Tag Archives: MJ Edmunds

Morning soul at Pt Danger

The first peace … came in first moments of knowing the danger had passed. There would be other dangers but they were for another day. All clear.
For a while it had been scary. Could she leave enough for them if she had to go?
She wanted to see them through. Any mother would.
For a while she had been the angel of her suburb, a wonder, a miracle for coping so well, an inspiration, for taking it in her stride, for taking so much on at such a time.
Suddenly, she did not sweat the small stuff. How little they knew, and she made sure to keep it that way. But one day, on an institutional couch in a room with a square window filled by a swirl of leaves and branches, a word or two delivered with measured compassion tugged her and all that had been so neatly buttoned up poured out. A few minutes later she applied lipstick and stepped back into her bravado. She liked this feeling, that she might conquer anything, and of feeling that the normal irritations could not touch her, would wash over her, and of the many plans she had for ‘after this time’. She would achieve so much, and give so much, and never be ordinary again. But she was…

Morning Souls by MJ Edmunds
Morning Souls by MJ Edmunds

This is written on Mothers Day in some parts of the world. Happy Mothers Day to all and particularly those without their mothers today.
It was prompted by writing a prompt, “The First Peace…” from Writing From The Soul sent by Jane Brunette today. It is always a welcome addition the the in-box. I use prompts if my mind has been busy and my writer soul has been out of action.

MJ Edmunds

The destination of a successful man

Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
MJ Edmunds

An early days excerpt from a novel  in progress.


The boys were restless all through class. Maybe it was the rocket launch they’d planned down in Tommy Jones’s back paddock. Maybe it was a combination of raging hormones and the moon being in Jupiter.
Adam felt just like them. He had to keep dragging his mind back to the classroom, away from the thought of seeing Shelly tonight. There were only a couple of hours to go before he’d be driving down to the airport. Shelly’s secondment in Sydney had ended up being much longer than they thought, and for three months Sydney had been replaced by Singapore. But they’d got through. There were on the home run now. We’re going to make it.
There was a lot of fidgeting going on at the desk in the back corner. Perhaps it was time to rearrange the class seating plan. “Dylan, you need to think about this revision I’ve set out. If you can work your way through this it will give most of what you need for the examination.”
“Come on Mr Hammo, it’ll be cool.”
“So Mr Hamilton, are you saying that the answers to the exams are all in this latest revision?” said Melissa Broad with raven hair and chocolate brown eyes, framed with long lashes, and seemingly oblivious of her own burgeoning power to break hearts.
“If you can work your way through that you’ll make it through the exam Melissa,” said Adam.
“Gee thanks Brain-box Broad. That’s all right then sir. I’ll just brush up on that the night before,” said Dylan slamming his book down on the desk.
“I’m serious Dylan, you do need to prepare for the exam in advance.”
“C’mon Sir, you’re just trying to make it easy on yourself so you don’t have to teach us.”
“He’s got other things on his mind,” said Dylan. The boys down the back tittered.
“Mr Hammo’s going to the seaside. He’s going to see his shell-leee.
“He’s going to have sex on the sand. He’s going to have a …
“Stop that now, Dylan Miller. Get out of this classroom now and go and wait by the principal’s office.” Dylan stood up and clomped out to the classroom raising his hand to wave to classmates.
“Ooh,” called a voice from the back. Perhaps it was Craig Brennan or Ryan Sharp. Adam was past caring.
“Look how pink Hammo’s face is,” whispered Narelle Flick to Melissa so loudly almost everyone could hear.
Adam knew she was right. And that now his face was turning brilliant red.

