Love was a terrible thing […] Not perhaps my cup of tea.
So says Mildred Lathbury, self-proclaimed spinster and one of the ‘excellent women’ of Barbara Pym’s 1950s novel of the same name. The setting is post-war London – the start of the baby boom – when early marriage and motherhood are the norm. Little wonder that thirty-something Mildred thinks she’s missed the (love) boat.
When I was four years old, my parents moved their young family from the bottom of a park to the top. My parents never moved again.
Half a century later, my mother still lives there, surrounded by all five of her children within a ten kilometre radius. Her dreams are of forays into her beloved garden, not of travel adventures abroad. Everything she needs is within her castle walls. She left Australian shores only once and didn’t see any benefit in doing so again.
Speeding down the Calder Highway on a scorching Friday in February 2009, I wondered briefly whether this long-awaited weekend away was such a good idea. The brown fields on either side shimmered and the road ahead looked molten. The words ‘bushfire weather’ hovered in front of my eyes like the steam rising from the bitumen.