The Volcano Man

We settled back into life in Beckenham. Work as a nanny for me and also sewing and repairs at weekends. and sleeping in and lazing around for D. Miyoko stayed with us and went sightseeing and studying church matters. One day Sue phoned in the morning and finding me about to walk to work as was my usual way, furiously told D to get out of bed and take me in the car.

It was getting much colder and I only had a few warm outfits, having only brought one suitcase over with me to the UK. Mum had knitted me a beautiful black mohair coat which she gave to be before the wedding, and I had two coats. I had knitted us both several sweaters and also my nephews sweaters but had no warm woollen skirts or boots. My wages went on food and utilities, Sue paid for the rent. I was not at all happy about that.

After several weeks back from our honeymoon I started to get bad asthma attacks. They were especially bad at night, worsened by my sleeping by the window D insisted on keeping open. D called the church and a prayer team came out to pray for me one weekend when I was in bed exhausted from trying to breathe during the night. I was really upset as the men left the room and the women proceeded to commiserate about the shock that the physical side of marriage was. They tried to get me to confess that I could not cope with the sexual side of marriage but I was not going to do that. I was exhausted from working hard and trying to adjust to a new climate where I constantly had a bad cold or virus. As did the children I looked after.

I was fine in the daytime in a warm house and luckily had plenty of warm outer clothes for taking R to preschool and A for walks in his stroller. R was becoming more independent, choosing his own outfits for the day and A was just a delightful little toddler. One day D and I took them into Bromley to W H Smiths where David Attenborough was signing his new book. We queued and as we approached R saw who it was and said in an awed voice that it was The Volcano Man! David Attenborough was beyond delightful with the children and signed several of D’s older books too. It was a wonderful experience and one we would never forget.

Meantime I decided science was my best bet for getting better and luckily the GP practise Sue went to thought so as well. They ran a battery of blood tests and one day I received a letter in the mail asking me to come in as soon as possible. When I returned from the very knowledgeable and most senior doctor I informed D that I had a medical problem causing nearly all my symptoms. Hypothyroidism, which was found to be severe Hashimotos. I started the medication and was told that I would not feel so cold soon and that I would even notice an improvement in my periods.

By then it was almost Christmas and I was not feeling any better. So much so that A and T my employers suggested I take Wednesday’s off to rest. The boy’s godmother was more than happy to be with them one day a week and have some extra money too. This worked well apart from the loss of wages. D’s response was to ask his mother for more money. I was so uncomfortable with this, it was against everything I had ever done in my life. I never asked for anything. It was a principle of mine. Deeply ingrained in me by my parents without even knowing it. Seeing them both work so hard to make a life as migrants had a huge impact on me.

I was beginning to feel like the poor relation, especially when my sister in law came over to visit, usually on a Wednesday when I had a sleep in, and looked at everything in our flat to see what we were spending money on. She queried my hand creams, mostly gifts, and anything she saw that did not fit with her idea of Christian values. She used soap and water on her face. As I used eye makeup I needed makeup remover. Another wasteful item apparently.

Just before Christmas we decided to invite a few people from church with no family around for Christmas Eve drinks. We had bought the snacks and D always had a supply of beer and wine. Miyoko helped me clean and tidy the flat on the Wednesday so it was looking very welcoming. It had a huge lounge dining room with a sunroom attached. D had a table in there which he used as a desk for his writing. He was writing another book, having had trouble writing poetry that year.

I was at work til fairly late on Christmas Eve as A was preparing her staff for the Boxing Day Sales. The children were also very excited and happy, I was having a fabulous time with them as everyone was unexpectedly friendly when out on our walks. The spirit of the season really being in evidence. Eventually A came home and D picked me up in our car. When I entered our flat I was stunned to see that everything was ready for the get together.

All our lovely wedding gifts being used as platters and for the wine etc. Some things we had never used before. I almost burst into tears. I had really really wanted us all to do it together. Our first Christmas together, in our home, even if Sue was paying for it. I threw my things on a chair and went into our bedroom and cried. D came in and was really angry with me. Or hurt with me would be a better way to put it. It was as if I had hit him. He said they did it to help me as I was working. And that I had not appreciated it was practically sinful.

I was feeling a bit unwell in the tummy. I had recently nursed my boys through Campylobactor, a notifiable food poisoning. A had been dreadfully upset leaving them but when she saw R crawl into my arms and me rock him she left, crying. She said later that my skills kept them out of hospital. I had to keep fluids up to them as the risk of dehydration was so high. So I was appreciative of the thought but could not get through to D how I felt. He was so hurt. Betrayed.

