Blossoming

 

 

In sixth class dad sold the cottage and moved north to a mining town in the Hunter Valley. He was there to help get the Liddell Power Station going. It was a horrid place with a lot of air pollution from the mines. I was always sick with chest infections, ear infections and sore throats. The doctors constantly gave me horridly painful penicillin shots.

It was the first time since I started school that I was by myself but I have no memory at all of the school. My sister started high school that year, and she absolutely hated that high school.  I do remember our Aunt S and Uncle E and family visiting as regularly as before as we were even closer to them there. I loved to be near my mum and aunt on our Sunday post lunch walks but in those days it was very much adults first, children last and my mum would shoo me away. I was a fair bit older than my aunt’s girls and of course my sister would not walk or talk with me and my cousin S did not talk much to girls so I usually just walked by myself.

I liked looking in shop windows, admiring the fashion and quality of the clothing in the few boutiques. I had always been a very good seamstress. I made myself shifts and a skirt and had started on a shift for mum, by hand. I had made clothes for my dolls well before attempting anything for myself. I loved clothes, though I only had a few pretty things. My sister was more comfortable in Levi’s and shorts and as she was a tomboy they suited her.

After six months or so dad’s job assignment was up and he was off to the next one. It was quite a way up north, true country and I absolutely loved it. My school was wonderful, my teacher was a tall male and he was very kind and helpful to me. Particularly with gymnastics. I detested the vault and somersaults. They made me incredibly dizzy for hours afterwards. One day he came across and said that he loved how I tried everything, even if I was frightened of it or felt I could not do it. If only he or my parents had realised it was a sign of a lifelong neck condition that would limit a lot of my enjoyment of life. I did not just not like these things, I really should not have been doing them at all. Ever.

To start with we lived in a house which was set back a long way from the road. We had a long walk to the road and a very long bus ride to school. My sister went even further to Inverell as there was no high school in town. The bus driver was a gorgeous lady, treated us all like her own. Mum however was very isolated, with a toddler it was very lonely for her and she was also frightened to be by herself.

We were only there three months and during that time mum conquered a lifelong fear, learning how to drive. Dad took her out in his ute and as long as she stayed on the quiet country roads she was fine. She might have inspired me to try something as well, I had always wanted to ride a bike, it was a way to escape for a few hours, visit friends. I was always too dizzy and it was the same though I persevered for months, my neck again. Turning to check for traffic etc was a trigger for major vertigo.

Eventually we moved into staff demountable cabins for the beginning of the extremely hot summer. They were spacious and had air conditioners, unheard of in those days. No expense spared for the workers families while they built Pindarri Dam. Mum and dad used to go out visiting work friends and my sister was always out. I babysat my brother while he slept and for the first time I felt a real surge of sexuality. I do not know if it was the previous abuse, or that I was mature for my age, or the attention I was getting from a lot of the workers. When I was alone I took my top off, and my teeney bra, and stood against the screen door and rubbed my tiny breasts and nipples repeatedly against it. I then stood there half naked feeling the cool breeze on my body. I actually hoped a man would see me, half hoped, and had no idea what I would have done if they had. Thank God I was more afraid of getting into trouble with my parents than with a man seeing me like that, because I stopped after a few weeks. They were a very exciting few weeks for me though.

I was told repeatedly not to walk through the bush to the bus stop but I loved the whole country and bush feel. We had regularly gone to rodeos as a family over the years but this was the real thing! However one day I was confronted by a snake that stood up high and swayed its head at me. Tongue flicking in and out. I was petrified with fear but managed to stay very still and then I backed away and ran home.

Towards the end of November the job folded for dad and we returned to the Central Coast. The same way we had gone up there, with my sister and I in the back of the ute. This time dad was stopped by a policeman and sternly lectured. He made me get in the front and my sister stayed in the back.

Once we found a place to live I returned to my old Primary School where I became incredibly popular with the boys I had known for years. It was strange. Even though one of them told me he preferred me without the freckles I now had he said he would like to dance with me at our barn dance last week of term. Mum actually bought me a lovely dress, it had a bit of a cutout at the back, perfectly modest but flattering. I remember it was navy with white and worked well against my tan and freckles. I had a wonderful time at the dance, one reason being that my sister was not there to undermine my confidence. I also had so many boy partners it was dizzying. A lot of them were boys who had shown me theirs and obviously I had not shown them mine years before. They always thought I would and of course, once under the desk they never did get to see anything. Think I was too young really to be a tease. The boys just never learned. Plus I was Irish Catholic with a Victorian mother. Sex was dirty and privates, especially boys, considered really dirty.

