A Memoir of Skopelos

 

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In early 2013 my partner Josh and I travelled to Greece for a holiday. We spent most of our time on the beautiful Greek island Skopelos, made famous by the ‘Mamma Mia’ movie, although we had not heard of it prior to choosing it as our destination. We wanted to immerse ourselves in everything Greek rather than the usual tourist thing that sees you being dragged through 10 countries in 4 days. All up we spent 16 days on Skopelos with a few days in Athens either side. It was off season and I think the Greeks on the island though we were mad because the weather was cold (not to us though) and there were no other tourists (bliss). We were constantly explaining that we were escaping 40C+ heat and getting away from people made us very happy. We had a magnificent time and Josh wrote the 1st draft of his third book ‘Dying to Know’. I called the trip our ‘Greek Odyssey’ and jotted down a diary of sorts, that I’m bravely calling a memoir, of some our experiences. I found it a couple of days ago and it brought back some wonderful memories that I thought you might like to read about.

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Can’t find your passion? Don’t worry, try this instead.

Too often are we led to believe life is all about finding and following your passion. But what if your don’t have a passion burning deep inside you? Never fear. Have a read of Josh Langley’s piece about the alternative to finding your passion, if your passion can’t be found. Personally, I think passion is highly overrated.

Josh Langley

I’ve spent many years reading everything there is to know about finding your passion and following your heart (I even wrote a book with that title), and every other motivational thing about doing what you love.

Everyone is meant to know what they’re passionate about. Right? You hear about the woman who wins a major literary prize and says she’s been writing since she was four. Or the boy who started sailing at the age of 8 and went onto reverse circumnavigate the globe in an Esky, twice. Or the Grandma who threw it all in and went to India to start her own orphanage for cats.

But I’m going to share a secret with you. Most of the time those stories left me feeling even more lost and disillusioned than before I read them. It seemed I was missing one vital ingredient that the whole passion thing required.

Passion.

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The Last Time I woke up

The last time I woke up it was 1968 and I lived on a farm with my parents, brother and two sisters.

My mother woke me at 5:30am sharp with, ‘Time to get up. Come on sleepy head, time to get up.’ It was a weekday and I had to be up early to catch the school bus. I dragged myself out of bed and headed for the toilet. I swung the door shut behind me a little harder than usual and it slammed. And I woke up. ‘Time to get up. Come on sleepy head, time to get up.’ I lay there wondering what had just happened. I got up and went to the toilet. When I had finished I went to my room, got dressed and walked to the kitchen for breakfast. I sat at the kitchen table and watched quietly as my mother took a bowl for my cereal from the kitchenette. As she put the bowl on the table it slipped from her hand and landed with a loud clatter. And I woke up. ‘Time to get up. Come on sleepy head, time to get up.’ Now I was afraid. What was happening? I got up, went to the toilet, got dressed, had breakfast and brushed my teeth. The morning continued as it should and I began to relax. My mother drove me to the bus stop. She kissed me on the cheek and I stepped out of the car. I closed the door with a thud. And I woke up.

It’s now 2073. After that last awakening there was no reoccurrence of the phenomena, and the day, along with my life, proceeded. That strange morning so long ago has always troubled me though. Was it a slip in time, like a record’s needle jumping backward? Was it simply a dream? Regardless of what it actually was, I’ve spent my life wondering whether the next loud noise will wake me once more back in 1968.

Copyright Andy Macleod (2017)

 

Burying Alison

At the moment of her death Alison’s body had frozen mid athetoid contortion, leaving her grotesquely twisted. Her head arched backward so alarmingly that it seemed the back of it might touch the back of her neck, and her legs scissored right over left as if trying to goosestep away. Her eyes were open as wide as they could go. It was obvious that her very last moments were far from pleasant.

The two men standing above her were reminiscing.

‘I really liked her.’

‘Me too.’

‘She lasted way longer than the others.’

‘That she did.’

‘You dug the grave last time so I’ll do it this time. Where do you think?’

‘Somewhere close to the house I reckon, where it’s easier to dig. Last time nearly killed me, the ground was like cement.’

‘I suppose we should get this done sooner rather than later, she’ll start to stink before too long in this heat. I’ll go get the shovel.’

The spot they had chosen was to the side of the veggie garden where the earth was soft and easy to dig. It was still sweaty work though.