Miyoko ran me a bath using some lovely bubble bath from Marks and Spencer’s and said she was so sorry. Two words was all it took. I hugged her and cried. She said “please Kate, you know if you cry I will lose it. I love you and hate to see you cry.” So I controlled myself, she had seen me weep bitterly after my father refused to come to the wedding. I had asked him twice and then got the message, but Miyoko was devastated as she knew it took a lot to make me cry.

I dressed and our guests came and we had a lovely time spoiling them, of course D invited his sister and brother in law and there was a lot of golly and gosh and other strange English words going on. Sue did not come as was disgusted with us for not keeping Christmas to family. What she refused to accept was that my family was the other side of the world, and these frigid strangers were not my family, and never would be.

Once the guests had left to go to other parties Miyoko and I washed and tidied up. We went to our rooms, D was in his office / sunroom so I changed and went to bed. After a while I started vomiting, then had shocking stomach pains. It lasted through the entire night. By the morning it was so bad D called our GP who came straight around and gave me an injection. He requested stool samples and said it was likely to be what the boys had been through. It would take time, and a quite a while to recover.

D went off to morning service with Miyoko and then asked if I would be okay while they went to lunch at his sister’s house. I was so ill I had no fight left in me so I said fine. Enjoy. When they left I was very distressed. Our first Christmas together, a huge fight on Christmas Eve with a husband who seemed to have no empathy at all and then I was left alone, proving that, in a strange country, on Christmas Day. I think I was too hurt and sick to cry. I was constantly on the toilet, though the cramps had eased with the medication the doctor had given me.

They came back around five and wanted to open their presents. I was in no state to do the same but was happy for them. I had knitted woollen leg warmers for Miyoko and a lovely jacket style cardigan for D. They were very happy with them though Miyoko showed me one of the leg warmers was longer than the other! I was mortified until we both started laughing. Me holding my stomach as I did so. I promised her I would fix it.

Over the next weeks D and Miyoko were home a lot more as all the church activities they had been attending were closed for the season. They were constantly at rally’s in London or locally. Miyoko showing real signs of a solid future in the church, D still saying he wanted one but not actively showing to any clergy that he was doing what needed doing to achieve that. I had actually had a meeting with our Vicar Clive as I felt terrible that I resented D being out so much when I was working so hard to put food on the table. He said it was not right and that David needed to support me more.

New Year’s Eve Miyoko braved Trafalgar Square. D stayed home and we watched it on television. I had been unable to keep any food inside me so was feeling weak and existing on special yogurt with live bacteria in it. Sue always went away over New Year with widowed friends. They generally chatted and drank for three days, great fun for them. D went over regularly to look after her dog and her pot plants.

Early in the New Year I went back to work and received confirmation it was Campylobactor, and would take some time to leave my system. The outbreak had been traced to birds pecking through the foil tops of milk bottles. I still could not keep anything in so was told to go onto thin soups, creamed rice and milky products. This went on for many weeks until I was finally able to tolerate more solid food.

Miyoko left us to go home to Japan. I was very upset seeing here walk through the gate at Heathrow, having an awful feeling I would not see her again. She carried an enormous sound system, and her guitar. When we next saw Anne all she could talk about was how bizarre it was for us to have a houseguest so soon in our marriage and how it would be much better for us now.

Around the same time I realised I had missed my period. Then another one. So we bought a pregnancy kit from the chemist and it was positive. D was excited but his mother was very vocal against it. Saying we had nothing to offer a baby. Anne was excited, saying God would provide. My employers said a baby would be good company for their little one once R was at school.

The GP confirmed my pregnancy and arranged for me to go to Ante Natal Care, especially important due to my Hashimotos being newly diagnosed. Everything went well though I was becoming more and more miserable with the cold and damp and D’s family. Sue kept telling me to stop talking about home. That this was home now, and she never allowed me to talk about my family or friends as that would unsettle me too. Stiff upper lip, the way she had got through the war as an Army nurse in Cairo. She had lost her first husband just after the war and though I very much admired her fortitude I found her attitude very inflexible.

D and I talked and he suggested he migrate to Australia. My parents would be his sponsors and he was sure he could get his old job as a computer data analyst with IBM back. I hoped so, though I had been shocked when I first came over to the UK to find he was not a computer programmer as he had said, he was untrained in fact and had been offered the job due to a friend from church.

We arranged Visas, went up to Australia House in The Strand and before too long he was accepted and we informed our families. Sue was actually happy, she said she thought Australia suited him better than the UK. Whereas I thought being away from his family was the best thing for him. It might help him grow up, he was like a big kid around them. Fun for a while but it got trying being pitied by everyone.

