What a fantastic response to our fifth challenge - A Sense of Place.
We saw the world through your eyes.
You took us from Manly to Wales. We felt the sand in our toes on a beach in Fiji. We took a chicken flight from Japan and we shared Cindy Davies’ panic in a compartment on The Orient Express as it drew out of Milan station leaving her husband disappearing down the platform.
It’s interesting that smell conjures up A Sense of Place for many of you.
For Gara Baldwin it’s the smell of cigar smoke that immediately takes her back to Christmases in Wales. For Jane Hanson it’s the smell of grass.
The aroma of fresh fish and chips reminds Laurie Wilson of arriving in Manly on the ferry, and the smell of Tea Tree oil that brings back memories of a long ago camping trip for Richard Karl Vasey.
But for Lucy Elliott the clink of her letterbox and the thud of mail hitting the floor takes her back to her childhood and the Beano magazine. While the sweet sounds of a trumpet transports Ambra Sancin straight to San Sebastian.
Have another look at the blog. I’m sure you’ll enjoy re-reading the Challenge Five stories as much as I have.
321 LET'S WRITE
Milan, Italy, August 1967
I'm in a third-class carriage on a train, in Milan station bound for Istanbul and I'm terrified.
My hands are flat against the window because the Orient Express is moving slowly out of the station with me on board.
I'm alone with no passport, no money and no husband. He thought he had time to buy pizzas. I can see him in the distance, running towards the departing train. He's holding a small pizza in each hand flat out in front of him. As the train speeds up, so does he, still balancing the food.
In the foreground, two of the recently disembarked Italian passengers are trotting alongside the train shouting, 'It's okay! It's okay!'
But it's not okay. I'm in an empty railway carriage, with assorted rubbish on the floor, and our two suitcases are the only ones in the rack above my head.
The green vinyl seats are empty and the train is gathering speed. I think the next stop is Belgrade in Yugoslavia. The Italians are running now and their shouts of 'It's okay!' are fainter.
My mind is blank with terror. The speeding train is taking me further away and they and my husband, are now dots at the end of the platform.
I rush out into the corridor. Why didn't I think of that before? It's empty. The friendly, trilingual couchette assistant got off in Milan. There's a woman in the next carriage. She's dressed entirely in black and she has a huge pot plant at her feet. Its ferny tendrils spread out on the green vinyl.
'Help me!' I fling the door open. 'No English,' she replies.
'Vous parlez Français? Moi, je suis Arménien.' A French-speaking Armenian with no English. While she's looking expectantly at me, the train jolts. The carriage door rolls shut, nearly trapping my fingers. I look through the window at her, but she's lost interest.
The train slows, then stops. I rush to the exit door and am just about to fling it open and leap onto the train track, when a warm hand closes over mine. 'Stop! I forbid open, madam.' I stare desperately at the trilingual attendant. He's still on the train!
'Madam, the train, it changes platforms. Now it returns to Milan station,' he says. 'Please wait.'
It's hot under the quilt. Anger and tears well up. I sob, shudder and burrow deep.
I hate him. I hate my rotten brother to pieces. Tears seep. I snuffle into my secret place. The quilt is hot and prickly on my neck and shoulders.
I turn to plotting. I'm gonna have my own place where HE can't come and spoil things. Where HE can't be mean. My thoughts surge from hurt to revenge.
I imagine a line down the middle of our bedroom. HIS things on one side and mine on the other. I smile as I throw HIS things in a heap just like HE did with mine. I even do a little squishing of this and that.
The hot quilt slips from my shoulders. I drift to my perfect space. A bedroom with a yellow bookshelf decked with books in alphabetical order. A desk with paper, pens and paints, that no one else can touch. Oh! and a piano of my very own. I lick my lips at such delicious ideas.
The explosion that is my brother, bursts into the room, startling me. He thrusts something into my face. 'Libby, Libby, look what I've got.'
It's a jam jar with a fluttering blue butterfly. 'It's for you Libby. I got it just for you.'
My brother settles in a special place in my heart.
Sixty years later, he and the butterfly are still there.
The brief clink of our metal letterbox and the deep thud of the post hitting the floor takes me back to the Wednesday mornings of my childhood.
After the weekend, Wednesdays were my favourite day of the week because this was when my copy of the Beano would arrive.
I would lie in anticipation in our draughty hallway, next to the shoes lined up under the radiator, waiting for the postman to arrive. Winter mornings, dark out- side, grumpy parents with terry towelling dressing gowns and iced up bottles of milk from the milkman on our doorstep waiting to come inside.
With my belly on the rug, head angled up at the letterbox, I would listen for the heavy steps of the postman coming down our driveway, the rustling of his hands in his postbag and then - clink, there was my comic.
This compendium of rascals would not only keep me entertained all week, but on a truly magnificent week, they would arrive adorned with special add-ons – free gifts in the form of chewy sweets or smelly stickers. I treasured these comics and re-read them endlessly.
I would then file them chronologically in my bedroom, newest to oldest, marvelling the mutations in the characters over time.
The Beano was my shield in the battleground that was the playground. Armed with my defence, I knew it wouldn't matter if I couldn't see anyone to play with, because I could pretend that all I wanted to do was read my Beano. It was also a honeypot, pulling in potential playmates curious to see what stories lay inside. And finally, my Beano was a bridge, a common ground of conversatrion with others, something to talk about when you felt you had nothing to give.
It’s Christmas afternoon on a cold, grey midwinter day in Wales.
We’ve emptied our Christmas stockings, opened our presents, pulled crackers and eaten lots of turkey and Christmas pudding. After lunch is cleared away, we move into the front room, where our Christmas tree is lit up near the window. If you walked along our street, you would see Christmas lights in every window as the afternoon draws in.
This cosy room doesn’t get used very often, but on Christmas Day a fire is lighted and we gather around the tree, where there are small gifts to be opened from aunts and cousins. These are not to be touched until the after-lunch ritual.
Every year Dad wraps a box of glacé fruits for Mum and hangs it on the tree. She in turn wraps up a cigar with a metal container and hangs it on the tree for him.
A familiar smell fills the air - Dad has lighted his annual cigar and that distinctive odour lives in my memory, not unpleasant but the ‘Dad on Christmas Day’ smell.
In the years since, and long after Dad has gone, wherever I am, when I catch the smell of cigar smoke I am transported back to that room on the other side of the world and my childhood Christmases.
I pay my respects to elders past, present and future as we walk Mother Earth in Peace.
I stand by the secluded waterfall, water gushing down her moss covered stones with recent heavy rains. It is rare to see her in full awesome beauty, but this day she is. Soft birdsong and delicate chirps waft through the air.
As I approach the sacred abode of the Water Spirit, I hear her call. In my mind's eye I see her natural beauty. I hear the spirits of the ancient ones, the guardians of this land. I sense deep love and respect. I long to be one with nature.
I remove my outer coverings and stand by the waterfall as the Gods intended. It is the heart of winter. The air is crisp, but I am not cold.
I no longer pretend. I am no longer afraid. I feel the power within the land. I feel it in my lifeblood. I feel it embrace me. The power is raw, harmonious. I am caressed by Mother Nature and the ancient Spirits of the Land. We are one.
I dance with the waterfall. I sing and chant as did the ancestors, many moons ago. The spirits hold me as I bless and honour this sacred Earth. I am empowered, blessed, whole.
I am at peace. I know the Spirits will never leave me. There will come a time when, in harmony, peace and bliss, I will join them as I have many times before.
As I move, silently through this sacred, enchanted wetland forest. Gently I trace the trunk of a smooth red gum.
It is time to stay.
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I know I’m in Mullumbimby when I see a seventy year old man with a beard and dreadlocks smoking peacefully on a park bench.
I'm not sure where we'll end up as your entries are still coming in. So if you haven't entered yet, get cracking with the Facebook challenge or write a longer piece for our website.
First join our Facebook group SPILL THE BEANS
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We can’t wait to read your entries.
This time our Challenge is about a sense of place.
Think about a smell, a sound or the taste of something that instantly transports you to another place.
Tell us about it in no more than 400 words. Click below or send your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org by June 30.
We’re waiting to hear from you! 3…2…1 LET’S WRITE