Five Sentence Fiction : Blush

Word Prompt: Blush

 

She stared at the faces, all familiar to her, sitting in chairs arranged in a circle.

She loved the first Tuesday of the month, when the members of her book club met to discuss, critique and dissect one of Jane Austen’s novels.

The month’s pick- Pride and Prejudice, her absolute favourite and she had been bestowed the greatest of honours…opening this months meeting with her insight into what she regarded as Austen’s finest work.

She rose from her chair and held her notes steady in her hand…she had been working all month on her speech…but with the task now at hand…what presented itself on the page seemed irrelevant.

Her opening address ‘I just LOVE Mr Darcy’ she gushed, blushing and giggling like a school girl.

The Art of Listening / The Art of Communication

Friendship Fire starter: something that promotes friendship, encourages a catch up or strengthens a bond between two or more people.

Listening, really listening to someone is hard work.

Communication that is clear and precise…..also hard, hard work.

To be a good listener you have to put aside your personal agenda, feelings and thoughts and tune into that of another.. It is a truly selfless act.

To be a good communicator who have to be in tune with your true self,  your thoughts and feeling. You must also be ‘present’….your mind cannot be in the past or propelling into the future…it must be grounded in the here and now.

This blog post has been written so as to honour all the good listeners and communicator out there….You guys don’t get enough credit!

I am first to admit that I am new to truly listening to the voice of another….For so long I have lived in my head, listening to my own internal dialogue which drowned out the voice of others.

I was so consumed by my inner thoughts, that I could be in a room full of familiar faces, and actively engage in two conversation, one with party guests, the other with the internal chatter in my head.

Crucial to the art of listening to another person, is clear communication. Like the listening notion, I am just jumping on the good communication bandwagon!

I got frustrated on the weekend when, via email communication ( the worst of all mediums!) I felt I was not being listened to or understood. I let the person know, they took my point with a grain of salt…it was an unsatisfying exchange.

It caused me to reflect…In order to be truly heard, you must be able to clearly communicate your thoughts and feelings.

Easier said than done.

Often extreme feelings get in the way, how often have you blown of steam in the heat of an argument with a partner, lost your cool with your small child when they did something you did not approve of, given a friend the cold shoulder when they failed for the third time to show up for a coffee date?

For me, my communication skills have long been hindered by an inability to tune into my true voice. For as long as I can remember,  I have not possessed the courage to express my true thoughts and feeling.

But with awareness comes change.

The email exchange on the weekend, and its unsatisfactory outcome, was more a true reflection of poor communication on my part. I was not clear in how I was truly feeling…I assumed the person would be able to read between the lines…And when they didn’t ‘ get it’ I expressed my disappointment and frustration.

It really bothered me! And after a bit of self reflection and the passing of time, I came to see this email exchange as a gift.

It highlighted the importance of honest communication, using words that truly reflect how you think and feel….Don’t waste words…Choose them wisely a ( again easier said than done)…and when possible, think before you speak, ask yourself ‘ Do these words reflect what I am thinking / feeling?’

Good listening and communication are skills…and we can learn them, improve on the skills we already have…it is possible with practice, patience and commitment.

So why not try it for yourself…Grab a friend, someone in your life who simply gets you….start up that conversation…chew the fat over a cup of tea or coffee…And take time to notice how it feels to converse and listen to one another.

Rewarding, satisfying, frustrating….All of the above? Room for improvement, for growth?? Any tips you can offer me on my journey towards better listening / communicating?

No times for regrets, such as if  only I could have started that email exchange with a bit more honestly…Here’s to next time, and the time after that!!

Xx

Five Sentence Fiction : Night

Word prompt: Night

As the sun set, she looked at her Mother, tucked up in her hospital bed, ghostly pale and still.

She looked peaceful, blissfully unaware that her life teetered in the balance.

The stroke suffered 27 days earlier, she had been told by Doctors ‘ Could take her any time’

With visiting hours over, she rose from her chair and placed a kiss on her Mother’s forehead, the sound of her breathing a small comfort that life was still present.

