The power an English teacher holds

by Veronica Foale on June 4, 2013

in Life

When I was fourteen, I wrote an anthology of poetry. Hand written, set out neatly on blue lined paper, I stapled it together with my name upon the cover. Shyly I handed it to my English teacher at the end of class one day. I don’t know what I was hoping for. Feedback, or encouragement, maybe.

Instead, I found myself called to her office at recess the next day, where she silently handed me back my poetry, before asking gently, tentatively, if maybe I was suicidal? Was there anything I wanted to tell her? I shook my head, not being suicidal, or having any deep dark secrets to divulge. I smiled, explained that I was fine, that I just wanted someone to read my writing. I left her office with her watching me, brow furrowed and lips pursed together.

Somewhere in one of my cupboards, that anthology of poetry still sits, unopened, unwanted.

Looking back, it was bad poetry – of course. What fourteen year old, full of feelings, writes good poetry?

But with the silence of my English teacher, her lack of anything that wasn’t fear for my mental state, I stopped writing poetry.

I just stopped.

That is the power that people hold over the creative process.

Her silence killed me, and I doubt she even realised it.

Ten years later, I wrote a poem again. Ten years. Think about that. It took me ten years to write another poem. I published it here, before panicking. Poetry feels self indulgent, something that angsty teenagers do when their hormones run wild through their awkward gangly bodies.

I enjoy writing poetry and for ten years I stopped doing it because I thought I was no good. But dammit, I’m allowed to be self indulgent.

Creativity is hell.

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Death and dying

by Veronica Foale on April 5, 2013

in Children, Family, Life

I am standing in the greenhouse with a pair of scissors in my hand, snipping away at pumpkin vines. The backs of my hands bleed, a myriad of scratches and tiny pumpkin thistles resisting their inevitable death. A snail slides across the roof beam, leaving a trail of silver behind her. I pluck her off and throw her to the eagerly awaiting chickens, before resuming my cutting.

The pile of vines outside my door grows, twists, morphs into my failures. The pumpkin vines are infected with powdery mildew and dying slowly, covering everything else in their plague. I cut them back (everything ruined forever), before the pile of victims grow.

My pea plants; dead already. The lettuces; bolted to seed. The tomatoes; surviving and thriving. Nature, nurture, luck.

My children play around my legs. Hide and seek, games of dirt. Messy hair and faces.

The grass is long, green and verdant. Our change of seasons has been kind, and the colour is returning to our little corner of the world. Earwigs hide in the corners, their tail pincers snapping maliciously when I move too close, before their nerve breaks and they run run run away.

My baby wakes up and I can hear her, inside, crying for me. I carefully place the scissors down, abandoning the dead and dying.

It’s evening when my husband mentions that he hasn’t seen our daughter’s cat. Our favourite, she is the first in for dinner and the last to disappear afterwards. I get dressed, coat and shoes, and walk outside to check the highway for a small body. The light is fading fast, muted grey and dull.

I always pray when I do this that I’ll find nothing – that my missing animal is merely holed up for the night somewhere else, not interested in having anything to do with me. I have been disappointed too many times before to find any comfort in my denial. Our highway is brutal, fast and unforgiving.

The air catches in the back of my throat, the hint of frosts coming. Icy tendrils snake down my neck and I clutch my collar tighter to myself. A quick glance shows nothing, but I know better and I cross the road quickly to check the long grass, up and down.

I’m not out there for long before my options are exhausted. She’s not here. Not dead on the road.

Relief is a powerful thing.

I jump my fence and come back into the property in the opposite direction, before stopping and looking.


Her eyes are open, just slightly and she is cold, so very cold. Dead a day at least, I wonder how we missed noticing that she wasn’t around hours earlier. She’d run, after being hit – or maybe she dragged herself. We won’t know. The fur skinned from her leg speaks of impossible speed across a bitumen road. She’s collapsed in the corner of our paddock, a puff of grey fur loose on her back.

The blood has soaked deep into the ground.

I hold my daughter as she sobs, my husband outside digging the perpetual holes that need digging when you live in the country and you share your life both with animals and predators.

I am cutting back the pumpkin vines. There is blood on my wrists and death in my heart.



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Sleepless Nights is up for a Bloggie!

by Veronica Foale on March 4, 2013

in Life

My other blog, Sleepless Nights (home of parenting complaints, convoluted stories and truth telling) is up for a Bloggie!

I’m in the Best Australia category, but also in the Lifetime Achievement category.

Bloggies 2013

I would LOVE if you could vote for me. If you head to The Bloggies website, you can see the little round box under my blog graphic (of a chicken – I kind of love that). If you check that, and scroll to the very bottom, you can vote for me. (Please)

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Beauty in devastation

by Veronica Foale on January 6, 2013

in Life

Bushfire Sky 022

The sun hangs blood red over my horizon; hot and heavy, the warm air pressing on me until I can almost feel the physical weight of it. The smoke lingers, colouring my sky and filling my nostrils with the scent of singed eucalyptus.

The mercury soars and I spend hours pressing refresh on the TFS website, watching for danger and being selfishly grateful when we escape it. The smoke comes and goes, and we are lucky that this time, we are all untouched.

Others, not so lucky as I, will sleep tonight in shelters; in cars, in fear and heartache.

Outside, I will watch the sky and marvel that there can be such beautiful side effects from such devastation.

Bushfire Sky 058

Bushfire Sky 042

Bushfire Sky 067

Bushfire Sky 062

Donate to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal.


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by Veronica Foale on April 29, 2012

in Life

I was outside with my camera, watching the weather come in. The wind was quick and bitter and the sun was just disappearing behind the clouds. Winter is on its way, as the plants die back and the grass returns to green.

In a last ditch effort to reproduce, helped along by a few days of rain, the grubs have come out, and with them, the birds. Flying fast in a group overhead, turning together, there is beauty in their movement.



Look at them, flying together. Not one bird flying backwards, or attempting to move in a different direction. One group, one mind. I expect the birds that fly out of sync have been ostracised long ago, to die a lonely death.

Animals don’t like differences.

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