Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Soft Toy Fetish

It started when I was a little girl. Rather than buying me a toy teddy bear, in a country where no bears roam, my parents thought I should have an Australian animal. They gave me a green felt kangaroo. I loved Kangy, but he wasn’t very soft and cuddly. When my Mum was visiting her neighbour Mrs Parkin, I was sometimes allowed to look at a row of wonderful soft toys sitting on a shelf in a downstairs bedroom. There were great, floppy monkeys that had zips up the back. Not only could you play with them, you could store your pyjamas in them as well. And there were a number of big, friendly-looking teddies. But in fact I couldn’t play with them; it wasn’t allowed. They belonged to Lois and Mardie, Mrs. Parkin’s daughters. Lois and Mardie were big girls, really old. They were away at college most of the time, but their room had to be kept perfect for them. It was a great treat to be allowed to look at the toys sometimes, but I was never allowed to touch them. You can imagine how I hungered.

When I had kids, I made sure they had teddy bears to cuddle! Their father, Bill, knowing I’d always wanted one of my own, came home one day with something even better: a much-larger-than-life pink panther just like the one in the Pink Panther movies. A service station was selling them as some kind of promotion. He said he strapped it in the front passenger seat beside him, which startled a number of other motorists on the way home. Well, that pink panther was balm to my soul! Bill was an abalone diver, so he was sometimes away for a few nights, depending where he was diving. The pink panther made a great substitute to snuggle up to. If friends came to stay without their partners, we’d lend them the pink panther so they wouldn’t be too lonely. It was years later that a friend’s little girl fell so much in love with my pink panther that Bill persuaded me I should give it to her. Selfish of me, I know, but he had to do a lot of persuading and I grudged it for a long time.

I made up for it, though, after I married Andrew. One year I saw lots of nice, big teddy bears in Coles for Christmas shopping. With Andrew’s connivance I bought myself the teddiest teddy I could find, warm golden brown with a red tartan ribbon round his neck. I called him, of course, Teddy. I don’t remember where I came across Jemima, maybe at a Sunday market. Jemima’s not a bear, she’s a big, soft rag doll. There’s a lovely tiger that Scorpio God-daughter discarded when her family moved away; I rescued him and he graces our bed when we’re not in it. I also acquired lots of very small soft toys – bears, rabbits, even a gorilla. I got a big gorilla too, with squinty eyes; I decided she was female and called her Lucy.

The biggest bear, Boris, is white. We were visiting friends, and he was out on their nature strip face down, with the hard rubbish collection. The boy of the house, who had owned him, was now 14. Boris had been in the shed for a few years and was very dirty. I begged for him, took him home, washed him in the bath-tub and rinsed him off in the shower. (I did mention he’s big?) I draped him over a plastic chair to dry; it took days.

Next came Buster, a very shaggy brown bear with a wounded expression. He sat opposite our market stall one Sunday and stared at me fixedly. In the end I couldn’t resist any longer; I had to buy him. Snowy is another white bear, fairly small, whom I noticed through the window of the Op Shop one Friday while I was conducting the WordsFlow Writers’ Group at the Neighbourhood Centre. The Op Shop’s just next to our meeting room. I could hardly wait to rush round there and get him as soon as our session finished.

Then we moved, unexpectedly, to a rather smaller abode. We had to become ruthless in “downsizing” and chucked out heaps of stuff. Frequent readers will recall that, encouraged by Andrew, I decided to be sensible and give most of the toys away. Teddy went to Newest God-daughter, who will need to get a bit bigger before she can enjoy him. She was only five weeks old at the time. I’m very happy that he’s with her; he’s a cheerful, kindly fellow with a reassuring presence. Lucy had been given away previously, to one of the grandchildren. The others all went to the Op Shop. I kept Jemima, whom I sometimes use as a demonstration “body” when training Reiki students, and I kept Snowy as he was the smallest of the bigger toys. Oh, and I kept the tiger, because … well, because he’s special.

