Sunday, 29 May 2016

Gillian Mears July 1964 - May 2016, a Clarence Valley girl

Old Copmanhurst by the late great author Gillian Mears in Meanjin Volume 71 Issue 1 2012

Much exclamation occurs when people realise Foal’s Bread is my first novel in sixteen years. Sixteen years ago I was about to turn thirty-one. From this distance that seems inconceivably young and I was inconceivably bewildered that only horses understood that something horrible had begun to happen in my legs and feet.

I can clearly remember how for that birthday I rode my brown mare Bellini down as usual to my father’s letterbox on Old Copmanhurst Road. Although the advance author copies of The Grass Sister had arrived early, far from any feeling of luck that they’d landed in the letterbox on my birthday, only dismay was sweeping through me. Whereas a few weeks before I could’ve vaulted back onto my horse with my backpack full of mail, on that day it had become a difficult scramble.

The multiple sclerosis that would defy diagnosis for another seven years was slowly but surely taking away my ability to ride even the quietest pony, let alone Bellini, my loveliness Wind of Song ex-barrier rogue, rescued by my eldest sister Yvonne from the brutality of a Brisbane track for me to purchase.

I felt a growing sorrow that as the mystery progressed, less and less chance existed for those moments when my own soul could meet my mare’s through a long pair of favourite old leather reins. My grief at seeing her sold wasn’t unconnected to the fact that whatever was happening in my body was inexorably also severing my links with my own horse-loving family….

On 1 January 2009 the realisation dawned that Yvonne might never send out her book. I could wait no longer. My wholehearted attempts to write first a play and then a wisdom cat fable had, against all expectation and effort, utterly failed. Now I felt in a race with myself. In honour of Stow’s claim that fuelled by pork pie he wrote all his novels fast, I resolved to have a final draft of Foal’s Bread finished by the first day of spring. Memories of that kind of Newton Boyd country west of Grafton but before the Great Dividing Range, informed my writing days.

Even though I was thousands of miles away from the Clarence River, ghosts of horses of the past seemed to walk right into my writing room. When I’d typed the draft of each week’s chapter onto my computer I even developed the habit of throwing a cloth over it and the printer, as if they were horses to be rugged before nightfall. Then I could practically feel the warmth of a horse. I could feel that I really was clipping up the back legs straps of a rug as a cold wind sprang up off the river….

Read the rest of the story here.

* Photograph: The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2012

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