Yet, Jane couldn’t take her foot off the accelerator. She’d said nothing to anyone, but lately she’d been considering driving over The Gap.
“What do you do for self-care?” Her therapist asked, knowing she was on the brink.
“Self-care?” Jane exploded. “@#$%!! I don’t even exist. I’m squished in between Stuart, the kids, work, Mum’s stroke, Dad’s cancer. I’m driving to appointments, soccer, ballet and then there’s church. Busy, busy, busy!”
“I’m prescribing you a week’s holiday. Before you say you can’t go, please consider what will happen if you don’t. You matter too!”
For so many of us, it’s impossible to stop and get off the treadmill, but there can come a point where too much activity and no rest reaches breaking point. It’s important to consider things the rests which are inserted into music, full stops and commas inserted into sentences and if you think back to when you were first learning to write, putting that all important finger space in between the words.
I hope my story this week isn’t too triggering for anyone. If case you haven’t heard about The Gap in Sydney, it’s an ocean cliff at Watson’s Bay which is infamous for suicides. So much so, that if someone’s going through a rough time or having a particularly bad day, they might say: “I feel like jumping off The Gap”. However, it’s generally used to let off steam, and not as an expression of intent.
The flipside of this story, is that much has been done to try to reach or help those wanting to take there life. In particular, there was Don Ritchie, who was known as the Angel of the Gap. I encourage you to read his story and it’s interesting how far a smile can go towards saving someone’s life. It’s really something to keep in mind!
Personally, I see this as a good news story, because Jane is very overstretched but she is seeing a therapist which is a help and she is releasing much of the inner tension she’s been holding back.
About a month ago, I actually did a two day course in suicide intervention run by Lifeline who run a telephone crisis line here in Australia. I have been a first responder and I was surprised at how well I actually handled the situation. However, I wanted to skill myself up. Be prepared.
Let me offer you a warming tea, coffee or perhaps even a mug of hot chocolate. It’s freezing here, and it’s feeling like we’re down in the snow country, although I’m still able to move my fingers, so I shouldn’t be complaining too much. I’m just waiting to drive our daughter to school and filling in a few minutes, and I’m grateful for the warmth of Zac the dog on my lap who is no doubt reciprocating.
How was your week, and what did you get up to?
The highlight of my week was going to an art exhibition opening on Saturday afternoon at La Carta Art Gallery in Wyong, My friend’s teenaged daughter, TP, was among the exhibiting artists, which is what took me there. I love her work and it’s so good to see an artist in the making, and watch her insights and talent evolve. We rarely get that opportunity and usually only see the finished product, and by this stage, it’s usually well beyond our price range. During the week, I’d already seized the day, and had bought her charcoal sketch: The Cat. . It was funny because people seemed to assume I’m a cat person. However, as most of you know, we’re dog people here and have three lively dogs of our own. Besides, that wasn’t why I bought it. I thought the perspective was very clever and I loved the expression on the cat’s face and it’s huge, wide eyes. I wonder what it was looking at…
Meanwhile, I also fell in love with the work of another artist, Lena Nimmo, who is more around my vintage. She had quite a number of paintings in the exhibition, including many people. Should I be calling these portraits? I don’t know. I was captivated by quite a number of them, especially a woman with dark hair and some kind of look in her eyes. I’m not an art critic. I just found the woman intriguing and was drawn in. I almost could’ve bought that painting, along another painting of a young woman playing the piano. Pianos have been such a part of our family life, but I have so many of my own photos and the same old problem of limited wall space. However, then I spotted a painting of a woman praying, The Prayer, which had been inspired by a 1914 work by Felice Casorati. To be honest, I much prefer Lena’s version. It’s absolutely exquisite, and I’m giving it to my mum. It was her birthday on Saturday, and she is a woman of faith who always starts the day by reading her Bible.
