Sickening Dread, And Pain

Life seemed very good, though I had a feeling of dread I just could not shake. It was not helped by the fact I still could not get up out of chairs and the bed without great difficulty. It was like something was holding me down, my legs just could not do it. I had to pull myself up and usually stay upright. My friend K visited regularly at weekends, she was at Wollongong Uni and looked forwards to time away. My GP was concerned that my blood pressure was still dangerously high so started me on antihypertensives. I breastfed until then but had trouble after that with C crying, not settling and generally seeming very hungry.

My mum was staying with us for a while to help and said that he was hungry. She encouraged me to try him on Carnation milk as a supplement over the weekend, until I could see the Baby Health Clinic in Clovelly. C definitely needed something apart from the breast as he downed the bottles of milk. I was concerned though about nutrition etc so asked the clinic about a formula and they recommended Lactogen.

Within days he was projectile vomiting, with terrible diarrhoea and screaming, going puce in the face and pulling his legs up to his tummy. The Clinic was no use at all so A, my nursing school friend, ran a test on his nappy and it came up positive for Lactogen Intolerance. On the same day I was with him at the GPs, a lovely English chap with two young children who had replaced David Bennett when he left. He heard C screaming and screaming and said this child is hungry. He went out to his back room and gave me six tins of Soy Milk and said try it straight away and phone him to let him know how he went. As soon as I got home I prepared the bottle and C never looked back. It smelled and tasted disgusting but it is what he wanted and needed. No more upset tummy or vomiting. Bliss.

Mum had returned home as her back was not good and the spare bed in our rented flat was shocking, an old wire spring one which sagged in the middle. She packed very quickly once I asked her if she wanted to leave, got a taxi at the end of our road, desperate to get home to the farm. It had been lovely having her but she always found it hard to be away from her home. She had loved finally meeting the neighbours who were very fond of C and had been a great help to me.

We caught the train and buses north to my parent’s beach house in Noraville once a month. We had a lot of fun at the beach there in Noraville, mum and dad met us there and had a great time with their first grandchild. My husband was a bit strange on one visit, dirty and dishevelled. He was washing up one day and I came behind him to help him dry up and he jackknifed back with his elbow, catching me on the bridge of the nose. I started laughing hysterically, as I tend to do when I am hurt or something is hurting me. I used the tea towel to stench the bleeding. He was very sorry and apologetic but said I should not have come up behind him like that. I iced my face and when mum and dad arrived laughed it off as an accident. Dad looked a bit perplexed though.

Other times we took him to the farm where we saw relatives and C was spoiled by his grandma and grandad. Mum got up with C and fed him to give me a rest and got up with him in the morning. She was in her element and always had been a natural with babies. My sister P also visited us there.

C had been born with swollen black eyes, due we thought to the traumatic birth. It took many weeks before the swelling went down and when it did his right eye was sticking out. We were a bit silly and as he had a Popeye doll we nicknamed him Popeye. After a week or so I became concerned though and took him up to the GP. He rang a friend of his, Dr Gregory Roberts, an eye surgeon in Bondi Junction who asked me to go up there immediately.

A really lovely chap, he diagnosed C with a Proptosis and said it was he believed Neurological, but suggested taking him to the Sydney Eye Hospital to be examined by experts. They saw him within a week, he was photographed for record purposes and I was told to get him into a Paediatric Neurologist ASAP.

I telephoned A and she said she would see what she could do at work and on the way home I stopped at Dr Ian Gregory Robert’s and he said he had suspected as much. He asked me into his office and told me his daughter had Hydrocephalus as a baby and he could not recommend Dr Heather Johnston at The Prince Of Wales Children’s Hospital highly enough. He phoned her immediately and she arranged to see C in Casualty straight away. I thanked Dr Gregory Roberts and caught a bus to Randwick to get C to Casualty.

I saw the senior nurse who worked with A as I walked in and she said she would go let A know we were there as she had been talking to all the specialists. We were called in to see Dr Johnston who said C needed a skull X-ray and a CT scan ASAP. These were done and about thirty minutes later I was called from the waiting room to see Dr Johnston. She said C had an asymmetrical brain. Slightly bigger on the right. The proptosis was also on the right. He had a larger eye socket on the right as well. She said the Radiographers disagreed however the Professor of Neurology and herself and their team over ruled and suggested the most likely condition was Neurofibromatosis. When I asked what that was the registrar with Dr Johnston asked me if I had seen the Elephant Man film. Dr Johnston glared at him for being so callous but the damage was done. I looked at my beautiful baby boy with horror and started shaking.

Dr Johnson arranged for us to be seen in a clinic soon and I took C in his stroller up to see A where she worked in Outpatients. She came up to me and said she had been selling her soul to Professor Wise who had agreed to see my baby boy ASAP. She said Dr Johnston was very good and that they worked together anyway. She seemed to be talking to me from a distance, I said I had to get home, no reason, I just had to go. She hugged me and said she would come around later. I walked back home, a forty minute walk but I needed to clear my mind. I just plodded on, not aware of anything really. Except sickening dread, and pain.

When I got home D was waiting for me, he said A had rung him and said I was in severe shock. I sat down and explained things to him, again and again. He could not take it in. I picked C up from his stroller and rocked him, wondering at his perfect little face, except for his eye sticking out grotesquely. And his bruising on his eyes.

After that C was measured, weighed and examined carefully at the clinic, we were examined for Cafe Au Lait spots, his father having several. He was very upset and embarrassed that the registrar got him to pull his pants down to check his buttocks for marks or growths. He also became very distant, quiet and cold.

