A Universal Sadness deep inside my soul

I was walking in Jamieson Park in Narrabeen when the words for A Universal Sadness Deep Inside My Soul came to me.  It was 1973.  I had just escaped from Spain with my son, Alex and was working at Fleets Tennis Shop in the city.  It was a poem to start off with but later on the music came to me and it became a song.

All three verses were written about things which I had actually seen.

I used to go and play in the Badge tennis competition at White City on Saturday afternoons and on the way back was when I used to see all the mostly men in a very bedraggled state, sitting on the steps of empty houses in Paddington, already well underway in the drinks department.

At lunch time I would sometimes walk up to Hyde Park and that was where the old man who wheeled his barrow up and down the streets of town would hang out during the lunch hour. I can still see him in my mind’s eye – his long tattered coat, his rounded shoulders, as he shuffled along pushing his barrow filled with his worldly possessions.

Kings Cross was full of American Soldiers on leave from the Vietnam War in that era, so business was brisk for prostitutes.  They used to stand in their doorways or walk up and down dressed in miniskirts and revealing tops, perched atop very high heels.  Some of them were very young and I could see they were affected by drugs.

                                        

A UNIVERSAL SADNESS DEEP INSIDE MY SOUL

I feel a universal sadness deep inside my soul

For hopes and dreams they must have had

As they sit there in the cold

Their sad and lonely faces

Attached to ragged forms

On steps of empty houses

Drinking booze all night long

 

Chorus

The families they must once have had

And lost along the way

The friends they’ve had all now long gone

And living far away

 

The man who wheels the barrow

Around the streets of town

With all his world tied atop

He goes up the street and down

At night he sleeps in the park

On a bench made of stone

Warmed by the metho in his gut

He’s far away from home

 

Chorus

The family he must once have had

All lost along the way

The friends he’s had all now long gone

And living far away

 

And there’s the working woman

In Kings Cross they’re about

On the streets and in the bars

All night they stand around

They’re young faces show despair

From the death in life they lead

On smack and hash and coke

When it’s love is all they need

 

Chorus again twice

 

 

 

MARKUS’S MAGNIFICENT VEGETABLE BAKE

 

INGREDIENTS FOR VEGETABLE BAKE A LA MARKUS

This dish can be served with meat, fish or chicken or as a vegetarian option or vegan if you leave out the parmesan

PREPARATION:-  1/2 HOUR

COOKING IN OVEN  ½ HOUR

 

TOMATO SAUCE

550 grams baby Roma tomatoes

2 teaspoons Tomato paste

chilli

20 fresh basil leaves

1 cup of chicken stock

½ teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs

1 cup of White wine

 

PASTA

1 ½  cups of barilla pasta

 

VEGETABLES

3 zucchinis chopped into  1 inch pieces.

2 cups of green frozen soya beans

2 cups of peas

 

PREPARATION

  1. Cook pasta
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large frypan. Fry zucchini until partially cooked/just starting to turn brown.  NOT SOGGY.
  3. Cook tomatoes, basil, garlic, chilli and tomato paste in another pan in one tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt
  5. Get one large oven dish and put pasta and zucchinis in it.
  6. Put tomatoes in zucchini frypan with let over olive oil on high heat
  7. Add white wine, herbs and chicken stock and cook to reduce stock until sauce is thickened.
  8. Add peas and soya beans to oven dish and tip tomato mixture over it.
  9. Mix in 80 to 100 grams of parmesan cheese and flatten on top
  • Cover evenly with 150 to 180 grams of parmesan and dob with olive oil.

Cook in oven for ½ an our at 180 degrees.

This vegetable dish keeps well for a couple of days.  To eat the next day add some more parmesan and put in the oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees.

 

 

 

 

 

WIMBLEDON

Chapter 17 

Photo showing me modelling Fred Perry’s answer to Teddy Tinlings glamorous designs.