“I am going to miss you lot in the holidays,” said Adam, “particularly your humour.”
“No, you won’t sir. You’ll have your lay…..deeeeee.”
“Craig Brennan, would you like to visit the principal too?”
“No Sir, I’ll skip it today.”
“Now over the vacation, if you want to increase your chances at the exams you should be reading…..
The bell rang. Sweet relief. Lunchtime. Almost through. Adam had arranged an early cut to miss the last lesson. He was to drive to the airport, a journey of two hours, and take the afternoon flight to Brisbane.
But first he had to deal with Dylan Miller. Adam thought he might have bunked off, and to be honest on this day if he had. Adam might have let it go, and saved a stiff reminder for his first day of term. But Dylan was waiting, leaning by the wall outside Bill Cosgrove’s office.
“OK Dylan, I am just going in to see when Mr Cosgrove will be free, so just wait here please?”
“Mr Hammo, I mean Sir, do you have to?” said Dylan.
“Dylan, if it was the first time you’d misbehaved but you know as well as I do that you’ve been out of order a lot.
“Please don’t sir. I don’t want there to be trouble at home.”
“Well you should have thought about that before. Just wait here Dylan.”
Dylan slumped into a chair in the waiting room.
“But sir my mother’s really sick. My gran’ll skin me alive if I get into trouble.”
“What about your parents?”
“Mum’s sick, really sick,” he said.
“I’m living with me Gran,” he said.
“And your Dad?”
“Dead.”
“What’s your Gran like?”
“She’s alright I guess.”
“Don’t give her grief Dylan,” said Adam.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean don’t make life any harder for your Gran than it already is.”
Dylan pulled a face. This was Hammo was in new territory.
“All right I won’t sir.”
The voices coming out of Mr Cosgroves office were clearly in a heated discussion.
“Dylan, go to your next class then go home,” said Adam. “And I’ll see you after holidays. And think about how you are going to behave next term.”
“Ok sir. Thanks sir. Have a good time at the coast sir,” said Dylan making for the door in case Adam changed his mind. Dylan would return home to Acacia Street that afternoon where his mother would be sitting in her shorts and t-shirt on the verandah with a cigarette on the go.
“Don’t tell me it’s the bloody holidays,” she’d say. “Always on bloody holidays, you kids, why don’t you go and get a job?”

If Adam took a cab from the airport, he’d just have time to get to the jewellery store. He liked the sound of the destination as he said it to the cabby. The best jeweller in the city. It sounded like the destination of a successful man.

MJ Edmunds

Happy Valentines

The Luck of the Valentine

♥ ♥ ♥ Valentine Vignettes ♥ ♥ ♥

A Valentine’s Day  card came in the post in an unfamiliar hand.  He signed his full name on the card. Since school she had never thought about him …

♥ ♥ ♥
She sent him, who featured large in her reckonings, a Valentine’s  card with a candle attached, and the hope he might light it under him…

♥ ♥ ♥
He realised at once that he had posted his lovingly worded Valentine’s card complete with declarations,  and the many joys he  would bestow, under the wrong door. He tried to retrieve it with a wire coat hanger, undone, but pushed the envelope out of reach….
♥ ♥ ♥
In the grandest restaurant, highly reputed for its game,  he ordered bread and butter pudding then turned to her, took her hands in his and said marry me…
♥ ♥ ♥

Happy Valentines
Flowers awaiting instructions

Twice on Valentine’s Day, many years apart, the RL me has been in car accidents.

The first was in a purple Valiant with  bench seats, sitting in the front between two boys. We were all smiles on our way to a party, until we skidded off the road and  came to a crashing halt into a metal pillar. Turned out that pillar was holding up a water tank  but not for long… I was embarrassed about us tanking that tank.

The second was on the way home from the art gallery, a rare mother and son day, where we had sketched like Matisse and  had a  good lunch.  I awoke as we crashed into the central fence on  motorway. Then we bounced across three M1 lanes to the feeder lane before coming to a halt.

In both of those accidents, everyone involved was technically unscathed, yet we changed. Lucky Valentines!

This Valentine’s Day there was no crash, just everyday love. Which is the point.