During that awful week friends and C’s Aunt P visited as did Great Aunt Jean from Adelaide  as it was the week before Christmas. Life seemed to go on. Even though on 23/12/84 it seemed to stop, for me anyway. The next day on Christmas Eve we attended the Midnight Service at St Andrew’s Cathedral in the city. There was a TV crew there and they zoomed in on the seemingly idyllic mother and infant, not knowing that the serenity they saw was being held in place by sheer willpower, so that I would not break down and cry.

Three Long Years

Once home again I was surprised to hear mum and dad fighting a lot. One morning she came back from the shops crying and said the bastard had frozen the accounts so she could not get at any money. She said she was so embarrassed in the bank. They had a huge row when he came home on the weekend and then things seemed okay again until the next fight when he froze the money again in case she left him. Then out of the blue they said they were going on a trip to New Zealand with D. While they were away I had young cousin R to stay as had a great relationship with him through babysitting and taking him to the beach when he was younger.

When dad got back he upset me terribly by asking his work associate, the owner of the mine to speak to the neurologist I had seen in Sydney (via the Old Boys Network of private schools) and tell dad what was wrong with me. He was not a migraine expert and I was waiting to go to POW migraine clinic. He would not let me say anything, just said he had done it and that was that. I felt so angry, I had no privacy, and no choices. He was told it was psychological and it would pass. That is not however what the specialist told me.

The other thing was that Dad wanted to give me an allowance. However at the same time he told me this illness was crazy, that if a dozer breaks down they repair it. He said it’s the same with my migraines. So against my wishes he decided to to see a local GP at his house. Dr M. I was so sure he would get everything wrong that I asked to go with him. The GP said he would talk to me, alone, in his rooms and he would fix things. He shook hands with dad and asked him to go to his rooms if he needed anything else. He was was CMO for pensions etc and signed for a pension for me when I visited him.  Dad then washed his hands of it.

With my pension money, and indeed months of back pay I made mum a lot of clothes. Gave her rent and food money so she had money of her own at last. We visited our aunts each week and took dad in some home made food to the billets where he was staying on the mine. I also saw Ann and Wayne at Noraville and also went to stay with them in Sydney.

Mid 1977 I finally got in to see Professor L in Sydney, and he was charming,  shook mum’s hand and was charmed by her too! He told us it was definitely oestrogen induced and would take some time to wear off. Dr G was put in charge of my case and my mum and sister hated him. Immediately though I felt he was attracted to me, but I was very sedate and careful with him. He put me in hospital the next week for observation for three weeks.

Each day he came and closed the curtains and sat on thenbed and chatted for two hours. Sometimes three. Went to answer his pagers etc but always came back. Other patients were a bit worried, including Dr S who saw us chatting and later told me we were really giving it to each other. We were talking and there was light flirting, I was well aware he could get into trouble. As was he. But he had a way of looking at me that left everyone in no doubt what he wanted to do. He took me off painkillers to observe the migraines as the clinic was very big on research. Said it would help my brother and surely I would do this for him. I went a bit blotchy at times so he got me to take my shawl off to closely look at my arms and face and my throat. He did touch me then.

Ann visited, she brought nightgowns and took some away. She knew G and didn’t not say a word against him. Said he was kind and a lovely doctor. I met some interesting cases on the ward, lovely women. Our weekend neighbours from Gorokan came to visit which was so lovely of them. The ward sister chatted to me a lot about Ansett and Noraville and life. G eventually let me have painkillers after about ten days, and he even popped in at the weekends and we talked in the corridors for hours.

I was put on a new preventative and went home and settled back into life. Walking along Jenny Dixon Beach, babysitting. Looking after my brother and cousins. Dressmaking. Staying with Ann and Wayne and Daphne and Des in Sydney.

Mum and I went to The Entrance a lot, there was a fabulous knitting shop and we loved having fish and chips there. We also loved to go to Gosford to have pie, chips, veggies and gravy followed by a cappachino in the cafe in the arcade near Walton’s. I also met the young mum across the road who had dyed her babies clothes by accident. Mum quickly went to Coles and got her bleach and I got a new friend. She arranged for me to take over her Avon run which was several streets either side of mum’s house. Meanwhile she had started teaching cooking at Tafe at night so I babysat as her husband was on call for electricity commission. The other times au babysat the little baby without much warning because the little girl who,was three could not evacuate herbrectum bless her.  She had to be taken to Gosford hospital where they gave her a special enema. I was invited to the baby’s baptism, it was the first time in a church in years. Lovely celebration afterwards with lots of relatives and friends.

Mum was very kind and looked out for our elderly neighbours on one side of us and also the family across the road whose mum was mentally ill. I got to know the daughter very well and encouraged her to go nursing, which she did at Ryde hospital. She often popped in to see us on her days off. Mum herself became very depressed. Anxious. Much worse than before, crying a lot.

My brother had a lot of trouble with bullying at high school. One day I heard a clatter as the school bus passed by and a thumping sound and shouting. When I went outside I saw my brother on the ground picking up his school case. He ran up the steps past me and I asked him what was wrong. He came back with dad’s rifle and was in such a rage he could barely be understood. Eventually I worked out what he was saying which was that he was going to teach that bastard what it feels like. And he then ran up the road, with the rifle. I was in my nightie as I had a migraine and I stoppered the door and ran after him shouting my head off for help.

