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.

Everything Started Quite Innocently

 

The day finally came when I joined my friends at Gosford Hospital. Linda met mum and I at the nurses dormitory and she told my mum not to worry that she would look after me. It was a lovely affirmation of our friendship and I felt comfortable letting mum go back to Noraville knowing that I was in good hands.

Training was fun and within a week or so I was made the person in charge of my class. The instructors were fascinating and I remember seeing a recently arrived and severed liver, care of the not infrequent road accidents on the Pacific Highway. There was one instructor that always impressed me. She wore a high wimple and was tall and fairly clumsy. Very kind and gentle though.

I loved it when we finally were placed on the wards. My first assignment was the Children’s Ward, not sure if that was because I had a young brother or had extensive babysitting experience but I thrived there. One day I got a dreadful shock when my old friend Francine Fordham was talking to the sister in charge. When she had a minute we had a hug and she told me her little toddler had pulled the electric jug off the counter and scalded herself really badly. The toddler was in a bad state and might even have been transferred as when I came back from Noraville and my days off she was no longer there. Another surprise was our English teacher, the red headed bearded one I had in my last year at Wyong High School. He remembered me straight away and deferred to me immediately in the care and comfort of his asthmatic toddler.

I was then transferred to Women’s Surgical and became quickly infamous for my accidental throwing of stainless steel bowls full of soapy water all over the floors. Everyone would start laughing saying is that Nurse C again? And the ladies would shriek at me to stop making them laugh as it hurt their tummies. I just could not get a grip on the slippery things. We used bars of soap and finished the ladies off with talcum powder. It was a recipe for disaster!

The other little habit I had was of flinging thermometers across the room as I shook them down. The sister would faux sternly say that I was going to have to pay for those if it kept up. I believed she was right and tried harder.

We lived in Nurses Quarters where we had to have a late pass if we were to be out past a certain time. The whole floor were nurses from my intake. I do not think there was one girl that I did not get on with. Margaret who used to work in Katies in Gosford was my intake best friend. And I saw Linda and Ann and a surprising number of girls from Wyong High School. There was one chap in our intake, a lovely gentle fellow with blonde hair. He lodged in a private home.

I regularly took friends back to Noraville if our days off coincided. Mum loved to spoil them and dad was only home weekends so it worked out quite well. We went to Budgewoi pub, which consisted of two rooms. I preferred the darker one, better music and not so much chat. Some of my friends went horseriding with my friend Denise Lethbridge who had left nursing about six months before I started.

She had ended up working in our sister pharmacy in Toukley and kept trying to put me off nursing. My mum had a gall bladder operation while Denise was a nurse and loved her as she was so gentle. She had a boyfriend who she had met while we were out partying one night. Such a lovely kind girl, with the most smashing, loving family. None of us had boyfriends so her boyfriends kept trying to set us all up. Fun. We went to pubs, dances and sometimes parties.

There was a strict order to the way things were conducted at the hospital. Anyone more senior had to get on the elevators first. The day the new intake started was brilliant! However the doctors just ignored this and chatted up any interesting to them junior nurses.  My path crossed a lot with an anaesthetist who was really sweet but everyone knew he was in an affair with a trainee in her third year. She was an officious chilly rather beautiful girl in her twenties. She was especially chilly with me as he decided I would be replacing her before she left the hospital at the end of her training.

I had trainees telling me he told everyone and sundry in surgery that Nurse C has bedroom eyes. And he apparently raved about me. I was not quite eighteen. We had regular long conversations in corridors, in the cafeteria and he was very interested in my future. Assured me it was normal to feel some anxiety about certain aspects of nursing. He said he had been very anxious as well during his internship.

After six months two nurses from my intake Jenny from Bathurst, Margaret from the Central Coast and the male nurse and I rented a house. Jenny had a lot of friends from motorcycle clubs and various pubs and we always had a lot of strange men staying over. All were lovely and behaved like gentlemen and had girlfriends back home.

I was totally out of my element. I tried dope for the first time and LSD twice. Heroin once. Did not like any of the heavy stuff so left the others to it. There was a lot of music and parties. We would invite nurses from the hospital as well. And Jenny invited a lot of the Gosford guys from the local pubs. There was always loud music going on into the night.

When we were short of beds we would double up with the chaps who knew to keep their clothes on and not try anything, and there was always another girl in the room as we had two single beds in each room. One chap had stayed over before and seemed okay and as my roomate was on night shift slept in her bed  or he was supposed to.

At some stage he came over and got into my bed. He started kissing me and I tried to get him to stop. He would not. He was very strong and I could not get him off me. The music was on at the other end of the house and nobody could hear me or the noise he was making.

He raped me but that was not the end of it. I went to work after I had a shower, not telling anyone. I completed my shift though the patients on Men’s Medical said I was very quiet when I did not respond to their morning rendition of I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.  So they tried KKK Katie which I had always loved.

I loved the ward full of elderly chaps and the middleaged chaps, they were all so cheerful, so helpful, so kind. Some of them were father’s of my school friends. Another was a young chap who had severe diabetes who had taken me a few weeks before for a night picnic on a beach. So sweet and tender and kind. Nothing like what I had just experienced. Not that anything had happened with him beyond kissing. I was a virgin, old fashioned and intended to stay that way until I married. Or I had.

I became very anxious that the chaps on my ward were going to die under my care. Two died two days in a row from hypertension. I offered to lay them out as I had been very fond of them, they were long term patients. It got so that I was so anxious that I dreaded doing anything new.

The worst of it had been the men turning up at our door. My rapist had told everyone at the pub I was easy. Fair game. And they called me names, drew filthy things all over my wardrobe and windows. It was relentless.

Our yearly exams were coming up and I had to try to concentrate to study. I studied at Noraville a lot on my days off. My period came and I was relieved though I had felt safe on the pill. I sat through several of the exams and in the end I just could not do it. I had to get away. I resigned and asked mum to come get me. I never told her what happened, just that I had to leave. She did not question me, just helped me pack my things in her car, bless her.

 

 

 

Northern Star Australia Bound

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Good Girl

We arrived in Wyong in late September, and we rented a house as soon as we could and dad started work and we started school. Mum was very sociable and made friends with the neighbours quickly. We attended Mass at The Town Hall where services were held and came to know the Irish priests and nuns. Really loved our Scripture Teacher too. After a while dad bought our first home. A little fibro cottage with a cabin at the side near the main road. We were blessed with the best neighbours ever. Sydneysiders as they were called, who came up every second weekend.

By then my sister and I were not getting on. She had found a group of much older girls and some boys and she used to go into the deep bush behind the cottage all day when not at school. I did not like these friends, did not trust them and dad told me not to play in the bush due to snakes etc. I was happy playing with my dolls, rereading every book I owned.  I read and reread Little Women and Heidi so many times that I  knew the stories by heart. Our school was fun and I loved being able to get away from my sister. As soon as the school bus arrived we would go our separate ways. I was a bit of a teachers pet and over the last years at primary school my sister got into a lot of trouble with the teacher who considered me one of her pets!

Our sponsors lived in Swansea, Lake Macquarie and we regularly visited them. Dad said we had holidays at Belmont every year however I have no memory of that. Though on a visit about ten years ago my dad asked me if I knew where I was and I straight away said the Newsagents our sponsors owned! Dad said to my mum that was incredible and he is right! My parents later retired to Lake Macquarie.

After a year or two my mum’s brother and three children arrived and stayed in the cabin until they settled in the Hunter Valley. It was so wonderful to have them. We frolicked on the beaches and enjoyed being part of a bigger family again. They used to drive to see us every fortnight after church and mum and Aunty S combine home made pies etc to make the most incredible picnics.

When I was ten my brother was born. I remember once dad telling us he had to take mum to Gosford to the hospital which was at least thirty minutes away. It was a false alarm and about a week later we woke up to a new baby brother. Dad had taken mum in the middle of the night to the hospital to give birth.  Both my sister and I looked after him a lot, changed his nappies. I remember asking my mum what his testicles were for. I got the same answer as when I accidentally caught her breast exposed when she fed him. She told me I had a dirty mind and asked too many questions and both mum and my sister shooed me out of the house.

I had a lonely childhood, kept to myself except when at school. My salvation came every two weeks when the Sydney neighbours arrived. Apparently they used to see my face squashed against the glass, waiting patiently for them to turn up. We used to play Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Twister and card games in the evening. Other evenings they would come into our house to watch television. In the day time we loved dressing up and playing shop in the cabin at the back of our property.

By then Uncle M dad’s brother had arrived. He used to play a lot with me too and had a habit of emptying his pockets of coppers which we divided between my sister and myself. I used to buy writing pads and pencils and write stories, and read lots of books from the library.

One evening dad was really late and mum asked Uncle M to look for him, my sister being a real tomboy by then went with him. I stayed home and tried to keep mum calm and to this day I do not know how I knew to do it or have the courage either, but I smacked her hard across the face because she had started screaming. And would not stop. I believe I was ten. She calmed down and said she was sorry and I kept her spirits up until Uncle M got back and said dad had crashed, they had found him in the bush near Charmhaven. Dad had a drink on Friday nights at the pub there and after that he never went there after work again.

Mum and dad took us fishing at the beaches and dropped us off at weekends, by ourselves, to snorkel and swim at Canton Beach. My sister was in charge of me but I usually ended up on my own. Which was fine with me. I was friendly but cautious and found many playmates at Canton Beach. Mum was very worried about perverts etc, she warned us repeatedly to not talk to men or go off with any male of any age. If only she had known the person I had to fear lived at home and had been molesting me since we arrived late in 1962.

I was such a good girl, it was just the way I was and maybe that is why I went along with it, though I was really frightened and bullied into silence. I tried so hard to stay up, to watch television late. Anything to avoid getting in that double bed with my sister. My mother used to rage at me, slap me, it was obviously mum and dads time and I was infringing on their time. I did not care. I was naughty to avoid what I knew was in store for me.

My sister obviously had been molested by a much older girl and she had somehow found a pack of deviants here.  They used to lock me in the shed at the back and put large marbles inside my vagina. They would tell me to hold them tight, so they did not fall out. They rolled the big marbles over my clitoris, repeatedly. Eventually they put other things up into my vagina. There were bigger boys in the shed too. I do not know if I was abused by them too. I blocked so much of this until my forties, just do not know.

I do remember the long long sessions of masturbation my sister inflicted on me in bed. Did not matter that I cried, or refused, she would stroke me with her fingers and it did feel good.  I hated her but God I liked it. The end result, how sick is that? She would then say her turn and I had to masturbate her. Repeatedly. But the worst part for me, and I do not know why, is that she would make me suck my fingers to clean them afterwards. Someone taught her that, it was so our parents who slept in the same room would not get the scent of sex. It made me retch. When she made me do that, hit me and pinched me until I did, then I knew I was doing something really wrong and that God would see it and strike me down. Well He did not help in any way.

When we made our Confirmation the sisters guessed something was wrong between my sister and I. They offered me a full scholarship to Kinkoppal in Sydney. Mum would not let me go, because she thought the nuns would molest me. How ironic. I told the priest in confession and he gave me so much penance I never raised it again, with anyone until I was in my forties. Eventually Uncle M moved overseas and my sister moved into the cabin. She never touched me again sexually after that but she became nastier, more vicious. I was frightened of her then and still am to this day.

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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