Category Archives: Paris

Weekend Coffee Share December 17, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I’m being a lousy hostess. So, if you’re thirsty or hungry,  you’ll need to head out to the kitchen and DIY. By the way, while you’re up, would you mind getting me a cup of decaf tea please? Pretty please!!!

I’ve locked myself in the lounge room with the air-conditioning on having a lazy Saturday. I need one.

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Sunbaking inside enjoying the air-conditioning.

How many sleeps is it now before Christmas? I have no idea. After all, it’s barely registering that it’s Saturday. I’ll blame the heat, but I’m totally incapable of performing such mental gymnastics: 25 – 17= 8. Eight sleeps…that’s better than I thought.Just a quick question: If I don’t go to sleep, does that mean Christmas will never come? I’m not sure.

I guess I should buy myself an Advent Calendar. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about mental arithmetic. Mind you, it couldn’t be a chocolate one. In this heat, it would go into an instant meltdown. Let’s just say I’ve had enough meltdowns lately.

So,I could also visit Santa’s Countdown Clock.

Anyway, not being much of a number-cruncher, I countdown towards Christmas the same way I give directions… pick out landmarks and hope no one gets lost.

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School Carols.

For us, the landmarks to Christmas include: the end of year dance concert, the school carols night, the end of school and then there’s Church Christmas Eve. Somewhere along the way, there’s also checking out Christmas lights, making the Christmas Cake and wrapping presents. Sneaking in a few siestas isn’t a bad idea either!

Anyway, yesterday was the last day of school. Both my kids changed schools at the end of last year, yet I found myself back at their old school. A few of our friends had kids in the graduating class and I went to see them off.

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It’s a school tradition for the rest of the school and teachers to create a human tunnel for the graduating Year 6 kids to walk through. It’s a rather intense and emotional time for the entire school…smiles, tears and that sense of being in the departure lounge at the airport. I should also add that it gets quite challenging for the ginormous Year 6’s need to crawl through the tiny arches constructed by the kindergarten kids.

While most of these kids will end up together at the local high school, the transition from primary to high school is momentous…a huge leap along the pathway from childhood to growing up. Although they’re taller, their first day at high school feels a lot like their very first day at school all over again, except Mum isn’t allowed to cry this time. No tears allowed.

For better or worse, the end of the year is also a check list…especially Christmas.There’s barely been a tick in mine.  Actually, I haven’t even written the list yet, which could explain a bit. Significantly, I haven’t made my Christmas cake yet. This is a Christmas tradition deemed so important in the past, that when I had three days’ notice that I was having chemo 3 years ago, I HAD to make my Christmas cake. It seems that when I’m not under the pressure of dying, that making my Christmas cake hasn’t fallen onto the back burner. That’s along with writing and posting Christmas cards, wrapping presents and removing the excavation piles from where we squeezed in the Christmas Tree.

As you can see, we are buried deep in the depths of Christmas chaos and won’t be emerging any time soon.

Yet, at least we’ve managed to put up the Christmas Tree and decorate it. We have a real tree every year and this is the first year it’s been at ground level since we had the kids. Miss took over the decorating this year, introducing me to a new form of Christmas madness…CDOCD or Christmas Decoration Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My usual hodgepodge of decorations made and bought throughout my lifetime was banned. Let’s just say I watched the proceedings.

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In addition to all the Christmas hoopla and end of school stuff, we also found out that our daughter has been accepted into Dance Team at the dance school. This isn’t just an honour and recognition of her dance abilities. It’s also a huge commitment and responsibility. That begins with arriving on time and not only being able to find your dance shoes, but also putting them on your feet. This seemingly simple process is harder than you think.

Jon & Geoff sailing

Geoff and Mister sailing.

Our son has also graduated from his Level 3 sailing course and starts racing in January. I know he’s going into his second year of high school, but it  still seems so grown up. Well, considering he’s about to overtake Grandma, he’s not so little any more.

Maybe, I’m the one who needs to grow up but that’s not to say there’s still a long way to go.

Mind you, growth should be a life long journey and I certainly haven’t stopped growing yet (and I’m not just referring to my Christmas waistline either).

By the way, although I’m not ready for Christmas, I have been doing plenty of writing. I have been working away on my Paris memoir. In addition to typing up excerpts from my diaries at the time, I’ve been reworking poetry I wrote at the time, writing new poems and short stories and being very productive. There was:

Poem:Slide Night- Dumped In Paris.

Poem:Welcome to the Yellow House.

Paris Syndrome – Disillusioned By the City of Lights.

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Photo: c Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again, writing All for Love. It’s the story of an Australian war bride living in a US town.

