Chapter 35 NEW GUINEA
The only flight to New Guinea left at midnight to enable the pilot to reach Port Moresby early in the morning and cross the Owen Stanley Range and back in daylight. I was not looking forward to the thought of such a journey with three children aged six, four and two. In spite of many qualms, we arrived at Mascot aerodrome in good time, the boys in winter pyjamas and jumpers, eagerly awaiting the moment we would go aboard, and even Jacqueline in pink nightie under her warm coat, was too excited to sleep. Each child clutched a small case with the clothes they would wear the next morning in the tropics and a few toys and of course Bear, given to Peter by Auntie Dorrie when we were in Germany, now in Jacqueline's care.
At midnight we were told "We regret any inconvenience to you but due to circumstances beyond our control, there will be a half-hour delay."
Three and a half hours later we left and the following day arrived in Lae where we changed planes and clothes.
At four the next afternoon we touched down at Wewak, in a small plane, somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for New Guinea. I wore my best aqua linen dress and Jacqueline a blue and white gingham check dress which I had spent hours smocking (in my spare time!) and the boys matching suits I had made. I felt we looked a lovely family group and that Bill should have been proud of us, even though after a sleepless night none of us felt our best.
A few minutes after we had disembarked at this last outpost, a car arrived with Bill as passenger. They had waited until they had seen the plane, and then had left the worksite to meet us.
So the first person Bill introduced me to was the driver, a man of about twenty, with several long unpronounceable names, generally reduced to "Maurice". He was well-built and had an engaging smile, possible only for a person who has shiny white teeth in a shiny black face. The car belonged to the stores manager who was away for a few days and who had loaned it on condition that no-one but Maurice drove it. Apart from trucks, a bus which transported the men to work and other work vehicles there was little transport of any kind. Bill explained all this but at that time it was of little importance to me.
"We just want a wash and go to bed, maybe a light snack."
"There's a BBQ on tonight. I thought we would go."
"No thank you. None of us is fit for anything. Where's our house?"
"Well our house isn't finished yet, they are painting and cleaning up after the last tenants, so we have to go into a flat for a few days. We'll see the house at the weekend. The boxes arrived a few days ago."
"I should hope so. I sent them in good time, we saw them being loaded on the ship about a month ago. I hope you've unpacked them."
By now the luggage was unloaded from the plane and we drove the few miles to the town, were shown the four small shops and the flat allocated to us.
At this stage I saw that the boxes were standing in the kitchen ready for me to attack, in order to find bed linen, cutlery, summer pyjamas, china, saucepans, towels and most important of all - Bill's slides which he wanted to show to his friends. The company, PDC (Provincial Disasters Committee which had been set up after the war) had asked one of the women to buy us a few basic grocery items such as bread and butter, tea and sugar. As there was nowhere else to eat, we went briefly to the BBQ, arriving dead tired and with sore feet as it was a long walk and we didn't have suitable cool footwear. The event was obviously unsuitable for children and as soon as we had eaten and another foreman offered to drive us home, I was eager to leave.
Next morning life did appear to be marginally more attractive, although we had not yet recovered our land legs and Jacqueline had a touch of gastric. I staggered around trying to organise the flat, while not unpacking everything because of the anticipated move to our house. At eight am the heat was as intense as the hottest day at home. We would be staying indoors as much as possible, sitting under the giant fans.
I enrolled Peter at the school & David at the pre-school for two days a week. They would start next week.
I did some essential shopping as there was little in the flat, and after a short time trying to find some of the items I wanted and learning that they were unavailable until the next boat at some uncertain time, I just wanted to crawl into a hole (cool hole). The choice of meat was sirloin steak or sausages, all milk was powdered, everything was in cans except for some tropical fruit and vegetables at the market. Everything was strange and even sausages were dear, even sausages... but Bill was earning good money.
"Where do you buy chemist items?" I asked a neighbour from the flats when I went shopping.
"Some basic things are in the shop, but scripts have to go to Lae. It's not very satisfactory. One of the women sent for peroxide for her hair and the bottle burst in the mail bag and everyone's mail arrived illegible."
"The children need strong sandals. I should have bought them before we left, but where can you buy sandals in winter in NSW?"
"You can draw their feet on paper and send it to the shoe shop. They're used to that sort of thing."
"David is on a special diet. I brought some biscuits with me, but I'll have to send for more right away."
When the biscuits arrived some weeks later they had come from Brisbane, the air freight was expensive. I could have brought a supply with me if I had known.
