I arrived at Heathrow on a sunny Sunday in spring and though smelly and jet lagged was taken to D’s sister’s church. Very friendly bunch and his sister and brother in law hugged me. I then went back to meet and stay with his mum Sue. Who was quite the handful. Very sociable. Very talkative. Very surprised that I did not have the usual Australian accent. Staying with her was her sister in law Jean who was visiting from Adelaide. She was a lot of fun and after a bath I crashed in a single bedroom next to Sue’s room. It was a full house.
Within two weeks we caught the train and ferry to Northern Ireland to visit D’s best friend Ian, only friend really, in Belfast. He was a Church of Ireland Vicar. His wife Gail was lovely. They took us out and about, showed us The Falls Road and we were shocked to be approaching bridges to find them suddenly being secured by the military. Ian had severe asthma and went into a full blown attack one time when this happened. Gail was very good with him but she was having serious and distressing issues with miscarriage after miscarriage.
After a week we caught a train down to county Mayo and hitch hiked from there to my grannie’s place in Geesala. We caught lifts with three cars, the last one dropping us off in the village. People started calling out hello Kate as we went by! When we got to grannie Kate she was waiting at the gate, the second driver had phoned the pub ahead and word had gone out that T’s daughter was over from Australia. With an Englishman.
Staying there was an utter delight. My uncle John and grannie Kate welcomed us as if it was my home. D endeared himself to grannie by cooking her a full English breakfast the next morning. He then excused himself to go climb the nearest mountain and sleep out for a few days.
I had so much fun. Was so spoiled. So beloved. Thrilled to be with my grannie again. Talking about world events. Family. Faith. Nothing was off the table. I slept in her spare bed in her room and listened to her talk to God before she went to sleep every night. Totally freestyle, no Hail Mary’s etc.
Eventually D returned from his mountain and Grannie gave him her blessing, even though he wanted to become a Church of England Vicar! She said dad could not critique as he rarely went to mass, he did not fool her when he came over and pretended he was used to the mass. She cooked a leg of lamb and roast potatoes etc. We had many cups of tea from the kettle in the hearth and toast browned there with the long fork. Her homemade butter was even better than I remembered.
We decided to hitch hike north and managed with only three lifts. The last one in a Mercedes with a businessman who seemed a bit surprised that I was with D. He had been talking on a level D did not seem to grasp, or did not want to. I was not flirting, however I held my own in the conversation.
Once we reached Belfast safely we stayed a few more days, did a bit more sightseeing then caught the ferry and bus back to London and then Kent. When we arrived back Sue and Jean had left for their holiday. D prepared a special meal and formally asked me to marry him. I accepted and we lay on the floor and started to kiss and cuddle. This went on for some time until I stroked his penis through his trousers. He cried out, loudly. I asked him if he wanted to go upstairs. We went up and made love on one of the single beds in his room.
The next day we decided to put the mattresses together on the floor and made love there and he really liked us to make love on the sofa downstairs with the curtains open for anyone to see. We seemed to have no inhibitions. I wore dresses so it was easy to take my knickers off the minute we got inside the house. I threw them off on the way through and straddled him as he sat on the sofa. The dress came off and the bra and I really went for it. He loved me to be on top and I loved the feeling of being filled so deeply and having control. I climaxed far more than I ever had in the past.
His sister popped over one day while we were out and must have seen the mattresses because she left us some church tracts on being celibate until we married. She also left the name of a GP to get the pill from. I was astounded and pissed off. D was confused and guilt ridden. He thought what we were doing was sinful. I however thought it was the closest I had ever been to him, especially as he was so different in his home country. Distant and cold and nasty at times.
He put the mattresses back as his mum and aunt were returning soon and he visited me in my room which I found really difficult. I am a little loud when I come and a few times I climaxed so hard I almost screamed. She would have heard everything. He seemed to like that idea, made it more exciting for him. Not for me though so I asked him to wait until the house was empty. We were almost caught once. I was straddling him on the sofa. He was attached to my breast and I heard a giggle and a voice saying it’s just auntie, I forgot something. She was so much fun.
