Many renditions of Kumbaya were involved.
The prolific London-based author and Australian national treasure loves to travel – and getting there is half the pun.
1976: Most teenagers are besotted with rebellious rock stars or cinematic love gods. But I was obsessed with a much more exotic, rare, enigmatic and entertaining species: the Milligan. At 16, I was madly in love with Spike. I knew all his poetry, books and songs by heart. When I heard that he was performing a one-man show at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, I ran away from school to follow him.
Despite Australia’s past as the crème de la crim, we attend more cultural events and read more books per capita than any other country, and soon I was plucking my highbrows and devouring everything from Beowulf to Aboriginal songlines.
To finance show tickets, my girlfriend and I had started busking on street corners. Much to our amazement, our act was snapped up by the Adelaide Fringe. The fringe benefit, thanks to Adelaide’s warm welcome and Spike’s kind encouragement, was that I decided to become a writer.
1988: When I first moved to Blighty in 1988, I needed emotional thermals to survive the social frostbite. But if London didn’t immediately warm to me, I quickly warmed to London. Billiard-baize-green fields buttered golden with daffodils; black cabs bobbing along like motorised bowler hats; fairy lights flickering on the inky Thames from the Housesof Parliament to Shakespeare’s Globe.
And the city haemorrhages history, with ghosts in every nook and crenellated cranny. (The best thing about being photographed in front of historic monuments is that it makes a girl look so much younger!)
In 2003, I finally felt accepted when The Savoy appointed me its writer-in-residence. My Art Deco suite was so sumptuous, I never got up before the crack of noon. Would you, when you’re served breakfast in bed by boys in crisp white jackets? I’m now happy to call London my second home.
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1995: I’m partial to a resort so exclusive that not even the tide can get in. The downside is the fashionable flotsam and jet set that washes up. Lying on the beach, I planned to snub all pretentious guests and dive headfirst into my books. But Mother Nature had other plans.
The first sign of the hurricane was when my “catch of the day” took on a literal meaning and blew off the plate. As I fled back to my bungalow, the trees waved drunkenly, their heads bent at crazy angles. At 2am, the thud of a tree crashing through the roof cleaved my cranium like an axe.
Soon, guests were evacuated to a hurricane shelter. As storms battered the bunker, a warm camaraderie ensued. People I’d dismissed as dull raised my spirits with hearty renditions of Kumbaya. When a blue day finally dawned, I hugged my new friends and wondered why it takes the worst to bring out the best in human beings. ￼