Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: August, 2015



It seems just about everyone I know, including myself, has trudged their way through this winter, knee-deep in uncertainty.

The world is nuts. Australian politics is most certainly nuts – if it wasn’t so serious it’d be funny. Everywhere we turn there’s shouty angst blaring at us from a thousand unhappy voices.

As those who know me know, I don’t believe much in happiness. It’s an ephemeral state, a rush of emotion, as any other. Nirvana is as big a crock of wishful thinking as any concept of heaven. Working hard at things that matter – like your relationships and stuff you want to create as expressions of your experience of being alive – prepare the ground for happiness to occur. But, like any bloom, it’s not an end in itself. It’s just another fleeting part of who we are.

Love, on the other hand, is an essential nutrient. Spiritually, we die without its presence in our lives; sometimes physically, too. Love is oxygen for the soul.

Love is why I can look at an old cup with a handful of grape hyacinths in it and believe that everything is okay, no matter what else I might be feeling.

This little cup was my grandmother’s. Lillian Kelly was her name, or Nin as we all called her. Every afternoon before dinner she’d pour herself a little nip of scotch and sip it on the rocks from this very cup. When I was small she used to let me suck the ice cubes when she was finished. Just the sight of the cup brings me a whiskey warmth, reminding me I am loved. I am that small loved child forever.

The grape hyacinths are dotted around our back garden here at The Bend. I don’t know who planted them, but someone must have. Someone put these bulbs in the earth with their heart full of beautiful dreams. They put them here to enjoy them, and so I do. I would never dig them up and replace them with something new. Every spring they will remind me, as all flowers do, that nothing lasts forever.

Except love. This little cup full of it has worked its way into one of my stories, quite literally – this fine example of 1970s kitchenalia has a cameo in the novella I finished a few weeks ago. It will carry my grandmother’s love into the future far beyond me – and this thought fills me with a bright burst of joy.


the air is sweetening
swelling the buds
greening the grass
promising old new

the truth that springs
from bare branches
begins you again
from all winters

you will green
you will swell
and sweeten

you will



I am fairly forgetful – names, dates, places and birthdays often fall into the fathomless abyss that lies somewhere in the foggy centre of my brain. I once forgot the title of Dickens’ Great Expectations during a publishing meeting. Embarrassing.

But this morning that forgetfulness struck a puzzling and melancholy note. Bear with me.

I woke up inside a dream that I was eating a banana paddlepop while walking along some city street, and as I woke I realised I had once actually walked down that street – King Street in Newtown –  eating that very same banana paddlepop. Only it was in a story I’d written, not in any reality.

Years ago – about twelve of them, I think – I wrote a little sketch that included just this scene, and I submitted it to a New South Wales Writers’ Centre short story competition that was on at the time. Astonishingly, it won third place. But the thing is, until now, I’d entirely forgotten I’d written it, much less had it acknowledged in this way.

True, I had a lot going on in my life at that time. My boys were both still in primary school, I was working like a demon to keep the mortgage in the cash it craved, and trying to fit my dreams of writing bigger stories alive inside the too-small hours between wine o’clock and some place past midnight. My perpetual exhaustion was interrupted only by the bully in my life in those days who would periodically pop in to call me an idiot. Forgetting small details in those circumstances is utterly forgivable, yes.

Except that I’d just won third place in a respectable writing comp at my first freaking attempt! And I didn’t keep a copy of the story. And I’ve never included it on any CV or author blurby thing I’ve done across the decade since. This is really a bit preposterous.

I think I know what triggered the memory. Last night, pootling mindlessly about online after dinner, I came across a conversation between two other authorladies bemoaning that their busy todays of ferrying kids to and from something or other had kept them from their writerly work. It read a little like a middle-class version of that Monty Python sketch on competitive hardship in Yorkshire – you know, ‘Well, in my day, we used to live in a cardboard box and father would come home every night and thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle,’ or whatever it was.

Whatever the reason, it’s a timely warning to me: cherish what you have achieved, however small that achievement might have been. And for pity’s sake, put it on your CV!

So then, I suppose I’d better go and ask the New South Wales Writers’ Centre precisely what year it was, hmm? Embarrassing.

image: ‘Upon Pondering’ by Brook Shaden,