We ate lots of toffees and drank squash and one of the really nice popular boys told me he had always really liked me and had missed me. I said I liked him too and went off to dance with another boy. This was very unlike me, though it was probably more like me in UK, flirtatious and funny, not at all uncomfortable with boys.

In the last week of term I was told it was too late to sit exams and as everyone had been graded they arranged for me to go into High School anyway. My parents did not seem to mind I would be assessed differently to the others so I was not worried. We spent a lot of time outside gardening that week and I told the boy gardening besides me to look at the gorgeous spider on my hand. Luckily my teacher overheard and held my hand very very tightly until the richly patterned spider had gone. She then called the class inside, looking very shaken up. She washed my hand and had a good look but it was simply a close call, with a Red Back spider. I was very fortunate, much like with the snake.

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The Good Girl

We arrived in Wyong in late September, and we rented a house as soon as we could and dad started work and we started school. Mum was very sociable and made friends with the neighbours quickly. We attended Mass at The Town Hall where services were held and came to know the Irish priests and nuns. Really loved our Scripture Teacher too. After a while dad bought our first home. A little fibro cottage with a cabin at the side near the main road. We were blessed with the best neighbours ever. Sydneysiders as they were called, who came up every second weekend.

By then my sister and I were not getting on. She had found a group of much older girls and some boys and she used to go into the deep bush behind the cottage all day when not at school. I did not like these friends, did not trust them and dad told me not to play in the bush due to snakes etc. I was happy playing with my dolls, rereading every book I owned.  I read and reread Little Women and Heidi so many times that I  knew the stories by heart. Our school was fun and I loved being able to get away from my sister. As soon as the school bus arrived we would go our separate ways. I was a bit of a teachers pet and over the last years at primary school my sister got into a lot of trouble with the teacher who considered me one of her pets!

Our sponsors lived in Swansea, Lake Macquarie and we regularly visited them. Dad said we had holidays at Belmont every year however I have no memory of that. Though on a visit about ten years ago my dad asked me if I knew where I was and I straight away said the Newsagents our sponsors owned! Dad said to my mum that was incredible and he is right! My parents later retired to Lake Macquarie.

After a year or two my mum’s brother and three children arrived and stayed in the cabin until they settled in the Hunter Valley. It was so wonderful to have them. We frolicked on the beaches and enjoyed being part of a bigger family again. They used to drive to see us every fortnight after church and mum and Aunty S combine home made pies etc to make the most incredible picnics.

When I was ten my brother was born. I remember once dad telling us he had to take mum to Gosford to the hospital which was at least thirty minutes away. It was a false alarm and about a week later we woke up to a new baby brother. Dad had taken mum in the middle of the night to the hospital to give birth.  Both my sister and I looked after him a lot, changed his nappies. I remember asking my mum what his testicles were for. I got the same answer as when I accidentally caught her breast exposed when she fed him. She told me I had a dirty mind and asked too many questions and both mum and my sister shooed me out of the house.

I had a lonely childhood, kept to myself except when at school. My salvation came every two weeks when the Sydney neighbours arrived. Apparently they used to see my face squashed against the glass, waiting patiently for them to turn up. We used to play Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Twister and card games in the evening. Other evenings they would come into our house to watch television. In the day time we loved dressing up and playing shop in the cabin at the back of our property.

By then Uncle M dad’s brother had arrived. He used to play a lot with me too and had a habit of emptying his pockets of coppers which we divided between my sister and myself. I used to buy writing pads and pencils and write stories, and read lots of books from the library.

One evening dad was really late and mum asked Uncle M to look for him, my sister being a real tomboy by then went with him. I stayed home and tried to keep mum calm and to this day I do not know how I knew to do it or have the courage either, but I smacked her hard across the face because she had started screaming. And would not stop. I believe I was ten. She calmed down and said she was sorry and I kept her spirits up until Uncle M got back and said dad had crashed, they had found him in the bush near Charmhaven. Dad had a drink on Friday nights at the pub there and after that he never went there after work again.

Mum and dad took us fishing at the beaches and dropped us off at weekends, by ourselves, to snorkel and swim at Canton Beach. My sister was in charge of me but I usually ended up on my own. Which was fine with me. I was friendly but cautious and found many playmates at Canton Beach. Mum was very worried about perverts etc, she warned us repeatedly to not talk to men or go off with any male of any age. If only she had known the person I had to fear lived at home and had been molesting me since we arrived late in 1962.

