Halloween countdown: The Trees

The Trees

ghost gums

The trees are driving me crazy. Can’t anyone else see what they are up to? They are colluding, whispering together. Getting closer, I could walk between these two a week ago. Now they block my path, like threatening sentinels.

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Even in the city they creep up, they invade, they terrorise humans going about their business. What do you think these two are up to?

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At night I fear them most of all. They gather around my house, rustling and muttering, shaking their branches and leaves in the moonlight. What do they want? Why are they becoming so bold and intrusive?

ghostly gums

At night the ghost gums come haunting, creeping through the darkness toward the house, drawing close to each other in conspiratorial silence, yet I can hear them whispering to each other, rustling and creaking, and watching us.

I think they are angry. I think they want us to know that they have had enough of us. I think they want to cut us down as we have been cutting them down, to uproot our houses and our lives and reclaim the land from us. I think they hate us because of this…

Note: The idea of this is to use the photos I’ve taken of random objects that have ‘faces’ embedded or have a spooky or weirdly human quality, as prompts for Halloween prose and poetry. Feel free to copy the images and use them as prompts for your own stories. Leave me a link so I can see the results 🙂

Halloween Countdown: How did I get here?

Another Halloween story suggested by a photo in my collection.I spotted this sad eyed stag at a twilight market, and I have been thinking about it ever since.

how did I get here

How did I get here?

Stop. Stop! Don’t just walk past. It’s me! Look closer! You can see it’s me.

Stop sniggering at your new husband. His joke was lame, and you know it. “Oh dear, oh dear. I think he lost his head.” Pathetic. You actually laughed. Do you think it’s funny that I, Antonio, the love of your life, is nailed to a piece of wood? Look at me! Don’t you recognise my moustache?

Oh Laura, what happened to me? Yours was the last face I saw on that night, with the full moon shining in the window, before everything went black, and I woke up on the wall in my father’s house. That huge ornate mirror he bought in Florence was on the opposite wall, and I could see what had become of me. I didn’t realise at first – only after days of staring at that damned mirror did I understand that my head looks like this now. And it isn’t attached to my body.

I have been thinking that my papa mistook me for one of the deer on his estate. These are a fine pair of antlers, I must say. So big. He must have spotted me and shot me, not knowing it was I, Antonio, his only beloved son. For years I hung there, unable to communicate, watching you visit Papa’s estate and take care of him in his old age. Every time you came he asked you the same question. “Have they found my son?”

I watched you weep at his funeral, and laugh when they read the will and he left everything to you. Then the men came, the buyers and the dealers, and everything was sold and bundled out. Including me.

Oh look, the little one is speaking again.

“So, Laura, did you tell him, at the last, of your powers? Or was he still too dazzled by your beauty to know you are a witch?”

“Not a full time witch, Paulo. Only when there is a full moon at Halloween. Then I can do anything I want. Poor, poor Antonio.” She reached over and stroked the dark mark beneath my nose, the exact replica of my moustache. “Come, Paulo, now you have come into your uncle’s fortune, you can afford to buy me a peach gelato, no?”

Yes,” he said adoringly. “Gelato, and diamonds, rubies, anything you want.”

Her laughter tinkled as they walked away. Poor, poor Paulo, too besotted to realise that tonight was Halloween, and the moon was full.

Halloween Countdown: Nevermore

In the lead up tp Halloween this year, I am going to be posting photos of ‘found’ faces – you know how you look at some random object and there seems to be a face peering out at you. I have been making a collection of such objects, and some of them are inspiring me to write as well. So, without further ado, here is my first offering. This isn’t a gravestone, although it looks like one – it is a monument at one of our local parks and the closer I got, the more I felt I was being watched – b y Edgar Allen Poe, maybe…Honestly, I haven’t touched it.

who is that in there

Nevermore

I am haunted by Edgar Allen Poe. Everywhere I go I see his face, peeking out at me from bushes, clouds, gravestones…as I drift off to sleep, I hear his voice – nevermore, nevermore.

I toss and turn, I throw off the blankets because I am too hot, I shiver because I am too cold…nevermore, nevermore.

