A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Tolz Book Review

This weighty tome is a cracker of a debut novel and I hope Steve hasn't run himself out of energy and ideas so that he can go on to write more. I don't know how long it took him to write this, but it certainly took me a while to read this (mind you, I was only reading it in snippets at the tired end of every day - probably not the best way for this book to be read), however, there is a good 711 pages of writing and he has done a fine job on every page.

An enthralling tale that twists through the father and son relationship to give the reader and Jasper, the son, an understanding of the strange life his father, Martin Dean, and his uncle, Terry Dean have lived. In some ways, and probably because I took so long to read it, the detail was so incredibly intensive and enthralling, that I forgot some of the things from the start. Maybe I should read it when I am not quite as busy and am able to read great slabs at once.

The story itself seems quite unbelievable, but Steve's language and tone sets it in a way that puts it back into the possibility. Leaves the reader questioning. Jasper tries so hard to not be his father (as so many of us do) but the realisation as he gets older that he is part of him and that this is OK is a significant moment into adulthood. A milestone that Steve alludes to that is so often only realised too late.

Martin spends his whole life running, hiding trying to show his genius, but the world is only interested in his bad boy brother Terry and this drives him into himself more. I was left feeling sad for him, yet at the same time, wondering why he didn't just make a break elsewhere as an unknown being. A frustrating character.

It appeared that his intentions were very pure, naive even for Jasper; however his emotional maturity was stunted at the point of the letterbox incident - the pivotal point in his life where things began to go wrong for him.

The threads of the saga were well held together, even when I was unsure as to whether there was anymore to say, Steve Tolz found more words to say. It was a story of deceit, love, betrayal. A story of two brothers. A story of the father and son relationship. A story of living on the edge, behind the hedge, in a maze, in a craze. A story about lessons to learn and not learn.



Stuffed up head, stuffed up chest, hard to think, hard to laugh.  Over it.  Bored with myself.  Listening to the laughter in the nearby schoolyard wishing I had the lightness and joy that they did.  One packet or two more of antibiotics, more sleep...I know it will come back, I just want it now.

One Beautiful Thing

I woke before the world today to the sound of the earth stretching out. The sun was creeping around the horizon with a faint flow in the sky. The earth was beginning to warm in this glow. There was a quiet, a gentle hum. Only I could hear this.

Then a magpie began his morning song. My body lay so gently rested. Not asleep. Awake, eyes open, rested, listening to the earth waking, warming the magpie song.

Other birds began to join in as the warm glow from the sun strengthened into pinkish hues then through to orange. I lay still. Completely at peace. No-one calling for me, my services not required. At rest. The birds moved to a morning feeding and singing frenzy whilst I lay entranced by their song.

As the sun turned from orange to yellow and the sky to blue, the birds settled into their daily song, and my eyelids rested once more to that peaceful place - shut.

Breath by Tim Winton - Book Review

This is such a beautifully written story that took Bruce, (Pikelet) through the toughest years of life - adolescence. Desperately looking for role models, he finds a mate in Loonie, who is also trying to work himself out and together they find Sando, an older man, who sees their potential, and tries to live through their youth.

Sando uses their youth for his own dreams and pushes them to the extreme so that they are always wanting for more. The surfing becomes an addiction where it can only become more extreme for them to get the buzz that they are after. The rest of life becomes too ordinary for them. Tim Winton deals with the pains of this age so well, as well as the pain of failures of the older folk, Sando and his partner Eve.

There is this constant questioning, tension going on through Pikelet's mind, trying to be "out there", something different, but when everything fell apart with Sando and Loonie, he looked around town and he was unsure. "Was I serious? Could I do something gnarly, or was I just ordinary?" (pg 76). Pikelet begins to feel as though he just doesn't fit in the ordinary either, and that he really needs the "extraordinary" when ..."There was such and intoxicating power to be had from doing things that no-one else dared try" (pg 115) and "Everything around me seemed just so pointless and puny. The locals in the street looked cowed and weak and ordinary" (pg 116).

Tim's descriptions of ordinariness and extremes and the intoxications of it were brilliant and would be great as a study item for kids, boys in particular, 16 yrs plus, as long as it was a guided study. There are certainly some fairly heavy themes in here. Heavy sexual, erotic themes and addiction themes that need to be dealt with in a "Read and Discuss" situation with the adolescence age group.

I did find the ending a little abrupt after such a brilliant in-depth study of the adolescent years, and felt that it didn't link well enough. That said, the book has stuck with me very strongly. It is a great book, brilliant even especially for the possibilities it holds for helping adolescents understand themselves a little more. Tim, I think is a brilliant writer, and each book seems to only get better. 9/10

Book Review: All that Happened at Number 26 by Denise Scott

A great light hearted read by Denise Scott that really could have been about what is happening in my house (except without Denise's great humour).   A really well written and very funny book.  The book is basically a memoir of her and her family's life whilst they lived at Number 26 and all of the goings on there.  The ups and the downs, and the ins and the outs of life whilst they grew up.  The crazy times of being with incredibly creative parents, but incredibly poor.    Parents putting up with each other and kids having to put up with parents.  

Denise is incredible to be able to look at her own life and poke a stick at it and a have a good laugh, even at the crap.  It is endearing to to see the depth of the relationships that they have in their family, even through the humour. 

Well put together.  I wish that I was as funny as Denise and was able to poke a stick at myself as well as she does.  Well done Denise.  8/10

weekend beginnings

The birds are singing in cheerful abandon as the sun warms the earth.  The washing lies on the floor of the laundry in piles of colours ready to be fed into the hungry machine.  Distractions of thirsty plants in pots catch my eye, drawing me away from the clamouring noise of the Bionicle play inside.  Laughter turns to tears turns to anger turns to play in moments that one can only just blink an eye. Air as fresh as cut grass makes me gasp for more till my lungs are stretched out to the max.  I reach my face to the morning sunshine and pause...aah...let the weekend begin.

Review of My Guantanamo Diary by Mahvish Rukhsana Khan

Wow! What an exhausting story that is a must read by all so that we never, never forget what want and power can do to people, in particular to innocent people.

This is the story that puts the human face to the people at Guantanamo Bay and gives us a chance to understand them. As a reader, you are taken through anger, frustration, joy and tears. It is beautifully written, and is a book that will never leave you. Such an important story to be told. We need to learn to listen to both sides so that we can be more understanding, and Mahvish Khan enables us to do that.

