One of he most exciting things for a writer, after all the hard slog of writing a book, is to have people reading it. This year I have sold books in England, including to the All England Club at Wimbledon, France, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, the U.S and just recently India. How good is that?
I have been traveling around Australia in a Kimberley Karavan with my husband – one of his dreams. Definitely not mine. I keep a journal every morning for my third book “Diary of a reluctant camper”. I’ve certainly lots of material. We didn’t camp as children. Perhaps that is why camping doesn’t come naturally to me.
I haven’t been doing any speeches about “A Spanish Love Affair” this year since the Travelview speech at the Newport Motor Yacht club in April but have 4 booked already for when I get back at the end of April next year.
I’ve been working hard on the sequel to “A Spanish Love Affair” which at the moment has a working title of “Another Spanish Love Affair”. It will be good to have a whole year at home to be able to put some solid work on both my books with all the things I need at hand and not having to keep packing everything away. As you can imagine it is difficult working on the road but we are certainly having an amazing trip.
I sat on what happened for over 50 years. I had to think long and hard about whether I would include it in my recently published Memoir – “A Spanish Love Affair”. But as it has had such a profound effect on my life, I decided I would.
“When I gaze at the old black and white photo, I feel very sad. I am 11 and still a child. I am in love. I feel just like I do as an adult. But I am not ready for love – nor especially the aftermath. When my tennis coach dumps me for a 14 year-old who wears pancake make-up and goes all the way. I am heartbroken.” Excerpt from “A Spanish Love Affair”.
I often wonder what I would have been like if I hadn’t been sexually abused by my tennis coach when I was 11 – which of my personality traits are mine – and which are as a result of the abuse?
When it happened, it felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath my feet. At the time I was enjoying a typical Northern Beaches childhood of sun, surf and tennis – lots of tennis mainly “death matches” against my brother John on the beautiful loam court at our home in Narrabeen. I was a well-behaved child and did well at school – always in the top 2 in the class. Then disaster struck.
In my case it wasn’t so much the sex part, although I have never felt all that comfortable about penis’s since my tennis coach aimed his erect member in my direction behind the tennis shed and told me I wouldn’t get pregnant because I hadn’t had my periods yet – it was the loss of confidence when I found out that the “grooming” which he undertook leading up to the abuse was nothing to do with love – the emotional turmoil and heartbreak it caused – the loss of innocence – the sexualisation of my childhood before time. I had to struggle through it on my own. I didn’t dare tell my parents. I knew if I did all hell would break loose. Dad would have killed the perpetrator.
That’s me in the back row third from the left
My life changed dramatically – I rebelled totally. I smoked, developed an eating disorder, I ate erratically and put on weight, sprouted pimples, attacked my hair with scissors and peroxide, disassociated from friends, misbehaved at school, didn’t do my homework, couldn’t concentrate, was grumpy, moody, generally obnoxious and hard to get on with. I became a loner. I didn’t trust anyone – myself in particular.
I always wonder why my parents didn’t pick up on it. They attributed my change of behaviour to “teenage blues” and “puberty” or perhaps some kind of health problem. They even took me for a medical examination. Unfortunately, no-one probed. If anyone had got anywhere near asking me the right question, I would have broken down and told them what had happened. But never in their wildest dreams would it have dawned on my parents because I was always right under their watchful eye. Or so they thought.
Unfortunately, my change in behaviour fell through the cracks at school too because the abuse happened in 6th class finishing just before the end of the year. Somehow, I still managed to come 3rd in the class and my school report didn’t indicate that there was anything amiss – my behaviour hadn’t noticeably deteriorated despite the upheaval. However, the next year things went downhill fast. I couldn’t cope at all. In the half yearly I came 26th and by the end of 2nd year I came 44th out of 45.
In 5th class, I’d dreamt of becoming a Doctor although Mum put the kybosh on that saying that I’d get married and have a family so it would be a waste doing all that study. After the abuse all dreams of my future disappeared. I tried just to make it through each moment of each day.
I was lucky I played tennis. Tennis and had a very stable family life with loving parents and routine allowed me to pull through to a certain extend – at least not go completely off the rails.
I was also fortunate that I was good at tennis because it gave me a certain amount of self-esteem when every other part of my life had fallen apart. All the practice in the morning before school, in the afternoons, comp and inter-district on weekends, country tournaments on long weekends and junior championships during the school holidays also kept me busy – less time to dwell. It was only in those lonely hours at night alone in my bedroom that all my despair engulfed me. I clung to my ever-faithful Teddy and cried until in the end there were no tears left.
I’m a loner. I don’t like to get too close to people or see them too often. I found traveling with my tennis partners very difficult bordering on claustophobic and felt a certain relief when each chose to return home.
I like being by myself. I enjoy solitude.
I don’t like groups. I find them hard to navigate.
I enjoy being with people but in small doses and not too often. I am a mixture of an introvert and an extrovert although the former tends to dominate in recent times.
I look at people out with their friends having coffee, going away for weekends in a group, attending large public events or on a cruise and shudder.
Would I have been like them if I hadn’t been abused?
