• Stephanie Hammond

Following in my father's footsteps?

I don't have a lot of photos with my dad. In this photo I'm barely 6 months old.

My dad was a house painter. During the school holidays he would go to rural schools and repaint them. I went with him on some of these trips. I just loved the Australian bush, the outback. The red dirt, the gum trees, the heat. I loved it all. I thought my dad had the best job. Out in the fresh air, making the school buildings look fresh and alive again. I imagined the kids coming back from their holidays and being excited to be in their new school.

I especially loved smoko time. Dad and the other painters would light a fire and boil the billy to make tea. A handful of tealeaves would go in the billy along with a few leaves from the gum trees - eucalyptus I hear them called outside Australia, and of course they are, but for us they were always gum trees. They also made a damper - a kind of bread/scone mix - and baked it in the coals of the fire. How I loved that damper, smothered in butter and plum jam brought from home. I can taste it still!

Growing up, the times with my dad were so special. He shaped the way I thought about life, about myself. Out there in the bush, I told him I wanted to be a painter when I grew up. That was not a life for me, he told me. “Ladies are not painters. It’s a man’s work.” Disappointed, I turned my thoughts elsewhere. Years later I asked him why he’d dampened my enthusiasm for that kind of life. “Too much swearing on the job, love,” was his reply.

But the ‘damage’ was done. After that, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d reply: “A lady.” After all these years I still haven’t achieved that lofty goal!

Having lost his two sisters when they were so young to something akin to rheumatic fever, I know my father was scared he’d lose his daughters. He was always telling me to be careful, I might hurt myself. It took many years before I stilled his loving, kind, but insistent voice of warning. In the meantime, I never learned to climb over the fence, running around to join the others who seemed to pole jump over easily. I never did somersaults or cartwheels or even sat cross legged. And I was almost in my teens before I learned to ride a bike.

Still, I forgot at times and enjoyed climbing into the trees and onto the hen house roof. I loved to be up high, even though ‘high’ was only about a metre. As an adult, whenever we go to a new place I love to to to the local lookout and survey the land. From that perspective, I get to familiarise myself with the lay of the land and the geographic formations.

Although I didn’t become a house painter, I did become a town planner, enjoying understanding the urban form and how to improve our planning practices to make for a more enjoyable and safe living environment.

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Last Days in Atlantis. (Historical fantasy - for young adult+ audience)

Mari is thrust into a position of responsibility as the warrior leader of the Atlantean Hill People before she's ready. She strives to make choices that are best for her and her people against a backdrop of deception and intrigue. She becomes entangled in the power struggles between her people and the rulers of the City of the Golden Gates. 

Events test her trust in the traditions of her people and her confidence in those who are dear to her: the Elders, her mother, and the young man she is expected to share her future with.  Mari believes she has failed the task and struggles to overcome her feelings of grief, guilt, and betrayal as she strives to survive the tumult around her. 

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This is the first of my children's stories about Beatrice, a young angel-in-training with one large wing. Beatrice Learns Compassion, offering a different approach to bullying, was illustrated by my granddaughter, Bella, when she was 10-years-old. It's suited to children of all ages.

The Kindle version is available from Amazon. Print copies are available to purchase through the contact page