I found many parts of this book to be very hard to digest. Uncomfortable, and so they should be. It is not an easy read, it is not an easy topic. The atrocity of the "war against terror" were are are still so damaging because of the lack of trial of the Afgani's and Arabs and also because of the bounty system.

It was a frighteningly eye opening book, and I thank Mahvish for bringing the stories of these hurt people to the world. Thank goodness for a change of power to the USA so that Guantanamo will be closed down and hopefully all remaining inmates will receive a fair trial.

Incredibly well written. I did finish wanting to know more, however, understanding that probably even she doesn't know more.

Depressing, thought provoking.


Review of The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll

A gentle rolling tale of suburban lives and their interactions and the importance of their past relationships. Steven captured the tiny parts of suburban life so terribly well. Rita pack s to leave her house, the reality of leaving a house after many years is so complex and Steven managed to dissect this and look at the different types of people, " ...the types that just get up and go..." and the type that need to "...say goodbye properly."

The novel got off to what seemed like a very excited and interesting beginning and from there lost momentum slowing to the pace of a horse and cart.

The information was interesting however, the tension lines in the writing waned a little. Madeline's character seemed a little weak and Peter Van Rijn could have had much more depth to his character.

There were some great lines in there and I did like the style of this writing, very common voice, , as thought he was writing straight from their heads. Being a Melbourne writer and being set in Melbourne perhaps also made it more common for me.

I did find myself guessing the whole time as to where "Progress" was. I found the title of the novel arduous, and kept forgetting it. Too long and hard to remember.
All up 7/10

Review of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkos

Christos has done a brilliant job of picking out people from backyards, in a "normal" situation and just turned the dial up a little. He has allowed us to peer into the windows of all of the people involved afterward to understand the aftershock that can only come from these things. He has highlighted how these situations do happen, can happen, in your suburbia, our suburbia. All of us, all of our suburbs have ugly characters. Situations that are cranked up a little can turn ugly, and people can turn ugly.

I really loved the commonness of his language. It was one that I found I was able to to relate to. It was fascinating to read how something like slapping anothers child can have a ripple effect on others lives, and the minuta of it all.

I found that I really enjoyed the approach of looking through the windows of each of the characters tortured souls to gain more of an understanding of them. He had great depth of character studies, except perhaps Brendan, who I was always a little unsure as to exactly his relationships with Connie and then late in the book, there was a hint of a tension between him and Aisha, leading to more confusion on my part.

Richie was a fantastic character, the angst of the teen. Well developed. Rosie was a character who Christos developed so well that I wanted to shake her into reality, to tell her to grow up.

Great read 9/10

Corner Store

I heard the bell jingle as He come in the door. My spine tingled. I refused to look around. I knew that it would be Him, but I would not give in. I made my hands busy as though it was really difficult to pick up a packet of chips. Not easy when there are only three packets there. Why the hell didn't they have more stock in this god-forsaken shop.

The floor creaked as he moved from the doorway. My heart beat was now resounding throughout the entire shop. I could no longer swallow as my heart had somehow crept up into my throat. Great. I was now going to die here. Right here. Right now. This dirty creepy old shop. I still refused to look around. My fingers were getting colder and my tongue had swollen to the size of a footy oval. I really was about to die. I tried to remember if I had actually signed that Will, or if it was still just filled out in pencil.

The floor creaked again.

My heart did one enormous beat. Is it possible for a heart to do this? Beat fast in a throat, then do one enormous beat? Or was this what did happen just before people had their sudden heart attack and died?

No saliva left.

My feet couldn't move. Where the hell was Luigi? I took very shallow breaths so that my air did not make any effect on the space. I decided not to touch anything any more. I just stood there. Still. As a statue.

Another creak. This time it came from upstairs. Luigi. Thank goodness for that. He must have heard the bell jingle. Why did it take him so long? Am I in a time warp?

My neck was starting to ache from holding my head up. I felt dizzy. I could feel the presence behind me, creeping around, creaking the old wooden floor boards.

I could hear Him picking up dusty produce off the shelves and throwing them in a basket. What was He up to? I daren't turn. If I didn't move, I wasn't here. I could hear Him getting closer.

My heart seemed to be creeping into my mouth. What would it do then? Would it actually sit in my mouth? My whole heart, throbbing in my mouth, blood and all pumping out of it? What if I accidentally spat it out on the floor here in this quiet, gentle corner store. My heart for all to see. Bare my heart, on the floor. Beating it's pathetic little irregular beats, budump, burdump, dudump, du, du, dudump, burdump. Luigi would see. He would see. Anyone could see.

I reached out with my freezing cold hand to the chip shelf and missed. I accidentally hit one of the three bags of chips, BBQ, yuk. I felt sick now.

I had to move. He was getting too close. Luigi's steps were getting heavier as he came down the narrow dark staircase, I tried to will him down faster. I lifted my first foot that was now seemed to be made of concrete, and then the other, pulled my hat down over my eyes with my whitish-yellow finger that resembled icicles, and tried to creep down the window side of the aisle.

"Celina," Luigi called, as he came out of the bottom of the staircase as I felt Him turn towards me. I reached for the door with the bell and as quickly as I could, fled into the sunshine.

Review of Addition by Toni Jordan

What a great, enthralling debut novel. I was caught right from the start. It is all about the numbers. By the end of the novel, I was unsure as to whether I had an obsessive compulsive disorder myself and began to question everything that I did, the order that I did it in, the patterns that I needed in my life, the people. I was engrossed.

I would even go as far as saying that it was a brilliant novel by a Melbourne author. I thoroughly enjoyed being drawn into this world of the obsessive compulsive. Toni managed to put the personality into a condition and dealt with how treatment affects the person within.

Addition is all about the counting, and counting is what soothes Grace when she feels things are beginning to get a little out of control. It is her mechanism of controlling her world. It is also the one thing that others think needs to be stopped.

The hero, Grace's white knight, does at times seem a little implausible, however, this doesn't really take away from Toni's great insight into the personality of person locked behind such a socially debilitating condition.

