Tag Archives: memories

A time to Remember: short story

I am posting a rather more lengthy post than usual. I have begun writing short stories, this one is 1,500 words approx. For those of you who have time on your hands.

Time to Remember

Agatha muses, propped and cushioned in her chair with feet elevated to ease her aching knees and feet. Choices lie before her. Life has been a roller coaster ride with more ups than downs, but now the balance has been reversed. Should she play the cantankerous crone and take out her frustration on her minders? That could be fun. Or should she play the role of the docile and compliant sweet old lady with the aim of becoming nurse’s favourite? Which would satisfy her most and make her feel better?

With the first option, there is plenty to complain about. The shock of being woken at 7am when all you want to do is sleep. Losing one’s dignity and having no privacy at all is beyond a joke. Showering is now restricted to every second day, because as you get older your skin becomes thin, sensitive and dry. Having an accident in the night concerns her. Would she start smelling like those incontinent and infirmed old people that surround her?

Her favourite meal of the day is the luxury of having breakfast in bed, even if the toast tastes like chewy cardboard.

She knows some consider her snooty. Why would you sit in a room full of semi- alive beings playing bingo? Or listen to that dreadful, forever cheerful man that comes in with his guitar? Instead, Agatha prefers to daydream in her room and remember happier times.

Growing up as an only child, life was seldom dull. Playing outside, making cubbies, riding her bike and building bonfires with the neighbour-hood gang all flit through her memory. Living near the beach allowed her to walk, swim and beachcomb. Reading became an important escape, which continued throughout her life. Her elderly parents were great readers too.

Leaving school was the best day of her life. She had a job at the bakers, where she learnt how to bake bread, pastries and cakes. Early starts were part of her job and she was proud to be bringing home a wage. Her aging parents had low expectations for her, which she accepted, being a girl.

Meeting Steve had been her big break. He was on leave from the air force. Marrying Steve was her dream. She thought he’d love and provide for her and the children they’d have. The fact that her parents didn’t like him wasn’t important. They’d move away and prove they could make a success of life.

Moving to Darwin was expensive, and it meant that her parents were unable to visit. This saddened her, though it solved problems too. Steve was an alcoholic. Perhaps that was why they were against the marriage? In Darwin Agatha could pretend everything was rosy. She became pregnant and thought Steve would change when he knew he was to have a baby boy. Living in hope, Agatha prepared for the baby. Steve’s job sent him away for months so Agatha had a break from his abusive and demanding behaviours.

Steve was killed in Vietnam and the shock paralyzed her. It was just after Tommy had been born. Gradually she allowed herself to think it might be for the best. She no longer had to stay in Darwin. Her dream of married bliss was destroyed; disillusioned and disappointed she returned to her hometown of Port Sorrel. There she had her parents to help her with Tommy, which allowed her to find work.

Warm fuzz surrounded her as she thought of Tommy growing up. Her parents adored her son, and looked after him three days a week allowing her to work at the bakery. She introduced Tommy to the beach where he collected shells and went fishing with Grandpa, just as she had done.

She rented a shack by the beach and their simple but idyllic existence began. When Tommy started school she worked full time. He did well at school and later won a scholarship to study marine biology at the university in Hobart. She missed him, but was proud of his achievements. He was the first in their family to go to university.

Agatha was feeling the pressure of the sandwich generation, caring for her parents and supporting her son. She had little time for a social life. She dreamt of her boss retiring and taking over the bakery. Tommy brought his girl friends home and she made a fuss of them. Agatha adored Julia, showing her approval by knitting her a jumper and crocheting her a tote bag. The future looked promising.

Her father’s heart was bad, and he’d taken early retirement. He’d pop in and help her with her garden on his good days. When her mother’s health deteriorated she’d call in after work and cook their tea. Not long after this her mother was rushed to hospital. Watching her decline was emotionally draining. Being an only child had disadvantages.

Tommy and Julia decided to marry now they both had permanency at the Antarctic Division in Hobart. She was glad that her parents had lived long enough to attend this happy celebration and see Tommy settled. She drove them down to Hobart to attend the wedding. It was as if they’d both been hanging on for this, as the following year their health deteriorated further. Agatha had two funerals to organize three months apart. Tommy and Julia came home briefly for each funeral, but hurried back to their jobs in Hobart. At least Agatha’s work gave her a reason to get up in the mornings and kept her relatively sane. Selling her parent’s home enabled her to fulfill her dream and buy the bakery.

Agatha put her heart and soul into the bakery and as owner manager she introduced Tasmanian specialties, like truffle meat pies, scallop pies, smoked salmon pastries and blueberry tarts. The café became the place to visit and was included on tourist routes. How busy she’d been. She was proud the business had become so successful. She had trained several people to share the workload, and they catered for many grand functions.

