My Picture Story Book of England – Part 1, Staying with Friends in East Kent

After a week of unstable Internet access it appears a window of opportunity has opened up, so I am taking advantage of it to put together a pictorial montage to summarise our month in England.

Waiting to board our Cathay Pacific flight from Sydney to Hong Kong on 10th September. Note the Flying Kangaroo tail fins of Qantas in the background. We were lucky enough to fly Premium Economy on Cathay, but unfortunately couldn't justify the extra expense of using Australia's National Carrier.

Waiting to board our Cathay Pacific flight from Sydney to Hong Kong on 10th September. Note the Flying Kangaroo tail fins of Qantas in the background. We were lucky enough to fly Premium Economy on Cathay, but unfortunately couldn’t justify the extra expense of using Qantas – still regarded as Australia’s national carrier.

Meet one week old Hudson, born in England as we were arriving at Heathrow. He is the first child to our "almost" grand-daughter, S, who stayed in Australia with us regularly in her back-packing days. She'd emailed us the night before our arrival to advise not to visit her immediately as she was feeling a "bit off". I had responded that it "would be nothing a Tim-Tam couldn't fix." The next day S had 9lb3oz worth of baby son, and we turned up a few days later with six packets of the Australian chocolate coated biscuit which is  a favourite comfort food of hers.

Meet one week old Hudson, born in England as we were landing at Heathrow. He is the first child to our “almost” daughter, S, who stayed in Australia with us regularly in her back-packing days. She’d emailed us the night before our arrival to advise not to visit her immediately as she was feeling a “bit off”. I had responded that it “would be nothing a Tim-Tam couldn’t fix.” The next day S had 9lb3oz worth of baby son, and we turned up a few days later with six packets of the Australian chocolate coated biscuit which is a favourite comfort food of hers.

At the beach hut of our English "family" in Minnis Bay, Thanet, Kent. Bill managed to get sunburnt just sitting outside for a couple of hours. Even though mid-September, England was enjoying an Indian Summer

At the beach hut of our English “family” in Minnis Bay, Thanet, Kent. Bill managed to get sunburnt just sitting outside for a couple of hours. Even though mid-September, England was enjoying an Indian Summer

Playing Petanque (aka boules) with more of the English family, at Ickham, a country village in Kent

Playing Petanque (aka boules) with more of the English family, at Ickham, a country village in Kent

We had a day trip to London with part of the English family. We drove up from Thanet, parked near Blackheath, had a walk through the park across to Greenwich, gathering conkers on the way (‘A’ says they repel spiders so she keeps a few in the bedroom), then took the fast boat up to the Tower of London. We wandered along the riverside up to the Tate Modern and had an hour or so looking at the artwork there before returning via the fast boat and Greenwich walk. There is a staircase near the Greenwich Observatory which is a steep uphill climb at the end of a long day! Just a few photos from the many we took that day:

Poppies commemorating WWI at the Tower of London. In this part of the display, the poppies stream down the embankment like a river of blood

Poppies commemorating WWI at the Tower of London. In this part of the display, the poppies stream down the embankment like a river of blood

An unusual view of London St Paul's Cathedral as we walked across the Millenium Bridge

An unusual view of London St Paul’s Cathedral as we walked across the Millenium Bridge

I loved this Sculpture which decorated a courtyard of a restored warehouse along the Thames east London area. Reminiscent of something from a Jules Verne novel. Part boat, part carriage, made with "found" objects such as an old shower head

I loved this Sculpture which decorated a courtyard of a restored warehouse along the Thames east London area. Reminiscent of something from a Jules Verne novel. Part boat, part carriage, made with “found” objects such as an old shower head

We had a day trip to Duxford, part of the Imperial War Museums. We got an early start, as it was about two hours from where we were staying, and we wanted to see as much as possible. IWM Duxford is an operational airfield but it is also an open air museum of WWII air operations and aircraft. We spent about seven hours there all told and still didn’t see everything. Our first stop was to wander through the Concorde they have on display. Immense wingspan on a narrow fuselage which corresponds to a narrow seating area. Not a military aircraft of course, but significant enough to warrant a place in this aircraft museum. Most of the aircraft are displayed within massive hangers, and there are other hangers where repair and restoration take place. There was a Sunderland flying boat in one of the hangers, and then, as we were trailing our tired legs back to the exit, I spotted a Catalina outside, all on its lonesome. These craft are beginning to be an obsession of mine :-). Here is a small selection of photographs from the day.

