Julia Cameron and her book,The Artist’s Way came out of left field. I was sixty years old, and they change my life.
The quaint Hampton Arms Inn in Company Road, two kilometres south-west of the Greenough Hamlet, is one of only a handful of Australian colonial hotels that has survived from the nineteenth century.
Opened in 1863, not long after the Greenough Front Flats were first settled, the building retains all of its original architecture and form, with a central two-storey section and single storey wings on each side. In its hey-day, the Inn was a focal point for social gatherings, balls and meetings of all kinds for the settlers in the district.
Not surprisingly, this charming old building was classified by the National Trust in 1977 and placed on the Register of the National Estate in 1978. It was placed on the Shire of Greenough’s historic buildings list in 1984.
Lovingly restored by its current owners, Judy and Brian Turnock, it still functions as a licensed inn. A restaurant and upstairs accommodation, with patchwork quilts on the beds, add to a homely welcome.
The day John and I visited, members of the Geraldton Yacht Club and their guests from other clubs were celebrating the end of the racing season. They had taken over the beer garden and welcomed us warmly, but there was barely seating room for two more people.
‘That sounds like a pleasant enough place,’ you might say.
But the Hampton Arms Inn is much more than a pleasant pub. Apart from its historical significance, what amazed us was the completely unexpected second-hand bookshop, which starts in the bar and spreads into at least four of the ground-floor rooms. There were tables and chairs in these rooms, for the benefit of customers.
Owner Brian, a genial host who on the day we were there doubled as the bartender, describes this part of his business as ‘Hampton Books at the Inn: Rare and out of Print, a place where you can browse an antiquarian bookshop with a beer in hand.’ As well as the physical bookshop, Brian also runs an online bookshop at firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn’t ask his age; it’s not the sort of thing one does. But now I wish I had and that he hadn’t been so busy with the yacht club in the courtyard. I would have liked to talk to him more. I wanted to know what brought him and Judy to Greenough. I wish I’d asked what prompted them to take on such an enormous restoration project and how he came to develop his bookshop in such an out-of-the-way place.
I have probably missed the opportunity for a different post, one about another person who is ageing in style.
But during that day in Greenough, what could have been more appealing to John and me, a couple of passionate readers on holidays, than to spend an afternoon browsing among books we loved, and making small-talk with the owner of a bookshop?
We discovered a wealth of Australiana, included some books that had been companions in our long-ago childhoods. We also spotted other favourites and came away with an armful of reasonably priced volumes, chosen almost randomly from the wealth on offer – delightful reading for the rest of the time we spent in Western Australia’s Mid-West Region.
This unexpected, well-hidden treasure trove was, indeed, as its owners say, a bibliophile’s dream come true.
Last week, I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014, which began on 1 January and will finish on 31 December. For this challenge, women and men readers and bloggers in Australia and elsewhere are invited to read and review books in any genre written by Australian women.
The challenge has run for the past two years, and each time I’ve thought of an excuse not to be involved. Laziness, perhaps. I mostly choose to read books by women and talk about some of them at the book club to which I belong. Reviewing is a logical next step.
Books by male authors in Australia are far more likely to be reviewed than those by women. The stated aim of this challenge is ‘to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women’. As a woman writer, I have to like that!
In the challenge, there are four suggested levels. The first three are named after Stella Miles Franklin, an Australian writer and feminist who is best known for her novel My Brilliant Career, which was published in 1901. The levels are:
- Stella: read four books, and if reviewing, review at least three
- Miles: read six and review at least four
- Franklin: read ten and review at least six.
- Create your own challenge, which could include reading and reviewing an unlimited number of books, or simply reading a few more books by Australian women and reviewing none.
I’ve been very gentle with myself and opted for the Miles level, which means that, in 2014, I’ll read at least six books and review four. Because I write memoirs and sometimes facilitate life-writing courses at Peter Cowan Writers Centre I tend to read more memoirs than books in other genres.
My plans could easily change, but for the challenge I’d like to read and review books from several different genres. Perhaps I’ll find some books written by and about older women. I’ll report my progress and include the reviews in my posts.
There are a few reasons why I’ve joined:
- The idea of being part of a community of people who are reading and writing about books by women writers appeals
- Accepting the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 is an act of solidarity with women writers who are underrepresented in book reviews and on long- and short-lists for most writing awards
- I like challenges, even small ones.
Anyone reading this blog can join the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 and read more books by women this year. I know some people would enjoy reviewing the books, as well. For those new to reviewing, there are guidelines on the AWWC website, and there are also numerous websites with information and tips on how to go about it. Perhaps members of book clubs and writing groups could encourage others to join the challenge and support each other’s review-writing.
ps. This is the first time I’ve tried to add links to one of my posts. I can’t find any way to check until I post this. If I haven’t got it right, I’ll try again. Learning curve!
Since our peaceful, joyful, family Christmas day, I’ve spent some uncomfortable hours with the dull ache of disappointment and embarrassment, wondering how to make amends to my sister and brother-in-law for forgetting their invitation for my husband and me to share a special meal with them and our brother on the Friday between Christmas and New Year.
I’d looked forward for weeks to spending time with my siblings, but without checking my diary I’d invited another person to our house that evening. There’s no excuse. Not only did I hurt people I love, but John and I also missed one of the highlights of our festive Christmas season.
When my sister rang to ask where we were, I confessed that I’d forgotten. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I eventually looked in my diary I saw that it was the birthday of one of my granddaughters. I’d bought and wrapped her present before Christmas, but I’d forgotten the day completely.
On one level, not checking my diary was a simple mistake, but not to use it or the calendar by the phone for a week? There’s something about this forgetful behaviour that disturbs me. My decision to make some changes takes effect from today.
It’s mere coincidence that it is almost the end of the year. New Year’s resolutions have never been part of my life. In the past couple of decades, each year on my birthday I have reviewed the previous year. A long time ago, a friend gave me an illustrated notebook with beautiful paper, and I’ve used that to record any past achievements and write to plans for the next twelve months.
One year, I worked through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I began to write three pages in longhand every single morning, followed by a long walk. That process changed my life as I allowed myself to become more creative across all dimensions.
The next year, I read Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. In 365 little essays, one for each day of the year, Breathnach writes about ‘six practical, creative, and spiritual principles – gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty and joy’. It took some work to transpose meditations about seasons and celebrations applicable in the northern hemisphere to Australia, but the effort was worth every moment.
But over the past few years, some of the foundation elements that made up my well-ordered life have slipped. This is partly the result a dramatic change in life-style brought about by remarrying when I was almost seventy, after living alone for almost thirty-five years; and partly because I’ve become less physically robust as I’ve aged.
Since I sent the completed manuscript of a book to an agent three months ago, my life has been in the limbo of ongoing waiting for her verdict on my work. A writer of any age who isn’t writing can be very grumpy indeed, as well as disorganised and forgetful.
THREE TOOLS FOR AN ORGANISED LIFE
Now it is time to change, to return to the simple principles and practices that I love and that help to keep my life ordered, abundant and creative. I am a writer and I write! And I promise to use my diary regularly.
There’s a happy ending to the story of the meal with my siblings. Yesterday, our brother invited us to his place for dinner tonight. And my sister sent me a reminder message on Facebook, complete with exclamation marks. I’m loved and forgiven.
One hundred-and-one books make a reasonable reading list.
‘We could start a book club,’ my new friend said. ‘That way we’d get to read a lot of different books.’
‘Good idea,’ said another friend.
‘We could each invite one other person to join,’ I suggested. ‘That way we’d meet new people, too.’
That was eleven years and one hundred-and-one books ago. Continue reading