A Contented & Satisfying Life
Termite Eaten Bones
These pages were written by Dorothy Bremner
Ian was born in a village in Scotland and brought up by his grandparents. His mother was about nineteen, his father was not considered a suitable husband and there were no pensions for unmarried mothers. As a boy Ian had TB and developed asthma and suffered from bronchitis as a young adult. He migrated to Australia in 1951, got into the building industry in Tasmania, married a very attractive-looking woman, found they could not have children so adopted a boy and a girl. When we met in 1977 our children were all teenagers and we were both divorced.
We met at Easter at the Germania Club, Wollongong, where another woman and I had gone to dance, often with each other, but we also got lots of dances. Ian was 50, tall, slim, with grey hair and was a good dancer, easy to follow. He had gone with his eighteen-year-old son, Sean who did not dance, but Ian had bronchitis and chronic asthma and they left early. I mentioned a party the following Saturday, but Ian made no comment and as the night was rainy, I did not go. I found out later he did go. We had both come to terms with the single life and found it had advantages so were not desperate to re-partner.
Six months later Ian and I met again at Germania AGA khana (Austrian-German-Australian carnival) and immediately began a relationship. Members of the club loved parades and traditions. Everyone entered into the spirit of events, singing, linking arms and swaying. It was impossible not to feel stimulated to join in. We both went to the club mainly to meet people and dance but were also interested in Germany and the German language, he because of the similarity to the language spoken in Scotland, I because I had lived there for a year, my second child was born there and I still corresponded with the family of my ex-husband.
Ian made sure this time to get my phone number. In his diary he wrote
"Sept 23 Took Dorothy home for first time".
He did not think he would live for another 20 years because of his chronic obstructive airways disease and joked about being nearly ready for the knackers. He had developed a resignation to a short life and often quoted Omar Khayyam.
"Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died.
And in a Winding-sheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
At the time I was working at the Handicapped School, in an old house next to a home for severely handicapped children. Naturally I had preparation work to do each evening and Ian took an interest. Sometimes he was able to help by repairing an aid that had got damaged. I taught the Infants classes, most of whom had to go regularly for physiotherapy. The teachers' aid, a trained nurse accompanied the children each way. I found her most uncooperative. This was very different teaching, all work was completely individual and they needed a lot of help which was possible as there were only about six children in my group.
A few children attended for a period of some months or years until they were able to be integrated into "normal" school. Those who needed physiotherapy and medical treatment were permanent pupils. The children were transported to and from school in a specially designed bus which also took us regularly to a heated pool for swimming, to a riding-school for riding lessons and other outings.
One of the fathers believed in authoritarianism and felt it was his responsibility to correct his son if he made a mistake, but the boy tended not to try new things for fear of failure. I had to persuade them both to be less worried and more relaxed. After some years they boy went back to "normal" school and was able to fit in with his new classmates quite well.
Ian often came from work for dinner, which was often something like Wiener Schnitzel and lemon meringue pie. Even if we were not going out he always changed into tidier clothes, usually shades of fawn or brown, toning with his brown eyes. His taste in clothes was fairly conservative. I did the opposite, when I got home from work I changed into house clothes. He was amazed at how my children, aged 13, 15 and 17 did their share of the work without a lot of fuss and got on with their homework. He said he couldn't get his son to do anything. To him Sean was "The Secret Service".
"Do you talk to him?" I asked.
"I suppose as much as any father talks to his son. I must have gone wrong somewhere."
I know he tried to reach out to both his children but felt quite inadequate.
We often went to the Germania Club where we soon made a lot of friends among the members. People commented on how well we danced, as if we had been together for many years. He liked to wear a cravat instead of a tie, and for special occasions a frilly white shirt and maroon bow tie. He also hinted that he disliked makeup, perfume and hair spray and I reduced my use of them.
Or we watched Television programs, mainly sharing the same preferences for witty, droll or quirky British comedies, ("The Good Life" and "Yes Minister"), well-presented mysteries, nature and science documentaries on the ABC as we were not deluded by what Ian called "commercial crap" and disliked advertisements promoting unhealthy practices and products. He had a repertoire of stories and jokes but as I got to know him better and saw past the surface, I recognised an original twist and a keen ironic sense of humour. He was a Goon fan and indulged in Goon speak and also Cockney rhyming slang which confused many people especially the younger generation.
Among other things I showed Ian how to do challenging cryptic crosswords from the National Times, a thought-provoking, quality newspaper which he used to buy until it closed down. We both liked to be well-informed before forming an opinion on a topic. Mostly we did the puzzles together, combining our brainpower and referring to my encyclopaedias and dictionary. Or we played Scrabble, my eldest son Peter, who was in his final year at High School often joining in and doing homework in between moves. I had been exposed to more classical music and introduced him to some more serious composers. He already had an appreciation of Mozart and his understanding grew.