The next day we went off on a day trip to site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. I can’t put up too many photos of this, as essentially it is a green field with placards which explain what part of the battle was taking place, and how it was proceeding. For all we know, the organisers could have stuck up these placards in any farmer’s field, but since the remains of an abbey are nearby, and history records that “William the Conqueror founded Battle Abbey a few years after his successful military invasion, out of gratitude for his victory and as a monument to the thousands who died there on 14th October 1066″, then we must trust English Heritage that we are in the right place. What we do not dispute is that a part of our Anglo-Saxon Australian heritage, no matter how minute, is linked to the events of this day. Also, I found the explanatory boards help bring the Bayeaux tapestry to life, and one can imagine the artisans working the tapestry as a blow-by-blow description of what transpired on that day.

This looks as if we are talking to each other on our mobile phones but in reality we are listening to the audio commentary on the Battle of Hastings

This looks as if we are talking to each other on our mobile phones but in reality we are listening to the audio commentary on the Battle of Hastings

On the way to Hastings/Battle, we drove around the Kentish coast, stopping at Deal, part of the Cinque ports. We walked out the coffee shop at the end of the pier, jutting many metres out into the sea. On a clear day, one can see France. At this time of the morning though, the drizzly mist (mizzle) was still burning off, and we could barely make out the pretty seafront of Deal itself. I am always astounded at how far the tide can ebb and flow in this part of the world.

Well, I am pushing my luck with the internet here, so will close off now and continue this story another day. My apologies to those who are still waiting for responses to comments on earlier blogs. Several times I have composed replies and then lose them when the internet shuts down. I always appreciate your feedback and will answer as soon as possible!

Farewell to the Old Dart

The man and I are wrapping up our time in England. With the flexibility of a hire car, we have travelled up and down the country, from the Thanet region of South-East Kent to Barrow-in-Furness in North-West Cumbria, and back again. On the way we had a dinner in the docklands revitalisation of East London, had a couple of nights in Cambridge to visit and go punting on the river Cam, had eight nights near Bradford for research, four nights on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border visiting again, and venturing into the Lake District in the search for even more ancestors, a splendid Italian meal in Birmingham with friends, and two nights in Oxford for more visiting and sight-seeing, and it was there that the long Indian Summer finally broke into heavy rain. Watching the nightly weather forecast reminded me what a narrow island this is. As the weather squalls go around and around in circular lows, the colour coding on the map changes from clear to rain to clear again. Which explains why the same town can be sunny in the morning and raining in the afternoon or vice-versa. We had experienced a short rainfall in Cambridge the previous week, and being Aussies unaccustomed to needing umbrellas, we of course, left ours behind when it had fined up by the time we were leaving that visit. We only just bought a replacement yesterday.

England is a small island, but densely inhabited, quite a different experience to our road trips in New South Wales, which can be long and lonely. The motorway system criss-crossing England is amazing. The pin-point accuracy of the postcodes is doubly amazing, and Gary – the Irishman who lives inside the satnav we borrowed – got us to our destination every time just on that basis. Although he did sometimes take us on bizarre small roads to get there, for example, arriving into Bradford, he felt compelled to show us some of the most narrow and run-down streets of the entire area. Not properly representative of the city at all. The only negative with the motorways, and maybe all driving in England (not sure?) is that it always takes longer than it should, because, if you are travelling any distance, no matter which day of the week, or which time of day, there is always a moment when one finds oneself crawling in bumper to bumper traffic. By a quick ‘back of the envelope’ calculation, I determined that car ownership is currently 0.7 vehicles per capita, and that is before trucks and tourists are added to the equation. What happens when that increases further? it does not seem possible that even more motorways can be added to the already comprehensive system. It seems a pity that a country which pioneered the railway system (circa 1840s?) could now have spurned public transport. Well, maybe not spurned, but it did not seem the transport of choice. We found it hard to choose on economic grounds. We were able to hire the car for twelve pound per day, and spent maybe one hundred and fifty on petrol. That sounds like a lot of money, but is a fraction of the cost of train travel for the two of us. And of course, the more people sharing the car, the worse the cost-benefit analysis becomes from the public transport perspective. Of course, if you lived here and could plan ahead, you could reduce the cost of the train ticket. And if you want to think laterally, train travel is probably safer than being on the road. But there is still the question of what you do at the end of your journey to get to your final destination.

