About Jane

I had a dream. I had it so long ago that I forgot it was a real dream, a wishful-thinking true-life dream, til my friend Justine reminded me the other day that I used to speak of this dream as we drank champagne together and fondly watched our naked children tumbling on the lawn – something they have grown out of, thank goodness, but that we have not (with respect to the champagne, I mean).

Justine rang me, having just heard an interview (featured elsewhere on this website), and in a kind of choked-up voice said to me “remember?” Always ready to deflect trick questions, “remember?” being one of the most tricky these days, I had to pretend that I remembered lots of things indeed but was not sure to what in particular she referred. This was of course a lie; I forget lots of things. But that is another story.

“Remember how, as, champagne-sotted, motherhood-immersed, bleary-eyed and exhausted all those 20 years ago, you used to chew our ears about your dream of writing a book one day?”

Well, actually, it goes back long before that. But it seemed such a silly, impossible dream that I didn’t blether about it until I got half sozzled and nostalgic about the way life could have been, if only.

The story of how this dream came about can be encapsulated in a couple of small statements that life has taught me; (1) never lose sight of your dream, and (2) How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (alternatively, how do you move a mountain? One shovelful at a time).

So this is my story:

When Jane entered Stage 4 of her life in 2010, she was for some time in transition. For the first half of the year she lived in a small, white cottage in WARWICK, QUEENSLAND – not unlike the small, white cottage in which she lived in Toowoomba, before marriage and children. Planning was under way for a move West, into the sunset, an alarmingly literal allegory. Somewhere, in a remote place with a name like Mungallala or Muckadilla, a motel was awaiting her loving ministrations but not her cooking; and in the meantime, somewhere, many of her life’s accumulated possessions jostled for place on other people’s dusty shelves, having been firmly discarded in preparation for this event. It’s called downsizing. But that is another story, belonging then to the mysterious realms of the unknown and the future, and now to the equally mysterious realms of the past and the known, but not really worthy of mention.

It happens to us all, given time.

From the end of 1989 until the end of 2009, Jane raised her family on acreage outside Warwick. She and her husband Robert raised three kids – Sam, Louisa and Jock. They also raised horses, and sheep, and cats, and dogs, and lovebirds, and guinea fowl, and peacocks, and chooks, and mice, and guinea pigs, and real, large pink pigs, and quite a beautiful garden. All with a lovely view, and 5 minutes from town. Although all that raising of kids and all that driving in and out of town for cubs, and brownies, and ballet, and swimming, and violin lessons, and youth orchestra, and soccer – and that was all as well as routine stuff like work and school – became rather wearing at times. Just ask the succession of family cars….

After a lot of reflection and with much hard work and not a little nostalgic heartache, Stage 4 began thrumming with life. In what seemed to all except the nearest and dearest who had had their ears bashed in various degrees during the initialisation process, there was a sudden small shriek and a puff of smoke …….. and Jane and Robert were no longer regularly seen on the dusty streets of Warwick. Friend Wendy once called it “shaking the dust of Warwick off my feet”, and this thought did run through Jane’s mind more than once.

In short, the dust of Warwick has been exchanged in part for the dust of Dalby. Blacker dust, that’s all. And therein lies a story, it really does. It’s worth following the blog for those moments of brilliance and energy when a blog is forthcoming.

Jane has had lots of practice at living. She has worked in heaps of different jobs in heaps of different places on both sides of the planet and has a CV as long as your arm, although humble by degrees. She runs you through it below, in slightly more animated dialogue than your average CV. But before we go there, Jane would like to mention that she is also the following things:

  • a WOMAN
  • a MOTHER
  • a FRIEND
  • a PHILOSOPHER inclined to DEEP THOUGHT and KINDLY ACTS and of
  • a LITERARY BENT . Basically,
  • JANE LOVES LANGUAGE, LOVES WRITING, has actively visualised herself as
  • AUSTRALIA’S BILL BRYSON and, once the kids left home, formally declared herself as entering her life’s Stage 4, which is ….. (da daaa)
  • WRITER ….

What you can do for Jane …

Live well and be happy.

What Jane can do for you …

Write for you. Tailor you a poem, a story, an advertorial, a ditty, a letter, a story. Well okay, even a book. But you have to pay.

Most importantly, Jane can entertain you with her writings. Firstly there’s her self-published book SLIPPIN’ ON THE LINO – a collection of short, very funny family humour stories to warm your heart, refresh your memories, keep you busy on the loo, and give you hope that you will indeed survive your parenting phase as she, contrary to her own expectations, did.

