We were away for just two weeks but when we returned and drove into our little lane, it felt like we'd been gone a lot longer than that. The trip home was exhausting and a bit harrowing in places as we had to drive through the edge of the flood waters but it was SO worth the effort. Both Hanno and I want to thank everyone who travelled to their local bookshop to meet us. We left a trail of loyal friends behind us and many book shops sold out of copies of the book by the time we left. I was amazed, and probably shouldn't have been, at the generosity and kindness of these people who we'd never met but who felt like, and treated us like, friends. Not only were there warm and comfy hugs there were jars of jam and pickles, home brew, banana bread, gluten-free muffins, dishcloths, soap, chillis in oil, cards and many good wishes brought along for us to take away as mementos. Thank you so much. Both Hanno and I were over-whelmed at the friendliness and generosity of you all. We were treated like the king and queen! It was quite something.
We stayed a few days at Tricia's on the way down south. This is a lovely family dinner at Tricia's - Hanno, Tricia, me, Danny and his girlfriend, Laura. David was behind the camera - cooeee David!
We checked into The Olsen, an art hotel chosen for us by Penguin. And yes, the cricket was on TV so that was on before we did anything else. Wow, such splendour! That bed you can see above is the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in. I thought my bed at home was great, but this one beat it.
Along the way we also visited Byron Bay for an interview with local journalist Megan, 2GB in Sydney with Chris Smith (Sydney's biggest radio station), the ABC studios in Melbourne for a number of interviews, including one with Richard Stubbs (which made it into the Weekly Redux along with Graham Nash, Ralph Fiennes and the wonderful Frank Woodley!), and to the massive Herald Sun building for an interview there with journalist Jane Howard who whispered to me: "you wrote this book for me, didn't you?" We went from Byron Bay to Blackheath to Sydney to Melbourne to Ballarat to Castlemaine to Bendigo to Albury to Canberra to Bathurst - where we were caught up in the floods, and home via Dubbo, Gilgandra, Tamworth, Armidale, Dorrigo, Belligen and the Gold Coast. It was an exciting and life-affirming trip because everyone we met was generous with their praise of the book and the blog and we were made feel special every place we went! We were to have visited Wollongong to meet friends but that was not to be and the political shenanigans got our spot dropped from The Circle. Oh well.
On the beach at Byron Bay with Megan.
Oh dear, I knew I should have written down everyone's name. I think this was at Albury. Sorry ladies, please remind me in the comments so I can add it here. Update: The pregnant lady at my side is Alison - it's baby number 3.
This is my Penguin publicist Dianne Biviano with me in the ABC studios in Melbourne. She did a wonderful job promoting the book and put together that incredible itinerary I posted.
Uh oh! This is what we found in Ballarat!
Also in Ballarat were Lisa and her cute baby.
Lisa and Janine with Hanno in Bathurst. Lisa was the first radio journalist to interview me many years ago.
Hanno and I in the ABC Melbourne studios.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was to meet, for the first time, my editor, Jo Rosenberg. Over the course of me writing the book, and the editing of it, Jo and I developed a very special friendship. She is a little younger than my own children and she feels like a daughter to me now. Jo and her gorgeous husband Eli took us out to dinner at a wonderful Caffe Cucina in Chapel Street. Wow, the food and atmosphere there was superb and while the rain fell outside and we talked and laughed over dinner, and when we walked in the rain back to our hotel a short distance away, I felt that this night was one I would remember forever.
Here is is four of us at Caffe Cucina - Jo, Eli, Hanno and I.
The next morning at the Penguin office, Jo and I in her office.
We went to the Penguin headquarters the next day to meet some other Penguins, namely Allison Colploys who designed the cover of Down to Earth. Oh my, what a charming girl she is! A delightful mix of shyness and youthful exuberance and just bursting with talent. Allison won the young designer of the year award in 2009. Hello Allison! Meeting you was one of our highlights. :- ) I really was supported by a large group of talented women in the making of this book. On the way into the Penguin building I heard someone say: "there is Rhonda ... and Hanno!" It was Kate from Fox's Lane blog. We had never met before but I have commented on her excellent blog and she on mine so, naturally, in the way of the blogging world, we "know" each other. What a great surprise! This book certainly has lead me towards many incredible people; a wonderful side benefit.
I loved that people saw Hanno and I as a team, because we are that, and a couple of people asked him to sign their books too. He was recognised on the street and when he couldn't find the bookshop after parking the car, he asked Janine and Roger for directions, and they just happened to be on their way to meet us. I loved the friendships that have developed invisibly and easily over the years and that when I spoke about my family: "We stayed with Tricia.", "Kerry is staying at our place." etc, everyone knew who I was talking about and no explanations where needed. Lots of people asked about the babies and I will be sure to tell Jamie and Alexander that when they were little, people loved knowing how they were and what they were doing. But most of all I loved that I knew deep down to my bones that the trip was a success and we would have been poorer for not having done it. It was exhausting, hard work, scary, and a bit intimidating meeting all those people but we had such a wonderful time that I know we will not forget it - ever.
When we got home on Saturday night, as I lay in my own bed, the thing that made the most impact on me was the silence and the darkness surrounding us. Almost everywhere we stayed in those two weeks had unfamiliar noises and lights that illuminated the night. But back here at home I found comfort in the dark silence and I slept soundly in my own bed. Simple pleasures, yes, but genuine and satisfying nonetheless. It's good to be back with you.