As an aside, while the CAR only cost us twelve pound per day, had we hired the satnav from the same company, that item would have cost us fifteen pound per day. Go figure.

We didn’t spurn rail travel entirely. We did have a ride on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Five miles of nostalgia. We travelled a diesel engine outbound and steam engine on the return. Each station is a nod to their Victorian hey-day, and we got off at Haworth for a morning exploring the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Very interesting. Then we got back early as we needed to catch up with the washing. So we toured the laundrette at Shipley. Not so interesting and we kept running out of small coins :-)

Since it is time to up stumps I will leave off there for the moment. Hopefully the next post will be a photographic story board of our time in the Old Dart. We have Just time for one last visit to our “almost” new grandson and then next stop is France for a bit of R&R at a farmstay in the Dordogne region.



Digging Up the Past

This is not so much a Blog post as an alternative to an overly long Facebook update in order to inform any of my readers, who may be wondering, that YES I am alive and well. Hubbie and I are currently in England.

I must say, this long-distance flying lark is not getting any easier. More than nine hours Sydney – Hong Kong, heading north and over the Cape York Peninsula, instead of north-west across country. Why? The captain said there were military exercises taking place in the middle of the country  – a.k.a. “The Outback”. This was not general knowledge, so I suppose the exercises were classified Top Secret – unless of course, you happened to be an air traveller. Then a six hour layover in Hong Kong airport, then a connection to London of around twelve and a half hours.  Add another two hours for baggage, immigration, car hire collection, and then another two to drive to destination. In the past we have hit the ground running, but this time we needed two days to recover. On top of which, we came down with the sniffles, which is not surprising given we had been breathing recirculated air all that time.

We had an interesting chat with the guy on UK immigration. They always make it sound as if they are just passing the time of day with you, when really they are pumping you for information and waiting for you to slip up. Like getting Austria and Australia mixed up – that sort of thing. Anyway, we passed the test, although I am not sure he appreciated me asking whether we were better off on the M2 or the M20 to our destination :-) . . . Trying to sound as if I knew which way was up. I am guessing he wasn’t deluded, and just thought I was a smart-ass.

Anyway, he let us into the country, so all’s well that ends well. On top of which, our English “almost” daughter gave birth to her first child on the same day as we arrived. And “S” – if you are reading this – as you have yet another sleepless night, once again we send you both our big congratulations, and suggest you just keep repeating, “it will get easier“, “it will get easier“. If you sing it, baby might even mistake that for a lullaby.

Now we are in Beautiful Bradford. Okay, that is an oxymoron in some circles, but seriously, this city has some impressive buildings, and a long, fascinating history that can be said to epitomise the Industrial Revolution. I am on the trail of my great-grandmother who left here around 1880, to travel alone to Australia. I still can’t work out how or why, so if anyone can enlighten me on Female Middle Class Emigration, (as opposed to poor Irish Famine girls) please speak up now. And while I am on the subject, if you happen to be a WHITLEY of West Yorkshire: Allerton, Thornton, Shipley or Bradford (UK) I would love to hear from you.

I have had an interesting couple of days stuck in the archives office readings accounts of voyages to Australia, and letters home to the relatives left behind, dating from around 1840-1880. At least three months in a leaky boat and lots of stories of those who died en route. Looking up old newspapers turned out to be more tedious than I imagined, so thank goodness for digitisation, which I fell back on after trying to do it the “old-fashioned” way. Amongst other things, I came across a gem in which my g.g.grandfather – a bootmaker – had ‘a’ boot stolen from his shop. The chappie who did it got ten years’ transportation. So let’s hope that, at least, he stole a pair of boots for his trouble.

