Category Archives: Travel

One Australian.

Barefoot with Vegemite smeared across her face, Lilly was running through ancient alleyways exploring her mother’s homeland.  With a Jewish mother and Palestinian father, her parents had moved to Australia… a modern story of Romeo and Juliette and love borne out of hate.

Yet, that hate had tracked them down. Grabbed them by the throat, until they choked. There was no escape. As the twists and turns of a war she didn’t understand flew from side to side, Lilly learned the Kookaburra Song.

“LILLY” The scream echoed with reverberating anguish.

When she grew up, Lilly wanted to be a ballerina…

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Tasmanian Farewell – Friday Fictioneers.

The Spirit of Tasmania was boarding. With two cats perched on the back window of the Ford Laser, their Border Collie in the back, two lifetimes packed in the boot like a Chinese puzzle box, Jane and Dave were economic refugees moving to the Mainland.

Jane popped a couple of sea sickness pills. It was her first time, crossing treacherous Bass Strait. She was sick, before they’d even set sail. Even this massive North Sea Ferry, could become another Titanic.

Yet, with barely a whitecap, they had a perfect sail.

“It’s a sign, she smiled. “We’re making the right move.

…..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

In January this year, our family caught the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to Tasmania return. We were taking the kids down to Tasmania for them to see and experience where Daddy is from. You can read abut our trip here.

My husband is Tasmanian and his family have lived there since as early as 1828. During the late 80s early 90s during a nasty economic recession, Geoff and his then girlfriend left Tasmania bound for the Australian mainland in search of work. The rest of his immediate family had already left.

It’s a bold move to leave everything and everyone you’ve ever known, to move way. Pack everything up, and throw your stability into the wind.

I’ve done the same thing myself a couple of times in my lifetime. It didn’t seem such a big deal at the time, because I always had my parents to go back to. They were my anchor…my foundation and they’ve always called me home. I can’t imagine what it would be like going one way, with no prospect of return, especially moving to an unknown country on the other side of the world like my ancestors have done. I would love to know how they felt. Were there any regrets and where was truly home?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Do the Milkshake!

Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.

However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink.  The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top  along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.

It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.

Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.

As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.

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Walking off Indulgence.

After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.

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Our Beach in Winter.

It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.

Amelia looking out to sea

One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.

xx Rowena

 

Bush Rescue…Flash Fiction Carrot Ranch.

Bob saw the helicopters hovering over the lookout again.

“Blimey, another bloody tourist’s lost,” Bob announced, taking his eyes off the footy. “All our taxpayer dollars going up in smoke. They should pay. This isn’t a free country.”

“Daddy! Daddy!” The kids puffed. “Jet’s stuck in a tree.”

“How on earth did the dog get stuck in a tree? You gone mad?”

“Hamish threw his tennis ball over the edge, and Jet flew straight after it.”

“Bob, told you that dog’s a maniac.”

“So, all those helicopters are out saving our dog????  Thank goodness, he doesn’t have a collar.”

Jonathon at Three Sisters

Surely, this smiley face would never throw his dog’s ball over the edge!!! Of course, this is fiction but…Our son at the Echo Point Lookout, aged 6.

 

June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads.

Kids at Echo Point Katoomba

The Kids at the Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba in 2010. Mr was 6 and Miss was 4. Her hair still didn’t reach her shoulders. 

This story is set at Echo Point in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. There’s a spectacular lookout there which has views across to the famous Three Sisters and the expansive Grose Valley. I’ve had this idea for a story since we were there a few years ago. It’s quite common for bushwalkers to get lost in the region and big searches have been mounted to save them. This incredible story of Jamie Neale who was lost in the Blue Mountains for 11 days factored into my story and is well worth reading: Lost Backpacker Survives Blue Mountains Ordeal

Now, bushwalkers are urged to take EPIRBS with them.

Anyway, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a ball obsessed Border Collie like mine, jumping off a cliff to fetch the ball.

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Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

By the way, I take our dogs down to our local beach for a run and Bilbo goes crazy chasing other dogs’ tennis balls. Most of the walkers down there, expect a crowd of other dogs to hang around when they throw it to their own. Some of them, however, are not quite so understanding when Bilbo starts barking at them for them to throw it for him! He keeps telling me that he’s a highly skilled athlete, and not an addict. However, I tend to disagree…

xx Rowena

Parking Lot Near Bologna, 1992…Flash Fiction.

