CUWAM- Notre Dame de Paris

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 26  Look at the photo at the top of this post. What does it inspire in you? Set your timer for 5 minutes. With the photo in mind, write the first words that come into your head until the buzzer rings. If you aren’t a visual person, you could try lighting a few candles and writing by candlelight. Different sensory experiences can be useful for inspiring creative writing so please play around to make the prompt suit your writing needs. If you do try writing by candlelight, let us know. I’d love to know how it works for you!

Evelyn did not like it here.

Her mother had promised her that if she was good whilst they did the weekly shop that they could stop by the town Cathedral and say a pray for Grandma.

Evelyn knew that Grandma was sick, but she did not quite understand why they had to go inside the big grey stone building to think about Grandma. Evelyn thought about Grandma all the time, she was so nice to her, always giving her chocolate bars and letting her stay up past her bedtime. She was not happy when she thought of her now in hospital with tubes and machines keeping her alive.

As she stood next to her Mother inside the Cathedral she began to wish she had been on her worst behaviour in the shopping centre….This place was horrible. It was dark, cold, and she did not feel safe, the smells, the damp air….No one was talking, it was quiet.

Evelyn stood statue still and close by her Mother’s side near an alter adorned with candles. Her Mothers eyes were closed, her hands joined in prayer. Tears fell silently.

‘ Mum’ she whimpered‘ Mum, I want to go’

But her Mother chose to ignore her.

‘Mum, I don’t like this place. I want to go home’ she pleaded

People in the Cathedral were now looking in her direction.

‘Evelyn, shhhhh’ whispered her Mother through clenched teeth.

And Evelyn froze. Her Mother could not be swayed, she had a message to give to God and would not be interrupted.

Evelyn closed her eyes, blocking out the darkness, and began to pray .… pray that soon she could leave this place and rejoin the afternoon sunshine.

Coffee

The humble cup of coffee, a great friendship fire starter, initiator of  catch ups and conversation.

For reasons unknown to me, I did not become a fan of caffeine till I moved as a 22-year-old to the United Kingdom in January, 2001. The stark contrast in temperature, for I left a balmy Australian summer for sub-zero temperatures, and rations of sunlight….drove me to drink….anything to warm the soul, hot chocolate, tea, but my favourite hot drink soon became coffee.

Coffee you have been my friend for 10 years know, and a faithful one at that…

I love nothing more than dropping into my local cafe in Clovelly, Parc for a cappuchino…..I no longer need to place my order, the barista just makes my coffee, I smile and leave moments later with a cup of caffeine laden goodness to start the day.

Then there are the catch ups with friend and family that involved coffee, meetings were you consume multiple cups, and the conversation flows effortlessly, and many hours later you get the evil eye from the waiter, implying that you time is up!! If asked to out my favourite coffee-house in Sydney it would have to be the iconic Cafe Hernandez, Potts Point….a real gem, a place you enter and instantly feel at home, surrounded by coffee beans, roasting machines and locals alike….a place that has to be experienced….

Memories of drinking large mocha coffees with whipped cream in cup that resembled large bowls in Scotland, thimble sized shots in fine dining establishments in Sydney, and the dreaded instant coffee in office lunch rooms in London….but no matter the situation, coffee is always best when drunk with friends…..coffee and friends equal the perfect blend.

On the weekend I felt like trying out a new cafe for a caffeine hit, and I visited Ruby’s Diner Queens Park, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs….I located this little gem by using a friends blog which reviews cafes….Sydney On Sunday….It worked a treat, the blog was spot on…I wanted to find a cafe close to home, that would provide me with a yummy meal and yummy coffee…Bingo…Ruby’s did not dissapoint…And there was bonus conversation with an old study friend, and the chance to meet her new baby.

So here is to coffee, a great friendship fire starter, simply tell you mate the kettles on, the chocolate biscuits are on the table, and watch your kitchen fill up with friendly faces….If that fails, and your mates are coffee snobs, you’ll find a cafe on almost every street corner now ( in my home town on the South Coast a local nursery is selling the stuff!!)  get some good-looking barista to whip you up a latte or three….