MJ Edmunds

On an indigo night

By MJ Edmunds : I glimpsed the moonlit sky in the last hour of darkness. For this I give gratitude to the cat that found me at my early desk and brushed by my legs to say he had a night mission. As I slid the door open I spotted the moon just up there and liked how it glimmered on the roof of the house next door and onto the road. Barefoot, I crossed the deck and leaned on the railing to crane to take in  the  indigo sky. I drew in a deep breath at the pleasure of it. As light as it was, you (if lucky) could see stars still strewn across the sky, and what I call in all of my stories a dance hall sky. Some were dimmed by now. A car came up the hill, two white orbs showing the way although almost not needed. This driver was making an early start, a nurse heading for a shift, a lover stealing home before dawn, a traveller heading for the airport to go south for weekend, or a surfer racing to catch a wave at daybreak…
The Paradigm Shuffle~MJ Edmunds

Indigo night : MJ Edmunds
Indigo night : MJ Edmunds

A friend met only once

David Ades was a friend met once only in a cafe  at an hour not as late as it felt. I’d been to the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival launch party, and with no dinner plans,  needed something warm to fill the spaces canapés had not reached.  I walked along Jonson St, Fletcher, Lawson in the cold seeking  a place and eventually spotted a warm glow at end of an open air arcade.

The café staff were starting  to clear up but a few people arrived, a woman in stark white Indian cotton ordering a takeaway, and a young man. We talked.

I didn’t know his name them but I had noticed David sitting at the next table in dark clothes that must have held stories of many nights and cities. I noticed his hair too, silvery white, back into a pony tale. He was focused on eating.

David heard the woman in white speak to us of healing and spoke to her, something about cancer. My ears pricked up, I have my story. Her food ready, she left. David resumed his meal.

The young man had asked if he could join me for dinner. He had written a children’s book about the environment and planned to scale the barriers of the writers’ festival to show it to someone. I am pitching my novel to a live audience and three publishers and I’m nervous, I told him.

David spoke to me right then and I turned to see his blue eyes. He said he’d heard me speak about pitching and unfurled the story of his Dad, Joe, who had been a pitchman in New York City that people came from all over to see. He always wore a three piece suit and Union Square was one of favourite places to pitch. In the evenings Joe would go home to his fourth wife on the Upper East Side and would have a steak at a fine restaurant, every night. By the time David told me this my lentils had arrived, glowing and golden in a white bowl.

Joe’s merchandise was always the same thing, said David, and he did this for decades. The item sold at $5. It was a potato peeler that you will never find in a store. Joe Ades was The Potato Peeler Guy and when he died the New York Times his obituary. David urged me to read about his father on his website. I will, I said.

Oh hey, I wrote a story in a New York literary travel anthology last year [City Pick New York], I said. 
I’d like to read that book, he said.
That can be arranged, I said.

We said goodbye and I felt gratitude that the uncertainty of this evening had led me to these people in that place. I awoke the next morning feeling buoyant, and carried the warmth of David’s story about his dad, Joe, the pitch man, into my own pitch that went so well that complete strangers approached me afterwards. My mood soared for a week or more.David Ades, A Glorious Uncertainty

When I had a chance to look up DavidAdesMusic.com and saw those blue eyes gazing out, I found out he not only played saxophone, he was one of the world’s finest. He never said. Naturally.

He’d had an album, out that year, recorded in New York City, David Ades & friends, A Glorious Uncertainty, and when I saw the cover with the front section of a yellow cab I smiled. The book I hoped to get to him had the back section of a yellow cab on its cover.
Where I meet Franzen

Soon after I found out he had lung cancer and was undergoing treatments, and I realised I’d heard something of this as he spoke with the woman in white.

We exchanged some Facebook messages. I wanted to get the book to him. “We could swap the CD and the book,” he said. “Sounds good,” I said. He said he was playing at Bangalow with Galapagos Duck. “Do you remember them? Or we could always use the good old postal system.” I saw the message too late for the gig. We never made the swap. It didn’t matter. The best swap was made in that hour we spent and for that I am glad.
Farewell David Ades.

