Tag Archives: Hemingway

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

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

“The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.”

-Oscar Hammerstein II

If a mighty caffeine hit is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I’m inviting you to join me on an almighty cafe crawl through Paris’s left bank, as I desperately try to find the cafe where I used to hang out back in the Summer of 1992.

By the way, I apologise if our tour darts and criss-crosses all over the place. This is a virtual tour and you’ll find me curled up in my ink-stained writer’s chair inconveniently parked in Australia.  So, the dots could well be scattered all over the map.

“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.”

-Allen Ginsberg

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m desperately trying to find the cafe I hung out at with my friends in Paris.

cafe-st-michel

Our cafe located somewhere near St Michel.

So, after much preambling, you’re invited to join me on a cafe crawl through the Left Bank. By the way, I can’t help wondering whether we’re being joined by the ghosts of creatives past…Hemingway, Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and Jim Morrison. Who knows?

Our first stop is La Palette at 43 Rue Seine on the corner of Rue Jacques Callot in St Germain. It has a large terrace overlooking Rue Jacques- Callot. The restaurant’s façade and the interior of the second salon, are registered as historic monuments. The second salon has a larger back room with dining tables, and is stylishly decorated with ceramics from the 1930s-40s. Meanwhile, the bistro is traditionally a gathering place for Fine Arts students, nearby gallery owners and artists. La Pallete was frequented by Cézanne, Picasso,  Braque and later by Ernest Hemingway and Jim Morrison. Today’s celebrities include Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Our second Stop is Les Deux Magots. Its outdoor terrace is apparently a great spot to soak up the atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From there, you can also see the historic Saint Germain des Pres Church and Abbey. The nave and bell tower date back to 1014 AD, while its foundations date back to 543 AD. So, definitely worth checking out.

Les Deux Magots was founded in 1812 at 23 Rue de Buci and in 1873, it moved to Place St-Germain-des-Prés. In 1885, the shop gave way to an alcohol-serving café, which took on the name.

The Café started playing an important role in Parisian cultural life and Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, to name a few, were regulars at the café. In 1933, the cafe launched its Prix des Deux Magots award. This is a major french litarary award presented to new works, which are generally more off-beat and less conventional than the more mainstream Prix Goncourt.

Les Deux Magots has also been frequented by numerous famous artists including: Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway and others, the café hosted Surrealists under the aegis of André Breton, and Existentialists around Sartre and Beauvoir.

Our next stops are going to be a lot quicker…

3) Cafe Dauphine 17 Rue Dauphine

4) The Luxenbourg  4, Place Edmond Rostand

5) Cafe Le Depart 1, Place Saint-Michel 75005, Paris

6) Cafe de Flore  172, Boulevard Saint-Germain

7) Cafe Le Buci  52, rue Dauphine 75006 PARIS

Finally, I stumbled across Cafe Conti at 1 Rue de Buci. Finally, this could be it. I have emailed the details to a friend, hoping he can see or remember something I can not. 

By this stage, Geoff is also home from work and I’m handing him the photo album and the laptop to help playing spot the difference. Did my photo match the image? We couldn’t be sure and in the end, all we had was eye-strain.

In a way, I hope it is. However, because it closed this year, I’d rather it was somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to go back and enjoy another cheap cafe au lait watching the crowds pass by. I’m sure my friends are still sitting there, looking exactly as they did 24 years ago.  After all, haven’t you ever noticed how memory does that. It freezes moments in time for eternity.

By the  way, speaking of Cafe Conti, it’s recent claim to fame is its dog. Or, perhaps I should be saying that the dog is famous. His name is Orson and he’s an exceptionally cute Cairn Terrier. You can read about his travels here: Orson Paris dog and there’s also an exceptionally cute video.

So, that ends our rather exhilarating yet exhausting cafe crawl of Paris’s Left Bank. I hope none of you objected to me appropriating Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum and transporting it from Arles to Paris. For me, it’s the ultimate French cafe scene. I had to use it.

