On the train coming home after a meeting, I was reviewing my notes when a man in his 70’s asked where I was from and if I was studying English. I used to be offended by this assumption.My family has been in Australia since the Gold Rush. But I have more important things to think about these days.
I could have said ‘Yes, I am studying English’ and the conversation might have ended there. But I am an author and an author is a curious being.
In the 20 minute journey from the city to my stop, I learnt a lot about this man’s life. Born in Belgium, came to Australia when he was 21, worked as a jeweller, doesn’t talk to his 3 grown up sons, married twice.
But it was the story of his childhood sweetheart that enchanted me the most. They were engaged when he was 17. She wasn’t Catholic so his parents disapproved and then he had to go into the army. When he finally got out she had found someone else.
After his wife died he tried to find his sweetheart again. He discovered that she had led a very sad life and had died at around the same time his wife had.
This man’s story reminded me of my own parents’ romance, also forbidden which I fictionalised in my YA novel Little Paradise.
Stories of love bind us no matter what race, age, gender or socio economic group we belong to. Stories of love are timeless.