I have seen where he had his shop, and I was taken to one of the houses where the ancestors had lived, and we ended up banging on the front door and introducing ourselves. You can get away with that sort of thing when they will never meet you again. It turns out that one of the young ladies of the house was also into history. So another piece of the puzzle fell into place. Later in the day we traipsed around a cemetery which has become very overgrown. Thank goodness that a Bradford local had sent me a photograph of the headstone more than twenty years ago. Now it is somewhere under several feet of brambles and privet bushes.

Tomorrow I am off to a present day Grammar School, which, in the 1870s and onwards, was a school for orphans.

So much to do . . . so little time . . .

Poor old Liz Thurlow has had to take a back seat while all this is going on – but I do promise to get back to her as soon as time permits! In the meantime, we can leave her having it off with Tony Babic and living in dreamland – until – ?

I have just read this post before hitting the publish button, and it is not the most coherent piece I have ever written. I hope you will all cut me some slack: I am tired, brain-dead, over-stimulated, out of my depth, and in need of a calming wine . . .


The “Black Cats” of the Double Sunrise Service and other flying stories

source National Library of Australia

source National Library of Australia

Some time back I posted about the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum. I am pleased to offer this follow up, with information courtesy of Jim Thurstan, retired Qantas engineer and a member of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) located at Albion Park, NSW.

Firstly, a link back to the original story.

Lake Boga was a secret inland base and repair station for aircraft that could otherwise be exposed to Japanese attack from the north or from offshore shelling. Rathmines (mentioned below) at Lake Macquarie near Newcastle was such a target.

After I wrote the Lake Boga post Marie & Patrick Dillon advised that the Wright engine pictured there is an 18 cylinder, with 3350 cubic inch displacement, which has been partly restored, and is on loan to the museum as it is privately owned. Jim tells me that that Wright engine series was very common in the late thirties through to the fifties,  and in fact the HARS aircraft collection includes a Lockheed Super Constellation and two Lockheed Neptune aircraft which still use much the same engine.

HARS also has a flying Catalina, which visited Lake Boga on a touch and go and a full stop landing. Scroll to the end of this post for fabulous photos of it, and there are plenty more where they came from! There are six Catalina’s in Australia: the display one at Lake Boga, non-flying ones in WA and Longreach in Queensland (the home of Qantas), one at Bankstown NSW hoping to fly again (and destined for Rathmines), one at Rathmines (under restoration), and one hanging up in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Wikipedia differs slightly from this information, coming up with a total of eight: (and who are we to argue with Wikipedia?) The Catalina on display at the Powerhouse Museum is named Frigate Bird 2. It was flown around the Pacific commercially by Sir P.G. Taylor*.

(note: the below photo is a random, not of the Frigate Bird 2 nor Sir P.G.Taylor)

Catalina National Library of Australia nla.pic_vn3723491_v

More fascinating insights in to the “Golden Age of Flying Boats in Australia”, and their war history, can be found here:

The Catalina at HARS in Albion Park has been painted black in memory of the famous “Black Cats” which operated out of Perth directly to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) during WW2. The Black Cats are referred to in the above article, and much more can be found on Google. The journey, formed in 1943 to re-establish the Australia–England air link that had been cut due to the fall of Singapore in 1942, became known as “The Double Sunrise”. These Catalinas were completely defenceless, carrying no weaponry, and with all armour plating removed so that the planes were sufficiently light to make the long crossing of more than 6480 km, 3600 nautical miles, at a cruising speed of 110 knots (127mph/204kph) an hour. This gave rise to a sector time between 28 and 32 hours. That was once they got in the air that is. At times the pay load, about 400kgs, made the aircraft so overweight that take-off was a very critical operation. The weight of fuel limited the Catalina’s load to only three passengers and 69kg of diplomatic and armed forces mail. In order to remain undetected by the Japanese, when flying at night they used celestial navigation, and they also avoided using the radio, except for a very brief midnight weather bulletin in Morse code. Because of the length and path of the journey, the crew and passengers saw the sun rise twice, hence the name ‘Double Sunrise’ service. The crew list reads like a Who’s Who of Qantas in the 50’s and 60’s, and the service holds the record for the longest non-stop commercial air route, and also the record for the longest ever non-stop commercial flight – 32 hours 9 minutes. The last Double Sunrise flight departed from Sri Lanka for Perth on 17 July 1945.