The older boy across the road came running and said he would catch him. And then out of the blue a police car came by and stopped and the Seargent went after my brother. As he brought him back dad arrived home from work, so it must have been a Thursday. The policeman asked my brother what he thought he was doing, in front of dad and I. My brother said he was going to shoot at the ground and scare the bully so he knew what it felt like. The Seargent then asked him if in the state of rage that he was in did he really think he would have not hit him? And hurt him badly? D boasted he was a good shot. Seargent said he would leave it in dad’s hands this time, but it needed dealing with. He left and dad took the rifle and turned away. I asked him if he was going to talk to the school, talk to David. He said he had had it from the policeman, and if I did not like it I could get the hell out of the house and not come back. I stood there in my nightie and bare feet, with him glaring at me, and went to my bedroom.

Denise L and Jennifer P from school took me out some evenings and came over to visit. As did some of my sister’s friends. My sister and her friends stayed a lot on her days off from POW day surgery where she worked in early gender reassignment. One day found I her in the spare room with her friend Kerry. Kerry’s hand was buried inside my sisters crotch and I did not take in at first what was happening. My sister was moaning and grinding. Then I remembered. I had an LP in my hand and I threw it at them. It dented the wall behind the bed. My sister came running after me but I was so furious I went to Jenny Dixon and stayed out for hours. When I got back she said I could have hurt one of them throwing the LP like that.

Seriously? What about mum going in and finding Kerry with her fingers right up her vagina. That was not going to hurt mum? She had been in that bedroom with Kerry for months on days off. Mum and dad are Irish Catholic. But I did not say any of it, I was too sickened, I just said not in mum’s house.

Christmases came and went with visits to school friend’s parents and old neighbours. I was going to the migraine clinic monthly. Trying one drug after another. It took me  a long time to get over the effects of Ergotamine. made the migraines twice as bad. I felt like my head was swollen to twice its size. While on it my brother loved to pop Smiths Crisps bags directly behind my head when I had an intense migraine. Then he laughed himself silly when I grabbed my head in agony. So I mostly stayed in my room until he was in bed. He loved Get Smart, I Dream Of Jeannie and Hogan’s Heroes so I was safe in the lounge room during that time. Mum and I loved Charlie’s Angels for the clothing and Starsky and Hutch. I even knitted my brother a Starsky wrap jacket for winter. I adored Survivors on late at night and Dad and I watched Benny Hill and other British comedies together. Mum and I loved Blake’s Seven, she could not get enough of Blake.

Still no change for the better with the migraines. Prof L kept saying they had to try everything as I deserved a life. But nothing worked, indeed one drug almost gave me a stroke. I could not have chocolate or red wine with it and I did not sleep for days and days on it and eventually my sister threw the tablets in the bin.

I dated a chef from Gosford hospital I met through my selling of Avon. Several of the sons of the older ladies came up to visit me to collect their mum’s makeup etc. My friend opposite had me to dinner a lot to meet chaps. She strongly disapproved of my braless state. Suggested I wear one and said it was why the guys got so crude. Whereas I knew they just were crude. Thick ignorant and crude.

In 1978 G left POW to go to another hospital to start a headache clinic. We kept in touch and he told me he was going to London for a few weeks for a conference. He knew I had booked months before to go over to see my grandparents in Eire and UK. He asked for a contact number and I gave him my grandmothers’s Number.

Dad had told me he wanted me to get away for a few months while the builders were building my flat in the level under the house. It was coming along nicely but the noise really hurt my head. In the end he came with me and we bumped into Felicity who was crewing on the Qantas flight. I introduced dad to her and was so pleased she was looking so healthy. On another leg another Ansett friend was with Qantas as well. My dad flirted with her. I could not believe it.

We were met at the airport by two of dad’s sisters and his sister in law. Then we went on to Eire for three weeks to see Granny and Uncle John. Some cousins were  clothing factory owners and I loved seeing the whole process. Endless afternoon teas were offered in the best china and my granny had all the older ladies up to see me and they spoke incredibly fast in Gaelic. I loved it. I could have stayed there. And they quilted, together, my idea of heaven.

From there we went on to Meath to meet dad’s sister in law who had been at Heathrow. Dad then went back to Australia. I had the most amazing time in her parent’s Georgian farmhouse with her family. They were so, happy, so loving, so accepting. They told me I was welcome to live with them. My young cousin F loved me to death and slept in my bed the whole time I was there bless her. Her grandmother made the most incredible homemade bread. There were ancient ruins in a nearby field! Shopping and luncheons were undertaken in Dublin. I actually bought a Frank Usher dress and had no idea he was a top top top designer. The dress was black, silk chiffon and I looked like a Spanish Senorita, it laced up, or down, over the bodice and flared out into a full circle skirt, it was stunning. I also bought a black lace stretchy dress. The prices were incredibly inexpensive compared to home.

I went back to Luton to dad’s sister and my cousins, then onto Lincolnshire by train and coach. Spent a lot of time in Skegness with my cousin SA and my aunt D and her little girls. I also walked to Mablethorpe regularly. Grandma and Grandad were wonderful as always. I got a call from G after a few weeks there and went back to Luton. My aunt arranged a lift up to see G, first with my uncle. On the way he said look at you, you sexy thing, like the song. I introduced him to G who later said my uncle had been checking him out as being suitable. We went to dinner and went sightseeing then as we walked back to the hotel he was walking faster and faster, impatient to get me inside where we made love for hours. Afterwards he said that we had both been waiting a long long time for this.