Lingering in the doorway, a single tear rolled down her face as she whispered her goodbye ‘Good night Mum, don’t get up to too much mischief!’

5 years ago…..

Five years ago I wrote a story titled ‘ The Gift’

I wrote it about a person I knew at the time, who I have since lost contact with, writing a fictional story about the situation was my way of coping…. a way of expressing my anger, sadness, helplessness and disbelief that someone could live such a constricted and constrained manner.

I was merely a bystander, looking on, I could not say or do anything as this person would not have taken too kindly to any suggestion that they might want to stop for a minute,  slow down and take a few deep breaths…simple steps which would have provided the opportunity to ponder whether this gift called life could be played out any differently.

I did not feel comfortable broaching that subject…so I left it alone, wrote a story about it and got on with life….

The shrill sound of her alarm clock radio shattered the early morning silence. She reached out from under the doona in the direction of the noise, a heavy hand coming down hard on the snooze button.

Could it really be morning already? she thought……..the sound of her flatmate rustling together some breakfast in the kitchen confirming a truth she was not ready to accept.

Her attempts to ease herself into the idea of another working week by resting for a further 10 minutes were futile. She tossed and turned, could not get comfortable and as her alarm sounded again, she jerked upright in bed.

Staring blankly at the bath towel on the door handle she knew what she has to do. Her morning routine was endured not enjoyed, it had been followed mindlessly for as long as she could remember. A shower, the ironing of the corporate wardrobe, the application of makeup and a brisk walk to the train station. She did not engage in morning chit-chat with her flatmates or allow herself the luxury of a cup of tea or piece of toast.

Once at the office she would work solidly from 8am till 7pm, not stopping for a break. On her return to the house in the evening, she would grab whatever she could find from her food shelf and retreat to her room.

She forced herself out of bed, sighing loudly as she stood up. Her outlook on the working week was bleak. It was a cycle she wanted to break but she did not know how. Many times she has been told my family, friends and work colleagues that it was necessary to reevaluate her hard-edged approach to work, to find balance. Yet overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed and accumulate wealth she dared not stop.

‘The next train to arrive on platform one goes to Circular Quay, first stop……..’

At the train station she began to think of work and the tasks that awaited her in the office……. the filing, the emails and phone calls. As the train approached the platform, her belly grumbled. She placed her hand to her stomach and ignoring her hunger pains she entered the carriage and took a seat.

The Monday morning carriage scene was predictable. A sea of grey and black suits, beige blouses and pink ties. Though the carriage patrons were familiar faces, she did not offer a cheerful good morning or a kind smile. She positioned herself next to the window and shut her eyes as the train propelled rapidly toward the city.

‘This station is Stanmore’

Another wave of suits piled into the carriage. Amongst the commuters a child’s voice could be heard, excitedly exclaiming, ‘Mummy, I’ve found a seat!’

The mother and son sat down, the mood of the carriage shifting as the young boy questioned’ Mummy, is this train called Thomas?’

She opened her eyes to the sounds of restrained laughter from fellow passengers. The Mother and the young boy were sitting directly in front of her. He was dressed in dressed in brightly coloured clothes and his mother smiled in her direction whilst she gently swept unruly brown curls from his eyes.

She wished she had sat elsewhere that morning. The rest of the journey would be filled with the boy’s squeals of excitement and careless chatter. Was it too much to ask for some morning quiet?

‘This station is Newtown’

‘Mummy’

‘Yes Christopher’

‘Mummy, why is everyone dressed in black?’

‘There off to work, just like Daddy!’

‘ But Mummy, why does everyone look so sad?’

The man in the pink tie at the front of the carriage overheard this and chuckled to himself, so did the lady in the beige blouse.

Yet she did not smile. She stared out the window and wished that the mother and child would get off the train.

‘Excuse me Lady’, said the young boy.

He was requesting her attention. She stared vacantly in his direction. In his hands was a tiny violet and he was motioning for her to take it.

