Maggie Graham – trip to Melbourne

Maggie Graham

maggie and maisie reading.jpgWriter’s Diary: May 2013

I’m not sure why I haven’t written here in ages. Life, I suppose, just life, which most of the time is pretty unremarkable. However, now I definitely have something to write about. I must begin by thanking Pat Byrne for singing my praises in her piece Maggie Graham, Glasgow Writer and for adding a link to my most recent publication: An Insult to the Brain (PDF). I am really delighted.

Those of you who can remember will know that I have a wheen of grandchildren. The latest count is six: Aimie and Jack live in Ardrossan, Michael, Daniel and Christopher moved to Bangkok with their parents last August and the latest addition is Maisie Jane Montgomery, born to my son Steven and his wife Kia in Melbourne on the 28th of March 2012. Despite a year of photos and regular Skype calls I was longing to hold my latest grandchild, so I booked a flight and flew out at the end of March this year, just in time for Maisie’s first birthday.

maisie's party.jpgMy holiday got off to a chaotic start. I fell downstairs the day I arrived, after twenty-five hours travelling, suffering scrapes, bruises and a nasty bump on my head. Then my mobile died on me and my bank card refused to work in shops and ATMs. Eventually I was able to get down to some serious reading. Maisie loves her Animals book and Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes, which became one of my favourites too. “And all of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”

And then there was the birthday party. I made chocolate crispy cakes for the first time in years. They went down well but weren’t a patch on Kia’s gorgeous birthday cake and cupcakes. The birthday girl had nearly as much fun as her parents.

parkWe made quite a few sightseeing trips as a family, to Melbourne Botanical Gardens, St Kilda with its gorgeous beachfront and funfair, lunch on Brunswick St, which reminded me of the west end and the massive Victoria market which is a foodie heaven with meat, fish and vegetable stalls and lots of wee delis. Nearly as good as the hot doughnuts we bought from a street vendor, before heading home. One Sunday Steven and I went to St. Andrews (not for the golf) driving through the countryside, seeing kangaroos on the way and stopping at a lovely wee hotel for lunch. On the way home we spotted a bar named “A Boy named Sue” but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera!

That same week I went with Kia’s aunts Kerry and Donna and her mum Debbie to Kerry’s family’s holiday home near Mansfield, Victoria. I had such a lovely time in a beautiful home deep in the country and facing a lake, listening to screeching white cockatoos, which sound prehistoric, mingled with Herman’s Hermits Greatest Hits, which Kerry bought when we went into town. In Country Tales bookshop I bought two volumes of memoirs by the Australian writer, Susa Duncan. They’re set close to Sydney, not Melbourne and are lovely tales full of character and nature. I loved the town with its main street ad great shops and cafes and had such a great time with the ‘girls’. It felt lovely to be welcomed into the family and receive such wonderful hospitality. When I asked Debbie what a particular brightly-coloured bird was called, she said “That’s a Galah” which made me laugh, remembering Alf Stuart in Home and Away – “Ya bloody big Galah”.

libraryTowards the end of my trip, when Steve and Kia were at work, I took the train into the city. I wandered Federation Square and the Ian Potter Gallery NVG Australia, which is the world’s first major art gallery dedicated exclusively to Australian art. The exhibition of indigenous art on the ground floor was breathtaking. I walked down to Federation Wharf and spent a quiet hour watching the cruise boats on the river. I made it along to some of Melbourne’s hidden lanes, with their cafes, shops and restaurants. By far the most interesting was the graffiti art lane I discovered when I followed a crowd of schoolchildren and their funky tour guide. Travel tip: if in doubt, follow the weans; they’re usually headed somewhere interesting. The next day I went back to Brunswick Street and found Grub Street books. New and second hand and just what I’d been looking for, as new books were very expensive. The owner told me he had been to Glasgow and that his niece lives here. Small world. I bought The Fog Garden by Marion Halligan which is one of the most interesting novels I’ve read in ages.

On my final trip to the city I met up with Mike Shuttleworth, a friend of my friend Alison Somerville whom she met at Perth University in the 1980s. Mike is programme manager at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and was able to recommend other Australian writers, including Helen Garner, Elizabeth Jolley and Tim Winton. He also told me that Janice Galloway, John Burnside, Kirsty Gun and Doug Johnston will be among the Scottish writers appearing at the MWF in August. So, lovely lunch with a very nice man and a great deal of writing talk. Bliss. I managed a quick trip to the Victoria Library with its beautiful domed ceiling and caught an exhibition of books and book production. Definitely my kind of day trip.

bonnie lassie.jpgBack at Stevie and Kia’s we celebrated Anzac day with home-baked Anzac biscuits and watching Australian rules footie on telly. That’s the game where players are allowed to knock lumps out of each other and not get sent off. Everyone and I mean everyone follows the game, even the nanas. Well, not this nana but I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. I spent my last day with my beautiful family having lunch by the riverside and just enjoying their company. I won’t mention baby kisses and hugs and tears at the airport.

So now I’m home from the land where a two-dollar piece is smaller than a one dollar, sweeties are called lollies, even when they don’t have sticks, a greetin face is a sooky la la and my granddaughter now knows clap a clap a handies and ally bally bee. I loved all of it (apart from the daft fitba)

I’ll be back bonny lassie xx

Aye Write 2015: The Midnight Letterbox: Selected Correspondence of Edwin Morgan review by Maggie Graham

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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