I was such a good girl, it was just the way I was and maybe that is why I went along with it, though I was really frightened and bullied into silence. I tried so hard to stay up, to watch television late. Anything to avoid getting in that double bed with my sister. My mother used to rage at me, slap me, it was obviously mum and dads time and I was infringing on their time. I did not care. I was naughty to avoid what I knew was in store for me.

My sister obviously had been molested by a much older girl and she had somehow found a pack of deviants here.  They used to lock me in the shed at the back and put large marbles inside my vagina. They would tell me to hold them tight, so they did not fall out. They rolled the big marbles over my clitoris, repeatedly. Eventually they put other things up into my vagina. There were bigger boys in the shed too. I do not know if I was abused by them too. I blocked so much of this until my forties, just do not know.

I do remember the long long sessions of masturbation my sister inflicted on me in bed. Did not matter that I cried, or refused, she would stroke me with her fingers and it did feel good.  I hated her but God I liked it. The end result, how sick is that? She would then say her turn and I had to masturbate her. Repeatedly. But the worst part for me, and I do not know why, is that she would make me suck my fingers to clean them afterwards. Someone taught her that, it was so our parents who slept in the same room would not get the scent of sex. It made me retch. When she made me do that, hit me and pinched me until I did, then I knew I was doing something really wrong and that God would see it and strike me down. Well He did not help in any way.

When we made our Confirmation the sisters guessed something was wrong between my sister and I. They offered me a full scholarship to Kinkoppal in Sydney. Mum would not let me go, because she thought the nuns would molest me. How ironic. I told the priest in confession and he gave me so much penance I never raised it again, with anyone until I was in my forties. Eventually Uncle M moved overseas and my sister moved into the cabin. She never touched me again sexually after that but she became nastier, more vicious. I was frightened of her then and still am to this day.

Fairsea

 

We left England late summer on the Sitmar Fairsea and arrived in Sydney 21/9/62. Our trip took us through the Suez Canal and some of the places we stopped were Malta, Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago. I remember the boats coming out to our huge ship, filled with souvenirs and smiling welcoming people.

My sister any I spent a lot of time in the pool, though we could not swim, and on the decks playing table tennis etc. I remember mum in a lot of pretty dresses and skirts, and she was excited and very happy. The other thing I remember was her asking us to buy her unmentionables, her Modess sanitary napkins. Mum was Victorian in her shame about such things.

One day I remember very clearly because everybody was shell shocked. Some people were crying. I asked mum who was also crying what had happened and she told me that the most beautiful woman in the world had died. It was 6/8/62 and it was Marilyn Monroe who had passed away.

I cannot remember any of the passengers or many of the stops though I know we arrived in Fremantle, Australia on my cousin Jane’s birthday. It was a very exciting moment as a lot of passengers disembarked there to start their new lives. We however continued on to Sydney and from there made our way up to the Central Coast to Wyong.

 

Goodbyes

Our other family was in Lincolnshire, near Skegness. We had a wonderful few weeks there with mum’s huge family. The beaches there were fabulous, with donkeys and fun fairs nearby. My sister and I frolicked our days away, perhaps not realising that we would not see this much loved place and mum’s family again. Our aunts and uncles brought their new babies over to say goodbye.

Eire: Innocence Lost

When I was seven years old dad had saved enough money to get us a really good start in life in Australia. We had family in County Mayo in Eire to say goodbye to. I remember some of the time in Eire but most is what I have put together from photos and from what mum and dad told me over the years.

We had regularly visited our grandparents and knew some of my dad’s brothers from their living and working in the UK. My dad actually met my mum in the boarding house her mum and dad ran. Though mum had a full time job she helped serve at dinner and at breakfast. That was when she met his brothers Uncle M and Uncle P. Dad’s parent’s were in Eire on a farm with a few of his younger sisters and his brother. It was always a full house in summer with beds full of children of various ages snuggled in together under grannie’s gorgeous patchwork quilts which she made with the neighbours in quilting bees. When quilting they spoke in English mixed in with Gaelic, so fast I could barely keep up though I tried.

I remember the haystacks, my sister was usually to be found on the tops of the haystacks, in her good clothes. Mum would not have been happy about that. And I clearly remember the pigs which grandad always caught with the crook of his walking stick and I remember their squeals as they were killed. It did not stop me enjoying eating bacon or ham though!

I had lots of wonderful walks through wildflower filled fields with my grannie. She loved to talk with me and adored my questions. I was named after her, as was dad’s sister, so there was a real closeness there. Mum and I also went out and picked wildflowers and dad took lots of photos.