I was amazed at his knowledge of Australian birds and trees, far greater than mine, although he had only been here for 26 years and I had lived here all my life. Like almost everyone from his village, he had started work at 14, but he was very well read on many subjects, and it was obvious his attention was attracted more by rural things and he much preferred life away from big cities. We shared environmental concerns. He also did a lot of "escape" reading, mainly science fiction, but did not confuse reality with fiction. He was not enterprising or venturesome and hesitated to take risks.
He had to take ephedrine(?) in an asthma medication, and had frequent coughing fits, but never complained about his health. For him it had become a fact of life. He tried to use yoga principles to relax and control his breathing. What he lacked in fitness he made up for in tenacity.
He avoided chemical sprays for health reasons. I had never been into gimmicky cleaning and cosmetic products and it was no problem to look a little more closely at my shopping for everybody's sake. I suffered with back problems since a childhood fall, also tenosynovitis (tennis elbow) and had come to a similar acceptance of something that seemed unavoidable.
Sometimes I went to Ian's place at Kiama and we had a BBQ or went out with his neighbours. We walked around the area, looked at the volcanic scenery and the famous blowhole, (the hole was much bigger and the surge much smaller than in my childhood). Ian bemoaned the loss of trees, especially indigenous ones. Tall cabbage tree palms, standing isolated in the paddocks showed the height of the original rainforest.
Ian had built both his and his neighbour's house, and like all the houses I saw which he had built, they were not large or showy. His neighbour was a headmaster and was able to put a lot of small jobs in Ian's way. Ian's integrity in his work was a good recommendation. His health problems dictated his income. Neither of us was envious of material luxury and lived within our means. Our priorities were not acquiring goods we did not need.
At Kiama I again met Sean who would come in, look to see what was for dinner, go down the street for a takeaway which he brought home, dashing out again immediately. I tried to find a common interest with Sean. I drew a blank with books, music and hobbies. I presumed he had been largely influenced by his mother. Both Ian's children had left school as soon as possible. Ian said he would have liked Sean to stay on at school and would have supported him through whatever course he chose. Sean had had a number of jobs, none of them lasting very long. He lost at least one job because he had slept in once too often. It worried Ian. Sean always found an excuse, but Ian said "Take that with a grain of salt."
The meals Ian cooked always included plenty of vegetables, preferring natural wholesome foods, often from his own garden, grown with the minimum of pesticides, enlivened with a glass of red wine. He never resorted to takeaways, but they were fairly basic, his specialty being curry. He also made home brew. Ian always liked to have dessert, usually canned fruit or frozen pie with a can of cream. I felt he could have a better and more varied diet and should be getting more liquid. Very conscious of what could trigger an asthma attack, he had enough health problems which were unavoidable without loading himself up with cholesterol. He was happy to eat a bigger variety of foods and was willing to try new flavours when he didn't have to prepare and cook them. He supplied me with white wine which I preferred. I read that in Scotland fresh cream was traditionally eaten regularly, partly because of the climate, and the effect was partly negated by daily eating oatmeal, also a traditional food. I found substitutes for cream. Although we didn't always have dessert unless the children made stewed fruit and custard I usually cooked a pie or other dessert when Ian was coming. The doctor had suggested to Ian that he had hardening of the arteries, so he had completely cut out salt even in his oatmeal, so I eliminated salt in my cooking and soon found I did not need to add it at the table, replacing it with herbs for flavour.
Ian bought casks of red and white wine which he left at my place for our meals together. Apart from Cherry Brandy with lemonade as a treat at Christmas, my children had not developed a taste for alcohol. At the time the wearing of seat-belts was promoted and random breath tests were introduced. Some of my colleagues said that this would never be accepted as part of a night out was unlimited alcohol. Most people resent change imposed on them and it would take time. I had never needed alcohol to have a good time, only good company and preferably good dance music. It was noticeable that people began to nominate one driver to stay sober and the idea was eventually the norm.
I never had to mow the lawn or turn the compost heap. It had always been so since the boys were big enough. At the weekend each of the children had selected a job, in the house or garden or washing the car, according to their age and ability, which meant we could go out on the Sunday. On Saturday afternoon I usually put the oven on and each of the children cooked something, David often experimented with making bread.
In spite of Ian's poor health he mostly had to do the washing, lawns, garden (avoiding the bees to which he was severely allergic) and so on.
My children accepted him as a visitor, but as it was obvious his visits had become regular, Jacqueline, nearly fourteen, became wary and guarded having experienced a domineering man, who had tried to come on heavy with both me and the children. We had found ways to get on with our lives without the need of a man. Ian did not push things but was always ready to be friendly and bided his time. He was also shy of forming serious relationships and commitments. His marriage break-up had caused a complete hiatus in his life. We had a comfortable and convenient relationship and were in no hurry to change anything.
Ian described his ex-wife Jean as "being animal mad". In their wedding photos she was nursing a cat. She was notably attractive and conscious of her appearance. Being a good dressmaker she made all her own clothes and was "dressed to the nines" whatever she was doing. Neither of the children resembled their adoptive parents. Ian and Jean had always been frank with them about their adoption and raised them as well as they knew how. By 1972 they had left Tasmania and come north hoping for a warmer climate. They were living in Kiama, Ian was working on converting an old house into units for Kevin with whom he was still friendly many years later. Ian and Jean were having serious marriage problems, but he had not until then confronted the deteriorating situation.
He had kept a work diary which he did in the evening, recording only essential bookwork and sometimes postponed even that until he felt more fresh next morning. In it he put occasional references to his family life and other details, from which I later extracted the following details:-
Got uptight over Jean. Depressed. Got terrible shock in Flat 3. Wish I could cry. Tears won't come. No one to help me. Am sick at heart.
Soon afterwards he gave Jean key money for a flat. He sought an escape. Until then he had not met such a setback in his life and he felt helpless.
In February he wrote 12. My birthday. Huh! In evening got full but didn't really enjoy it. Got driven home.
13 Lay in. Sick.
Went drinking in evening. Not much fun but I can't stand the flat on my own.
Sounds like Jean has another boy friend. Looks like she won't come back to me. I feel like the light has gone out.
March 11. Jean came with David's car for kids.
A week later David came for kids.
29 Feeling bad. Bronchitis coming on.
He was getting a lot of bronchitis for which he got antibiotics. He often went to the doctor to get antibiotics and often commented he was very short of wind.
23 Saw doctor and got more dope.
Aug 6 Sean is 14 today. I wonder if Jean realises the wrong she has done him.
12 Went to Batehaven with Kevin to set out house.
24 Got Jean to sign contract for sale, and also transfer. Had to pay her $500 blackmail. Still a load off my mind.
Got a loan from building society. $1800. It didn't pay all the bills.
October 5 booked fares to Tas
30 Dec. My chest very painful when I cough.
25 Went to Jean's brother 's for dinner. Drank home brew. Jean came around with her little friend to spoil my digestion. Got food poisoning at night. Bloody painful.
18 Sean has quarrelled with Jean and came home. I have developed a hacking cough which I fear will bring on bronchitis. Got antibiotics (Mystechlin).
In April Jean came for Norna and started making trouble between the kids. Making trouble seems to be her main enjoyment. It's all she's ever done for me in the last five years.
15 Not eating this weekend and not feeling so good. I think I have caught the virus that is going round so I went to doctor.
29 Norna is playing up. She said she is going to live with Jean.
May 4 Jean and I agreed to a divorce. How I hate that word. Had to go to Jean's to get her to sign the covenant regards title of land. Luckily she did.
Aug chest pains. Feeling ill but had to go to Wollongong to pay for tiles for house.
7 Feeling very bad so stayed in bed and coughed.
8 Went back to Dr. Got more medicine. I am left to do the washing and mow the lawns.
21 Went to Sydney to see specialist. He gave me some new dope and charged me $30.
15 Feeling rotten. Think I must have a chest infection.
25 Christmas Day went to Jean's brother's for dinner. It's very kind of him. However it's not really my kind of thing, but it gives Sean a sense of family.
31 Feeling much better thank goodness as it is Hogmanay. Went out to club. Contrary to expectations it turned out a good night.
1974 1/76 Collins St
New Year's Day. Made the rounds in the traditional manner.
Jan 15 Saw solicitor re divorce. Messy business.
15 Saw Norna and gave Jean $50 for Norna's clothes. Made an appointment with a hypnotherapist.
26 Had first session of the hypnotic course. (Perhaps this was when he first became interested in yoga which he tried to use to help him cope)
29 Went to hypnotist at night. Was very relaxed but still not under.
31 Went to club and drank too much. Why do I bother? I don't like the place even.
23 Saw hypnotist after work. I don't know if any progress is being made or not.
26 Now I am divorced. Just like that.
July 27 Met my future neighbours.
24 Meg was arriving back from Scotland. Having decided to go to Adelaide for a trip I wanted to finish a job, but it rained. As the weather is so bad I left on a trip. The Hume H'way was full of potholes and flooded south of Yass. [He did get to Adelaide and saw his Aunt Meg aged 74]
I had a peculiar virus.
Nov 5 Have developed the worst cold I've had in years. In bed the rest of the week.
Sean threw a tantrum and I lost my temper then slept eleven hours.
Sean came home and started screaming about why I didn't do his washing, so I really lost my temper.
Feb 19 Party next door at night.
14 Went to Moruya and put Kevin's plans through Council.
16 Xray shows my lungs are deteriorating.
Aug 8 Sean went for his test today but was failed for parking.
15 Sean got his driving licence.
Sept 4 Went to Batehaven to see Kevin's block. The house to start soon.
