There are only a few remaining tickets for my talk at the Mona Vale Library on Tuesday 22nd. And I’m so excited to be able to share my story. Me modelling a Fred Perry dress at the Hurlingham Garden Party – Lea Pericola, Italian tennis player famous for swirling to defeat in a Teddy Tinling creation and for lobbing every ball.At Queens with George Blue – he and his wife were our English parents and endeavoured to keep Sandie and I in check – without much success I’m afraid.I was renowned for playing in tournaments in beautiful, exotic and interesting locations but Antigua took the cake. I can remember sipping the biggest pino colada you could ever imagine on a huge balcony overlooking the sea while listening to reggae. My idea of heaven! Unfortunately, the Half Moon Bay Hotel was completely destroyed in a cyclone otherwise it would be on my Bucket List – right at the top.
On the middle Saturday of the tournament, my brother, John, and I are set down to play on the centre court against Margaret Court and Marty Reissen. John is touring in the Davis Cup team managed by Harry Hopman and this is the first time we’ve played at the same tournament since Palermo.
Although we are the next match on, and have been duly instructed where to wait, I am the only one who is sitting on the hard, board seats in the small room behind the centre court. The other more experienced players and my brother, who no doubt has been counselled by Harry Hopman, remain in the comfort of the change rooms until the very last moment. Unfortunately this gives me too much time for my already shattered nerves to kick in, especially as right above the doorway leading out to the centre court are the lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem:
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.”
Triumph I can handle easily. It is Disaster that is my main concern.
I find it hard to believe that I am about to play on the hallowed Wimbledon turf, the scene of so many long and torrid battles fought by past champions. As a young girl growing up, I dreamt of this moment, as I’d lain sprawled on my parents’ bed, sipping hot, sweet tea and listening to crackly radio broadcasts from Wimbledon in the early hours of the morning. Now I am here and it is about to happen.
When the others arrive and I stand up to go out on the court, I can’t feel my knees. They’ve completely gone to jelly. Nor, as hard as I try, can I get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation. They are running wild. I make the mistake of looking up at the stands, which are full to overflowing with people. They shimmer in the afternoon sun, appearing to rise out of the ground, almost perpendicularly. I pray fervently to the god of all tennis players that I will play my best, not let my partner down, or worst of all make a fool of myself. I step gingerly forward, desperately wishing that I was a turtle and could just disappear into my shell.
John advises me to lob every ball and the tactic works. We lose but only just. The good part is that as only the third brother and sister combination in the history of Wimbledon we are the underdogs and thus the crowd favourites. We are cheered loudly every time we win a point. Mum will certainly be very proud and happy as it has always been her dream for John and me to play mixed doubles on the centre court at Wimbledon.
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.
“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.
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.
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.