And secondly – and this is nothing if not a personal triumph – you can seek out through any of the modern mediums INCLUDING paper, her memoir published in 2013 by Allen & Unwin ….. IN STOCKMEN’S FOOTSTEPS. She thinks you will love it. Go on, surprise yourself. Help her to become a best-seller. Buy one.

This is Jane Grieve’s story (as told by herself) …….

JaneatStockmanDrive-aboutjaneWhen she was 18 – an unspeakably long time ago (she was not in fact old enough to vote at that time) – Jane took a job as station cook on a large (several hundred square miles) cattle station near Charters Towers in North Queensland.

Jane had been raised with her four sisters on a thousand acre farm on the Darling Downs, in the south of Queensland. It was a relatively genteel existence, certainly in comparison with the wild North.

From a standing start, and notwithstanding the fact that she couldn’t cook, a boring matter she had not actually broached during the interview (age was another) she was to cook for 14 people, including a family with 4 kids and a large number of hungry stockmen (or ‘ringers’ as they call them in the north) who were very particular about their food. “Nothing fancy.” Their only spice was salt, and plenty of it. And black (Worcestershire) sauce.

Now, life can be tough out there in the wide brown land. Small comforts are of the utmost importance. The first week there was a grumbling of dissent about the quality of the tea. A good cuppa tea in the bush is a staple requirement.

The governess, Chrissie Marsh, was dispatched to the galvanised iron kitchen (a bakehouse in itself at midday, forget the oven) to discreetly oversee the tea-making process. It soon became horribly evident that Jane did not know how to boil water. Well; how was she to know? You didn’t learn that sort of thing at the New England Girls School, Armidale, a rather exclusive establishment. She did learn Latin, though, and never got less than an A for it.

Latin wasn’t a great help at Fanning River Station, Charters Towers.

So, under Chrissie’s patient tutelage, began Jane’s REAL education; in the time-worn School of Hard Knocks. This is Australia’s great leveller, an informal institution and one from which there is no paper graduation certificate. But if you bumble through to the end, the rewards are immeasurable.

Bumble on Jane did. She learned how to boil water; make the best gravy in the Southern Hemisphere (ask her kids, they know this is true, she has told them so, often); strain the lumps out of white sauce; turn a hunk of raw meat into corned beef using coarse salt; cook a rolled roast at least a metre long, every other evening (she can cook shorter ones too), with enough spuds and pumpkin and onions for 14 people; cook a mean stew (nothing fancy, no garlic, plenty of salt) on the in-between evenings in a pot that could easily double as a washing copper (more meat, spuds, pumpkin, onion and the occasional kohlrabi straight from the veggie garden).

Oh yes! And bake four fruit cakes, 7 batches of biscuits, 8 fancy slices and 7 puddings per week including junket, and custard with real eggs and milk. In 50º C heat, in a tin kitchen with a cement floor, and cane toads under the table.

These were the skills that stood her in real stead twenty years later when she was feeding her own family. Oh, and she shoved a fair bit of Latin down their necks too. Mensa mensa menSAM, mensae mensae menSA. You should have seen the looks on their little faces!

A year later, Jane was a ringer herself on another beautiful North Queensland cattle station measured in square miles instead of acres – Toomba Station. Riding a bucking horse called Dusty across a claypan, with a bunch of whooping stockmen calling out “sit BACK, sit BACK, RIDE ‘im!” did not add much in the way of useful skills to her C.V. either, although her endurance riding efforts years later were somewhat enhanced by such elementary lessons in stoicism. On that occasion, having had too close a look at the claypan in the spot where Dusty’s head & neck should have been, she came off on her head, and saw nothing but stars all day, but bumbled through the muster nonetheless. There was nothing else for it – they were miles from the homestead and she couldn’t have found her way home anyway.

Jane will swear to you and her doctor as well that heads really do swell, because her Akubra hat was an exceptionally tight fit that day, after its brush with the claypan.

That Jane had tacked the horseshoes on Dusty herself, cursing and swearing like a real blacksmith, and hitting her thumb with the shoeing hammer more often than the horseshoe nail, was never something she put on her C.V. either. Who cared? Anyway – would she have wanted anyone to know she could do this tiresome – nay, appalling – job? No fear! Like milking the cow, there are some skills you keep firmly under your hat.

Various other life experiences in the school of hard knocks ….

Jane-WritingatDesk-aboutjaneAnd what about the grape picking at Mildura, Victoria; or being the lady who plonked the dollop of cherries into the fruit salad cans on the assembly line at the canning factory in Berri, South Australia (she often wondered if the other stuff in there was vomit, being subject to motion sickness herself); or selling something – what was it? something important – as one of the world’s first telemarketers, in Adelaide; washing the wax coating off cars as they came off the transports across the Nullarbor Plain, in Perth, Western Australia; or cooking for a remote camp of miners in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory?

