photograph of vines through the branches of a tree in blossom


The academic year has passed in a flash, and, in its wake, the sensation of being bereft now that the novel has been written, bound, and handed in.

Parting with the manuscript was an emotional moment; the thought of unknown examiners thumbing through it was intimidating, of course, but separating from the characters who have been my close companions through late nights, early mornings, and the furtive scribbling sessions in out-of-the-way cafes, libraries, and hospital waiting rooms, was far worse.

In the sudden vacuum, I found myself yearning for just one more conversation with them, wondering if I have made the best of the twists and turns of the fictional lives which were revealed to me little by little as the novel progressed. It has made me realise that the writing life is a strange one, perhaps even a touch unhealthy; only a fraction more intense, and these voices - still perfectly clear in my head - might require medication.

To compensate, I have been catching up on freelance assignments, delving into subjects as diverse as the history of cinema, the fantastic exploits of polar explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins, and the slightly puzzling but succulent fruit of Eriobotrya japonica, the loquat tree.

Writing non-fiction plunges the writer up to the elbows in real lives, and

on hot afternoons at country race meetings, at a woolshed ball, and in a vineyard, where rows of Shiraz grapes stretched uninterrupted to the horizon in perfect symmetry, I finally relinquished the novel to whatever fate has in store for it.

In the meantime, with a long hot summer on the horizon and a tall glass of quince-scented Chinese green tea beside me as I write, life on earth seems unbelievably precious.