Monthly Archives: March 2017

Colette…Friday Fictioneers.

“Colette, ma Cherie. Je t’adore! Ma belle…”

Oh! How the mighty have fallen!

The glass smashed against the mirror and champagne dripped over her shattered reflection. Almost blurred beyond recognition, yet still there…along with an anguish so intense, it burned. Filled her veins with such fury, she had to let it out.

Showered in roses. No broken bones. No bruises. Then, there were the gates. The constant surveillance. Always breathing down her neck, following her every move. She couldn’t breathe.

“Mrs Windsor, back to bed. Your husband’s on his way.”

Colette smiled. The staff were always so obliging.

Rowena Curtin

This was another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

 

Weekend Coffee Share 19th March, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I have a little confession. It’s actually almost Monday afternoon here, but there’s no rule that says you have to stick to local time. So, I’m Coming to you to from Boston where it’s currently 8.42PM Sunday and it’s currently 2ºF. It’s currently 27ºC here in Sydney with 80% humidity. The air is so heavy and sticky and it feels like you could literally wring the water out of it,which is all pretty yuck to be honest. Not that I’m wishing Winter would hurry up. It’s more of a case of “rain, rain go away…”

Woy Woy March 20

After weeks of seriously heavy rain, the sun started to peer through the clouds this morning and I had to seize the moment.

At the moment, I’m wishing I could find some form of cosmic remote control. Mostly, I’d like to press the pause button for awhile to catch up. Or, a bit like the conductor of an orchestra, get some parts to stop of play quietly so I can focus on something else without being interrupted or feeling I’m needing to split my brain so many directions, that it short circuits.

I know I’m far from being the only one who feels like this so when is some young Einstein or Thomas Eddison going to invent the ultimate device. Or, could I be the one to come up with the ultimate invention? Unless it’s made out of a box of spare cuckoo clock parts or the components of the piano I’m thinking of pulling to pieces, I doubt it. I’d better stick to art and my planned deviation into sculpture.

The last couple of weeks have been very stressful. Not because I’ve had a lot on, but I’ve had some big stuff on and I’ve had to be organized and focused, which isn’t my forte.

At the top of the agenda at the moment, our daughter goes to high school next year. Forget any concerns about my baby growing up. At the moment, the preparation side of things is enough to contend with. In a bid to give her plenty of choice and options, she’s sat for the State selective schools test, but she’s also sitting for selective academic and performing arts tests at our local school. We won’t get the results of the selective schools’ test  until after the offers are made for the local school. So, needless to say, the process by itself is an ordeal and my role is never as simple as “taxi driver extraordinaire”. I’m also chief motivator, enforcer and “punching bag”. Golly! I feel like handing in my resignation already and it’s only march. This process goes on at least until October and longer if she’s on the waiting list.

It’s enough to throw yourself under a bus…”Spare me!”That’s metaphorically speaking, of course!

The other big event this week, was my thirty year school reunion. That was a real hoot. reunion.  I really love going to these school reunions, even though I wasn’t one of the cool kids at school. We’ve all moved on and the girls who gave me a hard time, don’t come to the reunions, which intrigues me. Unfortunately, most of the people they really picked on don’t come either and there are also those who walked out the school gate and never looked back. For me, the usual what to wear problem was compounded by weeks and weeks of severely heavy rain, which was saying hibernate to me. I could’ve worn an eskimo suit there if I’d had one. There was also the shoe issue. I can’t stand long at the best of times and as much as I would’ve liked to wear the pretty shoes, I had to go with the sensible shoes. This ended up being quite interesting as I ended up almost feeling short, when I’m usually tall. Some of those heels were like towers. Anyway, I enjoyed catching up on anecdotes from the past and they had scanned in a series of letters to Charles and Di a class had written for the Royal Wedding. They’d got married when I was in 6th class and I clearly remember the insane obsession the world had with Diana, which was such a part of those school years. I clearly remember one of my friends saying her Gran had taken her off for a Lady Di haircut but she had a cowlick in her fridge and it didn’t really come off.  The teenage years are a bit like that though. So much never really comes off.

