Category Archives: Writing

Moonlight Sonata…Friday Fictioneers.

Mr Suave was wrapped around Claudia like a snake.

“Beam me up, Scotty,” she coaxed through the moonlight.

That jerk had caught her hook, line and sinker.

Barnie wasn’t happy.

“All brawn. No brains. Bet HE couldn’t fix her hard drive!”

Known on campus as “The Guru”, Claudia had brought in her computer. While Barnie couldn’t talk to women, he could hack into their hard drives. They were an open book. Every day, Barnie thanked God for selfies, although he knew the risks.

That’s how he met Claudia. Knew her inside out.

Now, she was going to know him.


This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This week’s photo prompt is © Dale Rogerson. You can access the linky Here

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.

Out of the Depths…Friday Fictioneers.

The river’s fury knew no bounds. Swallowing and regurgitating all in its path, the river gushed through precious Queenslander homes, but didn’t care… just buried its dead in mud.

Pete and Julie clung to each other like limpets. Photograph after sodden photograph fished out of the mud, their memories were falling apart in gloved hands.

Despair…utter despair.

Then, the aliens landed. Strangers wearing gumboots, rubber gloves, carrying spades, mops and plates of food. They’d salvaged their daughter’s precious teddies. Mud was glued to each and every fibre, but for the very first time, they knew they could make it.

………

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt is © Karuna

A series of floods hit Queensland, Australia, beginning in December 2010. The floods forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities.[2] At least 90 towns and over 200,000 people were affected.[2] Damage initially was estimated at around A$1 billion[3] before it was raised to $2.38 billion.[1]

Three-quarters of the council areas within the state of Queensland were declared disaster zones.[5] Communities along the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers were particularly hard hit, while the Condamine, Ballone and Mary Rivers recorded substantial flooding. An unexpected flash flood caused by a thunderstorm raced through Toowoomba’s central business district. Water from the same storm devastated communities in the Lockyer Valley. A few days later thousands of houses in Ipswich and Brisbane were inundated as the Brisbane River rose and Wivenhoe Dam used a considerable proportion of its flood mitigation capacity. Volunteers were quick to offer assistance, and sympathy was expressed from afar…Wikipedia

At the time of the floods, I was staying near Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales and also experienced the deluge. People talk about the sound of rain on a tin roof, but this was terrifying and yet at the same time, strangely beautiful at the same time. We have family and close friends in Brisbane so these floods were very close to our hearts.

I felt I had to write something uplifting in response to this prompt which I found quite disturbing.

xx Rowena

After the Flames…Friday Fictioneers

Her studio guttered, Pixie peeled the charcoaled canvas off the concrete.

She’d been burned to death.

That painting was the culmination of every single heartbeat, every flicker of shadow and light. Her soul pulled inside out, spurted in thick acrylic, bleeding and raw.

Art was her voice. Her only exit from the labyrinth.

Pixie covered her ears and started to scream…a scream without end.

Axel wrapped a blanket around the shattered nymph. He’d seen her waft in and out of the warehouse before, lost like a leaf in the wind.

That,” he beamed, “Is how I met your Grandmother.”

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

 

 

In the City of Love…Friday Fictioneers.

Kate was tumbleweeding at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris. Yet, while she craved the smell of old books and inhaling the very air Hemingway breathed, she had to make love in Paris.

Or, at least be wined and dined by a real Frenchman.

The trouble was that it was July and all the Parisians had fled.

All except Anton, the IT Network Manager, at the Louvre.

“Worst blind date EVER. So, much for Mona Lisa watching! All his showed me was a bunch of cables. Bet he makes love to his laptop.”

That night, Anton added Kate to his database.

….

Back in 1992 as a 22 year old backpacker, I spent 6 weeks in Paris, which included doing a reading at the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop. I recently found out that travellers can sleep on the floors of the bookshop in exchange for working in the shop for an hour a day and on the proviso that they read a book a day. These people were called tumbleweeds. You can read more about Shakespeare & Company Here.

This weeks featured image is © Sandra Crook.

xx Rowena

Z- Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

Welcome to Z – the last day of the  A-Z April Challenge.

Throughout  the challenge, I’d been planning to visit Zeehan as our last stop. Located on the North-West Coast, Zeehan was an obvious choice and posed a great alternative to the inevitable “Zoo” . Moreover, Geoff’s Great Uncle, Robert Ralph French, was a teacher in Zeehan before being Killed in Action in France during WWI. However, although we have that personal connection with the town, we’ve never been there, which makes writing about it a tad difficult, though not impossible.

