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.