I expect the little toys have been snapped up long ago, but I was shocked one day, weeks later, to see Boris face down and looking neglected amongst the second-hand furniture in the shed under the Op Shop. “I think I’ll buy him back,” I said. The person I said it to happened to be the Treasurer of the Neighbourhood Centre, who said, “Oh, just take him back.” So I did, strapping him into the passenger seat of my car. (Shades of the pink panther all those years ago. Boris isn’t quite that big, but he’s big enough.) “Boris has come home,” I announced to Andrew. “I couldn’t leave him there like that.” He took one look at my face and didn’t argue.

How could I resist a nice grey koala I saw at the market one day? I didn’t. He’s smaller than Snowy, after all. Then I found the cutest little leopard cub, who now keeps the tiger company. Some time later I saw this lovely bear that someone in our street was chucking out, who looked like a big brother of Snowy except he had soft golden fur. Honey joined the family. He needed some stitching up and some of his filling replaced, but now he’s good as new.

I thought Buster must have gone to a good home. Imagine my horror when I saw him on the Op Shop shelf a couple of weeks ago, looking at me reproachfully with those distressed eyes. I patted his leg surreptitiously and tried to go on looking for whatever it was I’d come to buy, but of course I couldn’t leave him there where obviously no-one had appreciated his special qualities. I tucked him under my arm and bought him. He hadn’t been well looked after. I had to get some sticky gunk out of his fur and re-sew the line of his mouth which was coming adrift. I gave him a big cuddle and told him I’ll never ever do it again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Unexpected Blessing

"I must go for my walk before it rains some more," I told my friend whom I was chatting to on facebook. As I got up, Andrew announced, "I must go for a walk."

When it's exercise, we don't walk together because I do more of a power walk thing. So I told him I'd head down to the beach, leaving him to the tree-lined nature strips.

Recently the tide has been high at this time and the ocean wild. Today, in a bit of sun between rainstorms, the sea wasn't right up to the edge of the cliff; there was some beach to walk on. I was going to turn left as usual, but paused and went right instead. The waves were sunlit and glowing. I stopped and picked up a black stone with white wavy lines on it like a sketch of the sea. It will become one of the "gratitude rocks" I give away at the markets.

There were some kids climbing up the sandy cliff and dropping down again, and a man on the cliff top above them, talking on a mobile phone. As I straightened from picking up the stone, tucking it into the pocket of my yellow raincoat, the smallest child stopped, lifted his hand and waved at me, smiling broadly. He was a little Chinese boy, maybe three or four, with his hair in a tiny pigtail and wearing a Chinese outfit of loose shirt and pants. He was gorgeous! It wasn't that he was especially good-looking, but his little round face was alight with joy.

I waved back, and when I drew near I stopped and asked, "What's your name?" He just laughed and ran back to the cliff. He wasn't scrambling up and down it like the bigger kiddies, but playing at the bottom with a girl just a little older than him. He kept looking at me, smiling. I smiled back and went power-walking on.

I reached the end of the beach, turned and started marching back. The little girl, oblivious of me, picked up a stick and ran with it to the water's edge. The little boy ran after her. For a moment I was a bit worried about such littlies going so close to the big waves unsupervised, then they ran back to the cliff, both laughing. But he saw me coming, hesitated, then stopped in my path grinning expectantly, looking positively thrilled. Seeing this, she came back to where he was. At first she half-hid behind him, but I must have passed muster because she came out and stood beside him, smiling at me too.

I couldn't help it, I just started giggling openly – not with amusement but pure joy. At which they too broke into happy giggles. It was a kind of open collusion between us, as if we were sharing some delicious secret. I longed to fold them both in a big hug, but mindful of child abductors and pedophiles, just stood there with my arms wide and said, "You beautiful children!" and we all beamed at each other some more.

"Where do you come from?" I asked him, speaking to myself really, wondering about his origins; but he pointed to the other children at the cliff. "Is that your brother?" I asked, following the pointing finger. "Yes," he said, and I realised he was Aussie-Chinese, second or third generation at least. The little girl, in fact, wore Aussie clothes, had long, curly, tousled hair, and didn't look particularly Asian except for her almond eyes. The little boy pointed higher as the man at the top of the cliff came into view again, still talking on his phone but also observing the children. "Is that your Dad?" I asked, knowing the answer even as they nodded. Ah, so they weren't unsupervised; good.

