Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The first phase draws to a close

I look quite chuffed with myself in this shot. My second cousin, Graeme, is third from the right in the second row. His mother is my father's cousin and she married his best mate, Bill when they got back from New Guinea with the army in 1945.
1956 was a year of challenge for my family and I: my father's younger brother died; my grandparents repaired to Bondi from Hornsby; and, my father chased a dream into the countryside.

My paternal grandmother Sylvia aged 21My grandmother during the war aged about 45My grandmother in 1981 aged 86

My father was the second of four children: Sylvia died from a heart attack in 1972 aged 43; and, Athol died in London in 1956 just before his 30th birthday. He stepped back from the roadway to avoid an approaching taxi, stumbled and hit the back of his head on the gutter, dying almost immediately.

Athol aged about 14 on his way to parry with John Dease on Quiz KidsSylvia on her wedding day in 1960 aged 32My grandmother was devastated: simply devastated. She was 61 - about the age I am now. The shop never reopened, was sold and she bought a semi a few streets up from Bondi Beach in Blair Street where she cared for her daughter who was an epileptic and her 77 year old husband,.

My father was desperate to live in the country: although he had no farming skills and the few gardening skills were from staking sweet-peas. His biggest flaw, however, was that he learnt his financial skills from the depression and from Polonious: neither a lender nor a borrower be. If he had tried to borrow from a bank (in those days) he would have been warned that the land was untilable. We went on weekend flying visits to Molong, and Dubbo before settling on the hamlet of Denman in the Upper Hunter where Dad purchased 140 acres with the proverbial creek running through it. No thought was given to the annual rainfall or to something called prickly pear.

By the time I left Hornsby Public School I was a big strong lass of 8 years: ready to take on anyone in a brawl using my hands or my brain or my mouth. The record shows that I still hunkered down with Elizabeth (Fry), Barbara (Clay) and Evelyn (Smith) but that this time Evelyn pulled the short straw and I still had not talked my way out of that blasted ribbon.

Little was I to know that the next few years were to lay down a foundation of attachment to the land which is my guiding light to this day.


altadenahiker said...

Waiting for the next chapter.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Oh yes, the blasted ribbon. I hated mine too. They only way I got rid of it was to persuade Mum to let me grow my hair and have plaits -- but of course that way I ended up with two ribons which I didn't get to dispose of until I left school!

Julie said...

At least with plaits the BR is down the middle of one's back - not perched on one's head like a target! But what did it say about character: here was a wussy little priss. I sure went about dismantling that preconception should anyone have formed it!