Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Diary of Another Time and Place


I’ve been sittin’ here since this mornin’ waitin’ for the police...we’ve had lunch, but I couldn’t eat any…and the magpie’s dead! Jim gave us that maggie and now it’s up and died today, too.  It was okay when I fed it before he came. I tell you—that’s spooky. Anyhow, I’m sittin’ here watchin’ down the track, waitin’ for the the police to come and I’m wishin’ I was still livin’ at Gran’s house over at Buranda, followin’ the Sallies on Sunday and sittin’ on the gutter while they played their hymns or tryin’ to figure out what went on in that Synagogue in Deshon Street, or goin’ up to Logan Road to Johnnie’s fruit shop near the tram stop.I like Jonnie, he’s Chinese—he must be ancient cos he’s all wrinkled and bent and the shop smells like old vegies and the walls are covered with pictures of beautiful ladies in Chinese dresses with high collars and they have shiny black hair and red lips. His place’s next door to the newspaper shop. If Gran lets me take back the ginger ale bottles for the  bond money, I can have a penny ice cream when I go for the paper. I always go there because Sonny gives us the biggest scoop—it tastes like mentholated spirits until you lick off the first bit ‘cos I think he washes the scoop in the metho. 
But that’s all finished and I’m back here…waitin’... 

Diary of Another Time and Place, short story by Laurie Forth
 to be continued.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


It hung rosy golden in the summer haze, shaped like a human heart. The first mango I remember, grown on the lone tree in my grandmother’s back garden. It was an ungenerous tree, producing only a few fruit each year, and I only shared in its bounty if I happened to be visiting Gran when the fruit ripened. But I lusted for the fragrance, for the taste of mangoes from one season to the next.
Then we moved to the country, to an old orchard where there were three huge mango trees and more mangoes than we could eat.
An English family planted the orchard there more than a hundred and fifty years ago. They buried their dead children beneath the mango trees after a big fire burned their first house down. I thought of those children buried in the ground, when I sat high among the branches each January, eating mangoes, the juice running down my arms.
Today I enjoyed my first mango although it is still Spring. They are early this year..  
There is an art to eating a mango.  This is an exercise in mindfulness. First you take the golden fruit, place it before you. Observe it. Notice the colour, the heart shape, feel the weight and the texture of the skin. Inhale the fragrance. Anticipate the flavour.
Peel it gently and slice the fruit into a bowl.  Then be quite uncivilised, lean over the sink and  suck the rest of the flesh from the seed. Don’t waste one scrap. Then thank the mango tree.
You’ll find sliced mango tastes much better than those stylish cubes ejected from the sliced off cheeks of the mango.
Living in suburbia, I buy my mangoes from the greengrocer. They do not taste half as good as mangoes picked sun-warmed from the tree in midsummer.

Photo;  from google images.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Are you a custodian of memory? Are you the custodian of other people’s memories?
In the movie, Beaches, Barbara Hershey’s character, who has a young daughter, asks Bette Midler’s character to remember her story because she is dying, she asks her friend to become the custodian of her memories.
We, who write biography, history and historical fiction, recreate lives out of fragments of memory and from the trail of artefacts strewn along the path of time.
Some of us are the custodians of our children’s memories. They go on their journey through life, leaving their cache of memories in our closets, our sheds and in our hearts. And we preserve those memories whether physical or emotional because they connect us to our younger selves, they are the social history of our family and our times. We hope the owners might come back for them one day.
Our friends become custodians of our memories and we of theirs. My friend, Glenys, sends me photos of orchids…Max’s orchids, which I couldn’t take with me when I moved interstate. For twenty years she has held our shared memory and sent photos of its re-flowering.
I am the keeper of my in-laws memory. In about 1918, my newlywed father-in-law built a piano stool, a sideboard and a bookcase with leadlight panels and writing centre. They are solid oak, sturdy, handmade before electric tools made such projects easy. I took them all the way to South Australia and back again. Why, I often ask myself.
I imagine that young man making furniture for his new home and the joy he must have felt as those planks of heavy timber became things of beauty.  I never met him. He died before I became part of that family.  But I am the custodian of his memory and of all the family members whose hands touched that warm timber during the last, almost one hundred years.
I watch Antique Road Show on the ABC.  I am amazed at the objects, the old letters and paintings and the treasures that have been handed down through families, some objects centuries old.  The experts price these objects, but who can put a price on memory?
I collect memories of people I don’t know. At used book sales, I find it hard to pass a book with and inscription. I wonder what happened, what is the story behind the discarded book of poetry inscribed in 1982-Oh for a lovely and fulfilling life together, peace ,love and smiles…?