Mar 15 Booked the plane ticket to UK. I leave on June 3 at 15.30.
Sept 14 Wonderful holiday. On return started to pitch roof at Batehaven.
18 In evening went with neighbours to Lion's Club function.
25 Norna's birthday 17 today. I miss her, trouble and all.
Feb 1 Sean started at WIN 4. Loves it.
5 Went to Irish Club dance at night and had a very bad scare. Landed in hospital.
24 Chest pains. Neighbours cut my lawn and fixed mower.
April 5 Sean went to work this afternoon and got the sack. He got such a shock.
This is when Ian and I met. My marriage had broken up eleven years earlier, over five years before his, when my children were three, nearly four and six. When my youngest went to preschool, I went back to work full-time. Later the marital house was sold and I was able to borrow and buy a place of my own at Farmborough Heights.
Ian seemed more stunned by the failure of his marriage, especially being left with two difficult adolescent children and the struggle to learn housekeeping as well as earn a living. The stress was utterly tiring. He was now, after five years beginning to regain confidence. He said he had tried to find out what was wrong with his marriage and I told him that the way the question was asked influenced the outcome. I had experienced "What's wrong with YOU today?" which was not conducive to a frank discussion, only defensiveness. He took that on board.
As I had three children at High School, my budgeting was very stringent so that we could have occasional inexpensive holidays, usually camping or staying in onsite vans. This practice had begun years before, first with my brother and his family in a big cottage tent. Later I introduced my children to the inexpensive sport of bushwalking which I had taken up at College. I had to think of food for the trip, clothes, sleeping bags, cooler, picnic basket, maps and so on, quickly encouraging them to help. Otherwise we could not have afforded to travel or have holidays. I was not a big risk-taker, but usually took opportunities that offered after careful consideration and planning.
Every August I had taken my children to the Snowy, until now sharing a cottage with my brother, Bill, Clare and Roderick, who lived in the Blue Mountains. I had made waterproof pants and jackets for my children to wear over their warmest clothes and they hired boots and skis. They always shared the shopping, cooking, cleaning and other chores. Clare and I knitted, read or wrote letters. I had skied a little twenty years earlier but hesitated to get too adventurous until Peter could drive. This year Peter on his "L" plates, shared the driving. David, with the fairest skin got sunburnt, even his eyes and I had to buy him sunglasses and a balaclava. Ian was averse to the idea of ever seeing snow again!
As Jacqueline and Roderick were both adolescent Clare felt that they were too old to share a room in future. They intended to invite a male friend of Roderick to go with them. Renting a cottage for ourselves was too expensive for me, so my children did other things. Later Peter had a chance to go with University friends who did cross country skiing which they found more interesting and avoided ski lift costs.
Generally Ian preferred to "go with the flow" and take things as they came. It was necessary to look deeper to find the man who had an enquiring mind, a profound interest in and knowledge of a myriad of things and to find the man capable of complete sharing and complete trust. That is the man I came to know. There were by now too many positive things in his life and he had developed a more optimistic attitude. We had learnt to trust each other and found no need for deception. He no longer looked for any escape such as reading excessively or going to the club to drink. Reality was more attractive. Ian had long given up trying to influence his children in any way as he felt they would go their own way no matter what he said. They thought we were out-of-date, they were modern and "with it".
I learnt later that Ian's total income for 1976-7 was $8724. My gross earnings to support three children at high school were $10735 on a regular basis. When I needed a small maintenance job done, Ian attended to it and I did small sewing repairs for him which began a happy arrangement for both of us and of course expanded. While he worked Ian liked to whistle, not to any audience, rather to himself. Loud, blaring radios were not encouraged on his jobs.
When Peter had finished his HSC we took him to Young fruit picking to earn money to help him at University and Ian and I enjoyed the weekend away. We found we had a lot in common but were both reluctant to make further commitment. Planning for such a trip was not something Ian was used to. He seldom went anywhere, if he did he usually stayed at a hotel. He liked to throw a few things into a bag and go. As I was used to planning, he happily allowed me to do it. While we were away we investigated the farm where Peter was to work and on the way back we looked at the countryside and the places we went through with enquiring eyes, noting the change in the vegetation around Young. Peter came home by train to Moss Vale, bringing boxes of cherries and I went to pick him up from the station.
One day when Ian arrived at my place he told me he had read his mail, put his glasses on the roof of his car but had lost them between Kiama and the timber yard. He drove back to look but found no sign of them and would have to buy another pair. They were bifocals and expensive. This was not the last time this happened when his mind was on other things!
On Christmas Day we had dinner at my place. Sean called in briefly. Our Christmas had always been modest. Gifts were often home-made. On Boxing Day we were sharing a drink with Ian's neighbours and friends in Kiama when his eighteen-year-old daughter, Norna, tall and angular, arrived from Bulli on her way to Sanctuary Point, wearing a bikini. Nobody else was in swimming gear. I felt she was very concerned about attracting attention to her appearance, the current fashion and having a good time. She was friendly but in a hurry to meet her friends and soon left.
