Chicks, cafes and other important trivia…

Linking up today with Essentially Jess and IBOT.

Poppet with Lacey.

Poppet with Lacey.


We bought chicks this week. It’s been eighteen months since ‘the massacre’, when we lost all seven of our hens to a fox attack in suburban Sydney. I don’t blame the fox – it was Spring, prime breeding time and no doubt it was a hungry vixen with a den of cubs waiting for a tasty chicken breakfast. But I won’t deny it was traumatising to go into the chook pen in the morning and face an eerie silence and corpses strewn around, bloodied and headless. We lost more than egg-laying birds, we lost pets – hand-reared, all with names and individual personalities. We couldn’t replace them immediately and when we did – six weeks later after a massive fox-proofing operation – it was with generic Isa Browns from an intensive chicken farm, still laying but in bad shape – debeaked, scrawny, missing chunks of feathers. They’d spent their short lives standing on wire in a small cage and when we first put them into the pen, they stood motionless for an hour, shocked to feel earth beneath their claws. They’d never walked about on soil before, never dug for worms. Very slowly they began to scratch (important piece of chook trivia: hens live to scratch). Those five generic ex-battery hens had entered Chez Chooky Heaven. They are now fat and fluffy…wish I’d taken before and after pics – you’d be very impressed. :)

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When you cheat on your local cafe…

Have your ever offended your local cafe owners? Bizarre as this sounds, it’s precisely what I did. We have eight cafes in our suburb, three of which make decent coffee, so naturally we only visit these three. But I’d been lax, I’d neglected one cafe. I didn’t give it a moment’s thought when I picked up a takeaway over the Easter break but I was met with a distinctly frosty reception. No smile or How are you? and a muttered, What coffee was it again? (been drinking skim lattes there for years). I found myself gushing and grinning in a fawning, demented way as I recalled that Wait, I haven’t been to this cafe for ages! I’d been unfaithful, I’d cheated…in short, I am a cafe whore. Guilt washed over me as I acknowledged how thoughtless and cruel I’d been in going to my other two lovers baristas for at least three weeks, behind their back. The cool demeanour was payback. 

cafe pic

Note to self: Cafe proprietors have feelings – very delicate sensibilities, in fact. Don’t spread yourself around too thinly. Do not be promiscuous in your coffee/tea drinking. Or if you do two-time or three-time, do it with more panache than I.

Are you or have you ever been, a cafe whore? Or are you loyal and faithful, eschewing beverage infidelity?

Monument. A little tribute to Daisy.

Linking up today with FYBF and With Some Grace. Happy Easter!

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Monument:

  1. A statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event.
  2. A statue or other structure placed over a grave in memory of the dead.
  3. A building, structure, or site that is of historical importance or interest.
  4. An enduring and memorable example of something.

Despite the various definitions, the word “monument” makes us think of lofty statues and grand architecture. This little monument is something quite different. No crowds flock to admire its gravitas or muse on its symbolism and place in history. This monument – placed recently – engenders raw feelings about a tiny dog that passed in and out of our lives, so quietly and magically. It’s a tribute to Daisy:

IMG_0243If you look closely at the tile in the centre of Daisy’s garden, you’ll see a daisy etched into the stone.

Linking up today with Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument. Do you have a favourite monument? Is it grand or modest?

 

I still have my marbles…

Jack Nicholson’s face encapsulates my attitude to blogging lately:

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

 

Recently, I only seem to be able to write with prompts. This is bad because it shows an unimaginative and lazy character, and good because there are prompts to lure me from my slothfulness. So hopping on late to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s flash fiction prompt “they ate grapes together in the fog of afternoon”…

I Still Have My Marbles

With a deft motion, Arthur slipped the small beige pill into his jacket pocket while the nurse poured his cocoa. What was her name? A person couldn’t keep track of the staff nowadays…always changing, barely any time to stop for a chat. So busy.

“Don’t forget to take your pill, Arthur.” He nodded a bit too vigorously, to hide his guilt. My legs might be gone but not my marbles. They’re all I have left.

