The Volcano Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

A Sign Of Things To Come

After the service and photographs and reception we were finally able to think about getting ready to leave for our honeymoon. I changed in the not so glamorous toilets of the church hall. When I came out I gave the pearls back to Aunt Dot and saw the way she was eyeing my corset. I did not have to complete my question of whether she would like it or not! She grabbed it and held it to her, beaming.

I had changed into a sweater and a warm skirt and D into a sweater I had knitted him and jeans ready for the colder weather up north. I hugged mum and my grandparents and my flower girls and got into our little Morris Minor which had lots of beer cans tied to the front. And the usual ‘Just Married’ sign attached to them. We were excited to get away and needed to go before it was too late as we were aiming to stay in Nottinghamshire for the night.

Once we found the road north we took the signs etc off as we were being pursued by drivers who were actually holding tins of beer and drinking to help us celebrate. Total strangers. One guy in a Mercedes stayed with us a long way then waved goodbye. By then we were quite relaxed and chatty. Or I was. D rarely spoke unless it was about cricket or church matters, or his favourite topic, the Bible. We had not seen each other since the rehearsal and when I had seen him he was so stressed he almost knocked me over a few times. Being 6’5” to my 5’3” I had to be careful not to be underfoot.

We were very late, we were tired and almost went into a hotel in Peterborough but I encouraged D to try to get to The Blue Barn Farm where we were booked for the night. This was easier said than done though as it was very hard to navigate the empty dark lanes by night. As we were driving down yet another lane I suddenly had a flood of memory, triggered by the smell of the place. We needed to be near Mansfield, and we had been there when I was young, well before we migrated to Australia. It was incredible but I knew we were near by the smell, so reminiscent of my childhood.

Before too long we found the farmhouse. The proprietor had left the door unlocked for us so we sneaked upstairs, giggling, feeling like burglars. We knew it was a working farm and did not want to wake the farmer who had to rise early. After looking around we found an open bedroom door with twin beds. We could not find any other rooms with open doors so settled there for what remained of the night.

We woke early and made love on one of the single beds, and D made me laugh as he put my off white woollen coat on to go get a shower. Looked really freaky in it. I then went to get my shower and we went down to breakfast together. There was a fabulous spread and June the proprietor made us a full English breakfast. By then the room had emptied and she congratulated us and said she wished she had known beforehand as she would have given us a bigger room with a double bed. D asked her how she knew and she said as soon as we walked in it was obvious.

After that we headed north for Berwick in Northumberland. D had booked a cottage for three weeks. It had a lovely open fireplace which was needed as it was icy upstairs in the bedrooms. As it was so cold we made love in front of the fireplace quite often D seemed hypnotised by the flames and was often very loving and turned on when we were sitting in front of it.

From Berwick we visited Bamburgh Castle and Lindisfarne, where we had to drive across a causeway. I loved Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. We bought some gorgeous pottery from there and some prints to frame. I was entranced by the ancient weapons and by the formal and informal rooms inside the castles we visited in Nothumberland. We walked for miles through farmland to see ruins. I felt I could actually almost feel the spirits of the dead in those places. It was eerie.

The only issue I had, well two issues, were that D could walk for days on end, I was not able to do that due to my migraines. And a very personal issue, one that I had not thought of and wished that I had someone to talk to about it before the honeymoon. Everyone knew that honeymoons were a time to relax and enjoy each other but I was sore and constantly draining semen from the sheer frequency with which D made love to me. He was relentless and I could not have a bath several times a day. I did not think to wear pads or pantyliners. My undies were always sopping wet and I had irritation when peeing. I was actually really glad when my period arrived, and that is saying something as it was never a pleasant experience.

