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. Immediately though I felt an attraction to him, but 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 dress 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 thentrial 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 to say I was sorry. She told me to call an ambulance. 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 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 knew she could not cope with all the challenges involved in designing 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 and I packed a bag and my little dog and got a train to my uncle to help him. While there he was incredibly inappropriate. Wore tiny bikini briefs and stood with his erection in his undies in front of my face in bed. It was hideous.

An older friend of my aunts popped around to pick up something for my aunt 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. 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 Kathleen. 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 asked me. I am going to ask you once Kathleen. 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 picked all the lamps in the house 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 stay with Ann. I had interviews for nanny positions and I chose a job as a housekeeper nanny to ease my way back into the workforce.





















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.


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.





We moved into a short term lease on the main road in Toukley. Dad went back to work and we adjusted to being back again. I saw my friend Linda almost daily. She was so happy I was back, as was I. One Saturday I joined her to keep her company while she played golf. This was a new experience and neither mum nor I knew much about it. The golf club was interesting and being the daughter of major business owners in Toukley she was well known. Her family were also very involved in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately I wore medium heeled shoes which were not suitable for the golf course. I padded around in my stockinged feet, feeling really stupid, but fascinated at seeing Linda in a different light.

My sister found a job very quickly in a factory in Wyong sewing clothing and my father set me up with a hairdressing apprenticeship. Just like that. No discussion, no consideration of my finishing my School Certificate the next year. Basically told to toe the line. I had learned how to cover my feelings and also my facial expressions by then. I did not want to go do an apprenticeship. It meant being stuck at home another three years. No nursing, no career, no travel possibilities. After a few days I waited until dad was in a good mood, or at least not looking angry, and I asked him to let me go to school. I told him I had the uniforms already and I could get a job to pay my own way at school. I flattered him, I did whatever I had to do to convince him that he would not regret letting me go back to where I belonged, where I needed to be. He eventually agreed though he repeated his mantra of me moving out as soon as I found a job and turned 16. In a little over a year’s time. He had always said this, he had left home at seventeen himself to go to England to work.

It was so fabulous to see my friends and teachers again. And strangely, a little like in sixth grade, I became very popular with some of the older and slightly younger boys.
Graeme Berry had a much older girlfriend who had already left school so he was much easier to get on with. My friend Stuart Cameron was the same as ever, very easygoing and funny and popular.

By Christmas we had moved to a small rented house in Noraville while we waited for our huge new home to be built. It was quite a hike to the bus stop and on the way Stuart and his younger brother joined me and also Sharon Bull. Along with another nice girl at the top of the road who was unfortunately shunned as she was short and extremely obese.

I sat with her and developed a friendship based on study and encouraging her to socialise more. She was very difficult socially and became quite possessive of me. Another friend on the bus was Denise Lethbridge, a friend of Sharon’s, a quiet deep sweet girl I liked immediately. Often the bus was standing room only so I got to know other students from different years. One afternoon Stuart’s brother surprised me by patting me on the shoulder from behind and asking me where I had been for five months. I said “around the world” and immediately felt so stupid. I quickly said we saw our grandparents etc and that is how the ship we were on went there and back. He smiled and we gradually became firm friends. He was a year younger than Stuart and I thought it ironic that he really liked me and I really really liked his brother and he was not interested in me. That I could see anyway. Another interesting thing that happened was that there were several girls doing their HSC on the bus. By the time it got to Toukley Bridge the bus had emptied out a bit and I often sat with them. One of them commented several times that by the time we reached the bridge all the light had gone out of my eyes, my face. They were right I was much happier at school, it was my salvation.

My friend Alison brought a letter from James in Sydney to school for me. He had an address now so we communicated back and forth. I also made a new friend Ann who lived in Wyong. We had already been friendly as were in Advanced Needlecraft together and English and History. The old circle of friends were a bit put out however Ann and I won them over by sitting with them for lunch half the week. The other days we sat way across in the bushes near the road. Lovely and peaceful there and we spent our lunchtimes looking up at the Senior boys and wondering what it would be like to make out with one of them. Nothing was off the table conversation wise with Ann, she was witty and much older than her age. Self sufficient, she had worked in a newsagent on Saturday’s for many years. We were both prolific readers, I was known to prop a book on the taps as I washed up, I also read at the table as there was zero conversation at our home over meals. We both decided we needed some Sex Ed so we read every Harold Robbins book and were a bit surprised about being kissed down there. The idea of kissing a penis seemed far more reasonable to me anyway.

By the end of the school year we were finding it difficult in our tiny house. It was so small my sister and I had bunk beds in our parent’s bedroom. Not much fun sleeping like that at fifteen. My sister was always out with her friends and often slept over all weekend at her friends houses. My brother had a tiny room to himself. I spent Sunday’s at the beach with anyone from school who was out at Soldiers Beach. After school I spent a lot of time at Ann’s house in Wyong, I adored her parents and her younger sister Helen became a firm friend too. We often saw Glynis and Llewelyn and their parents, our neighbours from Gorokan and mum’s brother’s family visited often, as we did them in Maitland. We checked in on the building of our new family home often, and impatiently.

