Keith stood at the front of the queue and sent an urgent message to the chicken nuggets and peas in his stomach. Relax, he told them. This isn’t a big drama.
While I was writing this book, I didn’t realise that it contains as much of my life as Misery Guts does, just not in as obvious a way. In Puppy Fat, Keith’s parents are divorced and the family has moved back to England. Keith, still concerned that his parents are miserable, embarks on a marketing campaign to find each of them a new partner.
I must quickly make clear that (a) my parents aren’t divorced, (b) they still live in Australia, and (c) I’ve never painted a large mural to advertise their charms to the local singles community.
But like Keith, I have had the experience of returning to Britain after emigrating to Australia. And of taking bits of Australia with me. Though for me it’s not a permanent move, it’s a visit once or twice a year as a travelling author with schools and literary festivals to speak at.
Keith’s bits of Australia are his friend Tracey and the experiences they had together here. Tracey visits London and helps Keith with his problems (and shares hers) in a very Australian way.
The bits of Australia I take back are my books, my ideas and my underwear. (Best underwear in the world, Aussie underwear.) And my hopes for a better world. One of the things I’ve learned spending most of my life in Australia is that yes, the world’s a tough place. You can’t miss that here. Just glance out the window and you’ll see the landscape being ravaged by a flood, fire, drought or bank. But what I’ve learned fom my characters is, keep hoping. (Best optimism in the world, Aussie optimism.)