CUWAM- 5 weekly DVD rentals or 1 Blockbuster Overnight Hire??!!

The week that was can best be described by the title of this blog entry…..Does one splurge on the blockbuster, new release DVD, with which you have it on loan for a mere 24 hours  or do you  spend the same amount of money on hiring 5 weeklies?….with you can be yours for 7 full days?

The week that was , was a ‘ 5 weekly DVD hire’ kind of week….the kind of week that is comfortable, you have seen much of its content before, it is familiar, rarely causing you to break out into a sweat, induce tears, contagious laughter or fits of terror….A familar week with familiar routines….Kind of like hiring ‘ ET’, ‘Ferris Buellers Day Off’, ‘ The Goonies’, ‘ Beaches’ and ‘ Dead Poets Society’….movies you have seen time and time again, movies so familiar to you that you can recite line after line, movies that no longer surprise or shock…but films bring lends themselves nicely to fond childhood memories,  you laugh, cry and cheer in all the right places….That was my week…

Work…ho hum, ho hum…it was BUSY….I assumed title of data entry Queen…and I will wear that title I fear for some weeks to come…There was gym sessions, works outs on the dreaded tread mill, and stair climber….Nights in front of the tv, watching the X-Factor final ( I can’t help but like little Reece, but I found his duet with the Queen of Pop, Our Kylie, kind of creepy…she is old enough to be his Mother…there, I said it and got it off my chest), time spent chatting to family and friends, facebook time, blogging time…just passing time.

The blockbuster event of the week, the stand out for me was catching up with my wonderful friend Fernanda, dining at a vegetarian restaurant Crown street Surry Hills, with mother to be Elena and her confidant, Glenn,  followed by Fernanda and me  catching the 352 bus to the Palace Cinema in Paddington to see the movie-doco  Bill Cunningham’s New York

What a treat, what a story….a whimiscal true tale of a man, his camera and the delight he gets from capturing the every day beauties on the streets of NYC…Having just returned from this city, it was wonderful to see the Big Apple on-screen, and both Fernanda and I lost ourselves for a couple of hours as we got to see NY through Bill’s eyes….To quote the man directly, ” He who seeks beauty shall find it’……and that is what we, as audience members saw , beauty in the ordinary, the familiar, the everyday and the extraordinary……

I returned to my weekly rental approach to life with a thud the next day, having left my umbrella in the cinema the night before, I was sadly aware that I could not get by without by rain protection device ( for Sydney was in tantrum mode, it had been raining for fours days straight) I would not survive….So Thursday night was spent collecting my lost umbrella and returning home to watch ‘ Escape to the Country’ on digital tv….

The weekend came and went all too soon….Saturday, a baby shower, and my role was games master, the Andrew O’Keefe of Deal or No Deal, but with a baby theme….I treated those in attendance to baby food Masterchef and baby trivia….the third game, choose to eat either a pink or blue biscuit, sadly did not make the cut, and I returned home that evening with 30 iced biscuits decorated with jelly babies….On a side note, Flora the cat quiet fancied the butter icing….

Sunday I visited by Aunt and Uncle in Gosford, a lovely town about 1.5 hours North of Sydney….A place I wished I had visited sooner….On being greeted by my Aunt, I remarked, ‘ So how long have you lived here, is it two years?’  The response came as a shock ‘ Nine years dear’….Oh dear indeed…

I was treated to a divine lunch, the smell from the kitchen stuck me as soon as I entered the house…’ It smells just like Nan’s house’ I remarked…and that it did….My Aunt cooks just like my Nan used too….Home cooked meals, meat and many vegetables, gravy….a glass of red…dessert, with lashings of cream, cups of coffee and home-made chocolate slice….

My Uncle  is not well, and time was spent talking to him, talking about life,the good, the bad and the ugly…. Chatting about his work as a writer, and his dedication and commitment to story telling….when he suggested he include a chapter about Flora my cat and I, I advised against it, stating that he has a best seller on his hands….a chapter on Flora and I would be a disservice to his work!!

