We were seen off at Sydney by our family and our Gorokan neighbours. Also at the docks was one of dad’s fabulously wealthy work friends. However dad was not at all happy when this man leered at me and asked where he had been hiding me. Perhaps I looked older than fifteen but not by much. Eventually everyone who was not going disembarked and we were moved out into the harbour. Our route was Wellington, Auckland, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Acapulco, Panama, Curacao, Trinidad, Barbados, Lisbon and Southampton.
What I remember of the journey was mostly dad in a rage. He had rarely spent any time with us since we hit our teens and he had no idea how to deal with us except by threat and intimidation. My brother and I shared a cabin with mum and dad and my sister shared with three other girls in their twenties.
Pretty quickly my sister got to know an older crowd and also hung around with the young sailors after they finished their shifts. Two of them asked if they could take my sister and I horseback riding in Wellington when we arrived. They asked dad and mum and it was arranged without me really being spoken to. My sister had ridden horses quite a few times but I had never been on one before. Wellington is quite hilly and the horses spirited. My horse bolted and raced down around this hilly track. The sailor who was assigned to me was furious that they had not found out if I had ridden before. He was very angry with my sister and my dad actually and very kind and considerate of me. He was really frightened something could have happened to me.
We loved Auckland and I especially loved Tahiti. I had dreamt of going there since watching James A Mitchener’s Adventures in Paradise on television. And to my absolute delight the Tikki 111 was there. It was truly paradise to me, the markets, the beaches, the people. I could have stayed for weeks. Every time we made port I sent postcards off to my friends in Australia. Sometimes I would find mail waiting for me at various ports.
I also really loved Acapulco and so did mum. She had a lovely time and looked very pretty in the fitted cotton dresses I made her for the trip. They were perfect for the cooler weather. Unfortunately for me dad thought she looked pretty too and so I had to regularly amuse my brother elsewhere while they had time alone together.
Meantime my sister partied and had a great time, though she did have to join us for meals. It eventually started to get colder and we were grateful that mum and dad had taken us to meet our aunt and uncle at Kotara Fair in Newcastle to shop for warmer clothes. I found two gorgeous dinner dresses and some pantsuits and skirts while my sister had flares and jeans. Very fashionable, she looked fantastic in her new gear.
Some of the sailors thought so too and she used to go to their quarters and drink with them. They were not much older than her. It was fairly innocent though I was pretty naive so maybe it was not the case. Anyway dad created a huge scene by following her one night. He dragged her out of the cabin and then stood shouting in front of everyone that he needed to smell her fingers. To see if they smelled of sex. She was so humiliated and he screamed at her that he could smell men on her. It would more likely have been some of the hippy ladies there in the cabin smoking dope etc.
We spent an awful few days while dad raged at her and everyone. He was only pleasant to people who were not family. It was a pleasure to get nearer to England so we could have some distance from dad and his temper. For some reason though he relented and let her attend a deck party the sailors etc were throwing as a farewell. Only thing was I had to go chaperone her. It was not pleasant. The fellow who had asked her horse riding in Wellington decided it was me he had been after all along and I ended up dancing with him and trying to dodge his hands and his tongue from down my throat when he decided to French Kiss me. It made me feel sick, he tasted of what I think was Gin and garlic and I was having trouble getting away from him. But who was I to spoil her fun? It was not a pleasant evening and it took all my wiles to keep him out of my pants. I really grew up quickly that night.
In London we found lodging in a boarding house. My sister and I were in a dormitory room downstairs with lots of older girls who did not speak English and mum and dad were with my brother in a room upstairs. One night I awoke to see someone rifling through my sisters things. I shouted and the burglar bolted out of the door onto the street. My sister did not stop to think she just shot off after him. I could not believe it, she was out there in her nightie and I think she grabbed her dressing gown and just ran. I made a lot of noise and the girls woke up and checked their passports. Then I ran upstairs and woke mum and dad who were a bit perplexed. Then dad took off after my sister. He found her running down Carnaby Street. It was about 4am!
We shopped for warm outerwear. My sister had her heart set on a black woollen double breasted maxi coat with brass buttons and dad was against it. I wanted one in a different colour. Mum convinced dad to let her have it but I was considered too young. Instead I was found the most amazing suede coat with fringing. It was short too, a mini. If the idea was to keep me looking my age it backfired, I looked quite HOT! I can still see that short coat now, one of the most amazing things ever. Apart from my Kangaroo bag.
Eventually after a week sightseeing in London we made our way to Lincolnshire to mum’s parents where we met lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. And they met my brother for the first time. My mum and dad and sister and brother went for long walks but I just wanted to be near my grandma and grandad, reading and watching them over the top of my books. Eight long years without grandparents, it was so wonderful to have them now.
We then went on to Eire to dad’s family where we had wonderful conversations with cousins of cousins of cousins and with aunts and uncles too. The conversation never flagged and it was so good to see Grannie, my namesake, again. Somewhere along the way though dad decided we were returning to Australia. Just like that. No discussion. Mum was heartbroken as he would not let her call her family or go to see them before we left. We rented a cabin in Southampton while we waited for a ship back.