Tag Archives: stories

Christmas: remembering fascinating family characters

Christmas is a time to remember the past and to dream for the future.

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Tinsel is hung, solar lights flicker and laser lights dance on the water. Christmas has come to the Tidal Canals and we are celebrating another year of sun, sand, great neighbours and good cheer.

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Today we drove past our old house in Edithvale and delighted in the changes that have taken place over the years. Opposite was Ma and Pop Whitting’s home and I couldn’t help smiling at my memories of Pop.

My dad was an engineer and pedantic about everything being correctly measured and assembled with care and attention to the finest detail. Pop Whitting used to drive him mad. Pop was a cockney lad  from England and near enough was good enough. I remember the day he decided that the refrigerator in the kitchen was taking up too much room so he grabbed a saw, and cut up the left side of the wall beside the refrigerator, across the top and down the other side. He then shoved the refrigerator back level with the kitchen wall. Brooms, pans and a mop went flying out of the broom cupboard in the laundry behind the refrigerator.

‘Where will I put my brooms?’ Ma cried.     ‘You’ll find somewhere,’ Pop replied. ‘At least you now have more room in the kitchen.’ I’ll never know how he managed to miss cutting the electrical wires inside the broom cupboard . Sheer good luck, I guess. To cover the jagged edges of the sawn kitchen plaster he simply tacked a wooden strapping edge around the fridge  and painted it the same colour as the walls. I’d love to go into the house one day just to see if the refrigerator is still recessed into the laundry cupboard.

Pop was an original, a one off character who lived off his wits. When he was eighty he decided one afternoon to climb a ladder and paint the guttering. No preparation, just slap on as much paint as possible to cover any dirt. He happily painted a section of the gutter before deciding it was time for a cup of tea. Balancing the nearly full open paint tin on top of the ladder he proceeded to climb down. On reaching the bottom rung he looked up in time to see the tin of paint spill all over him. Thank goodness he was wearing glasses because it covered him from his bald head to the tops of his shoes. Instead of standing still, he yelled ‘Ma’ and proceeded to slosh down the side way, around the back of the house and into the kitchen leaving a trail of white paint behind him. It was left to Ma to clean up and the rest of the guttering was never painted.

My dad, on hearing the news shook his head and said, ‘You mean he didn’t even sandpaper the guttering before he started?’

Family characters. How they fill our memories and our hearts with love. 

Australian Christmas

Gloria MacKay: Throwing Sticks and Skipping Stones

Gloria MacKay, (born in the USA)

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This is one of those books that entices you to leave dishes in the sink and the floor unswept until you finish the last story. At least that was what I wanted to do, but as always, the phone rang, emails needed to be answered and problems solved. However, no matter how much life disrupts your precious reading time you will thoroughly enjoy this book. For me, knowing the author makes the experience even more delicious.

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Throwing Sticks and Skipping Stones contains bite sized true life story excerpts, life lessons, thoughts and rants on every subject possible. this is a  well-written book I was able to delve into one satisfying, thought-provoking story at a time.

For instance, on Monday, before heading off to a Dr’s appointment, I read High Tides and enjoyed the references to the sayings of Mark Twain.  In the waiting room it was Taking Care of Your Edges. After lunch with friends, Running Fast Through Fields of Yellow Tulips. That night in bed, glasses balanced on my nose, Hocus Pocus. My dreams were filled with marvellous magical imaginings.

Tami Brady comments : Some of these topics make you laugh until your sides hurt. Other stories remind the reader to take advantage of the important things in life. All of these stories are entertaining.

I found on reading these stories that I completely relaxed and the busyness and worries of the day melted away.

About Gloria

She  was born in Seattle. Gloria strays, occasionally, farther than she can throw a stick or skip a stone, but always finds her way home. She like writing stories about the pacific northwest of the USA: the beaches, forests, people and mountains. For ten years she read the stories she wrote on KPLU News-for Seattle and the Northwest. The radio station encouraged her to read what she writes: about women and children and men and fog and death and taxes. Collectively, non-selectively, is the presence of her four sons, four grandchildren, and their families and friends who cement time and distance together. Gloria’s writing appears in various anthologies including Forget Me Nots from the Front Porch (Obadiah Press) and Don’t Sweat Stories: Inspirational Anecdotes from Those Who’ve learned How Not to Sweat It (Hyperion).

