Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

The Grey Nomads (part one)

September 1, 2016


As Audrey’s tale is lovely and long and we do not wish to exceed our wordage levels this will be part one and part two will appear on the 15th of this month. I hope you can wait.

As the northern hemisphere is getting ready for winter we in the southern part of the world are looking forward to spring. Time to start thinking of holidays away from home. Many people have mobile homes, a far cry from the caravans of the 60s and 70s. Lots of retired people have mobile homes and spend their time leisurely travelling round Australia all year. They have a nickname; The Grey Nomads. All jokes aside, lots of them love travelling to a new place every week. I don’t happen to be one of them. I don’t enjoy camping of any kind. Packing bed linen, cooking utensils, crockery and everything else one has to take on these trips is too much hassle for me. Towing all this stuff to a camp site and having to erect tents or stabilising a caravan, then having to cook meals on a dolls house size stove in a tiny space is not my idea of having a good time.
The first and last time we towed a caravan was when my mother-in-law came to visit us 3 years after we had emigrated to Brisbane.
My children were still young and were over the moon that Grandma was coming to stay with us. At long last they had a grandma of their own they could show off to the neighbourhood kids.

Annie was the type of mother-in-law comedians get plenty of mileage from. Her son was the apple of her eye and could do no wrong. I, the daughter-in-law could do nothing right. It was nothing personal, whoever had married him would have been in the same category.
Out to impress his mother my husband said we would take her to Cairns and show her the Great Barrier Reef. No money to splash out on five star hotels he said we would hire a caravan and could stop at various places on our journey north.
He made enquiries about caravan hire and chose a pop up one. It was like a large tin box that folded out into a caravan suitable for 6 people. The first thing we needed was a tow bar on the car. No problem getting one fixed, plenty of problems later.
A week after she arrived we went to pick up the hired van. The man assured us our car would be able to pull it without any problems. No problem at all pulling it, the problem started as soon as John tried reversing it into the back yard. He’d never towed anything before and couldn’t understand why the van turned in the opposite direction to which way he turned the steering wheel. I moved everyone inside the house as he vainly tried many times reversing, getting more frustrated and angrier by the minute. There was a vacant lot at the side of our house and eventually the car and van was parked at a peculiar angle and we had lunch. The plan was I would pack the van with all we were taking with us on the 2 week holiday ready for departing early the next morning. John was a shift worker and would be home around 11 p.m. that night.
Problem No. 2 & 3. It took him ages to disengage the van from the car and of course made him late for work. When he tried starting the car he got no response at all. With all the revving of engine and attempts at reversing I was surprised there was any rubber left on the tyres. After much ripping and cursing he phoned the auto club and the R.A.C.Q. man told him the clutch was burnt out. He called a cab and went to work.
My evening was spent with 2 tearful kids and a mother-in-law who kept repeating it wasn’t John’s fault. After the kids were finally asleep Annie asked why the couch was still piled high with bed linen, a box of crockery and a large box of groceries on the dining table and hoped it was all going to be cleared away before John arrived home from work. In a semi quiet tone that I could muster at that time of the night I asked where she thought I should put everything. She critized everything I did and I was in no mood for it after all the happenings of the day. She turned the full glare on me and said John works very hard the least I could do was to make sure the house was tidy and a meal waiting for him when he came home from work. And then the smirk,” I always had a meal ready for him before he got married.” Resisting the urge to strangle her I quietly said ” The kitchens over there, go for it. I’m going to bed. Let me know where you shove all the stuff on the couch because it’s all got to come out again in the morning.” She had been in Australia a week…..only another 5 and a half weeks left before she went home.
Being a Friday when the drama happened no work on the car could be started until the following Monday. I did move the pile of bed linen etc. from the lounge into our bedroom where John complained about living in a second hand shop. After a new clutch was fitted and a lesson in reversing a caravan from the guy at the garage we left home at 6:30 Friday morning. Only a week later than planned but never mind everything was neatly packed in the tin box, luggage in the boot, grandma and two kids in the back, expert at nothing behind the steering wheel and me and the small dog in the passenger seat. Yes,we took the dog with us as well.
The first place we stopped was Gympie. The expert at nothing’s idea to stop there.

Show his mother what used to be a small gold mining town looked liked and he didn’t want to overheat the car either. At that stage I didn’t know anything about cars. We had a walk round the town and Annie like most pommie tourists was only interested in the shops and comparing prices to english ones. Everyone had a visit to the toilets including the dog and back into the car and on our way again. I can’t remember where we were on the highway when every car who passed us tooted the horn and waved. The kids thought it was great and waved back. Half a dozen cars must have passed and then a small van pulled in front of us and stopped. He slammed on the brakes and missed crashing into them. Two young women climbed out laughing their heads off. I thought he was going to explode. He wrenched open the door and started yelling at them. The girls were holding each other up laughing and pointing at the van. He took no notice and asked what the hell did they think they were doing demanding an explanation. Annie sitting in the back doing her Queen Mother impersonation, the kids asking why the ladies had stopped us and why were they laughing so much. I got out to find out what it was all about. One girl turned me round facing the way we had come from and between gales of laughter spluttered ” All your sheets and pillows are on the roadside down the highway ” As I focused I could see white material fluttering at the side of the road. The other girl between fits of laughter said ” Every time you went over a bump the lid of the van popped up and something fell out.” They collapsed in each others arms as they screamed laughing. I told John we’d have to go back and pick everything up. He said he couldn’t turn the car and van round. I yelled at him I didn’t want him to I wanted him to walk back and help me. He couldn’t leave the car unattended with his mother, the kids and the dog inside so I gathered all our belongings up and staggered back with dusty sheets and pillows and the accompaniment of tooting horns from passing motorists. The laughing girls had departed and I could see the funny side from their perspective. Was not laughing when I reached our car and no one got out to help me. I dumped everything on the bonnet and climbed into the passenger seat. Annie asked what was going to happen now. I said I neither knew nor cared but it would be a good idea if we went back home and dumped the caravan back at the hire place. She jumped to John’s defence before I said another word ” It wasn’t John’s fault Audrey. It could happen to anyone.” I’d already had a week of her snipping and sniping at me and me holding back smart replies today was not the day to imply it was my fault. ” Correct me if I’m wrong but did you do the final check of the van to make sure everything was locked down tight? I have been too busy packing, switching off electric and water, locking up the house, making sure everyone had everything and sorting the dog out too and HE was making sure the van was locked as I didn’t know what I was doing because the guy had shown him, not me how to sort the van out. Well now’s your chance super brain organise that lot on the bonnet because I’m not moving.” She told me I was being childish. I turned to face her ” You can help him. You’re good at telling people how things should be done. Now’s YOUR chance to shine.” She pushed the kids out of the way and climbed out, the dog tried to follow her so I smacked him on the head and shoved him between my feet. That would be all we needed, the dog getting run over. John was still sitting behind the wheel. I shoved him as well ” Are you going to sit there all day or do you think the fairy with the magic wand is going to drive up and make it all disappear?” He got out. I wound up the windows so they couldn’t hear me laughing. John wanted to open up the caravan and bundle it all inside. Annie said the damn caravan had caused enough problems and to shove it all in the boot. No room inside the boot. The pair of them started arguing.
The kids were getting to the teary stage again ” Are we really going to go back home? We wanted to see all the fishes in a ride on a boat with a glass bottom.” I said we’d get there eventually and just think of all these mishaps as an adventure and all the stories they would be able to tell the neighbourhood kids when we got back.
Annie rapped on the car window ” Are you just going to sit there. Get out here and help.” I wound down the window ” I can’t make anymore space where there is none to be had ” and wound up the window. John came to the drivers side and wrenched open the door, the dog made a dive for it. I yelled at him to close the door before the dog got run over. He slammed it shut and started yelling. With the dog in my arms I climbed out. ” The only solution is to put the pillows on the back shelf and the sheets on your lap.” He threw pillows into the back of the car telling the kids to put them on the back shelf and closed the door. The sheets were still in a bundle so I said they had to be folded if they were going to have them on their laps. I climbed back inside the car while mother and son looked at each other. They folded them in a fashion and once more we were on the road again. Much complaining from Annie and the word ridicules frequently mentioned. The kids started giggling saying we were camping inside the car and all their friends would think it funny when they told them. I looked over my shoulder to see how everyone was coping. All I saw was white sheets not very neatly folded. I asked where the pale blue ones were. Annie snarled ” They’re on the floor. I’ll be damned if I’m travelling hundreds of miles holding them.” Sweetly I said ” That’s all right then so long as you haven’t left them behind because the pale blue ones are what’s going on your bed.”
We travelled for almost an hour with no one speaking. It was slow going as this happened long before freeways were built and it was only a dual road highway. Annie asked when we were stopping for a cup of tea. I said we needed to travel as far as we could as Cairns was about a 3000 mile trip. Parking with towing a caravan in a town would be a problem and no cafes along the highway like there was in England. Super brain said no problem at all. We had our own supplies with us, he’d pull off the road and I could make lunch for us all. We pulled into a clearing with council picnic tables and with the dog on his lead the kids took him for a walk. Annie fussing round unclipping the locks on the tin box, John winding the handle to pop up the top. I told him not to bother pulling the side bits out. All I needed was room to make sandwiches as we wouldn’t be staying long. He said he would connect the gas bottles and we could have a proper lunch. What he called a proper lunch was something cooked. I was fighting a losing battle. I refused to cook steak or chops and said it would be something on toast. Not very happy as I foraged through boxes looking for cans of baked beans and eggs, the fry pan and cooking utensils. I told Annie to set out cutlery on one of the picnic tables in the park. She refused ” There’s a perfectly good table inside the van. I’m not eating in the open air with all those other people watching.” Couldn’t have his mother upset so he said he might as well open up the rest of the van and we’d eat in comfort. Annie had a smug look, I had a face like thunder. Everyone had been fed, cups of tea swallowed, time to pack up and get on the move again. Annie, kids and dog inside the car, super brain started winding the handle to collapse the roof. Clunk, clunk ground the machinery. Only one side went down. He wound it up again. No problem winding it up. Still only one side would fold down. Like it or not Annie we sure have an audience now. The other families in the park called out advice. My suggestion to give it a good thump went unheeded. The protruding side was shook, checked for obstructions and still refused to budge. The other families after having a look too went on their way as it was plain to see we wasn’t going to solve the predicament we were in. Miles from anywhere, no public phones, mobile phones hadn’t been invented at that stage. Got everyone out of the car again, it was going to be a long afternoon. Annie didn’t help matters by continually saying she was having a nice time and it was very peaceful in the park in the sunshine. After lots of yelling from John and statements of not his fault he said he would unhitch the car and try to find a garage. He told me to stay with the van and he wouldn’t be long. Not on your life. He’d probably forget where he’d left us and I wasn’t going to spend the night out there with two little kids and a small dog. Annie had volunteered to go with him so he wouldn’t be on his own. Much as I would have liked having a couple of hours without her company I wasn’t going to do it in the middle of nowhere. We found a garage eventually. They man in charge had no idea how to fix an uncooperative caravan and suggested calling the R.A.C.Q. once more. The auto club man told him to stay at the garage and he would join us there and all drive back to the park. When he arrived he asked if our membership covered us for towing either a boat, trailer or caravan. Of course it didn’t, we’d never towed anything before. He said he couldn’t help us unless we paid the extra. Blood out of a stone comes to mind whenever money was mentioned to John. He argued with the man. The man got back in his breakdown truck and switched on the engine. He then saw the two kids holding the dogs lead. He leant out of the window ” Lady, do you need me to give you a ride to the train station or are you going to tell your husband to pay up if not you’re going to be here on the garage forecourt all night.” Annie said the man was extremely rude and he couldn’t leave us there all night. I told her to shut up or we wouldn’t be going anywhere. I hissed at John ” Pay the man NOW before I accept his offer of a ride to the train station.”
The man got the tin box repaired and on our travels we went once more. I said no more stopping for snacks and the next time we stopped would be at a caravan park for the evening. The expert at nothing said to make up the lost time we would take a short cut. He’d looked at the road map and said we would cut across country and join the coast road. We did that at the next right hand turn. The bitumen road soon turned into a dusty track with many potholes, tree roots and was one of the most terrifying drives I had ever been on. It would have been pretty bad in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We had an ordinary sedan towing a large tin box. The track was narrow and steep and any minute I thought we’d go over the edge with the weight of the tin box. We survived and once again on a bitumen road I said we would be stopping at the first caravan site we came to for I had had enough for one day. We arrived at Hervey Bay caravan site around 4:30 in the afternoon. Super brain said there was plenty of daylight left and we should push on. I told him he would be going without me and the kids if he did. The manager of the site helped us get settled, connected us to the power and I faced having to get the evening meal on the table. After we’d eaten I left mother and son washing dishes while I took the kids to the shower block. Kids dressed in pyjamas we came back to our temporary home on wheels to find mother-in-law writing a letter, husband laid on one of the beds reading a book. How cozy. I told them both they would have to move as the kids were going to bed. Protests from the expert caravan due, they were relaxing after a very fraughtful day. I said they’d have to get rid of their fraught feelings somewhere else as the beds needed making up and there wasn’t room to swing a cat inside the van. The two kids were sleeping on the extension bits either end of the van when it was opened up, Annie on a bench seat made up into a bed and Mum and Dad had to convert two bench seats and the top of the table into a double bed. Lots of giggling from both kids after they were in bed. The other beds made up and as it was black as pitch outside I said everyone go to sleep we would be up early next morning. My husband was a heavy built man and couldn’t get comfortable in the makeshift bed. Tossing and turning he dislodged the table top and we went crashing to the floor tangled up in sheets and blankets. The kids woke up screaming, Annie yelling ‘ What’s up now ‘ in her thick yorkshire accent and the dog barking his head off outside under the van. We should have taken that caravan back the day we picked it up and couldn’t reverse it. So far it had cost us around $600 in garage repairs and R.A.C.Q. membership fees. God knows how much in petrol. And we were only at Hervey Bay, about a 2½ journey from where we lived!
Look forward to part two of the grey nomads on the fifteenth of this month. Can you wait?

