Three Long Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I went and rang the ambulance and they said there is not enough time. To go get my parents and get them to drive me fast to Gosford Hospital. I went and told mum and dad. Dad shouted at me, and Mum said come on Tom we are taking her to the hospital, now. He kept saying when are you going to wake up to yourself. It was pitch black by then and dad drove with mum in the back keeping me awake. She slapped my face. Begged me, pleaded with me to not go to sleep. I heard her wail to herself “when am I going to learn to keep my mouth shut.’ They got there very very fast. At emergency I was asked how many I had taken and I said 99. There were 100 in the bottle. They laughed grimly. They pumped my stomach and gave me medicine to make me vomit. Jeanie my friend from nursing was on duty and was very concerned. Because it was so unlike me. I was not allowed home until I saw a psychologist the next morning. She asked if anything triggered it. I said I had a fight with mum because she kept talking about me to the relatives. I realised later mum was worried but I hated being talked about by my relatives as if I was doing this on purpose. As if I chose this life. I told her I was going to reassess my medicines as I felt much better in the UK off most things. She said that sounded like a good idea and to call her if I needed her. We drove home, my brother was there and very quiet. I rang my aunt as mum had called her from the hospital. Then I ripped up the letter I had written to mum into tiny pieces and curled up against my dog who was shivering in fear. I immediately stopped taking benzodiazepines, valium and cut back on percodan. I had bad shakes but was eventually able to sleep and started to feel much better over several weeks.

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

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

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

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

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



















Waiting Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




I Land On My Feet

I stayed home in Noraville for a few weeks then applied for various nannying positions with families in Sydney. I interviewed with several and decided on a lovely family with three boys under five years of age. The interview was held in Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Sydney CBD as the parents had two fabulous clothing stores there, Shim and Shives. I met the parents there as they had an incredibly busy career and I was offered the job on the spot. The father Des was a little concerned by my youth but the mum Daphne and I hit it off straight away. She intuited I was more mature than my years and knew I had a younger brother who I had half brought up. I really landed on my feet with this position. My recent nursing experience and background in working with children also helped. My sister picked me up at Central Station and dropped me off after introducing herself to the family. My mum had been in touch with her and asked her to look out for me.

They lived out at Dover Heights in a massive art deco mansion complete with outdoor pool and a converted ballroom which was used as a games room. They also had three boxer dogs, a mother dog and two bitches. Unfortunately these gorgeous dogs became a pack when anyone unknown approached the fence let alone the door. When my sister and I arrived Des had locked the dogs securely in the ballroom. I was introduced to the three most gorgeous boys, under five years of age. Stunning looking in the English way with blondest of hair and blue eyes. Totally different in personality. The oldest Justin a sweet caring boy already at Preschool three days a week. Jake the eighteen month old a bundle of mischief and delight. And Jackson, a gorgeous little boy of nine months, a treasure.

I was given a room downstairs and had the run of the house. They were an ultra modern family, really ahead of their time. Des was totally supportive of Daphne who was a feminist. Though he did not do housework etc. Then again Daphne did not do any either. They employed cleaners from a top agency. I cooked the children’s dinner for five pm, they were already bathed and had usually almost finished their food when their parents arrived home at 5.30 every night but Thursday’s, which was late night shopping. Everyone had finished eating but Jake who just loved to try me on over his vegetables. I adored them all but he was so mischievous that I had a special place for him in my heart.

After a little while the agency sent out a young English single mum named Lesley to clean the house. We got on so well immediately that Daphne arranged for her to look after the two youngest on Thursday mornings so I could go shopping. I loved it, catching the double decker bus to Bondi Junction, going into Myer which was amazing compared to the Waltons Store where I had shopped in Gosford. There were lots of boutiques and Italian style coffee lounges. The Mall had not been built yet and it had a wonderfully eclectic atmosphere. Sometimes I took the baby Jackson with me, he was as good as gold and loved bus trips. The bus conductors were really helpful too in getting the strollers off the buses. It was so much fun and so different to anything I had experienced before. I gradually built up a nice wardrobe of accessories from Bondi Junction to match the wonderfully huge camel kid leather shoulder tote bag Daphne and Des gave me as a thank you for the extra babysitting I did once a month so they could go gambling in Double Bay.

In a matter of weeks Lesley and I became firm friends. It was approaching winter and Daphne and Des needed extra sewers to hand sew the leather buttons on their amazing range of kid leather jackets and coats. I asked them if Lesley could come over to dinner with her little boy and Daphne and Des immediately loved her and offered her a substantial amount of extra cash to sew these buttons on in her spare time. I used to go over to her place one night a week and help her with her backlog, sewing being my forte!