I should mention, that there was talk about actor Hugh Jackman at the reunion.  Of course, there had to be. He was our local heartthrob. As much as there was talk of Hugh spottings back in the day, there has to be a few stories about the one who broke Hugh’s heart. Of course, it no longer matters whether it’s true or not. You just need a few good myths and legends to rev up a reunion!

Since I missed the coffee share the week before, I still need to wish our son a Happy 13th Birthday. My Dad couldn’t resist writing: “now you’re terrible teenager” in his card and I sure am hoping this isn’t prophetic. I don’t know if you really want a boring kid, but one who did what they were supposed to do without constant reminding would be good.

I guess that’s where that remote control I mentioned earlier would really come in handy. The thing is it would need to be modified to include some kind of homework/study button, which included some kind of “motivational encouragement”.  Of course, this would need to be enabled to override the “play” button. Not that I fancy myself as some kind of dictator, but it would be so much easier to operate the teenager from the couch without having to get up…AND without having to repeat myself!

Anyway, the teenager went very well at sailing over the weekend and is trying to catch up on school work after being sick.

Meanwhile, I’m back off to dancing tonight. I’m not sure how many classes we have left this term   and I love it so much, that I miss it in between. Our adult class is so much fun and caters for beginners through to professional dancers and we each just do our best…AND we have such a laugh.

jennifer-pendergast5

Photo prompt: © Jennifer Pendergast.

BTW, I almost forgot to mention my weekly go at writing flash fiction over at Friday Fictioneers…Local Outrage.

So, how’s your week been? I hope it’s gone well. I know I don’t exactly offer you something to eat or drink but that can do on behind the scenes and doesn’t always need to be spelt out.

Anyway, I hope you have a great week wherever you are!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. I encourage you to come over and join us.

Best wishes and I hope you have a great week ahead!

Rowena

LOCAL OUTRAGE- Friday Fictioneers

Desperate to attract passing tourists, Council voted to upgrade the local park.

While surveys confirmed locals had wanted to install a steam locomotive and have a mini railway running on weekends, they’d ended up with “Rusty” , a “pile of scrap metal”, instead. Accordingly, Rusty was only good for one thing and for more information, you’ll need to consult the local dogs, who’d voted him the best telegraph pole in town.

Then, last Sunday morning, Rusty was gone. No one had seen or heard a thing, but in his place, there was a garden gnome.

Apparently, Nigel  had come home.


This is another contribution for the Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

Leonardo Di Vinci

Last night, I wasn’t looking for personal inspiration. It was more a case of getting my son to do his history assignment on a medieval/Renaissance leader.If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll know all about this. If you’re not, you’ll remember your own parents railroading you unless you were some kind of glowing Marcia Brady.

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know I’m crazy about history and won’t be surprised that I had more than a passing interest in my son’s assignment and might have some useful resources.

No doubt, that’s why he chose to research Kublai Khan. I had  fantastic, illustrated books on Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. So, they were too easy. We’ve even been to a superlatively inspirational exhibition in Sydney where they’d built interactive models of Da Vinci’s inventions and you could operate them yourself. Yet, Da Vinci was off his radar and I couldn’t help feeling like he’d plucked Kublai Khan out of a hat!

So, I made a brief but futile attempt to change his mind and retrieved my beautifully illustrated and well-researched book on Leonardo down from the shelf…Ritchie Calder’s: Leonardo & The Age of the Eye. A book, which despite my best intentions, I still haven’t read!

Of course, I know I should’ve read it myself and that it’s been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years making me look smart without actually taking it in…pretty stupid. Yet, aren’t most bookshelves also packed with good intentions????

Anyway, in a serendipitous moment, I opened the book at this paragraph, which really resonated with me:

“Leonardo was the observer with the naked eye and the naked ear. He also had, and never lost, his childlike curiosity which, however much we may specialize in the more-and-more-about-less-and-less, is the essential nature of science. His was not the structured life of the child who having revealed an aptitude for what is scholastically called “science” at some immature age is told that he should be a physicist, chemist or a biologist, and from then on  is academically escorted through the science stream, the science faculty, and the post-graduate course into the learned societies. He learned where he went and where the interests took him.” (pg 261).