By the way, I really enjoyed myself, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to immerse myself back in the art world again after being in lockdown and isolation for most of the last year, along with the year before. It gave me a bit of a jolt. This is what I’ve been missing out on. It inspired me to venture out further. Embrace more of living However, covid is still around, and it’s Winter and flu season here. I’m planning to get my fourth covid vax and the flu vax this week. Apparently, you can get them together which sounds practical, but I wonder how I’ll feel afterwards. Yet, there’s part of me that wouldn’t mind a few days in bed with a good book. One of the downsides of getting back to our so called “normal” is driving all over the place again. Some days I feel like a buzzing bee.
Over the weekend, I also submitted a 500 word short story into a Furious Fiction competition held by the Australian Writer’s Centre. I’m not sure quite what I can mention about my story online. However, I wrote about a family grappling with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. There are two sisters who find out they are carriers after Sally’s son is diagnosed at age four. Bridget has a daughter and because Duchenne’s is largely passed on to males, she’s okay but could be a carrier. The story is set just over a year after Sally’s son has died, and his massive electric wheelchair is still taking up most of their loungeroom, and they haven’t been able to part with it. I guess part of what I was looking at was that pressure to move on and what to hold onto and what to let go. As I worked on the story, I added in that he’d played boccia, which is a variation on bocce, which is played by severely disabled people, providing a sporting outlet. In my story, he’d been part of a fictional Australian team who’d won gold in Rio. In part, the story was inspired by Australian Paralympic gold medallist, Kurt Fearnley . I’ve heard him speak and he’s also written a very inspirational book Pushing the Limits: Life, Marathons & Kokoda. Many of you, would not be aware that following the birth of our 16 year old daughter, I was struck down by a muscle-wasting autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis, and spent eight weeks in hospital and rehab trying to get back on my feet. I was very debilitated, and to be perfectly honest with you, don’t know how I’m still here or how I’m doing so well these days. It’s a real testimony to the motto; “never give up”, because there were many times it was tempting, which at the same time, I fought like a bat out f hell to survive. I know that might sound contradictory, but that’s what it’s like with real emotions when the rubber hits the road. It’s tough. Of course, you’d rather be at the beach and chilling out. It is what it is, and I can’t describe the relief, especially now that the worst of covid has passed and we have a vaccine and anti-virals.
Well, that’s about enough from me for this week. However, I thought I’d share with you the link through to the past winners of the Furious Fiction competition because their stories have been published and the judges have also provided feedback, which is very helpful: https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/category/furious-fiction/
In the dead of night, the archaeology team arrived at the excavation site.
“Leave no stone unturned. Legend says that if the Garden of Eden can be accessed from Israel, the gate is buried here at Beth Shan. Once we find the gate, use every trick in the book to get through. Go nuclear, if you have to. We need to know who commands the universe: Jesus, Allah, Buddha, the Wizard of Oz, or the Big Bang? Screw faith. We need proof.”
Sometimes when I respond to these photo prompts, an idea immediately leaps out at me, and I’m on my way. However, there have also been many times where I’m a bit stuck, and inspiration takes it’s time. I didn’t recognise the subject of this week’s photo prompt, but the photo had been saved as Bet-Shan. Thanks to my best friend Google, I came across the following quotes:
“The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.”1.
“If paradise in situated in the land of Israel, its entrance is Beth Shan.2” – – Rabbi Simeon Ben Lachish, c. A.D. 350.
It’s quite interesting to think that I as an Australian who has been in and out of lockdown over the last two years, could be writing about a scene in distant Israel and basing a story there.
Although I was fully aware that I was mixing with writers from around the globe at Friday Fictioneers, I wasn’t so conscious that the photo prompts themselves also came from around the world, and that quite a few of my responses had picked up on that and my writing had developed a strangely international influence without me even leaving my chair.
By the way, this all came to my attention because I finally decided to collate my flash fiction pieces and see what I had. It’s been very insightful and I’m still going. I’ve re-written quite a few, and realised quite a few more could use “a reno” but overall I was quite pleased with what I had. However, I also realized I need to write quite a few more.
Colour… I’ve almost forgotten what it is to have colour. We all have. No one knows whether there’s something wrong with our eyes, our brains or whether the entire Earth’s turned black and white with shades of grey.
People say it’s global warming, but I’m sure it’s the Big Bad Wolf, and I’m afraid. Very afraid.