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Chalk Dustings, a fascinating collection of Gloria’s poetry and prose, is published by Aquillrelle.

In 2001 the Fifty-Plus News  publicised a short-story competition. I joined nine other winners at a celebratory gathering in Melbourne. There I met one of the judges, a kind be-whiskered man, Alan Wheatley who encouraged me to write for his Australian literary ezine. I submitted to Bonzer and Bonzer Plus for years and enjoyed belonging to this international online writing community.

Gloria heard about Bonzer in 1994 from Helen Polaski, the editor of The Rocking Chair Reader, an anthology that was publishing one of Gloria’s stories. She became an integral part of both Bonzer and Bonzer Plus when she was appointed editor.

At a Bonzer conference in Adelaide I was thrilled to finally meet Gloria. We discovered we shared an overwhelming passion for writing from the heart and soul and revelled in discussions about our current writing projects. We kept in touch on and off via Bonzer. When Alan Wheatley died, so did Bonzer and I lost touch with my Bonzer friends.

Recently I posted Writing from Mourning here at wordpress , and who should send me a comment, but Gloria. We live on opposite sides of the globe but we now use the magic of the internet to talk about writing. It seems strange when I tell her about Melbourne’s frost encrusted mornings while she swelters during ‘the warmest, driest, burning, sunnyist month of her existence.’

Recently a parcel turned up at my door containing several books and I couldn’t wait to read the funny, pithy anecdotes of life in America. I’m sure many followers will relate to her poem from Chalk Dustings, Reader’s Lament.

Words await me

out there in the dark,

on the table by the couch

next to my glasses.

My new skinny navy blue wires

and those oversized gold ones for older readers,

bifocals precisely incised. I can read with either.

 

In the morning I always find them together

where the books are

as though there’s been a party

and I wasn’t invited.

I don’t like to turn off the lights

and go to bed, leaving unseen words behind

like children I have met

or chocolates in a box,

 

but even readers need sleep.

So there I lie twitching legs

and sweaty head not meant to dent a pillow

reusing worn out dreams

like threadbare jeans

while down the hallway pages wave

as words creep out in conga lines

slithering through the night.

 Last night I took both books to the Mordialloc Writer’s Group meeting run by Mairi Neil. Everyone wants to read them and took details on where and how they can be purchased. I know they will enjoy the books as much as I have. However, next Monday I will lend them to my cousin who has just moved into residential care and wrings her hands when she says, ‘I have nothing to read.’

Reviews for Throwing Sticks and Skipping Stones

By John Paul Newbury

  • Who can forget the smells and sounds of childhood? Well Gloria sure doesn’t forget. They are as clear to her today as they were when they began. Events, ordinary and not so, stay fresh in her mind ready for the day of release into white. Her well is so deep, the vault so huge that Gloria will go on writing anew well beyond the time many lay down their pens. Chalk Dustings contains unpretentious words, not so iambic, some rhyme many don’t, they flow, river-like, straight into her beloved Puget Sound. Don’t know where that is? Well you will have to read Heather’s review of Gloria’s other 2012 offering. Gloria presents poems and verse; some might say short stories though these extensions span rhythmic and melodic lines. The words have meaning, natural nodes, marching in tune to music you start to hear, reminding me of the Nietzsche quote: ‘And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music’. Gloria hears the music.
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  • By Mary Trimble
    CHALK DUSTINGS by Gloria MacKay is a rare slice of homespun philosophy. MacKay’s unique view of life, evident on every page of poignant poetry and insightful prose, is sometimes charming, sometimes witty. Her wisdom gives you something to think about while recognizing life as a mixed bowl of beans. MacKay’s poetry, laced with wisdom and observations, is rich with truisms. She shares with us heart-warming wisdom that only someone who has really lived can do. Scattered throughout the book, short prose defines life according to Gloria MacKay. She manages to impart amusing yet milestone moments that have defined the person she is. One of my favorites is the last, “Salt Is More Than a Seasoning,”in which she shares her love for Puget Sound. The piece gives life to a body of water that many would take for granted.
  • CHALK DUSTINGS is a book you’ll put in a special place, the kind of book you’d be proud to give to someone special in your life.

ANZAC Day 2015: The Solitary Soldier

One hundred years of memories.

