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“Rosie Barter, from Perth Western Australia, an excerpt from my Memoir (September1963).
I remember waking in my sleeping bag on that stony path along the sea cliff of Hydra. A full moon, thin as paper, clung to an ink-washed sky and, from the Aegean far below, a sheet of ocean mist rose up and faded into dawn’s ether.
Shit! What would I do now, without passport, money, boyfriend? I had nothing — just a backpack of dirty clothes, a diary and some maps. The stones had worked their misery into my back and my hipbones. I sat up in the bag and stretched out my arms. With cramped fingers I cracked my neck and pummelled my shoulders. Last night’s ouzo had left my palate bald. My mind was brittle with loss and betrayal.
A goat bell clunked close by; became a clatter, a cacophony. A bustle of golden shagpile rugs skittered past on high-heeled hoofs, swollen udders swaying to the jangle of brass jewellery. Behind them, playing on a tin whistle leapt a shrivelled little man with a huge moustache. His feet were in rags bound with twine, his body cloaked with striped rough weave. He pranced around me in a circle, whiffling his sweet crazy song. Crouching at my feet, he grinned his gums wide. He pulled out a white cheese wrapped in muslin, a crust of bread and a fist of olives in a fig leaf. Then he laid them before me on a flat stone, poured water from a skin bag into a tin cup.
“Yia senna. Yia senna,” he croaked. “For you.”
I scooped the crust deep into the soft cheese, grateful in my eagerness.
The goat man scampered up the rise to sit cross-legged against a rock. Three long sonorous notes sounded from his whistle. The goats stopped still, put their heads down and nuzzled at the grim gorse. The old man folded his arms, closed his eyes. In my mouth was the tang of olives and the stony taste of water.
I sat, absorbed into an endless violet-skinned sea, slit by the wake of a far-off fishing boat returning to port, the soft winnowing of its engine the only sound in the world. Having nothing, I had everything. What did it matter that I would not now reach my grandfather’s island?
In that moment even loss and betrayal became ordinary.”
ABOUT ROSIE BARTER:
“First published in The Daily News at age six, my chicken sketch and Easter poem both won the two-shilling book voucher prizes.
Dilemma: artist or writer?
Later, refusing to submit to high school’s tedium, I escaped to art school. There I prospered, graduated, worked in local design studios and then in Swinging London. I returned to teach design at WAIT/Curtin Uni for 24 years. A health scare redirected my pen from large expressive drawings to pages of neat words. Now, a late-life writer, I am completing a memoir about my Greek grandfather. Nurtured by an awesome Varuna week [November 2011] and Patti Miller’s wisdom with Joyce Kornblatt’s enlivening insights, I am on track at last.” Rosie Barter
Short stories published in indigo volumes 2, 4 & 6
Short story Crossing broadcast ABC Radio National Short Story Program
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