We spent Christmas up at the farm along with C’s grandmother from the UK. We had some lovely times in the pool and relaxing. D and Sue were both upset that they were not offered an opportunity to go to church on Christmas Day. Mum and dad had not been to Mass in years, it did not occur to them but they would have taken them if they had asked.
There was an undertone of sadness due to what I had experienced in November, naturally. My uncles and aunts gave me the biggest hugs when they came over. My uncle who rarely cried did so and asked me if I was okay.
My brother was working in the mines and having a very good social life. We did not see much of him though he loved having us in the house. Dad worked through most of the holiday period so we did not see a lot of him.
After a week we went back home to Sydney and life went back to normal. Off the horrid medications our little boy was much brighter. He was having a horrendous amount of jerks but happy with it. He love Sesame Street and Playschool and his cartoon videos.
Grandma also knitted him every toy under the sun. He especially loved his monkey, Dum Dum and his Humpty Dumpty. Her scarecrow was a work of art, it had tiny tiny lady birds on it as well as birds. Everyone was stunned at mum’s skills.
Sue went back to the UK but the night before D had the most vicious talk with her. He harangued her and said the most awful things. She was crying and crying and in the end I came in and turned my back on him, put my arms around her and said that is enough. Stop it. This is your mother, crying inconsolably, what is wrong with you? He just shrugged.
I walked her into her bedroom and helped her onto the bed and got her a cup of tea and some biscuits. I had never seen such cruelty before. He said she thought God took his father so that he would not worry the way she had about him and the strange travels he had undertaken before I met him. She believed it totally and would not retract it so he hounded her to do so.
The next day she returned to the UK, the night before making peace with her son, as she always did. She would never go to bed angry, it was a fundamental part of her nature, true forgiveness.
I was having a lot of pain in my right wrist so was not knitting as much as usual. I was sent to a Hand Surgeon who arranged surgery ASAP for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. I went into the Private Jewish Hospital in Bondi Junction where the surgery was not as straight forward as they thought it would be. They were decompressing the arteries on both sides of my hand and was told it would be almost instant relief. Whereas I woke up in agony. My arm was raised and bandaged and it was swollen to twice its size.
The surgeon came around and in front of me said “fuck I should have checked her neck” to the nursing sister. That did not fill me with confidence. I was also really missing my baby, then when he came in his right hand too was bandaged up. He had it clasped against his chest and he would not let it go, even for a big hug with mummy.
His father told me they were playing in the park when he fell on some glass. He said he put him in the stroller and ran him down to the Children’s hospital with him bleeding all the way. Our doctor was a lot closer but he panicked.
Once at the hospital they stitched the deep circular cut. His father thought it amusing that C was so distressed he kicked his firmly strapped on sandals completely off. And then would not let anyone near him.
So I went home to a toddler who was suspicious of us both if we came near his hand. Eventually he did let me change his dressing and bandage it. Perhaps seeing mine bandaged too helped.
During this time the case for the insurance payout was going through for when D was hit by the car in 1983. It was a considerable amount of money and he asked me to move back to the UK and be near his family for support for C. He was extremely annoyed with my family for not helping us more, though dad was not yet retired and my mum was needed on the farm. He could never understand that people could not just forget about their jobs and take off.
He promised me that we would be warm and looked after. And I would have my own bank account and money. I was very torn as I had been going to the High Church since the Termination. His mum had liked it there too and we went together while she was out here. They were currently asking for a young family to be Verger’s and I was very keen for us to apply. He said that is something we could do in the UK as there were a lot more churches so more need for Vergers.
So once I agreed we had to tell my parents, which was very very hard. And the rest of my family. We packed our things and shipped them, the place we were in was rented furnished so we only had personal items and toys etc to send ahead. Soon it was time to say goodbye to my parents and aunts and uncles and we caught the train back down to Sydney. There we said goodbye to my sister and K and my friends including my lovely neighbour, a mum across the road from us. We had met earlier the previous year. She had helped me so much and I also looked after her little girl, born on the same day as C. My husband did not like our friendship, she was a nursing sister and was wanting to get me work with her in a care home. She was not happy about my being so dependent on D. Sue had liked her a lot when she met her on our usual morning tea get togethers.
My brother had not been at the farm when we were up there and the night before we left he drove down to say goodbye. I was quietly distraught, seeing my young brother for possibly the last time. He loved our flat and said it suited us and if only he and my parents had been able to come down more things might have been different.
Eventually he had to go back for work in the morning and we settled in for our last night in Australia. We had the name of a good specialist in London from Dr Johnston and Professor Wise. Sue was meeting us at Heathrow. Everything was in place for us to start our new lives.
New Years Eve a couple D knew from St Andrew’s Cathedral Healing Ministry came around for dinner then went to the midnight service there with him. New Year’s Day he went out for the entire day playing tennis with a friend from the Pentecostal church which he had gone to when first in Australia. I was pretty hurt but could not get through to him that these were days for family. It was if I had insulted him somehow. I soon learned to avoid these kinds of discussions as the silence and sulking was too difficult and drained too much of my energy.
We went up to my parent’s farm for a few days and swam in the pool and D played snooker for hours each day. It was good to have the company and the space. Eventually D’s Christmas break was soon to finish so we returned to Sydney. My sister visited and K and A. C had started crying a lot, one time we stayed with A she observed it and suggested not laying him on his right side. It seemed to help, for a while at least.