I started bleeding and was advised to have bed rest, and after two weeks I resigned as I still had no stamina due to the Hashimotos and the food poisoning. My employers wished me well but were not happy, especially since neither of them liked D. Though they were happy I was going home.

We visited D’s aunts and Sue’s many friends to say goodbye and finally we had packed everything and shipped our wedding gifts and some of D’s paintings and books to Australia. Then it was finally time to leave. Sue and Anne saw us off at Heathrow, I felt terrible seeing the real love and pain in their eyes, but we had our own lives to live, we had to make our own way together, or I would never be able to respect my husband.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Heartbreaking

Early in 1980 I started working in a large home on Edgecliffe Road helping with a little boy and girl as well as being a housekeeper. They were a Jewish family with the father a barrister and the mother a bitch. After a month I realised I could cope, even with my migraines, so I cancelled my pension.

Mornings I got up 30 minutes before I needed to be downstairs so I could take my pain medication. Some days I used to have to roll out of bed and carefully stand until my head stopped pounding. The work was light but it was a huge home. I was given three hours off in the daytime so I rested then.

The father had a lot of male work colleagues over. I ate with the family so got to know a lot of them. The father one day made me guess who fancied me. I had no idea. He told me his married brother fancied me something awful and wanted to go to bed with me. However the brother was always appropriate with me. I tried to laugh it off saying it must be because his wife is pregnant. My employer said no he is besotted with you. Not sure what he expected me to do, it was not in the interview that I has to screw the relatives.

I took the kids out Saturday afternoons so the parents could have private adult time together. Sunday was my day off. I did the usual light housework and for fun I baked cakes and cookies and they were so happy with them that they got me to cater the children’s birthday parties.

I ran into Stuart my school friend again as he lived on Edgecliff Road, he was managing Chadwick’s Modelling Agency then. After a few months I could not put up with the mother’s impossible standards for such little pay so I went to Dial an Angel in Lindfield and was offered a position straight away because of my nursing experience. The position was until the mother who was very ill in RNS Hospital could recover and feel well enough to cope with her child herself.

It took about three months before she was well enough to come home. The family were in Point Piper, a little boy M, father R with J the full time Hungarian housekeeper during the week. M tried throwing tantrums etc when I was watching television or playing jigsaw puzzles with his mother. We ignored him and after a few weeks he stopped and became very affectionate and cooperative.

E and I walked daily to help her get her strength back. It was very hard, she was proud and very determined. So I was basically a nurse and a nanny and I had all day to myself once he was in school. During school holidays I took M out and about and arranged for friends to come over.

Bridge was an obsession with the parents,  their whole social lives revolved around it. They would get in quite late at night smelling of cigar smoke. E was a Type One Diabetic and poorly controlled, because of her hypos she often seemed drunk. I had to make her drink orange juice a lot.

R was very hard on her, the housekeeper told me when we had coffee together after R left with M for school that R kept saying to E at the breakfast table: look at Kate why can’t you look like her in the morning? She has bright eyes, is smiling, alert. And I was also twenty five years younger! Talk about pressure on her. She was on sleeping tabs and Cerepax. It is a wonder she could get up at all.

The school M attended was a top private one, The Dover Heights boys I had looked after attended there too. J was in M’s class which was taught by the Deputy Head who said apart  from him, my boys were wonderfully brought up! We went to concerts and I met wonderful mothers. I had weekends off so went home every second weekend, sometimes M came with me. He loved it and my parents and aunts and uncles loved having him visit.

I learned biofeedback and self hypnosis to try to help with the migraines. One day I had just come back from a session when my bus stopped outside Sydney Museum. I looked around and saw Dr G my old flame walking towards the bus. I tried to look as if I was not there but G knocked on my window and signalled for me to come out. So I got off the bus to talk to him. He wanted to know what I was doing and he asked to see me again. Gave me his card. I did not rang him.

Over the summer holidays the family always went to Switzerland to St Moritz. R went with us then left after a few weeks. E, M and I stayed six glorious weeks. I met lots of lovely people who were regulars and became good friends with a Jewish family from Miami. Their elder son had become religious, so their two boys were in a Yeshiva in Miami. Fabulously wealthy unassuming family who included M and I in everything, especially joining them for dinners.

I went to the disco in the Palace Hotel where we stayed. Lots of businessmen I danced with tried to get me into their rooms. They had no success though I did have a fantastic 36 hours with a funny intelligent guy from LA. We spent a lot of time in the bath where he used the shower nozzle to stimulate me. We had a lot of really good sex, with some booze and a lot of humour. We exchanged addresses.

