Hippy Days, Arabian Nights reviewed by Annie

Katherine Boland has written a candid memoir of her life with its various phases. At times humourous and others sad, she has certainly lived an interesting life.

Born in England she was brought to Australia at four-years old with her parents and younger sister Lisa, as ten pound Poms. Her earlier life in Australia was happy, thanks to her ‘young-at-heart and fun-loving mum and despite [her] father’. But as she got older she became more aware of her father’s drinking and her parent’s arguing. Their solution was to move back to England but that was a disaster, as was the next move to Spain, where her mum and dad ‘began to lose all direction, perpetually arguing and lurching from one alcohol-fuelled party to the next’.

They finally moved back to Australia but her father couldn’t find work which was his final undoing. Kathy, furious with what he’d put them through, threw herself into her studies, and her mother into her work. Kathy was not going to let him, or anything stop her from living the remarkable life she intended to live.

In her early twenties she married John and despite not wanting to be ‘working for the man’ they were employed in various jobs and saved enough to buy 100 acres of bush on the Far South Coast of New South Wales. At age 23 the ‘uni dropout, anti-capitalists were landholders’.

They wanted to be self-sufficient and succeeded on many levels, although some thought they took ‘doing it tough to a whole new level’ in their mud dwelling, in the freezing cold, not like the hippies of Nimbin in the northern warmth. They were the ‘crazy hippies in their hand-spun, hand-woven, hand-knitted garb laced with leather and buttoned with seashells or small disks of wood’. Kathy would find a how-to book on everything, including when she found she was pregnant and Eva was born.

There were local get-togethers with the growing hippy community with ‘everyone bringing a plate, a few bottles of homebrew and a sample from their latest crop of marijuana’. She shows with sensitivity how the drug culture had an impact on the women particularly.

But after spending ‘years surviving financial hardship, floods, fire and drought, struggling to achieve my dream – our dream – only to have everything I’d worked for, all I’d accomplished, the promise of a secure and comfortable future and growing old with my partner, snatched away overnight’.

After returning to her art with some success, she was invited to Cairo by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture to ‘participate in an all-expenses paid International Artists’ Symposium’. There she met Gamal, who was acting as translator for the group. Nearly half her age and gorgeous they were instantly attracted to one another and there began a relationship where not only their age, but their religion, culture and fundamental beliefs were diametrically opposed. Despite this they continued their relationship with the disapproval of some of his family, dealing with living in different countries and the ability to both get work in the same place.

It kept me reading to see what would happen – how they would end up. The insight into this culture, as well as the hippy-culture of her earlier life were fascinating.

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