Category Archives: Writing

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

 

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

 

 

A Pathway to Heaven.

Brian put on his very best thinking cap and mustered all his concentration. As golden rays of sunlight beamed through the clouds, he could see heaven. Surely, if he looked hard enough, he would find Mother.

Moreover, in his nine year old mind, it wasn’t a huge leap of faith to believe an angel might bring her back. That just like Lazarus, Mother would miraculously rise from the dead.

His faith was bigger than a mustard seed.

Yet, Mother never came back. The gates of heaven stayed shut.

That’s when Brian stopped looking at the clouds.

There were no dreams.

Rowena Newton

This has been another contribution to the Friday Fictioneers . This week’s photo prompt comes from our host, © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

—-

The inspiration for this story, comes from my late Father-in-Law whose mother died when he was nine years old. He grew up in Penguin, Tasmania and we spent a few days there while we were in Tassie recently. We visited his old school (which now opens on Sundays for a market) and I looked through the windows to the clouds and thought of him grieving through class and missing his Mum.

After his mother died, family took in his sister and his Dad went away to work, leaving the two boys to fend for themselves. At 12, Brian left home to join the railways, despite being a bright pupil.

Brian died when my husband was 16. So, we’ve never met and we know very little about him and while I’ve used a real name and situation, it’s a purely fictional account of his response.

 

 

Oh no! Not Another Election…

Just when I thought we were getting a commercial break from the endless electioneering (ie Trump, Brexit etc, which don’t even involve us!!!), we’re having a local, State by-election.

That’s right. We’re heading back to the ballot box.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, before they’d even announced the candidates, my phone had already started ringing…who are you going to vote for?

The pollsters were out.

You see, being the most marginal seat in NSW, this isn’t any ordinary election! We might have huge potholes in our roads which the local ducks use as swimming pools, yet when election time comes, the big wigs roll in. Sometimes, it feels like the aliens have landed.

Indeed, perhaps they have.

Back when my son was a baby, he even had his photo taken with then Prime Minister, John Howard. You should have seen his minders clearing the decks for the baby. Mind you, his mother was pretty keen as well. Although we’re a marginal seat at both State and Federal levels, it’s not often the PM comes to town.

Yet, all those suits can be a bit of a culture shock.

In many ways, we’re a casual, and even alternative, beach community. It’s not that we don’t have our local businesses and I used to work for one. However, the overall feel here is a lot more relaxed than Sydney. Moreover, commuting to Sydney for work is a way of life. My husband works in Sydney.

Anyway, last weekend before the candidates had even been announced, the pollsters were already hitting the phones. After being a market research interviewer all through university, I always answer a survey. That’s how I found myself giving my opinions on the upcoming election.

The only trouble was, that I haven’t exactly been in the land of the living lately. Early in the New Year, we headed off to Tasmania for three weeks and to be perfect honest, although the kids are back at school and Geoff’s returned to work, I haven’t quite returned yet. I’m still printing photos, researching Geoff’s convict origins and family ties and eating my way through Ashgrove Farms Cheese, Anvers chocolate and drinking Spreyton’s Hard Ginger Beer (and already planning my next trip to restock!). The trees around here are also looking short and while it’s a relief not to be dodging multitudes of Bennett’s wallabies beside the roads, we’re back watching out for the local ducks, who’ve trained the cars to stop. And while I’m missing Tassie, I should point out that I’m glad to be home and back to our beach.  We do live in a slice of paradise.

Anyway…

When the market research interviewer called, I was hardly primed with all the right answers. In addition to being wrapped up in our Tassie experience, I was also stuck on my usual dilemma…what to cook for dinner! They actually hit me with a long list of names and asked me what I thought of various people. Some I knew, some I didn’t but had the feeling that I should. The whole thing was also a bit tricky given I didn’t know who was running and they were almost insisting that I pick a party. I know this might make sense to them when they’re trying to uncover “the mood of the electorate”, predict which party is likely to win and forecast which issues are going to be the tipping point. However, all this becomes quite semantic in a marginal seat.

After all, if we knew who we were going to vote for before they’ve even announced the candidates, we wouldn’t be a marginal seat. At least, that’s my thinking and it’s my thinking that matters because I’                                                                   m an undecided voter. Not necessarily a swinging or apathetic voter. More of an idealist…a visionary. Who are these people running and what do they really stand for? What are they going to do for our community? I’m not so sure I trust “the party”. Any party.

So, rather than describing myself as “unpolitical” as I have done, I’m actually uber-political and I’m not going to let someone else make up my mind. I’m going to do my research. Check these candidates out and find out if they’re people of substance…or not.

I owe our community that conscious vote, because when you live in a marginal seat, your vote really does matter. It counts.

Well, at least your vote can help determine which of the major parties gets in or perhaps even an independent.

Meanwhile, there’s still the pen and the keyboard at my disposal.  Quite frankly, the pen is more powerful than the ballot box any day…a place where every underdog can have their say and at least self-publish. Yahoo!

What are your thoughts about the place of the individual in the current political scene? Do you think we actually matter or has the machine wiped out the individual? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!