Audrey’s Epic Railway Adventure

July 1, 2016




January 1, 2013

Alistair is a true Scot who now lives in America but in the late 1940s/early 50s we had the honour of having him as part of our little East Leeds gang.

Exile from Fife to East Leeds
An introduction to cricket
By Alistair Duckworth.

When I came to Leeds at the age of 10 in 1946, it was to enter a very different world from the Fife of my childhood. In chauvinistic Scotland, the English were the auld enemy. At school in Cellardyke my friends and I compelled a new pupil from England to forsake his allegiances. We made him admit that the thistle was better than the rose, that Wallace and Bruce were the true heroes of history, that Bannockburn was the greatest victory of all time, and that the saltire of St Andrew was a superior banner to the red cross of St George. We even made him agree, against all evidence, that the Scottish football team was better than the English team and–incredibly!– that Wullie Waddell was a better outside right than Stanley Matthews. When one day my mother casually told me that we would soon be leaving for England (so that my father, on leaving the Royal Navy, could find employment in Leeds), I was horrified, believing it would now be my turn to give up my most fervent beliefs.

Of course, nothing of the sort occurred. In Leeds I learned that though the Scots were aggressive towards the English, the reverse was not true. Coming from cold, bleak Anstruther, where fights were common in the schoolyard, to warm and friendly Leeds where fights, as I recall, were nonexistent, was a revelation. My father was from Leeds, and I had visited the city at an earlier age, even attending St Hilda’s school (Mrs Duckworth’s class). But the change was great nevertheless—from a Presbyterian kirk to a high Anglican church, from John Knox and Calvinistic austerity to Pusey and Anglo Catholic ritual, from fishing village to industrial city, from bracing ozone to pea-soup fogs, from the “taws” as an instrument of punishment to the cane.

In Leeds, I was introduced to fascinating new games that changed with the seasons: conkers, top-spinning and marbles (another kind of taws) for boys; jacks and rope-skipping accompanied by songs for the girls. I encountered boys with amazing skills. “Bools” in Fife had been a mild affair played on a concrete surface with vividly coloured glass marbles. Taws at St Hilda’s was played on a dirt surface with stone-hard, dirty-white marbles that had little aesthetic appeal. But in the knuckles of Harold Sedgwick, the game was played at a level of skill that had to be seen to be believed. Rather than rest the marble on the middle joint of the index finger and propel it with his thumb nail, Harold (in a way I could never repeat) lodged the marble between the knuckle of his thumb and the point of his index finger. He could then propel it with astonishing speed and accuracy at the target marble, which would be sent into the middle distance far beyond the circle drawn in the dirt. Harold’s marble, meanwhile, would stay, rapidly spinning on its axis, in the spot once occupied by his opponent’s marble.

Leeds at that time was a dirty city with more than a passing resemblance to Dickens’s infernal Coketown in Hard Times. Born in rural Fife, I at first missed grass, trees and fields. Stone-slab pavements and tarmac or cobbled roads seemed to cover the earth everywhere. From the soot-covered windows of our red-brick house I saw a Lowry landscape of chimneys belching out smoke and carcinogenic particles. The actuaries put the early 60’s as an average life expectancy for men. Soon, however, I found that fields existed, only minutes from St Hilda’s church. To the east Snake Land had two football pitches, a bowling green and tennis courts. And to the south was the village of Knostrop, which time seemed to have passed by. At the bottom of the hill leading from Cross Green Lane, and close to the River Aire, the hamlet was, I believe, a part of the Temple Newsam estate. Its Jacobean hall was still precariously in existence and inhabited by a man named Benn.

Looking back on the place, I see Knostrop as a cross between Cold Comfort Farm and a Grimm’s Fairy Tale landscape (it had a “humbug house”). But I enjoyed going down to this other, rural, world. In the autumn we gathered chestnuts to pickle into conkers. We also played rugby in the pond field next to the old hall. Jack, Benn’s dog, would accompany us. He was the wicket-keeper when we played cricket and the goalkeeper when we played football. But he disapproved of rugby. The ball was the wrong shape, and he was left with nothing to do. Jack is long dead, and so is Knostrop, swallowed up by industry and business parks. But it has an enduring existence in the published memories, written and collected by Peter Wood, an old friend at St Hilda’s School.

