April 24, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the color of hope. Who is in need of hope and why? How can you use color to shape the story? Pick a color, any color. Go where the prompt leads!
“One day, I’ll jump off The Gap,” Martin muttered throwing up half a bottle of vodka. Equally drunk and disillusioned, no one battered an eyelid.
Now, they’d all gone to uni, while Martin still drifted in between the lines and beyond a diagnosis.
“Take these,” his GP said.
“How many at once?” He’d been tempted but didn’t ask.
Today was it, but first his last supper… fish and chips from Doyle’s.
Sitting in the park… perfect blue skies, Sydney Harbour, rainbow lorikeets flying and chirping in the sun.
Nothing had changed. Yet it had.
Martin caught the bus home.
The Gap is Sydney’s infamous suicide spot. Located on the Southern Head of Sydney Harbour it is part of Watson’s Bay, which is an absolutely beautiful location with a beach and stunning harbour views. I recently caught the ferry to Watson’s Bay and walked up the hill simply to photograph The Gap and as I stopped in Robertson’s Park across the road, a large flock of rainbow lorrikeets was flying through the park and the air was filled with their chirpy singing. I guess people don’t talk about The Gap too much, but I’d never heard anyone mention there were rainbow lorrikeets there and I truly wondered how anyone could come here, experience these birds and then end it all. Of course, that’s a rather simplistic view and to be honest, I am fighting to save my life instead of trying to cut it short. However, I have experienced acute ongoing anguish and the temptation to somehow eject from it all. Yet, at the same time, these days I try to encourage others and try to take the edge off their load where I can. Then again, I’m a little more mature these days and have what I think is called perspective.
“We always called him “The Joker”. Even back in boy scouts, he had us rolling around the campfire in stitches. My favourite was his legendary encounter with the jellyfish he meant to throw at me. That SQUID squirted him in the face and while he was screaming like a banshee, we almost died laughing.
Tragically, we now know there was another side to Mark. Yet after his shows, we’d have a few beers, more jokes. Never anything about his troubles. Mark was my best mate. Now…. I wonder if I knew him at all!
Hey, guys, we need to talk.”
100 words. Photo prompt Lisa Fox.
This story was hard to reduce to the 100 words and I’m pretty stoked I got there in the end. Unlike the speaker in this story, I have long been aware of the clown with the tear. The anguish behind the smile. Yet, at the same time, if someone refuses to talk about their angst and won’t seek professional help, it’s a tough spot for a bystander. That said, sometimes just having someone sit alongside you and know they care or even love you can be enough.
I also wanted to mention actor Heath Ledger who wasn’t the inspiration behind my story, but at the same time clearly deserves a mention.
Here in Australia we have a suicide prevention program based on asking people: RUOK? We even have RUOK Day, which will be on the 14th September, 2023. They also have some resources to help you progress the conversation. Last year, I also did a suicide intervention course through Lifeline and found it incredibly useful unfortunately. Not every joker is always joking.
I often wonder where these photo prompts were taken and try to bring that into the story somehow. That said, I am often stumped. However, this week I have an advantage because I took the photo. It was taken in Rose Bay, on Sydney Harbour and there were a few alleyways of shops to explore and I think Rochelle would like it there as I spotted a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and there’s an significant Jewish community there. Unfortunately, I was too late in the day for the bagel but I hope to head back soon. I am yet to post about my trip to Rose Bay. I lived there in a flat with my parents for the first couple of years of my life. If you feel like a virtual trip, click here: Rose Bay
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields at Addicted to Purple.
How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. For those of you on the Northern side of the equator, I hope you’re not counting your Spring chickens before they hatch! I’m not quite ready to give up on Summer yet.
The big news here last week was that Miss turned 17 on Friday. Naturally, we had to roll out the red carpet or at least get her presents wrapped and bake a cake. I asked her what she wanted for a cake and she chose Key Lime Pie, and I suspect I’ve actually eaten most of it. I managed to get her an eclectic assortment of things along with her main gift which was active wear from Eckt. She lives in dance and gym wear so it made good sense. Of course, so many memories flood your mind on birthdays…the ghosts of cakes and parties past and memories of that very special baby when they first entered the world with nothing but a cry and how you loved them more than life itself.
The other news was that I went down to Sydney for an appointment with my lung specialist on Tuesday, which went reasonably well and on the way home we visited my Mum and Dad. We haven’t seen much of them since covid and they’re still being very cautious and largely keep to themselves. There’s Romeo’s Pies near the hospital and Mum has a really special connection with the ladies who work there. When I last bought pies for her the, they drew bright happy faces on the boxes and were so friendly. They just adore my mum.
