Then it would be off
to a deserted building covered in crows
to study in

Raven Goddess
, courtesy of Megan NoŽl

Childhood Playground

"In my beginning is my end. In succession
House rise and fall, crumble, are extended.
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new buildings, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die; there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break a loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field mouse trots....
T.S. Elliot "Four Quartets'

The Soul Food Cafe has always had a weakness for crows , abandoned buildings, fantasy retreats and groves of trees.

A recurring theme has been the idea of exploring derelict Castles, Monasteries and modern ruins. Soul Food has regularly suggested that if you want inspiration then you should take a camera, paper and pen and and explore some abandoned buildings.

Perhaps it was the way I played that is reverberating still! As a child my favourite destination was the ruins of the Sugar Beet Factory that lay across the paddock from my childhood home in Maffra, Victoria.

In my mind the old abandoned building was peopled with characters from the books I read and I spent hours playing, creating a playhouse, on the steps that led within. A brick wall provided a place for me to practice my forearm and backhand but I never did reach the Australian Open Tennis Championships. My future did not lie in the world of tennis, or sport for that matter. Sadly, all that remains of the factory near Sale Road, where we lived, is a large brick store beside the Sale Road railway crossing.

Romance the ruins is just one page at Soul Food that offers links to let those, who do not have ready access to a deserted building, explore images that have been collected. The Raven Project is another destination within Soul Food for those who want to incorporate the mystery and intrigue of abandoned sites into their writing.


1. Write about a prominent building in your childhood and have the piece archived here at Soul Food.

2. Draw an outline of your earliest home and fill in as much detail as you can. Wander through the deserted old home, noticing details, listening, watching amid the shadows for people from the past. Write about memories associated with that home, no matter what they are, using that childhood voice. Allow any feelings to emerge, permit any creepy crawlies to crawl out onto the page. Celebrate the joyous! Shed tears! Bear witness to the experiences of the child who lived there. Identify when childhood ended.

3. At the end of 20 Letters to A Friend Svetlana Alluiluyeva, Stalin's daughter, gives thanks to the persistence of the friend who made her write them. She says that "she could never have set in motion this dead weight of memory all by myself." and feels the release that comes with having "shed an intolerable burden." Perhaps more importantly she comments that she has had the all important opportunity to live her life over again and to "see once more those who were near and dear" to her even although these people were long dead. She is appreciative of the opportunity to wrestle with "the difficult and conflicting feelings" she had towards her father - "feelings of love and fear, of censure and puzzlement." The past having descended Svetlana was able to talk to the shadowy figures who stepped forward, to those ghosts who came crowding around seeking a voice.

Are you brave enough to revisit the shadowlands and wrestle with shadowy figures from the past? You can write 20 Letters to me or a friend. We will be your audience!

Associated Links

1. The Prospector by Heather Blakey
2. Polishing Diamonds by Edwina Peterson Cross
3. Little Red's Mother by Lisa Phoenix
4. Teddy by Vi Jones
5. Lady in the Window by Trendle Ellwood
6. House on the Hill by Sylvia Kleindinst