A few days before Christmas I checked the two large suitcases I was taking up to my parent’s house into the checked baggage department at Central Railway Station. I was moving things up to Noraville preparing to move in with them while I worked out my options for the future. As always I walked up the other end of the gorgeous station to the cafeteria to get a pot of coffee and a sandwich. While I was there I heard a voice saying “Kate” at the top of her voice. Turning around, I saw my school friend Ann, I had not seen her since I left nursing two years before. We were so excited. She had just got off the train and told me she was working at Paddington Women’s Hospital doing Obstetrics training. I filled her in on my news and we caught up on our families. She told me she had been on holiday to Surfer’s Paradise and met the love of her life and she knew straight away. I was so happy for her, she was mature, happy and following her dream career. Eventually though I had to get my train and we parted ways, but both with contact details for the future. I had never lost touch with her as mum and I always went to her parent’s house for a piece of Christmas Cake and a glass of port. As we did with Stuart Cameron and the Cadogans, our wonderful neighbours from Gorokan.

I caught the bus to The Rock Pool where I ran into Linda, my friend from school and nursing. She was home from Darwin for Christmas and her birthday. So exciting to see her so happy and indeed content. She came over to see us at Noraville and invited me to her 21st in January. She sat on the floor and made me show her all the clothes I had brought up and insisted on the long white dress for her 21st. It was very pure looking however when it was on it looked a little like Sonya McMahon’s dress as it had splits right up to the thighs.

While up at mum’s after Christmas I invited my teenaged cousins down to celebrate the New Year and to explore Sydney for a week. My flat mate was away so the girls could use my bedroom and I could sleep in his, it was a really luxurious flat with plenty of room. They raced around getting ready, while mum and I were visiting them in their home in Lorne, in Maitland. I had asked my aunt if they could come and assured them I would look out for them. One of the girls taught Sunday School at the local Anglican Church and their parents had brought them up very well, and they trusted me. It was a wonderful feeling.

Once they were packed we piled into the car with mum and headed for Noraville. The girls quiet with excitement in the back. Once back there we stayed for the night and then headed to Sydney the next day. The girls ordered take away Pizza and tried all sorts of different foods. Ann met up with us and we went dancing at The Top Of The Town Nightclub in Kings Cross. Ann looked stunning as did my cousins. Ann and Jayne immediately were invited to dance and as always I was not. My other cousin was not either so we danced together. I admired Ann’s openness and ease with chaps, I was still uneasy with strangers who were men. Especially in packed clubs etc where body contact was considered the norm.

I took the girls to Rodney’s new hair salon to get their hair cut. Louise became a blonde Cleopatra and Jayne a tousle haired faery. Just such an amazing experience for them. We walked around Centrepoint for hours to get the girl’s outfits for New Year’s Eve. Louise immediately agreed with me that the white cotton fitted boiler suit in the window of one boutique was just her. It was perfect on and she was quietly delighted. Jayne was much harder to please, being very slight and unused to expensive choices she was overwhelmed. I told her I had stunning dresses and sandals she could borrow so we had a final trip to my favourite Italian styled coffee shop at the back of Myer and then caught the train to Edgecliff and walked home.

New Year’s Eve we pampered ourselves while we had pizza, mine without cheese, and then we dressed. Jayne borrowed my newish Italian leather wedged sandals and one of my maxis. Louise wore her boiler suit. Their hair was outstanding, I knew I had to keep an eye on these two girls in the huge crowds at the Opera House. Jayne was only 16 and Louise 15, it was quite a responsibility, especially with the migraines I had twice a week. Though I was determined not to show any discomfort in public, with my hostess training it was easy. Ann met us and we all headed to Edgecliff Station. And then on to the Opera House. It was a wonderful evening though Jayne found the sandals too high to walk in for too long. I encouraged her to go barefoot. She was stunned at the thought then delighted! We had to watch for broken glass etc but I took my red high heeled sandals off too to show her anything was possible in the big city.

An unforgettable evening for all of us and one that left me with a shocking migraine due to the noise and crowds. We managed to get home and then the next day started our New Year by going back to our parent’s homes. Mum and I always visited Auntie Shirley weekly and she loved seeing us but this time, the look on her face as she looked at her daughters, so chic and stylish and beautiful, was unforgettable. And she hugged me for so long and cried. As did I.