So I thought I’d get them more pies and hopefully more lovely messages while I was there. Well, they didn’t disappoint and they were soooo lovely. It’s a shame mum wasn’t there to hear them herself but they wrote on the box again for her. How precious is that!!! They were such an inspiration to me and a reminder that kindness isn’t rocket science.
Meanwhile, I’m back to posting the photos I took while we were house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. I realized I’d got badly derailed doing what was supposed to be background research on Watson’s Bay and a few weeks I think had gone by and I realized I’d dug myself quite the rabbit warren and disappeared completely. So, I put that on hold and wrote up about walking down to MacCallum Pool via Cremorne Reserve. Of course, I couldn’t resist looking for some background stories there either and I found quite a few interesting goings on at the pool which I’m yet to post. So many stories, so little time!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a photo taken around sunset yesterday locally at Hardy’s Bay. Obviously, it’s very muted especially compared to the very dramatic sunsets I photographed in Sydney. The sun is currently setting behind the hills on the left and there wasn’t much colour to be seen. At the same time, this softer sunset was peaceful and relaxing in a Monet kind of way.
After going for a short walk along the jetty, we ran into some friends who were having a pizza picnic on the foreshore and we joined them for a few hours. I was fully engaged in conversation and oblivious to the lights illuminating the darkness behind me looking stunning. How could I miss them? Humph! I miss a lot of things.
Anyway, it’s time for me to get to bed now. It’s already Monday.
Well, I hope you’ve had a great weekend and I look forward to catching up on your news.
Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share & a Belated Happy New Year!
My apologies for not being active lately. However, we went away to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast just after Christmas. We spent New Year’s Eve taking in the New Year’s Eve fireworks at famous Surfers’ Paradise. To be perfectly honest, we were sorely disappointed. The fireworks suddenly stopped without a finale as though someone had poured a bucket of cold water on proceedings. There were a few fights around us, loads of drunks but the beach was a sea of joyful revellers and it was mind-blowing to see so many people there. We caught a tram from Geoff’s sister’s place in Southport into Surfers which was very convenient, but the crowds coming home were phenomenal and sardine tin doesn’t come close to describing how packed it was.
Not unsurprisingly, Geoff caught covid NYE and two days later tested positive on a RAT. I was in disbelief. As you may recall, I’ve been continuing to isolate to avoid covid due to my lung condition and being immuno-suppressed. However, I get sick of being a wet blanket and just wanted our family to have fun. Geoff and I met on NYE 1998 watching the Sydney fireworks at a mutual friend’s place and I’ve always wanted to watch the fireworks together in person as a family and this was our big chance. The “kids” are about to turn 19 and 17 and are starting to forge their own paths. We don’t have forever to be doing things as a family.
Following Geoff’s diagnosis, we came home early to avoid passing it onto his other sister and husband and hoped we might be able to beat the odds and get me home without getting infected. I was booked in to mind my friend’s house in Sydney the day after our early return so we hoped our quarantine would work. It didn’t. The night we arrived home, our son tested positive. The next day our daughter and I had a pcr test and that was negative. However, the next day I was overcome by the most mind-blowing fatigue. I sank like a stone. That probably sounds familiar. By this stage it was Sunday and I did the dreaded RAT test and much to my horror, was positive. Have any of you noticed how doing these rats is like taking a pregnancy test? Fortunately, I was much more excited about the results of the pregnancy test all those years ago. By this stage, covid had struck my sinuses and was nasty but thank goodness, stayed away from my lungs which are my Achilles Heel. Next day, I got onto the antivirals which seemed to give me a bit of pep. No doubt they made a difference. Meanwhile, Geoff had a chest infection and was on antibiotics. Our daughter felt symptomatic but didn’t test. So, that was the end of our status as “novids” and so far so good.
Our house minding gig was a wonderful opportunity. We were staying at Cremorne Point on the magnificent Sydney Harbour. We were a short drive up the hill from the wharf with harbour glimpses, a balcony looking out across the street where I could ponder who was living in the flats across the road and also watch the lightening display one stormy night. However, we weren’t really house minding. We were pet sitting. We were minding a dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. This is never a matter of just filling up their hungry bellies and topping up the water bowl. We loved their pets like our own. Indeed, our daughter was particularly excited to have cats and Guinea pigs as we’re a dog only family.