However over the next few months he went into screaming fits, it was not colic, he was different when he had that. Dr Johnston referred us to an occupational therapist who dealt with sick children. She observed C at various times, when he was screaming and when he was just crying and also when he was not. She said she felt he was in severe pain and showed me how to do a therapeutic restraint on him. It was very difficult at first as my husband could not do it and seemed to resent that I could. However, it worked. C would eventually stop flailing and go to sleep, often for hours. A Canon at the Healing Ministry witnessed it one day and suggested to David that he pray while I restrained C. It helped D to feel useful and to claim that God was doing the work and the healing.
Over winter I knitted lots of sweaters for C and also started childminding a lovely pair of sisters for one week a month. C loved them and they spoiled him. It was fun and the money was handy as D’s job had finished, as IBM had said it would and he was believing in God to give him a job. With no expending of energy on his part at all. He went on the dole and often became dirty and dishevelled again.
One time my friend L from New Zealand stayed with us for two weeks, leaving her little girl with her grandmother. We had not seen each other for two years, D was very jealous and put out. One morning I was getting C out of his cot next to the bed and walking past the end of the bed. D kicked me really hard in the legs, saying go on, go talk to the her, having a baby is all you married me for anyway. I just shook my head and walked out of the room.
L returned to New Zealand and life went on as before, though C seemed to be having less pain attacks. And his eye had at some stage settled properly. No,explanation for why. However he was in and out of hospital with croup. He had to be in an oxygen tent which was difficult and frightening for him. D slept at night in the playroom and I stayed 16 hours during the day.
When he was 11 months old he started to do a very strange thing. He was sitting up and crawling, had reached all his milestones, however he kept getting knocked backwards by strange head movements. Violent ones which knocked his head repeatedly into the floor when he crawled. Dr Johnston arranged for him to come in and see her. D was able to come along as he was still waiting on God to give him a job. Dr Johnston had arranged an EEG, a skull X-ray and another brain scan, under anaesthetic. He was being tested for rare diseases and some of his rectal lining was being sent to South Australia for testing.
When he came out of the Cat Scan he was sore and crying. I sang him the song that I sang him every evening before bed.
Mummy loves you C C C
Mummy loves you C J
Daddy loves you C C C
Daddy loves you C J
Jesus loves you C C C
Jesus loves you C J
Grandma loves you C C C
Grandma loves you C J
Grandad loves you C C C
Grandad loves you C J
Jesus loves you C C C
Jesus loves you C J
And on and on until everyone in the entire world who loved him had been named in song. It really calmed him. I looked up mid song and the head nurse who worked with my friend A was standing near me, looking at C, crying. However his skull and brain were the same as before and his EEG was normal. He did not have the movements on the EEG unfortunately. Dr Johnston pulled no punches with us. For the first time she was very very direct with us, saying that his development and indeed his future relied on him outgrowing these by the age of two.
She said they were called Myoclonic Jerks and she did not know which kind they were. He started at around ten a day and was soon up to over a hundred a day. It was impossible to count them. They tried so very many drugs. He had to have blood tests weekly, luckily they used butterfly clips which were much easier for tiny children and babies. Over time the drugs caused his eyes to become dull and confused. His head hit the floor and walls so many times his pain worsened.
Then he was hospitalised for Croup for ten days when Dr Johnston was away. Professor Wise supervised him even though he was not in there for the jerks. The play room at The Prince of Wales Hospital was a wonderful place to meet other parents and to relax with a coffee for a short while. One of the nurses had a guitar she used to bring in and she used to sing lots of nursery rhymes in there. Her name was Kate too. A friendly, happy, gorgeous girl the children and parents adored. She regularly sang Old MacDonald Had A Farm and every parent would sing a different animal ie pig etc. I was so tired, so stressed, so unsupported that I dreaded that song, I went blank, could not remember what the last animal had been.
Kate the musical nurse noticed C crawling along the corridor, banging his head repeatedly. One day she saw Professor Wise talking to me. He was asking all about C and my pregnancy. And about his medical issues since last Christmas. She came over and told him she had seen the jerks and how awful they were for C. Professor Wise told her to get down on the floor and show him. Kate looked from him to me, then pulled her uniform dress up so she could move around and proceeded to act like a bucking bronco. He got her to do it for some time then said thank you, looking at me grimly. He then suggested a helmet to protect C’s head. This proved to be one of the worst experiences ever for our son.
I went with him after he had recovered from Croup, not having a clue what would be done. They had to make a Plaster of Paris Mould of his head to actually make sure the helmet fits properly. Which meant totally covering his head down to his neck at the back and chin at the front. They put holes in for the nose but it was utterly terrifying for him. My laughing, happy, gorgeous boy who laughed when he was not jerking madly and after he had an attack of pain was hysterical. There was nothing I could do but croon to him that mummy was there. His special song did not even help. I prayed that I could be calm so that he could feel it in my body but he was beyond hysterical. It was on a long time, or it seemed to be. It had to set perfectly. Then it had to be cut off with electric saws. It was torture.