An Introduction to Cricket

When I came to Leeds, I was introduced to cricket, a game not often played in Fife and never with the skill and enthusiasm displayed by my new friends in the summer of 1947. When we had time, we played with stumps and a proper cricket ball (but not pads) on a grass pitch at Snake Lane. More usually we played in the streets (still mostly free of traffic) with a tennis ball or a solid composition-rubber ball. If a box or similar object were to hand, it would serve as a make-shift wicket; if not, a man-hole in the tarmac would do just as well. Someone would supply a bat, sides would be selected, and the match was on. On Sundays we played outside St Hilda’s church both before and after Sunday School. I was surprised by the lack of bickering over “out” decisions. A catch was obvious, of course, but appeals for lbw, if credible, would be accepted by the batsman without demur, and if he were beaten by a ball that passed over the manhole within the imagined dimensions of the stumps, batsman, bowler, wicket-keeper and fielders would generally concur that it was an out. A basic fairness prevailed.

Cricket was a topic of much interest in my father’s family, particularly to my Auntie Alice, who followed the fortunes of Yorkshire and England throughout a long life, at first on radio, later on TV. From my father and my aunt I soon acquired a strange new vocabulary; I learned about cover point, long on, and silly mid-off, about off drives, hooks and late cuts, about yorkers, googlies and chinamen, about in-swingers and out-swingers. I came to understand the importance of the weather in determining whether the pitch at Headingley would be favorable to batsmen or bowlers on a given day, and if to the latter, whether it would be best to use fast, medium-fast, or slow bowlers. If slow bowlers, the question would then be debated whether to use an off-spinner or, much more dangerously, a leg-spinner.

But it was not only the terminology of cricket that made it fascinating to me. The history of cricket was also a common topic of conversation. The Duckworth adults knew about the great players of the past stretching back to W. G. Grace and Jack Hobbs, and held strong opinions about the best opening partership (Hobbs and Sutcliffe), the best all-rounder (Wilfred Rhodes, a Yorkshireman, of course), and the best fast bowler (grudgingly conceded to be the Australian Lindwall). They told me about England’s controversial (“bodyline”) tour of Australia in 1932-33, in which the fast bowler Harold Larwood had aimed “bouncers” at the bodies and heads of the Australian batsmen. In an attempt to disarm persistent Australian criticism of England’s tactics, the MCC banned bodyline bowling and called on Larwood to apologise. Larwood refused on the grounds that he had been told to bowl in this way by the team’s captain, Jardine. Jardine, in common with all captains of England until Len Hutton, was a gentleman amateur, whereas the working-class Larwood was a professional. In consequence of his refusal to apologise, I was told, Larwood was never picked for England again. For my father, uncles and aunts, this was a deplorable action on the part of the establishment.

In the late summer of 2009 the Enland XI won the test match over the Aussies at the Oval and by so doing regained the Ashes. Living in Boston, Massachusetts, I was only able to follow the state of play on my lap-top. Even so the thrill of England’s victory was palpable. I was taken back to England’s Ashes victory in 2003, which my wife and I followed on TV while living in London (my wife was in Trafalgar Square when the England team, featuring a very drunk Freddie Flintoff, appeared on the top-deck of an open double-decker bus). Even more evocatively, I recalled an earlier series, the tour of the Australians in 1948. At that time I was a fervent fan of Yorkshire and England. Len Hutton, master of the cover drive, was my hero. And when matches against Yorkshire were not at issue, I could also enthuse about Cyril Washbrook of Lancashire (who opened with Hutton), Bill Edrich of Essex who came in number three, and the dashing Denis Compton of Middlesex, who came in number four.

When my aunt Alice asked my cousin Peter and me if we would like to go to see the Australians at Headingley, I was ecstatic. That summer the Aussies had a formidable cast of players: the legendary batsman Donald Bradman, who had played in the bodyline tests, the charismatic all-rounder Keith Miller, the fast bowler Lindwall. We went on the fourth day and were allowed to sit on the grass next to the boundary opposite the pavilion. Australia’s first innings’ tail was quickly dismissed in the morning, and then Hutton and Washbrook opened England’s second innings. They made an excellent 129 for the first wicket. By the fifth morning, whenYardley declared at 365 for 8 wickets, Australia were left with what seemed to be an impossible target of 404 runs for victory. But Bradman and Morris made a very fast and record-breaking partnership of 301, and Australia won the test, with Bradman scoring 178 not out at the end. I did not see Bradman bat, but he was in the field on the fourth day, not far from where we were sitting, and as captain he could be heard directing the fielders where to position themselves.

In the final test at the Oval, Bradman needed only 4 runs to end his career with an average of 100 per test match innings; ironically, he was bowled out for a duck. No subsequent batsman, however, has come anywhere close to his Test Match batting average.

A great tale, Alistair – thanks for letting us use it.

Did you guess last month’s picture? I know many of you did. It was of course the remaining front façade of York Road Baths and Library

Now for this month’s pic – a power house for boy meets girl – especially on Sunday nights in the 1950sStar York Road

The Leaving of England

May 1, 2012

The Leaving of England. 1965

By Mrs Wendy Carew (nee Parker)


Wendy, originally an East Leeds girl from the Charltons, relates to us her great, if heart rending story of being plucked, somewhat against her will, and transported with her two small children from a successful business in Kirkstall to a new life in Australia.

In the 1960’s Tired of trying to make ends meet I decided to run my own little business from home and to do that I needed a larger house and a contract to boardLeedsUniversitygirls.

My father had died suddenly, my mother remarried, and I was living miles away from the district I knew from childhood. Bored, and wanting more from life I started to look at expanding my horizons.

I had a husband (from the West coast ofIreland), two little children and a yearning ambition to have plenty of money and my own career.

 I managed to persuade my “better half” to consider buying an old, but very well maintained, three-storey house onVesper Road, Kirkstall nr the Abbey.

This house had its own name carved on the stone columns at the entrance of the driveway, it was called ‘Hazelwood. . ‘So what’ you would say in today’s world but in the early 60’s this was a huge achievement, a huge step up from my childhood in Charlton Road and Rookwood Avenue.

I had done my research and with university girls as boarders I could afford to pay off the mortgage on this grand home and have the house empty for us during the holidays. I have always loved old buildings, romantic stories from the past, visiting stately homes. In this house I could be living the dream.

I was very persuasive (great sex always did it in those days) and my house was bought and ready for business.


The ground floor consisted of large rooms with high ceilings, bow windows and bell pushes, to summon the servants.

These bells were meant to tinkle away in the kitchen but the only time I answered a bell when it was someone at the front door.

The kitchen was where I cooked on an old magnificent black leaded stove which we fed with wood and coal finely judging the temperature needed to bake, cook, dry wet clothes and heat the water piped to taps and bulky central heating radiators which my husband had placed in every room.

On cold nights I would sit in front of this stove knitting new socks on four needles and darning old ones that had worn through. I also knitted pullovers, cardigans, beanies, gloves and winter bonnets for my children and string vests  (these were in vogue at the time) for my husband. The bread dough had been mixed and was in place by the fire to gently rise throughout the night so I could re- kneed and bake it into the large loaves I needed for each day. This was the room of exotic aromas. Eggs and bacon at breakfast time, roasts andYorkshirepuddings with thick onion gravy at weekends, suet puddings and fruit pies, custard and fruitcakes. Clothes steaming dry and the smell of bleach as I scrubbed and bleached the large kitchen white- wood table standing in the middle of the room.

Off the kitchen was my walk-in pantry with a ten-foot long marble waist high shelf. It was very cold in there all year long and when we went blackberry picking along the country hedgerows I made and stored my jams and preserves in this cool interior.

I always cooked a goose at Xmas time, just as my mother had done, and skimmed the fat into an earthenware jar to store in my pantry. At the sign of a cough or chest cold I would mix with a little Vic’s (the mentholated fumes would clear the nose) and rub into the chest knowing the victim would soon be better.

Leading on from the pantry was the laundry. A dark room with stonewalls containing a large built- in copper boiler and freestanding Iron mangle. I had an Easy-Twin top loading washing machine my husband bought in 1962 but whether it spun dry I cannot remember. I have the ‘Hire Purchase’ papers that tell me the full cash price was 80pounds. 80pounds in 1962 was a huge amount of money and not many of us could pay cash. We bought it on ‘Hire Purchase” meaning 16 pound deposit and 36 monthly payments of two pounds, five shillings and three pence. The whole cost at the end of thirty-six months was ninety-seven pounds and nine shillings.

I think the average wage for men at that time was Fifteen to Twenty pounds a week.

My Working Week.

When the weather was bad important items were place on wooden rods, which were on a pulley high over the fireplace in the kitchen (clothes-airier) or a fireguard close to the fire during a night. I can still conjure up the warm toasty feeling of undergarments first thing on a snowy morning, as I would place them up to my cheek to check if they were dry enough for my children to put on.

When the weather was bad important items were place on wooden rods, which were on a pulley high over the fireplace in the kitchen (clothes airer) or a fireguard close to the fire during a night. I can still conjure up the warm toasty feeling of undergarments first thing on a snowy morning, as I would place them up to my cheek to check if they were dry enough for my children to put on.

Sheets, pillowcases, shirts, handkerchiefs, everything was ironed. We killed so many germs and viruses by starching and ironing everything; drip-dry clothes were just beginning to enter our world.

Fresh fish was delivered every week. A small van filled with fish and ice would arrive late in the afternoon once a week. I was one of the last on the fishmongers round.

He would be up before dawn in his hometown ofHulland would drive down to the docks waiting for the trawlers to arrive back from their fishing grounds with the daily catch. He knew what his customer wanted so he stocked his van and set off on his rounds. He called at all the villages on the way toLeeds, knocking at our back door about dusk. I knew it was fish day and would have my money and list ready.