Linda’s party was not long after, her family and a few friends at their home and I remember having lots of chats with her dad. He always loved my outfits and styling. Afterwards I slept over as I had so many times in the past, snuggled under the granny rugs crocheted by Linda and Kaye’s grandmother. I felt safe and so at home.

Ann then had her party, we all went to a restaurant with her family and a few close friends. She opened her presents there, I gave her a gold Oroton Mesh cigarette case as I had seen that she had a wallet to match. I slept over afterwards, it was like being at school again. Ann always read several chapters before turning her light out. I read two and liked to go over what had happened that day. We chatted, we laughed and talked through the walls to her sister Helen and her lovely parents. An unforgettable experience of being with my second family right through school, different to New Years Eve but no less unforgettable.


I Land On My Feet

I stayed home in Noraville for a few weeks then applied for various nannying positions with families in Sydney. I interviewed with several and decided on a lovely family with three boys under five years of age. The interview was held in Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Sydney CBD as the parents had two fabulous clothing stores there, Shim and Shives. I met the parents there as they had an incredibly busy career and I was offered the job on the spot. The father Des was a little concerned by my youth but the mum Daphne and I hit it off straight away. She intuited I was more mature than my years and knew I had a younger brother who I had half brought up. I really landed on my feet with this position. My recent nursing experience and background in working with children also helped. My sister picked me up at Central Station and dropped me off after introducing herself to the family. My mum had been in touch with her and asked her to look out for me.

They lived out at Dover Heights in a massive art deco mansion complete with outdoor pool and a converted ballroom which was used as a games room. They also had three boxer dogs, a mother dog and two bitches. Unfortunately these gorgeous dogs became a pack when anyone unknown approached the fence let alone the door. When my sister and I arrived Des had locked the dogs securely in the ballroom. I was introduced to the three most gorgeous boys, under five years of age. Stunning looking in the English way with blondest of hair and blue eyes. Totally different in personality. The oldest Justin a sweet caring boy already at Preschool three days a week. Jake the eighteen month old a bundle of mischief and delight. And Jackson, a gorgeous little boy of nine months, a treasure.

I was given a room downstairs and had the run of the house. They were an ultra modern family, really ahead of their time. Des was totally supportive of Daphne who was a feminist. Though he did not do housework etc. Then again Daphne did not do any either. They employed cleaners from a top agency. I cooked the children’s dinner for five pm, they were already bathed and had usually almost finished their food when their parents arrived home at 5.30 every night but Thursday’s, which was late night shopping. Everyone had finished eating but Jake who just loved to try me on over his vegetables. I adored them all but he was so mischievous that I had a special place for him in my heart.

After a little while the agency sent out a young English single mum named Lesley to clean the house. We got on so well immediately that Daphne arranged for her to look after the two youngest on Thursday mornings so I could go shopping. I loved it, catching the double decker bus to Bondi Junction, going into Myer which was amazing compared to the Waltons Store where I had shopped in Gosford. There were lots of boutiques and Italian style coffee lounges. The Mall had not been built yet and it had a wonderfully eclectic atmosphere. Sometimes I took the baby Jackson with me, he was as good as gold and loved bus trips. The bus conductors were really helpful too in getting the strollers off the buses. It was so much fun and so different to anything I had experienced before. I gradually built up a nice wardrobe of accessories from Bondi Junction to match the wonderfully huge camel kid leather shoulder tote bag Daphne and Des gave me as a thank you for the extra babysitting I did once a month so they could go gambling in Double Bay.

In a matter of weeks Lesley and I became firm friends. It was approaching winter and Daphne and Des needed extra sewers to hand sew the leather buttons on their amazing range of kid leather jackets and coats. I asked them if Lesley could come over to dinner with her little boy and Daphne and Des immediately loved her and offered her a substantial amount of extra cash to sew these buttons on in her spare time. I used to go over to her place one night a week and help her with her backlog, sewing being my forte!

While working there I used to go home to Noraville on Saturday afternoons on the train and get the 4.30am train back Monday morning. I was young and fit enough to do it though it was starting to get really cold at that time of the day. Daphne and Des surprised me with a beautiful camel coloured, fitted to the body, three quarter length kid leather coat. The coat matched the tote bag they had given me and was way nicer than the one I had in London in 1970, I still had that but it was heavy and hurt my shoulders. I eventually kept the old suede one at Noraville to use there if a friend suddenly needed a jacket.