A great and interesting insight into the minds of others and ourselves. Looking forward to see what else Toni has to offer. 9/10


I really don't want to be dull and boring. I always liked the look of that wife on that BBC show with the crazy hair and bright clothes, bright lippy while her hubby (the dentist) was always in navy. Dull. So when I actually saw a grey hair peeping out, the realisation that I was no longer a 25 year old hit me, I grabbed a bottle of chestnut, just like I did when I was 25, because the slabs of colour just didn't cut it anymore. Then I threw on the bright dark red lippy - everyday.

Then I looked in the mirror.

Now I really did look like a middle-aged woman. What I could do in my 20's suddenly looks crap in my ... ahem... later years. Like mutton dressed up as lamb, literally. Now, how to be a not so dowdy ... more mature person with a younger attitude with looking like a dick. Suddenly all I could see around me was all my friends looking old. I whistled too much in my life time, so too many lip wrinkles, and smiled too much, so eye wrinkles, and the bit under my chin - everyone had that problem - it was dropping. Bags under our eyes. We were no longer as fresh as daisies.

Would I have it any other way? Not smile? No. Not whistle? No thank you, many hours spent whistling my time way. The bags under my eyes, well, they are the sign of the many things that I do, the children, the stresses, the happiness's, the late nights, the forgotten glasses of water... change it ... botox it ... NO WAY! I am what I am. Aged and me. Greying and wrinkly. Laughing, crying and frowning. Sunspots and freckles. Take me as I am because inside me I am still that 25 year old with a bunch more experience.



Noise, chaos
Laughter, tears
Mess and mayhem
Fast and slow
Paper everywhere
Pencils and pens
Cooking in the kitchen
Food on the floor
Clothes in the hallway
Records go 'round and 'round
Doors left open
for flies to come an' play
Friends join in
Up the tree and down
In the sandpit, trampoline and swing
Ropes tied from here to Timbucktoo
Breaky from 8 till 10
and lunch from 2 till 4
Dishes left on the sink
Dinner nearly forgotten
and bedtime slips out of control
Books devoured
Games all over the floor
Projects spill into each other
Curtains drift in the breeze

Time for school again

Lunches to make
Piano to practice
Beds to tidy
Hats on heads
Brush your teeth and hair
We're off and running again.

skipping song

peel a banana
upside down
peel an orange
round and round
count to 24
then you can
go on for more
.. .

You're out!

backyard possum

Something that came to me whilst I was bringing in the washing in the dark listening to the secretive and noisy possum:

Possum in the tree
He he he
Possum in the tree
He he he

Possum on the roof
Oof oof oof
Possum on the roof
Oof oof oof

Possum in the garden
Eatin’, eatin’, eatin,
Possum in the garden
Eatin’, eatin’, eatin’,

Possum in the air
Flair, Flair
Possum in the air
Flair, Flair

Possum on the fence
Running from the dog
Possum on the branch
Running from the cat
Possum on roof
BOOM, crash
Time to escape
Barking and miaowing
Possum eyes a glowing
Scamper over wires
Possum disappears

Random thoughts whilst in town

The upside to working one day in an accounting firm doing admin is all of the things that I see and all of the people I meet and come across on the train, footpath, cafe, office, and just generally in the city. This week, I was really fortunate to have a chat with a friend who pushed me and nutured me into understanding where I was. I now feel much clearer and relaxed about being a writer. I feel relaxed about the journey that I am on. I feel excited about the journey that I am going on. Most importantly, I feel focused. Feeling focused has actually opened my mind up. Amazing. Feel free to keep popping by to be with me on my sometimes bumping journey as a writer.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and mind yesterday:


People walking purposefully through the city talking loudly to themselves. Who are they talking to? Why are they talking so loudly? What has become of our city with all these people slowly going insane talking to themselves barking orders? They draw closer. Plugs are in ears. Tuned in elsewhere. Minds are with somewhere else. Can they see the word around them any more...


Pop into a stationery shop to buy a USB stick and from the moment that I walk in the door I am lost. Four different floors to go into. Where shall I go? Why don't they have a signpost? What about a GPS given out at the door. Why am I the only one that can't work out where to go...


Man in the foyer. Placard with hand written words in text stuffed in his backpack. Scruffy hair. Furiously scribbling notes onto a pad. Lines are all uneven. Clothes are all uneven. Oblivious. Suits are around. Scared. What will he do? Will he combust? Waiting. Waiting. Holding phones to their ears. Pretending to talk. Looking away. Waiting. Sitting. Waiting.


Pass lieing in gutter. Photo side up. Rob French. Who are you? Why did you drop your pass?
Left in the rain, ripped off, lieing, floating away.


here and there
waiting & watching
lurking in the corners

jobs calling
piling up
mountainous ranges

turn off
switch off



This was an exercise I did in my Wednesday Workshop with Emilie Collyer to see a season as a person and write about it in a short amount of time. See if you can pick the season.

Samson woke late and slowly from under his thick doona and after rolling over three times and burying his head under his head under his three pillows, he stretched a very long wide stretch and yawned a very long yawn. His eyelids still felt very heavy as his rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands and then he gave his beard a nice big scratch. It really was time to get up. Samson climbed out of his double bed, which was just a little too small for him, and sat on the edge with his feet on the old dusty rug he had inherited. He took in another big yawn and slowly stood up to greet the day in his dingy dusty old room. It was now 7.45am and his alarm had gone off at 6.30am, however, he didn't have the energy, or couldn't be bothered rushing into work, especially after the day he had yesterday.

Samson was a short man with dark hair and a very unkempt beard. He had always kept to himself at work, and thought that he had always gotten his job done, eventually. He didn't like to talk a lot, and always wore extra clothes to work because he believed the office was too cold. When he brought up the issue, it had quickly blown up into a stowrm, and Samson had really let loose with his fury. Now there was a real mess to clean up, and he didn't want to go in there to do it. He was hoping that it would be cleaned up for him.

He quietly shuffled his way down his dark hallway to his kitchen to make his breakfast to begin his day. He must face the storm he had created.

Dawn... Dead of Night....Dawn

The brightness of dawn sparkles with freshness and light, awakening the day.
The crispness is in the air around.
Alert, awake, alive and ready for action.
Hearing the birdsong and breath in the fresh air.