Now that is fresh produce, fresh from Ocean to a suburban house inLeedson the same day. I didn’t realise how spoilt I was.

Let me describe the rest of the house.

There was a long hallway with a marble tiled floor stretching from kitchen to front door. A wooden carved staircase led to extra roomy bedrooms on the next floor.

There was one bathroom but it was the largest I had ever seen.

The iron bath, standing on four claw feet was huge and the centrepiece of the room. This bath, when full, would allow you the luxury of floating down to the end and back again. To me this was luxury – plus. Coming fromCharlton Roadwere the bath was in the kitchen doubling, as a counter top to prepare vegetables, this bathroom was my delight.

On the third floor were two attic rooms reached by walking up another staircase and opening a door in the ceiling. These two delightful room situated under the pitched roof had windows which looked out across the garden and surrounding rooftops.

The garden was very well established and masses of flowers automatically emerged throughout the year. It would start with crocuses pushing their way through the snow covered earth, then Jonquils followed by a carpet of daffodils and tulips forcing their way through the lawn creating a mass display declaring spring had now arrive. An apple and a cherry tree blossomed and gave fruit and rhododendrons were very generous in their colourful display. Rhubarb, blackberry’s and gooseberries grew in the bottom of the garden giving me fruit for pies and desserts.

I washed, cooked and cleaned for my husband, two little children and eightLeedsUniversitygirls. Good money was coming in and was much needed because my husband had a window cleaning business and his income depended on the English weather.

I was young and in love with my house and my life. I had all the energy of a woman in her twenty’s. I was on my way, I was carving a career, and life was sweet.

There was a downside though.  I lost friends and family, I had stepped above my station. Some visited once complaining it was too far to travel and never returned. The majority of women didn’t drive in those days and if a family had one car their budget certainly didn’t run to having the luxury of two cars. Buses were the only way to get to visit and after a while I began not to worry about the complaining and lack of phone calls.

“EE! Have you heard about our Wendy, gone to live up by t’abbey. Big house. Who does she think she is, Princess Margaret or someone! She’ll get her come-uppence one day.”

Signs of discontent.

I didn’t realise my success had became a bone of contention with my husband. I was free of his ‘housekeeping money’ as I was earning more than he was. Our income was pooled but his pride, as the man of the house, was at stake. He became more and more quiet and very sullen but I was happy keeping myself very busy washing, cooking and chatting to these young girls only a few years younger than my self.

One winters day he brought forms home for me to sign, he had decided to take us all to New Zealand. My world became fragile and I could sense it crashing down.

I refused, cried and went round to my mothers for back up. She was horrified but reminded me ‘I had made my bed and had to lie on it’ in other words my husband was boss and I had to obey. Besides, she said, he would sell the house and where would I live? Not with her! was the unspoken message.

In those days women were not allowed to have a mortgage and rental places were few and far between especially if you were a single women with children. My mother now lived in a small council house and kept saying ‘it was her turn to enjoy herself” and she definitely wouldn’t entertain small children messing it up.

As luck would have it New Zealand was out of our reach being fifty pounds a family. This was way beyond our budget and I relaxed thinking ‘well, that was the end of that’! Not to be deterred my husband arrived home with the forms for Australia.

“More within our budget” he announced, “ adults only ten pounds each, kiddies free”.  Refusing again to sign he just placed the house on the market and cancelled the university contract and I began to realised I was beaten. Husbands had the last say in those days and if they refused to sign or pay for anything, a wife could not have it (unless she could pay full price) and she had to go without.

Australia here we come.

Tearful packing commenced. Australia house allowed us quite a few wooden storage crates and I threw as much as I could into these crates, not having the slightest idea what I would need in the far away country of Australia.

Departure day arrived. My mother and her second husband had gone to Bridlington on holiday so only my brother was there to say good-bye. He collected and drove us down to Leeds City Station in the very early hours and we boarded the steam train to Southampton. We leaned out of the window waving good-bye and my little daughter 3 years old, vomited and wailed all the way to Southampton Docks.




The immigrant ship Fairstar July 12th 1965 till August ?


When we arrived at Southampton docks it was organised chaos, Hundreds of families trying not to loose sight of each other or misplace a child were labelled, crossed of a list and herded to their correct gangplank.

Our ship was the Fairstar belonging to the Sitmar line of Ocean Liners. Italian crew and Asian cooks and cleaners.

We were given our cabin numbers and a map on how to get there. I was horrified we were to be separated. The men in a 4-berth cabin away from the women and women sharing a 4 berth cabin somewhere in the labyrinth of decks and corridors of this huge liner away from our husbands. My young son 5years old went with his father and I searched for my cabin. My daughter’s bed was a drawer, which pulled out, next to my bed, a bottom bunk. Three other women, all strangers, found this was their cabin also.

The ship pulled away from the dock side sounding its load horn and we threw customary streamers from the ship’s rail. This is ok I thought, treat it like a holiday a two-year holiday and then, within 24hours, we hit the huge waves of the Atlantic as we entered the Bay of Bisque. 

Oh My God I just wanted to die. We rocked and rolled alarmingly and my two little ones were as sick as I was. I lay them outside on a wooden bench, holding them close while it seemed the whole ship was throwing up around me. My husband, of course found he had sea legs and off he strode to discover the ship and get something to eat. 

He occasionally remembered us and would take the trouble to see if we were still alive and then when he saw we were dull company would march off in another direction to find what the people with sea legs were doing.

When we entered The Mediterranean through the straights of Gibraltar we were in calm seas. Life became bearable and we began to eat, play deck games and make friends.

Port Said at the entrance to the Suez Canal was an eye opener. Very young boys swam around the ship yelling for money, which they dove down into the murky waters to retrieve. We had a few hours on shore and Arabs selling trinkets stood in our way and pestered us while men on bicycles with baskets of bread covered in hundreds of flies weaved in and out of the crowd. The best of the hawkers were men selling dirty pictures to our husbands. “Hey, McGregor” they would shout ‘want to buy dirty pictures of women.’ We laughed and they tried another tack, ‘”look, look, dirty pictures of men” or “McGregor, you need women – ten minutes, half an hour”.

I didn’t see any men dare leave the side of their wives to go for a look at the pictures offered but what an education for the women, including myself who had never seen or heard anything like this.

Aden when we arrived was under British curfew. Our ship anchored out at sea and floating pontoons ferried us in to shore. You must stay together we were told and stay on the main thoroughfare in full view. My husband, of course, ignored this advice and down a side road he went to bargain for something he had his eye on.

Told white blond children were prized and could be stolen for sale the majority of parents cheerfully left their children on board ship in the nursery so they could bravely meander through this strange alien bazaar. I kept close to the friends I had made and made feeble attempts at trying to out-bargain the natives. Men in their long robes would walk too close to us and would pinch our bottoms and tweak our suspenders. We giggled and laughed and thought it was all a bit of fun after all we were British and lords over everything we could see. We ruled the world – yeh!

Arriving at the dockside to be ferried back to the ship my husband was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t worry until back on board and the last ferry passenger had been crossed off the list. The empty box at the side of his name showed he was still on shore.

The captain made numerous loud announcements for him to come forward but as dusk was falling the British authorities in Aden had to be informed and a search party sent to find him.

A British policeman had glimpsed a disturbance down one of the back streets. He blew on his whistle and the crowd dispersed leaving a very angry Irishman, my husband, in the gutter. He was escorted, by special ferry, to the Fairstar and caught a telling off by the ships captain. We had been booked to disembark at Melbourne but were now told enough was enough and we would be put off the ship at Fremantle. It went over my husbands head of course and as I was used to his antics by now I just accepted it as part of our life.

The Indian Ocean in July.

Within days of leaving Aden we entered the Indian Ocean and cyclonic weather. I made sure my children had life jackets on constantly, as did I. The dinning room became more and more deserted and people were throwing up everywhere. We looked like green tinged zombies wondering aimlessly around the decks not caring if we were put out of our misery by being washed overboard with the next humongous dark green wave. .

The sea’s calmed as we grew closer to Western Australia and one day we heard the cry ‘land, land over there’.

We rushed to the starboard side excitedly pointing and taking photo’s only to find it was a tiny island called Rottenest and Fremantle the Port city of Western Australia where we were due to disembark, was on the port side. Like a Monty Python movie we rushed on- mass through the ship or galloped around the decks to point and shout again ‘land, land over there’.


Nissan Huts


Checked off the list we were crowded onto small buses and driven through streets of small weatherboard houses with tin roofs. WE arrived at Greylands Hostel and my heart sank. Row upon row of Nissan huts. 31 D. was to be our home until we could afford to move out.

Toilets, showers and laundry facilities were situated outside and we queued for canteen meals. A very sharp contrast from the life I had begun to create for myself in England.

Within three weeks my husband had bought a car, thank goodness, and had scored a job in the ‘bush’. It was a thousand miles up a deserted coastline and belonged, funnily enough, to the Americans. He worked for a company called Coppers-Klough building a Navel Base for America, the majority of Western Australians never knew it existed.

When he left on his big adventure it was the last time I set eyes on him for over a year.  I wrote almost every day to keep him in touch with our lives but I eventually become homesick and lonely finding little kinship with the people I had been grouped with.

