BUSH SYMPHONY

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Chrisanthe wondered again how she’d survive. The heat, already so oppressive, was lasting well into the night, outdone only by the infernal drone of the cicadas. The bush was closing in. This was hardly the promised hut, rather canvas over saplings, but he’d done his best. He had to get the farm cleared.

 

She let her mind wander. She missed the village gatherings, the lunches in the olive groves during harvest, her mother’s thyme honey.. and her baklava, the best in the village. She and Theo had such a time, worked hard all day, danced all night.

 

No dancing tonight, surely he’d be back soon. She turned the lamp down as low as she dared, they’d need the light later. The cicadas pierced the darkness. She hummed, then sang loudly to drown them out. She was getting used to the smell of the eucalypts, but missed the sweet thyme. She concentrated on her memories till the longing for her mother overwhelmed her.

There was nothing to keep her occupied, she’d done all she could. Nowhere to pace. She pulled aside the canvas, but other than bush and the shimmer of a few stars, there was nothing to be seen. It was still so hot, despite the dampened cloth on her neck. She thought constantly of her mother and her sisters. She tried singing, then yelped as the canvas parted.

Theo had brought their neighbour. She’d have help with this baby after all.

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SODDEN FIELDS

 

Will I ever get usCharles_Bean_in_Gird_Trench_Sommeed to it? The stench, mud squelching through boots, ever wet socks and rare, rank clumps of grass trying to survive -and the noise.

 
That infernal noise – what I’d give to hear my mother’s lilting voice, rather than whistling bullets and deafening explosions.

 
Even the warmth of squashed fresh cowpats would be better than the bone aching cold, oozing mud in the trenches. For a moment, I can almost taste a hot cuppa and feel a steaming shower. I hear a whistling noise close by. My knee is very warm. It’s then I realise I’ve been hit. Buggar!

 
I try to scramble and aim, but fall backwards to the cry of ‘medic’.

 
Blood’s gushing, but I feel no pain – just numb and weak. I can’t stand, try as I might. The medic straps my leg and helps me. Screams fill the air, biting into the clouds of tear gas in a ghostly fashion. I beg the wind not to change.

 
I’m only twenty. Some adventure. It’s Paris I dream of, not some sodden field. Now it’s raining, not the soft summer rain of home, rather heavy pounding rain of a French winter. I swear it’s frozen before it cuts at my face.

 
Just a few more yards till we reach the tent. A young Private rushes out and grabs me. My guardian angel returns to the trenches. It’s then tears well up – of frustration, exhaustion and sheer relief.

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia… in Public Domain
  • Charles_Bean_in_Gird_Trench_Somme

ONE SURE STEP.

No matter how I walked, Mam was still unsure.

“Ye’ll be fine on the ferry, Biddy, it’s being allowed on that big ship I’m afraid of.”

I tried to tell her that I’d be right, but she wasn’t having it. Even Susie, her favourite, couldn’t convince her.

Round and round the table I walked, then, to keep her happy, up the lane a way. Mam first folded her arms and then smoothed her apron, as she was wont to do when worried.

“Mam, Susie will be with me – she’ll stand in front of me.” Though even I was having doubts now.

Our cousin was in charge at Southampton. Susie said he’d see us right and make sure I could board. Mam was still muttering. It had been six years since I fell off the haystack and I was as good as ever, almost.

At least I didn’t have time to worry about how much I’d miss everyone. Mam was still trying to fit more into my bag. “It’s alright, lassie, just a few shamrocks to put on Jack’s grave, ’tis the least you can do.”

“Away with ye now, ye Dad has Paddy Maloney’s pony and trap, he’ll get ye to the ferry. Mind how ye go.”

pony and trap

 

No last hugs, no tears from Mam, after all, we weren’t the first to leave in these hard times.

Trying not to limp, I bade Mam goodbye, knowing t’would be the last time. My aching heart felt far worse than my foot.

 

 

HEAVEN’S KITCHEN

 

 

Burning wood, with just a hint of smoke.. the kettle bubbles on the hob.

Knives are sharpened, cutting boards scrubbed, jars sterilised, onions and garlic peeled.

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Buckets of plump, rich red tomatoes wait alongside white earthenware dishes filled with spices – and the symphony begins.

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My Aunt lets me strip the leaves from the fresh basil, and its clean fragrance lingers on my fingers.

 

 

 

 

Nona rarely mentions Kythera, except when preparing traditional recipes as she is now. I start to ask questions, I always have questions. My Aunt shakes her head as if to say ‘ ssh, let her talk’. Nona’s broken English fascinates me.

“Musta usa fresh, alla fresh.”

I smile. Most words have an ‘a’ at the end.

Nona starts cutting. “Justa so, Crissouli.”

Each piece the same size as the last, so the salsa cooks evenly. Nona speaks in Greek, Aunt laughs, they are happy.

The rhythm of the cutting continues, soft chop, chop against the boards.

It’s a large kitchen. A gentle breeze teases the white lace curtain. Pots are bubbling, each stirring releases that exotic spicy fragrance. Before long, the jars are filled and sealed and set aside to cool.

The little that is left over is poured into bowls. We sit, tired, but content, dipping chunks of that morning’s freshly baked bread into the salsa.

I hope Heaven has a kitchen.

 

 

ONE SMALL SUITCASE..

Papauli's suitcaseTwo shirts, collar, shaving set, socks, two vests, underpants, pair of well worn trousers… and, unbeknowns to Theo, a carefully folded note, lovingly written by his new bride and sealed with tears..

His life in a suitcase, now doubling as a seat. Other villagers jostled around him, anxious to board for Port Said,  then embark on the Grosser Kurfurst* bound for Australia. 1904 saw many leaving Kythera, longing for a new life. Though he’d been an Evzone #, he still had to sell his small land plot to feed his parents and four siblings.

He touched his ticket again, safe. After arriving in Fremantle, he sailed on to Sydney to a promised job. Sleeping on the cafe floor after long, tiring days made him more determined to learn from his Kytherian compatriot. With little money in his pocket, he moved on to Grafton, soon becoming a partner in the Marble Bar Cafe.

His meticulous note keeping documented his life, including first checking land near Casino in 1909. He and his newly arrived wife, now with child, walked to this land in Whiporee, in 1910…the first of nine children, a son,  born there in the bush.

Touching that same suitcase, I can’t help but feel the courage, determination, persistence and love of family, shown by my paternal grandfather, as I continue to unpack the story of his life.

Grosser Kurfurst, Papauli's transport to Australia*Shipping list from West Australian Archives.. Grosser Kurfurst arrival Fremantle 21st November, 1904

# Evzone -guard at Greek Palace, chosen from those considered to be ‘perfect specimens of youth’.

 

GATHERING THOUGHTS

Down by the lake, where the children love to go

Sits a very tiny mouse, but I guess you wouldn’t know

For he hides among the bullrushes and plays with all the reeds

and he often sits and ponders, as the lagoon sounds he heeds…

He hears the people fishing, hears them cast their line

but he worries not for all his friends, he’s sure they’ll all be fine…

for not often do they make a catch, and they don’t really care

it’s good enough to think a bit and to simply linger there…

(c) Crissouli Nov 22, 2015

 

 

Urunga Magic

Urunga, NSW ©Crissouli

A new beginning to link with the past…

Thinking back on my life, and that of my family, is something I tend to do often…it’s in the blood I guess.. and the genes…

As if my other blogs weren’t enough to share what I wish to.

Do feel free to pop in now and then and come back to the past with me…

I truly loved that little donkey… I remember it, though for some reason I can’t recall having the photo taken at  around 11 months old..

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(c) Crissouli 2015