MJ Edmunds

Perfect Day

Perfect Day, Mountsfield cover version

Perfect Day has been on automatic replay in my head this past day since the news Lou Reed had passed away. The cover of this tune that stands out in my memory was played on a clear blue June Saturday in Mountsfield Park, London. People’s Day.  A jobbing muso of whiskered jaw in black uniform playing guitar under trees to weekend flower children, jigging toddlers, people yearning  something or someone never reached, remembering things that never quite were. Remembering flashes of fun. We sing along. Together. Weekenders on our own. 

Was it the 444,000th cover of Perfect Day ever made? 

A reggae beat rolls up the hill to warn it will be in charge from sunset.
I rarely carried a cameras in the 1990s.  It is clear in the big screen inside my head. I wish there was a kind of camera that could take the image in my mind and show it to you.  It would show you the plant stall on the left as you came in, the crumbling outbuildings, the craft stalls, and the cakes liquefying even in the shade, flowered icing smearing. It would show you young love. Problems all left alone.  It would show you the children in spangly costumes, it’s such fun.  It would show you  buggies laden with goodies and babies, smiling, sleeping and squirming. It would show you the cream of London apiarists, who for five minutes would make you think of keeping bees. It would show you the tiny stream train and driver, a portly Gulliver. It would show you the tables of ezy cleaning products, and dolls in crinolines with  toilet paper petticoats that will do another twirl at a boot fair soon.  It would show you old love. It would show you  chutneys and pickles with floral covers, and it would show you the donkeys and falcons. Just a perfect day feed animals in the zoo. 

Just a perfect day you made me forget myself.

One perfect day. Luckily, it’s not the only one.

MJ Edmunds

Italics are  from Perfect Day by Lou Reed.

Happy to write here

On being in the writer tribe

I have been attending the Australian Society of Authors‘ first ever National Writers’ Congress #asa2020 which has meant spending more time in the company of writers than usual. It’s been good to have that shorthand that goes with being among your tribe.

The event started with a literary speed dating event which meant standing in sometimes lengthy lines to spend five minutes with an  agent or publisher. It was a fruitful. My intention was to meet publishers and agents to see about sending them one work and to gauge their interest for another work in progress. Happily achieved plus I discussed a work I hadn’t planned to discuss.

I have brought 18 books to go in the book shop. I noticed the book stand is far from the coffee and rest rooms so I don’t think people had much time to look.  Hoping not to take all 18 books on the plane home. (Went home 4 books lighter.)

There were some stirring speeches. I enjoyed Anna Funder who was scathingly about all of those people who want us to ‘just write’  a 200 or 300 words  for no payment. Michael Fraser AM issued a call to arms on copyright, Susan Johnson @sjreaders whose books I had read years even before meeting in London at a mutual friend’s barbecue,  Antony Loewenstein (who says so many people want to write the same as others which is dull) and Angelo Loukakis with a gift for summing up. Tom Keneally’s video was jolly in his pink Fiji shirt with some magnificent swirly wallpaper behind him.

There was a dinner too. Not some office-Christmas-party-sort-of-debauched-and-shop-talk dinner butHappy to write heresomething that was fun. No business cards, no need to say what you were working on. Just some fun with the tribe. Good to catch up briefly with Anne Summers who was resplendent in  her Julia Gillard interview outfit.

I could probably have done with some more sleep but I am enjoying writing in this little room with a view. I like the glimpse of the harbour near the Anzac Bridge and the ‘Rear Window’  view of the lives in the apartments nearby. The shirtless man smoking on the balcony. The dinner party. I’ve made a note of the room number.  I may be back.

Marian (MJ) Edmunds

P.S Kate Forsyth was the stand out for inspiration. More on that and more soon #asa2020

The impressive sands of St Ives, June 1985 - Marian Edmunds

The St Ives etiquette book for reading in cafes

MJ Edmunds

I headed to a favourite café the other day, book under my arm. There is time enough to digest a short story at one sitting. As I entered the café an acquaintance greeted me warmly. Wrapped in a bright shawl, she sat alone at a kitchen table. I smiled and greeted her and made a note to self that if I sat there I could forget my intention to read.  I was writing well that day and wanted to oil the wheels with some good reading.