‘Shit mate, that first beer’s not going to touch the sides after this. Do you think it’s deep enough?’

‘Yeah. You wouldn’t need to go any deeper. I’ll go get her.’

They tried to slide her gently into the hole but she slipped from their gloved hands and fell to the bottom with a thud. They both grimaced.

‘Well that wasn’t as dignified as I had hoped.’

‘No.’

‘I’ll read the King of Prayers.’

The King of Prayers is a long one. When it had been read they got themselves a couple of chairs and a beer each. They sat together between the rows of vegetables and toasted Alison, wishing her a happy rebirth.

In the chicken run Alison’s sisters clucked and scratched and pecked at the ground. Alison had already been forgotten.

Copyright Andy Macleod 2017

 

 

 

Getting Started

I need to get started. Yesterday was a write-off but I’ll get started today. I’ll check Facebook first and then the emails. I better do the dishes and clean the kitchen. I can’t start anything when the kitchen’s dirty. Once that’s all done I’ll need to get started. Better feed the chooks and top up their water as well. No ideas are coming but I really need to get started before the day gets away. I’ll go for a walk. A walk usually gets the ideas flowing. I need to check the fences anyway. After last night’s storm a tree or branch could have come down. I’m hungry. Ideas don’t flow when I’m feeling hungry. It makes it hard for me to focus. I’ll make a sandwich for lunch. That’ll give me the focus and energy to get started.

I think I ate too much. I’m feeling tired and lethargic. I’ll have a nap and get started when I wake up refreshed. I slept a bit too long. Better check Facebook and see if any emails have come through while I was napping, then I better get started. I wonder what I’ll do for dinner? I had better check the fridge and the pantry, then go through a few cookbooks. I’ll sit on the front verandah with a glass of wine and watch the sunset. It’s relaxing and helps with the creative process. Maybe a glass of wine or two while I’m cooking will get the ideas flowing and help me get started.

Dinner was good, but I think I’ve drunk too much. I can’t think clearly enough to get started just now. I’ll go to bed early. That way I’ll be fresh and ready to get started in the morning.

Copyright Andy Macleod 2017

 

Warmth and Memory

I remember a night when I was about six. My two sisters and I were on the back seat of our station wagon. Dad was driving and my little brother sat in the middle of the bench seat with mum on the passenger side. We had just pulled up at the farmhouse where we lived and dad worked as a farmhand. I had always thought it was around Christmas, even though it was cold and raining. Memory, I suppose, is a fragile thing.

We all ran from the car to the wide verandah that wrapped itself around the house. The rain was belting down so hard on the tin roof that we had to shout to be heard. My little sister was the first to see the parcel on the incubator.

“Look! A present.”

It was wrapped in brown paper and tied neatly with string. Mum picked it up and read the name above the address and handed it to me. The sender was my nana. I excitedly tore the paper, struggling to pull the string aside as I had managed to get it knotted in my rush. Inside was a bright red, hand knitted jumper. Mum pulled the jumper over my head and I pushed my arms through the sleeves. It was huge. The sleeves almost reached the verandah’s wooden floor and the waist came to just below my knees.

“You look like a girl,” dad grunted in disgust.

“It’s okay, you’ll grow into it,” said mum, placing her hand softly on my shoulder.

I never grew into it. Even now I don’t think it would fit. I don’t remember what happened to that jumper, but I still remember my disappointment at getting a gift I couldn’t even use. I asked mum about it a few years ago. Turns out it was my birthday and not Christmas. Like I said, memory is a fragile thing.

Copyright Andy Macleod 2017

 

I entered my first poetry SLAM

At the 2017 Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival I well and truly stepped out of my comfort zone. I competed in my first poetry SLAM (Margies SLAM).

Having never done this before, I first attended the Poetry SLAM workshop run by Allan and Tonja from Perth SLAM as part of the festival. I then wrote a poem to perform and launched it at an unsuspecting audience the next day in the auditorium at the Margaret River Cultural Centre.

To say I was terrified is an understatement and I needed to keep my hands in my pockets to stop them from shaking. But what a rush. And best of all I came fourth! Apparently, if I hadn’t gone over time (you only get 2 minutes and points are deducted for going over) I would have come second.

It was touch and go as to whether I would even make it to the stage, but I pushed through. I am so proud of myself for having the courage to get up in front of what turned out to be a rather large audience. I will definitely be SLAMming again.