Friday, 15 August 2014

Day 7 - Dear Carmel - I remember the party...

In all our non-fiction work there are the good and the bad topics.  There are the topics you might prefer to avoid and the topics you feel compelled to tell the world.  I'm guessing most of us all have memories of things we are less proud of than others; and this is reminiscent to my next memory journal topic of  'I remember the party.'  This story makes me smile as I recall the shenanigans I got up to, I hope you enjoy my recollection.

Dear Carmel,

I remember the party, the long awaited and anticipated thirtieth birthday party of a work-colleague Jess. The Moulin Rogue theme had guests frantically sourcing the short sexy flapper dresses, the kind that hung well above the knees and talked up every male of legs and fishnet stockings.  The high heels and plumped-up hair styles, the bright lippy worn pursing cigarette holders and hands hidden beneath the rough sequins of elbow-length gloves  heightened our enthusiasm for a good night.
  Pre-dinner drinks were planned.  Stashed in a green Coles shopping bag were six bottles of Vodka and raspberry purchased earlier that morning, now waiting just as eagerly as I to get the party started.  If I were to tell you I'm not a big drinker would be to lead you slightly astray.  We're saving ourselves a few dollars drinking before we get there, ten dollars a pop I'm told.  I swig the first bottle of sweet sugary alcohol, it washes down easily.  I'm pacing myself, a bottle every fifteen minutes will see our departure time, the time we arrive for the real party, the real swing of occasions. 
  We all sat around the round dining table, sharing seats where there weren't enough for all our bums.  Laughter filled every living space while the clanks of half-empty bottles and glasses filled our ears, heightening our senses for a good time.  Someone broke out the shots, real Vodka, straight-up. Every small shot-glass sent the silky warm liquid burning deep down into the Esophagus leaving my head swirling with dizziness. 
  I don't recall much of the car trip to the venue where the Moulin Rogue partyer's had begun hours ago.  As I fell out of the car, my legs refused to lead me along the footpath,  instead I was fossicking around at ground level, legs bent, displaced as I scrambled for the black cigarette-holder I had dropped.  I was carried into the party like a footballer gets carried off the field, someone on either side holding me up, preventing my knees from crumbling beneath this hysterical misdemeanour.   Eye's were watching me, head's  turning, whispering and tongues wagging as I stood helplessly as the wall my only saviour temporarily held me-up before my early departure.
  I missed the party, I missed the celebrations.  Sprawled-out, my body convulsing,  I was heaving fountains of liquid as though possessed.  The night was over.  There outside and propped-up like a rag doll, I painted  the gutter with unsightly un-welcome, encouraging an occasional hoot from a passing car as my only acknowledgement before putting an end to the night's proceedings.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Day 6 - Dear Carmel - I remember the shop...

As I continue to study Writing the life of your story by Carmel Bird, I feel I'm already edging towards the writing of my memoir (or many) with more confidence and knowledge in how to shape my stories.  These exercises in remembering life events through free journal writing may not be the perfect, most well-written pieces, and I don't think they're meant to be; instead they provide valuable lessons for using your thoughts and feelings as a basis for a full length work, work that would be edited and re-drafted until of course you were completely happy. 
Some of these 'Dear Carmel' writing exercises ( well all of them thus-far), have given me inspiration for my memoir construction, they have even perhaps shown me what could be my guiding metaphor.

Guiding metaphor's are I suppose a common theme for your writing, something that links all your stories together, structuring them as a constant reference point, pulling everything together.