While others probably would’ve planned out every second of their holiday time, we had no plans and getting covid only fueled the uncertainty. Three weeks sounded like a long time, but it disappeared in a flash and while a caught up with a few friends, I barely caught up with anyone. However, I caught loads of ferries and have become what you might call a “Ferry Hopper”. I caught the ferry to Circular Quay a couple of times initially but then I went further afield to Manly.
Catching the Manly ferry is such a Sydney thing to do and I was reminded of trips in days gone by as a child but also as a teenager with my friends where we used to buy a plate of “chew and spew” Chinese for $10.00 and head to the beach. Manly is on the Northern head of Sydney Harbour.
Not the best beach day in Manly. The beach was closed once the lifesavers finished for the day. Everyone was ordered out of the water.
We also caught the ferry over to Watson’s Bay, near the Southern Headland. Watson’s Bay used to be a fishing village and despite the influx of luxury homes, many of the historic cottages still remain and have been preserved under the National Trust.
While on the subject of bays, I also caught the ferry to Rose Bay. My parents were living in a flat on Old South Head Road there when I was born. They moved to Wahroonga when I was about two (in around 1972) when my brother was on the way.
In addition to my ferry hopping, we also visited Taronga Zoo. Not only does it have the wildlife, the harbour views from Taronga are incredible.
also went to the Art Gallery of NSW and it’s new offshoot, Sydney Modern. I think it’s been three years since I’ve been to the art gallery and sometimes I’d go a couple of times a year. Just another casualty of covid and covid lockdowns. The new gallery was great but I couldn’t help thinking they could’ve squeezed more paintings into that vast space. However, these gallery people seem to be great believers in conserving white space and less is more. I know it makes sense but what about all those paintings consigned to the dungeon that we could also be seeing? Well, clearly no one asked for my opinion.
Lastly, I went to Cockatoo Island , a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove River in Sydney Harbour. Cockatoo Island is the largest of several islands that were originally heavily timbered sandstone knolls. Cockatoo Island became a penal establishment in 1839 and convict-built buildings remain today. Exploring Cockatoo Island through my camera lens was a lot of fun.
Indeed, I’ve taken a swag of photos while I was in Sydney. Our son estimated I’d taken 3000 photos, but I’m not sure. Moreover, I had a lot of trouble with the auto-focus on my Nikon and too often I’d have to take at least two photos just to get one in focus. It would be fair to say my Nikon SLR is an endangered species.
However, all too soon we were packing up to come home. Arriving home with two packed cars to a packed house, although at least the Christmas decorations could disappear back to the roof. Geoff has also had to resurrect his working from home facilities and did a massive clean up yesterday. Still a long way to go.
Lastly, I’ll just mention that we still have Christmas pudding, brandy butter, Stollen, Christmas cake and even a spare Turducken (turkey, chicken and duck) in the fridge/freezer. My parents didn’t make it up here on Christmas Day and we weren’t terribly hungry. Hopefully, we might manage to have Christmas in February along with birthday celebrations.
How are you going? I’m looking forward to catching up.
As you might be aware I play the violin. Well, I played the violin right up to the start of covid. It is a relatively lonely instrument unless you belong to an orchestra or ensemble of sorts while guitar is much more social at least where we live.
BTW I mixed up the photo prompts this week and responded to last week’s by mistake and it’s too late to add it to the link but perhaps you’d still like to check it out, especially if you have views on minimalism versus hoarding.
An evangelical minimalist, Sylvia Nolan is known as “KCD” – a brutal clutter-busting force preaching “keep, chuck, donate” to millions on TV. Meanwhile, her nemesis Junkyard Jenny draws crowds of hoarders on a rival network.
No one knew Junkyard Jenny was her Mom.
As much as Sylvia had tried to convert her mother through subtlety or force, Jenny was unrepentant:
“Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure and my trip to Tahiti.”
Last week, Mom had a heart attack and died in the shop leaving Sylvia with a million decisions to make…keep, chuck, donate.
What are your thoughts on the great minimalist-hoarder divide? I must confess that I’m more down the hoarder end of the spectrum but I do like my mother’s view on this that you just need a bigger house. Meanwhile, my dad says staying put in the one house for 20 years in our case and 40 years in theirs is also fatal. I used to be able to fit all my stuff into one or two car loads back in the day. Hard to believe now!