Moreover, unless we went to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, we haven’t had a chance to meet the infamous Tasmanian Devil or find out about it’s battle to survive. It is now listed as an endangered species and much work is being done to conserve it.

“THERE are three hateful things in the world, two that make the blood run cold, and one that makes it boil; the hiss of a snake, the snarl of a Tasmanian devil, and the smile of a banker.”

– Eimar O’Duffy in “Asses in Clover.”

As we’ve continued through our A-Z Alphabetical Tour of Tasmania, there’s been what we’ve seen, but also what we haven’t seen. For better or worse, the haven’t seens include the Tasmanian Devil. Although my son swears he heard one howling in the night, and even glimpsed it through the bathroom window, so far we haven’t seen or even heard one at all.

Hobart to Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

So, instead of heading West to Zeehan, we’re now heading South to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in Taranna, which is helping to conserve this endangered species.

“UNZOO – a place where the public learns about wild animals, plants and ecosystems through interaction with and immersion in natural habitats.”

– John C Coe and Ray Mendez, 2005, The Unzoo Alternative

Since 1996, Tasmania Devils have been blighted by an infectious cancer known as Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD).  Since then, the population has declined by more than 60%.6 Transmission can occur by biting, feeding on the same material, aggressive mating, and other social interactions.  DFTD tumors mostly form on the face and/or in the oral cavity.  The cancer can also metastasize to other areas of the body.  Nearly 100% of infected devils die within 6 months of the onset of clinical signs.7 Death results from an inability to feed, secondary infection, or symptoms associated with metastases. Sadly, as a result, what was once the largest surviving population of marsupial carnivores is now threatened with extinction.

The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is taking a proactive part in helping to save the Tasmanian Devil:

“Tasmanian Devil Unzoo has a long history of supporting efforts to save the Tasmanian devil, and is a partner in the official Tasmanian Devil Conservation Project. This critical project aims to save Tasmanian devils on the Tasman Peninsula by preventing the spread of the DFTD to the region.

As part of this effort, Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is breeding healthy devils for future wild release on the Peninsula. We also maintain a special devil-proof barrier fence at Dunalley, which has been designed to prevent the spread of DFTD into the disease-free Tasman Peninsula region. In addition, through our Devil Tracker Adventure project, we constantly monitor our local wild devils and collect important information on the local devil population through infra-red cameras and data recording.[1]

Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned time and time again, we ran out of time in Tasmania and we didn’t make it to the Tasmanian Unzoo when we were down there in January. However, we live right near the Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast. So, we can see Tasmanian Devils and other Australian wildlife there. You probably don’t have this luxury.

Before I turn you over to the Unzoo, I thought I’d better introduce you to the Tasmanian Devil first.

That said, I’m anything but a Tasmanian devil expert and I’m largely going on reputation. Obviously, I’ve never snuggled up to a Tassie Devil to get to know them personally, let alone had the opportunity to run through the Proust Character questionnaire with one.

Devils Teeth

However, as you may recall, I do have my in-house Tasmanian (my husband Geoff). Geoff has told of the Devil’s incredible ability to polish off an entire cow carcass in two weeks including the skin. Out on his cousin’s farm, they’d dump a dead cow out in the bush and two weeks later, the big knee bone was all that remained. It takes a powerful set of jaws, and a cast iron stomach to pull that off, making the Tassie Devil an animal to be feared, but also given a kind of respect.

Tasmanian Devil etching

In search for more stories, I read through some of the old newspapers online and found out about some devils who were sent to the London Zoo. These accounts provide some good insights into public perceptions in the past:

According to the “Overseas Mail” of 2nd December, the authorities at the London Zoo…are extending a warm welcome to live Tasmanian devils. These animals belong to the marsupial group of animals, and may be described as the black sheep of the respected kangaroo family. In appearance the devil; is quite as black as its namesake is painted, and is about the size of a badger. The broad, strong head is armed with tremendous jaws and teeth, and its sole touch of colour is a suggestion of pink about, the muzzle and ears, and a white V-shaped marking on the chest. It is absolutely untamable, kindness seems as much wasted on it, as on a bursting shrapnel shell. Its ferocity is only amenable to buckshot or strychnine. It will fight a man, a sheep, a dog or its own relations. Kill it and it dies snarling defiance. Give it food, and it bites the hand that feeds it with every sign of satisfaction. The mother produces three or four little devils at a time… Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Thursday 4 January 1912, page 3

…..