Next time I was to see him my aunt’s best friend’s Irish husband took me up as he was going into London. When we were a few minutes into the drive he said that they had told him I was pretty but he had not expected me to be anything like this. I had no idea what he meant, I had on a virginal cream wool swing coat with my black lace dress under it. It had a pussy bow tie, right up to the neck. High heels, Christian Dior stockings and black lace panties, bra and suspender belt. But he could not see any of the underwear. I wore no jewellery and very subtle makeup. When we pulled over he suggested I take an Irish lover. Said they all had huge cocks, like his. This came out of nowhere. I felt like I had a sign on me saying I need a seriously huge Irish cock to fuck me. I told my aunt later on when he offered to drive me again, and she did not believe me. Said I was a minx and a troublemaker.

Meantime I found out G was married, and decided not to see him when I went back home. But I thought we should enjoy the moment, and we did. We explored lots of different positions and he seriously liked to go down on me. Drove me insane with his tongue. And he pounded away at me for such a long time that I had trouble with my stamina. He was insatiable. Afterwards he held me saying he wanted to lock me in a room away from other men’s eyes. That wanted me to get a flat where he could come to make love to me regularly in Sydney.

Was tempted to stay and work in London as a nanny as my head was so much better over there once off all the trial drugs etc. However I went into Charring Cross Hospital as Professor Clifford Rose actually promised he could get rid of my migraines. Turned out it was just more research. They did give me Valium 10 mgs for neck spasms, only to be used when necessary. Eventually I became very homesick as I was in over Xmas. So I arranged a flight back as soon as I could as it was very uncomfortable at my aunt’s in Luton after the take an Irish lover incident. I had had a lot of mail from my brother, my aunts. My friends. I wanted to go home.

The whole family met me at Sydney airport with my chihuahua which my mum and sister had given me as a birthday gift. My brother was very excited. When we got home there was a big welcome home sign outside. It was good to be home in Noraville.

Once home the Professor decided he could do better than his fellow neurologist in UK and booked me back into hospital. While there I had some trouble with sleeping. When in a deep, deep sleep I would somehow bring myself to orgasm. I would wake up with my hips grinding with a really full on orgasm that I horrifiedly tried to suppress. I am not sure if it was from new drugs they tried or if it was the association of where I had met G but it was relentless. I was seriously aroused in my sleep. It had never happened before.

While there a registrar was suspended for acting inappropriately with some female patients. I was one of them. I was not sure why he asked to take my nightie off to check my heart etc as it had not been done before. Luckily I had undies on. He took a long time and had seemed quite sweaty. Luckily the charge sister saw him pull the curtains and asked me what had happened. She took my statement as she did the other women. The next day my old neighbour from Gorokan came to visit and I asked her if I could go back to Central with her as she was going to there to get her train. The charge sister said it would be a good idea and to keep in touch.

I had trouble sleeping after that and the local GP was a different one and decided he could help by giving me barbiturates to help me sleep and 10 mg Valium three times a day. Plus Percodan for pain. I became a zombie. Very depressed. Feeling useless and of no use to my family. A drain on them. And especially since feeling so well in the UK, I could not foresee a life like this. So I took the almost full bottle of Valium, then I rang the Professor and spoke to his wife. I felt complete peace, no feeling of fear of the unknown, just a release from the unrelenting pain. Then, as I was writing a note saying sorry to mum all I could think of was that she would find me in the morning and it would kill her.

So I went and rang the ambulance and they said there is not enough time. To go get my parents and get them to drive me fast to Gosford Hospital. I went and told mum and dad. Dad shouted at me, and Mum said come on Tom we are taking her to the hospital, now. He kept saying when are you going to wake up to yourself. It was pitch black by then and dad drove with mum in the back keeping me awake. She slapped my face. Begged me, pleaded with me to not go to sleep. I heard her wail to herself “when am I going to learn to keep my mouth shut.”

They got there very very fast. At emergency I was asked how many I had taken and I said 99. There were 100 in the bottle. They laughed grimly. They pumped my stomach and gave me medicine to make me vomit. Jeanie my friend from nursing was on duty and was very concerned. Because it was so unlike me. I was not allowed home until I saw a psychologist the next morning. She asked if anything triggered it. I said I had a fight with mum because she kept talking about me to the relatives. I realised later mum was worried but I hated being talked about by my relatives as if I was doing this on purpose. As if I chose this life. I told her I was going to reassess my medicines as I felt much better in the UK off most things. She said that sounded like a good idea and to call her if I needed her. We drove home, my brother was there and very quiet. I rang my aunt S as mum had called her from the hospital. Then I ripped up the letter I had written to mum into tiny pieces and curled up against my dog who was shivering in fear. I immediately stopped taking benzodiazepines, valium and cut back on percodan. I had bad shakes but was eventually able to sleep and started to feel much better over several weeks.

Dad asked to have a talk with me and told me he was selling the house and already building one in Maitland and did not want me to move to Maitland with them. He said mum and I were not good together. I already knew she was very snappy with me, negative about everything I wanted to do. She wanted me to stay at home forever. But I also knew she could not cope with all the challenges involved in completing the new house. So I decided to ignore him as I was going to leave anyway to go nannying once I got over all the medicines I had been on for so long.