Last night the prodigal son flew through the front door and in a miraculous flash, he was transformed into Vector from Despicable Me. His friend was having a villain theme for her 18th birthday. Although we’d almost busted a gut, I was thrilled. He looked amazing and was grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
In case you haven’t heard of Vector, he’s the son of bank president Mr. Perkins and an aspiring supervillain voiced by Jason Segal. He’s decked out in an orange track suit and flies around in a wing suit, which could be described as a modern incantation of the traditional superhero cape. He also wears a white helmet with an orange stripe down the centre, black rimmed glasses and has a rather nerdy bowl haircut.
While Mr 18’s villainous ambitions initially didn’t seem too lofty, complications soon escalated and there was no chance of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a seamless transition like Clark Kent into Superman.
Trouble began when we couldn’t buy a Vector costume and had to make it ourselves!! Panic stations!! While there are those parents who seemingly whip up book week costumes out of thin air year after year, that’s not us. Moreover, despite over ten years as an active dance mum, I’ve never had to sew a costume and have only ever been asked to sew ribbons on shoes. That’s been hard enough. Making this Vector costume posed an extremely steep learning curve.
Of course he could’ve gone for an orange tracksuit and made do. Not on your life! He had a grand vision of being Vector with all the bells and whistles and almost being able to take flight in that wing suit. What’s more he had absolutely no doubt that Geoff and I could just pluck this suit out of thin air and not only make it for him, but do a decent job. Not have the wings sewn on backwards or have it fall apart as soon as he arrived at the party. Yet with only three days to go his expectations were even more unrealistic. Indeed in hindsight a classic quote from The Castle comes to mind: “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin'”. Added to this mix, was the fact he was totally unavailable to assist. He was volunteering on sound for three days at the church conference. So, all of this takes us back to plucking a rabbit out of a hat when we’re not magicians. We’re mere mortals…Mum and Dad. Yet as we’re found on previous occasions, we somehow rise to the occasion and exceed our meagre expectations in leaps and bounds.
The first step was to source an orange track suit. Understandably this was a challenge in itself. After all most of us wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange tracksuit and doing the rounds of the charity shops confirmed that. Orange was never the new black despite what the fashionistas preached a few years ago. Moreover the cheapest orange tracksuit I could find online was $43.00. Who wants to spend that on a one-off orange tracksuit? Besides, by now it was too late for anything to be posted in time. Then, just when I was close to conceding defeat, Google came to the rescue. There was an orange prison jumpsuit for around $21.00 at our local Spotlight store. You beauty! They stopped off there on the way to conference and Geoff returned home with white and orange fabric for the wing suit and white ribbon for the stripe.
By now, you’re probably thinking we were on the homeward straight and we could just whiz the whole thing up on the machine in no time.
There was another hitch which I’ve already alluded to… me!! I have very limited dressmaking experience along with zero spatial awareness. Indeed, I even have a doctor’s certificate to prove it along with multiple scrapes on the car. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Mr 18’s wavering tone when he said he didn’t have a costume or a present and couldn’t go to the party, I’d never have been sewing any kind of costume!
This is what the hero’s journey is all about, isn’t it?! Along with the role of a parent! There are times you just have to front up and have a Nike moment. Fortunately, there was also Plan B. Getting help from Geoff or a friend. Whatever! This was not about ego and doing it all myself. Come hell or high water he was going to have his Vector suit!
That was all very noble-minded, but I hadn’t factored in an outright rebellion by the sewing machine. While it’s been mean, nasty and cantankerous for me before, like all machines, it’s always been good for Geoff. He has a real knack with machines which he calls “mechanical empathy” . Indeed, on my last encounter with the sewing machine, Geoff accused me of having “no mechanical empathy”. However, this time the machine wasn’t even working for Geoff, and a whole new pressure cooker was threatening to explode. Recalcitrant, rebellious and cantankerous…the darn thing kept unthreading and we’re not sure whether the machine, the thread or the fabric, but the machine is lucky it hasn’t been put out for council cleanup or worse!
Eventually the wings were attached. As Vector started to emerge, we were now feeling chuffed although we still had a way to go and time was running out. By now, it was late afternoon and I’d only managed to get in a piece of toast motoring along as fast as I could. Mr 18 had such grand visions of this costume and I wasn’t going to let him down. I wanted him to make that big entrance at the party. Be Vector and add to the fun and festivity. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. No, I wasn’t about to break his heart. Anything to avoid that – even self-destruction!