Julia then had twins, Gemma and Gerald, after waiting until forty to have children. She waited to have the right home before having babies. Julia hadn’t anticipated how difficult two babies at this age would be. Tommy was over the moon, but his job was demanding and time consuming so he didn’t appreciate the broken nights. Tommy asked if Agatha would come down and live with them. She really hadn’t want to, but believed Julia needed her support. The bakery would carry on without her, so she took time off, just to see how it would be.

Living in Julia and Tommy’s house was not what she expected. Agatha loved the babies, but wasn’t prepared for the changes. Her own experience of childrearing was obsolete, and unwelcome. In fact she couldn’t wait to get home. Her fancy that she might live in a Granny flat in Hobart was now destroyed. She and Julia didn’t see eye to eye. Her greatest gift would be to leave them to sort everything out for themselves. She was so grateful to have her job to return to. Thank goodness she hadn’t retired. She would look forward to Gemma and Gerald being old enough to spend holidays with her by the beach.

‘Come on Agatha, lunch is ready,’ the nurse calls as she is passing her room.

Agatha snaps back to reality and eases herself onto her walking frame and follows the procession to the dining room. She has made several friends and they often play cards in the afternoons. Lunch is no better than she expects. Crumbed frozen fish fillets with some powdered, mashed potato and a few peas, followed by jelly and custard. How can anyone use so little imagination? Perhaps it is to cater for those who have no teeth.

Considering her earlier quandary she once again realises how positive thoughts and actions will change her circumstances. If she can get into that kitchen she will change things for the better. Discussing this with the Manager of the Home she asks if she can work with the kitchen staff and share some of her experience to improve their menu. The whole mood of the place will improve with better food.

Gaining approval to teach her friends how to cook a few special treats will give them all something to look forward to. Croissants for Saturday breakfasts, and fruit buns on Sundays will be a good start. The kitchen staff is always stretched at weekends, this will be a perfect time to show how they can help out. When Agatha is cooking her aches and pains disappear. Cooking will also take her mind off the fact that her family has no time to visit. She needs to help to feel needed and whole again. Positive thinking being more powerful than negative lifts her to a better place. Naughty thoughts continue to bring a smile to her face as she concocts stories about those about her, maybe she will write some of them down.

Thanks for reading!  🙂


Evocative Sensations:

The transporter, suggested by Michelle W.                                                                                          Tell us about a sensation, a taste, a smell, a piece of music –that transports you back to childhood.


Many of my senses seem to be interwoven, and extricating just one seems almost an impossibility. After much cogitation, I shall mention some of the strongest reminders of my childhood:

The wind blowing off the ocean and the sight, smell and taste of the sea with salt air blowing in my hair and up my nose is one of tranquility or maelstrom that takes me back.

The sight, taste and smell of brandy sauce on plum pudding are all equally transporting.

Music from the records my father played will always lift me to the feeling of the freedom of dance, so much part of my childhood memories.

Finally, smells: The perfume of talcum powder evokes the warmth and love of my mother. The smell of a spaniel’s ear brings the wonderful memories of Rummy, our spaniel. The stench of over cooked cabbage brings back the horror of boarding school. The aroma of a rose transports me back, as do many of the flowers that grew in the abundant garden of my childhood.




Friends and Neighbours: another snippet from ‘Enduring Threads’

Friends and Neighbours, (for Penny, Elspeth, Rosemary and Sandy, where ever you might be)

Penny Russell and I were constant childhood companions. Her family, though I didn’t know it at the time, was a split family. Her mother had two girls before marrying David. Later in life, Penny found out she had a brother in England from her father’s previous marriage. David, her father, must have been schizophrenic; he had big mood swings. When Kaye, Penny’s sister, was staying at our house, she’d sit on the gatepost to wave to her father. He’d pass without a glance at her; she was begging for acknowledgement, and he’d ignore her. Her sorrow was palpable. Penny’s sisters left home as soon as they could and moved to Melbourne. Penny always dreamed of moving to the city too, which she did as soon as she could. She lived with my parents for twelve months whilst her parents went overseas and I was at boarding school. My mother could see her potential and offered to pay for her university education. This offer was not accepted.

Angus was remembered at the Russell household due to his urinary contributions to the rain guage. David kept the official records for the rain tally, and Angus’ contributions were not welcomed.

Elspeth, who lived next door, lived in a very different family. Her father was bedridden. Her mother entertained her friend ‘Uncle Bert’ in the next bedroom, and we accepted this as the norm. My mother was aware of the circumstances, as one night some sailors knocked on our door asking for Mrs. McIntyre.

Elspeth would come over for breakfast when her mum wasn’t up.

Once, she went up to the shop where her mum put things on the tab. She bought a large ice-cream block, a family size. It was pink, white and brown, and we consumed it all. Sometimes she’d bring over jelly crystals, and we’d eat them straight out of the packet, hiding behind the greenhouse. When I was sick with mumps, Elspeth used to hop in my window and finish up any food. Mum was amazed that Elspeth didn’t get the mumps till six months later.

Elspeth came to school with me one day; usually she went to the Roman Catholic school next door. When we arrived home, her sister Ruth was crying. Elspeth was supposed to have gone with her sister and mother to Hobart, but instead Mrs. McIntyre had left Ruth at home to look after Elspeth because Elspeth was missing.