While working there I used to go home to Noraville on Saturday afternoons on the train and get the 4.30am train back Monday morning. I was young and fit enough to do it though it was starting to get really cold at that time of the day. Daphne and Des surprised me with a beautiful camel coloured, fitted to the body, three quarter length kid leather coat. The coat matched the tote bag they had given me and was way nicer than the one I had in London in 1970, I still had that but it was heavy and hurt my shoulders. I eventually kept the old suede one at Noraville to use there if a friend suddenly needed a jacket.

Lesley and her son came up one long weekend to stay in Noraville. Her son was a similar age to my young brother and got on brilliantly with him. While mum looked after the children I took Lesley to Budgewoi Pub and from there we went to a friends house where everyone sat around and smoked dope. She kindly said no thanks but go ahead and I was really impressed at how she communicated with all the surfers there. They were mostly from Sydney, some I had known for years who were locals and most were famously reticent. She had them eating out of her hand. Unlike me, who was even shyer with chaps now, or wary would be a better word. Some of the guys were the Sydney surfers who rented a house just down from us and I regularly baked them cookies on a Saturday evening and dropped them around to them. They were famous for their marijuana munchies. And their sweet tooth.

The boys gave us a lift home and everyone was fast asleep. Lesley shared the spare room double bed with her little boy and I had my old bed in my lilac and white bedroom. The next days over breakfast Lesley chatted to dad and afterwards Denise Lethbridge came up and took both boys out on the trail bike and we all had a very relaxed time. It was the first time I really noticed dad so accepting of my friends. Mum enjoyed cooking her fabulous roast meals and my aunts and uncles came over with the cousins. First time in a long time there was no shadow, no feeling of dread or fear there with dad. Lesley actually said your dad is lovely, he just seems starved of communication that is all. I thought about that and realised I had always chatted away to him, until the teen years, when the trouble with my sister started. So I tried to include him in things more and he seemed to be much more relaxed too.

Once we got back to Sydney Lesley’s boyfriend who had dumped her at Circular Quay when they arrived on the ship months before suddenly showed up. I babysat so that they could talk and have some privacy which was not possible in her one bedroom flat at Bondi Beach. He was living at Surfers Paradise and wanted her to move up there with her son to be with him. She decided to stay in Sydney to save money to make a new start there. When we had our regular weekly dinner at Daphne and Des’ we explained this to them and they immediately offered her training as a pattern cutter in their Bondi factory. She proved to be brilliant at this and eventually took over all aspects of the work.

The dinners were fun and spun off my use of my old basic Home Science Commonsense Cookbook from year one in high school. One day after a few weeks of living there I had decided to cook a few meals for us adults and I tried the fruity lamb curry recipe in it. Des came over and tried a spoonful and exclaimed it was a traditional Indian dry sweet curry and delicious. Restaurant quality! So I made Cornish Pasties and many other dishes for us to savour. I bought new cookbooks from Myer Bondi Junction and tried recipes, it was fun and as the children always went to play with their parents once they returned from work I was free to indulge my creativity in the kitchen. We also had takeaway on Friday nights and I was included in family outings to restaurants if I happened to stay in Sydney for the odd weekend.

I was so happy there, I adored the boys and Daphne was fabulous, although I was very wary of Des, not frightened but kept him at arm’s length. No hugging etc and I did not like being alone in the house with him, or his good looking brother who stayed for a few months as was recently divorced. Obviously a reaction to my rape and it’s aftermath though I did not consciously think of what had happened in that house in Gosford.

My friend Linda left Gosford Hospital a few months after me as did all the people who had shared our house. Ann had been sent down to Royal North Shore Hospital for investigation into severe headaches. I spoke to her often on the phone. She returned home after a few days of intensive testing. My sister came over to visit a few times and let us down a lot too by not turning up when she said she was going to. It pissed me off that she disappointed the children.

Over winter the boys had a lot of colds and bugs. Dr David Bennett had started working out of Bondi Junction and he made regular house calls as he could see I could not get all three children to him when they were ill as I did not drive. He had a problem with the dogs. He asked that they were well secured before he came out and no wonder he was nervous. They used to throw themselves in a pack at the glass doors between the ballroom and the sitting room. Dr Bennett felt I was very isolated and had too much responsibility and would stay for a cup of tea and my homemade cake and a chat. When I needed my Pill script I would go in to see him in his rooms in Bronte Road, Bondi Junction.