I went north to see my mum’s family and D decided to go down to Cornwall where he had stayed many times in the past. The journey to Lincolnshire was a long convoluted one. An intercity train to Grantham and then a coach to Skegness. Then a bus through Mablethorpe to Sutton On Sea. My grandparents were great fun and excited that they were going to be coming to my wedding. Grandad was going to give me away. My young cousins were so excited about being my bridesmaids. Grandma said for the first time that finally I would not be travelling the world and the UK by myself. That it had always worried her for my safety. My aunt D said at least this time I was marrying the man I was with in England. She said that every time I came over I had a different man in tow. I said that is funny cause mum brought me up on stories of all your boyfriends. She laughed wickedly. I really loved her, she was so attractive, a hairdresser, tall and very glamorous.
After a few weeks I returned to Kent and started a nanny job in the same town, Beckenham. Interestingly our lovely Vicar in Sydney originally came from there. My employers were a fashion buyer for Debenham’s in Bromley and the fish buyer for Marks and Spencer’s. They had a very clever boy at pre school and a gorgeous toddler. They lived in a three story townhouse, it really kept me fit.
One problem that surfaced then was that the father really disliked D. Especially since D had shown no real inclination to get a full time job. He spent most of the summer smoking cigars in his mother’s garden and doing some gardening jobs. The positions he applied for always seemed to interfere with his weekend requirements of going to church etc.
We went ahead with the wedding, planning it for late September. By then we had found a church we liked and were involved in Pastoral Care there. Or I was. I was so busy with work and the church that I employed a wedding event management team. It made everything really easy for me. I just had to buy the bridesmaids dresses and my future sister in law was buying the sailor suits for her two mischievous boys. We were also expecting my Japanese friend Miyoko to arrive just before the wedding from Sydney. She would be looking after my lovely boys while we were on honeymoon.
My mother’s favourite sister P lived only fifty minutes or so away by car so we often visited her. Sophisticated, cultured and incredibly warm, she welcomed D into the family and was very excited that mum would be staying with her until we returned from our honeymoon and then for some time afterwards. Her two boys were grown up now, I had a lot of fun with them in 1975 when I visited the UK and they were excited that they were coming to my wedding.
I met D’s aunt and uncle in Sevenoaks Kent several times. The second time was after we became engaged. His aunt was a top nursing sister. When I was helping her with the washing up she pulled me outside into the scullery and asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into. I assumed she meant his family. They seemed to be very controlling and ridiculed him a lot. So I said yes and I thought it would be okay. She frowned at me but said she hoped I knew what I was doing.
D endeared himself to everyone, it seemed effortless. Always friendly, charming, gentle and kind. Except at times to me. There was one occasion where I actually walked out of his sisters and started to walk back to his mum’s. Late at night. His sister and brother in law had been having a barbecue and D got quite drunk. At some stage he started saying I liked him to go deep. Right up to the hilt was what I had said and he repeated, like an obscenity. I had said it to him. In a passionate moment. Not to be shared with religious bigots. S actually laughed but I was furious. And I left.
After that he said God did not want us to have sex again until after we married, that we were sinning and needed to confess. I thought that was a load of rubbish but went along with it. He became quite distant again, sarcastic at times. Miyoko arrived from Sydney and stayed with his sister. She came over a lot and learned where R went to school and the routine I had with the boys. Mum arrived, so very very excited bless her. It was a huge accomplishment coming all the way from Australia by herself.
Meantime I worked right up to the day before the wedding, we needed the money and it helped take my mind off my doubts, my fear, the awful feeling I had that I was making a big mistake. I also sewed my wedding dress right up to the evening before the wedding. It had so many metres of lace, over twenty, to be carefully gathered and stitched to the white silk. I had a lot of time while sewing to think as well.
The night before the wedding D’s sister had a big party for the friends and family of the groom. My mum was fifty minutes away by car, I had only seen her twice in the two weeks she had been here and I really missed her and my family and friends in Australia. I made an excuse to sew a belt for my dress so I did not have to go. Miyoko was really concerned by then, she had commented that this was not the D we knew in Australia, so she stayed with me. My future mother in law Sue and aunt Jean drank gin and tonics steadily through the evening, and then once Miyoko had gone back to A’s house and I was settled upstairs with a coffee Sue came upstairs and said that the dress Miyoko and I had carefully chosen in London was totally unsuitable. That she could not allow it as it would ruin everything. Miyoko was curvy so Sue brought out a flowered Mui Mui and said she needs something like this. To shut her up I said I would go shopping in the morning. She said wonderful and kissed me. I ran a deep bubble bath and soaked in it, crying my eyes out, wondering what on earth I was doing, what I had gotten myself into.
