Today Beverley Eikli is on my blog with a post :)
I woke this morning to the silence of a world blanketed in snow, so familiar in this Norwegian home where I’ve spent such happy times, and so different from the summer noises I’ve grown used to in the children-filled street of our Australian country town.
Jetlagged, after jumping on a plane two days ago to cross the globe in the hopes of making it to my dear father-in-law’s side before he died, I lay in bed and thought how life is a series of circles, bringing one back to the same place at different phases of one’s life. I’m sad that my wonderful father-in-law has passed on, and that we were too late to say our good-byes, but at 96 he’d lived a rich and wonderful life.
He produced a daughter and four sons, the youngest of whom I married at Akershus Festning, the Oslo Castle chapel, twenty years ago. The connection forged a new dimension in my life, not only with a warm and wonderful family, but another country and culture. I’d spent my early years in southern Africa before emigrating to Australia. Then in my late twenties I discovered an album that would catapult me into a world of adventure. Catapult me right back where my family history picked up in the early years of last century. Catapult me into the arms of the handsome Norwegian bush pilot who changed the course of my life.
The album was my grandfather’s photographic diary detailing the extraordinary nature of his work as a young district commission in the British Colonial service in Botswana’s Okavango, between 1916 and 1922.
Intrigued, I persuaded my father to join me on holiday to the Okavango then, to my delight, was invited back to spend two months as relief manager for two of Okavango Wilderness Safaris’ luxury safari camps: Mombo and Jedibe Camps.
I took leave from my job as a journalist and for two months had the time of my life in a pristine environment, catering to guests in a 16-bedded camp, surrounded by predators who filled the nights with a music that thrilled me and which I knew I’d miss dreadfully as I prepared to return home to Australia.
That final night, a new group of tourists was due in camp. As was usual, one of the Motswana guides fetched them from the grassy airstrip and ferried them to the lodge in the small motorboat. As I stood on the rickety jetty beneath the waterberry trees, holding aloft a paraffin lantern to the light their way, I had no idea I was greeting my future husband.
Yes, the handsome bush pilot who’d flown the guests to Jedibe swept me off my feet as we spent the next few hours chatting around the campfire. Although I believed I would never see him again, our budding romance was sustained through eight months of hand-written letters. There was no internet in Botswana back then.
When Eivind took leave from his job as Chief Pilot of Ngami Air to fly to Australia with - I soon learned - the express purpose of proposing on the basis of four hours of conversation and eight months of letter-writing, I had absolutely no hesitation in saying yes. To my amusement, he took out a large advertisement in the Okavango Observer with the words: ‘She said YES!’ as so many people had been hanging out to know if he’d had any success across the globe.
So I gave up my newspaper job in Adelaide, South Australia, and joined Eivind in his little thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest by a flood plain 12 km out of Maun, in Botswana. Thus began my life as a ‘trailing spouse’, living in 12 cities and countries as we navigated the ups and downs of the world of aviation.
It’s been an exciting life. I’ve worked with my husband for several airborne geophysical survey companies, based in Canada and Australia, Eivind as the pilot and me working the computer equipment as we contoured the terrain at 250ft. It was a great way to see French Guiana, Greenland and Sweden for three-month contracts, and Namibia for a year. We went to the Solomon Islands for two years, and we lived in Japan for one.
And all the time I wrote exciting tales of romance, peppered with action or mystery, about women who lived in an era where they had no legal rights, their personalities dictating the means by which they gained the power needed to direct their lives and to find fulfilment and happiness – against the odds.
Despite my leap of faith and my determination to forge an exciting life, a pilot’s wife is as much at the mercy of the vagaries of world economics, facing uncertainties in the same way that a woman in historical times was dependant on external factors beyond her control for survival.
Two hundred years might separate me from my characters but I can empathise when the tides of fate pick them up and toss them into new and unfamiliar situations. I’ve been in foreign countries with young children, the rug pulled from under our feet as airline companies have folded – twice, actually. And I wondered what country might provide a haven when politics thrust us out of the Pacific. I’ve given birth, while my husband was still in rehabilitation after breaking his back three weeks earlier.
The uncertainties I’ve experienced are laid bare in My latest Choc Lit romance, The Maid of Milan, which has been described as a Regency-set ‘Dynasty’ with its drug addiction, love triangle and manipulation themes, its style - to my delight -compared with Anthony Trollope’s 'The Pallisers' ‘where beneath the waving fans it’s gritty intrigue’.
My wonderful husband was the inspiration for my hero, Tristan, whose worst moment comes near the end of the book when he discovers he’s unwittingly been a party to the three-year-long subtle manipulation of his once-vibrant wife. By this stage he’s already lost her, for though my heroine, Adelaide, had been ground down through years of being shackled to a lie, she still had her pride. And she could not live with a man whose respect she believed she’d lost.
Adversity and pain are like mirrors. They define a person’s true personality.
Right now, I feel I’m back where I was twenty years ago when, dressed in the traditional Norwegian bunad as a new bride, I looked to the future with such hope.
I’ve farewelled a wonderful man who distinguished himself as a resistance fighter during WWII, and my bonds to his son remain as strong as ever.
I believe there’s still a lot of love and adventure to look forward to in my life.
I've had so much of it already, and as long as I can recreate it in so many different forms in my historical romances and dramas, I’ll be happy.
And you can buy The Maid of Milan in paperback, ebook and soon audiobook at Amazon US | Amazon UK | iTunes | Barnes & Noble
1 copy of The Maid of Milan
1. Open to everyone
2. Ends March 15
3. To enter, comment on the post or ask a question :)