Jan 11, 2012

Summer Holidays, Settings and The Secretary's Secret

by Michelle Douglas

Reading: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
Watching: House
Listening to: Adele
Making me smile: hazy beach days

Last Wednesday I made an odyssey to the seaside township of Tuncurry. Why? The dedication in my latest book – The Secretary’s Secret (out now in Oz/NZ) – might explain why:

To my grandparents, Bunny and Beryl Snaddon, with love and thanks for all those wonderful summer holidays!

From the time I was a baby until I was about eight or nine years old, my family spent the summer holidays in Tuncurry – at Tuncurry Beach Caravan Park in my grandparents’ caravan, to be precise. (After that we moved around the headland to Hallidays Point, but still spent a lot of time in Tuncurry as it was the nearest place to stock up on groceries)

As a general rule, I prefer to set my stories in locations that I’m familiar with, so when my secretary in the big smoke suddenly finds herself pregnant and decides to move back home, I decided to make that home Tuncurry. I may not have visited my old childhood haunt in twenty years, but in my mind I could still see it all so clearly.

And I have to say, when I revisited Tuncurry last week, I wasn’t disappointed. This is what I found:

The Rock Pool: This is a great place for small children and it’s where I learned to swim. Alex, my hero, takes the odd dip here. You can see from the photos below how popular this spot is in summer.

Wallis Channel (leading from the sea into Wallis Lake): Kit teaches Alex how to fish from the breakwater where this photo is taken. This, I have to say, is where my memory broke down. I’d have sworn black and blue that the breakwater was waaaay longer and the rocks bordering it waaaay bigger. I, umm, think I took some poetic liberties with this in my story. :-)

The Dolphins: who often frequented the channel and obviously still do. They visit in my story too!

The Beach: Glorious golden sand and foaming breakers for almost as far as the eye can see.

The Bridge: We walked across it every year. Why? For ice-cream, of course. :)

I had a wonderful day and it seems that the place of my childhood summers is as magical as ever.

Do you have a special summer place?


  1. Hi Michelle --
    So lovely that the Tuncurry you remember was still there. And so wonderful you've captured it all in your book.

    We used to go to the Gold Coast...pretty sure it looks very different now to when I was younger (-: But I still have fond memories visiting my cousins, swimming at the beach and of course heading to Dream World to go on all the rides.

  2. Michelle, I loved looking at all your snaps! I'd never heard of Tuncurry before, but it looks like a fabulous place to holiday. (And seems nice and cool in the photos when I'm having a stinking hot day in Qld.)

    When I was young we used to take my grandparents' caravan (snap!) to Byron Bay. Then when I was a little older, we got our own caravan and used to leave it there which made it easier to duck down and for long weekends. Fabulous memories!

  3. Anna, I've never been to the Gold Coast (though that will change in August with the RWAust conference being held there), but I love the photos that I've seen. The beach seems endless.

    I used to dream of Dream World. My younger self is very jealous!

  4. Funnily enough, Rachel, last Wednesday was the hottest day we'd had in the state so far for the month. But there was a very fresh on-shore breeze in Tuncurry that kept things cool.

    Ooh, caravaning in Byron Bay. That sounds idyllic. I've never been there either, but the DH and I have tentative plans to visit for a couple of days in February -- fingers crossed. :-)

  5. Hi Michelle,
    Love your photos! How nice that too many things haven't changed at Tuncurry.

    We never holidayed in summer, we went in May school holidays (before they changed to 4 terms and it was lost) at Woy Woy/Ettalong/Umina. We'd rent a house up there. My Dad and I fished every day in a putt-putt boat we rented. My Mum and sisters went shopping (or something). Idyllic.

    Thanks for sending me down memory lane!


  6. Cath! Finally a place I've been to -- Woy Woy. And it's a lovely spot.

    You know what I love about your holiday story? The fact that you and your dad did what you most wanted while your mum and sisters did what they most wanted. That's the perfect holiday in my book!

  7. Michelle ~ I really enjoyed The Secretary's Secret. Thank you for the pictures which relate to the book. Right now it snowing and freezing so the beach pictures are wonderful to look at.

    I'm not a beach person usually. I head to the Rocky Mountains in our summer time.

  8. Kaelee, I'm so glad you enjoyed The Secretary's Secret! It was a lot of fun setting the book in Tuncurry. Brrr on your northern winter -- hoped the pictures warmed you up a bit. :-)

    The Rocky Mountains? Sigh. Do you know how glamorous that sounds?

  9. My Father was a teacher & every school holiday we would head to the Sunshine Coast. My parents retired up there as well. So, not only pristine beaches, but family as well. I love it.

  10. Oh, Marybelle, the sunshine Coast is another gorgeous part of the world. And it sounds as if you still have strong links there, you lucky thing! :-)

  11. Gorgeous pics, Michelle! I want to sink my toes into that lovely sand! And the dolphin is awesome!

    You made me smile with your comment about the breakwater! We used to go to my grandparents' place and I remember they had a really, REALLY wide creek running through the front of their block. I used to want to jump over it like the big kids could and then one day I could jump over it! It was so exciting!

    They moved and I moved. Then when I was on holiday many many years later and travelling though New Zealand, I passed my grandparents' old property. The creek was a bit of a shock - this mammoth childhood challenge was so narrow and hardly worthy of the name "creek"!

  12. Sharon, the pics are gorgeous, aren't they? They're care of the DH who is the photographer in the family. Afraid I can't take a good pic to save my life. :-)

    Isn't memory the strangest thing! I had to laugh at your creek story. The thing is I can see that creek SO clearly in both its incantations. I guess we forget how big the world seemed when we were small.

  13. Gah! Incarnations not incantations. Fingers a bit quicker than the brain.