Excerpt from “A Spanish Love Affair” 

On the day of my first match at Wimbledon, in 1970 a chauffeur – in full livery complete with cap – arrives in a black, shiny Rolls Royce at the boarding house in Putney where I am staying.  The other,  not-so-fortunate players who haven’t made the draw,  plus our landlady – dressed in a crinoline brunch coat with her hair in rollers, covered by a paisley chiffon scarf – gather at the front door to and wave me good-bye. I hop in the front with the driver because I get carsick in the back, and am so excited that I don’t shut up the whole trip!     As we drive regally along, everyone keeps turning around, to see if they recognize me. “Am I someone famous?”

 

The sun, for once, is shining as we drive into the Club grounds past mile long queues of people waiting for tickets for the standing room area. Loud, spruiking scalpers are plying the crowd with tickets at exorbitant prices. The crowd parts as we drive through the gates then pass the Centre Court to the Players Change Room. Autograph seekers thrust their books at me as I get out.  I sign a few, and then race for the cover of the Ladies.  No doubt they are disappointed that I am not one of the top players!

I am due to play Margaret Court – the Number One Seed – in the singles in the First Round at 11am, and try to cool my nerves before the match.  I am most certainly relieved that, due to rain, we have been rescheduled to play on Court 17.  It would have been a nightmare to play her on the Centre Court, where we were originally drawn.

As I make my way through the crowds milling around the outside courts, adrenalin is surging through my body, making my knees go weak.  Unfortunately, I’ve managed to get very little practice on grass since I’ve been in England and find the transition from the very slow loam courts which I’ve been playing on, to the faster-than-lightning grass, difficult. The long, lush, English grass is also very different from the Australian lawn courts which bake themselves corn coloured during our long hot summers – by the end of which there is mostly dirt with only a few odd spikes of grass around the service line.

 

There is a large crowd crammed around the court which I am not used to and I become caught up in the occasion.  Margaret Court turns out to be every bit as formidable an opponent as I imagined she would be.  As well as being the Number 1 Seed in the tournament, she is the current Australian Champion.  It doesn’t help that grass is her favourite surface and really suits her serve/volley game to a tee.  I play in a hesitant manner, mistime the ball and don’t really settle down in the match at all.

It is not a pleasant experience.

I already had the “Nervous Nellies” before the match, having read a feature in the paper this morning, which compared the various arm lengths of the players in this year’s tournament.  I am especially intimidated by the fact that Margaret’s arm length is longer than two thirds of the Men’s Draw.  That doesn’t help my confidence and during the match when she comes into the net, it’s all I can think about.  My worst fears are confirmed.  It is just impossible to get the ball past her.  It feels like she is just all over the place without taking more than a step in any direction. The reality: with that massive arm stretch extended to the maximum… she is!

 

She also hits the ball with a lot more power and depth than I am used to, which I’ve heard is due to the fact that Frank Sedgman (who is coaching her) has had her doing weight training.  She wins easily but fortunately I manage to get a game in the second set for which I get a big cheer from the crowd.  6-love, 6-love would be very embarrassing even though she is the Number One Seed and we are on an outside court.

I expected to lose so I am not that disappointed. As I walk back to the change rooms by the other outside courts I notice that there are just so many good players. As only one hundred and twenty-eight players make the draw, I feel I’ve done well just to get into the tournament especially when I take into consideration that I am far from dedicated, have a dreadful second serve and am the female version of McEnroe.  I also have smoked all the cigarettes that the Rothmans and Malboro  (tournament sponsors at that time) representatives gave me to hand around to the spectators.   Besides Margaret has the advantage of an entourage, whereas I am here all by myself.

 

I console myself in the change room with a long hot shower followed by afternoon tea on the lawn in the sun outside the centre court. I eat the biggest, sweetest strawberries I’ve ever tasted, with lashings of cream washed down with a half-way decent cup of tea. I’ve never really liked strawberries all that much before, having always found them a bit sour, but these English ones are so sweet and luscious.  They are truly to die for!