While I’m not going to re-write the entire book (especially when I haven’t read it!!), I found this a few paragraphs down, which gives an insight into the breadth of Da Vinci’s “education” and training:

“His science began as a painter. He was lucky to be apprenticed to Verrocchio at a time when perspective had become a preoccupation with artists…among the master’s cronies the subject of perspective was not just a matter of working practice; it was a matter of winebibbing  debate, as well as quasi-mystical dissertations on spatiality. In a way it was putting them, the artists, on speaking terms with the intellectuals around the Medici Garden…

Probably the most powerful, formative influence on Leonardo was Toscanelli, physician, astronomer and natural philosopher. The tracker of the comet, the cartographer and mentor of Columbus kept open house for the likes of Leonardo, whom he encouraged in the systematic study of mathematics, and introduced to astronomy.” pg 261.

Thus, Da Vinci was nurtured in a very rich, yet broad and multi-disciplinary environment, and not simply pushed down one path to become the “performing genius” if you get my drift. While the benefits of a broad educational base bare obvious to some, there’s so much pressure to become that expert. That person who knows that topic in painstakingly intimate detail, even if that means losing site of the bigger picture entirely. Even if it means being unable to tie up your own shoe laces or bake a cake. Indeed, too many experts have travelled so far down their own drainpipe without networking with even slightly-divergent colleagues, and there has to be a price for that. Few of us would even dream of having Da Vinci’s genius. Yet, it was built on curiosity and a broad brush stroke, NOT knowing everything within a very narrow sphere too well.

By diversifying ourselves, we too could reap the benefits…especially as creatives.

I practice what I preach. While writing, photography and research are my mainstays, I also learn the violin and have been doing contemporary/ballet classes for the last six months, which have really intensified my vision.

Not that I’ve become Da Vinci, but at least I’m working on it!

xx Rowena

 

There’s Life In the Old Horse Yet!

As you might know, I love delving deep into the old newspapers online and have found some fascinating snippets and stories along the way. That includes this fabulous story about Pete the retired racehorse reflecting on his glory days. We could’ve had a wonderful chat if only he could talk and wasn’t fiction.

Indeed, I enjoyed this story so much, I decided to share it with you. There are a few bits of text I couldn’t make out and as it as written in the 1940s, the language is a bit dated but it’s still a fabulous, fast-paced tale. I hope you enjoy it!

OLD PETE By FRED GARDINER

OLD PETE was a vegetarian by Nature’s laws ordained.

And the monotony of it, the— yes, the humility of it, even, never once roused complaint in his patient soul.

But what did cause resentment was the indubitable fact that his diet was restricted to the unfermented type of vegetation.

Chaff, for instance; chaff, chaff, chaff. Crunch, crunch, crunch. No snap, crackle, and pop; just plain, crunch, crunch, crunch.

There was an element in the daily life of Pete that disturbed the old warrior muchly.

An element? Hardly. Almost it was an aura.

Everywhere he went, he smelt it, that aura; for actually, though he did not know it, yeast was the very essence of his daily life for Pete. He smelt it at his work, at rest, in his dreams—for old horses do dream.

Yeast!

And yeast has engendered a thirst in many a good man, an unquenchable thirst for—yeast. An irritating, insinuating, invigorating, inspiriting—ah, that, was it, an inspiriting desire.

For Pete in his young days had been SOMETHING.

And in those halcyon days he had quaffed the nut-brown ale, gallons of it.

As Prince – Peter, the topweight, he had gracefully cavorted to the cheers of the multitude and scornfully ignored the scowls of vengeful “barvons.” Then the smell of the tan was his aura, and beer was the nectar of Mammon, a reward for services rendered.

Later, much later, forgotten by his many spouses of the seasons that had flown by, forgotten, almost, by those for whom he had won small fortunes, his memorial merely a hyphenated allusion in sundry race-books, he had yet held his own with the others on the bakery rounds.

But nowadays the fellows at the brewery over the road from the bakehouse had taken to casting aspersions and crusts of their lunch in his direction, and referred to him as “Old Pete, the Hat Rack.”

How were they to know that, as Prince Peter, he had helped to make their industry? He had trained on barrels of beer. It had been his inspiration.

But who would buy a bucket of beer for the old chap now? He was but a pan-handler among his kind!

At the thought, resentment welled in his vast gullet to quench his thirst.