Recently I was approached by a 97 year old friend, Margaret who wanted me to help her collate extracts of letters, photos and artefacts from WW1 for a book for her family. I thought she may have a couple of letters etc. When she arrived with a bag filled to the brim with faded letters, diaries, photos, cartoons and coins I realized she had an invaluable record of what life was like for the everyday Australian foot soldier during World War One.

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Margaret managed to print several copies of letter extracts and memorabilia at Officeworks to give to the family on the 100th Anniversary of the ANZAC landing. It was a labour of love.

Writers are always trying to see things from another’s perspective and as I read the letters, some written in pencil, others in fading ink that Margaret’s father sent to his mother I found myself asking the questions that nag all writers: How, When, Where and Why? But the biggest question of all was,  ‘What if … What if Margaret’s father had not returned, like so many other men… How would Margaret’s mother (a young fiancée at the time) have felt after losing him.’  How did all those women, forever bonded by the loss of a loved one in a universal sisterhood  feel year after year? The result was the following story.

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MY SOLDIER

 ANZAC day. The last post has long sounded. The plaintive call lingered in the early morning mist and slowly died as the first flush of dawn lightened the sky. The speeches are over, marchers gone. I bend to touch the delicate blossoms placed at the base of the tall granite column. Blossoms that will soon fade and die. Red roses, bright camellias and a handpicked bunch of hardy daisies that will outlive the others by a mile. How many years have I come to this spot? Too many to remember. Beauty Spot, it is called. An integral part of Carrum, right on the mouth of the Patterson River. A place where mothers bring their toddlers to play and fishermen sit on the low stonewall dreaming of the catch of a lifetime. There is the fresh clean smell of salt and spray: a fitting place to close the eyes and dream of what might have been, to remember the handsome face, coiled puttees, kaki clad faded figure in the ornate frame over the fireplace.

The diamond you slipped on my finger that wintry night in June flashed promise and hope. The dream of manly boots next to my fluffy slippers. A line full of nappies and a cradle to rock. The joy of a family to cook for, a family to love.

That last night we danced and clung to each other before we hurried home to the rented two-roomed flat. The next morning the gate squeaked and I wept into my pillow.

I quietly read the words forever-inscribed in stone. To the imperishable memory of the soldiers of this district that gave their lives… Simple heartfelt words from a grateful community. I am always surprised at his simplicity. This is not an ostentatious crowded statue with flags flying and rifles raised in anger.

Here is one solitary soldier standing upright and alone, hand gripping his rifle barrel, the butt resting on the ground. At ease, but ready and waiting for…, what?

I have never known war, but when I gaze at him I can smell the acrid smoke, hear the whistle of shells and the cries as mates fall. I have lived my life under sunny skies and yet I can identify with his quiet sadness, his overwhelming sense of loss. The telegram read, ‘We regret to inform you that corporal T K Wells VX1068 of the AIF Infantry…’ I thought of planting a tree. At least then there would be something living and growing.

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Recently I drove in heated comfort past an Avenue of Honour where row upon military row of silent trees flashed past in the kaki haze of a misty morning. Tall old trees, some over fifty years, planted when young soldiers fell. They no longer stood at the edge of endless paddocks. Ballarat was running out to embrace them, to include them into the teeming life of what is now a city. There were so many trees. Each one a son, daughter or husband and I saw the ghosts of their kin stretching back as far as the horizon. Like a stone in a pond, so may lives caught up, like mine, in the far-reaching circles of the wars to end all wars.

I was shell-shocked for months until it finally seeped into my unwilling brain that you would never again be by my side, your arm around my waist as you kissed everything better. But life goes on and I have known love. Not your love but the worn tartan slippers beside mine in front of the dying fire are comfortable.

I shiver as I gaze up at the long list of names etched into cold stone and run trembling fingers over the rough rock. So many did not survive to witness this new millennium, to drink in the beauty of spring blossoms, or to come here year after year. I gaze up at his strong young face and wonder what he would think of my knotted veined hand pressed against my heart. Time shall not weary them…

The glow in the west bathes him in gold as I sit and dream. And there’s talk about moving him. Some people want a car park, others, townhouses with sweeping bay views. Cart him away to some easily forgotten spot? Over my dead body. I’ll not let them take my soldier. Not this time.

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