On Saturday Maurice and another friend, Wally, a colleague of Bill's arrived in the borrowed car to show us the sights. We saw them rather quickly. The town with most of the white population was built on a small hilly headland, the four shops and small market were in the main street at the foot of the hill. Anything that wasn't here or at the small canteen at the building site, did not exist. The native food in the market looked strange to me but I bought some to experiment with, not very successfully. There was nobody nearby I could ask as the women I met did not use it. Stocks of food in the shop were very limited.
Ships were anchored in the harbour as there was no wharf. The hospital was on a smaller peninsular about five miles out of town, then there was the airfield and finally the army site where Bill was employed building new army facilities. Here and there through this sprawl a native village of grass huts, raised above the ground, could be seen in clearings in the jungle. Then we went past the men's barracks behind the airfield, past a native prison, where the prisoners in identical distinguishing laplaps could be seen tending animals and cutting grass, past a native village to a lone and completely isolated house with a magnificent view of the airfield, the jungle, the blue harbour, with some wrecked Japanese vessels from the war and the distant jungle-encrusted islands. Workmen were painting and tidying the house.
"Well there's your house. It will soon be ready for you," said Wally. "Not everyone would like it, but the view is great. The builder's wife threatened to leave him unless he moved to town, but Bill assures everyone you are quite used to this sort of thing. Brave woman. Do you want to go in?"
I shook my head. I was speechless. I couldn't bring myself to admit to these men that this was the first I had heard of it. What had happened to the new house in the town directly opposite the post office? It turned out not to be started yet, its construction had been postponed indefinitely.
When Maurice dropped us at the flat, Bill suggested that they both come back in the evening to see his slides. My shopping had not included anything to offer visitors for supper.
"Make something," said Bill.
"What with?" I enquired dryly.
When the men arrived, the boys were asleep, but Jacqueline was still restless. She was still not well, but as there was no doctor or chemist in town, the hospital being for emergencies only, I was left to try the usual starvation remedy for gastric. I lay down with her and Bear, to help her to settle, and after she was asleep I was too lethargic to force myself to entertain visitors. I crawled into bed, exhausted from the long flight, the unaccustomed heat, the sudden change in atmosphere and sickening disappointment.
A string of prospective "haus bois" (house boys) arrived. They did not presume to knock on the door but waited outside, for hours if necessary. At last I went out and said "Missus no want haus boi" and to the more persistent "Come back six o'clock. Talk Masta", but Bill declined to help in this matter and just waved them away.
When Peter started school and David started at the pre-school, I made a gluten-free lunch for David, mostly salad as I was not yet ready to test his reaction to food he was not used to, and sandwiches for Peter. I organised my day, trying to regain my composure and keep Jacqueline occupied. Peter had been to school for two terms the year before and had excelled in Kindergarten work, although he was the youngest in the class. He was half way through first class and still succeeding when we left for New Guinea. Here he was in a composite first-second class, because of the small numbers in each grade, firsts and seconds combined. Out of about thirty-five pupils, about thirty were white.
"Mummy, you know what they do in second class? I've watched them. They put down the tens and units under each other like this, then they add up the units first and carry the tens, then they add up the tens and put the answer here."
No need to worry about his schoolwork.
There was a sense of remoteness from the world. The news on the radio was in pidgin which few whites I met understood properly. They learnt only really basic words. They were not there for long, usually just to make money for a period and were caught up in the trivialities of social life to fill in time, ignoring the natives, seeing them only as a tourist would, objects of passing interest. Few people became involved. Bill's colleague, Wally was an exception. He was a foreman who had lost his wife through illness not long before. Maurice had saved Wally's life in a boating accident, and the two had become inseparable.
The following weekend they took us on the only road to the Highlands, which after a few miles was untrafficable, then back and along the coast towards Irian Jaya, at the time an unstable place. Five years earlier it had become part of Indonesia when the Dutch passed it over and many of the inhabitants who were Melanesian had fled to refugee camps and there was continued resistance to the takeover. We saw a couple of native villages built of local materials, up off the ground and a "haus tambaran" (spirit house used by the men) with a beautifully-carved ancestor spirit on the roof pole. All the men we saw wore shorts and a shirt, the women wore smocks over long flowing skirts ("mother hubbards"), whether they were fifteen or fifty, whether they were trudging along a dusty road with an enormous load or fishing in waist deep water. It had been officially assumed and had become the policy of the Australian administrator of the Territory, that it was desirable for all primitive people to be brought willingly or unwillingly into the 20th century. This was probably inevitable sooner or later as they were already acquiring bicycles and transistor radios. We were just onlookers, a bit like visitors at the zoo.
