Magic Carpet Ride

By Sue Trollip

It’s because of my semi-pathological fear of museums and my embarrassing inability to read a map that I spend my first night in Istanbul in my hotel room crying into a Styrofoam dish of baklava, clinging to a grande Starbucks latte and periodically jumping up and down on a Turkish carpet that I don’t want, never had any intention of buying and yet, somehow, now own.

The day starts delightful and foreign with walnuts and apricots for breakfast and by the afternoon I’ve walked around a large portion of the old part of town. Then it begins to drizzle and unsure of my exact location, or more to the point which direction is the way back to my hotel, I stand still. With frizzed hair and a discombobulated brain I forget not to engage in conversation with strangers and so I smile when Erol, evidently a Turkish name meaning courageous, asks if he can help me. He enquires whether I’ve seen the Serpentine column and when I shake my head he tells me about the drunken Pole who threw stones at the snake heads and broken them off the top of the plaited column. I think of how the column looks like a blue koeksister and how long it’s been since breakfast.

I giggle when he asks where my blue skirt is to match my eyes because it’s at least the sixth time I’ve been asked that same question today. So instead of grimacing, I smirk at the short man in his long trench coat, with his perfect, even in the rain, hair, dark brown eyes and shiny leather shoes. I listen as he lectures me on the column of Constantine and explains about the holes once being filled by jewels. I marvel at the Hippodrome. Then he offers me tea at his shop and a minute or two out of the rain. It seems rude to refuse.

Fifteen minutes after stepping into his shop I am back on the pavement, this time clutching a black carpet bag.

‘What just happened?’ I ask myself as I step onto Galata Bridge. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment before walking on into the fat drops of rain.

‘Why did you hand over your credit card?’ It’s an interesting question. But I blame it on the art of bamboozling.

Picture this.

Inside the shop, after tea has been requested, courageous Erol disappears and another man arrives. Within seconds he’s shouting instructions in curt Turkish to four other men who are running around throwing carpets onto the floor at my feet. There are hundreds of them, flying whimsically through the air to land almost touching my toes. Even for someone, like me, who doesn’t particularly like these carpets, they’re magnificent, like magic carpets.

Like a fool I admire one and the main man rubs his hands and says: ‘For you, thirteen thousand euros.’

At this point I leap to my feet and run for the door but he blocks my way. Not in a threatening style but more in a, wait it’s impolite to leave before I’m finished, sort of manner.

‘I’m paying in rands,’ I explain as I sink back into the chair.

He keeps talking, changing prices, changing carpets and changing currencies until my brain is swirling like a runaway merry-go-round.

That’s when he puts out his hand and says: ‘Visa!’

Carpet

Thoughts under a Moonlit Sky

By Susan Roberts

It is half past nine at night and I am huddled in a borrowed coat, on a blanket in a park, in the centre of a big city. My mitten-clad hands clutch a mug of liquid which warms the inside of me, even as my ill-matched clothing warms the outside because, though it is summertime, this city deserves its reputation for weather that changes every half hour.

As I steal a glance around me at other people on their groundsheets, drinking or nibbling, it occurs to me that if I were doing this in almost any city back home, I might be a homeless person, possibly in fear of my life from some gang, or rival squatters who covet my food or blanket.

But I am not there; I am here. In Melbourne, in the Royal Botanic Gardens just off St Kilda Road, and it is interval in this evening’s open-air performance of Shakespeare Under The Stars. Above my head, bats fly between the huge trees, and the merriment and chatter around me comes from members of my family who moved to this country six months ago.

I have to admit to a little spark of envy. Shakespeare Under The Stars is so popular in Melbourne that we had to book our tickets a week ago, whereas back home those actors who risk the shirts on their backs to perform the same plays, do so mainly for disinterested learners on forced outings from school. Perhaps I am being unfair, but as a lifelong fan of Shakespeare, it saddens me that productions of the Bard’s works have dwindled back home – something to do with it being considered unnecessary for scholars to study his plays. The long-suffering performers of those dreaded “schools matinees” are often only rewarded by ribald mirth, more so if the play being performed is a tragedy!

I can’t help but feel that if people back home could see what I’ve seen here, they would view the so-called “difficult Shakespeare plays” with a new interest. Certainly The Australian Shakespeare Company has opened the eyes of more than one South African in my group tonight, causing us to rock with laughter at this rendition of a comedy that was conceived over four hundred years ago by a visionary playwright and actor who knew exactly how to delight and entertain his audience.

Yes, Shakespeare is alive and well, and living in Melbourne!

My love is like a red, red rose

By Michelle Dennison AWA Julianne Alcott

It was a matter of chance, and a large amount of envelope-filling that led me to be the one to write the blog on Valentines Day.

Rather appropriate, I suppose, seeing that I am the Scribbling Scribe that almost always writes romance stories.

I was in primary school when I started thinking of my dream wedding. At 16, (after the phenomenon that was Dead Poets’ Society) my best friend and I collected poetry, the more romantic the better. I still have the hard cover exercise book filled with lines like, ‘How do I love thee . . . Let me count the ways’.

Without love, the world would be nothing but a desert. A dry, inhospitable place that we long to escape from, but are doomed to spend the rest of our days in lonely thirst.

Love makes the day worthwhile. It puts a sparkle in our eyes and a tango beat in our hearts. It makes the drudgery of work, dishes and scrubbing the floor more bearable.

I spent many years thinking about love so that I could write about it. I became proficient enough in love knowledge to know that what I had in my life was not love, but a cheap imitation that was based on what it could get out of me.