Do you have a favourite cafe in Paris? Please share. I love a good story served up with a coffee and a French pastry is an extra special bonus.

Thank you for joining me!

xx Rowena

 

Diving Deep into Dead Poet Creek #atozchallenge.

My brain’s been absolutely scrambled what with swimming through Dead Poet Creek…a thick molasses of words, thoughts and characters. Even when I turned to Roald Dahl for some light entertainment through his Revolting Rhymes, the dark side caught up, dragging me down by the toe.

I never really set out on this journey searching for meaning or anything profound. The muse just popped the idea in my head like a postcard and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was right and revisiting these dead poets is exhilarating yet also deeply challenging. While I thought I knew about poetry and poets, I’ve actually found out I was ignorant. That you can’t just read a couple of poems, relate and feel you know someone. People are much more complex.

The letter I received yesterday from Rudyard Kipling, has thrown me a bit. Not only does it emphasise that I haven’t found an equivalent “girl” poem for my daughter but it’s thrown me into a quandary about his son.  After all, he sent me his poem If, which follows on from Hemingway’s poem: Advice To A Son.

How do you choose suitable role models for your kids? Just because the words sound good, is that enough? Or, do they need to walk the talk instead? Live what they say?

I believe so but we’re all human. None of us have got it right! Then again, some crimes are considered “unforgivable”.

This means I’m still no closer to working out what it means to be a man. Or, what it means to be a woman either.

Perhaps, I should’ve just stuck with 10 finger arithmetic and then I’d know all the answers. However, that wouldn’t be any fun!

As I’ve mentioned before, writing these Letters to Dead Poets hasn’t only been about asking the poets the questions I’d like to have answered. As much as I’ve felt totally transformed fully immersing myself in their words, ideas and splendor, the poets are also challenging me through their lives.

Why did Hemingway take his life? How did Jim Morrison end up dead in a bathtub in Paris at 27? Why did Keats die at 25 when so many lesser men live long but comparatively useless lives? How could Roald Dahl write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, his greatest work when he was experiencing such intense, unbearable personal anguish and grief?  Does suffering really make the poet, the writer? Without it, would we simply just be: “normal”?

With all these questions, running round and round inside my head and words blowing around like Autumn leaves, I am left wondering, wandering while trying to bake cupcakes with my daughter. The kids are home on school holidays!!

As I said, yesterday I received a not-unexpected letter from Rudyard Kipling. I was pleased to hear from him because under the constraints of this blogging challenge, I’m trying to stick to  writing to one poet per letter. Choosing between Keats and Kipling wasn’t easy but for me, there was never any doubt.

Anyway, Kipling sent me a few poems for my kids, especially my son. He’s now 12 years old, recently started high school and is steadily becoming a man. As much as he’s always been growing steadily upwards and learning new things, puberty is something of a metamorphosis where the child goes into a cocoon and emerges an adult. In so many ways, it’s like being forged inside a furnace. As the parent, I suspect that I’ll also end up in the flames and will no doubt emerge frazzled and somehow transformed.

One of the poems Kipling sent me was about his son Jack, who died in World War I. While there is incredible honour and sacrifice in dying for your country, I was intrigued to read that John Kipling had actually been declared medically unfit to serve and his father had pulled strings to get him in. Like his father, Jack was severely short-sighted. Kipling, I discovered, was 200% behind the war effort and fighting for King and country and was writing propaganda. This not does sit well with me and I find it all so difficult to understand. Wasn’t he sending his son to war just like sending  a lamb to the slaughter house? Or, was his son that willing to die? He didn’t value his life and was more than willing to be that sacrifice? Or, was that what it meant to be a man? Noble sacrifice?

How much should we as individuals be prepared to sacrifice for our country?

Should we be taking our freedom for granted? Or, should we be prepared to fight to the death in its defense? Do we adequately appreciate what it means to spread our wings and soar through the sky without being shot down or locked up in a cage? Somehow, I was lucky enough to be born in Australia. Although I can struggle with our geographic isolation, being out of the thick of things has also had its strengths…especially in the past.

