Happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year

We are currently in Margaret River, which I love and could easily move into one of the lovely little cottages down Willmott Street – just a short walk to the river and the National Park with so many beautiful bush tracks and a couple of minutes the other way to the village which has lots of interesting shops. We are experiencing unseasonably hot weather. My research indicated that the weather at this time of the year is normally 25 – 27 but yesterday it reached 40. I spent most of my day sitting in the van with the air con on. Today smoke was in the air as the West Coast fire season kicked off. I will be developing a fire evacuation procedure in case we have to leave one of our camping sites in a hurry. I just hope if such a situation eventuates, we’ll have time to pack the wine and that bottle of French Champagne which Markus bought on Black Friday.

 

As this will be our last camping trip, before Markus sells the  van, we’ve decided to make the most of it and won’t be home until mid-May. It will be the first Christmas I haven’t spent in Narrabeen with family and friends for over 40 years and they will be sorely missed. But here we are in Margaret River, WA just about as far away from home as you can get without going overseas. Denmark, Esperance, Albany and Augusta all beckoned however, Christmas this year will be in Myalup, the only place we could find to stay after making more than 30 phone calls. All the best spots are booked a year in advance we were told.

Markus and I have been on the road for 8 months already. The time has just flown – so many interesting places to see and explore. Australia is such an amazing place and our history is so fascinating although somehow, they succeeded in making it deadly boring at school.

I’ve been keeping a journal every day which will no doubt be invaluable when I sit down to write “The Reluctant Camper”. I’m not such a reluctant camper these days as I’ve learnt to adapt and adjust. I’ve also been working on “Another Spanish Love Affair” the sequel to “A Spanish Love Affair”. We will be home for a year from May and I intend to really put my head down during that period in order to satiate the curiosity of my readers about what happened next. I’ve also typed up the notes for “Walking the Camino Backwards”which I took while walking the Camino le la Mozarabe in 2014.

I’ve had a wonderful year of reading – I brought 17 books with me and have knocked the lot of them off. However, I’ve managed to pick up some very interesting ones at the various book exchanges at the camp sites – Judy Nunn’s “Floodtide” which is set in WA in the late 70’s early 80’s, “Fraud” by Anita Brookner one of my favourite writers and “Proof” by Dick Francis one of my Dad’s favourite writers which I didn’t think I’d like because they have a racing background but that particular one also has a wine background. My two favourites reads from the books I brought with me have been “Sapiens; A Brief History of Mankind” recommended by Markus and “Captain Cook” by Peter Fitzsimmons, the latter I haven’t been able to put down. Leigh Sales book “Any Ordinary Day” came in at a close third.

We’ve had our trials and tribulations with both the car and the van. We got stuck in Cairns for a month, after having been towed there from Georgetown, waiting for parts to come out from Germany for the Toureg.   We then had to hotfoot it over the top of Australia (7,000 k’s in 10 days) due to the extreme heat – over 41 degrees. Such a shame as we both love the “red dirt” part of Australia and had hoped to do the Gibb River Road again. Then the tyre on the van shredded a couple of 100 k’s out of Exmouth. Fortunately, a young bloke stopped and helped Markus change the tyre.

Once we turned the corner and got down to one of our favourite camp spots Barn Hill Station, the weather became more reasonable. We loved it again at Kalbarri but unfortunately were too late for the wildflowers. Markus fell in love with Geraldton, especially a top floor unit overlooking the harbour until he heard about the Strata Levies, but the wind drove me berserk. I couldn’t keep my hat on and when I took it off my fine hair stood on end. It looked like a hairstyle I had in my late twenties when I had a very adventurous gay hairdresser. Not such a good look for a 70 year old.

We both loved Mandurah and I really like Margaret River and if we were younger we’d probably move over here. Markus loves the lack of humidity, they’ve just introduced euthanasia in WA which might prove handy in the future, the natural wonders here are just fabulous, there’s only 2,500,000 people in the whole of western Australia which is a third of Australia in size, the people are more laid back, no traffic even in Perth, the roads are excellent and there’s lots of very clean public toilets where ever you go.

I wish you a very happy Christmas and the best year ever in 2020, the start of a new decade.

 

THE STORY OF A LITTLE BROWN FIELD MOUSE

 

A little brown field mouse raced across the back of my chair last night

I got such a surprise I screamed out loud in fright

Markus said it was all in my mind

That it was a moth or a cockroach or something of that kind

 

It was definitely a mouse I saw I insisted

Not a figment of my imagination – it really existed

He must have hitched a ride from Woomeral Station Retreat

Somehow stowed himself away in our van – no mean feat.

 

It was a decision that little brown field mouse will regret without doubt

Markus was hot on his trail, although that little fellow gave him the run about

That little critter led him a merry dance up and down the camper van

Before disappearing behind the toilet pan

 

We don’t really know where he went but as there was no smell the next day

He obviously didn’t get caught in the vent

And fortunately managed to get away

 

I wonder what that little brown field mouse will do in Kilbarri.?