Lesley and her son came up one long weekend to stay in Noraville. Her son was a similar age to my young brother and got on brilliantly with him. While mum looked after the children I took Lesley to Budgewoi Pub and from there we went to a friends house where everyone sat around and smoked dope. She kindly said no thanks but go ahead and I was really impressed at how she communicated with all the surfers there. They were mostly from Sydney, some I had known for years who were locals and most were famously reticent. She had them eating out of her hand. Unlike me, who was even shyer with chaps now, or wary would be a better word. Some of the guys were the Sydney surfers who rented a house just down from us and I regularly baked them cookies on a Saturday evening and dropped them around to them. They were famous for their marijuana munchies. And their sweet tooth.

The boys gave us a lift home and everyone was fast asleep. Lesley shared the spare room double bed with her little boy and I had my old bed in my lilac and white bedroom. The next days over breakfast Lesley chatted to dad and afterwards Denise Lethbridge came up and took both boys out on the trail bike and we all had a very relaxed time. It was the first time I really noticed dad so accepting of my friends. Mum enjoyed cooking her fabulous roast meals and my aunts and uncles came over with the cousins. First time in a long time there was no shadow, no feeling of dread or fear there with dad. Lesley actually said your dad is lovely, he just seems starved of communication that is all. I thought about that and realised I had always chatted away to him, until the teen years, when the trouble with my sister started. So I tried to include him in things more and he seemed to be much more relaxed too.

Once we got back to Sydney Lesley’s boyfriend who had dumped her at Circular Quay when they arrived on the ship months before suddenly showed up. I babysat so that they could talk and have some privacy which was not possible in her one bedroom flat at Bondi Beach. He was living at Surfers Paradise and wanted her to move up there with her son to be with him. She decided to stay in Sydney to save money to make a new start there. When we had our regular weekly dinner at Daphne and Des’ we explained this to them and they immediately offered her training as a pattern cutter in their Bondi factory. She proved to be brilliant at this and eventually took over all aspects of the work.

The dinners were fun and spun off my use of my old basic Home Science Commonsense Cookbook from year one in high school. One day after a few weeks of living there I had decided to cook a few meals for us adults and I tried the fruity lamb curry recipe in it. Des came over and tried a spoonful and exclaimed it was a traditional Indian dry sweet curry and delicious. Restaurant quality! So I made Cornish Pasties and many other dishes for us to savour. I bought new cookbooks from Myer Bondi Junction and tried recipes, it was fun and as the children always went to play with their parents once they returned from work I was free to indulge my creativity in the kitchen. We also had takeaway on Friday nights and I was included in family outings to restaurants if I happened to stay in Sydney for the odd weekend.

I was so happy there, I adored the boys and Daphne was fabulous, although I was very wary of Des, not frightened but kept him at arm’s length. No hugging etc and I did not like being alone in the house with him, or his good looking brother who stayed for a few months as was recently divorced. Obviously a reaction to my rape and it’s aftermath though I did not consciously think of what had happened in that house in Gosford.

My friend Linda left Gosford Hospital a few months after me as did all the people who had shared our house. Ann had been sent down to Royal North Shore Hospital for investigation into severe headaches. I spoke to her often on the phone. She returned home after a few days of intensive testing. My sister came over to visit a few times and let us down a lot too by not turning up when she said she was going to. It pissed me off that she disappointed the children.

Over winter the boys had a lot of colds and bugs. Dr David Bennett had started working out of Bondi Junction and he made regular house calls as he could see I could not get all three children to him when they were ill as I did not drive. He had a problem with the dogs. He asked that they were well secured before he came out and no wonder he was nervous. They used to throw themselves in a pack at the glass doors between the ballroom and the sitting room. Dr Bennett felt I was very isolated and had too much responsibility and would stay for a cup of tea and my homemade cake and a chat. When I needed my Pill script I would go in to see him in his rooms in Bronte Road, Bondi Junction.

