Today, I celebrated my last lesson for 2015 and it was with the class I have been teaching the longest – the Writing for Pleasure and Publication class, Monday mornings at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House. As I write this, I listen to a favourite song from one of my favourite groups from the 70s – Monday, Monday by the Mamas and Papas.
This poem by a student has captured our Mondays well:
Monday grinned happily
Another fun morning ahead
with happy Mordy writers
splurging to music before
gentle teasing and laughter.
Chatting over morning tea
Then homework proffered hesitantly
unaware of their talent.
Monday wished those 2 1⁄2 hours
Could last all day
A hint of sadness tinged the air this Monday, because Amelia, a longtime student couldn’t attend. Health problems for the 86 year old beginning to affect her mental and physical capabilities and there is doubt about her attendance next year.
Sadly, times are changing for some of the others in the class, although we all put on a brave face.
Tori will be leaving us next March after coming to the class for 15 years, starting when she was 20 years old. Her mother, Lyn made a special effort to visit today and share their plans for the future, which includes a move interstate. I compile annual anthologies for all my classes and surprisingly this year, Tori produced more work than she usually does – serendipity or synchronicity??
At 35 years of age with multiple disabilities, Tori now needs a special machine at night to ensure her lungs and heart keep working while she is asleep. Lyn, who is an activist in the disability sector explained it is time to put ‘succession plans’ into action.
She has been a sole carer for the last three and a half decades, and aware of the possibility of future health problems (she broke her ankle last year and it took 6 months to heal) she is working with her two sons and daughter who live interstate to renovate a house for herself and Tori.
Lyn gave us a large box of Lindt chocolates (yummy, yummy!) to share and a Christmas card, Tori had written. They both wanted to explain how important the writing class has been to their quality of life.
We are writers, but also a ‘family’ and have shared personal sorrows and joys, failures and triumphs. Most importantly we share a lot of fun and laughter. We were all touched to hear what a difference Mondays have made to Tori and I know Mondays won’t be the same without her.
Various people have come and gone from the Monday class, but the people there this morning have been together many years. Even Michael, a relative newcomer has been attending for three years.
He came not long after his car accident and ABI (acquired brain injury). I remember his first day when he only managed to write four lines and had no idea about email or computers. Now he is an accomplished writer, with poetry his favourite genre published online!
Michael is accompanied by a carer and over the years they have changed, but we’ve been impressed with their writing ability. The carers participate in the ‘splurge’, the 15 minute stream of consciousness writing to prompts at the start of each lesson. At first some were reluctant, but I insist the one label we all share in the room is ‘writer,’ and if you join us, you write!
Many delightful words and talented pieces uncovered/discovered when people just write without self-editing or over-thinking.
I’m not sure if Heather (87) and Ceinwen (95) will be back next year, although both absolutely love writing. Heather lives in Mornington (over 30 kilometres from Mordialloc) and picks up Ceinwen from her retirement village at Patterson Lakes (12 kilometres from Mordialloc) to bring her to class. Even with the freeway the couple of hours roundtrip is a big ask as the pair of them struggle with arthritis and failing eyesight. Hip and cataract operations the norm nowadays for people of ‘a certain age.’
If they do decide to have Mondays off I’ll miss Ceinwen’s delightful reminiscing of Wales and England and detailed observations of Australia.
The Colour Green
How I love to walk across
The meadowland and fields of green
Sit beside the babbling brook
Green moss clinging to the rocks.
How I love to walk
Through country lanes
Spy green caterpillars on dock leaves
Amongst green hedges
How I love to walk along
The dirt road to the village church
Ivy sprouting tiny green shoots
Around the old oak tree’s shaded leaves.
I look for the four-leaf clover
To place in my Bible
A green reminder to keep me safe
During the coming year.
The tall fir trees in the forest
Perfumed pine reminding me
Robin Hood and his merry green men
Merged with Sherwood Forest
Today, beside the shiny green-leaved
Palm trees circling the lake
I feel settled and joyful
The retirement village and me
Reflected as one in the water.
