November 2022 - One of my pieces for the South Side Quills writer's group anthology - Aspects of Childhood" - Embellished from the recollections of my father, Norman Lesley (Les) Clayden.
THE CHRISTMAS BIKE
Christmas 1934. The summer was blistering. An arid easterly wind scorched its way through the dry stubble stalks. The harvest was finished and the horses were having a well-earned rest among the trees in the orchard.
It was the Christmas before Norm started school and he had already seen the pushbike leaning against the tank stand in the yard. It was his first two-wheeler. Despite his older brother having ridden this bike to school for the last four years and the fact that the seat was worn and the paint chipped, Norm basked in the glory of knowing the Malvern Star was now his. He couldn’t wait to give it a go. Norm badgered Dad all through breakfast until he finally pushed back his chair, took his hat from the peg just inside the kitchen door and went out into the yard. Climbing onto the tank stand Norm hoiked himself up onto the seat, which was a bit too high for his six year old legs.
Dad gave Norm a push start down the slight slope towards the yards beyond the chook pen. Before he knew it the fence loomed up in front of him and Norm discovered the bike had no brakes. Not knowing how to stop, Norm swerved at the last moment and skidded through the minefield of cow pats in front of the gate. Colliding with the fence, he was flung head first into the orchard, narrowly missing Molly the cow eating leaves off the fig tree. Molly momentarily looked startled before nonchalantly flicking her tail and continued munching.
By the time Norm started school in February he had mastered the complexities of riding a bike barefoot without brakes. He was undaunted by the six mile ride to school in Pingelly. That bike took Norm wherever he wanted to go: along dirt tracks, over paddocks, out to wherever his Dad was working, over to the warrens to check his rabbit traps, and down the road to his grandmother’s house.
However it wasn’t without incident. Riding home from school one winter afternoon, an overflowing deep gutter had formed across the track. Underestimating the depth of the gutter, Norm rode straight into it, hit a submerged rock and tumbled off his bike. As he sat miserably in the ditch soaked through with red muddy water, Mr Gill, who was riding his horse down the track behind him, tipped his hat, barely disguising the laugh twitching behind his beard. “Afternoon young Norm. Nice afternoon for a swim.”
Norm’s pride was battered, and his shirt ripped, but the Malvern Star came out of the ditch unscathed. It was ridden to school from Kulyalling and Mourambine by various brothers and sisters for nine years as well as into Pingelly where Norm sold rabbits he had trapped for sixpence to ninepence a pair.
March 2022 - one month into the Ukraine/Russian conflict
Something a little different from me today, inspired by the heart-renching situation in the Ukraine. I have never been to Russia or the Ukraine, so the few photos I share today are from other parts of Europe in a happier time. I really enjoyed taking photos of balconies on our trip to Spain, Malta & Italy in 2018.
No-one answered the door, so Tina took her mobile phone out of her pocket.
With only a backpack hastily stuffed with a change of clothes and her passport, Tina had travelled all day and all night to get here. First by train, almost empty of other passengers, then hitched a ride in the back of a truck, the weary men looking askance at her. Lastly on foot through the ravaged countryside and deserted streets, hardly recognising her surroundings since her visit last spring.
How could it be that at the end of her journey no-one was here to meet her? Tina looked again at the text message from her sister asking her to come quickly…or was it pleading? She had tried to call her sister several times since leaving home, but couldn’t get through. With each kilometre she had grown more anxious.
Tina stepped back from the heavy wooden door and looked up. Above was an iron balcony and an open door with lace curtains wafting gently in and out. She glanced up and down the street. No-one was out at this early hour but she didn’t want to draw attention to herself by calling out. A lone dog snuffled around a rubbish bin.
She pushed on the door and it creaked slowly open. Dry leaves scattered around her feet. Stepping cautiously inside Tina scanned the deserted courtyard strewn with dying plants and broken furniture.
A cat slunk away through an open doorway. She followed and was shocked by the disarray inside. Broken tiles and debris littered the floor and plaster hung limply from the exposed roof beams.
On the gilt framed mirror on the opposite wall was one word scrawled in lipstick or was it blood – “run”
Create a scene where a murder takes place - a writer's group prompt
The approach is along a limestone track beneath a tangled archway of peppermint and paper bark trees. You stop to push open the rusty iron gate.