They hadn't stopped beaming at me as if I was their favourite person in the whole world, and the expression on my face must have been exactly the same as theirs. "I have to go now," I told them, "Bye-bye," and I waved my hand. She gave me a last smile and a happy wave, then ran back to her siblings. He stood and waved his hand enthusiastically. When I looked back after a few steps, he was still watching me. "Bye-bye," he called clearly, waving again, still with the delighted grin; and I did the same, then went on my way - yes, rejoicing.

And that's all. But what an all! I don't know what it was about me that so appealed to this lovely kid, and I don't even want to taint the experience with attempts at explanation. It was what it was – an exchange of absolute joy in each other, and I know that those brief but powerful moments will continue to enrich me all my life. I feel as if God came and smiled on me. (There's been a bit of that lately; watch this space.)

Thanks to the World from Aung San Suu Kyi


Latest email from Burma Campaign, just received:

Dear Friend,

We've just heard that from inside Burma’s notorious Insein prison Aung San Suu Kyi has asked her lawyer to thank the tens of thousands of people that wished her happy birthday last Friday.

Her lawyer Nyan Win just released this message: "She said she thanks those at home and abroad who wished her a happy birthday, because she cannot reply to everyone".

Burma's brutal regime wants the world to forget Aung San Suu Kyi. The tens of thousands of people like you that left birthday messages of support to her sent a strong message to Burma's Generals. We showed that the world will never forget Burma's democracy leader or any the 2,155 political prisoners currently detained in appalling conditions inside Burma.

We'd like to thank everyone that left messages of support for Suu Kyi on the website, http://www.64forSuu.org and on her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/aungsansuukyi. If you haven't sent her a message of support yet there's still time, just go to http://www.64forSuu.org.

Thank you for all your support, together we are making progress.

Johnny Chatterton
Campaigns Officer
Burma Campaign UK

PS: On Friday 64forSuu.org came under a sophisticated highly targeted cyber attack which took the site offline for 20 minutes, we believe the attack was an attempt by the Burmese regime to force the site offline. Our security measures worked and no data was lost. Find out more here: http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/burma/news/cyberattack-on-64forsuu.org

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Support our work: Donate to the Burma Campaign UK and make a difference today. You can be sure your donation will make a difference. Supporting the Burma Campaign UK is one of the most effective ways of supporting the struggle to free Burma. Donate now: http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/donatenow.html
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

We CAN help the Iranians!

Reposted –

If anyone is on Twitter, set your location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut Iranians’ access to the internet down! We must help them!

Cut & paste & pass it on! Go Humans!!!


Also –

Please sign petition, "Appeal to the UN on the Situation in Iran".

Friday, June 19, 2009

Please help imprisoned Burmese dissidents

Here's an email I got today which I want to share with everyone who may be interested -

Dear friend

Today Burma’s democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is spending her 64th birthday detained in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, awaiting the verdict from the regime’s sham trial. She has already spent more than 13 years in detention and faces another 5 years in prison.

She is one of more than 2,100 political prisoners, imprisoned just for peacefully calling for freedom. They face horrific treatment in prison. Just last week we received reports that five political prisoners in Insein prison have been held in punishment cells, known as ‘dog cells’ because prisoners are forced to act like dogs and eat food from the floor. They are banned from receiving family visits and denied proper medical care.

They need you to act today.

Will you take action by doing one of two things today in honour of the Lady of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, on her 64th birthday:

1. Donate £64 now OR

2. Donate £8 now, then forward this email onto 8 people, encouraging them to donate

Please click here to make your donation http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/donatenow.html

Burma Campaign UK has been working hard to build global support for Aung San Suu Kyi as she prepares to spend yet another birthday as a prisoner of Burma's military junta. But we have limited resources and desperately need more funding.

We are making progress but we urgently need your help to maintain the pressure on governments and the UN to take action to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burma’s political prisoners and to build the global campaign for Burma.

Please help us free Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s political prisoners by making a donation here http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/donatenow.html

Thank you for your support.