The End of a Friendship by Susan Joy Alexander

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It’s sad to say goodbye
When a long friendship comes to an end
And the fences become
Just too difficult to mend
I’ll always remember the times
When you stood by my side
When I was having a rough trot
It was on you, I relied
And those great times we had
When we were young
I’ll always recall
We didn’t leave a song unsung
We had an absolute ball
But somehow our lives have taken a different path
We aren’t who we used to be
We’ve drifted apart and
Somehow you blamed me
I’ve tried to make it up to you
But my efforts have been in vain
Our friendship of more than
50 years
Has unfortunately gone down the drain

People often ask me how on earth I became a writer.

Having been a tennis player and then a real estate agent it certainly made for an unlikely eventuality.   However, in reality, it was more unusual that I was a tennis player and a real estate agent because ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of living a creative life.  Initially I wanted to be a ballet dancer but unfortunately, I grew too tall.

Then I decided I wanted to be an actress, but Mum and Dad soon put the kybosh on that idea.  They were well aware of what went on behind closed doors on the director’s couch and thought it a very unsuitable profession.  They encouraged me to play tennis which in reality turned out to be just as dangerous a profession as that of an actor though definitely not as boring as the alternatives on offer at the time i.e a nurse, teacher or secretary.

 For some reason dad had always been hell-bent on me having a career in business. When I was 3 he gave me a telephone for my birthday, for my 4th birthday I received a cash register, at 7 he taught me how to do the rental receipts.  My eldest sister who used to help him his office had moved to Toowoomba.  Dad hated paperwork. When I was 11 he gave me a typewriter.He was determined to fit a square peg in a round hole.

And so began my long and successful career in real estate.

It was a busy life.  Although I worked five and a half days back then, I still managed to play tennis at a high level.  However, one day when I was playing in a competition in the North Western Suburbs, I leapt in the air to hit a smash on a very windy day, and the wind blew the ball right out of the way.  I completely missed it.  My back made such a loud cracking noise that they could hear it up the other end of the court.  I was in so much pain I don’t know how I managed to get my son Alejandro, who was then a very heavy toddler in the car, and drive home.  From then on it was downhill with my back.

I made more comebacks at tennis than Dame Nellie Melba, but unfortunately the periods between “back attacks” kept getting shorter and the length of the“back attacks” kept getting longer. Eventually in the mid 90’s after a “back attack” which lasted two years with nine out of ten pain every day, I hung my racket up for good.     Giving up tennis wasn’t easy as tennis had been an integral part of my life since I was seven.  It left a huge hole.  I went through a period of mourning for a couple of years, it took me 5 years to give away my tennis skirts and 10 to give away my racket.

After my backpain subsided to a dull roar, I discovered walking. As I walked along the beach or in the bush in Jamieson Park early in the morning poems started to come to me.  I started carrying a little book to write the words down in.  Next music and lyrics floated from the ether.  I had to race home to get the chords down.

Then after reading “Almost French” by Sarah Turnbull I started dreaming inSpanish, a language I hadn’t spoken for more than 40 years.

Writing a book I soon discovered is not for the faint-hearted.  In fact if I’dknown how hard it was I may well have put my pen down straight away.  A lot of people are under the illusion that you can just write or sing.   Having doneboth of these I can assure you that’s not the case.  Both singing and writing arebloody hard work and require endless practice.  There are also many tricks ofthe trade to be learnt.  I ended up having to discard my first two years of workwhen I did a Life Writing course with Patti Miller.

It took me 10 years to write “A Spanish Love Affair” and I thought I’d finished so many times I lost count but like Professor Michelle Simmons who was Australian of the year a couple of years ago, said in her acceptance speech “I always knew that I liked doing things that are difficult – things you have to try really hard at to succeed  – but that when you do the euphoria was immense.”

Having finally published my Memoir euphoria is immense at the moment but I still can’t decide whether writing “A Spanish Love Affair” was a labour of love or whether I am just a bugger for punishment?