The role of Flying Boats in the Second World War, which from the Australian perspective includes the RAAF Catalina flying boats in action over the Pacific, and the above-mentioned secret wartime Double Sunrise service operated by Qantas, is far too detailed and interesting for me to do justice in one post. Here is a link to a very comprehensive article with great photos. Courtesy of the Australian Government:

Jim has provided the photos of the HARS Catalina which I am sure will delight. It recently flew to Point Cook in Victoria to celebrate 100 years of our RAAF. HARS also sent their Caribou aircraft. So astute readers will have now determined that HARS boasts a Catalina, Lockheed Constellation, Lockheed Neptunes, and Caribous, all in flying condition. One of the many HARS projects is the restoration to flight of a Fokker FV 11b / 3m, a replica of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s (Smithy) “Southern Cross”.

The Chief Engineer for the HARS Catalina is Jim Marshall, and he provides this information, drawn from their in-house publication: details of the HARS Catalina


* In an aside from the Catalina story – Sir P.G. Taylor was big in Australian history. Among many things was his feat when flying with Smithy (Sir Charles Kingsford Smith). To save crashing into the ocean on their way back in the Southern Cross from New Zealand, he climbed out under the wing in flight on a number of occasions to transfer engine oil from a failed engine to one that was running on the other wing but about to run out of oil.

And thanks to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, and Jim Thurstan for these fabulous photos of their restored Catalina.

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Footnote, any inconsistencies of fact are Garrulous Gwendoline’s!

Liz Thurlow, Part Seven: Lovers

Liz had had other lovers before she was married. Several in fact, as well as two one-night stands – but she didn’t count them. They rested in her memory as sublime and secret experiences, the two delicious times she had abandoned herself in the arms of a man she would never meet again. But she never let on about it. Liz preferred to play the “seduced, then jilted” card. It sounded better in her morally upright world. And her last lover had jilted her. That is what had sent her into Bob’s embrace. Nice, safe, stable, conservative Bob would never throw her over for another woman. Certainly not once she had committed to marriage.

Twenty-five years of playing the perfect wife had left Liz nostalgic for her single days. Better to have your heart broken by a passionate man, than let it wither and shrivel for lack of emotion, that is how she thought now . . . Now that Tony Babic had awoken her dormant feelings of desire and abandon.

She loved everything about him, his deep gravelly voice with the guttural accent, his thick hair with the crinkly ends, his eyes twinkling into hers, and the smile that always played around the edge of his mouth. Most of all she loved his body, so firm and muscular, moulding around hers like a hand in a glove. She loved to trace a line from his chest to his thighs, her fingers following the dip from his hip across his pelvis. She liked to lie on her side facing him after sex, brushing her fingers across his body and stroking his thigh as he talked to her. Those thighs – so strong and defined, that was the first thing she had ever noticed. And she was still fixated on them, wrapping her legs around and pulling him in deeper as she reached her climax. He seemed to know exactly what she needed and when. It was as if their bodies could talk to each other. No fumbling or clumsy changes of position. Their love-making was a fluid melding together, just like they showed In the movies. And afterwards he held her and talked to her, weaving in strands of poetry as he told her how beautiful she was, how perfect, that she was a wonderful lover, the best he had ever known. Her affair was poetry in motion. Poetry and passion.

‘What was it about me that you saw that first day?’ Liz asked him.

‘Srce moy,’ Tony cradled her face in his hands, ‘My dear heart. Sometime encounter person, even perfect stranger, who begin interest us at first sight. Sudden, like that, all at once, before word is spoken.’

Liz nestled her face closer in to his hand, marvelled at the softness of his palm, embraced the intimacy of his touch. ‘That is so beautiful, Tony. You have a gift with words.’

