Alice and beyond
June 7th, 2015
Well, I survived Alice Springs. Do I sound surprised? I am, a bit. I visited three schools a day for four days running, and that’s quite a feat for someone whose idea of a good time is to sit in front of the fire reading. Alone. (Except for Harry, of course, purring on my lap.)
But the kids were so nice, and the schools were so welcoming that I sailed through with barely a hiccup – though by the time I got to Day 4 I was starting to run out of steam, and by the time I finished Day 4 I could hardly speak.
My two minders, Celia and Ruth, helped the process enormously by doing all the work of getting me from school to school, and letting me disappear into a book in between, so that I could save my energy for the actual talks and workshops.
Alice Springs itself is a complex and interesting town. It’s the first place I’ve been in Australia where you CANNOT ignore the fact that this is Aboriginal land, and that modern Australian culture sits on top of it rather uneasily. So it almost felt as if there were two different towns occupying the same space but never quite meeting (except at the football).
Which I found more than a little confronting. And now that I’m home, it’s making me look at Tasmania differently too.
After Alice Springs I went to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. And THAT is the most amazing place I’ve ever been. Uluru itself is so BIG. So imposing, so beautiful. I’ve realised over the last few years that I really like things that make me feel insignificant. Like the night sky. Like Uluru. They put things into perspective – we humans are such a tiny blip on the radar, and shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
So I gasped a lot, and laughed out loud at the beauty of the red sand, and said hello to a passing dingo, and rode a camel, pretending I was the great British explorer, Dame Freya Stark.
And then I came back home, where Harry immediately pounced on me (or maybe I pounced on him – it was late at night and I’d been travelling all day, so I was tired) and forced me to light a fire and snuggle up on the sofa.
So what now? I’ve got three weeks until I start thinking about the new book, but that time is filling up rapidly. I have a workshop on plot to prepare for the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre, some short stories to judge for the Young Tasmanian Writers’ Prize, and a huge number of books to read for the Tasmanian Book Prize.