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  • Patricia Bernard

Buying The Cement Fairy Statue

I went to Papua New Guinea (PNG) three times on Author Visits, working in Port Moresby schools teaching ‘novel writing’, I was paid with plastic buckets full of money and on arriving back at my hotel I did that ‘movie’ thing. I tipped the money onto my bed and flopped onto it, shouting Yeah! I’m a millionaire.’ Unfortunately it did not add up to millions more like $200 which I spent on canoeing up the Sepik River, while sitting like a queen on a cane arm-chair with two betel-nut, scarlet-teethed PNG men paddling me from village to village. Blood red teeth are intense. I felt I was being followed by two vampires.

Over the next three years I visited New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville and the PNG Highlands. I danced with the famous Wagbag topless, moss-wigged women drummers; climbed cliff ladders to look at the family skeletons; learned how to hypnotize cassowary birds and survived voting day in PNG. I attended the Goroka dance festival with its 5000 different tribal costumes. It is the most colourful festival in the Pacific with the most fantastic costumes, Bird of Paradise feathers, drumming and dancing. It was here that I met up with the Wagbag Suli Muli sing-sing dancers and drummers.

I returned to Sydney and wrote the picture book entitled THE LOST TAIL which was illustrated by Tricia Oktober. It has sold well as Tricia captured the colours of the animals, birds and costumes beautifully. And my little boy looks great.


While visiting Tricia to describe PNG, I saw a statue of a cement fairy in a Blue Mountains garden shop. It resembled Tricia. It has the same face, ears and long blonde hair. So being superstitious and I always buy something that reminds me of my newest book, I bought it. It lived in my Paddington garden, the same garden that is in the story of The Cement Fairy Murders. Over time many accidents befell the cement fairy. She broke in half when a tree fell on her. I stuck her together. Her wing snapped off another time, I stuck it on again. Her head was severed at least three times. More glue jobs. It seemed that fairy was prone to accidents. Then we moved to Bondi and along came what was left of the Cement fairy, which is her top half. She now lives in a pot plant in my kitchen.

I returned to Port Moresby with a suitcase of books for students and bookshops. I also returned to the Sepik River to the villages I had visited before. On my return to Sydney I wrote a Blake Educational children’s Sparkler book entitled ‘Humbug Mary’ which is what PNG children call a liar. I wrote ‘Humbug Mary’ which is about a Sepik River girl who lies.

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