I hope they found that life and that it is still going.  

Sunday, 20 September 2015



My grandmother's house was a high set "Queenslander" with the kitchen located at the end of the hall and accessed from the veranda. After a meal was prepared and eaten, and the  dishes washed and the kitchen tidied, the room was abandoned and we forgot about food until the next mealtime.
Except on baking day when it was a hive of activity and echoed with the sound of voices and the clatter of baking tins.
The kitchen was not the treasure trove of tasty treats it is today. There was no refrigerator to raid. There were no supermarkets, just the local shops. Food shopping was kid's business, done daily. After school, my first task was to do the "messages". Armed with a list, money and a shopping bag, I walked up the hill to the grocer, the vegetable shop, the butcher and sometimes to the chemists. The baker delivered bread daily and the milkman and iceman delivered each morning.
Once my family messages were done, I went down the street to Mrs Bolger's house, collected her list and walked up the hill again and back with an another laden bag. My reward was a about five cents and a shot of soul food.....she was the only one who encouraged me to draw and write.
My children never did "messages". The local corner shops had disappeared and I, like most mothers, did the food shopping while the children were at school.
Nowadays, we drive to the shopping centre, spend ages reading food labels, while buying more than we need because it is often cheaper to buy two than one. Our kitchens are laden with snacks. Food is available as easily as is water.
Our houses have changed. The earliest Australian kitchens were not attached to the house, it was too much of a fire risk.
My kitchen is in the middle of the house. To get anywhere, I have to pass by or through the kitchen. 
Even if we escape the from kitchens temptations, our living rooms are a food trap, with the television advertisements constantly telling us to eat this or that. For entertainment we even watch cooking shows.

Open plan houses? Cooking shows on the television?  Huge refrigerators?
Are our houses making us fat?


Tuesday, 15 September 2015



Two years ago St Albans held  a Book Fest. It was a huge success-see my October 2013 blog, St Albans and the Forgotten valley. It was my first experience of being a writer-presenter at a festival and I had a wonderful time.

Now they are doing it again on a grand scale, this time bringing a Writer's Festival to  the of the North West of Sydney.  Check it out at

Unfortunately, I cannot be there to witness the birth of a what promises to be a great event, but I hope that if you have time available and are located within travelling distance, you'll book a ticket to what promises to be an  enjoyable enriching weekend.


I have been watching The X Factor on Chanel 7, and  last night  I also watched the media coverage telling us of our change of PM. The question arises; does  Malcolm Turnbull have the x factor?  In talent quests and politics, there can only be one winner, even in a competition of champions.
The winners of the various talent shows have their moment of fame,  a few go on to greater success, but many are forgotten when a new winner takes the crown the following year. Sometimes the runner-up goes on to eclipse the winner.
Apart from hard work and right choices, I guess it all comes down to whether the fans decide to 'own' that performer,
And that made me wonder about the way we think about our leaders. In Australia, we used to sing God save our Gracious Queen, the pronoun 'our' suggests ownership.
I met an American woman  at a language class some years ago. In a conversation about something that was happening in the USA, she talked about "my President"  She was not praising him, she was concerned about his decisions. But she was owning him.
I don't think I have ever thought of the PM as "my Prime Minister" or the government as my Government nor have I heard anyone else claim that ownership.
But I wonder what would change if we did think that way. If opposition was exchanged for co-operation some of the time at least, if we pooled the best  of both sides once the contest was over?
Does Malcolm have the X- Factor?   His success, I guess, will come down to hard work, right choices and whether he becomes a performer the we choose to own. What do you think?

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Yes, you can lead a dog to the food bowl, but you can’t make it eat. Annie has passed her sixteenth year, her hearing is almost gone, she has heart failure and now she has decided not to eat.  At least, she off all food made for dogs. In the past fortnight, I have fed her chicken, kangaroo, vegetables-sometimes she eats her veggies. But the rest of it has ended up in the garbage bin. I even shared my rolled oats with her one morning, she ate them, so I thought I was on a winner, but the next day she ignored every bit of food I offered her. I decided I would only feed her when she came to the kitchen and asked for food by wags and body language.  But she didn’t ask. How long can I not feed a dog? Cheese is okay. She’ll eat that.
  She has also decided not to swallow her heart tablets which she formerly ate like they were chocolate.
Apart from that she is a fit dog. She races from the garden to the front door, leaps over the mat and then shakes the garden mulch off her coat onto the floor. No problem leaping onto the sofa either.
Today I bought a roast chicken. Not for me, I wouldn’t eat it if you paid me. For Annie. She smelt it coming in the door and you would have thought it was Christmas. Great, I thought. I chopped some of the meat and I hid the tablet in the pile.  She danced out to her food dish.
I wanted to make sure she ate the tablet so I stood and watched. She sat and watched me with an expression the clearly said, “Wot, no privacy?”
I came back later and found the chicken had been eaten, but the tablet licked clean was on the floor beside her food dish.
 Now I have crushed the tablet and wrapped it in the chicken skin. I had to put that in another helping of chopped meat.