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.
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.
We were seen off at Sydney by our family and our Gorokan neighbours. Also at the docks was one of dad’s fabulously wealthy work friends. However dad was not at all happy when this man leered at me and asked where he had been hiding me. Perhaps I looked older than fifteen but not by much. Eventually everyone who was not going disembarked and we were moved out into the harbour. Our route was Wellington, Auckland, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Acapulco, Panama, Curacao, Trinidad, Barbados, Lisbon and Southampton.
What I remember of the journey was mostly dad in a rage. He had rarely spent any time with us since we hit our teens and he had no idea how to deal with us except by threat and intimidation. My brother and I shared a cabin with mum and dad and my sister shared with three other girls in their twenties.
Pretty quickly my sister got to know an older crowd and also hung around with the young sailors after they finished their shifts. Two of them asked if they could take my sister and I horseback riding in Wellington when we arrived. They asked dad and mum and it was arranged without me really being spoken to. My sister had ridden horses quite a few times but I had never been on one before. Wellington is quite hilly and the horses spirited. My horse bolted and raced down around this hilly track. The sailor who was assigned to me was furious that they had not found out if I had ridden before. He was very angry with my sister and my dad actually and very kind and considerate of me. He was really frightened something could have happened to me.
We loved Auckland and I especially loved Tahiti. I had dreamt of going there since watching James A Mitchener’s Adventures in Paradise on television. And to my absolute delight the Tikki 111 was there. It was truly paradise to me, the markets, the beaches, the people. I could have stayed for weeks. Every time we made port I sent postcards off to my friends in Australia. Sometimes I would find mail waiting for me at various ports.
I also really loved Acapulco and so did mum. She had a lovely time and looked very pretty in the fitted cotton dresses I made her for the trip. They were perfect for the cooler weather. Unfortunately for me dad thought she looked pretty too and so I had to regularly amuse my brother elsewhere while they had time alone together.
Meantime my sister partied and had a great time, though she did have to join us for meals. It eventually started to get colder and we were grateful that mum and dad had taken us to meet our aunt and uncle at Kotara Fair in Newcastle to shop for warmer clothes. I found two gorgeous dinner dresses and some pantsuits and skirts while my sister had flares and jeans. Very fashionable, she looked fantastic in her new gear.
Some of the sailors thought so too and she used to go to their quarters and drink with them. They were not much older than her. It was fairly innocent though I was pretty naive so maybe it was not the case. Anyway dad created a huge scene by following her one night. He dragged her out of the cabin and then stood shouting in front of everyone that he needed to smell her fingers. To see if they smelled of sex. She was so humiliated and he screamed at her that he could smell men on her. It would more likely have been some of the hippy ladies there in the cabin smoking dope etc.
We spent an awful few days while dad raged at her and everyone. He was only pleasant to people who were not family. It was a pleasure to get nearer to England so we could have some distance from dad and his temper. For some reason though he relented and let her attend a deck party the sailors etc were throwing as a farewell. Only thing was I had to go chaperone her. It was not pleasant. The fellow who had asked her horse riding in Wellington decided it was me he had been after all along and I ended up dancing with him and trying to dodge his hands and his tongue from down my throat when he decided to French Kiss me. It made me feel sick, he tasted of what I think was Gin and garlic and I was having trouble getting away from him. But who was I to spoil her fun? It was not a pleasant evening and it took all my wiles to keep him out of my pants. I really grew up quickly that night.
In London we found lodging in a boarding house. My sister and I were in a dormitory room downstairs with lots of older girls who did not speak English and mum and dad were with my brother in a room upstairs. One night I awoke to see someone rifling through my sisters things. I shouted and the burglar bolted out of the door onto the street. My sister did not stop to think she just shot off after him. I could not believe it, she was out there in her nightie and I think she grabbed her dressing gown and just ran. I made a lot of noise and the girls woke up and checked their passports. Then I ran upstairs and woke mum and dad who were a bit perplexed. Then dad took off after my sister. He found her running down Carnaby Street. It was about 4am!
We shopped for warm outerwear. My sister had her heart set on a black woollen double breasted maxi coat with brass buttons and dad was against it. I wanted one in a different colour. Mum convinced dad to let her have it but I was considered too young. Instead I was found the most amazing suede coat with fringing. It was short too, a mini. If the idea was to keep me looking my age it backfired, I looked quite HOT! I can still see that short coat now, one of the most amazing things ever. Apart from my Kangaroo bag.