Silence and darkness creeping around.
Pools and spots of light spill down.
Stealth is the way and solitude is the preference.
Fear of noises as unknown eyes glimmer and gleam.
Tiptoe around.
Bang into walls.
Angry shouts in the laneways,
Tin lids clatter and clang.
Sobbing "I love you's"
Doors slamming, wheels squeal
Doors shut
Tiny mouse feet tiptoe up walls
Leaves brush on the roof
Possums clamber up the tin pipe

Rays of sunshine
Sweet talk
Nods of hello
Walkers chat to each other
Dogs pant
Birds sing to the day
Flowers lift up their heads to welcome the day
Good morning sunshine
Happy to be here

This was something from my Wednesday workshop with Emilie Collyer last week where we had to write about the character associated with the time/s of day. Quite enjoyable once I got into it.

the life of the migraine

The vice across my forehead presses and compresses invading every thought. The crater at the top of my head is filled with rotten lava. I need to squeeze my head really tightly to stop the pain and wrap it in a cold pillow, thousands of cold pillows shrouding myself from the world; the noise, the light, the complications, the decisions, the smells.

My jaw throbs in sync with the crown of my head. Sleep doesn't come even though I am now nestled in those pillows cowering in the dark, thick with sedating drugs. Pain overwhelms me and takes over my psyche. My eyeballs are bruised and every roll and movement is painful. Time ticks by as I wait it out hoping something will work. Three days now have gone and I am tired. My patience with the air around has all by dissipated. I want someone to fix me so I can move freely again. It's the right side now mixed with an overall headache if that is possible - who knows. Left to start - always the worst - like a foreigner, an alien invasion in my head I feel like I cold remove it. It is so tangible with a line where the pain starts and ends. Like a paralysis, a stroke, if you like, loss of sensation from eyebrow to nose to jaw to eye at moments lost of sensation to then heightened sensation in an overbearing way. I look in the mirror and my eye lid is half closed and drooping.

I will not be able to sleep until the pain has dropped away...

I shower to try to wash the pain down the drain pipe.

Everything makes no difference and nothing makes any difference.

The oil burner glows with the lavender, rosemary... I cannot bear the smell any longer, it makes me feel ill. I blow it out.

I know it will end, eventually, but it is all a matter of when.

Then finally...and suddenly, and quite inexplicitly it's gone and after the hangover, after the post migraine tiredness, renewed energy. Life again. Breath again, move again, speak again and smile again. Don't look back, just in case it sees me again and catches me to slay me down again.

sales stranger at my door

a ring on the bell
who is it now
count kids off one, two, three
dinner on the stove
ready to boil
balls going like missiles
'cross loungeroom
down hall
still ringing the bell
"coming" I shout
a stranger in blue
with lanyard and pass
clipboard and flyers
"not interested"
words of power, gas and electricity
all to save save and save more
boil the pot over
slamming the door
not welcome sales strangers
we think not at the door
with pots on the stove
children running amok
go home to your own house
to the warmth of your food
where your love awaits you
friends come in and eat
drink at my table
join in our mess please
we have more than enough

In the dead of night

Melbourne Laneway, originally uploaded by amd300466.
Doris was exhausted. It was now 4.38 am on the clock at the 24 hour MacDonalds in the centre of the city and her she was still awake because awake was safe. Her head was thumping, absolutely thumping from overtiredness and dehydration. The last drink she had was not long ago, sure, she could still smell it on her own breath. The nice man, well boy really, who called himself Joe, had found her sitting on the sidewalk with a box of white wine – a nice drop too she thought. When she offered him a drink and little bit of a fun time for the night, Joe suggested that he would shout her a fun time and a drink.
It was quite a to-do to get into Macca’s because Doris felt like her legs had gone to sleep and they just didn’t seem to be working so well now. Her heels seemed to have gotten a little wobbly during the night. The strong arm of Joe had been great in supporting her through the long walk to the end of the block and now she was in here, Doris, as she did like to be called now, felt quite weary. The weight of her head was increasing by the second as she waited for Joe to come back with the drinks and the stares of the staff bore through her like lasers. At least they would see her today. They all seemed to recognise Joe as though he were a regular.
A feeling of dread began to creep over Doris. What was his treat of fun for the night? Did it involve anymore than a drink at Macca’s? The weariness was lightening up as the flight instinct took over. No more shakiness in those old worn out legs for Doris. It was time to make a run for it.


This irrelevant life
I face the back wall
Passed by again, again
Smile at someone
Reach out with a little wave
Hoping for something

Busy, busy, busy
So very important
And busy, busy, busy
Achievers all on the road to somewhere
To busy to notice

Where am I going?
What am I doing?
Trying to understand why
It's so important to be important
It's so fantastic to be too busy
It's so great to be too tired

I feel tired and weary
I long for nobodies
To be somebodies
I want people to stop
And listen and talk
And sit
In silence
And so nothing
And enjoy it
And remember each other

Words and Pictures - Pretty

Pretty passionfruit, originally uploaded by megs threads.
I do feel
as the wind blows
straight through me
and I do choke with heavy dust
and lose a piece or two,

All my toes
twist and turn
in the bed of poo
and food that does so rot
makes them grow an inch or two,

My lovely green hands
have been burnt
by the searing sun
so dry and yellow
now they fall
gently upon the ground,

awakens me
from a rest
as little hands
pull at me
from the fence
to hunt for balls
and treasure.

Now I sleep
as I prepare
to make my pretty flowers
that I will once again
give the treasures for the hunts,

So you must wait
with patience, please,
and feed me if you will.

With all the goodness
you can find
and a drop of juice
or two.

Thanks Pip for the "Pretty" theme in words & pictures this week. I thought that I would do something different this week. I hope that you like it.