 

 

ANOTHER SPANISH LOVE AFFAIR

Hullo everyone,  I thought I’d just give you an update.

 

For those of your who have read “A Spanish Love Affair” I know you are anxious to know what happened next. I did leave you all with a cliff-hangar. Lots happened after that trust me.  While I’m writing the sequel I really can’t believe all the things I did.  I often ask myself “Did I really do that?”

No doubt you will be pleased to hear that I’m currently working on the sequel – the working title is “Another Spanish Love Affair” and I’m doing a Tim Winton by writing “Walking the Camino Backwards” at the same time.

In 2014 I walked the Camino de la Mozarabe which goes between Sevilla and Compostuela.  As you notice from the title I walked it backwards – starting from Compostuela and ending in Sevilla.  I religiously kept a journal every morning while I walked which I’ve now transferred onto my computer.

Although I’m keeping these two books separate for the time being, I may well end up putting them together in the one book as the stories do merge.  While walking the Camino I met up with Pedro in Leon.  Markus and I had lunch with him twice.  At this stage I’m not sure if I’ll combine them. I am not an organised writer. My books are not a planned affair. I let them develop organically then edit. It’s how my brain works.

I’m currently on the road in a Kimberley Camper traveling anti-clockwise around Australia gathering plenty of material for a third book “The Reluctant Camper”. I do find that being on the road is hard for me as a writer. I like the routine I’ve developed at home where after my morning walk, I make a cup of tea then sit down at my desk to write. But routine has to be put to one side when you’re on the move otherwise you may as well stay at home. There’s just so much to see and do.  Also, everything you do when you camp, is hard work and takes more time e.g. the laundry, the washing up, having a shower or even going to the loo which sometimes 300 plus steps away. Fortunately, I find discovering and exploring new places stimulates my creative juices. I just have to be firm with myself about making time to write.

When I’m writing I do also prefer to have all my things around me. At home I am indeed fortunate to have a lovely “room of my own” overlooking my beloved garden in Narrabeen. Along one wall I have a bookshelf full of books and on the back wall, a huge floor to ceiling cupboard full of files, both of which I like to refer to. I also prefer to work on my desktop computer rather than my laptop. It has a larger keyboard. It also has heaps of stuff on it that I can refer to. I know there are technical options for the latter but unfortunately technology and I aren’t a happy marriage. We think on completely different wave lengths.

Putting all the above aside I think I’m doing rather well. Every morning, without fail, I journal about our trip. These notes no doubt will be invaluable when I eventually sit down to write “The Reluctant Camper”.

I’ve also persuaded my husband to take an extra day at each place so I can write but I haven’t done too well over the last two weeks in Perth, where I saw the Finals of the Federation Cup and now, Fremantle.  There have been just too many things to see and do.

 

The Reluctant Camper

 

THE RELUCTANT CAMPER

I didn’t go camping as a child.    Neither of my parents liked the idea of camping. They both preferred to take their holidays at one of those ancient guest houses with rattling windows and a shared bathroom at the end of a lino hall, where three meals were served each day in the dining room, so Mum could have a rest from the cooking, and a maid could be bribed to bring an early morning cup of tea to my parents in bed. And preferably a tennis court.

Dad, who was English, very much believed in the theory that “a change of air” was beneficial to one’s health and as we lived on the beach at Narrabeen, we spent our annual holiday, usually in May, in either the Blue Mountains or the Southern Highlands. Horse riding was always de rigueur.  Another of his theories was that it was good for girls in particular.

When Markus and I set off on our first camping trip in a hired t-van,  which turned out to be a disaster but more about that later, the only previous camping experience I’d had camping was when my brother received a small tent for Christmas.  It was blue and had the head of an American Indian replete with feather head-dress on one side. It was rather a strange present in my opinion. Unlike many Australian families, we’d never been on camping trips in the school holidays.

With the help of Mum and Dad, mostly Mum because Dad definitely was not handy, we set the tent up in the back garden between the tennis court and the old fig tree. Much to our parents’ surprise, John and I told them we planned to sleep in it that very night.  Mum and Dad tried to dissuade us from this pursuit. They thought daytime camping more suitable for our age group – I was 7 and John was 5 – but we managed to finally persuade them to allow us.

After dinner we crawled in.  The tent was very basic. It didn’t have a ground sheet and you couldn’t stand up in it. In fact we could hardly sit up straight. It was still fairly light but as it started to get dark, we began to get scared. There were strange noises just outside the tent. Some moths and other bugs joined us attracted by the light of the small torch we’d brought with us. Then the mosquitos attacked. The ground underneath our sleeping bags got harder by the minute.

John and I had planned to spend the whole night there but only lasted a couple of hours before the comfort level deteriorated to such an extent that neither of us could sleep.  Shamefacedly, we hot-footed it back to the house and our warm, comfortable beds.

And surprisingly, that tent disappeared, never to be sighted again.

 

 

 

 

 

“ME TOO”

 

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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”.