Everything Was In Place

We spent Christmas up at the farm along with C’s grandmother from the UK. We had some lovely times in the pool and relaxing. D and Sue were both upset that they were not offered an opportunity to go to church on Christmas Day. Mum and dad had not been to Mass in years, it did not occur to them but they would have taken them if they had asked.

There was an undertone of sadness due to what I had experienced in November, naturally. My uncles and aunts gave me the biggest hugs when they came over. My uncle who rarely cried did so and asked me if I was okay.

My brother was working in the mines and having a very good social life. We did not see much of him though he loved having us in the house. Dad worked through most of the holiday period so we did not see a lot of him.

After a week we went back home to Sydney and life went back to normal. Off the horrid medications our little boy was much brighter. He was having a horrendous amount of jerks but happy with it. He love Sesame Street and Playschool and his cartoon videos.

Grandma also knitted him every toy under the sun. He especially loved his monkey, Dum Dum and his Humpty Dumpty. Her scarecrow was a work of art, it had tiny tiny lady birds on it as well as birds. Everyone was stunned at mum’s skills.

Sue went back to the UK but the night before D had the most vicious talk with her. He harangued her and said the most awful things. She was crying and crying and in the end I came in and turned my back on him, put my arms around her and said that is enough. Stop it. This is your mother, crying inconsolably, what is wrong with you? He just shrugged.

I walked her into her bedroom and helped her onto the bed and got her a cup of tea and some biscuits. I had never seen such cruelty before. He said she thought God took his father so that he would not worry the way she had about him and the strange travels he had undertaken before I met him. She believed it totally and would not retract it so he hounded her to do so.

The next day she returned to the UK, the night before making peace with her son, as she always did. She would never go to bed angry, it was a fundamental part of her nature, true forgiveness.

I was having a lot of pain in my right wrist so was not knitting as much as usual. I was sent to a Hand Surgeon who arranged surgery ASAP for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. I went into the Private Jewish Hospital in Bondi Junction where the surgery was not as straight forward as they thought it would be. They were decompressing the arteries on both sides of my hand and was told it would be almost instant relief. Whereas I woke up in agony. My arm was raised and bandaged and it was swollen to twice its size.

The surgeon came around and in front of me said “fuck I should have checked her neck” to the nursing sister. That did not fill me with confidence. I was also really missing my baby, then when he came in his right hand too was bandaged up. He had it clasped against his chest and he would not let it go, even for a big hug with mummy.

His father told me they were playing in the park when he fell on some glass. He said he put him in the stroller and ran him down to the Children’s hospital with him bleeding all the way. Our doctor was a lot closer but he panicked.

Once at the hospital they stitched the deep circular cut. His father thought it amusing that C was so distressed he kicked his firmly strapped on sandals completely off. And then would not let anyone near him.

So I went home to a toddler who was suspicious of us both if we came near his hand. Eventually he did let me change his dressing and bandage it. Perhaps seeing mine bandaged too helped.

During this time the case for the insurance payout was going through for when D was hit by the car in 1983. It was a considerable amount of money and he asked me to move back to the UK and be near his family for support for C. He was extremely annoyed with my family for not helping us more, though dad was not yet retired and my mum was needed on the farm. He could never understand that people could not just forget about their jobs and take off.

He promised me that we would be warm and looked after. And I would have my own bank account and money. I was very torn as I had been going to the High Church since the Termination. His mum had liked it there too and we went together while she was out here. They were currently asking for a young family to be Verger’s and I was very keen for us to apply. He said that is something we could do in the UK as there were a lot more churches so more need for Vergers.

So once I agreed we had to tell my parents, which was very very hard. And the rest of my family. We packed our things and shipped them, the place we were in was rented furnished so we only had personal items and toys etc to send ahead. Soon it was time to say goodbye to my parents and aunts and uncles and we caught the train back down to Sydney. There we said goodbye to my sister and K and my friends including my lovely neighbour, a mum across the road from us. We had met earlier the previous year. She had helped me so much and I also looked after her little girl, born on the same day as C. My husband did not like our friendship, she was a nursing sister and was wanting to get me work with her in a care home. She was not happy about my being so dependent on D. Sue had liked her a lot when she met her on our usual morning tea get togethers.

My brother had not been at the farm when we were up there and the night before we left he drove down to say goodbye. I was quietly distraught, seeing my young brother for possibly the last time. He loved our flat and said it suited us and if only he and my parents had been able to come down more things might have been different.

Eventually he had to go back for work in the morning and we settled in for our last night in Australia. We had the name of a good specialist in London from Dr Johnston and Professor Wise. Sue was meeting us at Heathrow. Everything was in place for us to start our new lives.

 

Sickening Dread, And Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Long Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Blossoming

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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Goodbyes

Our other family was in Lincolnshire, near Skegness. We had a wonderful few weeks there with mum’s huge family. The beaches there were fabulous, with donkeys and fun fairs nearby. My sister and I frolicked our days away, perhaps not realising that we would not see this much loved place and mum’s family again. Our aunts and uncles brought their new babies over to say goodbye. From there we drove to Southampton and boarded the ship for Australia.

Eire: Innocence Lost

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.

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