Words and Pictures - Souvenirs

Sally-Anne shoved her hand as deeply as she could into her pocket of her Faberge jeans and skulked around the shop just one more time. How long was it going to take for her mum to talk to the pharmacist? She was so over waiting. This was just tedious. There were so many other things that she would rather be doing.
Sally-Anne stopped in front of the perfumes and picked up each one of them, taking a long deep sniff. That musky one took her into that piano teacher's house. She couldn't remember the name of her, but it was always so cold and dark in that house, and silent, until her fingers hit the keys on old Zimmerman. The sound would resonate throughout that dark house trying to fill it up, unsuccessfully as it would make its way back into the music room, disillusioned with the dullifying features in the house. The sweet floral perfume suddenly took her to her Grade 3 teacher, Miss Tilly, who was always full of happiness and sparkle. Every morning she greeted the class with such a big smile that would spread over like a wash. Any tear or fear that was lingering, was washed away in that defining moment. Sally-Anne smiled even now as she thought of her.
"Come on now", her mother called. Sally-Anne snapped herself back to the present and dropped her smile, letting her hair fall over her eyes and face again. Best not to let others see too closely. The girls at the chemist called out good-bye to her, but she only mumbled as she trudged behind her mother. She shoved her hand into her pocket even further. To even it up, she decided to shove her other hand into her other pocket as she shrugged off her mother's light touch on her shoulders as they started to cross the road.
The trip home seem to take forever, even though they only lived two streets from the shops, and the time it took for Sally-Anne's mother to find the key, put the key in the hole, open the door and go through the doorway seemed to take even longer.
Sally-Anne made a beeline for her bedroom and shut the door behind her. She extracted her hands from the pockets that had now seemed to grow into her skin and opened her right hand to find her souvenir. The lipstick was a lush red colour and she was so excited about it and went to the mirror and put it on. It was fantastic. She heard the footsteps in the hall and her heart dropped. Nausea swept over her as the realisation crept in that what she had done was dreadful. She got the tissues and tried to wipe it off as quickly as she could, but it was leaving a stain on her lips, and the footsteps were so close, the door handle was turning.
"Darling..."Jackie stood there shocked. "What are you doing? What are all those tissues for and why are your lips so red? What is going on?"
Sally-Anne froze like an animal caught in the headlights. No going back now. This was not a souvenir. It was a curse. A curse that she was going to have to deal with.

Thanks Pip for hosting Words and Pictures

Review of The Flower Hunter, The Remarkable Life of Ellie Rowan

Phew! What an epic read! It was very interesting information about a woman from over a century ago in Victoria, NSW and QLD, and because of my interest in painting and indigenous plants and flowers, I stayed for the journey. However, and it is a very big however, I found this to be a long and hard journey.
I did think many times that it may have been more interesting to read the articles that Ellis had written along her travels, or The Flower Hunter that she had written, with just a brief introduction by Christine and Michael Morton-Evans.
Their job was made difficult with a large amount of personal information being destroyed once she died, however, the book did appear to carry a great deal of bitterness for her life that didn't really seem apparent in the way that she conducted herself. I found that this took away from the essence of Ellis Rowan. I felt that they really drew out the pitfalls in her character that actually held her back from really being recognised as a person of significance that she so wished for.
A rather long drawn out book with rather interesting subjects of art, and botany. Difficult to score...7/10

Words and Pictures - Tucked up in Bed

The morning noises slowly began to come into her consciousness as she awakened. There was a little of external and a little of the internal, almost a battle between the two. She tried to keep them out and move back into the comfortable place that she had been. Jessica pulled the warm and crunchy doona a little higher over her ears so that she could block out the sound of the elephants running up and down the hall, and the hyenas screaming in the back room. Her toes curled up against the sudden cold that hit them, so she curled herself into a very tight foetal position.
Jessica tried her hardest to will herself back to that place that she was in only moments ago where everything had seemed so peaceful, gentle and quiet. The green paddock that was so warm and green with flowers blowing gently in the breeze. She could see herself still as she had been running, as though she was still only 8 years old with no aches and pains, carefree through the tall grasses and flowers in her flowing white dress. She had been laughing out loud and running in no pattern at all. Running with no purpose other than just for the fun of it.

Jessica breathed slowly and gently. This was how she would begin the day. Remembering how to be carefree again. Remembering the fun of running through the paddocks of grasses and flowers. This is why she needed that extra moment today to be tucked up in bed.

Thanks Pip for hosting Words and Pictures again and providing me inspiration for a theme to write to!

Words and pictures - Careful

Careful Steps
Originally uploaded by coastwalker

Her heart leapt as her foot slipped from underneath her. She dared not glance below. She couldn't look up, she couldn't look down, she really didn't know where he could look at all. Maybe she should just shut her eyes altogether. Mary squeezed her eyes shut as hard as she could until tears started to come out. Her fingertips were beginning to go numb now. The tips of her toes, which were wedged into her Converse runners, were beginning to lose feeling as well.
"Heelllp", She feebly called out. Would anyone actually hear her from right up here? Would they hear that tiny feeble voice through the claret ash that was beginning to move gently in the breeze?
She began to ask herself for the hundredth time why on earth she had decided to climb onto the tiled roof.
Mary pressed her burning cheek against the cold, cold tile in an attempt to find some calm. In the distance she could hear all the noises of normality. Her brother, James was calling out to her mum about something that he wanted. She could hear someone else slamming a car door and starting the engine and driving off.
"Heeelllpp me. I'm on the..." Her numb fingers loosened their grip on the cold ceramic tile and she began to slide down the roof.
The scream that came out of Mary's throat was so gutteral that it could be heard in the next block. James and his mother ran all around the house looking for where the scream had come from. They finally arrived to the claret ash side of the house to find Mary with her legs looking a little twisted.
"Mary, what have you been doing?"
"Careful" she whispered, as she grimaced and she her eyes. At least she had now gotten down.
Thanks Pip for hosting this


This is the rest of short story I began the week before last. I hope you enjoy the end. Thank you for your time.

Mother (cont...)

One of the most special times that Antoinette could remember was a most gorgeous holiday at The Queenscliff Hotel when baby Julie was only nine months old. Julie was the most delightful baby of all in looks and behaviour. She slept all night and had regular naps in the day. She ate the food that was given to her. She smiled at all the people who smiled at her. Julie made all of the right gurgling noises. She was a pleasing baby who made Lazar and Antoinette very happy.

Lazar and Antoinette set off from Melbourne to Queenscliff in their old blue Mercedes in early February to stay for a week holiday. Almost everyone who saw Julie commented to Lazar and Antoinette about how gorgeous she was and exclaimed that what wonderful parents she must have. Julie was the most well behaved child there. She sat in a high chair in the dining room and ate her dinner without screaming and without throwing anything. She gurgled and smiled at strangers. She sat in her pusher when they went into all of the shops so quietly and gently. She slept through all of the nights like a baby. Julie’s parents were so pleased and proud. Antoinette couldn’t believe that parenting was so easy. Lazar just knew, of course, their children would turn out this way. Later in the evening, when she slept, Antoinette and Lazar ordered a night cap and enjoyed the beautiful views of the bay.