But-his cup of bitterness was replete when he saw those mudgudgeon brewers’ horses served their eight buckets of beer each day at noon. Eight buckets each. Placed in a line; and the lazy, sleek, slobbery sloths would – swab six, stamp a hoof in the middle of the seventh, bury their muzzles in the eighth, and blow it to the sky in bubbles.

Disgusting! Not the manners, but the waste.

Eight buckets of beer; and he would win the Cunnamulla Cup—had won it, in fact.

But, who remembered? He neighed in disgust, and blew the chaff out of his nosebag. So the driver, taking this as a sign that Pete had had enough, removed the nosebag before he had half finished his meal.

“Just a plug; how would he know?” thought Pete. “Never mind, it was dry tack, anyhow!”

But Pete was wrong in one particular. Bill, the driver, was not “just a plug.” He had a heart for the old horse, and never hastened to put the bit of servitude back into his mouth.

Which was indiscreet, indeed, in view of the fact that, the stables being at the bakehouse, there was always that aura, that haunting, yeasty, aura.

Came the day when the brewer’s man was late on his run and Old Pete finished early.

The ostler had placed sixteen buckets of beer, in two rows of eight, on the footpath, awaiting the return of the waggon. On the other side of the street Bill had buried Old Pete’s head in -his nosebag, and left him to crunch, crunch, crunch! Which, he did.

The brewery waggon did not arrive. The beer was going flat in the buckets – over the way. , .

Old Pete flicked a fly from his haunches, merely a matter of habit, for he had no mind for the fly; his thoughts were elsewhere…over the road.

Sixteen buckets of beer and him munching chaff! No; he must; dispel the thought. Gone were the days.

It was about the time when Bill helped the baker draw the batch. As the ovens opened, the smell rushed forth like a spirit new-released from Hades.

That aura! What tunes it played in the memory box of Old Pete as it assailed his sensitive, quivering nostrils.

The old horse staggered in the face of temptation, actually staggered at the knees; his head fell mutely, the nosebag touched, the ground and slowly fell off. Then, he was over the road in a jiffy, the bit- jangling uselessly from his jaws. Over the road and into those buckets…one, two, three,., sharp-firing; four, five, six, quick time; seven, eight, nine, ten—not out and six to go. Eleven, he was slowing up. Then, deliberately, twelve; thirteen for bakers’ luck and fourteen, fif-t-e-e-n.’ Smack went his hoof through the bottom of the sixteenth bucket to show his independence.

They called him Old Pete! Him! His mane bristled with indignation, his withers itched, his sides quivered as though at the spur. Well, he’d show them, if burst he would!

As he whirled round the corner, hanged if he didn’t hear the old cry again: “Runaway, runaway!”

That’s what they used to shout out there at. Cunnamulla—”He’s run away with the field. Good old Prince Peter! Oh, you bonzer!”

Well, he’d give ’em a go for it.

Into Parramatta-road he swung, heading west, and a motor horn tooted. Motors? Sacrilege! “Get my dust!” he snorted, tossing his old head in contempt.

Peter left the body of the baker’s cart at Lawson, and the shafts fall away at Wentworth Falls.

With one ear well back and the other forward, he crammed oh. the heat; not hard, you – know,. but just hard enough to give that motor socks.

And the crowds along the great thoroughfare roared: “Runaway, runaway!” ‘

Encouragement.That was the spice of life to an old trouper like Pete.

At Burwood a bluebird shot out from a side street and joined in the chase. Vainly the cops tried to head him off. Pete threw his head high and snorted a frothy snort of sheer contempt. Then he clapped the heat full on.

“Gosh, that old cripple’s’ doing, fifty!” gasped Constable Boot in the bluebird.

“Shut up, or you’ll have me crash!” snapped the copper at the wheel.

They flashed through Granville…first the turnout, with Pete in full command: next the bluebird, x with two grim-faced, cops wondering whether they would see their wives or the hospital that night; and. after, them an assortment of vehicles that took up the chase for awhile, and fell out as their engines ran hot.

By sheer luck Pete took the turnoff to the Mountains at Parramatta—or it may have been instinct. The traffic cop there took the rest of the day off.