How are plans going for your celebrations? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster.

xx  Rowena

 

 

 

Paris Syndrome…Beyond Hypochondria.

If you have been following Beyond the Flow lately, you’ll know I’ve been retracing my steps through Paris back in the European Summer of 1992. I have photos, diaries and letters from the trip, which have been incredibly useful. However, I can now cross-reference these with Google and retrace my steps online on Google maps. Consequently, this return journey has been very intriguing, rather intense and the creative juices have been dripping all over the place.

Aside from the poetry reading I did at the famous Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, my time in Paris was overshadowed by matters of the heart. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about romance but what is known as “the Paris Dumper”(a favourite band of mind whose songs include: “A One Sided Love Affair”.)

Patisserie Paris

The sweet side of Paris.

I can testify that being dumped in Paris is so much worse than being dumped just about anywhere else. After all, Paris isn’t just the City of Lights. Above all, it’s the City of Love. Can’t you just see Cupid flying over the Eiffel Tower sporting his bow and arrow? Indeed, I was quite surprised to find out that the air in Paris wasn’t pink. That Paris wasn’t a city of rose-eyed visions. Of course, if I’d ever read the fine print before falling in love, I should’ve known that heartbreak is a known side-effect and to keep a better eye out for the early signs.  So, when you’ve been dumped in Paris, you find yourself falling  from Cloud 9 straight on top of your sword. Ouch! It hurts!

writing in Paris

Being dumped in Paris wasn’t the end of my disillusionment with Paris either. Of course, I fell in love with the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the sensational Luxembourg Gardens but Paris was very noisy, over-crowded, dirty and even back in 1992 there was a very seedy, dark undercurrent. That’s before I even get to the unparalleled rudeness of the French. I don’t think they expected me to understand all the swearing!

After yet another stroll through Google last night, this sense of total and utter disillusionment with Paris even has a name…Paris Syndrome. I don’t know whether you’ll find it in the DSM IV manual but it’s not just something Google made up. The BBC has also covered it: Paris Syndrome.

Paris syndrome (French: Syndrome de Paris, Japanese: パリ症候群, Pari shōkōgun) is a transient psychological disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or vacationing to Paris, as a result of extreme shock resulting from their finding out that Paris is not what they had expected it to be. It is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others, such as vomiting- Wikipaedia.

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Relaxing in the Luxenbourg Gardens, Paris. These stunning gardens and green space was an urban oasis.

While Paris Syndrome is particularly linked to Japanese tourists, I distinctly remember being let down by my first impressions of Paris. As a very impressionable young Australian with a head full of dreams and expectations, I’m sure I experienced Paris Syndrome when I was there. That after studying French for six years at school, the reality was a disappointment. Couldn’t live up to the fantasy.

No doubt the effects are worse for those living some distance from Paris, where we can’t just pop over for a look-see.

Have you ever been to Paris or somewhere else where your high expectations were dashed by reality?Please share your experiences with me.

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share December 11, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

Not quite sure how many sleeps there are before Christmas, but there’s no sign of Christmas at our place yet. There’s only a tub containing my daughter’s dance costumes after Saturday night’s concert and some stray camping gear. The kids are under tent tonight at the scout Christmas camp. Fortunately, we live in Australia or they’d be hooking up some generators and a sneaking in a few heaters.

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Our daughter after the dance concert.

Our Christmas tree will be arriving tomorrow. We have a real tree each year and I simply can’t bring myself to buy a fake one. I blame my Dad for that after hearing him wax lyrically about the wonders of fresh pine scent all my life. Christmas isn’t Christmas without the smell of Christmas tree in the house…along with the debris and mess! That said, I hate seeing Christmas trees standing upside down in people’s wheely bins waiting for the garbage truck. Such an ignoble end for a magnificent tree!

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On what has suddenly become yesterday, we went to our daughter’s dance concert. Of course, it wasn’t her dance concert as such but she was in three items…jazz, modern and ballet. A friend drove her to the dress rehearsal beforehand and she did her own hair, so it was quite different to the past where I was fretting over her hair slapping on lashings of gel and almost asphyxiating in clouds of hair spray. It’s liberating. Yet, the more independent they become, the less involved you are…for better or worse. Today, I was more of a spectator something was missing as well.

