Tea and Inspiration

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How long is a cat entitled to snub you after you’ve been away? They’re supposed to have no sense of time, but Jonah seemed to realise I’d abandoned him for only three nights. My punishment was minimal.

I received a frosty greeting at the door when I arrived home. He glowered at my suitcase, which was whisked away before he could do anything worse to it. After an hour or so, he thawed out, digging his claws into my lap, reminding me he was overdue for a manicure.


I’m still basking in the glow of meeting so many inspirational women. The wonderful Stephanie Perrott was waiting for me at Newcastle airport.

An ex-Kiwi who’s been reading me for years, Stephanie made a tremendous effort organising my talk at Tea Gardens library.
She had 18 firm bookings, which didn’t worry me.
I enjoy talking to groups of any size.

As we drove an hour north to her exquisite coastal town, I learnt more about Stephanie. Passionate about refugees and those living through trauma, she’d spent five years helping people in Bosnia after the war.

We had a few things in common. She’d undergone a double mastectomy and lost a sister some years back. Stephanie met the love of her life, Rex, at an ageing conference focusing on cancer. 
When they’re not couch surfing through the Middle East or visiting family in Viet Nam and Tasmania, they’re paddling their kayak across the idyllic lake they live on in Tea Gardens.


It was a delight to stay with her and Rex, who are both great cooks. Stephanie whisked up a genuine Kiwi pavlova, while Rex made delicious ginger slices for the after talk supper.

I was a bit nervous when I saw how many seats librarian Carol had put out. But they were all filled and she had to bring out more. More than 40 people showed up in the end. I love the way faces light up when a talk’s going well. It was a special evening.


Two nights later a blue Honda pulled up outside my Sydney hotel. Kerry Richardson braved rush hour traffic to take me to North Rocks to meet the sassiest book club in town, Hot Chicks Between the Covers.

These girls know how to have fun. Everyone brings a snack – from a plate of lollies to home made butterfly cakes. Their sessions often stretch to one in the morning – and okay, it’s not always about the book.
But wine and laughter is the surface froth of incredibly giving lives. At least two members have opened their hearts to foster children. Successfully raising kids who aren’t your own is one of the purest forms of love.


In the plane back to Melbourne, my eyes misted over thinking about these women.
It was a privilege to be welcomed into their lives for a few hours.

Thank you hardly seems enough,
Helen Brown.


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