was real.

I am currently writing about the two months I spent in Paris as a backpacker in 1992. That’s over 20 years ago now and the memories are very strained despite having my own diaries, photos and letters to refer to as well as the net.  I was making very good progress on this project a year ago. That was until the office roof was destroyed in a hailstorm and then the hard drive developed “complications” and not everything could be salvaged. So, I am starting over trying to re build the patchwork quilt almost from scratch and trying to cover the gaps. It’s incredibly difficult but I am thankfully making progress.

xx Rowena

The featured image was a selfie taken in the Luxenbourg Gardens, Paris, July 1992.

 

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Watching Crowded House.

Last Saturday night, Crowded House performed live on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Unfortunately, we missed it, but the concert was televised ABC TV on Sunday night and we were all parked in front of the TV reminiscing with Neil Finn and the band. Indeed, they were playing in our very own lounge room. Weren’t we lucky!!

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Neil Finn

In case you haven’t heard of Crowded House, it’s an Australian rock band. It was formed in 1985 by  New Zealander Neil Finn and Australians Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. They were later joined by Neil’s older brother, Tim Finn. Both Neil and Tim Finn hailed from Split Enz.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a band person and there have never been any bands I’ve hero worshipped, longing for their next album. However, there were favourite songs, which I’ll never forget, but you probably need to be 40 something or over to know any of these.That said, I can mention Electric Blue by Icehouse without embarrassing myself.

Anyway, getting back to Crowded House…

I got quite a rush hearing many of the old Crowded House songs again. Not that I could’ve picked them as Crowded House. Yet, the songs were very familiar like running into an old friend. Crowded House was always there.

Actually, I’m quite grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to reconnect with Crowded House now and intend to buy their CD. Well, at least a CD. No doubt, they’ve put out more than one. It will be joining me in the car. I do a lot of driving!

So, having confessed that I’m anything but a Crowded House expert, I’m obviously breaking the most fundamental rule of writing… writing about something I know very little about. While I understand that this could be my undoing given there are  obsessive fans who know each and every hair on their heads.

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Tim & Neil Finn

However, there can also be a different kind of story. More of a getting to know you, dipping my little toe into the waters and sharing the journey kind of story. Moreover, while many people would be interested in pulling their music apart , I found myself watching and absorbing the band as people.There was something intangible about each of them which really touched me.  They all came across as really interesting, warm and genuine people with a very strong sense of something like a cross between empathy and compassion. I’d really like to sit on a beach watching the moon rise listening to these guys talk. Not about the band, being in a band or being a star but to hear their philosophical observations of life. I could sense wisdom, which isn’t a trait I usually attribute to band members but it was there. I know it was there.

So I wasn’t really surprised when I came across these quotes from Neil Finn:

“I try to put myself into unusual and difficult situations as often as I can in order to capture the element of struggle in the music.”

-Neil Finn

“So I think rather than being attracted so much now to working with my heroes, I’m sort of more attracted to working with completely unlikely strangers because it’s more exciting really.”

-Neil Finn

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Tim Finn…you could really tell he was having a blast!

There were also some poignant quotes from his older brother, Tim Finn:

“True contentment comes with empathy.”

Tim Finn

“Weave me a rope that will pull me through these impossible times.”

Tim Finn

“I’m a live performer and I love playing live.”

Tim Finn

Anyway, on that note I’ll leave you with a few songs:

 

Enjoy!

Crowded House: Don’t Dream It’s Over.

Do you have a favourite Crowded House song? What is it?
I find it hard to pick out of these three.
xx Rowena
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The End.