Here's Day 6s entry on remembering the shop

Dear Carmel,

I remember the shop I bought, it turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life.  At the time of course I thought it was the best thing ever, I had plans; big plans and perhaps that was too ambitious?  It was called 'The Family Lolly Shop' and was centred in town, convenient I thought, great exposure I expected.  The walls of the shop were lined with clear plastic storage containers offering an endless array of colourful pick-your own lollies. 
  The shop had potential I remember thinking as I looked around the empty floor space, how hollow it felt as I clanked over the squeaky floorboards inspecting every small detail, every product, every shelf, every customer.  Dragging a plastic bag and tearing it off, I was ready to trial some of these goodies caught behind their plastic screens.  As I lifted the latches, scooping mixtures of glossy chocolate-coated bullets, bright yellow bananas and soft sugary--coated mint leaves, I continued my way around the walls until I was convinced this business was for me.
 I bought the shop of course, as I said it had potential.  I would re-name the shop 'The Candy Cove,' a cove of endless wonders in local and British confectionary, where in big square and glass containers were candy-watches and bracelets for the kids, gum-balls and gobstoppers in an assortment of sizes, the larger ones paralysing your jaw with their bulk, creating silky salvia that filled the cavity of your mouth with no where to go. The Raspberry drops were generously coated in confectioner's sugar, a old-time favourite along with the colourful blend of Dolly-mix. 
  The shop was renovated, new glass counter displays housing ranges of chocolates including individual moulded shapes of dark and milk chocolate bears, butterflies, mice and cats.  There were chocolate-cups filled with cappuccino and liqueur flavouring's and sugar coated almonds for wedding bonbonnieres. 
   The once empty floor space was now filled with the presence of ice-cream freezers, and half-cut wine-barrels with Darrel-Lea liquorice packs and tins of Castlemaine Rock candy bursting over the edges.  There are tables for sitting at, relaxing over a coffee freshly brewed from the new coffee maker installed, while the roof is lined with a display of bountiful piƱata's in the shape of donkey's, horses, butterflies, cars, trucks and even mermaids that have the kids mesmerised for choice.   There were cake tins for sale and hire, square, round, oblong and shapes of Bob-the-Builder and Bugs-bunny, Dora-the-explorer; endless.  Walls were lined with party-favours, candles, lolly-bags and sparklers.  There were cake decorating supplies of piping tubes and bags, rolling pins, cake-boards, pillars and stands, soft-icing and almond icing packs, cake mixes; everything.
  Why the shop didn't make money is beyond me.  I kept telling myself, if the same shop was in the heart of Melbourne it would've made a killing, anywhere else but here and it would've succeeded. 
  The Candy Cove is still  there, it has new owners, they don't have the same passion I had, they don't have the same vision, the same drive.  It's not mine anymore, it sent me broke and I wonder how the shop ever survives?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Day 5 - Dear Carmel - I remember the funeral...

Today's topic is one close to my heart; everyone I would imagine must have a funeral that resonates with them regardless how heartfelt it must be.  This next addition to my memory journal is a poignant part of my life that could never be forgotten.  It is an event that shaped my adolescence, it changed things dramatically within our family then and forever.

Dear Carmel,

  I remember the funeral, it was my brother Craig's.  He died way to soon, joining the growing statistics of a nation's road toll.  I remember how unexpected it must have been, how it tore my mother's heart right out from under her ribs, no warning, no nothing.  As for my father, his soul was robbed in vein, hopeful it would reach and protect his little boy who was now lost forever.  And for me, well my life became empty, insignificant, guilt creeping through every artery, reminding me I have a future and he doesn't.
  At eighteen-years of age Craig had lost his life, the autopsy proved a ruptured spleen to be the cause, the cause for turning our families life into sudden turmoil, the cause for sending my parents into a dark place they cannot explain, that I don't understand, where they never return the same again.  My parents have lost their only son, and me an only brother; instantly transforming me into an only child.
  I couldn't fully appreciate the preparations that went into organising a funeral, or how to choose an appropriate song to mark eighteen-years of life taken away too soon, how could I was still just a kid.  I didn't know how or why my parent's chose the song Bridge over troubled waters, by Simon and Garfunkel.  I didn't know why they chose such a  gut wrenching tribute for someone's life, and how every time that tune, those words  'I will lay me down, were played, raised a depth of despair that taught a sixteen-year old how to grieve.
  Inside the church, away from the playful heat of the sun, was a long walk past endless rows of empty pews leading to the open coffin.  Standing alongside the coffin, alongside my brother for the last time, my mother stood opposite me, sobbing, shrinking.  We both stared into a silk-lined casket that hugged Craig's sleepy body.  He wore a scar above his eyebrow, his lips desperate for a lick from a chapstick; the result of a Noosa summer.  I wanted to give him one last kiss goodbye but the force of fear kept me from doing so.  I will always regret submitting to that fear. 
  I remember standing at the graveside as Craig's casket was intrusted into the dry cavity of the ground we surrounded.  My father pulled at me angrily, bringing me closer to the edge, too close, did he wish it was me being lowered instead, like I wished it was?  I was drained, my life had been sucked out and spat out; irretrievable. 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 4 Dear Carmel - I remember the kiss...