Only thing I did not like about the place was that my migraines were much worse there, started as soon as I got into the alps. Took weeks to adjust to the altitude. M and I also had the worst flu we had ever had. We existed on mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs for about five days as our throats were terribly sore. The doctors prescribed some great spray on products for our throats which we did not have at home.

One night after that I was woken by a burglar going through the top drawer where our passports etc were. I shouted and the person ran, they had a nightgown on so I did not know if it was a guest or staff. I tried to wake E but could not rouse her due to her sleeping tablets. Eventually we returned to Australia and R, who had returned there earlier for business, met us at the airport.

R was away a lot on business and E and I bonded over a love of reading. She put me onto Edna O’Brien and a lot of feminist writers. I had a lovely time helping her with afternoon teas for friends, with petit fours from a special cake shop in Double Bay. She seemed quite happy in the mornings when R was away. And no wonder, without R hounding her about her looks.

I used to go to Piano Bars in the city on Friday or Saturday nights when I did not go to the farm. I really loved Streets of London by Ralph McTell and any Billy Joel songs. I dated the head of security at one huge hotel. He was intrigued because at first he thought I was a hooker but when he saw I never left with anyone he invited me out. Divorced and incredibly cute and sweet, ex UK SAS. He was so sweet and gentle in bed too. I was in the Piano Room talking with some QC friends I knew when news came through about the death of John Lennon. There was shock and deep sadness in the room.

When E felt strong enough to look after M with only weekend help I went back to Dial an Angel and did short term nannying work. I liked it, though I got one pig of a man who did not understand the difference between a Nannie and a slave.

I was in Potts Point in winter several months later, looking after a gorgeous 18 month old girl and her step sisters on alternate weekends. I loved this adorable little girl, I had knitted her coats and sweaters and taught her mum how to finish off the neck of a little red pinafore dress she had knitted. Her mum took me shopping and bought me a beautiful dress in appreciation. The first time I ever saw a Target was on the North Shore with this family. I was stunned at the size of it.

The housekeeper L, who was an ex prostitute, became a friend. We used to go out on my days off to movies and late at night for coffees. And as she was bisexual I would go to gay clubs with her to keep her company. She really loved dancing to Bowie. By herself. I bumped into an Ansett friend C that I had crewed with for a month and had no idea then that she was gay. We hugged and chatted for ages. L was very patient with my questions about what were natural sex acts and which were unnatural. We had a lot of fun flirting and bonding.

I used to take the toddler for walks in her stroller through the park in Potts Point. On Sundays it was always quiet and the song by Kris Kristofferson ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ was on the airwaves a lot. I identified with that song and bought several cassettes of his.

I bad toothache for two days and L took me to an after hours dentist where he removed two molars and had a lot of trouble doing it. Swore his head off as blood poured out everywhere. He had to go get another dentist to help him. I had shocking pain after that so my lovely employer got me an appointment with her orthodontist who spent weeks picking bits of bone out of my jaw.

Mum and I used to phone each other alternate evenings and she suddenly rang me when it was not her day, she was crying and said it was on the evening news that E was missing, and may have been kidnapped. I rang R to wish him the best and offer help. My employer gave me a sleeping tablet that night and tended to the little girl herself. She was so kind. A few days later they found E in a hotel. She took too much insulin and cut her wrists and throat in the bathtub.

I phoned R and the housekeeper J said Kate come home. Please. I explained things to my employer. She was heavily pregnant and already had employed a nursery nurse for the first few months to help me with the new baby and the nurse agreed to come sooner. The dad was a lovely person but very distant as had been very hurt by first wife who was a Walk Away Wife. Took the children without a word. He came home from a business trip and they had all gone. He also had a very bad back. Often in bed on strong pain killers. So I had not had much to do with him, but he wished me well.

So I went back. L drove me over. I was engulfed by M. Hugged by a heartbroken and confused R. Nobody knew why she had done it. I knew she had been consumed by memories of the Military searching her mother’s rooms. Lying hidden terrified under the bed. Before I left the time in Hungary consumed her. Her mother’s silences while she was hidden. And later on that was her way of punishing her, with days of silence.

E had been late to motherhood and had found M hard to manage. He was reacting to the constant high expectations of his father, her encouragement and my positivity had been obliterated by this man’s negativity. I had worked really hard to help him get the award for achievement for the previous year. The teachers were thrilled. As was M and his mother. Then an exam result came back, it was 98%. Not good enoug for his father. He wanted to know why it was not 100%. I thought he was joking at first but he was not.

