On the right is the view from my campsite in Castlemaine, overlooking the Botanical Gardens. This afternoon a riot of kookaburras cackled their outrageous laughter into the hot afternoon sky. In the morning, I sat in the Castlemaine gallery, flanked by beautiful paintings by E. Phillip Fox and Fredrick McCubbin and watched Mr Punch set off a small riot of children.
We’re on our last practice run before we hand over the keys of our house to our tenants, lock all our possessions into storage and head off on our grand 12-month tour of Australia. Castlemaine feels like a very soft start. When I was a kid, I associated this town with The Wild Colonial Boy. As any Australian school kid who sang about him in class I knew he was ‘born in Castlemaine’. It wasn’t until I was driving through the West of Ireland, researching the ‘Children of the Wind’ novels that I discovered that the Wild Colonial Boy was actually born in County Kerry.
It’s one of the things that has always perplexed me about being a member of an immigrant culture – it’s hard to know where one thing ends and another begins. Late afternoon found The Professor and me sitting in our director’s chairs admiring the view from campsite 13. I knew I should be working on the new book but the heat of the day and the fact I had a good novel to read undermined all my good intentions. Same old problem – when does one thing end and the next begin? When does the holiday give way to the work-a-day ethic of writing on the road?
Castlemaine is full of old and new friends and fellow writers that I want to catch up with including the lovely Simmone Howell, Lee Fox and Robyn Annear.
Lunch today was spent with two long-term Castlemainians and then dinner with two newer friends who regalled us with tales of Afghanistan and Germany. The Professor and I walked home through the cool dark of the Botanic Gardens and I realised the day had slipped away from me in terms of writing anything other than lists of what I should be doing. But at least I’ve stuck to one of my new year’s resolutions to read more and finished Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel. It’s nearly Friday. I sit listening to the cicadas and the occasional possum arguing outside and remember John Lennon lyrics, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.’