She took the gift from the boy with such haste that the child retreated into the arms of his Mother. She forced a smile, placed the flower on her lap and began to examine it.

Its beauty captivated her. She marvelled at its perfectly formed petals and its striking colour. Holding the flower to her nose, its sweet perfume made her dizzy………

‘ The next station is Central’

Newspapers were folded and the air was filled with the gentle murmur of commuters preparing to alight the train. The train was nearing her stop and she was nowhere near the exit of the train. She was always near the exit door when approaching her stop.

Flustered, she pushed her way past the people who stood in the aisle and made it to the carriage doors as the train pulled into pulled into the station. Stepping of the train, she sighed aloud, repositioned her skirt and head toward to escalator.

‘Christopher, we are getting off at the next stop’, and taking her child’s hand, they moved towards the carriage exit.

‘Mummy, wait!’, and he bent down and collected the remains of the violet he had given the lady.

‘Why didn’t she like my gift?’

‘I don’t know. But it you give it to me, I’d like that very much’

And as he placed the crushed remains of the flower in her hand, she bent down to give her son an all-embracing cuddle.

5 years later I still think about the person that I based this story on. Where they able to bring about the much-needed change in their life? Or are they still on the same path, unable to see beauty in the ordinary, the everyday?

5 years later this story stays with me, resonates with me, as when I wrote this I too was in denial about changes that needed to occur in my own life, changes that would allow me to see life’s gifts on a day-to-day basis.

5 years later I can look back on the person I was, to the person I now am, and forward with hope to the person I will become and truly know that although change is hard, it is both necessary and vital if you are to embrace this crazy little thing called life.

Five Sentence Fiction: Distance

Word Prompt: Distance

It was finally here!

It had travelled across two continents, by sea, land and air to reach her.

Enduring long periods of separation from her true love made bearable by the arrival of monthly letters.

She held the precious envelope tight, close to her chest, releasing a heavy sigh.

With certainty, she knew the words of love would sustain her till the next instalment was delivered to the mailbox.

Ode to Daniel Johns

Friendship Fire starter: something that promotes friendship, encourages a catch up or strengthens a bond between two or more people.

I have been writing a post about Daniel Johns in my head ever since my dinner date on Friday night with a childhood friend

As our conversation danced from family to children, school days, horror movies and a shared love of chocolate…we somehow got on the to topic of music festivals. My friend is a journalist and is writing a piece on the Australian music festival Homebake, which runs in Sydney each December.

Homebake is a favourite festival on mine, and when it was introduced to the dinner conversation it prompted discussion on all the wonderful bands we had been fortunate to see play live.

We both recalled fond memories…but I became stuck on one in particular….when a three-piece band from Newcastle debut their new material from what would go on to be the Australia’s album of the year in 2007, Silverchair’s ‘ Young Modern’

One day music festivals like Homebake require commitment….commitment to the 12 hour music schedule, commitment to drinking ( what ever your poison, the line for fluid is always miles long!!) commitment to queuing in general…for food and the ghastly port-a-loos!!

These festivals start early, 11am and by sun down…  moods can swing either way…You either amp it up, or come crashing down….The thought of standing in a field with 20,000 other people for one more music act appears a task more taxing than climbing Everest.

2006 was one such year….Scorched by the summer sun….I was baked, dehydrated and thoughts of home were never far from my mind…But I had made a commitment to myself that I would stay for the final act…it was after all my all time favourite Australian rock group….the one, the only, Silverchair…

When did I fall for hard for the Newcastle trio?….It was in 2002 with the release of their 4th studio album, Diorama.

I’m watching you, watch over me

And I got

The greatest view from here

 The Greatest View, Diorama, 2003

Their music prior to this album had never captivated me….I regarded it is loud, angry teenage boy music….Kind of like my younger brother’s band ‘ Rigamortis’…only much more successful!!

Diorama signified a shift. Their music became melodic and layered. The lead singer, Daniel John’s voice, had softened, the anger was gone…the lyrics too had begun to diversify…the band had grown up.

