Authors: Mary Moody
MARY MOODY has been a prolific gardening author and a former presenter on ABC-TV's
. Her books include
The Good Life
Last Tango in Toulouse
The Long Hot Summer
(2009). Mary divides her year between her farm near Bathurst in New South Wales and her house in south-west France.
Also by Mary Moody
Last Tango in Toulouse
The Long Hot Summer
Lunch with Madame Murat
Running away from home at fifty
First published 2001 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
This Pan edition published 2003 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney
Reprinted 2003 (four times), 2004 (twice), 2005 (twice)
Copyright Â© Mary Moody 2001
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
National Library of Australia
ISBN 0 330 36448 0 (pbk.).
1. Moody, Mary - Homes and haunts - France.2. Solitude.
3. Women - Australia - Biography.4. France - Social life
and customs.1. Title.
Typeset in New Baskerville by Midland Typesetters printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
Cover and text design by Liz Seymour
These electronic editions published in 2001 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.
Adobe eReader format: 978-1-74197-147-7
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Online format: 978-1-74197-750-9
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To David Barwick and Emma Veitch-Turkington
who both loved this little corner of France
HE YEAR MY MOTHER TURNED FIFTY
she had a nervous breakdown. My father had run off with another woman and Mum wrapped herself in a blanket of sleeping tablets and alcohol. She lost her high-profile job as the public relations executive for an international cosmetics company. Her half century culminated in two dramatic attempts at suicide which were clinically treated, quite alarmingly, with several large doses of LSD. She never worked again.
The year of my mother's breakdown I turned twenty and I tried, with little compassion, to grasp the implications of her illness. After many years of my father's infidelity, heavy drinking and domestic violence, my love and respect for him had totally evaporated. From my point of view my mother was well shot of him. Being so young I was unable to come to terms with the notion that people of my parents' advanced age could still feel such intense love and passion that it could drive them to heights of rage and despair. My parents' behaviour simply appalled me. I did my best to escape by running away from home with an unsuitable long-haired local boy to enjoy the tail end of the swinging sixties. For me life was full of exciting possibilitiesâliving in a share house in trendy Paddington, going to rock festivals, partying all night and working by day as a cadet journalist on a popular women's magazine. I became deeply resentful at having to spend so much of that year rescuing my mother from her ongoing crisis. I ran out of patience with ambulance dashes to hospital casualty departments and visits to
the weird psychiatric clinic where she was being treated.
At fifty, the women of my mother's generation were considered old. For many, after their fiftieth birthday celebrations it was downhill all the way. Middle age meant blue rinses and tight perms and Friday nights at the bingo. From my self-obsessed, youthful perspective I believed that my mother should just pull herself together, forget about her failed marriage and get on with growing old gracefully.
The year I turned fifty it dawned on me that I was exactly the same age my mother had been when I'd thought she had âstopped living'. Suddenly, and with some guilt, I saw clearly for the first time how my mother must have been feeling that terrible year. My own life had taken a very different path from hersâI had a solid marriage, financial security, a busy and successful career and a wonderful collection of children and grandchildren. I was happy but also very aware that for my generation fifty is still considered quite young. Sexy, even. Certainly not the beginning of the end. While my mother at fifty could see no further than the black hole created by my father's departure, I saw my life as only just starting in so many ways. Instead of feeling pain and despair, I was feeling joy and excitement.
The year I turned fifty, in memory of my mother, I decided to claim six months for myself. I abandoned my career, my husband, my children and grandchildren, my friends, my home and my large garden, and went on a journey alone, to find myself.
AM A CLASSIC BABY
boomer. I was born into relative affluence and, like so many women of my generation, I've had it all. I have maintained a busy life and have worked professionally with virtually no time off for thirty years, while simultaneously rearing a larger than average family, balancing a relationship with my partner, managing a house, establishing a garden and generally being all things to all people. The expectations placed on us fifties girls have been enormous, and many have crumbled under the strain, admitting that being superwoman just isn't worth it. I somehow managed to survive, butâoddly enoughâonly with considerable help from my mother.
My mother regained her mental health, but really only completely recovered following the death of my father, two years after the dramatic dissolution of their marriage. She moved to a wheat farm in northern NSW with my much older half-brother Jon, but within twelve months had injured her leg so badly in a fall that she needed total bed rest to recuperate
fully. It was harvest time and Jon simply couldn't cope, so Mum arrived on our doorstep to stay for three weeks. Somehow this turned into twenty-three years. My husband used to joke that it was like the mythical aunt who comes to dinner and never leaves, but somehow for all of us it seemed just right. By this stage we had two small children. Living up north, Mum had sorely missed them, and I had certainly missed having her around during those busy years with a young family. My relationship with her, which had been greatly strained during the years of her marriage breakup and nervous breakdown, was miraculously healed at the birth of my first child. It was quite amazing how her spirits lifted when this small wrinkled person arrived on the scene. She even wrote me a long and apologetic letter acknowledging how bad things had been, and how having a grandchild had somehow changed her life. Suddenly she was more positive, she had something to live for again. With her shock of unruly grey hair, her sharp wit and her irreverent sense of humour, she obviously had a huge impact on our lives over such a long period. She maintained her penchant for whisky and cigarettes, carefully eyeing the clock every evening for the stroke of five, when the lid would come off the bottle. But her contribution to our family life greatly outweighed her long-acquired bad habits.
My partner of nearly thirty years is a filmmaker, eleven years my senior. David and I got together in 1972 when I was working as a publicist for a commercial television station in Sydney where he was in production with a television series. The first time I saw David walking along the gloomy corridors near my office I was aghast: he was a bear-like man in his early thirties, balding on top but with blond-streaked hair at the back and sides that swept
down over his shouldersâand he had a brilliant red beard that came close to reaching his belt buckle.
âThere's a man who works at the station,' I reported to Mum that weekend, âwho looks very much like an oversized garden gnome.'
Not long separated from his first wife Kathleen, and still on the rebound from a disastrous affair with a pretty young woman in the production office, David really shouldn't have been all that interested in entering into another full-on relationship. Yet he pursued me quite obsessively, and within a few months of meeting him we started living together. One of the first questions David posed to me in those early months of our relationship concerned having a child together. He already had a son, Tony, who had been born not long after the split-up with Kathleen, and he felt very distanced from him. David seemed desperate to have a child and for reasons I still cannot begin to fathom, I cheerfully fell in with the idea. I have often wondered why I was so compliant, given that it could easily have been a recipe for disaster: my youth and background of emotional turmoil combined with his poor history of relationships. I don't remember thinking it through for a moment, or trying to analyse the pros and cons. I simply stopped taking the pill and we produced our first childâa daughter, Miriamâin 1973. Two years later we followed with a son, Aaron, and not long after, with Mum in tow, we moved the entire household to the Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney.