Forget chick lit. In this delightful, wry portrayal of life with young children, the pitfalls and pleasures of grandparenting are explored. Accommodating those young parents who were once one's children, and their children, while maintaining a sense of self, is a skill. These interlinked stories covering three years in the life of toddlers Jack and Serena and their extended family light up the pages. Each character is deftly drawn against the backdrop of everyday situations, and taps the nuances of relationships, sometimes painful, often joyful, and everything in between. Historian Sarah Martin of Melbourne, Australia, took time out from working on her Ph.D. to explore her creative muse. The result is this lighthearted fictional insight into middle-class suburban Australia, in which the voices of four generations come together in a subtle and textured comment on family life. Her biography of Davis McCaughey: A Life was published by UNSW Press Australia in 2012. Her history of the organisation Bush Heritage Australia and her first children's picture book A Galapagos Day will be published in 2016. She says, When my father died at the age of 99, he left his body to the School of Anatomy at the University of Melbourne. I had an interesting conversation with my daughter, who found it difficult to explain this concept to her three-year-old son. I started fiddling around with the kind of conversation that might ensue over the subject, and gradually the character Jack came into existence and spawned a whole cast of characters and events that eventually became When is Forever?
This year has been a cocktail of travel for Pete and me, and coming home to Melbourne has been a strange kind of culture shock, partly because it is hard to remember whether we are now in summer, or winter. Just as it was getting cold in Melbourne, in May, we went to England to the start of summer. The reason for this trip was to help our daughter and her partner with their business, which is installing composting toilets at music festivals. This is the second year we have spent 6 weeks in Somerset, and we are starting to feel at home there, we meet the same people and enjoy the rural life in gorgeously green and fertile Somerset. We plan the trip to coincide with their busiest time, when they instal 1100 toilets at the iconic Glastonbury Festival.
As they have two small kids our main job is baby sitting, but we have been roped in to help on site, and that is always fun, and often stressful. After our return in early July, back to winter, we packed our car for an 8 week camping trip across the top of Australia, which was the last field trip of research for my book on the history of Bush Heritage Australia, a philanthropic conservation organization, which will be launched in August 2016. Although it was winter, we had beautiful warm sunny days, and the nights were balmy, since we were now in the tropics. After three weeks on the road to get there, we arrived at the Garma festival, an Aboriginal based festival featuring fabulous dancing and singing in the afternoons after a long day of forums and discussions about aboriginal problems, which are extensive. We then continued west across Arnhem Land and visited several Aboriginal homelands before we crossed over into West Australia to meet another aboriginal group in the Kimberley region. My field trips have taken me to many remote places in Australia, and I have learnt so much about my country and the great unknown places, and I feel enormous pride in our varied landscapes, and greatly privileged to have had the chance to explore Australia in this way.
On our return, we had a month at home, in which time I finished writing the book, before we took off for a brief visit to India, where winter is settling in. We started in Calcutta, travelling to Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas and then across to Nagaland for the fabulous Hornbill festival, in which 18 clans performed traditional tribal dances and songs, all dressed in their colourful tribal costumes. It was a fascinating experience, and coming home to Melbourne, I found I missed the vibrant energy that is all around you in India. So much life is played out in the streets, in a gloriously colourful and unselfconscious way, and suddenly Melbourne feels empty and lacking in vitality. It is my third visit to India, and I always feel that I have never seen quite enough, and I know that I will want to go back again. I like going back to places where I have spent time, repeat visits encourage a familiarity that helps you gain greater insights into the culture and the way of life.
Click HERE to enter to win a copy of When Is Forever on Goodreads