Lots of reps gave samples of clothing to Daphne and Des, we all had some nice things but especially the boys. There was a knitwear company that made miniature versions of their high fashion sweaters for the boys. Three sweaters in the same shades of blue but different styles. Just gorgeous. The only time I had real trouble clothing wise was when  Des suddenly bought tickets to go to Cairns for all of us. I only had a few summery things with me as had taken my summer clothes back to Noraville. The ones I had not thrown out that is. My tastes changed once I lived in Sydney and I did not have my sewing machine with me to make my new summer wardrobe yet.

Once we were in Cairns Daphne loaned me a short sleeved top and I bought some blouses to wear. It was very hot in the hotel rooms of the family suite so we kept the doors open and while the parents partied downstairs I read while watching the children. We went exploring the region for several days, finding it very beautiful but my overwhelming memory was of the humidity.

Back in Dover Heights it eventually became warmer and the boys had swimming lessons in their huge pool. The instructor was great with them and they really enjoyed themselves. We went down to Bondi Beach a lot as summer approached and met Lesley and her son down there. Eventually though she moved up north to join her boyfriend. We did not feel good about it however as his family who were wealthy disapproved of her. It is why he left her in the first place.

I took Justin the four year old up to Noraville several times. He loved it. Daphne was estranged from her father who lived nearby in Wyong but the whole family picked Justin and I up the first time Justin stayed with us. It was his first sleepiver! Mum loved cuddling Jackson and was quite tearful as she would have loved more children. Unfortunately she had a lot of heavy bleeding and was diagnosed with fibroids. After having a D and C it was advised she have a hysterectomy.

My sister insisted that as she had looked after dad and my brother a few years before when mum had her gallbladder out, that it was my turn now. I did not know how to bring it up with Daphne. I was so upset, I adored the boys and every aspect of my job. It had long term implications for retraining in the garment trade or in fashion and retail. But I had an obligation to look after mum. It was expected that the daughters do these things. It was never ever considered that dad would take time off to do this. We were supposed to look after him. One of the issues for mum was the split level nature of the Noraville house. The laundry was downstairs and it would be months before she could lift washing etc.

Eventually after about five days I brought it up and Daphne said she knew something was wrong. She said no problem, come back when you are able to leave your mum. And meantime they would book the world trip they had been talking about for six months time which should be plenty of time for me to have helped mum back to health again. And I was coming along with them!

I packed and tried not to cry as I said my goodbyes a week later. I loved them so much, even Des, whose weird brash sense of humour had grown on me. Even loved the dogs, though individually, not as a pack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Northern Star Australia Bound


We left Southampton docks bound for Australia via Las Palmas, Capetown, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Mum had managed to get out and phone her sister in London and two of her sisters came down to see us off. Before we left though they asked mum to stay, with us children, and leave dad. She had no money of her own and was very confused and upset and did not know what to do. They seemed to come to some kind of an agreement though and mum decided we would go back to Australia.

I do not remember Las Palmas but I do remember loving Capetown. I had a little spending money and everyone laughed when I bought postcards and some writing pads. I showed them where it said made in South Africa on the back of the writing pads! Table Mountain was incredible, I loved everything about that stopover.

Some time during the first leg of the trip I met three young chaps who were migrating to Australia. They were in their late teens, early twenties. From the north of England so we formed a really solid friendship, me in particular with the oldest one. He was like a big brother to me while not really being one. His friends were fabulous and funny and all around great innocent fun.

They had a talent contest for the younger children and my brother was dressed up as a Swagman and he won! I was so excited to see him in the parade and it was really crowded in the large area where it was held and I sort of got knocked backwards into James, my friend. I had nothing to stop my momentum until James stepped forward to break my fall. I threw my hands out to save myself and encountered a bit more than I had expected. His rather interesting penis in his cord pants. I had gripped onto it as I did not know what part of him I had grabbed, and it felt rather nice I must say. I apologised while blushing once I realised and of course he said no problem and that he had rather liked it, as I might have noticed. So my first experience of a male with an erection was James, my confidant and friend. Of course I knew he was interested in me but he was lovely and knew my age and also saw how vicious my sister was to me, and mum and dad for that matter. They were enraged the whole trip. When I was not with James and friends I was taking my brother places to get him away from the toxic atmosphere between mum and dad. I even took him about with James and friends.

Sometime during the trip mum saw me sitting with my friends having a lemonade and she knocked on the window and beckoned me out. I muttered something and James said do not be angry with your mum she is looking out for you. When I got to the cabin my sister and dad and my brother were there. Dad screamed at me that I was a slut and various other things. I was totally baffled and really frightened.