Eventually after a week sightseeing in London we made our way to Lincolnshire to mum’s parents where we met lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. And they met my brother for the first time. My mum and dad and sister and brother went for long walks but I just wanted to be near my grandma and grandad, reading and watching them over the top of my books. Eight long years without grandparents, it was so wonderful to have them now.
We then went on to Eire to dad’s family where we had wonderful conversations with cousins of cousins of cousins and with aunts and uncles too. The conversation never flagged and it was so good to see Grannie, my namesake, again. Somewhere along the way though dad decided we were returning to Australia. Just like that. No discussion. Mum was heartbroken as he would not let her call her family or go to see them before we left. We rented a cabin in Southampton while we waited for a ship back.
Because of not sitting exams due to my dad’s work schedule I was placed in the middle of the first year of classes at Wyong High School. There were grades down to F and I was placed in 1C. This was well below my level in English, History, Maths, Social Studies, everything really. So the first year there was a bit of a challenge for me. One of the brilliant things about it though was that I met one of my lifelong friends, Linda. We had moved to a rented house in Toukley when we returned to the area and my mum was so excited as her GP used to rent it before us! Linda had attended a Catholic School so she was new to me however we met at the bus stop in year one and became firm friends. Others to become firm friends during early school years were Coral Davies and Stuart Cameron. Others from my primary school I stayed in touch with outside of school and indeed sat with were Alison Blackford, Jennifer Passlow, Carol Dennis, Francine Fordham and some boys whose names have escaped me.
This was the year so many of us girls started our periods, there was a definite aroma in the air as in those days we were not encouraged to use tampons. We had Physical Education I think it was called weekly. Talking about deodorant and developing bodies. Definitely no sex education in school though. That was done by the council I think and held in Town Halls. If I remember correctly I went with Linda. I went to most things with her as mum was stuck in with a toddler and Linda’s parents were very conscientious about her schooling. Rightly so.
This was the beginning of a long period in my life of trouble for me with my menstruation. I used to get nauseous, cramp terribly and pass huge blood clots. Some as long as my little finger. I had to go to sick bay to Mrs Walsh, who was in charge of the girls, every month. First I would get a three day migraine and the cramps would set in for almost the whole six days. The clotting for the first three days. I was mortified on so many occasions to have heavy flooding come through on my grey pleated school tunic. One solution my mum had was to get me plastic Modess knickers, but only two pairs. I soaked them overnight but they still reeked. I can see why girls schools were so popular back then as this was really primitive and almost barbaric. The boys all knew when we had our periods and mocked anyone who had trouble with them. I was not attacked about this though as perhaps they could actually see it was agony for me. Mrs Walsh, once she had established I was not a whinger like some or a wagger like my sister, was the essense of kindness. She showed me how to curl up in a fetal position, she would get me hot water bottles, she mothered me while she waited with growing impatience for my mother to pick me up. Usually we had to wait until Days of Our Lives had finished. She lectured my mum on many an occasion about taking hours to get to me.
I loved sports and obviously hated gymnastics and swimming which required turning my neck repetitively. We also did cross country running, down by Wyong River. I have no idea how we did not get lost. I cannot remember any specific teachers from year one but once I moved into 2nd year high school and was put up to my correct grades I loved my teachers and enjoyed being challenged. Mr Cassidy was my favourite English teacher, and not just because of his teaching. He used to wear the tightest pants and I was obsessed with the bulge in them. He was awfully good looking, it was late sixties, mini skirts and flares were the rage. He liked me because I spent most afternoons up at Toukley Library where I read a lot of non fiction. I had read the biographies of Marilyn Monroe and he often brought her up in class as English covered Drama in those days. I knew everything he was trying to ask the students, most of whom were way behind me in reading skills. So I became his pet, which was uncomfortable for me as it drew my attention to him and his tight pants. He told me he was marrying his fiancé and her name was Kathleen.
One class I adored was Technical Drawing. In 2nd year we were allowed to pick our electives and Linda and myself and one other girl were the first females to enter the boys club of TD. To begin with it was a wonderful class but like most things good in life it had it’s painful qualities too. For safety the teacher put us girls at the front three drawing boards so he could see us. Of course that allowed all the boys to carry on behind us. Behind me actually. I do not know why they chose me, maybe because I was not fat in those days, Linda was very attractive with an amazing personality but had a weight issue then and the other girl so non descript that I just cannot remember her.
