My father, good military man that he was, had done a reconnaissance and decided on Perth as the place we would settle. There was already a well established community of former colonials in Perth and well...it was the closest place to Africa. Interestingly he swore the LAST place in Australia he would settle was Melbourne.
|The "Round House" of Fremantle Jail|
But home life was unsettled. Despite his experience Dad couldn't find work and I learned in subsequent years that he and my mother were considering debunking to South Africa when a job came up in...Melbourne. The rest, as they say, is history.
So after that preamble, it is strange to find myself back in Perth. I have only ever been back once before, about 14 years ago, accompanying my husband on a business trip. Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, being 4 hours flight from the east coast of Australia.
So here I am at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle. I recall the Fremantle of 1968 as being a very down at heel, rough port area that no respectable person would visit. These days, like my own home town, it has been gentrified, the lovely sandstone buildings restored and the notorious Fremantle Jail, a popular tourist drawcard. Here you will find the Martime Museum with the Wreck of the Batavia and here you will find the 2103 Romance Writers of Australia Conference.
The festivities kicked off last night with the Penguin Party to celebrate the first birthday of its romance imprint, Destiny. Friday is traditionally the "Workshop" day but this year I passed on the workshop for the chance to attend an "academic" conference - the inaugural Elizabeth Jolley Conference, facilitated by Curtin University. The subject of the conference is Reading and Writing Romance in the 21st century...which one has to admit it is a pretty broad subject.
The wonderful Elizabeth Jolley herself did not write romance and may, if she is looking down on proceedings, be slightly bemused by having her name used in this context. Curiosity more than anything drove my decision and I am glad that I made that choice. I make no pretensions to academia and am constantly bemused by "academic speak" eg "modalities of power in fiction", "Desire and Compulsory Demisexuality in the Romance Novel', "Destabilising Divides and Re-imagining Subjectivities" etc etc. Once you get past that secret squirrel language of the academic there has been some fascinating insights and conversations kicking off with Professor Imelda Whelehan's Keynote address on "Meaningful encounters - 40 years of feminists reading romance". Unfortunately the romance feminists seem to read is that of 30 years ago, more particularly HMB in which feminist characters are depicted as dowdy and slightly pathetic. It would be interesting to see a feminist perspective on modern romance. I think Professor Whelehan's conclusion is something along the line that there are as many different types of feminism as there are genres of romance fiction and both defy any attempt to box them up and present them as either right or wrong.
Having given myself till lunchtime (with the promise of sightseeing around Freo and maybe a tour of the jail), I found my steps drawn back, only to have to depart early to sort out my room issues (now, mercifully fixed). Tonight is the traditional fancy dress Cocktail Party and conference proper kics off tomorrow. Watch this space!
|Esplanade Hotel Fremantle|