Anna Roberts
Director

PS If you prefer to send a donation by cheque, please make it out to “Burma Campaign UK” and send it to: Burma Campaign UK, 28 Charles Square, London UK N1 6HT

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Support our work: Donate to the Burma Campaign UK and make a difference today. You can be sure your donation will make a difference. Supporting the Burma Campaign UK is one of the most effective ways of supporting the struggle to free Burma. Donate now: http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/donatenow.html
--
Was this email forwarded to you by a friend? If you are not already a member of the Burma Campaign UK e-mail network, and would like to receive these updates directly, you can subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to: burmacampaign-subscribe@lists.burmacampaign.org.uk

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Manifesting ... for the record

Andrew just came across an old list on his computer of things we wanted to manifest in 2006, written in February that year. Fun to look back nearly three and a half years later and see how well we did or didn't do. They didn't all happen that year, but most of them have happened now. Others have been discarded or deferred.

WHAT I WANT TO MANIFEST IN 2006 — Andrew

1: A digital camera. Didn't happen in 2006, but it's on lay-by now and we're well on the way to paying it off.

2: A scanner. Bought in 2007.

3: Copy ETCHINGS with 1 or 2.
Refers to A's father's artwork. We found a much better way to do that, employing a professional.

4: An agreement with Australian Booksellers' Association on JORELL, covering all details of ordering, retail price, ABA commission, promotion on my website. Refers to A's children's novel, originally published with help from ABA. ABA pretty much said, "It's all yours now". Promotion and commission n/a.

5: Additional memory for my laptop. Don't think that happened; no longer applicable.

6: Laptop upgraded or newer model acquired. Laptop died. He now owns an old but much more efficient iMac.

7: JORELL placed on website. Yes.

8: TOBY’S HOME RUN (formerly Magic Bat) rewritten, edited, published & placed on our website by March 15. Didn't happen; A made a decision to focus on other writing. Could still happen; depends on him.

9: Writing of autobiography to continue. It continues.

10: THE OLD MILL at first draft by mid-April. See 8.

WHAT WE WANT MANIFESTED THIS YEAR

1: The Life Magic website up and running. It is.

2: The stereo system either fixed or replaced. No. We got rid of the old one recently but haven't yet replaced it.

3: Video recorder fixed or replaced. Fixed.

4: A DVD player. Bought in 2007.

5: A Kirby vacuum cleaner. We thought better of this. Previous accommodation had disgusting carpet that landlords always promised to replace but never did. A Kirby demo convinced us that was the answer but it was way beyond our reach. Just as well – a week or so later the old stains were showing through again; the carpet was just too old and worn. Professional cleaning from time to time was actually cheaper. In our present home we have a lovely carpet, very easy to clean.


WHAT I WANT TO MANIFEST IN 2006— Rosemary

1: Enough money for the Texas visit to be easy, comfortable and hassle-free. We did; it was. In fact it was a lot more than that, see Texas Poetry Trip blog.

2: Sales of 200 copies of my book, SECRET LEOPARD, in Texas during April. I don't now have the exact figures handy, but judging by how many were printed, what I've got left of those shipped back here, and a rough estimate of how many have sold here ... yes, I think I must have got rid of something like 200 in America. Close anyway.

3: Enough money to ship home any books unsold. Yes, that happened – except for some I left with my friend Neil for future USA sales, a few of which have since gone.

4: Lovely, smart new clothes and underwear for the Texas visit. Oh yes!

5: To change my weight to under 12 stone by the end of March, and look good. To weigh 10 stone by end of year and look good. I don't remember exact weights, but I was slim enough to look good in Texas, and still looked good by the end of the year. Would certainly have been well under 12 stone for the Texas trip, but came home a little rounder.

6: Health and fitness. Very good in 2006. Mostly good since, right up to the cold I caught recently.

7: Successful local launches of SECRET LEOPARD, Melbourne and here, with good sales. Decided not to bother about Melbourne; wanted to stay home awhile then. Successful launch here with good sales.

8: Favourable reviews of SECRET LEOPARD in Australian media. Nah, didn't happen as far as I know. I was fairly unintelligent in the way I went about that, also had been out of "the scene" a long time and changed my name to boot. Thank goodness for nice 0/s reviews instead, reassuring me that the lack of Oz reviews was not the fault of the book.