After that I phoned G, my specialist friend whose daughter had died of Leukaemia. He was terribly upset, asking if C had tissue sent to South Australia. He said he was so sorry, and to call him any time for support. He assured me C was under the best team and we had to take it day by day. I remembered him telling me I could have children, but not with anyone who had migraines or epilepsy in their family. I had found out after the wedding that D’s sister had migraines but there was no epilepsy. The doctors had been insistent on knowing that. I asked G how his new baby was going and he said well but slightly anaemic.
Soon my mother in law Sue arrived for a holiday. While she was there C was hospitalised to check his medications and jerks. He had a lovely Registrar who called him a Real Little Aussie Battler. He was very fond of C as was C fond of him. They used to play on the floor, rough and tumble together, C laughing with delight. One of the nurses had put a photo of C up on their notice board of regular children and babies. On it they had written “the happiest little boy, who smiles through his pain’
Sue upset me terribly when she told me that she felt so sorry for the mother whose baby was in the bed next to C. That she might not have more children due to her child’s genetic condition. She went on to say that her dear A in the UK was feeling sad because she did not know if she could have another two children as planned due to C and his “medical issue”. Sue would never say epilepsy or Myoclonus. It was dirty to her, shameful. She was talking more about the possibility of Neurofibromatosis. The day before it was C’s first birthday my parent’s came down to visit us, bringing gifts for C and seeing how the children’s hospital worked. Dad kept saying it must have been a Hotel first. I could not get it through to him that it was always a hospital.
The day after C was released from hospital was C’s birthday and we had a small party for family. A and W came, my sister came later. Neighbours loved him and popped in with gifts. It was a poignant day as A and her husband W were moving that week, north to Yamba, where they had bought a Caravan Park with her brother and his family. She had been such a huge support and such a dear friend, I would be lost without her. Nonreligious she had been a great antidote to all the fundamentalism I was dealing with at home and at the local church.
A few weeks after Sue arrived my husband had booked an appointment with the top clergy at the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral. There were several men, one I had met several times, a Canon who ran the Ministry there. They asked set questions about our belief and our faith in God the Father. In Jesus. In the Holy Spirit. And did we really believe God could heal and perform miracles. My husband said yes. I could not say that. I wanted C to be perfect. To be pain free. I had been concerned about migraines but they had always been a women’s thing in our family and D said there were none in his. They did not like that I could not say that God had already healed him 100%, that I just had not claimed it yet. By then I really wanted to get out of there. So next they asked me questions about how I had felt when C was in utero. Hammered me with it, until they finally accepted my quite angry assertion that he was a much loved baby from the time of conception to now. And I finished by saying I resented that men only were there and that my husband was not asked about how he felt about his baby. Canon G listened carefully then asked if C had been baptised. We said no, we were waiting for him to decide what he wanted later. When we said that he went very quiet then said that Baptism was also a Sacrament of Healing and he believed this was what was needed. None of the other things were relevant and he thanked me for my honesty. He asked how we would feel about that and we both said of course we would arrange it. He said to make sure he was invited as he would like to be one of C’s Godfathers.
While we were arranging the Baptism with our local church I found out that though I was on the pill, I had fallen pregnant. First I felt immense joy, then came fear and dread. When I attended the Anti Natal Clinic at the hospital the Registrar asked about my previous pregnancy and about the Pre Eclampsia. And asked how my blood pressure was now. It was not good as I was up nights since C started the jerks. They would wake him up from his sleep and he would be jerking for a few hours and playing as well. We watched music videos together on TV. He loved dancing with me to Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen and Uptown Girl by Billy Joel. He also loved watching Popeye dvds and had a fantastic Popeye doll. All this made me exhausted though. And before D had finally got part time work as a Home Care Aide I had gone out nannying, sometimes taking C with me. We needed money, the fridge was often almost empty except for C’s food which I made him from scratch.
The doctor asked about C’s health and then finally asked me if I wanted this baby. I said that I did but I just did not know how I could have it. My son needed me, I could not be in hospital for months. And I did not trust his father to look after him properly. She immediately said let us book you in for a Therapeutic Termination. It was arranged very quickly, and a date was set for the day after C’s Baptism.
My husband supported me in the Termination as did my family and his. He asked our local church Vicar to pray for us, which he did in his office. He was genuinely horrified for the choice I was facing and obviously his position towards abortion was known. He asked about the power of prayer to heal us and I said prayer was wonderful, it helped calm me, made me feel close to God but I needed practical help, and there had been none. So he prayed with us and we went home.
The next day we were in Bondi Junction shopping when we spotted a friend from church, a heavily pregnant mum who had been to our place many times for coffee and lunch. I was pushing C down the sloping ramp to K Mart when I saw her walking up. I called out several times and as we passed she turned her face away from me. Several people at church did the same thing so I asked the Rector and he said he had asked a few people to pray and some of them were very upset I was even contemplating it. As if it was just my decision, it was my body but it was our baby. I told him what happened and that I was very disappointed. And that I was going to attend a High Anglican church in future. He said he understood.