So it turned out that nine months later, there was to be another sibling for Julie. This time, the sibling was a baby called Michael. Baby Michael screamed all day and all night. Michael’s bassinette was moved from the Master Bedroom to the Nursery on day seven. Antoinette moved into Michael’s room on day eight. Michael did not sleep. Antoinette sang songs to Michael to get him to sleep. The bassinette did not get used; the rocking chair and the spare bed were well used. Michael bit her nipple. Antoinette cried. The baby bottles were bought and formula was found, mixed and given. Antoinette wept that she was no longer feeding Michael. Lazar worked longer hours. Julie sang songs to Michael while Antoinette cried. Antoinette cried some more. Antoinette took baby Michael to the Maternal Health Nurse for a check up and Julie sang along. The nurse smiled and nodded at the children and then gave Antoinette brochures on good old Post Natal Depression. Antoinette nodded and murmured and made the right noises, and then went home and put them in the bin. Who wouldn’t be depressed, she thought, as she rocked him?

A year went by and Michael finally learnt to talk and eat, and sleep. Antoinette slowly began to stop crying quite so much and began to get some much-needed sleep at night, and Lazar slowly started to work less. Julie sang to Michael when they played. Antoinette began to sing when she was happy and began to smile just a little more. Michael stopped crying so much and began to follow Julie around waiting for her to sing to him and play with him. There was peace again in the three-storey city house. On the weekends the children began to play by themselves before going into see Mother to ask to have their breakfast made.

Lazar was pleased to have his wife back finally. Sure, it was beautiful to see her being a Mother, but what he most loved to see her being a woman. As a Mother, she spent too much time looking tired and sad. The children seemed to take all of her energy and time. The demands that they had on her were all consuming. He had nothing to compare it to. He could not remember what his own Mother had looked like. Was she tired and sad? He could only remember that she had a beautiful perfume that she wore when she went out. He could remember kissing her and smelling that perfume on her. His own beautiful Antoinette had turned into a different woman once she had borne children. What was he to do? He needed to know so that he could make her happy, as he realised that it was his wife that was his true love. She did not wear perfume because they were not going out. Perhaps she needed more of him, more time from him so that she felt special again. He promised to himself that they would always find time to have for themselves so that they never forget who they were. His love for Antoinette in that moment was all consuming.

Antoinette bore triplets in a short eight and a half months later. The babies were born prematurely, as can happen when there are so many babies in a womb, however, fortunately for Antoinette and Lazar, they were all healthy. They spent three weeks in the neo-natal ward at the hospital after the birth and Antoinette spent every day going into the hospital to visit them. She took her very mature three and a half year old daughter and her nearly two year old son with her every day. Lazar’s work suddenly needed his presence. There were whisperings apparently, that things were getting a little shaky around the place, so it was important for him to be seen to be there. Whispers of an economic meltdown. There wasn’t enough time for crying this time. No time for any kind of meltdown. There was only enough time to collapse at the end of the day. After the three weeks when the babies, Molly, Amanda and Kate, came home, the house just became a place of nappies and routine. Julie took on the role of second in charge. When Mother was already singing, changing a nappy, or feeding, Julie would rock the bassinette and sing to the baby. Michael played with his cars around the bassinettes and over the heads of the babies. Occasionally he would headbutt whichever baby was being fed and then Julie would quickly try to play with him instead.

Julie couldn’t remember which happened first, whether it was Mother stopping singing or Mother stopping smiling, however sometime when the baby girls were still babies, mother just stopped. This isn’t to say that everyone in the family wasn’t well looked after.
Mother was always very careful to ensure that the children were well fed. Nutrition was a very important thing to Mother. All the children had to have three pieces of fruit, five servings of vegetables, a piece of meat, a glass of milk, a piece of cheese and four serves of cereals every single day.

She was also a stickler for teeth brushing. Antoinette would line the children up morning and night and floss their teeth, and then brush their teeth for two minutes each. She believed everything that her dentist told her and did not want her children’s mouths to be full of decay.
Mother also followed the cleaning and the washing to the letter. Antoinette read all there was to read on cleanliness and then enforced it. She bought every new product that came available. There was no way that she was letting her children have any germs getting near them. She scrubbed and bleached and rubbed and soaked and scrubbed and rinsed and mopped and wiped and sprayed to make sure that nothing could come close to those children.
Mother cooked all of the food from the raw product to ensure that there were no preservatives or additives going into the children. She started the evening meal at midday to ensure that it was cooked on time and laid the table for breakfast with the homemade muesli the night before. Nothing would touch her children.

Lazar and Antoinette could never go out because there was no one that was good enough for Antoinette to look after the children and she had no time or energy. The time had come, Lazar had felt, when Julie was 10 years old, that they should be able to leave the children alone for the evening with a babysitter. It was time, he felt. There had been much discussion, angst even, between the pair leading up to the night.

Don’t be a child, he said, Julie would be able to look after younger children if they need it. She has always been good with them.

The night finally here, Antoinette looked at Lazar and she just smiled.


I lie there unable to move. My hands are frozen together, clasping each other. My feet are crossed. My neck is cranked to the side and I am staring through these strange sunglasses into the reflection in front of me. I can hear myself think, but only just. The external sounds are overwhelming. The sound of an industrial vacuum and the drill take over my consciousness and I lull myself into the rhythm that they bring. Beyond them I can hear the piped sound of Penguin Cafe gaily singing through the speakers, oblivious to the proceedings.
The murmurings of the people to each other, or was it to me?
"Open wider please, and turn this way a little more."
"Not much longer, now, you're doing really well"
Mutter, mutter, murmur, murmur. I stare blankly at the reflection of in her glasses, hoping to see - or not. That hose is bruising my mouth and hurting my gum. My mouth is so dry now that my lips are going to crack. I just want to drink. My neck and jaw ache now, I want it to stop. She said to put my hand up if it was all too bad. What exactly did she mean by that?
My hands stay frozen. I try to move them. I am not afraid. Swap them around and move my feet.
"Are you OK?"
I look at her. What can I say? I can't speak with a drill and two suction vacuums in my mouth! I am just trying to relax! I can barely move! I feel like my body has slowed to be almost in unconsciousness....
"Time to rinse now..."
Time to awaken

Review of Dissection by Jacinta Halloran

Dissection is Jacinta Halloran's first published novel and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards in 2007. I found, after a bumpy start, that this novel provided a window into the lonely world of a GP who has a revolving door every 15 minutes. In those short 15 minutes they are expected to analyse, problem solve sometime very complex issues. Jacinta takes the reader through the most difficult and probably most depressing and isolating time for a GP (Anna). The reader is taken into the most introspective thoughts of a very depressed and persecuted woman.

