Having sent off major rewrite of the V Girls to my dear, patient publishers, my head is full of scattery thoughts and reflections, like:
1. Last weekend I went to the 80th birthday of a third cousin, Dawnie, a wonderful, lively woman who is an inspiration re how to live. I saw a photograph, for the first time, of my great-great-great grandfather, William Parmenter, a convict who was sent over on the Norwood in 1862, and who settled in Bunbury with his wife and children, whom he paid 3 pounds something to bring over once he got his ticket of leave. (There was also a photograph of her.) One of his children, a twin, died on the voyage.
I also saw a letter written by my great-great uncle, also William Parmenter, in 29 June 1918, from wherever he was fighting in the war. He was writing to his sister, Martha (whose deathbed I remember attending when I was a small child). He said if he didn’t get home soon, all his sisters would be married. He commented that he mind that, so long as his girl wasn’t married. Then he asked his sister how Annie was: he hadn’t heard from her. Two sentences: so much sadness wedged between them.
Between 29 June and November, when the war ended, William was killed. His mother was out, the morning the telegram was delivered. After that, she never wanted to leave the house, convinced that something terrible would happen if she did.
2. I’ve almost finished Gail Bell’s Shot. The subtle exploration of how trauma affects people is remarkable, and should shut up the people who say Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is rubbish. Having survived twice being close to (or fearing I was close to) death through traumatic experiences (once being attacked on a beach; once having a bone-crushing fall off a horse), I’m struck by how similar my reactions were to such disparate experiences.
3. Next week I am going to Sydney for work. I’m reflecting on how different it is, travelling this way, than my first arrival in Sydney in 1987, when my friend Carita and I were dropped off in the pre-dawn dark in Alexandria by a speed-affected truck driver, who had kept yanking our hands over to the wheel, to get us to steer (as a prelude, I believed, yanking my hands back, to putting our hands elsewhere). He did, however, take a detour on the way up from Melbourne to show me the Dog on the Tuckerbox, for which I am still grateful.