Around the corner you suddenly come out of the trees onto a rocky headland. Parking the car you walk to the edge. The cliff plunges metres down to where waves crash and surge unrelenting onto jagged rocks. Seagulls swoop and cry in the buffeting wind.
You shiver and pulling your coat closer around you, you turn away from the cliff and walk towards the house perched only metres from the cliff. Built from solid rock blocks hewn from the cliffs it has withstood years of winter storms.
A car with the passenger door sagging open is parked by the house. Your peer in. Something seems to have made a nest on the front seat.
Turning away you climb the worn stone steps of the house onto the warped front verandah that envelopes the house. A bird flies out from under the eaves, swooping close by you, making you duck. Pushing against the front door, it creeks open. With nervous trepidation which surprises you, you step inside.
Your eyes adjust to the gloom. What you see makes you gasp and stagger back onto the verandah and retch over the railing.
"He was the only man on the platform wearing an eye-patch" - a writer's group prompt
Even through the scratched, soot marked window and the smoke hanging thickly in the air, it was easy to identify him – he was the only man on the platform with an eye patch.
You had been warned he might be here waiting, but you hoped by some slim chance that he would have been given the wrong information. Your mind races as you fumble with your bag and check the compartment for strayed belongings.
Passengers are pouring from the carriages and the down the steps onto the platform, jostling as they gather their bags, greet waiting people and make their way to the exit gate. New passengers are waving goodbyes and boarding the train.
Your sit immobile, your mind racing. There is a tap at your door and the cabin steward looks in.
“Are you alright Miss? This is your station. We’ll be leaving in a few minutes.”
As if in agreement, the train whistle blows shrilly.
“Yes, I know” you stammer. “But I’m thinking I should go onto the next stop.”
“But that will take you further away.”
“I know, but I have a friend there who can meet me.”
“Well you can’t stay in this compartment. It’s been taken by
someone else and we’re full.”
Behind him you see a smartly dressed woman in a green coat and cloche hat.
“Oh, I’d better get off then.”
You smile grimly, pick up your bag, nod to the woman and make your way down the corridor. But instead of climbing down the nearest steps you continue to the rear of the train. Reaching the last door you stand for a moment on the top step and peer down the platform.
You can see the man pacing up and down searching for you. A stab of fear races through you. The train whistle blows and steam bellows from the train, cloaking the platform. You pull the brim of your hat down low over your eyes and pull up the collar of your coat. Gripping the railing you step down.
You glance down the platform just as he turns towards you. Even from a distance you can see that he has recognised you. He calls out and moves forward pushing through the crowd.
But you are already running.
“Stop your grizzling – it’s only raining” - a writer's group prompt
It started with the windmill creaking. Then the back door slammed. The dogs ran up and down the veranda barking. There was a strange smell in the air. An earthy smell.
Then a gentle thrumming on the iron roof. Lucy looked up from her dolls house, puzzled. Within minutes the thrumming became a battering.
Lucy screamed out, “Daddy, Daddy, there’s something’s on the roof!”
“Stop your grizzling Lucy, it’s only the rain.”
“It’s going to get us!”
Tom scooped Lucy up into his arms and went out onto the veranda, calling over his shoulder “Martha!”
Down the steps, Lucy screaming and struggling in his arms. Tom lowered the clinging Lucy to the ground. “Lucy, its rain!”
The rain ran through Lucy’s hair in rivers, soaking her from head to foot. Her thin cotton dress clung to her legs. The dogs darted excitedly around the yard skidding through the muddy puddles.
Lucy was stunned. In all her four years she had never seen rain. She’d heard her Dad speak about it in hushed tones. But she hadn’t known till this minute what it was.
Tom looked up from Lucy to the house. Martha stood on the veranda, clinging to the railing, her dress hanging loosely on her thin frame. Tom walked up the steps and held out his hand. ‘Come on love, come down here. Its rain love. What we’ve been waiting for.”
Martha took Tom’s hand and shakily came down the steps. She looked up as the rain fell on her, and then collapsed to her knees in the yard, crying.