* * *
In the afternoon Bill began to follow me around the flat, while I was working, shouting at me in the same manner as previously with accusations about my unwillingness to get a black dress or wear a bikini. Was he expecting that six months without a man would have made me eager to accede to his every wish? In every argument we had had in over seven years, the subject was changed to put me in the wrong. Suddenly I started to cry, knowing that coming to New Guinea had been an enormous mistake. He complained I was always "too busy". He said it was no wonder he had lost interest in staying home and that he was very disappointed in me as a wife, in marriage and life in general, and that because of me life was no longer worth living and he had better end it quickly. In fact he said I already had a knife 3/4 through his back so why did I prolong the agony, why couldn't I finish him off, did I want to see him crawl on his belly? I was tired of the one-sided relationship. I said that I also had felt deflated having discovered that he was not the person he had portrayed when we met and that our present situation was not what I had been led to expect. The usual argument into the small hours, another sleepless night, feelings of anger, hurt, disillusion and resentment.
Jacqueline began to wet the bed, David was difficult to handle, Peter was bossy and objectionable to the others. Every evening was bedlam, often all three crying in unison, the boys bit their finger nails, they all had bad dreams. The top of my hair was grey although I was still dark underneath. I knew nothing had changed.
"I wish I had never come," I cried. "It is a disaster." I knew I was not going to put up with this any more. After spending six months apart, I knew I could manage and had been free to enjoy music which I liked and the simple activities with the children who had been much happier. This should not be sacrificed for the sake of having a husband, father and more money.
The house in Wollongong was leased for twelve months, my job was gone and I was under obligation to Bill's employers for my return fare. Days went by with no purpose. I was disintegrating. Everything seemed futile, pointless. I felt as insecure as I had as a schoolgirl and the confidence I had gained from bushwalking and teaching had evaporated. But I had three children dependant on me. Rationally, going home was out of the question for the present. It was unlike me to give up after a few days, so I resolved to make what I could of the house when we moved in, learn something about New Guinea, raise some chickens and establish a garden (both a challenge in this climate) and not let Bill get me down.
This was not easy.
We moved into the house. It had a large central room opening on to a veranda, with a great view of planes landing and taking off from the airfield with constant activity. Most of the other rooms also opened on to the veranda. Electricity came from a noisy generator which had to be filled regularly and was switched off overnight. If it stopped it was too heavy for me to start again and then we had no fans, fridge, telephone, water and could not flush the toilet. The fridge in any case was not good enough to keep meat for more than a day in the tropical heat as the power was switched off overnight.
There were frequent earth tremors, which were associated with the uplifting of mountains and which we soon learnt to ignore. A cool change came through during the night often bringing rain and the windows and doors, left open for a breath of air, had to be closed. It rained nearly every night. This was the dry season and the frequent short rain periods were not enough to supply our needs. While the water was very low Bill decided to get the tank cleaned out - not before time as it contained a lot of sludge and rubbish including a dead bird. We used a drum while this was going on, then a water truck arrived to replenish our supply.
The school bus collected Peter and took him to the school in Wewak but for three or four weeks until our car arrived I had to depend on workmen to give me a lift to the shops. The firm transported Bill and the other foremen in the other direction to the worksite each day.
There was a "boi-haus" nearby which was occupied by a young man, his wife, child and baby. I was glad to have a woman nearby. The children played together. But Bill did not like them there and told them to go. The husband begged Bill to let them stay as the previous occupants of the house had done, but Bill was adamant. Soon afterwards someone from the First Aid section of the company came to live in the cabin and I found him very strange. One evening he asked us to give him a lift to the main road with his luggage as he was going home to visit a sick relative. Bill declined, but I felt obliged to take him as there was no other way to get there. When he came back I was aware he was watching me all the time when he was home. I learnt later that he had previously lost a job as an elementary teacher as he had lost his temper and hit a white woman. This did not inspire confidence.
I put my resolve into practice in the house soon afterwards and struggled to make a life for the children, ordering 100 day-old chicks from Brisbane and accepting the offer of a young puppy which the children named Toby. I arranged for a young haus boi to come to cut the long grass, sweep the floors, wash up and do a few basic chores. He could speak little English and my instructions were mainly demonstrations. It gave me time to sew for the children. After a while he asked Bill if he could have a day off to go home but Bill said no and the boy said "No want to work for you," and left. I needed someone to cut the grass and tried another who turned out to be more experienced. He could even iron the children's clothes well enough.
