So here we are house sitting for at least 18 months all around the place. And writing and writing. We are trying to finally pay off our mortgage- interesting word- from the Latin mort: death; and gage: pledge. Historically a nobleman’s son could borrow against his inheritance and when the father died he would repay the money. I digress. I’m pretty sure the idea to house sit and rent ours out was a download idea from God as neither of us is financially savvy enough to have thought it up. We have house-sat in palaces and pig styes. Mainly somewhere in between. One home owner,as she swanned out the door with a flourish of silk, departing for her Pacific cruise, informed me that 5 teenagers would be staying the weekend on dirt bikes. Starting tomorrow. OK? Definitely very NOT OK. What a cheek! They duly arrived next day and we endured a few hours of rap music and dust, then one of them cut his foot wide open and thankfully- needed my nursing skills as he passed out from shock. We shunted them all off in a taxi that somebody paid for- it wasn’t me. Oh yes- she also mentioned the house was haunted. Yay. So we spent the first night evicting a few squatters and jumping at the merest sound anywhere around inside or outside. Full of faith, me.
I’ve sat writing happily on the back deck of a river front mansion, the $2.1 mil yacht moored down the bottom of the jetty, the pool and fountains bubbling behind me and a reasonably calm poodle on my knee. Then there was the time I had a publishing deadline and no internet. (‘Why would you need that?’ asked my otherwise switched-on home owner.) Why indeed? Maybe to correct the edits and re-write a few hundred times to get to the publisher on time ? This time my nearest WiFi ( or ‘wee-fee in Spain) was the local McCafe. Otherwise known as the local kindergarten and meeting place for shouting frustrated mums. I wedged myself in the farthest away bench seat and put my swimming pool earplugs in. To no avail. I had to beat off adventurous 2 year olds, all unsupervised, as they climbed over into my seat space, knocking over my coffee (sacrilege) and snotting on my paper. Pretty darn proud of myself though - got it in by deadline. Don’t start me of on ‘mothers today….’
I work pretty well to a deadline. It’s the stress that seems to produce the final results I guess.
I have written on a misty headland in Flinders Victoria, gazing out across Bass Strait in the winter, loving the Englishness of it all, knowing I would go home to a roaring fire at and do the crossword out of The Age. Now there’s a sensible paper.
We are currently on the Gold Coast, daily surviving the death-defying feats of P-plate drivers as they skid across our bows at death-wish speeds. We are in architect- designed intensive housing here with about an eyelash worth of space between each house. We have been supplied with WiFi anti dog bark devices which I use a lot. I can hear most conversations on both sides despite my hearing deficit so Lord knows what they now know about us! Plenty, probably. I am diligently (since the fabulous Writers Conference in Melbourne) applying myself to my novel completion now. Novel being a noun of course. I was thoroughly challenged by that fabulously wise lady Deb Porter who was suitably horrified that I would consider it an ‘indulgence’ to be even writing one. For me it was always about non-fiction and saving the world. I have fought with the wild beast of false guilt that whispered many things including ‘what good is that going to be to anyone?’
So….instead of applying myself to finishing my novel I am writing this. Must go - got to finish my novel.
Chris Wren James is a writer and word processor. She has 3 published non-fiction books and is currently working on a novel due out next year. She is the director of Life Streams International and lives with her husband on the Gold Coast. They have 5 children, 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Last count.