Lucy ran to her. “It’s ok Mum. Don’t be afraid. It’s only the rain!”
Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɪkɔːr/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning "stone", and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.
The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian scientists studying the smells of wet weather — is derived from a pair of chemical reactions – in leaves and soil.
This was a creative writing exercise for our writing group.
My grandmother did have a huge vegetable garden, and there was a man that lived over the lane we used to visit, but I don't remember his name, and I don't remember any sunflowers, so this story is partly true and partly fictional.
A Forest of Sunflowers
There is a forest of sunflowers at the bottom of my grandmother’s garden, up against the back picket fence between the chook pen and the outhouse under the weeping trees.
Beyond the sunflowers is grandma’s big vegetable garden stretching all the way from the back veranda to the chook pen. It seems like every vegetable you can imagine is growing there. Every day grandma collects vegetables from the garden for our dinner, pulling up potatoes, onions and carrots with the dirt still clinging to their bulbs. Dirt pathways run between the beds and after our bath and on washing day we scoop the water out of the bath or the laundry trough with a can and water the garden.
Passion is the camera in my hands
Walking through the bush searching for delicate orchids peeping from their hiding places beneath the trees.
Crouching on the red dirt in a field of everlastings spreading like a flowing river through the scrub. Wave on wave of pink, white and yellow...endless.
Seeing the light around me, how its highlights and shadows play and change as I chase the light.
Focusing on that one perfect bloom and capturing it in all its perfection.
The excitement of finding a flower I have never seen before.
Marvelling at the perfect shape. The infinite colours and variety.
Yearning for the next time I can walk among them.
May camera in my hands.
This is my passion.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Travel Writing and Photography Course - Fremantle, 7-8 March 2009
Last weekend I attended a travel writing and photography course run by writer John Harman, and photographer Dale Neill. The piece you read below - Salvatore Bellini - is an entirely fictitious piece I wrote from the photo you see of the accordion player taken by Abigail Harman. To log onto John, Dale and Abigail's sites please refer to my web links.
|Abigail Harman's photo of the accordion player|
I stretch, and rising, walk across the cool tiled floor to fling open the window, and leaning out turn my face towards the crisp sea air; it’s salty moisture coming to me on the gentle breeze to settle on my face. Along the waterfront I can see the old man sitting on his stool in his usual place in front of the high stone wall. I cannot see his face, as it is hidden by the shadow of his cap, but I know his lined face looks as worn as the open leather suitcase by his side.
Salvatore Bellini. Every morning he cycles his bike along the winding cobbled streets through Cefalu and takes up his position here on the waterfront. As he plays he looks longingly out across the water. He is playing for the love of his life Antonella, who was lost in the sea between Italy and Sicily during the dark days of the last war: and perhaps in the hope his music will bring her back to him.
I had rented an apartment for the summer in the medieval town of Cefalu on Sicily’s north coast and had met Salvatore on the day that I arrived. Drawn by the music I had followed the sound and found him. As he played his haunting tune he was gazing out to sea with such a look of yearning in his blue eyes that a tear had escaped unbidden from my eyes. And at that instant he had looked up at me and smiled.
(photo courtesy of Abigail Harman Photography - Abigail Harman Photography)
|Apartments in France - photo taken by me in 2005|
|Painting found in an book which belonged to my husband's grandmother.|
The above this is start of a story about my grandmother. Little remains of Biblarin today, the photo is of the railway siding at Bilbarin today.
8 March, 2009
Antoinette smiles at the girl and the smile lights up her face. Every weekend at the markets she stands here before the steaming hot stone pouring, smoothing and flipping to create the crepes that will make their way into the mouths of the gathering crowd: the creperi has a reputation for good food and people are willing wait.
It is a long way from Antoinette’s village in Tuscany and the well scrubbed wooden table in her grandmother’s kitchen and the young girl reminds Antoinette of home. She smiles to herself and softly speaks a few words in Italian.
The Fremantle markets attract hundreds of people every weekend. They come for bargains, fresh fruit and vegetables, a special gift perhaps. It is a vibrant hive of bustling life, colour, sights, sounds, smells and languages. A moving kaleidoscope.
For Antoinette it is the start of a new life far away from her homeland.