In 1957 on a cold, wet mid-summer’s day, I was born in the windswept West Riding of Yorkshire, and promptly named Kathy after the Gothic heroine from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Little did my mother know how fitting that title was and how one fateful day, many years hence, I'd meet my very own Heathcliff and suffer the painful consequences of an all-consuming and impossible love.
As you may have realised, my 60th birthday is looming. Although, now that I live in the Southern Hemisphere in Melbourne, Australia my birthday will, of course, fall on the shortest day of the year not the longest. Being June, there won't be much difference in the weather!
So how does it feel to be entering the winter of my life? Not all that good to be perfectly honest. Yes, I'm fit and healthy and reasonably attractive for my age. But for how long? That is the niggling question. As I desperately try to adopt the motto 'you're only as old as you feel' the knowledge that bad stuff will soon start to happen in rapid-fire succession has suddenly come into clear and terrifying focus. Up until the age of 60 we really don't get it. Old age with its inherent and inevitable afflictions seems ages away. But at some point in the not too distant future my mother and others I love will get sick or die, my body or mind will falter and, as a professional artist with no nest egg to speak of, my finances will dry up like the skin on my desiccating body. It's unlikely now that I'll find someone I can bear to be around 24/7 and vice versa so I'd better get used to living alone.
There are, I console myself, some perks to growing old. In the seventies, singer/song writer Helen Reddy wrote about 'wisdom born of pain'. After two score years and ten I've racked up some pretty traumatic experiences, collected some wonderful memories, developed some remarkable resilience, found my voice and written my memoir. 'Spanning five decades and as many continents, Hippy Days, Arabian Nights is a funny, moving and compelling story of a woman whose extraordinary life is without could-or-should-haves' - or so my publisher says. I write, not only about my life as hard-core hippy in the Australian bush but also about my relationship with an Egyptian journalist 27 years my junior in which my age became, for me at least, a major issue.
'Despite Gamal’s reassurances, I became haunted with images of us in, ten, twenty, even thirty years’ time. I began to feel as if I had a terminal illness called ‘old age’ and that our life together was limited. Like a scene in a movie, the camera would zoom in for a close-up (maybe not too close!): Gamal sitting at my hospital bed holding my gnarled, arthritic little hand, guaranteeing that after death we’d be together in Paradise for eternity. As my looks continued to deteriorate and I saw the passion die in my young lover’s eyes, would I try to push him away? How could I bear to watch him watch me become frail, withered and possibly even senile? What sort of life would that be for Gamal? Am I being selfish? Should I let him go so he can find a younger, more appropriate match? What if he wants children one day? I’d ask myself, wrestling a host of loud and persistent demons.' - Excerpt from Hippy Days, Arabian Nights.
As a baby boomer raised on a diet of Grimm’s fairy tales, romantic Hollywood movies, Top 40 love songs, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters it's not surprising I fell for the young, tall, dark and handsome Gamal. So why was I so freaked out by the age difference? Why in our culture is it acceptable for a balding, overweight, rotten-toothed man with yellow toenails and grey bristles sprouting from every orifice to bed a woman half their age yet so unacceptable for an older women to do the same with a much younger man? Is it our lizard brains telling us that, from a biological perspective, it's wrong? That virile young men should only have eyes for vivacious young women with child bearing hips? Or is there something more sinister/reeking of misogyny going on? I would've loved to have read a book on the subject but couldn't find one. So I have decided to write my own. Taboo: relationships between older women and young men. I'll draft a letter to the newly elected French president and his wife and request an interview asap!
My 5th birthday party, Melbourne, 1962
Next stop on the Hippy Days, Arabian Nights Roadshow:
Albury Library Museum / Wodonga Library, Wednesday 14 June, 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Wangaratta City Library, Wednesday 14 June, 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Your intrepid little Aussie author,
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Find out more about Hippy Days, Arabian Nights at http://www.katherineboland-author.com