He then grabbed me hard and threw me over his knee. Pulled my panties down and proceeded to thrash me and he would not stop. I could hear people going by and so I screamed, it hurt a lot but I did not scream from pain, I hoped someone would come to find out what was wrong but nobody did. I kept screaming so he hit me harder. When he had finished I could not sit. I had huge welts on my backside. Mum is the one who got him to stop, she was crying by then. I cannot remember what my brother and sister did. I was too humiliated to look at anyone. I lay down on my bunk with my back to them and curled up in a ball. My dad went out of the cabin and mum put some Nivea on the welts. She said dad is worried about you with those men. I quietly said we did not do anything, that she knew I would not do anything. That they did not trust me. She just cried.

The next day dad saw me continuing to sew fabric over my plain white bra for the Lua night. I had bought the fabric and made a sarong skirt and painstakingly hand stitched it all. I could have shown it to my sewing teacher and been awarded first prize I took so much care with the work. Dad grabbed it off me and threw it and said and you will not be going out anywhere in that either. I was extremely modest, only ever wore a one piece costume and was already nervous about parading in this costume and he made it seem really trashy, not the clever ensemble mum and I had worked out between us.

I put it away and went out for a walk, forbidden to see my trio of friends. I had nobody to talk to, kids of my own age seemed really immature and there were not many of them anyway as everyone was at school. I just walked around the deck repeatedly, thinking about how much school I had to make up when I got back and how I was going to study hard so I could go nursing and leave home as soon as I could. Eventually I ran into the friend with long black hair and he walked and talked with me a bit and said he would have a talk to James.

My sister was dressing up for the Lua so my mum convinced dad to let me go. She told him I had worked hard and that I was a “good” girl. And I was, only because I was too afraid of dad to be anything else. But he could not stop my thoughts. My mind. He said it’s up to mum what happens then and went to smack me across the face for the look he said was there.  I flinched, his whacks across the face hurt my neck as well as my face. I believe the look was in my eyes and my mind, he could not control that but I decided to hide my thoughts in future from him.

I finished the costume and it was really pretty, I rarely wore yellow but it looked pretty and bright. Mum had found me some yellow coral beads. They did not cover my bra area like the leis others wore but I had nothing there to see anyway. I remember my sister had left me alone over those few days and so it was not as difficult as I thought to parade in the outfit in front of everyone. James and friends cheered as I went by, in a non leering way, they were lovely.

When we reached each port I sent my friends postcards, I wrote them like serials, telling them of the wonderful places we had seen and of James and his friends and the Greek hairdresser who was all over me. And my mum trusted him with me! I was trapped in a lift with him once and he started undoing my lace up bodice of my dress. I left the postcard serial at that point, knowing the girls would be wanting to know what happened next.

On the way back to Sydney we stopped at Fremantle where dad had a good friend, a past work associate. We met his family and had a lovely few days with them. The next port was Melbourne, James and friends and I had continued to be innocent companions and they asked if there was an address they could write to me as they were worried about me. They even offered to help put me up with a nice family somewhere until I left school so that I could then go nursing in Sydney where they were going to be living. I gave them my friend Alison’s address knowing she would be fine with it. She was actually allowed boyfriends. In her actual bedroom. And she was allowed to make out up to a certain point, and no further. She was trusted. I knew she would get it.

At some stage after thrashing me dad had sort of apologised. He said he had not wanted me to get into trouble. As mum had. He wanted me to marry a doctor. And I needed to save myself for him. But he said it like I had done something already with one of the chaps. He did not trust me. Before this I was open and honest with him but I knew I had to play him carefully, until I was old enough to leave home. And I knew I would never, ever forgive him for the shame, the humiliation, in hitting me like that. I was hit to supposedly stop me having sex, yet he humiliated me in front of others by pulling down my undies. It was almost a sexual act. It felt really wrong.

We reached Sydney, I said a tearful goodbye to the boys, James was miserable and worried about me but I told him I had a lot of friends and we would keep in touch. I also said goodbye to the hairdresser, and his wife. And eventually we found our way back up the coast to Toukley.

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In sixth class dad sold the cottage and moved north to a mining town in the Hunter Valley. He was there to help get the Liddell Power Station going. It was a horrid place with a lot of air pollution from the mines. I was always sick with chest infections, ear infections and sore throats. The doctors constantly gave me horridly painful penicillin shots.

It was the first time since I started school that I was by myself but I have no memory at all of the school. My sister started high school that year, and she absolutely hated that high school.  I do remember our Aunt S and Uncle E and family visiting as regularly as before as we were even closer to them there. I loved to be near my mum and aunt on our Sunday post lunch walks but in those days it was very much adults first, children last and my mum would shoo me away. I was a fair bit older than my aunt’s girls and of course my sister would not walk or talk with me and my cousin S did not talk much to girls so I usually just walked by myself.

