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Oh dear!


 Now I discover that another eight months have gone by since my last entry into this News & Events page, and one could wonder if anything has happened since the start of last September. Yet so much has occurred, visits from interstate family, the Adelaide Festival months, including Writers’ Week, and much much more.

Our annual boat trip with a group of friends in a houseboat on the Murray River, a Christmas that was at the same time a fraught family time (why is it that, as they tell us, Christmas is always a time of family disturbances and stresses?) but at the same time a season of rejoicing.

The great pleasure of having my eleventh book, Witnesses, accepted by Wakefield Press for publication late this year/early 2023.  And the writing, a long-term project, of my twelfth book, Finding Emma, a sort of parallel to In Search of Anna, and now completed in first draft but needed close and careful editing and revision.

Through it all, the ongong saga of Covid, with masks still mandatory as we dutifully fronted up to vaccinations: number one, two, three at the specified intervals, and finally my fourth, given by special permission a week before legally allowed, so that I’d have had four before leaving for Europe.

Because yes, I am still going to Germany (tomorrow, in fact) for the postponed 2020 Passion Play. My invitation as an Australian press representative still stands, and the play will indeed go ahead – a decision only finalised in March. What a travesty it would have been after all the rehearsals, the implementation of the Hair and Beard decree on Ash Wednesday last year, and all the PR, if it had not been produced.  I’ve contributed my bit to the publicity, with two full page articles in South Australia’s main newspaper, The Advertiser, and lots of public speaking. Many more events as guest speaker after my return …

But not accompanied by David, whose doctor warned that, after his bout with aggressive cancer two years ago (now fully recovered, DG) and all the associated chemotherapy and radiography, his immune system was still compromised  - so going to a possible super-spreader event like the Passion Play with its opening day of 5000 people from all over the world in a vast undercover auditorium would not be a Good Idea.

So, instead, he is sending my daughter Sam in his place (her third time at the Passion Play – and ironic, in that her father paid for her to go in his place to the 2010 Play, before he died – but as she says, this time it was medical prohibition, true, but not another death …

Tomorrow we leave, flying to Doha then Munich. Very exciting. On the trip home, Sam will return to Adelaide from Doha, while David will fly there from home, and join me for two weeks in Kathmandu, to see Felicity, whose three year appointment as Australian ambassador to Nepal is almost half over. How fast that goes! So at least there he will be, presumably, under better conditions in the embassy, rather than wandering around Europe, so it’s acceptable to his doctor. Her Excellency has planned for us a wonderful two week stay, and after two years of no overseas travel this will be a terrific experience. Roll on, tomorrow. It’s going to be interesting to see what international flights are like by now, after years of none – though I view with fear and horror the idea of twenty hours flying – in the mandatory mask! Is anything worth that? Of course it is!



Well, what a delusion that was! Better? At best, it's been more of the same. More truthfully, it's been worse. In 2020 we still believed it would all be over soon. It wasn't.

I've not added to this News blog for so long that it's gathering cobwebs in cyberspace. But in the last eight months, we've seen disaster on disaster. World-wide escalation in an out of control pandemic, with countries fighting for vaccine supplies and an unbelievable surge in anti-vaxxers. Madness. Any casual glance at the death tolls among the unvaccinated makes the bogey of blood clots seem slight, and the idiocy of freedom rallying "We have the right to say 'No'!" staggers anyone rational. In Australia, lockdowns in our major states that seem never-ending, an economy that is showing disaster for so many small businesses, families in deprivation as governments attempt to provide support for basic needs, all make our vaunted 'safety in isolation' claim look feeble. Meanwhile, it's hard to recognise each other in this masked world, and the automatic check-in with QR codes in all places we enter has become second nature.

Add to that the nightmare spectre of climate change in a country where leadership seems to bury heads in sand, despite a world of natural disasters with record-breaking temperatures, out-of-control bushfires, massive flooding and polar warming, and it's little wonder that we seem to have lost our way. Now, the events in Afghanistan, with the heart-breaking losses of all the hard-won freedoms after withdrawal of US and Australian troops, and the horrific scenes of desperate people trying to escape the victorious return of the Taliban, with its promise of Sharia law  -  all more than we can cope with.

