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Creative non-fiction essay writing

Date Released: Thu, 17 October 2013 11:58 +0200

Eight students from the JMS4 and PG Diploma classes are reading and writing creative non-fiction this term with Writing & Editing lecturer Gillian Rennie. A new topic every week brings a range of reading for the weekend and delivers eight diverse essays five days later – the best of which appears here. In Week Three, when the topic was ‘Home’, we read Thomas de Quincey, Maya Angelou, Jacob Dlamini, Njabulo Ndebele and Antony Osler. Then Georgina Selander wrote “A roast for one”. Photograph by Kirsten Makin

A Roast for One

By Georgina Selander

Sundays have always been family day.

My sister and I would rise sleepily from our beds to the sound of clattering pots and pans as my mother laid the kitchen table with the lunch ingredients. She would prepare a spectacular roast with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, stuffing, butternut, crisp green beans and gravy.

My job would be to lay the table. I’d approach the task with delight – laying out the brightest white cloth, the best silverware, candles and sometimes a vase of flowers or a scattering of pink petals. 

Mediterranean music would flow through the open doors and glasses were filled with cold Chardonnay. The smell of roasting lamb or chicken would spill from the kitchen onto the patio.

At my merriest, I’d slip into my bedroom and tinker away at the piano. Sometimes I’d prepare a rustic dessert depending on what pantry ingredients were at my disposal.

When all was ready we’d dish up hearty helpings and be seated. A special etiquette was required for Sunday lunch – eat slowly, sit neatly and contribute to conversation.

“Stop wolfing down your food, Georgina,” my mother would often say.

After second servings we’d saunter off to our sunlit rooms and drift into a satisfied slumber.

Then we’d gather late afternoon, pick at the remains of the feast and snuggle up on the couch to watch the Sunday night movie.

But there were occasions when Sunday lunch ended in tears and broken plates, with my sister sobbing silently into her salad. One too many glasses of Chardonnay was usually the culprit.

My mother and sister being well-versed in the art of bitchy backtalk, I’d leave to their bidding, and slip silently from the fray into my bedroom.

There I’d climb into bed, pull the covers to my chin and immerse myself in a book.

On one such Sunday the quarrel had grown to such epic proportions that I felt it necessary to intervene.

My mother and sister were circling the kitchen table like vultures over a carcass. My mother’s eyes were narrowed and demonic, spittle flying from her mouth. My sister was screaming, “You’re not listening to me! You don’t even care!” with plump, hot tears dripping from her chin.

Ignoring her tirade my mother ambled to the lounge but, unable to resist the temptation of a good fight, my sister followed. My mother seated herself calmly on the couch, her eyes glassed over with indifference.

“It’s always about you, you!” she continued. But getting no reaction from my stoic mother, she raised a stack of plates and smashed them onto the tiled floor.

Perhaps it was this that broke my mother from her silent reverie and she turned to face her eldest daughter. Her body calm, her eyes fuming, she began raising the oil heater above her head. A moment of stillness ensued. I contemplated the utter ridiculousness of the scene. They had reached the height of their terror.

“Stop it!” I yelled, running between them. “Can’t you just talk to each other normally?” My arms extended between them like a referee, until each had calmed enough to limp back to their rooms like wounded animals.

Last weekend, feeling faintly nostalgic, I attempted a roast of my own. My housemates having left, I was free to produce a spectacular mess – covering every surface and using every pot and pan in sight. Being the sole occupant of my kingdom, I sashayed through the house, glass of wine in hand and music crackling from the record player.

With glee I laid the kitchen table – substituting fine silver for a matching knife and fork and large white plates for those least-chipped. A few plucked stems of bougainvillea from the garden added the final touch.

Once the meal was cooked – the green beans crisp, the chicken tender and the potatoes golden brown – I sat down to enjoy the spoils of my labour.

“Please pass the broccoli,” I whispered to no one. “Did you have a good day?”

A few bites in, I laid down my cutlery and wept. A fight for three is better than a roast for one.











Source:Gillian Rennie