The next step was the collar. Vector’s collar stands straight up and in a rare moment of resourceful creativity, I nabbed the almost empty Rice Bubbles’ box and cut out a strip of cardboard, unstitched the side of the collar and stuffed it in. Wow. I was proud of my uncharacteristic resourcefulness. I pinned on some white cotton fabric on the inside and tried to machine it together. Possibly overwhelmed by the number of layers, the sewing machine spat the dummy AGAIN. Grr! I was back to hand-stitching but thrilled to be moving surprisingly fast. Indeed, I’d become a machine myself!
With the wings attached, the stripes down the side and the collar done, the suit was really coming together. Meanwhile Geoff painted an old cricket helmet white for his head gear. Wow. We even had enough time to add a white stripe to the wings.
Again the sewing machine played up and I gave up and handed it over to Geoff. By now, we’d renamed it: “The Beast” and even Geoff who can make any machine work well, was asking how much an industrial strength machine would cost!!
Finally, I’m catching my breath and able to text Mr 18 for an ETA without having a heart attack. He was getting close but I had just enough time to steam the packaging creases out of the suit and then perfection.
It was done.
Geoff and I as well.
We forced him to stand still just long enough to get a photo and then we were off to drive him to the party.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that we picked up a pizza for dinner on the way home. We were beat.
Now, I’ll leave you with a thought I’m going to come back to. So often we stridently defend our right to be ourselves. Refuse to conform or blend in. Or, we go looking for ourselves. Yet on the other hand, we do whatever it takes to be someone else. Sure, in this instance Mr 18 was just dressing up for a party. When you’re going in character, you want to be authentic and you’re also just playing a role. However, how often do we do whatever it takes to hide who we are behind makeup, fashion and or being seen or photographed at the right places? How many of us are leading a fake life especially on social media? You have to be pretty strong to resist the temptation. Yet, it’s something to consider…
Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear from you and any of your efforts making costumes. How did it go? Do you think being yourself is over-rated and you’re better off at least appearing to be someone else? I’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. Unfortunately, my parents have colds so we couldn’t go round to see them. However, we were able to focus on Geoff and went to Church as a family for the first time in about 18 months (due to covid) and out for dinner to a fabulous local Indian restaurant. We couldn’t finish it off, and brought the leftovers home so the east will continue tonight albeit more of a nibble. Indeed, I’m about to head out to buy some more chicken to cook up with my leftover sauce.
Did you celebrate Father’s Day where you are? I also understand that it’s a day of reflection and grief for many so if that’s you, I send you a hug and my thoughts.
As you may recall, Geoff and I went to Bathurst what is like three weeks ago now, and I’m still in the very early stages of writing up about our trip here on the blog. I’m also wanting to write some freelance articles as well, but decided to write these posts for the blog first and use them as a launching pad.
However, my third post about a trio of marble sculptures in Machattie Park has become very complicated taking me down numerous deep and meandering research burrows without really feeling confident about the basic facts like who made the sculptures, and how they came to reside in a fernery in a park in Bathurst 200 km WNW of Sydney. My quest has taken me back to the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 where a swag of nations set up camp and showed of their national achievements. In addition to the main exhibition hall in the Garden Palace a separate art gallery was built and two out of three of these sculptures were displayed there and bought by the Art Gallery of NSW who went on to loan them to the city of Bathurst to put in their you beaut park with the band rotunda and massive fountain. By the way, the sculptor was Giovanni Fontana who was a well-known Italian sculptor at the time, who was commissioned to produce a number of public sculptures in Sydney. So far, I’ve been able to trace back the providence of two out of three of the statues but the third one is eluding me and I’ve lost myself down so many rabbit burrows as I said just trying to put the basics together, that I’ve ended up terribly lost and confused to the point of losing what I actually know. Have you ever experienced that?
Meanwhile, the other big news around here, is that Miss sprained her ankle last Friday night at dance. When it happened, they all heard a loud snap and they were really concerned she’d broken it. I missed a call from an unknown number just as I was meeting up with friends, and that turned out to be her dance teacher. They rang Geoff instead who was at home and so he drew the short straw of taking her to Gosford Hospital for hours on end while we waited and prayed for a verdict and I was going through all her dance commitments in my head and wondering how bad this was going to be and the implications of it all. I was also rather concerned about how she was responding to all of this psychologically. For a mere mortal, a sprained ankle is a painful inconvenience but for a ballerina, it can so easily feel like the end of the world. However, fortunately the timing is fairly good and she doesn’t have anything big right away. Her dance teacher has also referred her to special physio, which is probably going hurt us more in terms of the bank account, but you do what you’ve got to do.