Mum and dad and my cousin E came down for the Baptism. K was going to be his Godmother. D’s sister A his other Godmother. Rod a friend from the church where we met was going to be his Godfather and I D’s Curate friend was also going to be his Godfather as well as Canon G. It was a lovely service celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism and C was also anointed with Holy Oil for The Sacrament of Healing. We then went back to our flat for refreshments, the cake was a disaster, but everything else was great, especially K’s home made scones. Dad was quite standoffish with Canon G especially when he found out he was brought up Irish Catholic. Mum loved him though. Sue and I liked him but found him socially odd. My teenage cousin had a fantastic time playing with C and meeting everyone.
That night when I went to bed D turned to me and said he was really sorry and I said it is okay. Then he went to sleep and I lay there for hours. Telling my baby goodbye. That I was so so sorry. I awoke early and caught a bus to the hospital. D had wanted to come but I could not think of anything but getting it over with. I could not talk to anyone, let alone babysit my husband. And though it was our baby it was ultimately my body and I really felt I was alone in this decision.
When I got there around 6am the day surgery waiting room was full of women trying to find out why they could not get pregnant, desperate for a family. Everyone was asking what everyone was having done. I pretended to sleep. At around five to eleven a wards man came to get me and I was positioned outside the Operating Theatre and left alone while the minute’s silence was observed. It seemed a lot longer and I was so grateful that the usual wards man was not there, I had seen him from a distance earlier and he had definitely seen me. He was a member of our local church, had been to our home many times and told us he always told women having abortions just before he wheeled them in that they could change their minds. He was also one of the ones the Rector asked to pray for me. When I woke up the nurses were very brusque and I was really glad when I was allowed to leave and I was soon home with my family.
The next day I walked C down to the hospital for yet another EEG. He had many of them and did not mind them as they had skull caps so that the electrodes were stuck on that not the actual head. It was a matter of keeping him still if possible. No easy task however this time we did not mind. He had non stop jerks for the first time while having a test. Dr Johnston read the results carefully and said that the results showed no unusual activity leading her to believe these might be the rare kind that goes at or by two. She could not say for sure but thought it worth taking him off all his drugs and letting time tell us how he would be. I thought that a great idea and went home, thanking God as I went for answering my prayers, not as others expected Him to but in giving me reassurance that these jerks at least might go and leave our little boy to have a normal childhood and life.
Over the next week Sue went to Tasmania with her in laws from Adelaide. I started to get awful pains in the pelvis and went to the women’s hospital to the Ante Natal Clinic. With all the pregnant women. They said it was an incomplete Termination and that I had a bad infection as well. Another D and C was scheduled for the next day. This time the nurses were very kind, Again I did not have the wards man from church. When I awoke I felt cared for and not judged, unlike the previous time. I then went home and my sister came over and stayed while Sue was away, cooking endless liver dishes etc to get my iron count up. She was really kind and helpful, I appreciated her coming so much. My parents rang me to make sure I was healing properly. They had wanted mum to nurse me up there but I needed to move on with my life here.
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.
When we arrived back in Sydney we stayed in a lovely bed and Breakfast in Edgecliff Road, Bondi Junction. My husband had stayed there when he first arrived in Australia. My friend K came around almost straight away and then my sister. We soon rented a flat in Randwick, to move in within the next few weeks. After that we excitedly hopped on a train up to my parents farm.
We were met at the station by my brother D and my cousin R and mum and dad. Dad was very happy and squeezed me really hard. Mum cried. After that we stayed for several days, catching up and introducing D to my aunt E and uncle P. Mum’s other brother and his wife were on holiday in the UK. Everything went very well except dad kept telling me off for leaving D out of things. Pot calling kettle black I thought!
I booked in to see my Professor at the Royal Women’s Hospital Paddington at the Ante Natal Clinic. He was a bit concerned about the Campylobactor and my blood pressure was a bit high so he booked me into the clinic weekly. Meantime I caught up with my friends, and D went out a lot with his Pentecostal church friends. We started going to an Anglican Church a short walk away. At the weekends we walked in Centennial Park, always the same route. Other weekends we caught the train up to the farm.
D started back at his old job with IBM though he was warned the job was only for six months as they were relocating to another area and would no longer need unskilled workers to enter data. It was becoming an increasingly highly skilled field to work in and I encouraged him to get some extra training, to no avail.
Mid August at my checkup I was told I had dangerously high blood pressure, Pre Eclampsia in fact. They let me go home to collect some things and told me to come in on Monday for bed rest. That weekend my parents made a very rare trip down to Sydney to see us and also my sister. Mum saw straight away what was going on, I had retained so much fluid that it was obvious to her. She was smiling and seemed okay with us but when we went over to my sisters with her she took my sister aside and was very worried.
I had bought myself a dressing gown from a shop in Bondi Junction on the Friday afternoon as I did not have a decent lightweight one to fit me, being eight months pregnant. D was furious with me for taking money out of the account. I had no money of my own and had to rely on money I saved from the housekeeping. He was very strict with the money. It was his, not ours and with the Pre Eclampsia I could not work.
Once I settled into the hospital I stayed stable, though the swelling became worse. D would visit me every evening after work and we would play scrabble with the board he had brought in. We also played cards. The other ladies were bemused as we were the only ones that played games. It was a good way to pass the time and did not require a lot of conversation.
There was a lovely lady across from me whose last baby had died in utero and had to be delivered. She was on bed rest for most of this pregnancy. My friend A from school who visited me every few days got on very well with everyone. She would chat to everyone and knew their medical histories and why they were there. I was so proud of her.