9: Publication of book of love poems. Well, not in the conventional sense of publication. But I did post a series entitled "Secret Love Letters" on MySpace, and I gave my friend Maureen a one-off chapbook for xmas, entitled "Erotica Platonica" which obviously was full of love poems of both kinds.

10: Winning an important and lucrative international poetry competition. Well, no. "You have to be in it to win it...." I seldom do that. I entered a chapbook comp last year, have vague memories of something else a few years ago ... did no good. Have done well in some less important competitions, but no first prizes yet.

11: Writing lots more good poems. Have written lots and lots more! Many people, including some editors, have found them good.

12: Writing articles that get published internationally in reputable media. Ha ha, only blogs. Haven't actually attempted anything else.

13: Completing Correllian Wicca 3rd Degree or large part thereof. Changed my mind about this one for a number of reasons, the most important being a reluctance to be identified with only one tradition, so never actually began the course.

There's an obvious moral to be drawn here, I think, that perseverance brings results!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Writer's Journal (exercise): Homes I've Lived In

Started as a 'Writer's Block' thing on LJ.  Includes an attempt to expand on that.

Writer's Block: How many different places (cities, houses, apartments, dorm rooms, etc.) have you lived in? Which is your favorite? And your least favorite?

My Answer:

Hope nobody expects a short answer!

27 homes so far, and the promise of a 28th before the end of the year.

Born Launceston General Hospital. Tasmania, Australia. (1939)
Lived Tasmania until age 15, and part-time 15-22; Sunraysia, Victoria 15-17; Melbourne 17-49 / 1957-1988; Three Bridges, Victoria, 1988-92; Melbourne 1992-4; Northern Rivers area NSW 1994 to date, with brief interruption for six months at Helensvale, Queensland (Gold Coast hinterland) in 2003.

Homes:
1. Earliest babyhood, Rocklynn Place (Trevallyn?) Launceston, Tasmania.
2. Babyhood - 12 years old, 455 Wellington St., Sandhill, Launceston.
3. Aged 12-13, 32 Brisbane St., Launceston.
4. 13-15, 40 Fairthorne Rd.,Trevallyn, Launceston.
5. 15-17, Oleander Grove, Merbein, Victoria during term time, with father and stepmother; 276 Invermay Rd., Mowbray Heights, Launceston with mother and stepfather, during school holidays.
17-22, as student at Melbourne University, then at Library School, still at no. 5 during vacations. In term time:
6. Pascoe Vale (I’ve forgotten the exact address) with my Aunty Ev and Uncle Tommy.
7. the Salvation Army Hostel in Spring St., Melbourne.
8. share house in Nicholson St. Carlton, with two other girls.
9. private board at Mrs. Irene Duncan’s home in Caulfield, with her daughter and two other girls.
First marriage and first job, age 22:
10. 1962, Quat Quatta, Quat Quatta Ave., Ripponlea.
11. 1962, 40 Lambeth Ave., Armadale.
Separation, divorce,  remarriage:
12. 1965, Balaclava, Melb.
13. 1965, Bay St., North Brighton.
14. 1966-72, 286 Balcombe Rd., Beaumaris.
15. 1972-88, 11 McNaught St., Beaumaris.
16. 1988-92, property at Three Bridges, Vic., east of Melbourne near Yarra Junction and Warburton.
Separation, move back to Melbourne, divorce, remarriage:
17. 1992, staying with my friend Barbara in Kew, Melb.
18. 1992-3, share house with my friend Jennie and her two children in Elsternwick.
19. 1993, moved in with 3rd fiancé to his flat in South Yarra.
20. 1993-4, Black St., Brighton.
Married Nov. 1993, moved to Northern Rivers area of NSW Nov. 1994.
21. 1994-5 (12 weeks), property at end of North Pumpenbil Rd., via Tyalgum (west of Murwillumbah).
22. 1995-8, Pinnacle Rd., via Tyalgum.
23. 1998-2002, property at end of Upper Duroby Creek Rd., North Tubulgum (north of Murwillumbah).
24. 2002 (six months), Nobby’s Creek (near Murwillumbah).
25. 2002-3 (six months) Helensvale, Gold Coast, Queensland.
26. 2003-9, 1/21 Victoria Ave., Pottsville Beach (far north coast NSW, east of Murwillumbah, the furthest out we’ve been except for Helensvale).
27. 2009, 2/28 Elanora Ave., Pottsville Beach.
28 hasn’t happened yet, but the Housing Dept. tells us we are now high priority for subsidised housing, and it should happen this year. It will be somewhere in the Murwillumbah area.