It’s been a busy week for my daughter and I. She attends a selective Opportunity Class and will be sitting for the selective high school exam in March next year. On Friday, students of the two local selective primary school classes were invited to an enrichment day at the selective high school. As a parent, this was obviously a great opportunity, but my daughter was refusing to go. Her teacher wasn’t going and she didn’t want to be with strangers, even though she knew most of the kids that were going. Although I’m an extroverted extrovert and love talking to strangers, I do get where she’s coming from but trying to convey that was hellish. Trying to explain that it’s more about anxiety than the trigger. I have been an incredibly anxious driver but the more I drive, the less anxious I’ve become and most of the time, I now jump in the car without a second thought. Life is a constant learning experience.
Anyway, she went along and loved it. They made biscuits and she told me they have a fantastic kitchen and she wants to go to school there.

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Meanwhile, I had my son home from school for the morning on Wednesday while the teachers had a student-free pow wow. He loves playing Risk, a board game using loads of strategy. Anyway, he was particularly thrilled that he completely wiped me out. I didn’t mind. I was playing to spend time together and we had a lot of laughs along the way. (Note to self: Laugh more. Life doesn’t always have to be serious!)

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting stuck into my memoir about my time in Paris in the Summer of 1992. I’ve been typing up diary notes and have deviated into writing a bit of fiction as well. My time in Paris was, as Charles Dickens so aptly put it: “the best of times and the worst of times.” I could easily turn this time into a terrifying horror story yet there were also the best of times and it’s weaving these two paradoxical threads together which is going to give the story quite a lot of punch. At least, that’s the aim! Light doesn’t always triumph over darkness. It depends where you start and finish the story. So, I’ll be looking into all of that.

Anyway, I’ve posted a few poems about this time during the last week:

Welcome to the Yellow House.

Slide Night…Dumped In Paris.

I also participated in Friday Fictioneers again. My contribution this week Dancing For Life. This looks at the choices we have to make between love and success.

How was your week? I hope it’s been great. All the best for your preparations for Christmas, Hanukah, the Holidays. One more coffee share to go!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Poem: Welcome To the Yellow House

And he coaxed:

“Chirpy bird,

chirpy bird,

rest beside me,

chirpy bird.

The music of your spangled song,

thaws the freeze of love gone wrong.

 

Chirpy Bird.

chirpy bird.

Look what I’ve got,

chirpy bird.

Golden seeds

plucked from my heart.

Feast on these,

fresh shoots will start.”

 

But reason warned:

“Chirpy bird,

Chirpy bird.

Watch fast footsteps, Chirpy bird.

Your beak does peak

to chasms deep

as he bathes in your sweet

tweet

tweet

tweet.

But though he sometimes calls you “dear”,

note he’ll never let you near.”

 

Oh, Chirped bird!

Chirped bird!

Beak jammed in crack,

wings tied to torture wrack.

With a blind man’s bash,

your fragile bones he had to smash.

His yellow house was painted grand.

Do you think you’ll ever understand?

I only ever hear you cry:

“Lord, tell me why?

Just tell me why.”

 

Baited bird.

Beaten bird.

Chirped out bird

flopped in my hand.

Your crumpled feathers,

could I carress,

but you’d die

inside a comfort nest.

 

So, I offer you back

to the outstretched sky.

Spread your wings!

It’s time to fly.

Fresh shoots can spring

from golden seeds.

They’re ripe for thee,

my chirpy bird.

Eat & Fly free.

Rowena Curtin  14th August, 1992.

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Chirpy Bird.

Again, this poem revisits my trip to Europe in 1992 and the horrors of heartbreak. It’s title comes from Van Gogh’s house in Arles, which appeared in the painting The Yellow House. I chose Van Gogh’s house for the title as I was rapidly descending into the sort of anguished madness one associates with Van Gogh.

I hadn’t seen the painting when I named thew poem and the actual painting is much more conventional and “tame” than I’d expected, especially when you think of Van Gogh’s emotional and mental expressionism in Starry Night, which oozes with raw, unbridled emotion.

My “friend” used to say I was like a chirpy bird and quite other worldly I guess.

Unfortunately, as When Harry Met Sally points out, friendship between single men and women is often fraught.

By the way, I actually visited Van Gogh’s home in Cuesmes in Greater Mons, Belgium with my “friend”, which also makes the link to Van Gogh more pertinent.

xx Rowena

 

 

Absent Friends…Quote Vincent Van Gogh

“I often think of you all, one cannot do what one wants in life. The more you feel attached to a spot, the more ruthlessly you are compelled to leave it, but the memories remain, and one remembers – as in a looking glass, darkly – one’s absent friends.”
― Vincent Van Gogh

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Sitting at our mystery cafe in Paris Summer 1992.

I read this quote and immediately I thought of hanging out with my friends at the cafe in Paris. Although I consciously know it was now 24 years ago, I still picture us all sitting there, walking, engrossed in philosophical ruminations or falling in love. It was Summer. It was Paris. We were young.

xx Rowena

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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