‘Not me,’ Tony laughed, ‘Dostoevsky.’ He kissed the tip of her nose, ‘We studied him in school.’

‘In Russia?’

‘No Liz. In Serbia. I am Serbian.’

‘Ohhh . . . and how do you say I love you in Serbian?’

‘Volim te,’ Tony tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and cupped her chin, holding her face up towards his. Liz felt herself drowning in his eyes. ‘Volim te,’ she repeated, letting the sound of it wash over her.

‘Da. Dat’s good . . . but Liz. You don’t need to learn these words, ne? We just have good fun – good sex. It’s same for you, ne?’

Liz buried her head in his shoulder. ‘Yes. It’s Just good fun.’


This is the seventh part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read from part one, go here



The Writing Process Tour – Inside the Mind of a (Non) Writer

I have recently been asked by blogger friend Jolandi, Dreaming in Arabic if I would like to participate in the Writing Tour, which is currently doing the rounds amongst bloggers. I decided to participate, because it gives me an opportunity to stop and think, what am I doing (in respect of writing).

I recommend Jolandi’s blog to all, she combines photographs and words to take us on a lyrical journey through the mystical Middle East, and opens our eyes to the beauty in that world, a wonderful antidote to the nightly news.

As part of the Writing Tour I have to answer four questions: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its type/genre? Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work?

I was surprised to discover that I am actually working on five different writing projects, more or less simultaneously. This is odd, because I do not consider myself a writer as such. I think of myself as a retired corporate executive looking for a new string to her bow. And in the male-dominated shipping and logistics industry which I made my career, running off at the mouth was not admired. I sent many colleagues mad with detail, when I felt all I was giving was essential background information. So, I didn’t get much writing practice in the workplace. However, I am one of those annoying people who send a letter with the Christmas card, and sometimes it can reach seven or eight pages. I tried to give it up, but many recipients said they missed it – go figure. So that has been my writing practice up to now. In a similar vein, this will be a long post  . . . many apologies  . . . maybe it should be read in instalments.

One other thing before I do “run off at the mouth”. The idea of this challenge is to pay it forward. Theoretically, it should be three bloggers, who should have agreed in advance. Isobel, from Travels with My Son ( has agreed to come on board. Isobel blogs about ‘J’, her adopted son, and their experiences of love, life, and learning to be a family. I think there will be many fascinated with what she has to say. I know I am!

Well, here goes my list:

Blog, I now call it the Reluctant Retiree, by Garrulous Gwendoline. I already did a post called “My Ten Good Reasons for Blogging” so I won’t repeat that content here. As for how it is different – I think many bloggers have one core theme and stick to it. Which is probably good marketing. Mine is broader, more of a reinvention of self in retirement. It started when I was travelling Europe for several months, so it was clearly a travel blog at that time. But when I returned home I looked to the world around me for inspiration for a weekly post. I don’t work and re-work it. I simply sit at the laptop and bang out a story straight into the WordPress platform, like an extension of the Christmas letter-writing style (then I check the spelling etc). Most of the posts about going on road trips around NSW are drawn from journal entries I wrote at the end of each travelling day. When I wrote the journal entries, I imagined I was writing a letter to my travel-loving friend in Sweden who, sadly, passed away last month without ever having visited Australia in person.

Liz Thurlow. Liz is a sub-set of the blog. She was born accidentally last month after I attended a one-day workshop on Story Planning. She is an invented character who I am taking out for an adventure. This is the first time I have tried to invent a character, and I have not contrived a plot for her. I have set myself four parameters: write for thirty minutes, limit to 500/600 words, don’t plan ahead, and try to make each episode coherent. The story goes out in ‘as-is’ condition. I don’t refashion what has taken place, and I don’t know what is going to happen when I start, except that it flows on from the previous episode. Of course, I can theorise, but ultimately Liz decides. It is like doing your homework in public. Why these parameters? New writers are often recommended to write for fifteen minutes or more each day. I can’t bear writing gibberish, although it did work for the Jaberwocky in Alice in Wonderland, hence the restriction to write a coherent story. I am not sure it is working; that blessed detail is probably getting in the way of pacing. So last episode I did push her into bed with another man, she was going to get there anyway, although a few readers did feel the timing was sudden. So! It is a great exercise to get such instant feedback. I know many others who are blogging flash fiction – but I think they edit their stories before posting. In my case, I put the oven timer on for thirty minutes, open WordPress, bang out a story, do a quick spell check and then press post. Why no plot planning? Because I want to see what happens when you leave the story in the character’s hands. Of course, I am scared the answer will be “nothing much”. So then another exercise would be to turn it around and make the character conform to a predetermined plot. I might try that next.