Months later, as the new house was almost ready, my  aunt suddenly became ill and I said I was going to go to stay with my uncle and cousins to look after them and get ready for when my aunt came home. Mum refused to let me go. Went strangely silent when I asked her why. We had a dreadful row or rather I did. We were driving back from Gosford where we had been shopping. I felt mum was treating me like an invalid, as if I could not do anything. After we got home and mum went shopping the next day I packed a bag and my little dog and got a train to my uncle to help him.

An older friend of my aunts popped around to pick up something for her and was surprised to see me. I had cleaned the entire house and done all the food shopping by then. She was very uneasy and asked me how I was finding it there. I said my uncle kept talking about penises and putting them in women’s mouths and hands. Wore tiny bikini briefs and stood with his erection in his undies in front of my face in bed. Kept saying I was beautiful and sexy. She took me to her home and kept me there until my parents had moved and my mum came to get me two weeks later. Mum did not say anything except she was sorry and come home Kate. I did and when I got there my uncle was there picking up my aunt. He shouted you are a dyke at the top of his voice. Said horrible stuff. I said some stuff back. Mum started crying so I stopped and apologised to her. Went inside to my room. When I went to see if mum was alright she was running water in the laundry sink looking out the window at the field and the cows. Almost in a trance she asked me if my uncle had done anything to me. I said no but he made me really uncomfortable with his penis in my face all the time. Not wearing proper clothes in front of me. Talking about nothing but sex acts. She said “I am going to ask you once Kate. Are you telling me the truth?” I thought she had meant I was lying but she was asking me if he had raped me. I asked why, has this happened before? She got very upset and said she did not know what I meant. I gave her a hug and said I was sorry for the fight. Only the second one I had ever had with my mum.

Over the next weeks I sewed all the curtains for the entire four bedroom house and helped mum put them up. I turned around one day when we were hanging the formal lounge room’s cream silk shantung curtains, (triple pleat, I was so happy as had never made any like that before) and mum was up the small ladder crying uncontrollably. I managed to get her down and rocked her and eventually got her to lay down on the sofa while I put the rest of the curtains up. I then made us some coffee and she drank it. I did not think to ask her if something had happened to her, as it had to me, in her bed or in her back yard or behind a shed. It just did not occur to me. But I looked after her, we went shopping together, we chose all the lamps in the house together. Together we made it into a really comfortable home.

During the next few months my cousins took me out and about and I went down to Sydney to stay with Ann and Daphne and Des. I had interviews for nanny positions and I chose a job as a housekeeper nanny to ease my way back into the workforce.

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Unforgettable

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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.

 

Sydney 1976

I found a room in a luxe place in Rose Bay, it had blue velvet flocked wallpaper and lots of chandeliers. Not really my style but clean and in a secure building. A friend from training school had nowhere else to go and shared my mattress there. Everyone thought we were gay, which was funny as she was extremely religious and left a few months later as the lifestyle did not suit her. Eventually though we all moved out and I shared a flat in Waverley with Judy, an older hostie from the flat who used to be a hairdresser.

I had been going to the Edward Beale chain of hair salons in Melbourne and then in Brisbane and finally in the city in Sydney. They regularly did model’s hair for advertisements. There I met Rodney Skepper the incredibly talented manager. He asked me to do a hair show for him at the Hilton where he cut my Purdie hairstyle and added an owl type peak at the front. Incredible precision cutting. After the show he brought me home and kissed me passionately and belched in my mouth. Then he went off to gargle and looking sheepish, went home. I had to crew the next day so Edward Beale himself cut the owl peak off. Crooked, Rodney’s work of art. I rang him and he was so upset. He tidied the fringe for me and we started going out. As with a lot of male hairdressers he was well ahead of his time, a metrosexual. We made love on our second date, had a great time going to movies and meeting each other’s friends. He was seriously funny. I always stayed at his place as was uncomfortable at mine with Judy there. No boyfriend, with a big sister hangup. First time I stayed over she met me at the door and hugged me and called me a dirty stop out. She liked him a lot and went in to get her hair cut by him regularly.

Rodney picked me up from Noraville in his Porsche. Mum was very shy but Dad came back early from work to meet him and loved the car. My nickname was “springy pom-pom” and Rodney was a lot of fun. I loved him. After several months he got funding from backers in Melbourne and while he waited for his salon to be opened he cut hair in his home. Judy came to get her pageboy length hair done and in front of us both called me a boy because of my shorter hairstyle. Rodney, who I had never heard a nasty word from, told her tartly that I had a perfect oval face and could wear my hair in any style. Hostesses used to introduce me to people as the one with the hairdresser boyfriend, however I blow dried my own hair, not an easy job with my geometric cut and thick hair.

Eventually Rodney was going to Melbourne regularly to meet his backers and working erratic hours to get things going at his new salon. He expected me to fit in with him but my own schedule also needed fitting around. I did not like going for a quick shag. I felt it demeaned me. So I broke up with him.

During the year I saw a top Professor at The Women’s Hospital in Paddington for breakthrough bleeding. When he came into the waiting room he beamed at me in my Pru Acton shirtdress with splits up to the thigh on each side, the one Rodney loved diving headfirst under and had me laughing hysterically. The Professor said to the room first in best dressed and pointed at me. Apart from Prue Acton I loved Trent Nathan clothing, and sometimes Vogue designer patterns to make my own clothing. The Professor put me on straight oestrogen due to the severe period pain needing treatment. He knew Dr David Bennett I met during my previous job regularly gave me buscopan shots . However a consequence of the Oestrogen was that the migraines worsened, horrifically.