It got so I absolutely dreaded the class as the boys directly behind me, Graeme Berry in particular, used to grind and jerk their hips right behind where I was standing. I was afraid to bend over or turn my back. He had his clothes on but it was frightening. I would turn around and look at him and he still kept doing it to my face. Well to my groin. I had never seen this behaviour before and only had to guess at what the boys were doing. Obviously I knew it was sexual and I did feel threatened and humiliated. The talk was even worse. About what they wanted to do to me from behind, one after the other. And from the front, if they could get my legs open.
At some stage I decided to wear my underpants for days on end. I was not sure when this was but it was while living in Toukley as I put them to be burned in the incinerator. Unfortunately mum found them and freaked out. My sister started shouting at me calling me a filthy cow and other words, and poor mum asked me if I used toilet paper to wipe myself after I peed. It was not that I was dirty, I bathed every day and was very careful about deodorant and clean shirts etc. I believe it was a reaction to the boys sexually harassing me, absolutely hounding me.
Bless her heart Linda was a true friend and had a heart to heart with me and told me I stank. I told her that I knew and that I would fix it. She asked if I used a deodorant and I simply said I needed a different one. It worried mum but nobody thought to query why I should start to stink. Except for the best friend in the whole world.
Perhaps something had alerted the Tech Drawing teacher as he suddenly moved us girls to the drawing boards at the back wall. I only got hounded if I approached other boys desks. Most of the boys were brilliant. The ones on the right side of the room were exceptional and admired my drawings. My other elective was advanced sewing, I had always been able to draft patterns up and follow graphs so TD came naturally to me.
At some stage of 2nd year mum took me to the doctor about my periods. He prescribed Buscopan tablets and often gave me injections for severe period pain. They helped but only with the cramping and pain. I came to dread my monthly menstruation but somehow survived it as I now had the tablets to take at school. Mrs Walsh would give them to me with a hot water bottle and rub my back. Most of the girls hated her but to me she was an angel. Another one placed in my life to help me I believe, like my next door neighbours in Gorokan when I was in Primary School.
From 1st year my friends and I went on Saturday nights to the movies in Wyong. I would have already spent most of the day at Linda’s watching Countdown on television. We would go walk around the shops and Linda was allowed to have a weekly treat of cakes from the cake shop. Her mum was very strict with her about her weight. We bought different magazines, Dolly and others and read them from cover to cover. I usually went home for dinner then met her at the bus stop. Unfortunately mum made my sister keep an eye me on the long walk home down Canton Beach Road where we lived. It was pitch black and we had usually seen vampire movies, P would disappear and jump out ahead of me and scare me to death. I ended up running home most Saturday nights.
Around 3rd year we started going to parties, and once there we were supervised from a distance by a set of parents. Music and friends and dancing and spin the bottle was good clean fun. Except I had Graeme Berry to kiss. He just loved snickering the bastard. The bottle often stopped with him. He was a big, well developed boy who looked years older than 15. I looked older or acted older but was very uncomfortable around the boys after the TD thing. And Graeme’s idea of a kiss was a deep pash. As it was called then.
We also went to the beach all the time, after school and at weekends. One afternoon I wandered away from Carol and other friends and was caught in a rip. I just could not get out of it and actually was drowning. I had my hand up in the air and very soon a surfer came over and laid me across the surfboard and took me to shore. He was older than me and lived a few doors down, I actually babysat his toddler sister at times. He promised not to tell mum. It seems I got on well with boys who were older than me.
I had a job down at Canton Beach in a corner shop where Stuart’s mother actually worked. The money kept me in material and patterns. I also made money by sewing lavish pantsuits and dresses for my friends. The librarian’s daughter at Toukley especially. There were few parents who had two incomes in those days and she always gave her daughter heaps of spending money. I remember she pulled me up on a loop I had made, one of about twenty, that had frayed a bit already. She was a perfectionist and am glad she had a good eye as I totally missed that faulty loop.
