Rapunzel, Rapunzel

July 31, 2018 at 2:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I read about Rapunzel syndrome, where sufferers ate the hair they wrenched free. The strands knotted inside them, plump and dark, deep within their belly like a swallowed secret.

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ by Rijn Collins

Of all my ink, my Medusa tattoo is my favourite. She stands proudly on my left arm, hands on hips, draped in a long flowing skirt. Thirteen blue, black and silver snakes writhe in front of her bare breasts, wrap themselves around her pointed feet, or curl out from her beautiful face, almost feline in its angularity.

Matt Burke Medusa

Matt Burke Photography

My skin tells other stories too; a trio of cauldrons, glossy red holly berries, words from an Irish spell, a scarlet and black swirling triskele, and my most noticeable – and colourful – tattoo, nine blood red trumpet lilies wrapped around my right arm and curling over my shoulder, behind which snakes charcoal Art Nouveau ivy tendrils.

Again with the snakes, hey?

Wesley Anne tattoo

Belladonna trumpet lilies

My Medusa tattoo features in my latest story, ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ up now at Memoria. This wonderful podcast focuses on short memoir extracts, ‘micro-stories about the moments that shape us, and how memories change over time.’ I narrate my tale of obsession, regeneration and yes, more snakes, all beautifully produced in a little slice of audio lasting 5 minutes and 32 seconds. So settle back with a glass of red and let me read you a story…and take a wander through the other stories on the site while you’re there.

Memoria Medusa

Illustration by Peta Manning – click here for story

I ran a hand through my hair, falling in deep red waves to my waist. I imagined my snakes as they writhed, glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. It’s all I could do not to reach up and pat them.

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ by Rijn Collins

If you think I’ve finished with the serpent stories, you’re wrong. My lovely Wolf has decided to buy me a snake for my birthday, and we’ve been searching. We have the tank (and a rather alarmed cat, sniffing the scales of the previous tank tenant), and are fitting it out with a thermostat and hide. In Australia you need a licence to acquire one, just in case you were tempted to go out and catch yourself a wild one. My licence arrived on the same day that my Medusa story came online, which also happened to be World Snake Day. Little bit witchy, me.

In other writing news, I headed to rural Victoria for some red dirt, kangaroos, a bonfire, and a studio to pour out chapters of my novel. There was also the wonder of my Wolf chopping wood, and the opportunity to mix whiskey with toasted marshmallows, and feel this little cutie snuggle into my mane.

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Moyston, Victoria

July2018 1

Moyston, Victoria

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Moyston, Victoria

I’m also delighted to be part of the Melbourne Writers Festival this year, where sections of my recent Reading Victoria piece on the West Gate Bridge will be adapted for audio, mixed with six other writers’ tales of our home suburbs, and played on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel in August. To hear the story in its entirety, go to All The Best Radio and listen to their wonderfully produced audio version.


My West Gate story on All The Best Radio – link here

Pair that with two more Stereo Stories performances lined up in September, and an invitation to be a panellist at the Write Around the Murray festival in New South Wales, and as always, I’m never short of reasons to pick up a pen.

Look at that…I managed to finish this without more references to snakes.


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Do not feed the rabbits

November 5, 2013 at 8:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

‘Yeah man, it’s so cool – it even has a walk-in flower.’

And then they pulled the tram cord and got off. I tried to continue my eavesdropping as they moved down the steps, wondering what the hell I’d misheard. My hand was already feeling around in my bag for my little red notebook.

I collect words.  Overheard conversations, song titles and sleep talk, mondegreens, nicknames and mistranslations. I got a whole story once just from a lipstick colour (Proud Pepper, in case you’re wondering). I’m forever plucking words from menus, manuscripts and mouths, and sliding them deep into my pockets.


I was in a subterranean restaurant in St Petersburg about eight weeks ago. I’d just come from the study where Pushkin had been carried, mortally wounded in a duel.  It had taken him two days to die. He’d finally lifted himself off his leather sofa, hand over his bloodstained stomach, and solemnly said goodbye to his books. I got a bit teary, I have to tell you.

I needed a drink after that. I headed down some stairs on Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki, into a low ceilinged cellar with cornflowers painted all over the walls. They baked their own sweet rolls, and the aroma was amazing. I scanned the menu, and when I saw ‘Cognac glazed salmon with dill potatoes’ I think I actually sucked in my breath. I painstakingly copied the Russian into my notebook – because, let’s face it, who knows when I’ll need that – and then ordered it.

The waiter had broken English, a shaved head and bright blue eyes. He was very pretty and very young, so when he stood at my table and lifted his shirt, I almost spat out my vodka.

I see you yesterday! I see you in market and I think, I like the tattoos. And then you walk. But now you here!

He nodded at the bright red swamp flowers curling over my shoulder, and the snakes of my Medusa winding down my left arm. His shirt was still held up to his neck, with his entire torso covered in bold dark tattoos of the hip hop kind. I hadn’t seen many heavily tattooed Russians, male or female, and didn’t want to ruin this bonding experience.

I knew I should have told him to drop his shirt, but just between us…I didn’t really want to.

The food was simple, and absolutely astounding. Thick slabs of smoked salmon lay slick with cognac, dotted with small potatoes and tiny feathers of dill. There were probably only four ingredients on my plate, but it was some of the best food I’d ever tasted. I wanted to copy the whole damn menu into my notebook.


I had to duck through several serpentine corridors to get to the bathrooms. In my cubicle was an old Soviet typewriter with burnished Cyrillic keys. I balanced on my heels to get a good look at it, and then ran my fingers over each and every line. I spent so long wondering who’d typed on it that I’m sure the waiter thought I’d climbed out a window.

Coming back to my table, I passed a small green cage with three wide eyed rabbits in it, heaving their little noses this way and that. Next to their cage was a dusty stack of 1940s magazines showing post-war Leningrad, as St Petersburg was then called, and of course I went through these too.

It wasn’t like any restaurant I’d known in Melbourne, that was for sure.


Above the cage was a stark white sign proclaiming something in Cyrillic. I stared at it for a moment, my fingers on the bars of the cage longing for a stroke of rabbit fur. But what if it said ‘Beware, these creatures are savage?’ I’d heard the squirrels in Russia were so punk rock they were known to kill dogs. I didn’t want to risk it with the rabbits – I wasn’t sure my insurance would cover it.


So I copied the sign into my notebook and went back to my table. The waiter brought me more vodka and lifted his shirt again. Neither was unpleasant. He even tried to wink at me when I paid the bill, but didn’t quite manage to pull it off. He did tell me, however, that the sign above the cage said ‘Please do not feed the rabbits – they are fat enough already.’

And with my pockets full of words, all clinking against each other like tiny bells, I climbed the stairs and back into the Russian sun.

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