I’ve never really had to defend a thing aside from the TV. My brother and I fought some pretty fierce battles over who controlled the box but that was about it.

So, I obviously have no idea what it means to lose your freedom, be silenced or what it’s like to live through a war. It’s so easy for me to take that freedom for granted. Forget that’s not a universal thing and that the free need to help liberate the enslaved.

So, I’m in no position to question Kipling about his actions and choices. I’ve never walked in his shoes. Instead, I think I’ll send him a poem I wrote to my son at the end of his first year at school.

Today, I am writing a letter to John Lennon. I am seriously struggling with this. What do you say to one of the greatest, most inspirational men who ever lived about the moment of his death when a crazed gunman shot him in the heart and robbed him of his life? Even though Lennon was a man of peace, wouldn’t he be angry about what happened? Or, has he found the power to forgive? You hear of people forgiving the unforgivable and that forgiveness is enlightened self-interest. That anger and revenge are  poisons consuming you body and soul from the inside out. Yet, I know I’d be mad. It’s one thing for someone to steal your car or break into your house but to take away your life and take you away from everyone you love? How do you live, or even die, with that? What stops you from haunting that bastard forever. Making their excuse for a life a living hell?

However, even in death, revenge could consume you. Rob your peace.

I have also wondered what, if anything, John Lennon would say to Hemingway?

Isn’t it a bit freaky that Hemingway shoots himself and Lennon gets shot? The man who shot Lennon is still behind bars and yet Hemingway escaped justice.

It’s a strange world once you lift up the hood. Indeed, perhaps, I should have left things alone.

I’m starting to think that too many questions can be bad for your health.

Do you have any answers or reflections on this mess? It seems to me, that asking more and more questions, only digs a deeper hole!

Best wishes,

Rowena

14th April, 2016.

H-Hemingway:A Surprise Letter #atozchallenge

This afternoon while we were down at the beach with the kids and the dogs, we found a glass bottle. Naturally, we picked it up. Of course, you already know there was a message from Ernest Hemingway inside . How he managed to orchestrate this moment, I don’t know. Call it serendipity, perhaps? Unaccustomed as I am to communicating with the dead, I’m never quite sure what to expect.

Dear Rowena,

Word has spread

you’re waking poets

from the dead.

 

Not one to miss out

on the fun,

I’ve sent a poem

for your young son.

Advice to A Son

Never trust a white man,
Never kill a Jew,
Never sign a contract,
Never rent a pew.
Don’t enlist in armies;
Nor marry many wives;
Never write for magazines;
Never scratch your hives.
Always put paper on the seat,
Don’t believe in wars,
Keep yourself both clean and neat,
Never marry whores.
Never pay a blackmailer,
Never go to law,
Never trust a publisher,
Or you’ll sleep on straw.
All your friends will leave you
All your friends will die
So lead a clean and wholesome life
And join them in the sky.

Best always,

Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway best always-crop

When it comes to choosing role models for my son, Hemingway didn’t exactly come to mind. Known as a man’s man and into game fishing and hunting, he was also quite a drinker, had some kind of mental health issues and took his life. My son has written some good poems lately and I’m all for him becoming a writer or poet but as Hemingway wrote:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

So, from where I’m sitting at the moment, Bob the Builder would be a much better choice:

“Bob the Builder
Can we fix it?
Bob the Builder
Yes, we can!”

Not unsurprisingly, I much prefer the idea of him fixing things, than breaking down himself. If only the thrill of writing wasn’t quite so good!

Hemingway cat

Meanwhile, you might remember the Pollicle Dogs from my correspondence with TS Eliot. As I said, they were also with us down at the beach and weren’t too happy to find another cat poem.