The topic's keep rolling in for my Memory Journal and today I'm about to revisit an experience most people will tell you they never forget and I believe that to be true.  It didn't take me long to recall the very first real kiss I had and whom I was fortunate enough to share it with. 
Remember the point of these exercises is to use free-writing, to recall a time and pour your thoughts out onto the page; who knows one day soon it may just go towards writing that memoir I long to produce.

Dear Carmel

I remember the kiss, the very first experience that left a flurry of butterflies swarming from the pit of my stomach, rising to a point where the poor boy on the other side of my mouth may have accidently caught one or two, his tongue projecting, capturing them like a Venus fly-trap. 
  Who was this boy who made my heart sing so loudly, who left such a tangible effect that has become a measuring stick for every other boy thereafter?  We were just kids, ten or eleven at the time and who knows what possessed him to advance on a freckle-faced tomboy dressed in corduroy pants. 
  I remember our lips connecting, our eyes closing instinctively as though we had been doing this for years.  I remember the smile that beamed a million stars as we finally pulled away from each other.    The kiss had come from nowhere, and wherever nowhere comes from, came the milestone responsible for my first real taste of love.
  He told me it was the best kiss he'd ever had, and I kept it secret that it was the first kiss I'd ever had.  Did this mean we were going to be boyfriend, girlfriend?  I didn't ask.  His mother called us into the kitchen for a glass of lemonade and a biscuit, our eyes popping over the top of our drinking glasses, darting this way and that to avoid any awkward acknowledgement of one another.
  His parents and mine are best friends and my mum was watching me, listening to the silence that followed me, that screamed to her something was going on.  As it was, she would never learn of our kiss, it was our secret, Bruce's and mine.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Day 3 - Dear Carmel - I remember the grandma...

Day 3 and my draw card is remembering 'the grandma.' The grandma is appropriate in this case as I grew up only ever knowing one grandma.  Read on to find out what an amazing woman she was and,her influences on me as both a child and adult.  It was great  re-visiting some of the most happiest and sad times of my life and how it conjures memories that had escaped me temporarily.