As the wife of a foreman, I was eligible to attend certain parties, barbecues and other social functions. Women were very much in the minority. One saw herself as the leading socialite. Before any event she ordered several designer outfits from which to make a selection and always looked stunning. (Unwanted outfits were returned to the Sydney store). I broke the rules by inviting to my home the wives of "leading hands" and worse still, having Maurice there regularly for lessons in spelling and arithmetic. He had had about two or three years schooling and had learnt pidgin which was a disadvantage to him with the dockets he handled in his job as a driver which were all in English. I prepared lessons according to the primary curriculum which I borrowed from the school in Wewak. Very quickly he learnt all the basic arithmetic in the primary syllabus. Spelling was a different matter, because of the confusion with pidgin. His spelling was similar to that of my six-year-old son, but what he needed for the job was the language used by tradesmen. He had a lot of prospects if only he could cope with reading. He could drive very well and knew some mechanics, but he could not read written instructions or check things on a list, or only very poorly. His improvement was rapid. This seemed to be the only useful thing I could do in New Guinea.
Bill frequently invited his single colleagues for the evening as he liked entertaining people. Once organised, I usually had something prepared for supper. The men were all very pleasant, even sympathetic and supportive of me and I enjoyed the social contact. Many of them were interesting and well travelled and had something to talk about. The highlight of my days was when we had visitors.
On one occasion some of Bill's colleagues and Maurice went with us to a muddy swimming hole on the river where some local natives were playing on the far bank. I had worn my costume under a simple-to-remove skirt and blouse. I helped the children into their costumes and we had a glorious time with plenty of adults playing with and attending to the children. I took the opportunity to give Peter a lesson in floating on his back and doing a little backstroke. I had sometimes taken them to Unanderra Pool but they were not good swimmers.
One school day when I was at home with David and Jacqueline the generator stopped and I heard a crackling noise and smelt fire. When I went outside I saw a cloud of smoke. It was a kunai grass fire. The grass grew right up to the house. The airstrip was cleared and the grass above it grew to ten feet or so, then died and fell over as dry as tinder. I had to fight the fire single-handed and had no water or telephone. All I could do was light a back burn and send the haus boi for help. When he saw me light the back burn, the haus boi cried " Oh missus, missus!" He thought I had gone crazy. No help arrived and the fire was approaching rapidly, the back burn was advancing slowly and the smoke getting thicker. Bill had taken the car David and Jacqueline were frightened. As Bill had the car we set out in the searing heat to walk to the nearest habitation. After a while we were picked up by some of Bill's colleagues and taken back, as the fire had burnt itself out. The backburn had worked! The house was safe but covered in ash which penetrated everything.
Bill had little to do with the children and never spoke to them by name. Mostly he ignored them. "You wanted them. You can look after them." Why had he never mentioned before we married that he really hadn't wanted children?
I believed Bill resented Peter's obvious academic abilities. I knew he resented my education, although he had never said so and he thought that I looked down on him after I learnt that he had never been an engineer.
If I felt it necessary to reprimand one of the children, Bill said it showed how "misbehaved" and "uncontrolled" (his words) they were, without knowing what had happened. When the children annoyed him, he yelled at me and called them "spoiled brats". He would yell out to me "They're doing such and such" expecting me to attend to it. Everyone else commented on how well-behaved they were.
I tried to show no outward evidence of my inner turmoil in order to maintain my equilibrium. When he realised that I was not letting myself be upset by him, Bill began to go out without telling me and he made arrangements to do things without discussing it. He decided to dump loads of fill where I had started my garden. Even when he knew Maurice and Wally were coming he sometimes went out. I tried to keep my tensions from the children. I shed tears in private, but they saw only a mask. Bill still shouted and swore around the house (at no-one in particular) and I knew that my apparent indifference was unbearable to him. We lived separately in the same house, he coming and going like a lodger, apart from his "conjugal rights". We shared less and less and hardly communicated.
I learnt little about New Guinea. Other than Maurice and my haus boi, I met no indigenous people. There were practically no roads so there was no chance of going beyond the little town even after our car arrived.
The house could not be locked and I felt nervous when Bill was out and lay awake, lying quite still when he came home until he was asleep. And at 5.30 every morning the planes began to warm up and the children got out of bed. Sleep was finished.