A LONDON IMPRESSION: The Tasmanian Devil

Four Tasmanian Devils, fiends in animal shape whose life is one unceasing anger against everybody and everything, have arrived at the London Zoo. No matter what you do for or against a Tasmanian Devil he remains furious. In his native Australia he is the terror of the sheep-farmer. Woe betide any farmer who relaxes watch, for the Devils have an uncanny knack of knowing just when it is safe to appear among the flock and tear out the throats of their helpless prey. It is some years ago since the Zoo entertained a Devil, and anybody with a taste for excitement should visit the newcomers. A new cage, with “unbite-able” steel bars, has been prepared, and the four hideous strangers are now boiling with fury in it from morning to night. The Tasmanian Devil is jet-black, with massive jaws which will tear ordinary wire mesh into shreds in a twinkling. In his wild state he fights his fellow Devils on the slightest provocation and the victor often devours the vanquished. Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), Saturday 26 December 1931, page 12

Yet, despite such horrific reports, I also found a report of three Tasmanian Devils being sent to Hollywood to appear on screen:

ASPIRANTS FOR FILM FAME: Tasmanian Devils For Hollywood

Zoologically, the Tasmanian Devil-latest candidate for Hollywood film honors— is an “Interesting little animal.” Destined for a film career, three of them, on Friday next, will leave Hobart on the first stage of a 7000 miles trip to Hollywood. They have been selected as supporting artists for Rosemary Lane in a coming talking picture. On the way they will be housed for a few weeks at Taronga Park. Latent talent, no doubt, has caught the eagle eye of Hollywood’s talent scouts. If so, it is a case of history repeating itself, for, like the prophet, the Tasmanian Devil has found little honour in its own country. The secretary of the Taronga Park Trust (Mr. Brown) said to-day that there were no Tasmanian Devils in the Sydney Zoo. “They are not zoological rarities by any means,” he said, “but for display purposes we have found that the public generally is not very interested in them,”  Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Thursday 11 May 1939, page 9

Taz

Taz.

So, while the Tassie Devil might not make the ideal dinner party guest, it is an essential part of biodiversity in Tasmania and needs to be saved.

At this point, I’m going to take you over to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo’s  website where you can go on a self-guided tour.

I hope you enjoy it, but also gain a heightened sense of the need for the conservation of all species of animals and plants to ensure biological diversity in the future. It is much better to look after what we’ve got, than try to bring it back from the dead down the track (the Tasmanian Tiger being the case in point).

Once you’re finished there, we’re heading back to Devonport to catch the night ferry to Melbourne, leaving Tasmania behind.

By the way, don’t forget to stock up on goodies before you leave. I know we are…including a dozen Cornish pasties from Scottsdale, Lavender Cheese from Ashgrove Farm, chocolate from the House D’Anvers and Hard Ginger Beer from Spreyton’s Cider.

Indeed, I’d stuff all of Tassie in my suitcase if I could!

Carpe diem…seize our last day!

xx Rowena

The Details for The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

5990 Arthur Highway. Taranna Tasmania 7180 Australia

T: Within Australia   1800 641 641

T: International      +61 1800 641 641

E: taswild@iinet.net.au

W:        http://www.tasmaniandevilunzoo.com.au

References

[1] https://tasmaniandevilunzoo.com.au/save-the-devil/

https://www.cancerquest.org/cancer-biology/cancer-wild-animals?gclid=CMbNysLXydMCFRwKKgodZVQB8A#devil

Featured image -The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

Y- Yachts…The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Welcome to the second last day of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

We’ve almost made it to the end of our journey, which is a good thing because the next leg is going to be precarious, pitted against the elements and there are no guarantees we’re going to make it.

That’s because we’re going on the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Actually, hold that thought.

We’re not sailing anywhere. Rather, we’re driving from the Don River Railway near Devonport to Constitution Dock in Hobart to check out some yachts.

Don River to Hobart

The Beginnings of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

While we’re on the way, I thought you might appreciate a brief history of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

It’s an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km).[1] The race is run in co-operation with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and is widely considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.[2] The race was initially planned to be a cruise by Peter Luke and some friends who had formed a club for those who enjoyed cruising as opposed to racing, however when a visiting British Royal Navy Officer, Captain John Illingworth, suggested it be made a race, the event was born. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has grown over the decades, since the inaugural race in 1945, to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world, and it now attracts maxi yachts from all around the globe – Wikipaedia.

1024px-Sydney_to_hobart_yacht_race_route

Map Showing the Route of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

I also thought you might enjoy this report on the first race held in 1945, which gives a good insight into the challenges of the race:

THE YACHT RACE. SYDNEY TO HOBART.