Today I am back at work…I am unsure of what this week has in store…I could cope with a week full of blockbuster action, then again, I could quite happily settle for a week full of everyday rentals….

CUWAM- The saddest thing I ever heard…..

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 25 – I heard a song on the radio during the week and I thought the lyrics would make an interesting prompt for WoW. So, write the words “The saddest thing I ever heard” on your page, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head based on the given promp

June put down the newspaper. It was just too much to bear at only 8.30am in the morning.

‘It’s the saddest thing I ever heard’, she uttered aloud as she reached for the  phone. She had to call Dot. Her best friend would be up, and she would have already scanned the morning newspaper and been given her breakfast.

June had Dot’s number on speed dial. Both women had moved into Queen’s Retirement village the previous year,  and had known each other since childhood. June was still mobile and therefore able to live independently, but Dot’s recent hip replacement meant that she was temporarily residing in high-grade care.

The phone would only ring twice, Dot always picked up the phone before the third ring….

‘ Hello Dot’

‘Oh June, it’s the saddest thing I ever heard’

Dot was crying quietly, and June soon felt the trickle of tears flow down her checks.

‘They didn’t stand a chance June….they were so helpless’

And the two women comforted each other, the conversation enabling them to raise their concerns, fears, sadness and anger at the fate dealt to the residents of the nursing home fire that had raged only days before in the nearby suburbs killing 9 elderly people.

‘Thank goodness for you June, thank goodness you called, you are always able to brighten my mornings…and today required a good deal of brightening’

June smiled, she felt exactly the same way.

‘ Have a good day pet….don’t do anything I wouldn’t’

A hearty chuckle was heard down the phone line ‘I’ll try not to my dear!’

Friendship Fire Starters

Today, and each Tuesday that follows I will be posting suggestions for friendship fire starters…Just like striking a match to start a warm winter fire, Tuesdays friendship fire starters are prompts to action, to encourage readers to catch up with those held near and dear to them , to partake in activities aimed at igniting all that is wonderful and unique about their friendships.

Suggestion will be varied, from restaurants and cafes, films, theatre, festivals, travel destinations, cultural events and the occasional lucky dip…the bizarre, the unclassifiable, the down right weird…they will not always be of interest to the reader, they may even offend or educe a smile, a chuckle, a tear, inspire romance ( I am putting the romance reference as I want to insert this Bruce Springsteen song …in homage to  the very special catch ups the tune has no doubt inspired!!)

The aim of Friendship fire starters is to encourage catch ups….Prehaps you may feel inspired to partake in the event referenced that week, or make an advanced booking to play or restaurant…Friendship fire starters could simply encourage you to pick up the phone for a chat or write a letter, good old-fashioned style communication, attach a stamp and send it to your pen-pal…the possibilities are endless…..I hope you enjoy.

Friendship Fire Starter : Australian  Poetry Slam Grand Final , Sunday the 27th of November, 5pm, Sydney Theatre

I was introduced to Poetry Slamming in Oct, 2010 when I volunteered to work at the 7th annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Bali…Poetry Slamming is essentially a competition at which poets read or recite original work. These performances are then judged on a numeric scale by previously selected members of the audience.

It is everything you expect from live performance and the spoken work,  electrifying, inspiring, nerve-wracking, thought provoking.

Taken directly from the Sydney Theatre Company Website, this is what you can expect from the event on Sunday:

The mightiest, tightest spoken-word artists from every corner of Australia bound on to the stage with blood, sweat and poetry. The Australian Poetry Slam is the hottest guerilla literary event of the year. Our best new writers spit their wit for the judges. Australia’s Slam Champion gets an all expenses paid trip to The Ubud Writers Festival and a tour of China with the Beijing Writers Festival.

Get involved people!…and  for a taste of what you will experience if in the audience on the 27th check out Australian Poetry Slam official website  website

For info on Sundays event, the Sydney Theatre Company ( STC) website contains details : poetry-slam-national-final

CUWAM- Coming full circle

An ordinary week in for an ordinary girl living an ordinary life.