One day I was going from the Hostess lounge down some steps and literally flew through the air, landed on my feet minus one shoe. I had guys saying nobody had ever fallen for them quite like that before. While I was laughing one of them went to get my shoe and others picked me up and brushed me off. I then thanked them and on the way back I took the escalator and I suddenly looked up and recognised Stuart Cameron from school. With Trent Nathan who he assisted. After lots of hugs and kisses and oh my gods from Stuart I found out they were to be on my next flight. I told them I would see them soon and when on board offered them a complimentary drink. My crew leader was married and in her thirties and far more sophisticated than I and gave me the idea.

I met up with my old trainer Gail a lot, we were so close Shirley said people were saying we were gay. Seriously. One day a Qantas board member praised me on a flight. Said I looked perfect and even better had handled a really difficult situation with the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar very well. And he gave me his card asked me to seriously consider Qantas as a career pathway.

Some highlights of that year were ABBA coming to Sydney. We also heard in the Hostess Lounge about this amazingly beautiful woman on a flight with Lee Major. The girls said she dazzled she was so beautiful, though she seemed shy. Daryl Summers was a favourite passenger as was Sky Hooks Shirley Straughn. Red was also on board but I did not like him at all. He got right in my body space and ogled me up and down as if he was going to eat me or something. It was horrid. However I got so many praise letters to my superiors from these people and others that I got told off for working above the team.

One memorable flight was when One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest was released here. I was in the front gallery securing everything ready for takeoff and knew someone was taking their time in the First Class Toilet. Eventually the door opened and I smelled marijuana and Jack Nicholson came out, smiled cheekily and moved into the cabin. A little earlier I was waiting for passengers to board and observing the top of my shoes when I realised there was a pair of men’s shoes in front of me. I looked up and Michael Douglas loomed into view. He was smiling, tired looking but friendly.

During the flight Jack monopolised my attention. He was aware of everything that was around him, especially me! He asked me if I was aware that after I asked passengers if they would like a drink I lowered my eyes. Each time. I said I was not aware of that. He said he adored my hair cut. Said it made me look cheeky. Was I cheeky? I said my boyfriend would know. He smiled and asked me about my life. My flight partner said she would take care of the passengers to give me time to concentrate on talking to him. I also tried to talk to Michael Douglas who was charming and said he had been listening and had not been able to get a word in. I told him my 11 year old brother loved Streets of San Francisco, as did I and he signed a coaster for my brother. So did Jack, along with a lot of cheeky looks. Eventually Jack asked me if I was frightened of him, as he quite liked that. I said not at all, unconsciously lowering my eyes as I said it damnit. He was charming, cheeky and fascinating, I was so glad I had a boyfriend at the time as am not sure what would have happened otherwise.

During the middle of the year I went overseas to UK to see my grandparents. I arranged to meet Rodney over there, I had missed him and we had reconciled as friends. While over there I babysat my young cousins Anna and Emma. Went around a lot with their mother who was a hairdresser and had married later in life. I also stayed with one of mum’s sisters and regularly went from there to Chalfont St Peter to see mum’s other sister and family. The sister who was there when I was born.

I celebrated my 21st birthday that year. On one leg of the day’s flights the Captain announced it was my 21st and the whole cabin exploded in applause and then sang Happy Birthday To You and various other ditties. We had a get together of friends that evening at my flat in Clovelly. Dad gave me some money for drinks and several school friends came including Stuart and some boys from my Tech Drawing class. Rodney brought several single hot guys and asked me when he left when I was going to bed with him again. I smiled and kissed him and went back inside, alone.

Several of the trainer hostesses I flew with who asked the cabin crew to their rooms for drinks on stop overs stripped naked once everyone had gone and tried to come onto me. I met one of them later when I visited a friend. She loved my thick hair and liked caressing it.

Towards the end of 1976 I met the owner on a Perth flight of several huge fashion shops on the North Shore. He offered me a job as his showroom collection model. I was living in Edgecliff then in a huge art deco apartment with a roommate who was an account executive. The owner of the boutiques came round and brought a whole lot of clothing around for me to try on for him. Then he arranged to meet me at the showroom shop. He brought out a lot of cream cheesecloth maxis with lace inserts. Totally incredible and I tried them all on with only my bikini panties under them. Strange feeling of being covered yet with a suggestion of being naked. I became a bit uneasy as he kept saying how sexy I looked. How the innocent dresses on me cried out for someone to fuck me. I do not know if it was a selling tool or what. I just felt very uncomfortable as when he came over to my place next he would not leave the room when I changed. All I had on were skimpy lace knickers. He helped me into everything and zipped me up very slowly while watching me in front of the mirror.

I knew he was married with children. He again offered me the job and I was tempted but I did not know what else came with it. I was not going to have sex with my boss for a job as I had a great job anyway. A few hostesses warned me I would not like it because they said I would became a piece of meat. But none of them had the experience of an incredibly wealthy employer treating them like their personal possession.

For the last three months of 1976 my migraines set in with a vengeance until I did not have a day without pain. The takeoff and landings were agony and after a lot of thought I resigned as I could not do the job properly while in such pain. I was heartbroken as I loved my life and indeed my lifestyle.

 

Waiting Game

Mum had a huge operation and lost a lot of blood. My friend Ann later told me she was told to prepare theatre with the necessary instruments etc for a really high risk patient. She was surprised at the resuscitation equipment that was needed and knew this was going to be a risky operation for someone. Then mum was wheeled in and she was stunned. It never showed though, my mum never forgot how my old friend, one of my best friends ever, had looked after her. She said Ann was so tender, so kind, so professional. She said Ann promised her she would be okay, that she would look after her. And she did though I did not see Ann again for some years.

