Summer days Enjoying the Present, Pondering the Past and Looking Forward.

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.

From the television show The Wonder Years

Yesterday, I caught up with a writer friend who can no longer come to our workshop nights because she works late afternoon shifts to fit in with caring for her 89 year old mother. It was a lovely morning exploring her suburb of Edithvale, or Edie as the locals refer to the seaside town, two train stops away from Mordialloc, on the Frankston railway line.

I enjoyed hearing her praise Edie; see her smile with pride when relating stories about her love for the place. We both appreciated the blessing of living in a beautiful and safe area. We sampled tea in two different cafés, starting off at the one by the beach and having another cuppa in one ‘up the street’. We explored and grabbed bargains at St Vinnie’s Opportunity Shop while I absorbed her local knowledge.  To learn about a place from someone who loves it, to see through their eyes, a great way to explore the unfamiliar. I was pleased she still writes and keeps a journal, recording stories, events, thoughts on books she reads and films she sees –  no lull in our conversation or awkward silence as we chatted about authors and poets. A great catch-up even although we don’t see each other as often as before!

We shared admiration for Philip Larkin, but I was able to introduce her to Roger McGough.

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Mecurial Melbourne decided to give us a taste of winter as we sat huddled in the beachside café watching the wild sea. Not alone,  venturing seaward we laughed as three preschool children entertained onlookers by racing along the beach, playing chasie, throwing seaweed at each other and exclaiming at shells and stones discovered. Having uninhibited fun as children do, in-between returning to the table to interrupt the conversation of their  mothers  and remind them to ‘Look at me, Mum! Look what I found.’

Their joie de vivre triggered a memory of the first time I visited a beach in Melbourne with my brothers and sisters. We’d migrated  from Scotland in the summer of 1962. The pictures taken at Seaford, a beach in close proximity to Edie. No doubt, we would have driven by this place, or even stopped to sample the swimming here too, all those years ago. Another newly-arrived Scots family accompanied us – the pictures show a crowd of lily-white bodies excited about being in a warm sea!

img367   first swim in oz at seaford

I thought too of the days spent on Mordialloc beach with Anne and Mary Jane.

ScanI even recalled memories of visiting Pencil Point in Largs for that one day of the year we could call summer on the west coast of Scotland! (An old Andy Stewart joke – ‘of course, I remember summer! It was a Thursday!’)

I’m sure most people, if they sit in a café by the sea, could conjure memories of childhood, or of their children growing up, so if you are a writer don’t forget your pen and notebook! Relax and enjoy the aroma of fresh tea or coffee, listen to the rhythm of music, birdsong, voices, the sea – whatever surrounds you. Write what you see, hear, touch, feel; what you think, what you remember, what story you want to share…

The Shell
Mairi Neil

The sea a bright smudge of paint
reflects the powder blue sky,
now dotted with wisps of clouds
as if a child applied sunscreen –
long smears and uneven dollops.
My daughters prance in the shallows
collect shells and splash each other.
Laughter and joie de vivre contagious.
Tiny hands tremble with excitement
and clutch a pretty conch shell.

Let’s listen to the ocean, I whisper…

Childhood fantasies return as I
hear lapping waves caress the shore,
recall the whorls and serrated edges
of a giant shell sitting by the fireplace,
in a Scottish home. A relic of the sea;
frills worn smooth by tidal dances.
Children fascinated, imagination inspired.
The salmon pink interior, examined ––
What creature abandoned this home?
The answer forgotten, but not the whoosh
and echo of ocean waves.

The girls pocket their treasures.                                                              DSC_3702
Walking home, I share the story
of a bleached skeleton from the Irish Sea
transplanted 12,000 miles to Australia,
along with other family treasures.
Science suggests ambient noise –
not the whispers of distant seas,
but in the soothing songs of shells
Life’s mystique remains, and the girls
ponder connections to distant lands,
Life’s mysteries; the vastness of the sea.

Shell Cinquain
Mairi Neil

robust, resilient
dazzling, whorling, adorning
eternal colourful valuable mysterious

Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.

Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

A Stroll by the Sea Inspires: A Carousel of Sand, Surf, Shells, Sea Gulls, Sail and Serendipity…

‘Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.’

William Wordsworth

Today, as I walked along the foreshore with my ‘gypsy’ daughter I realised how privileged we are to live in Mordialloc; my home for over 30 years. The bayside setting has inspired me to write poetry, prose, plays, memoir and a mystery novel – alas, the latter still unfinished!

mordy creek december 2014gtoward mordy from parkdale dec 2014

mordy beach near pier december 2014information on mordialloc creek

The Creek and seaside has a long rich history especially before white settlement. Mordialloc Writers’ Group celebrated this in our fifth anthology, A Rich Inheritance, published 2007.

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cairn to macdonald in mordy cairn to first white settler of mordialloc

A village-like atmosphere still exists in Mordy although there is a constant struggle against property developers and those who want to replicate St Kilda and even Queensland’s Gold Coast. High rise development would destroy our lovely foreshore. Fortunately, those who value our environment still outnumber those who don’t, plus we have some excellent associations with a long history of  protecting our parks and the beach.