My mother decided, in her council house in Leeds, to cash in her insurance policy and fly to Australia. This would have been a huge step for her to take. She had her passport because of trips to Jersey with her second husband Eddie but the story goes she left a note for Eddy that read ‘gone to Australia to see our Wendy, dinner in the oven, back soon’. This was so typical of my mum.

When she arrived we found out she couldn’t stay at the hostel with me, I now had to leave and find accommodation for us all.

The cheap rent of the hostel became a dear rent in Nollamara. Suddenly I was in ‘the sticks’. I was in an outer suburb on the border of a city, which was and still is ‘the most isolated city in the world’

My landlord was Italian, spoke little English, and my mother hated it. It was like living in the country for us. There was no one walking up and down the streets, because the weather was beginning to warm up as we neared summer and most people had cars and they drove to the shops and beach or catch the bus to town.

Mother would not go out the door in case a snake or humongous spider would attack and she was always on the look-out for marauding kangaroos. New to the country I was beginning to catch her fear but within two months she decided to return home. A few days before Christmas I drove her to Perth Airport, waved her good-bye and with tears of loneliness running down my cheeks drove my children back to my rental house feeling deserted and very alone.

Of course, once back in Leeds just before Christmas and in freezing cold weather she wanted to return remembering sunshine, sandy beaches and blue gentle seas.

My first 6 months.

I tried to make the best of it.

Catching a bus into town I was surprised at how the ladies dressed in their best clothes. Going to town was a dress-up event even to wearing a hat and gloves.

My children and I looked very summer casual and stood out like sore thumbs. When the conductress walked down to ask for our fares our accents pointed us out as ‘new chums’.

We were then openly and loudly discussed with the view we should go home and how we had cost the country a great deal of money to bring us out.

I learnt to be very quiet and just offered the right money for the fare.

In the big stores in town ( Cox Brothers on the corner of Hay and William St., Boans in Murrey street, Aherns in Hay through to Murrey, David Jones in upper Hay street through to St.Georges Terrace) I was often overlooked in preference for an Aussie accent. A year later when I had toughened up I could fervently argue Australians received more than their moneys worth because we were all vaccinated, far superior educated and had to have skills needed to be allowed to emigrate. In fact within weeks of landing we ( emigrants) had to have x-rays for T.B and had to ‘keep our nose clean’ for two years.

When I had enough of this Pommy bashing I began to snap back and realised the Aussies loved it when you gave as good as you got.  I became cheeky, told them off, called them convicts, I was embraced as ‘one of them’ and invited to party’s and Bar-B-Q’s    —

I had cracked the code, I had arrived.!

Well Done Wendy. We love your tale

Tales from the Other Side of the World

February 1, 2012

        TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE  ( of the world )

                       By Audrey Sanderson.


Audrey, East Leeds lass now settled 40 years in Australia, relives for us the traumatic upheaval of uprooting her young family from the familiarity, family and friends of East Leeds to start a new life in Australia.

A ten pound tourist is one of the nicknames for English immigrants.  A tourist implies a holiday.  While some       ‘ poms ‘ did treat it like a 2 yr. holiday thousands liked the place so much they decided to stay in this place calledAustralia.

It’s over 40 years since we stepped off The Castel Felice Ocean Liner owned by The Sitmar Line.

Why did we emigrate?  My husband was working 7 days a week and after paying tax on overtime we were ₤2 10/- better off than if he’d worked 5 days a week.  With 2 toddlers and a mortgage we never seemed to be getting any further forward than we were when we first married.  No child minding centres in the 60s.  If mother wanted to return to work a neighbour/ friend or grandma looked after the children.  My parents were elderly, husband’s parents lived too far away and all our friends were in the same financial position as us.  In the freezing winter commercial T.V. bombarded us with what a great life anyone could have inAustralia.  A neighbour of my mother-in-law had lived inSydneyfor 30 years.  She’d taken her 25 yr. old son back toEnglandto live to show him what her life had been like many years ago.  About the same age as my husband he and Les became friends before I met him.  The idea had always been at the back of his mind after hearing Les’s tales of growing up in a beach front house, easy going life style and couldn’t wait for his mother to get fed up with living in a tiny house and freezing winters so they could go back.

At first I wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving.  I had my life planned out or so I thought.  We had a semi detached house with big bay windows, 2 apple trees and flowering shrubs in the back garden with a creek running along the back fence line.  The front garden was typical of its day with a square of lawn edged by small flowering plants and a privet hedge.  We’d built a carport at the side of the house and had pink roses climbing up a trellis along the fence dividing us from the house next door.  We loved the house and the neighbours, shops, schools, a church and an excellent bus service a short walk away on theSelby Road.  We had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins and close friends.  I had visions of living in that house well into old age.  Never did like the freezing cold winters even as a child I didn’t particularly enjoy playing in the snow.  Great fun the first day when the snow was white and fluffy but not when it froze into a dingy grey icy blob.  It took ages to dress two toddlers in warm leggings, overcoats, thick socks and fur lined boots just to go to the shop at the end of the road for a loaf of bread.  When I could still put both of them in the pram it was like pushing a truck uphill trying to push it through thick snow.  Forget trying to dry the washing outside.  Within half an hour it froze on the line and when brought indoors again it thawed and was just as wet as when it came out of the washing machine.  The clothes airer became a fixture in the kitchen/ dining room.

The thought of permanent warm sunny weather was appealing sitting in front of a fire listening to the wind howling outside.  “It wouldn’t harm to go to Australia House and ask a few questions “said my husband.  So with the two children one Saturday afternoon we did just that.  Lots of friendly staff and lots of people like ourselves asking them questions.  We came home with lots of information and coloured brochures.  My husband wanted to leave on the next ship.  I had lots of ‘ what if ‘ questions.  After months of deliberating and frequent visits to Australia House we decided to put in an application for a £10 trip to the other side of the world.  After we’d been notified we had been accepted we started making plans to sell up.  We’d never mentioned any of this to parents or relatives.  My husband said his mother would say it was a good idea.  He never did see any farther than the end of his nose.  His mother always had an excuse if he did anything wrong, it was always someone else’s fault or told him not to worry everything would work out fine.  My mother I knew would rant and rave and say I was ungrateful for all the sacrifices she’d made since the day I was born.  Nothing new there I heard it all a million times.  I didn’t want to tell my Dad though I didn’t want to leave him behind.  The first sailing date we got was sometime in May.  We didn’t tell anyone until after New Year 1969.  As predicted the balloon went up with my mother screaming at me.  Dad and me both in tears, my two children crying also, they didn’t know what was going on but didn’t like everyone crying.  My husband said it was better for me to tell my parents and he’d pick me up from their house on his way home from work.  He was met with a stony silence and we went home.  I told him he could tell his mother on his own because I was sure she wasn’t going to be impressed either.  Used to getting his own way he said she would realise we had a better future inAustraliaand think it was a great idea he’d had.   Of course she would agree with him.  The following night he told her.  The children were in bed when he came in, very subdued.  “Does your mother still think you’re the best thing since sliced bread?”  He said she thoroughly agreed there was no future here for us but Australia is such a long way away and wondered how you are going to cope on your own not knowing anyone while I am out at work.  Same as I do now.  I organised, I made sure the bills were paid on time, I looked after the kids, I washed, ironed, cooked and cleaned, and he went to work.  “She said she’s got a few questions to ask you.  She’s going to ring you tomorrow.”  Of course she will…..after she’s phoned every living relative and told them she is being abandoned and things are not the same since she became a widow.  I’d heard all that a million times before as well.  She phoned when she thought I’d put the kids to bed for their afternoon nap.

What mad game did I think I was playing putting a mad idea like that into her son’s head.  I was never satisfied with anything, her son works his fingers to the bone, and I was taking away the only person she cared about and leaving her on her own.  I told her she was not on her own, she had a sister and 3 brothers and a heap of nephews and nieces constantly visiting.  It had been John’s idea and he talked me into it.  She didn’t believe me.  He would never abandon her if I hadn’t put the idea in his head.  What’s the point?  No matter what I say I’m always going to be in the wrong.

The house was put up for sale.  Plenty wanted it but couldn’t get finance.  We had to ask for a deferment of our sailing date.  Australia House wasn’t thrilled.  They’d advised us not to tell the real estate agent we were emigrating because they would keep dropping the price hoping for a quick sale.  We told the agent we were moving in with my mother-in-law.  We would have to if the house had sold quickly, she had 3 spare bedrooms.  I would have hated it but beggars can’t be choosers.  We got another sailing date in late June, the 24th I think.  We had 2 months to sell the house.  My mother-in-law was barely civil toward me my own mother constantly told me we’d hateAustralia.  I think she scoured the neighbourhood asking if anyone knew people who’d emigrated and didn’t like the new country.  Made no difference, Australia, Canada, South Africa she knew someone who knew someone who’d come back home because they couldn’t be to be parted from family and friends.  Too late.  The house was sold with one week to spare.  It was one of the worst weeks of my 27 years.  No fond farewells.  All the relatives said we should have visited them to say goodbye.  I had too much to organise to bother about what they thought.  We’d been married for over 4 years and never seen most of them since the wedding day.  My mother cried all the time she wasn’t calling me a traitor.  Mother-in-law ignored me completely.  The night we left on the sleeper train toSouthamptoncouldn’t come fast enough.