As a sickly grey dawn seeps through the curtains, my eyes spring open, unable to close. I stare up at the ceiling, where the growing light coils and snakes across the darkness, filling my soul with dread, my mouth with the taste of graveyard dirt.

I am no stranger to fear, but I have never known anything like this. This is no mere sickness of the body, no mere derangement of the mind – this is a malady so bone deep, so soul centred, that I weary of life.

Nevermore, he whispers. Nevermore.

It cannot be true. I drag myself from my bed, across to my writing desk and press the switch above the keyboard. The grey screen echoes the grey morning outside and my mood. The last photo I took, Poe peering at me from a headstone at the cemetery, his eyes following me as I walked among the graves.

Nevermore. Nevermore.

I crash my fists on the keyboard. He continues to mock me as I struggle with the words that won’t come. Of course he mocks. He must have known this terrifying abyss, this pendulous pit of dried up inspiration, this ghastly wasteland of a head empty of any ideas at all.

The well is utterly dry, the grave barren and the screen remains blank. Of  all the horrors in the human mind – nothing compares to writer’s block.

He laughs and whispers – never more. Nevermore.

Cookbook review: Bake it like you mean it

5191gotOPgL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I’m a sucker for a beautiful cookbook. Ravish my eyes with delectable photographs of glorious culinary creations, toss in the recipes so I can try to recreate them, and I am your friend for life. The author of this book says her philosophy is “bake it like you mean it:” – create desserts that are delicious and beautiful from the inside out. I can live with that.

The recipes start with meringues, a section called My Big Fat Creamsicle Meringue Moment. I adore meringue, usually floating on top of a lemon pie, but I also love her basic meringue recipe, and what she does with it. Far superior to macarons, in my estimation, are two fat fluffy meringues sandwiched around a luscious filling. You can even colour them. They look so utterly delicious I have to try it. Then there is Nut Kiss Cake, which looks like a chocolate dream, and Grand Marnier Souffle with chocolatey creme Anglaise. But let’s not get hung up on the meringues or we’ll be drooling here all day. But I can’t leave this section without admiring the sass of whoopie meringue pies filled with raspberries. I shall return.

 The next section is sponge cakes, starting with an airy Citrusy Angel Food cake, a recipe possibly stolen from the gods. It is served with a dollop of marmalade on top, probably to stop it floating off the plate.The Madame Butterfly is an opera cake, a sponge flavoured with green tea and joined in layers of seductiveness – mango buttercream, white chocolate ganache and almond paste. It looks like the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  But then I am arrested b y the gorgeous dark enchantment of Rigo Jancsi Slices, named after a Gypsy violinist who persuaded a beautiful, wealthy and very married American woman to run off with him. A creation fit for a romantic legend with its heroic layers of chocolate sponge, apricot preserves and chocolate filling, topped with a crown of white buttercream. Even Nutella gets the OMG! treatment.

In the rich and decadent butter and pound cakes section, some adorable little Bundt cakes, flavoured with wine simmered pears and glazed with thin white icing, catch my eye, and pumpkin pie can’t hold a Halloween candle to a glorious Pumpkin Toffee Coffee Cake. I like the idea of making a drunk Figgy Pudding with Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, and sticking a pastry axe in the top. Halloween is going to be spectacular this year.

In the Cheesecakes section, the Sunshine Creamsicle Cheesecake looks divine, the mocha ricotta tower looks almost impossible to make (but if I see one in a cake shop, I’m having it), but the caramel macadamia carousel almost looks achievable. Oh, and decades after reading ‘What Katy Did at School’ and wondering what ‘crullers’ are I finally know how to make them. Easy peasy.

 In the yeast section, there are recipes for brioche, pain perdu, little German doughnuts called krapfen and croissants,, as well as lots of other delights. have i tickled your taste buds yet? What I am saying is that this book is crammed with the most sumptuous dessert recipes I have ever seen, and some of them have wonderful stories as well, like the Rigo Jancsi slice. I just love it. This is my kind of cookbook.

This dreamy cookbook is available from the Book Depository.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.