Pat Noad was born and educated
, and has spent a good deal of her life there – but always with an escape
hatch to the beach, where most of the writing happens.
has a lifelong passion for reading, and one way or another she has always been
writing. Her work in management in three Australian universities involved
churning out billions of words (mostly non-fiction). The production line has
rolled on unabated since she started her own business in 1991, albeit with a
different focus – her consultancy work has swept her into diverse realms of
’s communities, geography and politics.
These perspectives complement
her interest in
’s past: she enjoys writing about how shadows from yesterday can still darken
our lives today.
Pat has played a leading role in
, which since 1997 has written and published six anthologies of crime fiction,
including her stories – two of the books made it on to the
best-seller list. Her short stories have also been published in other
collections (including a translation into Japanese) and have been successful in
a number of competitions.
She hopes that Loose Ends will be the
first of a series of Annie Bryce
Mysteries. She is currently
finishing a sequel with the working title of Rockhound.
The first notes of the song that
is this story rang out on the twenty-first day of February 2002, the day of my
That was the
day when Clive Barclay, grandmother
’s younger brother and my great-uncle, first emerged from the mists of the
past, albeit briefly. It was six decades since he had enlisted to serve his
country in World War II from which, like thousands of others, he’d never
returned. On that late summer day we were innocent of any prescience to warn us
that the name of Clive Barclay was about to resonate through the family, and
well beyond, in the coming months and years.
While we had
congregated to farewell
, we could not know then, on the day of her funeral, that she was soon to
dominate our lives, our conversations and our thoughts. Nor did we foresee how
we would become entangled in the web of secrets, deception and even violence,
which would gradually be woven between her past and our present.
The day was hot, suffocatingly
hot. The sun beat down on the tin roof of the small timber church, and dust
motes danced around in the red and gold shafts of sunlight filtering through the
little stained glass windows. Outside, the eucalypts barely stirred in the dusty
the lump in my throat and focussed again on the clergyman. We weren’t a
churchgoing family so Gran’s funeral ceremony was a bit on the ad hoc side.
Anticipating her daughters’ life-long propensity to disagree about absolutely
everything, my grandmother had pre-empted another family squabble by leaving
instructions for her funeral. While she had specified which church and who
should be there, she had, however, been for the most part silent on what should
chosen the church where she had married my grandfather back in the
nineteen-thirties, when she had moved from her home town of
to live in
. The church appeared largely untouched by time and progress, a reminder of
’s early days now sitting stubbornly amongst the bistros, delis and
bottleshops of the upwardly mobile riverside suburb. My thoughts wandered; while
our society had found new ways of marrying, I reflected, we mostly still turned
to the old traditions to mark the end of a life.
myself to tune in to the droning eulogy, which sounded a bit like an inscription
on a tombstone: ‘… farewell Meta Morgan, nee Meta Barclay, loving and
beloved wife of Joseph, now deceased, loving mother of Pamela and Josephine,
grandmother to their families, and in recent years, great-grandmother to a new
Pamela snuffled and I saw Dad take her arm. She glanced sideways at me,
despatching the familiar pang of guilt that I’d managed to travel into my
thirties without making any contribution to the next generation of our family.
This was a very sore point with my mother. Beside me I sensed my younger sister
Kaye preen herself, her normal aura of self-satisfaction elevated by the many
divine rights apparently conferred by her achieving motherhood.
paused and consulted his notes. ‘This occasion should not go by without
’s brother Clive.’ This was greeted by a rustle of surprise amongst the
congregation. ‘As the family knows, their mother died when
was twenty and Clive was only thirteen. With their father often away working,
it fell to the young
to care for Clive in his formative years. He was a very important person in her
life. As well as being brother and sister,
and Clive were close friends. His death as a young soldier in the Asian theatre
of war was a bitter blow to her. She was, of course, among many Australian
families who sacrificed loved ones during the two World Wars.’
they learn this sort of cliché-ridden delivery, I wondered irritably. Still,
Gran’s wounds must have run deep. Sixty years later, she hadn’t forgotten,
nor, I suspected, had she forgiven. I remembered how Clive’s photograph had
kept watch from her bedside table throughout her long life.
his throat and pushed his glasses back on his nose. Beads of sweat stood out on
his forehead, despite the fans whirling overhead. Those robes were hot. He waded
Morgan lived to the impressive age of eighty-eight. Sadly, in recent times she
was confined to bed after suffering a stroke. Prior to this affliction she
requested her daughters to ensure that Clive be mentioned along with the other
members of her family when she herself passed on.’
there should have been claps of thunder overhead during those last stilted
utterances, or at the very least a drum roll, but the service continued
seamlessly. My usually shy father had unexpectedly offered to speak about Gran
– they had been good friends and sparring partners – and he managed to
inject some warmth into the occasion with a few recollections and anecdotes.
Then he folded his notes and looked over the small assembly.
’s life, you know. She did. She revelled in the world she lived in, and she
never lost her sense of wonder. I was surprised today when her long-dead brother
was mentioned. Her bond with Clive must have been a powerful one, because
clinging to the past wasn’t her style, not the
I knew. She didn’t have much truck with the “good old days”. She used to
say that no-one had lived through a more interesting period in history than her
generation, despite all the traumas brought by wars. She lived her life to the
full, and she was a thoroughly modern woman. I for one have missed her greatly
since she left us.’
I leaned over
and squeezed Dad’s hand when he returned to the pew. My father was a dark
horse, I reflected. I’d never heard him talk about Gran like that before. But
he was quite right, that was Gran in a nutshell.
after what seemed aeons, the service drew to a close. A canned hymn struck up,
attendants appeared and the garlanded coffin was wheeled out to the waiting
hearse to be borne to the crematorium. Gran’s instructions had been quite
clear about what the congregation should do then: nothing. Here endeth the
As we filed
out of the church I reflected that, apart from Dad’s contribution, none of
this seemed to have much to do with Gran, that vibrant, opinionated matriarch
who had faded out of our lives two years ago. After the stroke she existed in
body only, a frail, silent, paralysed figure. Did she know we visited? We
couldn’t tell. Her death had been a long time coming – too long, for her and
for us. All the tears had been shed long before the funeral. Now the general
sentiment was one of relief; a sense that an important chapter in all our lives
was finally closing.
only about thirty mourners – hand-picked by Gran, of course − standing
around in little groups in what shade they could find, getting the platitudes
out of the way. I did my daughterly duty, circulating around and inviting
everyone back to Mum’s home to reminisce, chat, eat and drink. Most accepted
gladly, taking the opportunity to catch up with relations who they rarely saw.