One night, when Dad was out at the farm, there was a fire in our backyard. The conversation of our neighbours, Joan and Noel Hammond, who lived behind our house, up the lane, went like this: ‘Joan, Brenda has firemen up her plum tree!’

‘ Noel, get back into bed, you’ve had too much to drink.’

In fact, Noel was right, there were firemen up the plum tree. Mrs. McIntyre entertained the firemen afterwards, and my mother just thought it was a party. It wasn’t until the next morning that she discovered that it was the hot ashes from our Raeburn on our compost heap that had started the fire and burnt down the back fence and our wood-stack.

My Mother and Margaret Pyett played cards with Joan. She had a wonderful sense of humour and always kept everyone on their toes. One fastidious woman who played cards was talking about how she had to keep boiling everything to sterilise it for the baby. Noel came in and suggested, ‘ Why don’t you boil the baby?’

The Hammonds’ outdoor dunny had worn weatherboard walls that backed onto the back lane, and Joan complained, ‘I can see eyes looking at me through the cracks!’ Noel would turn the lights on in his Jaguar to give light to anyone needing to relieve themselves, as there was no electricity out there. Noel tried to repaint the Jaguar with a powder puff, though the job was far too tedious to complete.

Margaret Pyett was another individual who was rather particular and was very fashion-conscious. When she admired Joan’s outfit, Joan said with her smoker’s raucous laugh, ‘I’m wearing Mrs. Webb’s corset!’ Mrs. Webb was older and bigger, so everyone thought this a huge joke, most of all Joan. She worked as a stenographer for the court system and was renowned for her quick and reliable shorthand. If there were a thunderstorm, Joan would be found hiding under the stairs in the cupboard. Everyone, including the police magistrate, would be at her parties, as Joan had such a wicked sense of humour and was popular with everyone.

When they needed the roof painted, Noel paid their son Peter to do the job. Peter paid someone else half of what he’d been paid to do it. Of course, it didn’t get finished. Noel was very proud of Peter’s enterprise. The roof remained half-painted. Rosemary, Peter’s sister, was younger than me, and so our paths didn’t cross much, apart from an occasional birthday party.   Rosemary left Devonport to study music.

Noel moved into the house that my grandfather had built for his parents in Nichol Street years after Joan died. Before he bought it, it had belonged to Dickie Dobbie, the police magistrate and his wife Kitty.

They were famous for turning up at parties without an invitation, saying; ‘We knew you meant to invite us!’

Dr. Budge, the optician, lived nearby. He and his wife had a child late in life called Sandy, ‘my hhhobby’, stuttered Alec Budge. ’ My aaanalogy of mmmixed fffeelings is, seeing my HHHolden utility being driven over the BBBluff by an Englishman. Sssorry Eric (Pyett), III ddon’t mmmean you!’ That is Australian humour, sorry to those Englishmen and my lack of political correctness for including it. That is as it was in the 50s and 60s. Eric chuckled about that for weeks. Alec was a wise man who recommended to my Italian fiancé, ‘let her hhhave hhher wwway 98% of the tttime, and you jjjust ssstick out ffffor the imppportant 2%.’

When he had a puncture with Sandy in the car, he went to the bushes and waited for some nice young man to come and help attractive Sandy. He then appeared, thanking them for their help.


Music: growing up

My father built our gramophone and the blackwood piece of furniture that surrounded it. The fine speakers were large and positioned high up in an alcove, above cupboards, either side of the fireplace. Father adored loud music, Beethoven particularly. He encouraged my brothers and me to sit listening to Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ and tell him what we visualised. Those memories are fragrant. ‘Peter and the Wolf’ with the musical accompaniment filled many a winter’s day. We were lucky to have someone who could share his deep love of music.

When alone with the music my favourites were Chopin’s ‘Les Sylphides’ ballet and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’; where I’d swan around dancing my heart out, not being allowed dancing lessons at that age.

The fireplace took the place of a television. Living in Tasmania, the fire was lit for a good part of the year. The house itself was built by my grandfather for his bride back in 1914; given to my parents as a wedding present in 1942.

Christopher, my now husband, introduced me to the word ‘pop music’ when I was about ten. It wasn’t until I went to boarding school at eleven that I began to listen to pop music. There was just one wireless in the common room and everyone enjoyed top of the pops. In the evenings at school before prep, (homework), one of the really talented girls used to play pop tunes for us to dance to. I hated being away at school, but I do remember the music with much nostalgia.

Later when my eldest brother was at university and I was at Art School, we’d go to concerts together, classical and popular. One memorable night, Segovia, a famous classical guitarist, gave thirteen encores!

Christopher has a photographic memory when it comes to music. He has a fantastic collection and continues to educate me. The thump, thump of the popular music doesn’t interest us anymore. It is rather soporific when the neighbours have their occasional parties, like a soft heart beat, now I’m getting deaf.