He sipped the bile-coloured liquid – lukewarm and too sweet. He’d complained once, politely requesting more chocolate, less sugar, but the nurse – one of the new ones – made tsk-tsk noises and spoke to him as though he were a wayward schoolboy. Arthur, it all comes out of the same pot, you silly thing. We don’t have the time to go making special drinks for everyone. We’re not baristas, Arthur! She’d laughed as though her comment were witty, when all it did was make him feel small, troublesome. He understood now that the senior citizens were all a generic bunch at the facility, individuality and preferences were left at the gate.

Arthur thought of Marianne’s cocoa, rich and dark like Marianne herself. It wasn’t too much trouble for Marianne to make him a separate cup, once she’d noticed he wasn’t drinking his communal cocoa. It’s no trouble, Mr Mackenzie, I like it this way myself, she’d said, her singsong voice making him think of wind-chimes.

Arthur tried not to be offended that she hadn’t said goodbye. So busy, everyone is so busy these days. But if the truth were known, he was a bit hurt. He’d grown attached to Marianne, to their little conversations punctuating his day. He’d learnt all about her family, the few that made it to Australia, the rest still in the Sudan. He’d even contemplated making her a gift, just a small sum to help ease her life here…perhaps pay for music lessons for her little girl. But that would have meant running it by Steven and Arthur felt Steven wouldn’t have approved.

He was due for a visit from Steven, who confined his appearance to special occasions – birthdays, Christmases, Father’s Days and perhaps at Easter, if they weren’t going away. Belinda rarely came. Too busy with the children. How many are there now – two or is there a third?

Arthur gazed at the photo of Millie and him beside his bed, their smooth faces sublime under the purple mountains, grazed with afternoon sun. Why do they call it the Blue Mountains when they’re purple?

Arthur’s thoughts meandered. You’re batting for the Ashes with Millie, Arty, not the local club, said his mate Bill, who applied cricket metaphors to every contingency. But Millicent O’Grady had accepted him on that foggy afternoon. There was a bit of a mix up as he fumbled with the camera in one hand, the ring in another, down on one knee. Please get up Art, I don’t like my chin from that angle! Millie had thought at first he was taking a photo, before he’d begun his stilted proposal – suddenly inarticulate, shy. They’d laughed and laughed about it later, as they ate grapes together under the fog of afternoon.

As fortune had it, there was a photograph. A lone bush-walker happened by and seeing their bliss, captured the moment forever.

Ten o’clock was the lights-out curfew but all the residents – they called them that instead of patients as it sounded more respectful – dozed off earlier. It was the pills, and the boredom. Arthur was lucky having his own room, where he could read or watch television whenever he liked. Steven had organised it at great expense (and frequently reminded him of the fact). Arthur had resisted the urge to tell him that it was his money, after all. Increasingly, he was glad he hadn’t signed that document Steven waved before him at regular intervals: Power of Attorney.

Arthur refused to wear his pyjamas until the very last minute. It was a rule of his – one of the few he had left – a kind of last bastion of independence. And tonight he was especially glad he’d hung onto that rule.

A faint knock at his door, a mark of civility not often afforded, and a woman quickly crossed the room.

“Hello Mr Mackenzie…Arthur, I hope it’s not too late to pay you a visit…my new hours are so long.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “That new nurse was very disapproving.”

“Marianne!” Arthur couldn’t manage any more words, just a grin that bisected his face and sparked his eyes.

 

Do you have trouble thinking of blog topics? What inspires you?

Linking up today With Some Grace and FYBF

Walking on leaves, rustling…

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

For the second time I’m joining in with Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction, writing prompt.

Walking on dry leaves, she veered away a little and the rustling deepened, as though a new stridence had entered her step. But it wasn’t enough to drown the whispers, the sporadic peels of laughter. There was no joy in the squeals, only malice and a quite deliberate intent to wound.

Samantha quickened her pace, separating herself from her friends, though to deem them friends was to attribute a virtue to the epithet that reality lacked.

“Sammy, you’re out of bounds, you’ll get sprung!” cried Georgina. “Come back, you don’t want a detention, Sammy!” Feigned concern at her welfare abounded in Georgina’s tone but Samantha recognised it for what it was. They knew she hated Sammy, that she only liked to be called Sam. Sammy set off a train of memories she wanted to forget.

Ignoring them, she continued wending her way down towards the large piece of land that dipped into a kind of field, adjacent to the sports oval. Trees lined the path, old trees, and Samantha gazed up, allowing the shards of sunlight through the thick leafless branches to warm her face.

*****

Her mother had taken on an extra job to pay the fees at St. Clare’s Senior College, making it a total of three jobs. She barely saw her mother now. She was either cleaning houses a few suburbs away, at the office in the car-yard or in the seedy bar, where she was the perfect employee because she was cheap – a cash-in-hand, no-questions-asked member of staff.

Her mother announced the school switch, presenting it as a fait accompli. “It’ll be good for you…get you away from that nasty crowd, now that Bianca’s gone.”

“I can cope. I’m not going to a new school. Again. It’s not the school, Mum, it’s me.” Her voice had a steely quietness, belying her certainty that her mother had already won the fight.

Ignoring her daughter, she continued, “I want you to focus on your school work…the academic standard is much higher at St. Clare’s. And I want you to do well in your final year Sam, unlike me…” She trailed off.

There were some further arguments but her mother had already paid the fees and starting mid-term, almost inviting stress and misery,  Samantha walked through the school gates. The elegant tunic had a matching blazer, which in spite of her misgivings she rather liked, but the hat made her feel slightly ridiculous.

*****

“Sa-man-tha!” shouted Elissa, “Mr Sante is coming now…you’re in major trouble. So don’t blame us!”

The girl’s voice suddenly changed, becoming a sychophantic whine as she directed her attention to a tall athletic man, wearing John Lennon glasses.

“We tried, Sir.”

“Back to the in-bounds area, girls. Seniors have a few privileges but you’re pushing it.”

“Sammy wouldn’t listen,” simpered Georgina, with a hint of the coquette.

Samantha’s feet were weighted to a spot on the path. She wasn’t scared of detentions. In fact, few things frightened her.

“Samantha…or do you prefer Sammy?”

“I hate Sammy.” She couldn’t keep the petulance from her voice.

“Well, Sam then…” He smiled, cool and business-like, “I have a proposition for you. Our debating team is short one member and we have a comp at the end of…”

“I haven’t been on a debating team before,” Samantha cut him off.

“It’s settled then. I think you’ll like the topic: “School days are the best years of our lives.” He smirked a little but there was no meanness in the grin, more an ironic arching of an eyebrow under the small round spectacles and a tilting at the corners of his mouth. “We’re the affirmative.”

“Affirmative..? It’s not possible then.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s a jungle – we all know this – but I think you’ll be up for the challenge. I marked your essay from last week’s exam…I’m confident you’ll rustle up some strong arguments. We meet most lunch times – Room 43. You can bring your lunch,” he added, as though the matter were settled.

As they walked back up the leafy path towards the quadrangle, Samantha was already thinking of things to say, constructing sentences about the quality of friendships forged in the classroom and playground; respect and kindnesses initiated and lasting; life lessons and challenges. Perhaps she might fudge it.

“They’re up there now, if you want to join them. We still have some time left…nice group of girls.”

Samantha nodded, not noticing the expressions on the faces of her friends, Georgina and Elissa. The spite remained but some of their triumph had dissipated.

A bit random…

It’s Autumn here in Sydney (some call it Fall) but nothing is falling or fading just yet. This pot catches the afternoon sun, insisting it’s still high summer…for a few more weeks.

BLOG POT

Spilling over from my last post…

“With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?” Oscar Wilde.

What would you add to Wilde’s list?

A friend sent me this from Pinterest. :)

funny dog pic

I hope your pets avoid this kind of thing…

Linking up today with Wordless Wednesday.

What makes you happy?

                     

A few weeks ago I took some photos of flowers for a Weekly Photo Challenge or was it Wordless Wednesday? (I can never do WW – I waffle too much). Anyway, I got busy and didn’t post them. Then on the weekend I was reading an article about the eternal human quest for happiness and contentment, Happiness is a but a series of good-hair moments. What I found clever about this piece was that it broke this whole human endeavour into, quite simply, “moments of joy”.

Sometimes you can forget to smile when times are stressful or sad. I’m not talking about pleasure – obviously sex and food and alcohol philanthropic works and cuddling small children and animals help here. I’m referring to instant, fleeting happiness – a moment of joy.

What makes you smile? Corny and cliched as it sounds, flowers do it for me…I’m a bit obsessed with them. 

I like dandelion because they begin as tiny, insignificant, yellow flowers then morph phoenix-like into fluffy pom-poms that beckon you to bend and pick one, blowing gently as you make your wish.

A dandelion by any other name would be as humble.

Flowers are important  things. And liking them isn’t confined to the female gender either. William S thought the rose was so special he wrote the words: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” while Juliet anguished over the feuding Montagues and Capulets, deciding that a name was nothing after all…that even with a different name, Romeo would still be the same Romeo. (It works in theory William, but somehow I don’t think a rose would smell as sweet if it were called cabbage or cumquat).

Do flowers make you smile? Perhaps one that springs from a boring bulb every year – a jonquil or freesia? Or a daffodil – it has no perfume yet Wordsworth (another William) wrote an entire poem devoted to its beauty.

Handwritten manuscript of 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' - 1802.

Handwritten manuscript of ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ – 1802.

It’s hard to fault the flawless grace of Holland’s tulip.

IMG_0374Our Australian floral emblem must rate a mention – it has a day named after it. These canary yellow bunches make you sneeze but in their hundreds of variations, they bejewell their drab hosts all over the countryside in September. 

IMG_0295Then there’s gerbera, it’s suffered from bad press, mocked for being too mundane, yet there’s something very dependable about these plastic looking flowers (plus they’re cheap – $6 a bunch from my green grocer) :)

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I can’t ramble about flowers without alluding to Dame Edna Everidge. This grande dame wrecked the perfectly respectable gladioli by wearing scary glasses on stage and waving bunches of them around her head (but seriously, the gladioli never was an elegant flower).

Dame Edna

Finishing with Oscar Wilde, who had witty and wise words to say on most subjects:

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” .Oscar Wilde

Sadly Wilde didn’t have freedom (though some might say nothing can shackle the imagination).

Do flowers make you smile? What would your floral choice be if you could have a basket delivered to your door right now? It is difficult to narrow down a favourite, if pressed I’d find it hard to name any one flower…

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Linking up today with Essentially Jess and IBOT. 

Flash Fiction: As she fell…

 


cinnamon buns

Linking up this week to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction prompt. The prompt: And as she fell, she remembered the tea cakes with their cinnamon clouds.

And as she fell, she remembered the tea cakes with their cinnamon clouds, shooting out of her hand, plunging down the escalator behind her, spraying a sweet fragrant film over the stunned commuters below. And when her head hit the sharp metal, a white light exploded and for a second there was no pain.

She watched the sunlight weaving a mosaic high on the wall. Her tongue felt thick but she could still taste the sugary icing where she’d nibbled the corner of a bun. Morning sunlight, yet it was evening. She closed her eyes once more then remembering, sprang up as her head ricocheted and a dull throb made her cease all movement. Gingerly, she touched the lump on the side of her brow. She glanced around the room – a pretty room with floral wallpaper and matching curtains, but nonetheless a strange one. For the first time, a sliver of fear swelled in her breast.

The door opened. “Good morning, I hope you’ve slept well?” A youngish, bland- featured man held a tray before him on which stood a tea pot, cup and buttered toast. He was tall and slim, yet solid.

Agog, she stared, instinctively wrapping her arms around her chest and hunching a little, as though to ward off something, she didn’t know what.

“Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?” The staccato questions were rude but she didn’t care. She swung her legs out from the covers and onto the floor, suddenly aware that she wore only her underwear.

“You suffered a nasty shock. I wouldn’t get up if I were you.” He averted his eyes. “Rest. That’s what’s needed. There is no concussion.”

Gwendolyn continued to look at him, the surrealness of the situation, of their conversation weighting her body like a drug. His pleasant features curved into a smile and she thought absently that he had a nice face. In another context he might be handsome, though jowly and likely to turn pudgy in middle age.

“Where are my clothes…and my phone, I need my phone?” Her memory crashed through the haze and she recalled the rush to jump onto the escalator, the brushing past her of someone – a careless commuter who bumped her, toppled her and propelled her against the cold sharp metal. “My bag? Where is my bag?”

The memory was clear. She was on her way to Suzi’s, running late but determined to go anyway. She’d bought cinnamon buns especially, to complement the new coffee machine. Suzi had been effusive. I’ll make your fav…what is it again, soy caffe macchiato or some such wank? My amazing machine does it all! Her wide grin had diffused the exasperation as she looked indulgently at her fussy precious friend. Her fad-crazed, allergy-prone bestie.

“Luckily I was there to catch you!” He smiled with cheery good-nature and as she stared at his straight white teeth, his vacant blue eyes, she turned cold.

“Where…please…is my stuff?” Fear bloomed in her stomach and a wheedling, whining note crept into her voice. She wrapped the sheet tightly around her body and upper thighs, eyes wildly scanning the room. She bent and peeped under the bed.

“Sit down and have some tea, you’ll feel much better.” He poured the tea primly, like a maiden aunt. “And toast. You need nourishment.” He smiled condescendingly, head tilted slightly to the side as one would to a wayward school girl.

Fear gave way to anger and she ran to the door, yanking it. “Where the fuck is my stuff?” She noticed for the first time the padlock. The deadlock. She leapt to the window but it too was bolted and bars lined the pane like straight soldiers standing to attention.

“There’s no need for vulgarity, Gwendolyn. Manners are always paramount, as my dear old mother used to say.”

Her scream split the air and when she stopped his smile had gone. A deep frown creased his seamless face.

“They can’t hear you.” He said softly, lifting his leg swiftly and knocking the wall with the bottom of his shoe. Gwendolyn heard the soft dull thud of metal break the silence. A sharp memory shot into her head, crystallising: someone pushing her – a man, a large man – as she stepped onto the escalator.

“It was you!” She continued to scream as he walked slowly across the room towards her, his eyes perfectly still, perfectly mad.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure (not trash).

When I saw the title of this week’s photo challenge and began thinking about treasure, the old adage “Someone’s trash is another’s treasure” sprang to mind. The concept of treasure is an individual one. It’s a different thing for everyone…it’s what’s precious to you. Gold figures largely in our historical view of treasure. The Three Wise Men brought treasure in the form of gold, Frankenstein frankincense and mirth myrrh. A gold ring was Gollum’s treasure, whereas pirates preferred a chest dripping with golden jewels. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…a mere temptation of treasure, an illusion. Robert Frost spoke of gold’s elusive power in “Nothing gold can stay.”

Looking at the wonderful diverse photos of treasures this week, it occurs to me that treasure isn’t remotely connected to its monetary value. On the contrary, a treasure seems to be a token – a symbol of a thought or experience, a feeling…a memento in a run-of-the-mill day or week, year. It’s something – often materially small and insignificant – that we put away in a safe place, to look at from time to time. To keep till we’re old and grey.

With this in mind, this is my treasure, my gold – newly acquired, already precious: IMG_0640 This was a gift from Poppet on Valentine’s Day. As the cover suggests, it’s a booklet of coupons, each promising a treat (breakfast in bed, foot massage etc). One coupon stands out because I know this will cost Poppet a lot of effort. She’s not a big reader, especially of the classics…or anything older than five years (and she has the misfortune to have an English teacher for a mother). :) IMG_0644 I was a bit mean to Poppet recently. I told her my Year 10 class had requested to read ‘Pride and Prejudice’; I sang their praises – even tweeted about it!

https://twitter.com/Lee_AnneWalker/status/433099617954058240

She must have been listening…

What is your treasure? Is it an old letter, a diary…a trinket from an ex-lover, a photo, an heirloom. Maybe it’s a shell that triggers a memory of summers past, or a book from childhood. I’d love to hear about it.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure.

Blocked, defriended, unfollowed…

Flippancy is my middle name so I’ll begin with a photo my son sent me:

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This funny pic got me thinking about blocking and being blocked. I thought about a recent experience on Twitter, where someone I follow – a strong, intelligent, articulate woman who happens to be a feminist – was being trolled. She blocked the perpetrator but others – anonymous or using fake gravatars – popped up and joined in the trashing of this woman…not just her views, but her appearance, her sexuality. This led me to think about rudeness, ugly rudeness. My grandmother used to say: “Manners cost nothing” and called people “ill-mannered” but that phrase doesn’t really cover the viciousness of an online troll. A troll used to be a hairy monster who lived under the billy-goats’ bridge. Now it’s a not-so-hairy monster who lives on the internet…

Image from: oakthorpesc. files

Image from:
oakthorpesc. files

This woman’s trolling reminded me of when Poppet was bullied in Year 9. She was fourteen and had just dumped (her first) boyfriend. It was amicable, they were still friends, yet this didn’t stop some of his friends from posting revolting things on Facebook. There were anonymous bullies on Formspring (a site active two years ago), but somehow the Facebook ones were worse because they had names and therefore profiles…faces. They were real. Poppet didn’t tell me about this bullying at first. Like many teenagers, she internalised it, blamed herself. After all, she’d dumped a very popular boy, a boy with loyal, vocal friends. I can’t repeat what was said – it’s too graphic to type here, but think of one of the worse things you could say to a young girl, think sexual, and you’ll be close to the truth.

I found out accidentally, glancing over her shoulder one day, eyes zeroing in on her screen, so appalled I wanted to seek out this boy and tell him off; ring the school; ring the police; ring his mother.

But world weary Poppet, just fourteen and already apprised of the online world and its dark corners, said: “Don’t! It will get worse.”

“What’s worse than that?” I shrieked.

She blocked him – this ill-mannered but quite normal boy. Interestingly, he’s apologised to Poppet recently. Two years older, now at the same school and lately acquiring some manners, he told her he was sorry that he “…said some stuff. I was a total d**k.”

But I’m not sure if an apology, even a sincere one, can really appease the victim (or her mother). An apology shows character – not many people can apologise, least of all a teenage boy – but an apology can’t negate the immediate and ongoing effect of those brutal words on a fourteen year old girl (and her mother).

Before this post becomes not nearly flippant enough too grim,  I’ll mention my own experience on Facebook. I freely admit I’m eccentric weird with social media. I pick and choose. I don’t have Facebook – nothing against it, I just find I must limit social media, as it is a heady drug that keeps me from the offline world, the real world. But I did once have a Facebook account, which I opened on the advice of EVERYONE. And in the three hours my account was alive, I’d acquired quite a few ‘friends’. People popped out of the woodwork from all over the place and my head spun with giddiness. I was so popular! But I was suddenly privy to an array of family snaps from people I barely knew; news and status updates from relative strangers filled my feed. This I could deal with, but then suddenly I gazed with stunned horror at my own face – tagged in a photo that week when out to lunch – grinning with Cheshire Cat brilliance (that photo would not have survived my delete button!)

Traumatised reflecting quietly on my new public life, I closed said account and spent the next twenty four hours fielding offended ex-friends and contacts, apologising profusely to them. They’d all thought I’d blocked and defriended them…as if? A sense of the ridiculous is mandatory with social media, I feel. :)

According to my in-house online expert, Poppet, Facebook is practically obsolete, at least for teenagers: People only use it for invites and arrangements now, no one posts statuses anymore… *insert eye-roll*…it’s all Instagram and Snapchat! 

The online world is a diverting place. Poppet sent me this:

Image credit: Redditpics.

Image credit: Redditpics.

What are your own experiences with being blocked, defriended or unfollowed? Or is your world full of ‘sweetness and light’? :)

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.