My parents never came down, they rang every evening and I started to get frustrated because I was supposed to be bright and cheery and keep mum on an even keel. But I was the patient! After about three weeks when they rang the lady opposite grabbed the phone and told them I was not very well and needed my parents support. Nothing changed.
One morning, after a very bad night the staff said my blood pressure was just too high. They arranged an enema and I was very dizzy and for some reason the liquid from the enema ran out all over the floor and I fell over, nobody noticed so I managed to get off the floor and I cleaned up the mess with a towel. Then I cleaned myself and rang my husband and A who arranged to come over after she finished her shift at POWCH. She was also a maternity nurse and had been involved in lots of births so I was happy she would be there as my support person. Especially since my husband was a little squeamish and not much involved in the antenatal care etc.
I was transferred down to the maternity delivery area and very quickly induced by my waters being broken with something I described as a knitting needle being shoved up my vagina. And I love knitting. In fact I was totally obsessed with knitting back then! A told later that it was more like a crochet hook!
All the nurses who worked with my friend, I had got to know very well over lunches in their staff room, had agreed with her that nothing would be happening as it was a first birth and was going to take a while. She did not make it in time because unfortunately when they put the drip in which causes the contractions I think someone must have sped it up by accident. It was going very fast. Within thirty minutes I had horrid backache. Was not dilated enough though so the nurses and Prof and Dr took off. It was an unusual day with a high volume of births. There were women in the corridors giving birth.
I had trouble with my bowels, poo came out repeatedly with contractions, my husband was horrified and kept going on about it. I was crying and saying it was happening again. And again. The lovely nurses reassured me it was fine and cleaned me up. An hour or so later our son was born. And almost strangled to death. The only help we had was early on. After I was given gas (which did not agree with me) and then an injection, the only person to help us was a young med student who had never witnessed a birth before. Luckily he was there and he managed to hold onto our son as my husband ran to get help.
They managed to get his cord from around his neck. It was very hard to hold for so long without pushing. His head was literally out and I had to stop pushing. Not sure how I did it but I was so exhausted that I could not grasp him afterward. I was dazed and very very dizzy. Nobody checked my blood pressure then. My sister arrived swiftly followed by A who was disappointed and concerned at how rapid the birth had been. Three and a half hours is too rapid for a first birth.
Meantime I was cleaned up and examined by a lovely male midwife, who said I had not torn but had deep deep scratches all the way down my vagina. He said they were going to sting, badly. He then became concerned that I could not void, so a catheter was inserted. I was then transferred down to a ward with other new mothers and within a few hours my parents had come down, very very excited. Their first grandchild. Dad was stunned that D was there for the delivery and he kept asking me if I was all right.
I had a few issues, mostly with trying to get out of chairs. My legs would not let me get up unless I held onto something to pull myself up so I mostly laid down or stood or walked.
After a few days we were discharged and we went home, on our first wedding anniversary.
Once home again I was surprised to hear mum and dad fighting a lot. One morning she came back from the shops crying and said the bastard had frozen the accounts so she could not get at any money. She said she was so embarrassed in the bank. They had a huge row when he came home on the weekend and then things seemed okay again until the next fight when he froze the money again in case she left him. Then out of the blue they said they were going on a trip to New Zealand with D. While they were away I had young cousin R to stay as had a great relationship with him through babysitting and taking him to the beach when he was younger.
When dad got back he upset me terribly by asking his work associate, the owner of the mine to speak to the neurologist I had seen in Sydney (via the Old Boys Network of private schools) and tell dad what was wrong with me. He was not a migraine expert and I was waiting to go to POW migraine clinic. He would not let me say anything, just said he had done it and that was that. I felt so angry, I had no privacy, and no choices. He was told it was psychological and it would pass. That is not however what the specialist told me.
The other thing was that Dad wanted to give me an allowance. However at the same time he told me this illness was crazy, that if a dozer breaks down they repair it. He said it’s the same with my migraines. So against my wishes he decided to to see a local GP at his house. Dr M. I was so sure he would get everything wrong that I asked to go with him. The GP said he would talk to me, alone, in his rooms and he would fix things. He shook hands with dad and asked him to go to his rooms if he needed anything else. He was was CMO for pensions etc and signed for a pension for me when I visited him. Dad then washed his hands of it.
With my pension money, and indeed months of back pay I made mum a lot of clothes. Gave her rent and food money so she had money of her own at last. We visited our aunts each week and took dad in some home made food to the billets where he was staying on the mine. I also saw Ann and Wayne at Noraville and also went to stay with them in Sydney.
Mid 1977 I finally got in to see Professor L in Sydney, and he was charming, shook mum’s hand and was charmed by her too! He told us it was definitely oestrogen induced and would take some time to wear off. Dr G was put in charge of my case and my mum and sister hated him. Immediately though I felt he was attracted to me, but I was very sedate and careful with him. He put me in hospital the next week for observation for three weeks.
Each day he came and closed the curtains and sat on thenbed and chatted for two hours. Sometimes three. Went to answer his pagers etc but always came back. Other patients were a bit worried, including Dr S who saw us chatting and later told me we were really giving it to each other. We were talking and there was light flirting, I was well aware he could get into trouble. As was he. But he had a way of looking at me that left everyone in no doubt what he wanted to do. He took me off painkillers to observe the migraines as the clinic was very big on research. Said it would help my brother and surely I would do this for him. I went a bit blotchy at times so he got me to take my shawl off to closely look at my arms and face and my throat. He did touch me then.