My mother-in-law and her neighbour came in the big black cab with us to the train station inLeedscity square.  She wouldn’t let the kids go, they were getting frightened with Grandma crying.  My husband was pushing the luggage into the sleeper compartment and I was holding onto my children’s hands trying to prise them away from Grandma.  The neighbour told her to let us get onto the train and we would all have a marvellous time inAustralia, it was a great country.  The guard started closing the doors.  Annie loved being drama queen and started wailing  ” My son, my son I’ll never see him again.”  Husband and two kids on the train, Annie blocking the doorway, I’m on the platform.  The guard told her to stand back and took hold of the door.  She wouldn’t move, I’m trying to tell the guard I had to get on the train.  He told her she was holding up the train and to get on or stand back.  More wailing from her as I’m trying to push past and managed to get a hand on the door.  The guard yelled at me to let go.  I yelled back ” It isn’t going without me ” and pushed with all my might.  Bang went the door, he waved his green flag, blew the whistle and the train started to move.  I never looked back.  I had two little kids to get ready for bed.  They’d never been on a train before so I told them we were going on holiday and going to have a big adventure.  They were fascinated by everything and soon settled down thank goodness.  My husband never had a problem sleeping and snored all night long.  The two kids were restless, tossing and turning in the cramped bunks.  I sat on the floor and cried my eyes out.  I could still feel my Dad’s arms hugging the life out of me and wished he was with us.  Mother and mother-in-law drama queens would wring all the sympathy in the world from everyone who cared to listen how we had taken their grand children away from them.  Was it really going to be everything the people at Australia House had told us it was going to be.  What if the kids can’t settle.  What will happen to us if he can’t get a job straight away.  How long will our savings last.  There had been a last minute hitch with the bank releasing the cheque for the sale of the house.  We’d had to leave the details with a solicitor and the address of the bank inBrisbanewhere to send the money.  He assured us the sale had gone through it was a minor detail and the money would be in our account when we got off the ship.  What if something happens to the buyers and their finance falls through.  Like a lot of other things we’d never done we had no experience of selling a house or dealing with solicitors.  We were very naive and very trusting.  These day I would say too stupid to be let out on my own.  I made damn sure my kids knew how to handle money, contracts, hire purchase agreements, and credit cards long before they left school.  All night these things occupied my brain.  I mentally gave myself a good talking to.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Dad will always be with me in my mind.  The money will be in the bank when we get there.  Must be plenty of jobs otherwise they wouldn’t need so many people to fill the positions.  John will have to take any job and not be picky.  So long as money is coming in at first he can get choosy afterwards.  Please let my kids stay healthy.  No National Health, the man said we had to join a health fund as soon as we arrive as medical things and doctors are very expensive.

Dawn came slowly.  My head throbbed as if I had a massive hangover.  I washed the children’s hands and face and got them dressed.  A steward brought us tea, toast and cereal with a jug of milk for the children.  Sleeping beauty wanted a cooked breakfast.  I told him to stay in the bunk until the kids had eaten as there was no room for him to strut about.  ” The tea will be cold by then”  Tough, it’s not the Ritz.  I got dressed and took the kids into the corridor.  I was in no mood to listen to him whinging.  After 10 minutes back into the compartment we went.  He still wasn’t dressed.  ” If I was you I’d get wriggle on.  You have 15 minute before we pull into the station and unless you want to board the train to the quay side in your underpants and singlet I suggest you move quick bloody smart.”  Of course it was my fault because I’d made him stay in the bunk while the kids had been fed and dressed.  ” I’m not arguing, get dressed, shove everything into the overnight bags and be ready in 5 minutes.”  I made a last check we hadn’t left anything behind as the train pulled into the station.  I always did the organising but did expect him to help with the bags.  He gets off the train, started walking down the platform.  The steward helped lift the kids to the platform, took the two overnight bags and helped me to the platform too.  He looked around ” Are you on your own?  I’ll try to get a porter to help you ”  I thanked him for his help but said my husband would be coming to help as I had the tickets and he wasn’t going anywhere without us.  He came blustering down the platform telling me to hurry up.  The steward shook his head.  Right! New life style.  New beginning. Let’s get one thing straight.  I grabbed the lapel of his jacket ” You have humiliated me in front of the entire train full of people.  Pick up a bag, hold Martin’s hand, walk at his pace and head for the ticket barrier.  I presume you know where it is seeing as they wouldn’t let you through without a ticket.”  He wanted the tickets.  Not on your life.  He’d lose them.  No need to worry about the rest of the luggage it was all labelled and would be taken care of.  The platform for the train to the quay side was jammed packed.  We had to pick the kids up and carry them.  No reserved seats, you sat where you could get a seat.  We got two together and had to sit the kids on our knees.  Sat opposite was a lady and man with their chid sat on the husband’s knee.  My head was still throbbing and I wanted to go to sleep.  The lady asked if we wereAustraliabound.  I said we were and were they going too.  Her husband said he thought to entire train load wasAustraliabound.  She asked if we knew anyone inAustraliaand where was our final destination.  I said we didn’t know a soul and we were going toBrisbane.  She said they also were going toBrisbaneand she had a brother and sister-in-law who’d lived there for 3 years.  Very nice at least they would have someone to ask things if they didn’t understand anything.  We didn’t see them again once the train stopped.  Another mad scramble and queues a mile long.  We were English we were used to queuing.  Eventually we stepped onto the quay.  The ship was enormous.  A brass band was playing.  Hundreds of people waving to friends already on board, officials everywhere directing us where to go.  I made John carry the overnight bags while I held onto both kids’ hands.  Martin clutched his black and white panda, Linda a pink fluffy bunny rabbit, they wouldn’t sleep without them. I had a child on each hand, a large handbag over my shoulder and a fist full of papers, tickets and documents.  Still not bothering to make sure we kept together off strode the new £10 tourist towards the gangplank.  Same as at the train station, no ticket, no admittance.  I took my time.  There were hundreds of people behind me the ship wasn’t going to leave for ages.  I had to walk slow 2 and 3 year olds don’t have long legs.  They were not used to large crowds and lots of noise.  So long as I held onto them they weren’t scared.  The man in uniform at the gang plank kept looking at John as if he expected him to try boarding again.  Maybe with relief at getting us all to this point and knowing in a few minutes I wouldn’t have to check and re-check anything a dozen times making sure we had everything I started to smile.  The brass band helped too.  Both children were smiling and I thought ‘ It’s all been worthwhile ‘  reaching the gangplank John started to take the paperwork from my hand.  The uniformed man grabbed his arm and gripped it tight.  He let out a yelp.  I said quickly he was my husband.  The man scrutinised the thick papered travel document we’d been issued with.  We had to use that instead of passports.  He told John in no uncertain terms to stay with his wife and family and not create anymore problems we weren’t the only ones getting on the ship.  Gang planks aren’t made for toddlers and again we made slow progress.  Half way there two crew members came and asked if they could carry the children.  The kids loved it, they could see a lot more than other passenger’s legs they’d been looking at before.  I spoke to John over my shoulder   ” In future you’d better behave like Prince Phillip and walk two paces behind me and that way you won’t get lost or into anymore trouble.”  He didn’t answer but stuck to me like glue.

We were shown to a cabin on B deck.  Very compact with 4 bunk beds, a baby cot and a small sink with a mirror above it.  The young man said the cabin was for the lady and two bambinos, the gentleman had to follow him.  We were told this may happen if the ship was full.  Our suitcases were in the cabin so I pushed them under one of the bunk beds.  A knock on the door, another steward with a lady a few years older than me.  She introduced herself said she had a husband and 2 teenage sons who had had to join the deck with men only cabins.  Another knock on the door yet another stewed and a pretty girl of about 19.  She was very shy explaining she was travelling with her parents who had a cabin for 2 so she was in with us.  We all wanted to go up on deck to see the ship cast off.  Lots and lots of noise, people shouting and waving to friends on the quay, streams thrown from every direction and the band still playing.  It was all very exciting, like something out of a movie.  Until……The gap between quayside and ship grew wider, the noise of the engines louder, the band music got fainter and the sounds from the people on deck was a lot of muffled crying, not very many smiling faces as we watched the shore getting farther and farther away from us.

The Australians returning home were a jovial lot  ” Come on sport cheer up.  You’re going to the land of plenty.  You won’t recognise us 6 months from now.”  It wasn’t said to anyone in particular, just a general comment.  I tried to smile, they meant well trying to cheer everyone up but their cheerfulness made some women cry more.   We had to free ourselves of millions of streamers and try to find our way back to the cabin.  John had to get his clothes and towels to take to his own accommodation.  He was not thrilled at all having to share a large cabin below the waterline with  5 other men.  I told him not to complain we had been told it could happen.  I then had to sort out our sleeping arrangements.  The baby cot was supposed to be for Linda.  A new born would have been hard pushed to sleep in it.  When I asked the steward if there was a larger cot he said it was a standard size for children under 2 yrs. of age.  She was 1 yr. 11 months.  I asked if I could have another pillow and I would put Martin at one end of the bunk and Linda at the other.  Like every other mother with small children hoping they didn’t start crying in the middle of the night and keep everyone awake.  All the children adapted far quicker to their new surroundings than any of the adults.  After 2 days we were getting used to the regulations of the ship and made friends with the people we shared a dining table with.  I still swap Christmas cards with one couple who shared our table and we now write about our grand children.  They didn’t stay inAustralia.   On the voyage we bumped into the couple who had sat opposite us on the train on our way to join the ship.  They were friendly with the other couple who shared our dining table.  We kept in touch after we got toBrisbaneand although we don’t live near each other now we still phone and of course now we are smart old ducks we email each other.