Lots of reps gave samples of clothing to Daphne and Des, we all had some nice things but especially the boys. There was a knitwear company that made miniature versions of their high fashion sweaters for the boys. Three sweaters in the same shades of blue but different styles. Just gorgeous. The only time I had real trouble clothing wise was when  Des suddenly bought tickets to go to Cairns for all of us. I only had a few summery things with me as had taken my summer clothes back to Noraville. The ones I had not thrown out that is. My tastes changed once I lived in Sydney and I did not have my sewing machine with me to make my new summer wardrobe yet.

Once we were in Cairns Daphne loaned me a short sleeved top and I bought some blouses to wear. It was very hot in the hotel rooms of the family suite so we kept the doors open and while the parents partied downstairs I read while watching the children. We went exploring the region for several days, finding it very beautiful but my overwhelming memory was of the humidity.

Back in Dover Heights it eventually became warmer and the boys had swimming lessons in their huge pool. The instructor was great with them and they really enjoyed themselves. We went down to Bondi Beach a lot as summer approached and met Lesley and her son down there. Eventually though she moved up north to join her boyfriend. We did not feel good about it however as his family who were wealthy disapproved of her. It is why he left her in the first place.

I took Justin the four year old up to Noraville several times. He loved it. Daphne was estranged from her father who lived nearby in Wyong but the whole family picked Justin and I up the first time Justin stayed with us. It was his first sleepiver! Mum loved cuddling Jackson and was quite tearful as she would have loved more children. Unfortunately she had a lot of heavy bleeding and was diagnosed with fibroids. After having a D and C it was advised she have a hysterectomy.

My sister insisted that as she had looked after dad and my brother a few years before when mum had her gallbladder out, that it was my turn now. I did not know how to bring it up with Daphne. I was so upset, I adored the boys and every aspect of my job. It had long term implications for retraining in the garment trade or in fashion and retail. But I had an obligation to look after mum. It was expected that the daughters do these things. It was never ever considered that dad would take time off to do this. We were supposed to look after him. One of the issues for mum was the split level nature of the Noraville house. The laundry was downstairs and it would be months before she could lift washing etc.

Eventually after about five days I brought it up and Daphne said she knew something was wrong. She said no problem, come back when you are able to leave your mum. And meantime they would book the world trip they had been talking about for six months time which should be plenty of time for me to have helped mum back to health again. And I was coming along with them!

I packed and tried not to cry as I said my goodbyes a week later. I loved them so much, even Des, whose weird brash sense of humour had grown on me. Even loved the dogs, though individually, not as a pack.

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The Greatest Gift

I loved working in the chemist and quickly settled in as part of the team of girls and women working there. The pharmacy assistant was a fiery red headed divorced mum in her thirties and we quickly hit it off. She drove to work each day from The Entrance and picked me up so we were able to come into work together. I was quickly put in charge of photography and film and everything to do with that. The owner was not a pharmacist but was very friendly and encouraging and arranged lots of extra courses to help our skills along. I went to Revlon makeup courses and Kodak courses at night somewhere in Lake Macquarie which was only an hour north. We met lots of other girls from different towns and had a lot of fun.

Each year at Christmas the pharmacist gave the staff a treat at the hairdressers just down from us. We had a wash and a semi permanent and a set. My hair was pretty long by then, I started to grow it after we got back from the UK. Never having had a colour before and happy with my own hair we went with a colour wash called Black Tulip. It was very witchy and I upped my lipstick and eye makeup accordingly!

We girls got on very well, the only fly in the ointment was the tradie husband of a woman in her thirties who was our senior. He used to come early every day to pick her up. It was always when either myself or another young assistant was up a ladder getting stock down from high cupboards. It was the days of the minis and we did not have to wear tights in summer. So he got quite the eyeful as we stretched to get the stock. He used to position himself almost right under me, slightly to the side and blatantly stare at my bottom in my undies which were exposed when I reached up. His wife seemed oblivious, as she was to most things, and as we tried to be especially towards her bruised face some Monday mornings. We did not say anything to her, just gave her space and made her extra cups of tea.

As I was single I was assigned all the Public Holiday work and though I enjoyed the extra time off in lieu of pay I did not feel it was particularly fair. It meant I missed the get togethers out at Soldier’s Beach with the extended family. We used to sit at the picnic tables at the top and after lunch go for a walk on the rocky side of the beach. If we felt frisky after our massive meal of cold beef and vegetable pie and pork pie and salad had settled a bit we would go for a swim, running up and down the steps to the beach helped us work off our food. Afterwards there would be trifle and cake and laying around on the grass, chatting with the cousins. And this year was extra special because during the year my mother’s younger brother and family joined us in Noraville. They migrated and actually flew out here. We had met them in 1970 so were thrilled to have more family here to love. My parents rented them a house and I often babysat the two boys and during the day mum had my aunt come over each day to make sure she was not homesick.