Gym sessions in Kings Cross, a night out in Darlinghurst to see a play at the Tap Theatre ( it should be called the Tapped Theatre….is was a very ODD production), lunch with family, drinks with friends, shopping for underwear in Target, cups of coffee in Clovelly, grooming a cat whose winter coat must have been of such exceptional quality that there is enough loose fur to knit a matching scarf, hat and gloves for next season….Life as only I know it….

And a weekend road trip to the South Coast…leaving home at 7am, with Flora the cat in her car capsule, a seasoned traveller who only meowed a few times on the journey ( and I think it was more a meow in protest of my attempts to sing along to Washington’s fantastic cd ‘ I believe you Liar…a cd still on high rotation)

Off loading Flora and a load of dirty clothes to the parental home in Austinmer, I headed further South, a good 45 minute drive to Shellharbour, were I treated myself to a cut and colour at D’Luxe Hair and Beauty….A cup of coffee, a chance to catch up on magazine gossip ( Kim Kardarshians 72 day marriage it OVAH screamed every glossy cover) , and local salon gossip,  I chimed in on chatter about all things beauty, Hilary Duff and her baby bump, fashion tips and fake tans….I emerged from the salon a new women, a smattering of golden highlights and a freshly cut mane…thank you D’Luxe ladies….

A afternoon spent admiring the delightful baby DPA….who’s Mum and Dad looked a little worse for wear, with little DPA desiring little sleep between the midnight hours…But while my friend Kate and I were in his company that afternoon, DPA slept soundly in his little cot,and though his song choice to sleep was slightly worrying ie Michael Jackson, ‘ Man in the Mirror’,  Mum Alison was as proud as punch that MJ was able to sooth her son to sleep.

An evening meal at my favourite cafe, Fireworks , on Moore Street, Austinmer…..Dining with Mum and Dad, we devoured sumptuous meals of trout and sorrel sauce ( a green leaf used in soups and sauces..with a taste similar to kiwi fruit and or sour wild strawberries…who knew…it sounds a bit Willy Wonker to me!!), pan friend chicken with kipfler potatoes and octopus salad with chilli, mint, pomegranate and labneh….Dessert was just as heavenly…Portions of Lime and ginger cheesecake and Pineapple and coconut cake….And whilst my Mother declared she wanted to savour the taste of her main meal, for the sorrel sauce was to die for, when desert hit the table, I know Mum was secretly glad that the waitress had provided her with a spoon so she could sample both dishes…

Fireworks Cafe, Moore Street, Austinmer

Sunday was a day of general relaxation, a swim in the ocean at Little Austi beach, a quick trip down to the Thirroul High Street for some lunch time shopping, and afternoon sunning session with Flora, where I was able to collect more fur for next seasons garmets…..A afternoon storm started to clear as my wonderful friends Jess and Wade, with Ms Mae in tow arrived at the homestead. Ms Mae soon f0und herself surrounded by 5 ‘big people’ , eyes glued on the precious little bundle of joy,  who was flexing her legs and arm strength and showing us her new crawling skills….

And then to ‘ The Bar Next Door to Samuel’s’ in Thirroul, to celebrate the 30th birthday of true blue local Adam….After downing two vodka lemon and limes, Jess, Wade, Mae and I high tailed in to another truly local Thirroul establishment, Mars Cafe…Chinese Restaurtant Emporium…..Meals Are Really Satisfying….For vegetable chop suey, Mongolian chicken, dim sums, spring rolls and boiled rice….One knows not to expect the world from Mars cuisine…but one will ALWAYS be satisfied and look forward with eager eyes and salivating mouth to the next encounter with this Thirroul staple…

Dinner was devoured, conversation flowed and Mae crawled and crawled and crawled…..We parted ways at 7pm, and I packed the car, put Flora back in her capsule and drove home along the coast road, joining the Princess Highway, Sydney bound….

And I am back at my desk, it is Monday, I write in my lunch break…I have come full circle, and I took Flora the cat along for the ride….and what a ride it was….

