August – September
Book sales continued to go well and the Sydney winter, while chilly, certainly had its brighter days.
Wanting to do something practical, my friends and I organized an Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for the Cure For MND Foundation. While the money wouldn’t help our dear friend Kathie directly it would help fund research that might one day lead to a cure and prevent others having to suffer in the same way. The day itself was bittersweet – we laughed and cried together – but we did manage to raise around $4,000 thanks to the support of friends and family who also wanted to help.
And this was the month one of the biggest changes of the year – and my life – began. We had been thinking for a while about a more permanent move to a property. While we have a place on the south coast it’s a holiday residence and due to work and school commitments we need to stay close to the city. An impromptu phone call to a friend in the real estate business led to us looking at a property only thirty five minutes away from where we currently lived, very close to where we agist some of our horses. Within days we had made the decision to buy it and began mentally preparing for the move.
On the writing front, that story idea had stalled. My publisher suggested I try a different setting – perhaps the outback, somewhere (and I quote) ‘with windmills’. Reluctant to write about a place I’d never been I baulked at the idea but within a matter of weeks I received an email from a lovely librarian in a place called Hughenden, asking if I would like to drop in for an author event. When I googled it and found it was in central Queensland I thought she must have the wrong person. But she didn’t and before I knew it I was booking an airfare to Queensland for a November visit. Hughenden, I discovered, is right in the centre of the drought. And another thing I discovered is that it has plenty of windmills. I started researching the area and the drought itself. When I woke up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep a whole new story idea formed in my sleep deprived brain so I grabbed a pen and paper and jotted it down. Out of the blue I had a new setting, a new set of characters and a brand new plot.
Spring arrived. I spoke at the inaugural Centennial Park Writers festival, a panel on Love with Joanne Fedler and Susanna Freymark. As the final months of the year, and the big move approached, I knew life was about to get crazier – and harder than ever before.
In mid-October we welcomed a new foal into the family. Flynn. Not named after Eroll but perhaps he should have been – he’s a cheeky charmer and his mother Bridget has a tough job keeping him in line. But who can resist a face like this?
I got started on the new story, inspired by a visit to The Grounds in Alexandria and my upcoming trip to the outback.
The dreaded packing began. After 25 years in the one house, a two storey house with ample storage we were moving to a much bigger property but a smaller house. It was at this point I realised that I have serious hoarder tendencies. Apart from all the birthday cards I’d kept (not to mention the acceptances to our wedding 27 years ago!), there were boxes of toys, dance costumes, clothes and other mementoes that really needed to go. Sorting it all out brought a lot of laughs but also quite a few tears. As the blurb to my own book suggested – the only thing harder than letting go is moving on.
I even managed to ‘let go’ of a few books but there are still plenty left to line the bookshelves in my new office.
On the music front, Robbie Williams was brilliant as usual, and I put the finishing touches to the soundtrack for Close To Home. If you missed any of them and would like to see which songs I chose to go with each chapter of the book just click here.
We celebrated Kath’s 53rd birthday on Melbourne Cup Day determined to celebrate and bring a smile to her face. Although she had lost the ability to speak, her strength and determination inspired all of us to put our own pain aside and be there for her.
A few days later I was off to Hughenden. Despite my fear of flying – and small planes – the visit was so worth it. A gorgeous town and a landscape I had never seen before: miles and miles a red, drought ravaged earth. But the highlight was the people – friendly and welcoming and, despite the hardships living on the land brings, eternally optimistic. I had a ball speaking at the community dinner and picked up some great ideas for my next novel.
Back home the packing ramped up and a week later the moving vans were in. Although we are renting the old house out for the time being, the thought of someone else living there was hard. My children were all raised there and we turned it from a house into a home. I’m still coming to grips with it to be honest but I know we made the right decision.
In early December the day we had all been dreading came. Kath’s suffering came to an end. I won’t dwell on it here but the loss of such a close friend (40 years of laughs and good time, travels and raising families together) has left a hole in my life that will never be filled. I am so grateful for the friendship we shared but can’t imagine life without her.
And so the year has come to an end. A year in which the words on the cover of Close To Home – The Only Thing Harder Than Letting Go Is Moving On – were to have a much more personal meaning then I first realised. It’s been monumental and I now need to regroup. The events of the last few months brought a halt to my writing but I’m planning a fresh start tomorrow and hope to be able to bring you a brand new story in a new setting in 2016.
To all my readers, I hope the end of 2015 sees you happy and healthy and I wish you a year of wonder and smiles in 2016.