Any compensations?  Yes, lockdowns brought a curious freedom. No meetings, events, responsibilities in public life. Just the chance to live peacefully bunkered in our homes. Time to write, so I managed to finish the historical fiction novel, and then get on with a long-cherished plan: a second volume of my 2014 book 'Bystanders'  with its new perspective on Biblical characters. Or, in many cases, people who might have been there -but, until now, weren't! I've now completed sixteen more of these: eight from the Old Testament, another eight from the new. I've loved this project. The research into so many different eras has been fascinating, and the creation of these characters, telling their stories in their own voices, is the writing I most enjoy. The basic stories are now finished. Next the introductory preambles to each, needed in an era where Biblical literacy is low at best, non-existent for many. Then the Study Guides for each story, as I found the first volume was often used as study group material by church organisations. The stories nearly all raise relevant social issues of today's world - so have been popular with church home groups.

Apart from that, great rejoicing at some lovely reviews, just received, from the Studio Journal reviewer, who says they will be published in coming editions. I've put them on this website - you can find them by clicking on the latest reviews for both 'In Seach of Anna' and 'Marking Time.' The sorts of reviews that make you keep writing even when rejection slips make you wonder why! A few poems published, and so life goes, somewhat hesitantly, on.

Endings - and what a year we are ending today. I see that it's many weeks since I last added to this column, but given the sort of year we've had there's almost a sense of triumph in having got through to this point. A year marked by endurance, as COVID changed all aspects of our lives. For us, lockdowns and isolation scarcely made an impact, because our work from home could continue. But we watched with horror as death tolls mounted in so many countries, and these are still today, as we prepare to enter 2021, reeling under rising infection and death rates where whole communities have lived for months under drastic curtailment of normal living. Even in Australia, the Victorian experience has made us all so aware of how confined life can be, and today spasmodic outbreaks in NSW and border closing are once again impacting on many people.

Not tonight the happy New Year's Eve gatherings, as numbers are severely restricted. No more the beach parties to see the year's close. No more the huge crowds watching fireworks. Tonight we are urged to stay home, or in small groups, to watch one-time major fireworks in Sydney Harbour restricted to a television seven minutes at midnight.

For us personally, the saddest COVID effect was on overseas travel, where our three planned trips were all cancelled - most hurtful the loss of the Oberammergau Passion Play with my treasured invitation to be an Australian press representative at the opening day, but this at least has been simply deferred to May 14, 2022. Or has it? Will we be able once more to travel by then? Financially bad too, as some of our travel had only been booked after what we now learn was an insurance cut-off point, and so not all our booking payments could be returned. And we can't help wondering ... by 2022 in our mid eighties, will we be physically able to travel? So many illnesses, deaths, funerals among our peers this year - a sense of mortality can't be ignored. Maybe New Year's Eve evokes a greater recognition of endings?

In theory, the opportunities for writing were great. Unlimited! But, while David has forged ahead with his new book, I seem to have become stuck in one of those flat periods. It's been good to have some encouragement from publications, poems in journals like Tamba and Polestar, and selection for the huge In My View   West Australian coffee table book of photography and matching writing, a short story in an American online journal with the unlikely title of Potato Soup Journal (yes, it's published in Idaho) a Haiwaian magazine from Tinfish Press, and various other small publications here and there. But work on my major effort right now, a historical fiction murder mystery set in ancient Egypt, has stalled badly, though it's led me into many fascinated hours of research into Middle Kingdom and later in the Egypt of the Pharaohs.

I guess a real disappointment has been the slowness of sales for Marking Time - my major work of 2020. I'd hoped this book might find a broader audience, and it's hard to know how much COVID is responsible. I've worked hard at publicising it, with many author talks and guest public speaking events at libraries and organisations, and very pleasing radio coverage - lots of interviews - but sales have languished in spite of wonderful responses from readers, and some very positive reviews. The writer's lot is not an easy one. Maybe 2021 will be better ...

With this optimistic thought I'll bring this long-delayed update to an end.