Least favourite: no question, it was at Merbein, no. 5, a hostile environment in terms of both landscape and household. No. 25, Helensvale, comes second for similar reasons, and 24, Nobby’s Creek, also left a lot to be desired. Also the Salvation Army Hostel was the pits.

Favourite: that’s harder! There have been lots of good places. I hated leaving no. 3, Wellington St. Launceston, where I spent most of my childhood. The property at Three Bridges was very nurturing to my spirit, and I was happy to imagine I’d stay there forever. The houses at Pinnacle Road and North Tumbulgum each seemed like the ultimate at the time. And I’ve been very happy in Pottsville, but that’s been more to do with the general location than actual premises. Probably the North Tumbulgum  place would be the absolute favourite in terms of how much I loved it and revelled in it while I was there – but I don’t want to go back there now; I’ve moved on.

My true favourite place to live was one I didn’t actually live in, though I spent a lot of time there in childhood – my grandparents’ place at Spreyton, Tasmania, ”The Orchard House”, a vine-covered cottage on a huge piece of land with some uncleared bush and of course many orchards. It was magickal ... but doesn’t exist in that form any more.

(Even longer version – the stories behind the story – coming to my journal soon.) [This didn't happen.]

Attempted expansion

First there was a house called Rocklynn Place, somewhere in Launceston, Tasmania – maybe Trevallyn; I know it was hilly. I often heard my parents speak fondly of it, their first (rented) home, but they bought a house while I was still a baby, in Wellington St. Launceston, in the suburb of Sandhill, where four years later I acquired a little brother. It was a great pace to grow up: a big back yard, trees to climb, berry bushes, strawberries and vegetables growing, and other young kids in the neighbourhood. The local primary school was short tram ride away; as we got older my brother and I often used to walk the distance instead. When I was 12 my parents built a house at Trevallyn. Many years later someone said to me that that’s what people do when a marriage is in trouble – have a baby, renovate, or get a new house. It seldom works.

After the Wellington St. house sold, we lived in a rented upstairs apartment in Brisbane St., near the city centre of Launceston, while the Trevallyn house was still being built. Our old family doctor, now retired, lived downstairs with his wife. That was nice; he had a wonderful bedside manner with children and had always represented security to me. The old house was a bit spooky at night, but interesting with its ornate high ceilings, chandeliers and panelled walls. I was in my first year of High School; now I could walk home. (Dad used to drop me off there in the morning on his way to work; a bit of a detour for him, I now realise.) We’d had a boarder in the last couple of years at Wellington St., a migrant from Wales. He came with us to Brisbane St. and was soon joined by one of his younger brothers.

When I was 15 my parents divorced; both remarried soon. My brother and I went to live with my father and stepmother during school terms, in the rural village of Merbein, Victoria, near the town of Mildura where I did my last two years of High School. During school holidays we lived with my Mum and stepfather back in Launceston, at Mowbray Heights. Nothing could have been a greater contrast!

Mum and our new stepfather, Jack, whom we’d known as a family friend for some time previously,

After the mountains, lakes, rushing rivers and surrounding ocean of Tasmania, the district of Sunraysia, where I found myself in term time, was a horror – unrelievedly flat, stinking hot, and dry. And it turned out that my stepmother was a secret alcoholic (not that that’s a secret that can be kept for long) and a sadist to boot, who managed to make all our lives miserable.

