Childhood

"When I was five, a tree was my best friend. An old peppercorn on Grandpa's little farm. I'd haul myself into its calloused arms and hide from the world in its foliage. Apart from the pleasure of looking down on unsuspecting adults, I could be Robin Hood in a one-tree Sherwood Forest or Johnny Weissmuller in his jungle. I fell out of my friend once while Tarzan-ing. Gashed a large chunk from a leg. Almost 70 years later, there's still a scar."

PHILLIP, ADAMS - Trees of life

"Later, in a different home, I befriended a eucalypt, using a resilient bough as a trampoline. Learning nothing from having plummeted from the peppercorn, I'd bounce happily in my haven in the heavens. I loved that tree - and fully understand why Heysen, Roberts, McCubbin and the rest devoted so much time and effort to painting arboreal portraits."

PHILLIP, ADAMS - Trees of life

"I was certain that if you offer a child the widest possible range of food from the earliest age in a loving environment, if you eat together as often as possible, and demonstrate your own enjoyment of flavour and texture and conviviality, that child will eat well forever, and will enjoy being with others around a table for the rest of his or her life. After all, that is the lesson of my own life."

STEPHANIE, ALEXANDER -

"I still feel childlike. Not childish - there's a difference. But to be childlike is to be savoured and treasured. I offer my books to those who like the things of childhood; the challenges, intrigue, joy and fun."

GRAEME, BASE -

"A close contact with nature has been a focus of my life since childhood and has been my inspiration both professionally and personally. I believe that for most of us, most of the time, it is in the everyday experience of beauty, certainly in nature and in music, that we sense a heaven half-revealed and come closest to the true meaning of reality. "

DENSEY, CLYNE -

"Simple old-fashioned values that come from a sense of community are the key to a great society. I believe we all have that sense from childhood memories, when life was simple. It's those memories that should drive us to reflect on our values."

LINDSAY, FOX -

"I think this feeling that I have for people and the importance of behaving in a way which is respectful to people of all colours, shapes, sizes and religions goes back a very long way... possibly to my mother and father in very early stages of childhood."

JANET, HOLMES A COURT -

"My dad taught me from my youngest childhood memories through these connections with Aboriginal and tribal people that you must always protect people's sacred status, regardless of the past. Every time you lose an animal, it's like losing a brick from the house. Pretty soon the house just falls down, you know? "

BINDI, IRWIN -

"But, in the end, the books that surround me are the books that made me, through my reading (and misreading) of them; they fall in piles on my desk, they stack behind me on my shelves, they surprise me every time I look for one and find ten more I had forgotten about. I love their covers, their weight and their substance. And like the child I was, with the key to the world that reading gave me, it is still exciting for me to find a new book, open it at the first page and plunge in, head first, heart deep."

RAMONA, KOVAL - By the Book

"I escaped the torture of my childhood home by reading. To this day it is still one of my greatest pleasures."

COLLEEN, MCCULLOUGH - on reading

"Next, suddenly, lightning suddenly, while I am still a child, a branch is lopped from my being, and a portion of my childhood ends forever. I see what poets are."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"This silent cry is of ecstasy for what has been done, and of despair at being forestalled, and being thus forewarned, that neither This Year nor Next Year am I to have the ability and wisdom to light the lamp on my own. Although one branch of childhood is in this fashion lopped for all time, the rest of it still inhabits the body of a child which occupies itself in childish matters."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"To leave behind a minutely engraved and intricately tinted plan, to be compelled by adult practicality to leave it behind unfingered, seems one of the disadvantages of childhood. How many shadows of broken desires must haunt and flicker among the shadows haunting and flickering in streets and lanes and cul-de-sacs children glimpsed, and yearned to walk to the end of, and never did. To be offhandedly presented with another, a newer, differently embellished plan is one of the advantages."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"As my tenth year slides backwards under my happily and slowly opening mind and my happy and wary heart, it bears away much that is ordinarily seasonal and will slide in again after a few more years on the flood-tide of other years... The same tide, too, tugs away, as the flood did the humiliated and dying rooster on the barn-door, things and beings and situations I am never to see or hear or touch or experience ever again, except in recollection. Regret somewhat tenderises recollection of much that is not, really, worthy of regret or recollection or record."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"The unwritten rules of behaviour are infinite in number, finely shaded, and subtle to the last fraction of a degree. They are not to be broken. If broken, the rules of forgiveness leading to re-establishment are equally of air and iron. I learn these rules with rather less ease than my contemporaries because, in the back streets of my being, a duel is developing and increasing in fervour between my instinct which knows why something is so, and my hen-pecking intelligence which wishes to analyse why something is so."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Anyway, at the age of ten, I am so in love with the hubbub and braggadocio and seeming confidence of the family that I see them as a skylarking herd to whom nothing is ever a problem, to who a problem has never presented itself and never will."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"I am therefore left to my desired and happy condition of obedient son - that is before their faces. Behind their backs I am scarcely less obedient; I run against them - behind their backs - only in matters not fit for adults to know about. Even in these esoteric, and often erotic, performances disobedience is far from specifically so because I am doing not what has been forbidden but what has not been forbidden. The silence and apparent ignorance of my parents is the silence and apparent ignorance I obediently return them in my disobedience to the unexpressed. Behind their backs or before their faces I rarely run against myself."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Nevertheless it is good-bye. Childhood and Chapter One are over, the mantrap is set, the bucket of icy water is balanced above the door of the next room, there is no, 'Be back soon!' for that Hal Porter. When he returns home for luncheon on January the Third, 1927, he will appear the same but already something will be stirring - the Devil in the basement, the Angel in the attic, the two-faced Diplomat in the drawing room, the Clown in all the corridors - who yet knows? Watch him go."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony, on starting work

"It is easier to be obedient to these grown-ups deft in the mechanical tricks of existence, to hold my fork properly, and put it down properly, and to wash my neck, and polish my boots, and say my prayers, than to be disobedient and wrong. I prefer being right."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"When you have unhappy thoughts sing a song from your childhood. You cannot have unhappy thoughts while singing a song."

VALERIE, TAYLOR -

"It's terrifying to think you can remember things you shouldn't possibly be able to. It's like that childhood fear of having your soul slip from your body in your sleep. The darkness, those black sheets of glass sliding over you, upping the pressure, pushing you through the time and space and story."

TIM, WINTON - In the Winter Dark