Ian tended to be cautious and negative and even hesitated to do untried things which he thought might not work, or visiting people because "They are probably not home". I persuaded him sometimes to trust my judgement and eventually he became more adventurous about "giving it a go".
He was no more assertive with Sean than he was with my children and was plainly in the habit of allowing him to neglect his share of the work and so the inevitable conflict was avoided. This was probably a result of his health as stress obviously made his asthma worse. He had gone through a big upheaval when his marriage broke up five years before and was not as well equipped as I was to manage the house and children. He was left with two young teenage children who fought verbally and physically and had not been expected to do their share in spite of Ian's obvious poor health. Ian had found this too difficult. He had to learn to cook, wash, iron and housekeep but when he tried to cope with rebellious children he felt impotent. The pattern of passiveness had been set.
He sometimes expressed regret about lost opportunities and unfortunate decisions. I regretted nothing in my life once I had time to come to terms with things that could not be changed. This had been a problem with my first husband. He could put out of his mind anything he didn't want to think about, but got very angry when things went wrong and dwelt on the problems. He had frequently said that our marriage would get better when we didn't have any money worries, but they never did. Ian and I were not greedy for material wealth and I told him I thought people should never look back. Learn from mistakes and move on with the expectation that things will improve or at least that something good will come out of it. Concentrate on the positive things in life. It had taken me a long time to learn that and it had cost me a lot of sleep in my early life.
My brother Bill and Clare and their son Roderick, then fourteen were staying in a caravan at a nearby beach and one day Ian and I and my children spent a day there with them. I had two long-legged boys and a rapidly-growing daughter so I had bought a bigger car which happened to be an automatic Valiant. The boys had made a canoe at school and we carried it on the roof rack, and they enjoyed paddling in the lagoon.
My father had remarried after the death of my mother in 1953 and lived at Mudgee. In 1974 his second wife died. Occasionally he drove down to visit. I had been working on collecting his family history. His paternal grandfather had come from Scotland and as a boy Dad had attended a Highland Games in Sydney in a miniature kilt. Dad had also learnt inlaid woodwork from his father and was quite skilled. I had shown some of his handicraft to Ian. This greatly interested him and he admired it but could not do it because of problems with his hands and lack of dexterity. Dad and Ian had common interests from the start and found many more. I had a large extended family, Ian had very few relatives in Australia.
From time to time we went to wood shows and displays where we saw very skilled work and intricate designs in beautiful timbers. He explained the techniques and I could see the beauty.
For Ian New Year was more important than Christmas and he put on a BBQ for us, his neighbours and some friends. At first he declined my offer of tomato sauce until he realised it would not come out of a commercial bottle. Some of those present played an instrument to provide music and later a piper friend arrived in his kilt and with his bagpipes to give us a few appropriate tunes. A great entertainment. Of course there was whisky, not the common ones that many Australians drank.
By this time I had learnt a lot about birds and trees from Ian. It was impossible not to learn something on every outing. He commented on the young magpies crying "Feed me mummy." I also learnt about his village life and carefree childhood. This I could understand, as I had grown up in an outer suburb of Sydney, at the time very rural. My brother and I played in the creek, climbed trees and explored the district. My holidays were spent in the country with only tank water, a chip heater, a fuel stove and the opportunity to investigate, explore, make our own entertainment and act responsibly and independently.
The next year Peter went to the University of NSW to study medicine, having won a scholarship. We had to become familiar with the area, a part of Sydney almost unknown to me. To Peter everything he attempted came easily. Both physically and mentally he took things in his stride. He was becoming more deeply environmentally aware and became involved in "Buga Up" a group of people defacing billboards promoting smoking. He threw paint-filled balloons at them. All his clothes were "preloved" and he was very careful with his allowance knowing from his childhood how to have fun without great expense. A lot of his friends were vegetarian which was cheaper and we learnt to enjoy the food they ate. When he and his friends were visiting I made an attempt at vegetarian food. We were already eating less meat. During his course, Peter learnt that taking regular doses of ephedrine?? had serious side effects and was no longer recommended. Ian's doctor had prescribed Ventolin but Ian said he could not co-ordinate his breathing with the inhaler and continued with the tablets. Peter tried to persuade him to persevere, but Ian found it difficult and resisted. Peter also learnt more about factors considered unhealthy and mentioned anything he noticed in the house.
Ian and I agreed we were both opposed to unnecessary waste and destruction of what we valued in the natural world. We each had a vegetable garden and some fruit trees and used pesticides and herbicides sparingly, Ian because of his low tolerance to many things. I had habitually recycled everything possible. Clean water, we realised was a precious commodity. We were both aware of the need to be responsible, conserve water, preserve the bush and control population growth especially in Australia, the Dry Country. Material goods were no substitute for close, caring relationships. It dismayed us that so many people could simply close their minds.