Nah. Not worth a mention on the C.V. But all part of the Certificate of Graduation, Parts 1 & 2, from the School of Hard Knocks.

The School of Hard Knocks is a private institution. As you graduate each course, your certificate is just an inner knowledge that youkeep to yourself. A knowing that if you pull the wrong handle on the tray-mobile with all the dinner laid out on it, on your employer’s best dinner service, and it falls onto the floor and smashes into spectacular smithereens in front of the whole family in the ‘big house’ when you are the station cook – you will survive. Yes, you will live to cook another day.

Jane became an adult at 21. But by then she was pushing a pen – and a typewriter – at a desk at a Sydney fashion distribution warehouse. That was after a spell wandering about in New Zealand, and before driving a Volkswagon 10,000 miles in a giant zig zag across the U.S.A.

Then there was that patch of starvation in Edinburgh, working for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection. And the time she wore her headphones upside down for a week at the Copyright Society in London (following the principle “tick yes in every box including the one that asks ‘Can you use a dictophone’, anything to get the job.”) til the tittering and pointing of her colleagues alerted her to the fact that something was amiss. Yep, all that.
Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame at Longreach, Queensland ……

All that, and 10 years working in tandem with a bunch of Great Australians setting up the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame at Longreach, Queensland, from 1979 to 1988. Ah Providence! What didst thou place my way? Because they taught her so much about Life, those magnificent people of the Hall of Fame board, those Elders, and she so wet behind the ears still despite her travelling bent.JaneandHorseaboutjane

There was Eddie Connellan, a Northern Territory air entrepreneur whose wry response to Dame Mary Durack upon her solicitous inquiry as to whether he needed to use her loo before dinner was “No thanks Mary, I’ve got a long-range tank.”

Dame Mary herself, a member of an erudite dynasty and a truly beautiful person. Hugh Sawrey, artist, eccentric, bushman, horseman; RM Williams, successful business entrepreneur, horseman, bushman, bootmaker, Australian icon, who spoke only of the Light, not the shadows; Sir James Walker, cattle baron; Ken Cowley, newspaper magnate; Jill Bowen, journalist, tenacious and passionate; Ranald Chandler, raconteur; Tess Stroud, from a sheep station on the same Tropic of Capricorn as the Hall of Fame, but on the other side of the continent, and later Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Perth; Bruce Yeates, doctor, humanist; Wally Munro – cattleman, businessman. Charles Schmidt, respected banker.

They all contributed their wisdom to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and to Jane’s evolving self; just as did Chrissie the Governess at Fanning River Station.

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame stands sentinel in solid stone on the wide brown land today, testament to their combined tenacity. Jane’s role as Executive Secretary, then Executive Director, for 10 years at its beginnings, was pivotal.

Jane the Mother …JaneandLou-aboutjane
All this, then, and pieces from those at whose feet she had sat in the intervening years, she brought to her eventual marriage to Robert, another bushman, and the raising of their three children, Sam, Louisa and Jock.

That’s when the real learning began. It was back to square one, back to the drawing board, back to tors. Hell! Where was Chrissie the Governess when you needed her?

Jane Grieve’s first book – Slippin’ on the Lino …

All this, then, and pieces from those at whose feet she had sat in the intervening years, she brought to her eventual marriage to Robert, another bushman, and the raising of their three children, Sam, Louisa and Jock.4a7ca4770a04c

That’s when the real learning began. It was back to square one, back to the drawing board, back to tors. Hell! Where was Chrissie the Governess when you needed her? Jane Grieve’s first book – Slippin’ on the Lino …

Jane survived. And now, with hard-won insight and spades of humour, she has put together a collection of the stories she wrote during that fraught time most commonly known as ‘motherhood’.

Under the title Slippin’ on the Lino, Jane’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, always insightful collection of stories about raising the kids can be purchased from September in all sorts of places including Pillow Talk stores and most bookshops – but most simply, now through this website.

Jane’s second book – IN STOCKMEN’S FOOTSTEPS (Allen & Unwin)

In a way, this book expands on all the above, and then some. It does so in the laconic way that Jane has, of writing as if she is in the room with you. It does so with spurts of humour, spurts of passion, moments of great poignancy, but all with a view to honouring the life she has led, the people she has met, the epoch in which she was raised, much of which – naturally, time’s being what it is – has faded off into the mists of time but which, she feels most strenuously, should not be forgotten.

Read it and see. It has been very well received.