In 1997, I wrote a novel called The Well Digger. Then I started one called Ben Bolt. I also quit journalism and worked from home. When the girls asked me why I didn’t go to work anymore, I explained my new “career” by promising them a motorised toy car, once either one of the books was published. The first book, The Well Digger, I entered in the Australian Vogel award. The judges liked it, apparently, which means literally nothing because you don’t win a cracker on the basis of some judge merely liking it. You get a nice letter, but that’s as useful as including a letter from the Queen in your CV (believe me, I’ve done it). I subsequently lost the manuscript of The Well Digger. I mean, completely. I lost two printed manuscripts as well as a digital version and a backup. There was no cloud in the olden days, but I’m sure any version I shoved up there would have gone missing as well.
So, it was down to Ben Bolt. Needless to say, I never finished it. It was a historical novel of massive significance. But I went to college and began a course of study that took a decade to complete, during which time there was simply no money for a motorised toy car. The girls have never let me forget it.
The other day, we were chatting about my latest novel. It’s almost finished. When it’s published, I said, we should go to England as a family. Today, the neighbour’s kid drove out from their garage in a motorised toy car, with working radio and everything.
I’m not sure what it signifies, if it signifies anything at all. But it doesn’t feel good.