Mordialloc-Beaumaris Conservation League has worked hard since its formation in 1969 and local resident Mary Rimington OAM, a prolific letter-writer to the newspapers and politicians, ensures residents are informed on issues of sustainability and the need to protect  the environment. Now, in her mid 80s, Mary is still a community gem with a caring heart and discerning mind; losing none of her determination to fight for the community in which we live!

mordi pier sign mordi pier view boat on beach

fishing mordi cyclists beach road

Beach Road shadows the foreshore and in the summer, cars, motorbikes, and bicycles, as well as the usual buses, jam the thoroughfare as if it were a major highway. The blare of car horns and occasional angry words punctuate the normal traffic din as people journey to and fro, seeking the fun and enjoyment of warmer weather. On a weekend when cyclists race between Frankston and St Kilda tempers have been known to flare at the behaviour of some dubbed as ‘lycra louts’.

Haiku inspired by the sea…

Birds soaring seawards                                     Deserted barbecues
Tossed by winter thermals                               Empty swings motionless
Aerial ballet                                                          Winter by the sea

The full moon’s glow                                          Late spring afternoon
Suffused across the sea                                     Mordialloc Pier fishing
A mirror of calm                                                  Eskies overflowing

Pelican circling                                                    Quivering palm trees
A well-designed airplane                                   sun sets in Mordialloc
from Mother Nature                                           to chatter of birds

Sunset or sunrise                                                Hot humid evening
The sea a wondrous playground                      Tossing turning breathlessly
For foreshore frolics                                           Longing for sea breeze

The sea melds with sky                                      Saturday sojourns
Dark shore dreams of light caress                   Lycra louts and fitness freaks
And whimsy clouds flee                                     Negotiate roads

Fiery sky aglow                                                   Holidays at last!
Warning to sailors at sea                                  Slippery paths to the sea
Lighthouse their saviour                                  Lead to splashing fun

Cliff top turbulence                                           Water licks boat side
An explosion of feathers                                  Anglers and fish mesmerised
Gulls blown out to sea                                      dinner table delight

Turtles seek refuge                                            Prisoners of war
But the crunch of boot is not                          Glass bottle thrown overboard
The sound of safety                                           Unread message sinks

Pelican perches                                                  Dolphins dance and squeal
Atop electricity pole                                          Fishermen sail into port
Fishing boats bring lunch                                to feeding frenzy

Pelicans leave pier                                             Empty rowing boat
aerial acrobatics                                                 Abandoned on pebbled beach
Sightseers enjoy the show                                Yearning for summer

Gusty gales blow boats                                      The rolling sea soothes
Forceful waves and jagged reefs                      like a mother’s caress
Gnashing angry teeth                                         banishing pain

The walking trail parallel to Beach Road becomes crowded and sometimes dangerous with family cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, parents pushing strollers, keep fit enthusiasts and tourists ambling the track to soak up the beauty of the bay. Although Australia, one of the driest countries on earth is considered a sunburnt country and land of ‘droughts and flooding rains’ most of the population has settled on the coast and can identify with the sea.

Scan copy 2

In 2010, I took part in an amazing project organised by the Red Room Company of Sydney that became Sea Things Online Exhibition. Poets were invited to write about the sea and I took a bundle of submissions from the writer’s group and class at Mordialloc, met with other poets down at the docks and presented the poems to the captain and crew of a huge ship. The poems were put in the Captain’s postbag and freighted all around Australia, added to by other poets wherever the ship docked. The bag eventually opened at a special ceremony in Sydney and poems posted online. A fabulous writing exercise, but also building a sense of community. Down at the docks I met Avril, another poet from Frankston, and we keep bumping into each other at book launches for anthologies where our poems have been included. The experience of being on the bridge of the ship with a view similar to the rooftop of a multi-storey building certainly a day to remember  – and write about!

IMG_2416 IMG_2410 IMG_2395 IMG_2401 IMG_2374 IMG_2376 IMG_2406 IMG_2387IMG_2419

For many locals, including me, the beach on a very hot day is better avoided; instead the evening or early morning become favourite times to walk the foreshore, or the cooler days, when a winter breeze chills the air and spasmodic rain enlivens the scent of tea-tree, eucalypts and banksias. In cooler months, the population of Mordialloc returns to normal levels; the sandy shore and paved promenade dotted with only a handful of people – mostly dog walkers tracing their path along the water edge, health fanatics, or tourists visiting locals.

Memories of the beach provide many experiences to use in writing, especially adding the senses: being rocked in the slight waves, walking and getting soaked to the seat of my pants by an expectedly deep wave slapping my ankles trying to drag me seaward, splashing in shallows and feeling the sand shift, grit between my toes, the crunch of shells, the pong of seaweed, the squeal of gulls, the taste of salt, watching a sunset from the pier, and serendipitously running into friends who happen to be enjoying the breathtaking beauty too. We chat and share stories as part of a community, appreciating the feeling of belonging. Life can be unexpectedly kind and beautiful, just when you need it most.


Lying on the beach
waves roll over me,
Life’s pain

the warm waves
caress and massage
malleable me

until colder waves
carve and chip,
with each sharp
intake of breath
a new shape emerges

I am reborn

(published page seventeen Issue 2, Celapene Press, 2005)

mordi sunset 2 mordi sunset