Linda and I had such an incredible time in Sydney in February 1972. Her parents had asked mine if I could stay the night before the Led Zepellin concert with her at her grandparents house near Centennial Park. My parents actually agreed and Linda and I walked across the park early to the venue and managed to get right up the front of the concert. I adored Jimmy Page and was transfixed by him and his playing. When the show was over some of the audience were beckoned back towards the stage. Thank goodness I was with her and not Ann as the band were famous for their parties, drugs and groupies. And Jimmy Page for loving witchy looking girls, he was heavily into Satanism at the time.

The work was full on as it was holiday season and until March it was really hectic. Then once school and work had commenced it became very quiet. Halfway through March the Pharmacist said he had to let me go. I was stunned and the girls furious. We used to meet at some of the girl’s homes and they said he had hired me as holiday staff without paying me properly. They were very upset for me as by then any shop jobs had been filled. Mum and dad were annoyed too but I started babysitting again and in the daytime kept active by cutting through the bush to Jenny Dixon Beach, reading lots and also writing things down in notebooks. I also liked to strip off my little sundresses that I had made and bathe naked, it was weekdays so very few people were around to see me.

I was still having problems with my periods, the owner of the chemist had been very understanding about my menstrual migraines and the pain. Used to tell me to go inside and get a cup of tea when he saw me at work. The doctors next door would give me a Buscopan shot and I would do pricing work from a stool until it worked. By then I was almost used to this. But mum said I should not be and took me to a female Gynaecologist in Gosford who said all this talk that the male doctors had told me of it all going away when I had babies was ludicrous. I agreed and told her I wanted a career in nursing, and had done so all my life. She booked me in for a D and C. Mum was horrified as she said I would be interfered with and stretched so no man would want me. Incredible ignorance of the female body and also she knew I had been using tampons since I was fifteen. The extra security of tampons with pads gave me more confidence on my heavy days. Mum thought them dirty but I never looked back after I first got the hang of getting the things in there, though I did have to go to a maxi for absorption. I became quite the expert.

After a few months Sharon Bull who had walked with me from the school bus down the long road to our rented house the previous year popped in to see me. She said she was about to go to Morrisset Hospital to start her Psychiatric Nursing course and her job in Coles packaging meat was available. She said the pay was good, guys were nice and it was only until the intake at the end of the year so I applied and started as soon as she left. Straight away I was treated like a snob, a stuck up bitch too good for them. I have no idea why they thought that, maybe that I did not laugh at their filthy jokes and insinuations. I was the only girl with a lot of males.

But that was not the biggest problem. I had a real reaction to the meat that they got me to repackage. It was usually near it’s sell by date. The butcher would use methods of covering really nasty smelling meat and I had to discipline myself not to retch. The worst though was the pork. It was slimy, especially after being in Glad Wrap for days. Mum used to say she knew when I had been handling pork because my face was white as a sheet when I got home.

The head butcher was a real bastard, he delighted in seeing me suffer. His big thing was saying that he knew that I really needed this job. It would have been so easy to quit and coast for six months until I was old enough for my nursing intake but I had a strong work ethic. I was not staying because I needed the job but to show that bastard he could not hound me out of there. Ironically my old boss left the pharmacy and the girls told the new boss and he immediately offered me my job back. I accepted gladly and within weeks was in charge of lots of different areas in the shop. The girls were saying I would be head girl in five years, but it was the last thing I wanted. In five years I would be overseas nursing or in the RANC nursing somewhere.

I loved doing my camera and film work and increased the sales of Revlon for the pharmacy as well. Linda’s mum said I wore too much smokey eye makeup and lipstick without anything else but I was happy with the look and it went with my then incredible masses of hair. One day one of the older girls Jasmine who regularly bought makeup from me asked me what my last name was as I had told her I had a sister who had been in her year at school. When I told her she looked so stunned that I asked her what was wrong. She told me that my sister described me as a really ugly witch. I joked well I have the hair and makeup but this girl was very upset. She even started popping in on me at home at the weekends when my sister was not there to say hi and have some of mum’s tea and cake.

