We left Southampton docks bound for Australia via Las Palmas, Capetown, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Mum had managed to get out and phone her sister in London and two of her sisters came down to see us off. Before we left though they asked mum to stay, with us children, and leave dad. She had no money of her own and was very confused and upset and did not know what to do. They seemed to come to some kind of an agreement though and mum decided we would go back to Australia.
I do not remember Las Palmas but I do remember loving Capetown. I had a little spending money and everyone laughed when I bought postcards and some writing pads. I showed them where it said made in South Africa on the back of the writing pads! Table Mountain was incredible, I loved everything about that stopover.
Some time during the first leg of the trip I met three young chaps who were migrating to Australia. They were in their late teens, early twenties. From the north of England so we formed a really solid friendship, me in particular with the oldest one. He was like a big brother to me while not really being one. His friends were fabulous and funny and all around great innocent fun.
They had a talent contest for the younger children and my brother was dressed up as a Swagman and he won! I was so excited to see him in the parade and it was really crowded in the large area where it was held and I sort of got knocked backwards into James, my friend. I had nothing to stop my momentum until James stepped forward to break my fall. I threw my hands out to save myself and encountered a bit more than I had expected. His rather interesting penis in his cord pants. I had gripped onto it as I did not know what part of him I had grabbed, and it felt rather nice I must say. I apologised while blushing once I realised and of course he said no problem and that he had rather liked it, as I might have noticed. So my first experience of a male with an erection was James, my confidant and friend. Of course I knew he was interested in me but he was lovely and knew my age and also saw how vicious my sister was to me, and mum and dad for that matter. They were enraged the whole trip. When I was not with James and friends I was taking my brother places to get him away from the toxic atmosphere between mum and dad. I even took him about with James and friends.
Sometime during the trip mum saw me sitting with my friends having a lemonade and she knocked on the window and beckoned me out. I muttered something and James said do not be angry with your mum she is looking out for you. When I got to the cabin my sister and dad and my brother were there. Dad screamed at me that I was a slut and various other things. I was totally baffled and really frightened.
He then grabbed me hard and threw me over his knee. Pulled my panties down and proceeded to thrash me and he would not stop. I could hear people going by and so I screamed, it hurt a lot but I did not scream from pain, I hoped someone would come to find out what was wrong but nobody did. I kept screaming so he hit me harder. When he had finished I could not sit. I had huge welts on my backside. Mum is the one who got him to stop, she was crying by then. I cannot remember what my brother and sister did. I was too humiliated to look at anyone. I lay down on my bunk with my back to them and curled up in a ball. My dad went out of the cabin and mum put some Nivea on the welts. She said dad is worried about you with those men. I quietly said we did not do anything, that she knew I would not do anything. That they did not trust me. She just cried.
The next day dad saw me continuing to sew fabric over my plain white bra for the Lua night. I had bought the fabric and made a sarong skirt and painstakingly hand stitched it all. I could have shown it to my sewing teacher and been awarded first prize I took so much care with the work. Dad grabbed it off me and threw it and said and you will not be going out anywhere in that either. I was extremely modest, only ever wore a one piece costume and was already nervous about parading in this costume and he made it seem really trashy, not the clever ensemble mum and I had worked out between us.
I put it away and went out for a walk, forbidden to see my trio of friends. I had nobody to talk to, kids of my own age seemed really immature and there were not many of them anyway as everyone was at school. I just walked around the deck repeatedly, thinking about how much school I had to make up when I got back and how I was going to study hard so I could go nursing and leave home as soon as I could. Eventually I ran into the friend with long black hair and he walked and talked with me a bit and said he would have a talk to James.
My sister was dressing up for the Lua so my mum convinced dad to let me go. She told him I had worked hard and that I was a “good” girl. And I was, only because I was too afraid of dad to be anything else. But he could not stop my thoughts. My mind. He said it’s up to mum what happens then and went to smack me across the face for the look he said was there. I flinched, his whacks across the face hurt my neck as well as my face. I believe the look was in my eyes and my mind, he could not control that but I decided to hide my thoughts in future from him.
I finished the costume and it was really pretty, I rarely wore yellow but it looked pretty and bright. Mum had found me some yellow coral beads. They did not cover my bra area like the leis others wore but I had nothing there to see anyway. I remember my sister had left me alone over those few days and so it was not as difficult as I thought to parade in the outfit in front of everyone. James and friends cheered as I went by, in a non leering way, they were lovely.
When we reached each port I sent my friends postcards, I wrote them like serials, telling them of the wonderful places we had seen and of James and his friends and the Greek hairdresser who was all over me. And my mum trusted him with me! I was trapped in a lift with him once and he started undoing my lace up bodice of my dress. I left the postcard serial at that point, knowing the girls would be wanting to know what happened next.
On the way back to Sydney we stopped at Fremantle where dad had a good friend, a past work associate. We met his family and had a lovely few days with them. The next port was Melbourne, James and friends and I had continued to be innocent companions and they asked if there was an address they could write to me as they were worried about me. They even offered to help put me up with a nice family somewhere until I left school so that I could then go nursing in Sydney where they were going to be living. I gave them my friend Alison’s address knowing she would be fine with it. She was actually allowed boyfriends. In her actual bedroom. And she was allowed to make out up to a certain point, and no further. She was trusted. I knew she would get it.
At some stage after thrashing me dad had sort of apologised. He said he had not wanted me to get into trouble. As mum had. He wanted me to marry a doctor. And I needed to save myself for him. But he said it like I had done something already with one of the chaps. He did not trust me. Before this I was open and honest with him but I knew I had to play him carefully, until I was old enough to leave home. And I knew I would never, ever forgive him for the shame, the humiliation, in hitting me like that. I was hit to supposedly stop me having sex, yet he humiliated me in front of others by pulling down my undies. It was almost a sexual act. It felt really wrong.
We reached Sydney, I said a tearful goodbye to the boys, James was miserable and worried about me but I told him I had a lot of friends and we would keep in touch. I also said goodbye to the hairdresser, and his wife. And eventually we found our way back up the coast to Toukley.