Here I was in a strange country with a unique culture, and an enormous proportion of the world's languages, (a thousand out of a total of five thousand) but I felt unable to make the most of the experience. My own predicament filled my thoughts. Subconsciously I was beginning to absorb differences between Australian, European and New Guinea land forms and that the soil has to be treated differently, but had little idea of where to begin to understand and little motivation. The natives sometimes kept their original religious beliefs and customs, but these were generally modified by the teachings of the missionaries. Then the Cargo Cults had arisen and often disappeared just as rapidly. It made me think people can vary their perceptions of the "gods" very easily.
Uncle Viv was living in Port Moresby. He had served in WWI and been a Major in WWII. At the end of the war he was supervising repatriation in Rabaul where he set up the Telephones Department and later helped form the RSL club. Later still Auntie Clytie had joined him, but became ill and they had returned to Pennant Hills when he retired. After Auntie Clytie had died he had accepted an invitation to be the guest of honour for the 50th anniversary of the Anzac celebrations in Port Moresby. Once back in New Guinea he had been offered a job repairing telephones and helping to train natives in the art. His years of experience with PMG, twenty of them as head of the Telephones Department in Rabaul and his fluency in pidgin were not to be wasted, although he was then aged seventy-two.
He knew we were coming and said he would visit if possible. I wrote to him and told him something of my problems.
He wrote back "I will do whatever I can for you and the children. A broken home is such a tragedy for them and if there is any way to avoid such a disaster, it should be carefully considered."
He belonged to an era when marriage was permanent, no matter how difficult. After Auntie Clytie had a stroke and needed constant nursing, he had been patient and uncomplaining and would have been so if she had been ten times more difficult.
He spent a week with us, observing much but saying little. He read stories to the children and played with them. They loved him. Like all the Smythes he was gentle and kind, sensitive and intelligent. We talked about the Catch 22 situation of westernising the people of NG or leaving them to their traditions. Those who had spent their hard-earned money on "modern" bicycles or radios were now finding they could not afford new tyres or batteries which meant the possessions were useless.
When he met Maurice Uncle Viv asked if local Sepic craft, especially weapons were available. Each district had identifiable craft. Maurice brought some examples at the next opportunity, and Uncle Viv bought them to add to his collection. He came with us to the prize-giving at the school at which Peter got a book prize. The next day Bill expressed his annoyance that his colleagues told him of Peter's success and he had not known.
"I met the District Commissioner's wife one day," I told Uncle Viv, "and she invited me to lunch. I mentioned your name to the Commissioner over lunch as he said they had been in Rabaul for a long time, but he said he'd never heard of you. Then he said you don't mean Wally Smythe? I assured him your name was not Wally, but from my description of you he was certain it was."
"That's right," Uncle Viv laughed. "The locals always called me Wally. Wally and the Major... the cartoon, you know."
"The DC and his family were so nice, so secure in their marriage. Such a contrast to us. I think there is no point whatever in Bill and me staying together. We lead separate lives. Mainly there is no trust. I should have known better than to come."
Uncle Viv said "You do what seems right at the time."
"I did feel doubtful when I gave up such a suitable job. There is a lease on our house of twelve months, but I don't feel I want to go back to Wollongong, to face everyone I know down there, having to explain."
"Well you know the house at Pennant Hills is available for you if you need it. Auntie Vi is there for the present and of course Ken, but there's plenty of room."
"I'd rather start a new life somewhere quite different. There shouldn't be any problem with getting a job. I know I can manage, once I make up my mind. I've coped with most things until now and I don't need a grand place. I really need to get away from here."
"What does Bill feel about it?"
"I don't think he cares. You know he never even writes to his mother. I have to write in German. Recently he won't even add a line to the end of my letters. Of course he blames me entirely for the way things are between us. He always blames other people when things go wrong. I believe something I read the other day 'A man may fail many times but he is not a failure until he starts to blame someone else'. He reminds me of my father in many ways."
"I know what you mean. At least you have better health than your mother."
"First I have to discuss the situation with his employers. I really need to get away from this isolated place."
For a few days after Uncle Viv left I considered what to do. I had long been denying the obvious. Bill avoided facing reality. When things weren't exactly as he would have liked, he imagined something that was, and invented whatever suited. Things like tax returns he could simply ignore. I could not cope with this attitude. I felt Bill needed help but it was beyond me. He didn't see that, and I decided there was nothing I could do without sacrificing the rest of us.