When Ceinwen cut the delicious Christmas cake she’d brought, it was accompanied by a whisper that it may be her last Christmas with the class. A bittersweet celebration indeed.
However, worrying about the future took a back seat as we played The Storymatic – six trillion stories in one little box – which one will you tell?
This writing game I picked up in a shop in St Kilda by pure chance. It can be ordered online, but for a considerable higher price than the $14.99, I paid.
I usually save it as a fun way to finish the term. The box of cards offer characters, themes, settings, plot twists and objects – you choose several cards and start writing. There are several wild cards too if you become stuck, but we’ve never had to use them.
The cards are fantastic prompts that’ll have you writing stories out of the ordinary. The stories written today were amazing and amusing.Our selections listed below. Why not extend your imagination and see what happens?
- office worker, blind date, glasses, forgiveness, pet is behaving strangely, person locked out
- nurse,class reunion, overly large gift,reckless enthusiasm, this time its bound to work, person who’d been stood up
- logger, stranger in town, lucky underwear, confession, no place to hide, person who knows something other people don’t
- superstitious person, police investigation, stairs, birthday, not enough money, person who’ll do whatever it takes to pay the bills
- firebug, first night in new home, fear of getting old, something wrong with water, grandmother’s ashes, man with a tattoo
- bad driver, a time machine malfunctions, gun, at last, love, a rumour is going around town, a person who can’t remember an important word
- rescued child, woods, ice, stuck, sudden return of forgotten memory, person who can’t wait any longer
I guarantee the combinations found in the cards will help you move away from cliched stories!
After we’d shared our masterpieces there was a ‘show and tell’ of sorts. Last week Ceinwen had written a story involving a character receiving a telegram. ‘What’s that?’ asked 23 year old Michael.
A picture’s worth a thousand words and here is Ceinwen with a telegram received on her wedding day during WW2. Afterwards, her husband Arthur became a POW on the Burma Railroad and was considered missing for 18 months, so it’s not surprising Ceinwen treasured this keepsake reminding her of a happy day.
Ceinwen also brought in an autograph book she received for her 12th birthday to collect signatures of famous entertainers and others from her time in theatre before and during the war. When in the airforce she was seconded to the entertainment unit because of her singing and acting ability.
We had to explain to Michael, Tori and Sanna who George Formby was and why the signatures and little verses in Ceinwen’s book were a precious reminder of a bygone era. There is a resurgence of ukulele playing with a large group meeting at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House so some of Formby’s routines may be popular again.
Our writing classes so much more than just writing – the stories we share of our real life adding to our understanding and appreciation of each other and history!
The verses in Ceinwen’s book:
She frowned on him and called him mister
Because in fun he merely kissed her
And then in spite, the following night
The naughty mister, kissed her sister!
Beauty and wealth remain but for a day
But virtue lives for ever in the mind
In her alone true happiness we find.
The inner side of every cloud
Is bright and shining
I therefore turn my clouds about
And always wear them inside out,
To show their lining.
I’ve heard from two past students that they will be returning next year, and I’m hopeful that it is not the final class for some of those present today. However, whatever happens in the future, I’m blessed to have wonderful memories of Mondays at Mordy this year and in the past. Blessed and humbled to know the beautiful greetings for Christmas and the warm hugs are genuine and heartfelt.
To Mairi – A Sonnet
As we contemplate the ending of a year,
spent each Monday with a group of friends,
under the guidance of a mentor dear,
who to our writing, her mastery lends.
We wonder at the plethora of work
of poetry, prose and stories short
most serious, but some do cause a smirk
and others incomplete by error thwart.
We’re filled with gratitude and deference
to one who weekly spends many an hour
in preparation for a splurge or homework theme
her indebted pupils to empower.
Your encouragement, while oft we fail,
We do humbly with this sonnet hail.
To be the subject of a poem – in a form recently taught – how wonderful – ’Tis the season to be merry indeed!