I met K there who worked weekends. We became good friends despite the five year age difference. She was on a Gap year, trying to decide whether to be a teacher or a Social Worker. She volunteered with Anglicare and nannied which was a good foundation. She was a joy though quite messy. Eventually I wrote and told the Miami family and they wrote back and said wonderful things about E and our time in St Moritz.

I continued to go to Piano Bars and I met a few QCS who had kids my age, bored, wanted company for drinks and for dinner sometimes. No sex, just nice friendships. Saw the Australian cricket team a few times. Just missed Neil Diamond when he came in for drinks. I was so used to going to bars solo as with Ansett we went to the ones in our hotels. The piano players at these hotels in Sydney used to stop and say hi when they saw me shopping in the city. Automatically played As Time Goes By for me when I walked in.

At home it was a very difficult time when R opened bottles of sauce and found the lid ajar. Bursting into tears, then angry with her for always doing that. Bewildered, betray and bereft. M was so happy I was back but very confused, he was not told about the suicide, but he had always been frightened of kidnapping, as had E, due to their wealth.

The parents from the school were absolutely brilliant. They invited M around a lot. I went to them for lunches and morning teas. I became family. M and I continued to do what we had enjoyed before. We went with his friends to see any naval ship or submarine that was in port. I did not wear trousers then so navigating ladders with sailors around was interesting to say the least.

One of my jobs was to take him to his grandmothers for tea in their lush apartments each week. Totally different world as they came from very old wealth in Hungary, I am glad I had my Air Hostess and my mother’s training to help me. There was a lot to share with them about school and M and his friends.

I had another D and C at Crown Street Women’s Hospital for heavy bleeding and clotting. I had to insist on K taking over for a week, it did not occur to R that I was an employee and entitled to sick days. Eventually M needed grief counselling and the counsellor told me I was doing an amazing job however, there was one thing she saw that she felt I would also see once they returned from the overseas holiday at the end of the year. M and his dad and his oldest cousin were going to St Moritz. I looked after the house so J could have a holiday.

K invited me to her dad’s at Goulburn for five days so I caught the train from Central just prior to Xmas. Such a lovely dad and I had a fabulous time seeing where she came from. I helped her choose a jumpsuit for when we went into Canberra to see Hair. And for wearing to parties etc. We also went to wine bars and met up with a lot of the instructors from the Police Academy nearby. One day we went right out into the country. I finally went home to the farm Xmas eve. It was an eight hour trip and I loved every minute of it.

After New Year I went back to mind the house. My boyfriend at the time was a nightclub manager and he came over a lot. We made out all over the house, apart from the bedrooms, there was a white shag pile carpet so we really enjoyed that. He took M and I out a lot once he got back. M said this boyfriend really loved me but I found him too needy. Turned me on but I would not sleep with him as it would not have been fair to lead him on. He was already talking about a future together. He was too English and desperate to settle down.

I had sole charge of M a lot as R went away to the Phillipines etc on business. He always had bodyguards over there.and brought me back the most marvellous gifts. Metres and metres of silks to make dresses. He also told me the designs I would look good in.

I found it very uncomfortable at night as I would leave my door ajar in case M needed me, he was having nightmares. R used to come in at 2 am from Bridge and he would stand in my doorway looking at me sleeping. Or pretending to sleep. He was also arranging for the house to be renovated with an adult wing and a wing for M. I found that a bit odd and had a strange experience as if E was trying to talk to me. I would sit with M in the sitting room attached to his parent’s bedroom where they had always watched tv. It was a very strange atmosphere. I could not describe it but I felt she wanted me to leave. Or I would never get away from the family. This was the strangest feeling, because I was an Atheist and did not believe in spirits of any kind. Perhaps it was intuition, I do not know, it could have been the self hypnosis and biofeedback deepening my intuition, but I was simply driven to give my notice.

I arranged to stay to organise Mark’s sleepover birthday party. I was really foolish in allowing them food in the bedroom. The boys were shocking, two thirds of them terribly naughty, throwing food and grinding it into the white shag carpet. The other third were so sweet and helped me clean it up with soda water. The good boys slept on the floor in my room, they were very fond of me and it was reciprocated. Adorable boys. D picked J up, he was one of the really naughty ones. And the only one who did not apologise.

R and I had told M not to worry, we would still keep in touch, do things together. Go up to the farm together, go to movies etc. We were both looking forward to it. However his mother’s mother, in front of us both said that Kate will be going, she will not be coming here again. M got down on his knees, wrapped his arms around my legs crying and begging me not to go. As I moved he was dragged along the carpet. R just looked mortified, clearly she was in charge.

I took her lead and left. It was awful. Beyond heartbreaking. I caught the train to Maitland and cried quietly all the way home.

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The Greatest Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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