So my period and my birthday arrived around the same time. We were still in Berwick then. D bought me a pretty garnet pendant and earring set which I had seen in a jewellers in Bromley. It was lovely and the first jewellery apart from the ruby engagement ring he had given me. He also gave me lots of hand creams and talcum powder sets from Marks and Spencer’s. And my absolute favourite fudge, Cadbury’s fingers of fudge. I phoned mum in Chalfont St Peter as I knew she would want to wish me happy birthday. She started crying after a while and said she was going home. She was not going to wait til we got back so I could have time with her. I did my usual pacifying of her and saying it was okay but I was devastated. Mum and I had only had two short visits together. The day of the wedding, and when we saw her at the airport when she arrived, before she was taken home with my aunt.

A few days after that we drove up to the Scottish Highlands and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast on the edge of a lake. With only a road between us. We also visited Loch Ness and Edinburgh, which I really loved. Then we headed back to Berwick where we were finding the cold in the cottage an issue and so we decided we wanted to get back and start our lives together. I had to go to work and wanted a few days in our new flat which Sue had rented for us while we were away. We had found a house to rent at a reasonable rate however D had a row of some kind with the owner who went to his sister’s church. So up until the wedding we had not known
whether we would be moving in with Sue when we got back or not.

When we arrived back D’s family thought us crazy to come back a few days early, and let us know it. We also discovered that Sue had opened our wedding photos and gone through them. She appeared baffled that I was surprised she would open something addressed to me. And actually said that I could not expect her to wait, surely?

I went upstairs and left D to go through them with her, I had wanted to look through them with my husband, and then with family. Seeing my mum in the photos without her being here was too difficult for me. The only fun thing about being there was that Miyoko had stayed there to keep Sue company after Jean left. It was lovely to see her again. She said however that it had been difficult, that Sue was very biased about the Japanese because of the war. And she made it quite clear to Miyoko. I was horrified, but it was a sign of things to come.

 

Beyond Heartbreaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A81D0B81-4B4E-4448-A495-3D3540D4415B

Sydney 1976

I found a room in a luxe place in Rose Bay, it had blue velvet flocked wallpaper and lots of chandeliers. Not really my style but clean and in a secure building. A friend from training school had nowhere else to go and shared my mattress there. Everyone thought we were gay, which was funny as she was extremely religious and left a few months later as the lifestyle did not suit her. Eventually though we all moved out and I shared a flat in Waverley with Judy, an older hostie from the flat who used to be a hairdresser.

I had been going to the Edward Beale chain of hair salons in Melbourne and then in Brisbane and finally in the city in Sydney. They regularly did model’s hair for advertisements. There I met Rodney Skepper the incredibly talented manager. He asked me to do a hair show for him at the Hilton where he cut my Purdie hairstyle and added an owl type peak at the front. Incredible precision cutting. After the show he brought me home and kissed me passionately and belched in my mouth. Then he went off to gargle and looking sheepish, went home. I had to crew the next day so Edward Beale himself cut the owl peak off. Crooked, Rodney’s work of art. I rang him and he was so upset. He tidied the fringe for me and we started going out. As with a lot of male hairdressers he was well ahead of his time, a metrosexual. We made love on our second date, had a great time going to movies and meeting each other’s friends. He was seriously funny. I always stayed at his place as was uncomfortable at mine with Judy there. No boyfriend, with a big sister hangup. First time I stayed over she met me at the door and hugged me and called me a dirty stop out. She liked him a lot and went in to get her hair cut by him regularly.

Rodney picked me up from Noraville in his Porsche. Mum was very shy but Dad came back early from work to meet him and loved the car. My nickname was “springy pom-pom” and Rodney was a lot of fun. I loved him. After several months he got funding from backers in Melbourne and while he waited for his salon to be opened he cut hair in his home. Judy came to get her pageboy length hair done and in front of us both called me a boy because of my shorter hairstyle. Rodney, who I had never heard a nasty word from, told her tartly that I had a perfect oval face and could wear my hair in any style. Hostesses used to introduce me to people as the one with the hairdresser boyfriend, however I blow dried my own hair, not an easy job with my geometric cut and thick hair.

Eventually Rodney was going to Melbourne regularly to meet his backers and working erratic hours to get things going at his new salon. He expected me to fit in with him but my own schedule also needed fitting around. I did not like going for a quick shag. I felt it demeaned me. So I broke up with him.

During the year I saw a top Professor at The Women’s Hospital in Paddington for breakthrough bleeding. When he came into the waiting room he beamed at me in my Pru Acton shirtdress with splits up to the thigh on each side, the one Rodney loved diving headfirst under and had me laughing hysterically. The Professor said to the room first in best dressed and pointed at me. Apart from Prue Acton I loved Trent Nathan clothing, and sometimes Vogue designer patterns to make my own clothing. The Professor put me on straight oestrogen due to the severe period pain needing treatment. He knew Dr David Bennett I met during my previous job regularly gave me buscopan shots . However a consequence of the Oestrogen was that the migraines worsened, horrifically.

One day I was going from the Hostess lounge down some steps and literally flew through the air, landed on my feet minus one shoe. I had guys saying nobody had ever fallen for them quite like that before. While I was laughing one of them went to get my shoe and others picked me up and brushed me off. I then thanked them and on the way back I took the escalator and I suddenly looked up and recognised Stuart Cameron from school. With Trent Nathan who he assisted. After lots of hugs and kisses and oh my gods from Stuart I found out they were to be on my next flight. I told them I would see them soon and when on board offered them a complimentary drink. My crew leader was married and in her thirties and far more sophisticated than I and gave me the idea.

I met up with my old trainer Gail a lot, we were so close Shirley said people were saying we were gay. Seriously. One day a Qantas board member praised me on a flight. Said I looked perfect and even better had handled a really difficult situation with the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar very well. And he gave me his card asked me to seriously consider Qantas as a career pathway.

Some highlights of that year were ABBA coming to Sydney. We also heard in the Hostess Lounge about this amazingly beautiful woman on a flight with Lee Major. The girls said she dazzled she was so beautiful, though she seemed shy. Daryl Summers was a favourite passenger as was Sky Hooks Shirley Straughn. Red was also on board but I did not like him at all. He got right in my body space and ogled me up and down as if he was going to eat me or something. It was horrid. However I got so many praise letters to my superiors from these people and others that I got told off for working above the team.

One memorable flight was when One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest was released here. I was in the front gallery securing everything ready for takeoff and knew someone was taking their time in the First Class Toilet. Eventually the door opened and I smelled marijuana and Jack Nicholson came out, smiled cheekily and moved into the cabin. A little earlier I was waiting for passengers to board and observing the top of my shoes when I realised there was a pair of men’s shoes in front of me. I looked up and Michael Douglas loomed into view. He was smiling, tired looking but friendly.

During the flight Jack monopolised my attention. He was aware of everything that was around him, especially me! He asked me if I was aware that after I asked passengers if they would like a drink I lowered my eyes. Each time. I said I was not aware of that. He said he adored my hair cut. Said it made me look cheeky. Was I cheeky? I said my boyfriend would know. He smiled and asked me about my life. My flight partner said she would take care of the passengers to give me time to concentrate on talking to him. I also tried to talk to Michael Douglas who was charming and said he had been listening and had not been able to get a word in. I told him my 11 year old brother loved Streets of San Francisco, as did I and he signed a coaster for my brother. So did Jack, along with a lot of cheeky looks. Eventually Jack asked me if I was frightened of him, as he quite liked that. I said not at all, unconsciously lowering my eyes as I said it damnit. He was charming, cheeky and fascinating, I was so glad I had a boyfriend at the time as am not sure what would have happened otherwise.

During the middle of the year I went overseas to UK to see my grandparents. I arranged to meet Rodney over there, I had missed him and we had reconciled as friends. While over there I babysat my young cousins Anna and Emma. Went around a lot with their mother who was a hairdresser and had married later in life. I also stayed with one of mum’s sisters and regularly went from there to Chalfont St Peter to see mum’s other sister and family. The sister who was there when I was born.

I celebrated my 21st birthday that year. On one leg of the day’s flights the Captain announced it was my 21st and the whole cabin exploded in applause and then sang Happy Birthday To You and various other ditties. We had a get together of friends that evening at my flat in Clovelly. Dad gave me some money for drinks and several school friends came including Stuart and some boys from my Tech Drawing class. Rodney brought several single hot guys and asked me when he left when I was going to bed with him again. I smiled and kissed him and went back inside, alone.

Several of the trainer hostesses I flew with who asked the cabin crew to their rooms for drinks on stop overs stripped naked once everyone had gone and tried to come onto me. I met one of them later when I visited a friend. She loved my thick hair and liked caressing it.

Towards the end of 1976 I met the owner on a Perth flight of several huge fashion shops on the North Shore. He offered me a job as his showroom collection model. I was living in Edgecliff then in a huge art deco apartment with a roommate who was an account executive. The owner of the boutiques came round and brought a whole lot of clothing around for me to try on for him. Then he arranged to meet me at the showroom shop. He brought out a lot of cream cheesecloth maxis with lace inserts. Totally incredible and I tried them all on with only my bikini panties under them. Strange feeling of being covered yet with a suggestion of being naked. I became a bit uneasy as he kept saying how sexy I looked. How the innocent dresses on me cried out for someone to fuck me. I do not know if it was a selling tool or what. I just felt very uncomfortable as when he came over to my place next he would not leave the room when I changed. All I had on were skimpy lace knickers. He helped me into everything and zipped me up very slowly while watching me in front of the mirror.

I knew he was married with children. He again offered me the job and I was tempted but I did not know what else came with it. I was not going to have sex with my boss for a job as I had a great job anyway. A few hostesses warned me I would not like it because they said I would became a piece of meat. But none of them had the experience of an incredibly wealthy employer treating them like their personal possession.

For the last three months of 1976 my migraines set in with a vengeance until I did not have a day without pain. The takeoff and landings were agony and after a lot of thought I resigned as I could not do the job properly while in such pain. I was heartbroken as I loved my life and indeed my lifestyle.

 

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.

All content covered by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Australia (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 AU)

Early High School Years

Because of not sitting exams due to my dad’s work schedule I was placed in the middle of the first year of classes at Wyong High School. There were grades down to F and I was placed in 1C. This was well below my level in English, History, Maths, Social Studies, everything really. So the first year there was a bit of a challenge for me. One of the brilliant things about it though was that I met one of my lifelong friends, Linda. We had moved to a rented house in Toukley when we returned to the area and my mum was so excited as her GP used to rent it before us! Linda had attended a Catholic School so she was new to me however we met at the bus stop in year one and became firm friends. Others to become firm friends during early school years were Coral Davies and Stuart Cameron. Others from my primary  school I stayed in touch with outside of school and indeed sat with were Alison Blackford, Jennifer Passlow, Carol Dennis, Francine Fordham and some boys whose names have escaped me.

This was the year so many of us girls started our periods, there was a definite aroma in the air as in those days we were not encouraged to use tampons. We had Physical Education I think it was called weekly. Talking about deodorant and developing bodies. Definitely no sex education in school though. That was done by the council I think and held in Town Halls. If I remember correctly I went with Linda. I went to most things with her as mum was stuck in with a toddler and Linda’s parents were very conscientious about her schooling. Rightly so.