Don Chipp had started the Democrats. I had no allegiance to either major party and heard of the new group with optimism. When there was a meeting in Wollongong I persuaded Ian and another friend to go to check it out. I supported them for a while, voting for them when possible (until Cheryl Kernot).
I needed some new clothes for going out. Most of my wardrobe was for work, shopping or the house, with only a couple of simple floor length dresses for evening. At the time these clothes were not interchangeable. I made a lot of my own clothes, Jacqueline also made hers with some help. Mine were practical, comfortable, colourful and preferably minimum-care. Growing up I had believed that having the "right" clothes were very important, but found I often enjoyed myself as much at an unexpected party without my "party clothes" and realised my enjoyment depended on the company and who I was and what I did, not what I looked like or what I wore.
The Handicapped School had moved to a modified portable room at Figtree School. I had a male teacher next door who had a handicapped son of his own. The teachers' aid was still extremely uncooperative. Swimming at a heated pool and pony riding still were a regular part of the activities and we were integrated as much as possible into the normal classes. I found this challenging and rewarding.
Although Ian and I still went regularly to the Germania Club, he tired quickly and did not attempt the fast dances. He liked quicksteps, tangos, and slow waltzes. He did not readily give in and even jived a little but was probably glad when I was asked by someone else. One day at home on a rainy day we were watching "Orpheus in the Underworld" on the TV and found ourselves joining in dancing "The Can Can" (our version).
In February we stayed with my cousin Margaret in Sydney, and treated ourselves to a theatrical show with Paul Eddington in "Pinafore" for our nearly-shared birthday. Margaret was glad for Ian to do a couple of little jobs for her. Ian met members of my extended family and fitted in very well, developing some firm relationships.
Sean met Karen at a club in Dapto and told her he would be 21 in August, so her family put on a party for him at which Sean and Karen got engaged. Embarrassed, we had to attend and pretend he was 21 instead of 20! Ian would gladly have given Sean a 21st birthday party and I felt it made him look mean that Karen's parents felt they had to do it. Ian felt he had let Sean down but had not been able to help him distinguish between reality and fantasy. I had had the same problem with my first husband and the lack of trust was one of the main reasons for the marriage break-up.
A few months later Karen and Sean were married at Dapto with only a handful of Sean's family there, mostly Karen's large family.
Oct 28 Sean married Karen today. I don't know why the rush. I am putting my house on the market in order to build another house.
Bland St. I don't know how I can keep up the payments.
Ian had decided to sell the house he was living in and build another, so he bought a block of land. It suited him better to build "spec" houses as he did not have to meet deadlines as he had to when working for an employer. When he was ill he could usually stay in bed, especially if he had a subcontractor he knew he could trust. Sometimes he needed to be on site, but could mostly take it easy. This is how he earned a living, making a little on each sale to finance the next.
Soon afterwards Sean and Karen went to WA. Sean still owed about $2000 on a car he had brought, when he was 17, persuading Ian to go guarantor. To Ian, borrowing money had been a totally alien concept. He had not known of such a thing in Scotland and he had even been reluctant to borrow money to get a home in Tasmania. While Sean and Karen were away the Credit Company came and said a lot of money was still owing so Ian wrote to them - and that was first Karen knew of the matter. She was still paying off her own car, tried to pay for both but had no hope. Sean said he had "forgotten". They soon returned east.
1979 Mar 31 Started packing at home in readiness to move. Lucky for me Sean and Karen came and helped otherwise I wouldn't have managed.
Aug 6 Sean is 21 today and I never even saw him. Sale of 203 Princes H'way Kiama
Fri night was Dorothy's school dinner at Yellow Rock. Good but too noisy.
Sat we went to the Ensemble Theatre with Writers' Group and then a meal at Spaghetti Factory. The play was "Second Chapter". Excellent!
Ian moved into a small basic flat in Kiama, owned by a friend who was his painting contractor. He had to give up his vegetable garden, so helped me more with mine.
Sean did part of a computer course. He and Karen rented in the Dapto area, near her family. She was expecting a baby in February 1980. Ian hinted that she should give up smoking as it could affect the health and mental development of the unborn child. Soon afterwards the Credit Company demanded the money from Ian, so he paid, called by their place, furious, arrived at my place still angry and quite breathless and said he didn't want to contact Sean ever again. He was too upset and disillusioned. I had never seen him so irate. At the same time he felt he should have known better than to go guarantor, but Sean was very persuasive, and strong-willed. I could understand Ian's dismay. $2000 was a big blow to his plans. After some time I persuaded him to get in touch to have contact with his expected grandchild, an innocent party and eventually he relented and the topic was avoided after that.