Ann visited, she brought nightgowns and took some away. She knew G and didn’t not say a word against him. Said he was kind and a lovely doctor. I met some interesting cases on the ward, lovely women. Our weekend neighbours from Gorokan came to visit which was so lovely of them. The ward sister chatted to me a lot about Ansett and Noraville and life. G eventually let me have painkillers after about ten days, and he even popped in at the weekends and we talked in the corridors for hours.
I was put on a new preventative and went home and settled back into life. Walking along Jenny Dixon Beach, babysitting. Looking after my brother and cousins. Dressmaking. Staying with Ann and Wayne and Daphne and Des in Sydney.
Mum and I went to The Entrance a lot, there was a fabulous knitting shop and we loved having fish and chips there. We also loved to go to Gosford to have pie, chips, veggies and gravy followed by a cappachino in the cafe in the arcade near Walton’s. I also met the young mum across the road who had dyed her babies clothes by accident. Mum quickly went to Coles and got her bleach and I got a new friend. She arranged for me to take over her Avon run which was several streets either side of mum’s house. Meanwhile she had started teaching cooking at Tafe at night so I babysat as her husband was on call for electricity commission. The other times au babysat the little baby without much warning because the little girl who,was three could not evacuate herbrectum bless her. She had to be taken to Gosford hospital where they gave her a special enema. I was invited to the baby’s baptism, it was the first time in a church in years. Lovely celebration afterwards with lots of relatives and friends.
Mum was very kind and looked out for our elderly neighbours on one side of us and also the family across the road whose mum was mentally ill. I got to know the daughter very well and encouraged her to go nursing, which she did at Ryde hospital. She often popped in to see us on her days off. Mum herself became very depressed. Anxious. Much worse than before, crying a lot.
My brother had a lot of trouble with bullying at high school. One day I heard a clatter as the school bus passed by and a thumping sound and shouting. When I went outside I saw my brother on the ground picking up his school case. He ran up the steps past me and I asked him what was wrong. He came back with dad’s rifle and was in such a rage he could barely be understood. Eventually I worked out what he was saying which was that he was going to teach that bastard what it feels like. And he then ran up the road, with the rifle. I was in my nightie as I had a migraine and I stoppered the door and ran after him shouting my head off for help.
The older boy across the road came running and said he would catch him. And then out of the blue a police car came by and stopped and the Seargent went after my brother. As he brought him back dad arrived home from work, so it must have been a Thursday. The policeman asked my brother what he thought he was doing, in front of dad and I. My brother said he was going to shoot at the ground and scare the bully so he knew what it felt like. The Seargent then asked him if in the state of rage that he was in did he really think he would have not hit him? And hurt him badly? D boasted he was a good shot. Seargent said he would leave it in dad’s hands this time, but it needed dealing with. He left and dad took the rifle and turned away. I asked him if he was going to talk to the school, talk to David. He said he had had it from the policeman, and if I did not like it I could get the hell out of the house and not come back. I stood there in my nightie and bare feet, with him glaring at me, and went to my bedroom.
Denise L and Jennifer P from school took me out some evenings and came over to visit. As did some of my sister’s friends. My sister and her friends stayed a lot on her days off from POW day surgery where she worked in early gender reassignment. One day found I her in the spare room with her friend Kerry. Kerry’s hand was buried inside my sisters crotch and I did not take in at first what was happening. My sister was moaning and grinding. Then I remembered. I had an LP in my hand and I threw it at them. It dented the wall behind the bed. My sister came running after me but I was so furious I went to Jenny Dixon and stayed out for hours. When I got back she said I could have hurt one of them throwing the LP like that.
Seriously? What about mum going in and finding Kerry with her fingers right up her vagina. That was not going to hurt mum? She had been in that bedroom with Kerry for months on days off. Mum and dad are Irish Catholic. But I did not say any of it, I was too sickened, I just said not in mum’s house.
Christmases came and went with visits to school friend’s parents and old neighbours. I was going to the migraine clinic monthly. Trying one drug after another. It took me a long time to get over the effects of Ergotamine. made the migraines twice as bad. I felt like my head was swollen to twice its size. While on it my brother loved to pop Smiths Crisps bags directly behind my head when I had an intense migraine. Then he laughed himself silly when I grabbed my head in agony. So I mostly stayed in my room until he was in bed. He loved Get Smart, I Dream Of Jeannie and Hogan’s Heroes so I was safe in the lounge room during that time. Mum and I loved Charlie’s Angels for the clothing and Starsky and Hutch. I even knitted my brother a Starsky wrap jacket for winter. I adored Survivors on late at night and Dad and I watched Benny Hill and other British comedies together. Mum and I loved Blake’s Seven, she could not get enough of Blake.
Still no change for the better with the migraines. Prof L kept saying they had to try everything as I deserved a life. But nothing worked, indeed one drug almost gave me a stroke. I could not have chocolate or red wine with it and I did not sleep for days and days on it and eventually my sister threw the tablets in the bin.