Would I have been so impulsive, adventurous even foolhardy if I wasn’t abused? Would I have fallen in and out of love with such frequency? Would I have chosen such unsuitable partners? Would I have been a better Mother?
What kind of career would I have chosen? Neither tennis or real estate were my choices but fortunately I enjoyed aspects of them both. What I love is writing and performing.
Would I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue?
It’s taken me a long time to acquire the stability I now have. I have had a lot of ‘struggle’ which I only became more aware of just how much I struggled when I read through some of my old journals.
I am amazed that I managed to make it.
Every cloud has a silver lining and probably what has seen me through is the resilience and strength I developed at a young age by having to deal with what happened.
And has all the creativity that continually insists on being expressed emanate from being sexually abused?
The Japanese say “Out of misery comes creativity”.
What a year! It has been the best year for a long while. AN ABSOLUTE STANDOUT!
Finally publishing “A Spanish Love Affair” in late December 2017, a story I sat on for more than 50 years and took 10 years to write, was an absolute KNOCKOUT. So 2018 started off with a bang with THE LAUNCH at the Long Reef Gold Club in February. If I do say so myself, it was a ripsnorter. A marvellous lot of very special people from all the different areas in my life – especially my old tennis mates – many of whom I hadn’t seen for more than 40 years and who travelled a long way to attend, a fabulous venue overlooking the beach, great food and service, WOW!
What a shame Mum and Dad aren’t still alive. They would have loved it. They would also have been very impressed that my book is available to borrow in all the Northern Beaches Libraries and that I was invited to speak at the Mona Vale Library. Not bad for an early school drop-out. And no, contrary to my teachers’ opinions that I would live to regret the day – the answer is NO, like Edit Piaf – NO REGRETS!
Dad, if he were still alive, would no doubt have been busy telling everyone in Narrabeen about “A Spanish Love Affair”, although he may have wanted a refund from SCEGGS when he read some of the chapters.
In March, I had the honour to speak at my Book Club, the Northern Beaches Booklovers and in May at the Mona Vale Library. Subsequently, I have spoken to various community groups and to the Westpac Bank in the city. All so very exciting! I love speaking about my book.
In February, 2019 I will be speaking at the GLOBAL SWAP Convention in Surfer’s Paradise and the Ladies Lunch at the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay in Newport.
Just recently I received the news that WIMBLEDON have purchased a copy of “A Spanish Love Affair” for their library. They may get a surprise when they read it. And the Australia Tennis Magazine has just advised that they are interested in featuring a review in a future issue. How good is that?
But the best part has been that all different kinds of people have read and enjoyed it – a lot of people stop me on the street to tell me they’re reading my book. How good is that? Others tell me they haven’t read a book in years until they read “A Spanish Love Affair” which is music to my ears. I sincerely hope that they will go on to read lots of other books.
I have now started writing the SEQUEL, which everyone is waiting with bated breath for as you will know if you have read “A Spanish Love Affair” it finishes on a cliff hanger. I am trying to get the first draft done before Markus and I leave for our long camping trip (9 months) around Australia next year in early April, so I can work on it while we’re on the road. But as everyone warned me, marketing a book is just as hard, if not harder, than writing it and takes up so much time. Each speech I make is for a different demographic and is a different length so I have to go back to the drawing board each time.
Some writers hate talking about their book. But not me! I love it. Having sat on my story for 50 years, then slogged it out for over 10 years writing it, I’m absolutely busting to share my story.
Last Monday I spoke at the Miranda Probus at the Sylvania Bowling Club. Rather than battle the peak hour traffic we decided to spend the night at Cronulla. My last visit there was quite some time ago – I was 14 on a sleepover at the Catlow sisters. They were Americans and way ahead of the rest of us – they both knew how to dress and wear makeup. What’s more they were ahead of us in life experience – both having actually kissed a boy. Needless to say we all hung on every word over that weekend.
The members of Miranda Probus were a very receptive audience. Although my speech was an hour long, no-one went to sleep. And contrary to general public opinion, that poetry is old hat, they all loved my poem:-
An Unexpected Visitor
We had a most unexpected visit In the middle of the night Something scrabbling and scraping It seemed with all its might
A possum had taken a wrong step Down the chimney on our roof And made a grand entrance in the fireplace In a manner most uncouth
He then led us a merry race Running up and down the room With Markus in hot pursuit With the big old garden broom
It was certainly amazing how quickly That possum managed to flee But he must have know who was after him Because it was on Markus’s side of the bed he stopped to wee
Eventually he was cornered Markus threw a towel on top The possum must have been exhausted Because all he did was flop
Markus then carried him outside Where he promptly raced up the nearest tree I bet he’ll be more careful next time He’s anywhere near a chimney
My husband and I are currently traveling around Australia. If you meet us on the road we have copies of “A Spanish Love Affair” with us so you can buy direct a personally autographed copy direct from us.
If you read electronically:- Amazon.com.au (Australia), Amazon.com (US), Kobo, Tolino, Apple, Barnes and Noble and OverDrive
On line paperback version:- Book Depository, Booktopia and Amazon.com.au
It is now in stock at:- Narrabeen Newsagency 1340 Pittwater Road, Narrabeen