On the straight to Penrith the pace became too hot for the bluebird. When the needle wavered around seventy going through St. Marys the bluebird drew out and phoned to have the runaway headed off at Penrith.

At Kingswood the first wheel came off, and at Emu Plains the second.

The message to head Pete off at Penrith reached there as he was sailing past Lapstone. (He is heading up the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney)

Pete left the body of the baker’s cart at Lawson, and the shafts fell away at Wentworth Falls. He slipped the harness at Leura.

Hasty messages had been flashed to Katoomba, where Pete’s arrival was anticipated.

Both railway gates were shut and a goods train had been drawn up on the level crossing.

Pete saw this as he came round the turn near the hospital—so clapped on speed.

“Just a brush hurdle!” he snickered. Sparks flew from his shoes as he landed in front of the Carrington and stream of Are rose: from the tar as he skidded to the foot of Katoomba-street.

Both sides of the thoroughfare were lined with people, who roared their encouragement…”Runaway, runaway !”

The old fellow, tossed the foanr to left and right of his: gallant head in sheer enjoyment; What a race! And he had oceans to .spare.

But as he turned off around the falls and headed for Narrow Neck he began to fancy another drink. Fifteen buckets more he reckoned, and he would tackle Govett’s Leap, yes.Upwards!

What Pete did not know was that it was pay day at the mine.

So when he saw Paddy O’Flynn staggering along the bush track with the boys dye-gallon on his shoulders, who was Pete to recognise the ethics that imposed upon Pat a sacred trust to deliver the goods or be damned.

And who was Paddy to know that he stood in the path of a noble soul seeking sanctuary!

“Howly Mercy!” Paddy howled as the shock-maned; wall-eyed, foam-flecked apparition pounded after him. “Glory be, if it ain’t the Bull of Bashan his very self, the craytur!”

Paddy went off at a gallop, with old Pete hard behind.

When it looked as if he were to be crushed beneath the flailing hoofs, Pat

dropped the barrel to bless himself which .was his salvation. He scooted into the bush as Pete propped hard at the obstacle in his path.

Suspiciously he eyed it; then sniffed. That aura! For a fleeting second, a crushing homesickness seized him and he thought—what matter his thoughts?

So Pete spurned the thing – that was like to soften him, stamped on it in his anger— and ‘stove in the end: Glorious, sparkling amber ale, fresh from the wood. And Govett’s Leap was ahead.

The old fellow buried his muzzle right up to – his eyebrows, and drank, drank, drank until he licked the bottom. ”

What was that about Govett’s Leap? Well, maybe—tomorrow!

The sun was setting and his sight grew dim, so he sought a sheltered spot, there, to rest until…

The bakehouse whistle, blew, and Bill, the driver sauntered out to put the bit of’ servitude into the old prad’s mouth. He found Pete, dead in the shafts.

World’s News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 1955), Saturday 7 March 1942, page 16

 

 

 

 

Keep Breathing…Friday Fictioneers.

“All my life,” Melissa sighed to her therapist. “I’ve been peering through the keyhole too afraid to live.”

Phillippa was trying hard not to yawn. Dumping clients was hard. Never mentioned the “F” word.  It was all about “finding a better fit”.  Being a “therapy drop out” wasn’t good for their self-esteem.

“Anyway…”

Suddenly, Melissa became strangely animated, even possessed. “I finally attended a writer’s group this week and read one of my poems. Thought I was gunna die. Then, I heard you counting and this other voice saying: “Breathe, Melissa. Breathe. You can do it.”

“It was actually me.”

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s image was provided by © Shaktiki Sharma.

This week, I’ve spent a bit of time researching my grandmother who was a concert pianist and I’ve been thinking about that experience I had as a child of almost looking through the keyhole into her adult world. There was definitely a “them” and “us” policy and children should be not seen AND not heard. That suited us and we’d round up change for lollies from the adults and disappear with our stash.

Yet, there were those times I distinctly remember peering into this adult world and watching through that metaphorical keyhole. Nothing quite like being a spy!

By the way, I’d also encourage comments about when therapy doesn’t work and what that was like. Personally, I’m a lousy one for taking action but I’m currently working through that with my physio. Or, should I say, I’m “walking” it out.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

 

 

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena