V/Line Vignette 1

Golden 1.4.19

Pauline’s husband died on the eve of their 50th wedding anniversary. A heart attack. It was no surprise as he had been one of a dying breed. A smoker  who over the years had to trade the convenience of smoking anywhere he chose for surreptitious drags in the shadows wedged between the looming office tower where he worked and the adjacent apartment block where he kept four walls for late nights at the office, doubling as a faux bachelor pad for the high class hookers he was dependent on. He’d work late into the night, billing clients for time that would never be his again. Pauline had been busy with arrangements for their anniversary party that coming weekend. It was just another of a long list of projects that kept her occupied through the course of their marriage. Their secret for longevity, they’d only half joke to anyone who cared to ask, was that they were both too busy to have any marital discord. This was of course not entirely true. There was discord, but it was spoken of in the hushed tones of their body language, separate beds, and dreams on divergent paths. From the first time they clapped eyes on one another, Frank a fresh graduate, and Pauline one of many typists in the room servicing the bellowing orders and egos of the men at the Firm, alarm bells rang. He’d criticised Pauline’s spelling mistakes, the smudge of ribbon ink that smeared his dictated words, and the thick, un-shapely legs beneath her desk. He was just getting accustomed to the status quo, clocking the hours to be the man the world accepted and expected of him. Their courtship, which really was just a regretable late-night tryst in the office, led to pregnancy and a shot gun wedding, Frank ejaculating quicker than Pauline could vow that it would be a first and a last. The pregnancy and her changing shape, moods and  connection with the growing being inside her that he had no control over (yet) drove him into violent rages. And so it began, or rather, continued – she could do nothing right and had the bruises to confirm this. She was lazy, a shitty cook, and of course those legs only became more engorged with the fluid retention of pregnancy. Before number one was born, Pauline already thought she’d leave Frank once her bump was of school age. That way she could get full time work and everything would be okay. Time flies she’d think, at every milestone that reminded her of her failed plans. Now that bump and the two that followed in quick succession are adults who occasionally face-time, and Frank is dead. After answering the phone call pronouncing Frank’s demise, she didn’t skip a beat and carried on with the list of final touches required for the party the following evening.

 

Vanessa 9.4.19

The train wove slowly through the changing landscape, darkness descending as tired commuters yawned, faces illuminated by dimmed fluorescent tubes overhead and blue screens projecting mood lighting upwards from clasped hands and warm laps. Veronica fought her will to scroll, placing her phone in her bag and focusing instead on the outline of blurred trees and dark sky, switching her gaze occasionally to the reflection in the window beside her of the couple who sat across the aisle, oblivious to being studied while buried in their laptops, the quiet carriage a convenient excuse for their absence of words. Proposals needed writing and job applicants needed screening, get it out of the way, they had both agreed long ago when their commuting lives began, to free up the evening to feed their voracious appetite for whole seasons in one sitting. Of course, Veronica had no idea this was the case, but creating a story for the people she observed muted thoughts that reminded her of what was missing. Looking at her checkered canvas shoes, she recognised the pattern in the lives she imagined, bleak and loveless narratives that blurred and rendered each observed pair of strangers no different from the last, not even the lightness of a homeward, end of work week leg allowed her to see them any differently. She was single and had been for some time, with no frame of reference other than the failed relationships of her past, poor choices that littered her memories of her twenties and thirties. She returned to her phone for the colourful distraction of candy crush, not quiet the same without the dopamine firing sounds, but a temporary reprieve from the same tale she’d tell the next morning.

 

In the spirit of the holiday, I am resurrecting my blog. The ‘V/Line Vignette’ series will be a weekly post with what little or a lot I have written on my commute. These are from two separate weeks earlier this month. I return to work 29th April, so I will post the next V/Line Vignette sometime on the weekend of 4th May (may the force be with me to commit to that)- saying all this is about accountability. I admire people who commit to a long term creative project like a daily illustration, photographing each meal they eat for a year, a weekly vlog etc. Have you committed and followed through on a long term project? I‘d love to hear from you about how you stick to a concept.

Dino-roar Four

Birthday boy with giant dinosaur egg pinata on a nest
Birthday eve

My boy recently marked his fourth whirl around the sun, giving me reason to channel my creative energy into party planning (with barely any energy for this or that). With months of build-up, the anticipation resulted in the full spectrum of almost-four year old behaviour, from the excited-yet-gentle questioning ‘is it my birthday yet?’ to the frustrated, foot-stomping, lego-throwing, angry exclamation that ‘MY BIRTHDAY is NEVER COMING!!!’ Continue reading

Awakening

Close up photo of a highland cow with cloudy sky background by Jacco Rienks used for sonya's three line tales microfiction prompt.
Photo by Jacco Rienks on Unsplash

Every morning—I assumed it was morning, but couldn’t be sure as the only light came from stark fluorescent tubes that were always lit—my horns were clasped and measured with calipers cinched by gloved hands.