I dated a chef from Gosford hospital I met through my selling of Avon. Several of the sons of the older ladies came up to visit me to collect their mum’s makeup etc. My friend opposite had me to dinner a lot to meet chaps. She strongly disapproved of my braless state. Suggested I wear one and said it was why the guys got so crude. Whereas I knew they just were crude. Thick ignorant and crude.
In 1978 G left POW to go to another hospital to start a headache clinic. We kept in touch and he told me he was going to London for a few weeks for a conference. He knew I had booked months before to go over to see my grandparents in Eire and UK. He asked for a contact number and I gave him my grandmothers’s Number.
Dad had told me he wanted me to get away for a few months while the builders were building my flat in the level under the house. It was coming along nicely but the noise really hurt my head. In the end he came with me and we bumped into Felicity who was crewing on the Qantas flight. I introduced dad to her and was so pleased she was looking so healthy. On another leg another Ansett friend was with Qantas as well. My dad flirted with her. I could not believe it.
We were met at the airport by two of dad’s sisters and his sister in law. Then we went on to Eire for three weeks to see Granny and Uncle John. Some cousins were clothing factory owners and I loved seeing the whole process. Endless afternoon teas were offered in the best china and my granny had all the older ladies up to see me and they spoke incredibly fast in Gaelic. I loved it. I could have stayed there. And they quilted, together, my idea of heaven.
From there we went on to Meath to meet dad’s sister in law who had been at Heathrow. Dad then went back to Australia. I had the most amazing time in her parent’s Georgian farmhouse with her family. They were so, happy, so loving, so accepting. They told me I was welcome to live with them. My young cousin F loved me to death and slept in my bed the whole time I was there bless her. Her grandmother made the most incredible homemade bread. There were ancient ruins in a nearby field! Shopping and luncheons were undertaken in Dublin. I actually bought a Frank Usher dress and had no idea he was a top top top designer. The dress was black, silk chiffon and I looked like a Spanish Senorita, it laced up, or down, over the bodice and flared out into a full circle skirt, it was stunning. I also bought a black lace stretchy dress. The prices were incredibly inexpensive compared to home.
I went back to Luton to dad’s sister and my cousins, then onto Lincolnshire by train and coach. Spent a lot of time in Skegness with my cousin SA and my aunt D and her little girls. I also walked to Mablethorpe regularly. Grandma and Grandad were wonderful as always. I got a call from G after a few weeks there and went back to Luton. My aunt arranged a lift up to see G, first with my uncle. On the way he said look at you, you sexy thing, like the song. I introduced him to G who later said my uncle had been checking him out as being suitable. We went to dinner and went sightseeing then as we walked back to the hotel he was walking faster and faster, impatient to get me inside where we made love for hours. Afterwards he said that we had both been waiting a long long time for this.
Next time I was to see him my aunt’s best friend’s Irish husband took me up as he was going into London. When we were a few minutes into the drive he said that they had told him I was pretty but he had not expected me to be anything like this. I had no idea what he meant, I had on a virginal cream wool swing coat with my black lace dress under it. It had a pussy bow tie, right up to the neck. High heels, Christian Dior stockings and black lace panties, bra and suspender belt. But he could not see any of the underwear. I wore no jewellery and very subtle makeup. When we pulled over he suggested I take an Irish lover. Said they all had huge cocks, like his. This came out of nowhere. I felt like I had a sign on me saying I need a seriously huge Irish cock to fuck me. I told my aunt later on when he offered to drive me again, and she did not believe me. Said I was a minx and a troublemaker.
Meantime I found out G was married, and decided not to see him when I went back home. But I thought we should enjoy the moment, and we did. We explored lots of different positions and he seriously liked to go down on me. Drove me insane with his tongue. And he pounded away at me for such a long time that I had trouble with my stamina. He was insatiable. Afterwards he held me saying he wanted to lock me in a room away from other men’s eyes. That wanted me to get a flat where he could come to make love to me regularly in Sydney.
Was tempted to stay and work in London as a nanny as my head was so much better over there once off all the trial drugs etc. However I went into Charring Cross Hospital as Professor Clifford Rose actually promised he could get rid of my migraines. Turned out it was just more research. They did give me Valium 10 mgs for neck spasms, only to be used when necessary. Eventually I became very homesick as I was in over Xmas. So I arranged a flight back as soon as I could as it was very uncomfortable at my aunt’s in Luton after the take an Irish lover incident. I had had a lot of mail from my brother, my aunts. My friends. I wanted to go home.
The whole family met me at Sydney airport with my chihuahua which my mum and sister had given me as a birthday gift. My brother was very excited. When we got home there was a big welcome home sign outside. It was good to be home in Noraville.
Once home the Professor decided he could do better than his fellow neurologist in UK and booked me back into hospital. While there I had some trouble with sleeping. When in a deep, deep sleep I would somehow bring myself to orgasm. I would wake up with my hips grinding with a really full on orgasm that I horrifiedly tried to suppress. I am not sure if it was from new drugs they tried or if it was the association of where I had met G but it was relentless. I was seriously aroused in my sleep. It had never happened before.