This was the beginning of a long period in my life of trouble for me with my menstruation. I used to get nauseous, cramp terribly and pass huge blood clots. Some as long as my little finger. I had to go to sick bay to Mrs Walsh, who was in charge of the girls, every month. First I would get a three day migraine and the cramps would set in for almost the whole six days. The clotting for the first three days. I was mortified on so many occasions to have heavy flooding come through on my grey pleated school tunic. One solution my mum had was to get me plastic Modess knickers, but only two pairs. I soaked them overnight but they still reeked. I can see why girls schools were so popular back then as this was really primitive and almost barbaric. The boys all knew when we had our periods and mocked anyone who had trouble with them. I was not attacked about this though as perhaps they could actually see it was agony for me. Mrs Walsh, once she had established I was not a whinger like some or a wagger like my sister, was the essense of kindness. She showed me how to curl up in a fetal position, she would get me hot water bottles, she mothered me while she waited with growing impatience for my mother to pick me up. Usually we had to wait until Days of Our Lives had finished. She lectured my mum on many an occasion about taking hours to get to me.

I loved sports and obviously hated gymnastics and swimming which required turning my neck repetitively. We also did cross country running, down by Wyong River. I have no idea how we did not get lost. I cannot remember any specific teachers from year one but once I moved into 2nd year high school and was put up to my correct grades I loved my teachers and enjoyed being challenged. Mr Cassidy was my favourite English teacher, and not just because of his teaching. He used to wear the tightest pants and I was obsessed with the bulge in them. He was awfully good looking, it was late sixties, mini skirts and flares were the rage. He liked me because I spent most afternoons up at Toukley Library where I read a lot of non fiction. I had read the biographies of Marilyn Monroe and he often brought her up in class as English covered Drama in those days. I knew everything he was trying to ask the students, most of whom were way behind me in reading skills. So I became his pet, which was uncomfortable for me as it drew my attention to him and his tight pants. He told me he was marrying his fiancé and her name was Kathleen.

One class I adored was Technical Drawing. In 2nd year we were allowed to pick our electives and Linda and myself and one other girl were the first females to enter the boys club of TD. To begin with it was a wonderful class but like most things good in life it had it’s painful qualities too. For safety the teacher put us girls at the front three drawing boards so he could see us. Of course that allowed all the boys to carry on behind us. Behind me actually. I do not know why they chose me, maybe because I was not fat in those days, Linda was very attractive with an amazing personality but had a weight issue then and the other girl so non descript that I just cannot remember her.

It got so I absolutely dreaded the class as the boys directly behind me, Graeme Berry in particular, used to grind and jerk their hips right behind where I was standing. I was afraid to bend over or turn my back. He had his clothes on but it was frightening. I would turn around and look at him and he still kept doing it to my face. Well to my groin. I had never seen this behaviour before and only had to guess at what the boys were doing. Obviously I knew it was sexual and I did feel threatened and humiliated. The talk was even worse. About what they wanted to do to me from behind, one after the other. And from the front, if they could get my legs open.

At some stage I decided to wear my underpants for days on end. I was not sure when this was but it was while living in Toukley as I put them to be burned in the incinerator. Unfortunately mum found them and freaked out. My sister started shouting at me calling me a filthy cow and other words, and poor mum asked me if I used toilet paper to wipe myself after I peed. It was not that I was dirty, I bathed every day and was very careful about deodorant and clean shirts etc. I believe it was a reaction to the boys sexually harassing me, absolutely hounding me.

Bless her heart Linda was a true friend and had a heart to heart with me and told me I stank. I told her that I knew and that I would fix it. She asked if I used a deodorant and I simply said I needed a different one. It worried mum but nobody thought to query why I should start to stink. Except for the best friend in the whole world.

Perhaps something had alerted the Tech Drawing teacher as he suddenly moved us girls to the drawing boards at the back wall. I only got hounded if I approached other boys desks. Most of the boys were brilliant. The ones on the right side of the room were exceptional and admired my drawings. My other elective was advanced sewing, I had always been able to draft patterns up and follow graphs so TD came naturally to me.

At some stage of 2nd year mum took me to the doctor about my periods. He prescribed Buscopan tablets and often gave me injections for severe period pain. They helped but only with the cramping and pain. I came to dread my monthly menstruation but somehow survived it as I now had the tablets to take at school. Mrs Walsh would give them to me with a hot water bottle and rub my back. Most of the girls hated her but to me she was an angel. Another one placed in my life to help me I believe, like my next door neighbours in Gorokan when I was in Primary School.

From 1st year my friends and I went on Saturday nights to the movies in Wyong. I would have already spent most of the day at Linda’s watching Countdown on television. We would go walk around the shops and Linda was allowed to have a weekly treat of cakes from the cake shop. Her mum was very strict with her about her weight. We bought different magazines, Dolly and others and read them from cover to cover. I usually went home for dinner then met her at the bus stop. Unfortunately mum made my sister keep an eye me on the long walk home down Canton Beach Road where we lived. It was pitch black and we had usually seen vampire movies, P would disappear and jump out ahead of me and scare me to death. I ended up running home most Saturday nights.

Around 3rd year we started going to parties, and once there we were supervised from a distance by a set of parents. Music and friends and dancing and spin the bottle was good clean fun. Except I had Graeme Berry to kiss. He just loved snickering the bastard. The bottle often stopped with him. He was a big, well developed boy who looked years older than 15. I looked older or acted older but was very uncomfortable around the boys after the TD thing. And Graeme’s idea of a kiss was a deep pash. As it was called then.

We also went to the beach all the time, after school and at weekends. One afternoon I wandered away from Carol and other friends and was caught in a rip. I just could not get out of it and actually was drowning. I had my hand up in the air and very soon a surfer came over and laid me across the surfboard and took me to shore. He was older than me and lived a few doors down, I actually babysat his toddler sister at times. He promised not to tell mum. It seems I got on well with boys who were older than me.

I had a job down at Canton Beach in a corner shop where Stuart’s mother actually worked. The money kept me in material and patterns. I also made money by sewing lavish pantsuits and dresses for my friends. The librarian’s daughter at Toukley especially. There were few parents who had two incomes in those days and she always gave her daughter heaps of spending money. I remember she pulled me up on a loop I had made, one of about twenty, that had frayed a bit already. She was a perfectionist and am glad she had a good eye as I totally missed that faulty loop.

Halfway through the year mum and dad decided we were going back to England to live. I was quite upset. My sister did not seem to mind as by then she had left school. She had gotten into a lot of trouble for wagging school and my dad’s solution was to take her out at fifteen. She was really happy working in a supermarket and did not realise what not having a school Certificate would mean until later. Mrs Walsh told me she wished she had never raised the issue and said if she had known dad would react like that she would never have rang home and she would have supported my sister more.

My dad not only took her out of school, he humiliated her terribly. She was very self conscious about having buck teeth, had backed out of having them fixed in 1st year in Inverell and my dad punished her by not having them fixed at all. He was very hard on her. Quite unnecessarily nasty and domineering. She had finally grown her hair long, dad would not allow it until she was fourteen and her hair was the most glorious copper pennies colour. It was her pride and joy. Her only redeeming feature she thought, though I found her ability to have fun and be carefree a wonderful thing to be. Anyway, Dad was absolutely vile when he told her off and pulled her out of school. He grabbed her beautiful long hair and said if she did not get it cut off he would hack it off. He made my five year old brother and I witness all this and told me to shut up when I tried to stand up for her. She went to a hairdresser who did a modern Carnaby Street sixties bob. Very fashionable and she looked very pretty. Dad was not happy.

My friends, too many to count now, took me out to the movies to say goodbye. They all banded together and bought me a leather and fur Kangaroo bucket bag. The most beautiful thing I had ever owned. It was very very hard. I loved my life there, if I could have I would have loved to have stayed with Alison or Linda until I finished school. But there was no discussion. No consideration of my schooling. And I was a really good student. It was all about getting to the UK before September so that my brother could start school there.