Yet, I haven’t forgotten what it is to see red. Immerse myself in red. Be red. Red hair, red lips, red hearts, red dreams in red skies.
I also remember when the grass was green.
Anything, but black and white with shades of grey.
100 words. Photo prompt copyright Sarah Potter.
My response to this week’s prompt has been inspired by the weirdness of living in our current situation with the changes wrought by the coronavirus where wearing masks, social distancing and not hugging your friends has become the new norm. I now see scenes of people interacting normally on TV in scenes filmed in the past, and it’s starting to feel strange. Stop that. You’re not allowed to do that.
Gee , I really hope the vaccine comes along soon, and we can be ourselves again.
This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields.
The odds of finding his daughter again were fading faster than the setting sun. Finally, she’d been spotted riding her a bike towards the marina. With his heart bursting through his chest, and his legs on the brink of collapse, Jim ran wishing he’d quit smoking 20 years ago. However, he was too late. All he found was her bike. Jess could be anywhere. Overwrought, he crashed to the pavement, banging his head. Jess popped out of nowhere, cradling her unconscious father in her arms. The risk of losing him far outweighed the argument she barely recalled.
Our family has had a few desperate search and rescue missions over the years, not only of humans, but also of dogs. The stress, acute fear and dreadful powers of the imagination take you in their grip and shake the bejesus out of you. You feel like your heart is out there somewhere hiding in the dark until its found. Then, the jubilation is incredible.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Every week, she posts a photo prompt and we write a response in 100 words or less and share and comment on each others’ efforts. It’s a great opportunity!
The doors of Alcatraz slammed shut on Jack’s trip, and the key turned one way and wouldn’t turn back. Indeed, that damned key was jammed in the keyhole. Wouldn’t budge.
Jack was 16 years old and about to launch out of the nest on the school trip of a lifetime… Sydney, Berlin, Munich, Rome, Pompeii., Paris. Then, it all went up in smoke thanks to the coronavirus. Why did it have to happen now? Right at this very moment in time? Gran was right. We were born under an unlucky star.
This story is more fact than fiction. Just over a month ago, our son was supposed to be flying out of Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith International Airport bound for Berlin on a school history excursion. It was a strange thing sending him on this trip, because my husband and I haven’t been overseas since our honeymoon almost 20 years ago. Of course, it would’ve been nice to go ourselves. However, sometimes you make those sacrifices as parents, the same way mine have done for me through the years. You’d give your kids the shirt off your back at times. Besides, our son’s been through a lot due to my health most of his life and I sort of viewed this trip as a kind of compensation package. Yet, it wasn’t guilt money. It was a gift straight from the heart, especially for that blond curley-haired 3 years old who saw me looking absolutely wrecked in hospital and asked: “Mummy better?”
I felt absolutely shattered when the trip was cancelled. That this very special treasure we’ve all but handed over to him was smashed to smithereens and destroyed.
That was on the 2nd of March when the NSW Health Department banned all out of state travel due to the coronavirus. It was at least a week before the WHO declared a pandemic, and while we were starting to think that the trip might be cancelled, it still seemed a bit premature when the axe fell. However, their decision was on the money. A day or two later, the coronavirus struck Italy with a vengeance, and the rest as they say, was history. We are very thankful that the trip was cancelled and the group wasn’t overseas when this all happened. Indeed, like the rest of us, he’s had to stay home along with mum, dad and his sister. In many ways, he should be thanking his lucky stars and yet…
I guess there a lot us out there wanting to hit the coronavirus over the head with a baseball bat and put it out of action. You can add us to the list, but our concerns go beyond the loss of his trip. We’re very aware of all the people who’ve lost their lives and the grief of their family and friends. Each and every one was loved and cherished. I have acute lung issues and know many people who are equally vulnerable as well as our seniors. We all keep hoping it will all just blow over, but it seems to have a mind of it’s own.
I hope you and yours are well and safe and please take care.
PS I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I started researching my Great Great Uncle’s service in France during WWI and the project snowballed into a pending book (which still has a very long way to go!!)