Dear Carmel

  I remember the grandma who took me to toy shops, who introduced me to my first ever hobby - collecting swap cards.  My favourite destination for swap cards was Tim the Toyman.  You couldn't find another store like it in Melbourne.  With ten-dollars tightly tucked away within my small fist - a luxury my grandmother became famous for - sent me into the toy store anxiously searching for the only thing I had desperately waited to invest in.
  Grandma wasn't big on conversations, instead she would take me on imaginary journey's through her garden filled with prize winning Dalia's, she would feed me her much anticipated coconut jam slice, rich golden mountains of coconut topping cascading over the river of strawberry jam, and if you were lucky enough to get a fresh slice straight from the tin, you would be treated to the warm buttery texture that licked your palette like nothing else. 
  I remember grandma was the first person to teach me how to cook fresh peas, how to split their pods, carefully, accurately cutting their lengths, straight down the seams, bursting, popping every hidden seed within, exposing them; sending them straight into the pot.  
  After dinner grandma treated me like a queen, serving rockmelon and ice-cream for supper.  I didn't have the heart to tell her I hated rockmelon, instead I tried to disguise that bitter taste that enveloped my tongue by carefully proportioning spoonful's of equal quantities directly into my gullet and swallowing before it bit my tongue. 
  I loved and hated night time with grandma.  I loved the high double-bed I needed to launch into, I loved the warmth as I climbed under the covers onto the awaiting flannelette sheets, a luxury unknown at home.  I loved the way I could spread across from one side of the bed to the next, making snow angels under the covers, finally allowing the heaviness of the days activities drift my tired mind into dream-time.  Some nights my dream-time would be suspended, throwing me into a world I didn't know or understand.  My  grandmothers sobs of loneliness crept through the walls, they hovered over my bed rendering me incapable of moving, talking, and the only thing I could do was silently shed tears awaiting the morning.  
  I remember a grandma being so caring, loving, accepting.  She left me her wedding ring, it was my inheritance, a non-replaceable piece of the past I wear on my wedding finger proudly, a piece of my grandmother always with me.  I say goodnight to her most nights as I pass a photograph of her that sits smiling at me from on top of the bookcase.  I hope she hears my prayers,  knows of a love that never fades until we meet again. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Day 2 - Dear Carmel - I remember the dog...

Well here is day 2.  I have been eagerly awaiting to get back to the desk and begin my second writing exercise, or should I say my Memory Journal.  It's true walking the dog in the morning refreshes the creative juices, my mind talks to me a million miles an hour. I wish my brain had a built in Dictaphone, recording all the thoughts, the lines, the words I come up with; the dog must think I mad talking to myself.

Dear Carmel

 I remember the dog, I remember his first day.  There standing with chest pushed out and a look of mischief slightly hidden beneath his apprehension, was a dog who finally had a home.  I don't know how long he'd been lost, a while I reckon by the look of his wiry ginger coat, the thinned-out hair almost completely missing - a lack of nutrition I presume.
  The dog home named him Banjo, it's not a name I would have chosen, but don't get me wrong I like it and think it suits him.  The funny thing is when he first arrived home, he didn't know his name, I tried calling him every dog name I could think of, names I thought someone else would have chosen, like Jack, Scruff, Ginger, Jackson, Joe, but none of them worked, he didn't respond to any of them. 
  Banjo's a jumper, he's a dog springboard, bouncing from a standstill he can make it over any fence.  I have to tie him on a chain, I don't like doing it, but if I don't I risk this stupid mutt getting away, and I couldn't bare the thought of Banjo becoming lost again. 
  I try walking him with a lead, he pulls like a tractor, the strength is phenomenal, wrenching my shoulder socket with every attempt to chase anything that moves.  Actually, he'd be better suited as a sleigh dog the way he digs those hinds in, wrestling with me to pull ahead, to take me on a run I don't think I'd be capable of keeping up with. 
  There's no mistake he's a street dog as he stands in the teaming rain while his dry, warm kennel remains unoccupied. He doesn't like his kennel and it appears from the torn pieces of hessian hanging from the metal frame, that he doesn't like his hammock bed either.  I can't have him go cold, he must miss his creature comforts like a soft padded dog bed.  I buy a padded bed big enough to squeeze into his kennel, encouraging him to keep warm.  The next morning he is sitting in the middle of the yard, he looks pleased with himself, he looks at me as if to say, don't bother I don't want it.  The soft padded bed is now nothing but the remains of shredded foam and stuffing littering his yard, soft white tufts surrounding him like snow.
  I've replaced his lead with a harness, it stops him choking as he pulls me along if nothing else.  He lives in a yard now, fenced just high enough to keep him from bounding over, his attempts to escape when he see's the cat made fruitless.  He knows his name now, 'Banjo,' I call with every annoying bark he lets out when he see's a rogue kangaroo cross the yard, or another dog being walked by their owner out on the street.  I love this dog, I wish he could tell me his story, his street story like street people get to do in 'The Big Issue.'  I want to understand this complicated companion of mine, if only I could speak dog. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Day 1 - Dear Carmel - I remember the boat...