I Belong to No One is a full length memoir, 95000 words. For years people used to tell me I should write the story of my life, and I believed them (mistake?). Turning fifty was the trigger. So, when I was still working, I set aside a Saturday once a month. I started from my earliest memories and worked on. Sometimes I used the photo album as a trigger. Sometimes it was characters around me, or unusual or special events. I wanted it to be a tribute to the women who had supported me because my mother suffered mental illness and there was no Dad. I spent far too long trying to make the early chapters perfect, before I got a grip and wrote to the end. I was 50,000 words in and still didn’t know its direction. Once I got to the end, and understood what was unfolding, I was able to go back and take out all the parts that did not relate to that story, including most of those laborious early chapters. I thought I was finished then. Little did I know I would write seventeen versions! I was still revising it up to this June just gone. By the time it was finished, it was a story of mental illness in part, but its major point is relinquishing a child to adoption. It seems my creative style is to sit down and write in a linear fashion without having a story outline. I hear of people planning what they will write in each chapter. I did the story planning workshop in the hope of picking up such a good habit, but I haven’t grasped it yet. Perhaps it’s a backlash to the organisational skills required in my work-life. It’s not as if you can load a ship in such a haphazard, unplanned, hope-for-the-best manner.

The memoir has secured a fabulous agent and is currently under consideration by a mainstream publisher. It is up to the costing stage. I have my fingers crossed that it will see the light of day, something I never dreamed of that first Saturday when I typed the first sentence (which did survive, but moved to a different place). NB: the story is not exactly funny, but it is not a misery memoir – – – I hope.

The Reluctant Retiree – Fifty-Five Days in the Balkans is a work-in-progress, first draft, travel memoir based on the trip which I blogged about last year. I am 35,000 words in, and only up to Day 18, so again, it will be grossly over-written. But this time, I don’t dwell on what I have already written, nor try to perfect it. I simply have a quick look at what I wrote the day before, and then push on with the next section. Again, it’s ultimate theme is yet to emerge. I get cranky with myself for writing in this style, however, I take comfort in thinking of the first draft as a humongous story outline. I have enough experience from the first memoir to know the final outcome may look nothing like it does now. Whether it will have any commercial appeal, I don’t know. I think one of the major differences in this, and all my writing, is that I do not have scribbled notes and phrases lying all around the place. I don’t do thought balloons, or mind maps. I can’t stimulate myself to write from those joggers, I just feel clumsy. I wish I could hand-write sitting in the sun, or somewhere dreamy, as I imagine that heightens creativity, but I can type faster than I can write, so I always end up back at the laptop, I wish I could write unconnected paragraphs or sections which I could meld or move around, but I always seem to think chronologically. I might know I am going to write about something that happened later, but I find I can’t pay attention to it until it’s time arrives. So – I just type in a logical stream, with the idea that I can tizz it up later. For better or worse. (nb: and so far, this memoir is mostly funny).

Un-named, un-commenced Novel. At the end of last year, I signed up to do a memoir writing course in Paris (the French one), this October-November. Perhaps starving in an attic, living on absinthe, might stimulate creativity? When I enrolled, I imagined my memoir would need further work, whereas it is now out of my hands. So, I need a new project. Why Paris? Why not? Actually, the real reason is that my Mum died (aged 93) and left just enough to finance the course, accommodation and airfare. So, in the spirit of seize the day I decided to do something I would never dare if the money came from consolidated revenue. It’s a kind of thank you to my Mum, to allow myself this indulgence. What she couldn’t do for me in life, and all that stuff.