We had a stepbrother in his late teens, a jock who had little understanding of the bookish kids who’d suddenly invaded his home, traumatised as we were by the break-up of our parents’ marriage and our removal to a place which felt so alien and hostile. My stepsister was only 18 months older than me; we’d already met in Tasmania during what we now realised was our respective parents’ secret courtship. We got on very well, and she became my ally in the family, but she was away at boarding school in Melbourne most of the time. Like the rest of her family, though, she had no sympathy or understanding for my 11-year-old brother, who had a bed-wetting problem. He became the family scapegoat; I did my best to protect him but had little power to do so.

Dad was at first unwilling to believe that we were being badly treated; he thought we were just trying to drive a wedge between him and his new wife. We had to eat in my bedroom, at the desk where we did our homework, not with the rest of the family. So he didn’t see or believe the many times we were fed mouldy vegetables, or the broken glass we used to find in our food. We didn’t eat it of course; we used to throw it away surreptitiously. Yes, we did get hungry. We lived mainly on fruit. Grapes and oranges were the main crops in Sunraysia; there were always so many that a few weren’t missed. Then there was the time some of my favourite books went missing; after a few days she brought them to me, wrecked by dirt and rain, and said she’d found them under the hedge. “That naught little boy!” she said. My brother denied it of course, but was disbelieved and punished. We knew it was she who had done it. When my mother sent me a beautiful blue party dress to wear to the school social, it disappeared mysteriously.  Some time later my stepsister told me she had seen it in a Salvation Army jumble sale. Again, we knew the culprit but were far too cowed to say anything.

It took me a very long time afterwards to realise that my step-siblings had also been traumatised by the early death of their beloved father, and their mother’s descent into alcoholism and madness. My stepsister confided in me that while they were still quite young children they had sat down together to try and plot a way to murder her, but couldn’t think of anything foolproof. They must have been shocked by her sudden marriage to a very different kind of man from their father. He had been a man’s man, an outdoorsy type, as well as a highly successful businessman. My father was “one of the boys” with his mates in Launceston, but he had a crippled leg with a pronounced limp, from an accident when he was 10, and couldn’t engage in sports. He was a gentle man who loved reading and thinking, the arts, and left-wing politics. He had been a successful car salesman in Tasmania but the conditions were very different in Sunraysia and he didn’t keep his new job. He tried selling insurance for a while, hating it, and ended up being kept by his wife in return for being gardener, handyman, chauffeur and errand boy. His stepchildren gained some respect for him over the years, for his own qualities; he and his stepson even became fond of each other – but by then my brother and I were long gone.

I got into the University of Melbourne and moved to Pascoe Vale in Melbourne to stay with my beloved Aunty Ev and Uncle Tom, Dad's youngest brother and his wife. My little brother came too, and started school in Pascoe Vale. My stepmother didn’t want him around any more, especially if I wasn’t there to look after him; and Dad just wanted to get him away from a place where he was unhappy and unsafe.

It was a lot of travelling for me every day. While I was still a student, I moved into the Salvation Army Hostel in Spring St., Melbourne, and from there to a rented house in Nicholson St., Carlton shared with two other girls I met at the hostel. One was working, the other was also a student. We couldn't keep paying rent during the long vacation when I went home to Tasmania (still "home", you'll note) and the other student to her family. So we split up, and when I came back to Melbourne the following year it was with my dear cousin Anne who had found work there. We boarded in Caulfield in the home of a lovely woman called Mrs Duncan, a widow with a student daughter, who had two other young women boarding there as well. She was like another Mum to us all.

I left Mrs. Duncan's when I got married the first time. PostieHubby and I moved into a little corner of an old mansion called Quat Quatta in Ripponlea. The rest of it was used as a reception rooms and we sometimes tried to sleep to loud strains of "Hava Nageela" but the rest of the time it was very private. Cold, though, and after a few months we shifted to Lambeth Ave Armadale where we occupied half a house - the left side. An elderly couple lived in the right. That ended when we split up. I went into a unit in Balaclava and he moved to Sydney.

