photograph of the writer, the writer's mother, a truck and the outback in the 1950's


My fifties childhood - spent in remote parts of Australia, where people mended and made do and everything from trucks to washing machines was held together with handy pieces of fencing wire - remains vivid, in spite of the passage of years.

Looking through photographs from this decade, the thing that strikes me is the emptiness of the landscape. We lived sparely, without clutter. We had limitless space. We had each other. If the first seven years becomes the template for the rest, then this is the material my life was cut from. It is the material I write from.

My early years were passed among adults, befriended by glamorous independent aunts and uncles who believed - from the evidence of their own childhoods - that children were clever, capable, responsible beings. Thanks to their philosopy, and that of my easy-going parents, my introduction to the world was as different from the muffled, toy-strewn, child-care experience of present day children as it is possible to get.

Whenever I conjure up those early years, and the loved ones who shared them, I feel a surge of strength, as if I am plugged into a powerful, secret current.

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