Krista Anne Blakeney Bell
I was born on 27 January in the middle of the last century at the War Memorial Hospital in Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. My brother Michael was already seven and a half. We lived in a flat in Birriga Road, Bellevue Hill until I was one. Then we moved to our own house in Wilberforce Avenue, Rose Bay. It didn’t get renovated until I was about fourteen and my brother had graduated from university as an architect. But I always had my own room and two dogs in the backyard, Nipper and Spooky.
GROWING UP IN SYDNEY
So I grew up in Rose Bay, Sydney, going to the local school until the end of Grade 5. Then I went to St. Vincent’s College, Potts Point, which meant taking the bus and walking through King’s Cross twice a day going to and from school. Very daring! One morning The Beatles were waving from the verandah of the Sheraton Hotel where they were staying during their tour. I was thirteen and I was so excited. My best friend and I were late to class, but our teacher was thrilled about the Beatles staying so close to our school. She wanted to know all about them, so we didn’t get into trouble!
I was lucky enough to be able to go horse riding each Saturday in Centennial Park, Randwick from the age of eight until I was fifteen and we moved to Melbourne to live for a few years. Then I bought my own horse, Rub al Khali (Khali for short), who was an anglo arab chestnut gelding with a white blaze and white socks. I kept him at the Pony Club in Lower Plenty. There’s a housing estate there now! The open spaces have gone – sadly that’s called progress.
We lived in Greythorn, part of North Balwyn and I did my final two years at school at C.L.C. which was opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne. There’s a brand new luxury hotel there now where we have our school reunions. I was dux of my school and won a scholarship to university.
Everyone thought I’d go to Melbourne University but Monash was new and lots of really interesting people went there, so that’s where I went. I studied languages mainly: English, French, and German. I loved the freedom of university life. No uniform! But I had to sell Khali so I could afford to buy an old car, Valerie!
In the early 1970’s my parents moved to New York so I went too for a year and worked as my Dad’s secretary. I was the only one who could read his writing and he preferred to write everything by hand rather than give dictation to a secretary. We shared an office with another father and daughter team and I was blown away by the fact that, unlike me, who had to type every letter on an IBM typewriter, Laurie just pushed a button on her incredible machine and it printed the same letter many times but addressed to different people. That was my first taste of the magic of computers!
NY, SYDNEY, MELBOURNE
After my New York experience, which also gave me access to places like Paris and London, I moved back to Sydney and eventually lived there for about fifteen years, mostly in bohemian Paddington. I had a bookshop for some years, but after I married Douglas we moved south in 1984 so I once again live in Victoria!
Even though I was born in Sydney, I just adore living in Melbourne. The Bell family lived in Glen Iris for thirteen years until 2006 when we moved even closer to the city. We now live in Kooyong (which means ‘resting place’) in a house called ‘Baarrooka’ (which means ‘like a duck resting on water’) and the city is an easy ten minutes away by train, which is literally over the road.
Our two dogs, ‘Phantom’ (blue heeler cross) and ‘Storm’ (boarder collie/labrador cross) called it “the park house”, because it’s right near Kooyong Park and Rigetti Oval, all of which is leash-free – poochies’ paradise! Sadly our beautiful ‘Phantom’ (the very wet dog on the left – he had just been swimming at Point Lonsdale) died of old age in late 2012. Amazingly ‘Storm’ likes being an only dog!
I love both reading and writing books, listening to an eclectic mix of music, pottering in my garden, cooking and eating Asian or Italian food, watching tennis, hunting for recycled clothing in op shops, having holidays in Noosa or Italy (where I study Italian once a year if I can), making new friends and staying in touch with girlfriends all around Australia, and, apologies, I also like watching Collingwood Football Club play on cold weekends in winter!
To think through my story ideas and plan a new plot, I walk ‘Storm’ in the park and speak out loud in Italian which really annoys her – or maybe she’s just embarrassed, who knows! Sometimes it helps my ideas if I start tidying up at home, throwing out accumulated junk from the kitchen or my wardrobe or my library. Either of these activities seems to clear my mind so I can focus on my story plotting!
NOTE RE PHOTOS: The street art portrait above was photographed in Malvern, Victoria by my friend Anna Ciddor. She says this painting reminds her of me every time she walks past it. I love it and I really do wish I looked that glamorous!
The photo of me on a Chinese stone horse was taken by my husband in 2007 during our trip to China which inspired me to write both PEEKING DUCKS and WARRIORS.