As part of an inter-agency operation, the Guardia di Finanza was staking out the notorious Bologna car park. It was said to be the change over point, for trucks trafficking young women from Croatia to the UK.

“Ze cargo good. Very good,” said the guy in the green pants, reportedly  Sergei Demodenko. The other man, known as the Kissing Assassin, was Luigi Pepperoni.

“Disgusting!” a female officer spat. “They can roast in hell.”

“But they are just the little fish. Talk is, this goes high up.”

Suddenly, the men peered up, and sped from the scene. Evidently, a tip off.


This afternoon, I intrepidly advanced into my teenage son’s bedroom and took off with his school folder to dig out the art assignment he had due, and evaluate the carnage. As you could perhaps appreciate, I need to be in the right frame of mind to take on his messy folder, but desperation called.

His assignment was on Australian Artist, Jeffery Smart . I’d heard the name, but despite having somewhat studied Australian art in the context of social history at university, I couldn’t place him. So, before I even chased up the questions for the assignment, I did the usual Google search and caught up.

What followed was several hours working through the painting with our son and also for myself. I don’t know whether you’ve seen what homework’s like these days in the post-Google Internet era. However, our son does his homework online and submits it to his teacher via Google classroom. This is very much “Beam me up, Scotty” territory to me. He still has exercise books, yet his learning is so interactive, and light years ahead of what we were doing. I left school in 1987 and I remember studying art history from a black & white text book, which hardly did anything justice. I don’t remember studying Australian art at all and discovering the likes of Australian Women artists like Margaret Preston and Thea Proctor, had to wait until university.

Art appreciation, also meant a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW in the city, not a Google search from your lounge chair.

We really were deprived.

Anyway, as we went through the questions, I found out that he had to write a 100 story about the painting. I was initially a bit baffled about what he should write, but then it suddenly dawned on this bear of little brain, that they were just asking him to write what I write all the time…a 100 word piece of flash fiction.

He hasn’t done something like this before to my knowledge. So, I thought I’d write an example to show him to help him formulate his own ideas.

This was much harder than expected. While Jeffrey Smart is an Australian artist, he lived in Italy most of his life and the painting is set in a car park in Bologna. After spending so much time researching, staring at and pulling this painting apart, I decided there was something like a people smuggling ring involved and these men were dealing in human cargo. So, i found myself needing to pick up a few words of Italian, find out a bit about their Police force and think up some kind of interesting twist for the end.

I do this every week for Friday Fictioneers. However, it’s never easy and there’s a huge part of me, which almost capitulates every week, when seeing the photo prompt produces a nasty case of writer’s block. I really do freeze and the words stop dead in their tracks.

Anyway, there’s a bit of a back story to this. I hope you enjoyed it and might I also encourage you to write something about this intriguing painting prompt and put a link to your effort in the comments below. I’d love to read it.

xx Rowena

PS I just put 1 + 1 together and realized that 1992 was the year I was in Europe and that I actually went to Florence the year this was painted. That wasn’t long after The Wall had come down and Germany had been reunified. The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the government of Croatia—which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I remember that you couldn’t send mail to Croatia at the time…just the tip of a dreadful iceberg.

The Walk, Sydney.

Last Thursday, I ran away. Absconded.

Well, to be precise, I walked. However, “walking” doesn’t sound as good.  It doesn’t conjure up that same sense of theatre. Lacks drama. Walking also sounds, dare I say, rather “pedestrian”.

After going down to Sydney for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to pop into the Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale. Koi was roughly “on the way home”, even if it was in the diametrically opposed direction. Koi is co-owned by Reynold, the Dessert King of Masterchef 2015. So, I was more than willing for my sweet tooth to lead me astray. Mum was taking care of the home front. So, I was a free agent. Cinderella dancing away at the ball with no thoughts about midnight.

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After catching the train from St Leonards to Central, I was walking to Broadway via the Devonshire Street Tunnel. This long pedestrian tunnel houses buskers, the homeless, beggars, along with a vendor selling The Big Issue. The tunnel itself has been there since 1906, but the characters keep changing. Today, I was mesmerized as the notes of a saxophone rose above scuffling feet into some kind of heaven. At least, heaven in a dingy tunnel. I didn’t feel like dancing, but I certainly felt my spirit soar.  It felt like the scene out of a movie. Indeed, I made my own so stay tuned.