Great… she has eaten and has had her tablet. That’s today, tomorrow she might be fasting again. Or do you think she is just on strike, demanding people's food? Caring for a geriatric dog is no easy job.

Monday, 7 September 2015


This week I am painting white azaleas.  It’s a work in progress. I am trying to record their images in watercolour before they are gone for another year. I am a slow painter and I notice that the flowers don’t sit frozen in time while I work. They move, they turn their faces to the light, they expand, they wilt…they are ever changing. As the day progresses, the light moves around the room and the shadows on the flowers change position.

I work to capture an impression, not to replicate a photograph.

This is my work in progress. In a week or so, this painting will be finished, and will remain a reminder of the joy of spring 2015.

YOU and I also are works in progress. I am not the person I was twenty years ago. Or even a month ago. Are you?  It's mind boggling to list all the changes we have embraced, sometimes resisted, since 1980.
Have you ever met someone after a long separation and been greeted with the words, You haven't changed a bit? That's a bit of a worry, do you agree?  I wouldn't like to be the person I was at twenty, I wouldn't agree today with the opinions I held then.

The world, society and our community is a work in progress, in a state of perpetual change and growth and we don't see it happening minute to minute. Most of the time we change and grow with it and we always have, even though we sometimes loudly protest  about change. I know I do.

Twenty years ago I spent a lot of time writing letters to friends living elsewhere, postage stamps were always on my shopping list.  Now, I rarely write or receive letters because those friends are no longer with us. Friendship is always a work in progress.

It's rather nice to be 'a work in progress' means we have endless possibilities for change, for reinvention, and reparation.

Azaleas from my garden. The garden is a work in progress.

Thursday, 3 September 2015


I have been watching DVD lectures on Fiction Writing presented by author and Professor James Hynes.    
In one lecture, he said that the difference between fictional characters and real people is our ability to access the fictional person’s innermost thoughts, but we can never access the innermost thoughts of a real person, however how well we think we know that person.  I thought, yes, I know more about The Little Prince, Jonathon Livingstone Seagull and Georgia Lane, the protagonist in Storm Warning, my novel in progress, than I know about many of the people who inhabit my life.
Perhaps we wouldn’t want anyone to know us as well as we know our favourite fictional characters, and most of us prefer not to have intimate details of our lives advertised on social media.
But surely when the time comes for someone to write your eulogy, you’d hope that person would be able to present a picture of the unique person you are, rather than describe the frame around your life, built of dates times and places. 
To quote a friend, when speaking at a loved one’s funeral; he was much more than the frame. 
If you were asked to write a eulogy for a friend or relative could you present a word picture of that person that was much more than the frame?
I attended a friend's funeral this week. Our shared interest was writing.We met for lunch once a month until she became ill. But it was the first time I had heard her play the piano; a recording of a duet played with her daughter. It was the first time I had seen a photo of her as a lovely young woman.  How little I knew of her.
Perhaps we should interview the people in our lives in a bid to know more than what the surface reveals or attempt to write a two-page biography about them omitting the ‘frame’.
Think of a person you know well, and from memory make a list of twelve of their favourite things.Then make a list of your favourite things and give it to someone you love.

Picture from Pinterest  The Little Prince...novel by Antoine St Exupery

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Today I am aware of the impermanence of things. My lovely plum blossoms, which I had been enjoying immensely, are now battered from the pounding rain yesterday. The petals are a thick carpet on the paths and everything beneath the tree is coated in pink. Petals drift on the breeze like confetti, and the tree, although still a mass of pink, has lost its first magic.
 It made me think of the comparison between and young budgie, fluffy feathers, bright big eyes, and an old one, the eyes are small and while still a delight, looks slightly battered by life.
Too often we forget about the impermanence of people. We think our friends and family are indestructible. We imagine that they will always be there waiting for us to check in with them when we have nothing more important to do.
Kahlil Gibran wrote on friendship-…for what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him with hours to live….
The impermanence  of life reminds us  to avoid  leaving things undone, words unsaid. 
I wonder if I would be so enraptured by the plum blossoms if they were always there.