He could be very sociable and had plenty of casual friends, but no-one who could have a deep discussion with him. I had seen in Germany that he immediately got angry with anyone who tried to reason with him. His defence was to change the subject. He had a reputation for having a quick temper when something he wanted wasn't readily available and long periods of depression. The job was not satisfying to him. He was not happy at work or home.
One of his colleagues told me that Bill was planning to go to Lae as soon as his present contract was up. This was news to me. I had no intention of moving again and began to look for alternatives. His colleagues were plainly aware of our problems. One of them told me it was my duty to stick by my husband. I knew without anyone saying so, that most of them were concerned about me and I assured myself that at some future time there would be someone who did care about me.
I told Bill I was leaving. He didn't believe I would. He had often said our marriage was worthless and he might as well end it. But it was intolerable that I should be the one to leave. Sometimes it occurred to me that Bill would have been glad if I had given him grounds for divorce.
"What about the house then?" was his first reaction, as he reached for his cigarettes.
"The house," I gasped vibrating with disgust. "As far as I'm concerned I want to start a new life, certainly not in that house we've argued so much about. I'll be glad never to see it again."
It had never felt as if it were MY house, even half mine, the home I had dreamed of since I was about twelve. It was built on a block of land I had bought while still single, hoping for somewhere to "belong". I did not feel I belonged to that house. Although I contributed a large part of the finance, I had had little say in its design or construction.
"What is the problem? What's the matter with you? Are you feeling broody? Do you want another baby?"
"No. Seven years and three babies are enough. I can't believe what you say." I had indeed had enough of periods of agitation and anger interspersed with depression and days of silence. Anything he said lacked credibility.
"That's lovely that is. If you cared about me it would make no difference. I suppose only 80% was true," he conceded. "You're talking about me not being Swiss? Switzerland is so close it hardly makes a difference."
"It makes a difference to me. There has been so much fiction the whole time."
"What do you want me to say? Do you want me to beg you to stay?"
I felt utterly disbelieving. His mendacity was unbearable. "We have nothing in common. The trust has gone. All the things you told me when we first met which weren't true. The house here opposite the post office I was supposed to come to!"
Until now I had never confronted him with what I felt about the fantasies he had told me when we met, and current events, but he was surely aware that I was unhappy about them.
It was pointless to argue or try to explain. He was incapable of understanding. He was indifferent to my wishes or my distress. For him to say he was an engineer he saw as not much different from a bricklayer. I refused to argue any more. He expected me to capitulate in the end. I began to pack and suddenly Bill tried to persuade me that our relationship would improve.
A teaching job would be available in Wewak in the new year when one of the teachers was going on long service leave and so far no relief was organised. I only had to apply. First I would look for a house in the town, as I wanted Peter to be able to have friends after school and the other two would need child-care. Absolutely no accommodation was available so that idea had to be scrapped.
The firm was aware of our domestic difficulties and was not happy that I was enquiring rather than Bill and decided I should leave New Guinea which was their prerogative. People with domestic difficulties were discouraged. There were enough men escaping problems of all sorts. The women were only there to keep the workers happy.
It was arranged I would leave in early January and go to Pennant Hills until the lease of our house was up in August or I could make other arrangements. We would be in Wewak for Christmas and as there was not much choice of gifts, and no time to go through catalogues and send away, I was induced to buy some readily available inferior imports including a big tin wind-up aeroplane for the boys and a pretty pair of beautifully embroidered pyjamas for Jacqueline.
The Hillman would stay as the freight was too expensive. Those chickens which had survived in my inexperienced hands and the little puppy I gave to the haus boi.
When he saw I would not and could not change my mind, Bill made a large wooden box and packed into it a number of heavy tools (not his), two large mirrors (also not his) along with Jacqueline's doll's pram, the boys' toys and my dinner set and everything except what we would take on the plane. The box was so large it was difficult to pack and I felt sure things would be broken in transit.
I objected but it was no use. A crane was needed to load it on the truck to take it to the depot to wait for the next ship.
"You think you are so smart but you don't know how to keep a man happy."
I felt I didn't want to keep him happy, even if that were possible. There were five in our family, not one. At last after seven years of denial, I was accepting the obvious reality of a failed marriage. It was a destructive relationship. There was still disgrace connected with it, it was considered my duty to keep him happy. But I believed that happiness for any of us in this marriage was not feasible.
I walked away saying "I want a peaceful life with the children and I want nothing more from you."
Hepatitis, malaria and a broken leg were to prove that a rash statement, uttered in a period of despair, an appeal to be allowed to return to sanity.