PROLOGUE from “A Spanish Love Affair”

 

 

         

Last night I dreamt I was in Madrid again.

 

As I make my way up the Gran Via, I can smell the sun hitting the pavement.   The aroma of strong coffee wafts out of sidewalk cafeterias.  The familiar dry, musty odour oozes from the vents of the magnificent old buildings lining the street.   Sculptures of angels and other winged creatures in carriages appear ready to launch from their rooves.

I am young again!

 

 

I tap my feet on the pavement and raise my arms in the air, clicking my fingers to the Flamenco music, belting out in my mind. I feel so alive, so rapturous, as if I am going to burst.

 

Later on, I wander through the Museo del Prado. As I enter each salon, my spirit soars when I gaze upon masterpiece after masterpiece – especially Titian’s generously proportioned women and Goya’s weary dark-robed penitents.

 

In the late afternoon, I tango up and down the length of the living room in our apartment in Chamatin, with Pedro leading me masterfully, held tightly in his arms while Carlos Gardell’s husky voice belts out his heartache.

When evening draws near I wander down the Calle de los Mesones in the old part of Madrid, where I eat the most delicious tapas and sip full-bodied Rioja. Afterwards, I dance at The Stones Club with all the boys I know, one after the other, moving to the beat, losing myself in the rhythm, singing the words of soul songs, long forgotten.

It is almost dawn when I walk up my street, General Oraa, clapping my hands for the Sereno to let me in. He emerges in a cloud of smoke from a nearby cafeteria and bustles self-importantly towards me with his huge bundle of keys to open the front door.

The hallway lights come on. The door on the first floor apartment opens revealing an old Senora, silhouetted in the doorway. She is wearing a quilted dressing gown and teeters on her high-heeled fluffy pink slippers. Her hair, sprouting large rollers, is covered by a chiffon scarf.  “Muy tarde, Senorita Susan.  Muy tarde.” She says tapping her watch.

 

 

                                                      

 

YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD TO DREAM

“WHATEVER YOU DO OR DREAM YOU CAN, BEGIN IT NOW, BOLDNESS HAS GENIUS POWER AND MAGIC IN IT. “ Goethe

Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again.  I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and the very best for 2018.

My Mother was right. She said that as you get older the years go by more quickly.  This year has flown by –  one minute it was January and now it’s Christmas Eve.  Whoosh!   It seemed that something was happening every minute – for me it’s been a year of ups and downs.   I’ll start with the ups.

 

“YOU’RE NEVER TO OLD TO HAVE A DREAM COME TRUE”

The big news is that finally after slogging it out down the coalmine for 10 years and sitting on my story for over 50, my book is just about to be published. In fact, if you are an electronic reader, it is now available on Kobo, Tolino, Apple, Barnes and Noble, OverDrive and Amazon.  However, if you are like me and would prefer to read a “real” book, then your own autographed copy will be possible somewhere between the middle and the end of January.   The publishing world, I have discovered, is hard to pin down.

 

As a former girl guide I am prepared for when the neighbours read “A Spanish Love Affair”.

My book has undergone a change of title. I think “A Spanish Love Affair” encapsulates the contents and story of my book better than the working title “Escape From Spain”.  Numerous other titles were considered.  Trust me.

I have already made my first speech about my book for a video for the Thomas Keneally Library. I felt honoured.  It is the oldest lending library in Australia having opened in 1833 so it is exciting to think that my book will be on its shelves.   Also, the other writers were impressive e.g. Thomas Keneally himself.  Wonder if he’s related to Christine?  You can look at the video below.  It’s only 7 minutes long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDZndXni-nM&t=475s

I’ve also been invited to speak at the Northern Beaches BookLovers’ Club at their March meeting.   So that’s exciting.  The date for my book launch has yet to be negotiated with my brother John Alexander, who will be the MC.  Now that he has been re-elected to Bennelong it will have to fit in with the parliamentary calendar but I will let you know as soon as the date is set.  I’m hoping it will be somewhere between my birthday on 23rd February and Mum’s on 19th March.  So I’ll be celebrating my birthday as well as launching my book.

I’ve really spent the major part of the year working on my book and now that’s it’s published I’m working on the marketing side which many writers say is harder than writing the book. (Couldn’t possibly be) Marketing these days is mostly done via Social Media which is not easy for someone like me who suffers from technophobia and is a luddite. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming when it comes to technology. Just ask my husband, Markus. I think this condition emanated from the time when I managed to wipe off all of the 1,000 tenants at Roy Ross’s real estate office in Manly.  Computers and I are just not on the same wave length.  But I’m pressing on.  As you can see above, I have a Website and a Facebook Page.  But it’s been a struggle.

 

I’ve done various courses this year – how to build your own Website. Got nowhere with it but luckily was recommended to Zena Shapter who has done a great job.  I also went to a course called Facebook For Business – in fact I’ve done this course twice – and the only thing I got out of it was a bad case of the flu, which I proceeded to give to my husband, Markus.  As you can imagine I wasn’t popular.