To Crazy Christian

There was a cat named Crazy Christian
Who never lived long enough to screw
He was gay hearted, young and handsome
And all the secrets of life he knew
He would always arrive on time for breakfast
Scamper on your feet and chase the ball
He was faster than any polo pony
He never worried a minute at all
His tail was a plume that scampered with him
He was black as night and as fast as light.
So the bad cats killed him in the fall.

– Ernest Hemingway

Of course, they’ve ended up feeling terribly offended again and I’m needing to keep them under close surveillance. After all, you might recall the rather stinky protest they left on TS Eliot’s doorstep after dark. Of course,  I also need to ensure they don’t start chasing Hemingway’s cats! His place would be a veritable smorgasbord!

As if the Pollicle Dogs weren’t trouble enough, now my daughter’s getting offended. Why haven’t any of the poets written a poem for her? Why haven’t I asked what it means to be a woman? Of course, she’s convinced I only ever think about her brother and this is just the latest confirmation. I told her that I was only halfway through but that wasn’t good enough. She wants one now!

Just to complicate things even further, I had quite a mix-up with Hemingway. To be perfectly, honest, I didn’t know Hemingway wrote poetry and strayed across his poems while doing research. I really related to a few of these poems, which seemed to be reading the thoughts of my heart. They were signed EH. The next day, I found out that Hemingway had committed suicide. Shot himself. That really hit me pretty hard to have an epiphany one night and then to find out he shot himself. That swung the mirror right back at me and said: “What does this say about you?” To be perfectly honest, I found that thought very disturbing, particularly as he wasn’t the only poet I admired who took their own life.

However, it turned out these poems weren’t by Ernest Hemingway, after all. EH is Erin Hanson a 20 year old poet living in Melbourne. Phew! What a relief!

So, as you can see, this journey is incredibly enlightening. Wow! I’m loving it, even though I feel like I’m combusting at the same time. So many poets, such little time!

This has been part of my series Letters to Dead Poets for the A-Z Challenge.

Are you doing the A-Z Challenge and how are you finding it?

xx Rowena

The Boy & the Shark

If it hadn’t been for his mother, the boy would’ve missed the shark altogether.

Indeed, he would’ve been at home glued to his iPad.

It was Mum who’d dragged him off to the beach for a walk with the dogs, although he didn’t take much persuading. It’s just that while there’s that age-old bond between humans and their dogs; humans and the sea; electronics is a new but equally strong force.

Even being at the beach, the boy would’ve missed the shark if it wasn’t for his Mum. He’s a much faster walker.

By the time the fisherman went into battle, the boy was halfway down the beach.

Meanwhile, Mum was spellbound. Seeing the fishing rod bending right over and all his muscles flexed, I couldn’t wait to see what was on the line.  The fisherman  was strong, muscular and incredibly fit but that fish was still holding its own.  Had it been a gold fish, he could’ve plucked that fish straight out of the water. So, it had to be  one hell of a beast…a determined beast at that! It was fighting for its life and wasn’t giving up but the fisherman wasn’t giving up either.He was wrestling that fish with all his might.

Thinking back to Hemingway’s classic: The Old Man and the Sea, I found myself completely absorbed in the battle. I had to see what was fighting it out at the end of that line and how this mighty battle played out.

I had to get our son. He loves fishing and I knew how much he’d love to see this! He’d be riveted!

However, he’s a much faster walker and he was already halfway down the beach. Of course, I’m calling him and calling him but there’s absolutely no response. All I see is the back of his head moving further and further away. Why doesn’t he turn around? What is he thinking about? Is he absorbed by the scenery or lost in his dreams? How would I know? Oh! How often I’ve wished there was some kind of window so I could see inside his head?!!

He absolutely adores fishing and I can’t believe he’s missing out on the works. I keep calling and still only see the back of his head.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to run and I can’t see myself catching up without having a heart attack.

Besides, I can’t take my own eyes off this extraordinary battle between man and fish. There’s such tension. Not only in the line and the fisherman’s entire being but also curiosity! What is it? What type of fish? What’s going to happen? Is he actually going to land the fish before his line snaps? His rod breaks? Or, will this mighty fish actually escape and get away?