David, the most reticent of my children, would be doing music for his HSC and my brother found a second-hand piano which he brought down on a big trailer. Later in the year he became ill one evening after dinner, went to bed early, but came out to the living room where Ian and I were sitting and complained. He practically collapsed on the carpet as I felt his head. He was very pale and shivering so I rang the emergency doctor and got a pillow and blanket. The doctor came quickly and rang the ambulance which also came quickly. Ian and I followed it to the hospital and by the time we arrived, David was being prepared for an appendectomy. We waited until he came out of the theatre. Ian was VERY late getting home. I took a day off work, which I rarely did, to visit him the next morning. It had been a close thing.
At the end of the year I was appointed to Unanderra School. I had enjoyed my years with the Handicapped Unit but could not get on with the teachers' aid. Later I heard that she was equally uncooperative to my successor.
Norna was living in a defacto relationship with someone who worked at the Shoalhaven Botanic Garden, expecting a baby in July, doing casual work. She said she didn't believe in marriage. "Having a piece of paper proves nothing." We agreed, when commitment and trust were lacking.
1 Gibraltar Ave, Kiama
April 3 Easter weekend. Dorothy and I went to Hunter Valley for a few days. Absolutely superb.
Feb 6 today I am a grandfather for the first time. A boy. Glen 4 kg.
12 Fixed Dorothy's roof. Rest of week no work and bronchitis. Staying at Unanderra.
13 Feeling better. Dorothy came to Batehaven for a few days.
I have buyers interested in the house so I have to carry on and finish it in a hurry and not go to Scotland. Had to meet the buyers on site so I moved some of the clay and dirt but wasn't at all fit.
19 Norna had a daughter. In afternoon I went to see Norna and Baby Alison. Norna is very happy.
22 Working slow on account of chest pain.
Aug 24 Went on holiday with Dorothy for a week to north of state.
Sept 19 On weekend Dorothy and I went to Batehaven and I finished off a job.
Sept 25 My daughter is 21 today. Have got her a sewing machine.
As far as I know Norna never used the machine. The next year she was still living with her defacto who was still working at the Shoalhaven Botanic Gardens. She was claiming a Supporting Mother's Pension and a supplement as Alison's father was part Aboriginal. Sean and Karen resented the extra money she got which they could not. Both mothers were still smokers which they blamed on the peer group. Both grand children had been quickly weaned.
When David got his HSC he started working for Overseas TeleCommunications as a trainee doing electronics, living in Sydney and going to St George Technical College. He became interested in table tennis and computers. During the following year David moved in with Peter and his friends in the Eastern Suburbs.
June 18 On the plane to Scotland.
A marvellous holiday marred by my developing a frozen shoulder and as a result off work for the rest of the year.
It was thirty years since Ian had left Scotland, intending to work in Australia for a couple of years, then move on and eventually go home. That didn't quite happen although he still loved his homeland. He now had a brief visit to the scenes of his youth and a package tour to the fiords in Norway.
While he was away the roof blew off my house at Farmborough Heights during a very severe storm with hurricane-force winds. The Emergency Service put a tarpaulin over the roof, until it could be repaired. They lent us a small generator for a while and Jacqueline and I, our neighbours and some workmen watched part of the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana. (This turned out to be an ill-fated marriage, royalty is not immune to the problem. She was very decorative but immature & they were ill matched. I knew how difficult it was to make the right choice). Before the roof was repaired there was a rainstorm, rain damaged the walls and carpet. The new roof was of better quality than the original and the carpet was cleaned and the walls repainted.
Ian returned with a beautiful Tartan skirt and a clan badge of my great great grandfather. I made a frilly white blouse to wear with it and made good use of it. This was the last time we were apart for any length of time. Ian had previously bought for his daughter a kilt and white blouse which she never wore, so he asked her to pass them on to me. The tags were still attached.
Jacqueline, in her last year at High School was an individual with plenty of original ideas. She applied to go to Mitchell College, Bathurst. Although she had been in no great hurry to go for her driving licence as the boys had been, I paid for some lessons and she was successful in my automatic car. Ian then gave her some lessons in his utility which was manual and her relationship with him was cemented. She had long realised that Ian was a positive thing in her life and he was willing to do things for her as she was not over-demanding and pulled her weight in the house and also mowed the lawn. She was receptive to opinions and advice he offered.
In November Karen had a daughter and they called her Kylie, Ian's third grandchild. As was my custom I sewed and knitted things for them, especially Alison as she did not have an extended family who sewed or knitted.
By now we were eating a lot less meat, more vegetables and more fish. While the children were growing I believed that protein was most important, this was no longer a consideration. One day when Norna and Alison were visiting I cooked a chicken for dinner and as usual removed the skin and fat. Norna expressed surprise.
"I like the skin", she said.
"I don't serve arsenic and I don't serve fat", I said wryly.