CUWAM- Choose your own adventure

Take a favorite (or even random play) song and write the story behind the lyrics, not something inspired by the lyric, but the flesh on the bones of the story. It gives lots of scope for interpretative writing. Use the lyrics or theme of a song  for a piece of flash fiction (50 to 200 words). To clarify, write your version of the story behind the lyrics in a song

Cindy Lauper ‘ I drove all night ‘ 1989

Claire sat behind the steering wheel, keys in the ignition, her heart raced. She backed the car down the driveway, and headed on autopilot in the direction of the highway.

The street lights were her guide, it was 1am, the night sky was cloudy, the moon was hidden from view, the neighboured was in a deep slumber, quiet and still.

Claire was wide awake, wired….Only days before Dan had left for yet another posting, his job as a new paramedic , required him to take work in rural areas at short notice until something permanent became available closer to home….He had been away from her that year, more times than he had been home….the separation was unbearable

Summer had arrived unannounced, the city was on heat, it was humid, and unable to sleep, fed up with tossing and turning, not wanting to face up to work in the morning, in a spit second she had decided to drive….

With one hand gripping the steering wheel, eyes focused on the road, Claire pushed the cassette tape into beat up tape player in her beloved Datsun Bluebird. Cindy’s voice filled the airways, and in a heartbeat, she was knew she had made the right decision…..

‘I had to escape

The city was sticky and cruel

Maybe I should have called you first

But I was dying to get to you’

CUWAM- Treachery Camp, Seal Rock…the solo weekend road trip

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I have just returned from my first ever solo beach weekend road trip….I headed north on Friday morning, bound for Treachery Camp, Seal Rock….some 240 kms north of Sydney…It must be told that this road trip was never intended to be completed by me and me alone…This trip was booked some 9 months ago, and the friends that were to accompany me are in the family way…baby number 2 is to be born any day….

Little effort on my part was put into the recruiting replacement friends….Having returned from my own whirl wind overseas adventure a mere 5 weeks earlier, and on weighing up the craziness that awaited my return…the birth of numerous babies, the engagements, the birthdays, the catch ups, the reunions…a weekend removed from my social circle sounded like pure bliss…a weekend retreat for one…

If Australia is home, and you are fortunate enough to live close to the coastline, there can be no better way to spend a weekend, than by the seaside…This is a concept I am lucky enough to have grown up with, my childhood home was Austinmer, on the NSW South Coast, a sleepy town, were the only thing to do 365 of any year was based around the sea….you swam, sun-baked, surfed, talked and gossiped about the all-encompassing ocean that governed daily life in ‘Austi’….

Treachery Camp, Seal Rock, my home away from home, a place I have been returning to for the past three years, it draws me back time and time again with it natural beauty, native flora and fauna, turquoise water and white sandy beach.

The drive out of Sydney was pleasant…I cruised over the Sydney Harbor Bridge, listening to my road trip music of choice ‘ Washington: I believe you liar’…borrowed from the Randwick Library especially for the occasion. The music rolled on and on, high rotation from song 1 to 12, and then again…Washington’s sweet summer melody had me singing along…and  before I know it I was in Buladelah, stocking up on weekend supplies and indulging in a late lunch: a sausage roll and sauce and cream bun ( complete with MOCK cream and jam)

A surprise catch up with former work colleague Daryl, on the way to Seal Rock with his family… a blast from the past…A Buladelah highlight…Both Daryl and his family, I suspect, like me, are happiest when by the sea….

Arriving late afternoon Friday, I set up camp in a self contained surfside cabin for one. Surrounded either side by young families, I began to question my ability to survive on my first ever solo beach weekend….Not to worry….By Saturday night, though I remained inside my cabin, I was surrounded either side by family action, children performed a Saturday night concert from my veranda…dancing and a rendition of the classic ‘ Twinkle Twinkle Little star’ complete with dancing girls….solitude I miss you!!

