Steve’s stories on Medium, May–June

It has been another busy couple of months for me on Medium. I’m continuing to learn a lot, engaging with other writers, exploring links with publications and pushing my creative writing in different directions. Here’s a little glimpse of what I’ve been up to.

Music

Music has been a big part of my life for the last six years. It has been a wild and bumpy ride – and not just for me.

Pickin’ on the Porch

‘Pickin’ on the Porch’ © Steve Williams 2021

The cheerfully unrepentant confessions of a neighbourhood nuisance. So sorry, neighbours! (Not sorry!)

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Shaking the Family Tree


(to see who falls out)

I’ve never been a particularly family-oriented person. Don’t get me wrong: I love my family and think of them affectionately. However, I was taught to be independent and self-reliant as a child, and well, I took the lesson to heart.

Dad later apologised to my newly-wed wife for that. The seed of independence was sown in fertile ground, Dad. Don’t give yourself too much credit.

So … it was a bit of a surprise to everyone, including myself, when I embarked on extensive family research on Ancestry several years ago. Probably Dad’s sudden death in 2012 prompted it. I realised that my family, particularly its senior members, wasn’t going to be around for ever, and that there was a lot that I wanted to know.

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Steve’s latest stories on Medium

I’m going to post periodic digests here with links to some of my latest stories on Medium. The ‘Down on Corio Bay’ stories are not included in this digest as they are reposted right here on this site.

Creativity

I’ve always been creative in one way or another. In my late 20s, my main creative outlet was as an amateur artist and sculptor. It was fun to look back on that time in these two articles:

Bare Paper

Here I write about the life drawing classes I used to attend, with many examples of my work.

‘Julia in Bed’ © Steve Williams 1994
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Making Sense of Medium

A Medium Noob’s First Faltering Steps

Some background

Writing for fun may seem a ‘busman’s holiday’ for a professional writer. In fact, I’m finding it refreshing – and educational. Which may be ironic, as I’m an educational writer.

In my ‘day job’, I write English coursebooks for 14–19-year-old Austrians and Germans. These are bright kids, interested in the world, and creating content for them gives me occasional scope for literary self-expression. More often it allows me to explore ideas in an essayistic (if that’s even a word) or journalistic manner.

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Bee bother

trials of a backyard beekeeper

Yesterday

One of our hives put out a swarm. Unexpected, unseasonal, and not a good sign about the health of the parent hive. We’ll look into that another day.

Anyhow, we now had a new, unexpected swarm to deal with. They alighted in the thick, tangled vegetation which sprawls over the 2000 litre water tank in our veggie garden.

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How we chose our boat

In England, I was a keen dinghy sailer who raced every Sunday with my local club and spent a few weeks every year chartering yachts or sailing as crew. Moving to Australia presented my wife and me with the opportunity to buy a small yacht of our own.

The downside was that I had to sell my beloved Wayfarer and Supernova dinghies. However, the prospect of owning a yacht more than compensated for that. In the UK, even a small yacht – and a marina pen in which to keep it – was beyond our modest means.

I think I actually said, ‘I’m only moving to Australia if we can buy a yacht.’ I was only half-joking.

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On the water

Being on the water is special. Particularly in a sailing boat, kayak or canoe, you can glide along (almost) effortlessly and silently. It gives you time to enjoy the babble of the water, the song of birds, maybe dolphins playing in your bow wave or fish just visible in the deep.

I’ve sailed and paddled coastal waters, lakes and rivers in the UK, in the Baltic and in the Ionian Sea and around Victoria, Australia. It’s just magical. To be able to move across this beautiful, alien, sometimes terrifying element through your own skill, but always by the grace of a primal power which can put you, an insignificant human, in your place – there’s nothing better.

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Baking Day

Routines and rituals

I have been baking sourdough bread more-or-less regularly since March 2013. ‘More’ in the first flush of my enthusiasm; ‘less’ when the routine became a chore after a few years; ‘much more’ since the coronavirus pandemic has given my leisure pursuits a more homely focus.

My sourdough culture has survived the vicissitudes of those eight years remarkably well: it remains ever ready and willing to rise to the occasion. This loyal little community of bacteria and yeasts has stuck with me through the lean times (six weeks in the back of the fridge while I was travelling in Europe) and the times of plenty (two loaves a week during the pandemic).

This is my baking routine.

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Never too late

Like so many kids of my generation, I left school thinking that I had no musical ability. Music theory just baffled me, and my croaky, deep, unruly singing voice embarrassed me.

I envied my mate Jon, with his electric guitar and his apparently magical ability to understand what the hell our music teacher, the fearsome Mrs Dix, was talking about. (Four beats to a bar? Really? Why?? Who decides where the bar starts and ends? And where’s the four in 3/4 time?)

Later at uni in Kiel, Germany, one of my friends was a competent sax player and I’d tag along to his Dixieland gigs. I loved music, was moved, delighted, captivated by it, but music wasn’t something I was ever going to make. I couldn’t even keep a beat while dancing.

Fast forward 30 years …

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Wood carving

Back in the day, I was a keen amateur sculptor. I was lucky enough to live in Oxford, England, where there is a strong tradition of carving and sculpture going back to the Middle Ages. There was a broad spectrum of adult education classes in the visual arts. I used to take my entire annual leave in Wednesday mornings, so that I could attend life sculpture classes. (Yes, I was still an employee — that’s how long ago it was.)

My favourite medium was wood. It is such a wonderful material for carving. The sculptor has to go with the flow, follow the wood’s infinitely varied nature – a product of its species-specific characteristics and the environment in which it grew as a tree: the cycle of the seasons, flood and drought, heat and frost, trauma from fungal and insect attack, etc.

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