I had done a lot of research on Dad's family gaining clues from him about family legends which I followed up. I wrote to people I heard of and as a result there was a small get-together in Sydney, resulting in a proposal for a much bigger event in the place where Dad's great grandfather had set up a shipbuilding business on the Richmond River. I found that Ian was very knowledgeable about maritime matters, which was very helpful to me in understanding what I was reading. I was tentatively working on a story which I called "Magdalen", the wife of William Yabsley the shipbuilder.
Feb 19 This is my last job in Kiama. My shoulder is still not right. Bought land Waratah Cres, Sanctuary Pt. Tomorrow I go to Sanctuary Pt and will stay with Norna for a while. Go to Dorothy's as usual for weekend.
April 9 Dorothy and I to Easter Show.
Sept 29 Up to Coraki now for Yabsley reunion. (We took Dad to meet our large extended family about a thousand of whom attended. It was here that Ian decided it was the right time for us to get married. By now he had finished a simple house at Sanctuary Point.)
Oct 30 Hot day and I still feel rotten. Always tired.
Nov 23 To Prince of Wales hospital for tests.
The boys had bunk beds in their room which Ian used if he stayed overnight until Jacqueline's room was available. I needed a separate bed to get any sleep as his loud breathing and restlessness disturbed me.
We had a comfortable if not intense relationship. The five children were now going their own ways and should present no restraints to our undertakings. I had to be careful to include Ian in decision-making. He was careful not to encroach on what was until then my world and would willingly have left things to me until something happened which he was unhappy about. We had to learn to anticipate problems. There were only two of us to take account of on a daily basis. He had been forced to learn to manage the inhaler as ephedrine(?) was no longer prescribed and his bronchial asthma began to improve slowly. By this time he was normally mowing the lawn and washing up. With some practice he learnt not to mix cake as he did cement. It was always fruit cake, the only sort he really liked. When he got the knack, the result was good. Making a fruit cake became a regular undertaking.
As we were putting two households together we asked that there be no wedding presents, but Sean and Norna could not bring themselves to concur. They bought bath towels and china which we had no use for, having plenty. Eventually these were returned unused. We had decided not to buy token presents for each other but to put the money towards a major purchase such as a really comprehensive reference book when we saw something we both wanted.
By this time Jacqueline was away at Mitchell College at Bathurst. Peter was at Mendi, in New Guinea doing his final semester in medicine. David had transferred to the computer section of OTC. This new skill absorbed him and he had become more skilled than his superiors of a pre-computer generation.
Norna left her relationship and moved in with family friends at Wollongong. Later her defacto married and had a stable family whom we remained friendly with. Ian suggested that Norna should do some training at TAFE and he would help financially. She was not interested.
One day Sean, Norna and Karen were visiting us and we were talking about hobbies. Sean was preoccupied with computers and had done part of a computer course. Ian tried to take an intelligent interest but had never touched a computer. Norna seemed to have no hobby except clothes. Ian said she was a "good little consumer" but suggested that she did not have a good idea of what suited her. Karen said her hobby was shopping - "Good shopping". All three had only a superficial interest in anything else, certainly nothing mentally challenging. There were no common interests in music, books, the environment, world affairs, travelling, health so discussions were about trivialities. All three smoked but not in my house.
Ian said he was glad he had been able to take the opportunity in Tasmania to get into a trade he loved. As well as earning a living from it, it was one of his hobbies. Norna and Karen were both keen on tidy housekeeping with minimum effort. Norna admitted that it embarrassed her to hear her father whistling. I liked to hear it and he had a great repertoire of tunes. It meant he had enough breath which was a good sign. He also liked to imitate various British accents.
I was still working full time, Ian worked as he could, usually on repairs, renovations and additions until the house at Sanctuary Point sold. Sean and Karen undertook a land/house package offer at Dapto. Ian did some minor alterations for them. Their three-year-old son Glen had very immature language skills. Ian commented that every time we went there the children were in trouble and crying. Our offer of a sand heap was declined as the children might bring sand into the house. Sean sprayed ants in the back yard and showed us some illegal chemicals he had obtained. Ian was horrified as he went out of his way to avoid everything of this type because of his low tolerance to such chemicals. When Sean's neighbour asked him to stop he complied.
Peter did some trekking and canoeing in New Guinea and got back in time for the wedding.
Dec 16 Left to be married and until more work comes in.
To celebrate our marriage at the local registry office, I had bought myself a new outfit, Ian wore his best suit, with a frilly white shirt and bow tie. We went to the Germania Club for dinner with only the family. There was not much conversation at our table when Ian and I were dancing. Our first trip, officially married was to Melbourne, Hanging Rock, Mt Buffalo and Wilson's Promontory in the Datsun which I had bought after the Valiant, not now needing such a big car.
I had belonged to a private health fund since I began work before Medibank or Medicare. My children ceased to be covered as they became independent, now Ian was included and was eligible for refunds for medical expenses. We rewrote our wills with advice from Ian's solicitor in Kiama.