She deals well with the issues of how much is expected of GP's in that tiny time slot in terms of diagnosis and how easy it is for things, especially the rare and more complicated cases to get missed.

I found that the novel began a little tongue tied and I was initally frustrated with the introspection of the perspective, however, as I got over 1/2 way, I understood that some of this introspection and constant self-talk was due to her sense of mental health.

The end was not too neat and quite realistic. Jacinta has done a good job writing about what I expect it probably a pretty delicate subject given that she herself is a GP.
Well paced. 8/10

Words and Pictures - Fragrant

The strong aroma of the sweet perfume wafted through warm three-storey house until it alerted all of the occupants as if it was an early warning signal. A sense of foreboding was felt in the younger children whilst they finished their early dinner. As the hairs on the backs of their necks prickled, their food began to turn to a tasteless lump, churning over and over in their mouths. Their elder sister, Julie, tried to hurry them up with their crumbed lamb cutlets and steamed vegetables. She sang to them hoping to soothe them, like their mother would. Not long now, she thought, until they would be in bed, and then hopefully they would go to sleep. Maybe she would need to sing to them again.
Antoinette stared wistfully at herself in her red lingerie in mirror as she hooked her silver and ruby earrings in. Finally after all of these years she and Lazar were having a night away from her children. A night to feel like a woman again. She generously sprayed the perfume in the air and walked into it so that the perfume would caress her whole body. Her blue silk blouse fell gently on her soft pale skin. It had been so terribly long since she had felt this lush. Antoinette put on the old silver heart locket that had belonged to her mother and hung it around her neck. It fell to rest on her decolletage and nestled into the folds of her soft silk blouse. She pulled on a beautiful full blue and cream print linen skirt. This was the first time that she had worn these clothes and they felt just luxurious on her skin. Antoinette found lifted the new navy Jimmy Choo suede shoes and stroked one of them for a short while. It was the first time for over 10 years that she had bought shoes like this. They were just devine. Antoinette slid her foot into the shoe and then the other. She was transformed into another woman.
The musky fragrance of Lazar heralded his arrival to the bedroom from the ensuite and as he sauntered in she took a good look at him. His face was freshly shaven and he smelt so delicious and he was still a little wet from the shower with just the white towel around his waist. Antoinette felt like she was taken back to being that young woman she was twenty years ago when she first met Lazar. He took her breath away when she saw him like this. She felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. His chest was strong and taut with just enough hair and certainly enough muscle. His arms were strong and well shaped. The tan that he got from all of that time running on the bay track in summer was still fresh even now in autumn, and now fresh out of the shower against the crisp whiteness of the towel, he looked so much younger than his years. Antoinette nearly groaned with excitement and anticipation at the night ahead of them.
It seemed so long ago that it had been just the two of them, before they had to share each other with children, before she had to give herself up to the children and have nothing left for Lazar but tiredness. Antoinette remembered the freedom and joy that she felt when she was with him, alone, truly alone. At first with Julie there had been still so much beauty and happiness for both of them. It had seemed like such a calm time in retrospect where there was so much time for each other still. The three of them had so many picnics together, went on walks together and Antoinette and Lazar held hands as they walked. When Julie slept, there was still so much time that Lazar and Antoinette had together to be alone and intimate. Antoinette would sing to Julie because she felt such happiness and she would sing to herself just for joy. Their house was always clean and tidy. Antoinette and Lazar would often have a candle lit dinner for just the two of them and they would also often have good friends around for dinner. Antoinette could remember the laughter and love that was shared between them as they shared their time. Soon, hopefully, She and Lazar would be able to rekindle some of that magic.
This story this week is part of a longer short story that I have written. If you are interested in reading more, let me know.
Thanks Pip for a great theme again this week!

Review of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I have just finished reading this lovely weighty tome, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize), & whilst I had a little difficulty holding the book some nights due to the weight of it and thickness of it, I absolutely loved it.

It really was a brilliant epic read about a child who started life as a girl named Callie to become the man named Cal. You as the reader are taken through the life of a hermaphrodite who is also a second generation American. The novel very cleverly takes you through the sagas of a clan's desire for survival from Greece during the battles of the Turkish wars, being accepted into America, the Michigan race riots, the desires of the heart, and the changes of technology and society. Through all of this, the abnormal gene is scientifically traced through the generations just waiting to erupt.

The characters are so deeply developed in Middlesex that I felt that I knew Desdemona, the grandmother, Lefty, the grandfather, Cal, the central character, Milton, the father, Theodora, the mother, and Chapter Eleven, Cal's brother so well by the end of the book that I felt sad to leave them.

Eugenides takes the reader through the different eras with such style and grace capturing the elements and issues with such depth that the novel has so much more to it than just a scientific journey of an abnormal gene. He deals with incestuous love without judgment, he also has the constant undercurrent theme of how migrants settle into new countries and the difficulties involved with this, and coming of age is of course at the forefront.

The epic novel is broken into three books with the first taking you back to Greece with Desdemona and Lefty beginning their journey together, and you as the reader are left wondering whether it is by choice or that there are no other options for them. The second book is the journey of Milton and Tessie (Theodora) who are Desdemona and Lefty's child and their cousin Sourmelina (Lina) their cousin's child respectively and how their love for each other is irrepressible. The third book is the journey of Calliope, or Cal, or Callie, who is the child of Milton and Tessie and the torment that she goes through as she reaches, then passes puberty. All three books are in Cal's voice and are intercepted with moments of his life and the struggles that he has with this now.

Eugenides has managed to write something so well that could have either be over clinical, or over emotional, and he has done neither. He has written a brilliant epic novel that raises issues for parents who give birth to hermaphrodites, and a brilliant read for everyone else. Thank you Jeffrey.
My Score 9.5/10

Words and Pictures - Rainy Days

Originally uploaded by chromatophobe

Annabelle sat in the chair looking at the rain through the window. She knew that there would be no going back now. This was the start of the rest of her life. The rain had changed everything. As a shiver ran up her spine, she pulled the rug that her grandmother had crocheted for her a little tighter around her shoulders. Tucking her feet under ample bottom she pulled the rug so that it stretched around her knees. Today was really the first day of the rest of her life. The rain had not fallen for so long she could hardly remember what the sound was when it had started to fall, but then she was taken right back to her childhood. She could remember how every year it rained for months and stopped for months, and then over the years, it gradually slowed until it stopped altogether.