All James ever wanted was to eat a bowl of ice cream. However, James was severely lactose intolerant and ice cream was forbidden. Now a teenager, he was sick of everyone asking why he he had to have soy milk. Why can’t you have ice cream? What’s wrong with you? To compound his troubles, his mother hovered over him like a hawk. However, she wasn’t going to be at camp, and James had forged her signature on the medical forms. Finally, James indulged in his very first bowl of ice cream. All good until he got stuck on the bus.
As the plane touched down at Sydney Airport, Jamilah knew she was safe and they’d never find her working at Macca’s Woy Woy, wishing the world a “nice day”.
Quiet and unassuming, Jamilah passed right under the radar, barely the shadow of a shadow.
Then, she met Jerome.
Of course, she’d never planned to fall so deeply in love, fusing into one exulted flesh. Giving herself to someone so entirely, that she disappeared, engulfed by the flames.
It wasn’t her fault, or was it? That he got caught in the flames and burned. Yet, now she was a wanted woman.
Sometimes, I like to provide a little background into my flash fiction efforts. However, this week I wanted to leave it open to interpretation and see what comes back. Initially, I was tempted to write about when I was in Europe as 21 year old back in 1992. However, this story took on a life of its own.
I set this piece in nearby Woy Woy, which is a bit of a backwater with a funny sounding name, as a tribute to Spike Milligan and the Goon Show. Spike Milligan’s parents and younger brother moved to Woy Woy and Spike was occasionally jocularly referred to as “the boy from Woy Woy“.
“Woy Woy”is a corruption of the indigenous term apparently taken from the local Darkinjung Aboriginal people, and reputedly means ‘big lagoon’ or ‘much water’, referring to the deep tidal channel adjacent to the town centre.
“Macca’s” is Australian for McDonald’s and is where many of our local teens find their first job and is a popular after school hangout. I also found myself hanging out at McCafe when our kids were young and the play area with it’s locked high gate was heaven-sent.
Leaving court, the victim’s elderly mother was propped up by her two strapping sons. Justice served, the violent ex-husband was guilty as hell.
Yet, was I the only one who questioned the verdict? The only one struck by their own guilt?
The writing was on the wall. So, why didn’t we act?
More than once, I’d seen the tell-tale, heavy makeup. Yet, I never tried to wipe it away. Call a spade a spade. Rather, I observed the code of silence, and touched up my own face.
Peeling off this mask won’t be easy, but I’m changing course.
I will survive.
In parenting circles, you often hear the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. However, what you hear less often, if at all, is that it takes the village to keep its citizens safe. Moreover, that we as individuals have a responsibility to look out for each other. To step in, especially when a mate is in trouble. However, where the waters start to get more murky, is when it comes to domestic violence. Interfering in someone else’s relationship is seen as a no-go zone. However, it can reach a point where someone’s life might be at risk and we need to step in. Yet, what are we supposed to do? We’re a friend, a brother, sister, parent…not an expert. The one thing I do know, is that we somehow need to find a way, and a quiet place, to ask the next question. Present yourself as a safe place…a harbour in the storm. That at least leaves the door open for someone to turn to us about a whole swag of issues before it’s too late. Don’t just ask if they’re okay. Follow your gut and never give up.
By the way, I’d just like to add that men can also be victims of domestic violence.
It’s not altogether surprising that I addressed this issue tonight. The body of a young woman was found beside the freeway today, when my Mum was driving up to see us. It drove home yet again why we can’t turn a blind eye.
It wasn’t a case of who done it. Rather, it was just a question of whether Madame Cuisinier knew that migratory quail were toxic, and would kill her husband.
Of course, nobody wanted to believe, that a Great Grandmother could kill her husband. Married for over 60 years, they’d been born in Paris during the Occupation. Why not get a divorce? Why go to all the trouble of catching and preparing the quail and concocting that wonderfully fragrant yellow sauce, m’qalli, just to poison him? Why not feed him cake?
Madame Cuisinier wondered why she couldn’t follow through with their plan. Why she couldn’t eat the dish. It would’ve been the perfect end.
My apologies for going a bit over this week, but I couldn’t work out how to shortened this complex tale. I’ve been watching Masterchef lately and couldn’t by-pass a food reference.