I walked on, emerging into daylight and city streets.

 

My destination was only a few streets away. I was heading to the Koi Dessert Bar in Kensington Street, Chippendale. This is not any ordinary restaurant or cafe. Rather, it is home to Reynold, the Dessert king of Masterchef 2015. Moreover, so many of the current Masterchef contestants end up doing work experience at Koi, after they’ve left the show. I was hoping to experience a touch of Masterchef. I’d met Reynold on my last visit to Koi and enjoyed watching their open kitchen at work and was hoping to see someone and talk Masterchef.

Above: I met Reynold and watched him and the team in action at Koi last year.

However, neither Reynold nor any familiar faces were there. So, I didn’t feel I could gush like a Masterchef tragic.

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Dessert Heaven at Koi.

Rather, I had to choose my dessert…not an inconsiderable process. With so much yum on display, it creates that impossible choice. You know they’re all sensational, and it’s just a matter of personal taste. I chose the Nomtella…a dome with Espresso mousse covered in chocolate, and a mousy salted caramel centre nesting on a chocolate brownie base. I loved it, but found that half was enough. My sweet tooth hasn’t been quite so sweet lately and I blame the increased exercise for that. I bought an Orange Creme Caramel and a citrus dessert to take home and they were much more to my palate, which surprised me. They were truly sensational.

After leaving Koi, I ended up walking up Cooper Street into Surry Hills. I explored a few alleyways, chasing images of autumn leaves back-dropped against a deep, blue sky. I was swept off my feet by a special kind of Autumn magic, which was a world away from to do lists, action plans and responsibility. I still haven’t forgotten what it was like to wander the world as a backpacker, but now I have the love and security of home and my family to go home to. I only seek temporary escape. Not a one-way journey.

I don’t know what it is that keeps drawing me back to Surry Hills.

My Dad’s side of the family, Irish immigrants from County Cork mostly following the Irish Famine, settled in Paddington and Surry Hills and the family stove making business was at 90 Fitzroy Street for many years. However, that was long before my time and even my father’s. Yet, the stories were passed down. Indeed, there’s a photo of my grandfather and his Dad standing by their truck, which gives me that sense of belonging…origins. That at least a part of me, harks back Surry Hills, back when it was a surrogate Ireland and not the rough slum that it became.

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The J Curtin Truck with my Great Grandfather and Grandfather.

Moreover, although I’ve never lived in Surry Hills, I did live in neighboring Chippendale for a number of years. Lived in a range of terraces, and even a converted warehouse a life time ago.

Surry Hills is an eclectic, constantly changing place, and you never know quite what you’ll find or what to expect. There was a little cafe I’d found, which made the most scrumptious Coconut Chai Lattes, but it closed about 2 years ago. Gone, but not forgotten. On Thursday, I went to see what I knew as the art dungeon in Campbell Street, but it now sells shampoo and looks so sanitized. It’s such a travesty…a sell out. A place with so much character, gone.

Surry Hills is expensive real estate, and yet it retains its sense of grunge. Crumbling, run-down terrace houses can still be found, along with signs of Struggle Street. I can’t account for that. After all, I’m only passing through. Picking out bits and pieces through the lens, and immortalising what I’ve seen today on my hard drive. My perspectives or interpretations of an ephemeral, kaleidoscope world.That’s without even delving into its characters. I merely chat to a few people in shops, not knowing whether they’re local or not. Then, I go home.

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I was starting to fade.

Walking along Crown heading towards Oxford Street, was a long walk and I was starting to look out for passing buses….a magic carpet to carry me home. Or, at least, back to Central Station. My legs can struggle to keep up with all I see and it’s easy to conk out half way.

 

Yet, I kept walking until I finally staggered into Museum Station and caught the train to Central. I walked over to Country trains and slumped in my seat. Unlike most of the daily commuters, Too excited to sleep and pulled out the mag I’d bought in Surry Hills:

I was heading home.

 

Before we leave Surry Hills, I thought you might like to join me on some of my previous visits:

Window Shopping, Surry Hills.

Surry Hills to Gore Hill, Sydney/

Surry Hills…A Sense of Place.

Have you been on any epic urban walks that you’d like to share?

xx Rowena