These are the great fishing unknowns. It’s inherent mystery.

Of course, there are no guarantees until that mighty fish finally lands on the beach. It’s been caught. So for now, that fish still belongs in the realm of dreams and fishing legends.

While I understand that catching fish is all part of fishing, I really don’t like the actual catching part… watching the fish gasping, taking its last breath. Personally, I’d rather throw it back. However, eating fish is no different to eating something neatly packaged from the supermarket. It’s just that we haven’t “prepared” it ourselves.

At last, I can make out the fish in the breakers. Its silver body is flapping like the clappers, twisting and turning struggling with every speck of its might.

What is it?

This is, of course, the burning question. After all, we all like to know what’s lurking in the deep where we go swimming. Although we know there are fish out there somewhere, we seldom see them. Moreover, on the rare occasions we’ve been fishing, we haven’t caught anything either. So, to be perfectly honest, I’m even a bit surprised that anything’s there.

The fisherman lands the fish and it’s lying there on the beach, wriggling, writhing and then it stops moving for a bit.

My goodness. Its silhouette is unmistakable.

It’s a shark!

For a moment, there’s that feeling of horror. A desire perhaps to rewind the last ten minutes and NOT find out what’s actually swimming at our beach.

After all, do you really want to know that you’ve been swimming with sharks?

Well, it’s only a baby shark…a Bronze Whaler weighing around 6-8 kg.

It couldn’t even take off your foot but I don’t think I’d like to find out. Moreover, I wouldn’t want to be a small dog swimming out there on dusk either. There are a few dogs swimming at the moment. Humph! All those tales weren’t just a dog beach legend, after all!

However, looking at the size of it, I doubted this shark travelled alone. That it had friends and indeed, there’s a school of sharks swimming around OUR BEACH!

!@#$%@#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yet, there was also that awe. I’ve never seen a live shark up close and I was mesmerised. This shark only had a small row of teeth, which seemed to retract. So rather than being a fearsome beast, it had a rather gummy smile, like it had forgotten to put its teeth in.

That’s when I noticed its frown. Of course, when you turn this frown around, you get a macabre kind of smile. Strange, the things you’ve never noticed before, which may not change the world but get you thinking…

Shark Smile2

Meanwhile, as I’m interacting with the shark, the lad is still walking away, almost reaching the other side of the rainbow. He hasn’t turned round once and he later assumed that I was right behind him. That said, he should have known I’d have been talking. That if there was silence, he should investigate. For all he knew, Mummy could’ve been abducted by aliens. Or, in this instance, eaten by a real live shark flapping on the beach!

Finally, he turns round. He’s too far away to hear me but I gesture for him to come back and made some sort of signal towards the fisherman.

He returns. However, this might not have been such a good thing, after all!

The boy can’t keep his hands off the shark. Even though it’s gasping for air and clearly not at home on land, it still hasn’t given up its will to live. As I said, this shark was a real fighter and while it’s been caught and dragged out of the sea, the battle isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot!

So, there’s my son standing there proudly holding a live shark as though he’d caught it himself. It’s an absolutely perfect, once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. I am the absolute Queen of photo opportunities BUT… of course, I don’t have my camera and my phone is as flat as a tack. In what has to be one of my biggest bloopers yet, I have no way of photographing this priceless moment. This is the very same person who takes photos in her sleep!

Pathetic!

However, I have no shame and ask the fisherman if he would mind taking a photo and emailing it to me. He’s very kind and through broken English we exchange details. Turns out he and his friend are visiting from Lithuania. Thought it was funny that it’s a visiting tourist who gives these Australians our first close-up view of a shark!

Of course, I was hoping that shark would be our last but the rod is bending over again and the tension is twice as great now that we know that another shark is on its way.

“Our friend” was not alone.

Trust me! I didn’t want to know!

xx Rowena