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It’s been a bit confronting to work out what to write about my life since the happy eighteen months I spent at Telopea in 1964-65, as I am still struggling to succeed as a playwright - ‘just a kid (of 60) with a crazy dream’ – and I feel as if many of my old Forrest Primary and Telopea High friends have made better use of their talents than I’ve managed to do so far – but I do have some happy highlights of my life to report, and the great thing is, it’s not over yet.
Due to the marital shenanigans of my parents, my brothers and sister and I did a lot of yo-yoing during the 1960s, and I went to five high schools, three of them after Telopea, being packed off for 1966 to Nelson College for Girls in NZ where my lovely Aunt Fran gave me a second home. Then in 1967 I re-joined my Dad and stepmother and younger siblings in Sydney, finishing with 18 months at Fort Street Evening College which I attended after I left home and got work in Sydney half way through year 11. (Those were the days – you could walk into one job in the morning and another in the afternoon.)
I made some more great friends in my six months at Cheltenham Girls High, before leaving home, and on one of our city explorations on a Friday night I met Kydric Shaw, son of Roderick and Frances, who were old lefties and artists, and who welcomed me into their family, which was wonderfully warm and supportive and more than made up for losing my own family.
I started doing economics at Sydney Uni in 1969, but what with Vietnam War protests to attend, and Jane Austen’s novels in the uni library to read, and being pregnant during the end of year exams, I failed 3 out my 4 subjects – but I did pass Ted Wheelwright’s Government 1, in which we studied all the socio-economic and political forces that are still kicking up trouble today.
Kydric’s and my daughter, Jodi Rose, was born in July 1970, and she is now a successful sound artist living in Berlin, where quite a few of her old Fort St High School mates are also based. I am looking forward to visiting Jo in Berlin early in 2012, and getting to know some of her wide circle of friends, and the thriving arts scene in Europe.
In 1973 Kydric and I split up, and Jodi went to Macquarie Uni Child Care while I did classes and earned a BA in Human Geography – a subject that I have tutored for the last few years at the University of Wollongong’s outreach campus in Bega on the NSW far south coast, as my husband Rod Logan and I have lived since 1995 on a beautiful but isolated bush block 40km north of Bega.
As a single mum, working part-time so I could afford to bring up Jo but also be with her before and after school, and also have time to develop my skills as a script writer, I took on quite a variety of jobs, and we lived in one cheap but insecure rental place after another. Part of Jo’s public persona as a “global bridge nomad”, recording and making music with the sounds in the cables of suspension cable bridges, developed from that experience of moving house so often.
My career as a writer developed gradually, writing factual articles for Bay Books for a few years in the early 1980s , and my playwriting came good with a play called “Malache: Despatches From Another World”, a one-woman show about a young single mother in a third world shanty town struggling to help her community get clean water. This play was performed for high school students by youth wings of state theatre companies around Australia, and by an Afro-American actress in New York and by an Indian dancer in Melbourne, from 1986-1996. The very first production, when the role of Malache was first created by the late much-loved Justine Saunders, was directed by José Farinas, a Spanish immigrant and theatre enthusiast with whom Jodi and I lived for five years in a tiny terrace house in Sydney’s Enmore, when the inner-west was still a place that people on low incomes could afford.
Soon after Jodi moved out of home in 1989, she won a round the world trip for two plus ten thousand dollars spending money, and very kindly gave me the second ticket, on the proviso that I didn’t travel with her. While Jo quit art school and flew off to explore the world, I took three years to work out where to go. The wait was worth it, as I found an international festival of theatre and marionettes in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso (West Africa), and attending this became the major focus of my trip.
I made a number of friends among the African actresses and theatre workers at the festival, and returned to Burkina in 2006 to film them for a documentary that I am still working on. On my first trip to Burkina I also met up again with my mother, who had lived in England since 1962, and whom I had only seen once before, while visiting Spain with José in 1987. Mathilda (formerly Maureen) had made a new life for herself, with a new family, and put the past and the children of her first marriage behind her, but it was a valuable experience, even if not the hoped-for loving reunion.
After my visits to Africa and the UK I came back to Sydney in 1993 with itchy feet, and soon changed jobs, moving from Rick Raftos’ Literary Agency, to work as coordinator of Alfalfa House Community Food Cooperative in Enmore, and here I made some great new friends, including Rod who had been retrenched from Telecom and was devoting a lot of time to the Co-op. We married in 1994, and moved to the country to pursue his dream of becoming an organic vegetable grower.
We are still in the bush, at Wombat Hill, but I find that the combination of lack of work opportunities, and the small population and limited resources in the region, make it hard for me to make much progress as a playwright – though I was runner up for the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Scholarship in 1997. I have kept writing, and thanks to Cate Carrigan and Alan Arthur at the local ABC Radio, whose daughter Emma is now my god-daughter, I had another play, The Right Father, produced and aired on ABC regional radio.
Currently Rod is working on a “healthy soils, healthy farms” project for the local LandCare under the Catchment Management Authority, and I am working on a play called Keepers, and some other writing projects, as well as tutoring casually, and working part-time as a bookkeeper for a not-for-profit women’s organisation – all the while trying to find a way to move back closer to the bright lights and the big world of people from all over the world, closer to my old friends and family whom I miss so much.
I did try a move back to Canberra in 2008, but I fell foul of the rather odd academic I was working for and lost my job, and then the global financial crisis struck, so I had to come back to Wombat Hill, Verona NSW, and didn’t get to pick up the threads of my Canberra life at that time. I’m so happy to have the chance with this Telopea reunion to catch up with my old school friends after all.