I had great hopes that this Valentines day I would actually have someone who would choose to be with me, rather than any other woman on the Earth.

Unfortunately, if I compare my life to that of Pride and Prejudice, my Valentine ended up not being the hero, Mr Darcy, but the charming villain, George Wickham (complete with chequered past)

There is a thought that has been bothering me for years . . . Can I really be a writer of love stories when I haven’t been loved myself? How can I write about true love, when I have very little hope that it is out there at all?

Then I look at my friends and work colleagues, and am relieved to see that there are a few good men. Just a few, but at least they are not a fantasy creation like a griffin or a Pegasus.

So here I am on Valentines Day, hoping that the love story writer will finally have a love story of her own one day.

In the meantime, I have spent a day with my gorgeous daughter and some very special ladies. Love may have eluded me so far, but there are many more things to be grateful for on this particular 14 February!

A Giant Step

By Penny M(itchell)

Thoughts squeeze through hopeful doorways. What will they think? What was I thinking? Who is the person who ties up my bowel and steals sleep from waiting eyes? No, it isn’t a grammar king in wig and gown or a phantom English teacher poised to tear out my pulsing inspiration. The one I most fear is no distant friend or passing acquaintance of my passion.

Draft after draft of my first collection bounces off satellites in a constant triangle between editor, agent and I. The unknown begins to divest itself of clothing as my dream draws closer to nakedness. The beginning has escaped me and the ending is in sight.

Like my daughter’s first steps or my son’s first ride without training wheels, poetry and prose play ‘musical pages’ with spell check until I have to let go.

I could write a whole new nursery rhyme about how the clock ran away with my hands or how this egg head is not called Humpty but all you really want to know is who is my Goliath and if there are any good stones in my sling.

You have grown in stature since we last met. You, my reader, are the one I most fear and yet love. You will stand or fall at my feet. You can mock, scoff, or slay. I’m exposed in chapter and verse. So, forgive me for saying so, but, biblically speaking, I hope you get stoned! Then I can rock.

In the Audience

by Sue Trollip

PT* loves watching scary movies with me because, she claims, I twitch and squirm and provide an amusing side show should the main event become dull. (She has a rude streak but is also a Bruce Willis fan so I forgive her.)

Although I love DVDs, for me it’s all about the big screen. Movie houses are the perfect place to lose yourself. They transport you away from mundane routine or teeth-gnashing stress and allow you to climb into someone else’s skin, just for a while. The darkness and the strangers play a role in the scenario as do the movie mates you drag along. So while I provide amusement for PT . . .

Well, there’s MR* who falls asleep as soon as he’s swallowed the last wine gum. Sometimes his snores are quiet, sometimes not so much. He tried to deny falling asleep during the Ides of March but he’d missed a few pertinent facts and when I started to giggle he admitted, that once he’d fallen asleep when alone at the movies and the other patrons in his row had obviously climbed over him and he’d woken up alone in the theatre, long after the credits had rolled.

During Drive I was close to convulsing as the blood splattered and spurted and squelched onto walls and lifts and cars. I glanced over at CA* who was averting her eyes in a ladylike manner. Afterwards she wondered if we should ask for a partial refund as we’d only watched half the movie. I thought they’d refuse and besides we’d just spent 90 or so minutes with Ryan Gosling and that sort of made up for the gross misuse of tomato sauce or whatever Hollywood uses these days. (She couldn’t argue with my logic because Ryan Gosling has been nominated as Coolest Person of the Year by Time magazine’s Joel Stein.)

I’ve noticed over the years that movies are torturous for smokers. I wonder if smokers ever absorb the ending of movies or if they are too busy calming down their nicotine starved bodies. I know that DL* is out the door as soon as the last word’s been uttered and HL* has been known to leave even before that point.

While I do enjoy being transported somewhere else, there are movies like Perfume which I find too vivid. That night I could taste the market’s putrid fish stink, feel the damp entrails-bedecked street beneath my feet and then when the– I lasted 3 minutes, maybe 2 before leaning over and whispering to CA. ‘I’ll be in Exclusive Books.’ I left without a refund. (I still have the pretty pair of red shoes I bought en route to the book shop. They always cheer me up when I wear them.) CA thinks I’m odd.

Some movie mates are all about the experience like ES* who always like to sit close to the front. She introduced me to the taste bud tantalizing combo of popcorn (with salt and vinegar) and Smarties and she’s my only friend who likes Nouveau movies and Twilight.

My sister and I seldom go to movies together and on the last occasion we picked Mark Walberg (whew!) and Mila Kunis (we love That 70’s Show). But, about ten minutes into the movie, when we’d watched the umpteenth body being thrown out of a high-rise window, she leaned over and said: ‘There’s a really nice band playing at . . .’ and we were gone (both preferring music to flying bodies.)

There are always the friends who laugh at the wrong places, or who ask continuous questions. ‘I don’t know the answer either, lets watch and find out.’ (Unless it’s a Roman Polanski, then chances are it will end somewhere left of satisfying and neither of us will ever know.) My bête noir is the chatterer. ‘Shh, I’m trying to watch a movie!’ Sometimes you have to duck down so people won’t recognise you later. For example, once a friend shouted: ‘[insert rude word]!’ when a beautiful white bunny was hopping along a serene snowy landscape and ‘bang!’ a gunshot and a splodge of red against all that white which, sadly, agitated the audience more than the death of the bunny.

But whoever they are and whatever their idiosyncrasies, I love them all for coming to the movies with me because movies, with apologies to Orson Welles, are ribbons of dreams set in motion by magic.

*names have been changed to protect reputations.