A Wee Bit of Background

I am a bookworm from way back. The heights of my physical prowess were riding my scooter down Collingwood Street hill in Auckland and climbing a tree in my aunt's backyard. It was infested with cast-off shells of wetas and I remember screaming until someone got me down. My First Holy Communion photo suggests I was a nice little girl. It was hard to be bad when you went to the convent school.

I loved school. I loved translating Latin and declining French verbs. I loved writing essays. How happily I composed my story on The Adventure of a Penny!  My one act play, Farmer Brown's Ghost, was the funniest show in town. And when my story The Christmas Brownies got published in Zealandia, I was over the moon. I was a lazy, happy piano student and learned ballet.  My sister Philippa and I had to have tutus for the recital. Mum said we couldn't afford them so my father made them out of sharkskin and yards and yards of tulle net spread along the hallway. I also had a Grecian maiden outfit, lime green, with shiny stripes and a garland of tinsel. I gave up ballet once I found it was harder than floating ethereally in a gauzy frock.

Nursing appealed and I joined the student intake at the Mater, Auckland, for a year. Romance and tonsillitis kept interfering with my motivation; my boyfriend and I fought the parents tooth and claw to be allowed to marry when we were eighteen. Before I could turn around, there was a new house, kittens, cocker spaniels, babies, a children's book, short stories, a novel...until my husband's job took us to Fiji and, later on, New Guinea. I'm not a tropical flower. The heat sapped the life out of me and the loneliness wasn't all that great. But there were invaluable experiences too. For a few weeks I travelled as a reporter with the Drama group from Port Moresby's Creative Arts Centre. Out in the backblocks, our truck got bogged while unfriendly semi-naked villagers came to watch, leaning on their spears.  Distinctly challenging. On that trip I discovered I wasn't such a wilting flower.

Where to now? There is a tarot card called The Tower; a sinister picture of little figures crying out in fear as they topple from a great height. The Queen refers to her annis horribilis. So do I. One by one my children were leaving home and the family fell apart. In 1985, on a night lit by a pit of red-hot coals, I did a firewalk and got a tiny blister, showing myself I can probably survive anything. Soon I headed for Australia to stay with friends in Newcastle. I had a mattress on the floor and a suitcase and a lot of stuff stored back in NZ, where I would be returning after a year. In my finest prose I will explain why, 20 years later, I'm still in Australia. A lot happened. I'm remarried, writing books, reading, teaching music - studying the writer's craft too.  There's always so much to learn. Funny, that. I don't know whether I belong with New Zealand authors or Australian authors but it doesn't matter. I don't mind much about categories. As far as I'm concerned I'm a citizen of both countries and my ties to my NZ and my Australian families are equal. The Tasman Sea? It's only a teacup of water!


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