Six Complete the Course. HOBART, Jan 3.-

After crossing over 600 miles of ocean and encountering gales and heavy seas. the yacht Ambermerle ran aground in the River Derwent today, about 1½ miles from the finishing line of the Sydney-Hobart race. She was refloated after about half an hour and completed the course to get second place on corrected time by 41 minutes. Other boats which finished today were Kathleen, Horizon and Mistral. Six yachts have now completed the course, those which have not finished being Salt Air and the Wayfarer. They were not sighted yesterday.

The Hobart yacht Winston Churchill, which arrived at Hobart at 6.38 pm yesterday came in second. 17 hours behind the Sydney yacht Rani, which won.The Rani finished at 1.22 am yesterday. The Winston Churchill completed the 635 miles in 176 hours 38 minutes 5 seconds and on corrected time was 29 hours 42 minutes behind the Rani The Winston Churchill’s skipper was Mr P. Coverdale. Horizon, Kathleen, Ambermerle and Mistral, which entered the Derwent this morning, were engaged all day in a battle against a stiff northerly wind which at times reached 50 miles an hour and whipped the water into foam.

When Kathleen rounded Derwent Light at 11 am Horizon was off Crayfish Point, four miles from Hobart and Ambermerle was off Brown’s River, 11 miles from Hobart. Ban for Shelter. Horizon ripped her mainsail and had to run for shelter into D’Entrecasteaux Channel. She was followed by Mistral, which was mak ing little headway. Ambermerle then took the lead, with Kathleen next. When Horizon turned back down the river she gave away what chance she had of getting second, which place she would have filled had she finished before 1 pm. Kathleen made good progress up the river and passed Ambermerle to cross the line third.

Ambermerle, which was under jury rig, with balloon jib and storm tri sail set, appeared to be making slow progress beating along the Sandy Bay shore. She misstayed when going about and ran aground on Red Chapel beach, about 1 miles from the finishing line. She was refloated after about half an hour and continued to the finishing line.

While she was aground she was passed by Horizon. Mr J. Alderton, helmsman of the Ambermerle, said that the trip was practically uneventful until nearing the entrance to the Derwent, when the jib and mainsail were blown out She continued from there under jury rig. The boat behaved well in the storm which struck the yachts on the second day out from Sydney. Ambermerle was hove to for a night off One Tree Point on the south coast of New South Wales and for half a day when off Bermagui.

Missing for Five Days.

The Horizon, which was sighted yesterday after having been reported missing for five days, was cheered as she crossed the finishing line. The skipper, Mr J. Bartlett, of Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, expressed surprise that there should have been any misgivings regarding the safety of the boat. The inability of the Catalina to sight the yacht, he thought, was due to the wide seaward course taken. When the fierce southerly gale scattered the yachts, he said, waves 14 to 15 feet high barred any possibility of progress. The Horizon was hove to for 24 hours. Seas broke over her, but she did not ship any water.

The Kathleen was hove to in a southerly gale off the New South Wales coast on the second day out and was becalmed off Twofold Bay on the third day. She had a good wind across Bass Strait, but was again becalmed off the Tasmanian coast.

West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), Friday 4 January 1946, page 8

Hobart-Wharfcrayfishboat.jpg

Humph…This is not a yacht. Constitution Dock 2005.

Anyway, we’ve now arrived at Constitution Dock. However, it appears there aren’t any yachts in town. I guess that’s what happens when you turn up at the end of April well in Autumn. Indeed, htere weren’t any yachts there on my last two9 visits. So, I hope you like photos of fishing boats!

DSC_1498

This isn’t a yacht either. Yet, another fishing boat parked at Constitution Dock, 2017.


 

This raises another difficulty facing travel writers. While it’s all very well to travel spontaneously without a plan, that doesn’t work when you’re wanting to capture something specific. You need to be there at the right time and if you’re wanting to capture the arrival of the Sydney to Hobart fleet, you need to be there in December after December 27 through to early January. We were in Hobart on the 20th-21st January and as you can see, there wasn’t a yacht in sight.

So, I had to cheat.

wild oats

Here’s the former Sydney to Hobart winner Wild Oats something or other moored in Newport, Sydney. Not quite the same as photographing the end of the race or an actual yacht in full sail but at this stage, I’m just looking for a yacht.

Do you enjoy sailing? Our son is a member of the local sailing club and has been racing a small yacht called an Optimus, something I’m sure they picked up at our local Bunnings Hardware store, because it looks just like a bathtub to me. My Dad inspired the sailing bug in the family. He sails a Catalina…a real step up from our Laser.

I hope you’re looking forward to our last stop! Stay tuned!

xx Rowena