‘Growing too slowly…’

The man in the white coat would mutter to himself each time before shuffling away, almost tripping over his too-long trousers, to top up my trough with a bland oily porridge that was served cold and congealed. It was unappetising but I’d eat it all, nothing escaping, not even the irony of all the meals I once snapped and shared with friends as though they’d mattered (the meals that is); the freedoms I’d taken for granted had never been photo worthy. Continue reading

On this Day in 1788…

Image of setting sun in similar style to the Aboriginal Flag, accompanying a piece on Australia Day
Photograph by Oliver Frank

Today was a public holiday here in Australia. 26th January is known to some as Australia Day, to others as Invasion Day. A day of celebration for some, for others, a day of mourning and/or activism- acknowledging the past and present injustices to the indigenous peoples of this country- for others still, simply a welcome time off from work.

Today, I didn’t celebrate, but thoughts of injustices were on my mind. There are gaps in health, mortality, education, social inclusion, services- you name it, there is a gaping hole that divides the original custodians of this land from its other inhabitants. I was not going to write about it, until an email from a friend inspired me to share some words, a quote attributed to Lilla Watson, although she prefers to see it attributed to ‘Aboriginal activist’s group, Queensland, 1970s’.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

I love the quote, as ‘help’ is too often about making the ‘helper’ feel good without an understanding of what is really needed- be it a government initiative, or the voluntary act of an individual. The alternative is acknowledging the other person’s humanity and seeing that we need one another- a good place to start- with a paradigm shift still needed, some 40 odd years after those words were spoken, and 228 years since the arrival of the First Fleet.

 

26/01/2017: This was first published on 26th January 2016. It is still relevant a year on. Prison populations, education, employment and morbidity and mortality rates have not made any forward leaps for positive change. This time around though, I am not merely a saddened spectator but playing a small part in change by participating in a Reconciliation Action Plan working group at my place of work.

26/01/2018: A year on and the sentiments and their cause remain. I am still part of the Reconciliation Action Plan group at work, but now with a more formalised role, representing my business group. I haven’t personally made any tangible steps toward the RAP but I have clarity now in what I can contribute, following a seminar I attended on Aboriginal Water Values in late 2017. It is sometimes overwhelming to see injustice and not know where or how to make a difference- but what better way than in one’s area of expertise and circle of influence? I will focus on ways to ensure that cultural values of water are a factor in water management decisions. Without elaborating on the seminar that I found inspiring and how water is intrinsic to indigenous culture, I will leave you with a trailer for the documentary ‘Ringbalin’ which I saw for the first time at the seminar.

Ringbalin Trailer from Ringbalin on Vimeo.

 

2017 Blog Navel Gaze

Grab your celebratory beverage of choice and join me as I reminisce on most viewed posts; a hilarious search term that landed a confused internet user on my blog; my wild card entry of a post that had a great impact on my creative output for the year; and finally, resolutions for 2018! Continue reading

Debrief: Session One (again)

Prairie dog (ground hog) used to illustrate a post on repeating a component of a third draft novel writing course.

Includes a free snazzy writing feedback template!

In case you were wondering what happened to my promise of monthly updates with a post covering each session of my writing course, here is quick summary of events that will make it clear why this post is called Debrief: Session One (again). I experienced issues with my tutor and a little *drama with the course admin that I won’t go into here, although details have been filed away in my story ingredient pantry, on a shelf marked ‘stranger than fiction’. I continued to write in the midst of it all, editing my session one submission as best I could in lieu of a conversation with my initial tutor. The writing school responded to my complaints, assigning me a new tutor and the opportunity to start fresh from the beginning of session one. I resubmitted my revised work which included 600+ words of the opening chapter.

Although in this post I am capturing what happened with a revisit of session one, in real time I am at the start of session three. Continue reading

Food for Thought

I was surprised to read a story in The Guardian this morning about legislation that has been passed in France, making it illegal for supermarkets to dispose of, or purposely spoil, surplus or out of date food. The forced act of goodwill will see supermarkets signing contracts with charities to distribute the otherwise wasted food. I think this is a great idea but a sad indictment of human nature and corporations that it has to be passed as law. The story reminded me of a poem I wrote inspired by Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners, as well as my experiences while working at a Franprix (supermarket chain) in Paris some years ago (maybe another blog post with that story). Finishing my night shift at the supermarket, it wasn’t unusual to see people who didn’t fit the stereotype of needy or homeless rummaging through bins which overflowed with dairy produce that had passed a day or two over their best before warning, bread that had gone crusty, tomatoes that were ripe to the point of almost bursting and bananas that save for the dark brown patches, would have otherwise been edible. Well, I guess even the dark brown patches are edible when you are hungry. Anyway, I was glad to see the story and thought I’d also mention a great documentary I watched some years back on the very topic – The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda (first four minutes below). I loved the interesting characters Varda revealed and the de-stigmatisation of surviving on what most of society deems as trash, while also highlighting the glut of food produced and wasted while so many people go hungry.

 

First published 23 May 2015.