What to write is the conundrum. In ‘I Belong to No One’ I mention that I have to go back to 1854 to find a legitimate birth on my maternal line. So I am going to Bradford, England, in search of that woman. The last one before it all went pear-shaped. I want to try to re-imagine her life and journey to Australia as a single woman. It’s a stretch to match it to a memoir course, but maybe I really will get inside her head.

It calls for a lot of research, beyond Googling to check a random fact. Not something I have done before. I have contacted a number of historical societies in Bradford and had one reply, which I am following through with. I expect to be buried in the Local Studies library for at least a number of days in Bradford. I know I will be reading a lot of newspapers and history books. I have come across something called the Female Middle-Class Emigration Society, and I’ll be digging into that further. Thanks to a tip-off from fellow blogger Sandra Danby, I have read Kate Grenville’s novel, ‘Secret River’, and am reading the back-story, ‘Searching for Secret River‘. The first is a novel based on a convict Australian pioneer, who was a London Thames lighterman. The second is her search for her real London waterman/convict ancestor Solomon Wiseman, and how that formed the basis for her novel. Perhaps I can emulate her experience. As to whether I can emulate such worthy novel writing is another story.

I will be in England from 10th September (that’s the week after next! – Ouch!) and France from 11th October, so am happy to meet up with fellow bloggers there. And if by some miracle this blog is read by anyone who is knowledgeable about Victoria Bradford, feel free to shout out!

If you have read this far, congratulations, and many thanks from Garrulous! And to all my followers, thank you so much for your support! I truly appreciate it.



Liz Thurlow, Part Six: Tony Unblocks her Pipes

As soon as Bob was out of sight Liz pelted next door to Jan’s house. She was standing in the front yard, making a show of watering the garden, when she spied Tony’s Ute turning into her street. He pulled into the driveway and jumped out, those shorts riding up again and flashing his thigh. She felt her heart tip-tilt. Her stomach clenched.

Tony sauntered towards her. ‘So! Liz. We meet again.’ he smiled that mischievous grin. She grinned back, the wave of adrenalin rushing through her body making her feel giddy, like a schoolgirl with a crush on teacher.

Another truck was trundling up the street. Tony turned towards the sound.

‘Ah! my workers. Good timing.’

Liz’s heart plummeted. ‘Oh . . .  I imagined you worked alone.’

‘Yeh. I work alone Liz,’ he grinned again, ‘these guys just scaffolders. This job. I mus’ work high.’ he glanced at her watering. ‘Don’ water around the back – okay? Better if ground is dry for put up scaffolding.’

The next morning Liz was back watering Jan’s garden when Tony pulled into the driveway. This time he was alone. He made small talk with her before unloading he Ute. She watched him drag out his tools and take them around the rear of the house. Back and forward, from the Ute to the backyard. She tried to look discreet, but she was fixated on his athletic body.

It was the same every morning for the rest of the week. The garden was getting a good soaking. And each morning their conversation went a little longer.

By the following Monday morning Liz was in a state as she waited for him to pull in. She had been agitated all weekend, impatient with Bob’s habits and imagining how Tony Babic might compare. She kept smoothing her hair, straightening her clothes, her stomach doing cartwheels, until he arrived, a little later than usual, but looking as relaxed as ever.

‘Liz,’ he said, ‘I been thinking. How come you water the garden by hand?’ his eyes were twinkling as if he knew a private joke. ‘There is irrigation, ne?’ He pointed at the black plastic poles sticking out of the soil.

‘Um, they’re blocked,’ Liz stammered.

‘Well, tell you what Liz. You ask me in for morning smoko, and I fix irrigation. Hows zat? So you don’ have to spend so much time watering. Pretty lady like you, got better things to do with her time, ne?’

Liz’s heart was pounding. Her throat felt so constricted, it took a moment to answer.

‘Deal?’ he prodded.

‘Deal,’ she nodded.

And it was that easy. Every morning he came in for coffee and chat, staying a little longer each time. And by the next Monday, he was in her bed. Liz had dreamt of it all weekend. A new start to a new week. It seems this pretty lady had certainly found something better to do with her time.


This is the sixth part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

To read from part one, go here