When things got serious with the man who was to become FishyHubby, we first moved into a flat in Bay St., Brighton, opposite the library where I worked, then bought a house  in Balcombe Rd. Beaumaris. A few years later, with two little boys sharing a bedroom, and having acquired a teenage foster-son as well, we found a bigger place in McNaught St Beaumaris, and lived there until the same little boys were both university students. The foster-son had moved out some time previously during his own student days. As someone later said, our other two kids didn't leave home, home left them.  Time for them to find share accommodation with other students, as FishyHubby and I decided to move to the country. It was a property at a tiny place called Three Bridges, near Yarra Junction and Warburton, in the hills east of Melbourne.  At first we shared the house with another couple, whose idea it had been in the first place, but by the time they were due to put some money in, they had decided they didn’t like country life after all - which was just as well, as by then we had decided we didn’t like them after all!  So then it was all ours and so was the mortgage. After four interesting years there, we were bankrupt, separated, and living singly back in Melbourne. First I stayed with a very dear poet friend in Kew. She was much older than me, and looked after me well during those difficult days, but it was only ever meant as a temporary, transitional measure. Then I shared a rented house in Elsternwick with another dear poet friend whose own relationship had just broken up too, leaving her with a school-age son and a new baby daughter. And there I was during my divorce from FishyHubby, and meeting and starting to date the one who is now WriterHubby. Eventually I moved in with him at his little old flat on the border of Hawthorn and South Yarra. Later we found a nicer one in Brighton, though still quite small,  and were living there when we got married.

A year after our marriage we decided to move to northern New South Wales and have been living around Murwillumbah ever since except for a brief excursion to the Gold Coast. We first rented for 12 weeks, a house that was a converted shed (quite common in these parts) at a tiny place called North Pumpenbil, somewhat off the beaten track. We knew that was temporary. The landlady was moving up from Sydney to live in it herself after that 12 weeks.

We found a wonderful house on Pinnacle Rd, between Pumpenbil and the historic village of Tyalgum. It had three bedrooms, panoramic views of the Border Ranges, and a big room for conducting Reiki seminars. The landlord’s marriage had broken up and he wanted to go travelling. After four and a half years he had found a new lady and wanted his house back. We were devastated – until we found an even better place at North Tumbulgum, a hill on the other side of Murwillumbah. That was a house on a horse stud. The owners also ran a swimming pool on the Gold Coast, and visited twice a day to attend to the horses. We just occupied the house, and enjoyed the trees and rolling paddocks, and the wild wallabies that often came to feed on the lawns. This one had four bedrooms, including another big seminar space.

After five years the landlords said their daughter was having trouble finding accommodation and they wanted to offer her the house. It took ages to find anywhere else; there just wasn’t much available. Finally we settled for a flat which had been a granny flat above a big house at Nobby’s Creek just outside of Murwillumbah. Both were now let separately; there was a young family downstairs. After we’d been there six months, the landlord, who lived in England, came to visit and decided he’d like to come to Australia more often and use his flat while he was here. Time to move again.

A friend invited us to share the house she was renting at Helensvale in the Gold Coast hinterland, rent-free in return for minding her 12-year-old daughter after school while the mother was at work.  We were six months there and then she kicked us out, prior to moving back to Melbourne herself. It had not proved a happy arrangement!

Luckily for us a friend in Pottsville Beach, on the coast east of Murwillumbah, had to break a lease on the large three-bedroom unit she was renting and asked us if we’d like to take it over. As soon as I saw it, I realised it was the one I’d been shown in my head for some time. And it had a nice big room for holding classes! We were there five and a half years until, last New Year’s Eve, the landlord decided he’d like to move back in along with his grown-up daughter.

We’re still in Pottsville Beach, in a smaller but nicer unit which we found quite quickly. (Same number of rooms apart from the extra bathroom, but each of them smaller than those where we were.) We’re still not fully unpacked and settled. It takes six months, people have been reminding us. It feels more urgent though, as we have now been advised by the Housing Department that since Writer Hubby turned 80 (in February) we are now high priority on the list for special housing, and it’s likely to be within the year. That’s good news in many ways, but I’d like to finish unpacking and enjoy this charming home as much as possible before we move on. The next house will be in the Murwillumbah area, hopefully close to the town centre, and we’ll get a 10-year lease. We’ve loved Pottsville but we’re quite looking forward to being closer to Murwillumbah again.