Halfway through the year mum and dad decided we were going back to England to live. I was quite upset. My sister did not seem to mind as by then she had left school. She had gotten into a lot of trouble for wagging school and my dad’s solution was to take her out at fifteen. She was really happy working in a supermarket and did not realise what not having a school Certificate would mean until later. Mrs Walsh told me she wished she had never raised the issue and said if she had known dad would react like that she would never have rang home and she would have supported my sister more.
My dad not only took her out of school, he humiliated her terribly. She was very self conscious about having buck teeth, had backed out of having them fixed in 1st year in Inverell and my dad punished her by not having them fixed at all. He was very hard on her. Quite unnecessarily nasty and domineering. She had finally grown her hair long, dad would not allow it until she was fourteen and her hair was the most glorious copper pennies colour. It was her pride and joy. Her only redeeming feature she thought, though I found her ability to have fun and be carefree a wonderful thing to be. Anyway, Dad was absolutely vile when he told her off and pulled her out of school. He grabbed her beautiful long hair and said if she did not get it cut off he would hack it off. He made my five year old brother and I witness all this and told me to shut up when I tried to stand up for her. She went to a hairdresser who did a modern Carnaby Street sixties bob. Very fashionable and she looked very pretty. Dad was not happy.
My friends, too many to count now, took me out to the movies to say goodbye. They all banded together and bought me a leather and fur Kangaroo bucket bag. The most beautiful thing I had ever owned. It was very very hard. I loved my life there, if I could have I would have loved to have stayed with Alison or Linda until I finished school. But there was no discussion. No consideration of my schooling. And I was a really good student. It was all about getting to the UK before September so that my brother could start school there.
When I was seven years old dad had saved enough money to get us a really good start in life in Australia. We had family in County Mayo in Eire to say goodbye to. I remember some of the time in Eire but most is what I have put together from photos and from what mum and dad told me over the years.
We had regularly visited our grandparents and knew some of my dad’s brothers from their living and working in the UK. My dad actually met my mum in the boarding house her mum and dad ran. Though mum had a full time job she helped serve at dinner and at breakfast. That was when she met his brothers Uncle M and Uncle P. Dad’s parent’s were in Eire on a farm with a few of his younger sisters and his brother. It was always a full house in summer with beds full of children of various ages snuggled in together under grannie’s gorgeous patchwork quilts which she made with the neighbours in quilting bees. When quilting they spoke in English mixed in with Gaelic, so fast I could barely keep up though I tried.
I remember the haystacks, my sister was usually to be found on the tops of the haystacks, in her good clothes. Mum would not have been happy about that. And I clearly remember the pigs which grandad always caught with the crook of his walking stick and I remember their squeals as they were killed. It did not stop me enjoying eating bacon or ham though!
I had lots of wonderful walks through wildflower filled fields with my grannie. She loved to talk with me and adored my questions. I was named after her, as was dad’s sister, so there was a real closeness there. Mum and I also went out and picked wildflowers and dad took lots of photos.
The bathroom was very primitive, the cottage also as it was a traditional whitewashed one. Grannie used to make tea by leaving the huge teapot stewing on the fireplace embers. It was real Irish breakfast tea, brewed in the morning and topped up through out the day. I also loved the toast cooked over the fire on a huge iron fork, leaving big dents in the thick slices of toast through which the home made butter oozed. There was also a full Irish breakfast for whoever could stomach it, and most could! I adored our times there with our family.
The neighbours, who were usually first or second cousins, would pop in to see the English realatives and share the Craic. In the evening the younger adults would pop down to the pub which was a ten minute walk away. It was idyllic, with farmland, land laid to turf and the wild Irish coastline where my father as a child had often found bones and other items which he tells me now were from the Vikings.
I do not know how long we stayed. We usually had weeks there every summer but this was a special time with family coming from all over to say goodbye. Dad’s sister and husband was there with their red headed baby. I remember being a bridesmaid at their wedding. I was not first choice, my sister was supposed to do it but backed out on the day of the wedding. Luckily I fitted the dress and looked okay in pink lace so apparently I happily stepped in though was shy and particularly camera shy.
One evening on returning from the neighbours or the pub my mum found my sister in her bed with a young woman getting stuck into her privates. She had been sleeping beside her the whole visit. Mum ran and found dad and told him, he grabbed my sister out of the bed and mum grabbed me and said we were leaving. I do not know if we stayed in the village but I do not think anyone was told, I think they probably thought the Englishwoman was being difficult. As they often did.
This incident changed everything in the future, for me, not just my sister.