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Keneally Author’s Talk at Better Read than Dead Bookshop Newtown

 

As a first time writer I felt very privileged to be making this video about my upcoming Memoir “A Spanish Love Affair”.  I would like to thank the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts and the Thomas Keneally Library for their assistance.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Thomas Keneally Library, it is the oldest lending library in Australia, opening in 1833.  It is situated at 280 Pitt Street and as well as a fabulous collection of books and reading spaces,  has a beautiful coffee shop for members.

Thank you also to YoungPhil Jang for his encouragement and for filming this video.

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I would also like to thank the Better Read Than Dead Bookshop in Newtown for allowing us to film this video at their premises.

I started playing tennis at 7 – mainly on the loam court in the backyard of our home at Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches – death matches between my brother John Alexander, who went on to become World Number 4, and I, who hovered somewhere between 60 and 80.  It was a bit hard to tell exactly because there were no computer rankings at that time.  Ours were hard fought, volatile matches.  My father sat on the umpire stand trying to keep peace.

I won my first tournament at 11 – the N.S.W. Hardcourt Championships at Canterbury Bankstown and went on to win many Junior and Country long weekend tournaments during my teenage years.

Narrowly avoiding an early marriage to my “country cousin” fiancée, at 18 I left Australia to play on the glamorous European Tennis Circuit.  Between 1967 and 1973 I played in Wimbledon twice and won 30 singles and 25 doubles tournaments. However I must confess, unlike my brother, I ‘majored in the minors’ – preferring to play tournaments in beautiful, interesting and exotic locations rather than in the top tournaments.

My Memoir is written in two narratives.  One in the form of vignettes which I’ve placed between each chapter – snippets of my idyllic childhood growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  This all changed when I was 11 and was sexually abused by my 19 year old tennis coach.

This is how it started:-   “I’m in love”

My tennis coach and I go for a walk on the beach.  There’s no-one else around.  He takes my hand and squeezes it.  Shivers go up my arm.  He touches my shoulder.  Electric shocks race around my body.  He pulls me towards him.  His body is hard.  I can feel every part of him.  He kisses me.  My whole body trembles.  I desperately want something to happen but don’t know what it is.  I turn my face towards him and smile.

The main narrative follows my journey from Narrabeen, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, to playing on the centre court at Wimbledon, in Monte Carlo, Casa Blanca, St Moritz, the Italian Riviera, Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian and Rome as well as behind the Iron Curtain in the then Yugoslavia and Romania, totally oblivious of the dictators Tito, Ceausescu as I was of Franco in Spain.

to be continued…..

 

 

 

 

The Alexander Family

I find the recent controversy about dual citizenship which has disrupted the normal business of parliament in a country where we are all immigrants,  even the aboriginal people (although they do have 50,000 years under their belts) ridiculous.  I have felt it more keenly than most due to my personal involvement with my brother, John Alexander,  having to resign from parliament because there is a distinct possibility that he may be a dual citizen, our father having arrived in Australia aged 4, 106 years ago.

You may be interested to read an excerpt from “A Spanish Love Affair”.

Chapter 2

 

   THE ALEXANDER FAMILY

When it comes to parents, my siblings and I won the lottery. Mum told me that when she and Dad decided to get married, the only thing they both really wanted was to have a happy family. Both had experienced difficult childhoods.

 

Dad’s side of the family had arrived in Australia in 1911. My grandfather, John Alexander had been transferred here with Burt, Boulton and Harward, London timber merchants. Florence May, my grandmother, had studied piano at the London Conservatorium of Music. Later she had worked as a secretary at Burt, Boulton and Harward’s London office, which is where  the couple had met. They came to Australia with their three young sons, Jack 6, my father, Gilbert 4 and James 2 .

They were an ill-matched pair. Grandfather John  was a dapper man who had his suits made in Saville Row and his shoes sent out from Italy. He managed to avoid the domestic scene as much as possible by taking extended overseas business trips to England and America. Florence, who no doubt found herself in a cultural wilderness in Sydney, was left to keep the home fires burning, for which from all accounts, she was totally unsuited and very unhappy. Her fourth child, Robert was born five months after they arrived in Australia. From then on , she spent most of her time in bed, I believe to avoid any further patter of little feet, until her husband died suddenly one afternoon, of a heart attack at the age of 44, after a game of golf. Dad and his brothers were mainly brought up by an English nanny they all loved dearly. Florence, who was one of ten children, must have been very lonely here in Australia. Although Grandfather John managed to flit back and forth to England on a regular basis, she only managed to go back much later when her youngest son, Robert, attended Harrow College.

 

 

Synchronicity – An Amazing Coincidence

I love everything about Spain – the people, the way of life, the music, the wonderful food and wine, the magnificent landscape, the beautiful buildings, both old and new, the bridges, ancient Roman to spectacular modern structures spanning lush valleys replete with the engineer’s name emblazoned at each end, the art – everything – except for bull fighting – it is definitely not for me.

I am soft-hearted when it comes to animals. In fact, I gave up eating meat as a young girl when Mum, who was a country girl, told me that the little lambs gambolling around the fields and the sad-eyed calves peering at me from behind the fence would soon be gracing my dinner plate. I told her they would not, and they never have. Continue reading Synchronicity – An Amazing Coincidence