Rolling Stones Magazine called Diorama ‘ One of the boldest musical statements ever made by an Australian Rock Band’

I loved them for it….and it was then and there I became a fan…not of the die-hard variety, I simply admired from afar the trio’s ability to re-invent themselves, to bring about change when really no one had asked for it. There old sound was what had made them a success…this change of direction was a huge risk, a big leap of faith… I was on board.

‘Cause what lies beneath the clouds

Is an altered perception and I’ll pay for  sanity

But sanity don’t come  cheap

Luv Your Life, Diorama, 2012

Homebake 2006 and Daniel John, Ben Gilles and Chris Joannau took to the stage at 9pm. The atmosphere was electricSilverchair had not released new material or been together on stage for what seemed an eternity….it was here and now that they would debut their new sound.

5 years had passed since the release of Diorama…everyone in the crown waited in anticipation for a hint of the musical direction the band would take them during their 45 minute set.

And then the music started….and  true to the Silverchair ethos, it was new, progressive and undeniably unique. John’s had never appeared so sure of himself, of his lyrics or the raw power of his voice.

Recalling that night 6 years ago, words fail me….but strong feelings emerge. The overall excitement of being caught up in a moment, witnessing something ground breaking and redefining.

On stage, were a band, who, yet again were prepared to take a huge risk, another musical shift. As they threw caution to the wind, the audience did too….20,000 people enjoying the dawn of something new.

I remember sounds…the saxophone, the piano, and John’s voice, strong, powerful and the surge of emotion that came over me when I heard ‘ Straight Lines’ for the first time….

I love Silverchair and am a huge fan of Daniel John’s.

I love what the band accomplished, for the musical landscape they provide their audience and their commitment to reinvention time and time again. Though the band may have called it a day in 2011…for me, the music plays on…

I admire Daniel John’s from afar….his musical sensibility, his raw talent and the suffering he has endured as a result of his art.

I admire his commitment to his craft, his dedication and risk taking….he is a modern day musical prodigy.

I admire John’s for his ability to overcome illness, his battles with depression and auto immune disease….His strength and resilience in the face of adversity resonates with me.

And lastly, I find him incredibly sexy, I think anyone who is passionate is sexy.

 

Daniel John of Newcastle New South Wales, patron saint of Australian Music Redefined.

The London 2012 Olympics

As swimmers dart up and down the pool, I can’t help but be amazed at their aquatic awesomeness…As pole vaulter’s vault, sprinter’s sprint, hurdler’s  hurdle and gymnast somersault…I want in on the action.

The early morning tv sessions ( the time difference between London and Sydney is a killer), the dedication taken in reading up on athlete’s bio’s , studying the tv guide, preparing meals in advance so as not to miss  a minutes sporting action …This Olympics gig is only for the elite viewer, the dedicated, the passionate , committed.

That folks isn’t me…I don’t mind the odd bit of Olympic action…but it isn’t really isn’t my cup of tea…So to amuse myself at a time when only sport seems to matter, I have turned my attention to something I excel at….eating food….And I have hosted the 2012 Food Olympics…and I can’t wait to tell you who was awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze.

The July edition of Sydney’s Time Out Magazine has to take the credit for this blog post. They encouraged readers of the July edition, to forgo elite athleticism, to leave it to the experts…ordinary folk should focus on what they do best…and in Sydney, that apparently is eating.

I took the message literally, and with the help of the restaurant reviews from previous Time Out editions, I have eaten my way around town.

Though there are still a few days to snare gold in London, both my waist line and wallet have requested that I hold the award ceremony early.

Gold

Spencer Guthrie’s, 339 King Street, Newtown

www.spencerguthrie.com

Spencer Guthries, a new restaurant on the famous King Street strip. A restaurant committed to sourcing produce ethically, reducing their carbon foot print and all that jazz…

They had me at hello, or was it welcome?

The restaurant is small, around 8 tables, the atmosphere, intimate, our waiter, attentive.