My mum’s previous Pulmonary Embolism nearly killed her and they always expected it to happen again. Mum never knew, apparently when she had her gallbladder out the same preparations were made. Denise Lethbridge also told me about it years later. Mum really suffered a lot with her surgeries and arthritis and her “nerves” and was never 100% in good health.

Dad drove my brother and myself to visit mum in the evenings at Gosford Hospital. As soon as I walked into her shared ward the first time I saw James who I knew from Terrigal. He waved and after mum got a bit tired I went over and said hi and recognised the patient he was visiting as one of my girlfriends I used to know from around Terrigal. She gave me a huge hug and was so pleased she had seen me as I had basically disappeared from the pub circuit. James and Jennifer were together which was wonderful, though her having miscarriages was not. They were so perfect together, and gave me their phone number.

Dad rarely said anything at the hospital, in fact mum and dad rarely spoke in front of their children so it was always a strain to visit mum as I did most of the talking. I found myself going back into nurse mode very quickly and helped mum get comfortable and introduced myself to the other female surgical patients. Some of the staff were girls I had worked with and some I had gone to high school with. It was all very familiar.

Once mum was home it was hard to get her to relax and recover. Nothing I did was done the right way. She tried to do the washing which was downstairs. I decided the time I was there would be an unpaid job and tried to get things into a routine to suit mum but she slipped into a really deep depression. I managed to get my brother off to school in the mornings and be ready for him after school. Mum filled her day with watching Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless. I used the time to read or sew. I also drank a lot of coffee to fill me up as I needed to lose the ten pounds I had put on because I was not using up the kind of energy I had been using up with nannying and nursing. The weight came off with long walks to the beaches and down to Canton Beach and to the shops and library at Toukley .

Mum was recovered physically but emotionally was another thing. It took all my tact and love to cope with everything. I was beginning to feel despondent myself. Seeing my nursing friends, an old boyfriend having moved on and all living their lives made my own seem empty by comparison. I knew I could have a great trip with Daphne and family early next year but I wanted a proper long term career.

I applied to The Navy and also answered a full page advertisement in The New Idea for Ansett Air Hostesses. One day just after I had applied I was walking back from Jenny Dixon Beach and as soon as mum saw me she came outside and told me three Naval Officers in a Jeep had been to see me! They knew that an older school friend of mine, Narelle Halverson had been in the Navy and that she had told me a lot about it. Mum was so excited, she said they looked fabulous in their uniforms and came in for a cup of tea and the tea bread I made especially for dad. At the same time I heard back from Ansett to go for an interview in Sydney next month.

I chose to go to the Ansett interview before I went on with the Navy. Mum was disappointed, though she thought I would not get in with Ansett. The interview was in a hotel near Hyde Park and I walked through the park afterwards on the way to shop in Myers and Centrepoint. It had seemed to go well, they seemed more interested in how happy and jolly I was than anything else. And how I would respond to people who were not pleasant to me. They actually scorned nursing, as if it did not matter the demeanour one used on ill people.

Once inside Centrepoint I went to see Daphne and Des in their shop to let them know I might not be able to come back. I remember saying to Daphne that I wanted to do something important, to have a career. She said that I was important to her and to Des and the children. I was so immature to say that to her and apologised instantly. She understood and we had a lovely long chat.

I heard back from Ansett that they needed me to come in for a second interview. This time I wore more makeup and a figure revealing dress. It was summer so they could see I was the right weight and could hold a conversation. They said they had been a little worried about my self confidence last time but had no issues now and wanted to offer me a place in the next intake.

Cannot even begin to say how excited I was, and even more excited than me was dad. He had been asking me weekly how my diet was going! The next intake was not for four months so I had to let Daphne know I could not come back to them or go on their trip. She said to come for the weekend and I had a lovely time with the children, and babysat so the adults could go gambling in Double Bay again. While I was there Daphne told me my sister had come to see them when I first left them to look after mum. She said some really nasty things about me and said it would be better if she took the job and went overseas with them. I guess I should have not been hurt but I was. She always wanted what I had but we had different personalities. She would not have patience with the children or the adults for that matter. Daphne said she let her have it and told her that I was a friend not just an employee.

So over the next four months I helped mum and babysit my young cousins, including the little toddler, born when I first went nursing. Their mother had just gone back to work hairdressing and mum loved this little girl so much, it also helped her depression to have her there each day. I knitted jumpers for winter for my brother and an all over cabled 8ply camel wool coat to wear in Melbourne as I imagined autumn would be cold. I could have used the camel coat Daphne and Des had given me but I had given it and the bag to my sister when she had gone on and on about how I did not know how lucky I was to have such things.

I did however know that I deserved this opportunity and I was not going to squander it.

 

 

 

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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Everything Started Quite Innocently

 

The day finally came when I joined my friends at Gosford Hospital. Linda met mum and I at the nurses dormitory and she told my mum not to worry that she would look after me. It was a lovely affirmation of our friendship and I felt comfortable letting mum go back to Noraville knowing that I was in good hands.

Training was fun and within a week or so I was made the person in charge of my class. The instructors were fascinating and I remember seeing a recently arrived and severed liver, care of the not infrequent road accidents on the Pacific Highway. There was one instructor that always impressed me. She wore a high wimple and was tall and fairly clumsy. Very kind and gentle though.

