[caption id="attachment_14463" align="alignleft" width="400"]greek-cafes-&-milk-bars Cover Photo: the Popular Café Cootamundra 1952[/caption] A recently published book by two researchers into the role of Greek families in the cultural history of Australia, got me thinking back to my childhood in the Clarence Valley of the forties and fifties. Effie Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski have been researching this topic for decades. They now work at the Macquarie University in Sydney. In the early 20th century, many migrants from Greece emigrated to Australia, often to escape war and its aftermath, and to find economic salvation. Some of the milk bar and café owners who came to Grafton, my place of birth, were from the island of Kythera, lying opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula.  Their descendants back home, called Australia “Big Kythera”, and even today,  the islanders often speak English with an Aussie twang.

My Writer's Voice Linked to A Childhood Spent in the NSW Clarence Valley

The following historical photograph of my hometown, with the Clarence River and Susan Island across the water, bring me back to long-forgotten memories of childhood evenings underneath a balmy star-spangled sky in South Grafton next to the water's edge. I wonder now whether this is the source of my writer's voice: the places and storytellers from childhood that I carry within till this day?  And for me, nature played—and still plays—a large part. [caption id="attachment_10795" align="aligncenter" width="586"]grafton-clarence-river-island Grafton on the Clarence. State Archives NSW[/caption] Is it the past that gives birth to the special voice within all of us, the one that reappears when narrating stories in written form? This throws up other questions for me, to do with the the relationship of voice to person, character and narration, and how "written voice" touches vicariously on an assumed reader and an assumed listener.

I'm remembering the Jacaranda Festivals of my childhood at Grafton in northern New South Wales, with a certain nostalgia. Did such a time of innocence really exist? Is this celebration different today? Below is a photo from my sister's album of her, Susan, and our little sister, Jill, folk dancing with school friends at the Grafton Jacaranda Festival in the fifties. jill-susan-dancing-jacaranda-festival This annual spring-time celebration begins at the end of October and lasts until the first week in November. It has gone on since nineteen thirty-four, and was the first such folk festival in the country. The Grafton Jacaranda Festival  is in full swing in my hometown as I write this post. It is a spring celebration that is held every year during the first week in November. At this time, the jacaranda trees are in full bloom. Some childhood memories are golden. Or, in this case, mauve, lilac, purple, and, as Dad once said, "heliotrope". It's hard to pin down the actual colour of the flowers that bloom on the jacaranda trees, and form carpets of blossoms on the surface of the roads and avenues. Sometimes they seem lighter hued, mauve in my memory, at other times, darkly purple.

"Flame Trees" was sung by Jimmy Barnes to commemorate Australia Day on 26th January this year (2016). The song depicts for me the two sides of Grafton, its  polarities. This town is the setting for my memoir "River Girl" that I intend to publish in the near future. We lived outside the main town at a place called Waterview. Being surrounded by nature was the positive side of my childhood when I was growing up.


Grafton and South Grafton

I was born and grew up in the far north coast town of Grafton in NSW, Australia. Actually, it was on the poor cousin side of South Grafton on the western bank of the Clarence River. At a place called Waterview. There's a crooked bridge joining the two sides of the river.  We lived on a block of land in a weatherboard cottage, a bit of a dump, really. Dad didn't mind, so long as he was away from the town 'rubber necks'.  Mum hankered after mod cons and pretty things. Dad wanted only land, gum trees and bullocks.

There was an avenue of jacaranda trees, which marked the end of the township of South Grafton, and the start of the Gwydir Highway, that we lived next to, one mile out from the town boundary.