We missed seeing the first man walk on the moon surface.  I think we were in theIndian Oceanwhen it happened.  it was like being in our own little world.  Nothing to see but water in any direction.  It made me stop and think what it must have been like for all those brave men who had sailed in uncharted waters hundreds of years before in smaller ships than the one we were on not knowing what to expect.  We had as much food as we could eat, hot showers, lots of crew to look after us, a movie theatre, swimming pools, lots and lots of entertainment.  Not a lot of privacy but Hey we were receiving 5 star treatment and it had cost us £20 for a family of 4.

Linda had her 2nd. birthday on the ship just before we arrived inAustralia.  Sitmar the Italian shipping line looked after all the passengers very well.  They made a birthday party for her and all the kids at the table received big presents.  I’d asked the purser if I could pay for a birthday cake and have it served at the evening meal.  Children under 12 had separate meal times and all the kids on their table were about 3 to 7 years old.  After the main meal, just before desserts were served all the lights were dimmed and the happy birthday tune came over the loud speakers.  The maître d’ held a cake with lit sparklers and walked the entire length of the dining room followed by 10 waiters all carrying brightly covered large packages and all singing ‘ Happy Birthday ‘  The parents loved it.  Some of the real little kids were scared because it was dark.  Linda was one of the scared ones and I had to hold her in my arms.  We didn’t realise it was for her until they stopped at the table.  The crew, being Italian adored all the kids.  My eyes were popping out of my head I hadn’t expected anything like this.  I thought a simple sponge cake with two candles for which I was more than happy to pay for but all this!!!  How was I going to afford it.   The dining room lights went up and the rest of the kids with help from the waiters started opening presents.  I think the crew enjoyed it more than the kids.  The next day I went to see the purser again.  I thanked him for the party and embarrassed asked how much it was going to cost me.  Not a sophisticated ocean traveller was I.  Big smile ” Madam, Madam, we treat all our passengers like family.  Your little girl had a birthday we gave her a party.”  Still embarrassed I said ” We are immigrants not full paying passengers.”  ” No Madam.  You are a passenger like all the others.  We do not have personal details, everyone is treated the same. Only on this voyage are you an immigrant.  I too was once an immigrant.  You will do very well inAustralialots of others have.  It was our pleasure to see all the children having a good time.” I could have kissed him.

On August the 5th. We disembarked onHamiltonWharfunder a cloudless bright blue sky inBrisbane.   This is it, our new country.  Very excited to see what it looked like we’d been on deck since 5 a.m. watching as the liner edged its way into the mouth of theBrisbaneRiver.  Couldn’t see much as it was still dark.  As we’d stopped in all the major cities sincePerththere was only about 200 immigrants left to disembark.  The rest of the passengers were either Australians returning to Brisbane or passengers going back to Southampton who had joined the ship at the various ports we’d called at on our way round Australia.  Some were immigrants returning and wanted to tell the new comers they wouldn’t like Oz as Aussies didn’t like poms.  We had been warned this would happen but it was up to ourselves whether we made a go of it or not.  You can’t please everybody and we’d had plenty of time to change our minds long before we put our house up for sale.

Once we’d arrived I knew why some were called whingers.  ” It’s not like it was back home ” I heard lots of times on the immigration camp where we were housed.  From the wharf to the camp we travelled by coach.  Granted the bus was not exactly modern but it got us to where we were going.  The houses? were certainly an eye opener.  Not a house at all but army huts as used by the Australian army.  Not the Ritz but clean and a roof over our heads.  All the packing cases and cabin trunks with our worldly possessions were stored in a locked building.  We were shown to our house? and told where the facilities were.  The canteen, shower block, toilets and laundry room a short walk from our little wooden house.  From the outside I thought our accommodation was small.  Smaller still when I realised it was for two families.  Our neighbours in this little semi were German.  They didn’t speak English, we didn’t speak German.  We smiled and nodded a lot to each other.  My son was 3, my daughter 2 yrs. old.  We had lived in a quiet cul-de-sac inLeeds.  The house we sold was a semi but of the big bay windows, nice garden with apple trees and a creek running along the back fence variety.  Our new semi had paper thin walls.  I’m not exaggerating you could hear the people next door breathing during the night.  The first night none of us slept.  We’d had lots of information from the people at Australia House inLeedsbefore we left.  What they didn’t tell us was there is no twilight inQueensland.  August was still winter time and the sun sets around 5:15 – 5:30 p.m. By 6 p.m. total blackness.  We’d packed our entire household belongs into crates etc. the only thing not packed was a torch or a flashlight.  All meals were plentiful and free but had to be taken in the canteen.  Daylight when we went into the canteen at 5 p.m. pitch black when we came out.  We got lost on the short walk back home.  We also found out immediately the sun goes down the mosquitoes come out to feast.  We were getting eaten alive.  One moaning husband carrying small son, one scared wife carrying crying small daughter.  We did find our abode then had to venture out again to the shower blocks to bath the kids and dress them in pyjamas.  Showers of course, no baths.  My little girl screamed the place down.  She didn’t want to go in the room where it was raining.  Great.  We’d been inBrisbane6 hours and already had got lost, eaten alive by insects, living in the back of beyond and surrounded by all nationalities who couldn’t speak English.  I turned the shower off and tried to quieten her down.  She’s stopped screaming but was now sobbing.  Of course with all the noise other women had come running.  Lots of sympathetic looks but no conversation.  A young woman with a Scottish accent asked what was wrong with the bairn, was she ill?  In my thickYorkshireaccent I said she was used to having a bath, not a shower and thought it was rainwater.

” Come with me hen.  I’ll show you what I did with mine when we first arrived.”  She took me to the laundry room.  All those years ago it was common practice to have deep concrete trough like sinks in laundries.  So Linda had her first bath inAustraliastood up in a concrete tub.  Her mother had a quick wash as I couldn’t leave her with a complete stranger while I had a shower.  She really would have screamed the place down.  No entertainment on the camp.  It wasn’t Butlins of the outback.  No radios, no T.V.  Everything was silent by 8 p.m.  Everything that is except for the nocturnal wild life.  Something else the people at Australia House forgot to mention.  Wacol, the name of the suburb was way-out on the fringes of the city back in 1969.  Nothing but trees.  In this day and age Mr. and Mrs. Average couldn’t afford to buy in a suburb like that.  Back then I wished I could have heard a corporation bus or a train passing by on a main road like we had when we lived inDunhill Crescent.   Too late now, you’ve burned your bridges.  I seemed to be waking every few minutes of that long first night.  Owls hooting, fruit bats screeching, possums landing on the roof and when it was silent I could hear the family adjoining our wall breathing and snoring.  I didn’t know what the furry or feathered nocturnal visitors were until I asked someone in the canteen the next morning.  That’s also when the whinging poms introduced themselves.  The idea of the immigration plan was to get people working as soon as possible.  Every day for a few hours there was qualified people to answer your questions.  Employment being top priority, then houses, schools and transport.  Only one parent went to the hall where the professionals were, usually the husband and Mum stayed around the camp looking after their children.  My husband armed with references etc. went to the hall and I with the other women and children.  I was like an avalanche.  I don’t know where they lived in the camp but they all seemed to know who was English, French, German, Italian or Greek.  Little groups of them singled out the new arrivals.  First question ” Where did you live inEngland?  What does your husband do for a living.  How many children do you have.”  When I’d answered them first one then another told me how we could stay on the camp for 2 years, not pay anything and then go back toEnglandwhen you’d saved enough for the fares.  I hadn’t been here 24 hours yet.  Some had been there on the camp for nearly 2 years.  I asked if they didn’t want to move out and get a place of their own.  Why? they said ” The government is giving us board and lodgings.  Why would we want of go to work when we can have a nice long holiday?”  I asked what they did all day and did their children go to school.  Because they said they had no money the government paid for the schooling and all kids went on the school bus, again provided by the Australian tax payer.  It was nudge, nudge, and wink, wink “Once your husband gets out and about there are heaps of casual jobs he can pick up for cash in hand wages.”  I felt like reporting them to the authorities.  I wasn’t a banner waving, jump on a soapbox kind of person but they’d come here for next to nothing, their children were getting educated, they’d lived rent free and 3 meals a day for nearly 2 years and thought it smart to cheat by not declaring wages.  I couldn’t get away fast enough.  These people had cars.  Didn’t the authorities wonder where they got the money to buy petrol or new clothes?   One very naive little woman grew up very fast.  My husband got a job in the city but had to travel by train.  The nearest train station was 1 mile from the entrance to the camp.  As new comers we were on the outer limits of the camp, another half mile for him to walk.  Not a happy chappy at all.  We stayed on the camp 2 weeks before getting a flat in the city.  There again the immigration department was very good to us.  They stored all our packing cases etc. until we were established.  I couldn’t leave the camp fast enough.  My two littlies couldn’t handle the noisy canteen and were not eating at all.  Plenty of food for everyone but no chef.  Anyone who said they could cook got the job.  Very conventional when it comes to breakfast and still am.  Bacon, eggs, beans on toast type of fare not stewed up mincemeat on toast or fried fish or savoury boiled rice to start the day.  We had cereal and fresh fruit but hardly a staple diet for two toddlers.  You never knew from one meal to the next what was going to be dished up.  Greek and Italian food is very nice in moderation and also we were not talking haute cuisine.

The big move.

The daughter of my mother-in-laws neighbour had lived inLondon.  My husband had met her long before I met him. We didn’t know they had returned to OZ until they managed to find us.  We were still on the camp when I met them for the first time.  Originally fromSidneythey decided to try living inBrisbaneand were renting a house close to the city.  They were a sociable couple and made friends easily.  They knew an elderly couple who had an enormous house they’d converted into flats.  They didn’t object to small children so long as we didn’t have any pets.  We moved into a fully furnished 2 bedroom flat with a big lounge, small kitchen and joy of joy a bathroom with a bath and a shower.

Brisbaneis a very hilly city and two ways of getting to the local shops.  The owners who lived on the premises told me the quickest way was straight down the long street and I would be there.  They of course had a car.  I had two toddlers with short legs not used to walking in the heat of the day.  Down this long steep hill, up the other side and we were amongst lots of small shops.  No big shopping centres back then.  I bought milk, bread, a few veg and meat.  I walked back the same way and we all had a sleep once we got inside the flat.  When my husband came home from work I said we would have to do a big shop on the weekend and catch taxis.  There was no way I could make two little kids walk that distance every day to buy bread and milk.  Margaret and Eddie came to see if we had moved in O.K.  Eddie called me a numbskull and showed me the other street to walk to the shops.  Flat as a pancake and the top end of the street with more small shops.  We were all very relieved and I had the best nights sleep since arriving inBrisbane.  Then the real living in a new country started.  I had to learn to call food by different names, know what cut of meat to ask for, what kind of fish to order in a snack bar.  And yes, the shops were not like they were inEngland.  No good asking for a piece of beef for roasting, blank look from butcher.  In the snack bar you don’t ask for fish’n’chips.  There is a list of all the fish they sell and it’s all warm water fish.  Beautiful once you know what to order but for a lass who only got cod or hake from the local chippy not much bloody good.  What the hell was sweet lip, snapper, golden perch and prawns the size of a small crab.  Didn’t take me long to sort out what was what in the fish department, yummy, yummy.  The meat was something else.  Apart from a Greek fruit shop owner all the other shop keepers were very friendly and patient with me.  The first ‘ joint ‘ of beef I roasted was as tough as old boots.  No idea where on the animal it had come from.  It looked very lean and smelt delicious while cooking.  The roast potatoes and carrots were done to perfection as was theYorkshirepuddings.  Didn’t know any other way to make a roast dinner so did it the way I’d always done it.  Could not work out why the meat was so tough.  Couldn’t afford to throw it out so chopped it up and made a stew with it the next day.  Everyone enjoyed it.  I tried a different butcher shop hoping for better meat.  One of the first things that made my eyes pop was fruit and butchers shop windows packed to the maximum in every city the ship had stopped at on our way round Australia before getting to Brisbane.  Before selling up and leaving my local shops had a few joints of meat, a tray of sausages, and plenty of plastic parsley decorating their windows.  The Green Grocers window had a small amount of apples, oranges, tomatoes and a few veg on white cardboard trays.  The fruit shops here were like an Aladdin’s cave with lots of bright coloured fruit I’d never seen before.  Veggies with strange names, giant sized pineapples and coconuts.  I’d only seen proper coconuts at fair grounds where you tried to knock them off their perches with a wooden ball.  I looked in the butcher’s window and thought I saw a piece of beef similar to the one I’d bought before.  The name of it meant nothing to me.  I could tell the difference between pork, lamb and beef but not the names of the cuts.  I asked the friendly butcher why two pieces of beef looked the same but had different names.  He smiled ” I married a lass fromYorkshire, she didn’t know either.  Which one have you tried?”  I pointed to one.  ” How did it turn out?”  I could tell he knew I’d done something wrong.  No good getting huffy I’m never going to find out if I don’t ask.  I don’t think the immigration people cover questions on how to shop.  ” That’s called silverside and the one next to it is topside.  You boil one and roast the other ”  I could feel myself going crimson.

” Never mind dear.  Never be afraid to ask.  Us butchers are a friendly lot.  Only too happy to show off and tell you how to cook what you buy from us.”  He gave me little booklets that were on the counter.  All the cuts of meat for lamb, beef and pork with diagrams where on the beast they came from and what was suitable for roasting, grilling, stewing and of course barbecuing.  I studied those little books as though they were a life line.  You could also buy a complete side of an animal.  All butchers advertised it on their windows.  The most economical way to buy meat but you needed a large ‘fridge or a large family to buy it that way.  In the flat we had an old fashioned ‘fridge with no storage space in the door.  Buying meat in bulk would have to wait.  I did ponder on how I would chop it up if I did purchase a whole side of a beast.  I didn’t ask the man, I’d save that for when we moved into our own place and could afford a large ‘fridge.  We’d lived in the flat a few weeks and I’d bought groceries I was familiar with.  Longing to try some of the bright coloured fruit I ventured into the Greek fruit shop.  The shop keeper was Greek not the fruit.  His accent was difficult for me to understand, he was a man without much patience.  I knew how to cut up a pineapple but no idea what a rock melon or paw paw was.  The butcher had said I had to ask, so I did.  ” What is this yellow thing with black seeds?”  All smiles he said it was a paw paw.  My fault, I should have asked if it was fruit or veg I asked ” What is it?”  He gave me a funny look ” Mad’ am ’tis a paw paw.  Look it say paw paw, that’s what is… paw paw.”  Trying a different tack ” What do you do with it?” meaning do you cook it. peel it or what?  ” Mad’ am You Eat it.  You wanna buy or leave my shop.”  Charming I’d never been asked to leave a shop or shouted at because I didn’t understand.  An elderly lady customer yelled at him ” Pull yer neck in.  When you first came here you couldn’t spell paw paw and I showed you how to cut it open for display.  Stupid bastard cut it across instead of down.  Give the girl a chance.”  My God!  It sure isn’t like this back home.  I thought he was going to throw everyone out of his shop but they all started laughing, the owner included.  She took me in hand ” Anything else you want to know?” and started telling me what various fruits tasted like and if they needed cooking, sugar added and how to serve them.  She asked how long I’d lived here.  I coloured up again ” Is it that obvious? I’ve been here two months but only recently dared to try new fruit and veggies.” She laughed ” Your accent is as thick as Yorkshire pudding, only she called itYorkshirewith emphasis on the I.  You’re as white as a lily and your beautiful children are dressed all wrong.”  I bristled, have a dig at me. Leave my kids alone.  She said they had lovely clothes and looked very sweet but to get rid of the Crimpaleen  material  because in the summer it holds the heat and they’d sweat like pigs.  Me, in all my innocence ” Does it get hotter than this in the summer then?”  She laughed until tears ran down her face ” O you poor cow, you don’t know what your in for ” and laughed her head off again.  She was right.  I did buy the paw paw.  Peeled it, discarded the black seeds, chopped it up and sprinkled sugar on it.  Me and the kids loved it.  The husband didn’t like anything unfamiliar so I told him a was a new kind of peach.  He didn’t like the smell of it so I told him parmesan cheese smells as if something has died but it tastes lovely at least give it a try.  He was never over fond of paw paw but it was years before he found out it wasn’t a kind of peach.  My biggest disaster was in the new veg department.  I’d heard of pumpkins being fed to cattle inEnglandand only ever seen one in the Cinderella pantomime when it was turned into a coach by magic dust and a drum roll.  I did ask Margaret and Eddie the friends of my husband how to roast it.  Margaret said ” You can roast jacket potatoes can’t you?  Just roast pumpkin the same way.  It doesn’t take as long but there’s nothing to it.”   I bought one about the size of a soccer ball.  So far so good.  As I was going to bake it whole I put it in the oven first.  Only a small oven so I cooked the rest of the veg on top of the stove.  Grilled lamb chops, steamed veggie, mashed potato and the pumpkin for dinner.  Everything else was cooked, the pumpkin wasn’t.  It had been in the oven an hour and was still as hard as when I’d first put it in.  We finished the meal, the pumpkin still rock hard.  I left it in the oven and switched it off.  Margaret came round the next day ” How did the pumpkin go?”  I said I must have done something wrong it was still rock hard and had been in the oven for about 3 hours.  She started smiling ” Tell me exactly what you did.  Nobody can ruin pumpkin unless it’s burnt to a crisp.”

” I scrubbed it clean, then dried it, then smeared cooking oil over it and put it in the oven.”  Prolonging the agony ” Are you sure that’s all you did?” and starting to laugh.  ” Yes, that’s what you told me to do, cook it like a jacket potato and that’s how I cook them.”  She slid out of the lounge chair, was holding her sides screaming laughing on the floor ” Gee you’re priceless.  Been here 2 minutes and found a way of ruining a pumpkin first go.  Didn’t you think to take the top off and scoop out all the seeds an fibres before sticking it in the oven?”  What seeds? What fibres?  ” You told me to do it like jacket potatoes.  I don’t chop tops off and there are no seeds in potatoes.”  She screamed laughing for ages and re-told the tale for years.  It’s a good job I have a sense of humour the amount of times that tale has been told.


Well done Audrey. Perhaps we will revel in more of her memories later. In the meantime over 3,000 of you Australians accessed the site last year surely there must be some other £10 poms with memories to share with us on this site? Why not leave a comment on the site or contact me personally on: