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

Brisbane 1975

Mum and dad and my brother drove me to Kingsford Smith Airport. We arrived hours early as is my parent’s way. Dad took me aside and had a friendly fatherly talk to me. First one ever. He said this is your opportunity, do not waste it. I assured him I was going to do exactly that. Mum was very emotional but excited and happy too. I kissed my brother goodbye and hugged him.

It was a quick flight and I found the taxi rink and soon arrived at my all female boarding house. It was in Mooney Ponds and was an old Federation house owned by a genteel elderly lady who loved the young company and also the income. I shared a room with a hostess from a few intakes ahead of me. She helped me a lot and showed me where everything was and how to get to the airport for training etc.

Melbourne proved to be very cold, windy and I loved it. It was so atmospheric with its clearly defined seasons and it’s fabulous trams. The shopping district was divine with the best Myer in the country. Parks were lush and museums abounded. I was in heaven. Training school was at Tullamarine Airport five days a week and on Friday nights a lot of us met up in St Kilda to eat and go nightclubbing. We were differing ages and skill sets. One incredibly beautiful girl was an ex Myer buyer. I really perked up at that! Felicity always had a haunted look to her, very thin. She was very well brought up with parents who were doctors.

At the weekends I went shopping, to Art Galleries and parks. I loved the River Yarra and walking along its banks. My weekends were more solitary as most of the girls were based with other hostess in the city. Younger ones like myself were placed in lodging which usually meant further to travel to work and the city.

We had a wonderful training and the only day I missed was due to a migraine. That was ditching training in water etc and that was arranged for me to do with the next intake. I was singled out of our training group three times that I can remember. One was for posture. The trainer said the girls needed to wear better foundation garments so their posture was better. Meaning their breasts were shown to better effect. That was so funny to me as I only owned two bras, one black and one white, to go with each uniform top. She made me parade around showing off my Hestia encased breasts. Felt like a Barbie doll. Only without the blonde hair. Or the long legs. Or the dumb look.

The other time was my at times English accent. I still said ‘just’ in a Northern English way. Hard ju not soft ju and a particular trainer took it as lazy speech. She made me stand in front of everyone on a mock-up aircraft and say just in the Australian way. She kept telling me to talk to the passengers about safety etc and the words on the card had just in them. In the end I simply removed the word from my instructions. Worked like a charm. Not sure the trainer liked it though.

The last time was at the end of our induction when our main teacher/trainer asked us to write a report on how they could better improve the training etc. Mine was read out as outstanding but sounded so harsh and unlike me. I was amazed I was applauded, however I had not thought to disguise my handwriting and the teacher/trainer was not impressed with me as I had critiqued her.

We were given a lovely buffet meal send off and assigned our ports. Mine was to be Brisbane where Ansett put us all up in a hotel at their expense for two weeks while we found somewhere to live. My friend Shirley, a tall friendly brunette with a pageboy haircut had a boyfriend prior to training. He lived in Dandenong and drove her car from there to Brisbane for her and she broke up with him when he arrived, right on the spot!

So Shirley from The Dandenongs, Judy from Adelaide and I shared a house near to Fortitude Valley Shopping Centre. It was three bedroom and brand new. We gradually filled it with essentials only, bamboo chairs, very seventies decor. Next door was a lovely couple, wife a teacher and husband a soldier in the RAAC.

We were assigned trainers to provide us with on the job training and how to manage overnight stays etc. Mine was Gail, a gorgeous reserved, yet with me friendly, hostess in her late twenties. Had a fantastic sense of humour and great patience. She introduced me to her husband and their very wealthy friend who was on the lookout for a no strings relationship. Turned out what I took to be that was not in fact that at all. His idea of no strings was sex in exchange for meals and outings. But no strings. My idea was really a platonic relationship where I shared the costs of outings. There was no spark for me and the last thing I wanted was a full on sexual affair. Plus I was very inexperienced and I did not want him to know that.

One day on an empty run back from Mackay Gail came running down the aisle to the flight deck. One propellor had failed. The Training Captain had stalled the propellor on purpose to induct me on the Focker Friendship. He thought I handled it really well, unlike Gail who shouted at him I just laughed.

We had a lot of fun on our days on Reserve at the airport. I spent my days embroidering, reading and meeting lots of hostesses in the lounge. Finding out who was on their flights was an entertainment in itself. It really did not feel like work, it was a way of life. The girls became family and took me under their wing. I was never called out on a flight the whole time I was there.

One day Judy returned from a flight with tickets to a Leo Sayer concert. He had been on her flight with his road manager etc. The concert was fantastic, we went backstage and met everyone. Judy went out with the road manager for most of the time she lived in Brisbane. Judy was a very unusual girl, she said housework was beneath her and refused point blank to do any, it was annoying. We saw where it came from though when her father came to stay. He was even worse, an insufferable snob. My sister popped in for an afternoon on her way through to Cairns, it was unexpected and she loved meeting all the pretty girly girls. For once it seemed we met on even terms.