One of the fun jobs was for me to redecorate the huge front window with gifts etc. I was told I was very creative and it was left completely to me. One day I turned slightly aside to get something else for the display when there was an almighty crack and then a cascading crash of glass shelves with gifts falling down as well. Something made me close my eyes, instinct or fear I do not know. I remember standing there speechless when my boss came across and very carefully extricated me from the shattered glass I was standing amongst. He took me to get a cup of tea with sugar in it and arranged for me to be taken home. I was terrified I would be in trouble however it was faulty fixtures so he was obviously worried as it could have been a much worse outcome. And he assured me insurance would pay for everything.

A much older lady had been hired at the same time as me and she was an unsettling influence on a lot of the workers. She was low in seniority but expected to be treated as the senior, by me especially. She eventually reported me to the boss for being rude. I was simply being assertive and not playing her deferential games. I got into big trouble. And worst of all I was told to go home if I had a migraine and stay home until it had gone. The owner had not agreed with that but I had my instructions. I had a lot more severe migraines now as the gynaecologist had put me on the pill for my period pain. It worked brilliantly for that but I had a solid week of migraines each month.

One day this lady’s husband rang us to tell us she was terribly ill. It was only a month or so until I was due to go nursing and I do not believe in holding a grudge so I asked if I could visit her. It turned out she had developed a kind of Smallpox from a vaccination she had for an overseas trip. She was very upset and weak and worried about how the chemist shop would manage without the two of us. We already had lost one girl to a new baby, though we still visited her regularly at her home. So I asked the pharmacist if he would like me to stay on over the busy period until the next year to cover for her and he said that would be terrific.

Christmas was a lot of fun, by now my newest aunt out here was pregnant with her third child. I met them at the beach after work a lot and continued to babysit. One day my sister came up as usual but this time when she went back asked me if I would like to look at her hospital in Sydney to get an idea of what was involved. She had arranged for me to meet nursing sisters and go to the cafeteria. It was great fun and we really bonded. She drove me back late that afternoon and we were very excited however when she pulled up, dad came out of the house in an absolute fury.

We had not even got up the steps when he launched himself at her and literally threw her down the stairs. She started screaming and he was shouting at her that she was to never come back. And she was never to take me anywhere again or there would be trouble. He shouted at me to get inside the house. He then ran to her car and pulled the distributor out and threw it in the bushes. She was crying and ran to find it and I could not stand there any longer. I said dad she was helping me. She did not do anything wrong and he went for me. I was so frightened as I stood there behind the screen door but I would not shut up. He shouted at me if you do not go to your room now you can go with her and never come back. My brother and mother were crying, it was awful. And I could hear my sister sobbing as she searched for her car part. She had given me the greatest gift that day, the gift of an older sister looking out for her younger sister.

Eventually she found her needed part and drove away. I stayed in my room that night and until dad had left for work and I was ready to be picked up by my work mate. Once there I worked in a sort of a trance, and finally I went outside and stood besides some toilets and sobbed my heart out. My boss came out a while later and asked me what was wrong, when I told him he said you cannot stay out here. Come inside and we will get you a cup of tea. The girls all hugged me and were fabulous and got me to do pricing in the back room. Along with getting me caramel tarts and Rolos to have with copious cups of tea. Over the next few months until I went nursing they also invited me to their homes a lot for meals so that I was out a lot when dad was there. I also went to my aunt and uncle a lot, anything to not face that lonely, unhappy house. It was so beautiful outside yet so empty of love inside. I could not bear it anymore.

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Early High School Years

Because of not sitting exams due to my dad’s work schedule I was placed in the middle of the first year of classes at Wyong High School. There were grades down to F and I was placed in 1C. This was well below my level in English, History, Maths, Social Studies, everything really. So the first year there was a bit of a challenge for me. One of the brilliant things about it though was that I met one of my lifelong friends, Linda. We had moved to a rented house in Toukley when we returned to the area and my mum was so excited as her GP used to rent it before us! Linda had attended a Catholic School so she was new to me however we met at the bus stop in year one and became firm friends. Others to become firm friends during early school years were Coral Davies and Stuart Cameron. Others from my primary  school I stayed in touch with outside of school and indeed sat with were Alison Blackford, Jennifer Passlow, Carol Dennis, Francine Fordham and some boys whose names have escaped me.