But it is all about the food….Flavour, flavour, flavour….delicate portions, plated to perfection…balance and harmony in my entrée of wild mushroom, main of steamed leather jacket and dessert of chocolate ( all things for that matter)

Water and wine and the finest of companions…a friend I have had in my life since the age of 5 ( Gold medal is almost a given!!)

Spencer Guthries…..Gold, yes baby, you are gold.

Silver

Hartsyard, 33 Enmore Road, Newtown

http://hartsyard.com.au/

Oh so close….think James Magnusson 100 metre freestyle final closeness…

The only was to separate the winner in the 2012 Food Olympics was to ask myself, ‘ How soon could I return to eat at the establishment’

To that question I answered ‘ Spencer Guthrie’s…tomorrow’, ‘ Hartywards…..next week’

Hartsyard seems to be the new hipster hangout in the infinitely cool Sydney’s innerwest.

A New York chef, meets Aussie girl….they fall in love and she brings him back to Australia. The result, Sydney gets an injection on NY coolness…and I could not be happier.

This meal is shared with a friend I have known since I was 3 years old ( another reason why this Silver is really like a gold in disguise) It was the perfect meal to accompany our friendship…fun, full of laughter and shared childhood memories of sea and sun.

Southern style crunchy golden fried chicken, the French Canadian inspired dish Poutine with beer gravy…We shared both mains…the dishes left us  feeling full and completely satisfied.

At the time I remember thinking ‘ I am eating Elvis Pressley’s final meal’…and then out came our dessert.

Peanut butter and Banana Sundae….and it was then and there that I died and went to heaven…I had never eaten anything so indulgent, so heavenly, so divine…the salty chocolate fudge sauce, the donut balls, ice cream that bubbled and burst with creamy goodness at the touch of a spoon.

Hartyard is awarded a silver only because I want so much to return…and return I will…I would go there for dessert alone…but with summer round the corner, my thighs and buttocks are wary…this restaurant is in a category almost entirely of its own….‘ special treat’ territory…returning to soon could very well clog an artery.

Oh the temptation!!

Bronze

Rueben Hills, 61 Albion St Surry Hills

http://reubenhills.com.au/

It had to be you, Rueben Hills…you are the gracious recipient of the 2012 Food Olympics bronze medal.

I love that you open at 7am-4pm, Monday through to Sunday, enabling me, to pop in on my way to work and indulge in the type of breakfast fit for a King or Queen.

I have dined in your company twice over the past few months, I like the mid-week visits, I have heard you are super busy on the weekend, crazy busy, and pre-work breakfast means that I get fast and fabulous service, and can make the tough decision of what to eat in relative silence…your innovative breakfast creations can make this very hard!

Breakfast number one was a breakfast trifle, berries in orange syrup w honey&orange blossom yoghurt , breakfast number two a spice grilled chicken fillet, Tomatillo salsa, cheese, pickles & chipotle aioli on brioche. On both occasions I doubted my choices…Was this really breakfast food?

I should have trusted your menu….turns out they are probably two of the most memorable breakfast meals of 2012.

Your café, the décor, the music, the food, the coffee…you are the real deal…the perfect inner city café, for breakfast for one, lunch for five or coffee on the go.

In a nutshell, you are just cool, I have a café crush on you…even more so that you have been awarded a bronze medal!

For more wonderful restaurant recommendations, check out a blog I stumbled across recently, The Adventure of Miss Piggy, for all things food and fabulous…..

http://theadventuresofmisspiggy.blogspot.com.au/

So go on,  host your own 2012 Food Olympics….get out there and award your favorite eating joint a GOLD medal for awesomeness….

Five Sentence Fiction: Victory

Word prompt: Victory

He hung up the phone…every limb in his body was shaking, sweat beads had formed on his brow, heart beating so fast he thought it might burst through his chest.

The 5 phone calls, 3 text messages and numerous facebook chats had paid off.

She had said yes.

Being 16 was one tough gig…but going to the school disco solo was another story.

He had a date for Friday night, she had said yes, and in an instant, that one word had set right all that was once wrong in the world.

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