We mixed a lot with our neighbours, exchanged meals and went shopping together. Eventually though Judy decided the lifestyle was not for her and resigned. Our lease was up at the same time and Shirley quickly found a room in a flat in New Farm. I stayed next door with our friends who were really happy with the rent money I gave them and the company for Carol when Jack was away with his Army duties. It worked super well until Carol’s mother and aunt came to stay and saw me as some kind of threat or intrusion on the marriage. They were vile and I did not want to be the cause of fights between Carol and her mother so I moved into a singles complex.

There were radio announcers, account executives and all sorts of successful singles living there. I made friends very quickly with Janice who drove an open topped sports car. We had a wonderful time together. Had great philosophical talks with a talk back radio announcer who lived next door. The only real problem was the woman I was flatting with was an embittered woman in her thirties. She was really put out that I was dating a Captain fifteen years older than me, ex military and very sexy with blonde hair. I went out and about with him for several weeks. He visited me regularly at the flat and we had some seriously sexy moments while keeping our clothes on. Mum was sending knitted wedding dress patterns within four weeks.

He arranged to have us team up on flights on several stopovers up north. On the first night we had dinner and he walked me back to my room. We started kissing and making out. This time taking our clothes off. He was beautiful. We fondled each other and I really enjoyed it but when I held his erect penis and he tried to enter me I started shaking. Uncontrollably. He stopped and wrapped me in a blanket and asked what was wrong. I could not talk about the rape, it had felt like it was my fault so I said instead that I was a virgin.

He held me and stroked me through the blanket and said that my first time should be with someone I really love. Not just a boyfriend to have fun with. It’s what I had believed before as well, being terribly old fashioned. He got me to put my nightie on and he stayed with me that night, cuddling me until I stopped shaking. He was so sweet and precious, but I did not love him.

Within a month we had gone our separate ways. I did have to watch one chap, a Senior Flight Engineer who showed everyone his vasectomy card as evidence that he could have lots of sex and not get anyone pregnant. The most senior Hostess there had warned me about him as had Gail. He was a bit like the Anaesthetist at Gosford Hospital, he talked to everyone about me. Arranged stop overs so we would both be there with the crew overnight. Loved to have me up the front in the jump seat in the cockpit. Called me The Estée Lauder Lady as I always wore the makeup and Youth Dew perfume. It became my hallmark for many years.

One of the routes I loved the most out of Brisbane was the Milk Run. Up and down the coast of North Queensland, all really short legs on the twin propellor Focker Friendship aircraft. I also loved going to Gove and Mount Isa and we even went to New Guinea a few times though were not allowed off the aircraft as the political situation was too dangerous there at the time. When the new Prime Minister of New Guinea came to Brisbane he travelled on my flight and I was shown on the news, as a hostess was always standing at the bottom of the stairs as passengers disembarked.

When overnighting in Cairns I was by the pool in my skimpy bikini with several girls from other crews when a huge entourage of suited men surrounding other suited men rushed by into a marquee nearby. The girls talked to staff and once they realised it was Bob Hawke in there somewhere they took off muttering about being Liberal voters. Bob Hawke, I was really excited as he was well known in the Labour movement as being someone to watch for politics in the future.

One of the very officious suited men came over to me, though there were several TAA hostesses sunbathing nearby, and asked if Bob could possibly speak to me. I adjusted my bikini pants, feeling very self conscious and said of course. They got me a cold drink and Bob Hawke came over and chatted about his daughter who wanted to be an air hostess, and could I truthfully tell him about the life. We had a long chat, a lot of laughs, he asked about my family and was generally totally charming. I enjoyed the chat so much and was glad to have been able to help. His daughter did indeed go into Ansett in the next intake.

We did not have many Sydney overnights so when I did get one I rang mum to say we were in Kings Cross and we chatted for a long time. The next morning there she was with my little brother at the hotel door. Shirley had arranged it as she was my flying partner for the month, so we all had breakfast together. This was a HUGE thing for mum. Train. Taxi. Without dad. My brother was goggle eyed at the bars and the scantily dressed prostitutes wandering home.

We took a lot of football teams to their away games and award ceremonies. One nice player for Brisbane asked me if I would attend the award presentation dinner etc. We had a fair bit to drink as it was a long evening and as I was not scheduled on until the afternoon I could indulge. The next day I woke up up with semen all over my sexy sage green nightgown. I remembered then. And it happened again the next night too. Once I had a few drinks I was not shy or scared or in any way trembly. I gave back as much passion as I received. It was not love but it was something, and I felt empowered because I chose the man.

A jarring moment though was my being woken by security the third morning there, they proceeded to search my room to try to catch me out with someone. Obviously the semen stained nightgown had given me away. I was very, very angry at their intrusion and let them have it.