This was the year so many of us girls started our periods, there was a definite aroma in the air as in those days we were not encouraged to use tampons. We had Physical Education I think it was called weekly. Talking about deodorant and developing bodies. Definitely no sex education in school though. That was done by the council I think and held in Town Halls. If I remember correctly I went with Linda. I went to most things with her as mum was stuck in with a toddler and Linda’s parents were very conscientious about her schooling. Rightly so.

This was the beginning of a long period in my life of trouble for me with my menstruation. I used to get nauseous, cramp terribly and pass huge blood clots. Some as long as my little finger. I had to go to sick bay to Mrs Walsh, who was in charge of the girls, every month. First I would get a three day migraine and the cramps would set in for almost the whole six days. The clotting for the first three days. I was mortified on so many occasions to have heavy flooding come through on my grey pleated school tunic. One solution my mum had was to get me plastic Modess knickers, but only two pairs. I soaked them overnight but they still reeked. I can see why girls schools were so popular back then as this was really primitive and almost barbaric. The boys all knew when we had our periods and mocked anyone who had trouble with them. I was not attacked about this though as perhaps they could actually see it was agony for me. Mrs Walsh, once she had established I was not a whinger like some or a wagger like my sister, was the essense of kindness. She showed me how to curl up in a fetal position, she would get me hot water bottles, she mothered me while she waited with growing impatience for my mother to pick me up. Usually we had to wait until Days of Our Lives had finished. She lectured my mum on many an occasion about taking hours to get to me.

I loved sports and obviously hated gymnastics and swimming which required turning my neck repetitively. We also did cross country running, down by Wyong River. I have no idea how we did not get lost. I cannot remember any specific teachers from year one but once I moved into 2nd year high school and was put up to my correct grades I loved my teachers and enjoyed being challenged. Mr Cassidy was my favourite English teacher, and not just because of his teaching. He used to wear the tightest pants and I was obsessed with the bulge in them. He was awfully good looking, it was late sixties, mini skirts and flares were the rage. He liked me because I spent most afternoons up at Toukley Library where I read a lot of non fiction. I had read the biographies of Marilyn Monroe and he often brought her up in class as English covered Drama in those days. I knew everything he was trying to ask the students, most of whom were way behind me in reading skills. So I became his pet, which was uncomfortable for me as it drew my attention to him and his tight pants. He told me he was marrying his fiancé and her name was Kathleen.

One class I adored was Technical Drawing. In 2nd year we were allowed to pick our electives and Linda and myself and one other girl were the first females to enter the boys club of TD. To begin with it was a wonderful class but like most things good in life it had it’s painful qualities too. For safety the teacher put us girls at the front three drawing boards so he could see us. Of course that allowed all the boys to carry on behind us. Behind me actually. I do not know why they chose me, maybe because I was not fat in those days, Linda was very attractive with an amazing personality but had a weight issue then and the other girl so non descript that I just cannot remember her.

It got so I absolutely dreaded the class as the boys directly behind me, Graeme Berry in particular, used to grind and jerk their hips right behind where I was standing. I was afraid to bend over or turn my back. He had his clothes on but it was frightening. I would turn around and look at him and he still kept doing it to my face. Well to my groin. I had never seen this behaviour before and only had to guess at what the boys were doing. Obviously I knew it was sexual and I did feel threatened and humiliated. The talk was even worse. About what they wanted to do to me from behind, one after the other. And from the front, if they could get my legs open.

At some stage I decided to wear my underpants for days on end. I was not sure when this was but it was while living in Toukley as I put them to be burned in the incinerator. Unfortunately mum found them and freaked out. My sister started shouting at me calling me a filthy cow and other words, and poor mum asked me if I used toilet paper to wipe myself after I peed. It was not that I was dirty, I bathed every day and was very careful about deodorant and clean shirts etc. I believe it was a reaction to the boys sexually harassing me, absolutely hounding me.

Bless her heart Linda was a true friend and had a heart to heart with me and told me I stank. I told her that I knew and that I would fix it. She asked if I used a deodorant and I simply said I needed a different one. It worried mum but nobody thought to query why I should start to stink. Except for the best friend in the whole world.