The remaining small table in the café was taken and the other big table was almost full with a couple chatting quietly and three others eating and reading newspapers. I found a place, set down my book and scarf, hoping my acquaintance would not feel slighted. Then I thought to myself, it’s a free country and I am entitled to read.

I ordered, sat, poured some water, and opened the book choosing a short story because of it’s title, Green Bus to St Ives by Salley Vickers. I once took a train to St Ives, and somewhere  is a diary that records who I met that day and my visit to the Barbara Hepworth home and studio oblivious that not so many years later I would live amid a garden of smooth carved stones. Greedily I lapped up the spectacle, smell and sounds of the beaches that were alike yet far different from home.

As I slipped away with the story characters on a bus to the Tate and rediscovered Barbara Hepworth’s garden, I heard the voice of my acquaintance. “Where do you live?”

The impressive sands of St Ives, June 1985 - Marian Edmunds
St Ives Panorama, June 1985

A male voice replied, “We live up the coast but I would like to live here.”

“I wouldn’t like to live here as everyone knows your business,” said my acquaintance. I glanced around to see a man and his wife sitting at a small table, a walking frame parked in front of the table.  My acquaintance sat at the far end of a big table.

For the next few minutes as I tried to keep reading I learned where the man, and my acquaintance were born and had lived and why each had moved. I learned that my acquaintance had left an affluent city area and  was “not like” those people she had left. In a few short minutes I had learned a great deal about my acquaintance’s life. I learned nothing  about the man’s wife. She appeared frail and said little. The man seemed glad of the conversation so I thought that was a good thing.

Their talk turned to the economy. I determinedly kept on reading about the unexpected alliance of the characters in the story. Why  hadn’t my acquaintance moved closer to her new friends instead of broadcasting across the café?

“My kind of business is not affected by the downturn,” said my acquaintance.          “Everything is affected by the downturn,” said the man. For a moment I was tempted to weigh in to agree with him and I suspect they wouldn’t have minded a bit.

“What are your names?” said my acquaintance to the couple. And so it went on.

As I finished my tart, a warm tumble of cheese and vegetables, I checked the pages of my book and saw I still had a number of pages to read.

My acquaintance stood up and issued a fond farewell to her new friends and it was quiet again. I ordered coffee, and made my way back to St Ives.

Today is the 30th birthday my father did not reach

A painting of my father by his Aunt Augusta ©
A painting of my father by his Aunt Augusta ©

Today is the 30th birthday my father did not reach.
I can’t recall the other 29 clearly. They are shadows of an anniversary that given the preference, I’d rather not discuss. I’d rather just think of him quietly.
My father’s only grandson sleeps. If they’d met, they’d have had a quiet bet together, and agreed between themselves not to tell me. They are so alike – not in love with academia, liking a bet, loving to collect what others see as junk, sensitive to others, and with a wicked sense of humour.
My father’s only granddaughter plays, making, chatting, imagining, devising, her giggles impervious to the coldness of day and a long ago loss. She loves birthdays. If only they’d met.

What would he have made of the person I became? What would he have thought of me with my volatile writing life and my weight lifting under the supervision of a personal trainer for goodness sakes? What would he have thought about us never voting the same way?

He had this scheme or dream of travelling the countryside collecting antiques for a shop on Sydney’s North Shore and me running the shop. He was about to start on his side of the plan. He and Mum had the caravan ready but then he became ill. Now I see the antique shop was quite a good plan. I would have found good stories there.
In the southern tablelands town where my father spent his childhood, one of his oldest friends was interred yesterday. He was 92 when he died last week. I make no comparison. He too was a good man. Both of them now gone. My father would be 77 today, were he here. I will bake a birthday cake.