Treachery Camp, I love you….made even slight more appealing by the ‘ Tim’s at Treach’ , a small seaside coffee van, specializing in coffee’s, lovingly made one at a time, bacon and egg rolls and home-made scones and date loaf….Never did I expect to have been served a cappuccino in bush land, and some may say it is not necessary …but lovely all the same, I definitely enjoyed it….Thanks Tim

The weekend was beach action and nothing more….I lounged about surfside all day Saturday, rotating rotisserie style ( I have the sun burn to prove it), book in hand, box of chicken crimpy biscuits by my side, water, my beach umbrella….bliss…Ocean swims, an afternoon drive to Sugarloaf Lighthouse, followed by more swimming at Boat beach, returning to Treachery late afternoon, to read the Saturday papers and drink red wine.

Sunday morning came around too soon….An early morning swim, in water that was bordering on icy ( but I made myself go in….for come Monday, I would be desk bound and this memory would be all I would have to sustain me!!) And then it was time to go….but not before enquiring about a booking for November 2012!!

And back to my summer soundtrack, Washington hit the airwaves, and I headed home….stopping via Newcastle for a bit of window shopping along Darby Street….too cool!…and a lunch break at…Mc Donalds….an outing I am ashamed to admit too…..It was a surreal experience….For I realized on entering this hamburger haven, that the last McDonalds I had spent time in was in Brooklyn, NYC…and Newcastle Macca’s felt no different…The were children everywhere….filling up on additives, running amuck,  as worn out parents waited for the sugar high to subside…..a melting pot of society all eager to snack on a quarter pounder or three….

Sydney, the eastern suburbs, with the smell of sea salt in the air I returned home …and the crash back to earth after a weekend by the ocean was softened by this reality…Flora was happy to see me, tufts of her winter coat scattered around the apartment, although a few high-pitched meows seemed to suggest a slight disdain for being abandoned over the weekend ( but she had a very lovely male cat sitter)…

And it all seems but a dream….and as I sit at my desk, listening to youtube as I enter student exchange applications, the hum drum of office life, the sweet tunes of singer Washington able to take me back to a place where the sun shone, the water sparkled and all was good…..

CUWAM- Follow my read…a call to action!!

This is a shameless plug for followers…regular readers of CUWAM unite ( if you are out there!!)

At the bottom of my blog page I have inserted an sign up ‘thing-y’…where you can place your email account and be sent spam like reminders that there is a new and exciting post on the Catch Up with a Mate page.

The service if free ( its only fair) and whilst I can’t promise quality, I can promise volume ( at least 2 posts a week, maybe more)

So do something daring, today is meant to be a day of action, good luck, the 11th of the 11th, 2011….stop procastinating about changing jobs, asking that guy you admire on your daily commute to work out on a date, buy the more expensives sliced ham at your local supermarket, upsize your coffee….A day for action, a day best suited to signing onto the CUWAM blog roll….

We are learning to make fire

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 23  Write the words of Margaret Atwood at the top of your page “We are learning to make fire”. Set your timer to 5 minutes. Write the first words that come into your head after the prompt. Stop when the buzzer rings.

‘We are learning to make fire’ she thought.

She looked at her child at her feet, clinging to her knees, arms wrapped around both legs so that she could not move. It had to stop. The fighting, it had to stop.

She loosened the grip of the whimpering child, and bent down to start to pick up the pieces of the paper that he had thrown around the room…A random collection of bills, shopping lists, child care reminders that she kept in a folder on the kitchen bench…The folder lay spit in two on the floor, such was his rage that it has broken on impact as it collided with the kitchen wall…paper was everywhere…the kitchen was a mess, her marriage was a mess, and his words, like fire, raged within…

She was angry, she had had enough….Over time he had worn her down, his cruel words, his inability to compromise and work together on this thing called ‘ family’, his coldness, his distance.…each outburst stung, the venom in each word  felt long after each tirade…it left her smouldering, angry that he could launch such calculated attacks on her…and then just leave….leave her in the house, with the kids…with this silence….

‘We are learning to make fire’ she thought ‘ And it has to stop’

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