Guest blogger: Liz Harris
Set in Wyoming 1880, Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches, have grown up like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry. Their families and friends know this, too, and impatient to see the marriage take place, they’re now wondering aloud with increasing frequency why the engagement hasn’t yet been announced.
Rose, too, has started to wonder why. She knows Will loves her and she knows she loves him, so there’s nothing can stop them marrying. Or is there?
I thought that people who love novels set in rural Australia, as I do, might enjoy this, and I’d intended to talk about writing a novella as opposed to a full-length novel.
BUT I’d reckoned without THE AUSTRALIA EFFECT.
Two weeks ago, I returned from my first visit to Australia. I LOVED every minute of it. I’m not even bothering to convert my remaining Australian dollars back into sterling as I want to go there again as soon as possible.
So, change of plan for today–I intend to indulge myself by going down recent-memory lane and writing about my visit.
Owing to a massive error when booking the flight to Sydney for my son’s wedding in the Royal Botanic Gardens, my stay was much shorter than intended. I’d originally wanted to visit other places in Australia, but that was now impossible. Instead, I made the most of every minute in Sydney, surely one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with the nicest of people.
The first place I went to was Sydney Opera House. I can’t tell you how excited I felt when I reached the bottom of Macquarie Street and saw the Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House. It’s a stunning building.
Later in the week I went to dinner and a show there, and discovered it had the best loos I’ve ever seen in a theatre. Our National Theatre would do well to pay a visit (so to speak) to the facilities there, and copy them.
A day was spent in the fabulous Taronga Zoo, and a day in the Blue Mountains, where I stood at Echo Point and stared in wonder at the view of The Three Sisters and the beautiful mountains around, their wooded slopes hazed in blue. I went on everything there–cable car, sky train, you name it.
I went as far south of Sydney as Wollongong, and as far north as stunning Palm Beach. On the way home from Palm Beach, I drove across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That was really something.
On different days, I walked all the way round The Rocks and then Circular Quay, which has a real buzz to it, spent a lovely couple of hours in Dymocks bookshop, and went to Manly on the ferry–of course–where I had a dish of excellent fish and chips before strolling along the beautiful beach
On the subject of coffee: Australians certainly like their coffee, and each café clearly prided itself on the coffee it served, and with good reason.
We ate in loads of different places. From a BBQ in Centennial Park, hosted by our new Australian family; to pies from Harry’s Café de Wheels; to Aria on Macquarie Street; to the Opera House; to a Chinatown restaurant, where we ate far too much, having failed to realise that Australian portions would be larger than British ones; to the range of fabulous restaurants on Finger Wharf, near where we were staying.
There was time for one museum only so I chose the Australia Museum. The Surviving Australia section was fascinating. Three of the many things I learned there are:
1. When magpies breed in September, they’ll go for the face and eyes of anyone who goes too close, so locals wear hats with eyes painted on the back.
2. Koalas aren’t sleepy because they’re drunk on eucalyptus leaves – it’s because their diet is low on nutrition, and they have a low metabolic rate and body temperature. With only six hours of energy a day, they must conserve that energy.
3. Kangaroos used not to be able to hop. Thousands of years ago, they were arboreal and lived in the extensive forests which covered most of Australia. The forests gradually receded, leaving vast areas of open land where once there’d been trees, and kangaroos evolved into animals with the ability to hop in order to cover great open distances at speed.
My final photo is the reason we went to Sydney on our first, but not last, visit to Australia.
Thank you enormously, ARRA, for letting me talk to you today. It was brilliant to have an excuse to return mentally to Australia. I can’t wait for the day when I can do so physically, too.