Not being of an introspective temperament, nor an accomplished portraitist, I find it easier to talk about my milieu than myself. I spent my childhood in northern New South Wales. My mother’s people had come to farm in the district around the tum of the century, and most of her family had married, lived and died there. Though my father was a newcomer from the coast, he too had relatives in the town. For some years my younger brother and I were the babies of the kin group.
One of my most powerful memories from that time is of Sunday drives: myself, my brother, my grandmother and great-grandmother in the passenger seats and my mother behind the wheel the three women exchanging a fusillade of gossip at near-shouting volume (the older women being hard of hearing, and the car’s engine contributing to the uproar). Years of this had bred in them an encyclopedic knowledge of the district and its people, their foibles, feuds, and tragedies. I would let the details of their talk wash over me. However, the subtext stuck: a reflexive racism, a puritanical, combatively sectarian Methodism, and a wariness of outsiders were all part of my unconscious universe.