While there a registrar was suspended for acting inappropriately with some female patients. I was one of them. I was not sure why he asked to take my nightie off to check my heart etc as it had not been done before. Luckily I had undies on. He took a long time and had seemed quite sweaty. Luckily the charge sister saw him pull the curtains and asked me what had happened. She took my statement as she did the other women. The next day my old neighbour from Gorokan came to visit and I asked her if I could go back to Central with her as she was going to there to get her train. The charge sister said it would be a good idea and to keep in touch.
I had trouble sleeping after that and the local GP was a different one and decided he could help by giving me barbiturates to help me sleep and 10 mg Valium three times a day. Plus Percodan for pain. I became a zombie. Very depressed. Feeling useless and of no use to my family. A drain on them. And especially since feeling so well in the UK, I could not foresee a life like this. So I took the almost full bottle of Valium, then I rang the Professor and spoke to his wife. I felt complete peace, no feeling of fear of the unknown, just a release from the unrelenting pain. Then, as I was writing a note saying sorry to mum all I could think of was that she would find me in the morning and it would kill her.
So I went and rang the ambulance and they said there is not enough time. To go get my parents and get them to drive me fast to Gosford Hospital. I went and told mum and dad. Dad shouted at me, and Mum said come on Tom we are taking her to the hospital, now. He kept saying when are you going to wake up to yourself. It was pitch black by then and dad drove with mum in the back keeping me awake. She slapped my face. Begged me, pleaded with me to not go to sleep. I heard her wail to herself “when am I going to learn to keep my mouth shut.”
They got there very very fast. At emergency I was asked how many I had taken and I said 99. There were 100 in the bottle. They laughed grimly. They pumped my stomach and gave me medicine to make me vomit. Jeanie my friend from nursing was on duty and was very concerned. Because it was so unlike me. I was not allowed home until I saw a psychologist the next morning. She asked if anything triggered it. I said I had a fight with mum because she kept talking about me to the relatives. I realised later mum was worried but I hated being talked about by my relatives as if I was doing this on purpose. As if I chose this life. I told her I was going to reassess my medicines as I felt much better in the UK off most things. She said that sounded like a good idea and to call her if I needed her. We drove home, my brother was there and very quiet. I rang my aunt S as mum had called her from the hospital. Then I ripped up the letter I had written to mum into tiny pieces and curled up against my dog who was shivering in fear. I immediately stopped taking benzodiazepines, valium and cut back on percodan. I had bad shakes but was eventually able to sleep and started to feel much better over several weeks.
Dad asked to have a talk with me and told me he was selling the house and already building one in Maitland and did not want me to move to Maitland with them. He said mum and I were not good together. I already knew she was very snappy with me, negative about everything I wanted to do. She wanted me to stay at home forever. But I also knew she could not cope with all the challenges involved in completing the new house. So I decided to ignore him as I was going to leave anyway to go nannying once I got over all the medicines I had been on for so long.
Months later, as the new house was almost ready, my aunt suddenly became ill and I said I was going to go to stay with my uncle and cousins to look after them and get ready for when my aunt came home. Mum refused to let me go. Went strangely silent when I asked her why. We had a dreadful row or rather I did. We were driving back from Gosford where we had been shopping. I felt mum was treating me like an invalid, as if I could not do anything. After we got home and mum went shopping the next day I packed a bag and my little dog and got a train to my uncle to help him.
An older friend of my aunts popped around to pick up something for her and was surprised to see me. I had cleaned the entire house and done all the food shopping by then. She was very uneasy and asked me how I was finding it there. I said my uncle kept talking about penises and putting them in women’s mouths and hands. Wore tiny bikini briefs and stood with his erection in his undies in front of my face in bed. Kept saying I was beautiful and sexy. She took me to her home and kept me there until my parents had moved and my mum came to get me two weeks later. Mum did not say anything except she was sorry and come home Kate. I did and when I got there my uncle was there picking up my aunt. He shouted you are a dyke at the top of his voice. Said horrible stuff. I said some stuff back. Mum started crying so I stopped and apologised to her. Went inside to my room. When I went to see if mum was alright she was running water in the laundry sink looking out the window at the field and the cows. Almost in a trance she asked me if my uncle had done anything to me. I said no but he made me really uncomfortable with his penis in my face all the time. Not wearing proper clothes in front of me. Talking about nothing but sex acts. She said “I am going to ask you once Kate. Are you telling me the truth?” I thought she had meant I was lying but she was asking me if he had raped me. I asked why, has this happened before? She got very upset and said she did not know what I meant. I gave her a hug and said I was sorry for the fight. Only the second one I had ever had with my mum.
Over the next weeks I sewed all the curtains for the entire four bedroom house and helped mum put them up. I turned around one day when we were hanging the formal lounge room’s cream silk shantung curtains, (triple pleat, I was so happy as had never made any like that before) and mum was up the small ladder crying uncontrollably. I managed to get her down and rocked her and eventually got her to lay down on the sofa while I put the rest of the curtains up. I then made us some coffee and she drank it. I did not think to ask her if something had happened to her, as it had to me, in her bed or in her back yard or behind a shed. It just did not occur to me. But I looked after her, we went shopping together, we chose all the lamps in the house together. Together we made it into a really comfortable home.
During the next few months my cousins took me out and about and I went down to Sydney to stay with Ann and Daphne and Des. I had interviews for nanny positions and I chose a job as a housekeeper nanny to ease my way back into the workforce.
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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.