 

 

The bathroom was very primitive, the cottage also as it was a traditional whitewashed one. Grannie used to make tea by leaving the huge teapot stewing on the fireplace embers. It was real Irish breakfast tea, brewed in the morning and topped up through out the day. I also loved the toast cooked over the fire on a huge iron fork, leaving big dents in the thick slices of toast through which the home made butter oozed. There was also a full Irish breakfast for whoever could stomach it, and most could! I adored our times there with our family.

The neighbours, who were usually first or second cousins, would pop in to see the English realatives and share the Craic. In the evening the younger adults would pop down to the pub which was a ten minute walk away. It was idyllic, with farmland, land laid to turf and the wild Irish coastline where my father as a child had often found bones and other items which he tells me now were from the Vikings.

I do not know how long we stayed. We usually had weeks there every summer but this was a special time with family coming from all over to say goodbye. Dad’s sister and husband was there with their red headed baby. I remember being a bridesmaid at their wedding. I was not first choice, my sister was supposed to do it but backed out on the day of the wedding. Luckily I fitted the dress and looked okay in pink lace so apparently I happily stepped in though was shy and particularly camera shy.

One evening on returning from the neighbours or the pub my mum found my sister in her bed with a young woman getting stuck into her privates. She had been sleeping beside her the whole visit. Mum ran and found dad and told him, he grabbed my sister out of the bed and mum grabbed me and said we were leaving. I do not know if we stayed in the village but I do not think anyone was told, I think they probably thought the Englishwoman was being difficult. As they often did.

This incident changed everything in the future, for me, not just my sister.

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Forward

 

 

 

I was born in my grandparent’s house in a little seaside village near Skegness in Lincolnshire, England. My mum had me with the help of a midwife and her closest older sister P. My big sister P had come along 18 months earlier. My grandma and grandad and lots of young aunts and uncles lived there and often came to stay with us wherever we lived.

Dad worked in mining and as mum did not like being without him we lived in a caravan on various job sites. I do not remember much at all of my life before I was seven but a few things I do remember were Uncle J who was only in his middle teens  staying often. Mum told me the story many times of how he saved my life when the kitchen caught fire. Mum had left a chip pan on the burner and there was an incredible amount of acrid smoke. Panicking, she grabbed my sister and ran outside with her. When she turned to go back and get me the smoke was too thick for her to enter.  She screamed and Uncle J ran right into it and found me and brought me out. As this is one of the few things I remember being told I have locked it into my memory banks! That such a young man would be so brave and clearheaded as to go in and as my mum always said, “save your life.”

There are a few other memories from my childhood that I recall clearly. My dad had gone over to Australia to prepare ahead for us to migrate there. He found work on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Mum and my sister and myself stayed with her parents in the house where I was born. My grandmother ran a boarding house and was very busy cooking and washing lodger’s work clothes. I used to help her. And while I helped her I asked her lots of questions and chatted to her, barely drawing breath.

Grandma told me if I did not stop asking questions the Boogie Man would get me. I was so frightened of this Boogie Man but I had to know who he was and how he got inside the house. She told me he was big and black and was watching me. I was truly terrified but had to help my Grandma and there was so much I had to know! I cannot remember what my sister did during this period, I was told our mum went back to work in the Pop Factory where she worked before she married. She was known to sing with the most glorious voice which could be heard outside the factory.

After two years my mother became dreadfully ill with a burst appendix, she then survived peritonitis and returned to her parents house and promptly nearly died of a Pulmonary Embolism. The priest was called and performed the Last Rites and the Doctor told the family she would not make it through the night. Mum always told me that in the middle of the night a statue of The Virgin Mary lit up and she heard voices. She said she heard “her children need her, she cannot go yet.” She made it through the night and over a few months returned to good health. Meantime dad had booked a bunk on a ship back to England. He always told me how several workmates had to hold him down to stop him going crazy when he was told mum was likely to die.

After dad returned we moved to various job sites while he saved the money for us to get a good start in Australia. I do remember starting school at a Catholic Primary School. That was in Buxton in Derbyshire and there was a really steep hill to climb. It kept us all quite fit. I was a bit mischievous in those days and got into trouble for putting salt into my lunchtime glass of water. I was imagining it was lemonade. However Sister M was not amused and made me drink it, salt and all!

One other memory that is crystal clear and always has been is of me meeting some really fun friends whose parents became friend’s of mums. I must have been quite forward as I went outside their caravan and started to do my exercises. Perhaps we did them at school, no idea why I would choose that method to introduce myself. But it worked! One of the boys declared his undying love to me and asked me to wait to marry him when we were grown up! Later on that family migrated to Australia too and we visited them and they came to stay near us at Christmas each year

 

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