I liked looking in shop windows, admiring the fashion and quality of the clothing in the few boutiques. I had always been a very good seamstress. I made myself shifts and a skirt and had started on a shift for mum, by hand. I had made clothes for my dolls well before attempting anything for myself. I loved clothes, though I only had a few pretty things. My sister was more comfortable in Levi’s and shorts and as she was a tomboy they suited her.

After six months or so dad’s job assignment was up and he was off to the next one. It was quite a way up north, true country and I absolutely loved it. My school was wonderful, my teacher was a tall male and he was very kind and helpful to me. Particularly with gymnastics. I detested the vault and somersaults. They made me incredibly dizzy for hours afterwards. One day he came across and said that he loved how I tried everything, even if I was frightened of it or felt I could not do it. If only he or my parents had realised it was a sign of a lifelong neck condition that would limit a lot of my enjoyment of life. I did not just not like these things, I really should not have been doing them at all. Ever.

To start with we lived in a house which was set back a long way from the road. We had a long walk to the road and a very long bus ride to school. My sister went even further to Inverell as there was no high school in town. The bus driver was a gorgeous lady, treated us all like her own. Mum however was very isolated, with a toddler it was very lonely for her and she was also frightened to be by herself.

We were only there three months and during that time mum conquered a lifelong fear, learning how to drive. Dad took her out in his ute and as long as she stayed on the quiet country roads she was fine. She might have inspired me to try something as well, I had always wanted to ride a bike, it was a way to escape for a few hours, visit friends. I was always too dizzy and it was the same though I persevered for months, my neck again. Turning to check for traffic etc was a trigger for major vertigo.

Eventually we moved into staff demountable cabins for the beginning of the extremely hot summer. They were spacious and had air conditioners, unheard of in those days. No expense spared for the workers families while they built Pindarri Dam. Mum and dad used to go out visiting work friends and my sister was always out. I babysat my brother while he slept and for the first time I felt a real surge of sexuality. I do not know if it was the previous abuse, or that I was mature for my age, or the attention I was getting from a lot of the workers. When I was alone I took my top off, and my teeney bra, and stood against the screen door and rubbed my tiny breasts and nipples repeatedly against it. I then stood there half naked feeling the cool breeze on my body. I actually hoped a man would see me, half hoped, and had no idea what I would have done if they had. Thank God I was more afraid of getting into trouble with my parents than with a man seeing me like that, because I stopped after a few weeks. They were a very exciting few weeks for me though.

I was told repeatedly not to walk through the bush to the bus stop but I loved the whole country and bush feel. We had regularly gone to rodeos as a family over the years but this was the real thing! However one day I was confronted by a snake that stood up high and swayed its head at me. Tongue flicking in and out. I was petrified with fear but managed to stay very still and then I backed away and ran home.

Towards the end of November the job folded for dad and we returned to the Central Coast. The same way we had gone up there, with my sister and I in the back of the ute. This time dad was stopped by a policeman and sternly lectured. He made me get in the front and my sister stayed in the back.

Once we found a place to live I returned to my old Primary School where I became incredibly popular with the boys I had known for years. It was strange. Even though one of them told me he preferred me without the freckles I now had he said he would like to dance with me at our barn dance last week of term. Mum actually bought me a lovely dress, it had a bit of a cutout at the back, perfectly modest but flattering. I remember it was navy with white and worked well against my tan and freckles. I had a wonderful time at the dance, one reason being that my sister was not there to undermine my confidence. I also had so many boy partners it was dizzying. A lot of them were boys who had shown me theirs and obviously I had not shown them mine years before. They always thought I would and of course, once under the desk they never did get to see anything. Think I was too young really to be a tease. The boys just never learned. Plus I was Irish Catholic with a Victorian mother. Sex was dirty and privates, especially boys, considered really dirty.

We ate lots of toffees and drank squash and one of the really nice popular boys told me he had always really liked me and had missed me. I said I liked him too and went off to dance with another boy. This was very unlike me, though it was probably more like me in UK, flirtatious and funny, not at all uncomfortable with boys.

In the last week of term I was told it was too late to sit exams and as everyone had been graded they arranged for me to go into High School anyway. My parents did not seem to mind I would be assessed differently to the others so I was not worried. We spent a lot of time outside gardening that week and I told the boy gardening besides me to look at the gorgeous spider on my hand. Luckily my teacher overheard and held my hand very very tightly until the richly patterned spider had gone. She then called the class inside, looking very shaken up. She washed my hand and had a good look but it was simply a close call, with a Red Back spider. I was very fortunate, much like with the snake.

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