My brother started school at the new Catholic Primary school attached to the new Catholic Church at the end of our road. He found it very hard, had never really had playmates, so he did not know how to make friends. It was a difficult year for me at school in certain subjects. English and History etc I flew through. I read historical novels voraciously. I was a tad obsessed with the Cromwell era. With King Charles 11. The letch. I actually had fantasies about being one of his mistresses. The main issue I had was in Technical Drawing. I was given no extra help at all or work to catch up on.

The year before I had struggled with maths and I asked the lovely fatherly teacher if he could help me. He smiled and said he was wondering when I would ask. He gave me work for home and one lunchtime a week he brought his lunch in, as did I, and he tutored me, truly a gifted teacher. His biggest gift was the one of giving of himself. We really liked him as a class and had for years. This last year at school I was up to date and had finally lost my knee jerk reaction to anything new in Maths. I always worked it out, but usually after fretting for half the lesson. Now we had a wonderful female teacher and I think she helped me in some way with this. I usually had at least ten minutes left each lesson and as we were allowed to read I brought out my Alistair Maclean books. Our teacher was really excited and told me he was her favourite author. We chatted at the end of each lesson and we exchanged books that we had not read yet. She was a joy.

Socially it was a fun time and I had some nice clothes from the trip to wear to parties. Lots of spin the bottle which seemed a bit tame after my experiences on the ship with the sailor and hairdresser. However I was not uncomfortable and enjoyed the games. During the weekends I babysat to earn some money and I sewed, took in repairs and made clothing.

At some stage of the year we moved into our new home. It was two story and had four bedrooms. My sister and I had to share a room and she was very particular about me keeping to my half. She was rarely in there all night though because as soon as dad left at 4.30 am she would quickly run and get into bed with mum to keep her company. I liked having our room to myself so did not have a problem with it, just thought it a tad bizarre. During the year she moved down to Sydney to become a cadet nurse at Rachel Forster Hospital in Darlinghurst. She came home on her days off, bringing lots of girl friends who were studying to be registered nurses. They spent their days off driving from beach to beach in various Volkswagen’s, talking to surfers and smoking copious amounts of dope. Dad helped her buy a Mini Minor, she had learned to drive years before and loved this car, was so proud of it. Dad also bought an off road bike which the nurses used to use and also take my young brother out on.

Across the road from our house was a vacant lot with a lot of scrub. My brother set fire to it with matches and it took off straight away and the Fire Brigade was called. Mum and dad were told to deal with him but nothing happened. Just a brief shake of the head from dad. If it had been one of us girls we would have had bruises and that would be the least of it. Sometime during the year dad thrashed me again, same thing with the knickers. I could not work out what I had done wrong, was clueless.

Ann and I went up to Newcastle for her to apply for a nursing course once she turned seventeen. While up there we met up with a young man who had formed the Neil Diamond fan club. We went up to Newcastle to discuss this several times. Ann was flirtatious and got on well with him. She had a different social life to me as we were on the coast. Hers involved smoking and long walks by Wyong River with lots of locals. Each Monday I would ask how her weekend was and what had she done. It was nearly always the same and then one weekend she said she had sex for the first time. I was stunned, she was so matter of fact that I thought she was joking, especially as she normally told me every detail of her exploits. She was not going to talk about it. Just said it was okay and would get better.

Half way through the year we were tested by Vocational Guidance. Mine came up as only one option. To be a Computer Programmer. I was stunned as computers were huge mainframes, I had seen them on television. Ann was recommended several career options. The rest of the year went quite fast as we prepared for the School Certificate. A week or so before we sat it my Needlework teacher suddenly asked if there were any advanced students in the class. Ann and I and one other girl put our hands up. The usually kind sweet natured teacher shouted at us that we should have told her. That we had not covered the whole syllabus. Bit late then, we were on course for completing our formal outfit, which went a long way to our points. Most of the girls made quite formal gowns. I however chose a Vogue Designer pattern of wide legged pants with a calf length floaty vest in white crepe. It was complex in its simplicity and I was enjoying the challenge immensely.

The exams were not difficult for me, I had a little trouble in Science as we had an appalling teacher. Technical Drawing I had absolutely no clue what I was doing so I left the room with my drawings incomplete. Later that day I was surprised by how many boys came over and asked if I was okay and they were so sorry I was not well enough to finish. I let them go on thinking I had been ill.

Stuart arranged a dance at the end of the year in a hall in Wyong. Ann and I danced to Deep Purple, and other heavy rock songs. We chatted to friends of all ages. Ann, Linda, Coral, Carol, Stuart and many others were staying on for their HSC while the majority were leaving for Technical College etc. There was not a lot of work in our area so training was the best way to get ahead. Or staying at school. I was pleased I had made it to the end of this year. Mission accomplished.


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