I loved it when we finally were placed on the wards. My first assignment was the Children’s Ward, not sure if that was because I had a young brother or had extensive babysitting experience but I thrived there. One day I got a dreadful shock when my old friend Francine Fordham was talking to the sister in charge. When she had a minute we had a hug and she told me her little toddler had pulled the electric jug off the counter and scalded herself really badly. The toddler was in a bad state and might even have been transferred as when I came back from Noraville and my days off she was no longer there. Another surprise was our English teacher, the red headed bearded one I had in my last year at Wyong High School. He remembered me straight away and deferred to me immediately in the care and comfort of his asthmatic toddler.

I was then transferred to Women’s Surgical and became quickly infamous for my accidental throwing of stainless steel bowls full of soapy water all over the floors. Everyone would start laughing saying is that Nurse C again? And the ladies would shriek at me to stop making them laugh as it hurt their tummies. I just could not get a grip on the slippery things. We used bars of soap and finished the ladies off with talcum powder. It was a recipe for disaster!

The other little habit I had was of flinging thermometers across the room as I shook them down. The sister would faux sternly say that I was going to have to pay for those if it kept up. I believed she was right and tried harder.

We lived in Nurses Quarters where we had to have a late pass if we were to be out past a certain time. The whole floor were nurses from my intake. I do not think there was one girl that I did not get on with. Margaret who used to work in Katies in Gosford was my intake best friend. And I saw Linda and Ann and a surprising number of girls from Wyong High School. There was one chap in our intake, a lovely gentle fellow with blonde hair. He lodged in a private home.

I regularly took friends back to Noraville if our days off coincided. Mum loved to spoil them and dad was only home weekends so it worked out quite well. We went to Budgewoi pub, which consisted of two rooms. I preferred the darker one, better music and not so much chat. Some of my friends went horseriding with my friend Denise Lethbridge who had left nursing about six months before I started.

She had ended up working in our sister pharmacy in Toukley and kept trying to put me off nursing. My mum had a gall bladder operation while Denise was a nurse and loved her as she was so gentle. She had a boyfriend who she had met while we were out partying one night. Such a lovely kind girl, with the most smashing, loving family. None of us had boyfriends so her boyfriends kept trying to set us all up. Fun. We went to pubs, dances and sometimes parties.

There was a strict order to the way things were conducted at the hospital. Anyone more senior had to get on the elevators first. The day the new intake started was brilliant! However the doctors just ignored this and chatted up any interesting to them junior nurses.  My path crossed a lot with an anaesthetist who was really sweet but everyone knew he was in an affair with a trainee in her third year. She was an officious chilly rather beautiful girl in her twenties. She was especially chilly with me as he decided I would be replacing her before she left the hospital at the end of her training.

I had trainees telling me he told everyone and sundry in surgery that Nurse C has bedroom eyes. And he apparently raved about me. I was not quite eighteen. We had regular long conversations in corridors, in the cafeteria and he was very interested in my future. Assured me it was normal to feel some anxiety about certain aspects of nursing. He said he had been very anxious as well during his internship.

After six months two nurses from my intake Jenny from Bathurst, Margaret from the Central Coast and the male nurse and I rented a house. Jenny had a lot of friends from motorcycle clubs and various pubs and we always had a lot of strange men staying over. All were lovely and behaved like gentlemen and had girlfriends back home.

I was totally out of my element. I tried dope for the first time and LSD twice. Heroin once. Did not like any of the heavy stuff so left the others to it. There was a lot of music and parties. We would invite nurses from the hospital as well. And Jenny invited a lot of the Gosford guys from the local pubs. There was always loud music going on into the night.

When we were short of beds we would double up with the chaps who knew to keep their clothes on and not try anything, and there was always another girl in the room as we had two single beds in each room. One chap had stayed over before and seemed okay and as my roomate was on night shift slept in her bed  or he was supposed to.

At some stage he came over and got into my bed. He started kissing me and I tried to get him to stop. He would not. He was very strong and I could not get him off me. The music was on at the other end of the house and nobody could hear me or the noise he was making.

He raped me but that was not the end of it. I went to work after I had a shower, not telling anyone. I completed my shift though the patients on Men’s Medical said I was very quiet when I did not respond to their morning rendition of I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.  So they tried KKK Katie which I had always loved.

I loved the ward full of elderly chaps and the middleaged chaps, they were all so cheerful, so helpful, so kind. Some of them were father’s of my school friends. Another was a young chap who had severe diabetes who had taken me a few weeks before for a night picnic on a beach. So sweet and tender and kind. Nothing like what I had just experienced. Not that anything had happened with him beyond kissing. I was a virgin, old fashioned and intended to stay that way until I married. Or I had.

I became very anxious that the chaps on my ward were going to die under my care. Two died two days in a row from hypertension. I offered to lay them out as I had been very fond of them, they were long term patients. It got so that I was so anxious that I dreaded doing anything new.

The worst of it had been the men turning up at our door. My rapist had told everyone at the pub I was easy. Fair game. And they called me names, drew filthy things all over my wardrobe and windows. It was relentless.

Our yearly exams were coming up and I had to try to concentrate to study. I studied at Noraville a lot on my days off. My period came and I was relieved though I had felt safe on the pill. I sat through several of the exams and in the end I just could not do it. I had to get away. I resigned and asked mum to come get me. I never told her what happened, just that I had to leave. She did not question me, just helped me pack my things in her car, bless her.