Perhaps something had alerted the Tech Drawing teacher as he suddenly moved us girls to the drawing boards at the back wall. I only got hounded if I approached other boys desks. Most of the boys were brilliant. The ones on the right side of the room were exceptional and admired my drawings. My other elective was advanced sewing, I had always been able to draft patterns up and follow graphs so TD came naturally to me.

At some stage of 2nd year mum took me to the doctor about my periods. He prescribed Buscopan tablets and often gave me injections for severe period pain. They helped but only with the cramping and pain. I came to dread my monthly menstruation but somehow survived it as I now had the tablets to take at school. Mrs Walsh would give them to me with a hot water bottle and rub my back. Most of the girls hated her but to me she was an angel. Another one placed in my life to help me I believe, like my next door neighbours in Gorokan when I was in Primary School.

From 1st year my friends and I went on Saturday nights to the movies in Wyong. I would have already spent most of the day at Linda’s watching Countdown on television. We would go walk around the shops and Linda was allowed to have a weekly treat of cakes from the cake shop. Her mum was very strict with her about her weight. We bought different magazines, Dolly and others and read them from cover to cover. I usually went home for dinner then met her at the bus stop. Unfortunately mum made my sister keep an eye me on the long walk home down Canton Beach Road where we lived. It was pitch black and we had usually seen vampire movies, P would disappear and jump out ahead of me and scare me to death. I ended up running home most Saturday nights.

Around 3rd year we started going to parties, and once there we were supervised from a distance by a set of parents. Music and friends and dancing and spin the bottle was good clean fun. Except I had Graeme Berry to kiss. He just loved snickering the bastard. The bottle often stopped with him. He was a big, well developed boy who looked years older than 15. I looked older or acted older but was very uncomfortable around the boys after the TD thing. And Graeme’s idea of a kiss was a deep pash. As it was called then.

We also went to the beach all the time, after school and at weekends. One afternoon I wandered away from Carol and other friends and was caught in a rip. I just could not get out of it and actually was drowning. I had my hand up in the air and very soon a surfer came over and laid me across the surfboard and took me to shore. He was older than me and lived a few doors down, I actually babysat his toddler sister at times. He promised not to tell mum. It seems I got on well with boys who were older than me.

I had a job down at Canton Beach in a corner shop where Stuart’s mother actually worked. The money kept me in material and patterns. I also made money by sewing lavish pantsuits and dresses for my friends. The librarian’s daughter at Toukley especially. There were few parents who had two incomes in those days and she always gave her daughter heaps of spending money. I remember she pulled me up on a loop I had made, one of about twenty, that had frayed a bit already. She was a perfectionist and am glad she had a good eye as I totally missed that faulty loop.

Halfway through the year mum and dad decided we were going back to England to live. I was quite upset. My sister did not seem to mind as by then she had left school. She had gotten into a lot of trouble for wagging school and my dad’s solution was to take her out at fifteen. She was really happy working in a supermarket and did not realise what not having a school Certificate would mean until later. Mrs Walsh told me she wished she had never raised the issue and said if she had known dad would react like that she would never have rang home and she would have supported my sister more.

My dad not only took her out of school, he humiliated her terribly. She was very self conscious about having buck teeth, had backed out of having them fixed in 1st year in Inverell and my dad punished her by not having them fixed at all. He was very hard on her. Quite unnecessarily nasty and domineering. She had finally grown her hair long, dad would not allow it until she was fourteen and her hair was the most glorious copper pennies colour. It was her pride and joy. Her only redeeming feature she thought, though I found her ability to have fun and be carefree a wonderful thing to be. Anyway, Dad was absolutely vile when he told her off and pulled her out of school. He grabbed her beautiful long hair and said if she did not get it cut off he would hack it off. He made my five year old brother and I witness all this and told me to shut up when I tried to stand up for her. She went to a hairdresser who did a modern Carnaby Street sixties bob. Very fashionable and she looked very pretty. Dad was not happy.

My friends, too many to count now, took me out to the movies to say goodbye. They all banded together and bought me a leather and fur Kangaroo bucket bag. The most beautiful thing I had ever owned. It was very very hard. I loved my life there, if I could have I would have loved to have stayed with Alison or Linda until I finished school. But there was no discussion. No consideration of my schooling. And I was a really good student. It was all about getting to the UK before September so that my brother could start school there.