Follow my entries - 'Writing the story of your life' - Entry One
Dear Carmel,

  I remember the boat, the one that saves lives.  It hangs from the side of the Rhapsody the welcoming cruise ship I spent ten awesome days soaking enough summer sun to fill me with a lifetime of vitamin D.   The boat is actually a life-raft, but to me it looks more like a boat.  Who would've ever imagined such a lifesaving vessel could act as boat, a boat that took us on a wider journey across the seas of the Caribbean to what otherwise would remain isolated. The Island is filled with atmosphere, presence, culture of men and women and their children, their adorable coils of tight knit hair, their skin the colour of chocolate you could easily eat, enjoying them, swallowing their bright smiles, taking it all away with you never to forget.
  The pristine waters are like no other, they are clear and I mean clear like a well chlorinated swimming pool.  The sands are crystal, glimmering in the days warmth as though littered with tiny speckles of diamonds.  The sand leads you to the waters edge that is filled with the wonderful joy of passengers who have embarked, like me, onto an island filled with the slim outline of palm trees dotted amongst the hilly backdrop, a backdrop that I imagine conceals a world of habitual huts for its people far behind in a distance you cannot see.  The sands invite you deep into the warmth of the water, carrying you out as far as you would like to go, sharing the freedom offered with an occasional tortoise who slowly swims past his audience, his inquisitive nature a sight to be mustered.
  On shore there is an exuberance of colourful materials of t-shirt's and sarong's  flapping happily in the soft breeze I am grateful for drying the beads of sweat that have drenched my body.
  In the distance the Rhapsody sits awaiting our return.  As one life-raft disappears behind the curves of the islands shores, another re-appears with the next load of expectant customers awaiting their anticipated arrival.  The boats sway across the soft ripples of the glassy water, mesmerising those who take the time to watch there delicate movement, and who would've ever thought? 

(Exercise 1 - 'I remember the boat).


Writing the Story of Your Life

   As a member of Writers Victoria, I am always lucky to get the very latest news of any up-coming courses and competitions that may stir my creative juices in writing.  My latest ambition is to nail 'Writing the story of my life,' and it just so happens to be the title of Carmel Bird's ultimate guide to writing memoir successfully. 
   I have always had a preference to write non-fiction, usually in the form of opinion pieces or essay. So when I tell you Carmel's book is no coincidence sitting within my bookshelf, otherwise gathering dust,when I recognise her name as one of the inspiring mentors listed in Writers Victoria's workshops being offered for season two, you will understand the elation I felt when I finally made a conscious decision to embark on a new adventure of writing, the adventure of writing my memoir.
  As you would imagine I have taken my copy of Carmel's book out from the chaotic filled shelves lining my office wall so that it is given new life; new life to a memoir; my memoir.

  So over the next however long it will take me (notice the non-commitment to time) I will endeavour to complete the exercise's Carmel sets out throughout her book in order to help build my confidence in telling my story, the narrative of my life. 

I'm going to use this blog as my forum to address these exercises, firstly topics 'For the memory journal.'  The backbone to memoir writing.  One topic a day, and there are 60 topics, so this will take a few months to complete.  I invite you to read my writing, this is an exercise that encourages writing freely; perhaps you might want to join me, or just read my narrative, perhaps you might like comment (constructively of course). 

 My entries will be listed as "Dear Carmel,' as though I'm writing to her, telling her my story; it all makes sense - doesn't it?  Here goes, ENJOY my venture, as I hope I will.  Day one starts today!


Over Sixty-Shades of Gray: A Journey Through Life's Later Years

Here is one of the latest titles I've recently had the pleasure to review, I enjoyed this read and highly recommend it to anyone 50+ ...