Annabelle knew that she was now going to have to make some big and quick decisions as to what she was going to do to save herself and those around her who were unable to save themselves. She didn't even really know what she was up against, however, she knew that it was going to be a tough battle. She needed to clear her head. Her inclination was to nestle into the comfortable old armchair, pull that rug around her and fall asleep to sound of the rain, however, that could possibly be the most dangerous thing that she could do.

Annabelle looked out the window. In the far distance through the heavy rain she thought she saw some movement. Her heart leapt. Her hands were shaking. What did she need to get organised. She had gone over this so many times in the past decade at the compulsary six monthly Community Safety drills that she had attended. She could hear the sirens ringing in the distance, the same ones that rang during the drill. Annabelle jumped up out of her chair and flew into the laundry, changed into her safety clothes and grabbed the large container of Anti-Worm Mixture that everyone had been supplied with. It was all coming back to her now, as though she was a robot. She took the dispenser out of the container and tipped a cupful of the mixture over the top of herself. She would now hopefully invisible to those worms that were coming. She had to move quickly now. There were the two elderly neighbours that needed to be taken care of and the perimetre of her house that had to be dealt with.

Annabelle went through the motions just as she had always been instructed to do, starting with pouring a track of the Anti-Worm Mixture around her own house. It was no good getting the others if her own house was unprotected. Once her house was safe, she ran as fast as she could. She had pulled a plastic bag over her head so that the mixture didn't wash off while she picked up the neighbours. Annabelle tripped over a big lump on the path that hadn't been there before. Her gloved hands hit the ground as she saved herself. Freak out! That was George from next door. She could see that he already had worms coming out of his ears. They moved quicker than it had ever been explained to them. Annabelle threw up in the bushes. She had to move quickly. Maybe she wouldn't be able to get to Maude in time. She checked herself for worms like they had explained to her. They only went to where there was skin or orifices or open wounds. Her socks were tucked in to her pants, gloves on & sleeves were tucked in, and scarf around her neck so that only left her head. She couldn't see any on her gloves so she brushed her face and head just in case. Then she ran as fast as she could to Maude's place.

Maude opened the door to Annabelle in the most welcoming of ways. She had her container of Anti-Worm Mix ready to go, but was too frail to put it around the perimeter of the house. She really needed Annabelle to help her. When she saw Annabelle, she broke down in tears and fell to the ground. There really was no hope. Annabelle fell on top of her as the worms, that had initially been so tiny on her glove, had now grown so quickly once they had begun to feed in her eyes. They would begin their new life now in these bodies, these human vessels. This was their world now.

Thanks Pip for the theme for this weeks theme of "Rainy Days" for words and pictures! Join in & play along.

the pier

Here is the start of a little story I wrote:

She stared with wonder at the beautiful old pier as the waves caressed the pillars holding it up. She wondered how it was that her family, who seemed so dishevelled, was able, even allowed to be standing there. There was such peace and serenity to the pier. A grandness that came with the pier, as though it had been given the formal education at a good school. It just didn’t fit her family. It was for people who wore cream cinos in summer with polo shirts, flowing linen dresses and knew just how to do things just right every time. They were the happy people who didn’t get angry at their children when they were tired, every day. They were the beautiful people with beautiful clothes and good jobs, surrounded by laughing happy friends. Here she was staring at the antithesis of this beautiful perfect world on the magical grand pier. How was it hat they had managed to miss out on those vital life lessons that everyone else seemed to get? It was as though she and Bill spent their entire lives in a fragmented discourse. Constantly trying to understand what the other was trying to say or do with the children. There did no ever seem to be any smooth or direct conversation that other mature couples seemed to have. Felicity wondered sometimes whether they had just forgotten to grow up or maybe their parents forgot to teach them these final lessons. They were both lethargically passive, although Felicity did have moments of outburst that would and could be classified as downright aggressive and other outbursts that were full of energy. Her lethargy mainly came from shear exhaustion of carrying the whole family along.

Felicity wondered when Bill would realise that Jim their youngest really was interested in fishing and would really like it if he would too. She had told him, but it seemed to in one ear and out the other. It was the same with all the other things that the 4 kids were interested in. She could tell him about it, he would nod as though he heard and then it would be a complete surprise again the next time she spoke about it. All she wanted was for him to embrace an interest in the kids. No, who was she kidding. All she wanted was for Bill to take an interest in something. If Bill took an interest, a passion, a zest, a zing, a zang in something, Felicity may well find that life back in her eyes. She was just so bored with the humdrum of it all. To have to remind him of everything, saving the same thing over and over. It was a like living with at goldfish. She did quietly wonder if Alzheimer's had set in a little early. At lunchtime that day she had imagined his brain was just rotting and turning to a soggy grey spongy blob because it wasn’t being used anymore. No brain left by 45 years old. God, she felt weary. All of those years ahead to help with the homework to be left to her because he’ll be as helpful as a pig in shit. Felicity did wonder sometimes if she couldn’t just shut her eyes and open them and she would suddenly be having an intellectual conversation. She would hopefully be talking with someone about the very clever engineering of the pier, or the amazing craftsmanship of the pillars. Maybe he would be passing on the pearls of wisdom to the children in a calm patient and loving manner, gently touching and caressing their soft heads.

Leave me a comment please as to what you think!

a written word...get to know me

This is more my written blog. Just to write...because I have to write. I would love to get feedback on what I write.

Anyway, a little about me:

meg, mother of 3 boys & wife to one
38 yrs old

I write, read, draw, think, sew, knit, cook, garden, play the flute and make a lot of mistakes in all of those.

I write because it is like a compulsion within me. The words just come out of me. It is very new for me to write at length on the computer. I am used to writing by hand (hence the name "by meg's pen"). I have numerous exercise books with scribblings down in them and tiny pieces of paper with words on them. I sometimes wish that I could write as fast as I could think so that I could capture all of those crazy thoughts before they have run away again.