Eventually my Sydney transfer came through. And it was timed so well as my English Grandparents were there. I arranged my holiday for over Xmas to have time with them and to find somewhere to live. It had been an incredibly full 1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Northern Star UK Bound

We were seen off at Sydney by our family and our Gorokan neighbours. Also at the docks was one of dad’s fabulously wealthy work friends. However dad was not at all happy when this man leered at me and asked where he had been hiding me. Perhaps I looked older than fifteen but not by much. Eventually everyone who was not going disembarked and we were moved out into the harbour. Our route was Wellington, Auckland, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Acapulco, Panama, Curacao, Trinidad, Barbados, Lisbon and Southampton.

What  I remember of the journey was mostly dad in a rage. He had rarely spent any time with us since we hit our teens and he had no idea how to deal with us except by threat and intimidation. My brother and I shared a cabin with mum and dad and my sister shared with three other girls in their twenties.

Pretty quickly my sister got to know an older crowd and also hung around with the young sailors after they finished their shifts. Two of them asked if they could take my sister and I horseback riding in Wellington when we arrived. They asked dad and mum and it was arranged without me really being spoken to. My sister had ridden horses quite a few times but I had never been on one before. Wellington is quite hilly and the horses spirited. My horse bolted and raced down around this hilly track. The sailor who was assigned to me was furious that they had not found out if I had ridden before.  He was very angry with my sister and my dad actually and very kind and considerate of me. He was really frightened something could have happened to me.

We loved Auckland and I especially loved Tahiti. I had dreamt of going there since watching James A Mitchener’s Adventures in Paradise on television. And to my absolute delight the Tikki 111 was there. It was truly paradise to me, the markets, the beaches, the people. I could have stayed for weeks. Every time we made port I sent postcards off to my friends in Australia. Sometimes I would find mail waiting for me at various ports.

I also really loved Acapulco and so did mum. She had a lovely time and looked very pretty in the fitted cotton dresses I made her for the trip. They were perfect for the cooler weather. Unfortunately for me dad thought she looked pretty too and so I had to regularly amuse my brother elsewhere while they had time alone together.

Meantime my sister partied and had a great time, though she did have to join us for meals. It eventually started to get colder and we were grateful that mum and dad had taken us to meet our aunt and uncle at Kotara Fair in Newcastle to shop for warmer clothes. I found two gorgeous dinner dresses and some  pantsuits and skirts while my sister had flares and jeans. Very fashionable, she looked fantastic in her new gear.

Some of the sailors thought so too and she used to go to their quarters and drink with them. They were not much older than her. It was fairly innocent though I was pretty naive so maybe it was not the case. Anyway dad created a huge scene by following her one night. He dragged her out of the cabin and then stood shouting in front of everyone that he needed to smell her fingers. To see if they smelled of sex. She was so humiliated and he screamed at her that he could smell men on her. It would more likely have been some of the hippy ladies there in the cabin smoking dope etc.

We spent an awful few days while dad raged at her and everyone. He was only pleasant to people who were not family. It was a pleasure to get nearer to England so we could have some distance from dad and his temper. For some reason though he relented and let her attend a deck party the sailors etc were throwing as a farewell. Only thing was I had to go chaperone her. It was not pleasant. The fellow who had asked her horse riding in Wellington decided it was me he had been after all along and I ended up dancing with him and trying to dodge his hands and his tongue from down my throat when he decided to French Kiss me. It made me feel sick, he tasted of what I think was Gin and garlic and I was having trouble getting away from him. But who was I to spoil her fun? It was not a pleasant evening and it took all my wiles to keep him out of my pants. I really grew up quickly that night.

In London we found lodging in a boarding house. My sister and I were in a dormitory room downstairs with lots of older girls who did not speak English and mum and dad were with my brother in a room upstairs. One night I awoke to see someone rifling through my sisters things. I shouted and the burglar bolted out of the door onto the street. My sister did not stop to think she just shot off after him. I could not believe it, she was out there in her nightie and I think she grabbed her dressing gown and just ran. I made a lot of noise and the girls woke up and checked their passports. Then I ran upstairs and woke mum and dad who were a bit perplexed. Then dad took off after my sister. He found her running down Carnaby Street. It was about 4am!

We shopped for warm outerwear. My sister had her heart set on a black woollen double breasted maxi coat with brass buttons and dad was against it. I wanted one in a different colour. Mum convinced dad to let her have it but I was considered too young. Instead I was found the most amazing suede coat with fringing. It was short too, a mini. If the idea was to keep me looking my age it backfired, I looked quite HOT! I can still see that short coat now, one of the most amazing things ever. Apart from my Kangaroo bag.

Eventually after a week sightseeing in London we made our way to Lincolnshire to mum’s parents where we met lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. And they met my brother for the first time. My mum and dad and sister and brother went for long walks but I just wanted to be near my grandma and grandad, reading and watching them over the top of my books. Eight long years without grandparents, it was so wonderful to have them now.

We then went on to Eire to dad’s family where we had wonderful conversations with cousins of cousins of cousins and with aunts and uncles too. The conversation never flagged and it was so good to see Grannie, my namesake, again. Somewhere along the way though  dad decided we were returning to Australia. Just like that. No discussion. Mum was heartbroken as he would not let her call her family or go to see them before we left. We rented a cabin in Southampton while we waited for a ship back.